Student Review: Combat Team Tactics (CTT) 12-14 Dec 2014: Matt
Max Velocity Training After-Action Report – Combat Team Tactics (CTT)
The Combat Team Tactics (CTT) course offered by Max Velocity is at its heart an instructional course on communication and coordination under stressful conditions. Knowledge of the fundamentals of marksmanship is an assumed prerequisite. The first day of the course was mainly devoted to clearing malfunctions and practicing ready-up drills. This was extremely helpful for the next two days, and if I could do things over again, I would have spent some time practicing malfunction-clearing before coming to the class. I only experienced malfunctions during live-fire drills once or twice, but it gave me a very strong appreciation for just how necessary it is to commit malfunction-clearing to muscle memory. The ready-up drills were excellent preparation for the reflexive shooting that is necessary when contact with the enemy is first established.
- Small unit tactics requires simultaneous use of high-brain-function and low-brain-function tasks
It is important to commit the low-function tasks to muscle memory. This prevents confusion when attempting larger coordinated maneuvers, such as advancing on a position with a squad of four or more. Low-brain-function tasks are the things your body should be accomplishing while demanding a small portion of your concentration. This includes getting into and breaking cover, dashing, training your sights on the target, and squeezing the trigger. High-brain-function tasks are more complicated, and include: telling your teammates to move once you’re firing on target, moving when you need to move, edging your way under cover to have a clear shot on target, observing your surroundings for additional threats (scanning), rallying once contact is broken, and keeping the bigger picture of the purpose of the drill in mind.
- General physical preparedness is the lowest of the low when it comes to where your concentration should be prioritized.
Being fit allows you to focus your brainpower on the more important parts of the exercises, even at the end of the third day of the class when everyone is tired. Being severely out of breath affects your ability to break cover and move to your next piece of cover. It also affects your brain function. Your ability to observe what your battle buddy and squad mates will deteriorate if you pass a certain level of exertion. Max made a comment at the end of CTT that nearly all of the errors that our class made over the weekend were due to lack of physical training.
- Sprinting, burpees, low-crawling, squats, lunges, pull-ups, and push-ups are the most important movements to master in preparation for fire-and-movement drills.
Endurance training is an important thing, but if I were to train specifically for another CTT course, these are the sorts of exercises that I would prioritize.
- The high-brain-function task that is the first to fall by the wayside when conducting fire-and-movement drills is observation of the environment around you.
When this happens, it becomes very easy to do dangerous things like muzzle sweep things that shouldn’t be muzzle swept. Physical exertion isn’t the only thing that makes this happen. Max made multiple comments to me saying that I’m “up at 20,000 feet” when I need to be down on ground level. I was getting carried away with my stress, and when that happened, it would affect my performance and my cognition. Over the course of the weekend, I learned how to manage that stress much more effectively. I was able to stay cool even in more elaborate and complicated drills.
- Practice height over bore drills. It’s amazing how even the smallest apparent curvature of the ground can send your rounds into the dirt.
Max discusses the importance of height over bore. It seems simple, and the lesson he gives is straight-forward. However, once you’re actually running drills, it is incredibly easy to shoot up objects in front of you. I remember feeling proud of myself that I got into good cover from the target just by using the curvature of the earth, but that faded quickly when I realized I was shooting into the dirt about 5 yards in front of me.
- Practice ready-ups and reflexive shooting. This can be done as dry practice.
- Try to view each drill as a patrol or scenario, not a scripted event.
During day 2, and the beginning of day 3, I was treating each drill as a scripted event. In hindsight, doing so was the main cause of my mistakes. If the drill deviated from the plan slightly, I would get stressed, forget the objective, and forget the fundamentals. Do your best to calmly observe everything happening around you, so when things go slightly off-course, you can correct for it and complete your objectives.
Practice clearing a variety of malfunctions, and get a buddy to set up mystery malfunctions for you to diagnose and solve.
A malfunction, even if you know it’s easy to clear, is just one of those unpredictable things that can derail you during a drill if you let it. Try to stay cool, and stay focused.
- It’s very easy to get locked into a target through your sights and to start pouring rounds into it.
Do your best to keep your wits about you, and never forget that if you’re firing at the target, you’re providing your teammates covering fire while they move. Don’t forget to tell them to move! Don’t pump rounds into the target indefinitely! Remember:
- Pulling the trigger at the target is a low-brain-function activity. Communicating to your teammates to move and being aware of their position is a high-brain-function activity.
- Don’t let the low-brain-function stuff confuse the more important activity!
This is a great course to take to understand the principles of small unit tactics. Defense of your life and property without the infrastructure of our society cannot be done as a lone wolf, and any necessary operations will require the type of communication and coordination that Max teaches in this class. This class is also useful to take for developing your ability to think straight under pressure: flight-or-fight stress, pressure to perform, confusion due to multiple sensory inputs. Max mentioned battle inoculation at the beginning of CTT, and it’s evidenced by the way he ramped up the complexity of drills over the course of the weekend. As he increased the difficulty, we the students went from making mistakes during simple drills, to mastering simple drills, to making mistakes during complicated drills, to (maybe?) mastering the complicated drills. Mastery might be a little generous, but we all greatly improved with experience. I think the principles that Max teaches here can be also applied to the conflicts that we experience in daily life, to avoid being mugged in crowded locations, and more.
Also, one quick word about Fred’s CBRN lecture: it was refreshing to hear someone with a scientific background speak frankly about the possibility of various disaster or grid-down scenarios. He was non-alarmist, analytical, and thorough with his explanations. Not only did he explain the threats and probabilities of disease, attacks of various kinds, and natural disasters, but he also explained what he thought which were credible and which were blown out of proportion. My main takeaway from his lecture was that, while preparation and self-sufficiency are admirable, it is unwise to become so preoccupied with the collapse of society that it interferes with your ability to lead a full and enriching life.