Student Review: Night Optical Device Firing (NODF) 20 June: Corporate Guy

Corporate Guy (CG) from Carolina

AAR – Night Optical Device Firing – 20 June, 2014

I recently attended the inaugural 20 June, 2014 Night Optical Device Firing (NODF) course.   Context matters – understanding something about the author of an AAR’s background may be useful in determining how applicable the comment may be to the reader.

To cut to the chase, I am a youngster at 52, but not as quick as I was in the 80’s.  In an attempt to level the playing field a bit, I made the determination last year that I wanted to take advantage of the available technology.   I invested in good quality equipment.  That said, my exposure to NOD equipment prior to class was largely limited to occasionally using it to wander around my pasture and local woodlands.  I had never fired a weapon while employing NOD nor tried to establish zero with this equipment.  I was smart enough to know I needed help but not smart enough to know how badly I needed help.  If this resonates for you, I encourage you to read on.

You may recall that when MVT initially placed NODF on the training schedule, MVT staff noted that they put this together at student request (and on rather short notice at that).  I signed up and was perfectly happy to be one of the guinea pigs in the first outing for this course.  To be fair, I went in with few expectations.  Meaning simply that I knew it was a course “under construction”.  It seemed reasonable to assume that a complicated subject matter, narrow time constraints, a broad range of technology turning up with students, and a diverse student group were bound to cause some stress the first time out of the gate (and that’s before you factor in rain and heavy cloud cover) and that refinements would no doubt follow.  It also seemed reasonable to assume that I did not know enough to really understand how deep the rabbit hole went.

I point some of this out to make a simple point.  At the risk of sounding preachy, from my perspective, it’s important that as students we view the relationship with MVT as a two way street.  If as a community “we” are going to ask MVT to develop specific course work to meet our needs, then we need to recognize that in some cases its going to take some trial and error to figure out how to best package and deliver some of this training in a manner suitable for the audience.   I am reminded of the chicken or the egg first question.   As a realist with a long list of training interests (and I assume I am not alone), I encourage you to recognize that the continued evolution / development of the course curriculum offered at MVT is in our collective best interests.  I suspect that we can best support these efforts by voting with our time and dollars and taking advantage of the opportunity presented.

In simple terms, I think this inaugural event turned out very well and I left very happy with the experience.  MVT got a chance to try out the course design and begin to refine their approach to teaching civilians how to use these tools and I learned some very valuable stuff.  Without getting to deep in the weeds:

  • I received some expert help getting my equipment set up correctly by instructors who have actually used it before in the real    world
  •  I walked away with a better understanding of how to actually operate the PVS-14 and DBAL
  • I was exposed to the challenges of attempting to zero this equipment.  FYI its dam near impossible to go prone with a helmet and night vision on and try and use a rifle
  • I spent some solid familiarization time under night vision complete with a field exercise (spoiler alert)

As a matter of perspective, all of this this was perfect.  It’s why I went.  In addition there were lots of little ah ha moments!   For example, I am now aware (and will not forget) that technology designed to amplify light does not work as well as you might think on a moonless rainy night with heavy cloud cover.

I went into the class with tunnel vision focused on learning the details, the mechanics related to operating the gear.  However, I also learned a few other things at a macro level that were just as important (maybe more so) that are worth sharing:

  • If you purchased this type of gear for reasons similar to mine, please recognize, as I do now, that you are not going to just pull this stuff off of a shelf and “own the night”
  • Confidence and competency in the field are going to require more effort than turning up for a four hour class

I feel like I just scratched the surface.  I got a taste of it and left with a strong desire for more.  Much like CRCD I suspect there will be tangible benefits to taking NODF more than once.  I will be going back to retake NODF in September.

Do yourself a favor.  Make the time.

CG from Carolina

I can’t emphasize enough how night vision is a perfect example of the common thought process that problems can be solved by gear without the required training. Take it off the shelf and ‘own the night.’ Night vision, particularly  on a dark and rainy night, with helmet and ear pro on, can be very claustrophobic and can lead to panic. I have seen it on a patrol class and also a little on the NODF: when people realize it is not the magic pill they think it is, they start to stress out. It is less stressful to walk around at night without NV, but then you don’t get the benefit of the technology. To be effective with NV, such as the PVS 14, you need to log hours operating in it. You have to deal with the monocular over one eye and the reduced field of view. Also, if you don’t know how to adjust gain and focus, you will rapidly lose faith and think that the NV is not working, when it fact familiarity with the adjustments will bring the world into clarity.