Student Review: Texas 2020 – Lloyd

AAR:  MVT Texas – 23-29 Feb 2020

I’m the “organizer” who pestered Max until he agreed to come do his first class in Texas back in 2015, so I have been lucky enough to be able to attend the annual MVT Texas courses for six years in a row. 

These courses are held on a large private ranch near Brady, Texas.  The folks that own the ranch are great folks, pure “Texas”, and just what most people would expect on a ranch smack dab in the middle of this state.  Terrain is generally rolling grassy country, live oaks, cactus, cedars, draws and dry creekbeds, with larger trees and heavier brush down along the San Saba River, which runs through the ranch.  We have relatively open “prairie” and we have fairly thick “forest” areas where we can train.

The MVT Texas courses are unique in more than just geographic location.  Max has become intimately familiar with the part of the ranch that we have permission to train on, and we have a great core group of alumni that return year after year, so those things allow Max to build on what we all learned the previous year.  We do have a day or so of “review” to knock the rust off, but we are not simply repeating everything we did the year before.  These classes just get better and better every year, because Max is willing to make the effort to structure more complex scenarios, and because the multiple year alumni are willing and able to help the newer guys who may have been through HEAT 1 somewhere else, but have not ever attended classes in Texas.

There were 13 students in this class, which gave us three teams of 4, plus a student “squad leader” for many of the scenarios.  For some drills, we were split into two groups of 6.  I won’t get into a detailed description of all of the drills and scenarios, but I will give a brief outline of the course progression:

Day 1 – Optional Tactical Combat Casualty Care Day – Taught by Max and one of the students who’s a nurse practitioner with experience as a tactical medic.  This optional day was attended by all of the students, and was an excellent addition to the class!  Skills learned here were applied later in the class.

Day 2 – Live-fire Assault Day – Several “assault” drills ranging from simple 4-man team bounding forward, to a more complex “Rhodesian terrorist pursuit” scenario.  This day was a great one for knocking the rust off of everybody who hadn’t done much team training over the past year.

Day 3 – Immediate Action Day – Break contact drills bounding and peeling, and a “Rhodesian” style aggressive cover-shoot and fight-through reaction to contact.

Day 4 – Attack Day – Sequenced squad hasty attack on 2 mutually supporting “bunkers”.  This was a great scenario with students split into 3 teams which worked with each other to suppress and attack the bunkers.  Also did a raid on a “terrorist camp”, with students taking turns in support by fire and assault groups.

Day 5 – Ambush Day – This is where it got progressively more complex… Sort of the “final exam” of the live-fire portion of the class.  We were able to do multiple runs of the ambush with students taking turns acting as “squad leader”, being part of the kill group, and being part of cutoff groups.  And of course, this is where the simulated casualty scenarios came in.

Because of the entire class having a full 8 hour day of TCCC training at the beginning of the class, our “medic” gave us each a card that named a specific injury we were supposed to “act” if we were designated as a “casualty” by Max during the drill.  Students had to figure out what was wrong with the “casualty”, treat the notional wound appropriately, and work as a team to evacuate the casualty.

Day 6-7 – Airsim Force on Force – As has been said by multiple students, live-fire training is sort of like punching a heavy bag, and force on force is sort of like sparring with a live opponent.  I can’t stress enough how this phase of the training really drives Max’s lessons home, and gives those lessons context that you simply cannot get from live-fire drills alone.

Lessons learned:

“It’s not about you.”  Max has repeated this mantra over and over again, every year I have trained with him.  Back in 2015 after a couple of days watching the chaos of a bunch of individuals trying to do their own thing for breakfast in the kitchen at the lodge, Max gave us a short speech about teamwork. Suffice to say we were motivated to organize ourselves and start thinking and acting like an actual team before, during, and after training.  During these Texas classes, students live in the same building, eat breakfast and lunch in the same room, eat at the same table in the same restaurant in the evenings.

There’s a core group of guys that return year after year, but there are some students that come and go from year to year who are always welcomed into that unique team dynamic.  Us “old guys” need everybody we can get in order to fill the slots on the class and make it happen, so we truly appreciate everybody who shows up and we welcome them with open arms… but they have to be willing to become part of the team.

The other big lesson which everybody reading this has heard before – Do your PT!  After 5 previous years of MVT training, I knew what to expect.  However, I’m not getting younger, and by the end of the “Ambush Day” my quads and one of my knees were pretty beat.  Since we all have real life to deal with, jobs, families, etc, it’s pretty hard to simulate the hours upon hours of running, kneeling, running, going prone, and repeat.  If you’ve never trained with MVT, don’t be afraid to jump in there and sign up for a class, but passing the MVT Fitness Test should be considered a bare minimum level of fitness!

Looking forward to next year!