I recently had the pleasure of attending the August 2020 Heat Reconnaissance class. For a bit of background, I have previously attended Heat 1 Combat Tactics, Heat 2 Combat Patrol, CQB, and the Combat Leadership Course at MVT. HEAT Reconnaissance adds another well thought out and executed course to the unique and above industry standard offerings already taught at MVT.
A key point to understand is that this course imparts a mindset on the student as they begin to dip their toes into Reconnaissance. Skills learned from other courses certainly have their place in the Recon course, but there is a complete shift away from the kind of mindset one might have when running other types of patrols. Any contact with the enemy is enough to derail your mission or get yourself and your comrades killed. It is important to remember that a Reconnaissance mission will usually place you in a position far from support, reinforcements, and near a much larger enemy force. With the above in mind, it is easy to see how engaging with the enemy and being compromised in general must be avoided.
There is much time spent on the planning process prior to stepping off on the first mission. Reconnaissance requires a nauseating level of planning and attention to detail in order to ensure the mission is a success. Considerations include things like sustainment supplies, mission duration, critical equipment, enemy size/strength, technical capabilities, and civilian presence. There are more factors that can come up for any given mission, but its easy to see how each consideration can generate more questions along its own tree. For example, are there civilians in the area? Are the civilians hostile or sympathetic to your side? Are there any farmers or goat herders in the area that may be out checking their local property? What is the agreed upon action if compromised by said local civilian? These questions are a necessary part of the planning process and should not come up as a surprise in the field.
Days 3 & 4 moved out of the classroom and into the field to run missions. As always happens in the field, some things become evident very quickly. The depth and accuracy of prior planning is quickly confirmed or denied by realities on the ground. Did you insert at the correct location? Were your route choices realistic? Was the intel used to plan the mission solid or totally off? This is also when you realize whether your PT regiment has been adequate or not.
Once in position to observe the enemy, it quickly becomes apparent how difficult it can be to obtain quality intelligence without being compromised. Foliage and terrain can easily force you to get closer than you would like in order to get a clear picture of what is happening in the area of interest. It is also easy to overlook small details that may seem insignificant, but may mean a lot more to an analyst. Discussing what the OPFOR saw afterwards was enlightening, as it gives you an opportunity to tweak your movements as you learn what betrays your attempts to be stealthy. One example was when many of us left our backpacks on our back while crawling into position. Its easy to spot a couple of moving multicam turtle shells up on a hill. A better option is to push the bag or rig a drag line.
Getting compromised on the exfil drives home how much you do not want to be compromised. Trying to outrun an enemy closing in on you from multiple directions with whistles getting closer and closer is a truly unique feeling. Then you come into contact with a force 4-5 times your size, at a place and time when you really don’t want to be in a fight. The outcome is predictable and drives home why it is so important to cover your tracks, observe light, noise, and radio discipline, move at night, and other practices to avoid getting into contact with the enemy.
Being squared away and physically fit as individuals is critical, since reconnaissance is typically done with 6-8 man teams. There aren’t enough people to pick up the slack of another individual not pulling their weight. You will certainly feel it after humping yourself and your gear around the West Virginia hills, carrying out your mission, and especially after you have to quickly break contact from a pursuing enemy.
Scott was a fantastic instructor throughout the entirety of the course. The instructors advice comes from experience and it’s easy to tell that they have spent many years honing their skills. They were very attentive to the needs of students and always accessible when questions arose. At this point it goes without saying, but at MVT you will always have cadre that are of the highest caliber and subject matter experts in whatever they are teaching.
In summary, I highly recommend taking the Heat Reconnaissance course. It is a truly unique experience that will push you to think about the word Reconnaissance very differently. The course is a fantastic opportunity to begin learning about long range reconnaissance from instructors who have an abundance of knowledge and experience. Do yourself a favor and get this awesome training while you can.