This weekend I was fortunate enough to take the inaugural Force on Force Team Tactics class at MVT (the prerequisite is Combat Team Tactics). All I can say is that Max and First Sergeant really put their heart and soul into making this the most creative and dynamic training experience possible! This class took the material that you learned in CTT to the next level – actually applying those principals against live opponents who not only fired back, but also moved around and used team tactics against you.
The class started on a miserable Saturday – snow, sleet, rain, cold. What more could you want?! Despite the bad weather, 15 hardy and enthusiastic “crash-test dummy” students showed up, ready to try out this new class, learn and have fun. We started the day with a thorough gear check — no live ammo, side arms, or knives allowed. This class used UTM Man Marker Rounds, training ammunition in which your AR-15 is retrofitted with a special blue bolt that has an off-center firing pin. Even if a live round accidentally made its way into one of the inspected and taped mags (unlikely given the scrutiny), it could not be fired.
The UTM ammo itself is pretty interesting. It has 2 primers, one that fires a small, colored piece of wax (looks like a tip of a crayon in a little plastic cage which shatters upon impact), and another that cycles the action. My rifle didn’t have a single malfunction using this ammo. You had to shoot a bit high – the max effective range is 50 yards, but it starts dropping off before that. At 35 yards I had to aim at the shoulders for a center mass hit using a rifle zeroed for real .223 ammo.
Protective gear was also issued – a special UTM mask with a wrap-around neoprene shroud, and an airsoft helmet if you did not already have one. While this mask was not hot in the 40 deg F weather, I cannot imagine using it in the summer months. It was like breathing through a gas mask running through the woods and up and down hills. I would think that the mesh mask that Max used would be much better.
Max Adds: Mesh masks are authorized, see the Force on Force Team Tactics page for details. These are more comfortable and allow good air circulation / breathing.
The students came from all over the country – as far away as California, and from all walks of life – were divided up into two squads, red and blue. After the administrative stuff was done, we hiked up to the top of the ridge, then reviewed and dry rehearsed some of the maneuvers learned in CTT. Most were at least a little rusty. After cleaning out the cob webs, We did many of the same drills that we learned in CTT — except that instead of crazy Ivan the popup, live enemy were firing back! After a short break for lunch, the fun resumed with more drills. It was a totally different experience when someone is shooting back at you — when you start getting hit, you become more cautious and take cover more aggressively!
The next day was the really fun day — the scenarios. And it was better weather too. For each exercise, both squads were given a “base” to defend, with a colored smoke grenade. The object was to capture and set off the other squad’s smoke first! This was the innovative heart of this new class. Given the constraints (primarily terrain and number of team members), a squad could come up with a plan as creative and as risky as they wanted. An instructor (either Max or First Sergeant) was embedded with each squad to both observe, critique, and referee the action. Different strategies were tried in the scenarios that were fought. The most common overall strategy was to divide the squad into a defending team and an assault team, with specific plans for each, but this wasn’t always the case. Plans were put into place to defend the base, to assault the other squad’s base, for laying ambushes, etc.
Mastery of the basics proved to be critical – communication, decisively moving as a unit with discipline, controlling your fire and taking good cover, among others. Without good execution, the best laid plans fell apart, even resulting in casualties from friendly fire!
The biggest benefit from taking this class is that it takes you from doing drills mechanically to thinking dynamically and employing previously learned tactics in ever fluid situation. And selecting the right tools (tactics) for the job while you are under pressure. Sure, you are going to screw up… and people will get “killed” (figuratively) as a result. But better to learn your lessons here, than in real life SHTF. Just like the military does with Red Flag! And like Red Flag, I personally feel that everyone who is serious should be taking this class on a periodic basis as recurrent training. I know I sure will make a point to take it at least once a year.