This course package was held at a ranch near Brady, Texas, 28 Feb through 5 Mar 2017. This was the third year MVT has come to Brady, and I can say without reservations that Max’s courses just get better every year! The course material itself is constantly evolving, (I assume) based on info Max gathers from active and recently active combat troops, as well as Max’s perception of what students are capable of and what they NEED to know. Speaking as a person who has been through more than a dozen courses with some of the biggest of the “big name” instructors, I can tell you that Max goes way above and beyond what most are willing to teach to “mere civilians”, and that Max is an EXCELLENT instructor who has an uncanny ability to evaluate students as individuals and as groups, and train them to their maximum potential.
Day 1 was a review of CTT, where we did several break-contact and assault drills to refresh our memories on how to effectively function as 4-man teams. Basically, this was a repeat of the last day of CTT – bounding forward, backward, peeling right and left as 4-man teams.
Day 2 started with classroom type lecture in the “lodge” describing squad movement techniques and tactics. Then it was off to “the goat pasture” where we did break contact front with a team in overwatch giving supporting fire, then simultaneous break contact front and right, simulating breaking out of an L-shaped ambush. The night of Day 2 was spent with 6-man teams doing night recce missions, with role-players performing activity that the recce teams were expected to report on in their debrief later that night. Lecture describing the hows and whys of recce missions preceded the field exercise.
Our Combat Patrol / Direct Action class was a little different from the Combat Patrol class last year, and I think it was quite an improvement. The main difference is that rather than spending 12+ hours doing a patrol, eating chow in a security position, moving into a patrol base, and swapping sentries all night, more time was spent working on setting up and executing the ambush, searching enemy “bodies” (mannequins), evacuating a casualty, etc. Last year, we left the patrol base in the pre-dawn darkness, moved into our ambush position, executed the ambush, then bugged out… all while half asleep. It was super cool, and the overnight patrol base was a great experience, but I think the 3 repetitions of the ambush this year were a lot better bang for the buck! We still did a daylight walk-through of setting up the patrol base, so it wasn’t bypassed entirely, but I think students got a much deeper understanding of how to conduct the ambush than we did last year, where we were basically just following orders and going through the motions.
I just touched on it above, but I have to point out that the hours of classroom type lecture in this course are invaluable. Max is a wealth of knowledge and experience, and this is an in-depth course where Max really gives you a great overall picture of how small unit tactics are actually applied in the real world and why they are applied the way they are. CP/DA is a 4-day course, but it is much more “brain intensive” and less “ammo intensive” than CTT. I shot maybe 600-700rds during the entire 4 days, and probably close to half of that was on Day 1. Even so, the level of understanding you get from all the explanation and background in the lectures gives you a much deeper understanding of the what, why, and how of all this stuff. It is a LOT of info, and I don’t claim to have absorbed all of it, but I am amazed at how much information Max can shovel at us in such a short time without making it feel overwhelming. It all makes sense, and it all flows logically from one aspect to the next.
CQB and Force-on-Force – Now THIS is where the rubber meets the road! The overwhelming take-away for me is that even though you have gotten really good at “running the drills” against static targets, that’s not enough! You must know how to adapt those drills to a rapidly changing environment when the targets are moving around and shooting back at you. I fully expected this UTM force-on-force phase to be a giant leap forward, a “lightbulb moment,” and I was not disappointed! I got shot in the face a couple of times without even seeing who shot me, and then the cartoon lightbulb over my head came on! All that stuff we hear about “keep your head on a swivel”, “I’m up – he sees me – I’m down,””look at your next cover, then go to it,” “maintain 360 degree security,” etc., all began to actually MEAN something. This was not a glorified game of paintball, but an awesome opportunity to learn to ebb and flow with the situation, use the terrain and available cover, and actually APPLY the tactics. It wasn’t always pretty… mostly not pretty… but it was where all this stuff really came together for me, and gave me some real context for all the drills. When “running the drills” now at home, my mind is in a totally different place than before I had UTM rounds hit me in the face. (Side note: Don’t be intimidated – UTM doesn’t really hurt. You know you’ve been hit, but it’s no big deal).