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Training Priorities: Which Classes Should I Take?

One question I get asked frequently—at least weekly—is “John, what classes should I take?”

Really, the answer to that question is so fraught with variables that any generalized, universal answer is rendered almost useless from the start. Your personal training experience, your personal, objective life experiences, your level of dedication and drive, and the perceptions you hold, regarding the state-of-affairs in the world today and tomorrow, all play a role in that particular decision-making matrix. Nevertheless, in the interest of answering such a common question, let’s use some of the practical lessons we’ve learned in the Mountain Guerrilla experience, to try and determine some semblance of a relevant answer.

METT-TC Matters

Really, it does. It underlies our entire Estimate of the Situation, in determining where we are, and where we need to be. Until we know those two things, figuring out how to get from here to there is going to be….well, difficult, at least.

Mission

What is your mission? How do YOU define it? For a “prepper/survivalist,” the answer might be “to survive.” Pretty self-evident, right? It’s also completely, utterly, hopeless. I don’t want to be all pessimistic, but ain’t a single one of us getting out of this alive. It doesn’t matter how bad ass a gunslinger you are. One of the most dangerous dudes I ever knew died instantly when he turned left, instead of right, and caught a 7.62x54R round to the face. Shit happens.

Arguably the fittest dude I ever met in my life died at 36 years old, from a brain aneurysm in his sleep. Shit happens. Survival, as a goal, is not enough. We need to get past that to “WHY do we need to survive?” From a strictly biological standpoint, we need to survive long enough to make sure we pass on our biological material—our DNA—to our children, and to ensure that they survive long enough to pass it on again.

That’s a pretty solid reason, right there. It’s really still not enough. I’ve fathered three kids (that we know about….), two of whom are still alive. Major accident or homicide withstanding, both of those will make it to breeding age, and if the oldest is any indication, neither of them will unattractive enough that breeding will be an issue. My genetic inheritance is as assured as it can be.

So, why bother? Wouldn’t it be easier to sit on the couch, watch Ink Masters or Pawn Stars, and eat pudding and cake, and get fat and nasty? Of course it would, but that’s not acceptable. I don’t just want my daughters to breed with whatever white trash hillbilly will take them to their high school prom. I want to set an example for them, of a life lived well and right, so that they aspire to greatness. In his second book, Natural Born Heroes, Christopher MacDougall writes “just because men and women of our era do not live up to the myths, does not mean no one ever has, or ever will again.”

I’ve accepted that I will never be the hero of future myth. Perhaps my children won’t either, but in the face of the Decline of Empire, I’m willing to work to inspire my future descendants to be those heroes that drag their society back out of the darkness, and into the light, because I believe in heroes.

So, I need to stay alive, as long as possible, to educate my children as a positive role model. If staying alive to teach them were all that mattered though, I could keep my head down, hide in the empty spaces, and ride the coattails of better men, and point at them as examples for my children to aspire towards. That’s not acceptable though, because Edmund Burke’s words still ring true to me, two centuries later, “all that is necessary for evil to prevail, is for good men to do nothing.”

I was taught, long ago, that good leaders lead from the front, and good teachers teach by example. So, I cannot just sit by and hide in the shadows. I want my children to have an example of what a good man is, so they know who they should look for to carry on the genetic material, but also because, I want them to live in a better world than what I live in.

My “mission” is to survive the here and now, and to protect my people; my kith and kin. Yours, hopefully, is similar. Even if you’ve aimed higher however; you aspire to lead the masses of America out of the darkness of their self-imposed collectivist utopia, back to republican liberty (more power to you, Don Quixote), you still need to survive the here and now, before you can move on to greater things.

So, we need to begin by defining our “mission” as “Survive the Threats I’m Likely to Face Today and Tomorrow.” In order to do that, we need to define the rest of the METT-TC equation.

Enemy

Who is the “enemy” you face? If you listen to some of the doomsayers in the preparedness/liberty/III% community, it’s American servicemen, being forced to prepare to subject you to martial law. Others will swear on their mother’s left breast, that the “Russians are coming! The Russians are coming!” in an Internet-based attempt at being the Paul Revere of our generation. While both myself and Sam Culper—amongst a host of other voices of reason—have wasted a lot of bandwidth trying to dispel that stupidity, it COULD occur. After all, provide enough thrust, and a pig can fly.

Others will insist the “enemy” is the law enforcement agencies of America, doing the bidding of their hidden masters, by falling prey to the brainwashing they receive in their morning briefings. There’s probably some validity to this. I know a lot of cops, and most of them are damned fine people, with the exact same concerns that you or I have. They’re on our side. At the same time though, there’s a lot of cops out there that really do fit the stereotype of the guy who got his ass kicked in high school, now hiding behind his badge, thinking it’s both a bulletproof shield, and a license to kick ass and stomp on puppies.

Then there is the would-be, self-proclaimed jihadi, ISIS supporter that decides to get some licks in for his fellow believers, by lighting up a shopping mall. You may agree with him that the wars in the Middle East are all a result of American Imperialism. Hell, you might even be right. It doesn’t matter though, because I can GUARANTEE you, when that dude decides to light up a Semtex vest, or mag-dump his AK-clone, while yelling “Allahu Akhbar!” he is NOT going to stop and ask first, to ensure that none of his potential victims share his geopolitical outlook. It just doesn’t matter.

Or, perhaps the enemy you should be concerned with is the sucker who has spent his entire life being told how racist America is, and he should be paid reparations because his great-great-great granddaddy got stuck on a slave ship and brought to America as a slave. Now, since he’s not getting reparations, he’s going to TAKE reparations, from you, because he’s PISSED. Guess what? It doesn’t matter that you never owned slaves. It doesn’t matter that HE has never been a slave. It doesn’t even matter that your great-great-great granddaddy was an abolitionist who participated in the Underground Railroad, and then fought for the Union Army, from Fort Sumpter all the way through to Appomattox. You’re still a target.

Or, perhaps the enemy really is a gang of Cannibalistic San Franciscans on souped-up, chopped-down Harley-Davidsons, swinging logging chains as they roll through Mayberry, USA, in a flurry of ravaging rapine and murder. It doesn’t matter that you’re white, and own a Harley-Davidson too. It doesn’t matter that you’re just as much a bad-ass as they are, in a one-on-one fistfight. It’s not about a one-on-one fistfight. It’s about gang-stomping the ever-living-fuck out of anyone that even looks cross-wise at them.

The funny thing about all these potential enemies is, you’re not going to be kitted up in head-to-toe multi-cam, with your full-on battle rattle load-out on, when you find yourself confronted with them. If you had that much warning, at this stage in the game, you’d simply not be there. We don’t go stupid places, with stupid people, doing stupid things. Right?

No, those enemies are the type of people you find yourself confronted with suddenly, because you didn’t KNOW you were in a stupid place, or you didn’t know stupid people were going to show up there. Nobody does stupid shit at the shopping mall, right?

That is what, in the detective novels, they call a “clue.”

Troops

Recognizing who the enemy is likely to be, gives us an idea of what friendly troops we’re likely to have available. Guess what? Most of the “militia” members I’ve met don’t go to the goddamned mall with their fellow militia members. In fact, for the most part, the only time they ever see, let alone hang out with, their fellow militia members, is when they get together for a training weekend. So, what are the chances, really, that when that dude decides to light up the food court at the mall, that you’re going to have a “trained,” equipped, fire team with you? Pretty slim. I’d put it somewhere between slim and not-a-fucking-chance. Worst case scenario, it’s you, all by your lonesome. Best case scenario, there happens to be an ODA of National Guard Special Forces soldiers, or a platoon of infantrymen having lunch at the food court at the same time, and they decide to join the fray….and all happen to be illicitly armed with privately owned, concealed-carry pistols. Probably not going to happen, but a guy can hope, right?
More likely, it’s going to be you, your spouse, partner, or a buddy you’re hanging out with. Really, counting on having more than one partner is asking a lot. Expecting to have more than one other person that you KNOW, and have trained with, is somewhere akin to buying lottery tickets as your retirement plan. It’d be nice, but it’s probably a shit plan.

Terrain

Urban. Urban. Urban. Urban. Seriously.

Sure, there’s a chance that a gang of hard-core Mexican SF-trained banditos could raid your rural homestead/survival retreat, looking for your stash of precious metals, some semi-auto only rifles, and a box of cucumbers, but, unless you a) hang out with Mexican gangbangers, b) are a member of a criminal gang, or c) make it a point of bragging about your guns and gold and silver to random strangers who might meet one of the previous to criteria? Pretty slim chance.

Besides, if I’m a gangsta from the barrio, why in the nombre de Santo Maria, Madre de Dios, would I drive all the way out in the bumfuck back-ass end of beyond to steal your shit, when I’ve got people right down the street that I can steal it from, and not risk getting smoked by Elmer’s elk rifle, in the process?

For most people, even the most ardent survivalist/III%, in the event you have to go to guns, there is an overwhelming chance that it’s going to happen on your way to or from the goddamned grocery store, or the gym, or the movie rental place (do people still rent movies?), or the mall with the Missus.

That too, is what we call a “clue.”

Time

Time is a big one. Far bigger than we give it credit for. How long, from the sound of the first gunshot, until the last shot rings out, does it take a dedicated jihadi to dump a magazine or two out of his Kalashnikov? How about the hood rat gangbanger with a MAC-10?

Nobody “wants” to go to a gunfight—especially against a rifle—with a pistol. How long do you really think you’re going to have to get back to your truck, grab your tricked-out AR15, don your plate carrier and war belt, and then get back to wherever the gunfire is coming from? From a standing start, with the gear sitting in the open, on the floor next to me, it takes me about 45-60 seconds to toss on my plate carrier and war belt, and run a press-check to ensure my rifle is loaded, and has a round in the chamber (if you respond with, “I don’t need to do a press-check because my rifle is already loaded,” you’re too fucking ignorant to comment, so go play with the kids, and leave the adults alone to have real conversations). I’m a reasonably fit dude. I can complete a 300 meter run in well under one minute. I can complete a 50 meter sprint in around 6 or 7 seconds. So, it really depends on how far out my truck is parked, but even at a best case scenario, we’re looking at a couple of minutes….

Do I leave my wife and kids in the danger zone, while I go get my “Rambo Gear” on, and come back? Or, do I do the right thing, and “run what I brung?” I know my answer….

“Oh, but I open carry my AR15 to the mall.” Then, you’re a fucking retard, and deserve all the grief you’re going to get. Just because it’s legal, doesn’t make it right. Sure, people SHOULD be okay with Joe Militia walking around the mall with an M4 slung across his back. Here in the real world however, they’re not, and you shoving it in their faces is NOT going to make them okay with it. If you scare the shit out of Suzy Homemaker…and playing Bubba With A Battle Rifle at the Mall, IS going to scare the shit out of Suzy Homemaker….you deserve to get hassled by the police, because really, you’re too retarded to own a gun anyway.

You’ve also lost any element of surprise and tactical advantage you might have had. Mohammed Jihadi is NOT going to decide, “Oh, look! That guy has an AR15! I better go home and rethink the error of my decisions in life.” Instead, he’s going to go, “Oh, look! That guy has an AR15! If I smoke his stupid ass first, now I get to shoot twice as many people!”

Time is of the essence, and semi-auto rifles can do a LOT of damage, very, very quickly. That too, is what we call, a “clue.”

Ah yes, that bugger of a consideration that no one remembers, if their training consists of reading FMs
produced before around 1996. Everything you do has an impact on the people around you, for better or for worse. So, preparing for Mohammed the Solo Jihadi, by walking through the mall, kitted out in multi-cam, with an AR15 slung across your back? It IS going to impact the people around you, and those people WILL have an impact on your ability to accomplish your mission.

I walk through the mall, go to the movie theater with the wife, go to the park with the kids, and go grocery shopping at the hippie natural foods store, all the time, armed. Glock 17, Ban Tang Clinch Pick (yeah, I finally got one. Thanks, Ban! Seriously, get one. Well worth the price, if simply for ease of carry…and wicked, scary sharp!), and two spare magazines for the G17. I’m not going to say I’ve never been made, carrying—although I doubt it—but I’ve certainly never had anyone, including cops in close proximity and eye-fucking me, out me for carrying concealed. So, while my scary appearance may have a negative impact, the fact that I smile a lot, and know how to say “please,” “thank you,” and “pardon me, ma’am,” goes a long way toward mitigating that….walking around in camouflage, with a rifle over my shoulder would not be mitigated by nice words and a smile.

So, let’s look at a quick summary of what our METT-TC analysis has told us:

My mission is to survive, long enough to ensure my children’s survival, and to stay free of imprisonment long enough to set a good example for them, as they grow up.

My mission is to survive, long enough to ensure my children’s survival, and to stay free of imprisonment long enough to set a good example for them, as they grow up.

The likely culprits that I may face, who would be an impediment to mission success include: rogue LEO with an attitude of cowardice, and a desire to stomp puppies, and other assorted criminal elements. More likely than not, any confrontation will occur in a relatively crowded, populated area. I will likely be alone, or with my wife and children, and armed with my EDC/CCW loadout, unless/until I make it back to my truck.

Chances are, if you look at things objectively, your METT-TC considerations are remarkably similar, regardless of where you live, or who you are.

So, let’s look at the ideal training progression, with these considerations in mind:

1) Physical Fitness

Come on. You KNEW it was going to lead the list. If you didn’t, you’re really, really, really new here. You don’t need to be a Crossfit Games champion. You don’t need to be an Olympic decathlete, or a professional powerlifter, or any other sort of professional-level athlete.

You DO need to be strong enough to do what you need to do, and you DO need to have enough endurance to do what you need to do. How fit is fit enough? Hard to say. If we look at the instances of civilian use of firearms in personal and home defense, not very. If we start looking at other instances—say “knockout games,” and similar, being fit is certainly going to be high on the list of priorities.

Rather than taking the easy way out, and assuming the enemy will be a fat, donut-eating, pastry chef with an attitude, maybe we need to assume the enemy will be younger, stronger, faster, and fitter. If we train with the goal of being as fit as we can be, then that’s the best we can do.

My recommendations remain the same as they’ve ever been, regardless of age or physical infirmities:

Lift heavy shit, often, and repeatedly. Run fast, as far as possible.

2) Fight

The root word of “gunfight” is not “gun.” It’s “fight.” You need to be able to fight. Not every life-and-death situation is going to warrant “going to guns.” Maybe it starts out as shouted angry words with some dude that grabbed your wife’s ass, in front of your kids.

Now, maybe the “mature, civilized man” would let that slide. After all, if I get killed, because I decided to say something in defense of my wife’s “honor,” I’ve done a piss-poor job of surviving, right? Unfortunately, my mission requires more than just survival. I also have to set an example for my children to look up to. If you grab my wife’s ass, you can damned sure be certain, we ARE going to have a conversation about it, and that conversation is going to involve me breaking your goddamned arm.

Of course, in order to do that, I better be able to fight, right?

What if it’s not that simple. What if it’s some dude that comes around a corner, already has a gun out, and is five feet away, demanding my wallet, or trying to convince my wife to go into the alley with him, lest he shoot me? Can I go to guns, first, and win that fight?

Maybe. I’m pretty quick.

Am I willing to risk my wife or kids catching his round if I’m wrong? Maybe, just maybe, going hands-on, and trying to gain control of his weapon FIRST, is a better option? You need to be able to fight, and six months of ninjutsu at the local strip mall dojo is probably not going to cut it. Get to a boxing class, get to a grappling class. Worst case scenario, get a bunch of your buddies from the militia together, and spend a couple hours a week just beating the shit out of each other…

Even better, if you think you can’t afford the time to get to a regular boxing and/or BJJ class? Go take Cecil Burch’s Immediate-Action Combatives course. At least then, you’ll have been introduced to the basic fundamental skills/techniques of jiujitsu and boxing, in an armed environment. Go take Craig Douglas’ Shivworks/ECQC course. Go to Paul Sharp’s MDOC course. Hell, come take my Clandestine Carry Pistol course, where 2 of the 4 days are combatives-centric, focused on fighting TO the gun.
3) CCW

Seriously. I don’t care if you get a concealed-carry permit. In fact, in a lot of cases, I recommend against it. But, carry a motherfucking gun. EVERY. TIME. YOU. LEAVE. THE. HOUSE. I don’t care if you’re going to the neighbor’s for supper, or you’re going to church. CARRY. A. GODDAMNED. GUN. Concealed.

More importantly, don’t be deluded into thinking the gun is a magical talisman of protection. Your CCW certification class is NOT a defensive handgun course. Take a practical shooting course with pistols. Here’s the catch though, not all defensive handgun courses are created equal.

It’s cool to take a course that focuses on shooting fast, accurately. In fact, that’s probably the first pistol course you should take. It helps start developing the fundamental skill sets. In the real world though, it’s entirely possible that you’ll end up shooting TOO fast, and TOO accurately.

WTF?

Too many shooting courses focus any “decision-making” on simple, binary decisions. “Gun or no gun?” is NOT a valid decision-making matrix for shoot-or-no shoot in the real world. It’s more complicated than that. Hell, even “that dude is pointing a gun at me” may not be adequate grounds to drop the hammer.

A solid, practical, real-world shooting course MUST include practical, complex decision-making processes in the course work. You’ve got to learn to SEE and PROCESS information FASTER, so you can shoot SOONER. A sub-one second shot is great…right up until it takes you two seconds to determine that the apparent target is your wife/best friend/father-in-law, coming to help.

Seriously. If you haven’t had a legitimate class in running your CCW pistol, that emphasizes rapid-fire, accurate decision-making processes, under stress, you’re legitimately not qualified to be carrying a firearm in public, regardless of what certifications you may have.

4) Carbine/Rifle

Nobody WANTS to get in a gunfight, armed with a pistol. We all get it. The reality however, is that, outside of certain law enforcement situations, or being in the military, in a combat zone, in a combat arms MOS, chances are, if you ever find yourself involved in a shooting situation, you’re going to be armed with a pistol. Deal with it.

There are times when a rifle may be a viable option. Dealing with a road-rage incident, or some sort of vehicle ambush/carjacking, or accidentally driving into the middle of a fucking riot, when you have your rifle in the vehicle, and ready-at-hand; those are situations where a rifle is not only an option, but the best option. So yeah, you should learn how to run your rifle. You should learn how to carry your rifle, at home, and in your vehicle, for the best results (note to self: add rifle in the vehicle carry methods and positions to the Combat Rifle POI).

Guess what, none of the likely situations where you’re going to have a rifle handy, and need it, involve shooting motherfuckers 500 meters away! It’s about using rifles at 0-100M, and really, anything past 50M is probably stretching credulity a little bit. Shooting tight, accurate groups is important, but shooting them “tight enough” and “fast enough” is more important. How quickly can you get your rifle out of the backseat floorboard, and into action, from the driver’s seat?

I’ve got a friend that keeps a folding stock Kalashnikov tucked between the passenger seat and the console, covered with a jacket. He can deploy that thing in less than three seconds. I keep a rifle on the rear floorboard, beneath the kids’ feet. I can deploy it in 5-6 seconds, or I can let the wife get it out, while I lay down a base of fire with the Glock (but really, as the driver, I shouldn’t be shooting. I should be driving us the fuck out of danger).

Like the pistol, shooting fast and accurate with the rifle is important, but again, good decision-making is more important. If the coursework you’re taking doesn’t cover decision-making, whether it’s because the trainer doesn’t know what that means, or doesn’t know how to teach it, beyond “shoot the guys with guns painted on them, don’t shoot the guys with hands painted on them,” find another trainer.

5) Small-Unit Tactics

The next three options are really a toss-up as to which is the most important to train first, second, and third. I put SUT first, because in my course-work, it’s really the foundation for everything else.

I teach SUT, using a patrolling format as the vehicle. Some guys just teach the basic battle drills and call it good. There’s nothing inherently wrong with either approach, I just find that using patrolling as the vehicle helps put things into context better for people.

SUT, at this level, is not about platoon or even squad-level tactics, techniques, and procedures. It should really focus on two-man and four-man team tactics. How do you conduct a “break contact” battle drill with two guys? What about four guys? Can you conduct a “hasty attack” with two guys or four guys? (Yes. It won’t be pretty with two guys, but it has been—and can be—done effectively). Can you conduct an ambush with two guys or four guys? What about fighting your way out of an ambush?

Which battle drill should you focus on? When is each applicable? Are any of them NOT applicable, in the context of the METT-TC factors we’ve established? Legitimately, I don’t know many people that are putting out good POI on SUT. Obviously, I teach a class in this. Max Velocity’s class is supposed to be good, but I haven’t taken it personally. I don’t even know who else is teaching this material, and I certainly don’t know who is teaching it reasonably well.

6) Fighting In/Around Vehicles

Americans, outside of a few major metropolitan areas, have an interesting love affair with vehicles. While I know people in New York City who have NEVER been behind the wheel of a vehicle, most of us start driving at 15 or 16, and drive daily, the rest of our working lives. I spend an inordinately large amount of time behind the wheel of the truck. Even when we’re not traveling to and from classes, we spend a lot of time driving to and from town to take care of daily business, like going to work, grocery shopping, etc.

The chances that I’m going to run into a riot in the vehicle are pretty slim. I’m more likely to have the kind of shit happen like happened today, when a dude decided to run a red light, and I was the only guy in four lanes of traffic that saw him coming and stopped, instead of almost hitting him or getting hit by him. On the road traveling though? We roll through major metro areas regularly, any of which could be host to a shit storm at a red light. Even when we go to town, which is now a University town, there’s always a chance of rolling into the midst of a shit storm.

If you live in, or spend time around, a city of any size, especially with the race-baited tensions currently running rampant in America, and you’ve not gotten some serious training in dealing with a bad situation, while in and around, your vehicle, you’re fucking yourself.

Of course, like everything else, decision-making should be a major part of the curriculum. Should I just run through the crowd, and play “Bowling for Bodies” with my rig (make sure you’ve got a LOT of ground clearance, so you don’t end up bottomed out on a body….), or should I try and back out? Should I just say “fuck it!” and start shooting motherfuckers? What happens if I wait too long, and somebody is already in the car with me before I realize that he’s got ill-intent?

7) Fighting In/Around Buildings

The one place we spend more time than in our cars, is in buildings. Whether you’re trying to get OUT of a building where there’s an “active shooter” situation going on, or you’re hunting said “active shooter,” or some skell IS coming through your front door, and you need to get to the kids, knowing how to deal with the angles in buildings is essential.

Even more than every other type of material that might be covered in any given course, decision-making HAS to be incorporated into the POI for fighting in/around buildings. The speed required to effectively clear a building, without eating a faceful of bad guy pew-pew (I’ve been trying to figure out a way to incorporate pew-pew into an article!), while also taking enough time to avoid inadvertently shooting your wife, kid, or mother-in-law, requires some serious fucking quick decision-making processes. Any CQB course work that doesn’t include decision-making in the training process is fucking you, in the long run.

Conclusions

Not gonna lie. Running rifle/carbine classes is pretty cake, from a trainer’s perspective. Even when you start making shit a little more…should I say…dynamic? It’s still—relatively—easier to run a straight carbine class, safely, and still get valid information across to people. That doesn’t mean we should be pushing carbine classes for students, if we’re trying to honestly help people better protect themselves and their families.

One of the most important skill sets we can develop for life in general, and survival specifically, is critical thinking and sound decision-making skills. If we legitimately develop those skills, and apply them to determining training priorities, it becomes readily apparent, what direction our training planning should follow.

Focus on the 25M target.

We were in town getting groceries this evening, and I witnessed two separate instances that made me physically ill with disgust.

Produce section of the local hippie grocery store:

As we’re walking in, I caught a black shirt with POLICE written in bold white letters across the upper back. Looking closer, I understood why it was so eye-catching: the shirt HAD to be a minimum of XXXL. Dude was an easy 150# overweight, with Dunlap Disease impacting his duty belt. As we walked through the produce section, we crossed paths with this dude and his young, skinny son. The LEO (with his duty belt on still) was looking through the pre-cut fruit selection, with his back to the world, including me. As a—relatively risky—experiment, I actually bumped into him from behind, with my shoulder, on his gun side.

Even when I followed it with, “Oh, excuse me. Sorry about that.” HE NEVER EVEN LOOKED UP…

Fast-forward half an hour, and we’d already left, when the wife remembered that we’d forgotten something, so I ran back in. As I’m standing in line at the checkout, again, there is another overweight dude, mid-thirties, standing in line in front of me, staring down at his phone, ignoring his young kid that was with him. The back of his shirt had a skull inside a crosshairs, and the legend, “Somewhere, your enemy is training hard to defeat you! Train HARD!”

Now, I have my issues with people wearing cool-guy motivational t-shirts, but I really can’t talk shit about that, since I wear them a lot too. What I don’t do, while wearing them, is bury my fucking nose in a cell phone, and not know what’s going on around me.

I followed dude out of the store, and saw that he was parked directly in front of my truck, so I followed him—not even unobtrusively. I actually hyped the aggressiveness in my body language, to see if he’d catch on. Nope. Not even when he stopped, and I kept walking towards him, and shoved a hand into my pocket, and got within five feet of him before I went ahead and went around.

So, what’s the moral of this?

Maybe Officer Friendly is starting a diet and training program. Maybe he just started recently. I’m not even commenting on the PT and nutrition equation. Maybe Dude #2 just finished a shooting course this weekend, and is wearing his moto shirt once before he hangs it in the closet and forgets about it. I don’t know.

What I do know, is I see this a lot. It’s not the young, fit dudes in their twenties who have their heads up their asses, ignoring the world around them. It’s the older guy who—if you asked—would be all over the “I’ve got street awareness and combat mindset on my side!” that end up being the guy who is stuck in normalcy bias. They are the guys who seem to be wrapped around this “Shit, ain’t nothing bad ever going to happen to me. I mean, I’m just going to the grocery store/movie theater/my grandkid’s school play/water park/whatever….”

If you’re taking a carbine class, or a CQB class, or a small-unit tactics class, and you don’t even have the skill set to keep yourself from getting jacked and raped in an alley? You’re probably focusing on the WRONG target.

Yes, the Apocalypse MIGHT happen tomorrow, and you’ll need to be able to shoot cannibalistic San Franciscans in the face at 500M with your tricked-out M1A. Yes, tomorrow you COULD be raided by Russian Spetznaz troops parachuted in to execute a top-secret extradition mission on you, as a leader of the “III% Resistance.” Yes, it’s POSSIBLE that, on your way to work, you could witness a vanload of MS13 gangsters carjack a Suburban full of University of Oklahoma cheerleaders, and have time to kit up and roll out heavy with your M4 and the dude who carpools to work with you might be similarly armed and equipped, so you apply your SUT training and rescue the princesses…..

But, you know what bad shit is far more likely to happen? It’s far more likely that you MIGHT get mugged at gun or knife point in the grocery store parking lot and lose your groceries, your cash, your bank card, and your pickup. It’s far more likely that—if you’re a cop or an open-carry activist—that some dick at the grocery store will grab your gun and run off with it, leaving you winded and embarrased, when you have to report the weapon stolen, and then you find out it was used in a mass murder.

This is not to say that you shouldn’t plan for and train for worst-case scenarios. I mean, if we take the “likely to happen” thing to its obvious conclusions, I don’t even need to carry a gun. I’m 6’1” tall, weigh 215#, am obviously athletic, and have no compunctions about telling someone to “back the fuck up.” I am remarkably aware of what is going on around me in public (as much a result of trying to keep track of a very independent-minded 5 year old as any inherent tactical gifts). The chances that I’m going to get mugged realistically rest somewhere between not happening and not a snowball’s chance in Hell of happening….but I still carry a goddamned gun, religiously, because I may have to step up for someone else…or that worst-case scenario could happen, and I could get carjacked by a gang of MS13 thugs.

So, to reiterate, we’re not saying “Don’t bother doing this, this, and that.” We’re saying, “If you’re doing this, this, and that, before you’ve achieved that, this, and this, you’re living in a goddamned fantasy, and you’d probably save money if, instead of buying gear and guns, you’d just take up Dungeon-and-Dragons or some shit.

Gun the fuck up and hone the edges on your ax.

Idaho in October–Combat Rifle

Upcoming Open-Enrollment Classes

2-4 OCT 2015—Idaho Falls, ID
Combat Rifle

This beginner to intermediate level course on running the rifle effectively, under field conditions, begins with basic square range work out to 200+ meters. Course work focuses on fundamentals of gunfighting, including practical marksmanship, gunhandling under stress, and critical decision-making skills development for discrimination and stress-fire shooting, before finally moving into the application of the fighting rifle in a team environment.

For enrollment-specific information, please contact HH6 at mosbyhh6@hushmail.com.

For content-specific questions, contact me at nousdefions@unseen.is.

Cost for this class is $500 per shooter.

Skull-Stomping Sacred Cows: People Are Dying, Because We’re Weak

I’m watching the news, just like most of America is, of the shootings in Chattanooga, TN, by an ISIS operative. I’m as appalled, but probably not for the reasons that most of America is. Here’s why I’m appalled….

1) I see people, including military personnel, calling the shooter a “coward.” This is a cultural cognitive bias that we HAVE to get past, both culturally and individually. Let’s look at this honestly…

The shooter in TN was not “cowardly.” What he was was smart. It was a criminal act, but only because he was a naturalized American citizen, which means he was a traitor, when he attacked American servicemen. This was an act of war, by an enemy combatant, against UNIFORMED MILITARY PERSONNEL. Did he ambush them? Sure. He utilized the METT-TC available to him, camouflaged himself in the urban environment, and killed UNIFORMED MILITARY PERSONNEL.

This is a man representative of a culture stretching back centuries; a culture that still remembers when the Caliphate ruled from India to the Iberian peninsula. These aren’t “goat-fucking, towel-head, camel jockeys.” We like to browbeat them as “barbarians,” but both etymologically and anthropologically, they are not barbarians. They’re simply a culture with a different value system than ours.

They are our enemies, culturally, and we need to recognize that, but for a people who like to quote Sun Tzu, we seem to spend an awful lot of time trying to forget this maxim, ““If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”

If we simply look at them as “goat-fucking camel jockeys,” guess what, we’re going to succumb in every battle, and we’re going to lose this clash of civilizations.

We’re at war. ISIS knows it. We use ambushes in war. So does ISIS. Dismissing this as some “cowardly” attack, rather than a planned military operation, against UNIFORMED MILITARY PERSONNEL, just because they were unarmed, serves no purpose whatsoever, except to make the average donut eating, couch-surfing, low-information voter, feel safer. “By Gawd! Them damned terr’ists wouldna have had a chance, if our boys’d had known they was comin’! Why, they’d have gunned up, dug fighting positions, developed range cards and sector sketches, and blown that sumbitch straight to his 72 virgins!” It’s a false narrative.

What we SHOULD be learning from this is “the enemy is NOT stupid.”

2) We spend a lot of time listening to moralists tell us how barbaric these people are. By OUR measure, today, yes, they are absolutely barbaric. I mean, they cut people’s heads off! They burn people! It’s horrific. Or, are we just pussies?

We used to do shit like that to our enemies. Everybody else in the world, except our “kindler, gentler” society does shit like that to their enemies. Sure, we have a different moral code than they do. Is it a moral code that’s going to result in us losing this, a multi-generational war? Julius Caesar put people’s heads on stakes. Caeser Augustus crucified people. The Puritans of Massachusetts fucking drowned women for “witchcraft.” We used to shoot and hang criminals.

Of course, our culture has “advanced” past that. We’re too “civilized” for that, these days.

I’m not going to argue with that. There’s a whole lot about contemporary western culture that I’m appreciative of. I like indoor running water. I like flush toilets. I like not having to worry about my daughters being killed by random strangers at the playground….errr…wait….

Maybe, just maybe, Sir John Baget Glubb, had it right, when he said we were decadent, and bound for a fall, because our culture had grown weak and soft. Maybe, had those Marines been armed, they WOULD have successfully defended themselves. After all, if there’s one thing the Corps does well, it’s indoctrinate their people with a warrior spirit.

Maybe, instead of worrying that people from other cultures will judge us by OUR cultural values, we need to consider that they’re only going to judge us by their cultural values, and to ISIS, the only thing that matters, is killing. If we really want to win against ISIS, maybe we need to start letting our guys that are on the ground over there start putting some heads on spikes, without having to worry about prosecution when they come home.

Maybe we need to offer a bounty on ISIS heads. “Hey, you bring me the head of an ISIS fighter, I’ll give you $1000.” Or, we can wring our hands and shed our tears over “how barbaric those people are,” as they continue doing what they think they need to do.

This is not civilization v. the barbarians. This is two civilizations, with different value systems, at war. Do we want to win, or not? It’s common for us to claim that the world has advanced beyond that behavior, but really? Only western culture has grown that weak.

3) About arming the Marines….It’s really popular right now (and always has been. I have to admit, when I started digging for the facts, I was shocked to discover that what I “knew” for twenty years, was wrong….) for people to blame Bill Clinton for the fact that US military personnel are not allowed to carry personal weapons on post. I did it for 20 years. I mean, come on, it’s Bill Clinton, a vile, despicable man…who is actually not to blame in this case.

Unfortunately, it’s the same old “Us v. Them” divisiness that politicians keep using to keep Americans divided, instead of focusing on the civilization we’re at war with.

Before we get into why it was NOT Bill Clinton’s fault that US military personnel are unarmed on post, let’s ask ourselves one critical question? If this was the result of a Leftist, anti-gun President’s Executive Order, why didn’t that paragon of Neo-Conservative, Pro-Gun patriotism, GWB, override the EO and allow military servicemen to carry again? Especially considering….WE WERE AT WAR!!!!???

Well, mostly, because it was not an Executive Order at all. The ban that took place, in March of 1993, was the result of a Department of Defense directive, issued in FEBRUARY 1992….Before Clinton was even elected. That’s right…the DoD (DoD Directive 5210.56) directed this under President George Herbert Walker Bush…so much for a Leftist, Liberal scheme to leave American troops vulnerable to attack.

The Army initiated the directive in March of 1993 as AR 190-14, which regulation specifically says it is intended to put into action the appropriate portions of directive 5210.56.

We can continue to blame Bill Clinton, or we can try to figure out why Directive 5210.56 was reissued in 2011, WHEN WE ARE AT WAR!!!???

 

 

 

 

 

Make no mistake, this is not a war of civilization versus the barbarians. This is a war between two civilizations. One remembers its heritage and is okay with that. The other one is embarrassed by its heritage and wants to convince itself that it’s “too nice” to do shit like that. Who do you really think has the edge there?

So, the John Mosby, Mountain Guerrilla solution to this?

Gun the fuck up. Hone the edges on your axes. Sharpen some stakes, so you have somewhere to put the heads, and pay the fuck attention to what’s going on around you.

 

Upcoming Training Opportunities

18-20 September 2015 Spearfish, SD

Close-Quarters Battle (CQB) Fighting In and Around Structures

This course has not previously been available for open-enrollment courses. The course starts with close-quarters marksmanship realities and shooting in non-permissive environments, before moving into external movement in built-up areas, and room-clearing methodologies, finally moving into methods of hardening structures to slow entry by hostiles. This class involves multiple iterations of both dry-fire and live-fire entries into single- and multiple-room structures in daylight and low-light. It also includes Force-on-Force entries, under varying conditions.

For enrollment-specific information, please contact HH6 at mosbyhh6@hushmail.com.

For content-specific questions, contact me at nousdefions@unseen.is.

Due to the “last minute” scheduling of this class, complete balances for this class are due no later than 15 August 2015. Cost of the class is $500 per shooter. A $30 range fee per shooter is necessary, and may be paid at the range upon arrival. This class is taking place on a commercial training range, with a professional shoot-house structure.

9-11 October 2015 Skull Valley, AZ

Combat Rifle

This beginner to intermediate level course on running the rifle effectively, under field conditions, begins with basic square range work out to 200+ meters. Course work focuses on fundamentals of gunfighting, including practical marksmanship, gunhandling under stress, and critical decision-making skills development for discrimination and stress-fire shooting, before finally moving into the application of the fighting rifle in a team environment.

For enrollment-specific information, please contact HH6 at mosbyhh6@hushmail.com.

For content-specific questions, contact me at nousdefions@unseen.is.

Cost for this class is $500 per shooter. If enrollment is combined with the CQB class the following weekend, the combined cost for both classes is $900.

16-18 October 2015

Close-Quarters Battle (CQB) Fighting In and Around Structures

This course has not previously been available for open-enrollment courses. The course starts with close-quarters marksmanship realities and shooting in non-permissive environments, before moving into external movement in built-up areas, and room-clearing methodologies, finally moving into methods of hardening structures to slow entry by hostiles. This class involves multiple iterations of both dry-fire and live-fire entries into single- and multiple-room structures in daylight and low-light. It also includes Force-on-Force entries, under varying conditions.

For enrollment-specific information, please contact HH6 at mosbyhh6@hushmail.com.

For content-specific questions, contact me at nousdefions@unseen.is.

Cost for this class is $500 per shooter. If enrollment is combined with the Combat Rife class the preceding weekend, the combined cost for both classes is $900.

We have had a LOT of expressed interested in the Arizona classes. There has been enough interest expressed that—assuming everyone who said “I’m coming!” sends in their deposits, the classes will be full. If you want in to either—or both—of these classes, you need to contact us and get your deposits in ASAP. Deposits are due by 1 August 2015, with balances no later than 1 September.

NOTE

We are still getting a lot of requests for classes in the eastern US. We are completely available to make this happen now, but we have to find places to hold them. If you are interested in hosting a class in the Midwest, South, or Northeast, please contact HH6 at Mosbyhh6@hushmail.com.

The Shooting Drill You’re Probably Not Doing Enough…Or Correct.

(I finally got some range time in tonight, after not getting to shoot much during the moving process. Spent a half-hour at 100 meters, doing nothing but this drill, with the AR and the AK. It’s one that seems mind-numbingly boring and basic, and a lot of really qualified guys hate it, because it’s been so abused and misused for so long, by so many. That’s too bad though, because–done properly–it really is probably the single most important practical, combat shooting drill you can do. –JM)

As I watched the “tactical shooting” training industry take off in the middle of the last decade, one of the things I found bemusing was the trend to get away from simple “Snap Shot” drills, often derided as “UP!” drills, after the shooter command of “Shooter, ready? And….UP!” I watched as guys coming out of different units, both SOF and Big Green, did anything they could to move away from this very basic, almost mind-numbingly monotonous drill. I understand—and understood—that the basic snap shot drill was all too often overused, while simultaneously, and at first glance, paradoxically, underutilized.

How is THAT possible? Trainers had/have a tendency to rely on the drill—especially in the military—because it’s simple, easy to run on a square range, with a large number of moderately trained (or even barely trained) shooters. That’s good in a way, because it’s actually, as we’re going to see, a very useful drill. In many ways, I argue, it’s the single most important drill you can do for effective combat shooting.

The problems arise—and they still arise for many, if not most, shooters and instructors—due to a piss-poor understanding of how to leverage the maximum amount of benefit out of the drill. When it simply becomes a rote thing, with no metrics for performance—and thus improvement—it loses the vast, vast majority of its benefit.

The Benefits

So, how can the most basic, beginner level drill you can run actually be the MOST important drill you can run? Well, first of all, as any good shooter, and all the great shooters, will tell you, advanced shooting skills are simply a mastery of the fundamentals. That’s obvious though, right?

The single most important shot you will take in a fight—and it doesn’t matter what gun you’re running—is the first shot of the fight. It needs to be accurate enough, and arrive soon enough, to rob the opposition of the initiative. So, developing speed and accuracy for the first shot is critical. Best way to do that? Master the snap shot drill.

But, what about all the cool-guy, go-faster drills that have you performing mag-dump after mag-dump on the range, focused on split-times, transitions between targets, and all the other “chicks-dig-it” Jedi gunfighter tricks?

I’m not saying those are not important. They are. What I’m saying is…

1) If you hit the dude in the dick…or the face…or well, really, anywhere, it’s going to buy you a margin of time. If your split-times are slow, but you’ve “interrupted his OODA loop” by putting a 5.56mm hole in his penis, guess what? You’re probably going to get a chance to shoot him again, even with a slow split-time.

Yes, you should be able to engage with multiple, aimed rounds, at a high rate of fire. Nevertheless, getting that first hit will go a long way towards allowing you to get the others, even if they’re not sub-half second splits.

2) One of the most important things we learn when we do “snap shot” drills CORRECTLY, is exactly how much precision we need in order to get as fast as we can get, at different ranges. I need a lot less precision to get a head shot in less than one second at 10 meters than I do to get a torso shot in less than one second at 100 meters… This carries over to target-to-target transitions, because our neural pathways between eyes, brain, and trigger finger, are being exercised and trained to recognize how much precision is “enough.”

3) Building the neural pathways to build a solid, stable, durable firing position that will allow you to get a first-round hit at various ranges, as fast as possible, will facilitate all the other shooting skills you need with that particular weapon.

But, How Do I Do It Right?

The first step in utilizing snap drills to their full benefit is establishing metrics. HOW are you going to define success? Just by hitting an E-Type silhouette? That’s the standard that caused a metric shit-ton of heartache with most of the military, when the military started recognizing the importance of CQM shooting. Hitting an E-Type silhouette is simply not adequate. Hitting an E-Type silhouette at 10-25M is a really, really bad joke.

So, step one is defining a more challenging target. If you’re shooting snaps at 10-25M, or closer, focus on a target the size of an index card or smaller. Since I’m kind of a lazy bastard, and don’t want to walk downrange every shot, to check my target, I just use a 6” steel plate.

At 50-100+ meters, I genuinely believe a C-zone silhouette is adequate. If you look at the size of it, it’s roughly the same size as the center portion of the upper thoracic cavity of an adult male. That’s “enough” precision, even at 200 meters. If you end up being a little outside in the real world? A rifle round will still fuck his week up, and it will generally slow him down enough to allow you a follow-up shot. Further, there’s nothing stopping you from painting a smaller circle on the C-zone to refine it further. Once I had my snap shots consistently under 0.9 seconds on a C-zone, at 100M from the standing, I started using an 8” steel circle instead. When that’s consistently a comfortable level below the one-second mark, I’ll drop to a 6” steel at that distance.

One issue that we see a lot in training people who have a traditional American view of what marksmanship is–”I kin shoot a gnat off a fly’s ass at 300 yards, by Gawd!”—is that they want MORE precision than is actually necessary. This of course, sounds like heresy, but it’s really not. We all love precision shooting. I like printing a one-hole group with 10 rounds at 100 meters. Unfortunately, that level of precision takes more time than we probably have, when the other dude is trying to get his “comments” into the conversation. He will probably not be overly concerned about placing his shots precisely in your heart, but even if he “just” shoots you in the leg or arm, it’s going to have a seriously detrimental effect on your precision anyway, so you HAVE to learn to know what is—and accept—“good enough.”

This issue most commonly arises, in my experience, when guys are running optics. I love optics. I will never willingly move to the sound of the guns with a rifle that is not equipped with decent optics. Unfortunately however, people have to understand that just because you CAN be more precise with optics doesn’t necessarily mean it’s always the RIGHT choice. So, one aspect of utilizing the snap drill is accepting that “perfect” really IS the enemy of “good enough.” This isn’t an attack on precision shooting, or even a suggestion that precision should be ignored. I still spend a lot of time, every range session, working on precision, and once I’m able to shoot “fast enough” and “precise enough,” then I can change my definition of “precise enough” to something more challenging.

So, step one in correctly utilizing the snap drill is establishing an EFFECTIVE level of “precise enough.” Once you have established what your standard of “precise enough” is, stick to it, but start focusing on achieving it faster. How fast is “fast enough?” I can’t tell you that. If you’re stuck fighting a guy who is really not committed, and is a lousy shooter, five or six seconds might be “fast enough.” On the other hand, if you’ve got a trained, aggressive shooter, with a lot of gunfights under his belt, sub-1:00 second might barely be fast enough… or it might not be fast enough.

Generally speaking, I tell people that, realistically, from the standing, low ready, they need to be able to move into any given firing position, and engage a target of the above dimensions with at least one aimed shot, in less than three seconds. Why?

Because, doctrinally, we teach the use of a 3-5 second rush, and under fire, that really does tend to shorten towards the three second end of the spectrum, for obvious reasons. If I can get a hit in less than three seconds, on a reduced-size target, when reacting to a cue, and the dude takes three seconds to get to a position of cover, then I’ve got a pretty solid chance of actually getting at least one round into him. Whether that one round drops him where he is, or he gets to cover, and then tries to move again, it’s still PROBABLY—GENERALLY—going to slow his roll a little bit, increasing the odds that I’m going to get to hit him again.

Anyone of reasonable health and fitness can achieve a sub-3:00 second first round hit snap drill, even if they’re dropping into the prone. Seriously, if you can’t, with even just an hour or two of training and practice…..take up cooking. You’ll be a lot more useful to everyone, and you’ll live longer.

Realistically though, ultimately, you should be pushing that speed barrier, as long as you’re still shooting “precise enough.” When you find a barrier that you can’t get faster than, without missing, it’s time to focus on solidifying your skill at that speed. Focus on performing the skill properly, at speed, and pretty soon, you’ll be able to break your new barrier. This is not about “how fast can I shoot.” It’s about “how fast can I shoot properly?” As the old adage goes, “you can’t miss fast enough to win.”

I don’t consider myself particularly gifted athletically. I have to work my ass off for everything athletic I do. If I can consistently break sub-1:00 snaps at 100m, and sub-2:00 snaps dropping to the prone, there’s no reason anyone cannot.

The problem with time metrics on the snap drill that has often arisen in the military, is the lack of emphasis on that metric. For entirely too long, the mantra has always been “slow is smooth, and smooth is fast.” While appealing, it’s only partially true. Yes, in order to go fast, you’re going to have to have smooth, well-developed biomechanics. Unless you’re willing to push your speed until your biomechanics start being “not smooth” though, and then focus on smooth again, at that speed, you’re just engaged in martial masturbation. It’s like doing a kata or something, with the rifle.

The drawback to the time metric though, is that it becomes THE GOAL. That’s not the way it’s supposed to be. It’s just a metric. It’s a way to measure your performance. That’s the problem with standards. If you establish them low enough for people to achieve easily, they achieve that and say, “Meh. Good enough.” If you set them high enough that they might actually be, well…”good enough,” then people get discouraged and give up. So….your “standard” is “precise enough,” as fast as you can…and then a little faster.

It’s Not About Shooting Faster

The purpose of the snap drill is genuinely not about shooting “faster.” In the real world, shooting faster actually tends to have rather deleterious effects, like shooting the wrong fucking person, because you shot before you recognized that it was your 12-year old, and NOT a MS13 gunslinger.

Our goal is to shoot “sooner.” What’s the difference? Shooting sooner is about working the problem correctly, and only making legitimate shots, as soon as possible. That requires more than a fast target acquisition and a quick trigger finger though. It involves knowing and understanding what the parameters are that allow for a legitimate shot, in your circumstances, and then—and ONLY THEN—breaking a FAST, ACCURATE shot. Being able to recognize what is “precise enough,” and then delivering it “fast enough,” wil allow you to shoot sooner, AFTER the decision-making process has allowed you to positively identify your target as a legitimate target.

The time metric just forces you to accept “accurate enough,” instead of pushing for “precision.”

Snap drills will develop your ability to make the decision “THIS is accurate enough,” at the speed you’re capable of making the hit. Whether it’s the first shot of the fight, or it’s the first shot on the last bad guy still standing; even if it’s the second or third or fourth shot in a string of shots to put a motherfucker on the pavement, that recognition of “THIS is accurate ENOUGH” is valuably developed with snap drills for a time metric.
Conclusions

No one is suggesting—or at least, I’m not suggesting—that you shouldn’t perform other drills. Sam Culper and I are actually working on a forthcoming project for Forward Observer that will provide a new training drill every month (along with all the other shit I’ve got on my plate). The basic snap drill however, should be—and should remain—a bread-and-butter staple of your training diet. It will increase your ability to deliver a solid, first shot hit that may allow you more time to get follow-on hits. It will increase your ability to recognize “this is accurate enough” under the stress of time constraints.

I often tell people in classes—and I believe it to the depths of my soul—other than a firearm (and a holster, if we’re talking about handgun work), the single most important training tool you have available to you is a shot timer. While ammunition is obviously necessary for live-fire training, I’d take a guy who has a shit ton of good dry-fire training on a shot timer, over the dude who has plinked at targets with live-fire, but no metric of performance, any day of the week and twice—maybe thrice—on Sundays.

Postscript

I was speaking via FB Messenger with a friend who is a currently serving NCO, and a long-time Army all-around shooting instructor. He offered the following variation to the basic snap drill that I really like the idea of as well.

Group Therapy
One of the harder parts of training alone is randomization. We have all been there when you are getting really fast time because you know when you are going to hear the beep. Tonight I was talking to Mosby and had a thought. While I haven’t shot this yet, I am certain it will work, suck, and answer the random portion.

Equipment needed: Weapon, Smart phone, Shot timer

Additional items needed: Friends (harder than it sounds)

Setup: Most smartphones allow for a custom vibration pattern to be made. Build either a one second buzz or a quick buzz/ 1 sec pause/ buzz. Base time off your goal for the day

The Drill: Send a group text to a few friends. Start shot timer and assume ready position. On the buzz from the first reply, fire shot before time is up. Do this for each buzz. If your times are consistent, set alert tone for a single ping, then text some antagonism to the friends who love to text. That should make for an interesting and random range session.

Auxiliary Taskings: MISO Soup for the Survivalist Soul

We live in a world where information is everything, at least in the minds of most people. Between local, cable, and satellite television providers offering information access to the most remote corners of the globe, to the Internet, we are often overwhelmed with a plethora of complex, rapidly changing—and often intentionally wrong—information being thrown at us.

METT-T considerations have changed drastically from the days when I was a young private, in many ways. When we consider the amount of information available to even the most remote peoples on the planet, the OCOKA terrain feature of Key Terrain has undergone a fundamental shift from focusing solely on the geographic to include human terrain factors of relevant affected populations. Additionally, the addition of Civilian Considerations, changing METT-T into METT-TC additionally emphasizes the critical nature of the perceptions of affected populations on the impact of planning and operations.

In Unconventional Warfare (UW) of course, we’ve long recognized the criticality of both the physical presence of the local populace, such as when Mao referred to the “sea of the people,” and their perceptions of what is occurring around them. For the survivalist/prepper tribe, whether comprised of a dozen individuals, or a dozen families, recognizing that you are—regardless of any other mitigating factors—a very small group, surrounded by vastly superior numbers, for better or worse, makes the importance of possessing a well-developed set of capabilities and plans to engage local and regional audiences with messages that support your goals and desires, self-evident to all but the most dense. To borrow a quote from the Department of Defense, “The informational, cultural, social, moral, political, and physical aspects of the operational environment are as critical to operational success as the traditional orientation on adversary military capabilities has been in the past.

The methods used for leveraging these human terrain factors in our favor are referred to currently as Military Information Support Operations (MISO). This is the term du jour within the DoD for what have previously been referred to as Psychological Operations, or PSYOP. In previous articles on this blog, we’ve spent varying amounts of time and bandwidth discussing PSYOP/MISO, at the tactical planning level. Today, we’re going to try and think a little larger. This is in an effort to demonstrate some of the shortcomings in the current preparedness culture efforts (or lack thereof) towards MISO, and potential ways to remedy these.

Doctrinal Considerations
According to the DoD, MISO are “used to establish and reinforce foreign perceptions of US military, political, and economic power and resolve. In conflict, it is a force multiplier that can degrade the enemy’s relative combat power, reduce civilian interference, minimize collateral damage, and maximize the local populace’s support for operations.

If we are capable of practicing basic sound thinking, we can adapt that statement to fit our specific needs quite readily. We may or may not be interested in foreign perceptions, but we certainly need to make certain that we are conveying a coherent, congruent message to the unaligned portions of the American populace. It’s entertaining and self-aggrandizing to sit and stew and spew epithets about the “brainless sheep” of American society. There’s obviously even some truth in the defamation. In my experience however, there are far more people in America who are pissed off, but feel powerless to facilitate effective changes to the status quo than there are people who “just don’t give a shit.”

On of the tenets of UW has long been that there will be a small number of active supporters, a small number of active opponents, and the vast mass of the populace who just don’t give a shit, because they’re focused on making a living and keeping their families alive. The goal of MISO in UW is to convince that vast mass to either a) actively support your efforts, or at least b) not actively oppose your efforts. The failing of the preparedness culture is in achieving either of these two goals. This failure is typically instigated as a result of the arrogance and hubris of the “movers and shakers” of the preparedness movement. I’ll let you in on a secret. Let’s call it “Mosby’s MISO Maxim Number One.”

“When you insult people, you lose the ability to convince them.”

Calling people “brainless sheep” is, regardless of what you might think otherwise, pretty insulting. So, as soon as you do so, you’ve just lost the ability to positively influence their thinking and actions. The same applies, in large part, to trying to intimidate them. Very few people consider themselves cowards. An overt attempt to scare people into compliance is generally not successful, outside of cultural norms. Sure, the government can intimidate people…they’ve been culturally conditioned to fear the government’s power. Yes, the Mafia can intimidate people….they’ve been culturally conditioned by the media and history, to fear the power of the Mob.

The only thing that people have been conditioned to feel towards the preparedness and Patriot community is ridicule, often times by our own efforts. Trying to intimidate people, through an amateur-hour MISO effort, is no different than the little chess club geek in high school deciding he’s going to buffalo the star quarterback into not picking on him anymore. If he tries to intimidate him, physically, he’s going to fail, dismally. He has to leverage his intelligence to communicate the message in a more effective manner. Trying to physically bully the quarterback is going to get him laughed at, mocked, and probably stomped on.

If we intend to survive the decline of empire; that period when the empire is most ready to stomp on the necks of dissidents, in a futile attempt to retain power, we have to learn to leverage everything within our grasp, to our benefit. MISO is one of the most cost-effective methods of doing so, if we can do it intelligently. Through it, we really can degrade the empire’s relative combat power. We can reduce civilian interference and maximize the local populace’s support for our efforts, but we have to do so by NOT BEING A DICK.

The fact is, most of what passes for MISO efforts in the community today achieve the exact opposite effects. Too many people prattle nonsensically about “martial law,” without ever bothering to do the basic arithmetic that illustrates the impossibility thereof. Too many influential voices in the community blather about “fighting off SWAT teams,” in the same article that they’re telling people they should “fear the rise of the police state.” Messages like this are incongruent, AND they actually strengthen the government’s relative combat power, by creating an aura of invincibility.

Further, they degrade local populace support for your efforts, and increase the likelihood of civilian interference, by demeaning a group of people—police officers and the military—that most people actually support, at least in their own minds, even if they get pissed off when they get a speeding ticket. We can spend all the time we want talking about how “the police don’t do nothing for me. I got my own guns to stop criminals.” The simple fact is, however, that most people not only have zero interest in shooting motherfuckers in the face, they appreciate paying taxes to support those who they believe will do it for them.

If your goal is overthrow of the “tyrannical, socialist” government of the United States, well…you’re probably an idiot…no. Belay that. You ARE an idiot, and your MISO efforts are wasted. The vast, vast majority of Americans, regardless of political affiliation, love their country, and the ideals they believe it represents. See, that’s the catch in nation-state political efforts….Truth may be universal (I’m not so sure, myself), but reality is a matter of perception. The flag-burning, Occupy Wall Street protester believes that the ideals he holds dear are just as “American” as you believe your ideals are. The middle-age suburban housewife who believes the government is always doing things in the best interest of “the American people” is just as sincere in her beliefs as you are. Trying to convince her otherwise is certainly worth the effort, but convincing her to make the leap to “Hey, let’s jumpstart the revolution, and overthrow the government!” is a pretty big leap to make.

On the other hand, if your MISO message is, “Hey. We’re different. We’ve got different goals and different dreams, but that’s the beauty of America. If we can all let each other do our own thing, within the realm of getting along, we’ll be just fine. That’s all I want…to be left alone,” then your message is a lot more palatable to the vast mass of the body politic than “If you don’t do what I want, I’m gonna string you up with a hemp rope.” See, that’s an attempt to gain political concessions through fear. That’s the textbook government definition of “terrorism,” and “everyone” knows terrorists are evil jihadists.

The MISO end-game for preparedness has to be the development of a theme that will be palatable to the masses, while still achieving the goal of “degrading the enemy’s relative combat power,” while “minimizing civilian interference, and maximizing the local populace’s support.”

The Role of MISO in Local Security

Doctrinally speaking, MISO are used in Foreign Internal Defense (FID) and Security Force Assistance Support operations to “prepare key audiences for US FID and Security Force Assistance operations, and to directly assist the host nation in establishing an environment that promotes internal stability and security through democratic systems (I’m not sure if I read it in an older manual, or if it’s just something someone once told me, but I recall “democratic systems” being “traditional local value systems” in the past. I believe it’s also a better fit in the real world.)”

In our context, the relation should be obvious. The purpose of our MISO efforts is to directly target the thought processes of key audiences that will assist in establishing an environment that promotes internal stability and security within the community. This means identifying those key audiences and developing a MISO product that will a) reach them, and b) convince them.

Each target audience will have to be the target of a specific message, delivered in a manner, and through a means, that is likely to be effective, specific to that target audience.

MISO Planning Considerations

1) The first step in developing a MISO program is understanding that the messages have to be congruent. This requires planning, because all messages have to be integrated into the overall vision and intent of the general concept of operations. If your goal is to establish local security and stability, then telling people they should go out and kill XYZ group of people is incongruent. Even if XYZ is a violent outlaw gang, and they do need killing, telling people to kill them is NOT congruent with the message of “stability.” On the other hand, convincing them to provide intelligence information about XYZ so that the recognized authorities—within the “traditional local value system”—can deal with them, WOULD be congruent with the overall message and concept of the operation.

This is where the importance of planning and tying all elements of the planning together becomes self-evident: everything has to reinforce a planned narrative. For those who have studied, or are studying, the efforts of the political Left Wing of the modern American political system, will recognize this as a key element within their successful advances against Western Culture. The fact is, the preparedness culture sucks at this.

2) The next aspect of MISO planning is Target Audience Analysis (TAA). TAA has been previously discussed, in some detail, on this blog. The importance of this cannot be overstated. Sending out a message developed to convince a group of 50-something Baptist housewives is NOT going to have a good effect on a group of 50-something outlaw bikers, let alone a group of 30-something outlaw bikers. The goal of TAA is to determine who your specific audiences should be—with as much specificity as possible—as well as the best methods to persuade that target audience to change its behaviors to one that is more favorable to your interests.

3) Series Development is the third step in MISO planning. This involves designing a series of products and/or actions that are specific to the task of altering or impacting the behavior of each SPECIFIC target audience. Part of series development is determining the suitability and potential to affect the intended audience, in the manner intended. As well as the accuracy of persuasive arguments or techniques to influence behavioral change, and the availability of the resources necessary to effect the series.

The “accuracy of persuasive arguments or techniques” is a critical issue to consider in an Internet-connected world. Traditionally, we’ve made ample use of blatantly false information, knowing that fact-checking, and/or sourcing the background information, would be prohibitively difficult, leading people to simply accept it at face value. While that still works, as evidenced by the ongoing alarmist calls about “Russian invaders!” and “Martial Law Imminent!” in the preparedness community, and how quickly they get passed around social media, it is actually a significant risk for the product developers.

An example of this can be seen in the photo recently circulated across social media, of a younger (still ugly as sin) Hillary Clinton, with the Southern Cross battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia sitting on a shelf in the background. Initially, this seems like a great MISO scoop. I mean, we’ve got one of the Left’s leading voices apparently using the flag as a moral support. Here’s the problem: within a day, it was outed as a fake, created with photo modifying software like PhotoShop. There are too many people, with entirely too much time on their hands, who WILL discover technological enhancements to MISO product like that. Additionally, once they discover a glitch or anomaly, they will track down the original source material, and make that public as well. That instantly discredits your entire message in the minds of most of the vast mass of the unaligned. “Damn, they lied about this. What else are they lying about?”

Of course, this works both ways. If the altered document had originally been created by Hillary’s own people, then the information “leaked” that it was a fake, created by her opposition, that is a MISO success for her campaign efforts. If a story is a lie, but enough people WANT to believe it, they will.

This leads us back to the importance of coherence and congruity in our own MISO effort messages. The biggest reason the pro-Western Culture movement has been so readily ridiculed and demeaned is this total lack of coherence. While this is often obvious between groups or factions within this movement, it is just as commonplace within single groups or factions.

4) Following the conceptual development of a series of MISO product, you have to actually put it into production. This requires an objective understanding of what resources you have available to you. This is more than, “well, this, this, and this are available.” Broadcast radio is “available.” That doesn’t mean you’re going to get access to it. You might even be able to get a selected spokesperson interviewed by the media, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. Utilizing resources that allow you to control the message actually conveyed to the target audience is crucial.

The Internet is an obvious solution, but may not be the panacea that it appears. The signal-to-noise ratio of the Internet is so high that, outside of some way to make your efforts more noticeable to your specific target audience, it may simply disappear. Additionally, you may find your efforts discredited—even by apparent political allies. On the same hand however, a well-developed MISO effort, coordinated between a few different people, and built specifically for the target audience of the given forum, can be a spectacularly good MISO effort.

A further detriment to Internet-based MISO is the fact that some of your target audiences may—almost invariably will—be underrepresented on the Internet. This means that, at some level, you still have to be able to perform face-to-face MISO efforts. Those may range from hanging out and being a good conversationalist, to handing out leaflets. The last still requires basic conversational skills to answer specific questions that may arise.

5) The fifth step in the DoD MISO planning cycle is gaining approval from higher for the developed product. While the preparedness/patriot community lacks any sort of formal hierarchical organization that provides a “higher” to get approval from, there are still methods that can be used to determine if a given product can/should be disseminated. The product developer should NOT be the person who determines if a MISO product is disseminated. Whether that individual passes off the completed product to a group within his own tribe for review, or the tribe itself hands it off to several affiliated groups for review, someone outside of the development process SHOULD review the near-final product. This review should focus on the coherence and congruity of the message, it’s validity in regards to the target audience, and the accuracy of the message. If the message is intended to be disinformation, how easily can it be refuted? If any of these subjects is weak, the product should be pushed back to the development team with specific guidance on the shortcomings, in order to be fixed/changed.

6) Production, distribution, and dissemination is the sixth step of the MISO planning cycle. This may not be as self-evident as it initially seems. As a big, scary, tattooed and bearded dude in my early 40s, if my group has produced MISO product targeted at teenage girls or elderly women, I’m probably not the best vessel for dissemination of the product to the target audiences. The teenage girls will either be scared shitless, or their dads will assume I’m going to molest their daughters. The elderly women—especially in my neighborhood—are as likely to call their minister, thinking I’m the Devil hisself, as the police. In either case, allowing my wife to disseminate the product to those target audiences might be more effective.

On the other hand, at least in the second case, I might be an okay means of dissemination. Shave, wear a suit, or at least a shirt and tie, and I can blend in pretty well, in some sort of role that they would be more accepting of. On the same hand, cleaning up would allow me to talk to LEO to distribute a product more effectively, while keeping my image, but throwing on a service-related t-shirt or ballcap, and leveraging my background, makes presenting product to servicemembers or other veterans, extremely viable.

7) The final step in the MISO planning cycle is arguably the single most important step. That is evaluation of the effectiveness of the specific product. This requires some means of determining who the product reached, as well as a metric for determining the specific effectiveness thereof. This should be determined BEFORE the distribution and dissemination stage. We need a method of determining how effective our product is in altering the behavior of the specific target audience. Producing something that we want to use as MISO, with no way determine its effectiveness, is nothing but ego gratification. “Hey, look at me! I make pretty pictures! I write funny memes.” Well, good for you Princess, but if you lack a specific metric, then you are just as likely to be fucking yourself as helping yourself.

MISO Enablers

There are a few things that are absolutely necessary to produce effective MISO products. We call these “enablers,” because they, well…enable the production of effective MISO products. The first of these is a solid, effective intelligence collection and analysis effort. We need to know what human terrain factors are present, as well as identify them for targeting. If you don’t know who the different groups that are potential target audiences in your geographic area, you have no idea how to start producing effective MISO product.

Additionally, your intelligence operations have to ACCURATELY identify threat groups. I’ll let you in on a secret….it’s probably not the Chinese or Russians, as an honest, valid intelligence operation would make self-evident. The obvious source for Intelligence Operations Information for the preparedness community should be Sam Culper’s efforts. An introductory course in tactical intelligence, as a springboard into higher order intelligence efforts, is covered in The Reluctant Partisan Volume Two: The Underground, as well.

In addition to intelligence operations, effective MISO is predicated on effective communications. In addition to the ability to properly identify potential target audiences, there needs to be an ability to communicate the effectiveness of the product.

This is more than amateur radio, semaphore, and dead drop message boxes, although each of those might be elements of the communications issue. What we’re referring to here, specifically, is the ability to openly and accurately communicate ideas and concepts in a manner that all parties understand. Conversation after all, is not as simple as “I said this. You understood this.” Often times, even amongst people that speak the same language, it turns out “I said this. You understood that.” Any married person has probably experienced this in their own lives. We need to develop the ability to communicate, within our own groups and tribes, in a manner that we all understand one another.

We also need the ability to communicate our MISO product in a manner that the target audience can understand. This is one of the biggest shortcomings I see in the MISO efforts of the preparedness culture. The disdain for contemporary culture manifests itself as a complete ignorance regarding that culture. Which is fine. I despise much of contemporary culture. If this disdain reaches the point of completely ignoring contemporary culture however, you lose the ability to communicate with target audiences in terms they can understand. We’ve been indoctrinated to believe the current dogma that “cultural sensitivity” requires us to “like” or “approve” of the customs and traditions of the foreign culture. That’s simply not the case. What we DO have to do however, is be sensitive to what the members of that culture believe, and why they believe it—regardless of how misguided they may be—in order to communicate with them in a manner and verbiage that they understand.

The final critical enabler to discuss is logistics. Whatever MISO product you decide to use to most effectively reach a specific target audience, you have to have the material goods necessary to develop that product. If you want to print leaflets, but you lack access to a printer…..you’re going to fail. If you want to transmit radio messages, but you lack radios…..

Putting MISO In Context

We are constantly surrounded by MISO efforts, for better or worse. These efforts are so common that often, we no longer recognize them for what they are. Below, we will discuss some of the recent and current MISO efforts ongoing in America, and my personal approach to dealing with them.

1) Television. There is a show on the television channel FX called “The Americans.” It is about 1980s Soviet deep cover spies living and operating in the US. This show is a postcard example of MISO. It portrays the very people who were dedicated to overthrowing our country as the heroes and likable protagonists of a story line that was well-received enough to survive multiple seasons.

When my wife bought the first season on DVD, I watched it, thinking, “Huh, this should be interesting.” Then, about two minutes in, I realized what was going on and discovered I had to continue watching it, just to see such a masterful display of MISO.

2) The Gay Marriage Issue. The political right is getting hammered on the gay marriage issue, and has been for a long, long time. I’ll take the risk of offending a large segment of the readership by saying, I believe the Supreme Court made the right call (keeping in mind that this doesn’t mean I agree with it).

The standard argument is that “marriage is between a man and a woman.” That’s absolutely correct, when we’re discussing “holy matrimony.” That is a religious institution, and as such, is subject to religious definitions. On the other hand, as long as the State is involved in marriage, through the issuance of marriage licenses, giving its blessing or withholding its blessing on specific unions, there is a difference between “holy matrimony” and “marriage.”

The catch of course is, the State is not supposed to be allowed, under our system, to bias against any religious group (Don’t get your knickers in a twist, I get that they’re perceived to be biased against Christians). That includes non-religious people. As long as the State is in the marriage business, the Court was obligated to recognize the legal validity of gay marriage.

If you don’t like it, you need to be working on either a) getting the State out of the marriage business, or b) changing the Constitution to implicitly recognize the Christian faith as the “State Religion.”

So, that’s the route I take in my MISO efforts. “Look, I’m not pro-gay marriage. I’m anti-State issued marriage licenses. If you get the State out of the marriage business, then you don’t have to recognize gay marriages if you don’t want to.”

Further, the argument that courts are infringing on the religious liberties of small business owners by fining them for not producing wedding cakes for gay couples is flawed as well. It’s been long established in this country that businesses are not allowed to discriminate on religious grounds. Period. That’s a factor that comes into play as soon as you apply for a business license from the State. If you ask permission, you’re allowing the controlling entity to place limits on that permission.

The important caveat to the entire discussion, within the context of this blog, is that I’m neither for or against the gay community, as a whole. I just don’t care. I’m not gay. My wife is not gay. If my children end up being gay, they’re still going to be my children, so regardless of whether I approve or disapprove of their lifestyles, I will still love them. If being gay IS a choice, and the actions of the gay community “turn” my kid gay, that’s a failure on my part in parenting. I’m not convinced it is a choice, personally. In fact, I sometimes wonder if those most vocal about the “choice” are just afraid they’ll like the taste of dick. Ultimately though, the whole subject is irrelevant to me…except that I genuinely believe in the “right of free conscience.” Oh, and I will fight to my last breath, the imposition of any sort of theocratic government. If someone believes that being gay is okay, and they are gay, as long as they’re not infringing on someone else’s rights, by like, ass raping them, it’s NONE OF MY BUSINESS. “Liberty for Thee is Liberty for Me.”

3) The Southern Cross. I was raised in the South. I love most of the traditions and cultural values of the South. I find it humorous though, that so many “rugged individualists” have allowed their opposition to so completely control the dialogue regarding the battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia. The reality is, if you want to fly that flag, then fly it. You don’t need to justify it. You don’t need to explain it. If people ask, then you can take the time to educate them. Most people however, don’t actually give two shits, and arguing with a True Believer is not doing anything but wasting your efforts.

In point of fact, arguing with True Believers, publicly, is doing more than wasting your efforts. It’s countering your efforts. The general public didn’t give a shit about the flag prior to the Charleston shooting. The Left saw a way to get people riled up, and they jumped on it, KNOWING their opposition would rise to the bait (to use a Southern, redneck fishing term). If the “MISO” efforts of the Right (I’m looking at you, pretty much the entire Conservative news and social media establishment!), had replied with “huh. Dumbass had a Southern Cross flag. Okay.” and then ignored all of the efforts of the Left to get them riled up, it would never have been an issue (the fact that I’m even typing this section is an anomaly, since this is the first thing I’ve said—anywhere outside of conversations with my own family—on the subject).

The MISO lesson in this is that cultural icons are MISO products. Discrediting those icons discredits the culture they represent. That would seem to make it necessary to jump to the defense of those icons, and rightfully so….sometimes however, ignoring the attempted attacks on those icons is the best defense. Responding to ignorant attacks simply lends credence to those attacks and the attackers’ messages.

Conclusions

The importance and effectiveness of MISO efforts have long been recognized. The fact is, as a community, those of us who value traditional, liberal (in the classical sense of the word) Western Culture, pretty much suck at MISO for a variety of reasons, and we’re losing the culture wars as a result. Far more effort needs to be made in this area if we are not to find ourselves drowned in a flood of oppositional values.

While fitness, gunfighting, and SUT are all critical skills for surviving the decline of empire, an understanding of how MISO works—both for us and against us—and learning how to develop and produce effective MISO products, is as critical, if not more so, than the hard skills.

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