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Crawl, Walk, Run: Some Reader-Induced Thoughts on Training Fundamentals and Progression

July 15, 2013

We spend a lot of time talking about the Crawl, Walk, Run method of training. Unfortunately, a lot of times, this, like most talk of training, is nothing but talk. I’ve seen guys show up for patrolling classes who didn’t know how to shoot a group with their rifle, let alone zero it. I’ve seen guys show up who didn’t know how to perform a reload, speed or tactical, or how to perform immediate action in case of a malfunction.

I am the last person in the world to bad-mouth someone for trying to get all the training they can to prepare for what we all see is upon us, but…and it is a big, J-Lo type butt…..Have you ever heard the old adage about putting the cart before the horse? I live in a place where horses are extremely common, and in some parts of the Redoubt, I’d argue that horses probably outnumber cars. I also happen to have quite a bit of equine experience. Putting the cart in front of the horse does not work efficiently.

A couple of comments from readers in my last few training posts have brought this question into direct relevance.

Parapeace asked the following question about the PRA 1-5 Drill:

“Why am I going back to targets I’ve already killed?…seems to easy to game, maybe have someone call the shots?”

And SpartanMonkey added the following about the original OODA Cycle article, “Going to Guns:”

“In my experience, repetition and role playing help to shorten the OODA loop. Even wargaming scenarios in your head helps, but the more stimuli you use (sight/sound/smell/touch), the more strongly impregnated the scenario’s resolution becomes in your mind. This works to speed up your OODA loop because your brain has already ‘seen’ and stored the resolution pathway through an event and doesn’t need to do the full OODA loop (recognizing what’s going on and assessing too many options as JM mentions). It sort-of becomes like a reflex. Battle drils seem to be a good example of an OODA loop shortening training regimen (many repetions of a very small set of options for a specific stimuli).”

We’re going to address each of these considerations within the confines of this article, but I wanted to make sure you understood, from the beginning, where we’re going with this. Let’s start at the beginning, however.

Crawl, walk, run applies to every aspect of training, and each level of training. We don’t start out running CQB room-clearing the first time you pick up a rifle. You learn the fundamentals of marksmanship first, then you learn to shoot the weapon at various targets, under field conditions, in BRM (Basic Rifle Marksmanship). Then, you move on to performing immediate-action drills and reload techniques. Then you step up to performing close-quarters marksmanship drills. Finally, you start learning how to perform the basic motor skills of room-clearing with an unloaded rifle (or no weapon at all), at a slow, step-by-step, one man at a time pace, before everyone entering the room, still empty, at a walk, before stepping up to a dynamic entry with a hot weapon (in my CQC/AMOUT class, we start with one hot shooter at a time), before you finally build to the ability to enter/clear a room live-fire. Then, you build to the ability to do it under reduced visibility conditions.

At each step of this progression, you start the learning process by crawling, as you are introduced to the underlying concepts and techniques to execute those concepts. Then, as you practice them, you build proficiency, so you are walking. As you build more expertise, and start testing your ability in that particular skill set against time constraints, or by adding the gear you will wear to execute it later, you are running.

Once you’ve met the stated standards, and can do so consistently, you may be ready to move on to the next level of the training evolution…

In the above example, we used CQB as the model, but this applies across the spectrum of interpersonal conflict preparation. It doesn’t matter if it’s CQB/AMOUT, Vehicle-Based Patrolling Operations, or Small-Unit Security Patrolling. If you don’t have the basic individual skills first, you’re not ready to execute the high-speed shit.

Advanced skill in any physical discipline is nothing more than a sublime mastery of the basic fundamentals (Mosby’s Maxim). If you can’t shoot a group with your rifle at 100 yards, you’re not ready for sniper training. If you can’t draw your pistol from the holster, you’re not ready to go get in a gunfight.

(The argument can be made, and certainly has been made, that historical G’s have overcome organized, trained security forces despite a lack of “effective” training. While this argument CAN be made, it overlooks two obvious fallacies in the argument. One, successful guerrilla movements have historically been led by people with professional military experience, meaning they were probably training their people, at some level. Two, the casualty rates amongst G forces are traditionally extremely high. Look at enemy casualty rates in Iraq and Afghanistan as an example. While the Cause might survive, and I’m certainly willing to give my life that my children know Liberty, I’d just as soon my children knew Liberty with me around to watch them enjoy the benefits…I’m not in the Martyr business, and hopefully, neither are you.)

So, let’s look at the above statements in light of the crawl, walk, run conceptual approach to training…

Why am I going back to targets I’ve already killed?…seems to easy to game, maybe have someone call the shots?

There are a couple of ways to approach this. The first, most obvious, and least valid, is to simply point out that, maybe your one round to the first target, and two rounds to the second target did NOT in fact, kill them, or even take them permanently out of the fight. Perhaps it just demoted them down the threat latter, to where they weren’t the most lethal threat, AT THAT MOMENT. By the time you came back to them, they were back to being the most lethal threat. That however, would be a “gaming” answer to the question, and completely out of context to this article. So, instead, let’s look at it from the C-W-R point-of-view.

What are shooting drills, and where do they fall within the context of C-W-R?

Drills are a specific type of training exercise. They should be diagnostic and prescriptive for developing specific attributes required to execute specific tasks through progressive repetition. Drills allow us to perform more repetitions of basic, fundamental skills, utilizing the underlying attributes of those skills, under stress. The ability to improve our ability to perform specific physical tasks, under stress, without having to spend a lot of conscious effort on them, frees up our cognitive decision-making processes for more important things. Instead of having to think through the process of the perfect sight picture and trigger squeeze, with re-set, and follow-through, and the ability to string single shots together into rapid-fire multiple shot strings, transition between targets, etc, we use prescriptive drills to develop that ability without having to waste a lot of conscious thought bandwidth in the process. This gives us more processing power to THINK about more important things, such as, “Do I have a safe shot angle, or is my round going to punch through that 6 year old little girl’s face on the way to the bad guy’s hips?” “Can I take the head shot on that dude, or will my round over-penetrate and punch into the school house behind him?”

Drills are NOT recipes for solving specific tactical problems, and were never intended to be that. Look at what is arguably the most famous tactical shooting drill of all-time: El Presidente.

What are the chances you are ever going to be facing three bad guys, all at the same distance, and spacing, and have to run two to the chest of each, then back to the head of each, with a speed reload in between? Hell, if you’re running any kind of modern semi-automatic pistol, you wouldn’t need to throw the reload in there, even if that mythical problem DID somehow magically arise!

So, does the El Prez have no training value, whatsoever, simply because it’s “not realistic?” Of course not. It offers a very valid group of benefits. It teaches multiple shot strings (albeit limited to the mythical two-shot stop, which is doubly ironic to me, coming from the “.45ACP will stop a man with one shot” crowd of yore…), it teaches rapid target transitions. It teaches the difference in speed necessary for torso A-Zone hits, versus Head A-Zone hits. It still teaches getting your gun out of the holster and into the fight in a hurry.

The value of drills, to repeat myself, is NOT as recipes for solving specific tactical problems. The value of drills is as recipes to develop the attributes to solve MOST tactical problems.

So, the specific answer to the question Parapeace offered?

You’re not going back and shooting targets you’ve already killed. You’re executing a specific drill that is intended to develop a specific set of skills, while forcing you to think your way through them.

This is not a beginner drill. It’s not something you should perform if you don’t have some basic, crawl-level gun-handling and shooting skills. It’s a WALK level drill. You’ve developed the ability to get hits and multiple-shot strings at the range you’re executing the drill at, now, you’re putting those fundamental skills to a slightly more stringent test, while adding the pressure of having to think of other things at the same time. It’s one of the building blocks of constructing the gunfighter. That’s all.

As legendary SF officer, and former MAC-V/SOG commander, MG John “Jack” Singlaub stated so well: “A guy who has 100-percent confidence in his ability to use his or any weapon doesn’t have to worry about his personal safety–he can concentrate on his mission.”

Drills build that confidence in a genuine way, rather than the suicidal false confidence I see in a lot of guys. “I’ve got a fucking .308 M1A death ray rifle. I fear NO man!” Never mind that the weapon’s never been zeroed, and if it has, the only shooting that’s ever been done with it is on a known-distance range, from static positions, with no time constraints….

Then, we get into SpartanMonkey’s equally valid point:

“In my experience, repetition and role playing help to shorten the OODA loop. Even wargaming scenarios in your head helps, but the more stimuli you use (sight/sound/smell/touch), the more strongly impregnated the scenario’s resolution becomes in your mind. This works to speed up your OODA loop because your brain has already ‘seen’ and stored the resolution pathway through an event and doesn’t need to do the full OODA loop (recognizing what’s going on and assessing too many options as JM mentions). It sort-of becomes like a reflex. Battle drils seem to be a good example of an OODA loop shortening training regimen (many repetions of a very small set of options for a specific stimuli).

He’s right. Role-playing through what most in the contemporary civilian training industry would term “scenario-based training,” does offer a lot of benefits to tactical training, specifically in streamlining the OODA Cycle. The stress inoculation value of scenario-based training is very real. It is significantly different than the stress inoculation involved in straight-up boxing sparring or British military “milling,” or even junior enlisted Ranger Regiment “hazing” by the SpecFour Mafia (although I am loathe to use the term “hazing” since it has ridiculously PC-based evil connotations attached to it, I’m at a loss for a more accurate descriptive to utilize…perhaps, “motivational training?”). Scenario-based training, is a step up from the decision-making inherent to walk level drills like the PRA 1-5 Drill, because of specific decision-making crises that can be engineered into the scenario.

A scenario can’t accurately be precognitive of exactly what a real-world situation will look like, any more than a drill can. No two situations will ever be exactly the same, because no two people will ever behave exactly the same, whether the hunter, hunted, or non-combatants in the battlespace. What the scenario-type training does is mimics it in such as way that it presents the participant in the training with real-world like options to utilize their judgment, training, and decision-making skills within.

As SpartanMonkey pointed out, accurately, Battle Drills are a form of scenario-based training. They provide you a method of linking the pre-fight skills and indicators (in this case, something out-of-place in the woods, or down the street, or a gunshot ringing out in the silence of the night), with the actual in-fight skills and behaviors (lay down a base of accurate, effective, suppressive fire, get your maneuver element hauling ass to get around, and begin destroying the enemy, or lay down a base of accurate, effective, suppressive fire, get your maneuver element hauling ass to make space, then reverse and repeat until contact is broken…scenario training, in the form of battle drills, allows you to work on the decision-making processes necessary to determine which is valid, and when…).

Unfortunately, while there are a LOT of people out there who grasp the elementary importance of some sort of scenario-based training, there are not nearly as many people who can set up scenario-based training effectively, because of a complete lack of relevant real-world experience. There is simply no way to over-emphasize the importance of real-world experience in developing any sort of scenario-based training evolutions. The blind leading the blind ends up with both the explorer and the guide walking headfirst into the headhunting cannibals’ village square, and right up to the cook pot.

If you don’t have a relevant frame-of-reference to develop a realistically relevant scenario for people to train in, you’re only developing skillsets that will work in an artificial environment. That’s where you end up with the 98th degree black belt in Goat-Fuck-Jitsu who gets whacked in the head by a tire iron from a dude he didn’t even KNOW was in the parking lot, because all of his training experience was predicated on a mythical, artificial worldview of conflict, developed in a dojo by guys who had never fought outside of a dojo. I don’t care how lethal you are to a bundle of bamboo you’re chopping in half with your 13th century, hand-forged in the blood of a Samuari-born virgin blonde, if you don’t have the relevant knowledge of what really happens in the parking lot outside of the Chickasaw Club (Ft Benning reference), you’re going to get your katana sword shoved up your ass, sideways by Bubba from Phenix City, Alabama, and his cousins. No amount of training out there in basic skills development, or drills is going to fix that. I don’t teach self-defense against criminal assault the way SouthNarc does, alluded to in SpartanMonkey’s comment, because I don’t have his experience in dealing with it. With the exception of time mis-spent in G.I. bars in my youth, I’ve done a stellar job of avoiding bad elements. I’ve never been mugged. I’ve never been part of a drug deal gone bad. What I do have experience with is insurgency and counter-insurgency, and other aspects of irregular warfare. I do my damnedest to stick to what I know, so I’m not making up scenarios that will get people killed through my own hubris and naivete. I don’t teach SWAT tactics, techniques, and procedures, because I’ve never been a SWAT cop (thank God!)

There are shortcomings to scenario-based training as well (and SpartanMonkey, I know if you discuss it with Craig, he’ll agree with this…). Number one is, as stressful as great scenario-training is, it’s still a different stress, both in nature and intensity, than the stress you’ll be facing when some dude is actually trying to shove a sharpened rat-tail file into your scrotum. It’s a different stress entirely, than the stress you’ll feel when the dude on the other side of that Kalashnikov is actually trying to penetrate your epidermis with high-velocity projectiles, versus simply making noise with blanks and a BFA (Blank Firing Adaptor).

That’s okay though, it certainly doesn’t invalidate scenario-type training, because it still gives you a frame-of-reference for dealing with the stress and situations you find yourself facing in the real-world situation. If you’ve faced a guy in training who’s actively, and actually, trying to stab you in the groin, albeit with a training knife, and he’s not just sticking his arm out there like a gift for you to “disarm” him, you’ve at least got a frame-of-reference for dealing with it when the dude’s using an ice-pick instead of a training knife.

If you’ve had to try and get shots on reduced size targets, hidden in the brush, while performing aggressive individual movement techniques during a battle drill, while you’re sweating your ass off, breathing harder than sex, and worried about your buddy being careless and shooting you in the back of the head, you at least have a frame-of-reference for how hard that is to actually accomplish under stress….just like you’ll be doing in a real fight.

Probably the hardest part of “advanced” training in the tactical realm, for most people to grasp, and then to master, is the ability to ignore the adrenal system response, and focus on executing the fundamentals as flawlessly as they do on a square-range. Drills help build to that ability, by introducing stress, and allowing you to learn to build the ability to begin ignoring the stress, and perform them without exerting a great deal of conscious thought into the process. Scenario-based training, whether FoF scenarios with opposing role-players, or “simple” dry and live-fire battle drills training, takes that a step or two further by introducing more stress, and adding an extremely physical level of stress to the equation, while forcing you to go further by incorporating complex decision-making processes into the solution.

Unfortunately, too often, guys want to jump right into the high-speed stuff, the scenario-type training, without already having their fundamentals dialed in. It’s not going to do you a gnat’s ass bit of good to go perform the PRA 1-5 Drill, any more than it would the El Presidente, if you don’t already have the building block skills required.

Can you execute a drawstroke and acquire a front-sight focus on your weapon, in order to break an accurate first shot? Can you even shoot accurately enough to ensure all A-Zone hits on a stationary target? What about the head shots? Can you execute follow-through from shot-to-shot, in order to ensure a consistent sight picture for each follow-on shot? Can you perform basic target-to-target transitions? Can you execute a speed reload?

If you can’t perform each of those fundamental skills, you’re never going to execute a successful El Presidente. If you can’t perform those skills in tandem, such as in El Presidente, you’re sure as shit not going to perform them under the added stresses of scenario-based type training.

So, let’s look at the PRA 1-5 Drill, for the pistol, and discern what the crawl steps are:

You need to be able to perform a consistent, solid, fast drawstroke. You need to be able to mount the gun and find your front sight focus. You need to be able to break the trigger without disturbing your sight picture. You need to be able to execute follow-through and watch the front sight through the recoil cycle, in order to have fast, aimed, and accurate follow-up shots. You need to be able to break your front sight focus long enough to find the next target that is a “threat” and then you need to be able to transition rapidly from one target to the next. At the same time, you need to be able to discern, in that compressed time frame, if your projected trajectory is safe and clear of interceding cover and non-combatant personnel, or if you need to move in order to create a safe angle.

If you throw a guy into the scenario-based training, before they’ve developed the drills-developed skills to prepare them, they end up trying to swim in water over their heads, with all that weight on them…it seldom ends well. One of the biggest lessons I hear reiterated, class after class after class after class, in Small-Unit Security Patrolling classes, is: “I should have done more PT, I should have learned to run my rifle more effectively, and I should have worked out some serious gear issues.”

Here’s the good news: Some solid training in fundamental skills-building drills will demonstrate all three of those issues before you end up getting in over your head, and drowning. Then, you’re ready for the scenario-based type training.

Is it possible to “game it” as Parapeace alleged? Absolutely. If your priority is to figure out ways to “cheat” your training, and get over, the only loser in the end is yourself and your buddy. I’m never looking for ways to cheat myself, because that increases my chances of dying when the cheating option is no longer there. If I caught my buddy cheating his training, in a way that threatened my future survival, I’d make damned sure I found a new Ranger Buddy, because obviously, that dude is not really a friend…and if he doesn’t value his survival, he certainly doesn’t value mine.

Your sole purpose in the battle space is to ensure the survival of your Ranger Buddy. If you do that, and he does that, you’ll both survive. If either of you fails at that, you’ve both died. (Mosby’s Maxim. In reference to the “Mosby’s Maxims thing…HH6 insists I need to keep track of the pithy one-liners I come up with that put relevant material into short, concise statements…It’s her vanity, I’m convinced. She’s fooled into thinking I’m some sort of guerrilla King Solomon full of proverbs of wisdom and merit…Let’s just humor her, okay?)

Ultimately, it boils down to one key question:

“What is the problem we’re trying to solve?”

If the problem is building skill with the rifle (or pistol), then drills are the way to build that. If we’re trying to build the ability to function inside the battle space, drills will get us part way, but then we probably need to start adding some scenario-based type training, in order to start developing the decision-making processes.

If your goal is to impress the fat, Elmer Fudds at the local range with your awesome, high-speed, low-drag, ninja-death dealing badness, then by all means, game away at cheating the drills. If you’re serious about building the necessary skills to survive and win in small-unit irregular conflict, then focus on the fundamentals, then build them into a cohesive skill set through effective, efficient training drills, and then turn them into a functioning level of ability through realistic, experience-based scenario-type training.


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  1. Yankee Terrier permalink

    Thank you, it was a great article.

  2. hillbillynick permalink

    Wow, Thanks! Nothing to add but “Yeah what he said!”

  3. parapearce permalink

    Good assessment to my comment. After reviewing the article I did sound like a IDPA troll. I have ran this drill set up the same way except with a person calling the shots as the shooter moves forward and back. I probably prefer it this way due to my age and diminishing short term memory.

    I did participate in the Invasion of Grenada ya know….keep up the good work.

  4. RobRoySimmons permalink

    Really, they show up at patrolling formerly known as SUT class not knowing they need a zero on their rifle. I’m going to have to put that on you sir, SUT is walk/running and you got them all worked up with your pithy comments, then forgot to inform them where in the chain you wanted to start and what standards are expected day one.

    Take for instance, today I went to the square range way south of Chicago where all us old fat fucks waste paper targets like no tomorrow. So I break out my LMT CQB (you know the real bad ass AR) and do the reload drills on downloaded P-Mags. Even that little drill induces the tunnel vision, and I am not exactly a beginner with an AR, but certainly not a bad ass like my rifle deserves ( equipped with Aimpoint Patrol Optic).

    All in all this reinforces what you just wrote, so its mainly addressed to the wanna-b-Gs who want to skip C or W.

  5. thespartanmonkey permalink

    Excellent article as usual.

    FWIW, my vision of how the course/skills I mentioned may fit into a UW scenario is something like this: you are a G/auxillary/advisor/etc, you’re not ‘in role’, you’re just out shopping at the bazaar/mall/grocery store/gas station with your self/wife/kids and are being prepped for action by statist thugs/civilian thugs/OPFOR/etc. In this sense, you’re battlespace is not just in the woods or concrete jungle, it’s everywhere/24X7, since you’re swimming among the fish. Your OODA loop still gets exercized, just against different scenarios/stimuli: in the morning, your OODA loop may be evaluating whether the guy behind you at the ATM is about to rob you; in the PM your OODA loop may be evaluating actions on the OBJ after you’ve raided OPFOR.

    Short of graduating the Q and heading down-range, developing the full spectrum of skills each of us need according to where we are in our individual/collective training probably means getting a complementary set of civilian training (and practicing what we’ve learned).

  6. Doug from WV permalink

    I was one of those people who thought an AK automatically made me a bad ass but what I found out from taking the Battle Rifle Training Class from Mosby in WV was quite the opposite: I was sorely lacking in the fundamentals necessary to run the gun. However, thanks to Mosby and his crew, I’ve learned a skill set that will allow me to move onto the next level of training.

    First of all the red dot needed sighted. I was at least able to set the gun up with an Ultimac Rail and opted for a Bushnell I screwed onto it a week or so before the class. By the second day of training it was obvious the SLR-107F wasn’t as accurate as the AR’s everyone else had (I was the only AK and a few people laughed at me for bringing a commie gun:) so Mosby sent me off with Herc to sight the sum bitch in. After four rounds from prone at 100 yards she was in the money! It was still not as tight as those AR’s but able to compete with them in all the drills.

    Speed reloading an AK was differnt than speed reloading an AR so once again I was sent off with Herc to master the steps necessary to make the gun and shooter potent on the battlefield.

    If you somehow think you’re a ninja and can learn this stuff from watching you tube video’s then I’d say you need to get off the crack pipe and wake the fuck up becuase the regime forces are going to smoke you before you reach into your Romanian Magazine Pouch that came along with your WASR. There is a specific way the AK is speed reloaded that is very fluid and highly effective and does not seem “normal” at first until you run through the drill several times and build up the proper muscle memory. Once you get it down you can pat yourself on the back because it’s a hell of a lot of fun throwing Bulgarian 40 round magazines around.

    The words I hated to hear the most “we’re going to start out this drill by dropping into the prone position.” Guess what? Learning to fire from the prone position was probably the most important life saving drill run at the class.

    Guess what? You plant an AK’s magazine directly on the ground from the prone position and it makes it an incredibly steady platform from which to fire.

    By the second day of class my elbows were so bloody from dropping into prone I literally had to use duct tape to cover them up.

    If you think you know anything about running a gun and dont know about firing from prone, rice patty, knealing and standing you’re nuts.

    We ran several drills that incorporated firing from the various positions while speed reloading.

    Stressful? You’re damn right!

    Painful? On hot gravel with no pads fucking excrutiating!

    Worth it? You can’t put a price on what Mosby taught…

    Do you think about the consequences of your shot or do you think you’ll somehow be jedi like and use magic bullets that will kill the enemy and stop inside the body and not exit out his brain and into the an innocent standing behind him? We ran a drill that required us to pick up a card and shoot at a sequence of targets listed on the card. We also were requited to shoot a specific number of rounds into each target while manuevering in such a way that prevented our rounds from exiting the target and stiking a target behind it. Think that’s easy? If you’ve never done it before its like learning how to walk. It took my four tries before I was successfully able to complete the task (with a borrowed AR that had a light mount on it). The funniest thing I heard Mosby say during the whole course was after finally getting the drill right, and after examining the targets he looking at me and said “dude you gotta sell your AK and get an AR thats the best group you’ve had during the course.”

    So while you may think just having a black gun that sits around your house is going to save you when the Reichs Gestappo bashes in your door, or while you may think you and the holmies will band together when TSHTF and be the cock of the block you’d better think again unless you have the basics down. Otherwise you’re going to be a liability. You’re going to get killed. You’re going to be easy pickings for regime forces that practice this stuff daily. They will go home and brag to their wives about how they killed one of those pro constitution nuts and she’ll think he’s such a big man:/

  7. Reblogged this on disturbeddeputy and commented:
    Don’t judge a training exercise without fully understanding the skills being taught. Are you training?

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