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Why You Need Tactical Training

October 16, 2013

(This article was originally written, a couple months ago, at Sam Culper’s request, for inclusion in III Magazine. Unfortunately, I got lazy and kept forgetting to email it it him. Now, I’m going to put it up here. Sam, if you wanna put it in the magazine still, feel free, brother. –JM)

“Untutored courage is useless in the face of educated bullets.” General George S. Patton

Many people in the world today, and most especially in the United States of America, suffer from a delusion. Brainwashed by the intellectual conceit of the modern nation-state, they accept a romanticized image of the guerrilla fighter created by poet, painter, and photographer, that encompasses either the dashing cavalier of the 18th and 19th century, or the high-tech “superman” of the modern “Tier One” Special Operations operator. This image of what could accurately be called, from a historical perspective, the “modern” guerrilla, is one who is shaped–directly or indirectly–by the organized, state-sponsored military that has armed, equipped, trained, and/or fought him. This image, while obviously valid on some levels, is a far cry from what is often erroneously labeled the “Fourth Generation Warfare” guerrilla, but could more correctly be labeled the “classical” or “tribal” guerrilla. This type of local fighter has existed far longer than civilized society or the “conventional” military concept that civilization endorses as “regular.”

What we refer to as “unconventional” or “irregular” warfare is far older than so-called “conventional warfare, despite the intellectual conceit of western military hubris. The currently fashionable idea that 4GW is somehow new or novel is a product of a belief system created by the formal military educational system that views anything that does not correlate to the established nation-state endorse view of “proper” warfare as being “unconventional” or even “irrelevant.” The average prepared citizen, whether he served an enlistment in the military or not, can be forgiven for the understandable practice of deferring to his more professionally educated fellow citizens in uniform, and should not feel bad for this misunderstanding, as even–perhaps especially–professionally educated military officers and NCOs, including many within the Special Forces community, also suffer from this institutional conceit.

In order to understand the fallacies and shortcomings of this hubris, and hopefully move past it, we need to understand the foundations of the 4GW view, and look past it to see why what is “new” is actually very, very, very old. In brief, 4GW theory holds that warfare has evolved through four basic intellectual generations:

  • The era of massed formations, most clearly evidenced by the ancient Greeks and Romans.

  • The era of massed firepower, characterized by the Napoleonic-era formations with musket and bayonet, but also by the WWI concept of trenches, tanks, and machine guns.

  • The era of maneuver warfare, characterized by smaller, more mobile elements of uniformed, regular forces leveraging mobility and more efficient weapons, to destroy the enemy’s ability and/or will to fight.

  • The “post-modern” fourth generation of non-state actors using networks in the political, social, military, and economic spheres, to convince a more powerful nation-state enemy that their strategic goals cannot be achieved without paying an unbearably expensive cost.

(I recognize of course, that different theorists offer different arbitrary divisions between the different generations.–JM)

Well regarded military theorist John Robb (and I’m a big fan, so don’t think I’m being disrespectful to the guy) defines 4GW as a method of warfare that uses three basic tools to inflict what he terms a “moral victory” over an enemy. These include:

  • Undermining enemy strengths. This can be as simple as using primitive TTPs to undermine the enemy’s ability to leverage technological advantages to their benefit. Using couriers for communications, in order to avoid electronic signals intercept eavesdropping would be an effective example of this.

  • Exploiting enemy weaknesses, such as the use of IEDs to target risk-averse American military forces who confine their travels to heavily armored vehicles, along established roadways, in order to avoid the inherent risks of gunfights, would be one example. Blending in with the local civilian populace, in order to reduce the ability to effectively leverage the lack of cultural awareness training of most American troops, by reducing their ability to determine friend vs. foe, is another, when you consider the (rightful) American prejudice against killing non-combatants.

  • Using asymmetric operations.

Robb cites several very valid reasons for the returning prevalence of what is mistakenly labeled 4GW methods of warfare:

  • The loss of the organized nation-state monopoly on political violence.

  • The rise in cultural, ethnic, and religious conflict as a result of weakening nation-state influence on populations.

  • Globalization of industry and communications making the tools and methods of the guerrilla more readily available to non-state actors.

Finally, Robb describes some of the tools that characterize this “new” way of warfare:

  • Rear area operations that target the civil society of the enemy, rather than his armed forces.

  • The use of terror as a psychological weapon.

  • Ad hoc improvisation, to use the enemy’s strength against himself.

The problem with this idea that “4GW” is somehow novel is that it is fundamentally flawed, as soon as we shed the biases of our institutional conceit, and look back through history without the filter of modern, nation-state arrogance. Even many of the “differences” between 4GW and “traditional” guerrilla conflict that Robb cites are really just differences between the “tribal” guerrilla of antiquity and the modern nation-state influenced guerrilla.

  • While the “4GW” guerrilla has access to global media/internet dissemination of TTPs, the fundamental tactics of the guerrilla, including ambushes, raids, sabotage, and assassination, have been used since antiquity. Sure, the “post-modern” guerrillas has access to explosives and automatic weapons, night vision technology, and satellite communications, but those are force multipliers, not force creators. Without a fundamental understanding of the underlying tactical concepts of small-unit warfare, which have been common to all societies, prior to the development of the modern nation-state, they amount to nothing of substance. Multiplying anything by zero still results in a net gain of zero.

  • The prevalence of guerrilla warfare, as the influence of the organized nation-state wanes, is certainly nothing new. While it seems so to people who cannot grasp a world without the security of the organized nation-state, guerrilla warfare is not new. The nation-state concept and even the formal military of the ancient empires are really historically young. The use of guerrilla warfare TTPs, in the absence of nation-state influence is older than civilization itself.

  • The idea that survival is only viable for small groups means conflicts are fought by small-unit elements is likewise neither new nor novel. Whether this granularity results from a need to avoid decisive engagement by numerically or technologically superior enemy forces, or because subsistence living realities mean that you are limited in tribal manpower is irrelevant. The fact is, the use of small groups of fighters to influence the actions of an enemy goes back to antiquity.

  • Likewise, the vulnerability of open societies and economies to attack by “irregular” forces is novel only if you ignore history even as obvious as the Roman empire.

  • Technological advances may make it easier for the non-state actor to leverage the weaknesses of the enemy, such as the aforementioned use of IEDs, but the guerrilla throughout history has used whatever technology was available to do the exact same thing. It’s the technology available that has changed, not the fundamental principle of leveraging those weaknesses. Technology has always been changing.

What we, as modern, “civilized” people see as 4GW would more accurately be described as “first generation warfare,” or 1GW. It is far older than any other form of human conflict, and in fact never really ceased to exist, other than in the collective imagination of people too arrogant to see that the nation-state concept was experimental at best, from the beginning. Guerrilla warfare is, in fact, older than civilization itself.

Long before the advent of agriculture and the resulting formation of farming societies that provided the ability to produce quantities of excess food per laborer that are required to support a standing army of trained, professional warriors, tribes of hunter-gatherers existed in close proximity to one another. These tribes competed with one another for access to limited resources like game animals and fresh water, no differently than modern man competes for limited resources like raw petroleum: with violence.

Throughout the vast majority of our species’ spectacularly bloody existence on this little blue sphere we call home, both before and since the rise of civilization, most conflicts have not been resolved by well-equipped, nattily-dressed parade ground puppets of conventional military forces. On the contrary, for most of humanity’s existence, wars, rivalries, and grudges have been settled by small bands of haphazardly armed, ill-disciplined, and poorly trained or even untrained friends and neighbors banding together to protect their own turf, or to expand their control over finite resources by invading their neighbor’s turn and killing or enslaving the competition. Our modern use of “conventional” and “unconventional” labels for conflict is a reversal of the historical precedent. From the historical perspective, guerrilla warfare is far more “conventional” than formal armies are.

Like the modern interpretation of the guerrilla, the classical tribal guerrilla used hit-and-run, asymmetric methods, choosing the survival advantage of fleeing before a stronger enemy, unless the fight could be clearly leveraged into his own favor. While many psychologists and revisionist historians have adopted the feel-good, New Age humanist view that animal species, including mankind, possess a natural aversion to intra-species killing, at least in the case of humankind, the archaeological and historical record demonstrates that they are wrong. Using the idea that inter-tribal battles were largely “ceremonial” affairs that actually resulted in little bloodshed or killing are patently absurd. The important factor that these pseudo-scientist “experts” overlook, or else pointedly ignore in the interest of a preconceived political position, is that “battles” are not the guerrilla’s fight. Instead, like his modern equivalent, the tribal guerrilla was more inclined to use the raid in the quiet, dark of the night, to kill his enemies in their bed, by burning the damned lodges down around him, followed by quickly fleeing before the victim’s friends and family could mount an effective counterattack. Only a sucker sticks around for a “fair fight.”

That is the “way” of the classical guerrilla, just like it is the way of the “4GW” guerrilla. The idea of constraints being placed on the behavior of the guerrilla, or that he must fight according to the accepted rules of “conventional” military thought is also a cultural conceit without historical or archaeological relevance. “Mercy” in tribal guerrilla wars is seldom given or expected. Just like a modern US soldier, captured by so-called 4GW Al Qaeda fighters can expect to be sodomized, beheaded, or both, before being killed, a captured tribesman, through history, could look forward to being burned, castrated, beheaded, sodomized, or sold into slavery, if in fact, he wasn’t simply eaten. His women could expect to be raped and then killed, or sold into slavery. Even children would be either killed outright, or enslaved. Villages would be razed, crops destroyed, and livestock stolen. While we may naively expect the “modern” guerrilla to be constrained in his behavior by cultural background or training, or the demands of his nation-state sponsors, the use of this type of terror by the classical guerrilla sheds further light on the fact that the use of terror by “4GW” terrorist is in fact, not new at all.

Guerrilla warfare, whether referred to for what it is, or given some cute new label to make it more marketable, is neither pretty nor romantic. The tribal guerrilla wasn’t interested in playing by opponent’s rules, if in fact, his opponent had any rules to play by. For the guerrilla, classical or modern, warfare is not an extension of politics. Warfare is simply survival.

In his 1996 book illustrating the advantages of modern civilization and the nation-state that resulted, “War Before Civilization,” archeology professor Lawrence Keely points out that the evidence indicates that tribal societies engaged in inter-tribal “guerrilla” conflict suffer an average of 0.5% loss of their total population per year in directly conflict-related deaths. For the current US population, that would be the equivalent of 1.5 million deaths per year–more than all combat deaths in American military history, from 1775 until today (just under 850,000 according to the sources I checked).

The absolute truth is, fighting as a guerrilla, whether modern or classical/tribal, pretty much sucks. You don’t get to go home and sleep in your soft bed, wrapped up around momma every night. Perhaps not for any nights for months or years at a time. You may never get to go home, since it may very well end up burned down by rivals who want your territory for themselves. You may not be around to protect your wife and children. Even if you are around, sniper fire can come out of the blue, at the least expected time and place. Kidnappings, rapes, and destruction of property are the norms in guerrilla conflicts. If you think, because this is “Amurrika!” that things will somehow be different, you’re fucking deluded, and missing the point of the entire preparedness conversation. People you love are going to die. Your wife may die. Your children may die. Whether you pick up a gun, or don’t pick up a gun, you will probably die.

Life as a guerrilla, regardless of the overall impact of the conflict, will suck. It will not be comfortable. Many people in the liberty and preparedness movement cite the fact that some Taliban-aligned Pashtun tribal fighters in the mountains of Afghanistan were discovered to be fighting against US/Coalition forces clad in “man-jammies” and sandals, equipped with little more than a wool blanket and a single spare Kalashnikov magazine. The apparent lesson “learned” by these aspiring American guerrillas is that this guerrilla shit must be easy. Unfortunately for these folks, their ignorance is demonstrated by the fact that they’ve overlooked two critical facts:

  • The equipment load-out of those Pashtun fighters was discovered during battle damage assessment (BDA) studies. In other words, they were dead…Guess that load-out maybe wasn’t so ideal after all? (A gross oversimplification, I know, but it’s valid enough to make the point worth paying attention to)

  • A Pashtun tribal fighter from the mountains of Afghanistan is considerably tougher, physically and mentally, than you and I put together. Arguing otherwise isn’t even as benign as ignorance. It’s sheer stupidity and bravado. When you grow up sleeping on a blanket or two thrown on a packed dirt floor, in a mud hut with no window or door coverings except maybe a blanket or old hide tacked up, subsisting on rice, beans, and a handful of half-cooked, spoiled meat, while running up and down mountains all day, and fighting from the time you’re old enough to pick up a Kalasknikov rifle, and never advance to sleeping in a protected environment like a real house, with a soft mattress under you, then maybe you can convincingly argue otherwise. In the meantime, sleeping on a soft bed, in a warm house, with your biggest fear being whether the cable bill can be paid this month does not make you guerrilla warfare tough.

When I was a young Ranger private, one of my mentors was a very skilled martial artist and a pioneer in what would become MMA. Knowing of my profound interest in all things combatives related, he once told me, “Ranger Mosby, a lot of guys come to the Regiment because they think they’re going to learn some high-speed karate shit. They get disappointed when they don’t, because we simply don’t have the time in the training calender for that silliness. When we do have time, we focus on stuff they think is too simple to be effective. What those idiots don’t recognize is, interpersonal violence is interpersonal violence. Regardless of the scale of the battlefield, the fundamentals of victory remain the same. I don’t care if it’s a brawl behind the bar, two rifle squads slugging it out in the jungle, or the armies of Good and Evil battling it out on the plains of Meggido, in the end, it all boils down to speed, surprise, and violence of action! The concepts you learn here, whether as a rifleman, a SAW gunner, or on a machine gun team, will do more for your “martial arts” knowledge than all the shoulder throws you will ever do in the dojo.”

Being the highly motivated young Airborne Ranger that I was, and hungry for any knowledge that could glean from my wiser, slightly older, but vastly more experienced mentors, I remembered those words. In fact, I went back to my room in the barracks, almost immediately (I think it was after he allowed me to recover from the front leaning rest position for asking some sort of dumb-ass question about combatives…), and copied them into my ever-present journal. It wasn’t however, until I was considerably further along in my military career, while serving as a junior SF weapons sergeant, that I really began to understand what he meant. It wasn’t simply a matter of being faster, sneakier, and meaner than the other guy, although those certainly help. It wasn’t just about being more fit and stronger than the enemy, although that damned sure helped too. The truth was, the same tactics, techniques, and procedures that helped us successfully prosecute a small-scale fight against the Taliban in a tight canyon in Afghanistan, were the same TTPs that would allow me to prosecute a fight anywhere, against anyone.

Whether you expect your fight to come in the bush, crawling around on your belly, eating bugs and drinking water from a stagnant, muddy pool, or you expect your fight to come in a large urban area, in fast moving sports cars, with pistols and stolen MP5s, or you expect your fight to come in your living room, against an up-armored FEMA or DHS entry team (in which case, you’re a dumbass for being there when they arrive), the same fundamental concepts apply, if you actually hope to win and survive.

You need training, regardless of what you think. If you’ve served in a combat arms unit, in combat, you probably possess the fundamental skills to survive the initial bursts of violence as well as anyone, providing you the ability to learn as you go about how to modify the TTPs you already know, for surviving without the benefits of air support, indirect fire support, and a long support train behind you. If you’ve never worn a uniform though, or even if you have, if you’ve never performed in a profession that required you to mentally and physically prepare to look another human being in the face, while shoving eight inches of steel into their flesh, and dealing with the psychology of that, while still being able to provide leadership to others, you have no idea what you don’t know.

What you don’t know is, you need tactical training. Being an effective fighter does not come naturally to anyone, I don’t care what anyone tells you. The fact that you can out shoot all the guys in your local pistol club, or all of the local cops who bother to come to the range doesn’t mean shit. The fact that you’ve won every fist fight you’ve ever been in at the local watering hole doesn’t mean shit. Being a big fish in a little pond is not the same thing as being a big fish in the ocean. The sharks aren’t going to fight you on your terms, regardless of your fantasies.

While a Special Forces soldier should doctrinally be a subject-matter expert on guerrilla warfare, I don’t know many of us who are so bold or naive as to presume that we have all the answers. I certainly don’t. Whether looking at SF UW doctrine, or “traditional” light infantry doctrine at the team, squad, and platoon level, the doctrine, as it stands, may not fit a future conflict strictly. The doctrine may not even necessarily be how things actually get done today (it certainly hasn’t been for most of the GWOT in the SF community. Only recently has the SF community collectively returned to its UW roots after spending the better part of a decade focused on direct-action, door-kicking HVT missions better suited for the Ranger Regiment and SMUs). What the doctrine does, whether SF UW, or Light Infantry, is provide a frame of reference to begin to gain an understanding of the nature of the beast we’re dealing with. It is a reflection of the combat arms community’s collective self-image of how we hope to prosecute these types of operations, or at least how the authors of the appropriate manuals hope we fight.

When considering the future application of this doctrine, whether in training or real-world applications, it is crucial to recognize two critical factors in regards to the doctrine, and choose to either apply the lessons that the doctrine teaches, or modify them to your perceived image of what is going to happen:

  • At some level, despite the best efforts otherwise, a trainer’s own intellectual conceits, as a product of a 20th century upbringing in a largely Judeo-Christian culture, as well as subsequent professional military education and experience, will necessarily influence the conclusions that we reach, regarding the effectiveness and applicability of doctrinal considerations.

  • A good trainer, with intellectual honesty, will recognize the existence of these prejudices and conceits, and strive heartily to overcome them.

There is a very sad condition that exists in people everywhere, that is especially apparent in the gun and preparedness communities, for men to delude themselves into believing that they know more than they do. There;s even an “official” name for it, developed by a head-shrinking psychiatrist somewhere. It’s called “competency bias.” We all (and yes, I’m including myself in that “we all.”)want to believe that we’re naturally competent at anything we might ever want to do, and we tend to conveniently ignore or dismiss any evidence that would disprove our delusions.

Unfortunately for both ourselves and our families, in the long term, we often get away with this in trivial matters. “Oh, I’m a good carpenter!” says the accountant who’s never swung a hammer for wages in his life, and the last thing he built was a birdhouse in Cub Scouts. His delusions won’t harm anyone, as long as he limits himself to building birdhouses. When he decides that he knows how to build a human house though, and absolutely refuses to even consider the help or advice of professionals, while he might get lucky, the house is likely to fall down around him. Even in a best case scenario, and he does manage to build it solid enough to not fall down in his lifetime, the roof and seams leak, the windows and doors sag and stick, and the whole building settles, because birdhouses don’t have foundations to worry about.

Hell, I’m a great driver!” says every man everywhere, who refuses to take a defensive driving or high-performance driving class, despite repeated fender benders and traffic tickets. That even works out well for him, until he’s staring into the eyes of a 600lb elk, in the middle of a two-lane blacktop, as he comes around a blind corner at 75MPH, at 0300. He either ends up with an elk in his lap, or the family minivan, along with the whole family, ends up on its roof, in the bottom of a ravine, unseen by passers-by on the road above the next day.


“I know how to shoot! I’m better than any soldier at shooting! I shot my elk last year at 1500 yards, with my .30-06, holding two inches over his back!” says the hillbilly (actual statement, made to my face in a hunting camp!) Never mind the fact that the hillbilly obviously lacks an understanding of even the most elementary ballistics, and has absolutely no range estimation abilities whatsoever, while being too cheap to invest in a decent laser range finder.


I’ve read all the field manuals and I’m an expert in infantry tactics. It doesn’t matter that I can’t actually execute them because I’m forty pounds overweight though, because I’m going to be a 4GW ninja master, so I don’t need that stuff anyway!” says the 5’8″ 230 lb computer programmer turned militia commander, who really couldn’t even tell you what range his rifle is zeroed at, because he doesn’t understand that an 8″ group, at 100 yards, from the prone supported position, is not something you admit to, let along use as a standard for marksmanship, at even the most elementary levels of shooting.


Competency bias, in mundane matters, is humorous. In life-and-death situations though, it results in the wrong people dying, because egos and pride are too important to some important. The comfort of sitting on the computer, blathering on blogs and forums about your prowess as a 4GW guerrilla commando ninja expert, and master of post-modern urban warfare, is far easier, and more comfortable than crawling around in the woods, sprinting from position to position, getting sweaty, tired, and bug-bitten while actually learning to be a novice guerrilla commando ninja expert. Sipping a Coke and whiskey, while typing about your incredible physical prowess in crawling up storm drains, and leaping rooftop-to-rooftop, three stories up, like a “Tier One” commando, is less miserable than being hungry, thirsty, dirty, smelling like you haven’t bathed in a month, and physically and mentally exhausted to the point of tears, from realistic, effective training. Who cares that it might actually keep you alive in a fight? That shit is hard work!


Do you actually know how to develop and set up a multi-layered, in-depth security program, utilizing LP/OPs and roving security patrols correctly? Do you know how to plan and perform those security patrols? Do you know what to look for when planning a security patrol? Do you know how to hit a realistic, partially-obscured target, at 200 meters, with your rifle? When you’ve been moving under the weight of your fighting and sustainment loads for the last week, and have just sprinted three hundred yards?


You need tactical training. You know, in your heart of hearts and soul of souls, that you need training. You just have to turn your ego down and listen to your brain for a change.


Realistic, effective tactical training will teach you how to shoot, move, and communicate effectively. If you’re twenty pounds overweight, with a bodyfat percentage higher than 15%, I can categorically state, with absolute certainty, that you are not capable of moving tactically, correctly. If you cannot shoot a 2MOA group, from the prone, under field conditions, with your choice of fighting rifle, while rested, you do not know how to shoot effectively. If you cannot perform a speed reload, or immediate action, with your choice of fighting rifle, while in full gear, winded from running sprints or individual movement techniques, and blinded by the sweat running into your eyes, I can categorically state, with absolute certainty, that you do not know how to shoot effectively. If you’ve never performed a live-fire hasty assault or break contact battle drill, with multiple small teams moving over the battle space, I can categorically state, with absolute certainty, that you do not know how to communicate effectively.


Realistic, effective tactical training, in today’s environment, is about more than shoot-move-communicate though. It will teach you leadership skills, under field conditions. It’s about mission-planning and troop-leading procedures, even in four-man cells. It’s about preparing yourself and others for future survival.


Realistic, effective tactical training will teach you, better than anyone can ever tell you, exactly how dismally out-of-shape you actually are. Good training is a suckfest and a gut-check. It will require you to reach down the front of your pants to grab your nuts, and confirm that you really do have the intestinal fortitude to man the fuck up and do the right thing, by getting yourself in shape, so you can do what you need to do, instead of just talking about it.


Realistic, effective tactical training will open your eyes to the importance of your spouse not only being accepting of your preparedness plans and actions, but of her being an active, willing participant. You’ll begin to understand that your partner really is your partner, and that you are not the only one in your family who needs to be trained. Your wife and even your kids of weapons-handling age, should be trained.


Realistic, effective tactical training, planned and executed by someone who knows what they are doing, will teach you how to think about security, not just for your family, but for your home and your community, against a broader range of threats, in ways that are cost-effective, as well as simply effective. Planning just for home defense, or just for your personal or family retreat security is not enough. That’s the equivalent of saying, “I’ve got a gun in my nightstand, so I can leave the doors and windows unlocked, with bundles of cash sitting out on tables, even though I live in South Central Los Angeles. I mean, fuck, I own a gun!” That works great…right up until a crew of bad guys are coming through your front door with Kalashnikovs and hand grenades, while you’re sitting on the couch with the wife and kids, watching “The X Factor” and your gun is still in the nightstand. You need to learn to plan for security, at home and retreat, in a holistic manner, and good tactical training will give you the tools to do that.

If you believe a fight is coming, whether you think it will be against the security forces of a tyrannical regime, or whether you think it will be against outlaw bands of cannibalistic San Franciscans, it doesn’t matter how many books you’ve read. If doesn’t matter how many times you’ve earned the Appleseed “Rifleman” patch. It doesn’t matter how many “Advanced Urban Combat” courses you’ve attended. Until you get quality training in the application of those skills in small-unit tactics, you’re just a lonely dude with a gun. Realistic, effective tactical training is a force multiplier you can’t live without, because you won’t live without it. If you don’t want to, or can’t, get to training with one of the guys in this collective “preparedness/liberty” community who are teaching, that’s okay. Go talk to your old high school buddy who just ETS’d after multiple tours in Afghanistan and Iraq, and convince him to help you develop some training plans. You need the training.


Regardless of the existence of educational and cultural biases, based on the established military orthodoxy of the organized, formal nation-state military, the reality is, small-unit tactics are small-unit tactics. The same underlying principles have worked since the time of antiquity, to leverage available technology (bows and arrows versus massed formations to precision rifle fire versus small-unit formations; burning a lodge down around the enemy’s family with torches and animal fat versus using a thermite charge to accomplish the same thing; sabotage of enemy food supplies via poisoning livestock or water sources versus blowing a rail line to interdict mass transport of supplies) against an enemy. While the current doctrine, SF or infantry, may not be perfect, it really is the best idea that the collective experience of fighters and historians can come up with for what will work to prosecute the fight. As the man said, don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Get the training and you can begin to develop a frame of reference for what works and what doesn’t, so you can make intelligent, informed decisions about how to modify what is already known to work, versus what you think might work in the future.


Now, when it comes to training, be like Nike and “Just Do It.”



John Mosby


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  1. Attack Company 1/75 permalink

    Great article!

    Is the mentor in the article a former Marine? I don’t want to put his initials since it would be easy to figure out who it is.

    • No. While I would definitely consider him a mentor, he’s not the one I was discussing. The one I was discussing was a sort of skinny dude that had a reputation as a complete fucking psychopath, but was always as cool to me as an NCO could be to a Joe in those days.

  2. So, forgive my ignorance, but one of the points you are making is that all the “tactical” type classes that you see all around are only good for individual skills, but in order to be truly effective, you need the type of training that incorporates small unit tactics, immediate action drills on contact, etc. Do I have that right?

    I guess, my question then is do you think it’s a waste of time and money to go to those one man centric courses or do you think they are the first rung to advance towards what you are describing?

    Sorry, if that makes no sense. I’m trying to articulate it as best as I can.

    • I think both categories of training are important, PP. If you lack fundamental weapons handling skills, some aspects of a patrolling class are going to overwhelm you. So taking a self-centric, individual skills class is certainly important. At the same time however, knowing all of the individual skills will not do you much good, in the long term, if you’re unable to put them to use, in concert with a partner or partners, and that requires team training in the collective tasks.

      Good question!

  3. The newbies can train all they want. When the balloon goes up it’s “game on” for the real pros. It’s all good. I know things will turn very ugly real fast. Just a wonderfully target rich environment lays at ones feet. Plenty of wannabe assholes/commies/scumbags. I intend to get rid of the trash ASAP. The fatboys/drinkers/fools will be sorry that they chose their lifestyles. Death from all angles.

    • Just remember bro, talented amateurs have been kicking the shit out of us pros forever…..Anyone can get lucky/unlucky, on any given day.

      • But you know and I know what a determined skilled veteran can accomplish. You also know how many years it took to gain the killer instinct. YEARS. Not a day here and there, but years and years of everyday LIVING THE SHIT. If you haven’t been fighting your entire life, why would someone think they have it in them? other than watching too many movies and maybe their liquid courage. Look MG these turds think shooting tame deer is hunting, or the bear hunters I know, lol. They run a pack of dogs a mile ahead of them until the animal is run up a tree. They shoot it, and then congradulate themselves and really believe they are hunters. Americans are weak and lazy and know nothing of hardship. You and I know what it’s like to not sleep for days, and when you do get an hour or two, it’s face up in a puddle of mud with the rain pouring down on you-and it’s heaven. Honestly, how many civies can even comprehend that? I tell stories of my experiences and most can’t believe someone can live like that. A man must become an animal in order to kill like an animal. Other than that it’s luck. And if and when they do get lucky, what have they done? they have taken the most valuable DNA out of the gene pool. That leaves them where?

      • PT? I lifted and hauled 10 LOG cords of hardwoods today in a bit over 3 hrs. Why? becuase it was hard, and I have all fn day to do what I want. Sore? you bet.

    • Chester permalink

      “I intend to get rid of the trash ASAP”
      judge, jury, and executioner, or kill them all and let God sort them out
      “most valuable DNA out of the gene pool”
      is that you panajungla1984?

      John, is this your expert opinion also?

      • Not at all, and I’d argue that anyone who has read this blog for more than about twenty seconds would pick up on that.

      • I live in a blue state. Should say it all.

      • @Chester. Do you see where civility has gotten us? Do you see the nice smiling people in DC? They aren’t smiling because they like you. They are laughing inside at the sorry ass merikans who let this happen to themselves. I personally have not and will not feel the pain like most. I never drank the kool-aid. Morality? lol. I am 1 in a million dude.

      • Chester permalink

        Civility? What is going on in DC is greed and lust for power.
        Civility is helping your neighbor harvest his corn after he has had a heart attack. Or helping the old lady at the grocery store pick up her dropped groceries, That didn’t used to be a bad thing.
        John, I have read every article you have wrote, begining to finish, for almost two years, that was a rhetorical question.
        Your position is crystal clear. “Liberty for thee is Liberty for me”


      • Man I don’t live in a damn city, and the Amish (who all really like me)don’t need any help with the corn. I live surrounded by drunk,meth smoking scumbags. Wasn’t always like that. Since Detroit collapsed, every lowlife that has a cabin up here showed up with their foodstamps and disabilty/welfare check. They are commies. I had 1 tell me that I am healthy and I should work and pay taxes. Some fucking lowlife cheat told me to get a job? LOL. I don’t need to work. Ever again. Collapse or no collapse. These will be the ones who will be in the wire and presenting themselves as targets. I have been preparing for a decade for this. I have the advantage.

      • M-60 permalink

        “Liberty for thee is liberty for me’ Problem is- liberty and freedom are only viable when responsibilty and morality are practiced. Americans have a serious deficit in those two pre-requesites. I see mostly overweight,disgusting,and dependent examples of free people. Most abuse drugs and alcohol along with worshiping sports celebrities/entertainers as a lifestyle. Go ahead and defend those types- I will not. They are the zombies who will steal your families supplies after they rape and kill you and yours. Who will argue with me on that?

      • It’s not a matter of defending “those types.” It’s a matter of defending their rights to their bodies and lives. Until they assault me or mine, or indicate an intention to do so, what they do with their lives is none of my fucking business. I don’t go to church. Do you think I should be forced to? At gunpoint? Should I be made to kneel and pray, against my wishes or beliefs? So, they don’t believe that they need to be concerned with what the politicos are doing in DC, because it doesn’t seem to impact their pursuit of happiness….Sure, it pisses me off, but so do people who try to force their worries and concerns into my world when they are completely fucking irrelevant to me.

      • panajungla1984 permalink

        MG. You obviously have the luxury of peace and stability where you rest your head. Good for you. I on the otherhand do not. I live in MI. The mindset here is not of respect or concern for others. Nothing like the GOOD folks out west. I have spent over 500k on my home alone and 9 years of labor on my land. Now the worst of MI has finally reached where I went for rest in my old age. They have “pissed off the G” Now I am forced to gear up and do battle against full and part time losers. I will win in the end. I always do.

      • M-60 permalink

        The reason .Gov has engineered the ‘dependent class” is to wean them off of “liberty and Freedom”. The blue states are enemy territory. Treat them as such. Make no mistake, the war is coming. It will be between the makers and the takers. Capitolists vs.Communists. Isn’t that why you put out the info and train others in basic combat skills? Right now, there are more commies than patriots in the blue states. Those who are behind the lines are very brave souls.

      • “most valuable DNA ” Yes Chester it is. I and others like me who were warriors from the very begining. It’s in OUR DNA to be fighters. Thats why the MG, and the rest of us Veterans who were drawn to Combat Arms signed up as soon as we were 18. Not like the vast majority of johnny-come-lately wannabes. I served in war zones back in the 80’s, where were you Chester?

      • Alright bro. Quit being a dick to the rest of the readership. Seriously. We volunteered to serve, they didn’t. That doesn’t make us better than them. Now our job is to try and help them bridge the gap between what we know they need, and what they think they need.

      • MG my concern is after teaching these guys “trade skills” they go sideways because there is no fucking way that discipline can be instilled in them. NO WAY. Discipline comes from a prolonged,controlled,learning enviornment. Sure I can train guys to camo up,move with stealth,set-up ambushes,conduct raids,take-out HVTs,or just throw a good old fashioned “zippo party” on the asshole who annoys me the most. What really concerns me is the de-stabilizing effect of rampant out of control guerillas running around. I love this country dude. But honestly, the typical under 40 year old american is not all that smart these days. The traditional values,ethics and morality derived from a loving 2 parent upbringing are all but gone from the newer generations. Let’s not forget the alcohol and drug use/abuse that MOST indulge in daily have made a majority (at least the ones I see)pretty fucked up mental cases. Shit in. Shit out. We can hope, but I don’t think it’s gonna change.

      • I think you’re seeing a small copse of trees and focusing on that small portion of the tactical picture, and are forgetting to look around at the larger forest for the strategic picture (how’s that for mixing metaphors?). Are there lots of dumbasses in the world? Of course. Absolutely. If you’re not meeting anyone under 40 who’s worth knowing, you’re seriously, just not getting out enough (I’m only in my mid-30s. My wife is still in her 20s…). The fact that the GOP had to shut out the Ron Paul delegates at the RNC last summer, or Dr. Paul might have won the nomination, combined with the fact that most of his delegates were in their 20s-30s, tells me there is a metric shit-ton of good youth out there in America today, who need and want guidance on what to do. Step up and lead, brother.

      • +1000. Don’t give up on us just because there are jack asses in this world. Personally, I never volunteered because I knew my eyesight was shit and I would be rejected. That doesn’t mean I didn’t give a fuck. I would have done anything to fix my eyesight and subsequently enlist, but I had to play the hand I was dealt.

      • If everyone who owns a rifle,(which is millions and millions) went to their County Seats and got involved in local Government instead of preparing for combat against it, we could take back our Country without a shot fired. I did. I’m involved. I talk to the Sheriff at least once a month face to face. How many of the posters here have ever done that? I never see any new faces at local .Gov events. It’s because Americans have “no time” for that, instead they are fully engrossed in their own pursuits. No wonder America has fallen so far. When this war of ideology goes hot, it will be because .Gov was not challeneged by “We the People” at the critical points of political power. This Country will be “balkanized” and never be united again as a result. People have to get involved-FAST.

      • Must be the State of Michigan, nope,I have a place in Florida too-same thing. Folks don’t care that much. I’m a member of the VFW,American Legion,and the DAV,not 1 man younger than me. A bunch of well meaning old Vets who sit around sipping beer and talking, but not willing to train or get active in government. It’s very sad. In Detroit, I am good friends with the Presidents of the 3 Baddest MC Clubs there, they’re my “Sampson Option’ I’ve let them know that I’m willing to donate 1 of my homes up here(they’ll take whatever homes they want to) for their new digs if they ever decide to bug-out of MoTown. Other than that, I wouldn’t count on any help here. The lack of testosterone or dignity is frightening. I couldn’t give away pre-paid CQB training slots last month to anyone, young or old. I had guys freak out and quickly move away from me. Theres no fight in these people up here. Even the so-called preppers want nothing to do with active training-it’s always some lame excuse. They must think that by hiding and staying low, the commies will leave them alone. Eventually I’ll have no other options but the biker gangs from Detroit. I think the locals WILL woefully regret not standing up when I offered them the chance to organise. Or maybe all is well and I’m overreacting.

  4. I see it as that everpresent schism between “specialists” and “generalists”. The specialist sees his prowess as an IDPA master, NRA high-power champ, MMA skills, what-have-you – as an overall qualifier for his future success as a combatant. While the generalist always seeks to broaden his skill set, understanding that his skill with a firearm needs to be augmented with skills as a scout, and orienteering and driving and medicine and so on. This of course applies at the individual skill level, as you mentioned, and at the team and multi-team levels. Unfortunately, there is no real panacea for “real world” experience in the classroom/training environment. The closest one can come, and in my opinion one of the most sorely needed training tools, is force on force training. This would be the culmination of bringing your individual and team “shoot-move-communicate” skills into a realistic and chaotic scenario that also incorporates hard physical contact. The results of your actions or inactions will need to be immediate and painful through the use of training mediums such as SIMs/UTMs and aggressive “bad guy” role players that are not going to just give you a free pass, but give you real scenarios based on existing TTPs…..

    To use an analogy, say you were to build a car, and every piece of that car represents a particular skill, you would need to actually start the car and run it on the track before you sent it out into the real world – lest it fail to start or the damn wheels fall off. In the same fashion you would want to exercise and proof-out your learned skills in a controlled but as realistic as possible environment.

    Very good piece John……important stuff

    • RobRoySimmons permalink

      Was my decyphering correct with your OTP problem?

      • At the blogspot site or the weebly site? If the latter, I posted a reply.

        But yes, both were correct….

  5. parapearce permalink


  6. AlleyF permalink

    Thanks for the posts, MG. Been enjoying the blog for a bit, just want to say thanks.

  7. RobRoySimmons permalink

    Folks step back and enjoy a bit of irony, libertarians talking “tribe” (I agree BTW). Keep it coming MG.

  8. Nice, John.

    Hammer on.

  9. I envy you guys that have training. I never was in the military. Its tough to to find the time for training when you work 12 hour nights 6 days a week, and lucky to get a day off. some of us are doin the best we can preparing and putting back supplies. I consider myself an outdoorsman here in Maine. Ive been a bowhunter for 30 years. I scout year around…lots of shoe leather, hang stands alone on hot nasty summer days when every one else is at the beach. but i shoot deer every year and put up important food from the deer i cut up myself and my garden. Ive been goin to Maine’s north woods since I was young boy…miles from the nearest store or any help…i learned real fast that if you couldnt fix it yourself in the middle of no where you were screwed. i feel like i have some decent skills…been shootin since i was kid, feel like im not a bad shot…we dont shoot unless we know we can kill it…dnt think i could make that 1500 yard shot on that elk JM…our shots here in Maine are almost always inside 50 yards. Any ways guess what im tryin to say is…ild give any thing to learn these skills…but most people i know just are not interested. I read as much as i can, shoot when i can, work out when i can, but i know that i have no idea how to wage G.W. I have the weapons…know how to use them…i hope i can defend my family and neighbors if it comes to that. Ild love to attend your class, but be awful difficult to make it out west. We do have a camp in northern maine that would make a great host site. Actually goin bird huntin and shootin up thier this weekend. First one off in a month…cant wait!! Just dont think we could get enough guys to attend. Any ways…thanks for the great artcles…i am def learning here…and have been motivated by you to get even more serious about training.

    • FtwPhil permalink

      No matter how bad ass you think you are, good chances are that there is a badder motherfucker than you.

      That is not knock on this article, but hopefully a realists opinion on the shit we will see. I have no .mil service or training. May not even make it pass go or collect $200 when the music stops, but when it does I will cut a rug the best I can. i just hope there are III’s in my AO that will be of the righteous sort. God bless

      • Phil, I would offer that by acknowledging that you have no training, you’re facing the right direction. I can unequivocally state however, that while I am well aware that there are “badder motherfuckers” than me out there, the untrained are not amongst them. Does that mean you can’t get lucky and knock a dude out, literally or figuratively? Absolutely not. Some of the baddest dudes I know are resting in Arlington National Cemetery, and most of them were far more dangerous men than I.

        If you go into a fight, knowing that you’re untrained, and don’t take advantage of the opportunity beforehand to get the training that is available, you’re either naive or flat fucking stupid. Only a complete fucking moron doesn’t stack the odds as far in his favor as possible. But, hey, it’s your life and your wife and kid’s virtue, not mine.

    • Estimates show the U.S. deer population is at 30 million. Total population upwards of 300 million. Do the math. Living off the land will last about a week. Then what? Then it will be kill or be killed. Folks amaze me with their survival philosophy of kumbayah and campfires. I have new neighbors who think they are off the grid. LOL LOL. Living on a Co. Rd, 8 miles away from the Sheriffs dept, and powerlines running to their cabin. Off the grid- indeed. 99% of americans have no fucking clue what off the grid is. The real amazing fact is how so many of them have made over a 100k a year their entire lives and have nothing to show for it, not even a paid-off home. The level of stupid is beyond a measurable scale. We will all see how nice and polite the bottom feeders will be when the free shit runs dry. Good luck.

      • I have to agree with the sentiment about folks making good money and still not having paid off their mortgages. Also, they haven’t at least used that money to get some knowledge/skills/training and/or some level of preparedness. These folks will get a real wake up call during a disaster not to mention if/when SHTF.

    • lapua permalink

      Bill G. I’m in NH/ME and if you are offering a host site for a New England JM class you can consider me 100% signed up already. I am also one of those complete fucking idiots who only recently admitted I’m not worth a shit in a real fight. I suppose that means I’ve taken a step towards actually not being completely useless.

      I need training and I would support any effort to bring JM to New England.

      • thespartanmonkey permalink

        Add me to a New England class. I think, in reality, that means NH, ME or VT.

      • born2hunt2 permalink

        Yeah defiantly…ive got a couple guys interested up here email is

    • Bill G….if you have a venue available for training and at least eight students, I may be able to get some of my colleagues on the east coast to come to your AO and put on some training.
      Unless John is planning on heading that way again…? You can email me via my site if interested.

  10. matt permalink

    I certainly saw plenty of myself when you were talking about competency bias. There isn’t a carpentry or plumbing job that I don’t THINK I can’t handle. haha.

    But when it comes to tactical ability (my equipment, my physical fitness, my tactical skillsets, my unit’s capabilities) I’m reminded of something Sun Tzu said: Know your enemy and win a battle, Know yourself and win a hundred.

    Just my way of saying I agree. It’s important to know how good you are. The plan accordingly (missions and training).

  11. Frank Pinelander permalink

    “Brainwashed by the intellectual conceit of the modern nation-state, they accept a romanticized image of the guerrilla fighter created by poet, painter, and photographer,”

    Exactly. Hollywood has been boxing in all sides of the equation emotionally for a long time, since Stalin. Organizing mindsets into herds, and then steering the herds into ineffectiveness.

  12. Grenadier1 permalink

    You continue to hit them out of the park JM. I am not a bad ass but I try to at least be more of a bad ass then the next guy if that makes sense. Got the opportunity to train with your buddy Dan recently and that was very helpful as we sort out our POI for the courses we are doing. I am not where I need to be training wise and PT wise but I continue to work on it and understand my shortfalls. The patriot community seems to be infected with “good-enough-ism”. Weather its “a revolver was good enough for my grand-daddy” to “I just need to be good enough to carry a water bottle and a few extra mags” its always just doing what people think is good enough to get by. No one seems to understand the concept of starting points and continued improvements.
    On 4GW I see people throw the term around and I think most of them dont really understand it which is not unusual because many of the proponents cant really define it either. You are very much correct that it is basically a return to Generation 0 warfare, the basic most local form of conflict. I think people get wrapped up in the concepts of generations. There is an assumption that the next generation is somehow better than the previous. The reality is its more analogus to artistic styles or movements. They grow and rise in popularity but they are not the state of all art at the time nor are they by nature better or worse than other styles contemporary to them. I think what lead to the classification of 4GW as something “New” is the idea that while its techniques and tactics may be old and in reality pre-date “civilization” they are taking place well within the confines of modern civilization. Organized non-nationstate conflict within the political and societial boundries of a nationstate. Thats really been going on for a long time as well but its been a long time since it took the form of open killing in the streets.
    I surely hope that people are not looking at 4GW or “Urban ops” and thinking that its a shortcut to resistance that gives them another “good enough” opportunity. It is not and even if its urban or suburban focused and more Ian Flemming than Che, you still need to know F&M and how to work in a team.

  13. The 8TMachine permalink


    I like the article, it hit home since I’m an “amateur badass” (as you defined them), During the time many enlisted or were drafted for Vietnam (I had a number but wasn’t called), I ran a 10 flat 100, played college football, lead the league in penalty minutes in hockey (mainly for fighting), won a Golden Gloves Light Heavyweight Title, and was roughly 50 – 0 in bar fights with guys who wanted to test their luck. Not sure where that puts me on the scale other than zero .mil experience. Have very light weapons training obtained when I thought I wanted to work in law enforcement and was drafted by the FBI, worked in Quantico, befriended the head of the firearms range who gave me time using their training facilities (pop up targets etc.) with the .38’s and some longer 300yds with the 30.06. I was 22 at the time and am 59 today. Hadn’t owned a gun up until a year ago and now have a half dozen I taking to the range. That’s the short story. I’d like to come to a class but I don’t meet your current BMI index etc. today but working on it for real (weights & running again – something again not done in 35+ years so it won’t be an overnight fix but a year is feasible I’m only 25lbs overweight BMI 25 so its a realistic timeframe. My problem is, you basically said if you have x, y, z, physical characteristics you may as well stay home. I don’t want to stay home. I want to learn. I’m sure I’m not ready for the move and shoot in a close circle program yet and know there are steps before reaching you but assuming I got my fundamentals down better, are you suggesting because I’m almost 60 I’m basically useless because I may not be able to keep up with guys half my age who have been professional combat vets full time? I’m never going to run that 10 flat 100 ever again no matter how hard I train but I don’t need a walker yet either. I do want to learn the theories and tactics I never had the chance to. I think the S is going to HTF and would like to be the best 60 year old I can be – period. Have you ever thought about offering something like the same tactical skills w/o the fast pace. It ain’t going to be your problem we can’t sprint as fast as you but it would be good to know when to sprint, where, why and how. It just may come off at a slower pace. I guess I’m saying there are many of us who come form all different places and so maybe you should offer a mongrel camp or something for us misfits. I’m in NH too so seems as though you have a following here in the NE too form what I read above. I don’t disagree at all with your stressing the importance of fitness. Its that many of us are never going to be a bad a we may have been and you’ll understand that when you get here. I’m pretty sure you won’t feel ready to be put out to pasture quite yet when you get here either. Sorry if this went a little long but I’m sure there are other readers in a similar boat. I’m a big student of history and can read the writing on the wall which is why I’m here. What would you suggest for someone in my position? I’m not thin skinned so let it fly 🙂 Thanks!

  14. The crux of this problem, as I see it, is what is your estimate of the situation. How likely do you think it is that the EVENT will happen and we will have to fight? A lot of folks could probably move to a better AO, learn how to fight, and otherwise prepare for a breakdown, IF they thought this is really gonna happen. But they’re not gonna give up their lifestyle unless they truly believe it is absolutely necessary. Whether through denial, analysis, or laziness, it doesn’t really matter, the end result is most folks aren’t gonna do shit.

    For those that do, herein lies the rub. You get spun up and ready to rock. Nothing happens yet. Maybe years go by. Now you are faced with sustainment issues. How do you stay on a war footing with your wife/family/friends on your ass about not being “engaged” with all their bullshit instead of what really matters.

    Some guys have been waiting for the balloon to go up since the 80’s and 90’s. Granted, it looks A LOT closer today than back then, but still, what the fuck are you gonna do to stay ready AND live your life at the same time?

    Perhaps the answer lies in what JM brought up about the ancient tribal cultures. Harden the fuck up as part of your daily life instead of a some-time thing on weekends. Then when/if something ever happens, you smoothly switch gears from daily mundane bullshit to fighting- almost seamlessly. That’s the problem. We have become so far removed from survival, as a daily task, that when it becomes necessary, it is actually a lifestyle change so radical as to be damn-near impossible for many.

    • That’s the nail on the head (sustainment). Getting in the best physical shape you can is paramount. If the shtf I will go down fighting with a smile on my face. FUCK EM!

    • Frank Pinelander permalink

      People have been training in the US for armed resistance since FDR. Know guys that ran to Montana in the 70s, quite certain it was at an end.

      Yes, sustainability is the question. One has to be very careful to make sure one is not being led by the nose into the idea of “prepper”, boxed into ineffectiveness.

      Start running for local office, get involved in the political system, and still maintain preparedness.

    • RobRoySimmons permalink

      I live in a shit area that only an asteroid can fix, but I have to maintain social conventions for various familial considerations. I did receive permission to buy a bug out place in fly over country and where contra all conceptions of my assholedness I have been a model of friendliness to those who have lived there all their lives up to and including business relations. Problem being in a METT-TC model the state tree in this “god’s country” is the telephone pole.

  15. Koldsteel permalink

    @Roy- ” I live in a shit area that only an astroid can fix” is funny as hell.

    Good article JM…

  16. Brad permalink

    one of your best blog posts John, hearty food for thought.

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