Review of CQB/Fighting in Structures Coursework in AZ
(As always, my comments are bold, italicized, and parenthetical. –JM)
(To begin with, this is possibly the most flattering review/evaluation I have ever received. I almost didn’t post it out of fear of sounding like I wanted to toot my own horn. Fortunately, he said some things that emphasized my goals as a teacher, so I said “fuck it,” and let it go. –JM)
This is a review of a Three Day course in Close Quarter Battle and Fighting in Structures with John Mosby in Skull Valley, AZ on 16-18 October.
This is the third of John’s courses that I have attended. My background is former Naval Officer (0-5 type–JM) and Pilot, with minimal military small arms training, currently employed as Commercial Airline Pilot, and I am approx. 60 years old. Previous to attending my first Mosby Course, I had attended numerous “square range” courses at a facility in Southern Nevada–which shall remain nameless–as well as handgun training at Federal facilities in Central New Mexico and Atlantic City.
The first Mosby course I attended was his Rifle Course held in Northern Idaho in December (yeah, what was I thinking), and the second was Small Unit Tactics in Central Idaho. These courses offer a grounding in safe weapons usage and teamwork concepts that are essential for the CQB course, which I would consider a graduate level course. This is not an entry level course. Going live with weapons, in close proximity to other shooters, with movement through structures while reacting to targets offers significant opportunities for mayhem. A strict adherence to Mosby’s Five Rules for Weapon Handling, Muzzle Awareness, and proper usage of the Weapon’s Safety Lever must be foremost in your mind. This is particularly true if you have ever seen Mosby’s solution to improper weapon handling (seeing all of Mosby’s 200+ lbs delivered “points down” with righteous and furious anger upon an unsuspecting reprobate once was enough for me) Being on the receiving end of a Mosby tackle may seem harsh and impertinent to some, but, for myself, working in an industry whose rules have been written in blood by the the careless, complacent, or undertrained, I see real value in such public “corrections” to dangerous gun handling practices delivered in brutal fashion. It has value for both those on the receiving end and for those who witness it. I suspect JM has personally witnessed the tragic results of the failure to adhere to those five rules. The temporary bruising of ego is far preferable to a lifetime of remorse. Fortunately, this last weekend, there were no such issues.
Two notable differences in this course from the courses I had attended previously was the relatively little live shooting (probably no more than 50 rounds) and the lack of physicality. For safety reasons, Airsoft M-4’s were used in the training phase as we learned the nuances of “Slicing the Pie” and maintaining the “Vertical Edge”. I don’t see how else you could effectively and realistically train these tactics while maintaining acceptable safety. After being told my fitness was “Sucking it” during the Rifle course, I was sufficiently motivated to show up for the successive courses in much better shape. The subject matter of the course precluded the need for much running or quick movement. I’ll leave the fitness hectoring to JM.
Friday morning, 0800, after link-up, we moved to the training site, courtesy of a local homestead owner. The 12 students were given about 45 minutes to get campsites and gear squared away, whereupon, JM set up a cognitive shooting drill to set the tone for the class.(editorial note: It was a context-specific variation of the PRA 1-5 Drill, described in Volume One of The Reluctant Partisan. The Commander’s description here I edited out, because it would have confused the shit out of people….–JM)
The second part of the drill built upon the first, with some added complexity. A structure was erected to conceal the 5 numbered targets behind it. Each target had three shooting zones, Head (H), Chest (X), and Groin (G). A letter was designated adjacent to the top of each target number, either H, X, or C indicating which zone was the intended target. The shooter was shown an index card with a three number sequence for three seconds which correlated to three of the targets, which were to be shot in that exact number sequence. The shooter was to “Slice the Pie” using the Vertical Edge of the obstacle, to reveal the designated numbered silhouette targets. The targets were to be shot in the precise numeric sequence that JM had written down on an Index Card, in the zone designated by the letter next to the Target number, with the First Target in the sequence getting one round, the second numbered target in the sequence getting two rounds, the third numbered target in the sequence getting three rounds, the second numbered target in the sequence getting four rounds, and the first numbered target in the sequence getting five rounds. Honestly, I am not even sure I described it right which might explain why I sure as hell didn’t shoot it right. In front of the whole class. Humble Pie earned and gratefully accepted.
The next evolution (for the lack of a better word) was a class lecture on the fundamental principles of CQB fighting inside structures, methods of breaching, and the small unit tactics we would be employing, mainly Slicing the Pie, and maintaining the Vertical Edge. JM described current doctrine employed by SWAT and military units, namely, Stacking the Door and Flooding the Zone with shooters. The flaw with this tactic, in JM’s opinion, is that, since, when things went south, as they are prone to do, the protocol was to just revert to the standard tactic of “Slicing the Pie” and “Vertical Edge” techniques, why not just start off employing the tactics that always work. (I didn’t say it was “the protocol.” I said, “what happens is…Since that happens anyway, and it works, why not make it the go-to choice anyway.” It’s not an original thought that I came up with. –JM) Classic Mosby Logic. Don’t make it complicated. Distill it down to its functional essence. Take your time. Be Patient. Think. Move as fast as you can process. Work the problem.
We broke for lunch and JM commenced to build the Shoot House (typically, the shoot house is constructed BEFORE the class begins, but in this instance, scheduling conflicts arose that required me to bust it out during the lunch break. Good thing I don’t eat, huh? –JM), but most of the class ended up meandering over to help. Two by four walls were raised and covered by opaque black plastic sheeting which formed walls and hallways. The house included a functioning door and a window created by cutting a rectangle opening in the sheeting. The next day and half were spent doing Force on Force Airsoft engagements, consisting of two man entry team, against a constantly varying OPFOR cadre with and without hostages, which helped to deeply embed the facets of the tactical principles of Slicing the Pie and the Vertical Edge, with JM providing pointed and often profane, yet obliquely humorous critiques. The M-4 Airsoft Guns added an essential element of realism to the training with minimal safety compromises, but unfortunately, after a while, the guns started to break down. The major benefits to using the Airsoft in this Force on Force drill was it really drove home the tactical issue of AR/AK height over bore adjustments for close range shooting problems, as you work the Vertical Edge, as well as emphasizing the necessity of a slow, deliberate, patient pacing as the students would work the problem, adding a necessary element of realism via a stinging 6mm rebuke from the OPFOR’s Airsoft if those principles were not followed. . I think JM would agree that a more robust training tool, if it could be acquired at reasonable cost, would be an improvement (as discussed in the class, the problem is two-fold. A) I can invest in a higher quality of Airsoft guns, but they are still “toys” at the end of the day, or B) I can invest in UTM/Sims gun bolt carrier groups. This would be preferable, since it would allow students to employ their own, actual rifles, but since the UTM sims rounds cost pretty much the same as live 5.56, the cost of the class would double instantly, to pay for the ammunition for the Sims guns. We’re still trying to determine which route to take, predicated on whether we continue with open-enrollment classes or not.–JM)
Another element JM introduced was the handling of OPFOR and of their potential “hostages”, and the priorities for securing the scene after the threats were eliminated. What became clear is that this is a dynamic environment that requires constant assessment and re-evalution of tactics. Take your time, be patient and deliberate, work the problem.
The final morning involved a discussion of how to deal with hallways and the ricochet effects off hallway walls and how that determines where to situate yourself as move in the hallway to minimize that threat. The last exercise was a live fire dynamic entry, with threat and non-threat targets set up inside the shoot house, which included a variation of the cognitive shooting problem from Day 1. After the last team did their shoot, we broke down the Shoot House and policed up the camping and parking areas.
As is typical at the final meeting in his classes, JM asks each person for three things he has learned over the weekend, what he could do to make the course better, and whether the course was worth the time, travel and money. My honest assessment is that few people go through a Mosby course without feeling that they have a deeper understanding of the course subject matter but also a realization that they have just made only their first of many steps in a much longer journey in improving their fitness, their weapon manipulation and marksmanship skills, their tactical awareness, and probably, most importantly, their mindset.
In his parting comments last weekend, JM said he does not consider himself an Instructor, but rather a Teacher. It is an important distinction. I think JM is an exceptionally good Teacher, in no small part because he himself is the perpetual student. The dude is an outlier, I have known and worked with many enlisted men, but not too many with a Masters Degree. He has an aggressive, inquisitive mind, and a fairly forceful personality but it is matched by a disarming lack of hubris. He takes the shit he does and the stuff he teaches seriously, but he doesn’t take himself too seriously. He freely admits that his courses and demonstrations are under constant evaluation and evolution as he tries to find the best way to impart the course material. I think this illuminates JM’s true humility, despite what some of his detractors would say. His perpetual student mindset seeks the quickest, most illuminating path to clarity. I always come away from one of his courses realizing there are more layers to peel back as I continue down this path.
To illustrate this further, after every evolution, he goes to every student and asks them to ask him a question. It is not optional. You will have a question. His classes are not a passive learning experience. You will be actively engaged, mentally and physically. Many times when I was stuck on what question to ask, I would pass and another question from another student would bring forth something to ask. I believe that most guys leave his course realizing that they have just begun the journey towards mastery because I think JM is on a similar journey. At the end of his class, JM doesn’t give out trophies or graduation certificates but he does instill something more important. It is the notion that you are capable of more than you thought you were, and there is much more yet to learn.
For those who have not attended one of Mosby’s courses, and are looking forward to attending one in the future, come to his course with an open mind and a bit of humility. For those who have experience with firearms, I suggest that one “surrender mastery” of those previous experiences and open your mind to what Mosby is attempting to impart. JM is famous (infamous) for his “Skull Stomping” diatribes, but my perspective is that this is not driven by ego or a business plan ($500 for a three day course is a bargain, he isn’t in it for the Money) My sense is that JM is relentlessly driven by a search for truth and for teaching techniques, tactics and procedures which work. I am aware of the pissing contests between JM and other trainers. I am also aware that some seeking his advice are offended by his manner. All I can say is that after having taken three courses with Mosby, the way he has been described by other trainers (who I am not sure have even met him) does not comport with my experience. Funny, profane, self deprecating, brutally honest, but most importantly, he’s a pretty sharp guy. He doesn’t miss a thing and you will know it when you fuck up. Is he arrogant, elitist, profane, contemptuous and condescending? At times, I suspect that even he would probably agree with those assessments of himself. I suspect anyone who has made it through a SOF selection process and completed multiple deployments into hot war zones has a pretty healthy ego, fairly confident of his skill set which is leavened with an incapacity for self deception. Folks like JM are elite because they have a demonstrated dedication to a level of fitness, performance, integrity, and professionalism that have no commonality to the civilian world. Their civilian leadership (if you can call it that) asks them to endure hardships and make decisions of consequence which civilians cannot comprehend. It is not surprising to me that men who operate in that world are not just a little bit disdainful of those who go about their lives in blissful ignorance of their sacrifices. And yet, ironically, it is precisely because of their unique skills and professionalism that they are sought out, in times like these, by us, the uninitiated and unexperienced, to prepare us to defend ourselves and our loved ones for the likely future unpleasantness. So all you special snowflakes out there, if you are aware enough to want to get this kind of training, get over yourself, shut the fuck up, open your ears and your mind, and harden the fuck up.