Sometimes, philosophical wisdom comes from an unlikely place. In this case, it's the boxing ring.
"Everyone's got a plan until they get punched in the mouth." ~ Mike Tyson
In no realm is this quote more applicable than the preparedness realm.
Have you ever made the humbling discovery that you had been wildly overconfident in your abilities? Or discovered that you "didn't know what you didn't know"? Or thought you knew how to do something because you read about it, but discovered you had no clue when you actually tried to do it?
I can think of no worse time to discover your situation far outpaces your ability than in the midst of an SHTF scenario. There's only one way you can be truly confident in your skills. You must practice them in the closest possible environment. Otherwise, you run the risk of finding out that you were actually an armchair Rambo, and that all of those things you typed on internet forums were pure action movie fantasy.
This week, I discussed the subject with training expert Max Velocity, author of the manuals Contact! A Tactical Manual for Post Collapse Survival and Rapid Fire!: Tactics for High Threat, Protection and Combat Operations, as well as the novel Patriot Dawn: The Resistance Rises. Max is the founder of Max Velocity Tactical, a school in West Virginia that teaches combat skills to everyday people in a rugged mountain setting.
When you read the following Q&A, do you get the uncomfortable feeling you may have been fooling yourself with regard to tactical preparedness? If so, what are you going to do about it?
Q: Can you tell us about your books?
A: Contact! A Tactical Manual for Post Collapse Survival is the result of a detailed consideration of a societal collapse and the civil shift and aftermath that would impact individuals and families who are intent on survival. The purpose of this manual is to provide information to enhance security, tactics, and survival skills of law-abiding citizens who are faced with civil disorder, lawlessness, violence and physical threat in a post-collapse environment. The information in this manual is derived from years of experience gained from service with special operations forces (SOF) followed by years of employment as a security contractor in hostile environments including Iraq and Afghanistan. It is a distillation of military and security training, principles, and tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs) adapted to the threat and environment anticipated in this type of scenario in order to provide knowledge needed to train to survive in a world turned upside down. It is no longer just survival of the fittest but survival of the most prepared. The manual will take you from self-defense as an individual, team and family, both pre and post collapse, and move on to tactics, techniques, procedures and training that can be used by tactical teams. In a serious post-event scenario, one of total collapse with several months or years before recovery, families, groups, and communities may be forced to create such tactical defense forces to protect personnel and resources against marauders. There is something in this manual for both the tactical newbie and the military veteran.
Patriot Dawn: The Resistance Rises is a novel designed to bring to life many of the concepts expounded in the manual, "Contact!" This novel tells an exciting story of an American Resistance set in a fictional near-future collapse/civil war scenario. It was written to both be a fast-paced story, and also to be a companion read to 'Contact! A Tactical Manual for Post Collapse Survival,' bringing to life the tactics described in the manual. It is both a fictional novel and a vehicle for tactical instruction.
Q: What's your training and experience background? What about your other instructors?
A: Max: I am a tactical self-defense trainer and author, a lifelong soldier with extensive military experience. I have served in both the British and US Armies. I served with British Special Operations Forces, with the Parachute Regiment which is Britain's elite quick reaction force and which also provides support to the UK Tier 1 Special Forces, the Special Air Service. I served on six operational deployments, including to Afghanistan immediately post-9/11, and also a tour training and selecting recruits for the Regiment. In explaining what the Parachute Regiment is, it is easiest to compare it in role to the 75th Ranger Regiment, although it is of course its own unique and elite force. I passed both Parachute Regiment selection and also UK Special Forces Aptitude Selection during my career. I left the British Army in 2003. I then spent five years serving as a paramilitary contractor in both Iraq and Afghanistan. This included working on contract for the US Government in Iraq, a year of which was based out of Fallujah, the rest variously based out of Baghdad and country-wide, and also two years working for the British Government in Helmand Province and Kabul, Afghanistan. These roles were operational security roles that included exposure to multiple different training methods and operational schools of thought, as well as both high profile and low profile mobile operations across Iraq and Afghanistan. I then joined the U.S. Army and trained as a Combat Medic and Civil Affairs Specialist.
Chris spent 12 years of his life in the United States Army as an infantry officer. He has attended Jump School, Ranger School, SERE (survival escape, resistance, evasion) level 3 and many others. Chris has one deployment to Iraq where he commanded a mechanized infantry platoon in the Baghdad area. After Iraq, Chris was promoted to Captain and ultimately took a Rifle Company to Afghanistan to train, mentor and conduct combat operations alongside Afghan Border Police in the southern provinces of the country. There he conducted operations with conventional, Special Operations and Other Government Agency entities along the Afghan/Pak border. After several more assignments, Chris left the army with 12 years of service and went in to the private military contract sector. He spent time in Kabul, Kandahar and the Helmand area of Afghanistan escorting government and business officials through high threat environments while simultaneously training afghan personal protection forces (APPF) and conducting site assessments and security vulnerability of numerous static locations throughout the country. It's been Chris's lifelong career to serve his country, train and mentor US soldiers and their allies and now bring his experience and training expertise to Max Velocity. His expertise centers around Small Unit Tactics, Operational Planning, Small Arms Weapons Manipulation, Unconventional Warfare and Night Operations.
Aaron has been in the US army for over 10 years with multiple combat tours to both Iraq and Afghanistan. He has experience in both conventional and Special Operations within the US Army as well as working with foreign militaries, GO's and NGO's. He has trained thousands of military personnel from all branches of service as well as foreign military personnel and civilians. Aaron specializes in small arms, weapons manipulation, small unit tactics, convoy operations and personal protection. Aaron was selected for the Max Velocity Tactical cadre after careful consideration. He is an excellent instructor with a great demeanor and ability to connect with students. Aaron's primary responsibly is running the Weapons Manipulation Classes.
Q: Are the tactical manuals sufficient for the average prepper?
A: The tactical manuals will give the average prepper the background knowledge to gain a greater understanding of how to plan for survival in an SHTF environment, and what strategies to employ. However, in order to put the tactical information into full effect, two things need to happen: 1) The reading must be backed up by practical training, and 2) they must get a grip on physical training, a very oft missed part of the individual and team readiness equation.
Q: What kind of SHTF scenario do you envision?
A: I don't train my students for any specific SHTF situation – that would be too limiting – but rather, I train them for any situation where they may face a societal breakdown to any degree, and where they may be without law and order. In such situations, they may need to utilize tactical training, on a sliding scale from home defense to full-blown resistance against a foreign invader. Personally, if you were to ask me my most likely collapse scenario, I think there is a high chance of a cyber attack on the power grid, perhaps tied in with a collapse of the petro-dollar.
Q: How does a person go from complete beginner to tactically trained?
A: You ought to follow a training progression. You need to start with the fundamentals of marksmanship. I offer training classes that progress you from that basic level. I offer combat shooting classes and tactical classes. All the tactical training that we run is based on combat proven light infantry training techniques. My training progression would involve taking a combat shooting class such as 'Combat Rifle' or 'Combat 2 Gun.' You can come straight in at the tactical level if you have sufficient experience, and start with 'Combat Team Tactics,' which progresses to 'Combat Patrol.' Those two classes can be completed as a combined six day class. There are more available classes, including night optical device shooting and night fighting, listed on my tactical training page. One of the biggest problems we find is 1) training scars from poor prior training, and 2) the 'don't know what you don't know' factor. We teach the simplest and most effective combat proven techniques that we know, that have worked for us overseas, and we encourage people to not bring ego – simply come with an open mind and a desire to train and learn.
Q: What's the difference between "tacticool" training and REAL tactical training?
A: 'Tacticool' training is not only designed to simply make you look and feel good; but, more insidiously, it will give you the idea that you are tactically trained and proficient when you are not. It is the sort of training that will give you enough to really get yourself in trouble. For example, basic marksmanship and square range training have a solid place in the training progression, but you must move beyond the static range to tactical field firing training in order to be tactically trained. You have to understand how to operate your weapons 'out in the wild,' and to maneuver in real environments. Often the problem with 'tacticool' training is that among the instructors there is not the experience or facility to move beyond the square range, and there is only so much you can do, so instructors make stuff up that may in fact be disadvantageous to your health. At Max Velocity Tactical the tactical ranges have been designed out in the woods and utilize electronic pop-up targets, bunkers and other such training aids to bring a realistic tactical environment, This allows a certain amount of stress and battle inoculation to be brought to the students in training. And critically, this is all done in a safe and practical manner.
Q: Can you describe your facilities?
A: We are situated on 100 acres of land in Appalachia, close to Romney in West Virginia. The land is mostly wooded and consists of multiple valleys which provide natural live firing areas. We have a couple of square ranges for combat shooting training as well as multiple tactical ranges set in the woods. This allows us to run training such as: fire & movement, reaction drills (reflexive fire), break contact drills, jungle walk, squad attack, ambush, patrol base, raid on an enemy encampment. Electronic pop-up targets, as well as dummies and standard targets, are utilized to enhance the training experience.
Q: What do your courses entail?
A: We run the gamut of classes from weapons manipulation and combat shooting on the square range, up through individual reaction (reflexive fire) drills, up to team and squad break contact and assault drills. The 'Combat Patrol' class features ambush, patrol base, reconnaissance patrol, and raid. We also run night firing classes.
Q: What kind of physical conditioning is necessary to take one of your courses?
A: We have had students up to 67 years old attend some of the classes. You don't have to be as fit as you may think, but the fitter you are, the better it will be! Never neglect PT, and the fitter you can get, the more you will get out of the classes.
Q: What kind of training do you recommend for women, pre-tactical?
A: I recommend some basic shooting classes to dial in on the fundamentals. Then attend either the 'Combat Rifle' or 'Combat 2 Gun' classes, held on the square range but involving a progression to dynamic activity including fire and movement. These are great classes, not your usual standing in front of targets wasting ammo type deal. This is more than sufficient to get you into a tactical class, such as the 'Combat Team Tactics.' We are big on the holistic effect of team. You can show up with your husband or a friend, or on your own, and you will be paired up and put into teams for the class.
Q: Do you train many women at your school?
A: A fair amount but not as many as we would like. We are recommending the 'Combat Rifle' class as a good place to start as a women's or couple's class, and a way into the training progression. We have had plenty of women through the 'Combat Team Tactics' and even the 'Combat Patrol' class, either as wives, daughters or friends of male students. We are big on women getting the training because after all, this cannot be ignored, and if the SHTF and the husband goes down, who will be left to defend the children? To me, getting tactically trained is a matter of personal responsibility.
Q: Does the training for women differ from the training for men?
A: It is no different. It is simply a case of choosing the point at which you are ready to enter the available training progression.
Q: What is the price range of the courses? Does this include accommodations or camping space?
A: Classes are priced at $200 per day per person, for two to three day classes. Camping is available at site for free. There are popular and affordable motels/hotels available in nearby Romney.
Q: You offer a lot of different classes. Do most people stay for a while and take several of them?
A: We started offering the combined 6 day class, which combined 'Combat Team Tactics' and 'Combat Patrol,' at the request of students. It makes it economical to fly from as far away as California and Alaska to take both classes at once. We have multiple return students, and many attend the same classes multiple times, such as 'Combat Team Tactics,' because they learn so much every time.
Q: If a person could only take one course, which one would your recommend?
A: Combat Team Tactics. We expanded this class from two to three days to include an initial day of weapons manipulation and other combat shooting training on the square range. This has had a huge effect on students getting more out of the tactical phase of the class because they are more competent and less worried about manipulating their weapon, and can concentrate on the tactical training. So in effect they get a Combat Shooting class lite at the front end.
Q: Do you recommend that preparedness groups come and train together, or is it enough to send a couple of people, who can then teach the others in the group?
A: We have had a mix of both. Groups and families showing up and taking the classes as a team, or individuals showing up to take the knowledge back to their group. I will say that the ultimate success of the 'train the trainer' concept is determined by the quality of the individual and the facilities available once he gets back home. I would prefer that groups show up to get our professional instruction at our purpose designed facility, and then continue to train what they learnt at MVT once they get back home. That would lead to a better overall training result. However, if time or resources are tight, sending a smaller group to 'train the trainer' will have some desirable effect.
Q: What sets your school apart from the other tactical classes out there?
A: We run real combat proven light infantry tactical training on a purpose built facility that allows us to bring the training product that we bring. We have designed our classes to suit both civilians and military veterans, and although we don't run a 'drill instructor' type environment, we are able to bring stress to the training that helps with battle inoculation. I have some excellent Assistant Instructors, one of whom was a Ranger Instructor, and in fact our 6 day class has often been described as a 'mini-Ranger school' – although with more sleep and food! Come as an individual, a couple of buddies, a formed team or a family group, and we will bring you the tactical training and get you through it.
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