17th Mar2012

The Principles of CQB

by A.J.

Speed, Surprise, Violence of Action

Lately we have been taking a look at CQB to try to educate/review some of the basic premises for military operators and tactical athletes. We decided to make a post dedicated to the most basic parts of CQB so in future installments we could delve deeper and not have to catch guys up as we go. This post will seem pretty basic to some of the people out there but, I think a review can do everyone some good sometimes. To win at CQB there are three pillars or principles that should be adhered to. The three pillars of CQB are of course:

1. Speed

2. Surprise

3. Violence of Action

 

Why discuss the  Principals of CQB?

CQB

I am not really sure why a team would want to be this close. How easy do you think it is to "sneak" 8 guys up to a breach point in the day time. If they were moving fast they should have no time to get ducks in a row. What is the number one man waiting for? Plus the last man is covering where they came from instead of the threat corner.

There is some confusion about the three principles and to be honest There isn’t a lot of consensus about what is the exact best way to apply these pillars. Police  tend to have their own play book and the military guys another but, that being said there are definitely places where we meet in the middle. I am going to give you my take on it and as usual I am going to make the disclaimer that these are only the opinions of the TacticalAthleticPerformance.com advisory board and you have to make the determination for your team what is right for you.

Speed

Speed is probably the most misunderstood principal because it does not mean an operator must run from one point in the objective to the next. Speed is a nuanced idea that the team should waste no time and give the enemy as little time as possible to prepare for the assault team. Recently, I was training with a long time friend of mine whose tactical prowess I respect a great deal and when we were doing some training he said: “well let’s just start off real slow, and back it off from there.” The quote really stuck with me because it showed a great deal of insight into CQB training and execution. Often times we get so excited and adrenaline overloaded that we tend to move way too fast and get ahead of our headlights, which in the long run slows the operation.

 ”Slow is smooth, smooth is fast”

                                           -every tactical instructor on earth

CQC Thailand

A couple years ago I was training the Thai Special Forces, and when I said "speed" they heard "run." I remember this hit not going so well. LOL

The reality (or at least how we see it) is that slow can be smooth and smooth can be fast, but slow isn’t fast. I recently looked up whether slow was defined as fast and for some reason Mr. Webster didn’t think so. Speed is the end goal, not “FAST”, now this may be a semantic argument but, the principles aren’t: fast, surprise and violence of action; so my suggestion is to just get fast out of your vocabulary (fast happens all on its own). Speed on the other hand is a product of the economy of motion. By moving smoothly and deliberately you will be able to clear an objective much more quickly and efficiently than you could by running through the objective, blowing off threats and generally acting like a spaz (which is my personal pet peeve). A deliberate (not to be confused with deliberate technique) approach that has good economy of motion will maintain the initiative and give the enemy less opportunity to prepare for the assault team. So if you get anything out of this section it would be that your team needs to be methodical, masterful and economical; which will provide all the “speed” you need.

 

Surprise

I know we have all seen the movies where the SWAT team simultaneously breaches every window of a building by repelling off the roof and putting an officer in a circular perimeter around the inside of the room before the enemy knows what is going on. Aside from the fact that I am not a fan of the circular ambush, the principal of surprise is definitely a big part of the hollywood infil and for good reason. When you are able to surprise the opposition force you can get ahead of their internal decision-making process, which many people describe as the OODA loop. The OODA loop which was first described by Col. Boyd of the U.S. Air Force is the theoretical decision-making process that we all must use before we carry out an action. Observe, Orient, Decide and Act is a constantly moving process the enemy must make to engage your assault force and by surprising the op-4 (opposition force) you can short-circuit the process and gain great advantage. Once we agree that surprise is important we then need to develop a plan that gives us the ability to maintain surprise and though I am not including an exhaustive list we can hit some of the big stuff.

When your team gets to decide what time to attack be sure to use a time that gives you the biggest advantage (and is when the enemy is the least alert). If you know the lights in a target turn off at a certain time I would suggest hitting that target about 45-70 minutes later which gives your enemy an opportunity to not only get to sleep but, to enter the deepest most restful sleep from which he will be the most disoriented when woke up. One problem with night-time is that it generally makes it more difficult to approach the target without being heard ( I can barely walk around my room in the dark without knocking something over). On the other hand peak traffic time may provide the noise pollution your team needs to gain access undetected. Surprise can also be manufactured by the use of flash bangs that create a disorienting effect with percussion, or even an explosive breach can elicit the same response. The police often send a guy in a pizza delivery  outfit to get the door open and quickly make entry, this works because the op-4 has pizza on the brain and the next thing he sees badges and guns in his face totally short circuiting the OODA loop. To use surprise effectively you need to avoid patterns and constantly change your team’s techniques, if the bad guy is in the back room and he hears you bang every room and then make entry; he will be waiting for the bang before he starts firing at the fatal funnel. Change entry points, tempo and tools to keep an advantage. Never get into the mindset that what worked yesterday is going to work today, CQB is a thinking man’s game so get your team able to flex from one TTP to the next. Have multiple tactics that you use and change them depending on the METT-TC. Remember surprise can come from many different aspects of the assault including timing, distraction, misdirection, decoy or any number of other tools, your mind is the only limit so plan a few mock training iterations and make it a point to get your guys thinking outside of the box.

Violence of Action

CQBVoA insures that the team maintains the initiative by kicking in doors and being generally aggressive. Keep both mental and physical momentum through action and combat mindset. Hesitation is the enemy of VoA so drill often to insure that all team members are “switched on” and ready to execute. It is amazing how often the first person to realize they are in a fight, wins the fight because acting first carries a huge prize for the carrier. Violence of Action also can demoralize the enemy and sometimes get them to surrender without the need for a shooter’s solution. VoA is maintained by refusing to let complicated CQB problems bog down the team, I have watched many teams (from the catwalk in training) literally stand in a room planning the way to hit the next room, by the time you are on the objective the planning phase has passed just get out there and execute. If your team has to discuss the correct way to cross a four-way intersection then obviously you need to take it back to the drawing board and et your SOPs squared away before you should spend any time in the shoot house. Remember an average plan well executed is better than a perfect plan, not executed.

 

Conclusion

Thanks for reading to the end, you are a rock star. I am going to give away a free tee shirt to one person who comments on this post and enters the drawing, here is how to enter:CQC

1. Read post (done). 25% complete

2. Post comment that says “issue me a free tee” (also go to the TAP Store and pick the one you want and include in comment)

3. Share this post on your social network of choice (like or plus or whatever).

4. When we have 50 comments (mine don’t count) I am going to pick one random person and send a Tee Shirt.

Thanks again, and be sure to subscribe by putting in your email in the “subscribe” section to the right so you don’t miss any new posts.

 

 

 

11th Mar2012

Taking Corners In CQB and CQC

by A.J.

TTPs METT-TC and CQB

Recently we put up a post on 10 Mistakes in CQB and the response we  received was great but, a common response was; well if Corners CQB

those are mistakes then what should we do?” This is a complex question to which there is no universally accepted answer. CQB is multifaceted and dynamic but what will remain true are that TTP (Tactics, Techniques and Procedures) utilized should always be METT-TC (Mission, Enemy, Terrain, Troops/Support, Time available, Civilians) dependent. Unfortunately, as is typical in life, each situation is distinct and will require it’s own best solution. This article is made to help give you the tools needed to develop your best solution for a future CQB. The Tactical Athletic Performance advisory board does not claim to have the ultimate, best solution for every situation; the information presented are helpful tips to help point in the right direction. We are not Jedi Masters and never claimed to be. That being said, we believe there are some “best practices” we find useful. If it brings one soldier home to their wife and children that otherwise wouldn’t, then it would make this entire site and perhaps our entire existence worth it. If you have another opinion, that is great! Disagreement forces us to expand our perspective. Furthermore, it helps us to understand the logic behind techniques and not just techniques in it of itself. In fact, I have received great insight from questions posed from trainees. Therefore, any disagreement you may have will gladly be entered into the comment section and respected as valid. Sorry for the long disclaimer but we want help our brethren, not step on any toes.


The Two Ways To Take Corners

CQC dynamic corner

The techniques used in the movies are either okay or down right hilarious

When negotiating corners there are generally two basic categories all techniques fall under and those categories are dynamic and deliberate. Taking a corner dynamically “the way they generally do it in the movies” has advantages and disadvantages but, generally places speed over security. That being said when in a smaller more maneuverable force your speed can help increase your security but that doesn’t mean you can blow off common sense because you are running. A deliberate technique relies more heavily on angles, cover and “slowly” taking on only as much as you can deal with at a single time. Deliberate techniques can be very useful if you are getting ready to enter a danger area that you know can easily require more assets than you have available to provide.

When Would I Use One Over The Other?

Generally speaking the way your team approaches and chooses to take a corner is going to be driven by SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) and METT-TC, though   on my team there is a spectrum of priority that tends to drive the MDMP (Military Decision Making Process). If a smaller element is required to take a corner where time is not a factor and survivability can be increased by a deliberate technique then generally that would be the choice utilized. If a larger element (full stick or complete team) is required to take a corner and any of the following situations are factors then a dynamic technique will most likely be used, those factors are: time sensitive mission requirements may be materially affected by a “slower” approach, if the mission completion is more important than the survivability of the force or if a tactical advantage can be garnered with a dynamic technique.

Techniques, Not Tactics

Unfortunately, because this is an open source I specifically do not include tactics that can provide value to the enemy but I do provide individual techniques that can increase the capacity of the end using operator, which in conjunction with proper training and tactics can be of value. I know that there are plenty of open source tactics out there and the argument can be made that so long as it isn’t classified I can talk about it, but in the interest of prudence we have decided to just not open that can of worms.

Torso Articulation and Slicing The Pie

Torso Articulation is an individual movement technique that allows an assaulter to twist the upper body and place the only the weapon system and the aiming system (operators head and eyes) into a danger zone. Torso articulation can be done both deliberately and dynamically but generally has its greatest value when used in conjunction with a dynamic tactic. A quick torso articulation can be done in a smooth fluid movement that provides the opposition force with very little time to react and the assaulter with the most possible cover and concealment while continuing to move to clear the threat. Slicing the pie or “pieing” is a more deliberate technique that combines many smaller movements and can be somewhat slower but provide with greater control over threat areas when in a smaller unit with limited security assets. Below we have included a short video that should illustrate the two movement techniques.

Pieing off in CQC

Slicing the pie

The Video

This Video was made under a tremendous time crunch because I had to get back before my wife got out of bed so you may be required to suspend your apprehension and give us the benefit of the doubt. The engagement sequence you see may be questionable but, the chosen sequences utilized were done so for good reason and if you have a question please don’t hesitate to ask, often though the sequence may seem counter intuitive it was done so for the sake of the drill or due to how the individual technique fits into the over arching tactics which are beyond the scope of this discussion.

 

You Guys Are Great

I would like to thank you guys who make it worth while to put this site out there, over the past year I have derived great joy from developing this community and appreciate your continued involvement. Please help add to the conversation with your tips and experiences, when I publish some new post I consider it the beginning of the conversation not the final word so get your social network involved with the share buttons on the bottom. As usual I would ask that if you haven’t done so already subscribe to the site by filling out the subscribe button to the right and never miss another post. Just a reminder the links in the right are affiliate links and anything you buy through them will help support great charities like the Green Beret Foundation and the Special Operations Foundation so since you are going to buy supplements and ammo anyway you might as well use these links to bodybuilding.com and Brownells.com for the best prices and service, thanks for reading and we hope to see you again soon.

23rd Feb2012

Ten Mistakes That Will Get You Killed in CQB

by A.J.

Avoid These Mistakes and Survive Your Next Mission

I recently got back from a training iteration for work and I noticed that a lot of us kept making the same simple mistakes so I decided to make a list of ten of them so we can avoid them and strengthen the force. I decided to leave out the obvious stuff like “fatal funnels” and not digging corners but instead included some of the big stuff that doesn’t get as much attention.

disclaimer: I have no egoic investment in being the greatest CQB warrior on the planet. I know there are hundreds of guys out there who have forgotten more about CQB than I will ever know, but that being said, I think I am a pretty good teacher and I feel I have enough training, instruction experience, and combat experience to talk intelligently on the subject. Also I have taken great pains to exclude any classified information or non-open source intel so as to not give away any TTPs that you can not find on ‘Youtube’ or the like. Please take this as a guide and not doctrine and if you think something I put out violates common sense or is just plain wrong feel free to throw it out cause heaven knows I have no problem blowing off bad tactics myself. Also I am not talking about other people exclusively, I have made most if not all of these mistakes myself not only in training but, also in combat.

Close Quarters CombatWhat is CQB?

CQB for those who aren’t familiar with the term stands for Close-Quarters-Battle or Close-Quarters-Combat and in the grand scheme of things I think it falls somewhere between combat from street corner to street corner, to hand-to-hand fighting. I would say if you think you can engage accurately in combat using your pistol with a high degree of precision then you are in CQB range.

The following is a short (not exhaustive) list of mistakes I regularly see guys make in CQB with hopefully a few gems to improve combat skills and tactics.

10. Hesitation

The confused look you see in the eyes of your buddies when he decides whether to go or stay is an indicator that he has reached his mental or physical capacity to solve the CQB problem. At its root CQB is about angles, opportunity and percentages. Not every tactic works in every situation and often times you can do the exact right thing and take a round to the trauma plate anyway. The CQB skills are based on the most likely course of action you need to take to have the highest chance of survivability and it is not a 100% solution because nothing is. So the question becomes, can you mentally negotiate the problem at a speed that provides the highest success rate. Often times for guys who are new to the tactics the answer is, “no” and when this happens there is an introduction of hesitation that gives the opposition force advantage.

I feel the solution is multifaceted, but starts with repetition of SOP’s (Standard Operating Procedures) and making sure everyone is dancing to the same sheet of music. Having a well established and planned SOP before you get out to the training site is imperative, making sure everyone understands those SOP’s  intellectually will save hours in the glass house or shoot house. Secondly I think some mental rehearsal just prior to execution of an IMT (Individual Movement Technique) can greatly speed the learning process. If you are beyond the training environment you may simply have to move the offending team member to a location in the stack to where he is no longer in a position to slow the flow. This removal should be done in a non judgemental way and used as a training tool and not a means of ridicule or you will create an environment where failure is so feared that no one will have the courage to do anything.

9. Rabbiting/One-Man Room Clearing

Rabbiting is a situation where the number one man starts off so fast that no one has the time to catchup conversely a one-man room clear is when the number two-man just plan drops the ball and sends the number one man off into danger areas alone. The reaction time of a bad guy in a room is very fast and it should be within that time that number two-man is able to get in and provide support. If number one man runs into a danger area and doesn’t give two-man a chance to catch up it can be very bad and conversely if number two-man sort of gets behind the power curve  and allows number one man to go it alone there can be dire consequences.

“NEVER ENGAGE IN A FAIR FIGHT”

-ME

 

Number one man needs to recognize that the guys behind him have to react to his movement before they can go so moving at below normal combat speed can mitigate that break in contact. Number two-man has to be on the ball, he needs to have the situational awareness that number one man can’t get, number two-man needs to be ready to go and support his number one man.

Room Clearing Sometimes Involves Chemlights8. Chemlights Don’t Pull Security

Okay I know this sounds dumb, but I see it all the time. Often when an assault team clears a room they will mark the room with a Chemlight to let others know that friendlies have cleared it already, or so they know the status of that room. If for some reason you lose eyes on that “cleared” room and have to pass it again to get out of the structure or to conduct a secondary search you need to re clear that room. The Chemlight is glowing because it is full of Predator blood but what it is not doing is keeping that room safe. Any number of things can happen when your team leaves the room, so if you need to go by or reenter that room be sure to respect the threat.

7. Find a Hole Fill a Hole

Like I said earlier, CQB is a solution to a very complex problem, to include the angles, levels and shooter’s solutions; be flexible enough to fill in the blanks. If you see a team-mate drop a threat or blow off an important danger area do not stop the operation to argue about what he should have done, just do your part to fix the omission.  Many structures provide overwhelming threats and you arguing about who should do what will jeopardize your security and could cost you your life.  So if you find a hole in the team security posture or a hole in mission tasks just fill the hole. If you find yourself standing in the middle of a structure or threat area with nothing to do then, do it quick and go pull security.

6. Getting So Amped You Loose Your Mind

Combat is stressful and stress will cause an increase in your heart rate, an increased heart rate can cause tunnel vision and tunnel vision will kill you. If you are in a tough scrape and the world looks as if you are viewing it through a toilet paper roll then you need to calm down and get you situational awareness back on line. Take a deep breath do a 360 to make sure you aren’t standing in a window or silhouetting a danger area and take inventory of what is going on. Often when we get amped up we don’t even know it so be sure to monitor your buddies for this kind of behavior.

5. You Don’t Need To Turn Your Head To Talk

This one may not kill you, but it is definitely a pet peeve of mine so I am including it. I know we grew up in a society that really values eye contact and outside of the CQB environment go nuts creeping people out with an icy stare, but in a house if your job is to lock down a crack in the door that sees the hallway please don’t turn to me to tell me you think you see something. Here is an experiment: go to the kitchen with your wife, face away from her so you can’t see her and tell her you are thinking of calling your ex girlfriend to give her make-up tips, if you get hit in the head with a frying pan then you never have to take your eyes off your assigned threat again.

In Combat Training Don't be That Guy4. “Break the Wrist and Walk Away”

If you have spent more than five minutes in the profession you have most likely met this guy. This is the guy who for whatever reason is teaching you and your team about CQB or Shooting or Tactics in general that knows absolutely everything there is to know about armed conflict, just ask him. This guy will get you killed! He is so wrapped up in the idea that he is awesome that he will not answer any questions or explain why he does anything the way he does it. There are a ton of guys that are teaching skills they don’t understand and only teach them because someone told them it was a good technique. Of all the stuff and BS you have to deal with getting this guy out of your training cycle will work wonders for the team. I try very hard to be open-minded and you would be hard pressed to get me in a tactical school where I couldn’t walk away learning something. There are no Jedi knights and no one left their parents on Krypton, so if we all just ratchet it back a bit and ask “WHY do we do it that way?” maybe we can learn something. That being said if you have no idea what is going on just do as your told by someone you trust to lead you.

Aside: I was doing training with a guy for hand-to-hand and when asked why he likes the palm strike so much he said “because I learned all the martial arts in the world and I took out all the stuff that doesn’t work.” This is a guy who when I asked him to spar told me that he “trains to be lethal and doesn’t want to kill me.” My answer to guys like that is “really bro….” (confused look)

3. Slow is Smooth, Smooth is Fast

Here is one I know we have all heard and to my analytical mind I interpret it as Slow=Smooth, Smooth=Fast, therefore Slow=Fast. Well slow isn’t fast in fact “slow” is the opposite of “fast” I looked it up in the dictionary. This is a saying that has floated around for a while and some of the guys I consider legends, who I really respect, who I would pay hundreds of dollars to learn basic skills from say this all the time.

Aside: I don’t think there is a such thing as basic skills and advanced skills I think there are basic skills done well and basic skills done poorly.

Doing skills slowly can provide a smoothness that being a spazz won’t allow, and yes when you see a masterful practitioner do a skill fast it also looks super smooth. I would say that “slow is smooth and speed is a product of the economy of motion.” So to sum it up: don’t be a spazz, do practice your skills, and when you have mastered those skills you should be able to move smoothly and quickly.

2. Speed is Your Only Security

Speed, is one of the basic principles of Close Quarters Combat: Speed, Surprise, and Violence of Action. That being said speed is not the only principle and if you are so worried about going fast that you lose security you are going to have a real problem. Never outrun your headlights, do not think that speed can compensate for poor security. Speed is an enhancer like sugar in your coffee, but you still need the beans and water to make it work. I see guys charge head long into complex scenarios that they have no chance of getting out of. I have made this mistake a ton due to frustration, or fear, or plain stupidity. You can regain the initiative with explosives, gas, distraction or misdirection etc. You do not need to be a team of guys running around like your hair is on fire unless you are trained to be incredibly fast (read this as Tier 1 operator with huge budgets, training apparatus, raw skill, advanced selection and support to execute huge amounts of training in which case you don’t need or want my advice on CQB anyway) So be deliberate, methodical, calculated and competent. If you master the skills speed will happen as a natural byproduct.

1.Playing Pic a Boo With Bad Guys

Great guys get killed because for some reason they decide to engage in a fair fight with the bad guys. Often we will gain entry into the breach point and get a foot hold in a structure, at the same time the bad guys get out of bed and decide to engage us. If we are in the first room let’s say and he is in the far room and he shoots we will go  to a position that provides cover and return fire. If there is a linear danger area separating these two places (read this as hallway, stairwell, etc) we will sit on one side and he will sit on the other and we will play pic a boo together until someone gets hit. This game is deadly, it will kill 50% of the people who play it and it is totally unnecessary. If he is there and you are here do not engage in a fair fight. If you are overseas throw your damn frags at him, use an AT-4, get out the m-203, have someone place a charge on an exterior wall to the room he is in, if ROE allows break contact and kinetically reduce the structure, please do not play this game. If you are in the US in a law enforcement capacity you can yell changing magazines (when you have ammo) drop elevation out of the gun line and get him when he shows himself, use Gas, have snipers take a shot, fill the house with bees for all I care just don’t attempt to fight fair in a gun fight it is dumb and can make your wife a widow.

Chinese Special Forces

Tactical Urban Rover Detachment or T.U.R.D. for short

Conclusion

First off thanks for reading to the end, your awesome. While writing this at first I made a list of ten things that I have seen cause problems in training and overseas, it was actually hard not to include everything, but I know it is tough to get guys to read more than ten things so I cut it short there are probably 125 or so. It is my hope that you will find this useful; I wish someone had given me this list ten years ago it would have saved me a lot of trouble. I have been working pretty hard to get the word out to guys like you and if you think there was something useful here I would really appreciate it if you left a comment or at least shared it on your social network of choice so I can get more feed back from guys. Thanks again for stopping by De Oppreso Liber.

 

18th Feb2012

Survive Out of Your Day Pack

by A.J.


So I was recently talking to a good friend of mine about doing some geocaching and hiking in the Rocky Mountains and we got onMilitary Fitness Pack the subject of how to survive when your day trip turns into a survival situation because of conditions outside of your control (or maybe you just suck at planning). So I asked him for a short list I can use to get ready for the trip and being the ridiculous over achiever he is he sent me this, and I thought it was pretty awesome so I wanted to share it with you guys. For some background I did not write this but the guy who did (we will call him “Matty”) is a former  Coast Guard Rescue Swimmer AST (they fly around in helicopters that look like orange painted Airwolfs and fix people’s bad decisions) who is now a Green Beret who runs an exclusive hiking business and is an all-arounds great guy. So whether you are training for the army or just headed out to enjoy the outdoors I think this is a worthwhile read.

Matty:

A simple system to determine what critical gear to take on the short wilderness adventure.

 

As people who love the outdoors, we cherish our right to grab a small pack on short notice and head out into one of our favorite wilderness area.  The great thing about the “day-trip” is that, ideally, it can be light on planning and gear, letting you maximize your time out of the house.  Anyone who ventures out, though, must be aware that the great outdoors can quickly become deadly for the unprepared.

 

Every year hundreds of people who set out on easy day-hikes, trail-runs, or boat trips find themselves unexpectedly in life-or-death Tactical Athletesituations due to common circumstances—such as weather events, injury, or a wrong turn on the trail.  Over the course of dozens of missions as a Coast Guard Helicopter Rescue Swimmer, I saw that most catastrophes start as simple outings gone wrong–usually because people failed to plan for the unexpected or neglected to bring the right supplies with them.  Search-and-Rescue organizations around the world, both land and sea, will attest to the same thing.

 

This leaves us with the question, how do we adequately prepare our pack for a short adventure without sacrificing spontaneity and time effectiveness.  Below, I’ve outlined a simple system which you can use to decide what to take in case you find yourself needing to survive out of your day-pack.

 

Most wilderness survival programs use a simple list that the student can use to prioritize their actions in an emergency situation.  You can use a similar list to make sure you don’t miss any do-or-die items when you are stuffing your pack for a quick hike, or your camelback for a trail run.

As an avid outdoorsman and a rescue professional, I have had many experiences drive home the importance of preparedness.  When I sat down to analyze my own decision making process, I realized that I address certain categories to make sure I have all bases covered.  In a pinch, you can use the acronym WWFF.  Think of the old pro wrestling days and then throw another F on the end.  In order, the priorities in WWFF are—

 

  • WARM
  • WATER
  • FOUND
  • FOOD

 

The order of this list is no mistake, so make sure you priorities these considerations from top to bottom when you are deciding what to bring.

 

1 – WARM

 

The Threat:  Exposure resulting in hypothermia.

 

The Solution:  Have the ability to keep yourself Dry, Insulated, and ultimately Warm under whatever circumstances you may encounter during your outing.

 

Military Fitness In the ColdConsiderations:  Long before dehydration or hunger have the chance to kill you hypothermia can do you in.  That is why WARM is the first item on our packing list.  We all know the cold is a threat for winter hikers, but hypothermia regularly becomes an unexpected killer on summer days and in semi-tropical environments.  All it takes is the introduction of an injury, an unexpected delay or stranding, or a prolonged period in contact with moisture to induce life threatening hypothermia.

When operating in a temperate to cold environment, being able to protect yourself from exposure to the elements becomes all the more critical.  You must consider not only the level of protection from clothing you may need within your planned outing, but also what you will need to maintain body heat if you become lost, stranded, injured, or delayed past your return time.  When you put this system to practice, decide what temperature you want to be able to survive in a worst case scenario.  Find out what the temperature low is likely to be in the coming evening, even if you plan on being back before dark.

 

When deciding what to throw into your day-pack to satisfy the WARM requirement keep this low temp in mind, then ask yourself how will I:

1. Stay DRY

2. Stay INSULATED

 3. Obtain SHELTER if stranded

 4.  RE-WARM myself if I fail 1 through 3

 

The How:  Keep in mind you are preparing for worst-case weather events, becoming lost, or an overnight stranding.

–First, throw an appropriately sized garbage bag in your pack so that all of your       carefully chosen items will stay DRY if there is precipitation, or if you fall in a creek.  —–Next, choose your clothing.  To make it easy break it down into:

                                                                                               -Shell

                                                                                                -Insulation

                                                                                                -Head, Hands, and Feet.

 

Try to avoid relying on an all-in-one answer, like a single coat that includes insulation layer and waterproofing in one.  If you go with multiple layers, you will have more versatility over a range of temperatures.  A good Shell for hiking can be lightweight and easy to pack, like a Gortex or similar type of ski jacket.  The shell needs to be able to keep you and your insulation layers dry, and can also trap in heat and cut wind regardless of season.  It should have a hood, and you may also chose a pants shell if the environment calls for it.  You may also want to carry a backup shell, such as a compact disposable rain poncho.  These or other ultra thin shells can fit in a camelback for trail-runs.

 

For your insulation layer, the first consideration is material.  Always remember “Cotton Kills.”  Cotton looses most of its warming properties when it becomes even the slightest bit moist.  Instead, choose synthetic materials such as “fleece”, nylon, polyester, polypropylene, etc., or wool.  These materials absorb less water, retain their insulating properties better when wet, and dry fast.  Natural down can be very warm, but will also lose its ability to insulate when wet.  I usually chose a thin base layer like a water wicking pullover, an efficient layer like a synthetic fleece, and some kind of a lofty layer like a synthetic fill puffy jacket or an additional bulky fleece.  These need to fit under your shell alone or combined.  Follow the same guide lines for pant layers if the climate calls for it.

 

Next, think about Head, Hands, and Feet.  If you’re not wearing a hat or gloves have them in your pack inside a waterproof bag.  If you are wearing a hat and gloves, have back-ups in your pack, as well as an extra pair of warm socks.  Consider the type of materials they are made of as mentioned above.  Now you are able to stay Dry and Insulated through your clothing.

 

Next, consider emergency Shelter in the event you are stranded or lost.  There are shelters you can carry like tents, sleeping bags, and tarps—and shelters you can fashion from the environment.  Most people don’t want to carry a tent or sleeping bag on a day trip, but consider a compact tarp, or survival blanket.  In many environments, primitive shelters that can allow you to survive even the coldest night can be made with ease using only forest litter and requiring no tools (these skills will be covered in later installments).  In alpine environments like the US Rockies, sufficient forest litter may be hard to find.  In this case, I will carry a small very light hand saw which can be used to make an insulated pine bow shelter.  Some people even chose to carry a small shovel for snow cave construction.  Having the skills to make such Shelters will reduce the amount of gear you need to carry and greatly increase your survivablity.

 

Finally, think how you can Re-warm yourself, in addition to your clothing and shelter. Simply, have waterproof matches or a lighter, and other fire making materials in your pack, and know how to use them.  The reason I put fire so far down the list is because in heavy wind or precipitation fire is not a substitute for good shelter.  Other Re-warm options include hand-warmers, emergency blankets, or extra clothes.

 

2 – Water

MSR FilterThe next priority on our list is staying hydrated.  Although a human can survive for up to 3 days without water, this time will decrease greatly when exertion, difficult weather, or an injury are introduced.  When operating in the outdoors, severe mental and physical impairment can result from just a few hours without water.

 

-The Threat:  Insufficient water resulting in dehydration, heat injuries, impairment, or death.  Environmental water which is unfit to drink due to biological contaminants or pollution.

 

-The Solution:  Know how much water to carry.  Know how to obtain drinkable water from the environment.  To sum it up, have the ability to:

 

1. Carry water.

2. Create drinkable water.

 

-Considerations:  Dehydration and heat-injuries are all season killers that take the lives of many people in the outdoors every year.  I often marvel at how little water I see people carrying on the trail.  If you only carry enough water for your planned route and time, you are tempting fate.  In hot climates carry at least one liter or quart of water per hour.  This may be scaled back if it is colder, but I never carry less then one liter or quart per two hours.  If you have extra water left when you are done, you are doing it right.

 

Clearly, this can present a problem during longer hikes or on trail-runs when we don’t want to be bogged down with so much weight.  An easy solution is to choose a route where moving surface water is available–but remember, even the clearest mountain stream likely contains biological contaminants (such as giardia) which can impair or kill.  These can be easily removed with a purification system such as a backpacking filter or UV light.  These devices can provide a steady supply of purified water, but never rely exclusively on any mechanical devise.

 

Emergency water

 

Commercial water purifiers are also great when lost or during a stranding, but you are going to want a few other tricks up your sleeve.  A container of iodine tablets is small and light, and an easy way to purify water.  Unpurified water can also be boiled, so fire making devices and know-how again become a crucial tool.  When all else fails, one should be familiar with a range of skills to procure water from the environment including seep holes, catches, solar stills, and water producing plants.

 

 

3 – Found

 

-The Threat:  You become lost, injured, or stranded on an outing and are unprepared to either find your way out or call for help.

 

-The Solution:  Have the tools and ability to determine your location, and navigate to safety.  Use high or low-tech means to call or signal for help.

 

-Considerations:  The outdoors is a big place, and trails aren’t always as easy to follow as we would like.  A short lapse of attention can find even an experienced outdoors man or woman lost.  Add unexpected weather or and injury and now you have a stranding.

 

GPS Survival GearNavigation:  Carry a map and compass and know how to use them.  Some people like to use GPS devices, and this is fine, just remember batteries die and technology fails.  Direction finding and navigation without a compass are important skill sets which will be taught in later posts.

 

Signaling:  Know the capabilities and short comings of your cell phone.  Sometimes your phone is all you will need to call for help, but in the outdoors you can never count on reception or battery life.  One thing you can always do with your phone is send a text to someone you trust telling them where you are going before you take you are out of range.  There are also effective electronic signaling devices such as ELTs and EPIRBs that are available at outdoors stores.  These devices send a signal through a network of satellites that can launch a rescue mission and help pinpoint your location.

 

There are also simple low-tech ways to help you get Found.  Glow sticks, head lamps, and flash lights are all small and easy to carry, and will help searchers find you.  Again, fire becomes an indispensable tool.  Remember, the rule of threes.  One fire looks like someone camping.  Two fires is just a coincidence.  Three fires next to each other is a hard to ignore signal.  Almost anything you are carrying potentially can be used for emergency signaling.  A space blanket carried for warmth can also make a highly visible signal, and the silver reflective side creates a strong radar return when at sea.  When it comes to getting Found you are only limited by your imagination, but carry the right tools and you can avoid a worst-case-scenario to begin with.

 

4 – Food

-The Threat:  Impairment or death due to lack of nutrients during a survival situation.

 

-The Solution:  Carry efficient trail food.  Be able to procure food from your environment.

 

-Considerations:  The reason Food is at the bottom of this list is because it can take weeks for a human to expire without eating.  Still, under the conditions you are likely to face if lost or delayed in the outdoors, you can face life threatening consequences in a much shorter period of time.  Aside from the impairment and weakness that can come from a lack of essential proteins, carbohydrates, and sugar, a deficiency in electrolytes can become quickly fatal.  If you are in a situation where you must constantly hydrate—such as a high exertion hike on a hot day—electrolyte levels can plummet quickly.  Without a replacement of sodium, potassium, and other electrolyte rich compounds you can quickly loose mental and physical faculties.

 

At a bare minimum carry some sort of electrolyte packet to add to your water.  You may also substitute or add Granola bars, sports bars, trail mix, or several other food options in your pack.  Beyond the nutrients you carry, know what wild food sources are available in the area you will be, and know what skills and tools you might need to obtain them.

 

The amount of detail we can go into on each of these subjects is boundless, and much of it will be dealt with in future posts.  For now, just apply the WWFF framework, think about the environment you will be operating in, and ask yourself “will I be able to keep myself WARM and dry, provide myself WATER, get myself FOUND if lost, and obtain FOOD when needed.  Satisfy these questions and you will already be far ahead of the curve.           


12th Feb2012

Top Sites You Need To Visit

by A.J.

Military Fitness sitesI am always looking for new places to get info for our profession. Becuase it is such a small niche it is sometimes difficult to find good accurate info. The last couple of weeks I have been in a course for shooting, CQB and Urban Combat (which is why the post have slowed down for two weeks). While here I have been talking to my buddies about some lessons learned, TTPs and where to go for more info, so in the interest of getting that info out to the dedicated few who make a living carrying a firearm and wearing body armor I have put together a short list of some of my favorite places to go. Feel free to bookmark this post for future reference and if it turns out to be a post you enjoy share it with your buddies on Facebook, Twitter and Google+. Leave a comment about your experience.

#1. Stew Smith, The Daily PT

Stew is a great buddy of mine and he is an absolute encyclopedia of military fitness techniques. I placed Stew at number one because I wanted to start out of the gate pretty strong. One of the unbelievable things about Stew is he answers all his non spam emails and I have seen him take time out and personally train guys that are getting ready for the military and advanced selection courses. You may never meet such a genuinely nice guy with the SEAL credentials he brings to the table.

#2. Kyle Lamb, Viking Tactics

Kyle Lamb is a former Delta Operator and Seargent Major in the Special Operations community, now Kyle is arguably the best tactical carbine instructor in the world. Besides being a great instructor he is a great guy who takes the time to answer questions and train interested parties in the military and the civilian sector but, be warned he is generally booked out many months in advance. His book “Green Eyes and Black Rifles: Warriors Guide to the Combat Carbine” is an absolute must ready for anyone in our profession.

#3. Ben Greenfield, Get Fit Guy

Ben Greenfield was NSCA’s Personal Trainer of the Year 2008, which is a great distinction. I personally do not know Ben but I have followed his blog and podcast for some time. Ben brings things down to a very basic level and anytime you spend on his site is well spent.

#4. Pistol-Training.com

Pistol-Training.com is a great resource when you are looking to add some variety to your training. This site has a huge library of drills, targets and information. Be sure to stop by and check out the original F.A.S.T. drill.

#5. R.E. Factor Tactical

R.E. Factor Tactical is a site dedicated to the needs and wants of operators and military members alike. R.E. Factor is owned by a Special Forces Master Breacher who I have worked with on a few operations and he specializes in creating special purpose items for breaching and other tactical needs. If you have a question about the tactical application of explosives there is no one out there I would rather ask.

#6. BodyBuilding.com

Body Building.com has a huge selection of supplements and shipping second to none. They provide free shipping to APO addresses which comes in super handy when deployed overseas. They also have a great tool to help develop supplementation regimens as well as workout programs. One thing I like to do is buy stuff while over seas so I have a constant influx of carepackages I send myself and besides, without some supplements you are forced to limit your fuel intake to stuff you find in the chow hall. “There is no point in treating your body like a temple in the gym if you treat it like a dumpster in the chow hall.” I would suggest getting over there and checking out all the new features they are adding all the time. In the interest of full disclosure the above is an affiliate link and I will get a small commission on anything you buy, but the prices are the same for you so thank you for using my link and helping to support this site.

 

#7. The Sniper’s Hide

As a military sniper it is often very very very difficult to get reliable info that you can use plus with everything else you gotta do staying up on the latest info and tactics is also hard, that is where The Sniper’s Hide comes in. The Sniper’s Hide has great info and if you are a sniper that wants to stay on the cutting edge or just a professional warrior who understands that marksmanship solves a huge number of tactical problems then this is the place to go.

 

#8. Matt Hathcock CrossFit Unbroken

I know there a ton of Crossfit fanatics out there and this site is the one I really like. Matt and his guys do a great job be sure to check them out. Based out of the Denver Metro area working out at Unbroken you not only have to contend with super human workouts but, also the altitude.

#9. Brownell’s

Brownell’s has been outfitting soldiers and police officers for over 70 years.  They have a great selection and if you are as interested in shooting as I am there is no one out there that can get you a better price so you can shoot more often. Get over there and get the best new optics for your pistol or rifle and just watch your performance improve. Like the Bodybuilding.com link this one is also an affiliate link so I thank you if you use it the next time you need to plus up your zombie apocalypse cache at better than Walmart prices.

#10. Andy Holmes, Complete Nutrition

Andy doesn’t have a super web site but, I think I would be remiss if I left him out. At one of my former ODAs we hired Andy to come in and get all the guys on the team squared away with what supplements we should be using for different phases of training. Andy is a two sport Olympic Athlete and well as a 4 Sport athlete in college. Andy specializes in military athletes and if you send him an email and mention that you got his info from T.A.P. he will waive his $125.00 consultation fee and provide phenomenal no obligation recommendations just tell him your MOS and what your goals are. You can contact him at Email Andy

#10.Tactical Athletic Performance

Of course you knew I was going to have this site in the list. I started this site to fill a void I found because you can probably find 100 sites on how to play some superhero video game but, there is literally no one stop shop for all the stuff that keeps us alive on the battlefield or get us some tips to share the best way to close with and destroy the enemy. T.A.P. was built as my attempt to help push the ball down the field but, it can’t work unless we get feedback from other guys who have been there and actually fired their weapons in combat so please whenever you find something relevant or maybe even off target give us your perspective. Thanks for reading to the end talk to you all soon. Be Safe.

05th Feb2012

10 Tips to Improve Your Training for the Military

by A.J.

Training for MilitaryWhether you are getting ready to join the military or you are just ready to push your performance to the next level there are definitely a few tips that should help. As a Special Operator there are two aspects of the military that I think are by far the most important, they are going to war and training. This article is intended to help you get the most out of your training for the military. Before I get a few of you saying I have made this post already I would say yes to a degree you are right, but not only is this a different take on the original it is also such an important topic that it is okay to reiterate some of the points to those of you who never read the first one here is the original “Improve Combat Training

 

10. Don’t Let Your Ego Slow You Down

Personally I have had difficulty with this aspect of military training. It is hard to give up your ideas and assumptions and take a listen to what others have to offer. If you go into training thinking you know it all I promise you will not get the most out of the training.

9. Strike a Balance Between Your Strength Training and Endurance Development

We tend to do the things we are good at and ignore the stuff we have a little more difficulty with. If you work on your weaknesses you will respond well to the training because, it is so much easier to improve at things you are bad at and in the long run you will find all your training events are easier.

8. Don’t Waste Your Workouts

After you train you have about 45 minutes to get some fuel in the machine or you have essentially wasted your time in the gym. In a recent study they had three groups of strength trainers those who ate within 45 minutes of working out, those who ate at normal meal times and those who waited three hours after training to eat and the results most likely won’t blow your skirt up. The group who waited three hours after training actually got weaker from training, the guys who just eat at normal meal times had a slight gain and those who ate within 45 minutes of training had significant increases in performance. The moral of the story is have a fueling plan for after you train and be sure to get do it or you just wasted your time, effort and motivation.

7. Have Fun

If you don’t at least a little bit enjoy the outdoors, physical training and adventure maybe being a military athlete isn’t for you. There is no shame in not wanting to be a tactical athlete just understand that it isn’t for you. If you do have the aptitude to be a light-fighter and warrior don’t let it become a drag have fun with it. Do your ruck marching in places where you get to enjoy nature and be in the wild. Join teams and train in groups. In my most recent shooting school we would spend about 12 hours a day at the range and after all that time in gear we were getting pretty tired, but as soon as the steel target tree came out and it was a competition everyone was revitalized to train just because a little friendly competition really makes training more fun.

6. Have a Rest Plan

Recovery is a huge part of training. The military is notorious for making the military personnel work on low sleep, so sleep when you can. Even if you are training everyday be sure to have a few days where you are engaging in recovery exercises like a moderate swim or a slow jog. Have a plan to recover and get better everyday.

5. Have a Plan

Decide some performance markers you want to achieve and move toward that goal. When someone tells me they are going to get in shape I say “great what is your plan,” often I get a weird look, but I think your plan is one of the largest indicators of whether you will be successful. Write it out even if it is a rough draft like “go to the gym 5 days a week and run 10 miles on Saturday and Sunday” the more detailed the better but be sure to at least have an idea of how you are going to proceed.

4. Get a partner

No matter how motivated you are a partner will help you stay more consistent. Having a partner will also give you an indication of your progress verses someone else’s. With a partner comes accountability and the responsibility that someone is depending on you and all that should help you stick to it.

3. Watch Your Nutrition

Don’t fall into the trap of treating your body like a temple in the gym and a dumpster in the chow hall. As a military athlete nutrition becomes especially important because the department of defense only gives lips service to the idea of high quality nutrition. I am a huge advocate of supplements for all tactical athletes simply because I see a terrible effect on my performance that the military diet tends to have. Just like your mom always said “eat you vegetables.” Be sure to get a variety of veggies, lean protein sources and try to keep your saturated fats to below 8 grams per day.

2. Don’t Forget About Your Movement Skills

Recently the Special Operations community has been really interested in what separates the candidates that pass selection and training events and those that do not pass. Candidates that fail to pass are generally separated into three distinct groups and they are as follows; Persons who quit training voluntarily or “VW” (voluntary withdrawal), persons who fail to meet the standard, and persons who for some medical reason cannot continue to train. A recent study showed that 87% of candidate who failed to get above a 14 on a functional movement screening failed to complete Officer Candidate School due to injuries. The functional movement screening is a specific battery of movement skills that display your overall functional movement prowess. To help develop your movement techniques focus on lower impact training like yoga which I personally believe to be a totally indispensible part of military fitness for any operator who wants to achieve a higher level of performance.

1. Get Leaner

Gravity is a sonofagun. As a ground trooper we talk about how much our ruck weights and how heavy our equipment is. The military will weight you down with a hundred pounds of ultra-light-weight equipment even though we can’t always choose what we carry we can choose not to carry around the extra weight of body fat. Anything over 10% body fat is a uneeded excess. I put together a little article for fat burning that may help get you on the right track.

 

Get a head start

I decided to include a video I made last year that I have gotten a lot of positive feedback from military member who just want a place to start.

Thanks for taking the time to stop by, be sure to leave a comment, share with your battle buddies on Facebook and bookmark for future reference.

19th Jan2012

Natural Point of Aim (The Art of The Draw 1)

by A.J.

Why Spend So Much Time On Pistol Drills?

Pistol training can consume a large part of all skill training for the tactical athlete because, it takes much more training input with the pistol to gain a competency as opposed to other weapon systems. There are many skills that apply to handgun training that will determine if you can successfully engage a target in a short amount of time; they include pistol stance, trigger squeeze, sight picture and a host of other skills. None of the above skills will have as large an effect on your overall proficiency as the development of a natural point of aim.

Develop A Natural Point of Aim

I know these NVGs have a day time setting but how hard is it to just flip them up. Besides Col. or not can we please all agree to get a forward leaning aggressive stance.

What Is A Natural Point Of Aim?

A natural point of aim is often defined as the ability to have your pistol pointed at a target with your eyes closed. If you present a pistol with your eyes closed and then open your eyes to find you are pointed at the target where you have intended it to be you have developed a natural point of aim. Many pistols have differing configurations with respect to grip angle and trigger pull so if you have used one type of pistol for the majority of your training you may notice that you shoot differently with another type. When J.M. Browning first designed the pistol that would later become the 1911 he was said to have spent a great deal of time studying the human hand before he decided to set the grip angle at 103 degrees because he felt that angle would create a natural point of aim with the average shooter, also of note is that a Glock with a 109 degree grip angle will require a different stance and grip than (more…)

17th Jan2012

Armbars, Combat and the Tactical Athlete

by A.J.

A well executed armbar can quickly end a fight

A few years ago I wrote a concept brief for the Army Special Operations community with respect to a few basic Mixed Martial Arts techniques I thought every person who is called upon to fight in combat should know. I later penned a similar article and farmed it out on the internet under the pen name “Abel Cossas” (google it, somehow it ended up everywhere). In the concept brief I talked about how much training time it would take to make an operator proficient in 15 basic moves and how it could help them achieve objectives and I always wanted to revisit that list and teach those specific moves.

Here is the first of many (hopefully) installments on that idea to get the force informed on what I think we should all know. Now I understand that in a gun fight the last thing you want to be doing is rolling around on the floor trying to submit an opponent but, that not withstanding I feel that providing our operators with some basic fall back on skills can’t really hurt either. As a side note I believe that training in MMA also provides a mental edge to the military athlete that can help provide a holistic solution to the problem of creating military fitness both mental and physical.

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09th Jan2012

Tactical Combat Casualty Care

by A.J.

Well I just recently returned from the Joint Special Operations Medical Training Course and School to re-certify and get some of the latest info on any changes and where we are at in the field. Obviously to be a tactical athlete it is allot more than training for triathlons and carrying and M-4 and the real difference is the tactics. Medical skill is a huge combat multiplier and when it really hits the fan it is nice to have some basic skills to save some lives. I did not intend this to be an exhaustive medical training guide but instead a very basic review that can be used with additional more detailed installments included later. This is definitely a work in progress and with feed back and questions I would like to create a great discussion to help the guys who don’t have training otherwise. So please leave any comments and questions I think this could turn into something really helpful.

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06th Nov2011

Shot Calling

by A.J.

Unfortunatly the Tactical Athletic Performance staff (Me) is out of the country right now but, I am linking this video because it is an absolutely amazing guide to shot calling by the Army Marksmanship team.

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