Monthly Archives: January 2015

UPDATED: PT, Large Rucks, Pack Lists, and Making Sense of it all for Your NPT


From time to time, a debate will arise on a NPT’s use of full sized ruck sacks that may weigh 1/3 or so of the carrier’s body weight or more.  Arguments for and against will rage from the perspective of denying the capability due to the writer having one reason or another to not work toward achieving the condition necessary.  Things like,

  • “I’m too old,”
  • “I can’t get motivated to start,”
  • “Carrying something that big is unrealistic,”
  • “You’ll stroke out,”
  • “I’ve got a heart condition,”
  • “I’ve got Lumbago,”
  • “I’ve got ______________,”
  • “That’s retarded, all you need is a rifle, a few magazines, a couple MREs, and your rifle.”
  • Etc, etc, etc, etc.

For those with medical reasons, (real medical reasons – not “I smoke” or “I drink too much” or “I like getting stoned” or “I get sore when I exercise,” or “I’d rather go to a ball game or watch ‘Survivor'”), understand that there is no shame in not having the capabilities to be a NPT member trained to perform outsided the NPP (Neighborhood Protection Perimeter) performing security patrolling.  Everyone can be useful; everyone can bring something to the table when dealing with the WROL/SHTF scenario and preparing to mitigate the effects on the NPA.  So relax and get involved (start by getting or rereading a copy of, “A Failure of Civility,” by Mike Garand and Jack Lawson – available here). Those who can, however, need to do some objective analysis of why they might not be able to get over the hump of getting their ass into gear to get into the shape necessary to do the job. While a NPT is decidedly not an infantry-type unit, the physical tasks involved lend themselves to being able to perform to infantry fitness levels.  Especially if your particular NPT is the one that gets selected to be outside the perimter doing security patrols the way they should be done, that is, aggressively looking for signs of an opposing force reconning your NPAO.

discipline So, PT, as harped on and harped on and harped on and harped on here and many, many other places, is the cornerstone of being able to perform during a WROL/SHTF scenario. Being in shape BEFORE it occurs elevates the odds of making it through the first big die off exponentially, when compared to those who will succumb to heart attacks, strokes, and other debilitating medical events at the outset due to stress, anxiety, depression, and the inability to cope with ‘what is.’ That’s one reason why many people recommend a steady, incrementally difficult program for fitness no matter the age of the person involved with the result being the person is in the best physical condition possible for their personal profile. Full stop. No other reasoning necessary for PT. Your PT program should include ruck walks of varying weights and distances routinely.  When you get to 10 miles with a fully loaded ruck, and can recover within 30 to 45 minutes afterward (meaning you can do other things besides lay down and sweat), then you’ve gotten to a place where all you need do is maintain that capability. Your strength and aerobic program can be as simple or complex as you want to make it.  Some of our own NPT members use “Convict Conditioning,” by Paul Wade and have had superb results; others use simple, strict form push ups, sit ups, etc, road work, or eliptical time, etc, some have used P90-X, with Tony Horton, some use ‘Rush Fit’ , with Georges St. Pierre.  It really doesn’t matter.  Being able to perform on your NPT for prolonged periods should be your driving factor.  Motivation, if you will. Remember, the hardest thing about any program is actually getting started.  Yes, you’ll be sore.  Yes, you’ll wonder if you’ll ever make progress.  Yes, you’ll be a lot more fit as time goes by.  So get out and do something. The horse has been beaten enough….for now. When choosing your ruck, keep in mind any physical limitations you have, because that will help you in the selection process. Choosing a 6,000 Square Inch pack that weighs 15 pounds empty won’t work for everyone, but those it does work for will be the ones carrying a full load on long term security operations in the NPAO. That said, getting the best you can afford is on the menu.  Do not try to get a good pack, ‘on the cheap.’  A reasonable facsimile of a proven item will fail you every time.



As you may have read in previous posts, DTG chose and endorses the 2nd Generation USMC FILBE ruck with assault pack (3 day pack) and hydration carrier, as new as you can find it. Here’s our reasoning:

  • It’s very durable, and is constructed with ease of use in mind.  Side zippers, a bottom sleeping bag compartment with zipper, side handles for mounting the pack, a top drag handle, integral buckles to attach the assault pack, etc.
  • It can hold a load heavier than most can carry (Currently, mine – including the assault pack strapped to the top – weighs in at 80 pounds (weighed yesterday). I might be able to carry more during conditioning training as I go along, but for now, it’s good.  (For real world use, I cull the contents down to 55 pounds max, which includes a few hundred rounds of spare rifle ammo.)
  • It blends well into most any environment, including urban, due to its coyote brown color.  It doesn’t attract a lot of attention when I’m walking through my suburban area on conditioning walks, even from the police, like a ‘tacticool’ pack with the latest, greatest .mil pattern might. At most, it looks like an old surplus pack. The only attention I get when doing ruck walks through my little AO is kindly people saying hello and offering food and water because they think I’m a homeless person passing through.
  • It’s comfortable, as large packs go. The shoulder straps are nicely adjustable and have suspension straps to help balance the load, the hip and sternum straps also help distribute the load, and the frame gives a bit of air on the back, which allows sweat dissipation.
  • It’s very adaptable with any accessory because of the PALS webbing just about all over it.
  • It takes everything in our pack list to include a week’s worth of food with room to spare (a mix between meal replacement bars, field stripped MRE’s and freeze dried entrees’)

There are better packs out there, to be sure. There are a lot worse.   Our choice was made on a balance scale between performance and price.  Now admittedly, some folks are very limited by budgets, and that’s why we offer a modified and original ALICE pack on our site here.   I was weaned on the ALICE and used it exclusively in both military and civilian applications for over 17 years until I was issued the CFP-90, which I used until a few years ago when I got the FILBE. All have their good and bad points. JC Dodge also offers some great ways to modify the ALICE pack into a more versatile main ruck.   All require the user to be in good physical condition. Damn, there I go with PT again….

012 Now, the pack list.  Each geographical region is going to have particular pack lists.  Weather does that.  NPT’s in the South won’t want a -40 capable sleeping bag.  Conversely, far North NPT’s won’t want ‘jungle boots’ (not if they’re smart, anyway).   The trick here is to take a general list containing various categories and rule out extraneous equipment and accessories.  Instead, we recommend going with the ‘multipurpose’ rule: Each item of equipment should have multiple uses to cut down on the amount of equipment (weight) carried. Wherever possible, carry lighter equipment.’ Ounces count.  We also recommend team items, such as rope (if practical/applicable), entrenching tools or shelter tarps. Load balancing between team members is crucial. Essential Items:

  • The most important item from a survival perspective is our water purification system. We carry Sawyer products for one reason: They work. You can check them out here.  We supplement those with each person carrying 4 to 6 ounces of stabilized oxygen to treat any water that might be suspect. Same reason: It works.

Next on the list is a good, fixed blade knife. 6 to 9 inches (at most) in length. The best you can get. That doesn’t mean a lot of money either. I recently picked up a new, old stock Camillus ‘USMC combat knife’ with a Blackhawk sheath for $50. This is the same knife I first possessed many years ago and carried until I could afford other knives.  The Camillus worked great, kept an edge, and basically was indestructible. LEVEL1.LEFT Remember, the highest level of fitness you can maintain will make it easier on you.  Walking with a heavy pack when it’s peaceful makes it easier. JC Dodge told me (and was backed up by students who’ve seen him do it) that his load weighs in at 150 pounds (LBE, ammo, weapons, and pack) and he wears it throughout patrolling class. When asked why, he told me he tells his students, “I’m practicing to pull a 150 pound person out of a bad situation.” JC walks his talk. As should we all.

Lastly, one more plug to intensify your PT program. Get some ruck walking in. Start light, don’t burn out, but make improvements, and never, ever listen to the professional critics who find fault with every thing you do. See you in the field.  Maybe even in one of our Essential Skills classes, such as the Land Navigation class scheduled for 25/26 April 2015.  More information here.

Bracken: A Review Of “A Failure Of Civility”

Bracken states very clearly why we also endorse Garand & Lawson’s, “A Failure of Civility.” Reposted for those who’ve not had a chance to read his review.  Be sure to read the comments, as well.  There are other books that have merit, to be sure, however, in our opinion, none does what ‘AFOC’ does for the non .mil experienced everyday man or woman wanting to do something effective in case they are faced with SHTF or WROL scenarios.

The SFODA as a Model for the Modern Tribe

SF picture

Good, positive advice!  Focus on your network and your training; seek advice from those whose behavior demonstrates not only practical knowledge of a given subject, but a real concern for your skill set.  It all comes down to what you know and what you can do during any SHTF scenario.  You need to know more than just how to perform memorized tasks; you need to know the ‘why’ so later you can improvise if necessary.  That’s one of the reasons why DTG highly recommends Mason Dixon Tactical for those who are in his part of the country:  He understands adult learning and ensures people get the ‘why’ of the training they’ve paid good money to attend.  Lots of people know tactics; not many people really know how to teach.   For more information, search our blog for posts on teaching.

Mountain Guerilla: Why We Suck…and How to Fix That


“The problem is, too often, if one or two experiences appear to confirm our beliefs, we then rest easy in our confident knowledge, and cease to continue pushing. We’ve done “XXX” so we don’t need to keep training and pushing ourselves. This is why we see “experts” in “XYZ” set of skills in the preparedness world, despite a complete lack of credible experience or education, and demonstrably false lessons being taught as “gospel,” even in the face of contradictory evidence. This is why we see guys in the training industry teaching the same TTP they learned twenty or thirty years ago, who have refused to adapt and modify their knowledge base, despite contradictory evidence from more recent, more widespread experience.

In “gun talk,” this is the “unconscious incompetence” level of learning. We just don’t know what we don’t know. We’re so ignorant, we cannot even recognize that we are ignorant.

Before someone jumps in with, “But, John, you’re an arrogant prick yourself! You’re always talking shit about our training!” You’re right. I am—in no way, shape, or form—immune to the Dunning-Kruger Effect. NO ONE IS IMMUNE! Even Dr. Dunning admits that he is not immune to it.”

Read the rest, here.  Lotta this going around lately….

UPDATED: So, What Do We Do If We’re Ambushed?


In the spirit of the Dunning-Kruger Effect Mosby details here.  If NPT members are to get better at what they do to protect their families and communities, they must objectively look at their corporate ‘knowledge’ and improve on what they believe is ‘good enough’.


Noob’s question during patrolling class:  “So, what do you do when you think you’ve been ambushed?”

A good, valid question.  A new member of the team/patrol should be taught effective immediate action drills for this, as well as other common situations encountered in a SHTF situation.  Let’s check out the conversation for a moment:

Older, more experienced teacher:  “Well, the way we did it back in the day was to have everyone in the kill zone immediately assault the ambush position screaming and yelling and shooting.  They told us that’d give us the best chance at survival.”

Noob:  “How did you know it was an ambush and not a perimeter or something?”

Older, more experienced teacher:  “Son, when all hell breaks loose without warning, and the shooting is coming from one side, it’s an ambush!”

Noob:  “So did it work?”

Older, more experienced teacher:  “In training it did.”

Noob:  “Oh….”

syrian ambush

First, as the above photo indicates, a well executed ambush will ensure very few, if anyone, inside the kill zone survives, and unfortunately, in many AO’s today, a common assumption of indigenous teams participating in counter-ambush immediate action drills (IAD) (and previously standard doctrine of all US forces prior to the adoption of MW) is anytime a team/patrol is engaged without warning they are in an ambush and have only one of two options for survival:

  • If the incoming fire is judged to be 50 meters or closer to the patrol, it is presumed to be a ‘Near Ambush’.  All members of the patrol immediately turn into the ambush and assault (rush) upright through the enemy ambush.   In more contemporary times, this is where you hear the shrill yells of ‘contact left/front/right/rear’ along with the obligatory catapult into the depth of the kill zone.
  • If incoming fire is judged to be 51 meters or more distant from the patrol, it is presumed to be a ‘Far Ambush’.  The members of the team/patrol within the kill zone take cover and return fire forming a base of fire while the patrol members not in the immediate kill zone rendezvous, form a maneuver element and attempt to flank and assault through the enemy position.


Stn Pt Def


No consideration is given to the very real possibility that the patrol may have encountered an enemy LP, OP, sentry post, or prepared perimeter defensive position.  See above graphic.

Little or no employment of returning fire, taking cover, and returning aimed fire is typically employed, or taught (with very few exceptions), especially by indigenous teams demonstrating their expertise on ‘the net’.

In order to apply the principles of maneuver warfare consistent with indigenous team capabilities, changes from the attrition warfare style of reacting to ambushes must be adopted for a team/patrol to have the possibility of surviving the encounter.  Especially if that encounter is not comprised of an ambush, but is instead a prepared enemy defense.   With that in mind, consider the following base line for developing effective Ambush IAD’s.

Why modify traditional anti-ambush IA drills?

  • Worth repeating:  The patrol coming under fire may be in an ambush or it may have come into chance contact with an enemy sentry post, listening post, or a prepared position.
  • If the ambush is any further away than just a very few yards, the best chance for survival members in the primary kill zone have for survival is to drop to the ground, fire, move quickly by crawling to cover and again return fire on visible targets.  From there, they can either move to a pre-determined (rehearsed IAD to movement to designated Rally Point Enroute (RPE) rendezvous, move to flank the ambush position once it is known the enemy occupied site is not part of a larger enemy perimeter, or break contact and move to an RPE for regrouping activities.
  • If the team/patrol attempts to assault a prepared position, it will most likely (99% chance) be destroyed.
  • If the team/patrol attempts to assault through a well prepared ambush in an upright position (running, firing, and screaming as taught in AW teams/groups) that has mines and belt fed weapons to employ, the team/patrol will (100% chance) be destroyed.  The odds of ‘old school’ ambush IAD aren’t very good.
  • If the patrol attempts to  maneuver on the “ambush” and finds it is attempting to flank a prepared  position, it could find itself attempting to assault the perimeter of a prepared defensive position sited in-depth with interlocking fields of fire and mutual support, and again, the patrol will (100% chance) be destroyed.

Note:  The following distances are provided for training use only; like anything in the world of SUT, everything should be flexible to meet the current situation.

MW concepts provide a new Near Ambush Definition:  An ambush initiated at a range 23 feet (7 meters) or closer to the team/patrol.  Basically, their right on top of you when they open up.  (This can be described as one of those, “Oh, SHIT!” moments in life that must have an instantaneous reaction in order to come out the other side more or less in one piece, but know that the odds aren’t very good.  Nevertheless, any chance is better than no chance.)

Suggested IAD modifications for all ambushes initiated at ranges of 23 feet (7 meters) or less from the team/patrol (again, when your team is hit this close, your actions must be immediate, violent, and overwhelming–that’s why IAD’s must be practiced until they’re second nature).

  • If you can see a target, immediately engage (remember, they’re 23 feet or closer to you) as fast and as accurately as you possibly can while at the same time attempting to get to a less exposed position.  Your primary mission now is to put as many rounds into the Zombie position as you can, change mags and repeat.  Remember, you’re in the kill zone here, and you may be hit already, but not possibly out of the fight yet.
  •  Members outside the immediate kill zone, but in near proximity, should fire immediately into the suspected enemy position (anything that looks like it would or could hide an enemy), then drop, take cover and then employ well aimed shots at exposed enemy troops.  Make sure IFF procedures are followed; fratricide is a bad thing.
  • If no enemy are exposed, but the vegetation around the ambush site indicates that there is a good chance of hitting hidden enemy, shoot low (5 to 10 inches from ground level) to help members caught in the immediate kill zone increase their survivability.
  • Guide fire on the leading  members of the patrol within the kill zone and shift fire as they move forward.  No signals are necessary.
  • Members caught in the immediate kill zone should move attempt to gain fire superiority into the enemy shooting “controlled pairs” on enemy soldiers as seen.

It follows then, that a new Far Ambush definition would be an ambush initiated more than 7 meters away from the team patrol.

IAD modification for all ambushes further than 7 meters (23 feet) from the patrol (terrain and vegetation dependent) could be:

  • Drop to ground, crawl to cover, ie, that which will stop enemy rounds from penetrating your body (could be a small depression in the ground-your NPT should be trained in the identification and use of micro-terrain).
  • The PL and team leaders should not attempt to ‘bound’ through the ambush/position for the same reasons listed regarding prepared positions.
  • Return fire only when a target is seen and only when you are sure you can drop the target.  Immediately determine if you should crawl to different cover as the report of your shot will provide the enemy with your general or specific  location.
  • Move in the direction of the last designated RPE or as instructed by the PL, assemble with remaining team/patrol members, and wait for the senior member issue a FRAG order, which could be anything from continue to break contact to a hasty attack.

MW differences:

Bounding through an Objective does not work when under fire  (especially when the patrol is facing belt feld weapons, interlocking fields of fire, and other sundry goodies)  therefore, it is not used unless only sporadic, un-aimed fire is encountered.

  • Patrol members choosing to “rush” will only do so from cover to cover, and only for 3 seconds or less duration.
  • Each patrol member has the authority to determine how and when he will move; he is in the best position to see what cover is available.  Ordering a man to rush or assault into belt fed weapons does not do anything but hasten his death and the weakening of the team/patrol.

AO and/or Team Specific Modifications:

Once all patrol members have learned and rehearsed above to the point that it’s second nature, all participants will be given the opportunity to suggest improvements and modifications so that at least 3 alternatives are rehearsed and ready for use.

SOCO Sends: Recon – Another Essential Element In Conducting Operations


From over the transom:

First off, a little background.  I enlisted in the Army when I was 18 as an 11B (Infantryman) and have now served 6 years.  During that time I’ve spent two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan, on the line. (Rapid deployments, 6 months or less)  I was assigned to a sniper team and graduated from Sniper School recently and have been a recon sniper team leader for 18 months now.  

I had originally titled this brief article, “Recon, another essential element in conducting combat operations.”  After some thought, I decided to remove “combat” from the title because reconnaissance goes well beyond combat operations and it is critical to understand this.  Every day, everywhere, every minute you are conducting some type of recon whether you realize it or not.

It’s time to begin learning and, more importantly, understanding the information you are gathering and how to…

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AAR from Joe F – RSF Course 101

Mason Dixon Tactical

27 Jan, 2015

The last AAR was given from the perspective of a guy with little formalized SUT training (My July class was his first one). This AAR is from the perspective of a couple who have taken numerous classes from a number of resources (Storm Mountain, Suarez, Max Velocity, and Sparks31, to numerous classes I’ve offered) Joe and Helen have a very unique and experienced perspective on getting tactical training for the Survivalist.

RSFSUTATS101-1 “Travelling” with a lead wedge, trail diamond


 Helen & I have taken all of JC Dodge’s courses, some twice.  JC never disappoints.

 In particular at this FTX, JC had more open land available to use, more rolling farm fields than dense forest like Echo Valley Training Center in WV.  You might say well so?  It’s a BIG deal.  For it was the first time…

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Remember the ‘rule of thumb’ that most outlets keep 72 hours of demand available?

Might want to reconsider how you prep and what you keep in your larder on a routine basis.  Got NPT?  Need training before if/when something hits your area?  Give us a shout.  We have a great seminar on Home Preparedness focused on the family.

prestorm shopping

Via Drudge, here.

prestorm shopping 2

An aside, I lived in the Rome/Syracuse, New York area back in the 80’s, and even without snow storms, winter was always serious.  It was routine to keep ‘what if’ kits in the car to include at least one pair of snowshoes, some food, extra clothes, etc.

Course Building: Don’t Mistake the Chicken for the Egg…


For those of you putting together your own training course for your NPT, you might consider developing three very important documents before you start to evaluate which lesson plans you want to use.

Why?  Because the three documents that will be described below provide the complete foundation of the skill set expertise you’ll be training your team to perform and have a measurable, valid product when completed.

These documents are the, ‘Training Proficiency Code Key (PCK),’ the, ‘Course Training Standard (CTS),’ and the ‘Plan of Instruction (POI).’

The first, the Training Proficiency Code Key, is your knowledge depth scale, if you will.  It defines how well the student should be able to perform the skills in your course when complete.  This includes familiarization training, where the student is only shown a task, but will need to be told or shown how to perform the task to performing the task quickly and accurately.  It also includes task knowledge levels from naming parts (nomenclature) to applying and extrapolating operating principles demonstrating high levels of comprehension.  Subject knowledge can also be gauged from simple fact identification to condition evaluation and decision making (problem solving).

Here’s an excerpt from the DTG PCK:

DTG  Course Training Proficiency Standard Code Key
Scale Value:  1 – Lowest; 4 – Highest/a – Lowest; d – Highest/A – Lowest; D – Highest
Each statement concerns the individual or small team (4 people) in group performance or knowledge.
TASK                                    PERFORMANCE LEVELS 1 Can do simple parts of the task.  Needs to be told or shown how to do most of the task,  NOT PROFICIENT (High Task/Low Relationship)  Close Supervision.
2 Can do most parts of the task.  Needs help only on the hardest parts.  May not meet speed or accuracy requirements.  PARTIALLY PROFICIENT (High Task/High Relationship) Close Supervision with Encouragement.
3 Can do ALL parts of the task.  Needs only a spot check of completed work.  Meets minimum speed and accuracy requirements.  COMPETENT (Low Task/High Relationship).  Minimal Supervision – Participatory Leadership
4 Can do the complete task quickly and accurately.  Can tell or show others how to do the task. HIGHLY PROFICIENT (Low Task/Low Relationship) – Delegate and let run with the job.


The second, the Course Training Standard, lists the major subject areas, the proficiency levels for each, and the type of evaluation, for example, ‘WM’ (written measurement, ie, ‘test’), ‘P’ (performance), or ‘E’ (exception, ie, evaluating low proficiency level tasks only when individuals or groups are having issues mastering the task).  Here’s another excerpt:


1. Proper wear of clothing & equipment. 3, c, B.  P, E
2. Field Hygiene (Individual Disease Prevention) 2, b, B. P, E
3. Road March – Adverse Conditions (Pre-Post Training) 3, b, A. P, E

As you can see, we’re building a deliberate roadmap, if you will, on not only how much time will be involved in the actual training, but what standard of perofmrancethe student will be required to demonstrate at the conclusion of training.

The last of the foundation for building effective training courses is the, ‘Plan of Instruction.’  The POI takes each subject area and details it by listing one or more criterion objectives, or “Desired Learning Outcomes” (aka, ‘Tasks, Conditions, Standards’) under it, as the below excerpt demonstrates:



  1. Proper wear of clothing & equipment
  • Given a personally supplied set of field clothing (surplus BDU’s, earth tone heavy duty outdoor clothing), field boots, and accouterments, and instruction on effective methods for wearing in the field, each student will arrange/don their personal clothing and pass an inspection by the instructor with only minor correction before progressing to active training.
  • Given a personally supplied set of Load Bearing Equipment (harness or vest) and accouterments, and instruction on effective methods for setting up for dismounted operations in the field, each student will arrange/don their personal equipment and pass an inspection by the instructor with only minor correction before progressing to active training.
  • Given a pack list, a personally supplied large ruck sack and effective methods of zone packing, each student will demonstrate possession of required items and pack their rucksack in accordance with the Zone Method within 30 minutes with no error.

The last step is to develop your lesson plans, or find lesson plans, to support your DLO’s.  It’s important to note that a lesson plan may have more than one DLO, and depending on the complexity, the DLO could be supported by more than one lesson plan.

So, as you can see, putting together a course of instruction that will be effective and  have your students be able to perform to the levels you require or envision takes a bit more work than just repeating what you might find in an old manual, or attempting to use overly simplistic, ‘mimicry’ techniques  The adult learner requires a bit more than that.

For  more complete examples, consider becoming a subscriber to our on-line classroom.  You’ll be hard pressed to get a better ROI in information balanced against the $60 annual fee.