I had the fortunate chance to attend a SUT course a couple of weeks ago in South Dakota instructed by John Mosby. If you haven’t been to John’s blog Mountain Guerrilla then you have truly missed.
I have been reading John’s blog for quite awhile now and had built up a mental picture of a guy who is a former Army Ranger and Green Beret (SF) who is very opinionated and a hard core bad-ass. John is a bad ass but very personable, very intelligent, humble and protects his privacy like a momma bear with a new cub.
When I cajoled my friend back in January into signing up for John’s May class we set about “training” and I actually thought we were in pretty good shape for a pair of late forty somethings.
If you follow the Mountain Guerrilla any he harps incessantly about doing PT, I mean a lot. Like a reformed hooker a lot. I have been in the military for a vast majority of my life and I understand the mantra of staying fit. I haven’t always bought into that gospel and to be honest I have abused my body over the years. We worked out regular 4 times a week and if the weather was “decent” we would get a run in. On the weekends we would ruck on the ice and snow packed trails of a state park trying our best not to slip. That was a fail on one road march. We both were pretty bruised after one Saturday excursion.
John has three articles that are required reading before you attend one of his patrol classes. We found out later that they are purposely written vague as to what to bring or pack for the class. After meeting at the rendezvous on day one of the class we drove in convoy to the range. Following a safety briefing John showed us how to properly shoot prone, paddy squat, kneeling, standing, how to do reloads, quickly, gain a sight picture, shooting from behind cover and or concealment. There was a ton of information that was thrown at us that first morning, I mean a ton, like a metric ton. And none of it was horse shit.
About mid morning we were told to get everything together as we were moving to our patrol base. Lesson one: I packed to much shit, thinking we would be near our vehicles for the weekend I could go and get what I needed when needed. We loaded up ourselves and gear into a few trucks and headed to or training area. Now this is where the days begin to blur and blend together. One of the first things John had us do is stand in line and dump our rucks, just like boot camp (no screaming at us though) John took his time and went through everyone’s ruck and asked why we packed what we packed. One thing that stuck in my mind was deodorant. why would you need that? John asked, he rightly pointed out after day 3 in the bush all the bad guys are going to smell is your deodorant. I remember reading about the Selous Scouts quite some time ago. One patrol was looking for a terrorist patrol base and what clued the Scouts to the location of the terrorist base was the smell of sweat and gun oil. The terrorist were lazy and had no guards. Needless to say the terrorist are dead now. But think about it. Speed Stick giving away your position. Another question was why do you need a jet stove? To heat water for a Mountain House meal of course. What if noise abatement is a necessity? The old MRE meals sure come in handy don’t they?
As prepper’s we talk about bug out bags, get home bags, etc. Well I am here to tell you? we pack to much crap. Way to much in the convenience items and not enough basic survival items. Think I’m kidding? dump your pack and look at everything and ask, do I really need this (emphasis on really) pack your ruck up and go live out of it for a night without running back to the car or have someone drive out and drop off a flash light you forgot. Bet you won’t need a third of the equipment you have in your bag. Prove me wrong! Go live out of your bag for a night or weekend.
Our first night and second days of the class we were rained on, and then sleeted on. Built a shelter out of a GI poncho, slept underneath our shelter in our GI sleeping kits and some of us froze. I.E. me! I left my stocking cap in the car and had nothing on my head that first night. Even sleeping in a fetal position with the bag and bivy sack over my head I froze. Lesson two: not packing the right things.
John talked at length about small unit tactics and distilled it all down for us students. I had a number of these drills already in my head from the Army but being as though the Army is risk adverse when it comes to training we never moved pass the crawl phase of any one task. By the end of the day we were running drills pretty well. John used the crawl, walk, run form of training and at anytime if anyone had a question or concern John stopped addressed the question clearly or until the (us) student(s) understood what was being conveyed. Not once did I feel unsafe, apprehensive? yes because I have never done live fire drills before, unsafe? no. The live fire drills were quite a rush with five rifles laying down suppressive fire all at once. Which leads me to another pearl of knowledge I learned. The best form of cover is suppressive fire, and a lot of it.
During the walk phase of the tactics section of the class it became VERY apparent that what my friend and I thought we were doing for PT was woefully inadequate. I was huffing and puffing like a steam locomotive, my knees hurt and I was cold and hungry. I have to throw in a by the by John had us doing burpee’s with our fighting loads on every morning to “warm” us up. Ever do burpee’s with your fighting load? like 10 of them? John gave us a ton of resources to up or fitness levels and never once called anyone out because they couldn’t do something physical. I’ll tell you, I have worn my “battle rattle” for days before but never did PT in full kit. It puts a whole new perspective on what it is like to run and gun and not on a square range standing around waiting for your next iteration to shoot to qualify. After evening chow John would hold his camp fire round table sessions. The training continued until well after dark.
After every session we had a AAR and we were required to have at least one question to ask about the last training iteration. John would come back to you if you did have a question right off. He kept us thinking all the time and engaged.
Our last night we did a short night navigation and learned how to setup a patrol base for the night. Noise and light discipline are a must. We also learned some of the failings of night vision. My Ranger Buddy kept saying he was seeing a man standing in the woods looking at us, and then moving towards our patrol base. John assured us there was no one else out there and what my buddy was seeing was shadowing from the surrounding shrubbery this was a perfect demonstration on how NVG’s can play tricks on your eyes and brain. John gave a real word example he had to back up what we were seeing that night.
I want to say, not one bit of training was out of a book (well it was but not in front of us. The Ranger Handbook is highly recommended for reading), or PowerPoint, or made up, or sitting in a classroom. John is a straight shooter that teaches from his own real world experiences no bull shit attached. He expects 100% all the time and only allows you to go as hard and fast as you can and still be safe. After all you are around other people that have varying backgrounds and skills with firearms.
John’s approach in this course is from a partisan’s perspective. After all that is what he did while in the SF. What would you do, how do you organized, plan a mission, execute that mission in a SHTF event. A good portion of one afternoon was spent on planning. If you don’t have a plan and a good one then you might as well just stand in the road naked with your rifle sticking out of your butt while the zombie biker gang runs you over. Just because you are armed does not mean you are ready. Do you know how to react to contact? Create a ambush? a hasty ambush? no how to get out of a ambush? an L shaped ambush? How about obstacles? what constitutes an obstacle? Tons of information. If your and former 11x or a Marine 0300 series then you may or should know this. Generally most people don’t. And those that pretend to are going to be the first ones dead. Team building and Ranger Buddy’s are a must. Always look out for your Ranger Buddy.
On the last morning we packed our gear and rucked back to our vehicles. Here is another lesson learned. I did not eat the night before or that morning. I got about a 1/2 mile into the ruck and my body crashed. The rest of the walk was horrible and kudos to my Ranger Buddy for staying with me. He really wanted to be over with the ruck sooner but he stayed with “the old man”.
Gear. Like I said I had way to much crap with me and not enough of the essentials. Example, I carried enough clothes for a platoon of soldiers. Not enough food, to much ammo. Now there are those that say you can never have enough. Maybe, maybe not. Something to heat water or food with. Something to purify water with. You just cannot carry enough water. 8 lbs a gallon, a gallon a day minimum, 5 day operation equals 40 lbs. Plus the rest of your gear.
I have a bunch of gear reviews that I will add later as I get pictures taken of each. Some stuff I used, some I didn’t.
I didn’t take any pictures while I was in the field during the course. Firstly, I left my camera in the car, second my phone died, and thirdly I really wanted to respect the other guys privacy. Interestingly no one else took pics either.
Here is the absolute bottom line. John’s classes are top notch. I mean the top. Go with an open mind. You where given two ears and one mouth for a reason. Write things down and ask questions. Expect nothing but a professional that has no problem cussing like a sailor (if foul language offends you, well get over it or look elsewhere for training) but he gets the point across in a way that all can understand. This isn’t a boot camp but a professional and I will say better than any military school I have ever been to. Be ready for a physical class and PT!
John is a great guy very well read, a brain that remembers things that I can only envy, and even includes his family in the classes. It was an absolute joy having his two year old daughter running around saying hi! to everyone during a class or her running up to her daddy and punching him in the leg and giggling crazy as she ran away. Very cool. She was part of the tribe, and at time I think she ran the tribe.
Our last AAR before John released back to our vehicles someone asked why are his courses so inexpensive compared to other schools or instructors. John side stepped the question, he did give an answer though. I have my thoughts on this. John is building his tribe, meeting new people, and teaching a hard skill that he enjoys sharing with others. He believes in what he is doing. I gained a lot of respect for John after only knowing him for a few days. John’s classes? $500! Jesus that is what most of us would pay for an insurance deductible on a fender bender with out thinking.
Folks, get training, and get fit. My friend and I have changed our workout routine to more of a cross-fit (I know, I know 1st rule of fight club? your never talk about fight club. 1st rule of cross-fit? they never shut the fuck up about cross-fit) routine. I can see the benefits of a cross-fit program already. I’ll follow up with some cross-fit links that John shared later.
PT! PT! feels good! PT! PT! is good! unhuh! hooyah!