Small Unit Patrol Class

I am smoked. That is what I told John Mosby after attending his Idaho Small Unit Patrol Class this past week.

I spent two days prior to leaving home packing and repacking my ruck sack in the vain attempt to cut some weight. The front room was strewn with gear for two days prior to my step off. Based on my SUT (Small Unit Tactics) class last year I learned a valuable lesson to pare down the crap I carry. This past week I relearned that lesson. I carry to much crap! And I’m sure a vast majority of us all carry to many comfort items. This was a hard trip to pack for in all honesty. Idaho in the spring can be a very fickle girl. Do I pack for a warm clime or a cold one? In a fit of frustration, I packed a little of both.

I don’t do very well in the cold and in all honesty I am a pussy in the cold weather. My feet are what bothers me the most. Once they get cold it seems to take over my whole body and I just can’t get warm after that. In the end I errored on packing more for cold than a warm environment. Glad I did. It rained  most of the first day of class, then sleated, then rained some more. The daytime temp was in the 40’s and nights dipped into the 20’s.

Rendezvous was at 0800 on Friday in Idaho Falls and we did a caravan to the training site. First order of business was to ruck up a hill to the actual property that we were going to setup a base camp. I come from the flat lands, and attempting to hump up a hill that had 3 inches of slippery clay in full kit, a ruck, an assault pack with 20 preloaded ammo magazines and a 10×12 target steel plate  about did me in a quarter of the way up the hill. I started to loose vision and thought I was going to pass out, twice. This was a deceiving little hill.

After a quick introduction, John gave us a few moments to setup our hooch’s. We jumped right into the safety brief, then John gave us a quick primer on the brown Idaho mud by having us low crawl through the muck. Then the rain started, then it sleeted, then rained again and didn’t end until after dark on the first day. Day one, twelve hours of non stop movement.

Class consisted of, well you can read John’s breakdown of the SUT and SUP classes here. I’m not going to give a blow by blow. That just wouldn’t be right. I suggest you take a look at the Ranger Handbook to get a feel for the class also. What we did is pretty much line by line out of the Ranger Handbook. Besides, it would take away from when you attend the class.

What I will do is give a high view and all is predicated on the crawl, walk, run form of training.

Standard patrol formation. In this case the diamond formation. 4 and 8 man teams.

React to contact drill

Hasty attack

Hasty ambush

Break contact

React to ambush near and far

Movement Formations

Movement Techniques



Tactical Marches

Movement During Limited Visibility

Danger Areas

Patrol Planning


Common Sense

KIA and EPW body searches

We did a night shoot react to contact drill to demonstrate how the muzzle blast from your rifle can mess up your night vision. Lots of laying in the cold mud. Camouflaging oneself and your gear, did I say laying in the mud?  Then we did every drill, multiple times with full ruck sacks on. Total smoke fest, in a very good way. I am in no way complaining, it felt good!

There was also an exercise on moving quietly through the brush. Listening for the sound of a twig breaking, the sound of a jacket scraping along a branch, or velcro separating as you bend down. Ask me how I know that?

A couple take aways for myself. Pack lighter! strip all the nice to haves out of your bag, you don’t need it. I’m here to tell you from experience.

All you need is the pants and shirt you are wearing with one spare set.

Plenty of socks. Two pair per day. (I always changed into clean dry socks when I had wet pair on and before I crawled into my sleeping bag for the night.)

Rain gear. A GI light weight Gortex jacket and pants combo or a civilian equivalent. And one could also use a US GI poncho if that is all you had. I would suggest wearing your kit on the outside of your coat. Some guys didn’t and found it is a bitch to reload quickly when your mags are under a coat.

Fleece jacket or some sort.

Silkies, long johns tops and bottom. One set. I slept in these at night.

Stocking cap. I carried two.

Baseball or boonie cap. Rolls up easy and you can stick in your pocket when you are not wearing it on your head.

Gloves. Some kind of shooting gloves. I used a pair of nomex flight gloves. I also had a pair of winter gloves on hand.

Sleeping system. I used a US GI three piece sleep system. You can pick one of these bad boys for less than $100. The system comes with a light weight bag, a heavy weight bag and a Gortex outer shell. What is nice about this system is you can use parts of or all three together. The Gortex shell is going to keep the damp and rain off you and still let sweat and body moisture out.

Sleeping pad. I used the newer GI inflatable type. But any brand will do.  Just something to keep a barrier between you and the ground. It is amazing what a half inch of padding will do to keep the cold away from your body. Something I figured out the second night. If you stick your sleeping pad between the layers of your sleep system, the pad stays put and will not slide around underneath you all night long.

For this trip I bought a hammock. There are a ton of brands out there. Some costing $60 and others that run all the way up to hundreds. I bought a Hennesey Hammock from a guy at work and I will never sleep on the ground again! The hammock I used had a rain fly and mosquito net that weighed less than two pounds and comes in a little stuff sack that compresses down nicely. I would also suggest getting two sets of hammock rap rings. I’m not a knot tying guy and you can pull your hammock down quickly and be on the go in nothing flat with these. See video below.

Magazines. I used Magpuls but ran into an issue. Magpuls can hold thirty one rounds, this is bad because the spring becomes so compressed, it causes the top most round to hang on the feed lip and not load into the rifle chamber. Stripping one round from the mag solved my problem. This happened to me four times. Glad it happened in training and not in a real life or death situation. I became very proficient at SPORTS (Slap, Pull, Observe, Rack, Tap, Shoot)

Leg rig/Battle Belt. I own both but did not bring either to the class.

Dump pouch. I should have brought one of these. I forgot and left it at home.

Plate Carrier. I run a ShellBack plate carrier. By far worth the $150. I attached a cheapo Condor water bladder carrier to the back with a 2 liter Camel Bak bladder inside.

Multiple tourniquets.

Misc items. I had a small self built first aid kit. Advil is my friend. A butt pack that has bungie cords, chem lights, fire starting kit, and a whole lot of other “stuff”. I also packed a woobie and a GI poncho. A small stainless steel camping cup with folding handles. A GI “E” tool, extra tent stakes and para cord.

MRE’s. I field stripped my MRE’s. By taking the meal pouches out of the cardboard boxes they come in, you can stuff two entire meals into one brown outer plastic bag. By folding the top of the outer bag over and using a small piece of duck tape you can seal the top and keep all the contents in the bag. The tape also allows you to reseal the bag after taking out what you want to eat.

After this trip I think I’m done with MRE’s. Out of the 8 meals I had packed only one meal heater actually worked. The other seven heaters failed. You can find after market meal heaters online. Below is a review.

I just couldn’t eat cold MRE’s without gagging. I lived on the MRE cheese, peanut butter, trail mix packages and crackers for three days. Only on the last day did I get a heater to work enough to have some potato soup for breakfast. It was delicious! Exquisite cuisine that you can only get in a green package made by the folks at Wornick in Tennessee. I’m serious it was awesome.

So I bought a Jet Boil system. I am going to pre-package rice, beans and what ever else I can vacuum seal and stow it in my ruck. I’ll keep a few MRE entrees on hand that I can heat with the Jet Boil system. I hate dry heaving.

Boots. A good comfortable water resistant high ankle pair of boots can really make or break your day. My good old reliable pair of Altama’s lost a sole and I will retire them to un-envious duty of being used for grass mowing now.

PT. Let me say this. If you don’t do some sort of PT or haven’t PT’d in a while your gonna suck at this class and hold everyone up. I’m not a PT nazi by any stretch, but I can find time to workout with my schedule. Burpee’s can be done anywhere, and in the last six months I did a lot. Running up seven to twelve percent grade slopes suck on a good day. In shitty weather, in full kit is even harder. I can’t imagine what it would have felt like if I still smoked.

I drove close to 3000 miles (round trip) to go to this class and it was worth every mile and every hour I spent in my car.

If not for the class itself but just having the ability to meet like-minded people and train with them was beyond cool. I will also tell you all this, I spent my 50th birthday standing in the rain, rolling in the mud, and learning new skills and in the end having 12 people that I met three days prior stand in a circle around me signing Happy Birthday was priceless.

Fucking far out!


Get training, get your mind right, get your body right.

Prepping A Tourniquet

Been a long time since I posted last. That damn thing called life has gotten in the way lately.

I was lounging in the chair (picture a scene from the Big Labowski) mentally going over some of the things I need to take to my next class coming up this May. I am heading to Idaho and attending a Small Unit Patrol Class with the “Gray Ghost” John Mosby. What a better way to spend my birthday than in the field learning a new skill!

So I wandered downstairs to give my gear a once over. This simple act of wandering downstairs to my gear room, is what my wife refers to as “dress up time”. I guess in a way I do play “dress up”, but it also serves the function of getting familiar with my chest rig and accoutrements again. I will probably do this another dozen times before I leave to go to a class.

As I was trying on my chest rig, I took a seat, closed my eyes and mentally went over where things are located on my rig. If I was in a situation in low light or no light I want to be able to find what I need without fumbling around.

What would I do if I needed to get to one of my tourniquets? I carry two, one in my blowout kit (left side) and another directly on the outside of my chest rig located on my right font side. As I went through the exercise of trying to put a TQ on, one handed, I realized that the way the TQ was folded I could not open the device up to get my arm through the hole. So I pulled out my second TQ from my blow out kit and it was folded differently than the first. The second fell open the way it should and I was able to get my arm through the whole and cinched down.

Apiphany! A TQ is probably more important than the ammunition you carry on your gear. If I had needed to use this TQ, in the dark, and wounded, I would have bled out before figuring out how to get the damn thing on properly.

PCC’s and PCI’s anyone? For the non military types that is Pre Combat Checklist and Pre Combat Inspection(s). No matter what you call it, PCC’s, PCI’s or dress up, check your gear!

Here is a good video that shows how to prep a TQ.


Fergusun MO AAR

One of the LinkedIN groups I follow posted this great AAR from a personal security contractor point of view that had a first hand, boots on the ground experience. There are some great take-aways and lesson learns in this short article.


Media Protection In Turbulent Times of Protests


By Sarge Gish, CPS


“The name Columbine is now synonymous with all school shootings just as the name Ferguson will now be associated with all civil disorder and protests”


I was asked to write an after- action report about my time in Ferguson for one of my friends who has a security blog. I felt time was on my side, since I had another detail to work shortly afterwards and the holidays were just around the corner. Little did I realize that Ferguson would be the beginning of a national period of social unrest in the country. Given the lack of moral responsibility among civilians to confront crime, resulting in destruction and mayhem, in many areas of the country the veneer of civilized behavior has been rubbed off. Unfortunately, from my point of view, I predict there will be plenty more non-peaceful protests. Currently, there are a lot individuals in this country who feel they can control or change how the rule of law is administered. I am not a Sociologist and do not intend to explain why people feel the way they do. Instead, I’ll stick with the elements of working a media protection detail.


Risk & Threat Assessment:

Being called upon to work an armed site security detail for a national security firm in St Louis the week heading into the Darren Wilson Grand Jury indictment, I had no idea what to expect. As everyone knows there were two waves of protests in the town of Ferguson and the city of St Louis.

I will refer both incidents as round 1 (Aug. & Sept. 2014) and round 2 (Nov. & Dec. 2014).

Not being on the ground for round 1, most of our risk and threat assessments were based off of intelligence from those incidents.

Our job was to evaluate one individual or group in order to make a determination whether or not the protesters had the potential to become violent against the news crews we were protecting. Also, the prevention of unintentional injury and embarrassment to the crews was a priority.

Knowing that there were viable threats in the weeks before the grand jury convened, we were better prepared to mentally plan and coordinate our moves, and equipment to bring.

The building I was securing (a major health insurance provider) was located downtown and under no immediate threat. Our intelligence indicated there was no apparent danger for the personnel there.

I had agreed to work for another security firm that was working directly in Ferguson which was associated with a local company named Triangle Sentry. This company was given the assignment of protecting Al Jazeera America and the Fox News crews.

The company is owned by and employs individuals who are ESI graduates. Being from ESI myself, I instantly recognized how much of a professional organization it is and felt comfortable with them having my back.



I had taken the Monday afternoon of November 24th off to try and conduct reconnaissance and build intelligence data. Also, this was the day the announcement of the verdict was to be read. Little did I know that this was the night we would be able to determine a threat assessment for the rest of the week.

There was no one out on the street  in front of the Ferguson Police Department except two protesters. The coffee shop down the street was” business as usual” with the local citizens sitting around talking about the anticipation of a peaceful night and week.

Later in the evening when St Louis prosecuting attorney Robert McCulloch was to announce the decision by the grand jury, I decided to leave the downtown area, which was still relatively calm, and go eat out on the main drag of West Florissant.

As the night progressed, you could feel the tension in the air. Within hours after the decision not to indict was made public, I stood on the corner of Chambers and West Florissant and watched a Mobile convenience store get looted. Shortly thereafter, gunfire was erupting up and down the street and stores were starting to burn. I left the area immediately knowing the Walgreen’s store in front of me was going to be the next target.

My advance was done. I had seen the violence that was predicted. It was time to help out the team (Triangle Sentry), which was already protecting the news crews that were already out there.


Mission and role of the Protection Assignment:

The news crews we were attached to had about 4 teams, each consisting of a correspondent, producer, and cameraman. They were constantly on the go, navigated by a higher up who was monitoring scanners, twitter feeds, and cell phones looking for any evidence of contention.

If you’re lucky, you can ride along with them. Otherwise, you need to follow as closely in your own POV and be ready to go.

Once you arrive at the site, you must make sure all your equipment is accessible along with the rest of the crew’s. As with any job associated with security, you must walk a fine line as to what you are allowed to do. Of course, we cannot physically restrain someone or display, threaten, or use our weapons unless it becomes a last resort.

Our job is to protect.

Though you are protecting the whole crew, the cameraman will be your main priority. It is their job to make sure they get the shot for the whole world to see. They are going to go into the middle of crowds of angry protesters to get it.

It is important to be within arm’s reach at all times and have a hand on their back to control their direction and balance.

You must be able to pull them out of situations when harm is prevalent.

Between the two waves of protests a rule called the “Keep Moving “ rule was implemented by the St. Louis County police, which prevented people, including the media, from standing still under threat of arrest. An injunction was issued by a Federal District Judge against the practice. But it was widely used during the 2nd round. It was our job to make sure our crews did not fall into that rule.

Unfortunately, one of the security contractors can testify to this. As I mentioned the importance of close contact with the cameraman, he was just far enough away to get caught up in what I call a police line rush into the crowd. Once taken down, they discovered his armored vest and firearm.

Though he was eventually released, he was initially arrested and spent the night in jail.


Planning and Preparation:

Equipment for this kind of violent civil unrest was crucial and must be in quality shape. It was important that all of us were dressed in civilian clothes to blend in with the protesters. So all concealment was vital.

There was no restriction on the type of firearm we could carry, but I would recommend a lighter caliber (9mm or 40) due to the constant movement in and out of vehicles and locations.

Concealable body armor is also essential with a minimum level III certification.

There was a lot of gunfire the first couple of days. But I also witnessed several knives on belts in the crowds as well.

I had a can of Sabre 3 & 1 pepper spray on my belt, which I planned on using for first use of force if needed. Unfortunately, I did not have the one piece of equipment that would have been helpful: a protective mask.

I noticed right away all the news crews had them. I was under the impression that I would not

need one until I got tear gassed, not once, but twice.

You do not need a military style mask, however. A common household cleaning respirator is sufficient.

Mental preparation is essential in being able to accomplish the task of protecting the media. You are dealing with unimaginable hatred by individuals who have no conscience as to what they are saying or destroying.

A prime example of this would be the security contractor I was working with. I’ll describe him as late twenties, reservist police officer from rural Ohio who never had to deal with this type of situation. His training was focused to serve and protect the citizens of his jurisdiction with any means possible, including use of force.

Unfortunately the morning after all the devastation from the first night, a group of black individuals confronted the Aljazeera news crew he was protecting demanding they go home. Thankfully, a St Louis County patrol came by to break up the demonstrators. He felt vulnerable and unprepared to deal with situation.

He went home that night.

The ability to maintain confidentiality with the news media is as important as having a firearm on your side. I noticed the Fox cameramen would take their logos off the cameras before we would go out. I wasn’t aware of such hatred towards them until hearing the verbal abuses directed about them in the crowds.

Also, I found it was important to let some in the crowd know you are with the media, just not what your specific role was.

A good example of this is when a large group of white and black individuals thought I was law enforcement. I was working with the Fox crew one night and the cameraman had struck up a relationship with one of the higher ranking (Capt.) Missouri State Police Officers during round 1. The Captain ( who I will not give out the name) pulled into the parking lot we were in with his patrol vehicle to give us a update as to what the night looked like. Unfortunately, the parking lot was in front of the Ferguson police station where all the protesters where.

They had seen us talking to him. They automatically assumed I was a cop assigned to the crew.

We left.


Lessons Learned:

The ability to protect principals in an unpredictable crowd is a skill that must be practiced before execution. The majority of private security contractors are current or prior military or law enforcement and have had experience with unruly crowds. Not only is it a constantly changing dynamic of violence, but also a show of embarrassing actions, directed at organizations and businesses that protesters are affecting. So it is important that we, in the security industry, constantly prepare ourselves and study the ever- growing changes in the world of social and civil disobedience and protests.

We must assure ourselves at all times that we are appropriate while working media protection. And, most often, appropriateness is determined by a threat assessment and preparation.

As Rick Colliver states in his book Principal Protection: Lessons Learned, it is important to remember diplomacy, alertness, and professionalism.

An inappropriate response to a situation is the fastest way to unemployment.

In the future we hope there will be ongoing discussions of media protection for management and increased planning. My recommendation for anyone who works these details is to be involved with the discussions and participate