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
React to ambush near and far
Movement During Limited Visibility
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.
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.