The following is a review from a student to my first class. My notes are italicized. -BR
Well let me start off with saying that coming into this class I was a little nervous. Between the course description, location and the fact that I have a sit down job I wondered if I could make it through the course or not. So a month before the class, things like dieting and exercise was a thing I did 5-6 days a weeks. Somewhere in the process of making preparations I got to thinking and asking many questions to Badlands Rifleman which resulted in him writing an article called “Gear weight versus rate”? For anyone new to this you might wonder “where do I stand in reference to what is expected to succeed.” This was the biggest obstacle for me; is convincing myself that I am ready! But with good evidence, hard work and success! (There’s only one way to get that kind of confidence and it comes with experience gained in training.)
For anyone who has never been to the Badlands before it is a pretty cool experience, especially being let loose to go and venture over what seems like an endless landscape, very cool! It is like being on another planet and by far the most interesting place I have been to.
The first day we focused on developing good marksmanship skills. We went over basic things about operation of the rifle and how to operate the rifle, then into BRAS-F and natural point of aim. Even as someone who shoots regularly I still learned some good stuff I took home with me. Especially the natural point of aim concept! We learned different types of support, wind and range estimation, rifle commands and shot from different positions both supported and unsupported. Let just say I realized that I typically only shoot positions I am comfortable and need to practice dry firing all positions regularly. We then looked for hidden steel targets, made range cards and then tried to shoot those camouflaged targets to 500+ meters. (DirtNasty is being modest here, we had a terrible cross wind and he was one of the few that engaged all the targets with only 1-2 rounds each.) That night we learned to make different types of shelters and learned about the rapid ridge line. Some of us made a browse bed! (It got down to 19 degrees F that night, the extra insulation was sure nice) The shelter building is pretty fun and I learned I don’t know much about knots.
The second day we were following an azimuth from one point to the next, which took me what seemed like a mile off course because I….ya. (The students are looking for cow tags on trees, a much smaller target than what their compasses are accurate enough to hit. I teach a combination of techniques to remedy this so they can still navigate very accurately. But if you miss a cow tag, you might do some extra walking. Head on a swivel!) We learned about terrain features, grid systems, map orientation , navigational aids (not a GPS). This part of the course I enjoyed way more then I thought I would, we didn’t just get shown how to use a compass but we navigated a course then made P.A.U.L maps from them. (I’ve been continually impressed with how good of a job the students are doing on their P.A.U.L. maps, typically finding them within a couple degrees of being perfect, which I think is a level of accuracy even Don Paul himself would be impressed with.) We also converted our pace count into meters with and without gear. At the end we were given a grid coordinate and plotted a course to our next camp. Something else we all learned this day was the importance of having your communications squared away, I think Badlands Rifleman struggled with keeping in contact with people this day and I remember hearing over the comm him trying to reach a group as they got off course and were traveling towards town! He can tell the rest of the story if he wants. (I didn’t inspect the team properly before they left to ensure they understood the commo plan completely. I now make teams back brief me before they head out. Inspect what you expect!) But none the less you need that radio working if you plan to get rescued!
The third day the water collection and purification was awesome. Grayl water filters and mil-banks bag are great tools. This is also where the navigation got harder and more creative. This is where a person learned some critical thinking. We referenced where we were and navigated to different Grid Coordinates both day and night. We also collected fire making materials and built fires. As someone who normally uses gasoline and matches I was impressed to see people starting a fire from one spark on their ferro rods. Normally you see on youtube some over glorified douche wearing fake leather moccasins taking a half hour with a bow drill trying to start a fire! Making charcoal was also a life lesson. My team did not complete the night navigation course, and my take away is to improve on my pace count and distance estimation. This night I finally learned to sleep good…or better?
The final day we did group formations, some patrolling basics and react to contact drills. This was good for everyone as you could tell most of everyone in the class was clueless and had it all messed up. (Hence the reason we train!) This is the kind of stuff I want to learn much about in the future and I honestly wish we had another day of two to learn it. But after all this we made the final hike back to our vehicles!
Now some odd thoughts. I learned to pack my ruck much better with repetition. Also having some way to partition like items in your bag is something I learned I need to do. Bulky items like your water filter or stainless bottle I would suggest getting a pouch to put it in on the outside of your ruck (just my opinion). Learn to use your radio before coming to class. At night time throw your poncho over your ruck. Wearing a ruck with a chest rig with thick shoulder straps is a horrible experience!
But all in all this was not only the most beneficial training course I have ever done but also my favorite. I have no previous “military” back ground, but I am a big fan of NcScout/Brushbeater.org and have been to many of his training courses. The one thing I learned from Ncscout was to equip myself and learn the art of guerrilla warfare and tactics. Even though this is called a fieldcraft course, the things taught here are essentially what a guerrilla fighter would be doing day to day. But in my limited experience the fieldcraft course with Badlands rifleman and the brushbeater Scout course are complementary. If you take one then you need to take the other!