I recently attended the Recon and Jaeger Scout courses out in Utah, and what a great couple of classes they were. On Point Tactical has a whole line of Scout classes, designed to fully develop and integrate not only tactical skills, but also wilderness survival, tracking, and other esoteric skills that combine to create a very capable individual.
This parallels my own thoughts as well as others on the proper progression of training for prepared citizens. From OnPoint’s class description: “The Scout tradition is found in many cultures and tribes around the world. Ours is a derivative of the Apache Scout tradition. We focus on ancient skills combined with modern tactics to create a team of extremely effective warriors.”
Like the lyrics from the Cody Jinks song that I borrowed the title for this article from, these classes aren’t designed to be Instagram trendy or for the “tactical tourist” as OnPoint’s owner Kevin Reeves said during class. The living conditions are spartan, and class goes on weather be damned, and I spent a good portion of the class wet, cold and a bit tired. But so was everyone else, and the dedication and effort put forth by the other students was commendable.
The Recon Scout is designed to introduce students to the formal reconnaissance and information gathering processes. I particularly enjoyed this since this was an area I was interested in learning. We spent a good portion of class time dedicated to learning about the processes at an appropriate scale for a small unconventional unit.
The Jaeger Scout class is designed to take the Recon trained Scout and give him further offensive skills. This fits naturally with the recon scout since after information has been collected the Scout is typically in a good position to act on it if need be. The progression of training followed a good “crawl, walk, run” approach with the students deciding when to go to the next level based on how comfortable they were.
The classes are taught by a former Force Reconnaissance Marine who has put a lot of work into picking through traditional doctrine to find the information and skills that would most benefit those in an unconventional force. I personally think he has done a great job at this, and we didn’t waste any time talking about notional machine guns or any other make believe stuff. Everything that was taught was applicable to an unconventional small unit.
Each class was about 3 days long and was conducted off grid in the Utah high desert. “Car camping” was the level of accommodations, although I set myself up a nice low profile camp under a couple trees.
We had an interesting mixture of students. Some guys were more familiar with the tactical side of the class, these were the “tactical cowboys”. Others were more in tune with the natural world and relied more on their senses and nature, these were the “bush hippies”. It created an interesting dynamic during force on force training.
Oftentimes the bush hippies would pick up on small indicators of an ambush that would be missed by us knuckle dragging tactical cowboys. This of course helped the more tactically oriented guys to respond appropriately to the situation. It was a good dynamic and I think it was a good representation of what the Marines are now calling the “Combat Hunter” system.
We did a lot of force on force and hands on training. Day time was typically the class room time, with lectures, demonstrations and practice. The evening and into the night were the practical application portion. I lost count of how many ambushes we set up and practiced as a team. This was very good practice and by the end of the night the class could function very well as a team at night.
Not only did we learn the different tactics and skills that a small unconventional unit can utilize, we also got extensive practice in leadership roles as well. We all took turns planning and leading patrols which even for a former infantry Marine was very good practice.
The guys at OnPoint have created a very good course that I think is essential for those wanting to learn small unit tactics, planning, and leadership for an unconventional unit. I’m very happy that I went and I intend to go back for more.
A few of the highlights that we were taught were:
- Recon and combat patrol planning
- Ambush set up
- Counter ambush tactics
- Combat mindset for the unsupported, unconventional unit
- Small unit leadership
- Individual camouflage and concealment
- Hide site selection and construction
- OP site operations
- Limited penetration room clearing
- Intelligence requirement creation
- Basic radio communications techniques
A few of my take-aways
#1 – Move quietly
There were many lessons I took away from this class. The small unsupported and unconventional unit relies extensively on stealth to remain undetected. This is important to remember. All team members must be capable of camouflaging themselves, selecting concealed routes, and moving quietly. Period.
While night vision and thermals are great force multipliers, moving quietly is still more important at night. Many of our ambushes were detected early because of people moving and creating noise.
#2 – Night vision is a major force multiplier
A close second to moving quietly is the ability to see at night. In order to move as quietly as possible you have to be able to see. There was a marked difference between those of us that had NOD’s and those who didn’t. The ability to look ahead and select your route through or around bushes and other obstacles and to select your next piece of concealment is a major asset.
In my opinion this is the number one reason to have night vision. When creating our teams, key roles were typically given to those with NODs simply because they could see. In practice these key personnel ended up herding those without NODs in the right direction, often times having to act as their eyes when crossing rough terrain or obstacles.
#3 – Know how to navigate day and night
For some of the training we essentially had to memorize a map or satellite imagery and be able to think back to that map to know where we were using terrain association. This meant being able to read a topographic map and understand it. It also meant being able to use a compass and also the stars. We did this during some of the longer movements at night to effectively get to where we needed to be quickly.
You also need to be able to keep track of the distance you have traveled. GPS is a great tool when it works, but unconventional units have to be able to operate without it. A key lesson driven home during the class was “if you don’t own the infrastructure you don’t have it” and that applies to GPS as well. For those looking for what has been said to be an “exceptional land navigation class” (among other skills) check out my Fieldcraft Course.
#4 – Keep your gear simple and light
I can’t emphasize this enough. Be able to take care of your immediate needs and accomplish your objective, period. Keep it lightweight yet durable.
#5 – Keep your plans simple
Plans have got to be simple with clear objectives. A complex plan should only be attempted after a team has trained extensively with each other. This was demonstrated during our ambush training time and again. The simple linear ambush when properly employed was just as effective as any other style, yet it was easier to control during exfil.
This is important for keeping track of people and making sure you avoid a blue on blue shooting. It sounds like a remote possibility, but all it takes is one person to counter ambush and get off the X and into the middle of your formation at night, ask my OpFor how they found out about that.
#6 – Know when to tip toe, and know when to skull stomp
This is a concept I’ve been thinking on for a long time, and I’ll be writing about it more in the future. In essence, we have to be able to balance stealth and caution with aggression. For a mountain lion, there is a time to sneak up on the deer, and there’s a time for it to pounce on it, sinking all it’s claws and teeth into the deer to kill it as quickly as possible.
On the offense, we have to hit our target when it least expects it with overwhelming speed and violence. On the defense, we have to be able to detect the point of culmination of our enemies attack, and like lighting counter attack. It’s an instinct that can only be trained through force on force training. No marksmanship or weapons handling classes can teach it, only practiced aggression against another person can teach it.
I can’t recommend these classes enough. There were a few alumni in the class with multiple classes under their belts and they were very competent. I think this speaks to the quality of the training. From what I saw in the alumni I think the balance of skills taught through the entire Scout pipeline at OnPoint is great and I plan on returning to round out my scout training.