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Opinion: SMEAC the Gear Queer

There’s a heck of a lot more to low level armed conflict than tearing off into the bush with a $1500 weapon and cool-guy kit when your only training is shooting fast at stationary targets; the people that do that are speed bumps for the well trained, unassuming guy with a 30-30 and a solid plan.

NCScout, 2018
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There’s definitely a lot of skills to learn when a person decides they want to be a better protector and provider for their families, so I don’t blame someone for not being good at all of them. What I do blame people for is being too lazy to put time into the skills that aren’t as flashy or as easy to learn as something like shooting.

Some of these topics are harder to learn because of their highly technical nature, these would be things like medical or communications training. Others though are harder to train because the opportunities to practice them are almost nonexistent in most people’s normal, everyday lives. These would be topics like leadership and planning. One piece of advice I give to every student during my classes is to always volunteer for leadership positions during the exercises. Don’t worry about making mistakes, that’s what training is for! I’ve watched as “regular” guys with no formal training have developed into much more competent leaders by attending multiple classes and following this approach.

When it comes to planning it’s often even harder to find opportunities. Sure we can practice applying good planning practices to everyday life, which I try to do myself, but the opportunity to plan a security patrol is pretty rare. Luckily planning is a mental skill that can really be practiced with nothing more than a notepad and pencil. Like so many times in life there isn’t a “perfect” time to start, so just jump in and start swinging.

I’ve wrote a series of articles on the subject, starting with this one, and Mike at Von Steuben Tactical has written a number of tactical decision games (TDG’s) over on his blog as well. Both of us are Marines with similar backgrounds and I think between the information we’ve both presented, and the fact that both of us are willing to answer any questions you may have, there’s really not much of an excuse for not taking advantage of both of these resources.

While there are other planning strategies out there, the Five Paragraph Order as myself (the five paragraphs create the acronym SMEAC, hence the play on words in the title of the Terminal Lance cartoon above, which itself is a play on words if the popular childhood game “Smear the Queer”) and thousands upon thousands of Marines (the Army uses the same format too with some very minor differences, they call it an “operations order”) have been taught should form the core of your planning tools, especially when conducting any actions of a security conscious manner, since this is what they’ve been designed to do best.

Mike and I both provide a lot of information to help you learn this foundational skill. I’ve often had to scratch my head in bewilderment as I’ve watched guys master their speed reload yet they haven’t got much of a clue on how to plan. I suppose what they say is true; “failing to plan is planning to fail”, and I guess they will be needing to have a helluva fast speed reload if they don’t want to do any planning because they are damn sure going to do a lot of failing.

The ability to plan competently is different than just being able to “think”. Thinking helps you come up with ideas, but the ability to plan is really the ability to analyze what information you have, figure out what information you need and then start making decisions. Survival, whether just against nature, or with the added level of an aggressive adversary, is a thinking man’s game after all. Making the right decisions can guarantee success, while making the wrong decisions can almost guarantee failure and properly planning is how we put ourselves in the best position to make the best decisions.

Most would say our species has risen to the top because of our ability to utilize tools, and I’d agree, but it was really our ability to visualize and create that got us making and using tools in the first place. The right tool for the job is a great goal, but don’t get tunnel vision and only focus on the gear. As a wise man once said “There’s a heck of a lot more to low level armed conflict than tearing off into the bush with a $1500 weapon and cool-guy kit when your only training is shooting fast at stationary targets; the people that do that are speed bumps for the well trained, unassuming guy with a 30-30 and a solid plan.”

If you’ve made it to the end of this article I would really encourage you to start practicing the skills detailed in the articles I’ve linked to above, especially if you’ve never tried to write a Five Paragraph Order and actually take your skill development seriously. As always I’d be more than happy to help anywhere there is questions.


8 thoughts on “Opinion: SMEAC the Gear Queer

  1. Sage advice in your article.

    Quality training is much cheaper and kore efficient than discovery learning. Funny how a lot of folks don’t accept that hard fact in any aspect of life.

    Making a viable plan is a life skill as well as a tactical skill. After 30 years of using the troop leading procedures and MDMP professionally, those processes are just part of how I make decisions in life. It all starts with asking the question “what am I trying to accomplish in this situation.” MDMP principles applied in ordinary life.

    Good planning is indispensable, even when plans inevitably chance because conditions change. Branches and sequels help solve that problem, as do the sub-routines that we call battle drills: pre-planned response to likely contingency.

    Ironic how these basics apply to many areas of life.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you sir, I appreciate your thoughts. After 30 years I’m sure you could teach us all a lot.

      Quality training is an important part of developing a good skill set but it does require humbling oneself enough, and some people aren’t capable of that level of humility until they experience a hard lesson, “pain retains” we used to say in the Marines.


  2. Nailed it. Every time one of my buddies goes to a SUT course, I urge them to volunteer for leadership roles. You get so much more out of the training when you do.

    Most people think war is like a football game, but it’s more realistically described as a football game where the number of players you have is based on your performance in a chess game. The boring, thinking skills are every bit as important as the exciting physical ones.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Like Clausewitz said, War is simple, but the simple things are hard.. or something like that!

      It seems to me that people who can think through problems AND are decisive usually do better during intense training or other situations. Time management, multi-tasking WITH attention to detail AND follow through, the ability to delegate (which derives from whether they are a good leader or not) and the ability to think ahead and get prepared for the next “thing” all come into play. I’m sure we’ve both seen the guys who can pull this off and the guys who get buried because they can’t manage well. Usually they are the guys with stuff dangling off their packs because they didn’t have enough time to pack it properly. Thanks for the input and thanks for setting up the TDG’s, I’ll have my Raid 5PO done soon.


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