Greetings, Partisans! Checking back in and, once again, today’s post is another After Action Report about Mason-Dixon Tactical Institute’s Rural Buddy Team Essentials Course (“RBTEC“) that I just took this past weekend (November 6th and 7th). I’ve been doing a lot of different sorts of training and prepping, so I sincerely apologize for not having posted about fitness at all lately. I have a few fitness/health posts on ice, and after hunting season’s over, I expect to get back to fitness-related posts in a more dedicated fashion. But lately, it’s been busy as hell with the training and prepping, as I’m sure many of you have been getting into as well – out of sheer necessity, with all things considered.

Anyway, let’s get right into things. Unlike all the Brushbeater courses I took by myself (without local friends), I was actually fortunate enough to be able to bring two close local friends of mine down to the RBTEC. It’s the difference between a 5.5-hour ride to train down in rural West Virginia vs. a 10-hour ride down to North Carolina from Western NY/Northwest PA. The three of us actually arrived on Friday November 5th to do a pre-RBTEC module on Land Navigation with Mason-Dixon Tactical’s (and American Partisan’s own) JC Dodge himself. The hosting site, Echo Valley Training Center, is situated pretty remotely, and it took a bit of effort to find the place, but we still arrived on time and linked up shortly afterwards with JC and two gentlemen that had already completed the RBTEC previously, and would serve as OpFor for our class. My crew and I immediately set up our tents for the weekend, and got into the Land Navigation training with JC for the rest of the afternoon.

Just a quick note on the Echo Valley Training Center (“EVTC”): that place is really fucking sweet – 350 acres consisting of separate areas, each with its own distinct training theme – from square ranges to woods to 360-degree ranges that involve vehicle-based tactics, and there was even a proper obstacle course to boot. Bad ass! Plus, as you can see from the photo above, the fall scenery was just unbeatable in its natural beauty. We arrived at peak fall, so there were many colors on display in God’s country there. EVTC + three days of perfectly clear peak fall weather made for good morale and a superb training environment all-around, and that’s not even getting into the excellent quality of Mason-Dixon Tactical’s (“MDT”) RBTEC either (which I’ll detail below).

For the Land Nav, one guy from my group of three is an Army infantry vet, and had done some Land Nav in the Army, but it was a good while back, so we were all pretty new to the training. JC got us squared away with some Land Nav basics: understanding the MGRS coordinate system; basic compass use; shooting azimuths; reading topo maps with MGRS; and finding locations using maps and compass. Considering the vast amount of information composing the Land Nav skillset, we were barely able to scratch the surface in the short time we had that afternoon. We did the best we could with the time available; my crew and I did manage to squeeze in a few field exercises in the awesome EVTC woods around our campsite, and we acquired some very basic Land Nav chops. Unfortunately, the Land Nav lessons basically had to end once nightfall came, and early too, but the three of us learned enough from JC to practice some basics on our own, and we’re definitely hungry to practice and learn more as soon as possible. JC also did a follow-on Land Nav exercise with us the next day at lunch, which was good reinforcement.

By Friday evening, other participants for the RBTEC course had trickled in – one guy from North Carolina and a pair from Ohio, with a 7th participant slated to come the next day. We all sat around the fire that JC and his RBTEC “alumni” had prepared (and that we kept going nonstop until the end of the course – it got good and cold at times LOL), and hung out for a few hours that night. Hanging out after course hours has always been a very enjoyable part of any tactical training I’ve ever experienced; relaxing under the clear night sky last weekend and discussing personal stories, the deteriorating situation in our beloved USA, and training topics/gear definitely made for excellent camaraderie among our group of patriots. JC also briefed us about what all we’d be doing over the coming days, along with the necessary safety brief that accompanies any serious live-fire training. We all turned in by around 2130 or so, in preparation for the official start of the RBTEC at 0800 on Saturday November 6.

Saturday morning was another crisp, clear day – and pretty cold for starters, around 27 degrees. Participants started getting their gear together for the day’s training, which was scheduled to go from 0800 to around 2100, and was just packed with the Rural Buddy Team Essentials training modules, to be capped off that first day with night patrols after supper. The last participant arrived right around 0800 that morning, suited up, and we all got our training started.

The first thing JC started us on was an overview of the critical nature of being able to maneuver in the woods as a “Buddy Team” (“BT”), or in other words, a team of two. I liked this approach from the get-go, since it broke team tactics down to the smallest “group” level possible, and seemed like a very realistic and relevant approach to conducting small unit maneuvers, as many Partisans may also not have a crew of many people at all, or be able to maneuver with many people at any one time. Learning to maneuver at the Fire Team level is certainly important, but it also makes good sense to break maneuvering concepts down to a core Buddy Team as well – there are many potential applications of the BT, even within a larger team setting. JC showed us how to move both as an individual within the BT, using the Low Crawl, the High Crawl, and Bounding (“I’m up, he sees me, I’m down!”), together with moving in a harmonized fashion as a Buddy Team using the said movements. We also learned the different circumstances for which we’d use each movement, together with additional important fine details (for example, “offsetting” our position during bounding and how best to hold our rifles during crawling, among other seasoned, fine details). This first RBTEC segment was then followed by a field exercise in which each of us practiced each movement individually (each using the old “blue gun” AR-15), and then as actual BT’s using commands to one another at a very basic level, before moving on. This first lesson was really the core of the RBTEC, the foundation upon which most of the follow-on evolutions of the course were built.

After a short morning break, JC got into the concepts of Camouflage and Concealment, as well as the difference between the two. He talked about best practices for camouflaging, things to look out for in nature (like straight lines and other irregularities that might give your opponent or YOU away), and the importance of identifying locations for cover while patrolling through the woods. The segment on Camouflage and Concealment was filled with other small but critical details, for example, about the “strobing” effect of sun reflecting off watch faces; the dangers of silhouetting one’s self; choosing the best position to be in when concealing; best colors to use for different seasons; and so on. JC even got into which detergents to use for reducing the brightness of camo clothes and best textured paints for painting guns and gear; it was clear JC had done a lot of this type of training, and he was now sharing it with us.

Following lunch, the RBTEC training got further into the concept of team movement, specifically, Fire and Maneuver which, according to JC, is the name of the game for infantry tactics. He showed us how to best arrange ourselves distance- and position-wise for BT movement, together with how best to communicate with our buddy when maneuvering under fire: “direction – distance – description”, e.g. “12 O’CLOCK! 100 METERS! 2 RIFLEMEN! MOVE!!!!” or “MOVE!!” (BT Member 1) –> “MOVING!!!” (BT Member 2), etc. The Fire and Maneuver evolution added lots more “meat” to the basic structure we’d been taught in the earlier module on basic movement, and this evolution also covered actions to be taken upon enemy contact, such as bounding, providing suppressing fire while your buddy is moving, and what to do during a reload, along with accompanying verbal commands. Having covered all that and more, we all then kitted out, loaded our mags with blanks, and set off to do the next field exercise, which had us put our newly-acquired skills to use with the added thrill/stress of actual “shooting”. I have to say, at least from my own point of view, that the field exercises were a grim display of how CRUCIAL it is to practice the shit out of these tactical skills. Since this level of depth of maneuvering detail was pretty new to me (and really, all of us), I felt like a freakin’ fish out of water when we encountered the OpFor ambush during the field exercise. It was awkward and would probably have been pretty ugly in real life – chaotic, confusing, and constantly changing. My local dudes and I are definitely fixing to train this to death in the coming months, because smoothness is key, and can obviously be achieved through lots of repetitive drilling.

The Fire and Maneuver segment took us all the way to around supper time, as JC also threw some Fire Team action into the mix as an added and welcome bonus, with groups of 3’s and 4’s practicing these new skills. It seemed to me that everyone was really enjoying the skill-building and camaraderie of training together, and JC was always patient in explaining things in detail and answering participants’ questions, considering the fire hose-type gush of new skills and techniques that we were covering. Again, I’d reckon that most, if not all participants felt similarly – these infantry skills don’t just come naturally, and our field exercises were marked by one fuckup after another – all patiently pointed out and explained by JC through an immediate post-exercise “hot wash” AAR after each run. JC’s instant post-exercise “hot wash” was very helpful and important, since failure (and analyzing it) is one of the best teachers: getting it wrong, understanding what happened, fixing it to rights the next time around… and then training properly, again and again and again.

We all wound down a bit prior to supper by unloading our gear and relaxing a bit through supper; we ate and hung out some before suiting back up for the next RBTEC evolution on Night Patrolling. Building upon the Fire and Maneuver training we were taught earlier that day, JC gave an overview of the additional particularities/considerations of Night Patrolling – all very interesting, and critical too. I especially enjoyed JC’s coverage of “low-tech” Night Patrolling techniques, since I always orient myself to “worst-case scenario” situations as a way of life – in this case, not having NOD’s at my/our (the BT’s) disposal to begin with (many don’t have them at all), or worse yet, failure of technology at the time of need (count on that one, right?). JC gave each of us “cat eyes” tape (it basically glows in the dark once it’s charged with shining light – very nifty stuff, for sure) to affix to the back of our headgear, as this crucial piece of low-tech gear would enable a team to patrol at night in groups by staying within close enough range to see the cat eyes of the buddy/team member in front of them. We first did the Buddy Team version (some BT’s, like mine, did only cat eyes without NOD’s), as well as the Fire Team version of the Night Patrol, with the usual OpFor lying in ambush for the field exercise. A good few guys in our group had NOD’s, so we then finished off in a field exercise run that paired the high-tech NOD’s with the low-tech cat eyes altogether as a “heavy” Fire Team (a reasonably realistic scenario).

And… once again during the RBTEC Night Patrolling field exercise, the shit show ensued – I felt totally out of sorts with all the new elements of the Night Patrolling evolution, coming on top of all the rest of the day’s skill-building. Taking contact is a whole ‘nother ballgame at night when it’s dark, no question. I felt a bit dejected from how awkwardly everything always seemed to go during these field exercises, but not discouraged at all… my own field exercise experiences that night (and likely, everyone else’s, but I can’t speak for them) highlighted once again the vital necessity to TRAIN TRAIN TRAIN!!!! These skills need a lot of work, but I could also see how lots and lots of drilling (“drillers are killers”, right?) would (and will) make a really huge difference between being that fish out of water getting cut up by enemy action on the one hand, and slicing n’ dicing as a deadly, well-oiled machine (either as a BT or a Fire Team) on the other hand. I’m definitely chomping at the bit to train these skills with my local guys, as this stuff is really the core essence of what we may actually be doing soon enough in real life; these Fire and Maneuver skills demand constant repetition for mastery. At least I know what to do, and also what NOT to do, at a basic level. More training with my local guys will reveal more fine details, I’m sure.

Needless to say, by the end of the day on Saturday (around 2100), everyone was pretty whipped. We’d been hammering the skills relentlessly literally all day Saturday, and were good and ready to rack out for the night. We all turned in by around 2200, and got an extra hour of sleep time in there because of the end of (useless, dumb-as-fuck) “Daylight Savings Time”. Saturday night was another cold, crisp night, and everyone was ready for action on Sunday morning November 7, which was the day we’d finally go live with the training lanes, putting together the main core BT skills we’d been taught the day before, together with coverage of a few other separate but important evolutions that JC had in store for us. The weekend was just jam-packed with small unit maneuvering skills, indeed!

Sunday morning was another beautiful fall morning in the hills of West Virginia, and we were all fired up to get into some live fire, as well as get into the other modules of the day, specifically, Close-Quarters Battle (CQB) and Crossing Danger Areas. JC once again delivered the goods when he taught us CQB, as it applies to TWO man teams. After all, we’re not a stack of 15 or 20 SWAT team members doing a raid, and so it was interesting to approach super-dangerous CQB from the perspective of a very, very small team. We even covered extreme conditions which might necessitate BT CQB in real life (which is mostly to be avoided), which was a very illuminating discussion. The CQB training took place at one of EVTC’s CQB training areas (they really are very well equipped there), and we all learned a lot in that particular module, which took up most of the early morning. As usual, JC was very comfortable in his role as the trainer – humorous and easygoing, but very serious about delivering his experience-based knowledge and keeping things safe.

After covering and practicing CQB in some detail, we finally got into the culminating RBTEC event – the Fire and Maneuver live-fire training lane, located around 500 meters away from the campsite in a more low-lying area that was set up for us ahead of time. The Buddy Team training lane consisted of two roughly 50m winding trails – one for each BT member to fire and maneuver on, as well as two cardboard man-targets in front of us, which were covered by brush, as well as painted tan and also striped, in order to make them harder to see. Our task in this field exercise was to successfully maneuver as a BT while “under fire” from an OpFor ambush 50m to the front. We had to call out “direction – distance – description”, and take the fight to the enemy to our front, with one BT member maneuvering/moving, while the other BT member laid down suppressing fire. Some guys even threw blanks into their loaded mags to simulate malfunctions while under fire. No longer using just blanks (other than for malfunction drills), this training module was pretty intense – very loud and tough to hear our buddies while throwing rounds down range, and that wasn’t even with us really being fired upon! Maneuvering properly thru the training lane was also very physically demanding, despite being a mere 50 meters in length. JC even had us conduct a tactical retreat BACK DOWN the same 50m training lane in order to simulate a situation of breaking contact due to overwhelming firepower, which added to the realism – we didn’t just turn and run, of course. And I’m pleased to say that by this advanced point of the RBTEC course, after watching other participants during the final field exercise – that is, after having had a modest amount of repetition and having been able to digest the information a bit better two days in – we all seemed to be doing a better job of things, or at least that’s how I felt about my own Fire and Maneuver chops. It was damn exciting to roll all the skills we learned into a single effort, and to see others rip shit up too! All the while, JC and his super-cool assistants (the OpFor role players) kept emphasizing safety, safety, safety, which made for an incident-free and really outstanding training event.

After the exhilaration of the live-fire module for Fire and Maneuver, we then headed back up to the campsite, packed our stuff, and capped the RBTEC off with the final module of the course, which covered how to cross danger areas, both as BT’s and even as Fire Teams. Very interesting stuff, as the issue of crossing danger areas had actually come up in my own training efforts with my local bro’s in our efforts over the summer. I was really glad to learn the techniques taught by JC in a formal, structured fashion, instead of just winging it as my bro’s and I had done previously; JC conveyed this module’s information to us in a very simple, understandable, and actionable format that we could all take back to our people and train with very readily. As the Danger Crossing module was the last one of the course, we then concluded with a good course AAR, shook hands, packed the remainder of our gear, and headed our own separate ways back home, thus bringing an end to a weekend packed with simple yet indispensable small unit tactical skills, as taught by Mason-Dixon Tactical Institute/JC Dodge.

I imagine that the importance of the skills taught in the RBTEC speaks for itself, as I hopefully related to readers with this AAR post. Again, JC Dodge was an excellent, knowledgeable, and patient instructor; he was able to answer all of our questions by tapping into his DECADES of experience in both teaching and DOING these (and many other) skills during his life. I’d like to add a personal observation here too: after having taken Brushbeater’s excellent Scout course back in March of this year, and then taking the RBTEC just this weekend, I would say that the two courses complement each other very seamlessly, with some overlaps. More specifically, Brushbeater’s Scout course provides a more wide-ranging overview of patrolling skills and concepts, and also gets into small unit tactics and shooting in some level of fine detail as is possible in the 3-day period of that course (time is always short, after all) on the one hand; Mason-Dixon Tactical’s RBTEC, on the other hand, is a focused look at the maneuvering specifics of small unit tactics, right down to the level of the two-man Buddy Team. In my very humble opinion as a civilian, I’d say that American Partisans really ought to do BOTH, in order to get the Scout course’s broad view of patrolling and woods movement, and then combine that with RBTEC’s  more detailed specifics on exactly how to physically maneuver when enemy contact is encountered. Again, just my two cents. In conclusion, Partisans should get out there and train with JC Dodge/Mason-Dixon Tactical Institute to add yet more skills and finer details to their array of tactical capabilities – get the training whilst you can, brothers! Who even knows how long it will be “legal”…

Thanks for reading, Partisans! Again, I’m fixing to get back into fitness posts in the coming weeks, so please stay tuned. Also, thanks to all the Veterans out there who took the Oath and still abide by it, as well as a Happy Birthday to the United States Marine Corps!