AAR for teaching recent civilian sector classes
I was asked recently to perhaps throw out some lessons learned on teaching the seminar/clinics I've been teaching because of the blog.
I'm going to discuss the lessons we've seen as instructors that future class participants should try and internalize before participating in a class. Most of these are lessons I've long assumed were common knowledge in the training world, but seem to occur regardless.
1) If you're going to take a firearms class, unless it is a basic introduction to gun handling, make sure you have zeroed your weapon and have enough rounds through it to ensure that it functions reliably. 100 or 200 rounds does NOT constitute a functions test/torture test. In a recent class, we had a gentleman who was running a M4 variant out of a major name's custom shop...well, trying to run it anyway. Every single round was a light firing pin strike. It didn't take too long (although longer than it should have) to figure out, the hammer spring was in backwards, not creating enough tension to drive the firing pin forward at sufficient velocity to ensure detonation of the primer. The owner did acknowledge that he hadn't even zeroed the rifle prior to the class.
2) Do not run reloads you bought off someone's gun show table, at least without thoroughly test firing the ammunition. Another example learned from guys showing up to classes and not having their guns running up to par. While I'm sure there are guys out there reloading for sale who are doing a good job of quality assurance and product testing, without knowing the individual personally, I would not trust my life to their ammunition. If I were forced to run someone else's reloads, I would damned sure test it before showing up to a class that demanded a functioning weapon to participate.
3) When asked before a class what load-bearing equipment I recommend, I am adamant about not insisting on one type of load-bearing set-up over another. Plate carrier, war-belt, ALICE set-up, etc. Nevertheless, what I HAVE seen is pretty much everyone who tries to run them realizes quickly how bad the old load-bearing vest that replaced the LC-1 ALICE system sucks (there is a reason it lasted only a couple of years before being replaced). The vest system is just not set up worth a shit. Most see us running war-belts and chest carriers and jump on the idea.
4) These classes are physical. It is considerably different from reading FM 7-8 when you get outside, strap on your battle rattle, and have to run the drills for real. 3-5 second rushes, low-crawling, high-crawling, and humping a ruck are physically taxing, exhausting endeavors. That DOESN'T mean you have to be a young, 20-something physical stud to perform them (although it sure doesn't hurt), but a modicum of preparatory physical conditioning will help you get more out of the class, since you can focus on the lesson, rather than on how bad your chest wants to explode. That having been said, do not be afraid to take a class, just because you think you're too old or too out of shape. For one, you will see where you need improvement, and second, even if you decide you are too old, or too far gone to be of any use in a fight, you will still have the knowledge to pass on to others.
5) Finally, least important possibly, overall, but nevertheless, don't be "Tactical Timmy." When an instructor shows up to try and teach you something of value, there will presumably, be aspects of the information that you've read about. That's cool. In fact, it can even be helpful. You may have seen some of the information in other classes. That can be helpful too. However, if you feel the need to interrupt the instructor to tell him, or the class, the information he is getting ready to teach, it's not helpful. I can generally overlook it occasionally, but it is detrimental when the rest of the class is being distracted by the interruptions. If you think you are "testing" the instructor, you're not. Either we know our material, or we don't, and I don't know many instructors who will try and teach a class on information they don't know. If we know the material, you trying to fluster us is more obnoxious than anything. If your instructor is qualified to teach combat marksmanship, small-unit tactics, or other small-unit tactical information, he's probably not going to get real flustered by you tossing out interruptions.
Lest someone mistake the above, do not misunderstand me. We've enjoyed the interactions with all class participants. The levels of motivation displayed by even the most inexperienced has been encouraging. It is refreshing to see and know that there are fellow Americans out there who take their preparations seriously enough to actually learn and practice and hopefully perfect their small-unit tactical knowledge to protect their families and communities.
From men in their 60s running buddy team bounds and react-to-contact drills, to computer programmers whose previous ideas of physical exertion is playing Call-of-Duty on the video games, running close-quarters marksmanship drills and practicing combatives, the dedication demonstrated during classes is amazing.
We've run classes in pouring down freezing rain, snow, and sweltering heat in the last couple of months, and while I've seen guys so miserably cold they couldn't stop shivering (we DO monitor for onset of cold-weather casualties), we've only had one man have to quit in the middle of a class, due to blowing out his knee during dynamic movement drills (wear your kneepads guys, and don't be afraid to slow the fuck down to avoid getting hurt).
In closing, folks, whether you ask us to come train you, or you seek out training elsewhere, get training. Learn to run your guns in an expert manner, practice your individual critical skills tasks and common tasks skills and battle drills to mastery. Learn what you need to learn and practice it until you master it.