Who: Guerrilla Approach - Aaron Barruga
What: High Threat Environment: Vehicle Tactics
When: November 19th and 20th 2016
Where: Lockport, IL
Who was there: This was a closed, LE-only course. I think there were 16 students enrolled ranging from Chicago SWAT, Chicago PD with a few officers from down state. There were two from Pennsylvania and one guy from Atlantic City, NJ. I would say most guys had either a military background, SWAT, or both or at the very least had some tactical experience/interest. About 75% ran the course with plate carriers or light vests while a few ran in standard patrol type kit. It sounded like most of the guys there payed out of their own pocket to be there.
Conditions: There was a whole lot of suck to embrace. Winter decided to show up in IL late Friday night. We had conditions in the low 30's with constant wind speeds in the mid-high 20 mph and gusts in the 30's on Saturday. Sunday was a little better; less wind but roughly the same temps. There were apparently some issues with scheduling and ranges, but the hosts got it worked out. We had 4 vehicles to play with: 2 mid size cars, a minivan, and an SUV. Pushing those around kept the blood flowing.
About me: I always like it when I know the context of who is writing the AAR. I have trained with Vickers, Hackathorn, Pat McNamara, Ernest Langdon, Centermass, Snipercraft, FBI, NTOA, and so on. I've been LE for almost a decade now and SWAT almost all that time. I love this kind of shit, and ever since I read some of Aaron's entries on Soldier Systems, I liked the philosophies and mindset Aaron put forth.
Thoughts on the Instructor: I was excited to work with Aaron and he did not disappoint. He's a big believer of dispelling myth and trimming away a lot of the flashy, crap that is conceived on the flat, theoretical range that has no place in actual combat. I thought he did an excellent job of relating his experience in SF and relating those tactics to LE and keeping things in context. One thing I thought was refreshing was his teaching style. So many instructors preach having to do something a specific way; it's frustrating as hell. Aaron would put out a ton of info in that we would look at one specific movement or position and give you the do-not's and why. Then he would give you some do's and explain the pro's and con of each "do" and the best/worst time to employ said methods. It's a ton of info and you had to be on your toes (which were probably frozen).
About the course: Instruction was from approximately 1100-1800 on the first day and 11:30 to 1900 the second day to accommodate day/night portions on both days. The course description states: "this is an advanced course for experienced marksmen" and it's no lie given the weapon handling and maneuvering required in some of the vehicle confines. Besides that, there weren't many times besides the diagnostics that accurate fire was paramount. Most shots were taken inside 25y so the order of the day was fast/aggressive hits on target. The first day featured a few different "lab" sessions to realize the limitations of ammunition vs. the vehicle in the context of how the vehicle components could protect us and how said parts (mostly the windshield) would be affected. We then broke it down and worked some vehicle dismounts and examined the most efficient ways to deploy carbines while still in the vehicle. The second day was mostly piecing together the smaller bits of the first day and working some bounding overwatch. The finale were two different, blind, team-based scenarios.
Critiques: I would say we used paper 2/3 of the time and steel about 1/3. Given the speed and requirements of the course it was not efficient to be constantly taping/replacing targets so unless you shot early in an evolution, you had to call your own shots. At least with the steel, we got instant feedback. I did not have an issue with this, but IF a person was not overly dialed in on say shooting with their rifle canted/"junkyard prone" for example, the steel tells the tale while the paper does not. However, I took this course (like most training should be) as a "teach a man to fish" so that's not a big factor. There was mention that in the future the course may include a Simms/Force on Force scenario which would really make things interesting.
Conclusion: In all, I thought it was a great course and very relevant to what's going on to day (especially since I would later learn that 3 officers in across the country were ambushed in their cars this weekend). Information was presented logically and in the crawl-walk-run fashion. And I have to say (and others in class agreed) the scenarios were extremely effective in pushing a lot of factors on the students (darkness, confusion, unknown threats, etc.). Training with Aaron was an awesome experience. His outlook on training is more refreshing and different from some of the more seasoned or big-name training veterans that go through the motions.
Notes on my kit: I ran most of the class in my SWAT/deployment kit and carried my Colt fitted with a 1.1-4x20mm S&B Short Dot since it's the closest thing I have to a close-quarter AR15 at this point. I ran my VP9 as my sidearm. Most of the guys had pretty good kit; I saw more than a few BCM KMR rails and some Aimpoint Micro's. One thing Aaron did do at the beginning of class was hand out big rubber bands to fold everyone's sling down for vehicle-mount. I had just recently taken off the Blue Force Gear sleeve on a few of my guns so I needed the band. One thing I noticed with the Vicker's BFG sling is all the damn buckles leave a lot of snag hazards that will get caught no matter how you fold. The BFG sleeves are back on.