2 Man Tactics CQB with Talon Defense
On a warm August weekend, a few weeks after completing his Active Killer Resolution course, I once again joined Chase Jenkins of Talon Defense in Calera, AL for some training. This time, I loaded up with Cy N. and we flew to Calera to cut down on travel time. This course was to focus on the movement and tactics between partners within a structure in a CQB environment.
Per the website, the course description is as follows:
Course will focus on working as a two man team during weapons manipulations, communication and movement. Teams will work in close proximity to each other during live fire range drills while incorporating safe tactics. Teams will learn to communicate efficiently, move safely and tactically and shoot effectively together. The course incorporates live fire range drills and force on force scenarios.
Day 1: Flat Range
The first day started out as one would expect with Chase- a safety briefing, medical plan, and outline for the training course. This course had 6 people in it, 5 of whom have trained with Chase in multiple classes. The exception was Cy, who had not previously trained with Chase, but has trained extensively with me and has taken similar courses such as the Killhouse course from Matt Graham. Because of the smaller roster which consisted of very competent shooters, Chase spent a little less time on his safety briefing than he usually does simply because we had all heard it numerous times. Note that this is not to infer that he omitted the safety briefing, as he thoroughly emphasized the importance of finger and muzzle discipline for a course where we would inevitably be working guns very close to one another.
From our safety briefing, Chase began talking about the principles and concepts that we would apply in almost every scenario for CQB. "Every angle is either a T, and L, or a 4 way (+). Understanding this will allow you to problem solve your way through a structure as opposed to trying to memorize a solution for each of the countless problems that you'll face." We spent some time in the classroom going through center-fed rooms vs. corner-fed rooms, obstructions, etc. as would be expected.
From this point we went out to the range and proceeded in usual fashion for a Talon Defense class. If you've read previous AAR's here, you'll know that means we started off cold with a "one shot showdown" between us and a partner. From holster, at about 5 yards, we would wait for Chase's signal and then both draw and place one shot in the designated target area. Fastest hit within that area wins... A little way to add a little pressure to the beginning of the class.
From there we went through some of the similar weapons manipulation drills that we usually go through, though we spent noticeably less time during this phase than in some other classes. Again, having a smaller group whose proficiency was already familiar to Chase, he skipped some of the instruction regarding reloads and malfunction correction as it was clear that all participants were comfortable with these techniques.
As we progressed into some of the more demanding aspects of day 1, we worked in increasing amounts of positional work and weapon orientation. The positional work that was stressed was primarily from either a standing or kneeling position, which would make more sense a little later in the day. The orientations that we worked on were both a holster index as well as a temple index as methods to use while moving around each other and our partners. Later in the day when we began working with the carbines, we worked on both a high and low ready position as well as a muzzle up and compact low orientation position. The difference being that "ready positions" are geared more toward a fighting position while orientation positions are geared more for mobility and movement around each other. Being as we were about to start working in some very confined spaces, this became incredibly important to prevent us from muzzling ourselves or anyone else. For this reason, quite a bit of time was allocated to drills where one partner would face away from the other from a distance of about 5 yards. At the sound of gun fire, we would turn and identify the location and physical position of our partner. Using a proper orientation position, we would then move to our partner and assume the opposite position from what they were utilizing. Example: if our partner was low kneeling around cover, we could go high and engage the target they were engaging from a standing position. While these drills consumed a large part of the day, their importance could never be overstated as it sets the standard for safely and effectively manuevering around each other.
Unlike many classes that I've taken, Chase places additional emphasis on behavioral compliance. For instance, he doesn't want us to try to change the way we walk in order to try to place a "correct foot" forward when turning to face a threat. If we've been walking since we were toddlers, there is no way that we're going to change that natural behavior with just a few days on the range. Instead, he works in tactics that are behaviorally compliant in order to maximize the result that we can derive from the actions that we naturally take when placed under stress. This is really helpful in not overwhelming people who might be newer to CQB with information that they could frankly do without. Instead of giving them a million things to mentally sort through, Chase stresses the importance of sub-consciously doing the things which we are able so that we can consciously concentrate on the problems at hand. This concept is always why I have consistently stressed that this level of course is not for beginners. Before taking a course of this level, you should be able to safely and effectively run your gun at a sub-conscious level. In other words, if you're having to think through a reload then you need to work on manipulations prior to tackling a course like this as you will quickly be overwhelmed. Chase uses that same mentality for people that are in the class and the tasks they will need to perform during this course. Instead of changing the way that we walk or turn when walking, Chase would simply instruct us to visually identify the area we needed to go to, and then go to it in such a way that we could safely maneuver our gun into the fight.
We worked on several other drills to teach coordinated cover fire while our partner is moving, clear and concise communication, and similar 2 man tactics to take us through the end of the day. As always with Chase's training- you better bring an open mind and thick skin as the training can be physically demanding and the friendly jabs will keep everyone laughing.
Day 1 was worth the price of admission even if the second day never came to pass.
Day 2: Angles Are Ever-Present and Always Changing
Day 2 lead us almost immediately into the shoot house for dry runs after a thorough safety briefing about the importance of buddy-checking, self-checking, and triple-checking for any live ammunition or firearms. After we were satisfied that no live firearms, ammo, or mags were with any of the people in the shoothouse, we went over for a segment of instruction in dealing with the issues at hand. Chase used me to assist in showing some of the ways that we could problem solve the angles using similar positions and techniques that we had drilled the day before. You could all but see the light bulbs turning on in the eyes of the participants where they would "get it" how a technique from the previous day fit perfectly into the problem solving of various angles. This section of the course lasted for about two hours, and honestly- I'd pay for a week long course of just this type of instruction if it were offered. Chase not only explains how we perform certain techniques- but also why they are performed in that manner as well. The context that he provides really helps to understand the concepts as opposed to the "Because this is how I said to do it" approach that some instructors in this industry use to handle various questions.
An example of this- Chase sometimes had the first man in the room taking a different wall than I instinctively wanted to take after having multiple training courses dealing specifically with CQB. I screwed it up multiple times during the dry runs, and finally I told Chase that I just didn't get it. "Why would I move in that direction when I could move in this direction?" To help a slow learner like me understand the point, he had me sit inside the room in the most advantageous corner for me (the bad guy) and he entered the room using "my route" with a partner. He then did the exact same thing but used "his route" and let me see the difference. It was a stark and noticeable difference, and illustrated perfectly why his method made more sense as it got two guns in the fight significantly faster than the route I was taking. If we can take away one "ah-ha" moment from a training- then it was well worth it... This was my "ah-ha" moment.
We continued to work through dry runs, two at a time, under the watchful eye of Chase. He would question, make us question, and demonstrate any techniques or tactics that were giving us trouble. Again- a completely dry-fire course of instruction would have been just fine with me as this level of instruction is crucial in understanding the concepts at hand. This portion took us to a very brief lunch break on Day 2.
After lunch we suited up for some initial simunition work in the house. The first couple of runs were not against live opposition, but rather with targets that we would have to determine were either threats or no-shoots. Each team worked through a few of these scenarios and received immediate, on-site feedback from Chase. After each group had gone, we did a group debrief in the classroom and talked about collective mistakes that were being made. As is true with every CQB class I go to, the largest problem was that each group was going too fast. Chase laughingly said, "Don't worry, that's about to work itself out."
We suited up for more runs but with live opposing players in the house, and each group went one at a time to work through the problems of the shoothouse. Each team worked through similarly staged scenarios and again received immediate feedback from Chase. After everyone had gone through each scenario, we went back to the classroom for debrief and discussion. While different groups faced different issues, there were some strong patterns of common problems for everyone. Chase would talk us through some potential solutions for the issues, and we'd get ready to go through another run.
Multiple trips through the shoothouse and then classroom took us through the end of day 2. The biggest take-away from everyone is that there is an entire world of tactics to explore and that we hadn't even seen the entire tip of the iceberg. We all left hungry for more information and sore from a few days of good training.
Conclusion: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
Per usual, my standard rules apply here. This section is my interpretation of the training and is provided for my record, the potential review and use of future students, and feedback to the instructor for what I might recommend they do differently or the exact same in future training. If you disagree with my interpretations, I would welcome you to provide your own in your AAR. I think writing reports from training can help everyone involved immensely, which is why I try to provide detailed reports from each training event.
I've written a lot of these sections about Chase because I have trained with him quite a bit. That should tell you all you need to know about this section, but I'll elaborate. I train with Chase because he is a wealth of knowledge and practical experience as well as hell of an instructor. He takes the time to explain why we do things the way we do them, and that there are a lot of ways to solve any problem. This was particularly true in this class. I've worked CQB with Chase in multiple classes for individuals, and so I was greatly looking forward to the opportunity to work it with a two man team. It didn't disappoint at all.
Furthermore, I've always harped on the importance of testing and validating your skills and TTP's (tactics, techniques, and procedures) in force-on-force training. If you're not working your skills against some form of living, breathing, thinking opposition- then how do you have any idea if it will really work? The sim-rounds hurt a little bit, yes. The UTM rounds from the carbines are a little worse- yes. But that's exactly what they're supposed to do... They add in a level of stress that you just can't get from the paper targets.
"Everyone wants to work the sim-guns until it's time to work the sim-guns."
As always- Chase hit a homerun with this class.
This is the section that always sucks to write because I don't want anyone to think that I'm being overly-critical about a training with which I was thoroughly satisfied. With that said, there is always something that could be done differently. The main "bad thing" that I would say about this course is the necessary evil that is present in virtually every CQB AAR that I write- the down time. There is no "fast way" to learn this set of skills. Therefore, each team has to take quite a bit of time with the instructor. If you're not the team that is currently up, then there can be a bit of down time in between runs. That's not just true for this CQB course or this instructor, but is something you'll see from virtually each AAR that I've written from multiple CQB courses.
Personally, I would also like to see a version of this course where we had less live fire and more time in the house. For instance, I would like to have had half of the flat range work on Day 1 and then a half-day of CQB instruction in the house with dry runs. Then on Day 2 we could continue the dry runs for the first half and then force-on-force during the second half. Granted- this is just a personal preference and might be in stark contrast with the opinions of other participants. Personally, I'm confident with my ability to run the gun as well as work on those perishable skills on my own. I want as much time as possible in the house when I have someone like Chase available to help me work through the issues presented there.
This section doesn't contain things that are necessarily "good" or "bad" but rather just things to consider for future students. Because I was able to fly over with Cy in a private plane, we were able to avoid I-65 completely. This was a very welcome change to most trips I take to Double Tap Training Grounds, as I-65 is inexplicably bad regarding traffic. That sounds like it's a non-issue, but trust me... That interstate sucks. Furthermore, the weather can be unbearable in the summer in Calera, but we were blessed with quite moderate weather during this trip. It was hot, we were sweating and tired, and we were sore- but it wasn't nearly as bad as some other courses I've taken here. No complaints about the weather, all things considered.
For this course, the main "ugly" thing to consider likely the skill level requirement to attend. First, you need to be somewhat physically fit. I'm no gym rat- but if you can't get yourself up from a kneeling position a few hundred times in an afternoon- then you might want to choose a different course. If you can't handle some heat and some movement without losing control of your muzzle- choose a different class. If you can't operate both your carbine and handgun at a truly sub-conscious level, then choose a different class. But if you satisfy all the above criteria, definitely check out this course.