Training Paradigms: Philosophy of Training and Acquiring Gear

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When I started training people, I resolved not to become just another guy who was obsessed with talking about my gear, because as I see it, gear is largely irrelevant. You can overcome lapses in gear with training, but you cannot overcome lapses in training with gear.

However, since the last Scout Course I’ve received a lot of requests for articles about how I set up my load-bearing kit and my pack. So, for once, I am going to break my rule and lay it out for you guys in a short 3-part series of articles. Before I do that, however, I feel it is necessary to put a few things in perspective before this turns into yet another loadout dump on the internet.

Paradigm: a philosophical or theoretical framework of any kind

In the tactical world, we all have a unique paradigm that affects how we view every form of tactical input. That paradigm is formed from a combination of many factors, but can be boiled down into what kind of tactical scenario you envision yourself partaking in. For some, this could be thwarting a mugging with a concealed handgun. Others anticipate defending a rural homestead with their family. And some are professional military members. Each one of these perspectives has a different kind of threat they are preparing for, and require different mindsets to prepare for those threats. This is what forms your “Training Paradigm.”

“Tactical Inputs” are events, experiences, or media consumed that conveys some form of tactical learning. This includes training classes, accounts of historical battles, or even a walk in the woods if you glean something tactically useful from the experience. A warrior’s mindset always searches out training value in every event. How you use that input, however, is directly influenced by your training paradigm.

It is entirely possible for two people to go experience the exact same tactical input and come away with entirely different ways to use that input. For example, a civilian and a US Marine go to a CQB class. The Marine finishes the class with a write-in-the-rain notebook full of notes to share with his squad so they can train to be better at CQB. The civilian leaves realizing that CQB is brutal and extremely risky, and goes home to convince the members of his training group that CQB should be avoided at all costs. One of these training paradigms is willing to accept a high level of risk and a certain amount of casualties, the other needs to be much more risk-averse because they cannot afford casualties.

The last thing that your training paradigm affects is your tactical outputs. “Tactical Outputs” are actions you take and decisions you make based on how you process tactical inputs. Decisions such as what classes to go to in the future, what kind of equipment you purchase, and how you set up your kit.

How to keep our training paradigm “pure”

Our training paradigms can change over time, and this isn’t necessarily bad. The problem arises when our training paradigm is too vague, and we haphazardly venture forth to become more “tactically proficient” without clearly defining what we are preparing ourselves for. When this happens, we tend to superimpose the tactical paradigm of others onto ourselves, and this does not always have the best outcome. A prime example of this is how many people seek to emulate special forces personalities on the internet, even though they will be doing nothing even remotely similar to what special forces does. This leads to harmful and sometimes useless tactical outputs.

Here are 3 steps you can take to keep yourself in check and make sure that you retain a “pure” training paradigm.

  • 1. Devote some time to thinking about what exactly your anticipated threat is. Grab a cigar and a notepad, sit on the porch, and spend some quality quiet time evaluating what exactly you are preparing to face. Write it down so you can reference it later.
  • 2. Create a Mission-Essential Task List (METL), which details exactly what kind of tactical skills you need to be victorious against the threat you detailed in step 1. Will you be patrolling? On foot or in vehicles? Will you be overt or covert? Will you need to operate at night? If you have a team dedicated to your mission, you should brainstorm this with them.
  • 3. After every form of tactical input, take a step back and re-read your anticipated threat and METL. Your AAR should point to how the training applies to your mission, and enables one or more of your mission-essential tasks.


Your training paradigm is important to consider when participating in training events and classes. It is also important to consider the training paradigm of the trainer when considering his opinions. If his paradigm lines up with yours, you will find value in what he has to say. If it doesn’t, you may still learn a few things, but you should make sure that what he says supports your set mission and METL.

All that said, my training paradigm is that of a light infantryman operating unsupported in guerrilla-style warfare against a large conventional force, and doing so without resupply for up to a week or two. My kit is set up to support that paradigm, so you should bear that in mind when reading my articles about gear. Don’t just copy what I do, analyze it to see if it makes sense for your mission first.

No matter what your training paradigm is, however, it will always include facing off with another living, thinking human.  The only way to get good at that is to practice it, which is why you should come to training events like my Team Leader II and Jäger Course.  Email me at to register.

Published by vonsteubentraining

Mike is the owner and chief instructor of Von Steuben Training & Consulting (VSTAC). A self-described “Tactical Scholar,” he spent 6 years in the Marine Corps as a radio operator and small-unit tactics instructor. He has dedicated his life to honing the tactical prowess of himself and his fellow patriots, guided by the wisdom of his commanding officer, Jesus Christ. He can be contacted via email at

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