I wanted to over up a short writeup of the Team Leader class that Mike offered on February 6th, 2021. Just like my previous review of the Brushbeater Scout Course, I want to preface it by saying that I have no formal training in this area, other than said Scout Course, so I don’t have the .gov background and training that many of you have, and I am mostly a blank slate as far as learning new information or skills in these areas. With that being said, I got quite a bit out of Mike’s course, and I do believe that he has been blessed with the skill and personality to make an excellent trainer. The course was a relatively short course, being a one-day class, but there was a lot of information in that day. Let’s talk about how the course went.
The course was scheduled for February 6th in Eastern NC, not too far from the New Bern area. It was held in a mixed coastal forest, on the edge of a coastal swamp, where we had the option of camping. I came down with a friend after work on the 5th, and we arrived around 10pm. I had planned to pitch a tent, but my friend brought his truck camper, so we ended up using that instead. The area would have been an excellent place to pitch a tent, as Mike and one of the other students did. Once we got to the campsite we all spent a little time around the campfire socializing and getting to know each other before retiring for the night.
On the 6th, we were scheduled to start at approximately 9AM in order to give the folks who were staying in local hotels time to get there. We all got up, got settled around the fire, and prepared to start the class. Originally, I believe there were supposed to be approximately 8-10 people in the class, but there ended up only being 4 of us once all was said and done. This was both a positive and a negative, which I’ll explain a little later.
Let’s start with the classroom side of the class.
We began by spending some time around the campfire with “classroom” instruction. We first started by going over the three main subjects that we would be covering, which were 1) How to organize a fire team 2) How to train a small unit and 3) Basic leadership traits
We first learned the different members who would be part of a fire team and what their roles would be. We spent some time on each one learning about why they would have those roles and the characteristics that you would prefer in those individuals- for example, if Billy Bob is completely oblivious to his surroundings, he probably isn’t the guy who needs to be on point. During this time, we also covered different types of communication that would be used with your team, and why each one is used in different scenarios. We also spent time covering basic fire team formations that are used, along with when, how, and why they would be used. Mike had some simple, effective training aids to help illustrate this for us.
After covering the organization of a fire team, we covered the makeup and organization of a rifle squad and how a squad leader would control individual teams. Next, we spent some time discussing special weapons that a team might have available, how/why/when they might be employed.
Once we had pretty well covered organization of a team, we went over aspects of training your team, including how to train by building up successive skills, tips for making training more realistic for your team, reinforcing team discipline, knowing your team’s capabilities and skill sets- both as a team and individually, and knowing your enemy’s capabilities.
The next thing on our classroom agenda was different types of drills you would run with your team, including action under ifre drills (which were the primary type of drills we ran in this class) patrolling training/drills, vehicle drills, and stalking drills.
The last classroom instruction that we went over were 11 principles of leadership, how they would apply to an individual leading a small team (or a large one for that matter) and why they are important. One of the expressions that Mike used that I have heard for years in my career as a high school teacher is “They don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care” and I believe that is especially applicable when we are talking about building, organizing, and leading a small team. If you expect someone to follow you voluntarily, they must know that you care about their well-being. Leadership training is an area that I have quite a bit of instruction in over the years (the vocational education field can actually provide some excellent leadership training opportunities, if you take the time to seek them out), and Mike did an excellent job of teaching this subject and expressing this subject.
Now that we have covered the classroom side of things, lets spend some time on the drills. The drills and classroom time were alternated throughout the day, but my notes don’t show when we switched back and forth, and I honestly can’t remember. I will say that I thought Mike did a good job of covering the textbook side of things, and then taking us to practice the application of it.
The first drills that we ran were simple action under fire drills in buddy pairs. We worked on learning to move and fire as a pair, and to communicate, both with our buddy and our team leader. We ran several iterations this way, with the other buddy pair watching us, and after each iteration we would group up and go ever what we did right and what we did wrong. I will say that I did a LOT wrong, but that list grew shorter as we practiced more, which is a perfect illustration of why we should all be practicing and training, regardless of our background. Once we were comfortable working in buddy pairs, we started moving as a fire team with Mike acting as team leader. From there, we started working with a student acting as a team leader and being given directions to pass on to the team, to eventually having a student act as a team leader who was being fed information on enemy activity and then having to decide how to react to that information. We repeated the drills multiple times, enough to get MUCH more comfortable running them, but no so much that we were burnt out and struggling to retain information.
We wrapped up our drills around 4 PM and broke camp to head to our respective homes. The plan had originally been to run drills with larger groups working together, but since our number was limited to 4 students, we were not able to do some of those drills. This was a negative in that we didn’t get to receive some training that we could have benefited from, BUT at the same time we were able to really focus on working as a fire team. I believe that if Mike ever decides to make this a 2- day class it would be great to have more students, but it was not a handicap in a one-day class like this, and may have actually been beneficial.
I’m sure there are many things I missed that I should have added, but I tried to give a good accounting of what we actually did in the class. Obviously, I don’t have all of the notes I took posted up here, as you really need to be physically in the class to get the full benefit, but I did want to give an accurate description. Now that that has been done, I want to give a few of my opinions, for what they are worth:
1. Mike conducted this class with NO ammo usage, live or blank. It would be awesome to be able to do this eventually with some OpFor and blanks, BUT with the dearth of ammo that we have today, I would say that this was an excellent way to conduct the class, and it may have let us focus even more on the leadership side of things without bringing in extra distractions.
2. This training was done in a small area. While in the real world we would probably be operating in a larger area, I think this was a good thing for a few reasons. First, we weren’t moving across huge expanses of land so we weren’t getting physically worn down as quickly, we got to run more drills, and we could really observe each other well. Second, it demonstrated that you don’t NEED large areas of land to train and work with your team.
3. This was a short class- start to finish, taking out time for lunch, we spent around 6 hours training. I’d love to attend a longer course in the future, but this was a good length for a one-day class with a group our size. I don’t feel shorted at all, nor was the amount of information overwhelming.
4. This course built really well on the things I learned in the (Brushbeater) scout course, and was an excellent complement to it. At the same time, I was the only one of the students who had taken the scout course, and the other guys had no trouble starting out or keeping up having not taken it. Mike did a good job getting them up to speed, without making things overly redundant from my perspective- in fact, it made a good refresher for me as well.
Overall, I would highly recommend taking this course once Mike gets his training schedule up and running. I left very satisfied with what I learned, as did my friend who attended with me. The content was thorough and well put together without being overwhelming to someone who is very green like myself or my friend. I look forward to seeing what course offerings Mike has in the future, and hopefully attending some more of his courses (as well as more Brushbeater courses) I’d recommend if you’re interested in getting some training, or setting up a class for your group, get in touch with Mike. He’s an excellent instructor, great patriot, and all-around great guy. On top of that, I imagine his training will get even better as he moves forward.