Recondo After Action Review III

Student B, May 2019

Early this May, 2019, I attended InSight’s first RECONDO class/event. There are two schools of thought from which one may learn about use of force, the military and police. My 30 some years as a civilian and police trainer has largely dictated the doctrine that I learned and have taught. It has also shaped most of what I do in a court room as an expert witness on use of force. I only mention the forgoing as an indication of what my background has been.

For one who has not had a military background, I found RECONDO to be one of the most interesting and rewarding “classes” that I have attended, and I have attended a lot of training, including some of InSight’s offerings a number of years ago. Having just retired from 38 years as a Firefighter/paramedic and 30 years as a civilian/police firearms/use of force trainer I also was pleasantly surprised at the camaraderie engendered at RECONDO due to the shared mission goals we all had in accomplishing the class.

The same great, experienced cadre of military instructors that Greg brings with him to InSights training was expected by me but in this case exceeded my expectations. Every effort was made to make this as much of a “real world” experience as one can. I have only experienced that sense of camaraderie before in my real world job in actual life-threatening circumstances with my crews. To accomplish a like feeling with a bunch of guys who have never met, in a simulated environment, is remarkable, in my opinion.

There is much that can be taken from this training and I highly recommend it to anyone who takes their training/education seriously. I know that InSights will build upon this successful endeavor. Thanks, Greg, and to your cadre of fellow instructors!

Recondo After Action Review II

Student A, September 2019

In May (2019) I attended InSights Recondo school. I brought a good friend I knew would be a good fit. He was nervous he would be in over his head, having had little tactical firearms training beforehand. I knew he had the physical and mental abilities, and more importantly the will. He did great and had a very good experience. I had a very good experience as well.

The school was fast-paced with very little down-time. For 4 days we drilled during all daylight hours and conducted 2 missions each night. 3 hours is the longest uninterrupted sleep we experienced. Our instructors consisted of special forces and Ranger combat veterans, military intelligence officers, and a special forces combat instructor. Our curriculum was described by our lead instructor as “Ranger and Recon-Commando patrol school with all the administrative non-combat stuff taken out”. At the end of the class a member of the support team, a USMC combat vet remarked “I’m jealous. These guys were taught more combat skills in 4 days than I was taught in the full Marine Infantry school.”

A separate group of veterans had been recruited to play the part of an enemy force. They had established themselves in the area prior to our arrival and became the targets of our reconnaissance efforts. Both Recondo students and those playing enemy forces utilized rifles and blank ammunition. I expended approximately 230 rounds of live ammunition during live-fire exercises and 500 rounds of blanks during engagements with enemy-actors. For those who have participated in typical pistol and carbine classes this may seem like a light round-count but in this context it is not. the blank ammo is not expended on a static range against cardboard targets. It is expended in firefights against targets that are moving and shooting back.

We began by learning basic patrol formations, signals, and tactics. Small teams under the supervision of cadre drilled throughout daylight hours. We progressed through reconnaissance, surveillance, and methods of breaking contact with the enemy. At this point we began receiving orders to conduct missions against “confidence targets” – easy missions where you probably won’t get killed – missions that give the team confidence to do harder missions. The first missions were recon patrols. The school was initially broken into 6 teams. We patrolled the different grid sectors of our area of operation (about 4 square miles of mountainous terrain with 2 streams, some dirt road, heavy timber, and many ridges and ravines. Intel gathered by patrols was pieced together and a cohesive picture of terrain, enemy numbers, placement, resources, and patterns of activity began to fall into place.

The intelligence gathered through our recon patrols was analyzed by our command and intel component (students and instructors who were there for that purpose) and was used to plan assault missions. Significant instructional time was spent on mission planning and team leadership. From recon and breaking contact we progressed to learning how and when to “push-through” enemy contact, ambush techniques including capture/recovery of personnel, and finally raids. Raids were not simply assaults on a fixed enemy position, but were well planned, coordinated multi-team efforts with specific objectives. Each team member was assigned specific responsibilities. Objectives varied by mission to include elimination of enemy personnel, capture or destruction of enemy resources and equipment, and intelligence gathering.

Each day also included group instructional time where our head instructor and cadre lead group Q&A, critiqued performance, and shared meaningful wisdom on a breadth of subjects related to combat, teamwork, leadership, and the virtues of honorable men. This time alone was worth the cost of admission.

When daylight instruction and drilling was completed each day, students were re-shuffled into new teams, tasked with implementing team leadership structure and then given mission orders. The regular re-shuffling of teams and command structure required students to learn to quickly reestablish team standard operating procedures and afforded everyone opportunities to experience leadership roles. At this point cadre took a passive roll, leaving the planning, preparation, and and mission execution to the students. When asked, cadre provided consultation during mission planning, but faded into the shadows to silently observe as teams set out. Missions were conducted during a new-moon without artificial illumination (no white light, no green/red, no night-vision). These “I can’t see my hand in front of my face” zero-light missions covering miles of rugged timbered terrain were intimidating in the beginning, but we adapted to the conditions and learned how to work together to get it done. Upon returning to camp cadre would reappear to provide a critical analysis of the team’s performance. I received some of the most valued instruction during these debriefs.

Night missions grew in both duration and complexity. After the routine and patterns of an enemy patrol were established, it was ambushed and eliminated. Another entailed the ambush of an enemy officer’s security detail and live abduction of this high-value target, who was returned to our base for interrogation while evading a quick reaction force. Interrogation (requiring translator) was conducted by Intel-track students under the supervision of their cadre. Patrol-track students were permitted to observe the interrogation and the process of parsing out useful intel from the responses of an uncooperative prisoner. Resulting intel was then used to plan missions that followed. The smaller teams were incrementally consolidated into larger teams as missions moved to assaults of larger scale. As patrol and assault forces grew in number our cadre taught proper command structure permitting leadership to scale as teams consolidated and grew in size.

During daylight training, cadre provided holistic leadership. They taught the technical aspects of patrolling, but in addition to this they took every opportunity to guide us in learning from mistakes, teaching strategy as well as tactics, and motivating us with skillful mental coaching. At chow time we ate like kings and reveled. We were exhausted but morale was always high.

Our final night mission was a simultaneously coordinated raid on two enemy camps. Each of the two raids was conducted by an assault force of approximately 16 fighters made up of 2 teams of 8 with an appropriate command structure. This coordinated strike maintained the element of surprise and denied either camp the ability to provide a quick reaction force to the other. For this final mission I was the patrol leader of my combined team. We received our orders in the evening, planned the mission and sent a 4-man recon patrol at 11pm. We then set out as a full team at 2:30am in order to strike the target at 5am. This is the InSights Recondo experience.

This report would be incomplete without addressing the spirit of the InSights Recondo school. I have been privileged to receive instruction from many great teachers and have formed friendships with many of them and my classmates. None of these experiences compare to the depth of instruction and camaraderie I received in InSights Recondo school. Cadre taught with passion and expressed openly why they felt the need to teach these skills to patriotic Americans. We talked at length of our love and commitment to our nation. We studied the histories of foreign and domestic patriot partisan forces of past conflicts and discussed the ugly realities of war. We contemplated the future circumstances that might require good men to step forward and utilize the skills we were there to learn. InSights Recondo school is not a weekend fantasy camp. It takes people with the right mindset and places them on the path to becoming capable asymmetrical war fighters.

Recondo After Action Review I

Huginn’s Report
12 May 2019

A week ago I was a student in the 4-day RECONDO course, put together by Greg, and run by him and a cadre of instructors, all with Ranger, SF, Force Recon, JTAC, and similar backgrounds. It was a fully immersive 4-day weekend: no down time. Students bunked, ate, trained, and patrolled together, around the clock, for the duration. It’s incredible the camaraderie that can develop between a few dozen strangers in a short time in those conditions.

As you’d expect from Greg, the training started with basics and layered the complexity in, piece by piece. We learned basic small team and squad movement formations appropriate for various types of terrain and visibility during the first training session. Then after a quick lunch we got an intel brief that enemy activity was suspected in certain map grid squares, and we were sent out on LRRP as 4-man teams, to scout those squares and report back. We were immediately putting into practice the training we had just received.

The terrain was hilly, rocky in places, with quite a bit of tree cover in many places, but not much underbrush. There were some open areas with long sight lines to adjacent hills and the creek beds below. Up above everything plateaued and eventually the trees gave way to surrounding grassland. Plenty of oak and pine, with large crunchy pinecones and bone-dry deadfall on the floor. Creek beds, often dry, lined with rough volcanic rock, marked the low points between hills.

During the daytime, you could find good footing that was pretty quiet. My team did OK (compared to some others) on noise discipline on that first daytime patrol. We got to our recon objective, observed what we could, and got back to camp while there was still good light, reporting our findings to the TOC operators. They were collecting intel from all the LRRP teams coming back, and assembling a cohesive intel picture to inform the next missions. After some brief rest and some chow, we got another intel brief with more specifics and were all sent back out, right around sunset, I think.

Hilly, rocky terrain with some obstacles is one thing when you can see it. When there’s no moon, and tree cover filtering the starlight, that changes things.

Formations had to shrink to just about touching distance. One pace away you could tell your teammate was the slightly different color black shape in front of you. Beyond that, he was completely gone except for sound. The way you’re accustomed to walking when you can see doesn’t work at all when you can’t. And on the slope of a hill, sometimes with loose rocks and fallen logs, walking the wrong way in the pitch black can get you hurt. I have a few bruises and cuts as proof. (First night patrol, me as lead, I stumbled in the pitch black while leading my team on exfil, and ended up butt-stroking myself in the face. Kept all my teeth, but got cut and bled pretty good for a while. Learning achieved! On the plus side I didn’t yell out when it happened.)

Your steps need to contract to essentially heel-toe-heel-toe, and you need to slow way down. If you do it right, you’re moving slowly and quietly, but steadily in the direction you intend, while keeping track of your guys ahead and behind.

First night patrol was hairy, and in retrospect we probably picked the most difficult exfil route when returning to camp from our recon objective. My team was last to return, probably a couple hours later than most of the others, which meant we only got a few hours sleep before our next pre-dawn recon mission. That sucked, but oh well. Nothing to be done but sleep fast and get all you can before heading out, and try to do better on the next night patrol. Subsequent night missions went more smoothly, but were still challenging. Teams at times struggled with navigation, noise discipline, and control. At least on one occasion a team wandered apart by accident, and struggled to regroup.

After a few recon missions, we were getting a better feel for the terrain and a decent picture of enemy locations, numbers, equipment, weapons, and activities. Our instructor cadre, who had been walking with us on the recon missions, began instructing us on battle drills: react to contact and break contact. Continued instruction covered harassing and destructive ambushes, EPW (enemy prisoner of war) search and capture, and raids. These more complicated operations were combined with movement and control drills for larger squads, starting at 4-man, then 8, then eventually 12. As we got accustomed to moving with larger squads composed of smaller elements, and the different layers of leadership for those, we added the contact drills back in, as the increased squad size adds a lot of confusion when there’s gunfire, and that confusion can be costly.

Every mission started with a Warning Order from the OIC or TOC and required an Operations Order from each team leader, presented to one of the instructor cadre for review and discussion. Team and platoon leadership rotated throughout the course. Everyone had plenty of opportunity to lead. We used topo and satellite maps, as well as a terrain model the TOC guys built, to aid our mission planning. We were conducting 2-3 ops per day. When we weren’t out on missions, we were eating, napping, or getting briefed and prepped for then next mission. Early missions were all recon (6x 4-man teams) to build the intel picture. Midway through we did a VIP escort ambush and did EPW capture (3x 8-man teams), taking the prisoner back to camp for interrogation. With the additional intel he provided, we planned and conducted harassing ambushes and later simultaneous, synchronized raids (2x 12-man teams) on both enemy camps.

Throughout the weekend, our instructors pushed us to improve, and (from my POV anyway) pushed us just the right amount. I’ve done some hard work in my life, most notably commercial sockeye fishing in Bristol Bay. Parts of this weekend reminded me of that, because I was exhausted, scraped up, bruised, and bloody but the job wasn’t done yet and I had my team counting on me. You just keep going, and do your best to keep your team’s mission priorities in mind.

My main struggle was fitness related, specifically leg endurance. My tasks were made much harder because of that struggle, and it detracted from my ability to focus mentally, which of course compromised my team to some extent. I’m proud to say that even though I slowed down, I didn’t quit. There were guys in worse shape than I, and nobody quit. I think for a lot of people it was a serious gut check.

On the final day we did a couple very controlled live fire drills against cardboard enemies as 12-man squads. React to contact + break contact (bounding to the rear), then a destructive ambush + react to secondary contact beyond the objective. A 12-rifle ambush sounds as awesome as you’d imagine. ~350 rds going down range in about 8 seconds. Probably sounds better, actually.

Hopefully my glowing description above motivates some of you to join in the fun next time. Pro tip: make sure your stair workout is solid.

A Cooper Classic: Principles of Personal Defense

With 2015 well underway, and those flimsy New Year’s resolutions underwater, here’s an easy project. Tune up your mindset and increase your awareness. And without breaking a sweat you will increase your personal safety.

A great book to read about this is Jeff Cooper’s Principles of Personal Defense. First published in 1972, and reprinted a couple times since then, it is a self defense classic. In short, he explains seven qualities that you should cultivate:

  • Alertness: Trouble can appear at any time — know what is behind you, and pay attention to anything out of place.
  • Decisiveness: Decide instantly upon a proper course of action to be carried out immediately, without hesitation.
  • Aggressiveness: Whether it is a counter-attack or a pre-emptive attack, give it everything you’ve got.
  • Speed: Be fast, not fair — end it before the loser fully realizes he has bitten off more than he can chew.
  • Coolness: If you know that you can keep your head, that you must keep your head, you probably will keep your head.
  • Ruthlessness: Anyone who willfully and maliciously attacks another without sufficient cause deserves no consideration from you–don’t hold back.
  • Surprise: The criminal does not expect his prey to fight back — surprise him!

Track down a copy and read it. In the meantime, here is an exercise Cooper mentions in the book to increase your awareness:

“Make it a game. Keep a chart. Every time anyone is able to approach you from behind without your knowledge, mark down an X. Every time you see anyone you know before he sees you, mark down an O. Keep the Os ahead of the Xs. A month with no Xs establishes the formation of correct habits.”

Try it for a week or a month and see how you do. Increase your awareness and you never know what you might notice.

Stay safe and we’ll see you in class.


By Alan Hines

Value in Tactics

If you’ve trained with InSights, you understand our focus on tactics. Tactics are far more important than Skill or Equipment and, in fact, are only second to Mindset.

Most of our students have moved beyond thinking that the equipment (gun, knife, pepper spray, etc) is what will make the difference between winning and losing. They realize that equipment alone, without the knowledge and skill to effectively use it, is no guarantee of a successful outcome. Thus, tactics emerges as the true deciding factor of how a defensive encounter will end.

Realize, however, that both sides of the confrontation are employing tactics and that the bad guys may be well practiced in theirs.

Because most tactics don’t lend themselves to be taught via a blog post or Facebook page, we’re going to focus on the objective of tactics instead.

A quote many of our students have likely heard while training with us, is “you don’t win gunfights by shooting the other guy… you win gunfights by not getting shot.” The overall objective of tactics is to minimize the assailant’s ability to harm you while maximizing your ability to bring to bear on him the force necessary cause him to break off his attack.

If the threat stops with awareness and avoidance tactics, that’s the best outcome you can ask for… frankly, it’s ideal! If, however, it involves de-escalation and/or eventual disengagement (the disengagement phase includes unarmed or armed physical force), then the tactics behind your layered personal protection system become invaluable.

The more you can shift the advantage toward your favor, the greater position you’re in to achieve a successful outcome. So, instead of spending all your energy trying to decide what gun in what caliber you should carry for self defense… train in tactics, and then leverage them to your greatest advantage.

Stay Safe!

Content by John Holschen
Written by Doug Marcoux