Urban Defense Course; more than just Marksmanship

Students practice a Cover and Move drill during the Urban Defense Course.

Students practice a Cover and Move drill during the Urban Defense Course.

“Don’t just stand around watching, find some work.” was the advice offered to a dozen students during the Urban Defense Course held at Combat Shooting and Tactics (CSAT) in Nacogdoches, Texas during the long weekend of October 23 to 25. The person offering the advice was Paul Howe, Master Sergeant (retired) US Army.

You might know Paul’s name as a host/star of numerous training DVD’s. Those with a little be more G2 know that name from a book entitled “Blackhawk Down” and the retelling of the US Army’s adventures on the horn of Africa. Those who are serious about training with arms know that Paul Howe runs CSAT, a 300 plus acre full service training facility in the Lone Star State.

Jarrad and I packed up the SOTG cameras and microphones pushed northwest from the coast to visit Paul and one of his newest instructors and training coordinators, Shane Iversen. Like Paul Howe, Shane wore the green-beanie and has been on adventures to the Third World for twenty years or so. Shane has seen more than one elephant.

When we arrived at the CSAT range on Friday, the participants were wrapping up the “Mass Attack” drill. “Mass Attack” requires students to solve the problem of multiple attackers, not two, but bunches as you might encounter during civil unrest (every day in Ferguson, MO).

Farm House Rescue

The next educational exercise was the “Farm House Rescue”. The scenario was a call for help from a friend/relative who lived out in the country. Due to an environmental or man made disaster, law enforcement assistance was not available. Your friend called to say prowlers/looters were on their property and they were alone at home. You lose communication with your friend. What do you do?How do you safely/securely get to the farm house without becoming a victim of felonious attack?

Although the title of the course is “Urban Defense”, it is also a partner tactics training program. Every scenario or tactical problem is a two-person job. I say two person, not two man, as there was a husband and wife team in the class.

Students in the Urban Defense Course (UDC) are taught the tactical concept of “bounding overwatch”. Rather than walk to the shooting problem holding hands as if they were headed to Grandma’s house, members of the two-man teams provide moving security for each other and protective cover fire if necessary.

Team Work

Paul Howe explains the next shooting exercise to UDC students.

Paul Howe explains the next shooting exercise to UDC students.

Throughout the UDC training, students learn to work within their small team. They practice using verbal and non-verbal communication techniques. For instance, if I raise my rifle and point at a person or in a certain direction I most likely have a threat or at least a potential threat. If I raise my rifle and fire I am dealing with a threat. I don’t have to scream at you that I see bad guy with a gun threatening us.

Paul brought up a good point during the class. “If you have been trained in the rules of deadly force and understand how to deal with a deadly threat, why do you need to scream ‘Gun, Gun, Gun!’ before you engage? If I am shooting, I have a threat. I don’t need to waste precious time screaming Gun!”  If you see your partner engaging a threat either help him or provide security to prevent other unseen threats from getting around or behind you.

The Military Axiom of “Shoot, Move, Communicate” is practiced during UDC. It is not enough just to have a gun or shoot at a threat. You must be able to communicate with other good guys and move around the real world with a live gun in your hands.

Get Off of the Square Range

Many gun culture folks attend some training and that is a good thing. You need to learn the fundamentals of marksmanship and how to safely and effectively operate your chosen firearm. However, the real world is not a “square range”. In the world we live in everything is down range and there are more things that should not be shot than should be.

The real world is three dimensional and full of obstacles. The irony of this situation is the fact that most everyone of us trains and practices on a an empty field with zero obstacles. At the UDC students get to practice working around obstacles and barriers and to use those same objects as cover and concealment.

CSAT student practices clearing a live-fire shoot house during UDC.

CSAT student practices clearing a live-fire shoot house during UDC.

One of the most fundamental techniques of moving in and around buildings is the “Slice the Pie” or “Cut the Pie” technique, depending on what school you went to. We take the room, hallway, whatever, one small slice at a time.

“Slicing the Pie” can be practiced with a dummy gun in any building. The unique experience you have at a school like CSAT is that you are doing it with a live gun and there are both “shoot” and “no-shoot” targets inside. You not only need to do the technique properly, you need to make the right decisions, kind of like what is expected of you in real life.

Other curve balls thrown at students include “wounded” friendly personnel. You might be called upon to put a tourniquet on a 3D training dummy and/or physically move the dummy from point A to a safer area at point B (BTW, the training dummies are not light). Paul and his crew are not above throwing in a unique problem to challenge the students. No problem is insurmountable, they simply prefer that you to “think” versus “react” as most schools require.

Think about that for a moment. When is the last time you attended a firearms training program that encouraged you to problem solve or think as opposed to simply performing as you are told or reacting to a predetermined stimulus. In the real world there will be no line coach or instructor to tell you when to start or stop firing your gun.

Classroom Time

Not all of UDC is spent getting in and out of cars, negotiating shoot houses, or walking through the woods, classroom time in used to engage your brain. Paul uses the schoolhouse setting to discuss topics such as gear selection and preparation as well as organizing your family and friends: your Patriot Fire Team.

During the sit-down classroom session much was discussed, many questions were answered, but there was indeed one prime takeaway, as least for me. “Unprepared people will panic first.” That quote from Paul Howe was written down and underlined in my notebook.

Jarrad goes long on the rifle range at CSAT.

Jarrad goes long on the rifle range at CSAT.

Regardless of your choice of handgun or long gun, your favorite holster, flashlight or other gee-whiz gear, in the end, the goal in to be prepared. This preparation takes place over time, it can be completed in phases and it is really never finished, but we prepare nonetheless.

Prepare your mind, your body, and your gear. Whether we are discussing a criminal attack that will be over in minutes, a man-made disorder that will last a couple of days, or a post-Katrina crisis that lasts for weeks, that time to prepare is today.

As an American citizen you have a choice to make.  You can prepare or panic. You can be a part of the problem or you can be a part of the solution. The choice ultimately is up to you. A class like the Urban Defense Course at CSAT can be a part of that preparation stage that helps you fill in the gaps.  

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Paul Markel

Founder & President at Student of the Gun
Paul G. Markel has worn many hats during his lifetime. He has been a U.S. Marine, Police Officer, Professional Bodyguard, and Small Arms and Tactics Instructor. Mr. Markel has been writing professionally for law enforcement and firearms periodicals for nearly twenty years with hundreds and hundreds of articles in print. Paul is a regular guest on nationally syndicated radio talk shows and subject matter expert in firearms training and use of force. Mr. Markel has been teaching safe and effective firearms handling to students young and old for decades and has worked actively with the 4-H Shooting Sports program. Paul holds numerous instructor certifications in multiple disciplines and a Bachelor’s degree in conflict resolution; nonetheless, he is and will remain a dedicated Student of the Gun.

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  1. Lauren

    Awesome article! It’s time to start thinking about Urban Defense and preparing yourself, your family and friends for what might happen! It’s better to be prepared than to wish you had the training later on. You never know when something might happen in your area that will throw society into chaos.

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