AAR: LMS Defense 3-Night No-Light Class
LMS Defense conducted a 3-Night No-Light class in Fernley and Sparks Nevada October 28-30, 2010. The class was instructed by John Chapman. Students were a mix of Military, Law Enforcement, and LMS Trainers who had not yet had a chance to undergo NV training. At the last minute, an out-of-state LE tactical team had to cancel due to schedule issues. However, this was fortuitous for the rest of us because the smaller class size allowed us to get a lot more hits and training time than we would otherwise. We were very fortunate to have two very capable medics in the group: A Physician/Surgeon/Sworn SWAT Medic and a U.S. Army Lt. Colonel Physician/Surgeon.
The class was hosted at the LMS Combat Development Center in Fernley Nevada. Time was split between this desert environment and an urban downtown Hotel and Casino in Sparks Nevada. These two locales provided us two starkly different environments in which to train and allowed us to cover team tactics and movement on both ends of the spectrum.
For obvious reasons, the class ran on a reverse schedule. T1 kicked off at 1600 at the LMS Combat Development Center. The CDC is a desert range surrounded by beautiful mountains with terrain somewhat similar to current AO’s in the GWOT. We began during daylight so we could zero and confirm zeros on weapons. From there we collapsed to the break area for some classroom instruction on various night vision devices and laser units. Chappy discussed various generations of night vision technology and how professionals should not purchase anything less than Gen3. We looked at the PVS-14, PVS-15, BNVD-G, and PVS-21, covering the main type of individual night vision devices available. This moved into lasers and how, without them, night vision is just an observation device. Lasers are imperative for deployment of night vision because they are the targeting devices. Chappy heavily stressed this because a lot of LE departments will completely overlook lasers. The problem is a criminal attorney will jump all over an officer-involved shooting if there was no targeting system deployed. From there, we donned our NV and did some familiarization, adding in IR illuminators and discussing the proper application during observation and searching.
Off to the square range. We jocked up and were split into teams of two. I was paired up with a fellow Lightfighter, Erick. Erick is a solid cop and soldier (even if he is stuck in Californiastan) and I was very fortunate to be teamed up with him. We quickly gelled and were able to work together and communicate effectively right off the bat. After zeroing IR lasers, we began shooting. Distances varied from 25 yards out to 100 using IR lasers. Chappy stressed the need to still shoulder the weapon for support, even though shooting from the hip with the laser is possible. A “chin weld” was used because of its stability and similarity to shooting with a gas mask (which is very familiar to those on the LE/Mil side of the house). Erick and I shot well with nice, center mass groups. When it was time to jam mags and hydrate, Chappy had us stay in our two-man elements and tactically navigate back to the break area on the other side of the berm. This movement exercise had each team of two crossing 200 yards of uneven desert terrain, using only our NODs. This wasn’t the first time my team had done this, yet it acted as a grim reminder of just how much noise two people can make in open desert at night. Every crunch of a heel-toe step seemed to be amplified. We moved slow, keeping 360 degree security and trying to not fall over large rocks and dips in the earth. This dark navigating was a constant evolution for the rest of the night. There was no “OK, go jam mags and hydrate” where every shuffles back to the break area talking and cracking jokes. We practiced navigation drills of moving to certain targets around the range and finding our way to and from certain points. For those who have never done it, NV navigation with full armor loadout and balls-cold desert night temperatures, it is tiring. These evolutions forced each student to concentrate on each step while keeping security up and moving with a partner, making sure you are both moving together, but not bunching up.
Everyone in the class was a professional, so we played by big boy rules. We were responsible for keeping ammo in our weapons which brought up a whole new challenge that was new to most of the students. Changing mags is done blind since NV is focused at a further distance. Even though I have done this before, I found myself fumbling a couple tactical reloads. We worked straight through dinner that night and wrapped up around 0030.
T2 started back at the Combat Development Center at 1600. There was a barricaded gunmen at a local Walmart that morning which required a couple of the students to be up and working earlier than they would have liked. But, they were still able to the make it to the class and their performance didn’t suffer one bit. We began with some timed daylight LMS qualification drills before moving into LMS’s Shoot House before it got dark. This gave us a chance to work with our team mate in a new capacity. Once again, Erick and I were on the same page and quickly picked up a good tempo. Erick was used to more verbal communication while I was used to more physical/visual communication, but we found a good medium and were able to move and clear rooms effectively.
After a really good dinner at a restaurant we were under-dressed for, the group pushed on to downtown Sparks Nevada where Chappy had secured a large, closed, Hotel and Casino for our playground. This venue was perfect on many different levels. Not only was it a stark contrast from the barren desert terrain of the LMS CDC, but it placed us in a scenario that has the possibility of being all too real if recent events in Mumbai, India have anything to teach us. After jocking up in the parking lot, we moved in to the main casino floor where we discussed two-man searches of large, confusing, spaces that can quickly turn into little, confining spaces. We started off moving to the first floor casino restaurant, clearing it in our two-man teams by zig-zagging up and down the rows of booths. My team stuck together, providing 360 degree security by moving slowly (though we learned we should go even slower). This area was tricky because we needed to clear booths on both sides, under tables, the upper balconies, wait stations, and openings into the kitchen. Now, let me say this: a hotel/casino is a daunting task for a tactical team in well-lit conditions. It is a real rat bastard in complete darkness with a 40 degree FOV. From there, things got interesting as we moved into the kitchen. The aisles got small and we found our vests banging and clanging on stainless steel fryers, prep tables, stove tops, cabinets, etc. This place was a maze and more than once, I found myself discovering new openings and portals as we moved into new areas. We picked up these new areas as we found them and covered each other as we moved. This evolution reminded me about depth perception… a lot. Under NODs, it is much more difficult to judge distance to a corner and I continually projected the end of my suppressor past the wall. And, Chappy was there to catch me every time it happened, making me much more aware of my infraction. I worked on this a lot for the rest of the night and the through the next.
After clearing the kitchen, we moved to the stairwells. Oh yeah. I think it was Stephen who opined after the last LMS No-Light class- Stairs suck. Yes they do. They suck when the lights are on. They suck under white light, and they suck hard under NODs. Chappy’s stair-clearing method differed from the methods I was taught in the past, but it made more sense because it allowed better coverage of the angles. I found myself on the wall, covering high more often than not, battling the suck because it is not easy to tilt your head back wearing a helmet and body armor while supporting a rifle. Movement is slow going and pain is the order. After clearing four floors in the stair well like this, my arms felt like they were going to fall off and my neck was killing me. We moved painstakingly slow. This wrapped up T2.
T3 started off in the hotel/casino parking lot. Moving back in to the casino, Chappy had us combine elements into 4-man teams and head right back the stairs we loved so much. 4-men allowed us to add a rear security element. We went up and down the stairs a bunch of times before moving on. From there, we were directed to “clear the second floor.” Ok. So, we cleared the stairs and moved right into the second floor where we were confronted by wide open spaces with mirrored walls, balconies over-looking the first floor, a large sports bar, escalator, small ballroom, offices with desks, banker boxes, and paper strewn all over the floor, a maze of hallways, and bathrooms. This is the kind of scenario that would be a nightmare for any tactical team. Our small four man element moved slow, frequently stopping as we encountered new obstacles and problems. Erick was our team leader and did a good job of keeping us together and making decisions. While we made some mistakes, I have no doubt we could function as a smooth team if given more time to work together. But, overall, I think we did pretty good. The casino was a great training location because it forced us into uncomfortable positions. We went from wide open spaces to small offices and winding hallways full of obstacles where it was very easy for the team to lose contact. But, our fearless leader kept us together. One of the best things about this location was the fact that every time we turned around, we were faced with a different problem under a different lighting condition. In some instances, there were lights on, so we went light. Then, we would enter the next hallway and it was pitch black, so we would have to go dark.
We headed to Dennys for some chow and ran into Lt. Dangle. Happy Halloween. Then, we headed back to work and entered the hotel. From here, we worked in a seven man element, clearing opposing doorways while maintaining front and rear security in the long hallways. This was a truly fluid exercise where team communication really mattered because the limited FOV in a pitch black hallway required us to really keep heads moving so we would know when to move on. The rooms were relatively easy to clear compared to the cramped bathrooms. The bathrooms sucked because the lack of close focus on the NODs made it difficult to resolve detail (but that didn’t matter as much because we were looking for man-sized targets. The difficult thing was clearing the bath tub behind the door.
Guns and Gear
I ran a BCM 14.5” Midlength complete rifle with an Aimpoint Micro T1, Laser Devices DBAL-A2 Green Laser, Surefire M952V Vampire Dual Spectrum Weapon Light, and Surefire Suppressor. I had no issues with this rifle except a single failure to feed due to PMAG full of sand. My pistol was an S&W M&P9 with Storm Lake Barrel.
I ran my trusty BAE/Eclipse RBAV-SF with armor and plates, Blue Force Gear SOC-C Belt with Armor and OpsCore FAST Ballistic Helmet. To Quote Pat Rogers: it’s like a vagina for your head. I loaned my PVS-14 out to another student and to be used by the photographer, so I ran some demo kit I brought along. On T1, I ran a PVS-21. TNVC just became the exclusive dealer for STS and their PVS-21. Let me say that it is an incredible unit and unlike anything else available. Look for it on our site soon along with a review. I also ran the BNVD-G, a binocular NV device that trumps the PVS-15 in versatility, affordability, and durability.
The class was full of pros, so guns and gear had few malfunctions. There was a problem with a Noveske chamber and an upgraded PASGT chin strap clip broke, but everything else ran smooth.
Number one is communication. When operating with NODs, nothing can be taken for granted. The team needs to make every effort to stay connected. You can’t just assume your team mates know you are there because of the limited FOV. Noise is another concern. The advantage of NV is stealth. But, if you are bumping into things all over the place, you might as well go white light. Depth perception is very limited. We all know this, but it is reinforced every time you work with NODs. That T-Intersection or corner is a lot closer than it appears and you need to very aware of your muzzle. Lastly, Chappy is fond of the saying: “looking for work.” This is one of the truest statements in CQB and MOUT operations. If you see something that needs doing, do it. If you see an open position or a point that needs covering, take it and cover it. This type of work requires constant thinking and with NODs, your head needs to be on a swivel more than usual.
This was the one of the best classes I have been to and definitely the best NV class I have attended. Chappy has a solid background from which to draw from and a very good teaching method. On top of that, he is very humble and encouraged us to bring other methods to the table. This is not a round-intensive class. It focuses on tactics and implementation of tools. Students came with solid skills in shooting, weapons manipulation, and tactics, so there wasn’t anyone holding up the class.
As someone who specializes in night vision, I use it often. But Chappy’s excellent instruction coupled with the chance to utilize the equipment in new environments made this class especially enjoyable. I believe this class should be mandatory for every LE department and Military unit that regularly employs night vision. There are a lot of lessons to be learned in training before the fight. Night vision is wonderful tool, but it is not a magic tool. It will give your team an incredible advantage, but it can just as easily be a liability if not implemented properly. If you haven’t gotten to this class, you should make it a point to do so.
So folks know before they ask, yes we do conduct our own training but we also train many times with other instructors throughout the year. These old dogs (old for me me anyways) can be taught new tricks by listening and learning from other instructors, I feel this is what sets us apart from just "selling" NV. Chappy is top notch along with his skill sets with NOD's and I wish I could have attended!
Clasky has been having all the fun lately.
Thanks for the report Chip, now please get back to the office, the fires are burning and need to be put out!
Plane is boarding in a few minutes...
Chip, that was an outstanding AAR!! I could almost "feel" the situations! It also points out how little of the value that I am squeezing out of my PVS-14. It is great kit for 'yote elimination but it is now obvious I am using it more as a toy than a tool.
...more things to learn. That is clear!!