The staff of S & S Training Solutions spent June 1st & 2nd training with one the most respected MILSIM training companies in the industry; One Shepherd. Here is our report:
Hello all and thank you for stopping by to read my review of One Shepherd's Warrior Basic Course.
I heard about One Shepherd by word of mouth from one of their instructors at some time in 2012. Several other contacts of mine had attended the training and all had boasted of their 1st rate training doctrine. Myself having just exited the Missouri National Guard-a joke when it comes to training, I immediately became interested.
I visited their website (www.1shepherd.com) many times over the years leading up to my attendance of the Warrior Basic Course on June 1st & 2nd, 2014. During those years I remember wanting to have the extra time & more importantly the money to afford the training.
One Shepherd uses the MILES 2000 system. It is essentially a laser tag system made for military forces to simulate firing rifles with blank rounds and if you were able to get a solid shot off on an enemy, the enemies harness will emit a flat-line kill sound. My experience with MILES gear is from my 3 year stint in the U.S. Army. It was not maintained well in my experience and never used properly. Heck we usually didn't even have the batteries for the damn things. So I was excited to see it used in a company who hopefully uses it right.
My background for use on the subject matter is: I am a U.S. Combat Infantryman from a light infantry unit (2nd Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division) I was trained extensively on dismounted patrolling techniques through the landscape of Ft. Riley KS. Once deployed to Baghdad, Iraq 2007 to 2008 however we quickly became mounted infantry in up-armored Humvees.
Much of our light infantry skills had to be adapted to the urban jungle & insurgency fighting that was all to commonly reacting to IED's, far ambushes & acting as an occupation force. An adaption that did happen and worked fairly well with a bit of urban specific training. I am also a certified NRA firearms instructor & a certified Fire Service Instructor.
So right, back to One Shepherd! As a new business owner that has a very similar concept and mission to One Shepherd I contacted Chris Larsen the owner of One Shepherd and an accomplished writer on tactics with many published works used by the U.S. Army and yours truly, to seek his advice on how to proceed into our undertaking of running S & S Training Solutions. Chris Larsen bent over backwards to email me replies with his advice on the industry. Taking time away from his working towards a PHD, running One Shepherd & probably 100 other things life seems to throw our ways. All that advice and time to a guy he had never met and is starting a similar business like his own. Something to which I am very appreciative for. This should help you start to see the type of classy individual who is behind the operation that is One Shepherd.
Okay, okay enough of the back story! So how'd it go?
We arrived late Saturday evening. The first thing you notice is the large amount of assets One Shepherd has and provides during their week long training events.
Medium and Small GP tents, a 2 1/2 ton Army Truck & two willies jeeps. They also provide all meals for the WBC/LLC out of their own Defac, a modified mobile home turned kitchen/operations facility- All very well organized and clean.
We were greeted by the staffed and checked in our personal AR-15's into the secure arms racks. Parker and I settled in to the troop tent where they had some cots available for those of us who thought we wouldn't need them or would just rough it (guilty). We spent that evening talking with other students and the staff about reasons why they began training or what led them to One Shepherd. We found a lot of common ground with many of the students & instructors. The students here range from all ages and all ethnicities. All with varying reasons for attending and many from as far away as Wyoming & Chicago.
The first morning of training we were woke and given a time hack for Physical Training Formation. Now don't get the idea that they are trying to whip people into shape during their semester. The PT on day one was a combination of some old school bayonet fighting movements and active stretching. It was a interesting active way to warm up for the day, get in a morning stretch and get in a few laughs at our bayonet war cries.
From there we were released for chow and personal hygiene. The Warrior Basic Course students were split into two teams, issued weapons & the pre zeroed MILES 2000 gear. The lessons covered basic traveling formations, weapon manipulation, individual movement technique, MILES 2000 brief and combat formations.
The lessons are hard and fast. Lasting usually 30 minutes a piece. The instructors at One Shepherd are experts in their craft. All of them during this WBC had no active duty experience among them, which in my opinion is impressive. Some veterans and perspective students may find themselves questioning the ability of these guys to teach....... I assure you they know the material and are effective teachers.
Every instructor in this industry doesn't have to be a Delta-Seal-Special-Ranger-Airborne-Ninja-Badass-Audie Murphy to teach this stuff okay! America has many, many great warriors from the past few wars and other fighting disciplines. Some are experts and combat seasoned, great! That doesn't make them good or effective teachers.
The instructors there at One Shepherd took the time away from their busy lives, had the dedication and spent their own hard earned money on learning these skills to proficiency & now VOLUNTEER their time to teach others. That's right, the cadre at One Shepherd are all volunteers!
Warrior Basic students are instructed on Reacting to Contact day 1. The foundation for all other battle drills. The instruction was once again, fast and hard. Like 'drinking out of a fire hose' is how it was referred to by the staff. The team I was in opted to run first through the blank fire lane. First shots by 11am day one, excellent! We headed down a hill across an open field towards a low lying creek. With the instructors and now a OPFOR taking shots at us, I having previous experience stepped in and formed them into a online formation and tried to get my fellow teammates to bound all the way to the objective which was a creek bed in the middle of the field.
When you're reacting to contact in a team you bound across the terrain to allow cover fire while someone moves. Bounding movements are long, jump up-short rush-back down to the ground grueling fighting events that are a true drain on even physically fit individuals. So if you are considering this type of training, start exercising now! You don't need to be a body builder or marathon runner but do start conditioning your body for this type of training!
We bounded about 100 meters to the creek when it was all said and done. This took us approximately 9 minutes according to the rifle mounted GoPro camera's video I took of the event. The instructors yelled for us to complete actions on the objective. Things like calling the Limit of Advance out and L.A.C.E. reports. All things in my opinion are a bit above a Warrior 3 hours into training. The doctrine of training seems to be set up on some scenarios for the students to fail, be lost & see the power of the chaos involved in combat. This seems to be done to get them thinking about the principles of what's happening. S & S does this to a degree in some scenarios but is generally left to more experienced students scenarios. A minor difference in training theory & style but not a big deal.
Instructor Jason Snyder conducts a class on the TA1 field phones.
After the first blank fire of the WBC we broke for lunch. Next we held classes on Immediate Action Drills. The "Oh crap there's the enemy or Oh crap boss they are shooting at me!" drills. Hasty Ambush, Break Contact, React to Near Ambush, Security Halts, instruction on use of the TA1 field phones, PRC 77 pack radios & helmet mounted night vision devices.
The classes again where hot and heavy an immediately throws you into the mix. Breaks from class where often rushed to create a sense of urgency. Which is good. Fighting in MILSIM or combat takes a sense of urgency. No lollygagging army has every won a war. It takes violence of action & initiative.
However I feel some students too new to the realm of military like discipline may have been rushed to the point of not taking the chance to top off water canteens or use the porta johns less they get some negative feed back from an instructor but they must be broke of lollygagging one way or another I surmise.
No one at One Shepherd is going to 'smoke you' , make you do push ups or shark attack you in drill Sergeant fashion, but you will know when you need to hurry up and/or pay attention. After all the instructors are there as volunteers so respect should be shown to the time & effort they are giving, however a little bit better balance of time management and rest for brand new GREEN students should have been struck in my own opinion.
After dinner chow, students and leaders were given about an hour to plan a night patrol. A patrol that was to consist of four fire teams being independently inserted into the field to which they would all have to independently land navigate to each other and link up. All the while avoiding the Opfor patrols and make our way back to the FOB (Forward Operating Base..the place with the tents and what not).
The students in the Light Leaders Course planned and executed the mission. My team 'D' or Delta team successfully linked up with 'C' Charlie team. To which we were to link up with A/B teams who linked up together then head to the FOB with all four teams together. That's the plan. No plan ever works out exactly as planned in combat scenarios. Adapt and overcome should be the mantra for successful leaders. It did not goes as planned on this night. Low natural moon light, heavy vegetation, rusty land nav skills (guilty), rough terrain and new inexperienced guys all made for a frustrating patrol that ended well after the planned time to be back in the FOB and back in our cozy sleeping bags.
Okay, lets start with talking about this. This in my opinion is a throw em to the wolves. Let them adapt, band together & over come the rough terrain, pitch black of night (the night vision would have been nice but was not issued for the night op) and the opfor patrols.
Don't get me wrong, it works to do this. It does. The Army has perfected this frustrating tactic to train troops and it works. But this isn't the Army. Walking through the dead of night with no night vision or experienced students over rough terrain with a sudden drop offs & high banked creeks is a safety concern of mine. This type of patrol should in my opinion wait until the students have more experience and here's why IMO:
We all have jobs outside of this training, the type of individual that decides to seek this type of training, pay out of pocket to get it, risk such injury and join our community is a special breed of citizen. They are a great asset that we must protect from unwarranted risk whenever possible. Does that mean that we can't make training realistic and not do these patrols? No. Can this risk be mitigated and a night patrol still be conducted? Yes.
The safety of the night patrol is the only truly negative comment I have for One Shepherd. All other seemingly negative comments in this blog/AAR are really just me nit picking things and in no way are a 'negative'. One Shepherd has been at it for some 30 years. They are the flagship in the industry as far as light infantry milsim goes. Everything in the program has a reason behind why it is done. The only deciding factor on if it is right or wrong lands on your interepation if it is right or wrong in the individual students eyes. Not in my opinion in this blog.
"No rest for the weary."
Students from both the LLC & Warrior Basic Course conduct a 2 mile ruck march on day two for PT.
I am so glad that One Shepherd has a PT program. So many people that get into the MILSIM culture have no idea how physical it is truly. Many fall into the trap of buying high speed gear that has little to no practical field application, wear it wrong, over pack their ruck/bug out bag and never field testing it.
They make you walk 2 miles with a ruck on. Many people drop their heads, stop scanning for threats and drop their rifles and posture.
If you are moving through a hostile area, you are being observed. You need to look like the baddest most confident, physically in shape (not a body builder) thing walking they have ever seen. If you walk through looking like an easy, not paying attention target, you will get treated as such. Pick up your head, scan your sector and keep moving!
It sucks, I get it. I don't particularly enjoy road marches either. But you have to embrace the suck. This message and lesson is something I love about One Shepherd doing PT.
The culmination of the previous 24 hours of training was a coordinated raid on a enemy fuel dump. The students where organized into a way in which you attacked once, defended once & observed once. I drew the luck of attacking twice and defending once.
The objective was on some tactically challenging terrain with large open areas, sparse vegetation areas and a dry creek bed on the objective which allowed defenders to have access to a wide line of defense that could be traversed quickly.
This was an absolute blast. I really got to feel and test the MILES 2000 gear for the first time. Something the U.S. Army spent so many millions on and in my experience never succeeded in fielding correctly. One Shepherd maintains their equipment. The MILES gear works. It isn't perfect, laser shots won't go through dense vegetation like live rounds will but when you have a target in your sights squeeze off a round or two at them and see them get up take their hat off and walk to the casualty collection point flat-lined tone emitting from their vest as an indication they are dead. It is truly satisfying. As a combat infantry veteran it is satisfying.
One Shepherd gets so many things right it is hard to find things that are wrong with it. Once again everything I have mentioned is mostly me just nit picking. Over the course of the two days I've learned new things about my own personal performance as an operator, instructor and businessman.
The idea of belonging to the community offered by One Shepherd is a sincere gesture, while it may not just be unique just to One Shepherd, they definitely have a grip on its core principles and I appreciate them for promoting the community idea.
I whole heartedly encourage all S & S Training Solutions students to attend some if not all the training One Shepherd has to offer. S & S focuses more time and energy into the individual and small teams training. I think our program at S & S will build confidence prior to a student attending a One Shepherd event instead of being a 'green' student being thrown into the mix & trying to 'drink out of the fire hose'. The real benefit our students will get from One Shepherd will be the experience you will get in leading elements beyond a fire team. Squad/Platoon & Company level leadership experience is there just waiting for you to insert yourself into the mix-not to mention the Miles 2000 gear.
You will find me back under the One Shepherd Regimental Guidon, lending my experiences, learning new methods, gaining new experiences and making new contacts soon. I am proud to now call myself a One Shepherd community member.
So S & S students I will give you the motto that was given to me in basic training at Ft. Benning, GA and the motto that is echoed at One Shepherd........
S & S Training Solutions LLC
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