already signed up to ITCQB 02 straight after the first course finished. 01 convinced me that Project Gecko has developed a CQB system that is built from bottom up, providing solutions that serve the individual level but then almost seamlessly integrate to two men and team level techniques. And as it has been my goal this year to do more of this kind of tactical training, when TAF (they're a non-profit formed in 2020 to bring international quality training to Finland, I've embed some photos and video in this post from their Instagram feed) emailed me about 02 course in April, I was happy to confirm my participation.
Like the previous training report this post will only focus on a general review of the training event to respect Project Gecko's request not to disclose any specifics of their methodology publicly as it's in-use by active units and it's their intellectual property. I also would not want to create any potential misunderstandings about the tactics or methods they teach, it's best that you join one of their courses so you'll have all the details and right context.
So was 02 as good as 01, or maybe better?
Before the event Tactical Academy of Finland supplied us with a preliminary schedule and a packing list. On a high-level the equipment needed was full combat gear that one uses in their job / milsim, airsoft weapons for FoF validation and snacks for long days. Those who didn't have their own airsoft guns were able to rent them for the weekend. Following the packing list and schedule it was easy to prepare for the 3 days of training. Also food was included in the entry fee.
As I arrived to the training location on Friday afternoon, I was once again greeted by Tactical Academy Finland staff and other participants. We were told to gather in a class room for the theory part and Eli from Project Gecko would arrive soon. Once he got on site we jumped straight into theory as we mostly knew each other from previous courses. We were a mix of milsimmers, police, active duty military and reservists, plus some security professionals specialised in protecting critical infrastructure. Again Project Gecko's Eli emphasised complete openness and encouraged discussion for the benefit of everyone's learning.
The theory part this time was more of a quick recap of things learned in 01 -course:
- Differences between slice-based and dynamic entries
- CQB speeds: search, hostage rescue, attack, dynamic
- room types
- corner types
- PG's slicing technique
Eli said he wanted to get us to actually training as fast as possible so the recap was quick, about an hour.
Then he outlined the first day's content:
- Recapping 2 man entry, then moving to 4 man entry
- Attack speed
- 4 man entry and clearing
- Different room types in team
Goal for the first day was that we can enter and exit rooms as a team, in addition to validating the capability with Force-on-Force -scenarios.
We begun practicing by refreshing our skills in slicing and entry techniques solo and in pairs, and then moved into doing the same with attack speed. After we were good to go Eli gave us a brief intro to the context of working in teams e.g what does PG mean by a cell or team, and what kind of a group is a team part of.
Then we started practicing 4 man entries and exits.
Once we had enough practice in the 4 man techniques the first day finished with FoF -scenarios.
Like I've mentioned before Eli's teaching style is down-to-earth and humble. What I really liked this time was that the methodology has been clearly very diligently thought out, as each module gels with the next one. What you learn doing solo you can use when in pairs, what you learn in pairs fits actions as a 4 man team. The stuff we had learned in the 01 -course was also directly applicable. Also thanks to Eli's example we had a very nice atmosphere between all of us attending, it was clear everyone was there to learn with an open mind.
Second day started at 8.30 am with 30 minutes to get ready and continuing from last day's last scenario at 9am. Topics for the day were:
- controlling target persons in and outside the room verbally and with light
- moving inside the room
- body bunker and off-set threats in a corridor
- deconfliction and finally...
- deliberate entries as a team
The goal for the day was to reach a level where we could move inside a building and solve problems as a team.
Easier said than done.
Like said first we recapped where we left off the last evening, doing dry and FoF-practice in 4 man teams. When all was good it was time to switch into controlling target persons with light and verbal commands.
This was a very interesting part of the training where it was again clear that much thought had been put to the techniques taught; starting from human developmental psychology, to find the right verbal commands for example.
Next we covered off-set threats in a corridor using body bunker.
According to PG these kind of situations are statistically a big problem in CQB and because of that we did various different dry and FoF -scenarios solving these situations in team size.
Having now looked at challenging situations in the corridor outside the room it was natural to go to a more advanced level in the room next.
Eli taught as their methodology for positioning the team inside the room and priorities of work, in addition to tips for communicating as cells and team. Also at the same time he covered deconfliction, meaning how to prevent friendly fire when line of sight or talking distance is broken between cells.
This was the first part of the day, we did have a lunch at some point and then the rest of the day was spent on deliberate entries as a 4 man team. A couple different techniques were covered and practiced again as dry and FoF-scenarios.
Deliberate entries and not so deliberate...
At this point I felt really challenged my head had been flooded with information and as the day drew closer to its end I just didn't keep up with all of it. Eli didn't make it easy for us, and he said that was on purpose to really challenge us and not provide "feel-good-training".
Honestly this phase really brought out the training gaps and scars for me.
For example, how to read a room to understand which guy should go into the room first when you're doing a deliberate entry, getting positive identification on targets....It's not just get in, and run the walls. The devil is in the details you can see from the outside at the door with your buddy.
Like what if you get shot at the door already... let's say you get lucky and put down the threat.
Okay, so then you manage that and go in, but what do you do with the threat that's now on the floor and there's a second door with another potential threat inside the room, what then?
Having not practiced these kind of scenarios in a team capacity before pushed me to failure repeatedly, and it did the same for the experienced guys just in different ways.
And that's what makes a good training as we were pushed to this point not by some insane scenario but a realistic scenario that just showed how we failed as individuals and as a result as a team.
At the end of the day it was crystal clear that CQB is unforgiving and everything is dependent on individuals skills, as it's so common to get into situations where it's first just 1:1 between you and the threat. If your skills aren't up to the task then communication will fail and then the team fails.
This probably was the best lesson of the day.
Second day was unfortunately cut a little short by 30mins to an hour because in one of the scenarios fire alarm went off as a BB activated a sprinkler system in one of the rooms.
However this also enforced the point that anything can happen in CQB, things exploding, catching fire... you get the idea.
The day ended at about 5pm.
Last day started at 8.30 am with 30 minutes to prep and then into practice.
Planned topics for the day were:
- different techniques for deliberate entry
- closed push and push doors, special doors: solo, in pairs and as a team
- operator down
Again we did a recap for a while from yesterday as that just makes sense but also because deliberate entries had very clearly challenged us all.
Fortunately after resting all of us now seemed to have absorbed yesterday's lessons and the scenarios went better. Challenge was thus increased so that we cleared 3 rooms along a corridor in a row, after dry practice some of these rooms or corridor would have FoF-opponents.
After some failures and successes we moved to the next topic which was actions at the room threshold during deliberate entry in certain specific situations, however I can't go into more details about this.
Next, we covered how to handle closed push and pull doors individually and in pairs.
This solo and pair work was refreshing after having my mind flooded with all the things to consider in the 4 man team work earlier in the day.
Once we had achieved good proficiency as pairs we started to go through different considerations with doors in a team capacity. There's some special situations to remember but the solutions were quite straightforward and it was again clear that PG had spent their time choosing each approach after deliberation. Needless to say, I can't share the details in this post.
Rest of the day was spent integrating everything learned about doors to other 4 man team techniques covered earlier in the course.
Naturally this meant more FoF -scenarios to go through, and yes, we had our challenges again. Probably because of this and the other delays we unfortunately didn't have enough time to cover operator down, withdrawal and stair scenarios.
Last thing of the day was to hold a quick recap and feedback session of the weekend. Eli always asks for feedback which I definitely appreciate. He does it consistently even during the training, to find out if students have other ideas or perspectives on the techniques and scenarios.
Feedback from us students was only positive, we had gotten what we came for. I had no negative feedback either, in 01 -course I wished we had had a little less discussion and more practice, during 02 there was definitely enough practice, so much so that it was clear I couldn't integrate it all in my mind to actions.
So it's definitely a course that will challenge you and provide food-for-thought, I'd think even if you're already advanced in CQB tactics.
Personally I might sign-up for another 02-course to go through it all again so I could better integrate what I missed this first time...
You guessed it, I recommend you take this course.
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