By J.B. (Federal LEO)
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November 20, 2014
In the past, I’ve written about Direct Action Resource Center (DARC), and as a lot of you know, I’m a big fan of both the place AND Rich Mason’s methodology. The whole facility is purpose-built, and the training program presents the information in a way that’s easily understood. Plus, I seem to respond well to the adult based learning style used by Rich and his staff. DARC is one of just a couple of training institutions where you have a large staff that’s all on the same page. Their consistency and thoroughness is pretty amazing.
Fortunately, I’ve been able to attend several of the courses offered by DARC: Advanced Tactical Pistol, Advanced Tactical Carbine and Tactical Urban Sustainment Course. My favorite, until I went through LECTC 2, was the Advanced Urban Warfare (AUW) in 2009. How I managed to get a slot to this ‘closed course’ is a story all by itself. AUW was a 6-day (96 hour) SOF CQB integration course that is all force-on-force with Simunitionâ rounds. The AUW is extremely intense and demanding, but is chock-full of useful and insightful information. In my opinion, the training experience is unparalleled.
During the AUW, I fired approximately 2,500 rounds in six-days, as did my 23 fellow students; that should be a clue to the course’s intensity. DARC averages 52,800 rounds of force-on-force munitions per level-1 course week. During one scenario (lasting approximately two hours), I fired fourteen, M4 mags while clearing and defending a building! So, when Rich called me up and offered me a spot in the Law Enforcement Counter Terrorism Level-2 Course (LECTC2), I was somewhat intrigued, but honestly, also kind of anxious, and even a little nervous. They don’t play around at DARC. It’s definitely not a shooting vacation, and if you aren’t serious or prefer the self-promoting famous dude photo ops, then I don’t recommend you go there. DARC is like an oasis of real training in a sea of self-promoting silliness these days. A week at DARC is like spending several weeks anywhere else. Definitely the best ‘bang for your buck’ in the training arena.
LECTC-2 is a live-fire continuation of the force-on-force level-1 program. Since I was an AUW and not a LECTC-1 grad, I expressed my concerns to Rich. He told me that, first off, I’m a law enforcement officer and I would benefit significantly from the training, and the programs were similar enough, and that the process combined with the progression would allow me to ‘catch up’ in real time. Plus, he added there are a ton of safety mechanisms built into the program, and anyone in over their head is quickly and professionally addressed (i.e., personally monitored, blue barreled or removed from training). DARC has been around since the mid ‘90’s and has an impeccable safety record to boot. After going over the training schedule with Rich, I came to the conclusion that this course was going to be EPIC!!!
Prior to this course, I had spent a healthy amount of time in a live-fire shoot house due to work. But, knowing how Rich runs things, I couldn’t wait for this course to finally happen; February seemed like a long way off. For me, the two most interesting aspects of the LECTC-2 were going to be the extensive use of night vision and all the breaching. I had already learned a tremendous amount about night vision in the AUW but there is something about doing it all live-fire (DARC-style) that really piqued my interest. The breaching was mostly explosive (interior and exterior), with some ballistic thrown in here and there. We did just over 100 explosive tactical breaches in 5.5 days. I was familiar with mechanical breaching before the course, but the explosive breaching we did in the course blew my mind. I had never really gotten to see it used up close and personal before.
Rich was able to secure a lot of vendors as course sponsors. By doing this, he was able to keep the course affordable and really enhance the whole experience. Seeing that I normally take vacation and spend my own money on travel, munitions, etc., for someone like me, it is really appreciated. According to Rich, the majority of the LEO’s who attend DARC are in the same boat when it comes to burning vacation time and purchasing training munitions, etc. I think that says something positive about the profession of LE and DARC. I can’t imagine what this course would have cost without the sponsors providing things like det-cord, MDI, 12ga breaching rounds, all the 60mil breachers tape and hydrogel.
In summary, I can tell you the course was exactly what I thought it would be: EPIC!!
TD01 began with Rich handing out a box of donated MagPul awesomeness and some of the new SureFire M600V’s (these hadn’t been released yet) for us to use. Once we got organized into our cells, we went to the shoot house for SOP review to ensure we were all on the same page, got to know each other (composite teams), and understood all the safety built into the SOP or otherwise. We started with 2-man and 4-man single room stuff, and worked our way out to the vehicles, flipping between dry fire and live fire until we were able to deploy from the vehicles and clear the west side of the main shoot house. Everything we did during the day, we repeated that night. As with all training at DARC, each evolution builds nicely onto the next.
TD02 followed the same format, but now the whole house was in play, including room-to-room, multi-room, common doors, intersections, and even the dreaded “Porno.” All the night evolutions were executed with night vision goggles and IR (InfraRed) laser aiming devices. Exterior explosive breaching, NFDD’s (Noise, Flash Diversionary Devices, or “flash bangs”) and interior ballistic breaching were also introduced and used. The first few STX’s went a little slow, as expected, as we built our confidence in each other and the equipment, and made some SOP errors.
I quickly developed a respect not only for how useful NVG equipment is, but also how complex it is to shoot while wearing them. Until this training, I had only used night vision to approach a target (or on a flat range). Once stacked up at the breach-point, I would flip up the NVG’s and go to white light. Shooting with NVG’s is challenging in this environment and quite different from just walking around while wearing them or shooting on a flat range. Rich squared me away quickly, and I became very comfortable. So, I’m now confident I can use them operationally. I bring this up because that’s the point at DARC. You learn what works and what doesn’t, period. You get to run a significant number of evolutions, allowing for time and runs to set up weapons and gear, so you build confidence in your equipment. The staff was extremely helpful in “tweaking” my gear. The bottom line is that I have no doubt my gear and weapons systems are set up exactly the way I need them, and I can operate them successfully in real world operations. The L3/Eotech representative brought a lot of different NVG’s and clip-on optics (IR2 and thermal) for us to use during the course. I got to run a set of PVS31’s for night 3, and it was amazing. Dual tubes are definitely the way to go for these types of operations.
A big part of making the interior ballistic breaching possible was Remington’s (and their rep’s) generosity. Remington supplied two MCS 12ga breaching shotguns, retention systems and a few hundred rounds of frangible munitions. Students were able to get multiple repetitions breaching interior doors on each of these guns. Rich taught a simple technique for interior ballistic breaching that was easy, efficient, safe and extremely effective. If you utilize shotgun breaching as part of your tactics, you’ll love this portion of the course, and will obtain valuable practice evolutions. Breaching under NVG’s is not as easy as in white-light conditions. All the breaching reinforced the need for binocular night vision goggles.
The L3/EOTech and Remington reps made dinner for the whole class and cadre. It was some awesome homemade chili.
We began the explosive exterior breaching with a safety brief, SOP/TTP review and a lot of rehearsals. Omni Explosives donated all of the det-cord, shock tube initiators, det-cord connectors, and det-cord clips, and Breachers Tape (BTI) donated 300’ of 60 mil tape, 100’ hydrogel, and all double sided/scrim tape. The generosity of these two vendors allowed the certified breachers in the class to do a lot of interior and exterior explosive breaches. To make things more interesting, all of these breaches were done under NVG’s. Rich went over the SOP on how you deploy this technique safely; he has an uncanny way of breaking things down and making it easy to understand. It became very obvious why this SOP was effective. The breacher had a lot going on, and setting the charges while wearing NVG’s only amplified the need for a solid SOP (that everyone knows and follows), proper charge and firing system construction, and the carrying/securing of said items. It was one more area where operational use was more challenging than initial training, standard flat range practice, or even normal warrant use. Rich always had easy, safe and cost effective solutions to any of the breacher issues. All of the certified breachers and EOD guys in the class had nothing but highly positive things to say about the level of training they received during the course. My impression was that Rich bridged the gap between technical knowledge and actual operational use for them.
TD03 was when things started to really pick up and get even more exciting. We began the day reviewing the multi-cell SOP and doing dry runs. After a few live-fire runs, Rich added the assaulter med SOP and the interior explosive breaching SOP. To practice this, we split into our various cells and each took a quadrant of the shoot house to rehearse. After a couple of live-fire runs using the interior breaching technique, Rich taught a class on how to scale that part of the SOP and allowed our team leadership to determine how they wanted to execute. IIRC, we did a minimum of four night STX’s, under NVG’s with exterior, interior and ballistic breaching. I can’t lie; those night runs under NVG’s, live-fire with all that breaching was pretty damn cool.
TD04 added the approach, some more post assault procedures, exiting and combination support. We had three sniper/observer teams join the course who are very familiar with the SOP. (Note: DARC has added a Law Enforcement Counter-Terrorism Sniper/Observer course to their menu and will be running it in conjunction with their next LECTC-2 on Feb 2015). The normal format of review, then live fire, was followed. Each evolution was more difficult than the previous one. Everyone had to pay attention and problem solve. If you aren’t a DARC grad, this day of training is very hard to properly explain. It’s something that has to be experienced to be fully appreciated. In my opinion, it’s as close to the real thing as possible, but this level of training is extremely dangerous, too. Add exterior and interior explosive breaching, ballistic breaching, snipers firing into the objective and surrounding environment, a mobile supporting element, casualties…you get the idea. Now do all this while wearing NVG’s in complete darkness with about 30 guys you just met, and the only connection you have is being fellow DARC grads. It was beyond epic, and challenging at the same time. How DARC manages to routinely pull this level of training off on a regular basis is a testament to their skill and experience. Again, if you are a prior DARC grad and remember TD04 in level-1 and how awesome it was, just imagine those same SOP’s and TTP’s all live fire with explosive breaching and snipers firing real rounds thrown in. To say that it reinforces the SOP and some things that DARC regularly preaches would be an understatement. As I drove to my hotel that night, I was in awe of what we as a class had just accomplished.
TD05 shifts to Advanced Hostage Rescue TTP’s and the force-on-force portion of the training for the entry guys. We still had live-fire sniper observers, live breaches and NFDD’s. The whole day was spent learning TTP’s and rehearsing. Once it was dark, we did several HR-STX’s. Without going into detail, don’t forget the premise of this course is a multi-cell terrorist attack. I’m fairly confident that there will be hostages if/when something like this occurs in the U.S. The flexibility of this SOP really shines during this portion of the training. The SOP is scalable from active shooter/gunman to daily warrant service, to rescuing hostages from a motivated and hyper-violent terrorist cell. This day of the course wasn’t as “sexy” as the day before, but it was the next step in the evolution, made complete sense, and was very sobering. The SOP’s and lessons learned could be its own article.
TD06 was all daytime force-on-force STX’s with live-fire snipers, all the breaching and NFDD’s. Basically, it was one long culmination exercise (CULEX). We had a lot of Role Players ranging from preteen to adult. We focused mostly on the deliberate assault with multiple entry points (up to four, due to class size) and some sniper-initiated. One the highlights was getting after Rich’s son and one of his buddies when they were OPFOR. Big lessons learned on day six are always PID, LOA’s, coordinating instructions, sorting all those people on the objective, realizing you might get shot during a HR (Hostage Rescue) because you can’t safely make a shot, and the various ways to do holding areas and handle the variety of people on a large objective.
Some thoughts on some of the gear that I used at LECTC2:
I used an Adams Arms (AA) 11.5” SBR with SureFire MINI silencer/sound suppressor. Adams Arms donated 6 uppers with Aimpoint Micro T-1 optics for the class to use. These where paired with Revelation Model suppressors, and they all performed flawlessly. These uppers fired thousands of rounds, and not one malfunction was reported. My AA upper preformed flawlessly, as usual. Recently, I spoke to a Tactical team member that was evaluating replacement uppers for their tactical team. Adams Arms sent them an upper to demo. The upper fired close to 4,000 rounds without a single malfunction. I have run several AA uppers for thousands of rounds in the SBR configuration, and I’m amazed at how long these guns will run with no maintenance. Adams Arms performed again.
I used it with a SureFire MINI for this class. I like shooting suppressed, especially when I’m training live-fire CQB. This was the first time I had used the SureFire, other then when I zeroed the rifle. The MINI did very well, but I didn’t realize how loud it was on my rifle until I shot it next to the REVELATION MODEL. ARMTAC supplied 6 suppressors for the class. They measure 7” inches and weigh 20.5 only ounces. I understand the MINI was not designed for a 11.5” barrel, but I was shocked at how extremely quiet the MODEL suppressor was. I’m not going to lie; I was upset that a $450 suppressor was noticeably outperforming my $1200 suppressor. The company even ceracoated the suppressors. I am seriously considering selling my MINI and buying two REVELATIONS . The sound suppression was amazing! You could really hear the difference when the rifles where being used in the shoothouse. In my opinion, these suppressors outperformed all of the suppressors in the class. I am already on the list to get one of the first ones.
The Plate Carrier I used for the class was the SKD Tactical BRIG Systema. I was a big fan of the original PIG Plate Carrier, and when SKD released the BRIG, I was drawn to the simplistic design and low weight of the carrier. It was truly modular in nature and very confortable. Most importantly, it doesn’t interfere with my ability to move and shoot. I was able to set it up to hold three M4 mags, two flash bangs and a med kit. What I most like about this carrier is that I can wear it with the same gear that I use to conceal carry for work, and it doesn’t affect my draw or interfere with any of my first line gear. So if I have to put it on fast and respond to an emergency, I still have effective use of all of my gear. For the money, the BRIG is the way to go, and by far my favorite carrier.
L3/EOTech: NVG’s (14’s, 15’s, 31’s), IRAD’s (PEQ15’s, PEQ16’s), EOTechs (EXPS), Thermal clip on optics (LWTS), IR2 clip on NV optics (PVS24, PVS24LR) and MTM’s (mini thermal monoculars). **Ahern Group
Badger Ordnance: 556mm SPR’s and precision 308 rifles (both with optics, bipods, mags, etc), various scope rings, EFR’s and mounts
Breacher’s Tape: 300’ 60mil tape, 100’ hydrogel tape, double sided/scrim tape… all of the adhesives used in the explosive breaching.
Omni Explosives: all the det-cord, shock tube initiators, det-cord connectors, and det-cord clips.
SureFire: (9) 6v Scout WeaponLight with their new Vampire head (M600V)
Royal Arms: Diversionary Device Trainers
Adams Arms: 11.5” Evo’s and Elites (6 total) with BUIS’ and Aimpoint T-1’s mounted
Magpul Industries: magazines, light mounts, vertical grips, hand stops, PRO sights, slings
Armtac: (6) 556 and (2) 308 suppressors
Remington Arms: (2) MCS breaching shotguns (with retention systems) and frangible buckshot used for ballistic breaching
Crye Precision: AVS plate carrier, airframe helmet, uniform components
First Spear: (3) Sleeper Cell armor carriers
Iron Forged Concepts: Sordin ARC Rail Adapters (SARA)
J.B. is a U.S. federal law enforcement officer (LEO), avid shooter, and tactical firearms enthusiast.
Company Contact Info:
Direct Action Resource Center (DARC)
Email: [email protected]
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/DARC/132176453462424?ref=bookmarks
Omni Distribution, Inc.
Explosive Products Division
PO Box 69
Marion AR 72364
Toll Free: 800-277-6664
Fax: 870-702-7010 or 800-508-8534
Email: [email protected]
Breachers Tape, Inc. (BTI)
Toll Free: 888-707-8273 (TAPE)
Email: [email protected]
Military Toll Free Phone: 800-852-7634
Commercial Toll Free Phone: 800-243-9700
Military Email Contact Page: http://www.remingtonmilitary.com/Contact.aspx
Commercial Email: [email protected]
18300 Mount Baldy Circle
Fountain Valley, CA 92708
Toll Free: 800-828-8809
Customer Service Email: [email protected]
International Sales Email: [email protected]
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