Big 4, Little 4 (B4L4)

It’s time we discuss training philosophy, and triage of training tasks. This post is intended for civil defense organizations and NCOs of rudderless military units, given the current unstable times (more to come).

The concept of the “Big 4” came from Ranger Regiment in the 1990s. It was a way of focusing training and ensuring that it was balanced. The original Big 4 were Physical Training (PT), Marksmanship, Medical, and Battle Drills. In 2005 Vehicles was added to make the Big 5. These basic competencies are the foundation of complex and difficult operations.

We’re going to do Big 4 Little 4. The Big 4 are the originals: PT, Marksmanship, Medical, and Small Unit Tactics (SUT). I changed it to SUT because that term is more representative of what is actually taught. Battle drills are just a few set drills, while SUT encompasses the battle drills as well as other common tactical tasks like patrol bases and ambushes. The Little 4 are Vehicles, Communications, Fieldcraft, and Leadership.

In the Little 4, Vehicles and Communications are self-explanatory; both are technical fields that require training and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). Fieldcraft is on the list because people just don’t spend the time in the woods and outdoors that they used to. Leadership is something that is trained and practiced all the time. The reason it is included is that specific training outside of normal duties and performance should occur on this topic. That is, leadership development should be deliberate.

Training Philosophy

Principles:

  • Ideally, each event should translate to as little as a single day or less of instruction (this may not result in immediate mastery).
  • Training should follow the crawl-walk-run philosophy, where the training starts simple and gets more complicated and difficult.
  • Training should follow a “spiral” pattern, where we circle back around to the same topic and continue to build mastery through the course of a training cycle.
  • Training events focusing on one topic should incorporate crossover between other topics as much as the infrastructure and skill of participants allows.
  • Force-on-Force training should occur to sharpen skills and test out SOPs.
  • Instructors should teach events and provide references in such a way that the person being trained can later practice their skill alone. When possible the event should also be “train-the-trainer,” enabling the student to go on and teach others the skill.

B4L4 Training Events

What follows is a list of key tasks and training events for each of the B4L4:

  1. PT (Physical Training)
    • Calisthenics, circuit training, speed and agility
    • Strength training
    • Ruck marching
    • Hand to hand fighting: Boxing, Jiu Jitsu
  2. Marksmanship
    1. Pistol Basics: safety, functioning, fundamentals, 5-step draw, first 100 rounds
    2. Pistol Intermediate: move and shoot, magazine changes, team shooting, barricades
    3. Basic Rifle Marksmanship
    4. Carbine basic: reflexive fire, magazine changes
    5. Carbine intermediate: move and shoot, barricades, transition to pistol, team shooting
    6. Long Rifle: accuracy traits of the weapon, ballistics, bullet drop compensating, positions
  3. Small Unit Tactics
    • Battle Drills: react to contact, break contact, attack, enter and clear
    • Formations and order of Movement
    • Ambush and Raid
    • Recon
    • Urban
  4. Medical
    • MARCH (Massive bleeding, Airway, Respiratory, Circulation, sHock)
    • Casualty Collection Point (CCP), triage, evacuation
  5. Vehicles
    • Off road driving techniques
    • “Sport” and urban driving techniques
    • Battle drills: contact, disabled vehicle, infil/exfil procedures
    • Recovery
    • Loadout and setup
  6. Communication
    • Frequency theories
    • OPSCHEDs, brevity codes
    • Equipment setup and operating
  7. Fieldcraft
    • Shelter and survival
    • Camouflage and stalking
    • Navigation
    • STANO (Scopes, Target Acquisition, and Night Observation) ie optics
  8. Leadership
    • Planning and briefing
    • Military theory and history
    • Reaction
    • War games
    • Intelligence

Sponsor Note
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Examples: Crawl

  1. Basic Pistol – Instructor teaches safety, operation, and drawing of pistol. Students practice dry, then shoot 100 rounds in groups of 10, practicing parts of their draw, fundamentals of marksmanship, and other basic shooting skills. Resources: Simple range, pistols, and ammunition. 4 hours or less needed. (2. Marksmanship)
  2. Jiu Jitsu – Instructor warms up students, teaches a technique, then leads sparring practice. Resources: mats, old clothes, 2 hours or less. (1. PT)

Examples: Walk

  1. Buddy Break Contact – Pair of students practice bounding backward to break contact while shooting at targets. Assessed on time to break contact and hits achieved. Resources: Rural range, firearms. (2. Marksmanship, 3. SUT)
  2. Stalk and Shoot – Student stalks up to a predetermined firing area, and fires a precision round from concealment. Assessed on accuracy and camouflage. (2. Marksmanship, 7. Fieldcraft)
  3. Skill Builder Navigation Course – Students navigate from point to point, performing technical tasks at each point such as communication, optic use, physical challenge, weapon use. Resource intensive, but can train large numbers quickly.

Examples: Run

A true “run” event is a full mission profile, or exercises which encompass all phases of an operation. Ideally they will include Opposing Forces (OPFOR). This can be a legitimate training event for both groups. These events should also include leadership decisions that materially affect the training event. These events should build upon previous training.

  1. Sniper attack on High Value Target (HVT) – Target is a steel target set up on a realistic objective. Sniper team plans their infiltration into the area, sets up a final firing position and shoots, and then successfully exfiltrates. (1. PT, 2. Marksmanship, 6. Communication, 7. Fieldcraft)
  2. Assault on Outpost – Assault team infiltrates by truck and then foot, conducts recon on objective to complete their plan, then assaults objective. This can be more complex by adding follow on objectives based on intelligence collected during the assault, and leadership decisions based on the initial recon, and intelligence. (5. Vehicles, 7. Fieldcraft, 3. SUT, 8. Leadership)

Yearly Training Schedules

Training schedules should, above all, be reasonable to implement and safe. They should build on previous blocks of instruction. The instructors should plan out the year based on the goal of running a culmination exercise if possible. It’s ok to dial the exercise back or up as the year progresses and the reality of the men is apparent.

Basic Online OPSEC

Here’s a link to a good basic primer for online security. Long story short is to ditch social media, ditch Google for DuckDuckGo, and use Brave as your browser.

The Simple 4×8 Raised Bed

Value up front: Here is a drawing link to a raised bed design I made and use. It is cheap, easy to build, and easy to order from just a few local lumber store parts.

This bed costs a whopping $76.43 in April 2020 dollars from McCoy’s lumber (my preferred store). The bed has a few interesting features:

  • $76.43 price per bed
  • Only 4 parts to order: 2x10x8’s, a 4x4x12, 3″ screws, and 2 x 24″ rebar pins
  • 1.6 cubic yards of space to fill
  • 29.5 square feet of planting space
  • Treated lumber will last for a decade or more. As long as the treatment is not CCA (contains arsenic), the general consensus is that treated lumber is safe for gardening.
  • 4×4 nubs can be used to attach watering, trellising, row covers, etc
  • Bed can be easily taken down and re-assembled at another location

Tips for Raised Bed Gardening

  1. My number 1 tip is to get Brett Markham’s book Mini Farming and simply follow his recommendations (I’m not an affiliate and get no money from this).
  2. Fill the bottom of the raised bed with old dead wood and logs, then fill the rest with topsoil and mushroom compost (50-50 mix). Don’t use suburb soil to fill raised beds, the soil is terrible. However, it helps if you turn over the soil under the bed, but it’s not strictly necessary.
  3. Put the bed on top of level ground. There is no need to dig the bed into the ground or anything.
  4. Amend the soil with mushroom compost or home-made compost each year.
  5. Check your local extension office for information on how and when to plant. The extension offices are one of the few government agencies that typically put out good information.
  6. Use wood chips, leaves, brown paper, cardboard, or compost as mulch.
  7. Water plenty, raised beds drain and dry quickly.
  8. Use the cloth bags (search your local garden store or Amazon) for growing root crops: that way gophers cannot get to them before you do, and harvest is as easy as dumping the bag out and grabbing the roots.

Deciding on the Best Bed

The COVID-19 pandemic has ushered in a new era of food insecurity in the West. While people are not yet lacking for calories, they have less choices at the store. Many have responded by starting gardens. I heartily agree with gardening. The yield is knowledge, healthier food, and time outdoors. Gardening makes for a more healthful life. My own motivations for gardening occurred before the pandemic: I was dissatisfied with the produce at the store, and concerned about future supply chain problems.

When I started gardening years ago, I began with raised beds and had immediate successes, along with failures. I have experimented with many methods, including raised beds, traditional tilled fields, no-till garden, raised rows, cloth bags, and trellising. For beginners, raised beds are by far the best value-added method. To that end, I’ve decided to compare raised bed types. I did this for myself: I wanted to know the best practice for rapidly augmenting my growing capacity if need-be.

To that end, I’ve posted the comparison for the reader’s review. I’d draw your interest specifically to the pricing on the bottom. First is cost per ft^2 (CPF), then CPF over years of use, then CPF over total performance.

TypeUnits5 30Gal Cloth BagsJustin Rhodes Raised BedsJustin Rhodes Raised Beds TreatedCinder BlocksGalvanized Horse TroughsSimple Treated Wood
Overall Inner Sizeft2’ Diameter4’ x 8’4’ x 8’2.67’ x 8’2’ x 4’4’ x 8’
Square Footage Perft^23.14323221.33832
Square Footage TotalFt^215.7323221.33832
Depthin162020242418.5
Volume PerYd^30.161.981.981.580.591.83
AttributesScore
Toxicity0-5353443
Gardening Performance0-10466544
Portability0-5522042
Immediate Usability0-5511141
Longevity Years0-104361086
Asthetics0-5254333
Total0-20232222232719
Deliverywks
CostUSD$$38.99$330.00$396.00$109.10$99.00$76.53
(CFP) Cost per Ft^2USD$$2.48$10.31$12.38$5.11$12.38$2.39
CPF / Longevity~USD$$0.62$3.44$2.06$0.51$1.55$0.40
CPF / Performance~USD$$0.11$0.47$0.56$0.22$0.46$0.13