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


  • 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

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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.

6 Replies to “Big 4, Little 4 (B4L4)”

  1. Appreciate you and the great things you provide for me as a citizen soldier. Want to inquire of you if you have an ETA for your Stealth Fighter manual. Looking forward to having it in my kit.
    Thanks again.

  2. I appreciate your kind words. I wish I had an ETA for you, but I’ve gotten incredibly busy and I’m not sure when I’ll finish it.

  3. This is a good framework to structure training around, the the devil in my mind is in the details of setting a standard for each of these. Thankfully due to the cost of ammunition I think people have stopped doing Mag dumps in the general direction of the target and calling at training. Hopefully people start to realize accuracy matters and doing things that hurt our ego like shooting pistol at a 6 inch bull’s-eye at 25+ yards is necessary skill building.
    The same for PT which I think is probably the community’s single biggest problem. Excuses of old age, past injuries, and lack of time go a long way to prevent actual effort and realistic assessment of just how poor their physical fitness and health has become. Standards here like run or ruck paces and minimum Pushups and Sit-ups will prevent people from phoning it it. There also needs to be public (internal group) accountability of those failing to meet the standards so they don’t feel comfortable failing but also so they can be helped and coached.

  4. You are 100% correct on the need for setting standards. Mountain Guerrilla has some good marksmanship standards.

    The key is iterative improvement. Establish a benchmark. It’s ok to suck at first. Improve over time.

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