In session 006 of Marksman Live, I’m talking with Dr. Christopher Larsen of the One Shepherd Leadership Institute. I’ve been following Doc Larsen’s work for years, long before I ended up on a livestream with him as a panel member with Brent0331. He’s a veteran US Army officer, professional educator, and author. I actually had his Small Unit Tactics Smartbook on the shelf and reference it regularly.
One Shepherd is an interesting program. Its origins are in wargames such as paintball and milsim, and it has been around far longer than the other current schools teaching small unit tactics and infantry skills. I’ve regularly seen posts and after action reviews about the curriculum and lessons learned during One Shepherd’s programs, and I look forward to checking it out someday.
Especially now that I know that they have a campus relatively close to where I live.
Minimum Capable Citizens
There’s a long history of American civilians participating in military training. In fact, early in our history it was simply an expectation of every capable citizen to learn marksmanship and practice drill. While the early colonial militia may not be currently relevant, there are periods of our history where military training continued to be an important topic.
A while ago, Dr. Larsen posted a video discussing a complete training progression for civilians to develop a breadth of skills. By his estimation, it was a progression that would take eight years and span a breadth of capabilities.
That got me thinking. Eight years of training is a lot to ask for the average civilian to commit to, both from a time and financial standpoint. So what would be an acceptable “minimum” to shoot for?
Put another way, what would be the baseline skillset for a prepared civilian to have and then build on should the need arise?
Calling on the Militia
It didn’t immediately occur to me when we scheduled this session, but we were effectively talking about basic militia skills. We spent a bit of time talking about historical Colonial Militia expectations, but also the more modern iterations like the Missouri Militia, a fully chartered state example.
In my view, the militia still exists in times of need because it is fundamentally made up of concerned citizens in a community banding together. Most of the time, that doesn’t involve any shooting whatsoever, but instead means disaster recovery. I envision this as neighbors banding together to fill and emplace sandbags before a flood, or private citizens helping run communications networks during emergencies.
In the Missouri example, Doc Larsen mentioned how the Missouri Militia was more prepared than FEMA in the aftermath of a tornado. It was the militia, not the government, who ran logistics to supply water and transportation in the early days of the recovery.
The Basic Skillset
That got us to the question of a minimum skillset. While Doc’s eight-year progression is certainly interesting, it’s just not something we could expect every citizen to commit to.
The theme of everything was “just enough to be dangerous.” This doesn’t mean “dangerous” in a good way, either- but someone who knows the very basics of a skill and could become overconfident if left unsupervised.
So what are those core skills to be just enough? An obvious one was marksmanship fundamentals and firearms safety (this is the Everyday Marksman, after all), but also first aid, communications, detection, and land navigation. Let’s break each of these down a little more.
This is easy enough to understand. The average citizen should know the basics of firearms safety and marksmanship. That does not necessarily mean understanding how to employ a specific weapon, like the AR-15. The technical aspects of a specific weapon can be learned later, the important part is safe handling and a grasp of proper aiming.
Beyond this would start specializing in tactical training.
At this level, we’re looking at a basic first aid qualification. Something like a stop the bleed course. Just enough to know the basics of stopping immediate death. Building further on this track would be specializing in emergency medicine.
While I am all about preaching ham radio, the basic skill level of communications is less about radio and more about learning to clearly and concisely communicate information in any format. That could be written, spoken, or anything else.
I would argue the next step up would be radio usage, and we should encourage prepared citizens to get involved at the technician level. Beyond that, though, you get into radio specialists who know how set up things like NVIS, SOIs, and utilize good communication security practices.
In this case, detection refers simply to teaching citizens how to be aware of what’s going on around them. It means being engaged in your community enough that you notice when things look out of place. It also means gathering the right details about what you see so you can effectively communicate them elsewhere.
At the more advanced levels, a specialist would also learn about tracking, constructing hides, utilizing drones, and more.
GPS is not always a given. There is a lot to be said for knowing how to read a map, plot a route, and navigate it using a compass.
A specialist would learn to do this in all conditions, especially at night (and using night vision), and utilize grid square coordinates to identify specific locations. This could be used for sharing information across teams and groups.
Now that we’ve got the basic skillset out of the way, you see that there is room in every category to grow specialists in each category. Not everyone in your team, group, or neighborhood needs to possess advanced skills in every area. Instead, think in terms of teams. Everyone should possess the basic skillset above, but only specific people would expand deeper into each one. Those individuals would then leverage and teach their skills to others as needed.
Luckily, there is training available out there for all of this.
A Note on Leadership
We briefly touched on this during the stream, but leadership is separate and discreet skillset that must be cultivated over time. Attending classes like these helps develop that skillset, but being a leader has many other factors that don’t come from attending training courses.
Thanks to Doc Larsen for hanging out with us during the stream. While it wasn’t intentional, the conversation turned towards what he does with One Shepherd, and many of these basic skills we discussed comprise the first portion of their Warrior Training program, so it seems like an excellent place to start if you want to pursue the path of a Minimum Capable Citizen.
Of note, though, they don’t really cover marksmanship and weapon-specific training. That’s something you can (and should) pursue separately on your own, and likely before you arrive to do field exercises.
As I was typing up the summary, I also realized that we never touched on physical fitness as a requirement. In my opinion, a basic level of fitness should absolutely be part of the conversation for a minimum capable citizen. It interweaves through everything we do. I also realize that some people have medical issues that might never let them reach high levels of fitness, and those people can still serve as specialists in other areas like communications and logistics.
There’s a role for everyone if they want to be involved.
Thanks for watching! I’ll be taking the audio from this session and further editing it down into a separate podcast episode as well.