AAR Shivworks (Craig Douglas / Southnarc) AMIS - Armed Movement In Structures 9-10 May 2015


AAR Shivworks (Craig Douglas / Southnarc) AMIS - Armed Movement In Structures 9-10 May 2015

Full Disclosure:
Craig gave me a free slot in this course after my knee got messed up at ECQC in September. While this doesn't influence my experience at the course in what follows, I want to be completely transparent.

Class Name: AMIS - Armed Movement In Structures
Instructor: Craig Douglas (Shawn Lupka = AI)
Class Location: Pittsburgh, PA, at an abandoned country club.
Class Ratio: 2 : 19 (Final Evolutions were 2 : 1)

Course Description as per Shivworks.com -

Armed Movement in Structures:

The ShivWorks Armed Movement in Structures (AMIS) course is a twenty hour block of instruction focusing on negotiating movement problems within structures with limited or no resources. Realizing that moving through a structure that contains armed hostiles, perhaps by one’s self, is probably the most dangerous task one can undertake, the best options for winning a confrontation are presented with the qualification that there is no safe way to do this.

Day One (12 hours):
– Viewing the environment in terms of the unseen
– Vertical, Horizontal, and Diagonal planes of visual obscurement
– Distance variables and the visual apex
– Threshold evaluation
– Dynamic and Deliberate movement
– Room Entry factors (known versus unknown)
– Minimizing multiple exposure
– Modifying the fighting platform to conform to cover and concealment
– Re-setting/Disrupting the adversary’s OODA loop
– Chalk board exercises
– Dry-runs
– FoF evolutions
– Low-light module

Day Two (8 hours)
– Practical Exercises for egress, search, and third-party rescue


I went to the range more focusing on handgun work. I should have taken a two-day handgun course preceding this as well.

I also watched three Panteao videos during the weeks prior (Paul Howe's Intro To Home Defense and Civilian Response To Active Shooter, Pat Roger's Intro To Shoot House).

Materiel: One of the advantages is seeing different types of kit used in these classes, and how it works (or doesn't). What I used:

Handheld Light: EAG Fury P2X 500 Lumen.

This has the PrecisionWorks grooves cut out with o-rings to enhance grip as well as a lanyard. The lanyard concept came from Paul Howe. It hangs at about belly button level and allows me to let it hang to use my hand for other things while still having enough length to use the techniques shown in class that require it to be away from the body. I prefer this option over stowing a handheld light in a pocket as it works across various platforms and is easier to access and employ.

Before I had only used the Fury in a constant on setting via clicky switch. It also allows a momentary on with slight pressure applied. A strobe-like feature could be used with this technique, though it is not as effective as a dedicated strobe. I will be purchasing a dedicated strobe light due to this class. They allow you to disorient an opponent and maximize your movement - some serious ninja shit.

Weapons-Mounted Light/Laser: LDI/Steiner DBAL-PL. This is a 400 lumen white light and Green VIS Laser combination. They cannot be used independently of each other (meaning one cannot use white light only or green VIS laser only.) It also features an IR Laser/Illuminator combination but I didn't bring NODS with me (mistake). It worked exceedingly well when I had time or the presence of mind to actuate it and allowed for consistent shot placement, which works especially well in compressed shooting positions and asymmetric shooting positions. Raining down shot after shot on a crouched bad guys head in low light while limiting my own exposure was fantastic, as was shooting from compressed positions that would otherwise not have sighted fire able to be used. Lasers are an alternate sighting solution and should be embraced as such.

Airsoft Weapon: I ordered two RAP4 combat pistols but they failed to arrive in time. A fellow student saved the day and lent me a spare airsoft gun patterned after a Glock which was perfect and I am indebted to him (thanks Jeremy!)

PPE: Ops-Core Ballistic FAST Helmet and Smith Optics goggles. The gunsight mandible likewise didn't arrive in time so my beard provided protection and nothing pierced it.

I didn't use pads or gloves as I believe mistakes should hurt and they reinforce learning points. I took a few strikes to fingers / hands and stomach areas, and a few well-placed headshots to include a superbly placed goggles shot.

Medical: IFAK & Anti-Biotic Ointment. This helped when airsoft pellets broke skin, usually on the fingers / hand at close range.

We started off with a lecture on TD1 after introductions. The PowerPoint brief was interesting for two reasons. One - Craig taught, he wasn't a slave to it. Two - it was very short yet still clearly defined the principles and ensured maximum repetitions for students.

Following that we conducted a white board floor plan where various students came up and chose a route and explained why. This was a learning opportunity as it showcased various problems and priorities of work. Time between movements was essential, as was minimizing your exposure angles and maximizing coverage.

Following that, we walked the various routes (4) in the training venue. It should be noted that this training venue was expansive and had several unique subsections (kitchen, lockers, offices, open sections) that pattern real world scenarios where you may need to respond to a home invader, active shooter, or terrorist incident. This was a truly awesome facility and Shawn really outdid himself sourcing the training venue.

Following that, we broke up into 4 different groups and began to work FOF evolutions in a crawl/walk/run manner.

Issues I had with daylight runs:

1) Properly clearing angles: I wasn't doing this right. Having done EWO and ECQC helped in this regard to seeing angles and positioning myself properly, but I was doing this for immediate areas only and not looking at the big picture initially. While it is true that you eat an elephant one bite at a time, you also need to be cognizant of all there is and have a plan to work it. That plan may not survive first contact, but it is a plan. You are behind the learning and power curves if you ad hoc things.

2) Conforming my body to the environment: I didn't properly read the environment and conform my body to present the lowest target signature while simultaneously angling myself to gain the best field of view. Sometimes this meant adopting asymmetric shooting positions, sometimes it meant route selection, sometimes it meant using the 3D environment.

Reading offsets: I ROUTINELY failed to correctly read the environment and notice / account for offsets which was hugely detrimental.

During low light, use of my light gave me a false sense that I could clear those angles from a further distance when in reality there was still significant red space that I did not have eyes on. Craig highlighted this to me during one specific run which really drove the point home.

Low Light:

"Lights draw fire, and lights draw vision."

I was always of the belief that I can never have too much light. However, there were times in this course I had to stop for a few seconds and let my eyes adjust back. This typically occurred when I blipped mirrors and very close walls/objects. While this was temporarily disorienting to me and halted or negatively affected progress / compromised vision, it made me wonder the effect it had on others. While this didn't make me think to myself "I have too much light", it made me more cognizant of the effects my light can have on me.

I learned that low light / no light allows you to get away with more. You won't get prosecuted as harshly for not conforming to the environment, using proper body position on angles, or penetrating too deeply provided you are using effective light strategy and movement techniques. In contrast, you would get absolutely hammered during daylight for not doing things perfectly on demand, consistently. I know this, because I got my shit pushed in on the regular during FOF scenarios.

Issues I had with low light are as follows:

1) Using multiple flashes to construct a snapshot and staying static. I was using a single flash to try and detect & identify. This was ineffective at best and very dangerous as I didn't have enough information to process my surroundings and route.

Recommendation: Use a series of flashes to better construct a snapshot. Move after illuminating - that is your window of opportunity.

2) Properly seeing and discriminating what I am looking at. I had issues detecting and identifying threats that were in prone, crouched, or elevated positions.

Recommendation: Flash low, medium, and high to construct a complete snapshot. All three dimensions need to be accounted for. See, don't look.

3) Not moving after illuminating with my light. After illuminating I would remain in a static position or not move enough.

Recommendation: Be aggressive in movement post-illumination. That is the time to quickly gain ground, or to change position to better prosecute angles.

TD 2:

We started off with a cold run for re-introduction and to reinforce the material. Following that, we worked on contextualizing - giving verbal directives to bad guys, having them adopt a posture that placed them in poor positioning, disarming bad guys, walking them, and how to handle multiple bad guys, and an in extremis way of walking with and controlling a bad guy. Finally, we did a module on moving exigently and running with a handgun.

The block on detainee restraint without using restraints was particularly valuable as oftentimes we found ourselves out of zip ties on large hits (due to the large footprint of the Monadnock double restraints at the time). While newer materiel solutions that are lower footprint have since been fielded, this is still invaluable.

After each new module, we broke into groups to conduct repetitions and reinforce learning points. This is also a place where fellow students can observe and mentor your module to provide feedback - you can learn just as much from fellow students as you can from the instructor. This also gives you a chance to evaluate fellow students and see why they are here - some want to learn, some want to improve, some want to be challenged, others are here more for the thrill.

Chuck Haggard also gave an excellent brief on a burglary ring that worked in his AO a few years back. It's good to hear TTP's in use by bad guys, what they're doing, how they're target selecting, how many there are, et al. This insanities example of benefitting from wisdom and experience of fellow students.

Sustain: Being quiet and sneaky. I'm a big dude (tall and currently packing too much weight on my frame) and credit the half Injun in me, hunting, and serving in a sniper section and an HVT team for this. Sound is an indicator to your presence and location. Do your best to eliminate or mitigate it. Controlling breathing, moving slowly, and walking heel to toe in a slightly crouched position helps immeasurably.

Improve: Adapting to vertical planes. Again, I'm a tall dude and a head bobbing and breaking that vertical plane is a target indicator. Wearing a helmet makes it worse. I need to crouch down or otherwise make myself small to reduce or even mask my target signature.

I was struck by how old school Infantry tactics can apply within this context - things like SLLS and the 3-5 second rush (I'm up, he sees me, I'm down) certainly work. Violence of action also plays a part - "You gotta get them back on their heels and keep them there".

Rehearsals: Rehearsals are the lifeblood of a mission. My mission (evolution) would have went better if I practiced and rehearsed during downtime at the course. The areas I specifically needed to work on were:

1) Movement Technique (hips forward movement, plant & shift)
2) Up-pace
3) Full presentation crossing a threshold in an exigent circumstance.
4) Communicating and issuing directives to suspects.
5) Surgical precision shots with a handgun. Handgun is a deficiency area of mine and this needs to be corrected.

These were new techniques (or old ones that were adapted to this specific context) that needed to be rehearsed and combined. It takes me longer these days to understand and apply TTP's. I need to proactively work on and rehearse them during downtime and my own time to refine them. I failed to do this, and it negatively affected my evolution.

Final Evolution:

In this first and final evolution, the scenario was that I was in home and woke up in my bedroom (rearmost room) with an uneasy sense that something was amiss. My niece was staying in the front left room.

In my mind, I treated it as a Personnel Recovery mission set. This was a mistake as I discounted my niece in the scenario. I could have attempted to establish verbal
comms with her (or call / text her on the phone) have her come to me and/or link up with her, and together we could have strongpoint and held down in a room and alerted police. Instead I just went and John Wick'd that shit except nowhere near as fast or fluid or awesome.

I slowly worked the angles, using the techniques Craig and Shawn taught. Of particular value was arcing, and then bending my body over in lieu of taking another step. I'm a big dude (6'2") with long legs that can telegraph movement. That got me lit up a lot previously. The asymmetric positions of conforming your body to the angles and environment also helped in clearing. I cleared a few small rooms as well as one main room before making it down further in the hallway.

Chappy's shapes methodology from CQB Operations really worked well here and paid off huge dividends. Once I integrated that with the AMIS coursework things really came together for me. Everyone has a piece of the puzzle.

Overall, I was pleased with how my evolution went even though I fucked the middle up and even worse at the end. I was better at properly clearing angles, conforming my body to the environment, and reading offsets which were HUGE issues I had throughout the course. It went better than I expected as I was getting wrecked regularly during FOF iterations. As stated, I should have done things differently and rehearsed more. I know what issues I have to work on and will strive to correct them.

Video: I should have used video (helmet camera) during the course. However, it would not have properly shown the various angles properly as it isn't true first person view. (I couldn't find mine prior to the course, and now need to conduct inventory of everything.) An extra camera and mount for true first person view that didn't obstruct vision would be value added.

I also should have enlisted the aid of classmates during downtime on the Final Evolution runs to video proper executions of the various verbal orders and detainee positions so I have that to reference in lieu of just my written notes.

Final Thoughts:

This course has changed the way I perceive angles, spaces, illumination skillsets and strategies, movement, and shooting platforms. I wish I had trained this coursework prior to deployments - it would have helped immeasurably from clearing towns and particularly confined spaces / dwellings in Iraq and especially Afghanistan where door cutouts were so tight only one person would fit through and clear initially.

I consider Craig a mentor, and his abilities to distill everything down to it's essence as well as being able to effectively communicate and specifically cater to varied individuals of divergent backgrounds is incredible to watch. His voice, posture, speech rate will vary and adapt accordingly. I learn just as much about being an effective instructor from him as I do about the actual coursework and this is Value Added. He keeps to a small lane and courseworks, but he is literally light years beyond anyone else in this niche but needed field and very much unique in terms of training, experience, and instructing. I look forward to further training opportunities with him.

Shawn was likewise an awesome AI. He's been to several AMIS courses and extrapolated the coursework into live fire courses of fire and drills. Everyone has their own unique frame of reference and ability to communicate and break principles down. Shawn broke a movement issue I was having down into simple, basic patterns - look how professional football players move - hips forward, plant, immediately transition. "Speed is the elimination of all unnecessary movement" - Steve Tarani. That is a constant. Shawn also has different ways of explaining concepts that I found easy to understand and comprehend - "Keep exposures within your cone of vision." It's a very visual way of thinking about it which aids me. They were long training days and unlike students who had breaks between runs, instructors were constantly looking, assessing, mentoring, and providing feedback for every individual.

The great thing about these courseworks are that they highlight deficiencies. Which leg of your tripod is weak? Shawn made a great point that EWO makes you want to take up boxing, ECQC makes you want to take up jiu-jitsu, and AMIS should make you want to take up competition shooting. The latter is definitely something I need to get back into. Watching an Army veteran and active competitor work FOF iterations was amazing. His movement, presentation, acuity, accuracy, and problem-solving was phenomenal.

I am very lucky that my structure is AMIS rated - UTM/Sims on the first floor, and airsoft for the second floor. I can work problems static with static and/or reactive IDTS targets, and I can use this structure for sustainment AMIS for the Philly training group. While nowhere near as capable as the expansive facility we used and it will become stale at a much faster rate, it is still an effective small-scale venue for what it is and I'll be taking more advantage of it.
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