I’ve gotten to know NC Scout over the last few months by doing podcasts with him roughly once a week. I advertise with him, and we always have a great conversation on his podcast. When I checked out his training schedule (www.brushbeater.org) and saw that he was running a series of radio-related courses here in Michigan, I knew that I needed to go.
The courses offered were RTO (Radio-Telephone Operator), Advanced RTO, and Signals Intelligence, all areas that I consider vital for preparedness. They run $300 for each 2-day segment, or if you pre-register, you can get them all for $800, which is a $100 discount. The course was near me, so I decided to take them all.
In communicating with NC Scout, he told me he would be camping on site and a few others would be too, so I decided that the best training experience would be in doing it under field conditions, and I wrote a couple of articles about that. I pitched my tent and went for the full experience.
The class brought in people from a wide variety of experiences from all over the country and that helps build a class and builds a sense of being a part of a larger community. One of the best aspects of any preparedness class like this is getting to know other, like-minded people, and knowing you aren’t alone. Of course, at the end of the week, everyone exchanged contact details.
The first two days were the RTO course. I thought I was pretty knowledgeable on radio, but NC Scout knows his business. In this course, you learn the basics of radio. We discussed various radio sets, license free options, licensing options, and the benefits of each. Quite a bit of time was spent on learning how radios work and how to best apply antenna theory to your tactical communications problems.
The biggest takeaway here was in how to write a set of Signals Operating Instructions for your own group. The need for an operation-specific SOI, rather using a “canned” one-size-fits-all SOI is that you can tailor it to what’s needed at that moment.
The best physical skill learned in the RTO Course was the building of various antennas for various wavelengths. We built jungle antennas and dipoles and then strung them up; testing them during field exercises for range.
The RTO course culminated in conducting a field training exercise on sending SALUTE/SALT reports via radio.
The next two days were the Advanced RTO Course, where NC Scout took us a little deeper in the practical radio operational skills. This time, we discussed encryption methods that you can use in the field, digital modes, and digital radios, and built Yagi directional antennas. Again, field exercises solidified our use of the skills learned.
The Advanced RTO Course also discussed some apps for more secure communications than what you normally get using Google and Apple. The course discussed the dangers of over-reliance on cell phones and delved deep into the workings of cell phones on the cell network, which is anything but secure.
The final two days were spent in the SIGINT Course, applying the skills learned in the previous two courses to begin gathering and sharing intelligence. NC Scout gave an outstanding breakdown of the intelligence targeting process based on his time deployed in the GWOT in Iraq and Afghanistan.
We discussed basic SIGINT tools like using the Baofeng as a scanner, using police scanners and SDR’s, and a few other tools. We learned how to map the communications landscape and RF spectrum around us to begin targeting potential adversaries.
After we learned the basic skills, we built loop antennas and used them in conjunction with the Yagi’s to track down our partners broadcasting nearby to develop the skills to find opposition groups operating in your area. It was actually a very fascinating set of field exercises.
I like to think I’m pretty knowledgeable in this arena, but I took 24 pages of notes. Not only do you learn practical, real-world skills, but NC Scout tells you the history of everything you learn, which is absolutely fascinating and helps you grasp the purpose of a particular item or skill set.
I HIGHLY recommend taking the radio courses, and I know I’ll be signing up for his Scout classes as well. However, as a United States Marine, I draw the line at taking his carbine class, as there is NOTHING AT ALL an Army guy can show a Marine about shooting a rifle (just kidding, I probably will).
A note about Rite In The Rain notebooks and pens: We had 3 days of rain, some of it pretty heavy. Operations don’t stop due to rain, and neither should training. I’ve always been a huge fan of Rite in the Rain, and this week only solidified my belief that you need as much of their stuff as you can get your hands on.
Along the way, we had campfires, we introduced NC Scout to the joy that is Detroit-Style pizza, spent WAY too many hours at Central Michigan’s finest Irish bar (with authentic Irish staff), drank some pretty pricey Irish Whiskey, and learned that Orange Jameson isn’t a bad thing. We also enjoyed a pair of De Oppresso Liber cigars, courtesy of Green Beret Colonel Mike Bennett, the author of the Warlock series of books.
Check out Brushbeater Training and Consulting at http://www.brushbeater.org.
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