Friday, April 29, 2016

SHTF Self-Education Series Book Review: CONTACT! - Tactical Manual for Post Collapse Survival

**Bumped - Companion to this week's Book Review of Max's Fictional Novel, "Patriot Dawn"

"Contact! - Tactical Manual for Post Collapse Survival:  So good you may want to buy it before it gets banned!"

I was fortunate enough to receive a copy of the 2nd edition of CONTACT! so that I could review the work and provide some information to the reading consumer on the content and value of the work.  First and foremost, understand what you are getting when you buy this manual- you are buying the condensed wisdom and talent of a man who spent most of a career in the British Special Operations Forces in the Parachute Regiment.  To put it in perspective for an American audience, Max Velocity describes its function as most closely aligned with that of the American 75th Ranger Regiment.  The author spent several tours in Afghanistan and Iraq in a variety of roles, both military and as a contractor.  Upon retirement, he moved to the United States with his American wife and joined the American Army as a Combat Medic and Civil Affairs Specialist.  Understanding the breadth and depth of his experience, you will know immediately the value of what is between the soft covers of this work as being forged in battle and in hard circumstances.  What you get within these pages is no bluster, no nonsense and of practical use.

So good, you may want to buy it before it gets banned!

 A brief word on what you will get in content with this book is in order.  The book is just short of 590 pages long, and is composed of 14 chapters.  While a portion of this book consists of some of Max Velocity's blog articles and extracts, they are used as supporting work to the main theme of the chapters, and not as the bones of the chapter itself.  Some prefer to have the hard copy, as it never needs batteries or re-booting.  Not a bad thing when considering the assumptions of a post-event breakdown of society.

     Chapter One is essential reading, as it sets the stage for the premise of the book - that you need to be fit in order to fight, that being fit makes survival in general more likely, what are the assumptions about the security environment you will possibly face, who and what you will have around you as this all happens.  You will not find any in depth esoteric nonsense about comparing weapon platforms and minutae as you may find in some other works.  The core of the book is concepts that you can read, practice and apply as warranted.

     While it is entirely unknown how much rural rucking will be and can be done post event, the benefits of knowing how to do it and how to pack are important.  More important is actually doing it enough in peacetime so that if you have to do it in a sub-optimal environment, you won't become a casualty through ignorance or inexperience.  A key work to keep in mind when packing a ruck is:

This work (Soldier's Load and the Mobility of a Nation) is a nice supplement to the rucking discussion, as it tracks historical loads of what effective fighters can carry.  This provides more backing to what Max Velocity is talking about when he discusses weight carried.  Read Max Velocity's work, then read "Soldier's Load" to give yourself more backing on this.  It is imperative to not treat yourself or those in your group as pack animals.  The long term problems of being human pack mules is evident out of the ongoing wars - destroyed knees, hips and backs.  To be effective, you have to stay in the fight.  Hard to do that if you have massive osteopathic issues or soft tissue injuries from carrying absurd weights.  The bottom line is be in shape, do the work to stay in shape and know what you are doing and why.  Don't become a casualty of a massive gear list.  Be disciplined in the ounces, as they add up quickly.

Many Americans are in a quandry, that of staying or going in case of some event of magnitude.  Modern American life in many ways argues against "going" (aka "bugging out"), as any number of people have effectively built the iron mountain of logistics in their homes.  To leave would to be to lose it all for a life of total uncertainty.  How that will play out in a post event scenario, Max provides some extensive commentary on that.  Really the only thing that readily came to mind about the content of Chapter 2 is that most people have no idea how to properly lay in barbed and concertina wire.  You can read about that here and here .  I agree with the author's aversion to doctrinal publications, but there are some ideas for how to properly do things from an engineering perspective that really are cut and dried in there.

There is a bit of heresy in Max Velocity's work that is absolutely on target.  Those who slogged through and manned the oars in the DoD from circa 1995 onward were innundated with OODA loop discussion. To the uninitiated, it essentially argues that doing more, faster than the other guy ends up in victory for you.  This not only has been proven to not be the Holy Grail in the COIN conflicts since then, it has been overstated in importance.  At times, it seems that the most credulous who were able to rattle off acronyms and concepts dominated the discourse.  You can read about this at page 149 of Chapter 3.  Col John Boyd of OODA fame is a topic for a whole different discussion.

Chapter 4 is on training.  It is imperative to understand that you will fight as you train, and that training is probably the key element that allows American and other Western forces to prevail as much as they do.  Training, to be effective, must be realistic and be iterative - building upon itself in a crawl/walk/run progression.  Blow this off at your own peril, as you can't get trained up by reading a few posts or a book and thinking you're set. Not so.

Within chapter four, there is a discussion about map reading.  If you have kids, this is a great way to get them to learn some militarily fundamental skills under the radar.  It may be a generational issue, perhaps not.  Map reading is not automatic, and Max's cautions about potential loss of GPS systems points to a grim, lost future if you can't absorb what the basics are.  The author states his preference for Silva style compasses without any specific recommendations.  The lensatic type familiar to American military veterans is a bit clunkier and in a light infantry environment, ounces add up.

Suunto M3

 Purchase Link for Suunto M-3DL Compass

In compasses, most will go with what they are used to.  Max offers compelling reasons to use a Silva style compass at page 212, that the Silva type has an integrated protractor for map use.  After living with lensatic compasses for almost 30 years, I'd say his opinion is a sound one.  They are lighter and often don't have external moving parts to break.

I'd be remiss unless I took a moment to reflect on Max's weapons safety philosophy, which you can get to at page 182.  His emphasis on mutual trust is an important deviation from many standard American military practices which quite frankly focus on keeping the lowest common denominator element from having issues.  Mutual trust carries with it a personal sense of responsibility and inter-connectedness that all the procedures in the world cannot convey.  I would hazard to guess that the British Army's history of negligent discharges and fratricide caused by poor safety practices is no worse than that of the American military. Go with what works for you, but understand that professionals operate with a high degree of implicit and explicit trust between people.

Chapter 5 covers what many will consider the meat of the matter, that of tactical principles.  While none of this will be a surprise for veterans with ground experience in combat arms or combat support, the presentation is such that the novice can readily adsorb the material.  Helpful diagrams illustrate pertinent points of small unit combat.  If you are more than one, you need to read this chapter.  The rest of the book, save for the final Chapter 6 on "Casualties" deals with various tactical concepts and employment issues.  Given the austere environment of resources, you may want to peruse the concept of "Satellite Patrolling" on page 344 to maximize your assets and uncertainty for the opposition.  The Marine Corps employed this in varying degrees from 2003 onwards as a technique.

Chapter 6 covers casualties and casualty care from the perspective of a qualified combat medic.  It is all well and good to study patrols and various aspects of military art, but if somebody gets hurt and they are not cared for, morale is going to hit the floor.  That is a practical reason for treating your wounded.  It is also the ethical, moral thing to do.  The issue with tourniquets is troublesome, as in a post event chaotic environment, the prospects for amputation are all pretty grim.  This does not cover any issue post amputation, and rehabilitation - nor is that in the scope of the work.  Just keep it in mind.

Ever Ready First Aid Israeli Bandage Battle Dressing First Aid Compression Bandage, 6 Inch

The balance of the tactical chapters are all exceedingly sound.  It will be of no assistance for me to summarize what he has written on it, as it would be like inscribing graffiti in the Sistine Chapel.  He covers dismounted as well as mounted tactics and considerations, defense and offense while making a lot of sense doing so.  The principles and concepts in this book will hold you in good stead.  Diligently and relentlessly studied and practiced, you will be on par with most of the American military - perhaps exceeding a surprising number.  As Max states in his conclusion, the main focus is on the basics and application of the principles to your situation.  I highly recommend this work to you, as Max Velocity has provided a wealth of knowledge and experience that can be at your fingertips.  To add on to Max's motto of "Keep Low, Move Fast" ... read this book and apply it.  Often.

Thank you for stopping by and visiting, reading and hopefully sharing with others.  Supporting this blog by shopping through one of our Amazon links is greatly appreciated.  Comments, questions or concerns are always welcome - you can contact us via E-mail or follow us at Twitter via @Partyzantski or @Stopshoutblog.  You can also sign up via e-mail for new posts (we do not sell or share your e-mail contact information with anyone). Comments/feedback are welcome and valued, however, all comments are moderated and will be posted after we have time to review and release. Thanks again!

You may also enjoy reading some of Partyzantski's previously published book reviews:

Message to Garcia

The Starfish and the Spider

The Coming Anarchy

Coup D'Etat (Now back in stock)

Special Forces Guerilla Warfare Manual

Phantom Soldier

Total Resistance

Simple Sabotage Field Manual #3

Prepper's Home Defense

"CONTACT!" is part of our Tuesday Book Review series ~ Written by StopShoutingBlog contributor and #FAB50 Blog Award Winner Partyzantski, coolest cat on teh inner webs, retired Mustang, former FID embedded military Advisor, SASO trainer and scenario developer, Electronic Warfare Aviator, PME instructor, certified Force Protection and Anti-terrorism officer and combat seasoned USMC (0202) field grade intelligence officer. When not blogging or maintaining weapons proficiency at the range, he enjoys cat herding and travel to off-the-beaten-track locales. You can follow him on Twitter @Partyzantski  


Diz said...

I wanted to add an amen from the back of the church to this review. I had the privilege to cross-train with the Brits, so I knew what excellent light infantry they are. It came to me as no surprise that Max's book "Contact" would be a great reference source. In fact, I have all his books.

For those of you not aware of it, to get a slot to cross-train with these guys is highly prized in our military. The top tier units have regular exchange programs with British SF. So when one of them writes a book, it's a good idea to take a look at it.

What I like about Max is that he has taken a lot of the T,T,P's from military service and modified it for our use, as armed civilians in a WROL type situation. For instance, he doesn't gob on about where to place your belt feds for fire support, but rather how to use a buddy team (or two) for the same task, with weapons at hand. And we won't have "resupply on the objective" so he goes to great lengths to explain how to pack and hump a ruck. You won't have to plow through "calls for fire" and "marking a landing zone", etc. to find things you can actually use.

As an added bonus, he runs a training school to show you how to do the things he talks about in his book(s). It is based on the British Army principle of "Free Play" which is very different from the way our military trains. And it just happens to be an excellent way to get civilians up to speed on these things, in a very short space of time.

So, if you are concerned about what may be coming, in uncertain times, this is a good book to give you some idea of what you need to do, and, where you can go to learn how to do it.

idahobob said...

Excellent review.


Anonymous said...

This is an exceptionally balanced and beautifully written book and the essays he posts in the 1st third of the book set up the stage for the rest of the content

I believe this is a future classic in this field and will be mentioned in one breath with Rommel's "Infantry Attacks" or BH Liddel Hart's "Strategy" for their respective fields.