A few days ago I returned from my first semester at 1Shepherd. I say it was my first because after my experience there I am absolutely going back!
For those not familiar, 1 Shepherd is a school that teaches leadership through warrior skills and applies them via simulated combat using the MILES system. MILES uses a combination of blank firing rifles and lasers to create a very realistic simulation of the capabilities of actual firearms.
The 1 Shepherd camp consists of several troop tents and a re-purposed mobile home which functions as a kitchen supplying hot rations for each meal and a laundry facility for the camp. A second building contains 4 showers and 4 flush toilets.
Like any other school, there are entry level and advanced classes and they are organized into semesters. Each semester includes a two day class, two day Situational Training Exercise (STX) and a three day Field Training Exercise (FTX). Classes are characterized by hands on learning directed by instructors. STXs include training followed by short missions in the field which allow students to use what they learned, followed by feedback on their performance by the instructors. The FTX is more hands off and long term. Students spend all 3 days in the field putting into practice what they’ve learned. While instructors are in the field they really only get involved if you ask a question. This is part of the “crawl, walk, run” concept of learning which works amazingly well. In my opinion, using newly learned material is the best way to make it stick.
I entered the 1 Shepherd program as all others do, by taking the Warrior Basic Class. For two days we learned individual movement techniques, became familiar with the equipment we’d be taking into the field and learned basic battle drills and patrolling techniques. For those looking to study ahead, some of this info can be found on the Olive Drab Journal website. I did, and it really helped to have much of the memorization out of the way. The hand signals are particularly useful to have down by the time you arrive at 1 Shepherd.
As a culmination for the class, we teamed up with the Light Leaders Course students (small unit leaders in the making) for a short patrol. This resulted in a great firefight and marked the end of the class. We received our 1 Shepherd patches and the evening off to shower, do laundry and watch a movie as a reward!
The next day marked the beginning of the Situational Training Exercise (STX). We rotated from classroom to field, and back to classroom. Each iteration we learned a new tactic and immediately put it into action against an enemy team made up of the instructors. This was an intense way to learn (the instructors call it drinking from a fire hose) but I found it very valuable as we had instant feedback on how we performed and what we could adjust to get better.
That night was spent in the field after a late evening attack. Not only did this give us a change of scenery, it allowed us to test our sleep systems before the Field Training Exercise (FTX). Every detail of the 1Shepherd curriculum has a purpose, many of which build upon each other to give you success later on in the curriculum.
The Situational Training Exercise (STX) ended in a massive rainstorm that prevented us from going out in our last field exercise but was a welcome recovery period in preparation of the Field Training Exercise (FTX). On a side note, we would have gone out despite the rain but it was decided not to get us all soaked and worn out right before the FTX. Another evening off for showers and laundry ended in our official warning order being issued.
The FTX this year was very, very wet. An angry thunderstorm rolled in the first night and drenched everyone not fully prepared. For those who were, the saturated soil and plants soaked you as soon as you stepped off on patrol. We fought, regrouped and fought again – all while enduring the wet, heat and high humidity. It was a true test of equipment and mettle for us all. I was VERY fortunate in that my combination of Salomon Quest boots and Darn Tough socks prevented me from getting a single blister (reviews pending) despite having sopping wet feet for about 32 hours.
The FTX ended in another epic firefight where 4 of us fought down to the last mag right up until the end of the exercise. An after action review followed along with a pinning/patching ceremony for guys who this FTX marked their completion of the One Leader pin or Lightfighter patch. After formation, we broke for much needed showers and an amazing steak dinner.
The next day we all packed up and headed home, exhausted but proud of what we’d accomplished and grateful for the experiences. I’d bonded with new brothers in intense situations and look forward to training with them again. The next semester is only a few months away but it can’t come soon enough. I’ll be returning to work towards my One Warrior pin, the first of three offered by 1 Shepherd. If you want to be challenged, if you want to learn, if you want to be a better version of yourself;
Thanks to Robin Werling for the use of his photos!