Muster V After Action Report
Muster V After Action Report
I typically get nostalgic after our annual Muster comes to a close and I have the opportunity to unpack, catch up and reflect on just what it means to all those involved.
While each year lives up to the nomenclature of a skill-set development excursion, this year truly brought us back to a clearly identifiable curriculum with 101 and 201 classes for each discipline. We also included a proficiency demonstration at the end of each 201 class to ensure attendees retained the skills we taught.
In my yearly search for the meaning of each Muster, I’d like to depart from the majority of my usual recap and quote what one of our attendees had to say about it.
“I find it difficult to describe Muster and what is means to me. Somebody said that it helps them find their center. I feel that’s a great description of the end result.
To me, Muster is a place where “I can be me” and it’s ok. My sense of humor falls in line with others, rather than being socially awkward, which is usually the case. I felt a deeper connection with everybody at this last Muster then I do with most people I see every day and I could discuss and confront some old scars with Cadre and a fellow Squad member without feeling stupid, out of line, looked down on or ridiculed.
Seeing people work together as a team and help each other through the suck is refreshing to see. Loaning of equipment, encouragement, suggestions to help one get through, etc. The day to day bullsh** and never ending supply of a**holes in everyday life wears on me. I’ve let myself become cynical, jaded and am lost in my current direction in life. Muster is a reminder that not everybody in life is a do**** bag and full of sh**. I find this often difficult to remember.
The confidence that’s built in accomplishing our objectives is amazing. I find it even more rewarding to watch somebody else nail something they’ve been struggling with. Watching others succeed was very enjoyable.
The last 2 years I have gone home relaxed, motivated to do better, eager to learn additional skills and more organized. Organization is not my strong point. Muster withdrawal is a real thing and it really does fill a void that many of us former military folks tend to have.
Keep up the good work guys. This thing called Muster does a lot of good for many people on all levels. Calling it a training event would be degrading. This is what Muster means to me.”
That description of Muster literally hits me right in the feels and without sounding even more sappy than I already do, it’s exactly why we all come together to put an event like this on. Not only everyone involved here at ITS, but each of our cadre that takes time out of their busy schedules to give back and pay it forward.
At Muster, one of the first things we do is group attendees up by squads and ask that they elect a squad leader. The squad leader is responsible for accountability of their squad at all times and adhering to our stringent schedule. It’s one of the reasons we’re able to pack so much instruction into the 5 days attendees are with us. This year we racked up over 50 hours of training!
Each day starts bright and early with a wake up and flag ceremony before breakfast, which just like all meals and accommodations, is included in each attendee’s registration. This year we added in a small block of prehab, led by Nick Hays of Highland Solutions. It was a way to get everyone moving and active each morning, focusing on movements that can prevent injuries.
We ended each day this year with another flag ceremony after dinner and a campfire, which gave everyone time to relax and bond in a different way while watching a little Ranger TV. We even included a fire building block of instruction one night and of course, turned it into an individual competition.
Each year has been different at Muster, as we’re always improving the event based on feedback from attendees and lessons learned. As mentioned this year, we focused on curriculum and giving each attendee the chance to demonstrate their individual proficiency with each subject.
We dubbed this year “ITS University” and treated the courses, which are always based on the skills we advocate here at ITS, as a two-part learning environment. In the 101 classes, we had the opportunity to provide a refresher for returnees that might have already been exposed to the skill, as well as bring new attendees up to speed. The 201 class was then teaching advanced principles, now that everyone was at a certain level. At the end of the 201 course, we required each attendee to demonstrate those skills to earn their merit badge in that class.
The FTX, or Field Training Exercise, typically takes place the last evening of Muster and provides a chance for each of our squads to work together as a team to accomplish a specific task in each of our main Muster disciplines. While each year changes in terms of curriculum, this year’s courses break down as listed below.
Nick Hays of Highland Solutions was back this year with Land Navigation, showing attendees the basics of navigating with a map and compass using the MGRS (Military Grid Reference System).
His practical included a Land Nav course set up with points attendees plotted during the classroom portion and followed their individual bearings to each point, which reinforced how things really go on the ground.
John Hurth of TYR Group was back with tracking this year, showing attendees the intricacies of reading human movement over varied terrain. John highlighted the goals involved in combat tracking, including identifying individuals based on consistent sign along a trail and finding track traps already present in nature.
He encouraged students to use critical thinking in order to understand things like stride length and direction of movement. Later in the course, after encountering an unknown track trap, students were able to apply these skills to provide details on what they believed happened in the trap and the individuals moving through it.
Eric Southland, our ITS Law Enforcement Correspondent, went through the basics of responding to an active shooter event in a public setting. His instruction included understanding signs of an impending emergency event like an active shooter and the steps necessary to move away from the attack, barricade your location and be prepared to fight if necessary.
Matt Fiddler of Serepick began his course by going completely back to the basics of lock picking and surreptitious entry. By giving an overview of how pin and tumbler locks function, as well as their vulnerabilities, he gave the students a better understanding of the methods used to defeat these locks.
Matt encouraged each student to begin by single-pin picking two and three pinned locks to ensure they understood the underlying concept of picking. From there, the students progressed to things like bump keys, tubular locks and locks featuring security pins.
Caleb Causey of Lone Star Medics returned this year offering students training on trauma response and tourniquet application. Covering everything from scene safety to one handed tourniquet application, Caleb encouraged students to analyze all the details of a situation to understand the best first step in resolving it.
Nick Hays of Highland Solutions showcased his specialty with public speaking by presenting a lecture on high pressure decision making. Nick combines his life experience, educational perspective and leadership acumen to formulate talks that challenge organizations to be better tomorrow than they are today.
In my Knot Tying class, I walked attendees through the knots they needed to know for the later rappelling segment of Muster. In addition to teaching how to rig a top rope climb, I also went over some core principles with rigging tubular webbing and the American Death Triangle.
Attendees this year had the opportunity to not only learn how to rig a rappel, but get the rare opportunity to do so from a rappelling and climbing tower. We spent the better part of a day on the tower belaying each other through climbs up one side of the tower and rappels down the other.
In my Personal Security Class we addressed tips for home security and the importance of paying attention to the baseline and noticing inconsistencies. We also talked through various types of locks and the fact that all security is just buying time. Last but not least, was a discussion on the vulnerabilities of the “Internet of Things.”
While I touched briefly on the FTX this year, we keep the events and details of each year’s pretty close to the chest. However, we do always award Muster FTX Paddles to the winning squad and this year was no different.
Our paddles this year were incredibly special, as they were designed by one of our past attendees who was amongst our cadre this year, Ely Weeks. Ely individually CNC machined each paddle and used a proprietary inlaid resin technique to bring each to life. They’re truly a work of art.
Muster offers something unmatched in the way of training that I won’t undercut by simply calling it a training event. Nowhere else offers this variety of all encompassing skills-based education, coupled with leadership opportunities, camaraderie building and friendships forged.
Knowledge is power and skill-set knowledge, or the confidence that comes from knowing you have the necessary skill to carry you though any situation, is truly empowering. While knowledge can never be taken away from you, it can certainly perish without practice. For those of you that have attended a Muster and even for those of you who might never have the opportunity, your skills are only as good as you allow them to be. Never stop learning.
I’d like to thank all of the Muster attendees for being willing to devote their time, energy and teamwork to make this year’s event one of the best ever!
On the support and cadre side, I’d like to first thank the cadre that come from teaching their own courses, to bring their knowledge to our attendees. Please research the cadre here in these links to further your education in the different disciplines they specialize in. Thank you to John Hurth of TYR Group, Matt Fiddler of Serepick, Caleb Causey of Lone Star Medics and Nick Hays of Highland Solutions.
A special thank you goes out to our Graphic Designer and “Cookie” Matt Gambrell for preparing a delicious meal Sunday night, dubbed “Meat Sweats.”
While some of the support staff listed below doesn’t get the opportunity to make it to Muster, they’re included here for all that they do behind the scenes to make our event possible. Thank you to Kelly Black, Rob Henderson, Eric Southland, Amanda Millard, Jordan Jones, Chandler Rebstock, Natasha Rodgers and Mike DeLoach.
Last but not least, thank you to Gabe and Daniel Rodriguez Photography for the amazing photos you’ve seen this year from Muster V.
Be sure to check back towards the end of the first quarter in 2017 for our Muster VI registration announcement. We’ve already started planning next year’s event and it’s going to be epic!
Check out the gallery below for many more photos from Muster V, we also have them available here on Flickr.