Midnight Rendezvous NV workshop
April 13, 2019
AAR

Nine people from all over the southeast got together on Saturday the 13th for Midnight Rendezvous 2019 a Night vision training event at the Southeastern Training Group range near Alma, GA.
The workshop was about utilizing night vision in a rural environment with much of the emphasis focused on movement.

About half of those attending had prior military experience. Most already owned a night vision device and had some experience with it. Several people bought units at the workshop and a couple of loaner units were used for the training as well. Tactical experience ranged from guys with military experience and tons of training classes to folks attending a training class for the first time.

Equipment used was solidly all PVS14's. All units were green phosphor except a loaner ECHO WP unit and a ECHO WP we used for some of the pics and videos.

We began at 3pm. A little early for a night class right? Yes. And that gave us plenty of time to talk about and work on certain subjects before dark. After going through some basics on use of the equipment, setting everything up, etc. We brought out a bunch of miscellaneous materials for people to make tethers with if they did not have a tether on their 14. We would be trekking around in the woods and swamps a lot, and no one wanted to play Easter Egg Hunt looking for a lost 14 after the fact!

Only a little time of time was spent in a classroom environment. Because most of the class was done with "dry" (unloaded) weapons with the emphasis on movement and observation skills via jungle lane exercises involving finding semi hidden targets (day and night), we spent some time discussing observation skills relating to how to do this. The emphasis was on utilizing ALL your senses both day and night, not just the eyes. This would be drilled home via some creative low tech ways later on the lanes and during a static observation exercise.

Before we started walking in the woods, we did some leg exercises that many found interesting. I took some two person leg exercises we use in combatives classes and modified their application for helping people to walk better in the woods. Two students stood facing each other, each with one knee held up so that the upper part of the leg is horizontal. Then slowly one of them utilizing just their leg seeks to slowly off balance the other. The goal is to put the leg down softly without a "thud!" Balance had to be maintained as well as a soft landing. The goal was creating some sensitivity in the feet and legs that would equate to quieter walking in the woods. Hard to explain in writing but seeing it done it makes more sense.

The first jungle lanes were done during the day. Initially I had not planned to do any DAY jungle lanes. As we fleshed out the contents of the workshop my son made a good point. He said a lot of people have probably never done a jungle lane like that, so doing it for the first time at night would be really tough. He was right, when we asked everyone attending had they done something like this before, few had.

The purpose of the jungle lanes was to detect the semi hidden targets before passing them. This was not a shooting portion of the workshop so it just involved spotting the targets and calling them out to the others on your team. Due to time constraints we ran everyone through in teams versus individually. We rotated positions throughout the lanes. The targets varied but included cardboard IDPA silhouttes spray painted, small plastic military "Ivan" targets, head and shoulder shaped plastic military targets, larger plastic "Ivan" targets- one outfitted in a DPM pattern jacket which proved to be particular hard to find, and finally a "tactical Ted" torso and head that was sprayed camo and outfitted with an Eotech hat. Oh yes, and two pinwheel spinners that were painted to match the area. "Pinwheels?" These were used to show some motion in the breeze but unfortunately there was hardly any wind. Motion was one of the few sensory things we lacked on the ranges- and yes we even had smells and sounds- more on that later.

Let me be clear that this was not a "patrolling" exercise or a "small unit tactics" exercise but an observation exercise. Ideally we want to see them before they see us, right? The only reaction we sought when a target was spotted was for the person to call it out then let the others move forward and attempt to find it also and then rotate positions. Many of the targets were set up purposely so that the first person would NOT see them. Yes! Observation is a group effort. It is not just the first person's job, everyone is involved. Distances that targets could be seen from varied from just a few yards out to about 75 yards. All were at least partially hidden.

It's interesting to note that both during the day lanes and at night, even though teams were run through them back to back, subtle changes in the weather made certain targets either harder or easier to spot. On the day lane, the first group through passed a distance target literally out in the open in some high grass about 60 yards away (it did have good camo). We spent several minutes on the trail letting the first team find that target after passing. I was getting the "your a jerk you made that one too hard" stares and I explained that I placed that one there specifically so the SHINE from a lower sun should have gave it away (each target placed was placed in such a way that some facet gave it away- i.e, shape, silhouette, shine, etc.) and that target "should" be very obvious right now, only it was cloudy at the time. Yet not 30 minutes later when the second team came through, the clouds had opened up and that target was a total give away. Later on the night lanes I moved some (not all) of the targets and on one iteration that target was practically glowing, yet on the other iteration with cloud cover it could barely be found. The lesson there is to locate your position where it will be good as the sun and moon moves throughout the day and night.

Here is a short video of just a small segment of one of the day lanes that I made after setting it up, see what you can find in the video





Both teams got a chance to go through both a smaller and a larger jungle lane during daylight. We also used some of the last daylight time to do a dry walk through of the final exercise that would be done at night so that everyone got familiar with the location, with safety protocol, etc. For the purpose of safety, all weapons were kept unloaded during all the dry exercises.
This brought us right up to near darkness. We assembled everyone on the square range where we had targets with light sticks set up and numbered. After addressing how each pair would get a dry, rough zero on their IR lasers, we demonstrated some things to look at when shooting and changing positions on the range, how the NV changes things in regard to this, etc. Everyone was partnered up with another person to help them get a rough zero on their IR laser (dry) while I went out to another part of the range to change the targets around on the lanes for the night walk-thru.

Even though only a handful of the IR lasers were zeroed when the class began, everyone's lasers got zeroed in short time. Two rotations for the shooting were set up and we checked zero on the IR lasers. Only a very few and minor adjustments were made to zero. Then each time got a chance to shoot in rotation for a while. For safety reasons this was all static shooting, but people were encouraged to work on horizontal displacement and work through any malfunctions.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rkw-9s_plwY



https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qCai6vifUDs



Finishing up the shooting brought us up to around 10:45pm with a lot left to do during the night. We began the night lanes with the first team and put the second group into a static observation exercise around the pavillion. This proved interesting to several people as they began to hear things emmanating from the woods in the area.... All sorts of different sounds at different times. The emphasis was on attempting to locate the direction of the sound and possibly ID it. A little low tech training aid of mine provided help in that matter.

midlanenight2.jpg

The night lanes proved a little more difficult for most attendees but this was expected. Lighting conditions varied throughout the night due to changes in cloud cover and changes in terrain. We attempted to minimalize the use of IR and no extra illumination was allowed on the lanes (BG's can see this also). However the IR lasers were used to "point" out the target locations.

midlanenight.jpg

Some videos clips from sections of the night lanes-

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7hmHiHj1OoE




https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d9QNpC8mxhs




The first rotation through the night jungle lane headed back to the pavillion and the group that was doing the OP at the pavillion got to observe this group coming back through mixed terrain. I also asked one of the returning team to "accidentally" turn on an IR beacon during some point in the walk back. This allowed the OP group to see the team further out than they would have and hammered home the idea of using IR sparingly because it can give away your position.

I had mentioned early on in the day how people who just "have" this equipment but not have a lot of experience doing stuff like this with the equipment would be at a disadvantage when they really needed it. After doing the night lanes, all attending agreed on that. It's nothing we haven't discussed before in regards to training, but it's important to get out and do these things to get the experience. Even though many of the targets were moved to make the night lanes a little easier than the day lanes, actually seeing the targets at night was about as difficult as it was during the day.

To further the observation experience after both groups went through the night lanes, a team was put into an "ambush" position in the woods overlooking a roadway on the range. Once again as a reminder ALL weapons were unloaded, verified by everyone, no live ammo was carried at this point and the guns were on the ground during this. The other team then walked the roadway through that area. Both sides got to observe the other team either in a static position or during the movement past the "ambush" position. Then we switched and I took the group that walked through the "ambush" position to another location and set them in place to watch and called the other group to walk by. After this the group that did not previously do the OP at the pavillion got to do that while the last group walked in.

After a brief talk about the lanes, what people observed and learned, etc. while we took a quick break at the pavillion we prepared for the final exercise. It was around 2am at this time and we were already past the planned end time for the class but we continued on. I took a consensus of the class and everyone seemed to be hanging in well.

Before I describe the final exercise it's important I explain the great amount of planning and detail that went into it for safety reasons. We had laid out this exercise during daylight, with very clear angles of fire wherein ALL firing went into berms located behind the targets and the vehicle. The junk vehicle used had previously been shot up numerous times as well as being moved to a completely different location after being shot up . The vehicle had been in a fire before even being purchased for the range. The positions where students were shooting from were large logs that were clearly marked and this was done dry during the day so everyone knew their places- we walked through this during the day also. The safety angles between the two were calculated carefully and instructor and AI stood at the end with each group carefully controlling everything. No weapons were loaded until both teams were in position ready to shoot and all admin work was done. A magazine was shot dry during the exercise by each shooter and then no reloads were unloaded. Before both teams withdrew, a visual inspection of chambers with a white light was done to every rifle. At a discussion at the end of the class every single student agreed this was all done completely safely and without an issue. As far as the fire itself- the van was placed specifically in a WET area where it was surrounded by standing water and no further materials were around that could allow the fire to spread. Further a bulldozer was positioned near the area for fire containment in a worse case scenario. This range is in an extremely rural area, it's not in any city limits, all firing was done into thick berms or hillsides wherein the pit area was cut to provide a vertical wall for good stoppage of rounds. Nothing was done haphazard or unsafe, everything was well controlled.

Alright, with all that out of the way- the final exercise.

We gave a mock "scenario" for this exercise to add to the fun value. The scenario was that the SHTF and some bad guys (BGs) have been ambushing people at night on a roadway not far from where your group is at. Further, you heard from some late arrivals you've been expecting that they would hopefully be arriving soon- at night. So you are sending a group out to meet them and make sure they arrive safely. Only when you get there it's clear it's too late and they have been rolled up by the BGs. It is clear they are all dead and the only remaining are the BGs who have looted the van and set everything on fire.


Both teams moved quietly through the dark to their positions. Once everyone was in position we called a quick admin break to verify everyone's targets (so no one would shoot on an angle they shouldn't) and safely load. Then we waited a bit and started the final exercise.

With the van burning and the targets all around the van on cue both teams opened up on the targets, each person shooting their magazine dry and not reloading (for safety reasons so movement out of the area would be safe).

The video doesn't totally do it justice due to distance we were back from the van and fires, but if you zoom in you can see some of the targets.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yRK-_saZzL8

midvanfire.jpg

After a quick safety check with white light to be sure that all weapons were unloaded, both teams withdrew and that ended the exercise.

We concluded with a quick, brief AAR/discussion of the class and what could be done better next time, what people liked, etc. Everyone attending agreed that the workshop was a great value for the price, with most stating that they did not expect half of this amount of training. We thanked everyone for coming and made sure everyone was awake enough to safely make it back to a hotel for the night! So finally around 3am, everyone packed up and left the training site. I left around 4am after babysiting the van fire and making sure it was out.

midvanafter.jpg

It was a great opportunity to get some time under NODS in a rural enviroment. I'd like to thank everyone that came this year and look forward to next year! Thanks, Robert.

https://www.jrhenterprises.com/Midni...rendezvous.htm