Seal Team Six and their successful raid on Osama Bin Laden is well known. Consider some of the preparations made to accomplish this mission.

The team performed rehearsals of the raid in two locations in the US: At Harvey Point Defense Testing Activity facility in North Carolina where a 1:1 version of Bin Laden’s compound was built, and second, similar mock up in Nevada.

According to the book No Easy Day, the mock-ups of bin Laden’s hideaway were built from plywood and shipping containers and were remarkably detailed: “The construction crews at the base had planted trees, dug a ditch around the compound, and even put in mounded dirt to simulate the potato fields that surrounded the compound in Pakistan.”

The location in Nevada was also used because at 4,000 feet elevation it could better simulate the effects the altitude would have on helicopters during the mission.

The members of SEAL Team Six left for Afghanistan for more practice at another one-acre, full-scale replica of the compound built on a restricted area of Bagram known as Camp Alpha.

So that’s training and walkthroughs in full size replicas at three different locations. The SEALs didn’t blindly enter an unknown area and then “tactical” or “ninja” their way through the mission. That would have been stupid and probably suicidal. Instead, after extensive intelligence gathering, accurate mock ups were constructed and the team performed training in them to know the layout before doing it for real.

Consider this next time someone claims practical shooting like IPSC, USPSA, IDPA, SensibleShooter and the like are useless because you don’t get walkthroughs in real life. SEAL Team Six did many stage walkthroughs prior to that mission in three different mockups! They, being much smarter than typical tactard timmies, did as many stage walkthroughs as possible.

Military tactical training is often very similar to practical shooting competition stages. The idea is to train in an abbreviated tactical environment, one that allows many small scenarios and iterations so students can trade off tasks and leadership roles. Working with future military leaders in ROTC, a squad-sized class might run through 7-10 mini “missions” daily, each one a different scenario designed to teach and train a certain task. Receive an Operations Order, run through Troop Leading Procedures, execute and complete the mission in about an hour rather than taking weeks.

This very abbreviated format allows many lessons learned daily. This culminates into larger missions. No point in wasting time and resources on something elaborate until basics are practiced and reinforced. Might as well screw up, and learn from, many short, inexpensive tasks before wasting time doing the same in something elaborate. Ranger school and other leadership courses follow a similar format.

This is also what is done at practical competition. The rulebook and stage brief is your operations order. Stage walkthrough is mission prep. Make a plan and prepare to execute. Shooting the stage for score is mission execution, with a numerical result showing how well you did. Shooters with a higher score either used a better plan and/or performed with greater skill. While not a team or leadership test, this format moves the cycle down from hour-long iterations to a few minutes or less. The actual mission (shooting stage) also serves as the training mockup instead taking the time and expense of duplicating it in a different location elsewhere.

Ultimately, it boils down to an ability to train fundamental skills, receive a mission, prepare for it and execute, then take in the lessons learned and develop further. The result (score) provides empirical and objective feedback of actual measured skill rather than a bogus, feel-good “assessment” of how tactical we think we are.

Shooting competitions are a fast, inexpensive way to work through this learning cycle and let motivated individuals do it on their own.