The Four Pillars of Individual Proficiency – Forward Observer Shop

The Four Pillars of Individual Proficiency

Unconventional warfare operations, in the irregular partisan sense of the term, are really nothing more than conventional, small-unit operations, conducted by irregular forces. To that end, most of what the individual survivalist needs to learn in regard to security training can actually be discovered by looking at the advances made in training the conventional light-infantry fighter over the course of the Global War on Terror (GWOT) and the decades preceding it.

In the mid-1990s, the 75th Ranger Regiment looked at historical lessons learned in then-recent campaigns like Panama and Somalia, and re-prioritized the Regimental training program. The lessons they learned and developed are particularly well-suited for the irregular partisan security group if you accept my opening statement above as the ground truth that it is. In the case of the Ranger Regiment, despite the high-speed cool guy missions, the underlying philosophical statement has always been, “We are many things to many people, but basically, we are light infantry.” The Regiment uses conventional light infantry tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTP) to conduct special operations missions, even today. Successful irregular partisan combat elements have historically done the same thing. That’s the kernel of reality that many would-be “guerrillas” need to accept at a gut level. Stop wasting your time trying to come up with some ingenious alternatives to basic infantry skills. Stick with the fundamentals. They’re called fundamental because…well, because they are fundamental!

There’s really nothing new under the sun, and learning traditional, classic light infantry skills and methods is the key to successful small-unit warfare, regardless of whether you wear a uniform or not. Raids and ambushes are conventional light infantry skills, just like they are the bread and butter of guerrilla forces.

As they did their aforementioned historical analysis, the Regiment looked at all of the possible contingencies they might be expected to perform and quickly realized, regardless of the unit’s status as “the finest light infantry force in the world,” there was no way on God’s green Earth to possibly master every single potential task. Instead, it made far more sense to focus on a few critical skills that transcended most or all potential tasks, and truly master those. Today’s survivalist, concerned with the need to effectively utilize violence to protect his family and community, suffers an even tighter limit on time and resources available, since the taxpayer probably isn’t footing the bill for your training.

Instead of trying to master every single skill set out there, focus on the fundamentals that will cover as many potential scenarios as possible. Specialization may be for insects, but a mastery of a few-multidimensional skill sets will serve you much more effectively than a shallow sip of tepid water from a broad variety of disparate skills.

In developing their analysis, the leadership within the Ranger Regiment realized there are four basic pillars to individual combat effectiveness. Unless these four areas are mastered, the individual on the battlefield will not be able to perform his part in any real world combat scenario effectively. Mastery of these four areas though, allows you to adapt them to perform any task successfully.

Those four pillars are Physical Conditioning, Marksmanship, Trauma medicine, and Battle Skills/Drills.

In the following articles in this series, we will discuss each of these briefly, in order to determine what we need to accomplish in each area to consider ourselves proficient in basic small-unit security skills.

John Mosby is a former U.S. Army Special Operations soldier. He lives somewhere in the mountains.


  1. Makes perfect sense. As with pretty much everything,the best way to master the skills needed is to learn them by the crawl,walk,run technique.
    The PT part shouldn’t even need to be mentioned though,anyone who has their head out of their ass knows by now that without PT-you ain’t in shape-if you aint in shape-you can’t train effectively-if you can’t train effectively-you don’t learn effectively-if you don’t learn effectively-why are you training in the first place?
    The point is you have to be in the best physical shape you can be in. That’s not going to be the same for all people,some are naturally stronger,faster,more coordinated.
    Some are young,some are middle aged,some are old.
    We all need to learn these skills,master them,and be able to teach them to others if we have to.
    I also believe in cross-training people so that any one person can take any persons place on the team and be able to do the job.
    Outside of the 4 pillars-everyone has a skill that others do not have,or have not mastered. Those are the guys we find,and have them teach at least the basics to the rest of us.

    A lot of what we learned came from a Ranger Staff Sgt.- who went back to Ca,after he got divorced. He was here long enough to teach the basics to us-pretty much like your 4 pillars.

    By the way-sleeping in a ranger taco when it’s below freezing sucks-no matter who you are.
    I think you should do two versions of these posts-one for here-and one for your old site where you freely use your propensity for the word f*ck.

  2. “Those four pillars are Physical Conditioning, Marksmanship, Trauma medicine, and Battle Skills/Drills.”

    No comms training?

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