A few weeks ago in October I made my annual trip to Southern California to attend my tenth Annual Direct Action Group (Formerly known as Tactical Firearms Training Team) Combat Arts Seminar (CAS).  DAG Is run my Max Joseph (a former Marine Recon Sgt. Airborne/Ranger School graduate) along with numerous other military schools.  Max has been running DAG for twenty-six years and has been training military and police officers worldwide, conducting executive protection details, and is an Instructor for the Department of State Anti-Terrorism Program. CAS as it’s known to the attendees is a four-day annual event that I consider a best buy for your training dollar.  Held every October in Southern California in Los Angeles County; CAS provides attendees with four-hour blocks of instruction from the courses that DAG offers presented by DAG Cadre from around the country.  Max is a Marine through and through and runs all of the programs offered by DAG in the same no BS manner.  There are no formal lunch breaks (grab a power bar some water), fill your magazines and let’s rock.  Max says you’re paying for training, not to eat and that is what you get.  One thing that is never disregarded at DAG is safety.  All DAG courses require body armor to be worn by all attendees. All ranges are run as “hot” ranges and no fooling around or carelessness is tolerated.

The Cadre at DAG are all experienced professionals with backgrounds in military, police, contracting, security, emergency medicine and executive protection.  This year’s CAS like the others I have attended was broken down into four-hour blocks of instruction with different topics and Instructors.  Every program I have attended at DAG always starts with a review and covering of the basics from the fundamentals of shooting, loading/unloading, drawing, holstering, standing shooting, static turns (Right, left and to the rear), body shifts, position SUL and multiple targets.  This gives Max and the cadre a chance to evaluate all the shooters and gets all attendees on the same page as to range SOP’s.

This year’s CAS covered the following areas:

  • Low Light Battle Engagements
  • Unorthodox Shooting Positions
  • High Risk Personal Protection
  • Shooting on the Move
  • Combat Course of Fire Competition

The first day starts with formation and administrative items being addressed at 1400 followed by safety brief and the attendees being broken down by shooter numbers and Alpha and Bravo teams.  After the basic familiarization period and darkness set in we moved onto Low Light Battle Engagements.  This was broken down into two parts movement and the use of intermittent or continuous light.  Here a discussion on the human sight in relation to darkness was conducted as well as the use of handheld and weapons mounted lights and how best to employ them for success.  We then conducted the actions shooting, moving, and engaging steel.  The second portion was something totally new at least for me it was shooting from behind cover with high-powered light coming inbound.   If you think about having a vehicle pull up in front of you with its high beams on and opening fire on you that is what this simulated.  We engaged steel targets with inbound light from behind barricades from the left and right.  The take away was realizing that by moving your head or body position you could minimize the impact of the inbound light and be able to make solid hits on the steel.  The third phase of the low light training was CQB shoot house runs in darkness utilizing hand and weapons mounted light sources.  This phase truly makes you realize the level of discipline required to conduct low light/no light operations when working a partner(s).  The Low Light Battle Engagements portion of the course is a real eye opener especially if you don’t get the opportunity to practice these skills often.

After Action Report: Direct Action Group (DAG) – Combat Arts Seminar 2016

The next morning at 0800 after safety briefing and formation we broke into teams and went to different stations.  I went to shooting on the move.  This block of instruction consisted of instruction on maximizing the shooter’s ability to hit targets while moving.  Movement consisted of forward and rearward movement as well as moving across targets from the left and right and the changes in grip necessary to make hits on target from either direction.  Additionally we worked shifts in all directions to get off the “X” quickly while making hits.

After Action Report: Direct Action Group (DAG) – Combat Arts Seminar 2016

The next block of instruction was Unorthodox Shooting Positions.  This block of instruction went well beyond the standard kneeling fire to include shooting from the seated position forward, right and left with and without chairs, shooting while seated behind a table, prone and roll over prone positions.  This opened a lot of eyes as to the effects that your kit has on your ability not only to get low but to make hits due to being able to get solid contact with the ground.  Aside from the effects of your kit attendees also saw the impact of their fitness level with regards to get up and down into positions effectively.

My personal favorite block of instruction in this year’s CAS was the High Risk Personal Protection. This block was taught by Max and covered personal security and protection options while at home, work, traveling, improvised weapons and tactics, edged weapons deployment and use and a few other things.  This was an eye opener for a number of attendees and the edged weapons sparring built a real sense of team with the group.

The finial range evolution of CAS is always the Combat Course of Fire Competition.  Every year the Cadre devise a two new courses of fire that encompass all skills taught during the course of the seminar.  All attendees run through both courses of fire for time and hits for score.  The winner walks away with a trophy and bragging rights until next year.

Sunday mornings wrap up the seminar at a meeting room at a local hotel where an operational debrief of an incident or speaker relevant to the tactical or shooting community speaks.  There have been briefs from former security contractors operations overseas, police shootings, military operations, etc. This year’s speaker provided a debrief of the Garland, Texas active shooter incident in May 2015.  Every speaker has riveted the attendees to their chairs.  The seminar ends with awards being given out to the top three shooters from the competition, certificates, seminar sponsors give away table, swag table and a warrior lunch.

As I said in the beginning I think CAS is a best buy for your training dollar.  The instructor Cadre Max Joseph, Tim Scarrott, John Taylor, Roman Fisher, and Ed Worley are top-notch professionals who make themselves available to answer any questions attendees have, but also do not have problem correcting you are letting you know to get your head in the game if and when needed.  After attending for ten years many of the other attendees are familiar faces and the atmosphere is friendly and respectful.  Just in case anyone reading this is wondering there has been a steady representation of hardcore female warriors in attendance at CAS.  One thing that sticks with me is something that Max said which is that DAG is not just about training people to shoot but instilling the warrior spirit in its students.  Will I attend again? Yes.


Images courtesy of Ron Yanor

Author – Art Dorst served in the U.S. Navy and Navy Reserves and eventually retired as an NCO from The Army National Guard.  He is also a retired municipal Police Officer, a Certified EMT, NRA Instructor, and is currently a security provider/trainer.