Course AARs – Forward Observer

Sometimes students will write reviews for courses they’ve attended.  These are unsolicited reviews.


“I attended one of Sam’s Intelligence Collection and Analysis Courses (ICAC) in the Spring of 2014.  Having followed Sam’s blog, Guerrillamerica, I was excited to have the course offered in a location about 200 miles from me.

The course was 2 days, and they went by in a blur!  I have read Sam’s site regularly, but taking the course from him directly filled in many gaps in my knowledge and understanding.

I was so impressed with the class that we arranged for Sam to come to my area and do the ICAC class there.  This class was 3 days, two of ICAC and one of exercises and Intelligence Preparation of the Community (IPC), a modification Sam has done from the Military Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield.  If anything, I gained more from this class than the first time I took it.

Topics include various sources of Intel; HUMINT, SIGINT/ELINT, OSINT, and how to gather them and determine their reliability and importance.  OPSEC, dead drops and one time pads were discussed in depth, including how to develop one time pads.  Great stuff!

Sam developed exercises that were relevant to our group and had us work some problems.  This was a very good thing, as we had to “work” what we had learned.

The final day we culminated everything with an Intelligence Preparation of the Community course of instruction and exercise.

As I mentioned, I have followed Sam’s blog for a while now, but getting the opportunity to take an actual class from him was invaluable.  As we all should know, Intelligence drives the fight, so it behooves us to get training in the subject.  I cannot recommend Sam’s classes too highly!  Check his training schedule and find a class near you, or set one up with Sam, as we did.” – Al, 2014


“I was first introduced to the [Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield (IPB)] process in 1989 at the Army Command & General Staff College.  Applied it as a battalion, brigade, and division assistant operations officer.  The threat at the time was conventional.

When I started reading Sam Culper’s application of IPB to the old homestead – I thought:  What a brilliantly simple application of a proven process to solving the protection of my AO and Area of Interest.

With Sam’s background as an Army intel analyst in [Operation Iraqi Freedom counterinsurgency], he was able to tailor the process to be useful for preppers.  Besides IPB he has also put together an OPSEC class that takes the student through a disciplined process at looking at your vulnerabilities.

Convinced – drove 6 hours to attend his class in a Redoubt state.  I wasn’t disappointed.  The interaction with other preppers and the opportunity to exchange ideas was very useful.  Sam Culper successfully guides you through the process.  Some pre-class homework is required to get the most out of it.” – “Pathfinder”, a retired Army Colonel, 2015

“I went into this class not really thinking it would excite me like some of the other classes that I have taken in the past…  The takeaway from this class left me on Sunday wishing I had more of this class, it was like a breath of fresh air.  I had a little knowledge, but not much of this type of workings.  I understood they were truly important and recognized need for improvement. This was one of the reasons for wanting to participate in this type of class.

Sam is a good teacher, he definitely knows his material and it was great to get handouts to go along with my classroom notes that I had made.  This class is a must class for any type or prepper group…

Sam tailored our class to our needs after speaking with us prior to his arrival, not many folks will do that for you, they have a “one size fits all” approach. Sam’s information and working knowledge base really shines forth in his class. Eager to help with any questions that you may have and I had many for him…  Many things were brought to our attention and I feel a little more empowered after Sam’s class and now I’m taking a more informed look at everything now… We will be bringing him back to further our education in the future for sure.  He left us with a good “Frame of Reference” and much homework to do.” – Bryan, 2015


“Sam, I just wanted to thank you for all that you taught our group this weekend… We all now see the vital role for a truly functional Intel team in a group that is preparing for SHTF…

I now feel that we are ready to begin the arduous task of completing a thorough threat analysis of our AO and begin setting up an ACE. Value in, value out being the mantra, I would say that arranging for your tutelage was money well spent. I could ramble on much more, but suffice it to say that the practical exercise at the end of the class has left me mentally exhausted beyond my ability to describe it; how a cerebral exercise like that could stimulate an adrenaline response is not a thing that I can explain. It was fast-paced and ever-changing…for 3 straight hours! – Kyle, 2015


“It was a pleasure to take a two-day iteration of Sam’s [Intelligence Collection & Analysis Course]. Anyone who has been prepping for any amount of time knows that there are many bases to cover. Beans, bullets, and Band-Aids are the usual first steps, followed by tactical and physical training for anyone serious about the work. I would now add intelligence gathering and preparation to that list of necessaries. It becomes even more important knowing that most small groups already have limited time and resources, but investing in the skills to identify and analyze threats in one’s area can actually relieve that drain on resources by making a group’s work more directed and efficient.
Sam’s teaching method was very professional and it became obvious very quickly that he has an expertise borne of experience in the field. He is very well read in the history of intelligence work… and uses that knowledge to good effect. Sam is also a very patient teacher and is not condescending (for those who might worry about that) and is able to intelligently shift the discussion to meet class concerns about local operations.
Having served in the military, I had a very vague idea of “intelligence” and how it was used and gathered. The information presented in the class is formatted in such a way as to make it useful to small groups. The class was very interesting, and while I understood on a basic level that information isn’t intelligence, the many excellent practical exercises really clarified the point. Sam provided excellent feedback during the exercises, starting discussions about what we were coming up with in the process. It also became very obvious the importance of developing networks and developing them now.
The course included materials that were well organized with lots of room for notes and information for the class to explore afterwards on our own. Sam was able to work and adapt to our less-than-optimal setup, for which I’m very grateful. Afterwards he performed an AAR so he could make it better for the next class.
This is a top notch class and I would recommend it even for the solitary prepper to get an informed grip on the real threats in the area.” – Tom, 2015

“A quick AAR for the class. The class was a lot of info and concepts to process, and that processing is still going on for a bit. Give me a week or two to mentally digest and compare notes with my classmates, and I’ll maybe then add some more once that’s done. Great class though, as I expected it would be. I need to sort out all the details before I can try to outline the class.———-
Earlier this year, we worked with Sam to set up his two day “IPC Intel Preparation of the Community” class in our part of central Florida. Since then and now, Sam has tweaked his curriculum and course offerings, and we ended up getting his three day new class “SHTF Intelligence” which includes elements of the old IPC class and a Security class… So, we got a three day brain blast of intel education and training rather than just two.Overall, it was a great class, I learned what I expected to and then some, and it more than met my expectations. So that I don’t forget to say it, I’ll say it now- if you’re reading this you’re surely concerned with keeping your family and neighborhood safe in an uncertain future. If you take that obligation seriously, then you need to take this class. Having all the beans, bullets, bandaids and water in the world won’t help you if you don’t know what’s going on around you and the bad guys can roll right up to your place and get it from you. SHTF Intelligence class will get you much further along towards what you need to now about your community, how to learn it, and how to stay on top of the changing situation if things do ever go bad…

The class covers a number of things like intelligence cycle, ACE operations, BICC/E analysis, lots of stuff. You can and should read all you can about those things anyway, but the class will go a long way towards getting you to understand these things and to work towards being able to actually do them. I’d read about IPC, BESTMAPS, ASCOPE, BICC/E, MICE, MLCOA, MDOA, ICAC, etc etc ad nauseum. I even knew a little about some of them, from reading. This training however will give you additional background beyond just the definitions of these, such as when is each one used? How do they fit together into the intelligence cycle? How do you “do” it and make it happen? You get answers to that and begin building some decent experience in this class.

That last point, building “decent” experience, is also critical in my opinion. I have met a number of people along the way who seem interested in this and other prepper-type subjects, but whose only knowledge base is what they’ve read in FMs and what they and their friends have sat around and brainstormed. Nothing against them or me (I do all that too), but hopefully all of us can see the difference between self-study and instruction by someone who’s been professionally trained and experienced in the subject. I can read Encyclopedia Britannica and manuals for years, and thus I know all about flying a helicopter. Do you want to strap in go flying with me, though, or would you rather have a trained pilot fly you? That’s the difference I’m talking about. Me or my buddies who’ve done a lot of reading could put some sort of intel class together for you covering the same subjects, but no matter how smart we are or how hard we try, it wouldn’t come close to having the same material taught to you by someone with real-world experience. Too many people in the prepper community rely solely on reading books to “train”. Don’t be “that guy!” I think it’s great that Sam is sharing his experience and expertise in community intelligence with us, since I don’t know anyone or anywhere else to find this kind of training.

There were a number of practical exercises built in to the class, where after a particular concept was presented, we had some time to immediately start figuring out what questions to get answers to about our local areas, and to start filling in information gaps right then. Over the course of the three days, we learned enough to get a good running start on the intelligence preparation of our communities, and got some good supervised practice at doing some of these activities as well. Conducting an intelligence preparation of one’s community isn’t all just printing stuff off of Google Earth, there’s some significant legwork, building relationships, and communicating involved also. This course gave all of us a big boost though at learning what to do and how to do it. A bonus of taking this kind of class is meeting a lot of great people, and being able to network with new friends from the class.
I think every group ought to have the benefit of this type of training and education. If you have someone who’s your intelligence section, or your ear-to-the-ground folks, etc, do your group a solid and send those people to one of these intelligence classes.”