Saturday, November 20, 2010

Lessons learned from recent SWAT training

In many recent posts I have discussed developing an Operator mindset, and my utter distain for posers who sell nonsense tactical training to wannabes.  SWAT training Thursday was very productive.  Many of the topics I have been blogging about recently either came up organically or were intended to specifically be trained.  So I thought I would share some of some the concepts we worked on.  Feel free to adapt these ideas to your own needs and incorporate them into your training.
Note:  for operational security specifics will be omitted and some concepts will be left purposefully vague.   The basic concepts however are more important anyway.

The class room portion of training started with a presentation by Cabot Welchlin (more on him in future posts) on the Terror in Mumbai.
The discussion that followed revolved around our general preparedness.  Then transitioned to specific threats.
Besides Bret Favre’s weiner, what has Minnesota been in the news for recently?
Cops getting shot in the head
If not for the shooting in Washington State, we would be leading the nation.
Minnesota has also been making the news for events in our Somali community.

Recently in the Twin Cities metro area over 200 young Somali men (either volunteered or were forced) were sent to Africa to go to war, for jihad.

Now potentially combat trained war hardened Somali men have formed gangs in Minnesota and are running national prostitution rings.  Forcing teenage girls into “the life”

After arrests were made the Somali gang leaders were enraged that Law Enforcement would dare arrest them.  Not because they were innocent but they were pissed that Law Enforcement wasn’t afraid of them.  They made statements that they need to start killing cops so they will be respected.
Remember this it will come up again later

I was the next presenter for the classroom portion of training.  My presentation was on weapon retention, offensive edged weapons, and edged weapons defense.
I started the presentation with a quote I paraphrased from Rory Miller’s “Violence - a writer’s guide”
It takes years to learn how to fight with a knife.  I can, and later this morning will teach you how to ruthlessly and efficiently end a life with an edged weapon.
It takes a certain mindset to end another life.  If you are on an elite tactical response team you need to have this mindset.  It is a prerequisite of the job.
A fighter wants to fight.  For lack of a better term for someone who has developed a mindset capable of ending another life – a Killer just wants to get a job done
A killer will beat a fighter every time. 
A killer with the discipline to train is a god of war

Then I got into the how’s and why’s.  Mike Dugas a Kick ass team leader who is also a tactical medic helped me present an anatomy lesson for the where’s.
When I present this class there is a contact wound power point presentation I like to use as a transition between offensive edged weapons use and defense against an edged weapon.  The power point is full of photos of corpses created from edged weapons.  I use this to illustrate how easily it can be done.  And make the point of how easily it can be done to us.   During this a slide of some flayed fingers labeled defensive wounds came up.  Cabot made the statement “you will always get cut in a knife fight”
If you know me, or have read /trained with Marc MacYoung you can imagine this started quite a debate.  It went something along the lines of:
 I humbly disagree.  You know how pissed you get when someone uses the phrase weak hand or reactionary hand as opposed to other shooting hand in reference to shooting?  (Cabot was the team’s primary firearms instructor for years, he is best known for two catch phrases: other shooting hand, and if you can see it you can shoot it) You get so pissed because those phrases subconsciouncly train you to be a bad shot with one hand.  We use the term other shooting hand because I am just as good with both and will not expect performance to drop just because I’m not shooting with the hand I write with.  Saying you will always get cut in a knife fight besides being blatantly wrong also trains your brain that if / when you encounter a knife in combat you will be injured.  I will not allow that.   Cabot and I had some playful back and fourth until we defined our terms.  Cabot was taught at the Minnesota Kali group that when you have a knife and fight another man with a knife both of you are going to get cut.  I agree, but that is not knife fighting that is dueling and hell yeah your going to get cut, then go to jail or the morgue.  I am not talking about dueling, I am talking an Operator about being attacked with a knife.  One of two things should happen.  1 there is room and time to shoot and you end the threat, 2 there is not.  If there is not when threat attacks Operators will be behind the threat and the threat will be bouncing off the ground before anyone even noticed there was a knife. (Over in 3, thanks Marc) Cabot agreed.
Point illustrated to me is what “knife experts” are teaching the public will, get them cut, killed, arrested, or some combination of the above.  Think about it critically.  You are attacked by a knife, what makes more sense to draw your own knife, plant your feet in front of the attacker and duel him or get somewhere he can’t cut you and end the fight?
A killer will beat a fighter every time.  
The next classroom topic was Officer Rescue.  The discussion lead to Operator self care.  If you get shot you are not a victim you are still an Operator.  Drag yourself to cover, get that tourniquet on, and kill that fucker that shot you.
If you don’t die right away you will be fine.  Your injury will not kill you shock will.  You can fight off shock with purpose.  I suggest getting pissed “mad dog mean” as the Outlaw Josey Wales once said, and focus on killing that fucker that shot you.

Josey Wales: Now remember, when things look bad and it looks like you're not gonna make it, then you gotta get mean. I mean plumb, mad-dog mean. 'Cause if you lose your head and you give up then you neither live nor win. That's just the way it is.
That is why it is so important when we train with sims or airsoft, that if you do get shot you fight through that and end the threat.  That way you are training your brain that bullets don’t kill you.  If God forbid you do get shot your brain will reference this training and regard it as no big deal.  If however in training if you get zipped and you stop and yell ouch and think,”oh drat I’m finished” you are training your brain that bullets kill you instantly.  This will cause you to go into shock if ever shot in the field.

After that it was off to the mat room to put my money where my mouth is.  I started the team with some basic strikes.  Then how those same motions are used for take downs.  The team was looking good.  Then only Operator having some issues was because his partner was resisting very hard.  I brought the team together and made the point that any asshole can resist when he knows exactly the technique his partner is going to do.  SWAT works because of surprise, speed, and violence of action.  So do these techniques.  That worked for awhile…  I started working those same strike / take down motions for weapon retention.  Again the team was looking good.  A different Operator who was high speed before was having some issues now was because he was stuck training with “Resisty”
So I brought the team in again.  I said that just like quitting when you get hit with sims teaches you to die.  Resisting your partner because you know exactly what he is going to do is training his brain to lose in actual conflict.  In conflict losing = death to him and the team.  Good martial art / close quarter combatives techniques will kill or maim your opponent.  If we trained “at speed” injuries would be inevitable or we would have to train in techniques that are proven not to injure (see also proven not work).  Why would Operators practice techniques proven not to work?  In order to work Operational techniques without killing each other something artificial has to be introduced.  When we trained strikes, we used striking shields so we didn’t knock each other out.  In order to work these take downs we have to practice at a slower speed, and without resistance.  If you resist one or both of you will get hurt.   We transitioned to using basic motions as defense against unseen edged weapons.  I look over and my “Resisty” is on the mat wrestling with his partner.  Note; we were not working ground fighting.  So I watch the next rep.  “Resisty’s” partner is sick of getting beat up so instead of doing SWAT tactics he resorts to patrol felony stop (STOP) being the operative term which will get the team killed on an operation.
Like Popeye once said, “I’ve taken all I can takes and I can’ takes no more!”
The following tirade went something like:
Why the fuck am I having this discussion for the 3rd time, was I somehow unfucking clear the first two times?
Your nonsense has forced your partner to do tactics that will get us all killed.  Stop fucking around.  Your partner is supposed to go through you so the rest of the team can get in and clear the house.  If he stops and clogs we all die.

So I made “Resisty” play the role of the bad guy, his partner on point, and 5 guys stacked behind him.  His partner did the technique right.  “Resisty” was knocked on his ass and the 3rd operator saw he had a knife and ended the threat.  That’s what I’m talkn ‘bout!!!  We repeated that drill over and over to help further instill confidence.
Later many Operators came up to me and thanked me.  They said “the dressing down” needed to be done, and wished it would have been done earlier (like years ago).  Also after lunch “Resisty” came up to me and apologized.  He said he believes in and respects the training so we are all good.  Thing is I was never mad at “Resisty”.  I found I can be aggressive without being emotional.  Very important in my line of work.  As I was yelling at “Resisty” I could feel the effects of adrenalization as they were happening to me.  I have felt them many times before and recognize them.  The funny part is I kinda like them.  There is a distinct buzz.  There is a reason for the term adrenalin junky.  As I was discussing my training philosophy with “Resisty” I wasn’t getting mad I was getting aggressive.  It’s hard to put into words but there is a distinct difference.  Mad is better than afraid but you make a lot of stupid mistakes when you’re mad.  Aggressive is a whole other animal.  I wasn’t yelling because I was mad I was yelling because I’m kind a loud guy to start with and adrenalin makes me louder.  During the confrontation and throughout the afternoon I felt great, excited, alive.  About 3 o’clock the parasympathetic backlash hit me and I really wanted a nap.  But I’m a professional so I finished the range training J
Training point - if you don’t recognize the effects of adrenalin on your mind and body they can be very scary.  It is important to incorporate methods of inducing stress hormones into your training.  You don’t want the first time you or your students experience them to be in an actual conflict, verbal or otherwise. 

At lunch because I work hard to maintain my Operator mindset and because I may have been a little hyper vigilant due to the adrenalin.  I sat facing the door (a hard seat to get when dinning with other Operators – My fellas must trust me) and played the threat assessment game as we ate.  Cabot made a creepy mmmmmmyummy type moan.  I asked him if he was enjoying his pasta or if in the course of his threat assessment scanning he happened to notice the two hotties that came in the door.  He assured me it was the pasta, but I have my doubts.
After lunch we were on the range.  Cabot had us do a specific drill he has been developing.  I won’t give it away here but it’s kind of like Danielsan painting the fence.  It seems ridiculous at the time and you don’t realize you learned something until after it is over
The moral of the story / drill is that there are people who want to murder cops.  The only way to go out in the public safely is to maintain awareness (Yellow) and actively asses everyone in a 50’ radius. (I guess I passed lunch, also I knew he was checking out those hotties) 
Training point - Even Operators need to be reminded to be Operators all the time.  Even Operators need to actively develop / maintain Operator mindset.
I went home snuggled the kids and crashed.  Woke up and went to the Dojo.  Enjoyed a cigar with Lise and reflected on the day (those thoughts became this blog).
 OK so that was a day in the life of your favorite Operator.  I hope you read some things that will enhance your own training


  1. "I found I can be aggressive without being emotional.".... what a powerful statement.
    How often have we discussed that the most dangerous people are the calm ones. This is the way to achieve this calm.
    "Mad is better than afraid but you make a lot of stupid mistakes when you’re mad. Aggressive is a whole other animal".... I think the only way to achieve this level of proficiency is to have the kind of competence that gives you the confidence to know your skills will carry your through. So "difficult" situations that would scare most of us, just annoys you.
    You rock Kasey!!!

  2. Interesting post. Agression without emotion has a clear and recognisable parallel in the animal world - and a very effective one.

    When a predator brings down its prey and kills it, the predator is supremely agressive but is not emotional about it. A lion doesn't get mad at the zebra, it doesn't blindly lash out in a red mist of anger or hot rage; it ruthlessly kills it with cold agression.

    From what I understand of your post, you're saying this is (part of) the point about the killer vs. the fighter mindsets, too...?


  3. Chris,

    Yes, and no. Again a lot of this I am paraphrasing from Rory’s violence a writer’s guide to explain my own experiences. A fighter enjoys the fight. He fights for bragging rights, social status, to prove something. He wants to do techniques, to show off. Like the Kali duelists. They want to see who is the better knife fighter. A killer could give a shit less about that. A killer has a job to do. If a knife is a killer’s tool he will use it in the most efficient way to get the job done. A killer will beat a fighter every time for several reasons paramount for this discussion, the mindset and willingness to commit higher levels of force / violence than a fighter. And the fighter will get caught up with which of his techniques to use, a killer will finish a fighter while the fighter is making that decision and move on to his objective.

    The cold aggression (awesome band name btw) helps a killer to do this. When I experienced the cold aggression I didn’t want to fight / argue with “Resisty” I just wanted to make my point and increase the quality of training. If I was “hot” I would have wanted to argue and started a monkey dance with personal attacks on his manhood. Not a good way to lead a team. Insecure Alphas demean those underneath them. I did what I had to do for him and the team (A killer has a job to do). The cold aggression also allowed me to recognize and “enjoy” the adrenalin chemical cocktail as it was happening instead of getting caught up in it by surprise.

  4. Thanks for the response, Kasey. There's a couple more thoughts/questions it sparked off:

    1) The killer mindset here sounds like the asocial type of violence compared with the fighter's social type. I think it was maybe Marc (and/or Rory?) who originally pointed out this distinction - where if you misread a situation and try to deal with it in a 'social violence' manner (fighter) but the guy is employing asocial violence against you (predator/killer) then you're going to lose big time.

    2) When you say "the fighter will get caught up with which of his techniques to use, a killer will finish a fighter while the fighter is making that decision and move on to his objective", I take it this is to do with the fighter's OODA loop being longer? That is, the fighter's decision phase is what is taking the time here - compared to killer who uses one or two simple, effective, and highly trained techniques; observation feeding (almost) directly into action.

    Am I along the right lines here?



  5. Yup, you are along the right lines. That is pretty much the thoughts I was trying to convey

  6. OK, thanks again - I appreciate your time.