A couple posts on other blogs got me thinking lately about the value of training, what to train for, and where you should be headed with your training spectrum.
- Max Velocity was Taking Down the Tacticool Transition Dogma, and that the best training is infantry Small Unit Tactics (SUT)
- Gun Nuts' Caleb was telling you that You Are Not An Operator, and that the best training is hiding behind the bed dialing 911.
There are elements of truth and myth in both accounts, and I think there are some different assumptions and ideas that we need to investigate.
- Tacticool is fun. Let's just get this out of the way first, and Caleb spelled it out well, "Operator Fantasy Camps are totally rad". I can tell you, from vast personal experience, that in the military, you are a VERY captive audience. You have no choice but to sit there and endure whatever training they put you through, regardless of how high speed or mundane it is, assuming quitting is not an option for you. Here in the civilian/business world, as the Director of Training, I need to blend the possibly-boring training that I think you need, with the reality that I need you to want to come, and come back, to do the fun stuff. This is a very delicate balance, and I'm not saying it's ok to teach bad courses, but I need to ensure you're enjoying yourself even if that means showing you some cool things that are less useful than it might be to draw from concealment 10,000 times. I'm probably going to catch a lot of flak for saying that, but as long as you can still meet the necessary standards, let's make it fun too. This is where good, knowledgeable, creative instructors come in.
- Techniques, Tactics, and Procedures (TTPs) are mission specific, and so in the training for them. While, in the posts above, Caleb is training for home defense, so hiding behind a bed is a likely scenario for him to face, Max is training for SHTF community-defense warfare, for which Small Unit Tactics (SUT) are best suited. The "tacticool" training they are both specifically railing against is the "SWAT oriented" training, and they are only at odds with it because it's not what they think is most likely, or most aligned with their training priorities. I do offer some similar training, such as our Close Quarters Marksmanship (CQM) courses, but we are deliberately using these in our training spectrum to give you the opportunity to improve your individual weapons handling skills before progressing to team-oriented SUT. I think "SWAT oriented" skills and tactics are overly-specialized to the Law Enforcement (LE) situation, and are the least useful, to the greatest number of people. Yet they are prominently trained to civilians (e.g. "Tacticool"), probably because of the large number of police around, and that they can do it on the side, unlike military who are... busy.
- Sometimes students are just paying to be forced to train. This may be letting the cat out of the instructor bag, but it is often obvious to me that some people are paying money to come to training, simply because of the psychology that it actually gets them out doing it. There are lots of times when I think to myself, "You know, student, you really could just do this on your own for free." I don't mean this as an insult at all, but we should accept that it happens, and it's ok. I'm glad you're getting out training, any way you want and can, and I'm confident that I'll be able to help you improve or show you something new, in the process. I'm an instructor because I want to help teach people and have everyone raise their competency level, and I'm happy to accomplish that with you, any way you want.
- Training sometimes loses its context with the real scenario it's training for. For example, walking towards a target while shooting is a useful skill if you're preparing to fight in structures and hallways, but when an onlooker observes someone training it in an open field they no longer have the context that it was meant for use in a hallway or alleyway. It then gets accepted as "good training", and trained on down the line, but the newest students don't realize how dangerous it would be for them to use in the open. This spirals out of control, combined with the fact that there are lots of ignorant instructors out there who don't understand the theory behind what they are doing, and are only regurgitating information.
- Prepare (train) for the worst, hope for the best. It's dangerous to say, "Oh, you'll never need SUT or CQC tactics, so just train to hide behind the bed and dial 911." While a Red Dawn style Russian invasion is far less likely than a simple home invasion, the home invasion itself is an unlikely event too... "Pot calling the kettle black[er]." It would be helpful to be at least familiarized with both responses, because Murphy's Law tells us that the one you didn't prepare for is probably exactly what will happen.
- More isn't always better. To rebut my last point though, it's also dangerous to always think "more is better". This is especially true where the armchair-commando forum discussions occur. You'll get someone that gets too fixated on how to improve a TTP to it's pinnacle, at the catastrophic neglect of all other pragmatic considerations. For example, suggesting that a flashlight should never be mounted to a gun, because then an adversary can just shoot at the light and hit you, sounds like a great idea until you realize it ignores the fact that you are far more accurate while shooting with two hands, then when one hand is holding a light way off to the side. There are compromises that must be made, and you must chose very carefully. The military defines a Mission Essential Task List (METL) for a unit, that clearly lays out what critical functions it must perform, and that then dictates where the majority of training efforts will be spent.
- Unconscious Incompetence = "You don't know what you don't know." Where the rubber meets the road with all this, is that many students (and instructors) have no combat experience or formal professional training. They are doing the best they can, which ultimately may not be enough, but they don't even know how unsuitable their training is because they have no frame of reference, or nothing to compare it to. Some other instructors are just not "thinking men", and aren't able to adapt their specialized training and experience to the differently-specialized needs of their students. Some students are trying hard to find good training, but aren't knowledgeable enough to differentiate training that applies well to their needs/desires from that which doesn't.
- Things are rarely just "right or wrong", but are usually "right or wrong for MY NEEDS." Tacticool SWAT training is perfect, if you're going to be on a SWAT team. SUT training is perfect, if you're a soldier or community defending patriot. Instructors and training facilitators need to do a better job of making it clear what the goal of the training they offer is, under what scenario you would use it, and who it's intended for, and students need to do a better job of understanding their own needs. Right now, few students would ever have the opportunity to employ the LE-focused SWAT tactics they are so often being taught. What makes this so dangerous, is that we aren't talking about speed skating strategies, we're talking about ways to live or die in a gunfight.