I was recently reminded by some clients of mine about this particular post. It was one of my more popular ones with comments from some of the top tactical trainers in the US and abroad (see comments) at the original here: https://marcuswynne.wordpress.com/2016/01/15/random-thoughts-on-crowds-and-attacks/ It’s always a good idea to keep certain principles in mind, especially when the Powers That Be just issued another warning about vehicle type attacks during the holiday season. Me, I hate (and I never use that particular word lightly) thinking about cowards wreaking havoc on the innocent during holidays. In addition to the various pro-bono activities I support for those who go in harm’s way on behalf of others, I’ll provide some insights for those who are security conscious and want to protect themselves and those in their charge. One of the videos linked below was removed from YouTube; probably for the best as it was truly horrific.
As always this information is provided to educate those are interested and is based on my personal experience and training. Use your own judgment as to whether it suits your needs and if not, may it be a guide to researching elsewhere for something that may be better for you.
Crowds frighten me.
There was a time, a long time ago, when I enjoyed the excitement of a crowd: concerts, packed movies, huge parties (my 18th birthday party had over 400 participants, a band, and enough drugs and alcohol to fund a mid-size cartel….) and even the odd political event before I grew disillusioned.
But not any more.
It was actually a concert that broke my enjoyment. Back in the 70s, I attended a benefit concert in San Jose CA for Cesar Chavez and the Farmworkers Union. It was a great concert: Santana, Taj Mahal, a ton of minor acts. And because it was a political fund-raiser, no police for security. Only the Brown Berets of La Familia providing volunteer security. This was the era of Altamont, where the Hells Angels provided security for the Rolling Stones, and there was violence there; there was violence here, too.
I was about three bleacher rows away from the first major fight. It was hot, people had been drinking and getting high all day in the sun, and several La Familia security were called over to intervene in an argument between a huge unaffiliated biker and a patch-holder from one of the smaller CA MCs. When it kicked off, it kicked off big.
I remember watching the fight flow like a ripple in a pond, getting bigger and bigger till it was a tidal wave: first two guys fighting, then four or five, then knives and chain belts (outlaw bikers used to wear the drive chains of bikes for belts as they made handy flails in melee combat along with the obligatory Buck Folding Hunters and fixed blades) and then easily one third of the bleachers that held over 45,000 people erupted into violence. Gun shots, knife fights, fist fights, people screaming…and the crowd and the fight nosing one way and then the next like a gigantic animal.
Me and my buddy couldn’t fight our way through and down, so we turned and did the opposite – we fought our way up the bleachers, and then climbed over the safety rail and made a precarious descent down the support structure behind and beneath the bleachers, and then climbed a high barbed wire topped fence to escape.
As I recall there were several hundred hospitalized after the mass riot, and the police couldn’t even get into the stadium.
I will never forget how fast the violence grew, how fast it turned, and how fast people got ate up in it. I’ve seen similar violence elsewhere since then, but that first impression has never left me.
So I avoid crowds.
But sometimes you can’t.
I am no longer an instructor. I’m a coach for instructors and a designer of training programs. I do get asked from time to time to lend my experience and opinion to problems. Like the problem in this video, posed by a woman who is a fine martial arts instructor who asked: “What can I possibly teach or say that would have helped this woman?”
Ugly. Raped and beaten so savagely she required surgery. Easy enough to say, don’t be there, or don’t dress a certain way if you’re going to be in a place like that. But sometimes we don’t get to choose, as Lara Logan, who was similarly attacked while doing her job, describes in this interview:
Some of the hard men who go in harm’s way talk about the shooting solution. While there are times that may be the solution, even the best trained and reasonably armed can be overcome and killed by the fast moving crowd. In this video, notice what happens when the shots go off…and what happens when the fire is ineffective and doesn’t continue…and when the shooter has the gun beaten out of his hands….
Other skilled people talk about driving away or through. Great in principle but sometimes fails in practice, as Reginald Denny can testify:
And sometimes the crowd isn’t spontaneous, but planned:
What might an instructor want to convey to a woman (or a man) who might have to consider a mass attack like these? I don’t have any hard and fast answers. I have some general principles. The crowd is a dangerous beast, and the crowd mass attack is the most dangerous beast of all.
My random thoughts on principles:
• Don’t be there if at all possible. Avoid crowds, especially crowds of young men, and especially of young drunken men.
• If you’re in a crowd by choice, pay attention to your intuition and your feelings (the atmospherics or situational awareness) of the energy/mood of the crowd. When I was young and getting my first professional fighting chops as a doorman, I could literally feel the energy in the bar shift when things were about to go bad. Everyone feels it; and most can recall it after the fact if they survive. This presupposes, of course, that you are sober enough to notice.
• If you’re in a crowd by choice, have a partner or several friends. Don’t be alone and don’t allow yourself to be isolated in the crowd, especially as a woman surrounded by men. Look for other women or men who will stand with you or stand up for you and ask for help.
• If the crowd gets ugly, get out as fast as you can. The earlier you sense the change and the faster you move, the less likely you are to get caught up in it.
• If you become a target, keep moving. Move away, don’t stop and don’t let yourself be stopped.
• If you are grabbed, you must have previously made a decision about what to do and act instantly on it. A fast decisive attack may dissuade, distract, or delay others for you to get away…or it may incite even more violence. If you are fighting bare handed against a mob focused on beating and or raping you, it’s like fighting a tidal wave. Look at those videos above.
* The greatest challenge(s) are:
a. Knowing the spectrum of violence and recognizing when attention turns into the intention to harm you – the earlier you sense that the more effective any pre-emptive action (escape or preemptive strikes) will be.
b. Being violent enough early enough to stop the first key individuals moving on you to create space to escape.
c. Being able to ride out the panic of being overwhelmed by a crowd bent on hurting you, which is one of the most terrifying experiences any human can feel, and work a plan or improvise one. Which presupposes that you have a plan for such an event, which presupposes you’ve thought about it, and that you can improvise a different plan if your first one fails contact.
For the shooters in the crowd, notice what happens in the IRA mob killing video. The initial shots scatter the crowd…except for a few key individuals who continue their attack focused on disarming the operators. Then the crowd returns. Shots fired, most of the crowd retreats…except for the hard core. Have you thought about what you might do in such a circumstance? Would you fire warning shots and hope to scatter the crowd? Would you shoot to kill the main players in the mob?
As for driving away or through, notice what happens both in the IRA video…what happens when you stop? Even you stop and are blocked in, you are faced with the decision to either run over or through a crowd – have you thought that through and decided in advance about what you might do in that instance? Reginald Denny stopped…
In the Lara Logan interview, pay attention to what she says about the change and the escalation in the language and atmospherics in the crowd. Can you pick up on a point where she might have left? Can you see it or feel it?
The only hard and fast solution to this problem is not to be there. The principle of staying away from crowds works (unless you’re hunted by one, as in the gloating trophy video) but dealing solo with a mob attack gone violent is like swimming with a hungry great white shark. The mob usually wins.
Today is the one year anniversary of the Paris terror attacks. Let us remember all the innocents who perished while out for an evening’s pleasure, and may the information I presented here a year ago help anyone caught out under the same circumstances when we see a similar event. While I certainly pray otherwise, I think in these days a prudent person will consider the possibility of another such event, and take the time to think through in advance courses of action that may save their lives or those who depend on them.
There are a great many much more qualified (than me) commentators on the tactical implications of the Paris attacks for armed professionals, law enforcement, and the private citizen. For a very good compilation go here http://www.activeresponsetraining.net to my friend and colleague Greg Ellifritz’s excellent blog.
Since we are mental software type people, I thought I’d share a few observations from that perspective.
So in no particular order, some random points and implication.. As always, nothing I say here is more than my opinion based on my experience and training, so let your own experience/expertise/training/opinion be your guide as to its value
The axis of the attack
One way to take this is that the insertion of the operators along a north south axis utilizing primary avenues of approach and egress into the heart of the city was purely a matter of chance, or convenience for whatever support element MAY have assisted…of course they could have just taken the bus, subway, or private car.
A result of coordinated attacks taking place along that axis is that it creates a series of interlocking traffic stoppages/grid lock into the heart of the city. If one refers to the timeline/sequence of events, near simultaneous and in rapid succession, one result is to tie up traffic and responding units into tight little balls, and subsequent units and follow on help will end up being tangled, slowed, distracted…vulnerable.
For LE/professional responders/EMS etc.: You may be cut off and diverted out of the usual way to a particular scene. You may be unable to drive directly to the scene and have to dismount some way off. If so, are you physically able to move from your vehicle carrying all your gear (rifle, plates, spare mags, blow out kits, EMS gear, whatever)? Do you have a plan for alternate communications in the case you dismount? What if your comms go down? (for instance, in a more fully integrated attack that simultaneously hits the power grid and the radio network and fiber optics that run many public safety VOIP communications? Imagine responding to a mass shooter event in a blackout and with no communications….)
For us regular folks: You may not be able to get to your vehicle, if you have one, or take public transport out if you use that. Do you have good shoes to walk all the way from a downtown venue to your home if you had to? Back in the early 2000s when NYC was hit with a major blackout, several friends of mine had to walk from Manhattan to Brooklyn. That’s a long hike in strappy Ferragamos, as one of my lady friends said. Do you know how to get back to where you need to be on foot? Do you have downloaded (on your actual phone drive) maps of your local areas in case phone/GPS goes out? Could you navigate blacked out city streets without a GPS or paper map? Do you have a flashlight with you in case you have to read street signs in the dark? Can you figure out which way is north or south or east or west? A little button compass might be useful then.
Fire discipline displayed by shooters
At each of the restaurant/café/street side shootings along the way, police recovered approximately 100 shell casings. With two shooters, that adds up to about two magazines of 30-rounds each. That’s discipline and experience. Shooters debuss from the vehicle, empty two magazines into the crowded streetside venue, jump back in and drive away. What does that fire discipline tell us? Training, rehearsal, experience. Most of all experience. These are seasoned, i.e. they have killed before, shooters who can remain cool and keep track of their ammunition expenditure, who display fire discipline, and continue moving along their pre-determined route to hit either targets of opportunity or (more likely) carefully pre-scouted venues that provide the most access from the street combined with the largest number of people.
LE/armed professionals. These are seasoned killers. That doesn’t mean they’re particularly superior tacticians or gun handlers, but their big advantage is simple, robust tactics coupled to (most importantly) not only the willingness to kill but experience in killing. And they’re not concerned about getting caught or dying. So facing an opponent in that fashion requires moving to kill, not to arrest. The vast majority of LE are not trained or supported in training to kill in this scenario – and that’s not normally the job of the police. However, there is no question that if you are armed and you engage with or are identified by operators like this in a scenario, you will immediately come under fire and be engaged until you are dead. So that’s a good motivation to keep in mind.
The armed citizen. A very good reason to pre-think decision making. A handgun against a long gun at the distances involved from the street to a sidewalk café, especially in a lone handgunner against a seasoned fire team with long guns is not an optimal situation for the handgunner. Moving to cover, shooting from ambush, understanding and knowing what one’s baseline of performance under stress, having sufficient ammunition to sustain an extended fire fight and knowing/understanding that in this scenario suppressive fire with a pistol to cover your own or other peoples evacuation might be a viable tactic.
Trained in that lately? Against resistance? Against dedicated attackers who mean to fix you in place and kill you?
If you are unarmed in this instance, it’s best to channel Monty Python and run away, run away, run away. Going empty hands against seasoned killers with long guns is a non-starter unless you are within arm’s reach, which requires motivation and a skill set that is not common in most.
Sophistication in IED manufacture, i.e. bomb vests/belts.
Contrary to popular fiction and film, you don’t just gin these up in your basement. Building vests/belts that go off when they’re supposed to, and yet are comfortable enough (or at least non movement inhibiting) to wear while fighting requires a sophisticated skill set, expertise, and specialized equipment. And of course explosives. On a recent visit to Israel, some operators shared with me details of a particular bomb/shooting operation: the female bomber was wearing a bomb vest that had been built off a cast of her torso; at visual examination it looked like a pregnant belly, but was a sophisticated device with safety triggers (and possibly with a remote detonating capability with encrypted cellular as a back up, but I’m not sure). The team included 4 active shooters equipped with long guns and pistols, whose job was to make sure she got into the venue and detonated the device and then they were to engage responding units and civilians till they ran out of ammo or were killed.
They didn’t get to do that, because the very hard guys got to them first, but it’s a good example of what is not just possible but standard operating procedure. It also means that serious professional bombmakers are involved somewhere, and so those devices are not of the pressure cooker type (though those may be around too). Higher level of sophistication in IED.
Professional responders: You must plan for bombs and explosives as a given. If there’s shooting, there will be explosions. Whether hand grenades or IEDs. What is your level of knowledge on handling IED in THE STREET FIGHTING ENVIRONMENT? Not render safe procedures, or bunkering and waiting for the robot to water cannon the package, as in running to and into a fight where there may be IEDs on the targets you’re shooting, or in the bags around them, or in the grenades they throw your way? Will you anchor a downed shooter so they don’t detonate their vest and kill you and your fellow officers? Do you have a procedure to back people away to a safe distance? Do you know what the safe distance is for an IED bomb vest/belt/grenade? If not, who are you going to ask for that information and how will you remember it/train it?
Us civilians: Remember Monty Python. Run away, run away, run away. Rule of thumb: move far enough away from a downed shooter/suspect package so that when you extend your arm full length, you can hide from your view the shooter/package scene behind your outstretched thumb. In the event of a blast or if there are grenades, etc. being flung in your direction: Ass to the blast. Turn away from the device. Get behind cover if you can in 1-2 steps. If not, get down flat on your belly, ass to the blast, cross your feet at your ankles, press your elbows to your sides and press your hands to your ears and open your mouths. If you have a child/children, shove them underneath you, compress their heads under your chest with your arms squeezed against your side so that their ears and head are protected; squash them flat under you. They will probably be screaming so their mouths will be open. Try to cover your ears as well if you can. Same if you have a loved one who’s too slow or doesn’t know how. Press them as flat as you can and cover them.
If you are injured, self assess: can you keep going to get further away from the scene, or are you truly too injured to proceed? Other folks write at length about the need for medical training; really first aid is an essential life skill and you don’t need to be an expert on trauma management to save a life including your own.
If there’s one explosion, there’s two (or there will be). When you run, pick your direction and consider, if you are able to in the moment, that you might be herded along the most likely avenue of escape into another explosive killing zone.
A lot of what I’ve read lately on the Error-Net focuses on gear and what you, Joe Civilian or Mary First-Responder should be carrying. I like gear, don’t get me wrong, and I’m fully on board with having the right stuff when you need it. I’ve been toting myself, weapons and gear in harm’s way since the 70s, and here’s a few pithy things I’ve learned from people smarter than me:
*Training trumps gear.
*Specific real-world experience trumps generalized training.
*Knowledge derived from experience and supplemented by training allows quantum leaps in improvisation.
All that being said, yes, it’s better to have a t’quet instead of a belt, or a table cloth; yes it’s better to have an Izzy or some other pressure dressing; yes it’s better to have an airway instead of a safety pin…
There’s a balancing point between what you can reasonably (i.e. comfortably, have immediately available, concealed if that’s a concern, if off body in a every day carry sized bag) have with you and what you would actually WANT in a full blown low probability high risk scenario like what happened in Paris. There’s lots of other people opining about that who are much better qualified to discuss the latest and the greatest than me.
Here’s a couple of things a friend of mine whose experience and training is significant suggested:
*Have a weapon and a concealment system. Preferably high capacity with a minimum of one high capacity magazine.
(He likes a G19 with a flush 15 round mag, and as a back up mag a 17 rd mag modified with a Dawson Precision +5 baseplate and spring, which gives him a minimum of 38 rounds. He has been known to slip two back up mags in his waistband. He conceals it with a system that consists of a Boxer Tactical belt, a Black Center Tactical holster modded with an Incog extra long strut, and a couple of mag pouches similarly modded for deep concealment.)
*A strong knife. Pocket knife is fine, or a small legal sized fixed blade, like the Boker Coye Razorback in a good sheath.
*Breaching tool. Not a big-ass tacti-cool one, but something with glassbreaker capability like the superb Spyderco Rescue Knife, or a small ti pry bar, etc. Or even the key chain mounted ones. Breaking a window is harder than it looks, and having the capability to break hardened glass to get out of somewhere is vastly under rated.
*A flashlight, preferably with high lumen and a strobe or signal capability (MiniMag Light with SOS signal in it is just fine).
*A bandana (to dab his fevered brow, or improvise as a blood stopper)
*iPhone 6+ with several specialized apps installed that work WITHOUT cell or wi-fi signal. These apps include OsmAndMaps, which allows the user to download detailed maps onto the phone so in the absence of cell/wi-fi you have detailed maps to navigate with, and Lofty Wiseman’s SAS Survival app. The feature of the SAS app he likes best is the built in (not dependent on wi-fi/cell) Morse code communication app. You can type in a plain text message, the program translates it into Morse code and then uses the built in smartphone flashlight (or the screen itself) to transmit the message. No doubt someone is laughing at sending Morse code these days; however given a major event and the amount of aerial and satellite coverage dedicated to an in-progress event, synchronized flashes whether recognizable as Morse code or not (and they are to the computers, kiddies, the algorithm sorts it….) can show location (like trapped in a rubble pile) or convey useful information to the Fed computers who can translate that for the tacticool knuckle draggers (3 T long gun, 2 ied ne entrance, roof clear) if one were playing mouse in the wall.
Anything else is nice to have, if you have the time and wherewithal to lug stuff around. These days I see people lugging backpacks stuffed with trauma bags spare magazines and AR pistols to go to the coffee shop; there’s so much just in case gear in there you can’t squeeze a laptop in. All cool with me – just have a plan to use it and be cool about it.
Note about the AR pistols: It’s a “thing” to have an AR pistol in one’s backpack or whatever. Great tool for those who know how to set it up, zero it, and run it. Those that know how to do that are familiar with the ballistics and how your particular round choice (300 Blackout or 5.56) will be affected by the different barrel length, and zero accordingly. Most of the people blasting away with them at public ranges have never zeroed them and have no idea where their rounds will hit past 7 yards, much less at 100 yards or more (very easy inside of any mall and many schools). Yeah, having a rifle caliber in a compact package is awesome up close – assuming you can deploy it and hit with it. A 10.5 inch barrel AR pistol zeroed at 50 meters gets you easy center of mass hits out to 200 meters; up close you have to account for offset if you want precise head shots, but keeping it in the body is not hard. An extremely experienced friend counts kills at 500meters using a MK-18 with an ACOG – 10.3 inch barrel.
If you’re going to carry stuff, know how to use it and what the capabilities are. And yours.
Since the brain responds best to focused questions, here’s some to consider when you mull readiness and preparedness. Think about these as a way to create a foundational neural net to build your mental rehearsal on:
How are you mentally prepared? Do you have relevant experience and or training? Do you have skills to improvise weapons and medical equipment? If armed, what is your real skill level as opposed to your training day skill. How far can you engage accurately under stress? What is your performance when tested cold to establish your real baselines? Do you have any previous experience with threat to life stress? Do you have sufficient ammo to SUSTAIN an engagement against automatic carbines/rifles at close range? Can you do suppressive fire with a pistol against carbines/rifles? (Harrington Drill: empty 3 15-rd mags as fast as you can at 7, 15, 25 – all hits on a pie plate.) Can you engage when surrounded by injured panicked innocents? Can you kill? Do you have a plan not to get killed by responding units or other armed citizens? How do you respond? What’s the decision tree? Are you alone or with someone you must be responsible for? (Kids, family, friends who are NOT fighters or armed?) Are you injured? Are you armed? Do you have a cellphone and is it functioning? Are you pinned down or herded into an environment conducive to hostage taking (killing)? Can you engage? Are you able to engage without being immediately killed? Can you hide and wait, even if you must see horrific things (children killed, women raped, etc.) while you are waiting? Can you wait till the right time? Would you recognize the right time if you saw it? Can you realistically feign compliance to achieve a superior fighting position?
There’s some food for thought (actually a feast for thought, but then I’m a cognitive neuroscience enthusiast…)
[I’ve been on a deliberate news blackout for two months. A friend brought to my attention a recent heinous crime against a child, perpetrated by someone known to the family. When I was asked what a parent might do, I said that we can only do what we can do, and that includes teaching our children, even the youngest, the fundamentals of paying attention to their own inner guidance, also known as intuition, or to us neuroscience geeks, preconscious or subliminal processing of human danger cues. Even the little ones get it, but we grown ups spend a lot of time socializing out that gut level reaction to danger. Makes one wonder how many tragedies might be avoided if parents, in the interest of political correctness or social nicety, didn’t discourage their children’s immediate gut reactions to people, places, and situations. Small children and dogs are rarely wrong about their reactions to bad people. The below is presented in case it helps even one child or one parent.]
Once upon a time, I spent a fascinating afternoon with John Douglas, one of the founders of the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit, the famed “profilers” that’ve provided grist for fictional mills from Thomas Harris’s SILENCE OF THE LAMBS to TV’s CSI. I asked him, as a parent to a parent, what had changed for him after spending so many years studying the minds, behaviors, habits, and hunting methodologies of serial offenders. John is a genial, intelligent and articulate man with a surprising gentleness in his behavior for someone who’s devoted his life to hunting the most evil of humans.
There was nothing gentle in his face or voice when he snapped, “I NEVER let them [his children] out of my sight.”
I made the point that it’s impossible to keep our kids under 24/7 surveillance, especially when they hit their teen years, and he eased back a little and agreed. The emotional response rose out of his unprecedented experience in talking to so many agonized parents…and sitting across from malevolent beings who preyed on children.
It’s a good question, isn’t it? Whether as a parent or a good-hearted responsible human being, how do you teach children to recognize and react appropriately to danger/Evil when there’s no parent around? It’s very easy to say, well, never let your kids out of your sight. And any parent reading is this is going to know…you cannot always be there.
And more to the point, sooner or later those children we love will grow up and be out in the world — do you want them emerging from under your protective wing WITHOUT the skills to recognize and react appropriately to danger? Wouldn’t that be a grievous failure as a parent as well?
Interesting dilemma, yes?
I thought I’d share some techniques here that I’ve found useful in providing children as young as 5-6 the baseline foundational skills in recognizing bad intent. I don’t have all the answers, but these techniques, drawn from neuroscience, cognitive therapy and my own training design evolutions have been found useful by parents in quite a few high-risk environments. They’re simple to teach, use, implement and reinforce — and more to the point, they don’t scare kids the way that heated fear-driven lectures on what to do and not to do might.
I’ve used these with kids as young as 4, but 5-6 is probably the best place to introduce the skill set, especially since that’s when they will most likely be going off to school, and their rapidly growing brain is at the appropriate place to accommodate this particular cognitive-neurological change.
Set up a relaxed, casual environment. I like to think of setting the stage for this learning as similar to “Come here and sit, I want to tell you a story…”
Don’t preface with a lecture. Their brains aren’t ready for that. Tell a story, ask questions, get simple answers.
Start with this: “Can you think of a time when you were really, really SUPER happy?”
Watch their faces. If you know your kids, you’ll see a change that shows they are remembering that time.
Then say, “Where in your body do you feel that SUPER HAPPY feeling…show me! Put your finger on it!”
And then they will do so. It will be different for each kid — probably their belly, or their heart region, or maybe somewhere in their face/throat. But it’s individual to each kid.
Have them PLACE their finger on that spot.
Then laugh a little bit, talk about what they remember.
Then ask this questions, “Can you think of a time where you were really, really scared? In a movie, or in a story, or something you saw?”
And carefully watch their faces, because you want them to remember an incident, but not go too far into the memory…and when you see their face change, ask “Where in your body, right now, do you feel that SCARY feeling?”
And have them put their finger on it.
Then put your hand on that spot and say, “Okay, let’s remember a happy feeling again!”
And have them put their finger on the happy feeling spot.
Hang out in that for a little bit.
Then, if you’ve taught them not to talk to strangers (unless mom or dad SAY it’s okay, and these days most switched on adults will know to ask a parent if they can speak to their child…) give them this additional protocol, “If someone comes to you that you don’t know, ask yourself ‘Do I feel something in my Happy Place…or my Scary Place?” Role play it a little bit, but gently. It doesn’t take much to introduce that. What they need to internalize is a very fast intuitive feeling: “Is this a good person or a scary person?” And ACT.
If they feel the Scary Place/Person, give them the response/plan they need to ACT: Run away, scream for help, find a grown up they know.
Just that little bit, gently installed, and gently reinforced, might help your child (or somebody else’s child) on the day when the Wolf comes, and there’s nobody else there.
ps: for the lurking cognitive neuroscience types, Google somatic markers, preconscious processing, accentusludus accelerated learning and stress inoculation, DARPA, Office of Naval Research, NASA, if you want to dig into the hard science. I focus on techniques that a 3-6 year old can learn immediately and apply. Strangely enough, I find that approach works quite well with people that work under extreme stress…if they’re willing to learn.
pps: for the lurking writers/readers, I put this in THE ACHY MAN, as a technique a crippled man teaches to a 5 year old child threatened by Achy Man and his goons. It’s a good first step to help protect children from sick cowards…though sometimes the best way to protect young lambs is to simply kill the Wolf. Jus’ saying….
My guest today is Master Trainer and Tactical Team Leader Clint Oosthuizen of the South African Police Service. Clint is my brother-from-another-mother. We go back to the mid-90s, when the South African Police Service (newly renamed from the former Police Force to Police Service to manage a new political narrative after Mandela took power) asked me to consult with their national executives, the Psychological Services Division and a number of their specialty units. During one of my stays in Sunny Africa I lived with Clint and his family. I rode with him and his police crew from day one, much to their amusement and my frequent terror.
Back then, in the aftermath of the long struggle between the apartheid government and Mandela’s political party the African National Congress, South Africa had the highest rates of crime-related violence in the world. Johannsesburg was the most violent city in the world, the leader in armed assault, homicide, forcible rape, and robbery. It was very much like William Fairbairn’s Shanghai, and it was Fairbairn’s work that inspired me to go there and learn from those who daily engage in high levels of professional violence.
To this day, it remains one of the world’s violent cities, and the job of the police officer is much closer to the counter-insurgency soldier in an urban environment than the job most American police departments are familiar with.
When I was there circa 1995-1996, the casualties among the 100,000 serving police officers in the SAPS were the highest in the world. Armed ambushes (firearms and edged weapons) resulted in over 250 dead cops a year.
Now twenty years later, the number of officers killed in direct fire (ambush) or edged weapon attacks is closer to 100 a year. Roughly 0.1% of the police force dies each and every year in some sort of ambush. That’s based on an average number of 100,000 for the total national police.
Clint is good enough to take the time here to share some of his street wisdom derived from 20+ years at the very hard edge in police patrol and SWAT operations. He and his crew have been tested in innumerable gun-fights (defined here as engaging in close combat with firearms with a resisting foe(s)) and many bladed encounters. In addition to SWAT, patrol, K9, Training and various specialty units, Clint also spent several tours in the Middle East doing high-risk Protection Security Details with my late great friend Rich Smith, of the Rhodesian SAS and other elite units.
Conrad (RIP), Rich (RIP), some Old Guy from the NDE Club, Clint newly initiated into the NDE Club, and the indestructible Dennis Martin
Clint’s been there and done that; he didn’t just see the elephant but French kissed him (several times) and survived the dreaded rhino slap…tale to be told another time.
Clint’s perspectives on police patrol procedures, and the individual and unit training necessary to survive and thrive in an environment where police are everyday targets of opportunity for heavily armed, highly motivated and tactically proficient criminals may be of interest to police trainers, police officers and armed civilians watching the evolution of violence on the American streets.
Here’s Clint Oosthuizen, Police Officer, Combat Leader, Gunfighter, Bon Vivant, Force of Nature and a man I’m proud to call my friend and brother:
Clint: Oi, mate! As you know, our police history has always been one of extreme violence. We lose about 100 officers a year (down from the bad old days) to ambushes, which include shootings, explosions (grenades, mostly) and edged weapon attacks (pangas, like a machete, as well as other knives). This doesn’t count accidents or guys wounded on duty who are unable to return to duty. That’s a much higher count, but I don’t have those exact numbers. So far this year to July, we’ve lost around 80. Of those 60% (48) were killed with their own weapons.
• When we work, we always have 2+ officers. Never less than 2.
• When we go Alpha (respond to a complaint) we don’t use sirens unless we have to; we run lights and shut them off when we’re a block or so away.
• We never roll up on the address. We always stop 1-2 houses away, and then we walk in using a standard cover formation. That means one officer handles the contact/initial interview and the rest of us provide all around cover. That means covering the suspect and any other individuals, the house, the surrounding houses, the yards and alleys. All around defense, all the time.
• If we tactically penetrate a building we come out the same way unless back up has arrived.
• If we arrive on a scene and find blue lights there with an officer we don’t know, we watch the officer for pre-violence indicators as they might be bad guys disguised as SAPS police officers, or crooked SAPS officers committing a crime. We actually run into that quite a bit, LOL.
• When we embuss (get back into the vehicle) the driver enters first while we cover him; he starts the car and puts it into gear, then we get in. That way you always have boots on the ground ready to fight if you have to until you’re able to get away fast in the vehicle.
• When we do a car stop we are always ready to shoot. Always. One guy talks to the driver while the other guy covers with all around defense. We get a lot of drive by shootings on car stops.
• When we approach the car it’s always from the rear. We check the hood and move no further than the rear windows. Our stand off shooter will always cover and move with the officer making the contact; the stand off shooter has to have eyes in the back of his head because he has to watch his partner AND approaching vehicles AND the local environment. Hard work.
• If we get ambushed while mobile our SOP is drive through.
• If we can’t drive through, we debuss (get out of the vehicle) and lay down suppressive fire and flank or retreat tactically.
• If we can’t debuss, we lay flat and return fire through the windscreen (windshield) or through the door. We then exit and lay down fire by shooting around, through or under the vehicle and exit the kill zone to flank/regroup/escape. Comms are vital between you and your partner and with incoming backup.
• When we chase somebody we always chase with a partner. We never leave our partner alone. Ever.
• We see a lot of grenade attacks. We train to take cover, or get at least 7 meters (21 feet) away, go face down, cover our ears, open mouth, and after the bang goes off we roll to a supine position and shoot back at the bad guys.
• For car tactics, you must work with your partner on comms and SOPs. When you’re ambushed in the car or on foot, you can’t be f**king about, so you must work it out before and practice it together. You must know how your vehicle handles at speed or damaged, and what kind of rounds do what kind of damage to your car. And wear your plates!
• You must make sure that everyone on your shift also has agreed upon and trained comms and SOP so there’s no blue on blue when your backup rolls in to help you while you’re in or exiting the kill zone.
• Individual officer skills, well you must be fit, and you must train in all the fighting disciplines: shooting, knife, baton, CQB applications, SOPs. It must all seamlessly integrate because in a fight how you win is irrelevant as long as you win.
• Your gear must be 100% even if you must buy it yourself; you can’t afford failures.
• I advocate blade skill. We are a knife culture and we see them every single day. Being able to use a knife is very useful in the close quarter engagements we find ourselves in. You can use it to defend your gun, or if you can’t get to your gun or you are disarmed of your gun it’s also useful in a team take down of a suicide bomber or grenade thrower (cutting the ligaments on the activation hand, etc.)
Clint, can you discuss situational awareness and what kind of weaknesses the police officer must be aware of?
You remember that video you mentioned in chat that showed the American SF team in Iraq and the American SWAT? The difference? In that, the American police focus on the target structure, and even the perimeter team is focused on containing the threat…not looking for threat outside the perimeter. In the SF video, they cover all nearby houses when they enter. One of the best points was the movement inside the building. The police just pass the windows once they are inside, the SF cover out the windows in case they are hit from outside.
So the point is that police must learn how to see like soldiers do, and look further around, up and down, near and far, to be situationally aware enough to see an ambush coming or at least fight through one.
While there are significant numbers of veterans in the American police forces, I don’t think the training on counter-ambush and combat situational awareness has filtered through the liability conscious administrations. Definitely some exceptions, but not many.
We had a lot of the same problems. Lot of political correctness from people who don’t ride the car or the van into the shit. So we do the best we can with training, but sometimes you just have to take it on and train with your partner as best you can, and if you have a crew you train together even if you have to arrange it yourself. Your life, oke.
You routinely see a much higher level of skilled violence in your incidents down there. The American police are just starting to get more exposed to the somewhat tactically proficient active shooter or terrorist, and while we’ve been fortunate to avoid a Paris or Mumbai, the consensus is that will be the wave of the future…not if, but when…and where.
When we started out, you remember, LOL, we had a lot of military trained criminals who had recent military experience and training from the long conflict. When they didn’t get what they wanted from the new administration, they used their skills to go out and get what they wanted. Most of them had no other education besides fighting. So we’ve always encountered those proficient at buddy team, squad and platoon sized fire fight tactics, understood fire and maneuver, how to utilize heavy weapons and hand grenades, etc. Our tactics had to evolve to face that. Just like Americans, our first response is generally a car with two officers, so what we do has to be robust enough to deal with an ambush or skilled attack right off. We have to survive till our back up or the tactical response van gets there, LOL.
Can you comment on individual skills training for officers? You mention that you can’t depend on the Training Section to give you all you need, and that you must train with your partner even if you have to find your own time, gear and range.
Basic and recurrent training is never enough. If you are serious — and if you are not serious you will die, be badly hurt, or end up hiding in the station for your entire career – then you must train individually, with your partner, and with your team if you are in tactical response. On the individual level, you must be fit. Fit enough to fight for your life in a crowd, outnumbered and down. Fit enough to run the f**k away if you must, LOL, or run to help another officer. You must be proficient in using your gun. Not just shooting scores or nice groups, but being able to shoot while fighting, while someone is grabbing your weapons, in a crowd of non-shoots, and so on. You must know without a doubt what you can and can’t do with your weapon and shape your tactics around that. With your partner, you must be able to read each other’s minds. Like you taught us, LOL. You have to be able to read body language of your partner and of others. Sometimes you can’t say anything, you just have to read the situation and act. That’s one level of comms. You must know how to use the radio and have a back up for when it doesn’t work. Like my smartphone, LOL. You must be able to fight out of, around, under, and over your vehicle. You must be able to drive the vehicle under stress, under fire, and while damaged. You must know how to respond to IED attacks and grenade attacks in the car and on foot and respond as a team.
You have to know how to handle a blade. A blade and knife at the same time, or just a blade, coming at you or in your hand. And your baton of course. We have the long guns as well (remember your R5?).
An individual officer must take the time to get and keep his skills up. If he does not, he will die or be badly injured, or else cause some of us who come to back him up to be killed or badly injured. In that case we will beat his ass at the station after, LOL.
Clint, thank you so much for taking the time to share your hard-earned expertise and wisdom with American law enforcement. If people want to ask you questions, they can post here. Thanks again, Oke!
Happy to help! Looking forward to seeing you again! And this time we won’t feed the lions! ; )
Here’s a few training hacks derived from our going research (and the research of others) into training for performance under stress.
Scroll down for some recommended fundamental books that should be read by anyone who wants to discuss “cognitive neuroscience” in the context of firearms and combative training before they start slinging “most scientific” in their marketing material (hat tip to Alfred Bester in THE STARS MY DESTINATION — “Very quant! Most Scientific!”)
EXPERIENCE FOR BEGINNERS —
Whether you’re a gun enthusiast or seasoned tactician, you’ve probably run across some of the many new gun owners at ranges. Many experienced people have taken it upon themselves to offer training (familiarization) and experiences on ranges to those new to firearms. These ideas are offered from research into learning that applies to beginning firearms students.
As usual, don’t take anything said here (or by anybody) as gospel unless you verify it through your direct experience. Don’t recycle and remouth what somebody else says until you’ve done it for yourself. Feel free to read the books listed below and come to your own conclusions, or ask questions (please don’t e-mail them to me, just post in the comments, thx).
Here’s a recommended sequence of instruction for a new handgun shooter:
1. Determine status of weapon (loaded, unloaded? External safety or no? Magazine in or out, loaded or unloaded, external safety or not?
2. How to make a weapon safe: If safety,look for F/S, engage safety. Remove magazine. Lock back slide and visually/physical inspect chamber.
3. How to load the weapon.
4. Muzzle awareness — guns are geometric instruments
5. Trigger finger awareness — location of finger trigger at all time.
The only safety briefing necessary for an experienced instructor and a novice is: “Do what I tell you to do. And only that.” At this point.
The above steps are all hands on. No lecture, just show them one time, then let them do it. Don’t do it for them, let them make mistakes and figure it out by themselves. You are standing right there and you are responsible for safety. You can use snap caps/dummy rounds if you want; using real ammo under your close supervision increases stress for the student. Keep it simple, brief sentences, positive reinforcement. Don’t lecture, don’t preach. Maximize hands on by the student and hands off by the instructor. That includes talking them through. Let them figure it out. Doesn’t matter (at this point) if it looks like crap.
Once they’ve gone through this sequence above (should not take more than five to seven minutes max) go hot with the pistol. Let them do it. If somebody is really a stress wreck, load it for them and put it into their hand.
Then let them shoot. No instruction on grip, stance, aim, breathing, blah blah blah. Just make sure their fingers don’t get caught in the slide. Bring the target up close. Let them shoot like 5 rounds, take a break, shoot five more. Doesn’t matter at all what the target looks like and don’t coach. Just let them go bang. No more than ten rounds.
Then have them determine the status of their weapon, unload, make it safe.
And shake it off.
No negative comments, no coaching, no endless mouth noise about trigger control and grip and stance blah blah blah.
Then go through the whole sequence again. No talk, no lecture, just do it and let them work through the whole sequence, hands shaking whatever. It’s your job to ensure safety at this point, do so. Muzzle awareness and trigger awareness, and save the four rules lecture for another time.
Then pick ONE thing, and one thing only. I suggest starting with grip. Fine tune their grip and spend no more than one minute doing so. Don’t talk about it, just adjust their hand and have them feel whether it works for them or not.
Five shots. Let them notice improvement. If there’s no improvement by fine tuning their grip, then you better work harder as an instructor.
Then trigger. Put a coin on the front sight and have them do no more than five slow presses. if they’re able to keep the coin from falling, that’s good enough for now. No more than a minute.
Then stance. No more than one minute.
No improvement? Shame on you, instructor. There should be.
Eye-sight-target alignment. No more than one minute.
Take a break.
Nothing negative, just chat, let them process. No feedback from you or fine tuning at this point.
After about five minutes or so, have them go through the whole sequence (determine status, load, muzzle awareness, trigger finger, grip, stance, eye-sight-target alignment).
Shoot 10 rounds in this sequence (hat tip to Claude Werner, Tactical Professor) Fire 1 from ready, lower to low ready, fire 2, low ready, fire 3, low ready, fire 4 to slide lock, go through sequence (determine status, etc. etc.).
Take a break and congratulate them on their improvement. No improvement? Shame on you, instructor.
50 rds, about 30 minutes. See targets below.
Handgun target — 7 yards, last 25 rounds of first 50 rounds from a handgun Evah.
Student being coached by some old vagrant.
Works with ARs, too. At CQB range 10 yds — notice group on targets. First time with AR. First 20 rounds.
100 yard target.
Total AR rounds — 60 rds. Never handled one. Can identify weapon status, make safe, load, engage targets, make weapon safe. Total training time on AR platform — 30 minutes.
9mm handgun — 50 rds. Never handled one. Can identify weapon status, make safe, load, engage targets, make weapon safe. Total training time on pistol platform — 30 minutes.
One hour, 50 handgun rounds, 60 AR rounds.
Can you do this? Why not?
Dudes and dudettes, this is why this works, every single time, if you do it this way (which requires you instructor types to rethink your presuppositions, biases and perceptual framework that defines your definition of firearms instruction)
The student has no first hand experience of firearms. All her presuppositions, imagining, biases come second or third hand delivered through the opinions of others or perceptions from media like TV, movies, and the Errornet.
Biases and presuppositions come from our experiences and training. Every word that comes out of an instructors mouth comes from previous experience/learning/knowledge.
In this case, the student is a blank slate with NO EXPERIENCE to build any sort of cognitive framework on which to build a perception or to acquire skill.
So, dudes and dudettes, how about we CREATE an experience for the student, so they have some kind of cognitive framework in which to hang all the learning you expect them to get? In other words, how about building a box for them to put the learning in, and make sure that box from day one will translate to the self defense application?
Give them the experience WITHOUT you interfering, only guiding and doing the minimal necessary to provide safety (you’re responsible during this particular first session). Let them work through errors on their own. Then get on with it.
So here’s an example: devout Muslims and Orthodox Jews. The subject of your lecture? The Joy of Virginia Ham. So you gots your PowerPoint, you gots your training AIDS, you gots your lecture notes all set out. So now…describe the taste of Virginia Ham to an audience that has no experience with eating ham.
C’mon, you’re an instructor. What’s so tough about that?
So now explain (use your words, now, as my fellow FLETC instructor Raylan Givens once said), to an audience with no experience with real firearms or shooting. Use your words only. Now go have them do what you TALKED about. Or maybe skip the lectures till you BUILD a cognitive framework based on EXPERIENCE so the students can then hang your abstractions and lecture onto their experiential framework.
START WITH THESE BOOKS TO RESHAPE YOUR BELIEFS ABOUT WHAT IS POSSIBLE IF YOU MODIFY YOUR APPROACH TO FIREARMS TRAINING. OR DON’T.
Now I’m sure I’m going to get the usual rash of complaints about not citing my company research or the recent research that supports this. So here’s a challenge to those usual suspects: GO DO THIS. TRY IT OUT IN THE REAL WORLD. MAKE IT WORK. THEN, WHEN YOU HAVE THE EXPERIENCE, ASSUMING YOU’RE WILLING TO RESHAPE YOUR BELIEF ABOUT WHAT IS POSSIBLE, THEN READ THOSE BOOKS FOR AN EXCELLENT SNAPSHOT ABOUT WHAT IS FAIRLY CURRENT IN COGNITIVE NEUROSCIENCE AND PERFORMANCE UNDER STRESS, AND THEN FOLLOW THE RESEARCH IN THOSE BIBLIOGRAPHIES.
And then ask yourself this question: What’s more important in a gunfight? Being able to rattle off cognitive neuroscience, or do the skill in real time under real stress? What’s more important to a teacher of gun fighting? The ability to rattle off “Yerkes-Dodson! Hicks Law! Most scientific!” Or the ability to take a chance and reshape the paradigm of firearms training which dates back to the 1700s and incorporate some simple and extremely proven research (which is just now creeping into firearms training) so that you can SAVE SOME LIVES and make sure that new shooters start off right?
Food for thought, dudes and dudettes.
Have a good ‘un.
PS: The Achy Man haters? Hope you’re enjoying yourselves! Drop by any time, and bring your catamite — we’re very gay-friendly in Minneapolis!
Ralph Mroz and Claude Werner are esteemed Elders of the Warrior Tribe. They both recently posted their thoughts on intervention by armed civilians. Ralph here: https://thestreetstandards.wordpress.com/2016/03/27/to-intervene-or-not/ Claude here: https://tacticalprofessor.wordpress.com/2016/05/03/intervene-and-die/
In Claude’s post he makes the excellent point that the CCW holder who intervened in a domestic dispute (and died doing so) may have made poor decisions, no matter how well intentioned his actions. Claude focuses on the failure of critical thinking or good decision making under stress in this incident. This is an area we research, and our work here attracts significant attention among organizations that field people who must make appropriate decisions under stress.
What happens to skill sets (assuming that you have them) when you encounter a situation that elicits “immediate onset threat to life stress” i.e. something that causes your body to dump massive amounts of chemicals into your body to prepare you to fight to the death or flee? Why would your combative skills, empty hand or weapon, not transfer from the gym/range to the street when you need them the most?
In other words, why do would we choke and perform sub-optimally when under immediate onset threat to life stress?
1. Most people choke because they worry. What does worry mean? It means thinking of all the things that can go wrong or have gone wrong already (instead of focusing on what is actually unfolding in real time) It means trying to keep themselves together while experiencing (perhaps for the first time in their lives) the physiological reaction commonly referred to as adrenal stress. What causes that particular flavor of stress? The other-than-conscious realization that something is happening that a) they haven’t seen before and b) they don’t KNOW if they can handle it.
2. Their internal representations (the mental pictures, self talk and kinesthetics — feelings) are about the worst case — everything that can possibly go wrong and what that will look and sound and feel like. They haven’t previously prepared for the worst case and feelings the internal representations of failure are creating are actually driving the person towards failure by driving a psycho-physiological state change that inhibits optimal performance.
3. They are trying to do consciously something that is normally done unconsciously (making unconscious competence consciously competent). This presupposes they’ve previously done the homework and actually have appropriate skills/techniques trained to unconscious competence.
4. They haven’t trained in a high-fidelity simulation. They haven’t practiced under circumstances that as duplicate as closely as possible the most likely circumstances they will need to use the skill under.
5. They focus on how to do it (a technique driven focus) rather than what to do (strategy driven focus). The case Claude cites is an example. The choices cited indicate a “strategy” that may have evolved from poor or non-existent RELEVANT training (he was a Marine, but in this instance civilian oriented training addressing legal parameters, appropriate decision making regarding his obligation to himself and family first may have been more important than Marine combat experience) which led to poor thinking and decision making. The “strategy” of: “Get my gun, stop this guy, arrest him” got him killed. Thinking through what strategy would be appropriate (in light of his skills, his obligation to his wife and family, his legal standing, and his lack of information about the details of the scenario, and the absence of immediate imminent threat to himself) might have saved his life.
My suggestion based on recent research into how the brain works under stress would be to consider a strategy like the one listed below to determine whether you are ABLE to effectively intervene…or not.
A — Assess the situation. Apply full knowledge of the law, the circumstances, what you know and, importantly, what you don’t know. Is you required legally to intervene? Is there an immediate threat to yourself and those you’re responsible for? Is there continuing violence that justifies lethal force? Are you putting yourself and those you’re responsible for at risk? Do you have a plan? Have you ever a) experienced a similar situation b) trained for a similar situation c) mentally rehearsed for a similar situation? Do you have the capability to execute that plan? (Can you approach an armed subject and take control of him? Do you know how? Have you ever done it before? Can you do it without escalating the situation and putting yourself and others at risk?) etc. etc.
B — Breathe. As in take a deep breath and calm the fuck down. Think before you spring into action. In an immediate onset event that takes you by surprise (see situational awareness, mental rehearsal, and previous training) you may not have time to. Consider that a good response to plug in BEFORE your “conditioned response” to run into a gunfight is taking a deep breath — get yourself under control, calm your heart/breathing down, manage your psycho-physiological state.
L — Listen to yourself. What kind of self-talk is going through your head? Are you talking yourself into something you’re not prepared to handle? Are you playing out worst case scenarios? Are you building a narrative based on what you “think” you see? Are you hearing a little voice judging you, calling you coward, urging you to jump in? Sort that self-talk out.
E — Evaluate: Exit or Engage. Evaluate all of the above once you’ve managed your state. Should you exit the situation based on all of the above? Or should you engage? Is there continuing danger? As in imminent to you and yours? Would moving to intervene leave those you are responsible for unprotected or helpless? Or alone after you’re dead?
I’ll go into specific training tips you can plug into your personal practice and instructors can plug into training in another post.
Think it through before you jump into a fight, and make sure you’re ABLE first…
DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) http://www.darpa.mil is, to put it mildly, an interesting place. It’s the Department of Defense’s Mad Scientist Asylum, the source of major conspiracy theory, and the fountain of much of the high-tech that we consumers take for granted.
I was recently invited out again to give a chat and meet with some folks. Our little company is way out in the weeds doing stuff that a lot of the major contractors and the various DOD customers are interested in.
The focus of this visit was DARPA’s new program, Targeted Neural Plasticity Training.
This is what’s most cool about DARPA visits…seeing what the current (unclassified) cutting edge technologies are. This program is actually doing what you see here in THE MATRIX:
Here’s what a certain hyphenate (author-aging gunslinger-CEO-researcher-bon vivant-shamanic practitioner-boon companion-shameless rake) had to say about one portion of the program:
I saw some amazing science on display, re-connected with some colleagues, and had a good time for a guy running a temperature from this virulent flu.
Interesting implications for the future of firearms and law enforcement training here. This program promises to field this technology within four years, by the way…
Imagine getting hooked up to a device and run through a training program that installs expert combat hand gun skills into a novice…in 1/6 the time usually allowed for BASIC qualification.
World’s changing fast….I wonder if firearms instructors, law enforcement and military instructors, and the administrators in charge are ready for that change?