Robert Vaughan, Shadow Group Tactical Solutions, and former member of the United States Army Special Operations: The more realistic you train, the more effective you will be when things go sideways.
Robert Vaughan: How to make your training more realistic
As a former member of the United States Army Special Operations Command and as an operator, I have had to overcome several challenges to complete the missions set before me.
Learning from experiences and teaching other team members, each operator during a training evolution must have the uncanny ability to trick their mind.
What this refers to is the ability to visualize and believe in one’s mind during a training exercise that the actions being conducted are real. During each training opportunity, there are inherent exercise-based flaws.
The ability to trick the mind
Take for instance the UTM or FX simunition training rounds which are great tools to allow the officer a less than lethal training consequence.
However, it also teaches extremely bad habits, since the round itself is viewed as something that cannot hurt us.
There is very little thought about how these aids change the way we tactically move and advance or retreat.
As an operator, having the ability to trick the mind helps to alleviate these issues. You, as an officer or service member, should take into consideration that each and every training round represents exactly what it is, a LIVE LETHAL ROUND!
It does not matter whether that training ammo is a simunition round, SRTA or Airsoft.
This also goes for what you use as an opposing force. Whether it is a live role player or paper target, you should treat both as real living, breathing combatants.
Get out of the habit of short stroking the drill.
How many times have you seen it?
How many times have you seen it or done it yourself where you engage a target and then bring the gun back into your chest?
In an actual encounter in which you just shot an armed combatant, would you not physically secure the immediate area and search and secure the suspect?
During a training evolution you should exercise exactly the same, as if the action were real. If you were to contact a person while clearing a structure, would you show lack of communication or control?
Why do we show lack of follow through in a training environment? The more realistic you train, the more effective you will be when things go sideways.
The mindset that this is an actual entry!
Every time you enter a training evolution, you should have the mindset that this is an actual entry. We often quit the practical exercise scenario directly following contact with the suspect(s) instead of continuing through the scenario as if it were real.
If you would sternum rub a suspect to determine whether he is alive or dead during a real life encounter, then you should do the exact same thing to a paper target or role player in the scenario.
During a qualification course of fire, how often do we praise ourselves for keeping our rounds in what we refer to as the bowling pin area, located from the hips to the top of the head?
In reality, this type of shot placement or acceptance is of poor quality. The only incapacitating shot placement is center line across the chest and upward into the center of the head.
Although strikes below the sternum can be eventually lethal, the triangle is almost always an immediate shut down and termination of the threat. Train to a level at which you can accurately strike this triangle no matter what the circumstances are.
The more time you spend conditioning yourself…
Realizing that most agencies typically don’t have the training budget for ammunition or time to spend on the range, you can still achieve this efficiency of weapon manipulation, skills and principles by dry firing, stance, drawing from the holster, shouldering a weapon, trigger squeeze, sight alignment, breathing, etc.
Consistently train yourself with movement, magazine changes, tactical and emergency malfunctions and transitions.
The more time you spend conditioning yourself the better the result in the conscious thought of action becoming a subconscious thought of a learned disciplined action.
Set up your equipment to make these tasks more efficient. I have learned that my equipment setup needed to be accessed with ease and a fluid type of motion.
All equipment was precisely set on my body armor in a fashion with ease of accessing. Pre-position your magazines with economy of motion in mind, being able to index your mags, whether rifle or pistol, to draw from the vest straight into the weapon system.
When you are practicing don’t shortcut it.
When you are practicing don’t shortcut it. Rotate the weapon retention device. Secure your holster or manipulate the safety on your long gun, etc.
All of this will continue to build the necessary motor functions that you need to operate smoothly in a critical situation.
Having worked with many law enforcement agencies and military units, we see a tendency to adopt various techniques that when performed have no basis or purpose for the action.
One example is that you are on the range and conduct a shooting drill and immediately bring the weapon in tight to your body and then turn you head side to side.
The explanation given is that you bring the weapon into the body for weapon retention and then scan your surroundings.
In reality, you have just engaged a target with lethal force. You should then reacquire your sight picture to confirm the threat is stopped.
Once the threat is no longer a threat, finger off the trigger, and a scan of the area and beyond is conducted. We also like to use buzz words like head on a swivel.
Again, that term is misused and not accomplished most of the time.
What we should use is seeing the overall picture.
Ask questions and test the techniques.
Another example is that we engage the targets on the range and immediately side step to keep mobility.
The officer explained that it was to move out of the path of the oncoming threat and to get off line. Fast forward to a structure.
The same officer engaged targets with no side step, which is a total contradiction to what was practiced on the range. You, as an individual, a department, or unit member, need to constantly evaluate and vet what is being taught.
If it doesn’t make sense, then it probably isn’t the best course of action.
Ask questions and test the techniques.
Is there is a better way to do things?
The only way to determine this is to test and evaluate these techniques in a realistic training environment.
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