Tactical Tip Of The Week
Grand Master Louis M. Chiodo
Welcome back to those who have been reading the “Tactical Tip Of The Week”. For those who are new to these postings, you can find the previous postings in my website, www.gunfightersltd.com or in my Face Book page, Gunfighters Ltd. Combat Shooting Methods Inc. I sincerely hope you can benefit from the information in those postings. If you haven’t read the article on evaluations/qualifications that was posted last week, please read it before reading this article. It will add continuity to the message in this article.
I intend to be straightforward in this discussion. Frankly, I’m not worried about a bruised ego here and there. Why? Because what hangs in the balance are the lives of our friends, officers, military members or anyone else that will come to us for training. It is the responsibility of the organizations and individuals providing training to provide OR allow for the absolute best and most relevant training for those who will rely on their training to stay alive. So, the goal is to cause reflection on what we are doing and create a pathway that can lead us to a better use of our training time and how to ensure that those who are being trained can actually do what is asked of them.
In the previous article, I discussed the issue of the standard way that we see evaluation/qualification accomplished in many agencies. A proper system of evaluation is essential in any training program. I will add at this time that even when teaching a private class via my company, I have built in an evaluation/qualification into the course of instruction. It is critical to understand how the material is being absorbed by the student/trainee in order to know what needs attention to increase their capabilities.
I will included this exert from the previous article about evaluation/qualification to refresh our memory before moving forward:
“A standard way that the testing and evaluation is accomplished is to have a series of drills that require a certain amount of shots to be fired and usually within a predetermined time limit. Once the drills are completed, a scoring system is used to determine if the shooter has “qualified” based upon their score. Each shot is given a certain amount of points. At the conclusion of the course of fire, the total points accumulated by the shooter are tallied to determine the final score. This process is called an, “Aggregate Scoring System”. The agency can impose a minimum standard score to determine who passes and record the shooter’s actual score in their training record. Often, the minimum score is 70% of the total amount of points that are possible in the course of fire. Another option is the use of a “pass/fail” system where if the minimum score is attained, a passing score is recorded in their training record rather than an actual numerical score. At a first glance, this seems like a fairly solid way of certifying the proficiency of officers. However, the issue is what are we trying to test and evaluate? How does what we are testing relate to how the firearm will be used in a real combat shooting?”
Let’s start to discuss what all this means, especially for the person who will have to use their training to win fights against people who will do everything in their power to kill them. One of the first questions that comes to my mind is why would an “aggregate scoring system “ be used in the first place? I will be somewhat blunt here but it is necessary to be truthful and honest in this discussion or we are wasting our time.
There are a number of reasons why an “aggregate scoring system” is used in many agencies or training programs to determine competence. I will focus on a couple but your mind is the limitation in answering this question.
One reason for using an “aggregate scoring system” is that if a higher standard was used many trainees will simply fail to qualify. This is a dilemma that agencies and police academies do not want to face. In some private schools, how would it look if a certain number of people “fail” the course that they have spent a lot of time and money attending if they are told they have failed the course? This can be a real problem for the business. So the “safe” solution is to apply a concept that has been universally accepted for decades in the law enforcement, competitive shooting and academic communities as a way of evaluating how students/trainees have absorbed the curriculum. It sounds like an acceptable solution doesn’t it?
One major flaw with this way of assessing an individual’s performance and absorption of the curriculum is that what the person hasn’t absorbed isn’t addressed in the form of remediation or correction. They get the “stamp of approval” and are deemed “QUALIFIED” so long as they get a minimum passing score. . Let’s examine why this is something to be very concerned about when applied to our firearms training programs.
The main reason we provide training is to allow the trainee the opportunity to be taught certain skills and then develop competency with those skills. As an example, I can teach a person how to do a palm heel strike in a defensive tactics course. First, they have to learn the mechanics of how to perform the palm heel strike. Then I have to make sure they can apply it by giving them the opportunity to hit something with it (a heavy bag, focus pad, striking pad). Then I have to allow them the opportunity to apply it in a controlled way with a human partner so that they can learn how to adjust for proper distance and how it “feels” to have an actual person in front of them. Finally, I have to introduce the trainee to the concept of force-on-force training where I will allow a role player to interact with the trainee by moving and presenting a more realistic way of applying the palm heel strike. Finally, I have to allow the trainee to learn how to apply it in real time, dynamically to get the full value of how it can be applied to a person who is not just standing there waiting to get hit. If at any point in this process, the trainee cannot perform the movement correctly, the process has to be stopped from going further until the skill level can meet the standard at that point in the process. 70% isn’t acceptable.
Now let’s apply the process I explained above to firearms training. First, I have to begin the process of teaching the trainee the “mechanics” of the methodology in my curriculum. This has to be a rather deliberate, detailed period of instruction. It is way too much information to included in this article about the “how to” in this process so I will not try it here. I will just add that the methods taught had better be built around methods that are “battle tested”, relevant to the environment that they will apply, and be centered around the concept of fighting as opposed to shooting.
Once the methods are taught, the trainee needs to be brought into an environment that allows for the application of those methods against a human target. This is where the integration of force-on-force training is introduced. Simple drills using airsoft (the most economical and safest way to do this training) where the target is no longer a piece of paper or steel plate but an actual person. Next, I have to further the trainees ability to learn the application of the methods by allowing the “human target” to vary positions so that a realistic view of a real person in those positions can be seen by the trainee. This allows for the adjustment of the method to the environment.
Once the above is completed, the “human target” will begin to interact with the trainee. These are very controlled drills to get the trainee to apply the methods when the target becomes more dynamic. The final step is to allow for a more dynamic interaction that is more unscripted and finally lead to a full force-on-force engagement where the actions of the “human target/role player” are unknown to the trainee.
Of course, this appears to be a simple way to get the training done. BUT, the key is what methods are taught and how the drills are set up. That isn’t something I will get into in this article. It is what needs to be physically taught by people who really understand what needs to be done and how to create the safe environment to provide the training.
What I have described above is the difference between training people to “shoot” as opposed to training people to FIGHT. Before I move forward, I would like to include a statement that I have used for many years to explain what I have as a philosophy about my training courses.
“The purpose of firearms training is to prepare a person to use firearms in a fight against an adversary in what usually begins as a spontaneous attack initiated by the adversary. Our firearms program is not about shooting. It is about fighting. When the concept of fighting is taken out of firearms training, we have forgotten the purpose of our training.”
I have been questioned on numerous occasions during the past few weeks about why certain training is not included in their programs and why training is being curtailed in many agencies. Also, a frequent question is why the performance levels of “qualified” officers in many actual combat shootings are not consistent with their range scores. I thought I would spend the remainder of this article discussing these two issues.
Let’s first look at why certain training isn’t included in programs and why training is being curtailed in many agencies. I will list some of the reasons and then offer some analysis:
Budgets – Many agencies have simply been stripped of funding in their training budgets that has forced trainers to modify their training cycle or decrease the training frequency for their agency. This means that either less training of their existing program is completed or entire training blocks cannot be offered to the officers.
Instructors Cannot Change Existing Curriculum – In this case, the instructor cadre is prohibited from altering the training program to either add or delete elements of the program. Often, more relevant training is not allowed to be included in the program because the management of the department simply doesn’t want it to be included. I have to add here that in many cases, the people who are making the decision to not allow change are not firearms instructors, have never been in an instructor position and DO NOT have the knowledge and experience to even know what should be in a program. They simple have rank and impose their decision on the instructors who HAVE the knowledge and experience to understand what needs to be modified, deleted and included in the program of instruction.
Instructors Don’t Have the Technical Knowledge To Make Appropriate Changes To Programs – There is no nice way to say this other than many instructors have a limited amount of personal knowledge due to their personal experience, personal training level, personal bias toward change and may lack the desire to do the work necessary to make changes in the programs. It takes a combination of knowledge, desire, energy, and motivation on the part of an instructor to change programs of instruction. Many instructors find it easier to simply do the status quo. Change requires having to convince those who hold the money and power to say “yes” to the changes. For many instructors, it can be easier to just be quiet and stay with the existing program.
Politicians – When you ask politicians for money from “their” budget (I thought it was the tax payer’s money), it can take away form their “pet project” or they may simply want to use the money for something other than the training of those brave and dedicated men and women who protect the city, county, or state that they are elected to protect . So, they have the authority to just say “no”.
It Takes Commitment From The Bosses – Often, the money IS in the department budget but the command staff or Chief does not want the money spent on training and divert the money to other projects based upon their personal desires. They make a decision that something else is more important than better preparing their officers to protect the public and themselves more efficiently.
I am sure there can be other reasons listed but I think this lays out some of the major reasons why training programs can be affected in an agency.
Let’s discuss some of the reasons why we can see a difference between results of performance during range training in comparison with when the training is applied in actual combat shootings. There are many factors that can be stated but I will focus on a few that I have personally seen and have dealt with over the years.
When trying to analyze why someone’s performance in a combat shooting didn’t match his or her performance while qualifying and during range training, I first must ask what type of training was provided to the individual and what methodology was taught in training. Also I need to know the frequency of training, provided by the department. I must also know if the person has received training that is not consistent with the reality of the environment where the training will be applied. If training is not consistent with the environment where the training will be applied, then that individual IS NOT being prepared to fight in that environment. It is necessary to analyze factors such as rate of fire practiced in training, training in variable lighting conditions, proper use of cover and being able to move and shoot simultaneously when in close quarters with the suspect. Other training issues are also important but these are a few that need to be looked at to determine why certain results were obtained in a given fight as opposed to the performance of an individual at the range.
As I have discussed in other articles, if the range training provided doesn’t included force-on-force training, the trainee has only received a portion of the training that is necessary to learn how to apply the principles learned on the range. If the trainee isn’t allowed the opportunity to experience real time, real speed and the duress of fighting another person while attempting to apply what he or she has learned on the range, then the first time they will get to see how everything integrates is when there is live bullets in the air with them being the target of a suspect(s). This is absolutely the wrong time to discover that either the training has been incomplete or the methods taught simply don’t work in the environment where the fight is happening. Unfortunately, this happens in the real world because the individual hasn’t had the experience of the complete cycle of training. Poor methods coupled with lack of learning how to apply what has been taught leads to the failure of training that can cause injury or death of good people at the hands of criminals.
I will conclude this article by discussing something that all policy makers in an agency, the politicians and anyone else who controls the money and allocation of time for training needs to consider when deciding if they will allow training to be conducted.
No matter what the cost and time used to complete training, it will not match the cost of paying for death benefits for an officer who is killed in the line of duty. Even if an officer doesn’t die from injuries sustained in the incident, there is more to consider. There is the cost of medical bills for the immediate care of the injuries and the cost of rehabilitation needed in an attempt to bring the officer back to full duty. Also after all that expense, the department may have to retire the officer and not only pay for the retirement, but also the disability benefits and any other related cost involved in the retirement to include lifetime medical benefits.
This discussion will continue in the future. Meanwhile be safe and all my best wishes.
Louis M. Chiodo