Monday, June 22, 2015

It's on me

Recently at work we have had a rash of employees that fail to complete tasks as assigned. It is a very frustrating and perplexing situation. When these things happen I am the one that gets the call or complaint from clients. When these things happen  I am also responsible for getting it fixed. I have asked myself over and over why these seemingly simple tasks are not getting done to standard. I have come to the conclusion it is on me.

Our employee demographic includes many entry level folks. I work in the contract security industry and for a lot of our employees this might be their first full time job or the first job in the security field. What I am trying to say is they are not Tier One operators. But no one is asking them to be. When you assign someone to guard a pallet of bananas you expect a level of skill commiserate with the task. However when an individual fails in that task something is either wrong with them or wrong with the instructions.

After thinking long and hard I have come to the conclusion that essentially I need to forget all the corporate crap I have learned over the last 10 years and fall back on my many years as a Non Commisioned Officer in the US Army. I need to treat these folks like E-nothing privates. What I mean by that is they need detailed and explicit instructions for every task. That is on me.

Sun Tzu said: " If the words of command are not clear and distinct, if orders are not thoroughly understood, then the general is to blame." As a young  NCO I was taught the Army BE,KNOW,DO model of leadership. I will paraphrase it below.

Be- A leader of good character.You should be aware your core values and the core values of your organization
Know- The knowledge and skills sets you need to be a competent leader
DO- Leaders act and give purpose,direction and motivation to others.
I have not been doing the DO and that is on me. 
I need to step back reassess my operation and go forward with a better plan to communicate with my employees so they have the tools to accomplish the mission. With clear and concise instructions their work product will improve and that will allow management the time to be proactive rather than reactive.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Motherfucker You Burnt My Boots!!

In the summer of 1990 I was in Phase One of the Special Forces Qualification Course. Back then the Q Course consisted of 3 phases. Phase Two was the military occupational specialty phase and Phase Three was the culmination exercise Robin Sage. Phase One was basic skills and patrolling. The weak had already been weeded out during Special Forces Selection and Assessment. During Phase One they were trying to weed out the stupid and uncooperative. Having graduated from Ranger School almost exactly two years earlier I was extremely confident in my ability to lead a patrol and accomplish the standard small unit mission and tactics of reconnaissance, raid and ambush. One particular mission didn't go exactly as planned however.

On this particular night we were to conduct an ambush on a road/stream intersection at a small bridge. Having already passed my graded patrols I was assigned as right side security with a fellow student. This is a fairly cake job during a patrol as our only responsibility was to let the ambushees pass us and then provide early warning and seal off the objective from any reinforcements or anyone trying to escape the kill zone.

All went well and after we heard the demolitions go off on the objective we left our position and started heading towards the patrol base. Unfortunately the only way back to the patrol base was by wading through the stream itself. No problem ya gotta do what ya gotta do but in the process obviously we got wet. Once we linked up with the rest of our element we took off, trying to distance ourselves from the simulated carnage we had just brought down on the OPFOR on the bridge. We moved through the pitch dark woods in a single file. Not being able to see anything but the reflective "cateyes" on the patrol cap of the man to your front. Although it was summer, it dropped down into the 50's. The movement kept me warm despite the dampness of my clothes and foot gear. Eventually we called a halt and re conned a good place to RON for the remainder of the night. Once we set into our night time patrol base the instructors called our student leadership together and let us go semi-admin for the remainder of the night. Unlike my previous experience with Ranger Instructors  the Special Forces Instructors saw no reason to practice suffering after the training iteration was complete. Bottom line they allowed us to build a small fire to dry our clothes as long as we kept someone up to watch it and pull "fire guard."

I eagerly took the first watch while the rest of the platoon racked out under their poncho liners. This allowed me to dry off my pants as I sat close to the fire.  Once my watch was up I took off my boots and socks and put them by the fire to let them continue to dry. I asked my relief to move them back should they get too close. I then happily covered my head with my woobie and using my rucksack as a pillow I drifted off to sleep. In what seemed like 5 minutes but was probably a few hours the instructors were kicking us awake and telling us we had 10 minutes to pack up and get moving for the next mission.

I reluctantly threw off the poncho liner and hobbled over to the now smoldering coals of the fire to retrieve my foot gear. I sat on a log in the early morning darkness and tried to put on my boot but it wouldn't fit for some reason. I tried again but my foot would still not navigate the entrance. I pulled out my red lens flashlight and shined it on my boots. To my consternation I saw that all my shoelaces had been melted off and the toes of my boots were shriveled up and burnt. The toe area was actually turned up like frickin elf shoes and the leather had shriveled from a size 10 to what looked like about a 6. I saw the last guy on guard and whispered at him "Motherfucker you burnt my boots"!!  He shrugged and continued packing. No sympathy.

The Instructors were giving us just a few more minutes to move out and I had nothing to wear on my feet. Thinking fast I whipped out my trustee 7 inch Gerber field knife and cut the the tops off my boots. My toes would stick out like I was wearing hobo sandals but at least I could put my feet in them. I then took some parachute cord I kept in my ruck and made some make shift laces. It wasn't pretty but it worked. For the next 4 days I walked around in my clown shoes. Tromping through the woods running training missions with my stupid ass green wool socks sticking from the front of my boots. Screwed by the man again!! I was never happier than when I finally got back to the Camp Mckall cantonment area and was able to get my spare pair of jungle boots. So the lesson learned here kids is never let someone with no skin in the game watch your stuff because they will let your motherfucking boots burn!!

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Combat Focus Shooting 2015 : PDN Tour part 2

The day after Combat Focus Carbine I regrouped at the Big Springs range in Searsboro Iowa for the two day version of Combat Focus Shooting taught by Rob Pincus and a part of the Personal Defense Network national tour. I had taken the one day version of this course titled Fundamentals of Combat Focus Shooting back in April with Ken Crawford and Allesandro Padavoni. I enjoyed that course but I was looking forward to the two day version to practice some more skills but more importantly to learn from the teaching techniques of the man who developed the Combat Focus Shooting program. Although this was an end user class I was really looking at it as a bit of instructor development for my classes as a I.C.E. Defensive Firearms Coach and potential CFS instructor candidate.

As he did with the CFC course Rob spent a fair amount of time explaining the course and some of the CFS principles prior to any bullets going down range. He talked about Safety,Comfort and Competency and the three safety rules. He gave us the context of the course. CFS is a shooting program that teaches you to shoot efficiently in the context of a Dynamic Critical Incident. A Dynamic Critical Incident is defined as surprising,chaotic and it involves the presentation of a lethal threat. In the context of this class the lethal threat was more than two arms length away. CFS is also a intuitive shooting program that works well with the body,works well with the gun and works well within the context of intended use. As he had the previous day he talked about  efficient vs effective and physiological vs psychological stops to an attack.

We did many drills during this two day course so I will not list them all here. Suffice to say we covered, critical incident reloads, malfunctions, the Balance of Speed and Precision,presentation from the holster, lateral movement, Multiple target engagement,weak hand only engagement, strong hand only engagement, volume of fire and many more. As previously described in the CFC post we did all this while under varying amounts of stress such as experienced during the "take a lap' and "wind sprint" drills. What I want to talk about is what I took away in regards to the "why " of CFS.

The first concept that resonated with me was the explanation of competence. Rob explained how when we learn a new skill we work through four levels of competence. First we are unconsciously incompetent because we don't even realize we need the skill. Secondly we are consciously incompetent as we learn our need for a skill and its employment. Thirdly we are consciously competent as we refine our skill yet have to think about its use. Lastly we become unconsciously competent as the skill  becomes "second nature" and we don't think about its use. Rob used the analogy of moving you foot from the gas to the brake while driving. When we first learned to drive this was a conscious movement but now for most drivers it just happens. Personally I equate it to my time as a military free fall parachutist. During the MFF basic course I was often a tumble biscuit as I tried to control my body and make it do what I wanted as I struggled to maintain my stability in the relative wind. By the time I was a senior MFF instructor myself I only had to have the desire for something to happen in the air and my body made it happen much like the brake analogy.

Rob used a couple of analogies that will also help me refine my own instructional technique. He talked about the Christmas/Lottery model of shooting precision. In this model a child is opening presents at Christmas. Every present is expected to have a wonderful gift inside. As each present is opened the child's dopamine levels rise and a euphoric feeling is experienced. But inevitably some presents contain socks or tshirts from Grandma. So disappointment happens and dopamine levels drop. In the lottery model however individuals buy a lottery ticket never fully expecting to win but if they do dopamine levels rise unexpectedly. Rob wanted us to be the Christmas shooter and not the lottery shooter. Have the confidence and expect to get the hit and be disappointed if you don't. Don't send the shot down range and be happy if you get the hit by chance.

The Balance of Speed and Precision is a core concept of the Combat Focus Shooting program. It is drilled and talked about in many different scenarios. The underlying concept though is that the shooter should shoot as fast as possible while still getting the necessary hits in the intended target. They target itself defines the need for the amount of precision. Rob has developed another analogy that makes this easy to understand. Imagine a U shaped tube partially filled with a liquid. Each stem of the U has graduations from 1-10 with the 1 being at the top and the graduations moving down. On the left is speed and on the right stem is precision. Also on the right stem is a pump that can fill the tube with pressure. Based on the target increasing pressure is forced into the tube. As the need for precision increases numerically the liquid on the speed side moves towards a lower number and vice versa. It was a brilliantly simple yet effective graphical representation of the Balance of Speed and Precision concept. I have hopefully reproduced it accurately below. But you get the idea.
The last concept that Rob explained in some detail was the phenomenon of Tachypsychia and Bradypsychia or the perceived speeding up or slowing down of time during a DCI. He utilized another story and graphical representation that would lose a lot in translation here but suffice to say it involved commandos, spy satellites and terrorist bad guys. This story also made the concepts crystal clear in my mind. 

All in all this course was what I had hoped it would be. I honed my own skills while learning some innovative ways to teach the I.C.E. Training Company Concepts. I am looking forward to my chance at becoming a  CFS instructor in the future and teaching these concepts more thoroughly to others.

Finally I give you a video of my figure 8 drill. Shows that even an experienced shooter that has run the drill before can experience cognitive dissonance. Keep training.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Combat Focus Carbine 2015:PDN Tour part 1

Recently I traveled to Searsboro Iowa to participate in a few courses offered by Rob Pincus and his I.C.E. Training Company. The first class I participated in was the one day version of the Combat Focus Carbine course. The context of the course would be a home defense scenario where the need to shoot was established. I brought two different rifles to this class, because one is none and two is one as the saying goes. My first was my Stag Arms Model 2. This is just a plain Jane AR-15 platform that I bought right after the Sandy Hook "they are coming for our guns" scare. This would be my back up choice.

My primary weapon was an AR-15 I had recently built. This AR had a Palmetto State Armory cold forged barrel and upper receiver with a Palmetto State Armory nickel boron BCG and bolt. The lower parts kit and stock were from Brownells. The trigger assembly was a Rock River 2 stage trigger and it was in an Anderson manufacturing lower receiver. The optic was a Strike Fire Vortex with back up Magpul sights. I had shot only about 100 rounds out of this weapon prior to the class.

Rob spent about an hour at the beginning talking about concepts that were familiar to me as an I.C.E Defensive Firearms Coach. I talked about that experience here - . He first talked about Safety,Comfort and Competency. How safety was his responsibility as the instructor. He talked about how comfort was a shared responsibility and how it was up to him to make us intellectual comfortable by explaining the "why" and the reasons behind the drills we would perform today. No BS answers, more tools for our toolbox or that's they way we have always done it. The "why" would be backed up with examples and empirical data. It was up to us to be physically comfortable and to let him know if we needed any accommodations with our gear or physical limitations to attain that physical comfort. Competency was an individual and subjective trait that was the shooters responsibility. We were not competing against each other but against ourselves. Our goal would be to leave the class a better defensive carbine shooter than when we arrived. Rob talked effectiveness vs efficiency and how something could be effective without being efficient. He talked about psychological stops to an attack vs physiological stops. You actions could psychologically stop an attack by making the attacker run away but our goal was to physiologically stop it by engaging the threat in the "high center chest". Lastly before we started firing Rob went over the three safety rules.

#1. Keep your trigger finger somewhere other than the trigger
#2. Point your rifle in a generally safe direction as much as possible. ( Rob designated this direction as down range or at the ground.)
#3. Remember you are in control of a firearm any discharge whether negligent or intentional could cause serious injury or death to you or others.

This is the "big picture" rule. It encapsulates for me the I.C.E. training philosophy and why I like the companies methodology. They give you facts and research to back up what they teach. But first and foremost they expect you to act like an adult. They are not there to babysit you because firearms and the use of them for self defense is very serious business, not a game or a hobby. Once safety was established we moved to the line at about a distance of 7-10 feet. All the training would be at self defense distances within the context of the course. I don't think we shot more than 30-40 feet away from the targets at most.

Anyway I got an epiphany during the very first drill. Rob talked about body mechanics and position. He talked about how we should be able to hit what we where aiming at using our body position and not need to use the sights at self defense ranges. We conducted a raise,touch,press drill where we raised the rifle to our shoulder, touched the trigger on his command and then smoothly pressed the trigger to the rear. We were not using sights or optics. In fact my sights were down and the dust cover was closed on my optic.  My first shot was high and left about 12 inches from the intended target. I thought that was weird but my second shot was in the same general area. So based on Rob's advice I brought the stock up higher on my cheek lowering my point of aim. Viola!!! I was hitting right where I needed to be. This is where the epiphany happened. I have shot hundreds of thousands of rounds out of the AR15/M16/M4 platform in my life. It is probably the weapon I am most familiar with. But I had been doing it all wrong!!! I had been taking the time to acquire the target through my sights and unconsciously adjusting my point of aim all these years. I had wasted precious seconds as I cleared rooms during my military career. Seconds that mattered. It was a lesson I will not forget.

After our body positions were squared away we moved in to "up" drills where we conducted the raise,touch press commands on our own at each command of "up!!" Single and multiple targets were engaged with 3-5 rounds. Rob talked about malfunction procedures as they presented themselves and emphasized not looking as you resolved the issue and keeping your control hand on the rifle. We then moved our optics to match our body position and briefly zeroed them to the distances we were working at. My zero had been the 25m/300m zero that I was used to from the military. I had to move my point impact about 1/4 inch left at self defense distances. We then moved on to the Balance of Speed and Precision Drill. This drill is the bread and butter of every I.C.E. training course. The concept is that the target dictates the need for precision. The shooter should go as fast as possible while still getting the needed hits. On the "up" command the shooter moves laterally and either engages the high center chest area with multiple shots or one of the 3 inch numbered circles with a single shot if a number is called out. Rob encourages each individual to push themselves. If the shots start to stray outside the boundaries of the box the shooter needs to slow down, if the shooter is shooting 1 inch groups they need to speed up. The high center chest box should be filled with bullet holes, pretty much equally throughout, and the single shots can hit anywhere in the circles.
Image result for balance of speed and precision targets
After this drill we moved on to shooting from different positions. Sitting,kneeling,squatting. The precise position was not emphasized but getting a good solid shooting platform in each position was. For instance due to my reduced mobility (old guy issues) I had my feet in front of me in the seated position rather than shooting from a cross legged position as I was taught years ago. However the important thing was to keep elbows off of knees. Putting them either on the thigh muscle or the knees in the tricep so a muscle to bone platform was utilized and not a bone to bone connection which might be less than stable.
Once we shot from all positions we conducted flow drills. We would randomly move from position to position and at the "up" command we would shoot from the position we were in or the next position we had been moving to. Tactical Yoga!! We then moved on to the lap drill. We were to hit each circle at our own pace, being accountable for each shot. This drill emphasized the need for precision vs the perceived penalty. One lap had us utilizing only one shot per circle for a total of 6 rounds. Then we were allowed to take as many rounds as needed to hit each target but had to hit each target once, finally told to use 6 rounds but we were not allowed to move on until we hit the previous target. All these instructions carried different penalties vs perceived benefits and required varying degrees of precision. However Rob made the point that the need for precision for each target never changed but our perception did.

The next drill was the "sprint" drill. There were 3 lines at approximately 7 feet, 15 feet and 25 feet. We were told there would be 3 different commands. First command was a movement command telling us to move to a particular line, the second command was a firing command and would be the "up" command or a number as we had been experiencing. The third command was a safety command and that command was "stop!!" Anyone could give this command but only Rob could give the first two. One last clarification was that any command superseded the preceding command. So went through this drill only once as it was a fairly physical drill as we moved swiftly between lines and reacted to the commands. The heat was taking its toil on some of the participants. They probably learned the importance of fitness in self defense. Finally we shot from varying degrees of cover and around vehicles.

Finally the day was complete. Rob conducted a very thorough debrief in which each participant was required to ask a question, make a comment or talk about an issue closely related to the days training. Everyone was required to participate and Rob answered using science,examples and logical reasoning. As all I.C.E courses are this course was enjoyable and motivating. I left feeling i had more knowledge and that I had achieved the goal of leaving a better shooter than when I stepped on the range.