Training to Stay in the Fight – Q & A With Patrick McNamara

I think it is imperative in law enforcement that we realize that no officer is a subject matter expert in every area of the job. We must rely on each other to learn, to grow and to become a more well-rounded wolf hunter. This is why I reached out to Patrick McNamara, a highly trained, former special operations soldier (United States Army). Patrick now runs his own training company, TMACS, Inc., and is dedicated to bringing soldiers, citizens and police officers alike into an advanced, adaptive combat mindset. I had two crucial questions to ask of Patrick in regards to law enforcement tactics in today’s operating environment. Please see the questions below and enjoy reading Patrick’s in-depth, unique, and well-rounded answers:

Q: Tactically, what, in your opinion, is most important for officers to take
into account in today’s operating environment?

A: “‘Train Like you Fight’ is an overused and misunderstood axiom. Does it
mean that we must train in full combat gear all of the time? Does it mean
that we have to train until we drop? The answer is ‘No.’ It has nothing to
do with how much black Velcro you strap on your person. The term comes from
athletics of yore. ‘Practice like you play’. Instead of practicing on half
court, practice on full court, for example.

When you work out or ‘PT’, to ensure your combat chassis is more effective
and capable, do you do it in full kit? If the answer is ‘No’, then why do
it?
If your objective to marksmanship training is to dissuade home invasion,
should you be training in my boxer shorts?

‘Train like you fight’ means training beyond the drill.  If the drill
requires six shots to complete, think seven, eight or nine.  Do not let the
drill dictate to you when you should stop thinking.

Perform a focal shift.  See things full spectrum.  Once again, work beyond
the drill.  If the targets are directly in front of you, look beyond, in
front of and understand what is flanking these targets.

Train during periods of limited visibility.

Train in adverse weather conditions.

Train to stay in the fight.
Get out of the flat range mindset.”

Q: Where, in your opinion, do you feel police officers fall short in training,
or what areas do we need to pay more attention to?

A: “The best professional performers, regardless of the skill, practice
mechanics. They practice these relentlessly and when necessary, in slow
motion. They focus on the basics even when these are mundane. They
understand that they must have the ability to fail quickly, meaning that
they may not dwell on an error. They may not spend any amount of extra time
on failing. They have got to get their head back into the game.
I was recently asked by a student in my class, what I thought was the
biggest problem I encounter with LEOs in training. Thought provoking as LEOs
in my classes are typically sharp, have good fundamentals, and are safe gun
handlers.


The answer I gave him, because it is a recurring theme, is gun handling
mechanics under pressure. I’ve got several pressure cooker drills I run in
my courses. It is typical to watch shooters fumble with safety manipulation,
magazine changes, clearing a stoppage, reloading, building a position around
a barricade, and it is also common for the shooter to not understand the
status of his weapon.


Repetition is not enough to ensure that these mechanics skills are performed
intuitively, or with perceptive insight. Pressure must be added to the
training event. This is non-negotiable. The ability to compartmentalize the
pressure of a gunfight and work mechanics intuitively come from working
mechanics correctly and under pressure. The number of repetitions vary
between one human being and another. Some say 3,000-5,000 repetitions.
Others say  300-500 and there are others who say 33 meaningful repetitions
is all that it takes to engrave a new skill into our hard-drives.


Mechanics and fundamentals should be performed with perceptive insight.
Performing immediate action or magazine change, safety manipulation, muzzle
awareness, establishing a shooting position, acquiring a sight picture,
controlling breathing, trigger control, should all be performed at a
subconscious level. Forecasting, predicting, planning should be performed
consciously.”

Patrick brings up many good points in his answers to these two questions. I believe the biggest point we must take from this is that we must train past the fight, train to win, and train to expect the unexpected. We also need to become so versed in our basic combat requirements that we complete them subconsciously. Prior to reading Patrick’s answers to my questions, I had never really thought about how many things must be conducted subconsciously in a combat environment. We must conduct these actions subconsciously in order to leave room for our conscious thoughts of “forecasting, predicting and planning”.

I encourage all police officers to reach out to a subject matter expert in a portion of the profession you wish to learn more about. And, as always, keep training, so you can keep fighting.

A Thank You, From One Police Officer to Another

I know, just as well as any other police officer, that we do not do this job for the praise or the “thank you’s”. But, today, I offer up a “thank you” from myself, to every police officer in this great country.

Why? we all do a similar job, day in and day out. I offer up the “thank you” because it is every single one of you that have my back every single day. Every single one of you creates an atmosphere of belonging, of justice and of peace. Every single one of you represents what is good in our human race. You are the mothers, the fathers, the sisters, the brothers, the husbands and the wives that every single person strives to be. You represent the good and you fight against the bad. You are the voice behind the mute, the eyes for the blind and the legs for people that have found themselves down in life. Ultimately, you stand in the direct line of danger, so that a complete stranger may be spared that pain. You may stand in between me and death one day, just as I will make every effort to stand in front of you, so that you may continue on our righteous path.

We are all in this together, but I owe every single one of you a big “thank you” for allowing me to be a part of the most incredible, rock-solid, institution in this country: law enforcement.

Complacency…It Will Kill

For those of us that have been in the military, we will never forget the phrase that was drilled into our heads almost every single day, “complacency kills.” Such a short phrase that holds so much meaning and relevance to our every day job as police officers. Complacency takes on many forms and appears in almost every single thing we do. From outfitting our belts properly, to making sure the shotgun in the rack has the proper rounds in it, we must never become complacent with even the most menial, day-to-day tasks.

Let us take into account making sure the shotgun in your vehicle has the correct rounds in it. You may go years in this profession (all depending on the jurisdiction in which you work) without ever needing to shoulder the shotgun in your vehicle. Ultimately, that does not matter, whatsoever. We, as law enforcement officers, need to go into every single work day, expecting to have to use every single tool we have been blessed to carry. If we begin to show complacency towards certain tasks and duties, we will become non-proficient in these areas. Non-proficiency leads to mistakes; mistakes lead to injuries and, God forbid, death. Despite whether or not you have ever had to shoulder the shotgun in your vehicle for a “real life” situation, you must check, every single shift, for deficiencies in that weapon system. You have no idea what happened in that vehicle the shift prior that may not have been relayed to your shift and, therefore, may have caused a change in the status of that vehicle’s assigned weapon. The last thing you want to happen, is to have to rely on that weapon, only to figure out that it is not properly outfitted for your situation.

Another area in which some officers become complacent is their radio traffic. It is imperative that all radio traffic is clear, concise, complete and ACCURATE. Location, location, location. This should always be the first thing stated on a run. ALWAYS. Situations can go from normal to “what the f***!” in no time, flat. In those stressful situations, you will not have to worry about calling out your location (unless the location is ever-changing) if it has already been done. You will call for assistance and dispatch will have already recorded your location and will take on the duty of relaying that to responding officers.

I urge you to evaluate one of your duty days, from the very beginning until the very end. Find an area in which you have become complacent. Change that area and erase the complacency. Find another, and do the same.

Remember, complacency kills, but we are ultimately in control of it.

Become Disconnected, to Stay Connected

Today’s article is, once again, one of those instances where I can sit back and say I have trouble following my own advice. I don’t think that anyone in our profession would argue the fact that our family is the most important thing to us. Not only is our family important to us, but we probably could not successfully be in this profession without the direct support of those closest to us. If that is not the case for you, then I am sure you could find someone, somewhere, in your life that gives you the support that allows you to conduct the work you do.

No one would argue against the fact that these people deserve the world. We would do anything for the people who mean the most to us in our lives. And that is where my thoughts are today.

We are constantly surrounded by technology and media and other outside stimuli that constantly draw our attention away from the reality of our lives. Cell phones, television, media, video games, social media etc. receive most our attention during our off time.

What I have found, recently, is that when you allow yourself to separate from these outside stimuli, you are able to relax and de-stress to a degree that I was unfamiliar with before. I am not urging anyone to throw away the phone or the TV. What I am urging is that maybe for an hour each day (or every couple of days if disconnecting gives you anxiety), turn off the TV, put the phone and computer down and just allow yourself to exist in your home, in your household, in your family relationships. It is hard to do at first. Sometimes, even, we find it impossible and unthinkable to separate ourselves from our cell phones because we rely on them so heavily for the job. What if a phone call comes in, updating you about a case you’ve been working on for weeks? Well, I am here to tell you that the call can wait. The person on the other line has already busied themselves with some other task and can await a call back. It will be no skin off their backs. Allow yourself to pick up a book (an actual book, not one on a digital platform). Sit down in a chair, your favorite chair, and allow yourself to disconnect from all the outside stimuli that is constantly attacking us from so many different angles. This will allow you to separate your work from your home much more easily. Once the hour is complete, pick it back up. I bet, after a trial run, you are much more relaxed, you have realized that nothing world-changing has occurred, and you will live to see another day (or another text).

If reading isn’t your thing, then take that hour to go on a walk with the girlfriend, the boyfriend, the husband, the wife or the kids. For God’s sake, take that hour to sit and talk. You will be surprised how that hour may turn into 2, 3 or even 4 hours! Sit down at the table to eat, not in front of a TV, where you will only be reminded about the horrible things that exist in our world that you have the fortunate and unfortunate opportunity to see every single day.

I am lucky enough to remember when I was a kid, when there were no cell phones, TV was reserved for Thursday nights or Saturday mornings. Allow yourself to go back to those days and free yourself from your daily worries.

You owe it to yourself, peacekeeper; you owe it to everyone around you. Nothing is guaranteed, not today, not tomorrow. Heaven forbid, the last memory people have of you is of the glow of a cell phone reflecting upon your face.

Law Enforcement: The Individual Team Sport

I’ll say it time and time again: law enforcement is the most unique profession on this planet. Yes, I am biased towards this profession, because it is the profession that I am in a deep love affair with. Some days it may feel more like a “job” than others. However, for the most part, this profession is not a “job”, it is a life style, it is a sport of sorts. In this analogy is where today’s article stems from.

When we think of team sports we may automatically think of football, soccer, lacrosse and baseball. When we think of individual sports we think of swimming, tennis, track, golf etc. In which category does law enforcement fit? I would say, neither. Law enforcement is an “individual team sport”. I’m all about the clever comparisons and witty phrases that bring out the unique qualities of the “law enforcement sport”. On the surface, and when looking at the day-to-day actions and tasks of a LEO, it would appear to be an individual “sport”. We patrol alone in our cars, rarely with a partner. We respond to typical calls for service alone. We proactively look for crime, alone. Despite the fact that many of our daily tasks are completed alone, we are involved in a team “sport”. Yes, we may be physically alone, but we are never truly out there by ourselves. When you call a traffic stop, often the other officers on duty are mapping out the streets in their head in preparation to back you up. When you do call for assistance, a fellow officer is NEVER too far away. When we struggle, both physically during the job and in life, we have a sea of blue backing us. I can draw from many experiences in my very short career, thus far, when the blue brotherhood has backed an officer in need. We see it in our every day work place, when one officer begins a fight, everyone backs him up in no time flat. Then we see it when an officer has a more subtle struggle, a life struggle.

Take, for example, an officer in financial need. I have never seen so many people, who are not the most financially comfortable or sound, give the only money they have to support an officer who is in a worse place financially than them. I’ve seen it on a large-scale and I’ve seen it done for an officer who just couldn’t afford dinner out when everyone else on the squad is eating out that day. No one goes un-included. In my department we have had officers fall ill; seriously ill. Fellow officers will donate accrued leave, money, conduct bake sales or raffles, all so that the effected officer does not fall ill alone. We can tell when our fellow officers are having a bad day, and we pick up the slack (without a complaint heard).

We may not all get along. In fact, there are some officers that may not like each other on the personal level, but because we all do the same job and see the same terrible things, we will not hesitate to assist that officer in need.

There are some things we may physically do “alone”, but we are members of the biggest individual team sport known to man.

I love my sisters and my brothers in blue, and I know they love me. That is why I would die for this “sport”, and they would die for it too. I can only imagine that when an officer stands at the gates of heaven and answers to St. Peter, they are backed by a sea of winged men and women with badges; men and women that have seen hell on earth, have fought in this country’s biggest battles and throughout their lives have earned the warrior status.

Just as football players wear the scars and bruises from big hits, law enforcement officers bear the scars, both mentally and physically, of our trade. We wear these scars well, sometimes hidden deep within our souls. Never forget that the scars we bear make us the people we are. Never hang your head down low.

Look to the skies and know that, both on this earth and up in heaven, you belong to the biggest and most professional team ever known to mankind.

Situational Awareness – An Everyday Goal

As I prepare my duffel to fly out of town tomorrow, I began to think about something; tomorrow will be one of the few times I place myself in a situation, and an environment, unarmed. I then decided that unarmed does not mean unprepared. We are law enforcement officers, after all, we adapt and overcome better than anyone else is society (at least we are expected to). During the duty day we rely on a plethora of less lethal items to accomplish our goals. One of the biggest tools we utilize and sometimes forget, is our situational awareness.

Traveling through an international airport makes it difficult for me to carry my duty weapon concealed, as I am usually doing throughout any off-duty day. I have not taken the law enforcement officer flying armed course, so carrying a weapon on a plane is out of the question completely. This is where my situational awareness will be heightened and will be my main tool for everyday survival. I will not say that I let down my guard when I am carrying my weapon. In fact, I would say my situational awareness is heightened when I am carrying my weapon. What I am saying, is that in different situations, we must re-direct and adapt our situational awareness to cater to our current environment.

Instead of focusing on where the threat is and what position would give you the best opportunity to return fire, the focus must lie in where the threat may be and which position would provide long term cover AND concealment. In these situations where we find ourselves in an emergency and unarmed, we need to be prepared to seek longer-term cover and concealment for physical protection. We are unable to be effective from long range, and therefore we need to fall into the defensive role. When and IF you are able to take an offensive, you must be prepared to be outmanned and out gunned (seeing as that you are unarmed).

Being in the defensive in an unarmed situation is not the wrong thing to do at all. You, as a law enforcement officer, are much more valuable in this situation with close, hand-to-hand combat. Preserve yourself until you are able to utilize the tools you have, your hands; you are helping everyone by doing this. Your verbal skills and your physical, close combat skills, are much more valuable in these predicaments.

The most important thing is to never lose your situational awareness. Always be prepared to take on some role of offense and defense in an emergency situation, and know which of the two is going to benefit the whole. Be the Sheepdog, hunt the wolf, and protect the sheep.

-B

Why Police are a Targeted, Silent, Social Minority

Once again, last night, a police officer was shot in the line of duty. This is becoming something we have been expecting to hear almost every day now. A fact of our lives which is most tragic and unfortunate. Police officers have become a minority. While we have always been a small group (by definition, a minority group), we have now become a targeted minority group. By definition, a minority is:

  1. a group in society distinguished from, and less dominant than, the more numerous majority.
  2. the smaller part or number; a number, part, or amount forming less than half of the whole.
  3. a racial, ethnic, religious, or social subdivision of a society that is subordinate to the dominant group in political, financial, or social power without regard to the size of these groups.

I believe police officers can fit into each one of the above definitions of minorities. We, as law enforcement officers, have become a group in society strongly distinguished from the numerous majority by both activist groups and the media. We are a smaller part, making up less (far, far less) than half of the whole and we are a social subdivision of society that has become increasingly subordinate to the dominant group.

Who is the dominant group?

Good question. The dominant group in the world of law enforcement, isn’t necessarily one group, but society as a whole. We have become the targeted minority by the media, by activists groups (which are drifting dangerously close to domestic terror groups), and by communities that feel as though they have been targeted by the police. It is almost always a good thing to see people of all races and social groups come together for a common cause. In today’s United States, though, it seems to be that a lot of people are coming together against the police.

Don’t get me wrong, though.

I know there are people out there that would give their freedom and their life for the police that protect them every day. We, as law enforcement officers, appreciate all that you do. However, we cannot turn from the fact that the majority in this country, today, has disdain for the police. It is hard to go through one work day without visual or audible push-back from society. But that’s okay, we go to work every single day, knowing we may not come home, so you can have that right.

But why the silent minority?

This is, of course, the simplest of questions to answer. It’s been made clear by the definition of minority, that police are a social minority in the U.S. But, why are we a silent minority? Police officers are a silent minority because, despite the fact that we are a targeted group of both physical and verbal violence, we put on the badge every day, the vest every day, the gun belt, every day, and report to work. There hasn’t been one day (and I could probably say the same for my co-workers) that I have been ashamed, afraid or reluctant to put on my belt and strap up my boots. You will never see us holding up a sign, saying “die, citizens, die” as some (the citizens we will, still to this day, die FOR) have held signs saying “die, pigs, die”. I won’t grab a megaphone for any other reason than to order someone out of their vehicle, as they have broken the law, and the need exists to make clear and present commands, for the offender’s safety. You will never see me putting my cell phone up to a citizen’s face to record their every move, almost purely out of disrespect and the desire to see them commit a wrong. What you will see me do is drive down the street, my head on a swivel, looking and responding to crimes, looking for motorists in need, children who are lost, and loved ones who have been missing for days.

Just remember, when it is you in need, regardless of your past and despite your hatred of the police, we will come to your side and protect you, no different than we would protect our own family.

In this is our silence, but it is also our loudest voice and the blood in our veins.

-B