My training philosophy is simple. Whether it’s training a citizen, a brand new Emergency Medical Technician, or an experienced SWAT Team member, I believe competency of any skill begins with a strong foundation and a mastery of basic fundamentals. It is my opinion that most “advanced” training marketed in the training sphere today uses the word “advanced” as a marketing gimmick to get you to spend more money, hence the reason you will not see any “advanced” courses in the catalog of programs offered by us. Some of the best tacticians and medical professionals in the world are able to achieve a high level of performance because they have achieved a mastery the basics, and simply put they perform the basics with exceptional competency & skill. The best quarterbacks in the NFL spend a lot of time practicing the basic skill of throwing a football. The best pitchers in the MLB spend a lot of time practicing the basic skill of throwing a baseball. Solid performance all starts with a mastery of the basic fundamentals. By no means is this part of my philosophy one that I came up with on my own, but it is a philosophy shared with me, and one that I passionately agree with, by some of the best instructors I have had the opportunity to both teach with and learn from.
When it comes to training law enforcement and EMS professionals, I like to compare our performance and what is expected of us in a crisis situation to what is expected of a professional athlete. If we use baseball as an example, and compare ourselves to some of the best pitchers in the MLB, they practice for hours, days, weeks, and months every year, so they can continually win games and if they find themselves playing in the World Series, they will be prepared physically, mentally, and possess the skill level to lead their team to victory. In the professional first responder world, the active shooter event, the hostage situation, the pediatric cardiac arrest, are all our “World Series”. Dynamic, stressful, time-sensitive events that can only be prepared for through proper training and perfect practice. Failing to legitimately train for any one of these events is the same as a pitcher picking up a baseball for the first time in the first inning of the World Series and expecting to pitch a perfect game.
Why do I say “legitimately train”? Simple; not all training is created equal. Showing up for training to merely “check the box” at a mandatory annual refresher training is doing nothing to prepare you for a real-world critical event, and in fact training can even be detrimental and degrade your performance if it is conducted poorly and results in bad habits that become muscle memory. Practice does not make perfect; perfect practice makes perfect. In training, there should always be defined objectives, goals, and a level of accountability. As professionals, we owe it to ourselves and to those who we promised to protect, rescue, or treat.
I am a staunch advocate of objectively measuring standards and outcomes, both in the training environment and operationally. For CPR training, we utilize feedback devices that provide valuable data on compression and ventilation quality, to ensure we are maximizing our potential. For hemorrhage control training, we utilize feedback devices that provide data on applied pressure and vascular doppler examination of arteries post-tourniquet applications to give irrefutable feedback on the cessation of blood flow. Firearm mounted feedback devices along with assessment and interpretation of targets to improve marksmanship and proficiency. And the use of trained role-players and opposition force in tactics and defense scenarios to legitimately test the tactics, techniques, and procedures, and to ensure that valuable feedback is obtained rather than scenarios turning into “paintball matches” with no learning goals or objectives associated with them. Outside of training, in the operational realm, I advocate the collection of data for everything we do. Data can be studied and interpreted to provide valuable information performance through statistical trends, and more often than not data works in your favor to drive training, justify equipment needs and purchases, dispel misinformation and to put your agency in a positive light.
And for my Law Enforcement Officers who say “we don’t need to train, we do this every day”; the MLB pitcher pitches games every week, and yet they still practice. The NFL quarterback throws games every week, and yet they still practice. Operational experience comes with both positive and negative attributes. Experience can make you better, but it can also make you complacent. The simple, often unspoken fact is that until you have been legitimately tested by someone willing to exploit a critical mistake or a deficiency in your tactics, a high operational tempo is not always a singular measure of success. Be critical of yourself. Always look to improve. Keep an open mind. Learn the hard lessons in the training environment so when it is for real and lives depend on it, you are giving yourself, your teammates, and those you serve the best chances of a successful outcome.
We owe it to ourselves and to our communities, as professional first responders, lawful gun owners, and prepared citizens, to conduct ourselves as professionals. Hold yourself accountable. Hold others accountable. Train for the World Series, because it’s too late once you find yourself on the pitchers mound.