On Killing and How it Should Impact Your Training
Owner of Tennessee Arms Company, LLC
former Marine Force Recon Sgt, Security Contractor Iraq-Afghanistan 2004-2012
The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are beginning to wind down into whatever end result the universe and politicians decide is most expedient. The battlespace keeps shifting from one country to another across geopolitical borders and walks of life. Our hand-wringing political class is adamant about not admitting that the people trying to destroy us are driven by an ideology that operates independently of any single movement that can be fought in conventional warfare. This ideology is likely going to be driving the fight to within our borders sooner rather than later. The realities of what we have faced in over a decade of combat is being largely forgotten as the veterans that fought it try to return to a regular life.
The reasons for this divide are as varied as the men who fought it but they follow some regular themes:
- We do not like to talk about what we have seen and done because unless you have experienced combat you really have nothing to compare it against.
- Many of us lost people we cared about very deeply and we just do not want to talk about it
- We know what we need to do when the time comes, you are on your own
These wars were different in that the burden of fighting was shared by the smallest percentage of our population in our history. I personally know many people who were standing in the initial invasion of Iraq and have been skipping between there and Afghanistan ever since. This has developed a small group of extremely experienced fighters and that knowledge needs to be preserved.History has a nasty habit of repeating itself and maybe somewhere someone will stumble across this article and not get killed because of the experiences that are written about here.
I am fairly hesitant writing this as it reveals more about my own experiences than I am really comfortable sharing to an unfiltered public. Writing can be cathartic but some subjects, like this one, probably really are better talked about sparingly. While the subject makes people uncomfortable I believe it is absolutely necessary to understand the actual events as they are likely to occur in a life-or-death situation.Please excuse any lapses or omissions in my writing as my skills as a writer are somewhat limited. I am simply trying to give an overall reflection of the events as I experienced them as they are so similar to the experiences others with me had in similar situations. I believe these experiences have a significant training value as to make you aware of what to expect when you find yourself standing against someone trying to kill you.
The Cold Reality of a Fight
My feet were never where they needed to be in any fight I have ever been through. I was always standing at a weird angle or something was generally off from whatever preconceived notion of how I thought it was going to go. You can train however you want to trying to square up to your target and present your weapon along some pretty and consistent ark. Real life gunfights hardly ever go as planned. You need to train in strange and uncomfortable shooting positions all the time. Even cool guys trip and fall at the worst time and you aren't losing anything by training for the worst possible situation. Shooting is easy when you train for the worst situations.
Under stress you really will revert to whatever level of training you are most familiar with. Your muscles will operate on autopilot doing EXACTLY what you do in training almost without thought. When all hell is breaking out around you you will do what is natural and go through the movements as you were trained to do. You need to train yourself doing the basics. Presentation drills and proper sight picture, move into trigger squeeze.. Look around and behind you when your target is no longer a threat. Use the exact gear you will be wearing when you will most likely be in that situation. If you carry concealed then you better get used to sweeping that cover shirt out of the way or you will get tangled up. We used to wear the web of our hands raw from indexing the pistol grips so many times in a row.The same goes for a long gun. Present to target, proper sight picture through the trigger squeeze, look around when it's over. You have to do this over and over again until boredom burns it into your subconscious. There is a reason why martial arts have a kata. You need the repetition to keep you from screwing up when you are panicked and your heart is in your throat. Repetition is the key. Do a simple draw and fire to a small point in the distance over and over again until it is impossible for you to screw it up. A few trips to the range simply will not cut it. Dry-fire practice is great for developing muscle memory.
The human body does a few interesting things to you during a firefight. When things get up close and personal you will get tunnel vision and you will go deaf. The deaf part is called Auditory Exclusion and basically means that your entire mental faculties are dealing with the situation right in front of you. Time seems to move slower and you will be hyper aware of the thoughts running through your head. Things that could have only taken a fraction of a second will seem like forever. Additionally, you will also lose your fine motor skills. Things like safety selectors, mag release buttons, and retention holsters take fine motor skills usually. That tricky safety on your Level III holster is going to be a real bitch to get out unless you have trained your way into doing it without thinking. You need to be able to do everything as part of your presentation drill. Do everything exactly the same way, every time, without having to consciously make yourself do it. Every fraction of a second you waste trying to remember how your safety works is another second you could be shot.
Every situation I have ever been in was basically just shooting and moving. I have never had to rappel upside down through anything on fire using night-vision while throwing a tomahawk, leave the weird stuff to the airsoft kids. Train for the basics of shooting while moving and being accurate when you do it. A great SNCO once told me that the only difference between and amateur and a professional is a mastery of the basics. Be the absolute Jedi master of the boring things like shooting accurately and quickly from the holster. Make it so your training is so tedious and boring with your repetition that it is literally impossible for you to screw it up.
Start coming to grips with the fact that your firearm isn't in the fight. You are in the fight. A firearm is tool that is nothing more than an extension of your will to survive. Nothing is going to keep you alive or kill you quicker than your willingness to stay alive. Your own physical fitness and ability to hold your own without a firearm is as important as your skills with one. More often than not you will need both when things get ugly. There is very little difference between a Marine fighting the Taliban and a cop wrestling a suspect when bad guys are trying to kill you. The struggle has gone on since before written history and has remained unchanged. The guy with a weapon usually wins and the guy who wants it more will usually live through it. I wish there was more to it but in a nutshell that is it. Do you want to live more than the other guy wants to kill you. You will have about half a heartbeat to decide.