Considerations for Training

Training Considerations

*This article was originally posted on and intended for Law Enforcement Officers. The information is still applicable to military personnel and civilian gun-owners.

How many times have you been in training and you hear someone say something to the effect of, “that’s how I did it back in the day, and it worked for me,” or state definitively, “this is the way you do it and it’s the only right way,”? Usually this is accompanied by a condescending attitude, and i’m guessing you’ve probably heard it more than you wish you had. I’ve had it in my career quite a few times. In the military, we develop tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs) because of our mission set. Police do the same thing because of their mission set. Whenever you see something new, take the time to learn from someone else’s viewpoint. Just as important, is taking the time to find how it applies to you, and if it will enhance your ability to do your job. Two of the biggest issues I see in training is how people will dismiss anything new because it is not what they know or are comfortable with, and the lack of applying training to students and their mission set.


Being stuck in past ways can prevent us from progressing. I’ve had it from instructors and from students alike in classes. This kind of attitude can prevent a young motivated student from progressing, learning new ways to do things and overall crush them so that they become narrow minded. As an institution, it can prevent the advancement of tactics that ultimately save lives. Experience should be highly valued, but only when accompanied with being open minded so that the goal is to prepare students the best way possible. One example was a conversation I had with a very knowledgeable and respected team mate. We were discussing how what we did in Iraq seven or so years ago was different than what we are being taught now. The conversation was about deliberate breach procedures and whether to have the assaulter pulling security on the door step on the shock tube so you don’t pull the charge off the door when moving back to your minimum safe distance (MSD). We used to do it all the time and recently gotten away from it because we simply roll the cord differently and its not needed. It saves us a little time at breach by not doing it. To say he was vehemently against the new way was an understatement. Is the new way wrong? Is his way? No. Neither are wrong. We just developed the method based on how we weighed the pros and cons. It served us better to not do it. For him, he isn’t going to see what benefit this provides the team because he is stuck in his way of doing things. He has his reasons for doing it the way he does it. A better approach would be to test both and see collectively what served our unit best. I haven’t seen a charge get pulled off of a door because the line got caught up. He might have. We both need to take a step back and look at it with an unbiased point of view. In the end, we need to do what is going to accomplish the mission the best. Speed and simplicity, or safety and more time at breach.


Just because a technique or way to approach a situation is different from what was done in the past, doesn’t make it wrong. Medicine is a great example where they do this right. It is a constantly evolving discipline, and medics and doctors are constantly studying to see the new techniques being put to use in the field. They do this with the goal of saving lives. In combat situations, this should be true also. We changed the way we cleared stair wells in CQB because of hard lessons learned on deployment. In this job, lessons are learned usually with the loss of friendly life. Taking ego out of the equation can help to avoid that, and allow us to test different techniques before that happens. By avoiding that crusty attitude of dismissing any new info because it is outside of your comfort zone, we progress. We get better, we are more proficient, and that is what continues to make American military and police the finest in the world.


By design we are fundamentally different but we have overlap in certain situations. As I see it, the role of police is not to go in and destroy an area or group of people to achieve an end-state. In the military that’s what we do. There are different supporting mission sets to achieve that and ensure the victory, such as civil affairs and psychological operations, but in the end its all to ensure we kill as many of the enemy as possible. For law enforcement, the goal is mainly to preserve life and taking it is a last resort but still a requirement. For the instructor and student alike it’s important to remember these differences. With that said, we have overlap. That overlap is when a person has been deemed a threat and its time to take their life. We can learn a lot from each other as long as we remember we need to, potentially, apply it differently. 

Military tactics don’t always apply to police. Flashbangs, explosive breach, legalities, and the rules of engagement we have are a few examples. Even a SWAT team can operate differently than a military assault element. I talked to a couple of police officers recently and they explained that the last time they received training from a military guy it was very explosive-centric. These guys didn’t have explosive capabilities so the training was mostly useless. They wasted the majority of the day going over breach procedures like Marines did over 10 years ago, instead of what they realistically could do. Did they get something out of it? Probably. Did they maximize the training opportunity so they could walk away more prepared? No.


For an instructor, a good idea would be to sit down and go over what capabilities the law enforcement students have and what current SOPs are utilized. A good rule of thumb is to ask them to demonstrate what they are doing currently and build off of that so as much of it is applicable to the trainees as possible. An example would be the use of a ballistic shield for SWAT teams or state Task Forces. We don’t use a ballistic shield in military direct action hits. To develop their SOPs properly I need to understand how and why they use it. Are they required to have it? Why and how do you employ it? If is a required item, then I want to incorporate that into the training to ensure we are meeting the requirements of their jobs. If I don’t understand these things, then I can’t give the best possible instruction and earn that money that you are paying me. On the flip side, don’t be afraid to ask an instructor why a certain technique is used. You are paying money for this, might as well get every dollar’s worth. The fact is, if the instructor can’t explain why, or doesn’t want to do this for you, he or she might not be the best option to provide training.


Some key differences I’ve found between us and our tactics are breaching procedures, entering a room, clearing considerations for 1, 2, and 4 man CQB, dead checks, handling non-threats, and team organic equipment. For example, breaching procedures can change depending on the methods you have to open the door. Not many police officers have access to explosives, breaching shotguns, flashbangs, or other personnel to assist in methods of entry and clearing. Doors are different in the US also. Some doors have that auto-close-mechanism-bar-thing on it that forces it closed after you open it. In this instance, do you pie the door and hold it open while being silhouetted? Do you forget the pie-ing concept and enter the room with no situational awareness of what’s in there? How does this affect your entry if you are alone or have support? All of these factors can change based on the situation and if you have backup. These are the types of things to consider and need to be addressed. One guy explained to me that there is only him and one other officer for several hundred square miles, and he might be by himself when responding to a call. Another guy in the same class was on a fugitive task force and used flashbangs for a metric shit ton of situations. This dude loves flashbangs. Two individuals, two different solutions. An example with our kit that is a huge difference are those goofy looking shoulder and upper arm pads that state and county SWAT teams wear. I don’t know who dictated them or why you have to wear them, but please, stop. Have you ever seen a military Special Operations Force wearing them? No. If he did he got kicked off the team. Besides, they catch on everything and add size to your frame. With all that said, I still need to know why you wear them, despite me not understanding or liking it. These are just a few examples of some differences, and I’m sure you guys can name off a whole lot more.


When you set up an instructor or are going to attend a class, ask questions, get clear answers back, keep an open mind to different techniques, and be ready to learn. We do things differently but I can learn from your experiences and you from mine. If you are going to a class or contracting out training, there are a lot of good instructors. A lot of people can teach you how to shoot a rifle and pistol, some definitely do it better than others and you can even learn a lot from a civilian in this regards. If you are looking for specialized training, ensure that person has real world experience in it and they are up to date with recent tactics, techniques, and procedures. The new techniques are there for a reason. Make sure what you are learning is taking your mission set into account. A patrol cop might not get the benefit of going through explosive breaching procedures, but they will benefit from getting into a stack while entry is made and apply that to their TTPs.


Thanks for what you do. I appreciate it every time I get to see my family safe from a day that I have been away from them. I hope this helps and I look forward to being able to learn from you and you from me.



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drew estell