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Archive for the ‘Gunfighter Moment’ Category

Gunfighter Moment – Aaron Barruga

Saturday, August 18th, 2018

Modern Stress Shoots Are Injury Factories That Confuse Marksmanship Advancement

Two days into what was supposed to be a four day mission, my overwatch element was frantically scurrying down ridge lines to avoid being cutoff by Taliban forces that were coordinating an ambush. The hasty exfil lasted a few hours and at multiple points we sacrificed security for raw speed. During moments such as these, I was thankful for all that dumb Army training that served no other purpose than to teach me how to “embrace the suck.” Countless hours spent training under a rucksack paid dividends on days that demonstrated that sometimes grit is the most powerful weapon.

In training, running with a rucksack is one of the worst things a soldier can do because of the trauma it causes to the knees, shoulders, and lower back. Regardless, this doesn’t excuse a soldier from having to perform such a task in combat. Whether a forced march or carrying combined loads up to 200lbs in Assessment and Selection, a soldier must become accustomed to the discomfort caused by his equipment. However, it is important to differentiate between when a soldier is training to endure suffering, versus when he is perfecting a technical skill. As of late, confusion with whether harder is always better can be observed in contemporary stress shoots.

We need to make stress shoots simple again. What were once straightforward exercises that measured altered performance through an elevated heart rate, have become events that place more emphasis on Crossfiting with a gun than actually improving marksmanship abilities. Worse, the Type A personalities inherent with tactical professionals, combined with the sloppy design of stress shoots create an environment that is ripe for injury.

For example, olympic lifting in full kit is a terrible idea. Although impressive, performing such action unnecessarily exposes a shooter to career stalling bodily damage. The risk isn’t just that adding weight via kit causes an adjustment in form, it’s also that a shooter will attempt to perform an exercise as quickly as possible. Consequently, individuals will sacrifice the quality of their movement or form, so that they can “ugh” their way through to the next exercise to achieve a faster time.

From a marksmanship standpoint, sloppy stress shoots plateau development because a shooter will focus on the wrong aspects of his performance. Satisfaction results from completing a difficult task, not from actually testing skill. Whether flipping tires, carrying kettle bells, or running through an obstacle course, a tactical professional will inherently focus on and reward himself for accomplishing the anaerobic qualities of a stress shoot rather than assess how the event improved his marksmanship.

However, poor stress shoot design within training culture does not excuse tactical professionals from learning how to shoot with an elevated heart rate. Moreover, anaerobic activities such as flipping tires and heaving sandbags can be useful, so long as cadre differentiate between diminishing returns and skills progression. In order to be executed properly, stress shoots must be programmed through one of two methods.

The Sustainment Stress Shoot teaches the effects of shooting with an elevated heart rate through short bursts of aerobic or anaerobic activity. This can be accomplished through sprints or carrying weights, however, the physical exercise should never overshadow the marksmanship points of performance. Sustainment Stress Shoots are also shorter in duration to prevent the effects of diminishing returns and the unintended solidifying of sloppy technique.

Sustainment Stress Shoots should not just blindly throw shooters into an exercise. If the event requires the shooter to run, cadre must assess the shooter’s sprint mechanics and weapons handling efficiency. This is more than just cataloging the speed at which the shooter moves, and demands cadre observe explosive acceleration and deceleration sprint mechanics, muzzle orientation, and efficiency with prepping the weapon as a shooter prepares to fire. Similarly, if a shooter must carry weights the cadre should assess the shooter’s ability to rapidly stow and unstow a weapon for travel.

Although not primary to skills development, cadre must remain mindful with enforcing that weapons should be carried or stowed in a manner applicable to a combat environment. Crossfiting with a carbine has led lazy carrying positions in which shooters unnecessarily take their firing hands off their pistol grips and away from their safeties and triggers. Although not catastrophic during a stress shoot (because the shooter knows exactly where and when he will use his weapon) we’ve seen these techniques filter into tactical training events in which shooters are delayed with employing their weapons towards unexpected close quarter targets or in force on force scenarios. If, however, a shooter must move his firing hand away from his trigger and safety, it should because a physical task (e.g. casualty carry, climbing, jumping, etc.) allows for no other options.

Sustainment Stress Shoots also demand that cadre be engaged the entire time. They must be able to catalogue a shooter’s performance flaws and not simply state that a shooter missed because of fatigue.

Below is Throttle Control. It is designed as a Sustainment Stress Shoot that assesses sprint mechanics and marksmanship with an elevated heart rate.

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The second type of stress shoot is the Resiliency Stress Shoot. These events are meant to be smokers and reinforce just that, resiliency. However, their purpose is still to test skill, and not just reward a shooter for accomplishing something difficult. Because the Resiliency Stress Shoot will place a higher premium on aerobic and anaerobic tasks than marksmanship skill, they should only be performed after Sustainment Stress Shoots are executed as diagnostics. This ensures that a shooter is still learning, and not just running in place—physically and metaphorically—with regards to performance.

Collecting performance data during Resiliency Stress Shoots is more difficult because of the switch in exercises. For example, did Shooter X finish before Shooter Y because he climbed ropes quicker, or because he flipped tires the fastest? Ambiguity such as this is removed through strict penalties for marksmanship failure. This helps to level out the ranking system so that the worst shooter cannot win because he is in the best physical shape. An example of such design is adding a devastating time penalty (e.g. +10 seconds) for first round misses. This accountability encourages shooters to go for speed with sprints or kettle bell carries without allowing for sloppy marksmanship.

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Resiliency Stress Shoots should always reinforce that grit, determination and heart are more important than any piece of equipment. The hardest thing to teach a tactical shooter is that he, not his gear, is more important than any piece of performance junk the tactical industry—and its Instagram influencers—will attempt to sell him.

Resiliency Stress Shoots should only be performed after multiple Sustainment Stress Shoots are executed as a diagnostic. Failure to do so ensures that a shooter will plateau with regards to performance because the purpose of the event lacks clarity. This results in a shooter assuming that because he accomplishes something hard that his skill is increasing. Although his skill might improve, it is likely in areas associated with weight lifting instead of marksmanship.

If possible, Resiliency Stress Shoot exercises should also attempt to replicate real world obstacles that the shooter can expect to navigate such as urban climbing, carrying a casualty, or breaching a door.

In summary, this article critiques sloppy stress shoot design and its effects on marksmanship progression. However, it is not intended to pardon tactical professionals from learning to shoot in full kit and with an elevated heart rate. Instead, it demands that we perform such actions through more purposeful methods. This can require shooters to actually perform entire training sessions absent of kit and with just their weapons. Furthermore, tactical professionals are also not excused from performing tasks in which the only learning objective is endured suffering. We simply need to be smarter about an event’s goals, and whether we’re unnecessarily risking injury and performance plateau.

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Aaron Barruga is Special Forces veteran with deployments to Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Pacific Theater of Operations. He has trained foreign commandos, police officers, and militia fighters. He is the founder at Guerrilla Approach LLC, where he consults law enforcement officers on counter-terrorism and vehicle tactics.

www.guerrillaapproach.com

www.facebook.com/guerrillaapproach

www.instagram.com/guerrilla_approach

Gunfighter Moment – Aaron Barruga

Saturday, July 21st, 2018

Aaron encourages shooters to keep their foots on the gas pedal with the “T-Drill” speed exercise.

Aaron Barruga is Special Forces veteran with deployments to Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Pacific Theater of Operations. He has trained foreign commandos, police officers, and militia fighters. He is the founder at Guerrilla Approach LLC, where he consults law enforcement officers on counter-terrorism and vehicle tactics.

www.guerrillaapproach.com

www.facebook.com/guerrillaapproach

www.instagram.com/guerrilla_approach

Gunfighter Moment is a feature brought to you by Bravo Company USA.Bravo Company is home of the Gunfighters, and they bring us a different trainer to offer some words of wisdom.

Gunfighter Moment – Aaron Barruga

Saturday, July 7th, 2018

Aaron introduces the Carbine Consistency Target and explains why shooters develop either competent or sloppy speed.

Aaron Barruga is Special Forces veteran with deployments to Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Pacific Theater of Operations. He has trained foreign commandos, police officers, and militia fighters. He is the founder at Guerrilla Approach LLC, where he consults law enforcement officers on counter-terrorism and vehicle tactics.

www.guerrillaapproach.com

www.facebook.com/guerrillaapproach

www.instagram.com/guerrilla_approach

Gunfighter Moment is a feature brought to you by Bravo Company USA. Bravo Company is home of the Gunfighters, and they bring us a different trainer to offer some words of wisdom.

Gunfighter Moment – Northern Red

Saturday, May 12th, 2018

OPPOSITION BASED TRAINING

Those who have attended a Northern Red CQB course fully understand our philosophy on Opposition Based Training. We incorporate Force-On-Force iterations throughout our curriculum because we are acutely aware of the vast benefits it provides. Northern Red only concerns itself with TTP’s that address, and defeat active resistance. This is reflected in all of our marksmanship and tactics based programs of instruction. Using live role-players who will fight back is the means in which we apply this ideology during Close Quarters Battle training. Today, we are going to discuss the purpose and benefits of utilizing force-on-force training. We will also identify several key elements that will ensure the desired end state of opposed training is continuously met.

Mike Tyson said it best when he stated, “Everyone’s got a plan until they get punched in the face.” This is an outstanding quote from a professional in a combat sport that directly correlates to the main reason we stress the use of opposition based training; Vetting Tactic’s, Techniques, and Procedures. How many fighters that faced Tyson during his prime had the perfect fight plan? They trained and implemented what they thought would work against him, only to find themselves on their backs staring at the ceiling. So what went wrong? Was their plan wrong? Were their tactics inferior? Were they simply overwhelmed by superior skill and ability? The answers to these questions can be debated, but we feel the main reason they were unsuccessful is crystal clear. They did not train against someone that resembled the speed, power, and style of fighting that Tyson possessed. Once they got hit with that type of power, it was overwhelming and usually led to a quick and painful demise. Just like combat sports or hand-to-hand fighting, the only way to truly vet a combat based TTP is to test it against strong and consistent resistance. If no one fights back, you can literally employ any technique you wish and come out on top. From one man clearing techniques, to overly complicated ways to navigate through hallways and intersections; if you do not encounter real resistance, you will always “seem” to be successful. This non or passive resistance style of training breeds a false sense of confidence in TTP’s that have never been truly vetted. Many TTP’s brief well, but the true test is if they consistently work against a ready, willing, and committed opponent.

Another reason for implementing this type of training is the real-world atmosphere it provides. Fundamentally, force-on-force training is the most accurate representation of combat that can be administered in a safe and controlled manner. Opposition based training induces stress, allowing assaulters and leadership to understand how they as individuals, or as a team, handle dynamic and chaotic situations. Very few people become overwhelmed when shooting paper targets. This is obviously the optimal setting used to instill the fundamentals of any TTP. However, if we constantly stay in this comfort zone, we are setting ourselves up for failure. We must provide an environment that will induce the physiological effects of stress, and provide it as often as possible. Through mental preparation and the proper training, we can learn to cull these effects, catching their onset and having the means to deal with them accordingly. Furthermore, fighting a person has a completely different feel than encountering static targets. Dummies and paper do not shoot, move, or communicate. We have rarely seen students shoot paper targets without acquiring their sights. They shoot these targets the same way they do on the range. On the other hand, we frequently see students engaging live role players looking over their aiming device. Why? Seeing a human behind your sights is different than seeing a two-dimensional piece of paper. Force-on-force training is the only way to attain and understand the sensation of acquiring your sights on a real person and deliver enough rounds to the right location in order to eliminate the threat in a non-lethal environment. In our opinion, simulators are a waste of time and money. Although they can be fun to train on, they do not produce the necessary end-state that live opposition does. Training and range scars will rear their ugly heads if opposition based training is not consistently put to use. These scars are ultimately paid for in blood.

Here are some common mistakes encountered when using Force-on-Force training and suggestions from the Northern Red crew to maximize this incredible training tool:

1. Setting up the same layouts.

People all too often use the same facility, with the same layout, and same positions for the OPFOR. We understand that training sites are, and can be limited, but you can still give different looks to the trainees. Mix up the layouts and position of the role players as much as possible. You do not want assaulters “gaming” the run. You’re not training for an IPSC match, where competitors get to walk through stages before shooting, so attempt to provide a wide variety of looks as often as possible.

2. Failing to strategically emplace OPFOR.

We use OPFOR to drive home key learning points such as: looking deep, simultaneous clears of opposing threat areas, proper clearance of sectors of fire, etc. If you just set role players somewhere and do not have a valid reason for them being in that location, training can de-rail quickly. If you are trying to drive home the point of sectors in depth, then set up the OPFOR deep in the next room ensuring the assaulters are seeing deep through the open door. Always have a purpose for the location of role players.

3. Not briefing role players for their particular job.

We suggest that OPFOR be individually briefed for what their role is during that particular iteration. When we emplace OPFOR, we provide them with detailed instructions and specifically describe what we want them to do or look for. In addition, we instruct OPFOR to stay in an engagement until they are accurately engaged multiple times. Allowing OPFOR to quit the fight too early does not provide a realistic encounter to the assaulters, it builds a deadly training scar. After all, we are training for the people who will fight us to their last breath, right?

4. Not using new guys as OPFOR.

One of the best ways for a new assaulter to understand the consequences of their mistakes is to use him as OPFOR. The learning point will be evidently clear to him when he sees someone makes a similar mistake. He will now see from the enemy’s perspective, which is worth its weight in gold. This will intensely reinforce the “why” behind the TTP’s, and limit the amount of times they repeat the same mistake.

5. Playing the SIMMS game.

This is the biggest pet peeve that Northern Red has regarding opposition based training. Assaulters hanging out in front of closed doors, seeking cover behind couches, or doing things they, and we, know they would never do during a real gun fight. If you wouldn’t do it with live ammo, you probably shouldn’t be doing it with non-lethal ammunition. We all know the consequences for getting shot with marking rounds. If we follow the proper safety procedures, at most they can cause some discomfort. With that being said, we must not allow ourselves or our students to play the game. It’s extremely counter-productive and highly detrimental to mission success.

We suggest that you utilize opposition based training into all of your required skill sets. Certainly, they must be used at the appropriate time and place in the learning cycle. There must be a solid foundation in the basics before you dial up the stress level. Once the foundation is set, we reinforce it with this training methodology based on the reasons we discussed. We used CQB as the main platform in this post, but you can use this type of training in many different ways. From hand-to hand, to any and all tactics, the perks of encountering human beings in training are far too important to neglect.

Gunfighter Moment is a feature brought to you by Bravo Company USA. Bravo Company is home of the Gunfighters, and they bring us a different trainer to offer some words of wisdom.

Gunfighter Moment – Zack Harrison

Saturday, April 28th, 2018

Skills and Drills

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To get the most out of training, it’s important to understand the purpose and intent behind drills. A drill can be defined as the repetitive practice of a skill, or a set of skills, in order to become increasingly proficient in the targeted action, while becoming more knowledgeable in the purpose of its implementation. All drills should be purposeful and relevant to what the end user is attempting to achieve. From a shooting perspective, it’s critical that we understand the “why” behind the drills we use on the range.

Let’s take a look at the “Target Transition” drill for pistol. We set this up with three IPSC or VTAC targets spread out one meter apart. The shooter is 8-10yds away facing the target line. Starting positions is pistol holstered and both hands above the shoulders. On command, the shooter will draw and shoot two shots on each target, attempting to place all rounds to the A-Zone in the body. This is a great example of a drill that works multiple skills. The draw, controlled pairs, recoil management, proper trigger reset, leading with the eyes to the next target, and driving the gun in recoil are the applied skills for this course of fire. The primary concept to comprehend is that most of these skills should be isolated and trained prior to running a drill such as this. The new or previously untrained skills for this drill should be leading with your eyes to the next target and driving the gun to a new location in recoil. For the shooter to get the most value out of this drill, they should have a thorough understanding, and a solid foundation of the other skills required. If the shooter has a weak or inconsistent draw and does not understand the concept of resetting the trigger in recoil, they will not be focused on the “new” skills that target transitions provide. We build up to complex drills such as this, ensuring the baseline is established for each individual skill before adding more to the plate.

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Target Transitions is one of Northern Red’s favorite combat marksmanship drills. As previously discussed, it works a large spectrum of shooting skills. Putting all of these skills together consistently will drastically improve a shooter’s weapons handling. But more important than the skills it trains, is the realistic transfer of those skills to a combat situation. This is the “why” behind it. Some may say that this drill is primarily training the shooter to deal with multiple threats. We agree that is one reason why target transitions are important, but we believe there is a greater and more plausible purpose. Humans will move when engaged with firearms. This happens to be the most predictably thing encountered during a gunfight. The main reasons, in our opinion, to become proficient on this drill is to practice shooting a moving target and training our eyes to move and see faster. These skills directly correlate to all engagements, and should be trained consistently. The likelihood of needing these skills in a real-world situation is high. That, fundamentally, is the main reason this drill is so important to understand and master.

If you find yourself struggling on a certain shooting skill, we suggest you break the skill down and run drills that specifically target that area. A perfect example is someone who has trouble consistently finding their sights on the draw. If the proper mechanics of coming down to the gun and clearing the holster are not the issue, then isolate the problem area. In this example, the shooter should work on the presentation from the ready position, which is the second half of the draw-stroke. Rep that out until you are finding your sights in the same spot consistently and watch what it does for your draw.

Training should be fun. If you are not enjoying it, you’re less likely to continue putting in the time and effort to get better. We are not saying run boring drills, we are suggesting utilizing the drills you or your unit needs. Make sure they are targeting specific skills that are relevant to your job, or emulate situations you may encounter. As always, never shy away from your weaknesses, especially if you are deficient in a skill needed to perform your duties. Additionally, make sure you, your teammates, or your students understand the “why.” This final point is vital for information retention and application of the skill on game day.

Gunfighter Moment is a feature brought to you by Bravo Company USA. Bravo Company is home of the Gunfighters, and they bring us a different trainer to offer some words of wisdom.

Gunfighter Moment – Aaron Barruga

Saturday, April 14th, 2018

Respect This

In 1945, my grandfather returned from the war in The Pacific to discover the America he fought for was different than the America that welcomed him home. As a first generation immigrant from the Philippines, he spent the post war years dodging misplaced racism, unemployment, and blanketed disenfranchisement towards minorities.

Although he wasn’t Japanese, the war and Pearl Harbor were still fresh. As a result, any resemblance of asian heritage was enough to solicit racist comments. And even more ignorant, yet comical, were the occasions in which he was slurred at for being Mexican.

Regardless, my grandfather loved America and understood that although he was a citizen, and had fought for America—even earning a combat infantryman’s badge for bravery on a no name island—he would never prove he was an American by simply expecting others to accept him as one. He understood that every day, he would need to demonstrate why he deserved his rights, regardless of already being entitled to them.

And therein lies a reality that is lost on the current generation despite being only decades removed from the Civil Rights movement. Just because you are entitled to certain rights, does not mean that others will allow you to access them.

My grandfather fought every day to defend rights that he had already earned. However, other large groups of immigrants used racism as an excuse to never assimilate. Consequently, these groups didn’t develop the social tools that facilitate access to what they deserved as citizens. And when inequality occurred through employment or everyday interactions, the results were tense arguments and protests that only further divided the immigrants from the majority population. Unfortunately, this meant that these minorities were only seen at their worst, when they were outraged and attempted to combat stereotypes.

Today, the faint sound a of a familiar echo can be heard over discussions of the second amendment. Owning firearms in America is a civil right. And I believe 100% that all law abiding Americans are entitled to firearms possession. Unfortunately, we’ve seen how others would abolish this right through legislation. Similar to the pockets of minorities that only interacted with majority culture during periods of conflict, gun owners are also susceptible to only allowing others to see us when we are highly emotional and attempting to combat false narratives.

And that’s the bigger problem. If we only choose to be vocal about our culture during times of conflict, then we are directing energy at disproving the opposition’s agenda. Rather than demonstrating the values we actually believe in, we are forced to disprove the ones we do not.

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For me, shooting has never been about violence. It’s always been about craftsmanship and discipline. A man’s rifle is more than a tool, it’s an outward display of his self-reliance. I learned this when my father first taught me how to shoot at the age of eight. After an early morning hike into the forest, we arrived on a ridge line and began setting out clay pigeons. Unslinging his rifle from his shoulder, he handed it to me and said the two most important words that accompany all gun ownership, “Respect this.”

Without haste, I depleted our ammo supply. I was hooked.

The following week at school I told all of my classmates about my excursion into the wilderness. Not once did I think I was handling a tool that could also be used as a weapon. Instead, I felt so much pride in using my hands to build a skill set. I played sports and was athletic, but shooting and firearms were different.

Later, when I was deployed overseas, I witnessed first hand the uncertainty that is created by lawless regimes in failed states. Caught between the violence of militia groups, terrorists, and government forces, civilians in these countries were living a dystopian reality. For them, gun ownership was not about heritage and craftsmanship. There was no time for that. Gun ownership was that of necessity for family security.

In the US, a citizen’s security is not constantly under threat by criminal actors or non-state terrorists. Still, bad things happen and the police are hardly capable of preventing all crime. Worse, the temporary lawlessness caused by extreme natural disasters or civil unrest can actually rival the violence of war zones. However, the nation as a whole functions. We are not living under constant fear of our personnel security being threatened and society’s infrastructure collapsing.

This allows gun ownership to exist beyond the sole purpose of personal safety, and is why American gun culture is rich with a heritage that respects craftsmanship, rugged individualism, and family traditions.

Give that a second, because the following is important.

If a tool’s only utility is grounded in fear, it allows for one dimensional stereotypes of its owner. Those opposed to your beliefs will label you, contain you, which will anger you while also leaving you vulnerable to manipulation. Although this is unfair, it happens regardless.

Stereotypes of gun owners and gun culture in America couldn’t be further from the truth. Yet, the only time the nation as a whole interacts with gun owners is following the tragedy of a mass shooting. With emotions already high and fingers being pointed, responsible gun owners are pigeon holed into false identities that they then feel forced to defend.

We’re not backwoods racists incapable of adapting to metropolitan society. We’re not paranoid hermits stockpiling for a last stand. We’re not men attempting to compensate for insecurities about masculinity.

We are, however, doctors and blue collar workers. Feminists and fathers. Hunters and hipsters (yes I’ve met them). Republicans and Democrats. Yet, this is not who the mainstream anti-gun crowd knows us as. Instead, they see us at our worst. When we feel attacked after the tragedy of mass shootings; and when we take the bait and respond to false headlines that only serve the purpose of agitating. Yes, it is necessary to critique flawed statistics about gun violence. But longterm change of perception is not accomplished through memes or shouting bumper sticker slogans. These actions only add gasoline to the dumpster fire.

In the long run, appreciation of our culture won’t be won by only engaging the anti-gun crowd on their terms. It isn’t enough to only make our culture known when we are called to defend it. We must also do it during lulls and periods of normalcy. As a young American, the pride I felt in using my hands to learn a skill was unrivaled. No sport or achievement in school mirrored the satisfaction of focusing my body and mind on a target, and then sending a bullet to score a direct hit.

Throughout the US, everyday Americans feel similar sentiments towards gun ownership. But we cannot make these qualities known in the middle of an argument. Arguing with opposition never changes their mind, it just causes them to further entrench in their beliefs. Therefore we will never experience a significant blow to the anti-gun crowd by only challenging their false narratives. Instead we must demonstrate through our own agendas why we value firearms. The greatest success I experienced with this approach was after I left the military and attended college.

I finished my undergraduate studies at a California university. The political climate annoyed me—trigger warning—but I was there because the campus was parked on the beach. Despite the confused politics of the school, I started a marksmanship club that allowed students and faculty to participate in recreational shooting. At first, the faculty were concerned with sanctioning a gun club on campus. But prohibiting the club contradicted all of their rhetoric about equality and inclusion. Approved by the university, we began hosting monthly range events for students.

We were a hit.

What surprised me most about the club was that there was no single unifying characteristic of its members. There were graduate students and sorority girls. Faculty members and socially underdeveloped Generation Z’ers. Some of the club members owned firearms, but most did not. Regardless, shooting was never about violence. Marksmanship was a sport. Our members easily classified it next to other outdoor activities such as surfing.

The students felt a similar satisfaction that I felt with my father by shooting rifles and pistols for the first time. For me, fulfillment also came in the form of mentoring young adults to do something with their hands other than text or take selfies. The success of the marksmanship club serves as a broader vignette about gun culture in America. When you label a group of people without ever actually engaging with them, you’re likely to develop stereotypes that are not grounded in any kind of reality. The administration at the university was concerned about promoting gun culture because they had been exposed to the wrong narratives about gun ownership. For them, guns were strictly symbols of violence.

On the other hand, the students were characteristic of everyday Americans. They enjoyed the sporting of marksmanship because it allowed them to learn a skill with their hands. Their motivation was not derived from fear. It was not of hollow bravado. As a group, their satisfaction was communal. An appreciation of American heritage, being outdoors, and learning discipline.

A finer moment of responsibility was displayed by a graduating female that explained why she was learning to shoot a pistol. She already secured a job and would live by herself in a new city. She considered buying a pistol for self-defense, but dismissed it as an option due to fear of misuse. The club allowed her an opportunity to learn about firearms. Not solely from the standpoint of self-defense (or fear) but through an appreciation of American heritage and taking personal responsibility for her safety.

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For me, marksmanship is important because it is one of the few things I can actually do with my hands in the modern business world. I love writing, I love creating, but marksmanship is something tangible. In a trip to San Francisco my friend Mark took me shooting on private land outside of the city. He was formally an engineer in tech and recently transitioned over to the executive side running operations for a decent size firm. He is a part of what is actually a very large number of closet gun owners in Silicon Valley. Mark gets excited about firearms, but as an engineer it is usually out of respect for craftsmanship.

Regardless, Mark loves shooting because it is a physical test of his skill and discipline. Loading magazines on the back of his hybrid SUV he looked at me and said, “A lot of my peers make decent money, but they’re incredibly unhappy. Everyone in tech goes through the typical phases of getting really into endurance racing or hiking, but hobbies are like fads. Shooting is different. When I come out to the range, it is one of the few times I can actually disconnect from my phone and just focus on myself. It’s kind of like yoga that way.”

This appreciation for firearms that Mark and so many Americans have is not demonstrated when we’re screaming to explain why 30-round magazines shouldn’t be outlawed.

Mark has converted several of his hybrid-driving-soylent-diet-hipster-beard executive buddies into gun owners. He did not accomplish this by challenging anti-gun beliefs, but instead by showing the positive aspects of why he appreciates firearms. This truth is at the core of all civil rights movements. If you only promote your values when others attack it, you will never show the real depth of your culture.

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When I was younger, if someone attacked gun culture, I felt that they were attacking my family. All of those trips to the ridge line with my father would surge to the forefront of my mind. However, these sentiments were never something I could demonstrate mid-argument. By getting drunk with emotion and charging head-on against the opposition’s narrative, I was only ensuring that they would control the flow of debate. Although it was satisfying to fact check someone in the heat of the moment, it accomplished nothing in the long run.

In college, when the administration was hesitant towards sanctioning the gun club, I did not respond by telling them why they were wrong about guns, or by defaulting to bumper sticker slogans and pro gun memes on social media. Instead, I showed them on my own terms and through my own narrative why I value firearms. This produced the lasting effect of challenging ignorance without giving into toxic behavior, but more importantly, it equipped me with the tools to champion gun ownership outside of the opposition’s control of the narrative.

By recognizing that he needed to demonstrate value in his rights every day, my Grandfather developed social tools that allowed him to navigate racist agendas. Similarly, I try to do the same with the second amendment. Although I am entitled as a citizen to own firearms, it doesn’t guarantee that others will not try to abolish this right. When I see a purposefully inflammatory anti-gun agenda, I do not allow myself to give into anger. Because as with all political movements, if someone can anger you (both from your party or the oppositions), they will control you.

Owning a gun in America is a civil right. And our nation has a rich history of civil rights being upheld by individuals that not only defend their culture, but also champion it.

Aaron Barruga is Special Forces veteran with deployments to Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Pacific Theater of Operations. He has trained foreign commandos, police officers, and militia fighters. He is the founder at Guerrilla Approach LLC, where he consults law enforcement officers on counter-terrorism and vehicle tactics.

www.guerrillaapproach.com

www.facebook.com/guerrillaapproach

www.instagram.com/guerrilla_approach

Gunfighter Moment is a feature brought to you by Bravo Company USA. Bravo Company is home of the Gunfighters, and they bring us a different trainer to offer some words of wisdom.

Gunfighter Moment – Zack Harrison

Saturday, April 7th, 2018

In today’s post, we are going to dive into the discussion of physical readiness. The purpose of this article is not to describe which physical training program Northern Red thinks is the best; it’s to discuss the importance of keeping our bodies physically prepared. We will examine why it’s imperative to maintain a high level of physical readiness in order to succeed.

Why is it important to maintain a high level of physical readiness? We are going to break this down into two categories: Job performance and cultural aspects. If you carry a gun for a living, you have many additional duties you need to perform other than shooting. Many of these require physical exertion. Running, climbing, combatives, etc.…. If you fail to maintain a state of physical readiness you are setting yourself, your partner/team, and those you’ve sworn to protect up for failure. Being physically fit is, unarguably, crucial for optimal performance.

It’s very difficult to make good decisions or shoot well when your heart rate is through the roof. It’s impossible to make entry if you do not possess the ability to climb over the wall that separates you from the residence. All of your others skills go right out the window if you cannot physically make it to where you need to be. Ineffectiveness comes on rapidly in those who do not train properly. Your body must be acclimated to physical stress in order to conduct the tasks you are required to perform.

From a cultural perspective, physical readiness is a gateway into every combat arms SOF unit. From Ranger School, to SFAS (Special Forces Assessment and Selection), and BUDS, they all have must pass physical fitness requirements just to begin the course. This is the initial thinning process, which continues as these courses progress. The ideology behind it is if you cannot show up physically ready to go, then you do not deserve to even try out. Everyone of Northern Red’s instructors have worked in places where you give everything you’ve got just to be average. That’s one aspect of the culture, and everyone is held accountable. It was not uncommon for us to show up for work in the morning and have a PT test without warning. Whether that be running an Obstacle course, a ruck march, or some grueling event your TL came up with the night prior. You had to be ready for Performance on Demand. No warm up, no re-test. What you brought that day is all you have, and no one cared about what you did last week. This is the environment and culture that kept people from becoming complacent. Everyone on the Northern Red team keeps themselves in shape, and none of us are on Active Duty anymore. Why? We keep a high level of physical readiness because we know that we could still be called upon to perform on demand, and we refuse to allow laziness and complacency to keep us from succeeding.

There are many other positive effects that fitness provides. We can say we don’t judge people based on our initial assessment of them, but in reality, humans are extremely judgmental. The first thing most people notice in others is physical appearance. If you take care of yourself, bad people are less likely to do bad things to you. Physical readiness shows that you have a high level of self-respect, which leads to many other sought after traits. There is also indisputable evidence of the positive mental effects of staying fit. The old saying of “sound body, sound mind” may not always be accurate, but for the most part, this adage is more true than not. From first impressions, to self-confidence, performance, and stress reduction, consistent physical training has too many valuable attributes to neglect.

With all of our combined experiences, we’ve probably done every fitness program invented. It’s very hard, if not impossible to be incredibly good at everything at the same time. If all you do is power lift, then you probably are not running or conducting High Intensity Training. We believe that you must be well rounded in regards to physical fitness. You need to be able to run up 10 flights of stairs with kit on and the next minute you need to be strong enough to casualty carry your buddy back down. Think about a Strong Safety on an NFL team. He’s fast enough to cover people and he’s strong enough to take on blocks from lineman. He is quick, agile, and highly explosive. That, is a complete physical specimen. There are plenty of excellent, well thought out programs that will advance your overall physical capabilities. Our suggestion is that you ask yourselves two questions when deciding on a program: 1. Is this functional and applicable to my job and its requirements? 2. Am I willing to commit to doing it? If your answer to question 1 is no, then find another one that better suits your needs. We cannot provide any insight if you answer no to question 2. That’s an individual issue that must be figured out from within.

What could the consequences be for failing to maintain a high level of fitness? We could give examples and “what if’s” for another five pages. We will provide one and the rest is left for you to decide. Your buddy is shot and needs to be moved to a position of cover to receive medical treatment. You get to him, but you do not possess the strength to pick him up and carry him. You’re weak, winded, and have made the conscious decision to blow off PT for God knows how long. He succumbs to his wounds. Now picture yourself watching his grieving wife being handed a folded flag. Let that sink in for a minute.

Gunfighter Moment is a feature brought to you by Bravo Company USA. Bravo Company is home of the Gunfighters, and they bring us a different trainer to offer some words of wisdom.

Gunfighter Moment – Aaron Barruga

Saturday, March 17th, 2018

Now More Than Ever, Standards And Leadership Matter

The Taliban’s ambush kicked off with the standard barrage of RPGs and machine gun fire. After completing their “mad minute” of initiation fires, the surprise attack lulled and we maneuvered out of the kill zone to coordinate our response.

Unlike previous ambushes, the Taliban either through overconfidence or misreading of the terrain positioned themselves in a wadi. Clear of any civilian structures and risk of collateral damage, they were exposed to the full capacity of our small arms, mortars, and crew served machine guns.

It was the type of fight we begged for. An open engagement with what was an elusive enemy that preferred to fight from the homes of civilians, purposely using them as shields. With a hastily formed assault line of gun trucks, we suppressed Taliban fighting positions and dismounted personnel began prepping mortar fire to contain them.

Everything was textbook, flawless with execution, except one thing.

Prone behind his machine gun, a junior soldier attached to our team wasn’t shooting the Taliban positions.

“Why aren’t you shooting?”

“I can’t see them.”

He was lying, but he wasn’t a coward. He knew where the Taliban were. Everyone did because tracers from our heavy weapons directed fires at the Taliban’s skirmish line.

The fear of death wasn’t what scared the soldier from shooting. Instead, he was afraid of punishment. For doing something wrong and being made an example of by a higher headquarters that readily distributed career ending reprimands. The irony was painful. A highly trained—albeit junior—soldier failed to perform his mission critical task because he was afraid of our senior leadership, not the enemy.

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Last month, the nation again revisited an uncomfortably familiar cycle of mourning, outrage, and finger pointing after the Parkland Florida school shooting. However, following this specific tragedy, the typical week long news cycle about gun control was pushed into the backseat as a nation cried out against the law enforcement officers that failed to enter the school and kill the gunman.

Civilians, soldiers, and cops took to social media with an unending supply of blame and ostracized the deputies that failed to perform their duties. And just as the outrage was beginning to subside, news surfaced about officers that were actually reprimanded for attempting to swarm the scene in an attempt to kill the shooter.

Despite all of the blame, meme generating, and “I would have run into the school” sound clips; we’re still left with a hard question to answer.

Why did this happen?

During the ambush in Afghanistan, I knew that the junior soldier on the machine gun was competent. He was not afraid, and despite it being a terrible decision, would charge blindly into a compound full of Taliban by himself if he knew he wouldn’t get in trouble.

However, I don’t know the deputies that failed to enter the school in Florida. In fact, few of us do. I don’t know if they were afraid, or confused due to lack of training. But what I do know is that organizations do not fail as a whole because of a single mission. Organizations fail throughout years in which a collection of small and insignificant events compound over time to produce a culture of complacency.

For tactical professionals, the hardest decision to make often isn’t running towards the sound of gunfire. Instead, it can be taking on the less heroic task of attempting to change complacent organizational culture.

As a trooper on the line you never get to choose your commander. As a commander, you do not get to choose which policies your predecessors establish. When an organization fails, the easy answer is for subordinates to blame weak leaders, and for leaders to blame rigid policy. However, pointing fingers  after mission failure tends to yield minimal results because the reality is that complacency must be challenged every day.

It’s in the small things:

-Every time we let a teammate skip out on training for non-urgent personal matters.

-Every time we bend the rules for those that fail to meet physical fitness standards.

-Every time we finger drill mission critical SOPs.

-Every time we ignore negligent discharges instead of enforcing punishment.

-Every time we reward promotions for precedence instead of ability.

-Every time we complain about the lack of quality with department training, but then fail to seek out better methods for acquiring skill.

-Every time we let a teammate improperly configure his equipment (e.g. tourniquet not easily accessible) so that he can instead have cooler looking kit with “do-nothing” pouches.

-Every time we let our ego say “But I’ve been (SWAT/SRT/Special Forces) for “X” years to compensate for performance failures.

During pre-deployment training for Afghanistan, a brand new Green Beret assigned to our company negligently discharged a simunition gun. He wasn’t in a shoot house or in a training scenario. He was just loading the trucks for movement to the day’s training area and got careless. Regardless, he was removed from the company and sent to a staff section as punishment.

Later, during a 2-month CQB train up, a seasoned Green Beret negligently discharged a pistol. Similarly, this wasn’t in the shoot house or during a course of fire on the range. It was while he was clearing his team’s weapons before they were transported back to the arms room. His failure with the ND was both because he finger drilled his checks, but also because a teammate had set him up for failure by lazily placing a loaded gun in an area that was designated only for cold weapons. That Green Beret was not reprimanded because “he’s a good guy.” But because he was not punished, the stigma of his reputation always beat him to his next assignment. A career debilitating black eye that he would not recover from.

Examples such as these exist in many forms. Whether its failing to meet physical fitness standards, or misuse of operational funds. Ultimately, if an organization fails to correct small issues, the problems compound and reach a tipping point. Typically, a commander will overly punish a minor infraction in an attempt to set an example for future decisions. Of course, this starts an organization down a path in which trust between subordinates and leadership is eroded.

Returning from our deployment to Afghanistan, we were not greeted by senior leadership that applauded us for a job well done (or for most, a job well endured, because hey, democracy is kind of a hard thing to spread). Instead, we were marched into the battalion classroom and told all the ways in which we would be kicked out of the unit for integrity violations.

As the infractions were explained, we all began shaking our heads and rolling our eyes. The individuals that were made examples of were known for their poor professional behavior. But in the past, instead of being punished, they had been allowed to fail upwards to their next assignment. Although they were finally reprimanded in the end, it was at the expense of establishing policy that impacted every soldier in the unit.

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Attempting to change organizational policy is a monumental task, and often isn’t one accomplished through a single individual’s career. However, real professional growth occurs day-to-day, and in the grey areas where there are no strict guidelines or rules. In other words, it occurs both when someone is and isn’t watching you.

There is also a difference between rules and standards, and the two must not be considered the same. Rules declare limits, but must not be arbitrary otherwise they actually encourage individuals to subvert or bypass them. However, standards are meant to empower because their achievement indicates superior skill. Organizations that misunderstand these realities will use standards and rules synonymously. And instead of empowering individuals to achieve success, will actually deter them from trying for fear of a reprimand that accompanies failure.

My successes as a soldier weren’t because I possessed natural talent or superior skills. It was because I had direct supervisors that understood how to create a learning environment in which I wasn’t afraid to fail. This allowed me to grow as a noncommissioned officer because I understood the difference between punishment and professional critique. Organizations that fail to separate the two will create a zero sum environment in which troopers are afraid to do anything wrong. Consequently, this handicaps otherwise competent individuals from returning fire at enemy ambush lines, or running towards the sound of gunfire to save innocent lives.

Aaron Barruga is Special Forces veteran with deployments to Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Pacific Theater of Operations. He has trained foreign commandos, police officers, and militia fighters. He is the founder at Guerrilla Approach LLC, where he consults law enforcement officers on counter-terrorism and vehicle tactics.

www.guerrillaapproach.com

www.facebook.com/guerrillaapproach

www.instagram.com/guerrilla_approach

Gunfighter Moment is a feature brought to you by Bravo Company USA. Bravo Company is home of the Gunfighters, and they bring us a different trainer to offer some words of wisdom.