FN Herstal

Gunfighter Moment – John McPhee

Mad Minute

The Mad Minute can make or break a unit’s ability to shift on the fly or flex to the situation. This is a simple concept and when used effectively is a combat multiplier. Warrior leaders, use this and your warriors will never fail you.

This is how the Mad Minute works. Say you have 10 targets to hit in one night. During planning and the Orders brief or however your unit does it, have your guys remember just the first target. Tell them there are additional targets and to be prepared for a long night, but have them know the first one cold. You execute and the first hit goes down flawless. Before you load vehicles or exfil (depart your target) leaders talk over the plan for what’s next on the hit list. Then leaders brief your warriors and make sure they are tracking (understand) on the next plan. If there is no time, brief the plan in the vehicle. If you’re in a helicopter draw stick figures on paper or small white board. It’s easy. Depict house, helo, men and an arrow of which way to move to the target. Simple caveman cave wall drawings. This way it’s fresh in the warriors’ minds and they know what to do. Establish stick man SOPs if need be.

Shrek says, "Right in the middle of the worst mass casualty event I ever witnessed."

Shrek says, “Right in the middle of the worst mass casualty event I ever witnessed. A day I wish I could forget.”

Photo: Dalton Fury and Shrek conducting a Mad Minute in combat.
Note: When talking on a street always position yourself to watch each other’s backs.

Take the time to always do a mad minute. Senior leaders let your men tell you what they are going to do for each separate mission. This is not time to bullshit or play grab ass. Say the plan and move out. This is why it’s called the Mad Minute and not the mad hour, happy hour or 10 minutes. Too much extraneous communication can lead to confusion. Or, debate could cause someone to think the plan has changed. This is not the time to debate anything. Say the plan, be clear and concise.

If however, the goal of your Mad Minute is to change the plan, get your leaders together and change it. Be sure to make clear this is a change to the original plan so there is no confusion. Then brief your warriors, “Change 1 is…….”

We do this to make sure we don’t make any mistakes and cost any warriors’ lives because of doubt or misunderstanding. Mission success is directly tied to your plan. If your plan fails, you fail. If you forgot the plan and got a warrior killed you’ll bear that guilt every second for the rest of your life. Shit happens, but it happens because of your mistakes, it’s an unacceptable, worst possible scenario for everyone.

Some things to consider. Don’t over plan. This could lead to a warrior over thinking rather than focusing on what he is supposed to do. This will make him inflexible and unable to adapt to the situation. Keep the plan simple with room for flexibility because the enemy will never do what you want. Otherwise, we would not have war. However, if the situation changes, go with it and let the plan swing the other way. But don’t things cowboy style. That has disaster written all over it. There is a sweet spot of not overplaying and yet retaining some type of plan. There may be time for cowboy shit, but that is last ditch scenario when the plan went to shit and you’re trying to fix or get out of a bad situation. At this point it’s Medal of Honor action. The problem is you should avoid this situation at all costs seeing as most MoH are given to dead men.

So take a minute talk through the plan (whether you need it or not), disseminate to your warriors and move out smartly. I can tell you how many hits this simple act saved my and my mates asses.

The mad minute is simple. Just make sure you warriors understand what’s next. This takes a second and when used regularly can increase your units effectiveness. Also when used regularly, it’s the right time and place for a senior leader to change a plan due to ever changing intel and enemy situation.


SGM (ret) John McPhee served a distinguished career in U.S. Army Special Operations for over 20 years, retiring in 2011.

John has spent his adult life in Special Operations and Special Mission Units. He is a Master Instructor in all aspects of special activities, missions and operations. He has over 6 years of private special activities consulting and is a Subject Matter Expert (SME) in: Special Activities, Operational Preparations, Limited Signature Operations, Reconnaissance, Singleton Operations, High Threat Dignitary Protective Services, Extreme Long Range, Designated Marksman, Advanced Precision Rifle Marksmanship, Combat Marksmanship, Live Fire CQB/CQC, Advanced Pistol Marksmanship, Advanced Carbine Marksmanship, Ariel Gunnery (Rifles, Shotguns, Ariel Personnel and Vehicle Interdictions, Mechanical, Ballistic and Explosive Breaching, Freefall Instructor Programs, Infiltration/ Exfiltration Techniques, Ground Mobility, Unit Pre-Deployment Training, and Research and Development of; Soldier Systems, Weapons, Ammunition, Thermal and Night Optics.

Special Forces Target Interdiction Course
US Army Sniper School
NRA Rifle, Pistol and Shotgun, Instructor
NRA Range Safety Officer
Advanced Mountain Sniper Course, Instructor
Advanced Freefall, Instructor (Ratings Current)
Freefall Coach (Ratings Current)
California Personal/ Executive Body Guard Certification (Rating Current)
2005 Budweiser World Cup Super Heavyweight Jiu-Jitsu Champion
2004 Presidential Security Detail (Ariel Heavy) Cartagena, Colombia

He has trained countless U.S. Special Operations forces, thousands of International Tier 1 Operators and Special Forces around the world. He is one of the handful of operators with over a decade of combat having served in multiple theaters from Bosnia and South America to recent war efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Gunfighter Moment is a weekly feature brought to you by Alias Training & Security Services. Each week Alias brings us a different Trainer and in turn they offer some words of wisdom.

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14 Responses to “Gunfighter Moment – John McPhee

  1. Shrek rocked it again this week.

  2. The mad minute works well when you have men who’s split second decision making process is the best in the world and the commanders who support those men foster that kind of thinking.

    All too often commanders don’t trust in their men enough to think on there own. Turning the mad minute into a mad hour, day or week.

    Trusting in your men to make critical decisions takes time but can be accomplished if your training program is designed to make problem solvers, not folks that just obey orders regardless how dumb the order is.

    The mad minute does save lives …

    Nice article.

    Have a good one,

  3. Mayflower Research & Consulting says:

    Good one Shrek.

  4. Shrek says:

    Connor, what’s up Dog. Well said and agree totally!

  5. Anthony says:

    Between Shrek and Jonny’s posts today, SSD has kicked som serious ass in the mindset world.

    Shrek, thanks for taking the time to write this. My crew used the Mad Minute tonight on an op and we have another one in a few hours. Nice fucking work.

    Hope to see you one of these next trips you take to the ATL. Kick Kramer in the ass next week.

  6. Dalton Fury says:

    With guys like Shrek, leading was easy. And, I do remember that day being one to forget. Won’t forget the good men we lost that day though. RIP.

    • stormin says:

      Yes it was a very long and sad day. If not for people like you and Shrek it would have been even longer.

      • Dalton Fury says:

        Stormin’, I vividly remember looking up and seeing you and the boys running back up the street to solve the problem. I should have been better that day. Next one brother.

  7. Shrek says:

    Stormin and Dalton. What up brothers? All in a days work. We have to take the good with the bad and drive on so we done end up being next. I always think about that day. Although I miss those days and they are on my mind, I could have lived with out a few of those days.

    Thanks everyone for you support.

    Stormin and Dalton I have always leaned heavy on you. Thank you for always being here for me!

    MTF……. Shrek out.

  8. Mohican says:


    I love reading Gunfighter moment words.Those words from real masters, not false prophets as we are used to here, are really worthy and helpful.

    I am very sorry for my ignorance but I haven’t heard before about Dalton Fury. I have needed to use Search fu to know about him. If I am right you are ‘former Delta Force commander, using the pen name “Dalton Fury”, who was present at Tora Bora’ (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dalton_Fury#Fury.27s_account).

    Guys like you is what has made my mind up to be born in the Big States in my next life.

    Thanks you so much for sharing your wisdom.

  9. Flightrisk says:

    I am thankful for the input that you share with us, hoping we never need it, but thankful that you give it. Keep it comin….

  10. Richard says:

    Shrek: Good article, thanks! I don’t know if our mutual friend extended the message about Hunting this year, in his mad scramble to pull his shit together before deployment, but it would be awesome to pull it together again this year. Of course Brian is welcome! Let me know and we will make it happen.


  11. Jeff says:

    Shrek & Dalton, please disregard if the memories are too painful or classified, but would you be willing to share a brief overview of the difficult events of that day?