B5 Systems

Aaron Barruga – Enough Is Enough: A Tactical Training PSA

(Author’s photo circa Afghanistan 2012. The stretcher held a patient fighting for his life after an ambush. The red markings on the floor are his own blood)

I get it, the cargo pant commando training culture of the 90’s and early 2000’s just isn’t compatible with the current generation of tech savvy tactical shooters. Millennials–who aren’t just teenagers and can be adults in their 30’s–are accustomed to a simple message they’ve heard their entire life “mainstream isn’t cool.”

I understand the frustration with legacy Special Operations instructors that are elevated to celebrity status, despite their complete inability to articulate a thought, or present information in a non condescending manner. There is nothing more painful than watching a commando, rich with experience, fumble through talking to a camera to convey a point, or interact on Instagram in the same manner as our grandparents.

This is why audiences gave hope and promise to the mediocre instructor–with no experience–made popular by social media. His neglect of tactical cargo-panted-velcro everything signaled a direct message, he is relatable, he is like me. It is also intoxicating to watch these individuals challenge conventional wisdom. When a mediocre instructor with no credentials whips a sarcastic quip at a career commando, it causes audiences to applaud in uproar of a counterculture instructor that has “beat the system”.

Although this might be clever marketing or culturally punk rock, it is dangerous for the transfer of knowledge. Despite any legacy SOF instructor’s inability to speak in front of a camera, or generate viral social media content, his lessons are hard learned in the real world with real blood and the real loss of brothers and sisters in arms.

What he lacks in social media charisma, he makes up for in battle hardened intestinal fortitude. His scars are both physical and emotional, not “training scars” from shooting at cardboard. So proceed forward shooters, elect your “instructors” because of their cool factor, just don’t expect them to have any answers for you when you pay hard prices in the real world.

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.


76 Responses to “Aaron Barruga – Enough Is Enough: A Tactical Training PSA”

  1. Steak TarTar says:

    Wait, so I shouldn’t be paying attention to Will Petty and Baret Fawbush?

    • Groundpounder says:

      ^ this guy gets it

    • PNWTO says:

      Petty has some merit… Fawbush is a social media whore and little else.

      • James says:

        Isn’t Petty the “vehicle pillars are cover” guy?

      • SSD says:

        No, Petty has zero merit except to demonstrate how far someone will go to sell bullshit. He has made false claims about agencies adopting his methodologies. I have confronted him about this, asking him to provide evidence of his claims. He replied that he was too busy. Let that marinate.

      • Bill says:

        Thank you.

        • James Andrews says:

          My previous agency adopted Will Pettys VCQB program. When I went thru it several federal agencies were going thru it as well. His conforms tactics around ballistics data and proven ballistics in the class you see first hand , instead of a lot of other classes that are putting tactics together hoping the ballistics to vehicle data from years ago matches up.

          • SSD says:

            Great, what agency is that? I don’t think you quite understand what the word adopted means. Attendance doesn’t mean adoption. Adoption means that the entire organization is trained in the TTP and uses it. I also don’t think you understand the term ballistics. Ballistics is a science and science is repeatable.

          • SSD says:

            I’m also curious what date your agency ‘adopted’ VCQB.

    • Banana Joe says:

      Those two aren’t even playing the same sport, much less in the same league. BUT: Great job blatantly disrespecting a decent guy and dedicated LEO (that just wants others to learn valuable info) you obviously know nothing about.

  2. Matt says:

    So, SOF and only SOF should be instructors?

    • tcba_joe says:

      I think it comes down to what and how they’re teaching.

      You don’t need to be SOF to teach shooting, just like you don’t need to be SOF to teach SCUBA. But trying to make it “real-world” tactical, teaching tactics, TTPs doctrine isn’t any of your business.

      • Matt says:

        While I whole heartedly agree against taking training tips from true exodus and other IG famous people, I repsectfully disagree with the idea that is proposed in this PSA. Naturally Aaron will favor SOF being that’s his background, but there’s plenty of LE dudes that instruct solid classes.

    • No, not only SOF, it is just the most salient reference for the piece.

      • jimroman says:

        so we should only be buying salient arms and only going to SOF courses?

        • I almost took the bait, nice job on the word play.

          • Matt Armbruster says:

            I’d be lying if that was the first thing that came to my mind when I read your reply.

          • Groundpounder says:

            I just wanna say that I think you are really right on, I have been following your content lately and really dig what you are saying. As a combat vet myself I get infuriated at the stuff being put out that is just blatantly wrong. Im not saying I’m better or more knowledgeable its just blatant from those who have seen the elephant that there is a massive cool guy echo chamber on social media that only rewards how cool we can look while pulling a trigger but actually fighting for our or loved ones lives. For me if I wanted to be a better competition shooter I would seek out the best competition instructor. The same goes for combat and tactical instructors, there are too many BTDT guys out there now that people shouldn’t risk their lives being trained by tactical timmies. keep up the good work.

            • Thanks brotha. What I think veterans fail to articulate in our frustration are the lessons learned from fear and failure. Real combat is not some illusion of grandeur where you are acknowledged for ego and cool points. It is unpleasant, aches the body and soul, and punishes those who subscribe to erroneous concepts.

              • Groundpounder says:

                Thanks for saying it, and saying it so well. These gents on social media will never understand that there is no shot timer in combat and no one cares your split times when you kill someone. In reality the one thing these guys will never grasp is the ugliness of war, or the thrill and enjoyment of just being able to be alive. That will never make you look on IG, but like I said those who have seen the elephant know the reality. I look forward to seeing more of your stuff and maybe taking a class from you.

                • Bill says:

                  I think the training experience has to bre relevant to the student.
                  As an le guy and trainer and civilian instructor, my emphasis is on training for what they may actually encounter. Patrol rifle use, ccw work, home invasion, car stops, domestic violence active shooter.

                  I would not propose to teach squad tactics, as I would not expect an sof guy to have much experience in dv case or car stops.

                  The shooting basics , techniques can be somewhat equally applied across genres, but specific tactics must first be real world relevant and tested, not just fb timed.

              • Dean Wolfenstein says:

                I can get behind this statement. So much of what I see would not survive first contact in the Kunar province.

  3. quixotal says:

    No, I believe what he is saying is that it’s wise to choose actual experience over theory.

  4. jellydonut says:

    I don’t know what trend this article is about, but from the sound of it I’m glad to be ignorant of it.

    • SSD says:

      The trend of, “I’ll make it up as I go along, experience is overrated.”

      • Yea fake it till you make it is cool for movie stars and Victoria’s Secret models, not lying about how to keep from getting your dome blown off.

      • Jon, OPT says:

        “I took a class” combined with “I’ve heard stories I can’t even tell you” are often times the recipe for the illusion of competence.

  5. Brandon says:

    Enter the need for a good PR person to handle social media interaction, ghost write video training scripts with the trainer, and to market to the target audience the results and viability of the training. Knowledgeable people aren’t always tech-savvy, and that’s okay, but a possible solution is to pair with someone who is, even if they don’t have shooting skills. Of course, this person is another line in the overhead column.

    • Yup, run a business like a business, not a side hustle.

    • Gen Bhazi says:

      Spot on, Brandon. Veterans have their set of skills – which may not include, understandably, marketing and social media outreach. If they combine their own battle-earned experience with that young shooting enthusiast techy, they’ll go places.

  6. Chris says:

    I think the message here is “buyer beware.” There are many instructors out there (not just in the shooting world, but in the medical world or anywhere else where money is to be made) that teach high-speed stuff because it is cool and marketable without having the actual real world experience to back it up.

    I see this a lot with “tactical medical” instructors. Guys will deck themselves out in whatever bad boy gear they want and try to teach guys how to be tactical medics. Problem is their background is one TCCC class they were students in while never having actually utilized any of the skills they are teaching. They are marketing theory as experience.

    Part of the issue I think also is, as mentioned above, the image. Folks tend to gravitate to what makes them comfortable. For some it’s the bad boy counterculture instructor while others look for whoever wears the most multi-cam and uses the most tacticool phrases.

    In the end, simple vetting is the answer. There is much I can learn from a ruck 68W who spent his/her time in combat using the skills of a tactical medic (motrin and water lol) but never has been an 18D. In short, it’s about what you want to take away from a class. Same can be said for shooting. For daily carry/home defense is a well versed retired cop perhaps a better choice than a retired special ops something simply because of applicability? They aren’t mutually exclusive but again, do your homework.

  7. Darkhorse says:

    Last I checked, Rob Leatham doesn’t have any combat experience. That doesn’t mean that Rob can’t teach the salient points of engaging multiple targets very quickly and accurately. What’s at the root of the issue here, is that most recreational shooters are just that. If you like shooting guns and take a class from X instructor, it is just that. You don’t have the luxury of having multiple schools of thought and multiple backgrounds and situations (experience) to draw from.

    I’ve had idiots who’ve attended training by X instructor argue with me about situations they’ve encountered in training scenarios. The idiots I’m referring to are recreational shooters. They aren’t real cops or real mil. So in that regard, who cares what technique they were taught in clearing a hallway. It doesn’t matter because they aren’t a real cop/mil. It’s all pretend.

    Chris Costa may be the greatest shooter ever. He may be able to clearly instruct a group and teach. Could he teach me some things? I’ll bet he could. Do I hate him because he’s not a commando? NO. I’m smart enough and lucky enough to have been instructed by a wide and diverse group of instructors. Some I took away more than others. It’s up to me to apply what they teach to make myself better and apply what’s applicable.

    I agree Aaron, there is a problem. But the real problem is the internet commando wanna be. He doesn’t know any better and in reality, it doesn’t matter what technique he learns because no hostage is awaiting his rescue. Caveat being teaching safe techniques.

    • Matt Armbruster says:

      This, right here.

    • I think you bring up a really good point about attaching to knowledge in an objective manner, not the individual preaching it. Leatham is hardly representative of this issue because he does a fine job teaching marksmanship.

      Internet commandos are the special snowflakes that have gone their entire life receiving participation medals for average performance, and now through social media, curated and tailored content that only aligns with their views. Its no wonder they’re so outspoken when they are pushed out of their comfort zone and forced to think.

      • Darkhorse says:

        Instagram creates a weird dilemma for those who used to be “quiet professionals”… self promote for the sake of business OR rely on word of mouth to help spread the good word? Tough call.

        • PNWTO says:

          Kyle Defoor is a great example of this. Humility and honor. Obviously, 95% of his business is LE/MIL/GOV, but he let’s his reputation do all the talking.

          • My favorite Defoor quote in reference to knives “be careful though, there are more weirdos in the blade industry than there are in the gun industry”

            • Joe says:

              Yep, he knows what’s up. If the instructor is getting his classes filled in 2weeks or less with no advertising that’s a good sign he knows his stuff.

            • Took a class this summer (my first civilian course) Kyle taught – great instruction and a good dude.

              Good quote of his that goes with the theme of the article and comments is “the most dangerous thing I see in training is the success of a lowly or moderately trained individual in a real gunfight…..He may be the only person that got into a gunfight and now everybody listens to that guy.”

    • Geoff says:

      The amount of truth here….staggering.

  8. Jon, OPT says:

    This is systemic in our society at this point, from people on facebook who self appoint themselves as your news and meme source citing newsfeeds of limited subjective credibility (we all know that guy), to the newly qualified crossfit guy who just has to correct your form on deadlifts in the gym. In this industry it is particularly dangerous since the techniques taught are basically on the level of lifesaving in certain applications, like, the difference between cover and concealment, which can get you quite dead, quite fast.

    Does instruction require experience? It does, and that is enhanced with real world application in kinetic environments if possible, the unit is kind of immaterial, but real world experience and application help a lot.

    Latham may not have combat experience, but I wouldn’t have taken a class from him when his personal round count was still under 10,000 or so. Nor would I have valued his opinion much until he put in the hours required to dedicate himself to a craft and hone his skills to something marketable and professional. Unfortunately with social media, anyone can become a sensation overnight, marketing is an art, and people now just as always are willing to latch on to aesthetically well presented media, often times more so than vetted and proven experience. In fact, most knuckledraggers I know aren’t very good at being salesmen, myself included, I hire people to do that.

    I’m pretty sure this is what Aaron is bringing to light, I have never met him, though we know a lot of the same people coming from the same SFG.

    • Social media has definitely created this odd phenomena in which people just want to argue to be heard, not pursue knowledge or even learn how to interpret data.

      • Darkhorse says:

        IG is awesome for what it is. A social media platform. Not a place for professional soldiers to review TTP’s.

        My personal pet peeve is the self promotion. Like, how much good are you doing showing videos of yourself lifting weights then smacking thin air with some cool fight moves?

        Also a pet peeve, the fact that we’ve been at war for how many years now… yet the wanna be mall ninjas couldn’t find a way to sign up to be legit. They’d rather play pretend and dress up on IG.

    • Joe says:

      Leatham has experience winning championships at the highest level of his sport. That’s where he gets his credibility from. This is in direct contrast to those who seek credibility through carefully edited videos of their pipecleaner arms slaying rubber dummies…Don’t have to be a commando but need to have some kind of experience and accomplishments that matter.

      • Jon, OPT says:

        My point exactly. But even he started somewhere, and it was a long time before he, or a former operational type, was worthy of dispensing knowledge to the consuming public.

  9. TacticoolOperator says:

    Was I the only one who instantly thought of “Vigilant Spectre Operations” when I read this post?

  10. Rjf98 says:

    I think, in a small way, as demonstrated by a couple of the comments in reply, you demonstrated why many with tactical experience end up not getting the nod. For what it’s worth,I tend to give instructors with combat experience the benefit of the doubt. At the same time, as someone who’s been carrying a gun for a bit of time, has been in a couple of two way ranges, and has professional experience as an instructor; many times those three things aren’t exclusive traits that always come in the same package. Using hot button words, terms, or even apparel (as you rightfully noted) can be turnoffs to the very people you, as an instructor, just want to help. There are many who’s skill I can never hope to attain that shouldn’t be teaching, and many without my experiences from which I can learn. Buyer beware indeed.

  11. Michael G says:

    Really picking up what you’re putting down brother. Keep up the good work!

      • Michael G says:

        As a “legacy Special Operations instructor” who would probably “fumble through talking to a camera to convey a point, or interact on Instagram in the same manner as our grandparents” I appreciate your ability to articulate a thought, and present information. 😉
        I am truly impressed with the SF guys of today!

  12. SGT Rock says:

    “Never replace experience with enthusiasm.” – A quote I learned from an older Soldier when I was just a “snuffy” new to the Infantry life.

  13. Jules says:

    I thought at first Aaron might have been referencing this.


    In the comment sections, the peanut gallery tries to make fun of Robert Keller, a fellow Panteao instructor, for his speech pattern and delivery.

    (The lesson here is never read the Youtube comments. I knew that, but I broke my own rule. SMH)


    • John Smith says:

      The comments- faith in humanity…lost.

    • Not about Kellar, he is good to go.

      • Jules says:

        Oh right. I knew you weren’t slagging him.

        But when you wrote “Despite any legacy SOF instructor’s inability to speak in front of a camera, or generate viral social media content, his lessons are hard learned in the real world with real blood and the real loss of brothers and sisters in arms”…you could have been directly addressing the YT commenters. Those posters had no idea who Keller was (meaning they never bothered to google him) but yet were dismissive because he didn’t have a flashy or polished delivery.

  14. John Smith says:

    While I agree that going to a reliable source for training is a good idea- I’ve seen some SOF shooters that were just terrible (and not just in terms of their ability to translate complexities into words.) These people have entered a place where what they have done matters a great deal less than what they can do right now: The Market. From the looks of things, most of the Arc’teryx clad customers are looking for an experience not just training- this is how some of the carnival barkers mentioned above get by. So, if the steely eyed pipe hitter doesn’t provide that….they will go to War-Mart….or something Yeagerish.
    This is an early lesson- exploit the terrain that you are in, not the terrain that you WANT to be in.

    The hard won TTP’s that originated in real world SOP’s will fully permeate eventually and people that instruct (and shoot) better will take up the mantle, regardless of their experience.

    It is difficult to see shit that you developed with spilled blood being handled by people that haven’t.

    This is how it works. Particularly post- DD 214.

  15. CWG says:

    LEO only trainers had their place, as for a period of time the guys in LA/NYC/CHI were learning more adapt or die lessons as organizations than the services were – while still being able to impart those lessons to the civilian shootering communities.

    After 15+ years of constant warfare around the world, it is rediculous to continue pretending that guys outside of the milSOF community are on the front end of refining lessons learned and applying them to the fundamentals.

    Learn from the guys who have won lots of gunfights with their fundamentals.

    Anyone else is simply selling an untested hypothesis.

    • Jules says:

      How do you reconcile what you are saying with the fact that some of the most popular former SOF instructors haven’t been in constant warfare for the last 15 years. Some even were out before GWOT kicked off. Others got out 10 years ago and have missed the developments in the last 10 years.

  16. SG says:

    Aaron, thanks for taking the time to have a dialogue with the comments section.

  17. PJ says:

    One nice thing about the internet is that it’s made it easier to learn about instructors’ backgrounds and teaching ability. That makes it more disheartening when people don’t take the extra 2 minutes to figure out if some guy they saw advertising his school on YouTube is legit or not

    I’d also echo some of the comments above that teaching ability is something not to lose sight of. There are plenty of very skilled people who are poor teachers. You can put yourself in danger learning wrong ideas that were well presented. But you’ve thrown money away if you learned nothing from a class with a very knowledgable expert who lacked the teaching ability to convey any of that knowledge in a way you understand.

  18. Justin Camron says:

    I am a civilian on a civilian budget. I don’t have $500 to drop on a class by SOF instructor. I have taken a couple classes from SWAT Sniper/SWAT operators that have done a fine job of articulating their LEO training for the civilian person. Yes I get decked out in my Crye JPC Plate Carrier and VTAC Brokos belt, when else would I get to train this way? I did a vehicle tactics class a few weeks ago where we started in a vehicle with out CCW rig and then transitioned to the rifle as we exited the vehicle and fought to cover. Not sure why we wouldn’t have just hit the gas and gotten the hell out of there, maybe the vehicle was disabled. My point is, training for what you’re likely to encounter and being trained by someone who is likely to know those encounters is important. To dismiss Costa, Petty, Panone, or Haley, or Seeklander, or Miller because they haven’t seen real world combat experience in some time, or ever, is near sighted. I think what’s important is getting the good guys training and letting them experience shooting under stress and making hits; working out their gear and their shitty walmart guns and realizing there’s a reason certain guns and gear is preferred, because it works. The more good guys with guns that have any training at all the better. Don’t shit on the community as a whole. Figure out where they’re lacking and work to fix it.

    • SSD says:

      You do realize that many of the men you referenced have actually seen combat. Learning combat tactics from a guy who has not seen combat, when trainers are readily available, who have, is like learning to play football from a guy who has only played Madden on the Xbox.

    • It is never near sighted to dismiss someone who has never seen combat, yet purports his methods for having done so.

  19. Keyser Soze says:

    SOF doesn’t always equal great instructor. My experiences have been mostly positive. But it isn’t a given.
    Non-SOF doesn’t always mean not qualified to be a good instructor.
    I think most would see the truth in this.
    I have taken a week long course from a dude that was in the most elite unit in DoD. He was simply awful as an instructor. He certainly had the capability, the recency, and the knowledge. His attitude sucked, he was kind of a dick, and was not that fun to be around.
    Randy Cain went to college to be a music teacher, started shooting for fun, then became a cop. He is one of the finest handgun instructors I have trained with.

    I will say, I personally seek out SOF guys because they have received the best training from those that have come before them and the finest civilian instructors that you can find. It is tested at the highest stress levels (read combat) the world can offer. Does this mean that a SOF solution is the answer for every situation. Probably not, but I have always learned something valuable from a SOF guy.

    Now, what I really want to say. Anyone that is teaching to use a pillar of a car as “cover.” Is wrong. I keep hearing about data and vetted this and that. This is 100% incorrect and unsafe for anyone that is accepting it. I have shot a lot of vehicles. It is pretty close to 100% rate of penetration of a pillar. That is with an SBR that is ballistically inferior. 9mm rounds can punch right threw them as well.

    This has nothing to do with tactics in and around vehicles. There is definitely some stuff that is being put out that I disagree with…so be it, there are tons of poor tactics that are debating endlessly. The points of cover that are being put out in and around vehicles is a extremely dangerous fad.

    • NiceGuy11b says:

      Lol complaining that your “elite SOF” instructor wasn’t nice? Did you ever think it’s because he to deal with dildos like you all day? His job isn’t to be nice and coddle you. It’s to make you better.
      The irony of cops teaching counter ambush protocols is hilarious, seeing that they’ve likely never been ambushed before and it’s all conjecture.

      The guys on Instagram that particularly cracks me up are that realworld tactical guy who think steroid abuse makes him qualified to teach counter vehicle ambush classes with bodybuilders, and that t rex arms guy who looks like a starving Ethiopian child and gives endless advice about all things tactical. Both need to chug bleach.