Training can be Fatal

Officer Running w Gun

In security, training is not the same thing as conditioning, and in the event of a violent attack - the difference can result in lost lives.

In the case of Uvalde, multiple agencies responded to include 149 Border Patrol officers, 91 State Police, 25 local Uvalde police, 16 Sheriffs plus U.S. Marshals, members of the DEA and the 5 school police officers - all on site. Yet, as we know, it took well over an hour before the shooter was confronted. Why?  Afterall, surely the majority of these officers had some level of training in active shooter response.

Training takes many forms. For armed officers, tactical training can include learning how to hold a gun, shooting techniques, how to open a door, clear a room, shoot while running and how to position in the face of an attacker.

Conditioning, on the other hand, is when an attitude about confronting threat has been so ingrained that reaction to threat is automatic and unthinking.

Those who have been in the military forces are familiar with conditioning where the goal is to instill discipline, teach a sense of personal responsibility to one’s team and to the mission and, create a fighter’s mindset – no hesitation, no doubts, you just go.

Chameleon consultants spend a fair amount of time talking to and training security officers in the field. When asked what they would do when they hear shots fired - that awful pop-pop-pop - nine times out of ten, the officer’s answer is “first, I’ll call 911.” This is the typical answer whether the security officer is armed or unarmed. We point out that there are plenty of other people in the immediate vicinity who will be pulling out their phones to dial 911. That should not be the first move certainly of an armed security officer in the seconds an attack is unfolding. The officer may have been trained in very useful skills, but they have not been conditioned.

When an attack occurs and law enforcement is notified, the police will move quickly yet will need at least minutes to prepare while they speed to the attack location. But for those individuals local to the attack, preparation time is measured in nano seconds.

Some compare preparing to respond to a violent, active attack to a sports scenario where athletes train and practice for the big game. But the difference is that an athlete is psyching up for a game that is scheduled for Sunday at 2PM. This is very different to an officer sitting eating a tuna sandwich who suddenly hears shots fired. There is no time to psyche up and mentally prepare. That psyching up needs to have already happened. Someone who is conditioned has already recognized the mission, accepted the responsibility, and has affirmed for themselves, their colleagues and those they are meant to protect that they are ready at any moment.

The mass shooting that took place at the Old National Bank in Louisville, KY shows how it should be done. Police officers were on site within 3 minutes; the gunman was killed 6 minutes later. Five bank employees were killed and eight injured including 2 police officers. Officer Nickolas Wilt, who ran towards the AR-15 rifle fire and was lauded for saving countless lives, was brought to the hospital in critical condition.

The job of a police or security officer is not for everyone. And for anyone with a shred of doubt about putting themselves on the line without hesitation, it is not a proper fit. No judgment - it's a very tough assignment.

Unfortunately, the only real test of an individual’s ability to react is in a real situation. It can’t easily be simulated. There are instances when an individual does great in a simulated training scenario but not great in a real-life situation.

When something bad goes down, there are three possible reactions:

(1) running towards the threat.

(2) Freezing in place.

(3) Running away from the threat.

In the single fighter approach, reactions numbers 2 and 3 are not relevant because these assume that other people will take responsibility and act, that others will step up to do the fighting. When a security officer assumes that Single Fighter attitude, they act as though they are the only person available to respond. It is entirely up to them and no one else to respond to a threat and stop an attack.

Ways to try to create conditioning include:

  • Drive in the belief of acting for a mission greater than self.
  • Repetition of training so that upon hearing cue (command or gun shots) – muscle memory driven by emotion kicks in.
  • Add emotion, stress, confusion, chaos to drills wherever possible.

Note that pay really doesn’t factor into the fighting attitude. Whether or not an individual fights has little to do with money. Certainly pay is not in the mental calculation of a soldier entering a firefight.  Take this scenario: a suicide bomber has been identified standing amongst dozens of innocent people at a train station. A security officer who is not up to running at the terrorist will not do it for one dollar, and not for a million dollars.

True, for security officers, pay is an important aspect of job retention. But the employer is paying for every second that officer is on post, not for the seconds when they would be running towards danger and an active shooter.

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