After being shot 13 times, Jennifer Fulford from the Orange County Sheriff’s Office in Orlando, Fla., earns the medal of valor for her courageous efforts during a gunfight. She credits her department’s comprehensive, reality-based training with saving her life. Photo courtesy White House/David Bohrer
FEATURED IN TRAINING
Much of what is written and taught in the training realm these days addresses the issue of physical encounters. Reality-based training, for the most part, focuses on teaching participants how to handle physically aggressive individuals. While such skills are essential in an increasingly violent world, winning the physical battle is only a small part of the overall preparation to win the war.
Abraham Maslow, an early behavioral psychologist, listed his ideas on human needs in a matrix, which has become widely known as Maslow s Hierarchy of Needs. The matrix illustrates how humans satisfy the first level of needs before seeking fulfillment in other levels. Maslow s Hierarchy consists of the following levels of needs:
- Physiological: air, water, food, shelter and sex;
- Safety: protection from physical, psychological and emotional harm;
- Social: professional and personal acceptance;
- Esteem: job and life enjoyment; and
- Actualization: job and life improvement, including personal, professional and spiritual growth.
However, there are some exceptions to Maslow s matrix. Example: Military and public safety personnel are similar to other human beings in that they too must follow physiological and psychological urges in search of fulfilling personal needs. In contrast to Maslow s matrix, however, these individuals often place themselves in harm s way to effectively perform their jobs; rather than seeking safety, they put it aside in favor of creating security for others. In addition, social pressures (and some ill-informed administrators whose personal agendas seem completely out of whack) can impact, often adversely, the higher levels of Maslow s Hierarchy.
Jobs in the public safety arena certainly take a toll on an unprepared individual. Unfortunately, however, the training community isn t doing much to address training needs beyond physical skills. Is it any wonder statistics show four times as many law enforcement officers commit suicide than those who die as a result of job-related hazards?
And beyond the number of those who commit suicide, how many more are broken but still semi-functional? Clearly, there s a problem. Yet most of the attention given to self-destruction emerges long after the damage is done, and training only for physical encounters is relatively worthless in these areas.
Seven Steps for Success
Visionaries such as Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, Dr. Bill Lewinski, Dr. Kevin Gilmartin and Dr. Alexis Artwohl write and teach about preparation in areas beyond physical encounters with some success, but the training trends still focus on hitting and shooting with little regard to the ultimate consequences. Preparation must be in areas beyond the physical, as illustrated in a concept I call the Seven Survivals of successful training:
- Social; and
Example: Police officers might find themselves in a life-or-death encounter and win the physical battle, but are later shunned by the community and their own agency, or lose their possessions in a lawsuit. Sure, they won the battle, but they ultimately lost the war. Others may face a similar situation and take a life, but then discover their belief system is incongruent with taking human life. As a result, they suffer emotional scarring and lose their faith. Sex-crimes officers can end up emotionally scarred from constant exposure to the horrors perpetrated by humans on other humans.
Successful training within the emergency-response field requires much more than preparation for the physical tasks. Ongoing training in these industries must address the total person the Seven Survivals if it s to be truly effective. Otherwise, we may end up with what Grossman calls one-shot, disposable police officers. Reality-based training, in my mind, is the hub from which the spokes of any type of education emerges.
In his excellent book, On Combat, Grossman discusses the process of stress inoculation. He refers to an experiment in which mice were subjected to stress by being held upside down for different amounts of times, then placed in water to swim. Mice that were simply put in the water without stress inoculation drowned very quickly in comparison to those that received the training. The experiment showed appropriate amounts of stress induction provided an immunizing effect to other types of stress. Such thinking, however, has to be tempered by science, lest well-intentioned trainers decide they ll simply stress the crap out of their students with the intention of providing some measure of inoculation.
There s potential for abuse when using stress models in a learning environment. Studies show that in order for stressors to provide an inoculating effect, they must be somewhat specific to the environment to which the inoculation is desired, a concept included in state-dependent learning. This means inducing stress for the sake of inducing stress might actually be counter-productive.
Hazing often has this demoralizing effect and may program people for future failure. Those who use some sort of stress inoculation on their students must be highly trained and understand the potential for danger, otherwise they may create a ticking time bomb. Inappropriate stress induction can cause generalized anxiety disorder and create someone who will avoid risk altogether, or have a panic attack when faced with a real-life crisis.
Example: Projectile-based training introduces some amazing inoculation in gunfighting. But trainers who ve received substantial training in this area and understand that participants must always emerge as winners have to facilitate these exercises.
This isn t to say that it s a giveaway it s just the opposite. Participants must succeed either by superior tactics or through sheer perseverance. But they must win. This helps program them for success under horrific conditions. We have countless examples of those who have been involved in extremely difficult situations and persevered despite being shot repeatedly.
Take the case of Jennifer Fulford from the Orange County Sheriff s Office in Orlando, Fla.: She was shot 13 times by two perpetrators at close range inside a residential garage. She continued to brawl, at one point performing a single-handed, off-hand reload in order to finish the fight. She credits the realistic training she received from her department with the skills and tenacity needed to win that encounter. On the flip side, countless stories exist of those who were trained to stop fighting after being shot with a simulated bullet and ultimately lay down to die after relatively minor wounds. Shameful.
Last month, I wrote about the 10-Minute Warrior concept. Training for the Seven Survivals works well when utilizing this process. Simple exercises and moments of enlightenment in the seven core areas for as little as 10 minutes each day have a cumulative effect. Although many of these exercises can and should revolve around some of the simple physical skills necessary to intervene in dangerous situations, many more should focus on the remaining six areas of the Seven Survivals.
Simple math tells us 10 minutes every day amounts to more than 60 hours each year. The exercises need not (and in fact, must not) be complex, but we must evolve beyond simply training in preparation for a physical encounter. And for those who say there isn t enough time, I say we haven t got the time not to do it we can build invincible guardians of society when they re young, or try to fix them when they re older. The smart money is on Plan A.
Until next time, train hard and train safe.
- On Killing and On Combat by Lt. Col. Dave Grossman
- Deadly Force Encounters by Dr. Alexis Artwohl
- Emotional Survival for Law Enforcement by Dr. Kevin Gilmartin
- Into the Kill Zone by Dr. Dave Klinger
- Newsletters at www.forcescience.com by Dr. Bill Lewinski