Hidden Training Dangers: Peer Pressure and Blind Obedience

Dennis Kennedy runs the Counter Terrorism Institute of America (video above). According to the company’s combat-terror.com website, David’s “served in the military as an Army Special Forces weapons NCO, Military Police SRT Instructor and Air Force Security Forces SRT Leader. As a Peace Officer, he worked in Utah and California depts. where he served in patrol, jail, vice, warrants and K9. He is a Utah POST certified Instructor as well as certified NRA Law Enforcement Patrol Rifle Instructor. He is also certified as an Instructor in Taser, OC, Defensive Tactics, Impact weapons and PPCT and Explosive Detection Dog Handler.” Awesome. Here’s my problem . . .

Live fire training is an inherently dangerous business, what with bullets whizzing about and all. The more variables you introduce into that training—additional people of various skill levels, difficulty in visual or spoken communication, rough terrain, limited visibility, physical discomfort, etc.—the more dangerous it becomes.

With that in mind, there is no ‘effing way I’d participate in the session shown above. The trainer could be the reincarnation of General George S. Patton. My classmates could be the Navy SEALS who took out Osama Bin Laden. It wouldn’t make any difference. I simply wouldn’t take that risk. I’d walk away. Fast.

But then that’s me. Plenty of new and even advanced shooters do exactly as they’re told in training situations, no questions asked, no matter what. They surrender their safety to their instructor both out of reverence and fear of looking like a pussy.

That’s understandable if you’re in the armed forces, where your life and livelihood depend on your ability to submit to authority and get along with your mates. It can be genuinely life-threatening if you’re not.

In a winter exercise like this, a fellow shooter could slip, fall and shoot you dead. You could slip, fall and shoot yourself dead. In another training class, well, anything.

There are only three possible relationships between humans: lead, follow or get out of the way. As a civilian taking firearms training never forget the last option. If you see something you consider unsafe, say something. If the trainer rips you a new you-know-what for daring to question his or her authority, walk. If they fail to correct the problem, walk.

You don’t have to sign a liability waiver to know your safety is your responsibility. Remain skeptical about any live fire exercise and remember to take that responsibility with deadly self-aware seriousness. Your life depends on it.

comments

  1. avatar Woody says:

    Was it the snowy weather, the “follow me” clip (in the snow), or something else that turned you off?

  2. avatar Leo338 says:

    I’m with you, I would not participate either. To those that do, I wish you the best of luck. I hope no one gets injured, that would be more ammo for the grabbers to use against us.

  3. avatar Jay W. says:

    Yep – Looks like an accident waiting to happen. Thanks for the reminder.

  4. avatar Skyler says:

    I’m flummoxed.

    What do you see that is so dangerous? The range looks well run, I don’t see any safety issues. Are you telling me that you live in New England and you’re afraid to train in the snow?

    The time to learn how to deal with shooting in the snow is not when your life is in jeopardy.

    1. avatar Howdy says:

      Based on the minute or so of footage, would you be comfortable with the safety of your spouse or children with those and the conditions you see in the excerpt?

      1. avatar Skyler says:

        Sure. Why not?

      2. avatar Buuurr says:

        Based on a minute or so of footage, no. Based on if I was putting in range time with these guys or knew who they actually were and maybe knew their skill level (former marines, army, vets?) I would make my decision.

        Fact is few on here know this group or their skill level and seeing some guys shooting in the snow has created a knee-jerk reaction.

  5. avatar cmdrlimpet says:

    Sometimes Utah won’t give you a better weekend 😉

  6. avatar Michael F. says:

    I don’t see what’s dangerous. Last I knew, snow flakes were pretty mellow.

  7. avatar Accur81 says:

    Looks like fun to me – and I’d rather die doing something fun than something boring. I’ve done similar things during arctic combat training – only with a little more dispersion and full auto. I haven’t died, and I don’t have any additional holes.

    1. avatar AlphaGeek says:

      Ditto. I didn’t see any safety violations, and in particular, all of those cold warriors (heh) kept their muzzles pointed down range as they transitioned between shooting postures.

      1. avatar Howdy says:

        First, this is a civilian training class full of people who you don’t know and who you’ll never see after this class is over. You don’t know the level of competency or proficiency of any of the attendees much less, the same given inclement weather the day of training.

        There are no prerequisites for attendance to ensure your safety. The only qualification is your ability to pay. How many times have you seen people who claim to have been around guns all their lives that still don’t have proper muzzle control? How many times have you seen people who can’t follow clear and simple range instructions? Walking and chewing gum at the same time?

        Just based on the minute or so worth of footage, would you advise a proficient loved one to attend this course? Many of you said you saw nothing wrong with it. Look harder.
        If you’re going to take a class like this, why not wait a little longer and go for private or personal instruction?

        Having said all that, if this is your cup of tea, have fun and good luck.

        1. avatar Jim Barrett says:

          Well, we are all making a lot of judgements about the class based on a minute or so of footage. We are assuming that all of the participants are of varying levels, etc. What we don’t know is how long the course is, what sort of experience the participants have, where in the course these particular clips take place, and what (if any) evaluation was used by the instructor to determine if the students are ready for this or not.

          I’ve taken more than my share of civilian level courses over the past couple of years and I can tell you that in all of the ones I’ve attended, the instructors followed the crawl-walk-run method ensuring that everyone was able to meet the criteria of each step before moving to the next. Also, some of the classes I’ve taken have prerequisite classes that must be completed prior to taking the advanced ones.

          Granted, if this video is a bunch of folks who strolled up one day and started doing this in the first few hours of the course, I’m getting the hell out of there. But, if these guys have been pre-qualified before undertaking the harder stuff, then I don’t see a problem.

          After all, most people only have square ranges and training classes such as this to practice their technique. I sure as hell would not want my first experience of fighting in inclement weather to be when the SHTF.

        2. avatar khadga says:

          Look harder at what? Can you specify where you see something unacceptable?

          Do you know that he doesn’t screen his students and run a safe class or are you assuming that and why?

          I certainly wouldn’t want to train with an instructor who didn’t put safety first, but I don’t see any evidence of that.

          Weapons training is inherently dangerous. Sure you reduce the chance of an accident by reducing the number of people in a class, but a good instructor can safely train multiple students, especially if the curriculum and student skill level is properly matched.

          One on one training with a top tier instructor is prohibitively expensive for most folks.

          If I lived in Utah, I’d make training in that weather routine, and I’d definitely make that Sonny Puzikas class on their schedule. It’s in June, but that’s a guy I’d trust to run a winter weather class without hesitation.

      2. avatar Ropingdown says:

        ..and the safety’s on the whole time they’re moving. Personally I’d bring along my mini-crampons to gain an edge. And I do wish we had snow here this winter to train in. But no.

  8. avatar Larry says:

    Ummm not sure what you dont like? I expected them to be doing live fire tactical retreat exercises or something….shooting past each other.

    You can slip and fall and point you weapon in any class….snow or no snow.

    1. avatar In Box 485 says:

      Really!?! Saying that every post RF has put up in the last several days is a steaming pile of crap is a flame now? I just want a way to get legitimate TTAG posts without getting distracted by RF’s consistent nonsense. Every post is misleading, cherry picked garbage. If pointing this out is a “flame” then whatever. Enjoy the company of 13 year olds because that is all that will stick around at this rate.

  9. avatar ChuckN says:

    I have no problem training/practicing in adverse weather. For me, it
    would depend entirely on how the course was run and who was there.

  10. avatar Joke & Dagger says:

    I don’t trust 5 other people shooting next to me in ideal conditions. No thanks.

    1. avatar William says:

      Then when it’s time to fight, you’ll be fighting alone. Doesn’t matter so much whether you like it or not. No one will have your back, which is fine with me.

      1. avatar Howdy says:

        Isn’t it most likely that you’ll be alone or the only one armed when you’ll need to use your firearm? Or are you planning on only being attacked when you’re in a group of similarly armed and trained people that will react to a situation in a manner predictable to each other?

      2. avatar Joke & Dagger says:

        Jesus William, we are talking about 5 other random guys at a course or gun range. Also, my self worth today does not involve whether you care about my opinion or not.

        1. avatar Ropingdown says:

          At least you got the two names together…

    2. avatar Jim Barrett says:

      J&D – I hear what you are saying, but unless you have the scratch for private classes, you are kind of stuck with other players if you want to take courses.

      You could always do what one guy in one of my classes did – wear his bulletproof vest. He took it off a short way into the class, but it got me thinking – not such a bad idea. After all, if nothing else, you get experience moving and shooting while wearing the vest which is probably good to have. If you want to go all the way, you could don rifle plates – you’ll get a hell of a nice cardio workout to boot lugging an extra 15 to 20 pounds with you.

  11. avatar j says:

    Training in cold weather, even snow covered conditions makes sense. I taught cold weather mountain warfare to include live fire exercises for years. Unfortunately we cannot choose the threat(s) we will face or the environmental conditions in which they will present themselves. If the RSO is a loose cannon or the range generally unsafe then it behooves the students to speak up. Other than that, deal with it or don’t waste the money or the trainer/student’s time.

  12. avatar SeaCreature says:

    I respect the point of the article – we should all make our own decisions about potentially risky activity. However in this video I saw people training in adverse weather conditions. Although the weather looked atrocious, I didn’t see any shooting drills that looked particularly hazardous.

  13. avatar CJ says:

    I think I hear what you’re saying Robert.

    I remember when 20 years ago I was shooting an IPSC round in an indoor range. I was blazing fast, best time ever and dead on the money. I turned to the RO expecting to see a nod of approval and noticed he was white as a sheet. After he composed himself he explained (kind of like how a Drill Sargent “explains”) that I had listened to the instructions incorrectly. Correct number of rounds but not as ordered. He was expecting one thing and I gave him another. That was enough to make his hairs stand up. From his prospective I was out of control. Throw in the variables above and I can see how things may not go as planned. So in reality it was my worst score ever. I learned a lot that day.

    1. avatar William says:

      Yes. Things must always go as planned. I learned that on Balchane 5.

  14. avatar Russ Bixby says:

    Thanks for the reminder; that point cannot be overly emphasized.

    By the way, it’s eff’ing, not ‘effing. >;{>

  15. avatar fcp503 says:

    I don’t see your objection to the class in the video. It looks fine to me.

    1. avatar Buuurr says:

      Fear.

  16. avatar Tommy Knocker says:

    Well at least the guys in the video had their holosights on correctly. Today I ran across this article from no less a Brit paper, pointing out a SWAT team member with the holosight on backwards in a real shootout…I guess the really cool guys do it that way. Reminds me of that story a while back of the officer with the magazine reversed in the AR.

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2294225/SWAT-officer-attracts-ridicule-s-pictured-rifle-sight-backwards.html

    1. avatar khadga says:

      Wow, I hadn’t seen that. I never knew the S in SWAT was for Special Ed.

  17. avatar ensitu says:

    I have seen civilians, non-paid-to-shoot-shooters as well as ‘Mil-Spec’ types get so goal oriented that they actually endangered their entire Team, exposing them to FF for a goal that would not have made the last page in the local paper if that paper did not have an obit. column.
    I am talking ordering 3 men in a unit to open fire in an L-shaped ambush, at night, after the “Leader” has lost radio contact with 3/4 of his team all in an effort to nab some petty thieves.
    My uncle’s unit was FamFiring 9mm SMGs lined-up on the firing line when the next man down froze as his gun went FA, the man turned towards his NCO killing him instantly. If the NCO had been standing by my uncle,,,,
    I have witnessed similar incidents with handguns. I do NOT trust anyone with my safety except myself. Especially the HooRaa wanna bees playing Soldier.

  18. avatar Ray says:

    Well, the first thing I want to know is “who are the trainees?”. Are they LEO’s or private security? Or just your average guy that wants to learn advanced tactics? We all know the old adage “Train like you fight, fight like you train”. If these are just random people, who want to prepare for a possible encounter in their daily lives, then the danger I see is that the training does NOT reflect what would happen in sudden contact scenario and what a shooter should do in that circumstance. Doing live fire drills in inclement weather can be a good confidence builder and I didn’t see any glaring safety violations, but the danger level is always increased when you step away from the firing line of a controlled gun range. So, the author has a valid point. It is up to each individual to make the decision to participate or not.

  19. avatar Brad says:

    There wasnt anything too dynamic that I would call out honestly. Everyone has to decide what is ok for them. That just didnt seem that crazy…

  20. avatar Ando says:

    This is also why you shouldn’t train if it is muddy, or raining, or if the ground is too dusty, of if it is too windy out, or if there are spent casings on the ground, or if the sun is too bright, or if it dark, or if there are scary loud noises close by, or if someone is yelling at you, or if you are nervous, or hungry or tired.

    Is the sarcasm obvious yet?

    The safety rules must always be vigilantly enforced. Someone will always trip and fall no matter how perfect the conditions. The idea that there are times when the safety rules are more important is the kind of lazy thinking that causes accidents. If it takes some snow on the ground to make you think
    “I really need to be careful about my finger on the trigger”
    then you need a complete reassessment of your safety plan.

    1. avatar Buuurr says:

      hah! I’m with you, Ando. What you said about the shell casings brought a memory back.

      Me and a friend used to attend a local range that was questionable to us. They had a policy where the shooter was not to pick up spent casings or toss or move them in any way for fear of tripping other shooters.

      Now, imagine a former marine with a Mossberg 500 firing slugs downrange. Now, imagine a range worker walking up behind him unannounced as he racks, takes aim and is tripped by the worker with a large push broom trying to clear casings from around him.

      Last trip there let me tell you.

  21. avatar Anon in CT says:

    The other reason that folks in the military will undertake riskier training is because it is worth it. Yes, you might suffer a casualty 1 out of every 10,000 times, but if you are training on a vital technique prior to taking a unit to war, it might be worth it.

  22. avatar Gideon says:

    I am an NRA instructor and have participated in many classes both as instructor and student. I did not see anything dangerous that would cause me to walk away from that class. Is it because it is snowing? You must train under a variety of conditions to be proficient with your firearm. This clearly is not a beginning class, every advanced class I have ever participated in required proof of prior training in order to participate. It is up to the instructor and other students to call out any unsafe behavior and correct it immediately.

  23. avatar Ralph says:

    It didn’t look any more dangerous than a Saturday night in Chicago.

  24. avatar Dave says:

    I have to join the bandwagon and agree that I don’t see much wrong this video. This video out of context might seem like a bad idea, but what didn’t we see. Maybe they had a very in-depth safety briefing and dry runs before going hot with live ammo. Why are “we” picking on each other. The liberal left is doing a pretty good job all on its own.

    I am highly skeptical of the instructors resume and certifications. I served as a Security Forces member for 9 1/2 years. Although there are many “elite” schools you can be sent to the honest truth is that there are basically zero requirements to join; it’s nothing like being Green Beret or Navy SEAL. Almost anyone can enlist in the Air Force to be in Security Forces. In fact, many people who wash out of other Tech Schools become Security Forces; basically the antithesis of elite. I don’t understand how some goes from being a Green Beret to a Security Forces member.

  25. avatar In Box 485 says:

    This must have been what made Robert piss himself:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eyoKRo3mA4M

    I mean, that guy could have slipped right before shooting the chicken and hit one of the students…

  26. avatar LTC F says:

    Since I get paid to do that kind of stuff I guess I didn’t see the big deal, then again I get paid to do that stuff with guys I trust.

    It’s funny how we’ve progressed in the Army. When I was a young Captain in Korea in the early 90’s I got my butt chewed for letting guys walk and shoot at the same time, today I put tankers in a shoot house.

  27. avatar John Bergmann says:

    Last simulated CQB course I took in the military- a barrel pointed northward got me dressed down like a marine recruit. Muzzles down boys, then that fall and shoot goes into the dirt.

  28. avatar blehtastic says:

    You can’t train if you’re not willing to train.

  29. avatar ihatetrees says:

    When it comes to shooting with others, especially strangers, there are fine lines between safe, stupid, and dangerous. That said, we all die of something. Be aware of the risks and choose your comfort level.

    I’m sympathetic to RF’s point here. Unless I knew those I was shooting with, I’d be uncomfortable with activities shown in this video. Of course, when highway driving in light traffic conditions, I try to avoid getting within 100 yards of any other vehicles – especially near on/off ramps. People do unpredictable and dumb things with both cars and firearms.

    Maybe I’m a little nuts – let me know.

  30. avatar Henry Bowman says:

    Most people who take courses like this are not first-time chumps with no experience or know how. I’ve seen plenty of guys slip and fall during training, and they all sacrificed their bodies in order to maintain muzzle discipline. If you’re too worried to train hard, you’ll never get better.

  31. avatar Carlos U. says:

    The Utah Guard (Army/Air Force) has AF Security, Army MP’s and the 19th Special Forces Group. It looks like the gent did a tour trough all of them. If he is a Weapons NCO then he is a “tabbed” Green Beret, meaning he went trough SF selection and training and is thus a fully qualified Green Beret. Those guys have done quite a few tours too, they were one of the first Groups to go to Afghanistan and many places since.

  32. avatar bontai Joe says:

    I watched this without sound at work. I really didn’t see anything super dangerous other than the running in single file in slippery conditions. I am ASSUMING that the rifles are empty and cleared prior to the running portion and reloaded at the next stage of the class. Frankly I am not a big fan of shooting targets that close because I have had wood splinters come back at me. If you need a class to hit something at 5 to 7 yards, then maybe shooting isn’t going to be fun for you, but that is just my 2 cent opinion.

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