What Are You Training For?
I posed this question to one of the USCG Counter-Narcotics teams that I had been training for about four years at the time. Like most units, the level of commitment given to training seemed to wax and wane depending on the leadership (or lack-there-of in this case), and unfortunately, they were on a steep downswing due to someone who's never shot a gun before being in charge of training. As an instructor, it’s pretty easy to tell, not just by how they do during evaluations, but also how they act or even talk before training begins.
In a unit dedicated to training, I hear talk about increasing their tactical advantage or looking for more opportunities to hone their skills. In a unit like PACTACLET, plagued by the disease of mediocrity, talk seems to center around the testing itself or how long we’ll be training. Why is someone asking me how many 'negative marks' they can get during their tactical evaluation? To a true warrior, someone dedicated to training, the answer is simple — Zero. That’s how many times you can turn your back to a guy with a gun in combat and live to tell the tale.
Once you put your sights on the bottom of what’s acceptable, you’ve found your range. Sometimes you’ll be just above (Yes, I barely passed!) and other times just below (I thought I could die four times and still pass? — Chris is mean - That clipboard scared me!).
Over the past few years, I’ve talked a lot about the technical aspects of combat training, but have you ever thought to ask yourself why you’re training? If it’s just to put holes in paper targets on a sunny day, then you’ll do fine. Read my lessons on marksmanship and any paper target that comes your way is going down! But if you ever need to defend your loved ones or your job is protecting our country, you need to look deeper. If you're in the military or law enforcement, you need to understand that,"minimum standards" set by those in charge can often lead to your death.
Next time your training officer tells you it's OK to just "meet the minimum," ask him if he's ever had someone shoot at him - or if he's just "going out of the manual." I know a training officer in the USCG who went to inpatient alcohol rehabilitation, and the USCG Commanding Officer hid this from everyone, saying he was on vacation in Hawaii. Is that who you want dictating your training?
No one is going to care about your safety as much as you and the ones you love. When managers run your training - your training is going to fail. Managers care about one thing - numbers. Because a miss on a paper target may give you a lower score or even a fail on an evolution, but a miss on a guy who breaks into your house with intent to do you harm could mean you’ve failed yourself and your family.
So — What are you training for?
If you don't immediately know the answer or if it's just to shoot fast, look cool, or pass your next training evaluation, you'll never have the drive needed to become a true warrior. Warriors arise from strong motivation — a motivation to survive no matter what evils come their way — and that motivation is love.
Love for the people in our lives is the reason true warriors train. We train for battle to make sure we return to the ones we love. Anyone who has brushed death's cold shoulder can tell you it’s those faces we see when our lives flash before our eyes. You don’t see the fun times you had or any accomplishments you made. You see the pain and sorrow in their eyes knowing that you’re gone and you’re not coming back. In combat, you're not fighting for a top score or bragging rights.
There's no one with a clipboard keeping score.
You're fighting to spare your wife the pain of crying over your grave as she grows old without you. You're fighting so your parents don’t need to bury the son they raised and expected to bury them.
You're fighting so you can raise your children right and protect them from harm. Because if you die in battle, the permanent pain in their hearts will be worse than any temporary pain you feel in death.
If you know this when you train, you will train that much harder; you'll wake up early and stay up late making sure you are the best warrior you can be. You’ll never be satisfied with your performance and will always look for ways to improve your chances of surviving a violent encounter. By knowing that you are training to be with the ones you love and spare them a lifetime of grief, you’ll never settle for 'good enough'.
Defeating your enemy is the ultimate act of love.
There will come a time when you will look back at the training you’ve done and either say, this is why I failed, or this is why I prevailed. Right now you have the opportunity to choose your future and that of those you love.
There are twenty-four hours in a day. How many of them are you willing to spare to ensure you return home and spare your parents, your wives and your children the pain of your loss?
So I ask again, what are you training for?