A LESC Discourse: Establishing the Discipline to Train and Invest in Preparedness is an ongoing series of articles discussing training and preparedness, learning, unlearning and relearning to develop insight, innovation and initiative to deal with conventional and unconventional problems and threats.
To flourish and grow in a many-sided uncertain and ever changing world that surrounds us, suggests that we have to make intuitive within ourselves those many practices we need to meet the exigencies of that world. The contents that comprise”this discourse” unfold observations and ideas that contribute towards achieving or thwarting such an aim or purpose.” ~COL John Boyd
Whether we are dealing with conventional or unconventional threats there are indeed lots of similarities and yet still many uncommon factors and uncertainties we must contend with. In the quote above from John Boyd he states; “that we have to make intuitive within ourselves those many practices we need to meet the exigencies of that world” Intuitively adapt to changing conditions and respond with sound decisions and appropriate actions. To be able to channel and leverage that ability to do so takes training at a standard much higher and much more effective than we utilize currently.
I will use the law enforcement training example to compare with my coaching analogy to make my point on the importance of preparing for the unexpected and why it is worth the investment.
The initial training for law enforcement varies by state but is anywhere from 12-26 weeks. Then once graduated the academy the officer’s get anywhere from 8-12 weeks of field training in an effort to help him/her apply what they have learned in basic training to the streets of the community for which they work. Adding up the basic and field training utilizing the maximum standard, 26 weeks basic plus 12 week field training equals 38 weeks of training. From then on for most in law enforcement they get 40 hours of in-service training annually to maintain their status or certification as a law enforcement officer.
38 Weeks of training at the maximum standards with one week a year after that throughout a career. Yes there are also specialized training classes but there is only a select few who can attend because of budget and time issues etc. So for the sake of argument the majority of officers get 38 weeks of basic training.
Success on the street responding to a wide variety of situations is expected without mistakes, no fowls or penalties, no being knocked back and out of position. Winning every contact, every engagement is what’s expected. In the current system of how and when we train, is this expected success a realistic expectation or is it a smokescreen of rhetoric over substance and talk to appease with little walking the talk that is needed to succeed? Talk seems to be plenty, but walking the talk is scarce!
In the real world game of life and death shouldn’t we be better prepared than a Sports Team on Game Day? Shouldn’t our training and education system be evolving at a rate higher than that of kids or professional athletes playing a game? The answer would seem an obvious yes! Yet the reality is clearly NO we do not!
High School football teams at the varsity level which is mostly made up of seniors so for the sake of argument let’s say they have the 3 –plus (Pop Warner) years. For the sake of my comparison I will take into consideration only the 3 high school years of football.
Practice starts in August and the season usually ends on Thanksgiving day so that is approximately12 weeks of practice a year which adds up to 36 weeks of practice over a three year period. This practice consists of both physical and cognitive development. Players must take the knowledge and skills taught and apply them in practice on the field, in actual free-play force on force exercises preparing them for game day. My question, would you take the coaching job mentioned above in the final year with no practice time and just game day advice and expect to win? Why not? Because you know it is unrealistic to think you can have a winning season without practice or training. Yet this is only a sport on which there are only so many game plans, responses and outcomes, outcomes that do not involve life and death matters. Most I submit would not take this job because they know success would be a rare occurrence. What does this analogy have to do with crises and preparedness? Sadly too much! Let’s take a look.
Law enforcement officers get very little time applying what they have learned in the classroom environment of a training academy. There is very little free play force on force exercises conducted. In the State of Massachusetts for example; about 40 hours of hands on force on force free play exercises is allotted in training time and this is broken up amongst an academy class of 30-60 recruits. So how much real training time is allotted per student? I think you would agree, nowhere near enough. The high school kids playing a game get more hands on training than those who protect our homeland. “Football is easy to train because, in the end it is a monotonous game with a defined set of permutations, and a limited territory. Police work has unlimited number of permutations, unlimited territory, and unlimited complexity.” Yet if football practice time was cut and the win/loss column was in the negative, people in that team’s community would be up in arms complaining and a mass effort would be sought to re-instate the full program so the kids could prepare and have a fair shot at winning! I would be willing to bet there would be some first responder in that group of upset parents leading the charge to implement the full program of full practice and game day coach.
Why then do we expect our first responders, when responding to emergency and crisis situations to do so without even as much realistic training as a high school football team, when so much more is at stake? Have we even considered the thought, pondered the thought for even a few minutes at what’s required of those responding to violence on our streets in our schools and across this country? Have we thought about the uncertainty and unexpected nature of the calls for service responders are handling? How about the violence that effects the psychological and physiological processes of the human body in high stress situations and hence our abilities to make decisions and take appropriate actions under pressure? We call it choking in sports when someone or a team fails; “it happens under game pressure… give him time, more practice and the athlete or team will perform better!”
We call it a screw up”in the business of protection, safety and crisis response and look for heads to roll because we expect flawless responses. Yet we are given very little, less than a sports team effort to train and prepare. Have we as a profession, a society considered this? I do not think we have, because if we did we would be much more understanding as a society, as leaders in these professions, of what’s required and what the psychological and physiological responses are to dynamic confrontations and the effects on cognitive and physical abilities handling crises. We would invest more in preparing (training) our people for the realities they face.
It is simply insufficient to have harmony and coordination across agency and interagency bounds in crises, without training at all levels (organizational philosophy, strategy, tactics, methods and techniques, equipment, leader development) to ensure the proper knowledge and skills are acquired , understood and can be applied in chaotic and uncertain circumstances.
In their book; “America’s Army A Model for Interagency Effectiveness” Generals Bradford and Brown state “If leaders fail to act to common purpose, the best “new,” however capable, will not produce results in the fight. The product must be teamed capabilities where for example, leaders at all echelons realize the necessity of developing effective team leadership, shared vision, shared trust, shared competence, and shared confidence, despite inevitable personnel turbulence.”
When we join the team, in the serious game of protection, we do not… jump into the water to make a splash…we jump into the water to make a difference, a difference in people’s lives in their time of need. Our score card is life and death, making a difference starts with looking at the facts and recognizing the TRUTH and then with strength of character PRESS ON! Do what’s right!
 Email correspondence on 022009 with Dag von Lubitz, PhD, MD(Sc), MedSMART, Inc
4.0 A LESC Discourse: Communicating the Truth!