I remember my days in the crucible of close quarter combat in the dense jungles of Vietnam's Central Highlands as pure bedlam. Everything rapidly moving, the endless ragged sound of our weapons, constant yells and shouts, lips and throat dry, lungs gasping for air. Bullets were zipping, buzzing through the air until they hit a tree, an anthill or a man. This was survival in the kill zone. The warrior spirit belongs to a survivor of a surprise attack in a small space under intense enemy fire.
This new edition of the WHITE REPORT is a three part series based on my teaching curriculum. The three pillars of gun fighting include: Mindset, Skills and Tools. STREET FIGHTER - PART ONE will focus on Mindset, the critical first pillar. We will master how to prepare our mindset for the surprise of an attack and to instinctively react aggressively through a gunfight whether we are confronted by violent Islamic Jihadists or by a domestic mass shooting incident.
Closely view these three brief clips taken inside a restaurant during the recent Paris terrorist attacks. Take note of the speed, surprise and violence of action unleashed by these terrorists in a confined space. Our first and foremost goal is to prepare our mindset to accurately orient ourselves to the searing reality of what a violent attack looks like. Only then will we become active participants in our own survival.
A great deal of being able to prevail as a Street Fighter depends on your self-confidence. Immediately commit to engaging in an earnest and healthy critique of your skill sets. We all know agents who can bullshit their way through life, but in a gunfight there is no bullshit, you either have the proper skill sets or you die.
There are two methods of achieving self-confidence. You can pull yourself up to meet the requisite standard or lower the standard to your current capabilities. We want to elevate ourselves because our standards must get us through the gunfight. We certainly cannot control the attack but we can control ourselves. You must believe absolutely that you can meet the standard. In my experience, the outcome of a gunfight is decided by your psychomotor skills.
Shortly after my return from Viet Nam to the United States I was admitted into the elite ranks of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN) as an Agent. It appeared to me as though the FBN Agents had stepped right out of the pages of a Mickey Spillane-Mike Hammer novel. The majority were combat veterans who had experienced the kill zone and brought the warrior spirit to FBN.
As a young FBN agent I spent countless hours in Chic Gaylord's musty gun shop in the basement of a century old mid Manhattan brownstone. On a parchment hung above his workbench, Chick had penned the following quote: "Without a doubt the biggest part of developing the combat mindset is that the man who is psychologically unprepared for a gunfight is fighting two men when he goes into combat, he must conquer both himself and his adversary."
Chick taught me that you must possess combat initiative. If you want to prevail in a gunfight you must go on the offensive. Granted, it's still self-defense because the predator attacked you and the only way for you to end the deadly attack is with reasonable force. You will know when you have gained combat initiative when you are no longer reacting to your opponent but your opponent is now reacting to you. By the very nature of the attack, the playing field will not be level. Conditions will be most advantageous to your attacker and less advantageous to you. Do not expect a hint of compassion from your attacker because there wonb t be any.
Remember, every second your attacker maintains the initiative; the closer you come to death. Your primary goal is to thwart the attack by gaining the initiative as quickly as possible. If during the fight you momentarily lose the initiative, you have to rebuild your momentum and go on the offense. It is only in the offense mode that you will prevail in the fight. You must fight back with a faster cadence than your attacker. In other words "Fail fast."
In a Blitz style attack as happened in Paris your first indication of the attack will be the attack itself. You probably will not see it coming, leaving you little time for planning. The ensuing gunfight will be a scene of intense chaos; you must control that chaos both your own and your attackers. Therefore, you must train your muscle memory reflexes by practicing mental imagery.
Mental imagery will imprint your correct tactical response, both physically and mentally, so that when confronted by a Blitz attack your mid brain will know exactly what to do. During your mental rehearsals, you want to visualize movement, imagine you are performing the tactic in the first person, also at times in the third person, as if watching yourself on video. Critically view your actions through the eyes of your attacker. Your mental imagery must be in real time taking in the totality of your environment. As an added benefit you will develop your ability to screen out distractors and develop rapid decision-making capabilities.
For the first few seconds of the gunfight you may be scared. Your attacker may be male or female. Do not differentiate. Get angry. Your attacker has the audacity to try and kill you. Use your anger as a motivator. You cannot brain lock on "Why me?" Courage is the greatest of all virtues for without it there are no other virtues.
We have heard the stories of heroes who when faced with death overcame their fears. Winding the clock back to 27 November 1934 there was an intense three-minute gun battle in the Northwest Chicago suburbs between FBI Agents Sam Cowley and Herman Hollis and two psychopathic killers, Baby Face Nelson and John Paul Chase. Cowley and Hollis were able to mortally wound Baby Face Nelson. As Cowley lay bleeding to death in a ditch he told those who came to his aid to make sure they first took care of his partner before taking care of him. Sadly both agents died in the gun battle.
Within our DEA ranks we have our own heroes. Joe Piersante is one of the toughest minded warriors I have ever known. While conducting counter narcotics/ insurgency operations in Afghanistan, Joe's FAST team began to receive enemy fire as they were being extracted by helicopter. Joe laid down suppressive fire and was hit by a rifle bullet in his helmet. The round entered above his right eye and exited above his left eye. Joe was recognized with the Congressional Badge of Bravery Award and the Medal for the Defense of Freedom; Joe still proudly serves as a stalwart teammate on FAST.
The clock of time is wound but once and no man has the power to tell just when the hands will stop at late or early hour but when a man like Joe Piersante believes in a great cause and believes in it so fully he is prepared to defend it with his life, he has achieved nobility not limited by the boundaries of time.
When Bud Mullen and Jack Lawn, former FBI, and Terry Burke, former CIA, served as DEA Administrators, they aggressively continued to recruit combat veterans with experience in the kill zone. Sadly, in the past twenty years, their successors, the administrative Suits, have changed the recruiting criteria for DEA agents and have anesthetized our fighting spirit through ignorance and inertia. Today, many DEA agents have never experienced a gunfight in a kill zone and lack the warrior spirit.
For example, at a Special Agents in Charge conference, only two agents were armed and they left their pistols in their hotel room. The other agents had travelled unarmed from their home offices. Small wonder the last two DEA agents murdered in the line of duty were unarmed and totally helpless. The lax attitude of the Suits has permeated down through our DEA ranks. It is time to re-ignite the warrior spirit for survival in the kill zone.
I strongly encourage you as DEA agents to make a personal commitment to evaluate your skill sets. Watch the Paris clips over and over to prepare your mindset for a surprise attack and teach yourself to instinctively react aggressively. If confronted by a Paris style blitz attack, make fear your friend. Always welcome fear for it will sharpen your skills. Train yourself to enter the drone zone where your mind and body transcend pain and fear.
I have learned through countless firefights that the difference between being a coward and a hero is not whether you are scared, but what you do when you are scared. Stay in the fight!
Frank E. White