Philadelphia Blitz Attack
From a Philadelphia police radio transmission: Officer: "Shots fired. I'm shot. I'm bleeding heavily." Dispatch: "All cars standby. We have an officer shot, 60 and Spruce. Repeating in the 18th District. Officer Down."
In Street Fighter Parts One and Two, we closely examined being ambushed by a blitz attack in the kill zone. Several days after publication, a Philadelphia police officer sat idling at an intersection in his marked patrol car. A violent, Islamic terrorist suddenly attacked the officer. The shooter fired thirteen rounds at the officer at point blank range, striking him three times in the left arm before running off. The severely injured officer painfully got out of his car and chased after his attacker, shooting him once. It was a noble act of courage on the part of the officer to take action and refuse to die. His bravery is reflected in the eloquent words of Dylan Thomas "do not go gentle into the night, rage, rage against the dying of the light"
What if you were this Officer?
This officer had an artery severed and was rapidly bleeding out on the street. Fortunately, he was saved by the quick actions of first responders. For a moment, let's consider the possibility that YOU were the victim. All DEA agents have been issued tourniquets. During the Vietnam era, concern about nerve damage from circulation restriction was considered worse than blood loss. The elapsed time between tourniquet application in the jungle and the arrival and transport by Dust Off to a medical facility was lengthy. I thought the lack of tourniquet application illogical since almost ten percent of our troopers died from blood loss.
Some of you have lost your tourniquets, some of you leave them in your desk drawer and some of you leave them stowed in the trunk of your OGV. Will you have your tourniquet on hand as you bleed out in a back alley or will you exsanguinate as you watch your life's blood wash out onto the pavement? Today's modern tourniquet systems are safe and effective. Where is your tourniquet?
My goal in writing STREET FIGHTER - PART THREE is to present bold and daring ideas, pushing our DEA horizon out beyond what agents may have thought feasible. The three pillars of gun fighting are Mindset, Skills and Tools. In this and several future editions of Street Fighter we will continue to focus on Skills. There is much more to the word Skills than meets the eye.
To succeed at a complex goal, you need decision-making skills, tactical skills and marksmanship skills. These skills interwoven with Mindset will prepare you to defend yourself in the kill zone against a blitz style attack. If asked where firearm skills are learned, most agents would undoubtedly respond, 'on the range'. The professional Street Fighter would disagree. Firearm skills are developed in multiple phases: dry fire, live fire, mental rehearsals, tactical skills unique to DEA, and supplemental training outside the agency.
In a large metropolitan city, a recent incident highlighted the importance of the three pillars of gunfighting. Two police officers opened fire when they confronted an armed gunman. The officers accidentally shot nine innocent bystanders. Initial emergency broadcasts from dispatch summoned a massive police response to an alleged terrorist incident due to the number of casualties. Who would have imagined that police bullets, not terrorists, gunned down these victims? Many would blame this tragic incident to a lack of training by the department. Not me. I attribute this unfortunate incident to a lack of practice on the part of the individual officers.
My firearm training is performance based while DEA and other law enforcement training tends to be outcome based. Performance based training challenges the shooter to ask personal evaluation questions such as: How well can I perform a difficult task? How can I challenge myself to make incremental improvements? Outcome based training is limited to will I succeed or will I fail?
All of us have spent countless hours on firing ranges and have observed the skill set disparity among shooters on the line. Let's track the typical agent's range card over a number of years. Say his average score hovers around 90%, going up or down only a few percentage points. His shooting skills are stagnant, never improving to any significant degree. Why? DEA has very fine, dedicated, hardworking firearms instructors who possess the skills necessary to pass along information and empower understanding to those agents who are willing to listen and want to learn. However, the Suits, who place a low priority on combative skills training, thwart these instructors. The Suits will lavishly spend agency funds to attend multiple annual conferences, yet they parsimoniously allocate a few hundred cartridges a year for agent training.
The current training paradigm for DEA calls for relatively brief training sessions that might work for topics such as legal or administrative updates. This mindset certainly does not work for firearm training and severely impairs agent safety. In order to be truly effective, a comprehensive firearm program must be conducted through block training. The hour or two allocated quarterly to meet minimum, court imposed training standards is inadequate. This limited time is devoted to just burning up the clock. What is missing is practice. Without practice, whatever minimum skills we might pick up in training will simply vanish. Practice is what imprints what we learned in training into our muscle memory. Our fine firearm instructors have been relegated to functioning as qualifiers rather than teachers. The Suits have stymied DEA firearms/tactical training through institutional inertia. I challenge all DEA agents to take personal responsibility for allocating practice time into their daily routine.
My good friend Alex Rodriguez and I tread down many a dangerous jungle trail on Operation Snowcap and then navigated the mean streets of Chicago together. Alex is a fearless Street Fighter who is unorthodox, creative, adventurous and tough. After Alex retired from DEA, he went to work with the Federal Air Marshal Service (FAMS). Alex introduced me to his buddies from FAMS, some of the finest combat shooters I have fired alongside. I attribute their pistol skills to their outstanding firearm instructors and to the FAMS management team.
The requirements for successful completion of many law enforcement firearm-training courses are similar to our public school system practice of everyone passes, everyone gets promoted. A DEA agent can fail a string of fire and still qualify. Not so with FAMS. Fail one string of fire and the shooter receives a no-go / failed.
The following chart illustrates examples of a few strings of fire from the former FAMS Tactical Pistol Course. These would be excellent drills for all DEA agents to practice.
|FAMS Tactical Strings of Fire
|Distance||Presentation||Repetitions||Time||Total Time||7 yards||Draw and fire one round from a concealed holster||Two||1.65 seconds||3.30 seconds|
|Distance||Presentation||Repetitions||Time||Total Time||7 yards||From the low ready fire two rounds||Two||1.35 seconds||2.70 seconds|
|Distance||Presentation||Repetitions||Time||Total Time||7 yards||From the low ready fire one shot, speed reload, fire one shot||Two||3.25 seconds||6.50 seconds|
This past summer I attended a former Delta operator's covert carry pistol class. Mike Pannone taught cutting edge marksmanship and he challenged the students to incorporate what he taught into their department curriculum. Due to bureaucratic inflexibility, large departments are resistant to change whereas smaller departments are more agile and therefore can quickly adapt. This was brought home to me by one of my fellow students, a firearm instructor here in Indiana. His small department has one of the best indoor ranges I've seen. Their range rivals Quantico with a backstop capable of absorbing center fire rifle rounds. When he returned to his department, my classmate met with his chief, a young combat veteran who himself had many hours in the kill zone. Together they revamped their entire firearm program based on the skills and drills taught during the Pannone class.
I considered myself most fortunate to be one of the four members of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics [FBN] New York Office pistol team. Although FBN had a miniscule budget, once a week we each had a bucket full of .38 caliber wadcutters to fire in practice in the basement range of the Old Post Office building at 90 Church Street. Throughout the warmer months we travelled a three state area competing against other law enforcement agencies. Bulls eye shooting was popular among all ranks. At one event I found myself shooting alongside the Superintendent of the New Jersey State Troopers.
In the lobby of the FBN office there were display cases filled with shooting trophies dating back to the 1930s. Then came the day that FBN was abolished and we began to lose our warrior ethos. One morning when I walked into the office, our trophy cases were gone. Several weeks later so were our Thompson submachine guns and our Winchester 1897 trench shotguns; however, we did hang onto our beloved 1911 pistols. It was a long time before the Suits acquired long guns as replacements. President John F. Kennedy had once referred to FBN as "the green berets of law enforcement". FBN was the agency that had exposed the existence of the Mafia through our informant, Joe Valachi. The movie the French Connection featured the efforts of the FBN agents who had smashed the heroin trade. Now, the proud heritage of FBN was only a memory and the symbols of FBN success were relegated to a musty corner in a Manhattan basement. DEA Street Fighters
Street Fighters with a shared mission and vision create a foundation for the future. Our Street Fighters will insure that DEA continues to cultivate the warrior ethos that is our FBN legacy. We are in luck today for DEA has within its ranks agents like Joe Piersante and the members of the DEA FAST team. They are Street Fighters who are lean, athletic, cool, and professional and personally brave; agents with old-fashioned ways and values who are patriotic, intelligent, strong and proud and who are forging the future of DEA.
Street Fighter - Part Three is meant to be a wake up call to the Suits, to our firearm instructors and to our agents. The Suits must commit to allocate funding; firearm instructors must seek cutting edge training so as to enhance their training curriculum; DEA agents are challenged to take charge of their own destiny. We as Street Fighters must dominate events rather than be overwhelmed by them. Everybody is equally responsible, everybody is equally important. We are known by what we do; not, by what we say we will do.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Office archives contain this vintage 1936 skilled shooting video. It captures the esprit de corps and skill at arms of their deputies, Street Fighters who forged the future of their agency. Enjoy this film clip of the old time shooters. http://flashbak.com/the-la-police-department-skilled-shooting-exhibition-of-1936-video-7416/
Frank E. White