03 November 2013

Consideration and Adaptability

It has always been a fundamental principle behind MCS that individuals need comprehensive and well-rounded skill sets to be prepared.  When it comes to personal preparedness and protection, the two most important things are consideration and adaptability.  These two things coupled with a drive on/never quit attitude form mindset.  The thing that many fail to understand is that these things are important in day to day life, just not when you are feeling tactical.

It has been said time and time again that you will not rise to the occasion but rather default to your level of training.  The truth is actually much more basic, especially when it comes to adaptability.  If you have a meltdown when your car won’t start in the morning , or because of a last minute change of plans, there is an excellent chance you will not respond very well to someone trying to punch you in the face or putting a gun to your head.  

Even though I personally loathe professional sports, I did enjoy playing sports, including football.  Because of this, I am a fan of using sports analogies.  One of my favorites is that of a running back carrying the ball down the field.  What makes some running backs better than others is their ability to take a hit, spin off of it, hold the ball, and keep moving towards the end zone.  This is also an example of mindset.  Imagine if the running back became confused and forgot if the end zone was in front of him, behind him, or on the sides.  Chances are this would lead him to hesitate, get tackled, and quite possibly drop the ball.  You need a clearly defined goal.  For me it has always been coming home at the end of the day to my family.  Any problems that occur during my day are just obstacles to overcome as I push down field to my goal.  How do you get to your goal?  One foot at a time.  Be honest with yourself and be mindful of how easily you adapt to life’s little bumps, and don’t kid yourself that you will do better in emergencies.

Onto consideration, this is the biggest thing that separates the fans from the players.  Some of it can be learned through others shared experiences, but the ability to consider many things at one time can only be accomplished in real live situations and training scenarios.

Not long before I retired, I had my last trainee.  He was a few weeks out of the academy and it had come to the point where I reluctantly handed the keys to my shiny new take home to drive for the shift.  It was not long before we were involved in a pursuit for a man with a gun.  He had been through EVOC (emergency vehicle operator’s course) and a block on traffic stops, but this was his first chase, and they don’t teach that in the academy.  Both of his hands were glued to the steering wheel and his eyes looked like they were as wide as dinner plates, as I was talking on the radio.    I was telling him to breathe and stay calm.  As we crested the hill, we saw that two other cars had the suspect vehicle stopped and were not out of their cars yet.  For a minute I thought my trainee had forgotten where the brake pedal was.  When he slammed on the brakes, we began to skip like a stone and I was sure we were going to rear end one of the other units.  Somehow, miraculously, we regained control and he went around them.  As we came to a stop, it was next to the suspect vehicle.  My door was about a foot from his, and me and the suspect were staring at each other.  Had he begun shooting, I was essentially trapped.  I yelled “Back the %$%^ up” at the trainee and he did.  We completed the traffic stop without incident.  I felt like Jackie Gleason in Smokey and the Bandit when I yell at him to get in the car….the passenger seat.  That trainee has gone on to be a successful officer.  He had been educated and not trained.  In the police academy, they train them for flag football even though the street is full contact.  His “training” did not take place on an active highway, chasing a suspect with other officers.  He did not have to consider a vehicle jamming on it’s breaks in front of him.  In training, he did not have a partner in the passenger seat.  None of the things he failed to consider had anything to do with fighting or shooting.  They were all the “what ifs” that seem so common sense that they were not even taught at the academy.  What you consider important in a situation may not be the biggest threat to you.

Do you make a habit of constantly considering the what ifs in your day to day life? Being late to work is a common stressor for most.  Have you ever noticed how it is always the same people who are late?  Things like cars not starting, traffic, or getting up late are all things that need to be considered, planned for, and adapted to.  A person who habitually fails to consider the most common problems encountered in daily life will probably not fare well during an emergency.  You may also want to judge the consideration and adaptability habits of those you are most likely to be with when bad things happen.

In future articles, I will talk more about considerations.

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