Military, law enforcement, and security professionals the world over stood up and took notice after the terror attacks that occurred in Mumbai, India. Armed groups of attackers staged multiple, coordinated attacks on targets that were carefully chosen for maximum disruption and impact.
These attacks were meticulously planned and carried out with extreme ruthlessness. Multiple attack sites and IEDs that went off in various locations distracted law enforcement and emergency responders and complicated a coordinated response.
The end game was about body count, shock value and sending a message to the free world. And they did… loud and clear.
Today, law enforcement and security professionals are faced with an enemy that is motivated by religious ideology. He is not afraid to die and embraces the opportunity to kill others while awaiting death. There is no negotiation, no surrender, no reasoning and no compromise with this type of threat.
Can a “Mumbai” incident happen here? That is the million dollar question to which we know the answer already. And while our intelligence agencies and law enforcement agencies are working overtime to intercept and disrupt various attempts by groups to carry this out, we cannot count on this being 100 percent effective.
We are experiencing a sea change in both our thinking and our mindset when it comes to terrorism in America and how we are going to respond.
Forward thinking agencies have moved towards new levels of training for their special response units and patrol officers and there has been a lot of conversation, conferences and policies written on the agency response to terrorism events.
Today, I want to focus on what the individual officer can do to prepare for this type of event.
Mindset and Mental Conditioning
The most important shift must come in how you prepare your mind. One of the keys is going to be mental conditioning and a hardening of the mind and will against one of the greatest threats you will ever face. These folks are going to specifically target you when you respond. They will look to ambush you and cut you down. They want to disorient you and slow your response down so they can build a body count.
They are also likely to be armed with long guns and handguns, lots of ammunition and probably body armor as well. They may or may not have explosive devices. They may use incendiary devices. Count on them to have communication devices and to have helpers in this country that will shelter them and aid them clandestinely.
More importantly, if they are working in pairs or small teams, they will be using small unit tactics of fire and maneuver etc. to increase their effectiveness when they meet resistance. A couple of years ago, I recall seeing information on Al Qaeda members advocating playing paintball as a means of learning tactics. Terrorists are training to work as teams, to ignore cries for mercy and to cut down victims without remorse. They think of themselves as doing God’s work. There will be no quarter asked or received. It will truly be a fight to the death.
Harnessing the Will and Mindset
The first step is to reaffirm your values as to what you are willing to fight for and risk your life for. I know it sounds basic but to me it is the essence of what you are going to be falling back on when things go down and choices have to be made very quickly.
A total commitment to mission is what is required in these extreme circumstances.
Belief in your country, your sense of duty to protect and defend others, the righteousness of your actions, the ideals you hold dear and fighting for your brothers and sisters in arms are what propel you forward when others will hesitate and delay.
The powerful, emotional connections you form to your mission and your sense of what needs to be done will keep moving you forward and give you the necessary motivation to start training and preparing for coming events.
Start preparing your mind to fight a ruthless enemy that is bent on no less than your total destruction. Be prepared to take the fight all the way, whatever it takes.
Maintaining Your Martial Skills
Your skill at arms, tactics and strategy employed will measure your combat effectiveness in the ensuing fight. Training is the number one thing you should be doing on a very regular basis. Shooting once a month or qualifying isn't going to cut it in a fast paced gun battle against multiple opponents who are not going to run away when you arrive.
I find that most people tend to think of things happening when they are on duty. SWAT officers tend to picture responding with full kit and a team. Patrol officers think of obtaining their long arm first prior to engaging a terrorist threat.
While many officers have a “Go Bag” as well as a “rapid deployment bag” in their vehicle, along with some sort of long gun, how many are prepared to operate without these items should they be away from their vehicle when something happens?
While there are many benefits that have come from the experience of the military and operations overseas, one of the downsides is the thinking that the handgun is now a “secondary weapon” and the carbine is the “primary arm.”
This type of thinking turns into a sense of downplaying the training and skill required to use a handgun effectively along with the subtle belief that a handgun is “inadequate” in a fight with a terrorist armed with a long gun. The reality for law enforcement is that both the handgun and the carbine are primary weapons and should be regarded as such. his differs from the military mindset.
It terms of effectiveness, we know that a carbine has generally better lethality, more rounds available and is easier to hit with than a handgun. Yes, it would be nice to have your long gun with you, along with a full complement of magazines and body armor capable of stopping long gun ammunition. Chances are, if you are on foot patrol and it blows up in front of you, you will have to operate “with what you brought with you” rather than running to go get it.
What if you are off duty? Do you even carry a handgun off duty? Do you carry a handgun adequate to the task of hitting people at longer ranges up to 100 yards? D you practice this skill under realistic time constraints? Have you visualized yourself having to respond in this manner? Have you committed to fighting with what you have at the time?
True preparation of the mind comes from a sense of confidence in your skills, adequate equipment, and an abiding faith in your abilities. These must be tested and validated, not just by you, but in meaningful, objective tests of skill.
Know this: Your handgun will do just fine if you have your act together and prepare adequately.
In terms of equipment, the first rule of gunfighting is to have a gun that will fit your mission. The current trend in off duty carry is smaller and lighter. Thinking in terms of engaging a terrorist with a long gun, I would opt for a minimum of a handgun with a 4” barrel and mid to full sized grip.
Yes, I know the arguments about lightness and concealability. I know that some folks will argue they can hit targets at extended ranges with their subcompact gun. I can hit man sized targets at 150 yards with a 1 7/8” barrel, 38 Special and have engaged targets out to 300 yards with a duty handgun.
That being said, you will be faster, have better control and more confidence facing a long gun threat with a mid to full sized handgun. This is fact, not just my opinion. I have spent years testing and evaluating real world performance with all sorts of firearms.
Ammunition – I would never consider only carrying what is in your weapon as your total ammunition supply. I would strongly urge you to carry more than a spare magazine with your weapon.
Tactical light – Being able to discriminate a threat in poor lighting and react in a timely manner is priceless.
Medical – Those cargo pockets you have on the sides of your pants are just right for carrying some Quik clot gauze and a Sof-T tourniquet along with an Israeli battle dressing or two. You won’t even notice you have them there.
“Possibles” Bag – Consider carrying a small bag with you at all times when off duty or even on. Kifaru.net makes one I really like called the "Koala.” Any small backpack that you can carry around with you is way better than leaving your "go bag" in the car when things blow up.
In summary, if you have not begun the preparation and training process of preparing for a worst case terrorist event then you are seriously behind the times. Don't rely on your department to give you all the training and equipment you will need. Go out and spend some money on both training and equipment that will do the job, both on and off duty.
I believe it is not a question of if, but when, we will have more widespread terrorist incidents in this country. Right now, they are being downplayed as something else. This ostrich head in the sand approach doesn't cut it.
Be proactive, get ready to fight for what you hold dear. If these terrorists become more organized and ambitious in this country, you are truly going to be fighting for your way of life against an enemy that is bent on your total annihilation.