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A conversation with the colonel: 9 thoughts from Dave Grossman

Having seen him over almost a 15-year time span, I can tell you that he has not lost one ounce of passion for what he does

Here is a little riddle for you. What’s better than a one-day seminar with Lt. Col. Dave Grossman?

Answer: A two-day seminar.

I recently attended Dave’s Bulletproof Mind seminar here in Minnesota. The room was packed with around 300 attendees, which speaks highly of Dave’s message in these times of tight training budgets.

Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, pictured with PoliceOne Editor in Chief Doug Wyllie, spoke before a crowd of more than 250 police officers in an event hosted by the California Peace Officers Association in early 2010. (PoliceOne Image)
Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, pictured with PoliceOne Editor in Chief Doug Wyllie, spoke before a crowd of more than 250 police officers in an event hosted by the California Peace Officers Association in early 2010. (PoliceOne Image)

I took seven pages of notes during the two-day seminar and had the opportunity to attend dinner with Dave and members of the South Metro F.O.P. and lunch the next day.

Here are a few highlights from those conversations:

1.) Mass killers will continue to rise as the numbers of kids exposed to hours and hours of violent video games continues to grow. At the same time, those kids raised on media violence are now reaching adulthood and their attacks will move out of the schools and into the workplace at an increasing rate.

2.) We can expect large scale terrorist attacks here in the U.S. after troops are withdrawn from Iraq and Afghanistan. History has shown that any terrorist attacks during a war strengthen a country’s resolve against the enemy. Our terrorist foes know this, and have held off on major terrorist attacks on our shores for that reason. (This is what they did during the 10 years that Russia was in Afghanistan.) Once the war is “over,” the terrorism will rise.

3.) Denial kills you twice. Once during the incident, a second time (if you survive the incident) because you will blame yourself for not taking the steps to train and prepare.

4.) The best deterrent to these possibilities of violence (terrorist and mass killings) is armed off-duty officers and licensed civilians. More mass killings have been stopped by civilians than by the police.

5.) Prolonged exposure to media violence increases bullying and violence among children. By reducing or eliminating their exposure to violent video games, the rates of bullying and school violence can be lowered and academic performance can increase.

6.) PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) occurs in a very small number of the military and even smaller in law enforcement. The media portrays the majority of returning vets as trouble individuals. There is a readjustment period but the overwhelming majority of vets are just fine.

7.) PTSD is curable. PTSD is not a life sentence. Of the very few who get it, most recover and flourish in life.

8.) Lack of sleep is a major problem for soldiers and police. A lack of sleep causes an increase in accidents, depression, suicide, PTSD, heart problems, diabetes, obesity and anger control issues. Darkness is required for good sleep, whether in a darkened room or using a sleep mask. Limit caffeine intake to avoid building up a tolerance so it will work when you really need it.

9.) Police training using force-on-force scenarios, whether it is paintball, Airsoft or marking rounds, is absolutely essential to effectively train and prepare officers for deadly force situations.

These are just a few of the nuggets of wisdom from a two-day seminar. It doesn’t come close to comparing with Dave’s actual performance. To actually attend his seminar is to see a master presenter in action. Having seen him over almost a 15-year time span, I can tell you that he has not lost one ounce of passion for what he does.

He teaches around 300 days a year, around the world, to police and military units. It is a seminar that every police officer should see at least once.

My first came in the late 1990s when I was attending an international conference. I had chosen to go to one of the many classes offered that day and it wasn’t quite meeting my expectations and needs. So I did what they ask you not to do. On the first break, I went looking for another class to attend.

As I walked down the hallway I could hear a voice amplified by a microphone that sound a bit like an evangelical preacher. As I passed the open doorway I could see the room packed with trainers. Suspecting that they might know something that I didn’t, I walked in.

There weren’t any open chairs so I grabbed one off the stack at the back of room and took a seat. That was one of the best decisions I have ever made as a trainer.

I listened for the next couple of hours as Dave spoke about the concepts of Human Aggression, Resistance to Killing, and Combat Breathing. I left with a copy of his book, “On Killing” in my briefcase.

Reading it opened a whole new door for the type of training that I knew I needed to be doing.

As a newly assigned firearms instructor I was looking at making changes to our firearms program. One of the main things that Dave focused on was changing training to improve officers’ shooting rates in gunfights.

Having been the “bad guy” in force-on-force scenarios, I had noticed a disturbing trend in our students. When presented with a situation that clearly dictated a need for the use of deadly force, they seldom fired and when they did they didn’t hit very often.

Armed with the advice in Dave’s lecture and book, I went about changing our training. In a study that I did, those who had been trained to the standard Dave had set had a 100 percent firing rate in situations that required it.

Those who used the old method of training during firearms practice had much lower shooting rates.

Additionally, I trained some of the students in Combat Breathing. Those students who were coached in Combat Breathing had much higher shooting rates and much higher hit ratios than those who did not.

I sent the results to Dave and he was kind enough to peer review them and send them to the Calibre Press Newsline. The results were published in a three part series in August 1999.

Based on those results, we kept the changes to our firearms training program. Those changes have been street proven. In an 18-month period, we had five of our graduates involved in four separate shootings.

All of our students survived, three of the four suspects did not. The officers involved credit, at least in part, their survival to the training they received from our program.

Dave went on to write “On Combat,” which I think should be read by every trainer and officer. It speaks more specifically to the needs of the soldier and police officer in the field. I was also honored to be asked to serve on the Advisory Board.

Dave’s other efforts include the books including “Stop Teaching Our Kids to Kill” and “Warrior Mindset” as well as a science fiction series.

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