Operator Enhancement in Counterterrorism
by John C. Simpson
In the fight against terrorism, operators find themselves facing a class of criminal with high levels of both training and commitment. When combined with their ability to choose the time and place for their missions they can provide a crisis situation (such as Hostage Barricade) that seems impossible to resolve.
We can provide equivalent paramilitary training and equip our operators with the latest in weaponry (as long as that doesn't include .45 caliber pistols "improved" to weigh as much as a submachinegun). But since we are asking our operators to go into a dynamic situation and seize initiative from the initiators, we must provide an "edge". Let's face it, we're going in to try and make the best of a bad situation. Hostages and bad guys are in there because intelligence didn't tell us who, when and where. Likewise, security didn't stop the attack.
What is Operator Enhancement?
One way to gain this edge is to invest in Operator Enhancement. This is a simple concept with profound implications. Simply stated, Operator Enhancement is the internal and external improvement of the Individual through training to significantly improve his physical performance. That is a quite a mouthful so we'll look at each element of that as I describe a currently available program that meets this objective.
Unfortunately, the waters have been muddied sufficiently that I must describe what this program is NOT. First of all, this has nothing to do with the US Army Special Forces now discredited "Trojan Warrior Project". This author has watched with dismay as the term "Warrior" is being slapped on every training program and job description as being fashionable. With all the Ninja warrior schools, books and videos available I find it ironic that while Imperial Japan was the source for both ninja and samurai warriors, it didn't prevent them from losing World War II. I know what you're probably thinking, but I don't recall Merril's Marauders using an atomic bomb to capture the airfield at Myitkyina, Burma.
Furthermore, monastic retreats and incessant naval gazing are impractical as far as time constraints go as well as being poor preparation for people who choose to live in this world. This author was recently teaching a police sniper course with a private training company. A block entitled "Mental Training" was taught by the owner's daughter while I and my colleagues sat in the back of the classroom. As soon as I heard her launch into a step by step method of mentally retreating to your "Happy Place" to beat stress, I knew that we were sunk. Operator Enhancement takes place in the real world with results measured by ACTION.
The current state of the art in Operator Enhancement is found in a program developed by Master Guy Savelli of the World Kung Fu Federation. Savelli has been recognized as a red sash Master of a martial art called "Kun Tao". For the uninitiated, this means that you earn a red sash by defeating an existing red sash Master in a fight. Now this in itself is not something to run out and revise a budget over, but it doesn't end there. What Savelli has done is to make the principles found in classical training accessible to students from a Western culture. For example, when a student asks "How effective in my kick?", Guy is just as likely to hand him a football and ask him how far he can kick it.
Guy Savelli first came into prominence due to the efforts of the late Colonel Nick Rowe (POW escapee and author of "Five Years to Freedom" a book based on that experience) then commander of the Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) School at Fort Bragg, NC.
Colonel Rowe was looking for a solution to a problem with traditional hand to hand combat programs. In a POW situation, the prisoners probably won't be able to practice sparring with each other in the compound. A more likely development is the captors stuffing the prisoner into a tiger cage with a protein deficient diet. After this treatment goes on for a few years our prisoner may find himself in a position where one inattentive guard stands between him and escape. How can he have confidence to move and strike in those circumstances? The answer to this was provided by Savelli who began training instructors from Special Forces in the mid 1980s. Savelli introduced the concept of "training under enemy observation". While practicing this, a POW can still feel a sense of worth to aid in his resistance. Unfortunately, after Colonel Rowe left for another assignment, the program was mishandled by some of the Special Forces participants and was soon cancelled.
Fortunately however, some of the instructors who were familiar with the real program moved on to other assignments. As a result of this, Guy was contracted to develop a program to enhance the capabilities of personnel involved in counterterrorism missions. With the participation of operational personnel and using the lessons learned while working at SERE, Savelli developed the current program.
The training begins with an interview phase of the students conducted by Guy Savelli. Questions range from "Are You Right or Left Handed" through "How Would You Get Behind Someone" to "How Important is Hand to Hand Combat Training in Your Life"?
Instruction would then begin with strikes and movement techniques to instill the mindset of the operator as a weapon. Take away the firearms, the wrap around sunglasses and the black nylon and a dangerous person is still standing there. Mental exercises are presented to enhance performance. These exercises are real world the same way a brick upside your head is real.
On example is an exercise to discourage "tunnel vision". It looks like Sentry Removal training of the impractical kinds but Savelli wants the students to come away with the principle. For the initial demonstration one student will stand as the sentry while another student will make an approach from the rear with a dummy garrote. While trying to move silently, the stalker will be concentrating solely on reaching his target. The sentry of course knows he is being stalked and has the sensation that he can "feel" the stalker. At this moment, just as the stalker is getting ready to attack, Savelli has been known to grab the stalker from behind and throw him to the ground. The exercise is then repeated with a third student now stalking the stalker with his own garrote. The initial stalker is now on his way to developing 360 degree awareness. Of course, an outsider seeing this exercise for the first time will wonder why two people seem to be tag teaming this poor sentry. Then they'll probably sniff that Sentry Removal with a garrote is Hollywood (which is arguable). This poor soul would completely miss the objective of the exercise: developing an operator that can focus on the task at hand while remaining alert to other threats. Would that be a healthy attitude to have while clearing a building?
One of the more interesting aspects of the program is listed on the lesson plan as "Sustainment Methodology: Progressive Station Training". As we can learn from the example of Colonel Rowe, an offensive training program can be started when the right person wants to make it happen. Unfortunately, when the sponsor departs the necessary will to maintain the program leaves with him. Savelli anticipates this by introducing the students to "Fighting Machines". As part of the contract, these fighting machines are installed at the host location, used in class and then left behind for graduates to practice on.
Man Versus the Machines
There is a whole spectrum of machines, but I'll concentrate on two of them: The Wooden Monster and The Leg Breaking Machine.
The Leg Breaking Machine is a simple affair (Figure 1), but offers a target to practice a low kick that can cripple an opponent. The current version being produced can be rolled around on wheals to present a moving target. And before anyone trots out the tired cliche that "Wood doesn't hit back" just remember that it does hit back if you fail to break it.
The Wooden Monster (Figure 2) combines a number of targets to attack in one machine representing a standing man. As a side note, Guy Savelli being 60 years young, shown demonstrating the Wooden Monster techniques himself (Figure 3 & 4).
As stated earlier, we must constantly be on the look out for an "edge" to enhance our operational capability. This system, however in not a panacea. In one After Action Report from the commander of a unit that received this training he stated "While about 5% did not benefit significantly, the main group of students experienced measurable improvements of duty performance involving individual tactical movement and shooting skills....[V]ery few, perhaps 3%, experienced remarkable, profound improvements and became avid practitioners of certain of Mr. Savelli's techniques".
This is not a Defensive Tactics program for street cops. A police department that attended a demonstration stated "[T]he XXXXX Police Training Staff has determined that these tactics do not fit into the force continuum as they are lethal, offensive in nature, [and] endorse hitting targets on the body that we avoid." I can't think of better reasons to recommend this program to the counterterrorist community.
Figure 1: Leg breaking Machine is demonstrated by one of Guy Savelli's Instructors.
Figure 2: One version of the Wooden Monster with a steel frame and wheels.
Figure 3: Guy Savelli straight attacking a hang up Wooden Monster.
Figure 4: Guy Savelli breaking the horizontal plane while attacking the Wooden Monster.