I retired from the Army Special Forces more than three years ago; rarely a day goes by that I don’t miss some facet of that job. When I retired, I heard plenty of people tell me I would miss the people and not the job.
While I do miss the amazing people with whom I had the honor of serving, I also miss the job. As with any job there are things that you don’t miss: long deployments, missing important holidays or the late-night phone call that drags you away from your family.
Special Forces for Life
However, what I should clear up is that I don’t think I should refer to it as a “job.” The mental picture of that word suggests something that might not be enjoyable. For me, the Army was enjoyable—and even more so once I entered Special Forces. It was everything I thought it would be, and more. If not, I had plenty of opportunities over that 20-year period to leave. But I just kept on.
Army Special Forces is unique when compared with the rest of the Army: While I was in, my co-workers were older than the average soldier, more experienced and extremely dedicated to their work. Dedication is not unique to Special Forces, but the level and intensity are, from my experience. I had spent time in the airborne infantry, and it did not compare to the sheer intensity of dedication I felt in Special Forces. The bond between and among team members is one that will last a lifetime.
Train for Reality
Of the many things that Special Forces taught me, how to defend myself and others is one that sticks with me the most. Even after years of retirement and as age creeps up on me, I still find time to train … just in case. When I do train, I do so realistically: I’m not training for the zombie horde, waves of ISIS or the apocalypse. I train for what could actually happen—intruders in my home, thugs on the street or an active-shooter situation wherever I might be. Some of the same drills I used to practice while still on active duty are relevant for everyday life, so I use those to maintain a level of skill I could need in an emergency.
My first training drill is with an AR carbine or other MSR—no “assault rifles” here, as the anti-gunners call them; those are for the military. Many people opt for an AR carbine for home defense. I can’t blame them. In 5.56, the recoil is light enough for even the smallest adult, and most children can be taught to shoot one very well with supervision and patience. With a 16-inch barrel, it is easy to maneuver through your home without much trouble, and it can be outfitted with lights, red-dot scopes and lasers without too much added weight.
In this drill, you will start from low-ready with a single silhouette target 15 to 20 feet away. Raising the weapon, you will fire two shots—a controlled pair—center mass at the target. Then, scan for additional targets. When clear, return to low-ready.
Ideally, what you are working on is developing your instinctive point of aim. Should you have to bring your weapon up to defend yourself in real life, you will instinctively point and shoot the weapon into your assailant without having to take the time to pick up a good sight picture using either your iron sights or optics.
Look at an object and point to it with your finger. As you point to the object, your mind instinctively looks at the center mass, and your finger follows to the same point. This is what you want to hone, except with a weapon instead of your finger. In a shootout, time is critical, but so is hitting the target. The goal here is for all shots to hit the A zone on a standard USPSA target.
If you have optics on your gun, no problem. Start with using it until you start to get comfortable with your instinctive point of aim. I have optics on all my rifles and will use them when I can.
From experience, I know that optics are mechanical and subject to failure at the worst times. I have had batteries die on me at the very worst times. There is a host of things that could happen to your optics—from breakage to being misaligned after an impact. In that instance, instinctive shooting might very well be the difference in a gun fight.
In this drill, you will transition from one target to another when presented with multiple threats. Engage threats as they present themselves or whichever target presents the greatest threat. Also, when engaging multiple threats, you will determine how to quickly give the first presented target a controlled pair with only two sight pictures (not a third, which is the follow-through sight picture).
You will then quickly transition to the next acquired threat and engage that threat with a controlled pair. As you engage the last presented threat, you will gain the third (follow-through) sight picture on that threat to ensure it is neutralized. Then, re-scan the previous threats to ensure they do not pose a further threat. In a real gunfight, it is easy to get tunnel vision, so try to keep both eyes open to maintain a good field of view.
The last drill is executed with an AR carbine as your primary weapon and a pistol as your secondary (backup) weapon. In this drill, you will have multiple targets. It is best to use three targets at varying distances to simulate multiple attackers.
Ideally, you will have someone else load your magazines; and in your M4 magazine, place a dummy round as one of six rounds. As with the two previous drills, you will fire two rounds center mass of the target. In addition, you will fire an additional round into the head of the target to simulate the attacker wearing body armor.
You will engage the most dangerous target first and then the additional targets, according to the threat posed. As you encounter the malfunction in your primary system, you will rotate it out of the way with your nonfiring hand as you transition your firing hand to retrieve your secondary weapon. You will then continue to engage the remainder of the targets until complete; scan for any additional threats; seek cover; and fix the malfunction in your primary system. Once it is fixed, you can continue the fight.
It is important in this drill to have a good sling system for your primary weapon and a good holster for your secondary. When the weapon is released, the sling should be able to keep the primary weapon close to your body to prevent it from dragging on the ground, getting caught up in something or in the way of your secondary weapon engagement.
Too Easy? Add Some Difficulty
To add difficulty to any of these drills, change the distance to the target, the distance between the targets or the height of each target. You can also use objects to partially cover targets to simulate an assailant seeking cover. You should also practice in low light, if possible. To add stress, conduct some exercise such as a sprint or push-ups before you start the exercise. Running against the clock can also increase the stress level.
Becoming proficient takes time, patience and a lot of ammo. By “a lot,” I mean thousands of rounds. During my Special Forces training, it was often normal to shoot anywhere from 500 to 1,500 rounds in a single day—and most likely, that was several days in a row.
It is more difficult to maintain that level now, because I have to pay for my ammo. I make up for some of that through dry-fire training and the use of lasers and computer programs. Those help, but they are still a second-place substitute for the real thing. You still must fire real ammunition.
I’m lucky enough to live in an area that is full of both active and retired Green Berets, so I am rarely without a training partner. They never let you off easy, but they are always there to offer some helpful advice.
And on occasion, I can relive my days as a warrior surrounded by others who would have done anything for a comrade in arms. De Oppresso Libre!
Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared in the August 2017 print issue of Gun World Magazine.