I got shot in the finger. These were the words I uttered to Senior after exposing too much of my elbow while doing a Threshold Evaluation of a room looking for a known armed suspect. Wait! I should back up as you’re probably asking yourself what a marketing executive/triathlon coach is doing looking for an armed suspect. I’ll get back to my finger in a moment. I figure it this way. I enjoy shooting and using various handguns and rifles and understand that if I’m going to have these weapons I should train the proper ways to use them. It’s also a crazy world out there and the shit can hit the fan any time so I want to have the skills, knowledge and experience if god forbid I find myself in a situation where I have to search my house or a building for an intruder. Crazier things have happened. I also love the gear, the guns, the camaraderie of like-minded individuals. Whether it’s a tactical pen or a ballistic helmet it’s always been cool to me. My parents will attest that my main form of punishment growing up was that I wouldn’t be allowed to watch The A Team. I had gotten some new gear from United Defense Tactical (www.uniteddefensetactical.com) and was eager to put it to good use. I had a new plate carrier with Polyethylene plates (the lightest available), cummerbund for the side plates and a new red dot optic for my AR 15.
I chose to take a class called, Close Quarter Combat and Room Clearing with Force on Force, and it was given by the famous Menocal International Training group. MIT is made up of a family of current law enforcement officers (LEO) whose training has been developed over decades of real world experience. The group consists of (my own nicknames here) Pops who is the leader. Pops has been a police officer for over thirty years including SWAT and also is an instructor at the police academy. Jesse, his son, is also a current LEO and the main instructor. Jonathan, another son and also current LEO, is the third instructor and to this day I don’t know why this Menocal family even has to carry a weapon. They are all the size of skyscrapers and at first glance, well, intimidating AF. I’ve come to learn after a few classes with them that they are the nicest, most patient and thorough instructors I’ve come across. Having been an instructor for almost twenty years and worked with dozens of other coaches I can tell you that knowing what you’re talking about and teaching it are two different things. I was especially impressed with Pops since you figure he’s been teaching for decades and has taught thousands of students. It’d be easy to assume he’s a bit salty, impatient and just going through the motions but he’s not. He’s seen it all, heard it all and been back and forth a hundred times but he still just has a nice, assertive and comprehensive way of teaching.
The class was held at a facility in a non-descript office building in downtown Miami. The facility is a self- described black site for instruction on all sorts of close quarter combat, active shooter scenarios and is run by three former and current military personnel. The entire floor of the office building is made up of what seems to be ten or so different rooms which can be configured and reconfigured for different scenarios. There is NO live ammo allowed in this facility. Instead, the classes use simunitions which are actual rounds with a little colored powder in them and you load them into your own weapon to shoot. The rounds have very little gunpowder behind them so if and when you get shot it will hurt but not be lethal. You are also able to see where you hit on the targets and walls during various ops. I’ve done classes like this previous and was using live rounds but this class had a different element to it. Someone was going to be shooting back.
Pops gave us a quick intro and as he was wrapping up his portion I think I realized that his bicep was about as big as my thigh. Did I tell you that these guys were big yet? My father used a phrase when I was growing up that would fit in nicely here, brick shit house. Anyway, I digress. We had to give our names and info about us and out of the dozen or so people there I was one of only two who weren’t military, LEO or former military. But hey, skills are skills and I want to learn. Jesse began the class with an hour long powerpoint and I was learning new stuff from slide one. I loved it and was taking it all in. Let me tell you first that when you see TV shows or movies with police, military or any other security people clearing a room, every step is well choreographed and trained up to the most minute detail. There is no rushing and as Jesse stated time and time again, “slow is smooth and smooth is fast.” Each step, movement of your weapon and decision is carefully thought out and there’s a reason behind it. I promised not to divulge what we learned or the tactics which are used but these guys take room clearing as seriously as I took training with a power meter. There’s a reason you stand facing this way with this much room off the wall. There’s a reason you step with this foot this way and not overlapping. And the most important lesson was all about angles. Angles of a room, angles of approach and all angles. As Pops said, “Angles can get you killed.” Or I like to think- angles can save your life.
After the powerpoint or information overload it was time to gear up. I had to buy some simunitions so I went into the black site facilities office to speak to the owner. There was the requisite dozen or so firearms neatly organized, boxes and boxes of ammo, a number of TV monitors which were CCTV feeds from each room we’d be clearing, a tin of Copenhagen on the desk and yes, another brick shit house of a man who you don’t want to be on his bad side. After grabbing some rounds I donned my Operator Plate Carrier and Oakley Tactical gloves, did a weapons check and we went to town in those rooms. I had Pops as my lead instructor and we spent the next two hours learning how to dissect a room with your partners and be fluid, precise and above all else careful. It is not easy. As a matter of fact, getting it right would take another ten weekends of training in the least. I had a few moments where it all came together and my partners and I covered all the zones like we were supposed to. It’s amazing how much adrenaline can be released even in a simulation! In the last hour we started the dreaded Force on Force, which is where my partner and I attempt to clear a room without getting shot by a bad guy. The bad guy, another student, is stationed in the room and is waiting for us. I was second in the line which means I approached the door first after the lead guy commits to covering me. I took my careful steps down the long hallway trying not to expose myself. I leaned towards the doorway trying to clear each angle which presented itself to me and as I inched closer I went into full pucker up mode (don’t ask what that means). As I was leaning in I heard the pop and then it happened faster than you can blink. I took a pink sim round right to my pinky on my right hand. It turns out my elbow was exposed, the bad guy saw me first and nailed me. Game over. Well that will never happen again. We spent the next hour doing this over and over again and I even got to be the bad guy. I thought I would change things up a bit now. I hid out in the room behind a moveable wall and went prone. I thought I could shoot better from my belly and offer less surface area to the person clearing the room. POP POP POP POP before I knew it I was in a full-on gunfight with another guy for 4-5 seconds. He didn’t hit me BUT I did nick him in the side. It was all good fun, serious stuff but good fun.
The class wrapped up with a debrief and now that everyone had been shooting each other we were all friends. Phone numbers were exchanged, pictures were texted and posted and we all left with a lot more knowledge and a lot less adrenaline.
What happens if there’s a bump in the night in your house? Will you know how to creep around looking for the bad guy who has entered your home? I might not be at the professional operator level yet but I know a few things which could come in handy. Like the saying goes, better to have a gun and not need one than need a gun and not have one.