Proper Prior Performance Prevents Piss-Poor Planning
Wait, did I type that wrong? No, actually I did not.
We throw a lot of pithy quotes and cliches around the tactical community, often without understanding exactly what the Hell they mean. In the preparedness community, in my experience, this is even more prevalent. We can talk about planning all we want, but if we haven’t done the work prior—if we haven’t performed—planning is nothing but a masturbatory exercise: all of the work, and only a poor mimicry of the satisfaction of doing it for real and right.
So, what exactly constitutes “proper prior performance?” Is it just “training?” After all, I beat the dead horse of “TRAIN! TRAIN! TRAIN! TRAIN!” a lot, right?
The answer is, “Yes….and No.”
Yes, training is critical, that should be fucking obvious. Someone just posted a video that I saw on Facebook of some dude blasting at three armed robbers in his store…without hitting any of them, as far as I could tell from the video. Owning a goddamned gun does NOT make you a gunfighter. Talking about “mindset” does not mean you have the right attitude to split skulls. Period. You have to do the work. I don’t know how many times I—and pretty much every other trainer in the entire goddamned world—can beat on that. There’s more to it than that though.
What is the goal of training? Is it just to “do stuff?” Or, is it to meet—and hopefully exceed—a set metric of performance? Let’s assume, just for the sake of argument, that you’re NOT a complete fucking moron, and understand that training, without having a set of standards as a performance metric, is a waste of time, energy, and money. So, why do we have metrics?
One answer is simply “to know what we can do.” Another might be, “so we can tell someone new what we can do.” This latter answer is not about bragging, but simply explaining to a newcomer, “Hey, this is what we’re capable of, you need to meet these standards as well, if you want to work/train with us.”
Ultimately, going back to the title of this very short article, there is a more important reason why we have standards that MUST BE MET. It is only through the establishment—and meeting—of standards, that we can objectively plan effectively. It doesn’t matter if your planning to conduct security patrols, raids, ambushes, a bug-out, or farm work. If you don’t know—objectively—what you’re capable of, you might as well not be capable of it.
How do we know we’re capable of something? There’s only one way: by doing the work, and meeting the standard. If you don’t do the work, you don’t know if you can meet the standards, regardless of how simple they might seem. I’m going to give you a couple of examples, seen in recent classes (I’m on a seven week long teaching trip, doing a class every single weekend. I’ve got lots of recent experience to use as examples…).
1) Rifle Marksmanship: In a recent class in Missouri, I had a shooter who said he was a life-long experienced shooter, who was an “expert” marksman. He “got his deer” every year, and apparently has an entire safe full of guns, although the AR15 he was running in this class was his first fighting rifle.
The problem was, he could barely keep his shots, even during zero fire, in the A-Zone of a standard IPSC silhouette target, let alone tight enough to actually zero the weapon. “I get my deer every year” is NOT a shooting standard. Did you head shoot your deer? Were they running, walking, or stationary when you shot them? Where did you shoot them? Aiming for the heart/lungs, and blowing his paunch out instead is NOT a marker of accuracy and shooting skill. How far away were the deer when you shot them? Hitting an eight inch vitals area, at 10 yards, in the brush of east Tennessee, is not particularly evident of skill-at-arms.
“I can put one round per second into the A-Zone of an IPSC silhouette, at any distance, out to 400 meters,” is a standard. It’s an identifiable metric. “I can qualify on the US Army Qualification Tables” is a metric of performance—albeit not a particularly laudable one. “I can shoot expert on the AQT” is slightly better.
In order to establish a standard, it has to actually provide a metric. A metric is defined as “a system of measurement.” It has nothing to do with the metric system, except that the metric system are metrics. What is does have to do with is objectivity. It needs to be…well….objective.
“I can shoot gooder than all my buddies at deer camp!” is not an objective metric. It’s subjective. Maybe all your friends are actually—objectively—really shitty marksmen (if the deer and elk camps I’ve been in are any indication, this is probably the case).
Further, marksmanship alone is a piss-poor metric for combat shooting. How fast can you achieve that level of accuracy? Shooting the asshole out of a gnat, at 500 yards, is commendable. Unrealistic, but commendable. On the other hand, if I can hit a head-sized target at that range, every time, and do it in 1/10th of the time it takes you to get that super refined sight picture, you’re fucked in the eyeball, aren’t you?
With gunhandling, standards need to encompass both a time and an accuracy metric.
Can I plan anything, if I don’t know how close my people need to be, in order to actually hit what they’re shooting at? Should I just take their word that “I kin hit that thar!”
2) In another recent class, focusing on the planning and execution of a security patrol, the plan that was to be executed called for a seven-mile road march—admittedly in some really steep mountain terrain—in four hours. That’s slower than a 30-minute mile. That should be doable, even with a rucksack on, in the mountains, for a reasonably fit person, right? It took the students two hours to go three miles, and the route got steeper from there.
Now, I’m not out to pick on students in my classes, but one of the biggest takeaways from the class, for the students was, “we need to objectively determine fitness levels.”
During the planning phase, in order to determine friendly force capabilities, the group went around and asked “what’s your fitness level?” The answers were given on a scale of 1-10, and for the most part, tended to be very confident (note to future students: when the SF veteran tells you his fitness level is a “3,” and he’s obviously not in poor shape, you might take that as what my cop friends call, a clue……).
The problem was not that their fitness level assessments were wrong. They may have very well been on that level, within their social and training circles, but that’s not subjective. It’s easy to be a big fish, if the pond is small. When you are in the ocean though, there are Great White Sharks out there….
We talk a lot about PT standards, including road march times. One thing that is often overlooked is that road marches take place….on roads. Movement cross country, and especially cross-country in rough terrain, while trying to maintain stealth, takes even longer.
I had a conversation the other day with a buddy who recently left the Army Special-Missions Unit. He was discussing a raid they did, in the not-too-distant past, that involved a heli-borne insertion, followed by an 800 meter movement, over a steep ridgeline, to the objective rally point. I can run 800 meters in a couple of minutes, even uphill. That should have been an easy movement for a bunch of superfit, elite tactical athletes from SFOD-D, right? 20-30 minutes on the outside? Try two hours on for size.
Standards don’t tell us how fast we will be able to move, but they can give us an indication of how fast we CAN move. That is important for planning. If I build a plan that calls for a 15-minute mile road march movement, and the fastest my guys can move on the road, under load, is a 45-minute mile, my plan is useless as tits on a bull. If they can’t make a 30-minute mile on the road, how fast are they going to be able to move, scaling a near vertical climb, through the brush? We. Just. Do. Not. Know. Because, we don’t have any metric to base estimates on.
Not everyone in this world is a meat-eater. Not everyone in your tribe is destined for the path of the hero. Some will be butchers, bakers, and candlestick makers. There’s nothing wrong with any of those trades, and all are equally important to the survival of the tribe as the warrior-hero…at least until there’s a dragon at the front gate. We expect our butchers and bakers to actually cut meat and bake bread. We expect our candlestick makers to actually make candlesticks. We expect a certain base level of quality in their work. Not expecting a base level of quality in the work of the warrior—which is, until it’s time to put heads on spikes, is training—is so ridiculous as to seem ludicrous. Establish standards, and expect yourself, and those around you, to meet them.
If you’re running “planning” exercises, even within your larger training scenarios, and you don’t have a set of performance standards that you expect people to meet, you’re playing a motherfucking game, and I would point out that Call-of-Duty, even in multi-player, online format, is probably cheaper than buying a bunch of gear (Actually, I don’t know. I don’t even know how much a Nintendo costs these days….). It’s certainly less work.
DO THE FUCKING WORK!
Or, do what everyone else does, and go collect welfare, so you don’t have to do any work.