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In my courses, I stress the importance of several things, but probably most important of these are the need to continue to train yourself and the need to train with multiple teachers.
Every one of us has a different mission we are trying to train for. Even among the disciplines (Patrol Cop, SWAT guy, Mil, CCW / HD, Emergency Preparedness), every student's mission will be slightly different. I cannot stress enough that in order to get the most out of your limited training time and budget, every course you take should further a goal of your personal training plan. This obviously assumes you HAVE a personal training plan. A training plan provides a roadmap for your development, and is absolutely essential to ensure you are actually accomplishing something besides spending money to masturbate on the range.
A personal training plan doesn't have to be complex, but it should minimally include a clear statement of your mission, the capabilities you will need to accomplish your mission, the procedures you will need to develop to perform the capability, the techniques required to execute the procedures, and the skills required to complete each technique correctly. If you want me to build you a personal training plan because you are lazy, send me $1 Million and I'd be happy to do yours for you.
Once you have this plan, you can begin at the beginning: Skills. Identify the skills you need to develop (handgun, carbine, shotgun, slingshot, ninja stars... whatever), and choose courses which will most likely further those objectives. Once you are down the road of skills, begin identifying techniques courses which mesh with your plan (Vehicle Tactics, Advanced CCW course, Shoothouse, Team Tactics, etc etc). Do not let you skills slip, maintenance is required at every level. Then (most likely several years and many courses later) begin looking at procedures courses (CQB, NVG, Vehicle CQB, vehicle assaults, HRT, etc etc). I think you get the point.
Planning your training this way ensures you keep your personal "big picture" in mind, and don't waste precious time and resources. Remember, YOU are responsible for training yourself; whatever Instructor or teacher you are learning from at the moment is teaching you his take on things for you to take home and perfect as you see fit. No teacher will be with you to coach you through your gunfight.
Train with Multiple Instructors
Given the large scope of the personal training required for any mission, you would be wise to train with a broad cross-section of teachers / schools. Variety of input, even in the basic skills, will help you be more efficient in training yourself, and give you some perspective on the complexities of skinning the cat.
Also, training with teachers of varied backgrounds and experiences will provide you with some interesting insights, if you pay attention. Each will have his own opinions, based on his personal experience and the culture of the organization from which he spawned. All professional cultures create a very subtle group of assumptions based on shared experience, and this can subconsciously creep into a teachers methodologies. I know it has with mine. This is not a bad thing, but if the teacher does not recognize and compensate for it, it can lead to him leaving some valuable knowledge in his head because he just assumes (again, unconsciously) that you already know it.
I break gunfighting teachers down into 4 basic food groups based on their experience:
3) Hybrid (guys who were both combat arms military and cops), and
Before I get into my opinions about the different types of teachers and what they each excel at, let me point out that great teaching in the Weapons and Tactics field is not dependent on the current / former job of the teacher. I have taken courses from Men who were never in the military or police service that were absolutely excellent training. One example, Tom Givens, taught me more than I knew existed about the art of carrying a gun for CCW. Was Tom ever a professional gunfighter? No. Does he have a lot to offer someone training for a CCW mission? #&%$ yes. Does that make him a teacher of gunfighters? Yes.
Teachers with a military / special operations background generally come from an aggressive culture with very high standards, and are accustomed to students who are well enough motivated, intelligent and funded to continue their training on a basically full time basis. The are used to their students grasping concepts and physical skills very rapidly, and their methodologies assume a very high level of fitness on the part of their students. Military teachers also come from an offensive culture... when in doubt, they attack. That can be a great mindset to teach from, except when it's not appropriate for the mission.
The best "Military" teachers, in my experience, tend to do a much better job than teachers with other types of backgrounds in the area of training through leadership. They are very comfortable (in the "used to it" sense) with the lives of the men they care deeply about depending on what they are teaching. This usually leads to a much more passionate leadership style, which serves the student better than a "drill runner" type of instructor.
Military teachers generally approach all training subjects, even the basic skills like gunhandling, from a Team perspective. This is a great point of reference to see, as a student, but it is not the only one.
Cops, especially Patrol Cops, come at things from the other side of the coin... working by yourself, with help minutes away. Cops also come from a much more reactive and governed culture. Every action a cop takes has legal and liability consequences. Where military members worry about mission accomplishment and unit wellbeing first, cops must worry about public (collateral) wellbeing and legal ramifications for the State, agency, themselves and the bad guy. In short, while a military member's first priority is to close with and destroy the enemy, a cop's first priority is the safety of the non-involved parties around him.
This cultural hyper-focus on decision making for cops makes for some good and bad. The good: cops make, on average, at least two decisions an hour, any one of which could ruin him or hurt the public good. This makes for cop teachers who are generally very very good at making continuous, rapid, important decisions; and more important to our discussions, they are good at teaching others to do so as well. The Bad: Cops tend to want to break everything down into a A+B=C process. The best cop teachers get past this mentally lazy habit, and learn to teach others a more dynamic, principals based decision making process.
Cop teachers are good at teaching the use of the pistol to large numbers of apathetic students. The pistol, being the primary weapon of the police officer, gets the largest chunk of the cop teacher's attention. If a good cop teacher can take a motivated student and quickly fix whatever is wrong with their shooting faster, generally, than a military teacher, it is because they simply have vastly more experience doing so.
Where cop teachers in general fall behind some military teachers is in the area of training leadership. Police departments like processes and checklists. The lazy, or uneducated / motivated cop firearms guy is never trained to lead or teach, they are an instructor.... reading off a list of drills and checking the students performance against a standard. This type of instructor has no frame of reference to fix a student slowly, using the teaching method most appropriate to that individual shooter.
The Hybrid Teacher
There is a small number of teachers who have the best of both worlds. They have lived the work in both the military AND cop relms. These guys, in my experience, tend to make the most effective teachers for the largest number of students, for obvious reasons. Pat Rogers and Paul Howe are the two greatest examples of this kind of teacher in my mind, and both would already be in our industry's Hall of Fame, if we had one.
Having said all of this, are there military teachers who do a great job teaching to the student who is actually in front of them, taking the time to learn about the student's mission and adjust their teaching methodology to match the student's need? YES. Are their cop teachers who can do the same? YES.
None of what we do as teachers in the skills and technique realm, whether military, LE or civilian, is so specialized that a great teacher can't effectively teach outside their frame of reference. We do it all the time. Cops and civilians regularly go to courses taught by Kyle Lamb, Mike Pannone, Pat Mac, Kyle D or Larry Vickers, and have huge, positive, effective results. Military end users regularly go outside the military world for skills and techniques training, with similar positive results.
Where the small differences come into play is in procedural and capability level courses. Without the personal experience of living the training and deployments of a special operations soldier, how can I as a cop, no matter how good I am as a teacher, fully grasp the deep complexities, culture and assumptions of that world? I cannot. The same goes the other way.
In conclusion, I don't think whether a teacher is from a military or law enforcement background really matters in skill and techniques training. A great teacher is a great teacher; and so long as they stay in their lane you can get many good lessons from each of them.
I recommend making a training plan, choosing quality instruction based on your needs and a logical progression, and maintain the skills you have developed.
Just my two pesos.