Skull-Stomping Sacred Cows…In Living Colour

There is a disturbing trend in the training and preparedness culture. It is a carryover from more mainstream society’s adoration of celebrity. It is the “Cult of Personality.” I don’t need to name names for most people to envision someone in the industry who brings this cult of personality to mind. From high-end production training videos that glamorize rapid fire and dynamic drills to action figures modeled on themselves, to extolling an off-the-wall choice of weapons as “the gun of choice (this week),” there are trainers who seem to actively pursue fame and stardom like some sort of Hollywood celebrity with a rifle.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with that. Most guys are trying to make a living, and if they can keep potential clients’ interest piqued, then people will spend money and come to their classes, buy their books or videos, and spread the word to other potential clients. It’s a business.

Sam Culper had the temerity to point out to me recently that “Dude, you’re a celebrity.” I am not a celebrity. I put on my pants one leg at a time, just like you. I get pissed off at my wife and kid. I like sleeping in, and I skip workouts occasionally. I even occasionally miss shots on target when I shoot!

I’ve gone out of my way from the very beginning of the Mountain Guerrilla blog to explain to people that A) I’m not in the training thing to make money. I’m trying to help people learn what I believe are important skills. I don’t have to pull off attention-grabbing stunts to draw people to my classes, because life is actually easier for us if I don’t teach classes, and stay home for my day job instead. B) I don’t know everything there is to know about combat, shooting, or surviving the Apocalypse. No one does.

That’s the point of this editorial. There is nothing wrong with anyone trying to convince you that their training is better. It might actually be. However, anyone who tells you they have ALL the answers is a liar. There is no reason you need to train with any particular trainer. There is no reason you need to train with a “trainer” at all. Yes, you need training. Yes, it needs to come from someone with actual, recent, relevant combat experience. That can be the dude you meet at the range, or your buddy’s cousin who served with the 101st Airborne in the Korengal (a little hat tip to my buddies from 1/327. They know who they are). What matters is that they can provide you training that will allow you to meet the standards of performance you’ve decided you must meet.

It’s entertaining and common to belittle the efforts of “tacti-cool” instructors and trainers, but doing so does both ourselves and others a disservice. The reality is, if you stand a “traditional” rifleman next to a rifleman who uses a C-grip or other “tacti-cool” method, proven in modern combat, the guy who was willing to adapt and evolve will shoot faster and as accurate—if not more accurately. If a guy can fire a one-hole group doing a rapid-fire mag dump at 25 meters, do you really think he’s not going to be able to make hits out at 200-300 meters from the prone, taking a little more time? Is shooting a rifle course on a pistol range the end-all, be-all of combat rifle training? No, of course not. It can be a solid, important aspect of the training, and even the most famous “tacti-cool” trainers stretch the shooting out to at least 100 meters, when range conditions—and student abilities—allow it.

There is nothing at all wrong with training with one of the celebrity trainers out there. Most have serious, legitimate man-killing gunslinger credentials. The fact that they do something differently than I do, or any other trainer, doesn’t mean they are wrong. The methods they are teaching are predicated on what worked for them, in the environments they went to war in, and that they are teaching for. Period.

Don’t get wound around your own axle because someone teaches something different than you’re used to. They’re not saying you’re wrong. If they are? It’s because they need the business to make the bills this month. That’s where the cult of personality becomes a problem. The man that will claim other people’s experience-proven methods are “WRONG!” because he needs to pay the bills will—sooner rather than later—start making things up to keep students interested and returning. If you need to go to a trainer’s course, pick the trainer who’s personality seems to suit your taste, and who is teaching material relevant to your needs. Period. It doesn’t matter if he’s famous. It doesn’t matter if he has a SOF background, conventional force infantry, or a SWAT background (Okay, I was kidding on the last one). Here’s the thing that I’ve beat silly in the past: when it comes down to nut-cutting time, in the middle of a fight, a SOF shooter is just an infantryman with a larger training budget and cooler toys.

Beside Selection, really the thing that separates a SF soldier from his conventional-force counterpart is that we are supposed to specialize in taking raw recruits and teaching them how to be functional soldiers in a compressed period of time, hopefully without offending their cultural sensitivities and creating closed-minds to the training we’re giving.

It really does not matter who you train with. Just go get the training. Don’t let yourself get blindfolded by someone else’s ego over what works or doesn’t work. Do your PT, learn to shoot your rifle and pistol fast and accurate, learn to use cover and concealment, and drive on already. Don’t be a fan boy.


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Thanks, John. I like the spiritedness in your views and writing.

It’s not a 100% guarantee, but the challenges a person faces in the military (speaking as American) can help to burn off some character faults. Some faults for example may be self-centerdness or cult following tendencies. I like to think camaraderie is a virture leftover from the refining fire of service. Still it isn’t a complete process just to “serve.’ It seems that we have to punish our weakness daily.

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