The trouble is, you think you have time – Buddha’s Little Instruction Book
On January 15, 2009, shortly after takeoff, US Airways Flight 1549 suffered multiple bird strikes that caused both jet engines to fail. When Captain Sullenburger safely landed that passenger jet, unpowered, on the Hudson River, he didn’t have time to practice; he chose the best option available at the time. Regardless of the way a crisis or event manifests itself, the reality is there won’t be time to practice and we don’t get to choose the time or the place. We set ourselves up for success by having a plan and tools to implement that plan. If we recognize now there is never enough time, we need to practice our plan. Captain Sully had practiced flying gliders for thousands of hours so when the time came – and his big passenger jet decided to become a glider – he made the only choice he could: he glided. Perfectly. He not only had a plan, but he had trained and tested his plan. Having a plan is great, having a tested plan is better. Mike Tyson used to say “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”
I have a close friend of mine that has trained with me for years. He is a traditional white-collar guy that has studied and practiced combatives his entire life. A lifetime of combative training makes him no stranger to getting punched in the mouth. The differing size of burn scars on his body from hot brass show he knows his way around a wide variety of weapon systems. He trains extensively with weapons and fighting concepts and, as far as skills go, he is pretty good. His weapons and his gear are solid. He is a professional, a thinker, he’s “switched on”, if you will. He called me the other day to talk about a gunfight he almost found himself in. Almost. And almost without a gun. Seems The Reaper decided to make a house call, unannounced. And all of that high-speed gear and equipment that he carries and trains with all of the time? It decided to sit this one out. You will fight with what you carry.
The other example I will use comes from another great friend, a cop. This guy is SWAT trained and SWAT tested, and now serves his country in the deepest and darkest corners of the world. He is – hands down – one of the most highly trained and operationally experienced guys that I know. He met The Reaper once and punched that bitch in the mouth. He, too, found himself – with his family – in the middle of a gunfight without a gun. Sitting at an intersection with his family, a man steps out of a vehicle a few cars in front of him, buttons his jacket, pulls an AK47 from his trunk, and begins walking through the lines of traffic shooting. The trouble is, you think you have time.
There has been chatter recently about “ tactical minimalism”, and the idea that having less than a full load out makes a person inferior or less capable. When I talk about minimalism I am specifically referring to living as a minimalist within the context of personal protection and the use of available tools, i.e. firearms, knives, gear, etc. A better term comes from the military and is “line gear”, and is referenced as first line gear, second line gear, and third line gear. First line gear is described, simply, as gear you will never be without or gear that you have with you at all times. Quiz time: knock knock, Reaper’s here…what is your first line gear? Remember the rules: it must be gear that you have on you at all times. For me in my life I want to say that my first line gear is a gun, a light, a knife, and a tourniquet. But I’d be lying. So would most of you. Do you fly commercially as a civilian? Do you go into restricted areas, either government buildings or school zones? Do you swim in a pool or spend time at the beach? If you do, the chances are, like me, you aren’t carrying a gun. Maybe a knife. So that makes my first line gear – the gear that I have with me at all times – simply a light and a tourniquet. Seems fairly benign, yet it is realistic. When confronted by people who say they always carry and have tons of gear and equipment every time, all the time, my response is two-fold: they are either full of shit or they don’t get out very much.
Regardless of whether you train with a lot of gear or with very little, you need to become comfortable with fighting with nothing. For those that train on the mats – do you restrict one arm or both legs and practice fighting? For those that train with firearms, do you train with it when it won’t shoot anymore? When Cain killed Abel – whether with a rock, or a bone, or a spear – he picked up a tool from the ground and went to work. Knock knock, Reaper’s here. You fight with what you carry.
No matter what our path in life, recognize how the basics apply to our circumstances. In the end, you will fight with what you carry. You are either ready or you are not. Be a realist; don’t worry about things that aren’t real. Have a plan that will survive getting punched in the mouth. Recognize the bigger issue: the trouble is, we think we have time.
During the analysis of an event, regardless of what it is labeled – after action report, case study, debriefing – the most important factor is setting the stage: painting the picture of the narrative through context and circumstances. The label we use is irrelevant, because here is the important distinction: you don’t get to choose the circumstances or the context. The three examples above illustrate equally that the event chooses you. You want powered engines? Nope, you get a glider. You are used to training with a ton of gear and equipment? Nope, you get pajamas and a pistol. Oh, you slapped The Reaper? You don’t even get a rock. You go into the event with what you have, not with what you want to have. And the kicker is: the event is going to happen whether you are ready or not. In the end, you will fight, work, survive, conquer – whatever label you want to put on it – only with what you carry.
Knock knock, Reaper’s here.