I was ten years old in a very front bunker with my dad in a paintball match. Paintballs were slamming our cover and flying over the top like a swarm of bees. I got so scared thinking of how bad I was going to get lit up I started to cry. My dad looked over at me and told me it’s okay son they’re just shooting at us now take a breath and work that left angle and shoot anyone that tries to work their way out. I took a deep breath, grabbed control of my fear and executed what I was told to do. This exact moment is when I learned about taking a tactical pause. I’m Dillon Ventzke and I would like to talk about some of the benefits of being able to take a tactical pause.
From that day on I learned of how to take a tactical pause even if I did not know the name for it yet. A tactical pause in my definition is when you take control of the things that you cannot control in a chaotic constantly changing environment and manage your fear. It’s like a refresh button for yourself so you can complete one task at a time instead of getting overloaded with fear and anxiety and failing the task at hand.
Later in life when I was an Airborne Infantryman in the 82nd learning how to be a good soldier our combat-hardened Non-commissioned officers would preach in training of taking a tactical pause. I learned quickly that not many people understand how to do this or possess the ability to do it properly. I was subpar in physical fitness when it came to my peers and I wasn’t the smartest but when it came down to being able to execute or step up to a leadership position I excelled over my peers. I took the initiative and studied harder than my peers becoming more knowledgeable than them and became a gym rat to be the best I possibly could physically. The more training I did and the more good NCOs mentored me the better I became at my job but also being able to execute it in high-stress situations.
Some of you reading this may know that I am a dedicated competition shooter. At the recent Arizona IDPA State match I used the ability to take a tactical pause consistently during the match. I used this to stay in control and not push myself beyond my ability. Some people will say it’s match speed vs practice speed. In reality what people are referring to is the pace you can shoot and execute the tasks at hand without making mistakes. If you pay attention to match scores the guys that typically win didn't necessarily shoot the fastest stages but they shot a solid, competitive score on every stage. Some competitors will have two awesome stages and one terrible stage that essentially throws away the time they gained on the good stages. Consistency is the name of the game, averaging the best scores over the course of a match. Good shooters shoot their own match and don’t try to shoot someone else’s match. They stay in control of their game and usually perform very well even if they don’t win.
For me taking a tactical pause starts with taking a deep breath. This helps with opening up tunnel vision and is the reset signal to my brain to slow things down and to start executing what I can control. From what I’ve witnessed when things get crazy people get full of anxiety and panic and this is when stupid decisions happen. This can be decisions on the battlefield or simple tasks such as manipulating your weapon platform properly or utilizing cover properly. As a team leader and squad leader I would preach to my guys don’t rush to your death because the big things we can’t control but the little things we can. Make the other side work to kill you, just don’t give them your life because you couldn’t work your corner of cover properly or get your weapon up when you have a malfunction. We’ve heard it a million times that our brain is our weapon and everything else is just a tool. That’s because it is true. The problem with our brain is it can process information much faster than we can execute it so you need to be able to slow your brain down to a pace that you can execute.
Find what your tactical pause is and whatever it is that gives you control in high-stress situations. Train malfunction drills, moving to cover, moving and shooting and so on. Push everything to failure then analyze why you failed. Being able to take a tactical pause could be the difference of life or death for you and your loved ones. In a self-defense situation it’s the difference between pulling your gun prematurely or waiting until you have a tactical advantage. No matter how much we train and prepare ourselves the situation and the environment have the ultimate say in what the end result will be however we can do our best to control the parts we can and not be responsible for our own failure.