Training Culture and Mindset

Training Culture and Mindset

June 09, 2020 5 Comments

I remember the first military class I was ever called on to teach. Days before, my stomach was sick. I barely slept. It wasn’t the actual class that scared me because I knew the subject, it was public speaking and being judged by my peers. I was teaching individual movement techniques on the “methods of instruction course.” This course was specifically designed to instruct you how to teach, and it was the first block of instruction I received after being selected to serve in the Army Ranger Wing—a tier-one counterterrorist unit in the Irish Army. Since then, I've taught hundreds, maybe thousands of classes all over the world. I've taught classes in a foreign language. Also, I've taught classes to poorly educated militia fighters in Afghanistan using two different interpreters, one in Pashto and one in Dari. I've taught leadership classes to Officers in the Oman SAS; and believe it or not, I still get nervous. I believe the key to good instruction is preparation and choosing the right forum.

When I was hired as an instructor for the Special Forces Sniper Course, I immediately recognized a culture I didn't agree with or support. SFSC is a nine-week sniper course set up to train snipers for US Army Green Berets, Army Rangers, and Delta Force. One of the “gates” the student would regularly fail was the field shoot--a shooting event designed to test the sniper’s and spotter’s ability to engage multiple targets at unknown distances under a tight timeline. At the time, it was not uncommon for 15 or more students to fail the field shoot. Every new instructor must shadow a course by sitting in every class, so they can catch up and get on the same sheet of music as every other instructor. As we prepared for the first field shoot, I witnessed several instructors writing a number on the board. When I asked what the number meant, I was told it was a lottery—each instructor wrote a number on the board and put $10 in the hat, the instructor that guessed correctly how many students would fail the field shoot won the money. I was shocked by this and didn't understand. Now, I understand it was the culture at that time.

When I took over as the Non-commissioned Officer in charge (NCOIC), I tried and succeeded in changing that culture. I firmly believe that instructors should have pride of ownership in their students—if a student fails, it’s a reflection on the instructor’s ability to teach. This was controversial. I was told that some students were not meant to be snipers no matter how much training they receive. This can be true, but it's the exception, not the rule. I booked all ranges throughout the weekends, so if you had a student struggling, that instructor would come in on the weekend and spend time on the range with one-on-one instruction. I would also be there every time; I believe it’s easy to throw direction out if you’re not the one executing. This is not lowering standards. It’s raising the level of instruction. When possible, we employed isolation training—if a student was having a problem with finding a final firing position (FFP) during a stalking event, we didn’t practice the whole movement. Instead, we isolated the movement into the FFP and did it multiple times.  It was the instructor’s job to get the students to a level of proficiency to pass. We were involved in two wars and needed snipers in the field.

The cultural change took only two classes to become the new norm; and as new instructors started, it became normal to go the extra mile to ensure students passed.



5 Responses

Chad
Chad

June 22, 2020

That is the type of leadership that makes individuals a team. It creates trust and a bigger vision. Great to hear that sentiment coming from your team at Fieldcraft. Keep up the great work. God bless.

Nikk Dibs
Nikk Dibs

June 10, 2020

Great sentiment and practices. Through conviction and strength of will, mountains will move under their OWN weight.
Cheers.

Michael Arcieri
Michael Arcieri

June 09, 2020

I commend your mindset, sir. As a 30 year veteran of education, this is how it’s supposed to be. While in the Marines, I qualified with the M16 when my XO took a level of interest similar to what you expressed. Thank you for all you have done and continue to do.

Andrew Rowe
Andrew Rowe

June 09, 2020

Sounds like the kind of guy I would love to learn from and advance my skill set. Unfortunately I can’t make it when you guys come to South Carolina, but hopefully y’all have a great turnout, and return again. Thanks to Fieldcraft for offering what so many people are looking for today.

James Dunne
James Dunne

June 09, 2020

This is awesome. True leadership. I have been so lucky to be on the receiving end of your generous, attentive, patient, inspiring and sometimes ass kicking expert teaching in both the bug out on foot class and this past weekend on the range. Thanks for sharing your knowledge and good heart with your students and helping to put more well trained people out into the world.

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