Why Training Matters: in Life and in Stuttering

Last Friday I attended “Sim” training for the Police Department. This is simulated reality training where I trained with other officers in mock situations with paintball guns to hone our skills in violent and quickly changing situations.

One of the mock calls I went on was an armed barricaded subject in a house, where two other officers responded with me. We made our approach to the front door and set up to make entry. I was on the handle side of the front door and the other officers were hinge side. When there is a numbered response like this the order of command is in the same order as arrival to the scene. So, if a rookie gets on scene first, he calls movement even when the Sergeants show up. Officers 1 and 2 were across the door from me, I was officer 3.

As soon as officer 1 was comfortable with our staging he gave me the “go” nod. I slammed the door open and we filled in ready for a fire fight.

I cut right and the other two officers cut to the left. The subject in the house opened fire from one of the bedrooms around the corner striking the first entry officer in the chest. Pink paint splattered all over his vest and paintball mask and he immediately sunk to the floor. I called “officer down” over the radio and took up a position at the corner of the hallway where I could just barely see the door to the bedroom where the shooter was.

The second entry officer stepped up behind the downed officer and pointed his weapon around the same corner; I was looking around and attempting to get a shot in the doorway where the shooter was. By that point more back up had arrived and it was getting chaotic in the little entryway where all of the officers had come in.

I began yelling to the officers on the other side of the entry to pull the downed officer out of the line of fire. This was pure reflex, even though this was all just training and no real bullets were flying, my blood pressure was up, my adrenaline was pumping, and my heart was pounding.

That is the whole point of this training. To mimic all the realism of actual fire fights without losing any lives.

There was plenty of other things to think about while I was standing there trying to get a shot on the barricaded subject, like “is my gun chambered, is the safety off, I need make sure my foot isn’t sticking out around the corner waiting to be shot, why is this stupid mask fogging up so bad, I can’t see my rifle sights, what if he rushes us, do I have good cover, is my body armor facing him so if I do take shots the armor will stop it”, and so on…

These were all things that I could have been thinking about during this 3 minute stand-off.

I thought about most of them during that time, but the training I’ve been through over the years was screaming in the back of my mind to GET THE INJURED OFFICER OUT OF THE LINE OF FIRE.

This is why training matters. I may not be able to recall all my training on a written test, but when panic hits, most of us can recall everything we’ve been trained on that relates to our current situation.

This brings me to stuttering. Recently there was a lengthy discussion in a Speech Anxiety Masters meeting (https://worldstopstuttering.org/speech-club) and on the WSSA forums about what to do when you draw a blank when hitting a block. I think this just shows how important mind training is to be successful with fluent speech.

When a PWS hits a block, they panic. Ever heard of “Fight, flight or freeze”? It’s %100 true. When you panic, one of two things happen. You either pull from what you’ve been trained on and use it, or you freeze.

We have to make the crutches part of our daily training until they are so ingrained in our psyche that when we hit a block using them is second nature.

I do my mind training twice a day and before any “heightened situation” I see coming. I review the list of 13 Crutches and any autosuggestions pertaining to what I’m doing. I find that this daily repetition helps me keep the Crutches in my back pocket at all times and enables me to keep my mind in the right place when speaking in any situation.

There is no way to draw a blank when you’re properly trained. One of my favorite quotes of all time relates to stuttering, clearing shoot houses with other police officers, or anything else for that matter:

“You will not raise to meet your expectations, you will fall to your training.”

I forget who said it or where I heard it, but it’s so true – in life and in stuttering.

In the end we did get the “bad guy”; there was a lot of a paint all the over the walls and two officers had pretty pink body armor when it was over. But we all had a good time and we are all better at clearing houses with active barricaded shooters because of it. 

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