LESSONS LEARNED – Raging wildfire and the San Bernardino shooting

Surviving Deadly Contact with Kelly Alwood in Utah - AH TrimbleI try not to waste my training. You know what I mean. How many times have you taken some kind of training and then not really used what you learned? I’ve done it more times than I can remember, but I am trying to do better. The SDC class (surviving deadly contact) with Kelly Allwood is my latest example. I spent a lot of hard earned

Kelly Alwood

Kelly Alwood

money taking that class, hurt myself fairly badly, enjoyed myself immensely, and didn’t want to waste what I had learned or the time learning it.

Let me change directions for a moment…About seven years ago I was on a serious wildfire in Oregon. It was kicking our butts every single afternoon. We were at the head of this thing trying to cut it off. It went into “raging” status every day about 1pm. I was a Task Force Leader on that fire working for a Division Supervisor. He was a really nice guy, but it was his first assignment as a fully qualified Division Supervisor. We had a plan that as soon as the fire blew-up I was to evacuate all of our resources to a safety zone a few miles away. I accomplished that with no problems.

I am the kind of guy that I am the first person into our area of operations and the last guy to leave. I won’t ask our people to do anything I won’t do, especially if there is danger involved. Plus, I am a thrill junkie.

So all of our resources are safely gone and I am heading out. But I stop at this intersection of two dirt logging roads Wildfire-005to see what the fire is doing. It was amazing! That fire was moving fast and boiling through the timber. It sounded like a freight train and spotting all over the place starting new small fires all around. I stood there in the middle of that dirt road completely impressed with what I was seeing. All of my senses were on overload with the view of this raging fire that was within 50 yards of me, 40 yards, then 30 yards…

Ooooppppsssssss! Ya think it was maybe, just maybe, a bit too close?

I snapped out of my sensory party and realized the fire was way too big, way too close, moving way too fast, and I was being way too dumb. I jumped in my truck and headed down the mountain to the safety zone where everyone else was waiting on me.San Bernardino Shooting by muslim terrorists

What does that have to do with wasting training and the San Bernardino shooting?

Hang in there for a minute and I will tie it all together for you…I promise. Now on to the San Bernardino shooting.

What would you have done if you had been sitting in that room when the two Muslim terrorists came in and started shooting up the place?

Now, to be fair, let me set it up a little better than that. I will go on the basis of “me” since I am most familiar with me vs. you.

What would I have done if I had been sitting in that room when the two Muslim terrorists came in and started shooting up the place?

First of all,who knows for sure. But, I know myself pretty well and how I have reacted in the past to high-stress, surprising situations of life and death, so I am going to take a guess at it…at least for the purpose of the article.

I always carry other than when I am working at my day job. Why not then? It is a felony to be armed at my job, so I don’t carry. But my EDC bag with my Sig is in the truck about 100’ away from my desk. But, on that day, at a Christmas party I would have been carrying. I would have had a Sig 1911 Ultra Compact .45 on me. One in the chamber, 7 in the mag, and a spare full mag in my pocket.

Using what you have learned by reading my articles on Situational Awareness (SA) what would you have observed about the party…what would the baseline be?

  1. It was a festive occasion and everyone is supposed to be happy.
  2. A co-worker (Farook) gets upset about something, turns mad, and then leaves.
  3. Then there was the knowledge that he had been mad before several times about the way he was treated, he had expressed disdain for Jews, and he is a Muslim.

So the “baseline” is everyone should be having a great time, thinking of Christmas. And then a guy, with previous negative history disrupts everything. RED FLAG !

The deviation from that baseline would be a co-worker got mad, so mad, that he left. That is way off the baseline for the situation. A person who is into SA would see the red flag going up. While there is no actionable information at this point, an SA aware person would turn on their “hyper-vigilant” senses.

Next thing you know the door opens up and two people appear in black tactical gear armed with AR style weapons. SWAT team members shootingThey come to a high-ready position and begin firing into the crowd.

The question is, “What do you do?” No, not the average person, not the person next to you…What do you do?

Remember, the firing was reported as having lasted 30 or more seconds and both Muslim terrorists emptying at least a full 30-round magazine each.

More than likely everyone is relatively slow to react. But when they do, most everyone is diving for the floor trying to get out of the line of fire and hide from their sight. There really is only one way out and the Muslim terrorists are blocking it with their continuous fire.

What do you do?

Now, let me go back to the SDC class I took back in September. In that class it was obvious that waiting and SDC kelly allwodstrategizing in a small lethal environment is a sure way to die. Repeatedly we saw that the best tactic to counter a act of violence was with even more violent and aggressive action against the attacker. And when I am talking aggressive and violent…I am not kidding around. Shoot ‘em in the face!

Let’s stop for a second and review a couple of things. The firing reportedly lasted for about 30 second with both firing at least a 30-round mag each. That is at least 56 rounds (+/-) in 30 seconds or roughly 2 rounds per second being fired. That is very slow shooting for an AR. A trained shooter can fire 3 – 5 rounds per second for a combination of 6 – 10 rounds per second from the shooting pair. And of the 60 (+/-) rounds there were 31 casualties. That leaves 2 rounds per casualty, approximately 55% fatalities. These were not highly trained shooters.

OK, back to, “What would I do?”

My wife and I talked this trough in some detail. She is also a good tactical shooter, but not to my level, and I am nothing special. I can shoot about 3 – 4 rounds from my AR into a 6” pie plate per second under stress. I can shoot about 2 – 3 rounds per second through my 226 but not my Ultra Compact.

Now, one more variable…Who are you?

In relation to preparedness I consider myself a “sheepdog” while wishing I was younger so I could be classified a “wolfhound.”Sheep dog guarding and defending the flock of sheep.

All that being said, “Who/what are you?”

Since I claim sheepdog status, I would act, I wouldn’t hide, I wouldn’t run for an exit, I would go into action. How do I know that? Because I’ve been running towards emergency incidents my whole life. That alone doesn’t make me a superman or anything akin to it. I am just the kind of guy, and trained to do so, that runs towards a problem to solve it. That would be my logical choice that day.

Why would that be my logical choice?

What other choice would there be? Hide under someone and hope the bad guys run out of bullets? Or, wait till they do a mag swap and catch them reloading…and do what exactly?

Come on, really?

The only thing that stops bad guys with guns are good guys with guns.

I feel that the only logical and effective course of action that day would be aggressive and violent action against the shooters.

  1. Draw your weapon, take aim, and start pulling the trigger. No, not the kind of aim that you get a perfect sight picture. I am talking getting that front blade on target and start pulling the trigger.
  2. Close the distance.
  3. Keep pulling the trigger.
  4. Perform a combat mag swap when needed.
  5. Keep closing the distance
  6. Keep pulling the trigger.
  7. When your ammo runs out, throw the gun at the closest one still standing.
  8. Draw your back-up weapon, in my case a 3” fixed blade tactical knife, and start stabbing.

OK, that’s what I would have done…or at least i think and hope so. So what are the potential good and bad points to what I just outlined?

  1. I know that at distances over 10 meters I am not very accurate with my Ultra Compact because it has a short barrel. While I can concentrate on my sight picture and that improves my accuracy, I doubt in a high stress environment that I would be working a good sight picture. My shots would not be accurate.
  2. If I do manage to hit one of them, my 230gr XTP round is going to put them on the ground, and that is regardless of body armor. They may not be dead, but they will be on the ground.
  3. After I start shooting it will take them a few seconds for their SA to let them know they are taking return fire. In that few seconds I can get off 4 – 6 rounds at them. I might get lucky. And, hopefully manage to close the distance by about 10’, maybe more. If I get lucky they have developed “tunnel vision” and will not even realize they are taking fire from me till they are hit or I am standing next to them ready to stab them in the neck.
  4. Once they realize they are taking fire, I might become the center of their attention. I say “might” because it would take stress discipline for them to move their fire to me. Why? Because their training had all been at defenseless paper targets directly in front of them. I might get lucky because they are not use to targets returning fire.
  5. Now it is a shootout between them and me. My advantage is my training; my shooter’s training under stress at multiple moving targets, that training spanning decades.
  6. Another advantage I have is my weapon’s round. A .45 cal 230gr XTP bullet is a man-killer round. If it hits you it is like getting hit with a baseball bat. Their round is a .223 which is well known for needing 2 – 4 hits to put a target down in most CQB situations by untrained shooters.
  7. What I have going against me is the fact that there are two of them and only one of me.
  8. What I have going against me is very limited ammo supply, I have only 15 rounds and I have to do a mag swap half-way through that supply.
  9. What I have in my favor is I know that there are two of them and what their weapons are. And further, they don’t know I was armed or what I am capable of.
  10. Finally, in all of the studies a person with a knife usually can move/run 21’ at an armed person and stab them before the armed person can get off a shot.

Am I assured of defeating the Muslim terrorists that have invaded the Christmas party?

Absolutely not. I don’t have a real way of even calculating the odds of winning or losing that fight. But I do know one thing…I can’t win if I don’t try.

And I do know that if I do nothing I will lose…and so will others around me. Now, I might not be one of the victims that gets killed or injured but I will carry with me the rest of my life that I did nothing to stop the carnage. For me…that would be an intolerable weight on my soul.

OK, now let me change the direction for just a minute on you…

What did I learn from the San Bernardino shooting and my own AAR with my wife?

  1. I now carry two mags with me instead of just one. That gives me 50% more ammo.
  2. I already have good SA wherever I am. But, I have promised myself that I will step it up a notch. Particularly paying more attention to people’s body language in any given situation.
  3. I will do more of the “what if” gaming every time I am at an event or generally in a pubic venue.
  4. I will encourage my wife to carry more often. She carries most of the time for sure. But, I would feel it better if she carried more often.
  5. I will do more stress-based shooter training.
  6. I will take a knife fighting course.What Would You Do

Now, back to the original intent of this article…“What do you do?”

We can’t very often train in these kinds of live scenarios. But we can do the mental gaming of them. We can walk through various options in our minds on what we might, or should, do. We know that those kinds of mental exercises work in preparing a person for facing such an event in real life.

And to close the loop…I stood in the road watching the forest fire raging towards me. Another few minutes, at most, and I could have easily been cutoff from any escape. I stood there caught up in the moment, frozen by the enormity of what was happening. While it was awesome to watch, and overloading my senses, it was also very, very potentially deadly. I shouldn’t have just stood there.

I learned some great stuff in my SDC class. I gained some training that I have never experienced anywhere else…ever. But, that training is useless if I waste it. If I never continue to train on those skills, it is wasted. When the time comes that I need to act, and if I don’t, all that training was wasted.

Don’t waste your training. Don’t be a victim. Be the guy that refuses to go down without swinging.

Be the good guy.

Don't Be A Victim - don't be a sheepRelated Articles –


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2 thoughts on “LESSONS LEARNED – Raging wildfire and the San Bernardino shooting

  1. Pingback: Counter-Intuitive Strategies for Facing an Active Shooter | A.H. Trimble - Emergency preparedness information for disasters and grid-down

  2. My firearms training is the kind of training I hope is always wasted, because if I need to use it, things have gone to hell, and it’s a place I’d prefer not to be. I carry the same gun all the time, a Glock 21, and a minimum of two spare magazines. It’s the same gun I use for all my training and I have thousands of magazine changes and draw from the holster repetitions. I always carry in the same place… period. Mag’s are always in the same place, period. Clothing may change, holster may change, but deployment is the same. I have as much confidence in my ability with that gun as I can have… with a pistol. Can I make that 15 yard head shot? I don’t know, shit happens. But at least I’ll feel confident trying. Can I fire, advance, fire, and do mag changes… and do it with confidence? Yes. While I would feel more confident with my favorite shotgun or AR, they tend to be a little hard to conceal. (I’ve heard the same about the Glock, but I manage.) I’m a firm believer in bringing as much gun and as much ammo as I can to any fight. If I go down fighting with my #1 gun and plenty of ammo, at least my family will know I did my best for them and for myself. I’ll never settle for anything less. Carrying a gun you don’t train with, especially if its a switch to a gun with different controls really is a waste of the training.


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