I have been thinking a lot about my training goals lately. Because I failed to maintain my EMT certification, I am currently in EMT class for the second time. This class was a big goal, but is consuming a considerable amount of my time and training budget. I’ve cobbled together quite a few classes over the years, and there are always at least a dozen classes I’d like to attend in the hopes of getting my “Bachelor’s of Tactical Science.”
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Many of you are probably the same. Many of you probably attend a class or two per year. After the class is done you probably have a list of instructors lined up, under whom you’d like to train. You probably have some classes you’d like to put on your training resume, and some that you perceive would help your skill development. So you’ll save, convince your significant other that attending another course is a good use of money and vacation time. But what if you could have gone to college for all those skills you’re trying to piecemeal now?
What if such a college actually existed and it was any good? What if you could sign up for your Bachelor’s of Tactical Science to set yourself up for your military or law enforcement career, or just to be a really freakin’ capable self-defender. What if it attracted top trainers like Kyle Lamb, Craig Douglas, Mike Seeklander, Claude Werner, Gabe White? What if Tom Givens or Spencer Keepers or Mas Ayoob spoke at your commencement ceremony?
As a professional instructor and curriculum developer, I let my imagination run wild. This article is presented in two parts. The first is my imaginary bachelor’s program. The second part is a realistic approach to attaining these skills. I don’t have a whole lot of regrets, but I do wish I had seen the wisdom of grabbing some of these skills young and maintaining them. Let’s start with the fun part, shall we?
Bachelor’s of Tactical Science
How fucking cool would it be if there were a bachelor’s program where you could study “tactical science”? Maybe it’s a dumb name but I’m sure the concept will excite a lot of you. Just a few minutes of thought had me spiraling: a 4-year, resident program that gets you a bachelor’s degree. There are lots of programs that do that, so how about one that actually equips you with some skills?
How about a four-year program that gives you a bachelor’s degree, plus a high level of physical fitness, excellent proficiency with firearms, an EMT certification, a rock-solid foundation in unarmed combatives, and maybe even some general life skills? The benefit of this is that you get all of this very early in adulthood, right up front. Let’s take a look at what this imaginary course would look like:
General Studies: 60 Credits. Obviously there would be 60 hours of general credits for this to be a valid degree. This would cover the standard mathematics, history, language arts, etc.
Core Curriculum: 40-ish Credits. This is where things really get interesting. Don’t hold me to the exact number of hours – I’m just spitballing here, but how about some classes like:
- Physical Fitness: five days a week for the entire four years. Broken out something like, 3 days of Crossfit-style strength training, 1 day of aquatic training, and 1 day of classroom covering exercise physiology, diet and nutrition, sleep hygiene, etc.. (Here’s where my instructor nerd comes out: to account for injuries and excused absences you can miss up to 18% of physical fitness sessions per school year. However, you can miss no more than 10% of any given module, so you can’t decide you don’t like swimming and take all the swim days off.)
- Unarmed Combatives: This would be cool – five-day-a-week BJJ training (with attendance policy similar to physical fitness). Most students would probably leave with a very high blue belt, and more than a few motivated students could probably leave with a purple belt. Another option would be a year each of four different disciplines.
- Emergency Medical Technician – Basic w/ TR-C: Taken during freshman year. Continuing education provided every year throughout. Perfect world: the campus could partner with the local EMS system to establish a clinical program similar to my current EMT program (I have to spend 36 hours in an ambulance and treat at least 10 patients to graduate).
- Human Contact: I don’t know how else to describe this other than maybe a “situation awareness, avoidance, and how not to be an asshole. . . unless you need to be” class. Textbooks: Left of Bang by Patrick van Horne, The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker, and It’s Not All About Me by Robin Dreeke.
- Digital Security: I’m at the age where most of my imagination centers around teaching rather than attending (thought attending would be cool) and I definitely want to teach this one. Textbook: Digital Self Defense by me, coming very soon.
- High-Performance Driving: With driving on a track, skid pad, and some basic off-road driving. This portion would also cover some basics of vehicle maintenance like preventative maintenance and changing a tire. Driving is something you engage in daily, and something far more people should seek training in. Though I’ve attended several high-performance driving courses since, this is something I wish I had attended in my very early 20s. This skill is extremely likely to save a life. At my imaginary college, sustainment training would also be a requirement on a quarterly basis. If anyone has a great idea for a textbook for this one, please let me know.
- Firearms 1: Basic Riflery. Students would get some experience operating lever-action, bolt-action, and semi-automatic rifles, and shooting at 100 to 500 yards. The practical test would be a iron-sight, range qualification similar to the Marine Corps’ old rifle qual. If anyone has a great idea for a textbook for this one, please let me know.
- Firearms 2: Basic Handguns. This would cover the modern technique of handgun manipulation, including presentation, basic marksmanship, emergency, speed, and tactical reloads, malfunction clearance, and SHO/WHO shooting. This class would also cover carry methodology and the operation of striker-fired, single-action, and double-action pistols and double-action revolvers. Textbooks: Stay in the Fight by Kyle Lamb, Concealed Carry Class by Tom Givens.
- Firearms 3: Integrating rifle and pistol skills into close-range, urban style carbine work from 0-100 yards. Pistols would be utilized and refreshed frequently. Classroom work would cover terminal ballistics for both rifle and carbine, and this class would include low/no-light fire and range time with the shotgun. TEXTBOOK: Green Eyes, Black Rifles by Kyle Lamb.
- Capstone: Force-on-force scenarios with integrated combatives, IDPA-style scenarios, etc. Would also incorporate driving skills, medical scenarios, human-contact skills into full-spectrum defensive scenarios.
Electives: 20 credits. Obviously there is the opportunity for some very cool electives. Here are a few of my ideas. If you wanted, you could probably put together some pretty cool focuses/minors.
- Long Range Shooting (Textbook: Long Range Shooting by Ryan Cleckner)
- Basic Patrolling (Textbook: Tactical Manual: Small Unit Tactics by Max Alexander)(I haven’t read this one but it comes well recommended to me)
- Firearms: Foreign Weapons
- Firearms: Double-Action Revolvers
- Surveillance (Textbooks: Secrets of Surveillance, Surveillance Countermeasures, and Countering Hostile Surveillance by ACM IV Security Services)
- Lock & restraint defeat (Textbooks: Practical Lock Picking and Keys to the Kingdom by Devian Ollam)
- Tactical Questioning, Interviewing, & Interrogation
- Advanced EMT
- Wilderness EMT
- Wilderness Survival
- Instructor Development
- Skydiving: Admittedly this isn’t a “tactical” skill unless you become proficient enough to challenge freefall school. Not everything has to be uber-serious, however. This is an adventurous pursuit, and would probably appeal to a lot of students.
- SCUBA Diving: again, little tactical applicability, but definitely a fun skill to have.
Class Structure. You’ve probably noticed that a LOT of these skills require years of effort to achieve life-long proficiency. If you attend a semester-long handgun course at 21 years old and don’t touch a handgun again for a couple years, you haven’t accomplished a whole lot. Rather than discrete classes, I’d like for a lot of these to be ongoing, with the student getting some experience daily (in the case of combatives), weekly (firearms), monthly (medicine), and quarterly (driving) after an initial, long training session.
You’ll notice firearms is broken out into three “semesters” (four if you count the Capstone). In my opinion each of these semesters should be the full year long. They don’t have to be every day, but some training should be happening with firearms at least weekly to maintain proficiency. All classes would have some classroom component, but most would be skewed toward the doing. There would be a lot of empty class rooms during the day.
Graduation Requirements. There would be some graduation requirements other than simply attending sufficient classes and scraping by on grades. How about something like:
- Current NREMT and state certified EMT-B with minimum 192 clinical hours (48 hours, or 4 shifts per year)
- “Master” level qualification on Wilson 5×5 skill test with preferred sidearm, “Expert” level with at least two other action types (revolver, DA/SA auto, SA auto)
- Some sort of rifle qualification that tests skill at close and middle range (0-200 yards). I haven’t been involved enough in the rifle game lately to have a great example of this one.
- Physical fitness test measuring strength, endurance, cardiovascular fitness, and aquatic ability. Maybe something like the old Recon screening which consisted of a PFT, 1,000-meter swim (in full clothing), ruck run, and 2x completion of the obstacle course.
- Currently possess your state’s concealed carry permit (assuming your state issues a permit and you are of legal age upon graduation).
I ran this idea by at least three of my buddies who are well trained and who love training. All of them immediately poked the same hole. I like all these guys, and I’m including their responses because a lot of you are probably thinking the same thing. Though asked two different ways, all of their responses amounted to, “how do you ensure quality control?” One guy asked that almost verbatim. Another devalued the concept by saying something like, “they’d be trained, but have no experience.” A third complained, “but you’d still have to do maintenance training for it to matter.”
To the first point I say, here’s the deal: nothing is perfect, and we have to accept that. Even the very best of training doesn’t involve live, free-thinking and free-willed adversaries. When have you ever gone into a training scenario legitimately concerned that you might die? No training is perfect, and this course of study would be no different, so we’d need to get away from that mindset right away. I would also ask in return, “how do you know the class(es) you’re paying for this year are any good?”
Secondly, this is a bachelor’s program. Is someone who graduates from a B.S. in Psychology an expert psychologist? No – they just have some basic education in the topic. Once we’ve discarded the idea of generating “one man national assets” we can focus on what matters: building physically fit, strong minded, thinking individuals who are competent in some basic skills. Let’s not let the inability to achieve perfection stand in the way of achieving something.
To the point about lack of experience I say: with that logic we should be discouraging everyone from going to any class. They’re not going to leave the class with experience, so why bother, right? No, we don’t say that because training is valuable. Again, a four-year, resident program wouldn’t be the end-all, be-all, but how would it compare with the training of even the decently trained concealed carrier? I contend that it would completely blow it out of the water. How would it compare with the average concealed carry permit holder? There’s not even a conversation to be had around that.
My third friend pointed out that it would be pointless to attend such a program because you would also need to maintain proficiency. The way it is now, I still need to maintain proficiency – that’s just a fact of learning. You must be taught, and then practice. A program like this would provide a very strong foundation upon which to build a lifetime of training – not be intended as a replacement for a lifetime of training. Sure, some people wouldn’t maintain their skills, much like the majority of people who attend shooting courses probably don’t spend a ton of time reinforcing and maintaining what they learned.
Who among us wouldn’t like to spend four years learning stuff that really matters to us? Most of us get a degree to check a box. A lucky few among us follow a passion to college and study something we truly love. If the “Bachelor’s of Tactical Science” was available and widely known, how many of you would have chosen to go to college, or enjoyed it a lot more? I’m betting many of you would have jumped at the chance to spend a full four years learning the skills that you’re now cobbling together, a weekend or two per year. I know I would have jumped on this after I left the military, or maybe I would have been more motivated to go to college out of high school.
I get it, though. This isn’t going to happen for several reasons. First, very few existing colleges are going to cotton to the idea of building a driving track, off-road track, and skid pad, CQB house, multiple ranges, etc. (I think the ideal way to deal with the facility challenge would be to partner with an organization like Blackwater [or whatever it’s called now]). Accrediting bodies might have heartburn with such a program and refuse to accredit. Few colleges are going to be interested in sponsoring a bunch of paramilitary training. Liability would be massive. And on and on… I get it.
This was a very fun thought experiment for me. It arose through asking myself what classes are most important to me. . . I why I haven’t attended some of them yet. Part II of this little thought experiment proposes what a more realistic, cobbled-together version of this might look like, or what my CV might look like if I’d started in my early 20s. Stay tuned!