The Importance Of Failure

Failure 1

Failure Is Sometimes An Option

Don’t think for a moment that I haven’t failed, whether in life or on the firing line. Believe me, I have learned the importance of failure since I have failed more times than I can count.

Understanding The Lesson

I’m okay with the vast majority of my failures because I choose to look at them as lessons. The hard part is really listening to what the failures tell us. When I’m coaching students during diagnostics the first question I will ask them is “what did they feel.” I’m not asking about their emotional condition, I’m asking them to listen to their brain and body to understand the importance of failure. What did they tell you about the last shot or evolution. This is probably one of the hardest concepts to get across to students. That it is okay to fail and in fact we should fail often. As long as we are willing to look deeply at the failure and try to understand the lesson.

Fast Failures

We place a high premium on repetitions to help students learn new skills. I ask students to move at a speed they can think their way thorugh the drill. When we approach the target, I ask what did they feel. My hope is they were paying attention and can gleam something as a result of their slowed processing speed. This doesn’t come easily to many so my philosphy is to fail fast. What I mean by this is the faster we can fail, the quicker we can learn. It boils down to being able to perform the same drill or relatively the same drill over and over to the point you start to pick up on the micro level details. By quickly getting to the failure point we are able to make a mental jump to the learning point.

Healthy Risk Taking Is Good

Failure 2
Failing fast and failing forward are good

With the idea of failing growing more comfortable, we start to shift our mental focus to more about how does this failure lead to success. That leads us to a failing forward mentality. This allows students to embrace their own learning cycle. Some will learn faster than others, requiring less mistakes. Others will take more mistakes to truly begin their learning cycle. Nothing in this world will be achieveable without a little risk taking. There is a balance we all need to seek, right at the point of healthy risk taking. You have to be comfortable taking these risks so you can experience the lesson they provide you. There is a big differnce between letting loose in a semi-controlled manner to complete choas and unsafe.

It Boils Down To Failing Often

Adults learn differently. They have several self-imposed barriers that prevent them from reaching new levels. Failures impact us twice as much as successes. Which is why as humans we are happy staying in our comfort zone. The thrill of victory pales to the agnony of defeat. There is little gained by staying in your comfort zone. Life is best experienced on the edges. In our classes there are standards all must achieve. What so many students don’t learn until it is too late is the importance of failure. To fail early, fail fast leading to failing forward. My biggest advice to new students or even returning students is to go slow and fail often. These are the two most vaulable traits a student can bring to a class.

Getting to the point of getting comfortable being uncomfortable has taken me years to master. But, I feel the most alive and accomplished when I’m outside my comfort zone.

Weight And Its Effect On Performance

Light Is Right

There will always be a tipping point, where too much of a good thing can be bad. One scenario I have paid more attention to is with rifles; their weight and its effect on performance.

It’s Always About The Ounces

Ever since I can remember, there has always been an association with lighter being better. Again, not a blanket statement you can easily make when you factor in durability and reliability. The lighter option may not have the ability to take higher use. I saw this first hand in my military career when we were always trying to shave ounces off our gear. Having to carry the weight is one thing, having to fight with the weight is a completely different story. You feel its effect most often in a negtive manner. But, there was always the need to have a high reliability on the gear we used so it still had to be tough. Flash forward to modern times and you can still see a similar trend.

If You Know, You Know

We have a rifle weigh-in at the beginning of our rifle classes. What we are doing is collecting metrics to compare with performance. Do we see a trend of heavy to light weight rifles effecting shooting performance. By shooting performance we are talking about scores and overall final grade. Generally speaking the lighter the rifle, the higher the chance of passing the class. There could be a lot of different reasons for this trend. Maybe it has more to do with the end user understanding the idea of minimizing his loadout to the bear necessities. Someone with this mindset, might already have the prerequisite skills to be an above average shooter. Their marksmanship skills are tied to the idea of understanding performance.

Define The Mission

When we see rifles weighing more than normal, does it help or hurt the student’s performance. In general, weight and its effect on performanceit has hurt their ability to score high or achieve a passing grade. While we have only been collecting the rifle’s weight and its effect on performance for about three years, it does illustrate a belief that I have had for as long as I can remember. Having a light weight rifle with the minimum gear necessary to complete your mission should be your top priority. This goes further into defining your mission, specifically the mission of the rifle. Here is where we see many folks make mistakes. Without having a weight metric to include with their decision making matrix this very important point is left out. When you start to get into the weeds you have a better chance of identifying your needs more clearly.

Needs Vs. Wants

Define the mission for your rifle. For the vast majority, the rifle will fullfil an urban defensive mission. The range to target in these self-defense shootings will be close. What you need, versus what you want are two different subjects. When you start adding up all the accessories are they offering you advantage, a force multiplier. Or are they just there as a decoration. I refernce decoration for a lot of add on’s because most truly have no real need for some items. But, just because you don’t need them doesn’t mean you don’t add them on to the rifle. If you do, how will it affect your performance. Rather than tell you what you need, I will provide you some observations as it relates to the overall weight of the rifle unloaded.

What Is The Magic Number

Rifle Weigh-in 2
Nice, optical weight

I have found if you can keep your rifle to 8 pounds or less you are heading in the right direction regarding weight and its effect on performance. While I’ve seen rifles much heavier in our classes, the scores were also lower. I’m not saying don’t add to your rifle, but before you do ask this question. How will this positiviely and negatively effect my performance. If the added weight is going to push you over that 8 pound mark then you have that information in advance and make a more informed decision. Does the percieved advantage outweight the added weight…literally. Here is what we typically see on rifles in our classes that come in at the 8 pound mark. They are a light weight rifle to begin with, with some type of optical sight, usually a red dot sight with back up iron sights. They are all equiped with a sling and some have a weapon mounted white light. We will see short barrel rifles come in much lighter and when we add surpressors they typicaly come in a bit heavier. If you can combine the SBR with suppressor you get the best setup regarding weight.

Of course, you can still use a heavier rifle. You can build up a tolerence to the extra weight and to some extent bring balance to the equation, but always consider if it is a want versus a need.

Jeff Gonzales | Can You Survive This Podcast? w/ Clint Emerson

There is more than meets the eye…

FULL AUIDEO EPISODES can be downloaded here: Jeff Gonzales, Can You Survive This Podcast

US Navy SEAL Jeff L. Gonzales is a nationally recognized weapons and tactics instructor. He serves as president of

Trident Concepts, LLC and former director of training for The Range at Austin. Jeff’s background comes from Naval Special Warfare; where he served as a decorated and respected operator and instructor. Participating in numerous combat operations throughout the globe, his duties involved a wide variety of operational and instructional assignments on both the East and West coasts.

On this episode Clint and Jeff discuss LTC vs. Constitutional Carry, the UFC vs. the NFL, and much more.

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The Sloppy Shooting Grip

Not Every Drawstroke Will Be Perfect

At some point, everyone will experience a drawstroke that produces what I call the sloppy shooting grip. The purpose of training is to develop the skill to produce an optimal shooting grip during the drawstroke, but what do you do when it doesn’t.

It All Begins With The Grip

For as long as I’ve been carrying a handgun I’ve preached about the importance of obtaining a crush grip. The crush grip begins with the handgun in the holster. Regardless of the holster’s location on your body, it is imprerative the grip on the handgun while still in the holster be the final firing grip when on target. There are a lot of variables at work durning a drawstroke. Such as, are you open or concealed? Are you standing or sitting? Are you dynamic or static? Every one of these variables can negatively impact the precision with which you grip the handgun. The more precise you grip the handgun, the more likely you will be precise with your aim, with your trigger control and with recoil control.

There Is No Doubt

The question about what to do when you get the sloppy shooting grip is the one we try to answer with redirects or avoidance. What I mean is when you get a sloppy grip the response in turn is “don’t do that” or “grip it correctly”. While I agree those are correct, they don’t deal with the immediacy of the situation. Should you be called upon to use your handgun in a defensive situation and you get a sloppy grip what have you done to prepare. Like anything in the world, if something can go wrong it will go wrong. If the possibility exist you can get a sloppy grip as a result of some of the variables discussed earlier then we need to have a plan. The plan is more about how to deal with the sloppy grip in real time.

You Might Want To Take A Split Second

When we talk about the sloppy shooting grip I break it down into either a catastrophic or workable. A workable sloppy grip means it is something I can improve. I can take a split second to adjust my grip or improve it’s positioning over its current state. It may not be perfect, but it was better than it was when I started. This happens a lot during the drawstroke with subcompact handguns. It is already hard to get a good shooting grip on the smaller handguns because they lack surface area. Add a little speed, concealment and or pressure and it can go sideways real fast. What I have discovered is that by developing a master shooting grip with my compact or full size handguns it has taught my body and specifically my hand how to grip. Over the years, my fingers and thumbs just move to the correct position and apply pressure. When I get the sloppy shooting grip with a subcompact handgun it is usually as I attempt to clear the holster. From there, my hands naturally want to adjust and I just let them. The result is an improved shooting grip that is more than adequate for the scenario.

Dirt Diving Is Fun & Beneficial

Things are a little different with a catastrophic sloppy grip. This means that I will not be able to improve the grip without taking additional remedial action. It could be a result of clearing the cover garment. The hand gets snagged requiring you to adjust your grip completly to free your hand to obtain your shooting grip. Another example might be bobbling the handgun during the drawstroke. It may actually slip or partially slip from your grasp. If you are injured and physically cannot obtain the normal shooting grip I would also consider this catastrophic. Our goal should be to avoid the catastrophic grips and adapt to improving the workable grips. Sometimes working through a few possibilities is all it takes, we call this dirt diving. You discover simple, yet effective ways to avoid or manage through this process. They are taught as contingencies in our curriculum.

While a slopping shooting grip is not ideal, it is not the end of the world. There are little things you can do to adapt and still achieve the desired outcome, effective fire to stop the threat.

An Honest Look At Knives

The Untrained Knife Attacker

Do you understand the use of a knife from both the defensive and offensive side. Have you had an honest look at knives and how the are used against you in an attack.

A Better Understanding

There are many martial arts and specitilities within the edged weapon field. I’ve been fortunate and honored to have worked with many of them. Some to a simple familiarization and others to a more intimate understanding. The most valuable take away I can offer for all of them falls into two categories. How to implement the sharp edge of the blade in the most effective way and the human body’s vital anatomy relative to slashes and stabs. This mere knowledge has provided me with the means to select the best tool, the best method of carry and the best method of use to fit my needs. I enjoy carrying a knife, have since I was a young kid. I have been intrigued by them and their use, but it wasn’t until I was an adult I better understood them.

Safety Starts With You

Here is a major take away from all that knowledge, someone is going to get cut. If you play with knives enough you will probably get cut on accident or worse intentionally. It’s important you have a healthy respect for their damage the same you would with a firearm. Statistically, more people are injured or killed with an edged weapon of some sort than firearms. Some are accidents, others are not. Like firearms, safety begins with you. Don’t draw your knife unless you intend to use and don’t use a knife when another item will do a better job. Be mindful of your surroundings and familair with the knife, how it opens and closes or is sheathed.

The Typical Path Of The Blade

In a self-defense setting we will more than likely be in a reactionary mode. Meaning, we will be responding to our attacker and thus be behind the power curve. A drawn blade is going to be faster than trying to draw a blade or any other tool. You have to recognize the danger of this situation. What and how do you need to prepare. Simple things like how is your attacker holding the knife? Is it point up or point down? This can go a long way towards understanding how they will attack. The vast majority of knife attacks are stabs or thrusts, generally to the midsection. This is very valuable information  since it tells us the general direction the pointy end will be traveling. No matter how much knowledge you have with knife training if you try to exchange stabs for parries or blocks, you will eventually get cut or worse stabbed. Many stabs are quickly recocked and perfomed in rapid succession multiple times. Your best option is to be outside the range of the contact weapon or at the very least place an object between you and the attacker.

Signal Of Impending Attack

Another conern you must be aware of for the previous tactic to be valuable is a high percentage of attacks occur where the attacker will acquire a grip on you with their free hand. This grip, whether your arm, hair or clothing makes it hard to break contact, but it also gives us a heads up on their intentions. While the knife may be drawn, it is the grasping with the free hand that can signal the impending attack. All the more reason to stay out of range. An honest look at knives means not letting them grab you. It will go a long way to not getting stabbed. At some point you begin to apprecaite footwork and quick footwork at that. Moving is critical to your surviaval.

One And Done

What if you cannot move, what if you are channalized or in a confined space. Don’t let them grab you for one. Block all those attempts first and foremost. Eventualy, you will need to confront the live blade. It is by no means simple or easy. Any thrust or stab will come at you fast and if you cannot move your feet, then at the very least try to move your torso. At the same time consider the same side hand defenses. If they are using their right hand, then your left hand would be same hand. Inward parries combined with outboard movement of the torso can create empty space in the knife’s path. But, here is the kicker or small print. You will probably only get one attempt.

Incapacitation Is The Goal

All of those words to say this. An honest look at knives would be produce two options. Don’t be there, so if you can escape it would be your go to move. If not, then moving your vitals away from the blades path would be your next. So, how do you end the attack if you are not attacking, what is your secret weapon? Incapacitation. You have to get it in your mind you have to deliver rapid and accurate blows to soft targets. Injury is good, but incapacitation is the goal. If you parry with your left, then a cross with your right might be all you got. Where do you aim? The chin, the jaw, the throat? What will genearte the most likely outcome you are looking for – incapacitation?

It is going to be ugly, watch any of the hundreds of CCTv videos if you need convincing. Once you get past some of the first obstacles you quickly realize your best defense is not to be in that situation in the first place, but if you are then a few simple tips might make the difference.

Technique, Repetition and Pressure

Trust The Process

Regardless of the endeavor you pursue, there is a model you must follow to achieve success. There are no secrets, it is almost common knowledge, but without putting a heavy emphasis on your technique, repetition and pressure you will likely fail to reach your potential.

The Law Of Primacy

When we are looking at teaching a new skill, the most important thing to remember is safety. As we learn a new skill there is a higher risk factor associated. If the acitvity is already high risk, then it is even more important safety is your first priority. The mistake I see is when as a new student you are easily swayed by marketing or celebrety status. Each can be hugely positive, but not everything is as it seems. When we are learning a skill one way of analyzing how well we learn the skill is through some sort of metrics or standard. It is important we learn the skill correctly in the beginning.

Learning Is A Progression

Technique It is not hard for me to rate which of these traits is the most important. It will be technique. Without proper technique your level of safety is questionable. When you are learning a new skill your goal should be not just to learn the new skill, but learn the new skill correctly. If a new student is struggling with their technqiue it will get more challenging as we try to progress to new skills or repeat the skills or add pressure to the new skills. Learning the technique correctly provides you with the most important take away, the ability to produce the desired outcome. Even if it is slower, at closer distance or against a bigger target.

Repetition Is The Mother Of Learning

To master your technique will take repeated effort. Not just any effort, but the effort required to produce the desired outcome. If you cannot put the effort into practicing you will find your technique becomes more and more transparent. What I mean by this phrase is less and less reliable. When you couple consistent effort with an outcome standard you will eventually develop to the point you rely more on the motor pathways you’ve created. Requiring less an less mental effort. In the beginning I encourage students to move only as fast as they can think through their technqiue. It is what I like to call a living check list. The students start with step one, they apply the mental energy required to meet the minimum standard and then move to the next step. At some point, they will achieve a level where their technique is now a smooth, effortless action.

Learn Correct Technique First

As you continue to “rep out” your technique you begin to advance to new levels. It is the ability to pressure test your technique you really begin to appreciate all your hard work. The stress you place on your technique will either produce a postive or negative outcome. If through pressure testing you discover your technique is holding up then you have successuflly trained your new skill. If not, you have idenfitied areas of improvement you need to work on to evnetually get to the point you have developed a new trained skill. There really are no shortcuts, you need technique, repetition and pressure to reach your goal. The biggest mistake I see happens early, when a student fails to put the work into developing their technque. It is then compounded with repetition of doing something that produces a suboptimal result. Leading to failure in the pressure testing phase. If I could offer encouragment to anyone learning a new skill, it would be to make sure you are learning correct technqiue.

Balancing Time With Outcome

The last point to consider is the overall time to achieve the desired outcome. There is a happy balance when technique, repetition and pressure are your focus to stay motivated. Students want to see results. They need to see results early on, or at least at a reasonable time period relative to the skill difficulty. If we rush to learn the skill we could jeaporadize safety and or technique. If it takes forever to learn the new skill we likely see interest wane. In our training classes the most important point I relay to students is this skill is within their ability to master, but it will take time. There will be little victories along the way we must celebrate.

The final goal is going to be different for everyone, but it will have correct technique performed repetitively against a metric that guages your success.

Access To Your Firearm Under Pressure

Winston Churchill

The Bad Guy Gets A Say

There is a belief that all you need is a fast drawstroke to stop a threat at close range. There is truth in this view, but it is also less than half the story when you realize access to your firearm under pressure is not nearly as quick as you might think.

It’s All About Balance

One of the great fortunes of being involved in combatives from an early stage in my career was I didn’t have any illussions about what worked and what didn’t work. Playing both good guy and bad guy were almost required to truly understand the balance. The balance I’m referring to is when your opponent is off balance, they have very little success completing their origianl task. This didn’t matter what role you were playing, it was something equally experienced by both sides. This is a huge take away, it says that you must maintain your balance at all times and work to disrupt your oppenents balance with every move.

Action Versus Reaction

Most folks are thinking, how can knocking someone off balance be so valuable. What I’m referencing is not soley about your equilibrium, or the distribution of weight. The balance I’m referencig has a lot to do with your thought process. When we look at one of the most dangerous situations we could face, it would probably look like an ambush at close range. Even worse, would be extreme close range. Sometimes words don’t help paint the picture and we need to assign some measurements. Close range to me is defined as any conflict where the opponent(s) are within five yards. Extreme close range is within a double arms interval. That means if both the good guy and bad guy extended their arm forward the finger tips would touch. At this range it is not about how fast you can draw your gun. It might seem that way, but no matter the situation as a private citizen you will always be in a reactionary mode. Meaning, the bad guys is going to say when.

You Can Touch Them

Why is this important? Because no matter how fast your drawstroke, at this range it is a low probability outcome action when access to your firearm under pressure. Meaning, the liklihood you will be able to out draw his action of drawing a gun or thrusting a knife is often not realistic. Add to the equation, that each sitaution will be different and it makes it far less realistic. Instead, you need to consider how to disrupt the balance to shift the reactionary gap to your side. In my experience, the best way to do that is injury or incapacitation. At the extreme close quarters you as the good guy have one advantage, if they can touch you…you can touch them.

Further Disrupting Their Balance

Striking is not your only option of course. You can attempt to jam up their drawstroke, either through fouling their firing grip or locking the gun in the holster. Both of these are sensible options, but a lot of times to be effective you will need two hands. A natural reaction from your opponent is a reflexive counter. Nothing fancy or taught, just a recognition their action is being impeded and they must do something. That something is simple, use the other hand. So, while this action can sometimes open up a window it is not a guarantee. When both hands from your opponent are occupied trying to complete the original task, you now have the option of disrupting their balance through strikes. Think of it this way, you want your first strike to be effective. If it is effective, you have an even better chance of recocking and landing additional strikes, each further disrupting their balance.

Think of disrupting someones balance not the mere act of shifting their weight, that is a huge part. Disrupting their balance is also about knocking their cognitive weight out of alignment.

A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty. Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of England

Conversation #111 – Jeff Gonzales – Former Navy SEAL & Founder of Trident Concepts

My Greatest Challenged Turned Out To Be The Best Thing…

Jeff Gonzales is a former Navy SEAL and the founder of Trident Concepts which has been forging hardcore trigger pullers since 2001.

Jeff and I speak about putting all your time and energy into your passion and not seeing results, learning from your biggest struggle, setting an example regardless of where you are in life, and so much more!

**ALL EPISODES ON AUDIO / all podcast apps ~ www.kristoflewis.com/podcast

Conversation #111 is LIVE on your favorite podcast app or www.kristoflewis.com/podcast. https://www.instagram.com/kristoflewis www.kristoflewis.com/podcast

https://www.instagram.com/jl_gonzales https://www.instagram.com/tridentconc…

https://tridentconcepts.com/

Texas Constitutional Carry

Signing of the Declaration

A Major Step In The Right Direction

Very soon Texas will become the next state to adopt constitutional or permitless carry. Despite what some are claiming, the changes to our landscape are great and looking to get better with Constitutional Carry.

Stay In Your Lane

Constitutional carry is something I believe all states should support. Not all states do and I’m okay with their choice. I’m not about to interject my nose in another state’s business, just like I’d expect them to keep their nose out of mine. The biggest concern is states need to get back to governing themselves. Constitutional carry is a great example of that notion. I don’t believe federal constitutional carry is a good idea for the same reason I don’t think a federal driver’s license is a good idea. The federal government needs less control, not more. Putting the decision back in the states makes the most sense. Local politics are the key to safeguarding life, liberty and the pursuit of happniness.

The Right To An Informed Opinion

We have decades of living with concealed carry across our nation. The death and destruction landscape the anti-gun think tank tried to convince the public of failed. Outside of an infantile number of incidents the public is safe from this negative opinion. The reality is more guns save lives. If I have to explain how violent criminals choose the time and place to commit their crimes it makes it really hard to expect you to understand what I’m saying in the first place. The right to life is one of the most important rights we get to experience. Nobody should tell someone they do not have the right to defend themselves. Defending oneself with a firearm has been proven countless times to be a game changer for all walks of life.

Constitutional CarryThe Constitution Is My LTC

What does this mean when constitutional carry takes affect? What will change? To be honest not a lot. It means you will not be required to obtain a License to Carry (LTC) to carry a firearm. The state will recognize the Constitution as your carry permit. A huge win in my opinion. However, the small print is often overlooked. In this case, there are some things you need to be aware of that can save you a lot of heartache. The three things are where you can/cannot carry, what is the law and what is your responsibility. I could go into detail about each of these points, or I could encourage you to obtain your LTC. I’m far more inclined to suggest the later and here is why.

Conversation Level Of The Law

Obtaining an LTC will provide you with the opprotunty to become familiar with the law. Not just where you can and cannot carry, but deadly force and the use of deadly force. I strongly encourage you to have a conversation level of the law. While it is now your right to carry, like any right it comes with responsibility. Another advantage to your LTC is being able to purchase a firearm. Possession of a valid LTC allows you to forgo the background check since obtaining the LTC requried the background check be completed and passed. A handy option for desparate times such as a pandemic. Another advantage is while there are many state adopting constitutional carry, it is for their citizens only. If you travel out of your home state, you may not be covered. So, knowing the law in the visiting state is important and you may discover the state recognizes your home state’s LTC.

The Importance Of Continued Education

As we see less barriers to people carrying firearms we will see more responsibility placed on their shoulders. You may never carry, use or need your firearm, but you have it just like the fire extinguisher in your home. What you want to avoid is in the middle of a kitchen fire trying to figure out how to use your fire extinguisher. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of firearm education and the accompanying training. My recommendation is to continue to learn as much as you can about your firearm, how it works and of course how to shoot it safely. As a die hard advocate of your own personal choice, I would hope you recongize the importance behind being competent and safe. There are so many options available these days. It merely takes a commitment from your part.

I’m excited about the new law taking effect for many reasons. The biggest reason being it is not a right if you have to ask permission.

The Trouble With Afghanistan

Decisions Or Lack Thereof Have Consequences

I’ve taken some time to reflect on what has happened in Afghanistan, to process what it all meant to me personnally. I went through various stages of emotions; from rage, to sadness, to grief and finally to acceptance. The trouble with Afghanistan in the simplist terms is we should’ve never been there that long.

Lack Of Clear Guidance

Trouble With AfghanistanI struggled to find a way to express some of these emotions. I can recall the first time I flew into the country, flying over what I can only describe as beautiful mountain ranges. Like many, I found much to like about the country. Having spent my entire adult life traveling all over the world I have seen some pretty bad places. This was about as bad as I’ve seen at the time. The wounds from 911 were still raw and another memory I shall never forget was a detour on our way to the airport. The stop was the Pentagon, specifically the side still smoldering. It left a very deep mark on me. My mission was clear, my resolve was unwaivering. I traveled over the next several years multiple times to Afghanistan. I eventually declined to return, not because I didn’t like what we were doing, but because I didn’t understand our mission and what I was seeing.

Gut Wrenching Feeling

A lot of people are commenting about the last 20 years being a failure. I don’t see it that way at all. In the last 20 years we have not seen a 911 style attack. Our mission was to deny the enemy freedom of movement and keep them looking over the shoulders wondering when they would be next. Take a moment to reflect on the emotions you felt when the twin towers fell. Be grateful we haven’t had to experience something similar. There were moments when peace existed in that 20 year period. When people were free to live their own lives without fear of death. When I first got on the ground, part of our area familiarization was to visit a soccer stadium regularly used for stoning. The trouble with Afghanistan is a lot of people have no idea the horrible death stoning produces. Be grateful you don’t. At a certain point the vibe started to change. Maybe it was a sense of comfort or maybe it was the tide shifting. All I can tell you is what I saw, my observations.

What Its Like To Be A Woman

Years after I left the country for the last time I was asked to give a speech about my experince in country. I was somewhat reluctant, but eventually with some encouragement I agreed. I was asked to go first as there would be a second speaker. They were providing a different perspective to contrast mine. Part of my agreement was not discuss some matters so in the interest of maintaining OPSEC all I talked about was what I saw. The trouble with Afghanistan was how once the shock of being in theater started to wane I realized there were no women to be seen. None. Aside from those within our compound they were nonexistant. As my deployments continued I started seeing groups of woman. According to religious dictate they must move in large groups or with their husbands for fear of retalitaion. What people don’t undestand is honor killing is a normal part of life there. A father to perserve his honor will without reservation seek cruel punishment on his own blood. After more visits I started to see mothers moving along with their children. Still dressed head to two in a burka and I mean from the top of their head to the their feet. Sometimes you couldn’t even see their hands it was so extreme. Then I remember seeing a woman walking in only the tradition head piece, the hijab. I was a little surprised, but nothing could prepare for my last trip where I saw a woman in western dress, a pant suit no less. She was waiting on a street corner. I remember almost missing the turn out of the traffic circle because I had to do a double take to make sure what I saw was real. This is what progress looks like. This is what it looks like when our efforts produce results.

Freedom Is Not Always What You Think

On one of those trips I remember speaking through our intepretors to a local woman. This was well before the progress I described. She was afraid of being seen with me for fear of realaition. I could not look at her or give the impression I was talking to her, but she was kind enough to help us get more information. I remember the interpretor who was also a female saying to me she was afraid, not only for retalition. She was afraid we would abandon her. I was taken back and angered she would make this claim. That was my arrogance. What I’m most distressed about is I reassured her we would not. In the end, we did. Back to the briefing I gave. As I ended my brief, which was short the other speaker began asking me questions. I made it clear it is not my place to speak on government affairs, I was only there to share my observations. She would not relent and eventually the exchange got heated. I can recall ending the exchange by telling her the conversation we were having while vile in my opinion was in fact a privilege. I went on to say, if we were teleported to that soccer stadium I feel she may change her mind. The trouble with Afghanistan is the freedom this lady was exercising is lost to many in countries like Afghanistan.

The Blame Game

Who do I blame? I can tell you who I do not blame. My teammates and every other person who went there to support the mission. The level of professionalism, herosim and fortitude is everthing you would be proud as an American. The blame rests squarely on our leadership, all of it over the last 20 years. I specificlaly blame our executive leadership for failing to not only have a well thoughtout objective, but an exit strategy. It boogles my mind that in all that time whatever exit strategy might have exists was continually ignored. Now, here is a nastly little secret. The trouble with Afghanistan and many other countries is not everyone wants to be an American, not everyone wants democracy, not everyone wants freedom. That last one hurts my heart, but it is true. We were naive to think we could bring prosperity and democracy to a culture that is not interested. To be honest they will never be interested. Our mission should have ended when we dismantled the enemies will; which happened quickly. From there, it should have soley been to capture or kill the enemy when they popped their heads up with surgical strikes. If we truly were trying to stop any future terrorist attacks, then that would have been the extent of the operation. It might be ongoing all these years, but the footprint would be much different.

When You No Longer Know What War Means

The blame goes further than that though. I blame the politicians masquarading as flag officers. The lethality of our fighting force should always be their top priority. It should be abundantly clear, that when diplomacy fails the war that rages serves one purpose. To impose our will unequivocally and unapologetically. If our politicans understood that better, I believe they would try harder to make diplomacy a priority. For knowing they failed means lives will be lost, on both sides. No stone should be left unturned in our efforts to find an amicable solution. But when none exists, it is time to step away from the table and let loose the dogs of war. When I say step away, you stay out of the picture until the objective is secured. Just because you feel guilty because you couldn’t make peace work, doesn’t mean you endager our war fighters by hog tying their ability to wage war. War is not civilized. War is ugly…for everyone involved. When war is your only option, then you must have a fighting force so ruthless their means bring an end to conflict swiftly. There is no good way to wage war, their is only the way that accomplishes the mission with the minimal amount of casualties. We have lost the stomach for waging war as a country because our leadership all the way up the chain are more interested in feelings and perception.

Shouldering The Blame

The blame goes further. I blame those who elected this politicans. You see, the blame rests squarely on the American people’s shoulders. If you voted for this current adminstration you must bear witness to the atrocities that will occur. It won’t be as popular as say pride month, but rest assured the atrocities we saw all those years ago will pale in comparison to what will happen now. Take a moment to realize, the enemy is already going door to door disarming the populace. They will wait until your attention is focused on the next distraction. They know we are so easily distracted. At a time when this past elections results are challenged it is no surprise we are all outraged by what is happening. I can promise you many of those good people will suffer greatly, unimaginable suffering. You may think that death is suffering, but it will be living each day knowing death awaits you. Watching so many people try to flee their country should be a wake up call to what lays in store for those left behind. I know some and I truly wish they escape safely. That is truly their only option.

You Are Either Part Of The Problem Or…

The blame goes even further. I blame political correctness, wokeness, nanny state and cancel culture. These ideas are the single greatest threat to our freedoms. They are a joke! If you believe in these ideas, then you are part of the reason we have lack of true leadership. It has taken me a long time to come to terms with this, but no longer do I feel there can be a middle ground. If you believe in these ideas, then you do not believe in freedom, liberty or self-governance. A line needs to be drawn to protect our way of life. The trouble with Afghanistan is we allowed it to happen over 20 years. Every change of command, there was a different view point. Every elected official used it as a barganing chip. Every media outlet used it for ratings. As far as I’m concerned, the use of our fighting force must always be reserved for the final option. There is no value in nation building, there is no merit in trying to colonize American values. All of this to end with one final thought. The trouble with Afghanistan is it will be vastly more dangerous now, than pre-911. Allow that to sink, all those who are to blame should take a moment to admire their handy work.

The good people of Afghanistan saw what freedom looked like for a short while. I’m afraid if they want freedom they will have to fight for it on their own.

Trident Concepts
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