Thursday, September 24, 2009

On Combat - The Psychology and Physiology of Deadly Conflict in War and Peace [Lt. Col. Dave Grossman]

I finished reading Lt. Col. Dave Grossman’s On Combat last night. Overall, I'm extremely happy with this book! Grossman gave me a walk through on how physically and mentally I will deal with human agression before, during, and after a deadly encounter.

He points out different Condition Zones (White, Yellow, Red, Gray, Black) in which your heart rate, complex and fine motor skills, and stress symptoms differ depending on how much stress you are under. Grossman explains auditory blinks, memory loss, visual clarity, slow motion time, temporary paralysis, and sensory overload in respect to what is reported by officers and soldiers versus what actually took place after a deadly encounter. He talks about our ability to go into “autopilot” and how this is derived from our training (stress inoculation). Whether we develop training scars, or as he calls it bad muscle memory, from faulty training or develop extrodinary fine motor skills, he emphasizes that “You do not rise to the occasion, you sink to the level of your training.”

Another teaching that I strongly relate to is his violent video game section. He refers to them as mass murder simulators.

“Violent video games offer kids pathological & dysfunctional play due to the award system for repeatedly killing realistic human figures in a virtual realm”

These award systems usually involve setting a highscore for name recognition or unlocking guns which inflict more damage. His main points are that children playing these games desensitize themselves to shooting real people and they lack the dicipline to decipher what is right from wrong. Grossman states that in school shootings there is a trend to kill not just one target but many targets. He relates this to the many human like figures children repeatedly shoot on their t.v. screen during their violent video game play.

On Combat includes many references to modern day police officers and soldiers which are bearing the shield as those have done in the past: Spartan, Knights, etc. It also explains the evolution of combat and what it costs, mentally and physically to the people involved directly and indirectly with repsect to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

So why did I read the book? I’m currently re-testing and applying to the San Jose Police Department and I started reading it at first because it was recommended to me by a friend of mine in Law Enforcement. Shortly after reading the preface, I got really into the book and realized I have much in common of what he describes as a sheepdog. It sounds funny yes, but his example throughout the whole book is that we have the wolves (criminals), the sheep (people in denial and not prepared for human aggression), and the sheep dogs (police officers and soldiers).

From the very start he says, to be forewarned is to be forearmed. I never may need to be involved in a deadly encounter but I better prepare myself mentally for it. A great example he used in the book was that of a firefighter. They throw themselves in the fire repeadtedly during training so that when it comes time to fight a real fire, they are mentally prepared.

There are so many things I’ve gained and learned from this book but they all boil down to the philosophy taken from Officer Stacy Lim who stated, “You need to prepare your mind for where your body may have to go.” She said this in response to being shot in the chest with a .357 magnum, having the bullet pentrate her heart and leave a tennis ball size exit wound in her back. Yet she stayed in the fight, stood up became the aggressor and killed the shooter and scared the rest of the gang off.

Do I feel totally prepared to deal with human agression after reading this book? I believe I still have a long ways to go. However, I do feel I've taken a great mental step above others and will start to use Grossman’s teachings, such as tactical breathing, to overcome any level of stress or human aggression in the near future.

1 comment:

  1. That's a pretty thorough review! Looks like you gained a lot of valuable information that you can apply to work and also day-to-day life. I'm glad you enjoyed it!