Tactical officers love gear and equipment…and why not? There are some really cool gadgets out there designed to help make your job easier and help make you more comfortable. If a piece of equipment is proven to work, you should take full advantage of it and anything else that will increase your chances of effectively resolving the situation at hand.
Of course, you have probably been told countless times over the years that you must train with all of your equipment to ensure you can perform all of your duties fluidly while “geared up.” This is a wise practice, but if you conduct every training session with all of your equipment on hand, you run the risk of becoming dependent upon that gear. If you become “equipment dependent” and you respond to a tactical situation without some of your equipment, or if a piece of equipment should fail, it could be detrimental to your success.
Equipment can be categorized as essential or nonessential and, while there can be great debate over what constitutes each, it is vital that you learn to perform your duties while utilizing only the bare essentials. It is easy for a well-trained team to produce exceptional results when training in good weather utilizing all of their equipment. If this same team partakes in inclement weather training on a regular basis utilizing inclement weather gear, the team can most likely replicate those same results.
However, as most of you are probably aware, tactical situations are often violently unpredictable and you may be called to action before you have a chance to fully “gear up” or grab all of your equipment. If this happens and you find yourself thrust into a deadly situation with nothing but the bare essentials (radio, weapons, ammunition, vest), can you still get the job done?
Can you perform at a high level in the cold rain while wearing nothing but the clothes on your back? Can you “prone out” for hours on uneven rocks, hot asphalt, or the frozen ground and still be able to make a life saving shot? Can you concentrate on the task at hand while being eaten by mosquitoes or other insects? Are you in such superior condition that you can carry out your duties for a dozen hours without water or food?
Rain gear, sniper mats, mosquito spray, snack bars, and hydration packs are simple pieces of equipment that can make you more comfortable and increase your effectiveness during each of these scenarios, and most of you probably have all of this gear tucked away somewhere. But how would you perform if you were thrust into these situations without your equipment? Could you produce the same superior results? If you have become dependent upon your nonessential equipment, you will not truly know the answer to these questions.
The cure to “equipment dependency” is an easy one: train during the most severe weather conditions in your locale while utilizing only the barest essentials. While the actual execution of this plan takes true grit and you will suffer greatly during training, it will make your actual call-outs seem easier by comparison and you will be able to focus more keenly on the threat at hand.
I applied this same logic to my training when I was boxing. I would train in three-minute intervals (typical professional boxing round), but I would only rest 30 seconds between rounds, during which I would do push-ups. When I competed, the standard one-minute rest period seemed like an eternity compared to my training and I was well rested before the next round.
Likewise, once you develop the great mental and physical toughness necessary to block out the most severe elements, your nonessential equipment (if you have it) will be considered lagniappe. If you don’t have it, you will still be fully prepared. Otherwise, if you are “equipment dependent,” you are potentially a failed operation waiting to happen.
BJ Bourg is the chief investigator for the Lafourche Parish District Attorney’s Office. He has more than 20 years of law enforcement experience and has served in various capacities, including patrol, investigations, training and special operations. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.