Hard to Kill Series

Writer’s Commentary: A few days ago talking with a colleague at work we were discussing our experiences in the military and the training we used to conduct. During that time I began to think about what the Marines and my team leaders and squad leaders taught me during my time in service.

How they always told us, ”We are training you to be hard to kill. Giving you the tools to operate in a combat environment.” 

So, I decided to ask myself, ”Was I still hard to kill? 

While reflecting back in that moment I realized I was evolving into a soft target over time. With that realization, I decided to make this hard to kill series. Where I will explore ways to make myself into a hard target again among the many of the soft targets that exist. I will share information that could make you hard to kill. Over time I hope the series will evolve into me sharing information to increase physical fitness, situational awareness, and much more. 

I hope you enjoy the series. Drop me a comment of what you think of part one in the comments below.  If you have questions or ideas for future content on this series drop a comment also.

A few days ago in a moment of self reflection upon my military service. I thought about how from the moment I step on those yellow footprints at MCRD Parris Island. Where my D.I’s taught the core of values of a Marine Corps and the warriors ethos that guides every Marine. To my training at SOI-W(School of Infantry West) where I was taught the skill sets of an 0311. Going to my unit 2/4 Golf company where I did two deployments. One to Afghanistan and the second one apart of the 31st MEU. There was one constant theme.

I was training how to be hard to kill and to be able to confront and kill the enemies of this nation. With that thought I began to reflect on my training, skill sets, and knowledge  I had acquired during my time. The realization hit that I was slowly evolving into a soft target. That all my skills where eroding because they weren’t being put to use anymore. 

This realization sadden me and frighten me at the same time. That I had went from a hard target to a soft target by not being vigilant. Not being vigilant in my training, education, and sustainment of those skills. The skill sets that where taught to me about war are still applicable in a civilian setting where you can be a victim to a crime at any moment if you are not prepared. A person should be ready and vigilant for anything in this dynamic and fluid environments we live in today. 

The way I have eroded my skills are two-fold. My skills have eroded mentally and physically. The mental skills that have eroded are my situational awareness (SA), and mental toughness, and a complacency that has set in. Physically my skills have eroded by not being as physically fit as I need to be and not apart taking in combat training.

First, let’s start of with my eroded mental skill sets. The most important one of all of these is the saying, “complacency kills.” With complacency in place all other skills breakdown. Complacency is the lost string on a scarf. One simple pull can unravel the whole scarf. With complacency situational awareness wains and so does mental toughness. I have been complacent in sustainment off skills, training, and physical fitness. In turn all those pillars have eroded and is slowly shifting me into a soft target.

Assessing how complacency has affected my skills lets start with situational awareness. In short, my situation has turned into shit. When I go out I have tunnel vision. I am only concerned about where I am going and what I need to do when I get there. Many times I also get distracted by my phone or text. Instead of observing my environment. I am locked into my technology instead of my environment. That lack of awareness falls squarely on my shoulders. 

The urban environment moves in is dynamic and fluid manner. A smart aware person would be observing their environment. That doesn’t mean that everywhere I go there is a potential threat. Yet, I should be aware of the dynamics of my environment I am immersed in at that moment. All, I am doing by not staying situationally aware is making myself a prime candidate to be a victim. 

Finally, to survive stressful and dangerous encounters you have to have the mental toughness to endure. When your life is on the line the ability to outlast your opponent. How do you create that toughness? By going through intense training, experiencing hardships, and adapting to austere environments. Putting yourself to the test to see where you are weak and strong to forge a will that can’t be easily broken. 

I remember there were times when I was sick or hurting and I used to power through it all. Even if I wasn’t able to function at a100%. I could function at half of my capacity and dig deep for that 100% when I needed it the most. Pain, tiredness, and hunger was just a reality. The mission and my Marines took priority. They counted on me to lead. 

Nowadays, I get a migraine or I hurt myself in the gym and it feels like I can’t deal. I remember running live fire ranges hurt. Pushing my body to my limits and functioning like a champion. 

I look back on those moments and ask myself, ”What happen!?” 

When I look back at those moments when I am sick or hurt I feel so much disgust and intolerance for my mental weakness and looking for ways to be rid of it. To be able to dig deep and find the reservoir of mental toughness in my soul.

I truly believe the life of a civilian has made me weak in a lot of ways. I feel that I need to get back to more of simplicity to my life. Get away from all the luxuries and do whatever I need to do to get back the mental toughness I lost. Not having the will to push past your limits will only be a detriment when that moment arises when you need that toughness in that critical moment.

Over time my physical skills have eroded as well. I am not in the same shape I used to be in the Marines. Nor are my combat skills where they used to me. When, I trained while I served I prepared for the moment so I was ready for whatever challenge was presented before me.

My training philosophy has always been simple. Every workout I did the goal was to crushed my body and soul. The workouts I created for myself where sadistic. Designed to push my limits and to prepare me for the fight ahead. The point was to crush my spirit so no one else could. I constantly pushed my limits because I couldn’t have limits. I trained with a relentless will and insatiable appetite. 

Being in top physical shape allows you the ability to handle the stressors of combat and operational tempo. When you are in those environments only the strongest survive. Preparing your body physically also prepares your body mentally for the onslaught. All these factors I am talking about work together to make a cohesive whole. If one is cracked the integrity of the structure is in question. The Marine Corps taught me you must train as you fight. That mantra still holds true today.

Being physically fit is only one aspect of fitness. The second part of that equation is combat training. Having skill sets to help you succeed in battle. That means have the proficiency and skill sets to employ your primary and secondary weapon properly. Knowing when is the best time to use your primary or secondary weapon. Overall being tactically and technically proficient within those skill sets.

I will admit my firearms skills are not what they use to be. I still know my way around a weapon system. But, handling them with the skill and fluidity I used to is not there. Sometimes I think and wonder who I would handle during a firefight now or during an active shooter. Would my skill persists and I pick up as nothing happen? Or would the crumble before me? 

The answer to those questions is scary to ask but necessary. So, I can be prepared when the moment arises. To fight back and defend my life and the people around me. You must be ready for the unknown that could strike at any moment. As, of today I am not. 

The secondary aspect to combat training is hand to hand combat. I was not a fan of Mcninja aka MCMAP(Marine Corps Martial Arts Program). Yet, I was a fan of the ability of its ability to let you spar in controlled environments. It gave marines the ability to test themselves and abilities and if conduct properly the ability to grow as fighters. 

Sidenote: I believe the MCMAP is limited in its scope. I feel like the first two belt colors are useless and don’t set a good framework for the high tier belts of the program. 

I know this aspect of combat training is seriously lacking from me now. I can’t remember the last time I sparred or grappled someone. I know it been a couple of years at least.!If I was to get into a fight now. I couldn’t take a punch like I used to. I don’t know if I have the ability to push past my fatigue and finished the fight. I know with adrenaline pumping and life on the line my body will find a way but after that, I would be spent. Barely surviving the encounter. 

As, I reflect on my thoughts it is clear that I am not as hard to kill as I used to be. I have gone from a hard target and morphing into a soft target to be prey upon. The hunter is transforming into the hunted. The skill sets I worked so hard to craft when I served are crumbling before me. Now, I must take the time to self-evaluate and see how I can train to become a hard target again. I never want to give a potential adversary, the feeling he has upper hand against me.

I have some board stroke ideas on how to improve my mental and physical skill sets again. In future parts of the series, I will explore those ideas when they are fully fleshed out. 

We should all take a moment and analyze if we are hard or soft targets for a potential adversary. Could we defend ourselves or a loved one in a critical situation? Do I have habits that limit my situational awareness? Are my combat training skills sets good enough for self-defense? If you are in doubt in any of those areas you should work to change them. 

I refuse to be easy to kill. Neither should you. 

Thanks For Reading 

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