Sunday, September 28, 2014

Developing a training program: Part 2

Last post we walked through the beginning phases of developing your training program - defining goals, identifying key Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities (KSA), and prioritizing those KSA.  Next, we'll talk about choosing training projects to build your KSA.

The priority of your KSA is the primary driver for choosing your courses.  Obviously, there will be other factors that will affect your choices, such as money, time, and distance, but the KSA priority should be primary.  Continuing our previous example: you want to learn how to use your firearm defensively within your home.  Let's say that your highest priority KSA are a knowledge of the legal requirements for using your firearm and the basic skills to use your firearm.  A training project that may meet those KSA is a local concealed carry course that teaches not only the fundamentals of marksmanship, firearm maintenance, and safe storage, but also legal requirements.  Or, you could break it up into two courses such as an NRA Basic Pistol course followed by a Personal Protection in the Home course.  Now, because these courses contain additional information, you may also get to meet other KSA, such as shooting around barricades or knowledge of cover and concealment, but that's a secondary benefit.  I use these courses as examples only because I know what the learning objectives are for the courses, but any reputable trainer will have the learning objectives for their course on their site or will be able to tell you what they are if asked.  This is key when choosing courses for your training project, easily ranking just as important as the instructor's background and experience.

My personal belief is that when you are covering KSA for the first time, you need a professional instructor.  I say that not just because I instruct, but because a professional instructor is an impartial outside observer whose primary focus is making sure that you learn the KSA correctly.  Learning the KSA correctly the first time will save you a great deal of time and money later, as you (hopefully) won't develop poor habits during the learning process.  Many students watch videos or have buddies with little background teach them, ingraining bad habits during the initial learning phase that a professional instructor will have to fight to correct later.  Even as an instructor, I endeavor to take courses periodically so that I can get outside feedback and ensure that I'm not letting bad habits sneak in.

Once you've received initial instruction in your KSA, it is important to work practice into your program.  I won't cover range plans again, since you can read about them here.  I will emphasize, however, that skills with a firearm are perishable and require constant maintenance.  And while it is important to learn new skills and challenge yourself, it's also a good idea to occasionally dial back and focus on the basics, because the fundamentals are the building blocks for everything else you learn.  It's also a good idea to work some standards into your training.  Several big names have shooting standards that they promulgate, but just like you need to make sure that your training projects and program feed off your KSA, you need to ensure that whatever standard you choose fits your KSA.  For example, if your focus is on defending yourself in your home, a carbine standard that involves 100 yard shooting may not be the best pick, whereas a standard that involves engagement around cover in low light may benefit you more.  That being said, your goals may involve intermediate range engagement, which would make the 100 yard standard more useful.

As I've said before, your time, money, and ammo are precious resources.  Building a long-term training program, and identifying your goals and KSA can help you choose courses that maximize all three, and build out sensible training projects that allow you to learn new skills, practice them regularly, and pick standards that measure your success in training.

X Echo 1 is a 10 year veteran of the US Coast Guard, where he has served at various units including the International Training Division and Maritime Security Response Team. He has held qualifications including Deployable Team Leader/Instructor, Direct Action Section Team Leader, and Precision Marksman – Observer. He has deployed/instructed on five continents and served in quick reaction force roles for multiple National Special Security Events in the US. In addition to his Coast Guard credentials, he is also an NRA Certified Instructor, focusing his attention on civilians looking for professional instruction for their defensive needs.