MAXTON, N.C. — Everyone does it. Every time some random driver honks as you’re walking down the street daydreaming; when the monster in the movie jumps out for the first time; or when your significant other unexpectedly throws something at you. Every time, without fail, you do it. You flinch.
“You’re going to flinch,” said Alan Earl, a team leader with the Protective Services School at Fort Leavenworth, Kan. Earl explained this to participants of his protective services training during the 200th Military Police Command’s 2012 Annual Special Agent Training Sept. 26. The event brought special agents from criminal investigation divisions across the nation together and provided training opportunities with their military and civilian law enforcement counterparts from around the world. The training was held at the Gryphon Group’s Fort Bragg Combat Training Center, from Sept. 20 to 30.
During Earl’s training, students learned that although it can’t be avoided, flinching isn’t always a bad thing.
“What we’re trying to get our students to do is, when they come under attack, to turn that into something tactical as quickly as possible,” said Earl.
There are three types of flinches – primal, protective and tactical.
“You can have a primal flinch, which means you pretty much curl up into a ball and do nothing about it. There’s a protective flinch, which means that your hands have a little more time to come out towards the threat but your body still wants to get away from it. What we wanted our students to get today was a tactical flinch; where they turn that flinch response into something tactical and get into action as quickly as possible,” said Earl.
After discussing the different types of flinches, Earl had the students practice defensive moves that could be executed immediately following a flinch, such as a forearm push. After practicing this move several times, the students were broken up into teams of two, each person taking turns as an “attacker” and as a “responder.”
Responders were instructed to continuously move their arms in different directions; attackers would stand about a foot away, directly in front of the responder and, at their leisure, yell ‘attack’ in the responder’s face. After the inevitable flinch, the responder would have to immediately perform the forearm push on the attacker. Even though they knew it was coming, responders always flinched.
“It catches you off guard,” said Staff Sgt. Ronald E. Small, a squad leader with the 814th MP Company out of Arlington Heights, Ill. “Of course you’re going to flinch.”
Small, a Chicago, native, is also a college student and has 10 years of military service. Following a close call during a deployment to Iraq, his flinch response has already changed according to the Army Reserve Soldier.
“I flinch but it’s different for me. I’ve almost been blown up in Iraq, so it’s just different for me.”
Even so, Small still sees the benefits of such training and plans to incorporate it into his unit’s battle training assemblies.
“We don’t do anything like this during BTA,” he said.
A flinch response wasn’t the only training for students of Earl’s class.
Breaking up into groups, students were taught basic movements and techniques for protecting VIPs, incorporating some of the previously taught tactical flinch responses.
“Basic movements with a (VIP), (such as) providing security for him while he walks around and while he gets in and out of vehicles. After we gave them the individual skills, we put them in a team environment to do the same thing,” said Earl.
Students also practiced how to respond to an attack and how to walk around with their VIP and still keep them secure.
“It’s good to know in case we’re tasked out for security teams,” said Small. “It’s good training.”
Following a team environment exercise, Earl and other instructors discussed the team’s performance and recommended more techniques students could practice back at their units. Obstacles presented themselves to every team at every turn during the team exercise, but that’s the beauty of training according to Earl.
“We want to put ourselves in those bad positions during training,” he said. “Then, in the real world, we know how to react.”
Training for real-world scenarios and passing on his knowledge are the reasons Earl said he enjoys being a part of ASAT.
“I have always had a heart for training and teaching people from my experience and the knowledge that I have,” said Earl. “So any time that I can pass that on, I just feel great about it and that’s why I’m here doing this job.”