A NEW BEGINNING

I retired last month from the US Navy after serving 30+ years. As I reflect on all the adventures that my fellow SEALs and I enjoyed, I felt satisfied that the actions we took has led to the international order that we as a country are now enjoying externally. I sat and pondered “what is next?” I turned on the television and saw our country in chaos! 

So it is time to get back to work. There are hundreds of ex-SEALs that can teach law enforcement how to shoot. I created an organization that will teach emotional intelligence, critical thinking, stress mitigation and effective physical restraint techniques, so that law enforcement will have other tools besides shooting. 

It is time to bridge the gap between our hero first responders and the divisive public. For over 30 years I was dedicated to conflict and for the next 30 years, I am committed to altruism. Without security there can be no prosperity. When shared values are diluted or no longer shared, social strife and conflict are the inevitable outcomes. Shared values enable the establishment of the strongest possible bonds internally and with our friends and allies abroad. Let’s start with security! 

Donations are welcome and please help spread the word, we are just getting started!

GETTING MORE BEES WITH FIGS

My first combat tour was in the early 2000s. It was a different world back then. We did everything with the maximum amount of force because we didn’t know what we were doing. Our combat mentors had all fought in Vietnam and their default position was to exert maximum force regardless of the situation. We were taught to smash butterflies with sledgehammers. 

In one illustrative example, I was in one of two troops whose mission was to sweep (search) a neighborhood in Iraq. The village consisted of two rows of houses set back-to-back. My troop would search all the houses facing east, while the second troop split off from us to search the row of houses facing west. Each troop had fifteen commandos and each had the same mission: find a high-value person that intelligence told us was hiding somewhere in the village.

This was a broad daylight mission and the orders were clear: search every house and building in the village. We had done a good job sneaking to within 200 meters of the village unnoticed. The order was given and each troop sprinted at top speed to the closest house. No sooner had the troop searching the west-facing homes turned the corner and were out of sight when I heard yelling, cursing, barking dogs, gunshots, explosions, people screaming…

I was a Breacher for my troop. My job as a breacher was to get into the building  using explosives, specific shotgun rounds and manual tools. I was the first man to the door on the nearest eastern-facing house. I ran up the steps, my rifle on the door and my left hand reaching for a breaching charge. The door was already open; I rushed into the room looking for someone to shoot. I was confronted with an extremely old lady sitting quietly on a chair. Our eyes locked and she looked at me wide-eyed and expectantly. I scanned the room, saw there were no threats and relaxed. 

I looked at her and smiled. She visibly relaxed. I motioned for a couple of my teammates to search the rest of the house, including the upstairs and roof. They did so quietly, expeditiously, professionally, and without hurting anyone or damaging anything. 

I stood hyper-vigilant next to this ancient matriarch; if any shooting erupted I’d be between it and her. When my guys returned from the search and gave the all clear, I smiled and nodded at her. She grabbed my arm and I remember being surprised at how strong her grip was. Our interpreter had come in as she guided me to a table and made a big deal of giving me figs and cheese.

I ate some figs and talked to her through the interpreter. She told me how grateful she was for us (the US troops) coming to her country and liberating them from the oppressive local government. I was pleasantly surprised. 

I thanked her and sprinted to the next house. This time, instead of blowing the door off the hinges with explosives, I just knocked. All the inhabitants of the house came out and were friendly and grateful that we weren’t ransacking their home. The patriarch escorted me inside and gave me a guided tour, opening doors and cabinets without being asked. I smiled, they smiled. Satisfied the target was not present, we sprinted to the next home. We were conducting an effortless, effective, totally thorough search; and we were gaining excellent intelligence from private, hushed conversations with the homeowners. 

On the other side of the neighborhood, the second troop was going buck-wild. I heard screaming, gunfire, doors being blown off hinges, total apocalyptic mayhem. Meanwhile, in our search the villagers were piling out of their homes and greeting my troops with smiles and relaxed postures.

This episode served as a frame of reference for the rest of my career. I learned early on that (in combat) the ideal juxtaposition was to present an appearance of overwhelming strength and firepower – offset with a calm, relaxed and smiling demeanor – which was an act – internally. I am processing whomever I am smiling at as a threat, and I am locked on and ready to go in a split second. 

I simultaneously project the image that I am in charge – yet I am not threatening.  This type of outwardly relaxed demeanor has a positive secondary effect on my team members. The calmer I appear amid chaos the more relaxed they are. My calmness enables better clarity for decision making.  Calm centeredness and hyper-vigilance make combat soldiers less prone to squeeze the trigger. Violence often occurs because a soldier is unable or unwilling to manage stressors. The difference between my ‘eastern’ troop and the ‘western’ troop could be boiled down to what I call simple demeanor. 

During my sixteen combat tours, I created a strategy of engagement, a systemized way in which to interface with the local populace: humanly and effectively – yet with hyper-vigilance. This approach is ‘beyond ego’ and requires a disciplined adherence to a highly-specific protocol. It starts by establishing control of self and control of emotions. I seek to project that image of calm strength combined with compassion. This systematized approach towards conflict resolution is combat tested and could be of great benefit for law enforcement. 

BREATHING IS AS EASY AS 1:1/2:3

As a combat leader, I lead men into battle and gave orders. I made tactical decisions, that if wrong, can get men, my friends, killed. I was internally whipsawing back and forth between fear for myself and fear for my men. That voice in your head and negative mental imagery seeks to undercut your confidence at just the wrong time.

The fear and doubt raised by the mind are amplified by the body. I routinely and predictably was filled with fear during these pre-battle moments. However, as a professional, I had to find a way to deal with these fears. I do not like the idea of “overcoming” fears. I believe that fear will always be there, but needs to be properly managed. Most people will try to use their mind (willpower) to suppress the undercutting verbal chatter and negative imagery. I did it, not through willpower, but through breathing and breath control.

With each of my combat tours, I refined a strategy, a method for calming and centering myself. I used patterned breathing as an attention gathering device. Regulated breathing uses hyper-concentration to break the mental tape loop that feeds and amplifies fear and anxiety.

To further develop this strategy, I reached out to the experts in breathing and stress mitigation. I received the best strategy from four-time Free Diving World Champion and Guinness Book of World Records Holder, Stig Severinsen. Instead of listening to an internal fear monger chattering in my ear, I learned to concentrate completely on a highly-specific deep-breathing / low-breathing pattern. I would posture up and get started using my breathing sequence when it was “go time”.

  • The breathing can be done standing, sitting or moving
  • The breathing is “low belly” diaphragm breathing
  • Close the eyes
  • Relax the face and neck, as the neck relaxes, the body follows
  • Breath in deeply and smoothly through the nose for 6-seconds
  • Push downward on the diaphragm while expanding the abdomen in every direction
  • Hold the fully inhaled breath (comfortably) for 3-seconds
  • Exhale through the mouth slowly and methodically, taking 12-seconds
  • Repeat 3-5 times

Release the breath slowly and with great control, exhaling through the mouth. The exhalation is the mirror image of the inhalation except it takes twice as long. Simultaneously, consciously relax muscles and muscle groups. Face, neck, shoulders, pecs, abs, legs…with each “rep” the breathing becomes deeper and more concentrated.

I shut down the internal negative babble with my deep breathing strategy. With any lapse in my concentrated breathing, my mind instantly starts ranting about impending doom. I recollect myself and get back on the deep, timed breathing. My concentrated breathing always succeeds in shutting down negative thoughts.

After two reps I feel my blood pressure lowering because I breathe through my nose and my oxygen is filtered and activates nitric oxide. Nitric oxide increases blood oxygen levels significantly and floods my brain with much needed oxygen. I start to relax, muscle tension leaves, body part by body part.

I now begin to think with clarity. I am now 100% focused on how my slow, 1:½:2 breathing (i.e. inhaling for 6–seconds, holding for 3-seconds, exhaling for 12-seconds). This breathing strategy is paramount for resetting the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight) and putting you into a clear minded parasympathetic state (rest and digest).

Give it a try when you feel stress building up. You will be focused, calm and refreshed for your objective, whether that’s an emergency response or personal conflict.