Down Range

About the photograph. We see a World War II D-day landing at Omaha beach (Public Domain, Library of Congress). At the front of the LCVP (Landing, Craft, Vehicle, Personnel), or Higgins boat, we see a door. When that door falls it becomes a ramp. The greatest generation breached, and moved inland, towards the sound of the guns. What is down range? Down range is being in harms way as a potential target, not as a tourist.

Where are the geographical areas where violence is common place? What does a person gain from having been down range? Experience. Theory and training meet reality, which is another way of saying – experience.

In America’s war on terror, American soldiers grew much in experience down range. Many of us have benefited from our soldiers shared experiences in urban combat.

Police officers operate and patrol dangerous areas day after day, for years. Every decent sized city USA has a down range, as it were. A high crime area. Hot spots. Police departments often maintain a homepage. Wherever you live if there is a crime problem in a city near you, check out the police departments website. A popular trend is for cities to post crime mapping statistics. To identify “down range,” dangerous areas near you, look for the higher number of firearm crime related incidents. Look for map locations of shooting victims. There are often many times more shooting victims than homicide victims.

Take a city like Peoria, Illinois as an example. As of this writing the latest shooting report on their website, is from 2017. Following the link and locating the shooting report for 2017, the second map from the bottom reveals there were (9) fatal murders, and (74) non-fatal shootings. Go back and check the older shooting reports. It’s not rocket science to see the pattern – the geographical areas to stay clear of, due to the shootings occurring in these areas. Click on the shooting section to reveal the shooting reports at:

If you grow up in an area where gun play is common place, there is a high probability you understand violence in a way other folks do not. So how do people who did not grow up in these dangerous areas gain experience there? Law enforcement. Law enforcement agencies hire and train police officers and send them out to work in high crime areas. Nothing beats experience in the field.

The closest any of us can get to experience in a gunfight, short of a gunfight, is paint marking simulation exercises. Gunfights are a last resort. Shootings are always preferred to gunfights. What’s the difference? In a shooting the defender does all the shooting. How many people understand when it is lawful to draw their firearms? Do it too soon and you may face criminal charges. Be convicted of certain crimes and yes you could lose your license to carry and right to possess firearms. Do it too late and you or yours might be killed by an unjust aggressor. That kind of knowledge is far more important than skill building. Learning to perform a sub one second draw with fast splits does have it’s place – but measured against when and how to defend yourself, there is no contest.

Law enforcement brings with it a brotherhood. A thin blue line. Officers will go to great lengths to protect one another while in harms way. They will take many and various calculated risks for their brothers and sisters in arms. That sort of disposition makes it easy to trust your brothers and sisters will do the same for you. This brings forth a great confidence and composure for those moving and working in that type of down range environment. Training and experiences also build confidence.

What helps men move and work down range? What helps men move through breach points towards the sound of the guns? A willingness to risk. Calculated risks – not reckless risks.

Fear of failure, motivates men to advance into and through breach points. Fear of letting your brothers and sisters in arms down, moves men towards the sounds of the guns. Nobody wants to let a brother in arms down. Many there are, who would rather die, than fail their brethren in the field.

Where does this fear come from? In part, it comes from our ego. From our desires or our perceived need for honor. From a fear of losing honor. Some of this gets formed inside the law enforcement agency. How so? In law enforcement fellow officers are ruthless at reminding each other of their mistakes. As it should be. I better write that again. You may not have heard this before. As – it – should – be! Why should it be that way? Ruthless reminders thicken an officers skin, as it were. That comes in handy on the street. Ruthless good natured ribbing also helps officers to learn to sweat the small details. I disagree with the adage not to sweat little things. I argue we ought to pay attention to the smallest of details if our goal is to become a craftsman. That ought to be our goal. If you don’t have a desire to learn your profession well, do everyone and yourself a favor, and go find another one. Ruthless good natured ribbing reminds you there is a price to be paid for messing up. So don’t – mess – up. Get it right. Put out and do the work necessary to learn your profession, and then do it right.

Ego is a good thing when used in the service of others, legitimate self defense, and for a worthy cause. Ego turns into a bad thing when used to appease one’s insecurities. Ego is bad when misused based upon mere insults or personal offenses. Our ego’s are rather sensitive and insatiable. The more you feed it, the more it desires to eat. Self centered ego or pride has put more men in the ground, or prison than any other fear based emotion. What is it we yet fear? If we would rather die than lose honor, then yes, we breach. Peer pressure is a powerful motivator. In the service of our brothers and sisters in arms fear of a loss of honor, fear of failing them, often serves the common good.

We have to guard against misuses of our ego. There are times a fear of a loss of honor can go too far into wrong actions. In general we don’t like decreasing or losing parts of ourselves. We don’t like denying our ego’s the reassurance we sense it needs. We don’t desire to enter into suffering. We are suffering averse in our instant gratification generation. We don’t like the idea of picking up a Cross and carrying it. When we begin to suffer we find out what’s in our hearts. We get tested. Authentic leadership is tested leadership. When we begin to pay a price for our moral and physical courage, we get measured, as it were. We find out, what is in our hearts. Is it about us, or is it for our people?

What causes us to fail to breach – is fear. Fear of a loss of something we’re overly attached to. If we turn away from the breach point it is often to “save ourselves,” from some perceived loss.

At it’s root, grace and sin are at war. Everything good in this life we do, is a function of grace which comes from God. Everything bad that we do, well that’s on us. The buck stops with me, and it stops with you. If this kind of talk is not to your liking, this blog may not be for you. Godspeed my brother or sister, Godspeed.

Some men breach due to a consistent habit of doing right things. Some men breach due to virtue or strength of their character. We don’t even talk about virtue anymore. These good things are all a function of grace. In part, moving towards the sound of the guns comes from love. Love for our brothers and sisters in blues and browns. Love for the innocents in the communities we serve. There is no greater love than to lay down your life for your friends.

To move towards the sound of the guns is to move towards the Cross at Calvary. It is a paradox. Few there are who move swiftly towards that sound. Police do it. Soldiers do it. Saint’s do it. Do it.

My grandfather, Russel Bill was a Marine in World War II. My grandfather volunteered for the Marine Corps at the start of World War II. Why? He wanted to be in a brotherhood that were serious about the business of winning. He believed the Marines were the best our Country had to offer our enemies. I believe he was right. That was all he needed to know. Saint Paul spoke about this when he cautioned us not to box as if beating the air. In other words, don’t shadow box. If your going to fight, do so as if to win!

Why do some men breach? Why do some men avoid breach points altogether? It is my belief there is a spiritual answer to this question. To understand things we often have to go back to the beginning. Where is the beginning? The Old Testament.

In Chapter 4 of Genesis we read of the story of Cain and Abel. God says to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is couching at the door; its desire is for you, but you must master it.”

So lets try to unpack some of this. Sin is couching at the door. What does the word couch mean? Merriam-Webster has it as “to lie in ambush.” Cain and Abel brought to the Lord an offering. God had regard for the offering of Abel, though no regard for the offering of Cain. Cain got angry. Cain found himself in a spiritual (moral) battle. To breach, Cain would have to decrease, to die, to his own “will.” What was Cain’s will? Cain was angry. His will was to lead Abel out and murder him. That is what he did. The spirit of the world tells us to save ourselves. The spirit of the world says forget about breaching this, that, or the other door, you could get hurt. You could lose things. You might lose wealth, powers, pleasures, or honors! Are you crazy? Are you stupid? Save yourself! Save your illicit desires. Save your money, your position, your attached pleasures, and your worldly respect. Save yourself! Look out for number #1! It’s all about you! It’s not about others. Get yours!

Mark 15: 29 And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads, and saying, “Aha! You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days,
30 save yourself, and come down from the cross!”
31 So also the chief priests mocked him to one another with the scribes, saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself.

God was warning Cain that his own sinful desires were laying in wait, his desires were setting an ambush for him. His desires were leading him into a position of great disadvantage. The ambush occurs outside the doorway. The temptation to save ourselves happens outside the doorway. It prevents us from ever going in. This one again it’s very important. The temptation to save ourselves, prevents us from going in! We turn away from the breach point.

At best this manifests as indifference, and at worst as cowardice. We don’t want to decrease. We don’t want to die to our selfish will. We often follow our will – our selfish desires to save ourselves and we move away from the breach point. We turn away from the Cross, and leave it laying in the dust. A failure – to – breach.

That is the opposite of authentic leadership. Authentic leadership is not about us, but it is for – our – people. Those whom we purport to love. Talk is mighty cheap for a human being. When God says something it IS. It happens. When we say something – talk is often very cheap. We speak far louder in our actions, than in our words.

In World War II there was a term used; “Coin of the Realm.” It meant there is a price necessary to complete the mission. Soldiers pay that price through a willingness to risk everything to complete the mission. A willingness to die if need be. A self-sacrificing love. In Catholicism we call it agape love. Self-sacrificing Christian love. The Word of God tells us there is no greater love than a man lay down his life for his friends.

The Word of God tells us; Perfect love casts out all fear. The problem is we don’t have perfect love. We have fear. Fear often underlies anger. Fear of a loss of something. Saint Thomas Aquinas gave us four things we tend to substitute for God. Wealth, power, pleasures, and honors. Fear of a loss of honor, often underlies anger.

Love for God, our country, innocents, and for our brothers in arm, moves us into and through those breach points. There is a power in love. It is for love of innocents – we breach – we move direct to the threat – and we solve the problem. What’s the problem? Unjust aggression. Legitimate just defenders solve the problem by whatever degree the unjust aggressor chooses. Unjust aggressors always have free will. It is they who choose if, and how much, force is necessary to stop them.

Unjust aggressors have no moral or legal rights to abuse, injure, and murder innocents. Innocents have legitimate moral and legal rights to defend themselves, and those they purport to love.