U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Bruce Thompson fires an M-4 Carbine rifle at hostile forces while using a humvee simulator at Creech Air Force Base, Nev. The simulator is the first Department of Defense 360-degree simulator and will primarily be used to train service members on convoy simulation and escalation of force tactics. DoD photo by Master Sgt. Kevin J. Gruenwald, U.S. Air Force. (Released)

When you are serious about your firearms skills, you want to develop your personal capability to the point where the handgun is what Col. Cooper called “a reflexive extension of your will.” One tool for developing this ability is Conflict Kinetics (CK), which are designed to “empower the agent/warfighter to outperform the enemy in close-quarter combat.”

Let’s examine what CK is and what it is not, and how this program is helping sharpen the razor’s edge of close-quarter combat handgun skills of our special operations warriors. CK also includes the M4 Carbine in their training but here the focus will be on the handgun.

“The CK solution is built upon proven pro-sports techniques facilitated by a world-class training platform,” says Brian Stanley, the founder of CK. He explains that what makes the CK program unique is the manner in which they combine their sports training methodology with state-of-the-art technology. Brian knows this subject firsthand—he has played professional sports and grew up with a dad who is still a coach for a major league baseball team. Brian made the point that one of the advantages of this technology is that it allows CK to make on-the-spot changes to the program to meet the customer’s needs. This provides the advantage of an instantly customizable program, presented at realistic speed, in a 360-degree environment that combines to give you a thorough workout intended to “enhance the reaction time of warfighters to see, recognize and hit targets.”

As Real as it Gets
CK is quick to point out that their program is not a simulator or a video game. This was a really important point for me because I’ve trained on simulator systems in the past and was not very impressed. The CK workout approach is designed to enhance human performance with a firearm by working on vision and hand-to-eye coordination, engaging the mind, ramping up the speed and duration of the program and forcing the student to watch for threats in a 360-degree environment.

To do this, CK has developed what is called the Tactical Ocular Reaction Area. This is a large wraparound screen that is controlled by computer. You are given a choice of weapons—military-issue firearms that have been pneumatically enabled—some minimal instructions, and the training program begins with increasingly complicated exercises.

This is at the heart of why the CK program works. You cannot simply run through one of their exercises and shoot down the targets. The number of targets, the speed at which they are presented, the fact that they can suddenly appear anywhere around you, and the length of the program force students to fully engage both physically and mentally from the start of the exercise. This is not a two-shot drill. One of the exercises I ran had more than 150 targets. All of the fine motor skills—a clean front sight, a smooth trigger press, the perfect stance—quickly go out the window because you have too much to do (just like the real deal).

Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Kevin J. Gruenwald) (Released)

You find yourself concentrating on the basics: locking the shoulders, elbows and wrists; getting on target quickly, firing and then immediately looking for new targets; reminding yourself that the most important shot you fire is the one you are firing now, forgetting the last one and driving on. It is as this point, when the program forces the student to fully engage in the “scan-see-recognize-hit-scan” process, instantly, that continuous reinforcement occurs. By seeing the targets react to your shot, you actually learn. This is what makes the CK program so effective. To quote DARPA, “The CK methodology is a unique neuroscience approach to improving human performance.”

Spec-Ops Specialty
Currently, the majority of CK’s time is being spent with military special operations units. This is a smart move for a variety of reasons. Consider that the special operations community, comprised of units from all the military services, receives the best training available, so who better to test and evaluate a new training system and methodology. And since they are currently heavily engaged on many fronts in all of the hot AOs, they can and will tell you in a heartbeat whether or not something works as advertised. To date, CK has received five awards, with two coming from the demanding special operations community.

Another plus for the CK system is that it takes full advantage of how today’s warfighters learn. Electronic systems can be highly effective training tools. For instance, consider how our kids and grandkids work circles around us on computers, cell phones and other electronic media. The CK electronic systems are big physical trainers, and provide next-generation training capability, just as these other modern forms do.

Next, and this is a big plus for the CK program, it places heavy emphasis on close-range engagements. Lt. Col. Dave Grossman is probably our most notable authority on the issues involved with the psychology of close combat, how it affects the individual soldier and how to prepare him for it. In his book, On Killing, he tells us, “It has long been understood that there is a direct relationship between the emphatic and physical proximity of the victim, and the resultant difficulty and trauma of the kill.” Each operator needs to know, his teammates need to know, his commanders need to know, that they will without hesitation, engage the enemy at close range with a firearm, a knife, a rock or their bare hands.

Pfc. George M. Bachelor, motor transport specialist, Marine Wing Support Squadron 373, 3rd Marine Air Wing, keeps on the alert scanning terrain in the 360-degree Combat Convoy Simulator.

Another reason this type of training is especially important in developing a really aggressive mindset with our special operations personnel is because they may be required to use the handgun offensively. Said another way, the first (and hopefully only) rounds going downrange in an engagement may be fired by the good guys. When this works as planned, there should be no return fire. This is another level of training that needs to be addressed for these operators to be as prepared as possible to deal with the variety and complexity of operations they are called on to carry out.

Author photo.

Variety of Missions
It is this variety and complexity of requirements that really emphasizes an important niche role that CK training has for our special operations personnel. I will use the Army’s Special Forces as an example because I am the most familiar with them. We need to step back from the firearms training requirement for just a minute in order to point out that a Special Forces soldier is required to have an in-depth working knowledge of a staggering number of skills. Firearms comprise just one tool in their tool box.

Consider that at A-Detachment level you have a 12-man team consisting of a Captain, a warrant officer and 10 NCOs. Each of the NCOs will have a specialty for which he has been extensively trained, including knowledge of light and heavy weapons, demolitions, communications, medical or intelligence. Then they have all been cross-trained on these skills to give the team the necessary depth in a combat situation where they won’t lose the skills if they lose a team member or deploy as a six-man team or a “split A.”

In addition, each man must be parachute-qualified and they may have also attended HALO or HAHO schools as well as SCUBA. Or as we learned from their early Afghan days, they may just ride a horse to work! They will undergo language instruction because they must work with people from many different countries. While the Special Forces operator can perform direct action missions, their traditional role is “the ability to plan, train for and conduct operations by, with or through Host Nation or irregular forces.”

Author photo.

This really is really what the Special Forces do, which dictates the variety and types of training they require into sharp focus. They have to be able to operate in extremely remote environments under very primitive conditions. They have to be knowledgeable about both the geographical as well as the human terrain of their assigned area of operations. Living and working alongside the people of another culture, they will have to be able to perform in constantly changing roles that are determined by the situation of the moment, as possibly a warrior, or a diplomat, a teacher, a doctor, an intel collector, a judge, a mayor, an engineer and so on. Theirs is an incredibly important mission in today’s Global War on Terror.

Condensed & Strong
Now we can zoom in again on firearms training for this remarkable operator who must do many things well. Knowing what we know now, we can clearly see that a team undergoing pre-deployment training to one of these “garden spots” will have a lot going on. They will not be able to devote their scant time to honing their small arms skills. But with the intense skills refresher the CK system provides, a live-fire session or two and some tactical mission-specific exercises with Simunitions, the deploying team can get everybody up to speed quickly, freeing their schedule up for the other tasks at hand.

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Arnulfo Dauto prepares to fire on aggressing forces with an M-249 squad automatic weapon light machine gun assault rifle from a humvee simulator(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Kevin J. Gruenwald) (Released)

One SF sergeant major said, “I believe any unit, including any Special Operations unit, that requires advanced combat marksmanship skills and must maintain them constantly to meet mission requirements, should own or be exposed to this technology…This apparatus serves to train capabilities that standard and advanced flat ranges, video ranges and moving ranges cannot satisfy. It forces you to train your eyes specifically to increase reaction times and situational awareness. I have not been exposed to any advanced marksmanship training in the military or civilian sectors in the last 26 years in Special Forces that has addressed this aspect in training and shooter enhancement.”

CK is a training system that works. For more information, visit or call 703-585-8080.

Up Next

The Department of Justice’s Operation Fast and Furious: Fueling Cartel Violence complete report (pdf).

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Bruce Thompson fires an M-4 Carbine rifle at hostile…