I’VE done a bit of traveling in my lifetime, both across the U.S. and overseas. The groups I’ve trained have run the gamut as to their missions and the men who comprise them. What is intriguing to me is the style with which certain countries conduct their training.
Some units have a great sense of humor. With one group, I asked my translator how to introduce myself in their native language. I should have known better, but I trusted my translator. I practiced and said it to the men at the outset of training. No one reacted when I finished, although they looked quizzically at one another, then back at me, and then at each other again. It came to light that I had described (erroneously so) a portion of my anatomy in some detail, much to my embarrassment. So much for translators.
With one group, we loaded steel targets and equipment onto a private yacht. Off we went to a private island with a crystal-clear lagoon. We set up training surrounding the lagoon, swam afterward, and then returned to port with drinks on the fantail. This is definitely the way to train.
Some training has taken place in spectacular locales. One range was set within a large cavern with hanging gardens draping down 80-foot cliffs located deep within wine country. Other locations have afforded spectacular ocean views in one direction with sweeping mountain range views in the opposite direction.
It is best to make do with what you have and simply get on with it. Another location had a state-of-the-art indoor range facility that had not been utilized due to a snafu in paperwork for two years since being built. Not a single shot had been fired on it, and it was still that way when I departed. Other ranges have been set up in abandoned rock quarries.
In one area, the police must turn their pistols in at the end of the day to a vault located in the police station. They are not allowed to have their weapons on them when off duty. It naturally has led to problems caused by bad guys going after officers who have arrested them in the past. No thanks.
The importation laws of some countries disallow the use of tritium night sights. Apparently someone deduced that enough of these placed together could produce a radioactive “dirty” bomb. Of course they did not factor into the equation that the cost of acquiring enough of these to be effective would run into the billions of dollars. Importation fees can also triple the cost of a flashlight and other gear.
In certain cultures, men hold hands as they go forward on the range. These are guys you would not want to mess with, as they are big and often very tough. This custom is simply a sign of friendship, which might be misinterpreted in the U.S. In other locales, men hug and kiss each other on the cheek, also simply a sign of friendship.
Many popular movie lines here in the States are equally as popular in other countries. “Say hello to my little friend” sounds slightly different in a foreign language, as does “Go ahead … make my day.” Since I am from Los Angeles, many people abroad assume I am constantly mingling with the stars, and this conversation can also be amusing.
Stateside lunch breaks are nothing special and usually consist of water, sandwiches and, for the adventurous soul, maybe a Coke.
Overseas, picture the following: Lunch is called for mid-range training. You adjourn to a separate area and find long tables with white linen and many exotic dishes laid out from one end to the other. There are cured meats and sausages, different types of cheeses from throughout the region, dozens of different pastries (insanely good), and many bottles of different wines to be sampled along with the meal.
All this is laid out by the wives and girlfriends of the men we are training. Lunch lasts for over two hours, and many great discussions concerning all manner of subjects are undertaken. And then you go back to training.
I find this to be an elegant and dignified practice, and when hard-bitten, heavily combat-experienced men are doing it, you know it is good to go. Throughout the day with the same group of guys, slabs of prosciutto are cut from a large free-standing limb and eaten with bread, cheese and sparkling water. These guys know how to live. You shoot, you train, you eat, you drink espresso and water, then go right back to shooting.
If you are given a knife, you must give something back, usually a coin that then symbolizes friendship. I have been to dinners that lasted well into the early morning hours, with all manner of appetizers, main dishes, desserts, drinks and after-dinner aperitifs.
Europeans exhibit a certain style that I find fascinating. They truly love life and value their friendship and unit camaraderie. They are incredibly close to one another. And although we speak different languages and have different customs, when it comes to training, we all have common goals. These goals make training universal.