Becoming a Sheepdog: Part 1

Becoming a Sheepdog
An Inside Look into the Sheepdog Level 1 Course
Part 1 of 3: Friday Night

“When I got to the door I saw an incredibly large pool of blood. I was shocked at the amount. I was really seeing blood spurting from an arm where the inmate had intentionally severed his brachial artery. I felt like I paused for several seconds before entering the cell. Later when I watched the surveillance video, to my surprise, there was no hesitation on my part. I had assessed the scene and had successfully applied a tourniquet within 30 seconds of when I first heard the commotion. That’s all due to the repetitions and practice ingrained in me from the Sheepdog course I had completed only three weeks earlier.” — Kourtni B., a deputy sheriff in Louisiana.

Sheepdogs come in all shapes and sizes. From all backgrounds and experience levels. Yet the one thing they have in common is the mindset to protect others.  “Our number one objective is helping our students create that confident and competent mindset,” said Dennis Jones, Sheepdog instructor and current active duty staff sergeant in the U.S. Army. He is a combat veteran with more than 10 years of active service within the Military Police Corps. “We want each and every student to leave our course and immediately be able to use the skills we teach if something bad should happen. As well as knowing that they must continue to train to remain effective.”

That mindset training starts immediately in the first minutes of a Sheepdog Level 1 Course and is reinforced throughout the entire 2-1/2-day program.  Geared toward students of all levels and backgrounds, the course gives students hands-on experience in self-defense, striking, firearms, first aid training, and situational awareness skills. “In short, we make you hard to kill,” Jones said. “We teach what works from our 15-plus years of combat and real-world experience against fully resistive opponents.”

Developing situational awareness

Friday night begins with a gear check with each instructor spending one-on-one time with each student reviewing their equipment, gear placement, and personal firearms. The first block of instruction and perhaps the most important is teaching students about situational awareness. “We want our students to not only be aware of their environment but also to be aware of their own skills and deficiencies,” Jones said. “We are brought up to think the world is relatively safe. And in America, it generally is. You just need to start paying attention to your surroundings.”

Know your neighborhoods and your environment. “You live here every day and know what is normal,” Jones added. “If you see something that doesn’t belong and you identify that as an anomaly, you pay attention. It could be a van that you’ve never seen before parked in a neighbor’s driveway. It might be a guy selling oil changes or casing houses, We don’t want students to be paranoid. We just want them to pay attention.”

Once the evening’s lessons are complete, students are sent home to hydrate, rest and prepare for the hands-on portion of the class that begins early Saturday morning. This is where knowledge and pressure are combined to start the process of forging a new Sheepdog.

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