Becoming a Sheepdog
An Inside Look into the Sheepdog Level 1 Course
Part 3 of 3: Sunday
“One of the biggest takeaways of this course was the principle and purpose of Sheepdog Response. How constantly working towards improving that one percent is the key to being the best version of yourself and be more of an asset in our communities.” – Pat M, a 21-year Canadian military veteran.
Honing hand-to-hand skills
Day two continues to build on self-defensive and striking skills from the previous morning. It’s just at a more elevated pace with weapon retention exercises and how trying to maintain control of your handgun changes the way you fight. “This is not sports jiu-jitsu. Even though some of our students are accomplished grapplers, it’s a totally different game and mindset when your life is on the line,” said Dennis Jones, Sheepdog instructor who currently holds a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and competes in both military and civilian MMA tournaments.
“Hands down, the training revealed my lack of ground game,” said Richard S., a former Infantryman in the Israel Defense Forces. “From my previous training, I was throwing strikes from the bottom which left me blindsided from taking dominance and winning the fight.”
After completing another grappling session, the students are given a block of instruction on TCCC or Tactical Combat Casualty Care. Developed in the mid-1990s for the Special Operations medical community, TCCC is designed to provide lifesaving care for the injured combatant, limit further casualties, and still stay in the fight. Students are taught how to move a casualty and other practical field medical treatments to stabilize the wounded. The most critical is how to apply a tourniquet as well as the importance of always having one within reach.
Building on the fundamentals of marksmanship
The students return to the range and begin with dry fire exercises to review the fundamentals under the watchful eye of the instructor cadre. Live fire drills using reactionary movements come next to teach students how to stay mobile and in the fight. Continuing to build upon and reinforce the skills learned in the TCCC instruction block, shooting drills are interrupted by commands that the student has been shot and has to apply a tourniquet to his or her extremity quickly.
The range session culminates with a drill involving movement, elevated heart rate, and fast decision-making. “This is as close as we can get to simulating the stress of a gunfight,” Jones said. “Students find out if they are able to put their shots on target in less than ideal situations.”
“With help from the instructors, whether it was giving me pointers or just pushing me, my shooting skills were far better than I expected,” said Kortni B., a sheriff’s deputy in Louisiana. “After I completed the course, my confidence in my shooting capabilities increased, and I’ve placed as the top female in some shooting competitions. I have literally halved my shooting times from draw to first shot. I know I can trust the skills I’ve learned from Sheepdog Response.”
Defending your home
Another critical component of the Level 1 Course is the instructional block on home defense. “As instructors, we take our experience from protection details and help the students figure out how to harden their homes,” Jones said. “We look at exterior and interior security systems as well as action plans for what happens if someone does break into your home.” Home defense plans should involve the entire family. Who calls the police? Who gets the children? Where are the fields of fire? And, what happens in the aftermath of a shooting?
Making incremental improvements
“Over the course of two days, we have walked students through what violence looks like,” Jones said. “Sometimes people romanticize it a bit and don’t appreciate that it’s going to be messy and it’s going to be rough.” Instructors talk with students about the adrenaline dump that occurs after a fight and how to deal with the inevitable physiological and mental stress. They also encourage students to assess their current level of fitness and to develop a plan for gradual and consistent improvement.
“The important thing is to make incremental changes every day,” Jones added. “You don’t get quick results, but it’s sustainable. And, over time, those small changes have a big impact.”
“I’m married and have four children under the age of five, and I still find time every day to train with weights, weapons, and jiu-jitsu,” said Kyle D. “There is no excuse for not training to protect your life or those you are sworn to protect who are depending on you. The lessons and tactics that Sheepdog Response offer are crucial in becoming a better officer and an overall better person.”
Creating a new community of Sheepdogs
At the conclusion of every Level 1 Course, the instructor cadre reinforces that the last 2-½ days are not the completion of a rigorous curriculum, but the beginning of a new chapter in each student’s life. The bonds built between students are also strong. They have created a camaraderie that extends beyond the classroom with many continuing training with their new community of Sheepdogs.
“I want our students to walk away with confidence in their abilities,” Jones said. “Not overconfident, but a healthy sense of who they are. They should have the skills to do a good self-assessment of their assets and liabilities so they can be the best version of themselves for their families and communities.”