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A REAL Warrior/Shooter Craig “Sawman” Sawyer speaks to BPI Security.

In 2008 I attended a High Risk Diplomatic Protection course sponsored by Solutions Group International [www.solutionsgroupinternational.com] at Nellis AFB, Las Vegas, Nevada. The course was attended by approximately twenty (20) guys from around the United States. The course was very well taught with a tight schedule for each day. There were two (2) main instructors [George and Mike] that ran the SGI company and a third gentleman, who was introduced as “Sawman” who had extensive experience in High Threat protection in non-permissive environments. The two (2) main instructors were extremely congenial however the third guy maintained a very quiet characteristic throughout the classroom session, only imparting tactical and professional recommendations pursuant to his career. He had a quiet persona yet his presence in silence was ever present. A periodic smile would protrude through every now and again, yet his face quickly returned back to seriousness. In the past I’ve heard guys point out other people and say, “That dude has a thousand yard stare.” But when I first saw “Sawman” I really knew what that “thousand yards stare” looked like, which made the other references look more like a 15 yard penalty for impersonating a real shooter.

After about two (2) days we transitioned to the range area to shoot the DSS handgun quals. As we cycled through the students I got a peak at Sawman as he stood back with the look of a coach during an NFL combine. Every now and again he would walk over to one of the main instructors and whisper something in their ear, whereby they would pay closer attention at a specific shooter. After the scores were tallied, the class was split between those who had the “basic” shooting fundamentals to move forward and those that had to move over to the next berm to go through basic handgun fundamentals. This crew was handled by Sawman. After some time passed we broke for lunch and returned to do “dry” formation movements. Again I watched as Sawman’s intensity grew in every step, motion and turn each student made. Clearly we were in his bailiwick as he began to speak with a clear and succinct voice of first-hand knowledge and understanding, “SLOW DOWN!” After the training cadre felt we could go “hot” Sawman moved with the formation as if he was a part of the team and watched every round, every bound and every evac of the Principal. He surgically dissected every portion of each scenario. After a week or so we were all presented with our certificates and departed on our way. I maintained contact with the two (2) owners of SGI as well as a couple of the students, but was never to see nor hear Sawman again.

It wasn’t until a couple years later that I was playing the TV surf warrior that I was watching, “Top Shot” when I saw a face that I was familiar with, it was Sawman. I called one of my colleagues that attended the course and asked if he saw it. He said, “Of course, Saw is the man” Then shortly after the killing of Osama bin Laden I saw him again on network news talking specifically about the Seal Teams that I decided to look this guy up. To my surprise I had trained again with one of America’s elite. I contacted Sawman in a feeble attempt to seek an interview for this blog to which he agreed. As busy as he is, he found time to answer the questions that I presented while on the road as a guest at the White House for the presentation of the Medal of Honor recipient.

This blog is primarily about the saturation of guys that feel that their bio’s are deficient unless they have a PSD mission under their belt. Where else could I go to see if my ranting in previous blogs was on point, than to someone that has been there and done that?

Here is the interview. Some of the questions I asked Sawman were not able to answer due to obvious OPSEC and classification reasons. Thanks Saw!

Biography:

Craig Sawyer, AKA “Sawman,” got his tactical start in the U.S. Marine Corps. He quickly transitioned to the U.S. Navy to pursue high-level Special Operations as a U.S. Navy SEAL. (*All activity while attached to DEVGRU remains classified and is not represented here.)

The Martial Arts have played a significant role in Craig’s life, including fighting tournaments in SouthEast Asia, as well as SCARS (Special Combat Aggressive Reaction System) hand-to-hand training under Jerry Peterson and the SAFTA system with Lew Hicks. In addition to the combat styles, Craig grew up fighting various karate tournaments, such as the Karate Olympics tournaments in Houston, TX and one year of formal Boxing under Henry & Jim Harris. Most recently, Craig has undergone numerous Duane Dieter Tactical Hand-to-Hand and Weapons training packages over a 15-year period, as well as significant cross training in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Muay Thai fighting and Tony Blauer fighting techniques.

Extensive Shooting packages have included: (U.S.M.C. Scout/Sniper, U.S. Navy SEAL Sniper, Combat Shotgun, Pistol, Sub-Machine Gun, Assault rifle, Belt-Fed Machine Gun, various Rockets, etc.)

Other experience pertinent to Hollywood Tech Advising includes: Explosive & Mechanical Breaching, Tactical Driving Packages (O’Gara-SSI, ITI, BSR, FLETC and Fast Attack Vehicle Driver with over 500 hours of experience driving FAVs on night vision goggles) Surveillance & Surveillance Detection, Lead Climber, Federal Criminal Investigator, Federal Air Marshal Training, Basic Stunt Man Training (Fighting, High Falls, Rail Flips, etc.) Military Free-fall Parachute Training (600 Jumps, including a World Record 35,000 ft. Team, Combat Equipment, HALO) and Freefall Cameraman.

In the realm of “High-Threat, Mobile Security”, Craig has run the specialized teams responsible for providing security to U.S. Senators, Hilary Clinton, John McCain, U.S. Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, as well as U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte and other U.S. Ambassadors and key U.S. leaders in the various war zones.

In addition to the tactical skill sets, Craig also won 2 local Motocross Racing Championships in Las Vegas in 2003, along with personal Motocross/Supercross Training by former National Champion, Marty Smith and Professional Motorcycle Road Racer, Mark Roberts.

Due to such a unique and well-rounded background, Craig draws from a wealth of experience when considering the artistic interpretation of a movie scene involving tactical elements. Craig knows what looks and feels right. He’s accustomed to training others to develop core skill sets, which clearly demonstrate they learned from an advanced source. This valuable background, along with the extensive network Craig maintains with his fellow “Operators” in various units around the globe, is the knowledge pool being drawn from to help actors portray realistic tactics and techniques in a wide range of scenarios. WWW.Tacticalinsider.com

BPI: What is your stance on adequate training with your specific team prior to going on a PSD mission?

Sawman: I strongly believe in training with your team prior to any legitimate effort. If you intend to go against any real world threat, coordination with the actual members you’ll be working with is critical. We each can have different ideas of what to do in a sudden crisis and those concepts need to be ironed out and agreed to prior to being under immediate threat as a team.

I see it all the time when I train groups who are supposed to be well-experienced and qualified. I simply ask them to walk, not run, through their most basic response to a real threat and they’re ALWAYS a complete mess unless they’re demonstrating with the team they work with on a regular basis, and even some of those teams need some significant work.

The fact that so many of these guys don’t really understand what to do under fire should be a lesson all by itself. You can’t expect to have effective coordination in a sudden, violent confrontation if you don’t train together and work out the process among the members of your team ahead of time in a controlled environment. This should be done on a regular basis to maintain currency and effectiveness as a team. If you’re doing anything less, you’re slacking and you should fully expect it to bite you if you’re challenged with a serious attempt on your principal.

I’m not suggesting you have to don full kit with all your weapons, equipment, clothing, vehicles and variables you’ll have when you’re actually on duty, the way we train in the SEAL teams. However, if you’re determined to get it right, it’s available to you if only you’ll take the time and effort to make it happen. Short of that, even basic “chalk talk” team chats and “walk-throughs” are very helpful and will put you miles ahead of where you would otherwise have been as a team.

In the end, it’s YOUR professional reputation, YOUR team’s success or failure, the life or death of YOUR client and YOUR own life on the line. Is it worth some additional preparation to avoid failure? You decide.

BPI: There are a lot of guys who do corporate, VIP and celebrity EP in CONUS that feel that there bio is deficient unless they have non-permissive environment protection under their belts. What do you personally feel about this trend?

Sawman: I definitely see the value in having non-permissive environment experience, because that’s where I’ve spent most of my high-threat protective service. You can’t get a strong feel for exactly how a teammate performs under genuine threat unless you’ve experienced it with him and observed his performance through it. Having said that, non-permissive environment experience is obviously not necessary for typical EP, VIP, or celebrity work and in some cases, can even be problematic. If a security professional isn’t quick to adjust to different professional environments and unique applications of the work appropriate to each setting, he can be a strain and even a liability to the team.

As an example, I’ve had guys rotate into locations where the threat was much more sophisticated, geared much more toward intelligence with no history of direct action in that area. In that case, a low profile approach was clearly required and most effective, yet some operators simply could not bring themselves to modify their approach, retaining their “Rambo starter kit” of full overt assault gear they had been wearing at their previous site where vehicles were getting ambushed and blown off the road with massive IEDs daily. Each location, client, environment and threat have an ultimate solution that is most appropriate. Seeking that perfect solution must be the true professional’s constant daily search. We may never get it perfect, but we absolutely MUST strive for it.

BPI: What are, if any, prerequisites that a person should have before even considering working a PSD detail in a non-permissive environment?

Sawman: For non-permissive environment PSD, a background in military special operations is really a basic requirement, in my opinion. You could get away with less…”until”. Until you get ambushed by seasoned professionals who know what they’re doing. It’s like expecting to go for a swim on the North Shore of Oahu and expecting everything to miraculously work out fine, because you can swim a little bit.

If you can only plan, shoot, conduct surveillance, break contact, provide medical aid and drive “just a little”, you’re setting yourself up for failure. After all, it’s not the daily grind you’re being paid for; it’s the actual hit on your principal that you’re there to avert. If you can’t actually do that, you’re of no use to your client.

One of the main things guys seem to miss in non-permissive environments is what should, in most cases, be the first thing that occurs to them; “Don’t be where bad things happen!” This is easier said than done many times, especially when a principal has the requirement to travel to and through high-threat zones. Still, there should be a constant effort to assess the intelligence available and make the best call on what is necessary and what can be adjusted to arrange for a safer option for your principal. Your principal can’t get hit if he’s not there, or if the threat cannot determine if he’s there. That’s a lot of ground to consider on this subject.

Not every move or event your principal requests is necessary. You’ll have to make constant judgments on what you will allow and what you will discourage, or even deny. If your principal is a public figure, he/she’ll obviously have the necessity for public exposure. Which exposures they endure should be considered carefully, according to all the factors at hand.

A couple of my favorite Detail Lead plays are to request an alternate event venue, which would be more to our advantage, or to invite the other party to meet us at our location where we can control access and screening. I like to work multiple limousines conducting false routes, if possible, and I like offering to bring things to the principal as a “special service”, rather than them needlessly going into harm’s way when the detail can conduct the task without the principal risking the move.

Each move or exposure must be a calculated decision based on the totality of the specific circumstances surrounding your principal in that location on that day. It’s a people business, so communication skills are absolutely crucial. If you can’t articulate why you must deny your principal a certain move, they will override you, or resent you. However, if you CAN effectively articulate your case and can demonstrate through your professional performance record that you have sound judgment and will only deny things when it’s the right call, your principal will respect and appreciate your word. You have to earn this one. It doesn’t come automatically or free, nor should it.

BPI: For a moment put yourself and company owner and you had a huge contract in the “box”. Where would you go to pull your teams together?

Sawman: I’d reach to guys who have done it in multiple environments for multiple clients and who have significant special operations experience. There’s just no substitute if you have a short time to rally an all-star team of effective PSD professionals.

BPI: Last question, clearly you are viewed as one of the “Go to” guys for tactical expertise. Is there any suggestions you would like to give to these guys that want to perform PSD security that have no experience in these hostile environments?

Sawman: This all depends on the theater of operation you want to work in. If you’re wanting to go into the war zones and protect high-threat clients, you need the training and experience to help you succeed and survive there.

If you want to conduct EP work, or PSD in a more typical environment, seek out the basic preparations advertised in the industry and train towards them as a team. You don’t need combat experience to protect people. The overwhelming majority of the job is planning. Always have things covered ahead of your principal and strive to ensure they’re never exposed or risked more than is absolutely necessary.

WORK ON:

1: Planning: There’s a world of issues to be considered if you’re diligent and covering everything you should be. Nothing gets done without proper planning. When there’s absolutely no time for further planning, that’s when your teams SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) come into play and help save the day.

2: Basic trauma and medical training

3: “Cover and evacuate” mindset and rehearsals together as a team

4: Surveillance and Threat Recognition: You can’t avoid a threat if you can’t see it coming. Be tuned into your environment, learn as much about your principal’s threats as possible, and strive to reduce their opportunities.

5: Get some professional driver training: Even if you consider yourself a great driver. There’s more to know than you would realize until you’ve been exposed to all the considerations of PSD driving.

6: Communications.: Spend the time and effort coordinating your efforts as a team. If you don’t, you’ll end up disjointed and fairly ineffective as a team. Try to have more than 1 means of communication. You can’t coordinate your efforts if you can’t communicate.

7: Shooting: Don’t forget dry firing in addition!

8: Finally: study cases of prior hits on other clients and learn from the lessons available there. The internet is loaded with great examples, including full reports and videos. If your team is dedicated to pursuing these principles of preparation, you’ll do just fine.

It was a pleasure interviewing such a humble and willing Professional like Saw.  He was very willing to see this interview through in spite of his hectic schedule.  Before you guys wanna ream me for the posting of the pics, all photos compliments of tacticalinsider.com

5 comments

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  1. Eric S.

    Its great to see Craig willing and able to do these types of interviews. No Hollywood ego or price tag attached to his knowledge. Its a big plus for the PSD community.

  2. Campbell

    Good article guys.
    I just wanted to add that my years of protection work in austere environments; I have seen many prior this and that make no benefit to a team and just the opposite as well.
    HTP, in my opinion, is still in-flux and evolving. Therefore I press everyone to keep enhancing their personal skills to be a true asset and worth having when on team.
    All the best- Campbell out.

  3. Kevin Lewis

    I can concur with your assesment of the Solutions Group training. George and Mike along with their training cadre are top notch. Their course was one of the best courses I have ever attended. Sawman is both a great instructor and an inspiration.

  4. Tonya Miller

    This was a very interesting article of a very interesting man. His professionalism and care to detail are obvious, along with his intent to share his knowledge. Thanks for seeking the interview, and thanks to Sawman for taking the time to do it.

  5. Denise

    I do not have a Website I only have a Facebook page. I have seen a few things about Craig Sawyer and I am amazed. I thoroughly enjoyed the article. Thanks to both you and Sawman for sharing with us.

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