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A specialist’s introspection prior to working on THE SHIFT

man-looking-in-mirrorOver the past couple of years I have allowed specialists to give their first-hand experience with working with and for me particularly when they get the opportunity to experience a “First” in their careers.  I met Jimmy Menzoian in January 2013 during the First annual ICON Summit.  Since that time we had been communicating regarding the industry.  In 2014 Mr. Menzoian attended the first Front Right Seat Leadership Symposium where I got a chance to see him and analyze him closely.  The FRS is not structured to coddle the specialist through the week, but intentionally designed to push their mental capacity to limits they did not know they could handle.  The week is also designed to produce leaders of details regardless of what position they are given.  Tensions among the students is purposely derived in the structure of the week.  There is a reason for that and Jimmy stood the test.  He got the nod for this detail because I knew he was immersed in what the week entailed and that his personality would fit in with the other seasoned specialists also on the detail.  Here is his account of what he went through in preparation and during the week.

 

A few months ago I got a phone call from a close friend who happens to be a colleague of mine.  It’s not unusual for him and I to talk.  In the 4 years I have known him we have talked a lot and been through some challenging situations together.  This time when I answered the phone and he said, “Bro I got something for you,” I heard the tone of his voice and I knew this could be a career changing moment.  He told me about a job opportunity that had come up and my name was suggested to be part of the team.  It felt like I was getting a call from Dana White, the president of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), and he told me he wanted me to be in the next UFC event.  Without hesitation I said yes.  I didn’t know where we were going or who we were protecting.  It didn’t matter.  I knew who the job was for and I placed my trust in him.  As I told him before; anytime, anywhere and this is where my actions would prove that.

In the months leading up to the job I continued to train, educate and review various aspects of my chosen profession just as a fighter rigorously trains for a fight. A few weeks out from the job I learned more about the job, the principal, the event as well as the guys on the team.  They are all professionals in every sense of the word which meant I needed to prove that I deserved to walk among them.  I knew it wouldn’t be easy but I knew I could do it.  Theodore Roosevelt said, “Believe you can and you’re halfway there.”

I barely slept the night before I left for the job.  I knew what was at stake.  To put it in context, if you’re fortunate enough to get a fight in the UFC that first fight is very important.  If you do well, you might be asked back for another fight because people saw what you’re capable of.  If you don’t do well chances are you won’t be asked back and you let the team down.  I was determined to do my best, prove myself, earn the respect of the team and get asked back for another fight.  I understood I would make some mistakes, we all do.  The important thing would be that I would learn from them and move on.

I woke up early to get to the airport with the same nervous / excited feeling I had when I woke up for the first day of my police academy 11 years ago.  On my way to the airport and on the plane I envisioned a range of situations that could happen on this job and how I should react.  I would rely on my training and experience to guide me.   The plane landed, I turned my phone on and I already had text messages with orders saying where to go and what buildings / businesses I needed to become an expert on.   I got to the hotel and met the rest of the team.  Given the experience these guys had I was a little intimidated but I was determined to show them I belonged there.

The night before the detail began, we all did our advance work, we got a great seafood dinner and we headed back to our rooms knowing that the sleep we got that night may be the most sleep we get for the next 4 days.  I set my alarm but apparently my alarm was not needed.  I continuously woke up fearing that I would over sleep or the alarm wouldn’t go off.  I got up, got dressed and went down to meet up with the team as we all waited for the principal.  As nervous and excited as I was, I had a moment of calm as I thought about all my training, my preparation, and my confidence that I have the capability to be great at this.  The elevator doors opened, the principal presented himself and we were on the move.

My expectations were high.  I wanted to prove to myself that I belonged to be there.  I wanted to prove to the man who gave me this opportunity that I deserved to be there but mostly I wanted to prove to the team that I belonged to be walking with them.  These guys were all proven and experienced operators.  I looked up to them and I knew my acceptance wouldn’t come easy.  When I was a cop I was selected to be part of a SWAT unit.  After I proved myself on the gun range and at SWAT school, I still needed to prove to the guys on my team that I was capable of doing a difficult job, I could be trusted with their lives,  I would have their backs and that I belonged there.  I could feel myself being evaluated on this detail just as I was my first month on that SWAT unit, and I expected that. .  Eventually I became a SWAT team leader.  When the new guys came to the team I would evaluate them in the same manner that I was evaluated so I’ve been on both sides of that scenario.   These guys didn’t have a month to see if I  belonged, they only had few days.  I knew that being the new guy I may get some undesirable assignments and that I needed to listen and pay attention more than anything so that’s exactly what I did.  No matter the assignment or what I was asked to do, my only response was “copy.”  I trusted the team and needed them to trust me so when I was told to do something, I got it done.

The days were very long but I didn’t even notice.  When I’m doing what I love, time doesn’t matter.  As the detail progressed, I could feel myself slowly being accepted by the team.  I knew I was starting to be accepted when some of the guys starting ripping on me like they were doing with each other.  I know that with these jobs your abilities don’t mean much if you don’t fit in on the team.  However, I still recognized I was the new guy so I needed to maintain that role.

Due to the long days and the amount of work we were doing, the days ran together and I ended up not realizing what day it was.  Once I realized we were on the last day of the detail and about to make our final movement I felt a range of emotions from excitement that my first major detail was a success, to feeling sadness that it was over.  Throughout the detail I did make some mistakes and I did some things that I could have done differently.  If I made a mistake or movement that could have been adjusted we discussed it as a team and my shift leader would simply say, “You did X, but here’s why you should have done Y.”  He would talk to me and instruct me with the qualities of a teacher and a true leader.   I learned a lot from each member of the team.  Everybody had something different to offer and I was receptive as always.

The job of protecting somebody’s life and well being is not easy.   It is part Art and part Science.  The fluidity of the movements and everybody knowing their roles is the Art.  When the movements go as planned, it’s like water flowing down a stream that effortlessly surrounds an object.  The Science aspect is all the variables and changes that can occur.   When something changes you still need to balance out the equation and make it work like you were planning on that variable being changed.  This has to be done quickly and effortlessly. This detail was staffed with people who not only understood these principals but have become masters at the Art as well as the Science of protection.   I was fortunate to be a part of it.

I want to thank Eric Konohia, the BPI staff and the rest of the team for an experience that made me a better protection specialist.  Benjamin Franklin once said, “Tell me and I’ll forget.  Show me and I may remember.  Involve me and I learn.”  Thanks and gratitude to the BPI team, I learned a lot.

1 comment

  1. Elijah Shaw

    Great post from the POV from someone who has trained and worked hard and received the tap.

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