Having spent almost seventeen (17) years detailed to a police SWAT team (but never served in the military), I heard plenty of tacticalisms - the term I've assigned to the catch-phrases and platitudes that get tossed around among members of the tactical operations community.

These tacticalisms, however, aren't isolated to TacOps folks. They're within not only other aspects of policing....but other industries, hobbies, and walks of life. If you're a SWAT cop, you've undoubtedly heard these phrases. Heck, I've used them all!

Here are eleven (11) that make me cock my head and say Hmmmm:

Slow is smooth; smooth is fast. [We all know there is specific cadence, tone, and a pause required to say this one!] Simple logic puts this as slow equals fast. As a math and physics guy --- fake news! Maybe we should discuss movement in terms of velocity, direction, and acceleration. But range guys talking about vectors and coefficients of friction simply doesn't sound as cool.

Predictable is preventable. Sorry folks. But I'll flip this to admit predictable is respondable. As I look into my crystal ball, I predict the sun will rise tomorrow morning. We certainly cannot prevent that. However, we can wear sunglasses. They still have to be Oakley brand, right?

He's an Operator. What the hell does he operate? Heavy machinery? A tower crane? A carbine? I sure hope it's not in a surgical center - he's got gunpowder residue all over his hands.

Train to task, not to time. Has anyone ever heard this line to extend the training day beyond normal hours? I didn't think so. Let's quit fooling ourselves - this is used to justify getting out early. And where is the task list? I never worked with another team that was that organized to actually identify learning objectives!

Just another tool for the toolbox. How friggen big and heavy is your toolbox? And how do you find anything? Oooh...mental toolbox! Yeah. Still not buying it. Look into the research on variety of specialty options and the lag of decision-making. And you better not come at me with slow is smooth...

Get off the X. The huge floor safe always lands on Wyle E. Coyote when he's standing on the X. But then math kicks in again. In Cartesian coordinates, you're always on an X. And simultaneously on a Y. But don't ask Why - you'll piss off the boss. (You do remember geometry from zeroing your rifle, right?)

High speed; low drag. Wait. You're going to tell me you value "low drag" while carrying so much gear I can turn you into a boat anchor? And what's with the emphasis on speed? Would it be OK if we concentrated on agility and adaptability instead?

Expect the unexpected. I get it. Something weird as hell is gonna happen. I've got the same icy hot, dull stab. But not exactly sure what. For those of us without the time machine, we'd appreciate a heads up...

I'd rather sweat than bleed. Me too, bro. But what's with the thinking where we conflate that which is difficult with that which is effective? Didn't I catch you saying, "Work smarter, not harder" last week? If sweat is so good, we should be training at high drag then, right? At least our new body armor is vented...

All worked out in the end. Nothing quite says "process is meaningless" like this. How about we give the tough feedback, learn from our mistakes, better prepare for next time, and leave the hi-5s for a time we really did it right? I'll clean up after our little celebration...but let's not sweep all the mistakes under the carpet.

And to wrap things up...

Index! You yell it to signal the termination of the training scenario. It's actually EndEx or ENDEX, as in End of Exercise. This is less a tacticalism and more you being a copycat. And a bad one at that. Learn what you're doing and why you're doing it. But I get the desire to fit in. Seriously I do.

And along with this list, I hereby give any and all of you permission to slap me across the face should you catch me uttering any of the above phrases. While I think I've rid most of them from my vocabulary, writing this post may have brought some out them out of remission.

If you made it this far without being too offended, maybe you'd add to the conversation -->
  • Which of the above tacticalisms would you like to defend & why? 
  • Which do you avoid & why? 
  • Will you stop using any of them after further consideration?
  • Will you start using any of them just to irritate me? 
  • And please...add your own tacticalisms to comments below!



Lou Hayes, Jr. is a police training unit supervisor in suburban Chicago. He studies human performance & decision-making, creativity, emotional intelligence, and adaptability. Follow Lou on Twitter at @LouHayesJr or on LinkedInHe also maintains a LinkedIn page for The Illinois Model.


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