I have had the honor of working with a few great teams of people over the years. I also had the privilege of developing a covert operations team that was designed to undertake asymmetrical combat missions, thrive in hostile environments and consistently be able to eliminate enemy targets to affect the recovery of a kidnap victim or victims. The team was made up of twelve people including a sniper element, breacher and assault element.

Every person on the team was cross trained and was responsible for identifying and assessing targets, conditions and environment, all the time. In most of the missions, there was no cavalry. There was no one to call in an airstrike or another assault team waiting to swoop in and assist. No, we did our own intelligence gathering, planning, reconnaissance and exfiltration.

By every account, we were a high performance team. We honed our skills everyday and night and when we got tired, we rehearsed some more. The nature of the environment and the complexity of our missions demanded flawless execution.

Failure meant more than an unsuccessful outcome, it meant people died. Our success or failure was contingent upon our ability to function as a team.

Having no formal training in team building and having learned from the school of hard knocks and more than an occasional bullet, I eventually identified the fundamentals of developing a mission ready team and then quickly implemented the core competencies associated with them.

After the selection process, which itself was intense and time consuming, we had a “group” of twelve men plus myself. I believe a great deal of my insight came from living with and interacting with all of them over months of time. Because of this I came to understand their hearts and minds as I interacted with them daily on many levels. This was a key ingredient for success.

In the beginning they in no way had all of the characteristics such as commitment, competence, courage, duty, trust, loyalty and integrity, things that make up mission ready teams. I quickly recognized that developing this group into a cohesive team was not going to be as rapid a process as I would have liked.

My role initially was to effectively listen, openly communicate, encourage, accept and promote the members’ shared values and standards. It was my job as team leader to set an example with a new standard and enforce values in addition to competence.

Though the group all came from the same country, they came from various parts of that country. This meant different values, some language barriers, social and cultural differences, as well as concerns of fitting in.

In the beginning nobody really felt that sense of belonging to a team. There certainly were challenges such as in-fighting over who was faster, stronger or who had the most endurance.

Each person spends a good deal of time analyzing and checking out the others trying to see if and how they will fit in. In a normal life, its no different when a guy or gal moves to a new place and goes to a new gym. They walk in and immediately feel like all eyes are on them, while at the same time they are sizing up everyone in the room and comparing each one to themselves.

As that person goes to the gym each day and starts getting to know those gym regulars, they start to feel more comfortable, even like they belong there at a certain point.

It was basically the same process with my team. Over time, they began to realize that though they were all different, they all shared things in common. And the more time they spent together, the more of those differences faded away and the stronger their sense of belonging to that team became.


During this Assembly stage, I briefed them repeatedly to orient them to things I felt were important such as what standards were expected, values, what the mission was and the objectives as well as what was standard operating procedure and OPSEC or Operational Security and how it would impact our missions.

This orientation process was critical because elements like shared values set the stage for a cohesive team. Team standards become an important element of team membership. Here they also understood that teamwork required commitment to the mission and objectives, and each member’s contribution was directly related to learning, training and becoming proficient in their role on the team.

Next came the development or “storming” stage, characterized by establishing bonds of friendship and trust. This is where each team member started to exert their independence and some even caused some resistance.

During this time, I saw that each person was attempting to understand what they could expect from the others as well as from the group. I had to intervene on a number of occasions during this time as members had arguments and even a couple of physical altercations ensued.

Sometimes it stemmed from a lack of understanding of another team member’s viewpoint and sometimes it developed as a result of their own lack of understanding of “why” they were given certain tasks or mission or that they did not understand “why” they were training the way they were. In the end, whether questioning, fighting, criticizing or nit-picking one another, all passed with time.

As they all worked on tasks and missions together, they began to understand that they were very effective as a “team” and then trust really began to develop amongst them. And with trust, their bond only strengthened.

As I was able to see it developing before me during that time, I was able to identify how each member accepted their own role and responsibilities and this then led to trusting other team members as well as trusting me to lead them.

The final stage of the development process, “performing” was obvious to me while out on a training operation. We were deep into the jungle terrain, when we stumbled across what we quickly identified as a small band of insurgents. The men rapidly assessed the situation and without communicating a word, took up positions, understood what their goals were and wholeheartedly believed that in order to achieve the goal, which in this case was to rapidly establish control and take down the rebels as quickly as possible and if practical, with minimal casualties to their side.

They were well organized and had clear objectives and when it came time to communicate with each other and me, they did so flawlessly. The entire operation was over quickly and with minimal force. Now they were truly a cohesive high performance TEAM, and most importantly, they knew at that moment “where” they belonged.


In order to deliver on business goals and objectives, teams in the business world must also perform at a high level; they must be totally committed to excellence, loyalty and teamwork.

In the business world, many of us have seen things fall apart rapidly. It may be a project that failed to meet a deadline or a presentation for a new ad campaign. And when there was a group involved in the failure, every person was ready to point fingers as to who messed up. Some likely would do whatever they could to make themselves appear like the white knight while doing and saying whatever they could to inflict suffering and ridicule and blame on their fellow team mates.

That is not a “team”. If you want to succeed, you must encourage your people to act professionally at all times. You must have a system in place that briefs your team in a way that the message is crystal clear.

As the team leader, it is your responsibility to make each team member understand that   they are all swimming in the sea without a life vest and they need each other to swim to shore safely.

They must understand that the success of each person is dependent upon the success of the mission. Each person must be accountable for their actions and that includes failures and successes.

It is therefore also your responsibility as the team leader to get every team member to fully understand that each and everyone on the team will benefit or be negatively affected in proportion to the mission.

Finally, it is your responsibility to make sure that you present your team with a level playing field when it comes to communicating. If they feel they cannot talk to you or if they fear some negative impact or action will befall them for speaking their mind, then you not only have failed as a leader, but have taught them all to fear retribution. Aside from achieving mission success, this could easily lead to a continual cultural atmosphere of very poor performance borne out of fear of reprisal.

If you want to develop a high performance mission ready team then take the time to get to know each and every team member and what makes them tick, what drives them in every way so that you can harness those critical facets of each member and hone them into a cohesive high performance team. And learn the importance of training. For it is training that is at the heart of all successful leaders and teams.

Lastly, keep in mind that you will have challenges as a team leader. Be sure your team moves from the first stage to the last stage relatively quickly. You should strive to build your high performance team in the shortest amount of time that is practical. When you assemble men and women for a team, they must be of character because it is crystal clear to me from my past experiences that character arises from habit and it is much easier to mold those with character from the start into a high performance mission ready team.




Forty years ago, I was a teenager avidly studying the combative arts for personal growth and self-defense. Never at that time did I realize it was my true passion. And I certainly did not grasp how important that early beginning would be to shaping my future. During that time, some of the biggest threats I had to consider were street confrontations with rival groups..

The Vietnam War was coming to an end, but the ‘70s had given rise to a new era of terrorism, one that the public no longer recognized as a distant threat. Perhaps the single greatest event that perpetuated that change was the summer Olympics in Munich, Germany where 11 Israeli’s were brutally slaughtered by members of the Palestinian terrorist group, Black September.

People – and perhaps more importantly – governments all over the world were now forced to pay closer scrutiny to security everywhere. There was a significant paradigm shift in thinking. No longer was the Arab-Israeli conflict something that we just heard about in the news. Terrorism had a new face, and it had been exported outside those borders to Europe.

Numerous other events including the kidnapping of Patty Hearst in 1974 by homegrown terrorists thrust the United States further into what is now a full-blown war on terrorism. But it’s not just terrorism that concerns us today. We are inundated with active shootings and mass stabbing incidents on an almost daily basis. With so many changes in the geopolitical and social climate, global crime has also increased dramatically.

As private citizens, we have been literally thrust into a vicious cycle of terror, threats and danger that can happen to anyone at any time.

Bypassing Nature

When I was growing up, my mother used to tell me that most people are kind and want to do the right thing. My father, who was and still is an active gun enthusiast, would tell me that we cannot control all the things that could possibly happen to us, but we can control ourselves. What I think he meant by that is: Although we cannot prevent every bad thing that happens to us, we are able to make certain decisions. Decisions that govern how we will act and respond to situations we may find ourselves facing.

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So what if it is true that “most” people are kind? There are still many people who are not. And it is for those people who are not and who wish to do us harm, that we must now take an active role in our personal safety.

Being proactive is no longer a choice if you want to mitigate the potential risk of these evolving threats to yourself and to your loved ones. You must accept the fact that there may come a time when you will not have the luxury of avoiding conflict.

And it is for times like those that understanding unarmed and armed defense will play a huge role in your planning and survival. After you tackle and practice 360 situational awareness, you need to understand the laws governing the use of force and weapons including firearms in your state and region.

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Once you get over the moral and ethical dilemmas of defending your right to existence, you will need to figure out a plan that confronts the challenges that surround recognition, avoidance, evasion and defense of your family.

Many of those challenges require you and your family members to gain a greater depth and breadth of knowledge in the tactical and security arena.

Adapting to a New Lifestyle

For practical purposes these days, any steps you take to improve and enhance your chances of survival in a conflict or emergency are going to be better than not educating and training at all.

Even visualizing dangerous situations and your reactions to them is a start. No matter your background or how much or how little training you have to deal with conflict and dangerous situations and people, I absolutely encourage you to take steps now to prepare for the new era we are living. I call my vision for your preparation the “Tactical Family.”

The TACTICAL FAMILY is one that can adapt to the current security challenges we all face, rise up to meet them and strike them down in order to survive in the face of evil” —Dr. Jeff

What is a “Tactical Family?”

A tactical family is one that is confident and prepared to deal with this new age of violence and crime. They understand and accept that there are bad people who will – given the opportunity – threaten them and harm them. They have also thought through the potential scenarios, reactions and consequences to their actions. Ultimately the tactical family has chosen to be a winner in this fight of good vs. evil.

The 5 Key Elements of a Tactical Family

  1. The tactical family is trained for readiness and quick reaction. Therefore, the core of their preparedness must first stem from 360-degree situational awareness. They practice the dynamics of recognizing potential threats before they happen, and they hone behaviors that are effective in maintaining situational awareness.
  2. The next essential element is unarmed skill sets. You will not always have time to get to a weapon and for some who don’t like the idea of employing weapons, learning empty-hand skills and hand-to-hand combat makes great practical sense. The majority of attacks are overwhelmingly up close and personal, and in most instances the victim is caught off guard. And when you are fighting for your life or that of a family member, you had better know how to quickly use your body weapons to incapacitate and neutralize the attacker.
  3. It would also behoove one to know armed defense. For the purposes of brevity, armed defense comprises of your competence with edged and impact weapons as well as firearms.
  4. Having a solid understanding of weapons of opportunity and chance is also a fundamental that every tactical family must embrace. Weapons of opportunity exist everywhere, and so it is for the tactical family to identify these potential everyday tools and to learn how to employ them as defensive weapons.
  5. Quick examples are the meat-tenderizing hammers and knives found in most kitchens. Large coffee mugs can also be a good impact tool in a pinch. And it is equally important that one learn how to fashion everyday items into weapons that may either be concealed or disguised in the event they need it but also to be aware of what criminals are using to convert everyday items into homemade weapons.
  6. Lastly, there are the specialized areas of particular concern for the tactical family such as home defense, escape-and-evasion tactics, anti-kidnap and hostage survival skills, as well as the art of surveillance and counter-surveillance, weapon countermeasures, being your own bodyguard, vehicle-oriented defense and travel safety that are all strategically and fundamentally critical skill sets to learn and hone in this brave new world that we now call home.

Until next time, stay alert, check your six, put your back against the wall and stay safe!


P.S. If some of you have an interest in seeing me discuss and review practical armed and unarmed tactics and techniques in either text or video format that can enhance your skill sets for personal defense, please write to me.