Brown Water to Silver Screen
Story & Photos
by Steve Waterman
(reprinted without permission from Soldier of Fortune Magazine, July 1997)
Denny Chalker demonstrates an entry posture.
 

Your entry team lines up in the dimly lit hall of a rundown tenement building, loaded with tools of the trade: primary weapon, flash-bang grenades, ballistic vest, Kevlar helmet, spare magazines, handcuffs, pistol, radios and ancillary equipment. Waiting is bad enough, but bunching up butt-to-belly button with the rest of your tactical entry team can really crank up the pucker factor: You always have time to wonder about the bad guys on the other side of the door. "Are they all barricaded inside with weapons at the ready? Will I get inside and see my front sight before somebody puts a round into me? Have they booby-trapped anything?" You hope they don't know you're outside, but if they do, and they haven't hauled ass out the back door past your perimeter guys, the training and the skills imparted to you by some of the best instructors in the field will make the difference. Global Studies Group, Inc. trains men to survive situations like this, and to hear their students talk, the money spent is damn well worth it. It is a good investment if only one police officer is saved from injury or death; if only one non-hostile civilian is spared an accidental shooting by an overanxious officer, or as the result of a confrontation where a weapon was discharged accidentally.

Funds spent on training such entry teams comes back in the form of a professional, controlled approach, and the costs not incurred by lawsuits from shooting the wrong guy, or medical and funeral expenses from somebody getting killed by a stupid mistake. The pucker factor is still just as high -- but mistakes are fewer, and confidence and competence skyrocket. When a raid takes place, the folks inside are not supposed to be simply "taken out" as in the movies. You can't simply knock the door down, rush in, and shoot everybody in the room. There may be only a couple bad guys and several innocent victims, as in hostage situations. Other times family members are awakened and become hostile ­ wouldn't you? How do you handle a 250-pound gorilla, on crack, who attempts to grab your weapon as you sweep down a hallway? You could just shoot him, but the paperwork wouldn't be worth it. Unless he is armed and a threat or is about to successfully relieve you of your weapon, it is usually not/not good form to bust a cap on the guy. That is a last resort, a final option you really shouldn't have to employ.


Take 'Em Down ­ Don't Shoot 'Em Up

Shooting up the place is a poor option. Bullets can go through walls and cause collateral damage. If you have to fire your weapon, you better be damn sure of your target and have the marksmanship to hit it effectively. These obvious shibboleths are easy enough on paper, but they don't work in the real world without realistic, finely tuned training.


Real Training For The Real Streets

Training is hands-on and micro-managed. When the Bell Gardens team arrived, they clearly were not greenhorns. A few of their number had been in firefights in the line of duty and knew this stuff was for real. However, before the two day session was over they had developed a whole new appreciation for Harry and his SpecOps crew. Detective Sergeant Doug Kingery sums it: "The weapons handling techniques are unsurpassed by anything I've seen during my 17-year career in law enforcement." Doug is the leader of the Tactical Entry Team and, along with three others on the Team, a member of the Bell Gardens Police Department Gang Detail. The other members of the team work narcotics. Detective Mike Dicesare added, "The instructors' real-life knowledge of actual armed confrontation is superior to anything I've experienced. Shooting from the ready all the way to a clear sight picture impressed me as a technique that may some day save me or one of my team members." Other practical topics covered included securing equipment, having magazines readily accessible, and making sure the operator doesn't have his finger in the trigger guard unless ready to fire. Basic? Perhaps, but such but can contribute to a fatality or injury during a raid -- and attention to basics distinguishes trained professionals. Catching your LBE on a nail or other protrusion can spin you around, causing you to lose your balance and fail to cover your sector of a room. Being startled or having somebody try and take your weapon while your finger is in the trigger guard can result in a sympathetic muscle response causing a negligent discharge. Being able to see the front sight of the MP5 while wearing a chemical protective mask was another skill learned here. The officers were shown how to mount the MP5 with the butt placed squarely on the nose piece of the mask. After a full day of dry team-entry practice and live-fire weapons handling drills, the group split up into teams. While some continued range drills with Bill Murphy and Joe Hawes, the others went through the shoot house with Denny (Snake) Chalker and Harry.


Can-Do Cadre
Bill, Harry, and Denny

GSGI's cadre are the cream of the crop.

Bill Murphy was a police officer for 17 years in LA's and Orange County's Police Departments, is a Police Academy Instructor, Impact Weapons Instructor, range master at the Gunsite Training Center and a U.S. Air Force Adjunct Instructor at the Pararescue Advanced Weapons Center. Bill has seen it all and has been involved in a number of shootouts during his career.


Denny Chalker, another of Harry's hand-picked instructors, notes, "team-entry training is balls-to-the-wall shit -- a very intense subject. Our program stresses Safety, Safety, and Safety -- people can, and do, get killed learning this stuff." Denny is a veteran of a number of years of Army and naval service. He has extensive combat experience and specializes in counter-terrorism, air operations, marine operations, close quarter battle, and free/technical climbing. (When I wrote this, Denny was on active duty as Command Master Chief at BUDS Training, Coronado, CA. I left this out of the article as I didn't want to have any derogatory effect on his Naval Career.)


Joe Hawes, a heavily muscled individual trained in weapons and counter terrorism, spoke highly of the Bell Gardens team: "I love it when we can take a group of people like this and get them fired up to learn, although in this group that was not a problem. We watched as they made excellent progress over a short period of time. These guys tried really hard. After all, it's their asses on the line when they go back to work. This isn't just a weekend of fun in the sun for them."


Another of Harry's instructor staff is Ernest Emerson, the hand-to-hand and edged-weapons instructor. He is also the maker of Emerson SpecWar Knives. Ernest is a small, unpretentious guy who can whip his weight in wildcats, but probably will never have to because of his charming personality. His experience in martial arts extends back over 23 years. Delta Force began buying his knives in increasing numbers, and word about the quality of Ernest's knives traveled across the pond. Orders started coming in from British SAS, SBS, German GSG9 agents, and various SpecWar types from other countries.

Harry Humphries has an extensive combat and counter-terrorism background. He was one of the few SEALs assigned to The Combined Studies Program as adviser to Provincial Reconnaissance Units, probably the first "Company"-sponsored CT teams. He's often engaged as an anti/counter-terrorism consultant. As a former SEAL 2 member from the original team, he saw action prior to and during the Viet Nam period. Working for SEAL legends the likes of Bob (Eagle) Gallagher, Everett Barrett and Dick Marcinko, Harry got his first taste of training SEALs going to combat. It's been in his blood since. He's been an instructor at The Advanced SWAT Hostage Rescue Instructor School, Eastern Michigan University, is participating in the Master Instructors' program at the Police Training Institute, Illinois University, and is a Special Operations Adjunct Instructor at Gunsite Training Center, Pauldin, Arizona. GSGI also runs courses for private individuals. Harry's students are law-abiding people who would like to feel more secure in their everyday existence. Much personal security training is based around mental awareness of the individual. In most instances, the security business involves training the customer to recognize threat or potential danger. Harry refers to this as "hardening the target." Things as simple as breaking the patterns of personal travel, exercise, and social life are among the techniques used. Simple as this sounds, it can confuse potential aggressors. As Major Rogers once said, "Never come back the same way you went." This is a simple adage easily applied. Hollywood films usually depict the bad guys as having assets in place to tap all phones, eavesdrop on all conversations, and be able to trail anyone. These misconceptions only become reality when potential targets refuse to change their daily routines. Bad habits cannot be broken, only written over by good habits that are kept fresh in the mind by repetition and training. As Colonel David Hackworth says, "learn it right and you'll do it right the rest of your life, learn it wrong and you'll spend the rest of your life trying to learn how to do it right." There's a great deal of truth in that.


Real Training For The Reel World

Denny and Joe Hawes portrayed Navy SEALs, and Bill played a member of the San Francisco Police Department's SWAT Team in the recent movie The Rock, in which Harry Humphries was the technical director. In his newest role in the movie industry, Harry has become one of the top, if not the top, technical director in the field of anti/counter terrorist and special operations movies. In the most recently released movie The Rock, Harry and Snake Chalker trained the actors and extras to look, act, and think like SEALS and Marines. The movie is doing extremely well at the box office and in its video release. In his most recent technical advisory gig, Harry also portrays a weapons instructor. In the production of the movie Pursuit of Honor, (produced by Scott Free Productions, directed by Ridley Scott and starring Demi Moore) Harry, working with former Force Recon Phil Nielsen, stunt coordinator (a fellow SEAL gone Hollywood) Keith Woullard, and former Kiwi SAS Mark Lonsdale, trained 50 actors and extras (assisted by six former SEALs just playing stunt men) in a two-week intensive course designed to expose them to the rigors of SpecOps training. They hated the training, but performed well, and loved the results. Demi Moore performed all of her own stunts and handled the physical stuff with the best of them. "She was really a trooper. She got through all the hard physical stuff with no complaints. I was impressed," remarked Harry. Given the politically correct climate in Washington, action (war) films are not held in high regard by many critics of the movie industry. Attempts made toward censorship are focusing not only on sexually explicit material, but "action"-type productions as well because of their violence. It is difficult to produce a motion picture depicting combat without a credible level of violence and death, but some directors have spent a vast amount of resources in creating excessively graphic scenes -- which for the most part are totally unnecessary. Through Harry, a new look of realism has come to the motion picture screen. His training makes actors know how to look, feel and react in simulated combat sequences, acting naturally with their handling of weapons and tactics. This frees them from having to consciously think about the physical motions and allows them to be at their best as actors. This air of realism spills over into the audience and results in a better quality production. Death is death, but when the gratuitous overuse of all its grossness and gory finality are played down, this does not detract from the story line. "If you do it right and have a decent story to tell, all that gory, violent crap that gets you in trouble with the pushers of the "V" chip isn't needed," notes Harry. The Rock and Con Air (soon to be released), were produced by Jerry Bruckheimer (Don Simpson was co-producer of The Rock, but died during the production. The Rock was dedicated to Don's memory). In Con Air, Harry and his troop did military fire stunts, but his larger role was behind the scenes training the actors and extras to act and look real.


Truth In Filming

Jerry Bruckheimer, one of the top realistic-action-movie producers in the business (Top Gun, Beverly Hills Cop, Crimson Tide, The Rock, Con Air and others) has high praise for Harry's role in the area of technical directing. "When writers bring a script into my office, they know that Harry is going to tear it apart if it strays into an area that isn't realistic. Harry's great. He keeps them honest." Jerry's insistence on bringing the greatest possible degree of realism to his movies has a positive effect on his crew, inspiring them to work that much harder to produce a quality that is becoming the standard in his films. Harry expands, "The actors often don't realize that their look isn't realistic. They never run out of ammunition, never have a weapon jam, never trip and fall over something in the way, they flinch when they fire their weapon, or run around with a finger in the trigger guard. We break them of bad habits and teach them that things legitimately do go wrong in combat, and how to correct the problem as if they were in combat. It adds all that much more to the reality, and when a combat veteran sees one of these films he can say, "Yeah, that happened to me once. I dropped a magazine in the dirt and had to clean the sand out of it before I could fire it." Harry is the technical director on the Soldier Of Fortune, Inc. television series, now in production for fall release. This one-hour weekly show will center around a team of five SpecOps-types and is also produced by Jerry Bruckheimer. The lead role will be played by Brad Johnson, who starred in the movie, Flight of The Intruder. I asked Jerry why he insisted on such a high degree of realism when there were all these other "hack and chop" movies out there making money.


Tribute By Accurate Portrayal

"The men of Special Operations are the silent heroes of the day. Many of the things they do are not known to the general public. These men give a lot to their country and to us, the American people. We try and show as much of reality as we can in these films without giving away secrets, and it is my way of giving back to these men something they truly deserve." Global Studies Group also has a Mexican connection. Through the intense and persistent work of Kurt Norrigan and his brother, Paul, Harry has been able to negotiate with the government of Mexico to open an office in Mexico City. From there GSGI will be able to assist Mexico in the training of their police officers and special teams. This will allow GSGI to further develop international business in other countries of Latin America. Mexico has incredibly tough gun laws, and there are few reliable private security companies. If a corporation needs armed guards, they have to hire the Auxiliary Police. These officers might be compared to some of our "rent-a-cop" companies here, except they work for the government. The Regular Police perform the routine work of police officers, working the streets and highways and investigating crimes, etc. The Auxiliary Police do the other work, for the most part, and their training is somewhat less than that of the regulars. Kurt Norrigan says he never used to give the Second Amendment much thought until he started working in a country where private gun ownership doesn't exist. "It's the best way I know of to keep a place under the government's thumb." Kurt says. "Let's hope the Second Amendment never gets overturned here at home."

Bell Gardens Tactical Entry Team with GSGI Instructors

END
Former Navy Underwater Photographer Steve Waterman, who served in Vietnam with Underwater Demolition Team Thirteen, is a Maine-based freelance writer, photographer.

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