• TEMS Medics: Information for Writers with Deputy Jay Korza

    Fiona - 
    ThrillWriting is happy to host Deputy Jay Korza who is an author and works as a first responder with fourteen years of experience as a deputy as well as military experience under his belt

    Jay can you give us a glimpse into your 
    professional background 
    and an idea about what you like to write?

    Jay - 

    Sure. Background: I started in EMS when I was 17, going through my first EMT cert class at the local community college. Then I went into the Navy at 18 and became a Hospital Corpsman. Corpsman are the medics in the Navy and for the Marine Corps. The Marines don't have any medical personnel, they are all supplied by the Navy. I worked in Emergency medicine while I was enlisted and afterwards as well.

    Were you  mainly on the boat or out in the field with the marines ?

    Jay - 
    I was shore based at a hospital, The Naval Medical Center San Diego.  I was later in the reserves after active duty and was trained as an 8404 Corpsman. They're the ones who go out with the Marines. I never deployed though. I tried while I was active and couldn't.

    They wanted to send me to a small boat, less than 500 crew, after my first enlistment was up, so I didn't reenlist. I should have. I didn't realize how much I would miss it.

    When I left, I did a few small jobs for about six months until I started managing a private medical practice. I did that for a little over a year and then was a paramedic for the federal prison here in Tucson. I did that for a year and then moved to Massachusetts with my girlfriend, and I worked on ambulances out there. I also started a non-profit organization teaching first aid and CPR to the community.

    You asked what I like to write. I like to go with the idea of writing what you know. My first book was a science fiction space opera that dealt with special forces, Marines, and one of the main characters was a Corpsman. I put a lot of medical and tactical stuff in the book.

    It's hard to find Jay in this picture.

    Fiona - 
    I love that! And that's what we're here to talk about today - you have functioned as a TEMS - can you explain what that job would entail?

    Jay - 
    A TEMS medic is responsible for the medical operational needs of their team. TEMS could be used to describe military medics, but they are more often referred to as combat medics, and they deserve that "combat" rating as opposed to just being tactical.

    TEMS - Tactical Emergency Medical Service

    TEMS are responsible for the medical care of suspects, bystanders, and victims in and around a tactical scene.

    Fiona - 
    So do all SWAT teams go in with a TEMS medic attached or some kind of medic?

    Jay - 
    It is becoming the norm, but it is not universal at this point. Also, not to sound snobby, but there are "teams" out there that aren't really SWAT teams, and they don't fit the national standard definition of one. In line with that, their "TEMS" also aren't really TEMS, just a few EMTs thrown on a mission.

    Jay - 
    But for those teams that do employ TEMS on a regular basis, there are two basic structures.

    The first type, like my team, the medics are fully a part of the team. They come to our trapping sessions where they do all of the tactical training with us, and they deploy on every single mission. We won't deploy without a minimum of two medics.

    The second type of TEMS element is where the team works closely with the local EMS guys, and when there is a call, they have the local medics respond. But the medics aren't actually on the team.

    Fiona - 
    What are the most prevalent issues faced during a tactical medical emergency?

    Jay - 
    The most prevalent issues are your own guys jacking themselves up during training. 
    We deal with more sports injuries than we do suspect injuries. That is fairly common with all of the teams.

    Fiona - 
    Jacking themselves up during training would result in?

    Jay - 
    Jacking themselves up = twisted ankles, heat injuries, back injuries, burns,

    Fiona -
    So would the EMT have to wait for an "all clear" to respond while a TEMS could run into the fray? Is that the difference?

    Jay -  Not necessarily. Depending on the team structure, the TEMS may be up in the armor right in the hot zone (as is with my team), or they may be back at staging waiting to be called up for a specific issue, and that issue may be when things are in full swing or after the action has ended.

    Ever wonder what a Taser wound looks like?

    Fiona -
    Lots of ice - though now I read that research says ice is bad for injury inflammation...

    Jay - 
    We train harder than our missions will be so that we're ready for whatever happens. And as a result, we tend to get injured in training. Like I said, mostly what would be considered sports injuries. Though we have had a couple of medical issues pop up that were unexpected.

    Practicing TEMS on dog manikins in case one of our working K9s gets hurt

    Fiona -
    You have read a lot of books which include emergency medical intervention. Can you take us through one situation where you see the author consistently misunderstand and write something incorrectly?

    Jay - 
    One major inconsistency is the concept of not moving a patient because they aren't stable. This is not accurate.

    Fiona - 
    So what really should happen?

    (By the way, Readers, if you want to read an OUTSTANDING article Jay wrote about flat-lining and defibrillation go here: (LINK) And you will write that scene accurately.)

    Jay - 
    This is a concept that is, I can only guess, derived from in-hospital care. Where you might have a patient that is very unstable and moving them could cause a recent surgical site to reopen. The patient might have internal injuries that need to self-repair before transfer, or their vital signs are so poor that they are in such a state of shock that moving them would be bad. 

    The type of move we're talking about in the hospital situation is moving to another facility that is more suited to the patient's needs. You have a burn patient that needs a burn center, but their injuries need to stabilize before you can make that kind of transport to another hospital.

    But in TEMS or field medicine, your patient is messed up and needs a hospital. It doesn't matter what their condition is, you will NEVER not move them because they are too unstable.

    Fiona - 
    So what do you do on site prior to moving them v. stabilizing en route v. letting the hospital deal with it?

    GRAPHIC IMAGES WARNING - If graphic images have a negative effect on you, please scroll down past the next three photographs.

    Jay - 
    On site, the only thing we do before transport is fix life-threatening injuries to the best of our ability. And let me clarify, that's for a really messed up patient, medical or trauma. There are a lot of things we can do on scene and en route for a seriously injured patient, but if they need a surgeon then we need to move. 

    So, take for instance a patient I had a few years ago, he was struck by a car when he ran a stop sign on his bicycle. His head and neck went into the windshield and then his body went over the car and his head/neck came out of the windshield. He was unstable with deteriorating vital signs and internal injuries to his head and chest. I did a cricothyrotomy on him (cut into his throat and put a tube in there), and then we put him in the ambulance and did everything else en route.

    Practicing Cricothyrotomy on a pig's throat .

    Performing the Cricothyrotomy in the Field 

    Suturing Up a Wound 

    Fiona - 

    Jay - 
    We may do other things on scene while we are fixing the major things, but a lot of those things aren't for stabilization, they are ancillary. If we have the time and manpower, we'll do them simultaneously.

    Like IVs, everyone thinks IVs are important. They aren't all that important. They can be helpful, but in general, probably less than 1% of people have been saved because an IV was placed.
    And it wasn't the IV that saved them, it was the venous access that the IV gave us in order to give the patient medication to reverse their condition.

    A major change in IV therapy is that we used to dump lots of fluid into trauma patients because we thought it helped them by increasing their blood pressure. What we have found out is that we are actually making things worse by trying to get their blood pressure to a "normal" level. By doing this, we cause more bleeding because their body can't clot with the increased pressure. So now we go with permissive hypotenstion, we only give them enough fluid to get their blood pressure up to a systolic of 90 (the top number).

    So we aren't taking days at the scene of the injury. We have our responders grab and go. 

    Fiona - 
    So no - "Push an IV STAT!"

    Is it unusual that you were able to do this surgical procedure? Or do EMTs train for that as well?

    Jay - 
    The cric is a paramedic level skill. As TEMS, we can't operate outside of our scope of practice which is determined by the National Registry of EMS. Then, each state can make be more restrictive on the skills they allow their paramedics or EMTs to perform.

    Fiona - 

    Can you do the things that you learned to do on a battle field or do different medical protocol issues mean your constricted as to what you can and cannot do? 

    A nd VERY HYPOTHETICALLY would a character choose to override law and do what he knew how to do to save a life? I f yes, how much trouble would the responder get into (under the law?)  

    Jay - 
    Can I do the stuff I learned in the military? Yes and no. If I do, and it is outside the scope of my paramedic skills, I could lose my certification and possibly be civilly liable.

    However, most states have a good Samaritan law that allows people to act to the level of their training. So if I were at the mall off duty, and not acting under the color of my authority, I could conceivably do more as a good Samaritan than I could as a civilian paramedic. However, realistically, the advanced skills I gained in the military are generally used in a hospital setting. I'm not going to perform minor surgery in the mall.

    Fiona - 
    What an interesting distinction - but if my kid took a bullet and we are hiding from the bad guys - you could help her with a hanger, a bottle of perfume, and a fine silk scarf, right? Meanw hile, SWAT goes in and takes down the terrorists.

    Jay - 
    When I moved to Massachussettes, there was a civilian paramedic in the news because he performed an emergency C-section in the field. This is WAY outside of our scope of practice. However, he had been a surgical tech Corpsman in the Navy and had done surgeries under the guidance of surgeons and of course his job was to assist in surgeries as well. If you're a good Corpsman, your docs will let you do A LOT of stuff you're not allowed to do. Anyway, the mom was full term and involved in a motor vehicle accident. She was dead on scene but the baby was still alive inside. He knew he could do the procedure, mom was dead anyway so he really couldn't mess up, and the baby would never survive the transport to the hospital while still inside. He waited too long to do it, and the baby didn't make it. He hesitated, worried about the civil outcome. He lost his cert because of it.

    Fiona - 
    Oh, dear. That shouldn't be.

    Jay - 
    The other MAJOR wrong thing with medical stuff in stories (movies or books) is putting medication/needles directly into the heart. This is soooooo outdated and useless.

    Fiona - 
    So no Pulp Fiction adrenaline in the heart?

    Jay - 
    They used to think that if the heart wasn't circulating blood that you had to inject the medication directly into the heart to get it to work.

    So during a code event, they would push high dose epinephrine into the heart. This doesn't do anything for several reasons. If your heart isn't moving (naturally or artificially through CPR) then the blood isn't moving. Without blood moving, medication can't go anywhere. Not to mention, without blood moving, you have no blood pressure. Without blood pressure you can't exchange gasses at the cellular level (basic physics). If you can't exchange gasses you can't metabolize medication. So without a high enough pressure, you can't do anything with the medication that is injected into your body. 

    Also, you are putting a hole, albeit a small one, in the heart and that can agitate the pacemaker cells in the heart and cause other issues. And you can create a pericardial tamponade which is fluid between the heart and its protective sac, because of the hole you just put through the sac. 

    NO MEDS IN THE HEART! Simply put the meds in any vein or IV access. 

    No one puts needles through the neck either. 

    And adrenaline is the exact same thing as epinephrine. One name is of Greek origin and the other is of Latin. Same thing. I've read in stories that one is synthetic and the other is the natural form - nope.

    Fiona - 
    Most excellent.

    You were saying you use a lot of this technical information in your book which is very exciting - and I have you queued up as my weekend read.

    Amazon Link $2.99

    Can you tell us a bit about your plots? No spoilers though.

    Jay - 
    Plot for Extinction: An ancient race created a species of warriors to conquer other planets/systems for them. A millennium after the conquering, the current Emperor wanted to end the tyranny, but even he couldn't do it. He would be overthrown. So he devised a plan to lead an expansion colony himself to an unexplored part of the galaxy, and then cut himself off from the Empire, letting it wither without him. Then, he would come back and rebuild things the right way. His plan didn't work.

    A thousand years later, humans are exploring the galaxy and come across one of the Emperor's first colony sites in our region of space. The scientists accidentally set off a distress signal to the old empire and the warriors find out that the old Emperor had lied to them, and now they are coming to claim our portion of space. 
    Two special forces teams will embark on separate missions to stop the threat.

    Amazon Link $2.99

    Fiona - 
    Very fun! I have a lot of readers here on ThrillWriting who love to read and write sci-fi. You also wrote a zombie theme?

    Jay -
    My second book is called "This Is Not What I Wished For..." It t akes place where the zombie genre is unheard of. A boy on his fourteenth birthday has his family wiped out by what he believes to be demons. He sees his neighbors and family eaten and killed in front of him and then turn into these demons. He flees and ultimately joins with other survivors and leads them to the epicenter of the outbreak, a hospital that is really a covert government lab that accidentally allowed this foreign contagion to escape their labs.

    I've only read two zombie books, World War Z and How to Survive a Zombie Apocalypse. But I love the genre and wanted to add to it. There are fighting, tactical and medical scenes. It is mostly about the children's journey - their bonding and coming of age together in this new world.

    But it isn't a gore or scare fest. I wanted it to be emotional. And there is a rather large twist at the end.

    Amazon Link $2.99

    Fiona - 
    Very interesting - I just read my first zombie books - and I loved the tactical parts of the books. 

    We are at that part of the interview when I ask you the traditional ThrillWriting question: Will you please tell us the story behind your favorite scar, and if you've managed to make it this far without a scar story - or if it's just too darned embarrassing to share - then a harrowing event you survived.

    Jay - 
    All of my scars are non-work related. However, my most harrowing work story is when I was on patrol about ten years ago. I was behind a Circle K doing my paperwork for the evening.

    A guy went into the Circle K and asked the clerk if there was a cop there. You see, that store let us use their office for doing reports and stuff. The store is in a bad part of town, and they liked our presence there. 

    I usually hid behind the store when I was doing paperwork because I wanted to finish it, not talk with people.

    So the clerk says that he hasn't seen one come in lately, but there might be one out back. Thanks dude.

    So the guy comes around the corner and sees my car, and I see him. There is something definitely off about him. I get out of my car, so he can't approach me while I'm in a position of disadvantage.

    He starts to say something to me then stops, thinks, and says, "Hey, there's something in my car I need you to see."

    Immediately I picture a family chopped up in hefty bags. This guy was not right - and even someone without my experience would've been able to see that. 
    So I ask him, "How about you tell me what you want me to see?"

    Fiona - 
    Good call

    Jay - 
    This goes back and forth for a little bit. I call for backup.
    No one was closer than ten minutes away, Even code three (lights and sirens), which they weren't even using yet.

    We end up walking around to the front of the store, and he is asking me if I'm part of the Mexican Mafia, and if he can trust me.

    He talks about walking his son out to the desert, but it wasn't really his son. Then his son died. So I'm thinking he had a psychotic break and killed his son, who he thought wasn't his son, and that's what was in the car waiting for me. 

    Still no back up, though I've asked them to step it up at this point.

    Ultimately, he decides he's done with me and is going to leave. I can't allow that. Regardless of what's in the car, he is obviously on drugs and/or mentally incapacitated, and I can't allow him to drive and endanger the public or go kill someone after he leaves me.

    Fiona - 
    So what did you do?

    Jay - 
    I step in his way to stop him. He swings and misses. I impact push him. He moves towards a large truck parked on the side of the Circle K. For perspective, I was parked in the rear on the west side, the front is on the east side with some parking, and there is parking on the south side, that's where his truck is.

    He backs towards his truck with his fists up ready to fight. I don't mind getting into a fight, but I'm also aware that no matter how confident I am in my abilities, that doesn't mean the other guy isn't good also. So I'm not ready to get into a clinch with this guy.

    Fiona - 
    Or he's on PCP - so your skills does't matter a fig.

    Jay - 
    As he backs away, he looks over his shoulder and there is a passenger in the truck, a kid about 19 or 20. The kid smiles, and I testified in court that the smile was the most chilling thing I have ever seen. It was demonic; it was pleasure and excitement. This kid was waiting for me. They were working together to lead a cop back to the truck to kill him.

    Fiona - 

    WHERE IS BACK UP? How did you get out of there?

    Jay - 
    The kid gets out of the truck, and I thought he was going to join the fray, and I was ready to go to my gun. No cop should ever be okay with fighting two people at the same time. It doesn't matter if they have weapons or not, that is a lethal force situation.

    The kid completely changes his expression. Maybe it was because my hand went to my gun; I don't know. But he turned and took off running. Just gone. We never found him or identified him.

    I then switched to pepper spray and unloaded on the guy. It didn't do anything.

    He kept backing towards his vehicle, and he got in to the drivers seat and closed the door. I smashed the window and kept spraying him. He backed out about three feet then put it into drive and tried to run me over. I dodged and went back to my gun. But then he backed out of the parking lot and took off. I got his plate out over the radio, and he actually went home. 

    Other units went to his house and the guy got dog bit, more pepper spray, and a bunch of other stuff.

    There was a shotgun, and pistol and lots of ammo in the truck.

    Fiona - 
    That's a hell of a harrowing story.

    Jay - 
    He got five years for that, would have got more but the prosecution forgot to file a motion that allows for a greater sentence given the offense was against law enforcement.

    Fiona - 
    I'm glad he's off the streets! 

    Jay, thank you so much for spending the time with us and teaching us so much.

    And a big thank you to you writers too for stopping by. If you have any questions or comments please post them below - they are moderated to protect from SPAM so I'll get them up ASAP. Also, if you find this blog to be helpful, please take a moment to help spread the word. I've put some social media buttons below. Happy plotting.

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  • Escape and Evade: Camouflage Face Paint to Keep Your Heroine Alive - Info for Writers

    Today on ThrillWriting, we're going
    to learn about camouflage  face paint
    to keep your heroine safe o n her  mission. 

    My guest today, Elizabeth Kump, joins me to teach writers some of the whys, wherefores, and how-tos of using camo-face. Liz also shares a few ways to twist your plot line

    For this article I used army-issue face camouflage. Mine (pictured below) is in modern use, but Liz was also using a compact which included grey that came from the Korean War. 

    My experience as the model - 
    * The paint had a distinct mineral oil odor to it.
    * It felt heavy sitting on my skin so that I was aware of it, unlike my
       typical foundation.
    * Application felt like pulling and stretching on my skin
    * It was hot under the face paint.
    * It didn't itch the way I thought it might, but it remained moist so
       hair or things floating nearby could adhere. It felt like if I used
       some dust/dirt or translucent powder to "set" the face paint, that
       would  have been helpful. Powder would be a bad idea, unless it 
       was  mineral powder, because the scent can give away your 
       heroine's  location.
    * Completely removing the face paint between scenarios was a
       labor- intensive, great-big-fat mess. 
       `Soap worked only somewhat. 
       `Cold  cream worked best. 
       `Using disposal paper towels was best 
       `W ashcloths worked worst, and the face paint did not come out in
          the wash. So guard your heroine's clothes - or don't - maybe
          someone needs to find some paint smeared on her collar or on
         her  arm and ask your heroine some difficult to answer questions.
    * It's easy to miss cleaning paint from areas difficult to see in the
       mirror like under the chin and the ears.

    In Camouflage Face Paint to Keep Your Heroine Alive - Part 1 an Overview, Liz reviews the kind of makeup that is used for camouflage face painting and some ways that you could twist your plot line.

     In any given region, it is important to 
    * Consider the colors and the textures of the surrounding area
    * Cover all exposed skin, including hands, ears, and neck
    * Use dark shades at high points such as cheekbones and noses
    * Use lighter colors on recessed areas such as under the chin and
    * Add elements from the natural area to clothing and equipment
    * Reduce glare as much as possible

    Camouflage Face Paint to Keep Your Heroine Alive
    Part 2 - Arctic Mission 

    Camouflage Face Paint to Keep Your Heroine Alive
     Part 3 - Woodland Mission 

    Camouflage Face Paint to Keep Your Heroine Alive  
    Part 4 - Jungle Mission 

    Thanks so much for stopping by. If you have any questions or comments, please post the below. I do moderate them to protect from spam, but they'll go up asap. Also, if you find my blog to be a useful resource, I really appreciate you helping to spread the word to your fellow writers. I've put some handy social media buttons below. Happy plotting.


    In this article I used Army Study Guide as my resource LINK
    See original post...
  • Police Chief: Information for Writers with Chief Scott Silverii

    Chief Scott Silverii, PhD
    Fiona - 
    Today on ThrillWriting, I'm very pleased to introduce you to a friend and fellow writer, Dr. Scott Silverii.

    Dr. Silverii serves as the Chief of Police in the southern Louisiana city of Thibodaux in Lafourche Parish. There, he enjoys the
    honor of public service. His twenty-four plus years in policing provides the experience and vision to believe there is always a way to help others.  16 of those years were spent in policing's special operations groups with thousands of undercover narcotics and SWAT missions.

    His passion for public service flourished while growing up in the heart of Cajun Country, leading a life seasoned by the Mardi Gras, hurricanes, humidity, and crawfish etouffe.

    Hi, Chief. Can you start by telling us about how you got involved in writing both your non-fiction and your fiction works?

    Chief Silverii -
    I began my non-fiction writing once I completed my PhD in Anthropology from the University of New Orleans. I self-published my dissertation - A Darker Shade of Blue, and then sold an extended manuscript to the Taylor & Francis Group where it was published by CRC Press - Cop Culture: Why Good Cops Go Bad Link 

    Last year, Lee Lofland invited me to teach at Writers' Police Academy  (WPA) and introduced me to the amazing world of writers. I tried my hand at crime fiction as a way to decompress from the years of grad school. I loved the challenge of transitioning from the formal, rigid academy rules and also the narrative police reports - to the descriptive content of mystery fiction. Have you ever heard, "Show. Don't tell?" Ha! - I have, plenty of times.

    And that's where I had the pleasure of meeting you and becoming friends. 

    (This is a LINK to a ThrillWriting article about the concept of Sheepdogs and Dr. Silverii's doctoral thesis)

    Fiona -
    One of the things that you talked about in one of the WPA classes was your time doing SWAT duty after Katrina. Do you think that that experience has helped you in your position as Police Chief?

    Scott Silverii working a SWAT detail during the aftermath of Katrina

    Chief Silverii -
    Yes, my 16 years in SWAT taught me more about conflict and crisis resolution than any other experience I've had. The Katrina deployment taught me the value of compassion under extreme conflict. The ability to combine strategic functions measured by compassionate consideration helped shape the vision for leading my agency as their Chief of Police.

    Fiona - 
    Can you tell us a little bit about the scope of your position? As I keep up with you from day to day, it seems you're stirring a lot of pots.

    Chief Silverii - 

    Chief Silverii with his son
    Definitely - First and most importantly, I'm a dad. All else occupies crevasses between our time together. 

    As the city's Chief of Police, I'm solely responsible for every function of the agency. Being a full-service provider includes activities ranging from school crossing guard, animal control, trustee work crews to patrol officers, detectives, academy training to SWAT and narcotics ops. 

    Of course, my time participating as a part of those assignments are limited. My primary duties include providing a crystal clear direction for progressing the agency. Included in that is the training, promotion, staffing and all the fun administrative things. 

    I also serve as an ambassador for the city and love meeting people in our city. Related to my position, I also serve as a subject matter expert in the analysis and application of data and mapping to increase officer effectiveness in reducing social harms. Working smarter rather than harder. 

    I was named as an Executive Fellow for the Police Foundation - that was very exciting.

    Fiona - 
    Congratulations, Chief, that's wonderful. 

    With your PhD in anthropology, do you develop or refine the ongoing training of your dept.?

    Chief Silverii
    I look at the culture of policing from a bigger perspective. I try to incorporate theoretical principles with practical application. Sometimes that results in revised training. Other times, it's reflected in policy initiatives such as social-norming or employee engagement. 

    Cop culture is a tough environment - the dynamics involved in being "socialized" are complex and a mastery of those elements are critical for effecting sustained change.

    Fiona - 
    Globally rather than specific to you and your department, in speaking with your peers, what are some of the common issues that arise that might create tensions and difficulties in the departments? What about between LE (law enforcement) and the public?

    Chief Silverii - 
    The position of Chief is to develop, share, and ensure a clear vision of public safety. Unfortunately, not every officer will share that vision. Cops are like anyone else where decisions and consequences are involved. It's vital that they follow policy and approved practices. 

    Tension is at the highest when disciplinary action is assigned. Chiefs must find the balance between being friendly with the troops yet not being their friend. That's a huge challenge and often gets blurred. Also, being the one giving promotions, assignments, preferred schedules, etc. a chief will never make everyone happy - it can be a lonely duty, but it's a calling to serve and another to lead.

    Fiona - 
    One of the questions I traditionally like to ask is: In media and books you've come across characters who do your job. What stereotypes are incorrect? What do you see consistently 
    mis-written, what would you like to see done differently in portrayals of Chiefs?

    Flashbang and Entrance Formation

    Chief Silverii- 
    Oh goodness - running the span. 

    While I'd like to say that portraying the hapless and the corrupt Chief is incorrect, the truth is - it takes all kinds. I've known both extremes and all in-between. 

    By and large, most Chiefs are committed career law men who are often limited in demonstrating their full potential by their political appointments by a mayor, council or city administrator. 

    Chiefs are not typically elected, but are appointed by elected officials. It would be rare if they operate autonomously, and that contributes to the national average tenure of a Chief is about 2.3 years in an agency. 

    I'm biased of course, but I'd love to see depth written - the way a Chief grieves over the loss of a person in their city. Lots of time in media/books the chief is a fat-cat in a suit focused on their next political move or appointment. The reality is, Chiefs are always focused on their staff and how to improve their working conditions. It doesn't make for sexy TV, but a Chief takes as much pride in their detectives busting a case as they do ordering a new fleet of cars for the officers.

    Fiona - 
    My other traditional question is about the story behind your favorite scar.

    Chief Silverii- 
    Favorite scar on me, or that I left on a bad guy?

    Fiona - 

    Chief Silverii - 


    My right palm is filleted from the tip of ring finger to below the wrist. I was the Drug Task Force Commander during an undercover op. The agent gave the bust, and this jacked up drug dealer high on a non-natural product charged at me. After battling one-on-one in an isolated field for everything from his escape to my weapons, officers arrived. End result - he went to the clink and I went to the ER - surgery followed with minimum loss of hand use.

    Fiona - 

    What am I not asking you, but I should? Is there an aspect of your job that you'd like to expand upon?

    Chief Silverii- 
    Yes, I'm trying to promote continuing education for officers. I've benefited from advanced degrees and applied them to the job. It's actually so complex, but too many officers get trapped into believing that it's all about arresting people. We cannot arrest ourselves out of the social ills plaguing our country. I'd like to see victim advocacy and alternative methods of handling citizen complaints 
    explored rather than tossing everyone  in jail.

    Fiona - 
    Amazon Link 99 cents
    I agree whole-heartedly, thank you. You just came out with a short story set in your part of the world. Can you tell us about your project?

    Chief Silverii- 
    You introduced me to writing the short story for a contest. I wrote, then edited and then cut to meet a super concise word count. I loved the discipline and intensity of the short story. I wanted to create a continuing series of episodes based on the same characters and location. I'm so passionate about Cajun Country and law enforcement, that

    I combined the

    This series spun from the characters
    in my competition short story and has
    grown into a multi-part adventure that
    I'm continuing to develop with each

    It's also a great way to hone my Show/Don't Tell skills. The protagonist - Sheriff James Walker is true blue and committed to protecting the citizens of his parish. What I'm loving is the depth of conflict, crisis and resolution he deals with daily - all the while leading an agency sworn to protect the public. His scars (in & out) make him human and identifiable.
    Amazon Link 99 cents

    Fiona - 
    And reading them will probably be a great learning tool for my fellow crime writers in that you know your
    stuff backwards and forwards. We've talked
    a bit about police culture, what about
    writers' culture are you bridging the two  pretty easily?

    Chief Silverii - 
    The last year has been so rewarding through the relationships I've developed with writers. It's an
    honor to consult with so many
    who are committed to portraying
    the cop life, culture, procedure
    and practices with laser accuracy. 
    enjoy consulting on selected
    projects and manuscripts; i t gives
    me the opportunity to meet new
    people and learn new skills in the
    writing craft.

    Amazon Link 99 cents
    Fiona - 
    Thank you so much for spending this time with us. What
    are you up to this  evening?

    Chief Silverii- 
    It's time to eat crawfish stew
    Fiona - 
    Well, enjoy! 

    A big thank you to my readers for stopping by. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below. They will post asap, but they are moderated so you don't have to wade through spam.

    Also, you can connect with Chief Silverii at this LINK

    Friends, if you find this blog to be a helpful resource, I would appreciate your sharing it with your friends. I've put some social media buttons below. Happy plotting.

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  • Ballistic Forensics and Firearms Investigations: Was a Gun Used at Your Crime Scene? Information for Writers

    Side-by-side comparison of many common pistol ...
    (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
    Your investigator is combing the crime scene and comes up with some cartridges and a bullet. Hmm can her findings help her tie the bullet found in the injured victim to the gun that was in the villain's car? Let's see what you could plot out.

    What does a firearms investigator look for on the gun itself?
    * What is the overall condition of the weapon?
    * Is the gun capable of being fired? Do all of the parts
    * Were there any modifications made to the gun? Many are illegal.
    * The serial number to see if it can be traced to an

    What if the serial number has been removed?
    Restoration of a serial number if someone filed it off is possible. A serial number can't really be filed off to completely remove trace information. In the manufacturing process the act of making the number stamp leaves permanent stress marks in the metal below. An investigator will file the area as smooth as possible then use the metal etcher called Fry's Reagent. This will dissolve the metal and expose the numbers. Because the chemical agent continues to etch the metal surface, the window for being able to see/read the number is short lived and must be watched carefully and photographed. The investigators only get one shot (no pun intended) - so better not have someone interrupt the procedure or your plot line could take a turn - they'll never get the chance back.

    What if an investigator finds a bullet or casing?
    When an investigator finds:
    * tool marks
    * firearms
    * bullets
    * cartridge cases
    at a crime scene, they are investigated in much the same way and usually by the same experts.
    Blog Link - Tool Mark Forensics

    By the way, Firearms examination and ballistics are NOT the same thing

    Ballistics is a form of physics that studies the way any object travels -  this could be anything from a soccer ball to a paper airplane. In forensics it usually is referring to bullets and shotgun shells. 

    Let's start with some basics:

    Investigators will first determine which group of firearms was used.

    5 Main Groups of Fire Arms
    * Pistols/Handguns (Handgun Information Blog Link)
        `revolver cartridge casing of shot bullet remains in the chamber
       and must be emptied.
        `self loading pistols - ejects the casings
    * Rifles (Shotgun and Rifle information Blog Link)
        `single shot
       `double shot
    * Shotguns
    Cartouche (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
       `They DO NOT shoot
         bullets they shoot 
         buckshot, pellets, or 
         slugs (a slug has a single 
         projectile usually a soft 
         metal like lead that is
         loaded into a shotgun
    * Machine guns
       `automatic weapons
       `fed ammo from a magazine or a belt
        `powerful recoil
        `get very hot so they need to be mounted on a stand
    *Sub machine Guns
       `Fully automatic
       `Can be hand held

    The Investigators will also look at bullets recovered from a crime scene or a victim's body and/or the casings to see if a bullet came from the barrel of a certain type of gun.

    The Gun Barrel
    * a barrel of a gun is produced by hollowing out a solid metal bar. 
       The drill that does this will leave random tool marks on the inside .
        After the barrel is hollowed out then a series of 
       grooves are made to the inside these are called rifling.
    * The flat places are called lands
    * The space between them are called grooves

    This is an image of a 35 remington caliber, mi...
    This is an image of a 35 remington caliber, microgroove rifled barrel manufactured by the marlin firearms company. it shows a 20 land and groove barrel with a right hand twist. The image was taken with a Nikon DX1 camera using f22 and a 1/30 ss. The bore of the barrel was lighted with a standard bore light. --Rickochet 12:59, 9 July 2006 (UTC) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    Now, the verb rifling means the spin that is put on a flying object. A baseball player, for example, will rifle the ball to make it spin so that the object stays on a true trajectory. (HINT: Shotgun barrels are NOT rifled they are smooth-bore)

    When a bullet is fired through the barrel the bullet takes on the impression of the barrel's rifling. The lands on the barrel will make grooves on the bullet and the grooves will make raised spaces. Think of this like an old-time photographic negative.

    Different manufacturers use different rifling specifications. For example: all Smith and Wesson .32 caliber revolvers have 5 lands and 5 grooves that twist right. Maybe the make of the gun twists left or has 9 lands. A firearms investigator can then look at the bullet and narrow down the gun manufacturer.

    Caliber - the inside diameter measurement of a guns barrel measured between the lands (raised part of the rifling). We see these written as either hundredths of an inch or in mm.

    Gauge - the measurement of a shotgun barrel (there's math formula for this that has to do with number of pellets that can fit into a pound)

    The size of the bullet that was shot therefore can help determine:
    1) Was it a smooth-bore or a rifled gun
    2) What size barrel did the gun have? was it a .22? a 9mm? a .45?

    Video Quick Study (6:34) Demonstration of a FBI firearm investigation

    Type of gun is class evidence. It cannot tie a gun to a specific crime. But microscopic anomalies in production as well as use will make one gun barrel specifically different from another - as different as fingerprints. So when the bullet travels through the barrel the lands and grooves as well as the microscopic anomalies get transferred. Now they can tie a specific bullet to a specific gun. To do this
    * The gun in question is examined in the lab
    * The same kind of bullet is used (see bullet tutorial for different
       kinds of bullets that could be chosen for a gun such as hollow
       point FMJ Blog Link) from the same manufacturer.
    * The bullet is fired into a test tank
    * The crime scene evidentiary bullet is compared to the test bullet
        by computers or under high-powered microscopes
    * Full metal jacketed bullets tend to be easiest to handle with more
       consistent striated details.

    Video Quick Study  (1:21) of a bullet being fired.
    Video Quick Study  (2:28) NCSTL does a quick overview of firearm investigation
    Video Quick Study  (8:12) Showing a test tank for gathering evidence of the striations of a gun in question

    The ATF developed the Integrated Ballistics Identification System (IBIS)
    IBIS is the computer system that can match the known barrel identification markings and match them to a bullet's markings. In this way various crimes can be linked to a single gun.
    Video Quick Study (1:43)

    English: Badge of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobac...
     (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    Video Quick Study (4:29)
    Video Quick Study (7:11)

    This computer is not the "silver bullet" Once the computer finds a match it still has to be manually examined by an investigator - your investigation team
    skipped this step? Might come
    out in your court case scene - did
    you want the perp to walk?

    Video Quick Study  (8:57) This shows you the holes that you can use in your plot, including how to change the barrel quickly and easily by just cleaning it with an abrasive cleaning product and thus change the microscopic tool marks. (Fair warning - NRA sponsored so this video does have it's own agenda)

    Now on to the spent bullet and shell cases

    The cases on a scene often have the manufacturer information stamped right on them. They may also have the markings from the firing pin (the tiny piece that hits the end of the round to send it down the barrel).

    If a bullet or casing is found at the scene the investigator has to take great care not to damage any of the microscopic markings on the evidence. This means they may have to cut a section out of a wall if the bullet is embedded to take the whole thing back to the lab for the investigators to work on.

    The gun, casings, and bullets will all be checked for fingerprints as well. (fingerprint article Blog Link). They will also look for trace evidence such as lint or hair.

    And finally, a look at propellants and primers:
    Inside of a round there is the bullet, the propellant and at the bottom a little bit of primer. The firing pin strikes the primer, igniting the propellant and forcing the round down the barrel of the gun. 

    7N1 bullet cross sections
    7N1 bullet cross sections (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    GSR - Gunshot residue
    * Partially burned and unburned powder
    * Soot
    * Lead
    * Vapors

    Because GSR comes out in a geometric configuration as it leaves the barrel, if the target was within a yard of the gunshot, then investigators can determine how far away the gun was held.

    GSR gets everywhere - on the victim on the shooter and in the environment (lead, barium, and antimony). Can be removed with soap and water.

    .40S&W cartridge next to expanded hollow point...
    .40S&W cartridge next to expanded hollow point bullet. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    Thank you for stopping by. Your questions and comments are welcome below (they are moderated so I'll get them up ASAP). Also, if you find my articles to be helpful in your writing, why not share this resource with your friends? I've put some social media buttons below.Your help is always appreciated. Happy plotting.

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  • Hostage Negotiations: Information for Writers with Lt. Matthew Sherley

    Lt. Matthew Sherley
    Fiona -

    Good evening, Lt. can you start by introducing yourself to the readers, including your background and your now projects and book?

    Lt. Sherley - 
    I'm Matthew Sherley. I am a retired police detective from a medium sized (360 officer) department in Amarillo, TX. I currently work for the U.S. government as a contract employee. I have completed my first novel, Insider Trading , a spy thriller. I am seeking representation for it, and it is currently out on multiple submissions.

    Fiona - 
    Best of luck with your journey.  Lt., tonight we're talking about hostage negotiation. That sounds like a horribly nerve wracking job. Innocent lives are at risk. Can you tell me about the training which would qualify someone to take on such a task?

    Lt. Sherley - 
    The primary source of training for hostage negotiation is the FBI. They offer formalized training for negotiators. In my case, the commander of the hostage negotiation unit had a master's degree in psychology, and he developed an internal training course. There are also state and national groups affiliated with negotiators. Those organizations have annual conferences which always feature in-service training.

    Fiona - 
    And you have performed this duty - is there a frequent need for hostage negotiators or is there time for your expertise to grow rusty?

    Lt. Sherley - 
    If the duty was strictly limited to hostage scenes, it could become rusty. However, we were also used for all crisis negotiations. That would include suicidal subjects threatening themselves with weapons where they could easily hurt someone else.

    Fiona - 
    So in a mid-size center is this a weekly occurrence... ?

    Lt. Matt Sherley - 
    More like once a month or every three weeks.

    Fiona - 
    Are there many trained officers who could fulfill this duty? Or were you called in from wherever you were - like a doctor on call?

    Lt. Sherley - 
    Our department had a team of negotiators (four plus the commander). We were attached to the SWAT team. Any time there was a SWAT call out, we were all deployed. The negotiators acted as a team also, so we were all called out every time, rather than just one negotiator. One functioned as the primary, and one as the secondary. The other two did research on the subject, kept equipment up and running, liaisoned with the SWAT commander, etc. There are a lot of moving parts to a SWAT call-out/hostage negotiation.

    Fiona - 
    What are the duties of the primary?

    Lt. Sherley - 
    The primary is the person who conducts the actual negotiation and does all the talking with the subject.

    Fiona - 
    So they call up on the phone, "Hey there..."

    Lt. Sherley - 
    Yes. the primary will make the initial call and identify himself or herself and open a dialogue with the subject. T eam members then try to help each other identify the psychological type of the person we are dealing with. Also, based on what the person has said, we try to determine among ourselves what's important to that person.

    Fiona - 
    Does that dialogue (and I know this is sensitive so just flag me if I step on hallowed ground) go somewhat like the rapport building in an interrogation? (blog link to rapport building article)

    Lt. Sherley - 
    Somewhat. The negotiator is searching for common ground, something that we can have a conversation about that will ultimately lead to the issue at hand.

    Fiona - 
    I know there are certain questions that you ask - like, "Do you need medical assistance?" Can you share any of the pat questions?

    Lt. Sherley - 
    We always want to know how many people are with the subject and if they need medical attention. We always want to know what is going on that caused the incident to occur. That's a little trickier. That can be a little easier if the negotiator was successful at establishing common ground and is building rapport.

    Fiona - 
    Do you find the hostage takers are open to that kind of rapport building? What kind of demeanor do you find on the other line?

    Lt. Sherley - 
    It can be at either end of the spectrum. I've had subjects that were scared and realized they had made a mistake, and I've had others who were openly hostile, threatening to kill the people with them or the police if we came close.

    Fiona - 
    What kinds of situations end in hostage taking? And statistically, what is the outcome for hostages?

    Lt. Sherley - 
    Statistically , the outcome is good for the hostages. Often, hostage taking is a result of failed relationships or crimes gone wrong. I've dealt with estranged husband/wife, boyfriend/girlfriend situations, and I've dealt with escaped prison inmates who took hostages in the first neighborhood they came to.

    Fiona - 
    Which are easier to deal with (generally) crimes of passion or crimes of opportunity?

    Lt. Sherley - 
    Hostage incidents that result from failed relationships (crimes of passion) are generally harder to resolve than hostages incidents resulting from opportunity (crimes interrupted by police). The reason is because there is already a highly volatile, emotionally charged issue between the hostage and hostage taker. It is more difficult to humanize the hostage during negotiations if there is already hatred there before the negotiator ever makes contact
    Crimes gone wrong are just that. Criminals that got caught by the police before they could make an escape after committing their crime.

    Fiona - 
    You've seen plenty of crisis negotiation on TV and read scenes in books. First, is there a title you could suggest where you thought it was pretty spot on? And my follow up questions, how do they get it wrong? And how can writers get it right?

    Lt. Sherley - 
    I would highly recommend the book Crisis Negotiations: Managing Incidents and Hostage Situations in Law Enforcement and Corrections  by Wayman Mullins and Michael McMains.

    The primary thing I see on TV is negotiators using the term "hostage" when talking to the hostage takers. We never do that. We don't want to plant the seed that the person they have with them is a hostage. We want to help them realize that the person is a real person. W e try everything we can to humanize the victims.

    Fiona - 
    Is there any special jargon/vocabulary that would be used in a hostage situation that needs to be peppered into the dialogue?

    Maybe not part of the public face - but more a part of the behind the scene correspondence?

    Lt. Sherley  - 
    We try to keep the jargon to a minimum (or none at all). We want to use common language to set the subject at ease. Constant reminders that nothing bad has happened (assuming that's the case), and we can help them out of the situation without being hurt themselves.

    Fiona - 
    How long is a typical hostage crisis from call to resolution? How tired do you get working under the stress?

    Lt. Sherley - 
    There is no typical length. I've had negotiations as short as 30 minutes and as long as several hours. One of the most famous hostage incidents in Sweden lasted six days. It is very emotionally draining to spend that much time on the phone with someone, trying to negotiate a peaceful resolution. It's even more draining for the negotiator if the subject ends up committing suicide.

    Fiona - 
    In search and rescue, we have a book that tells us what various groups will do and how far away/in what direction we need to look and the probability of finding them alive at various time intervals. Do you have such a resource - if you have type Aq3 then use this tactic...?

    (statistically derived probabilities)

    Lt. Sherley - 
    Yes, we use loose guidelines based on psychological types.

    Fiona - 
    What would you like to tell me about writing a hostage negotiation scene into a plot line that I didn't know enough to ask you about?

    Lt. Sherley - 
    Maybe the traits of a negotiator. We look for officers that are calm, experienced, and intuitive. So much of negotiation is based on the feel of the negotiator and his/her ability to relate well to people.

    Perhaps one of the key principles involves the very nature of negotiation - a give and take on the part of both parties. The principle we try to always abide by is to never give up something without getting something in return.

    Fiona - 
    Interesting. So as an investigator shows his abilities working with interview and interrogation, her skills would be observed, and she'd get sent to training school? Where is training school and how long does it last?

    Lt. Sherley - 
    In my case, I was still a patrol officer when I was involved in the incident that the negotiating team noticed. I was able to talk a suicidal subject who had climbed over the rail on a bridge over an interstate highway down. Then, later when there was an opening for a negotiator on the team, they asked me to apply. 

    Training can vary. FBI schools are usually either 40 hours or 80 hours. They are generally sponsored by a local LE agency. Also, some universities specialize in that kind of training. Here in Texas, Texas State University does (one of the authors of the book I recommended is a professor there as well as a peace officer)

    Fiona - 
    Now, you just got back from an exciting event - do you want to tell us about Crime Writers' Police Boot Camp?

    Lt. Sherley - 
    I'd love to. I just finished teaching a week long session of Crime Writers' Police Boot Camp. It was part of the West Texas Writers' Academy sponsored by West Texas A&M University. 

    We spent mornings in the classroom with sessions such as creating believable police characters, the importance of research and authentication, interrogation, the smells of law enforcement and introduction to forensics and death investigation. Then, every afternoon, we were out in the field. We spent one afternoon at the firing range for a a firearms demonstration and learning about the various types of firearms. We had our students drive a pursuit driving course. We had them investigate a mock crime scene. They went to a firearms simulator for shoot/don't-shoot training. They toured the county jail, saw the state police helicopter and its capabilities, and got to see a K-9 working first-hand. It was a long and tiring week, but the students had fun and learned a lot.

    Fiona - 
    And you understood the writers' perspective because you are an author too. Can you give us a quick synopsis of your novel (not yet in print).

    Lt. Sherley - 
    My debut novel, Insider Trading , is a spy thriller. The tag line is: What if a terrorist attack during the State of the Union Address was sanctioned from within the White House?

    Fiona - 
    Very fun! 

    Our time has quickly flown - I am going to conclude with our ThrillWriting traditional question. Would you share the story behind your favorite scar? Or - if you are one of the people who made it this far without any scars, would you could share a harrowing experience you lived through?

    Lt. Sherley - 
    Fortunately, I have been pretty lucky, only one surgery on my knee as a result of a New Year's Eve brawl started by a guy who refused to go home from his neighbor's party. The more harrowing experiences were when I was a motorcycle officer doing funeral escorts and people would pull out in front of us as we were trying to get to the next intersection. It's like dodge-ball on a motorcycle!

    Fiona - 
    Thank you for sharing your expertise, Lt. And thank you fellow writers for stopping by. Please leave any questions or comments below (they are moderated so I'll get them up ASAP). Also, if you find the articles on my blog to be helpful, please share this resource with your friends. I've put some social media buttons there below.
    Happy plotting.

    See original post...
  • Security Contractors Working in a Hot Zone: Information for Writers w/ Shawn Rafferty

    Shawn Rafferty
    Welcome to ThrillWriting, Shawn. Can you tell our readers a little bit about your background?

    Shawn - 
    Hello, my name is Shawn Rafferty. I have been working in the military, law enforcement and security sector for 20 years. I served in the Marine Corps Infantry, was a corrections officer, police officer, force protection officer in Kuwait before the 2003 invasion, worked as a Security Consultant (trained Iraqi Ministry of Oil personnel) and Security Coordinator (assisted in managing guard force force for company building oil sector in Iraq, KBR) in Iraq and a Protective Security Specialist (Blackwater and Triple Canopy) responsible for protecting

    US Diplomats in Iraq, mainly the US Ambassador.

    Fiona - 
    What role did you play as a security contractor?

    I started working for Blackwater in late 2004 after I left KBR and got a job in Afghanistan as a protective security specialist;
     this time protecting business personnel. I left BW in 2007 for the birth of my son and to start a business. I opened a martial arts school and taught Commando Krav Maga.  I went back to Iraq working for Blackwater (BW) again. By this time it was 2009. BW changed names to Xe and shortly after lost the contract. I then worked for a company called Triple Canopy doing the same work, protecting US Diplomats. I left Iraq in 2010 and became a firearms instructor training Department of State Diplomatic Security Agents.

    I only did this for 3 months then I got a job working for the Department of Commerce as a Special Agent working on the Secretary of Commerce's protection detail. I did that for 3 1/2 years and recently quit to be a stay-at-home dad and build my business teaching self-protection.

    Fiona - 
    What form of MA do you teach - mixed/self protection?

    Shawn -
    I taught a system called Commando Krav Maga. But I have a second degree blackbelt in Shorin Ryu Karate, and I have been doing Muay Thai and boxing for years.

    Fiona -
    So your were a marine and you worked mercenary jobs.

    Shawn -
    Well they weren't mercenary jobs because we were indirectly and directly working for the US government. 

    Fiona - 
    You don't call yourselves mercenaries; what do you say instead?

    Shawn - 
    Security Contractors working for Private Military Companies (PMC). Although I did work with some real mercenaries that were operating in Africa. Another story...

    Fiona - 
    Thank you for correcting my vocabulary. A mercenary is a professional soldier hired to serve a foreign army, according to Google.  Can you tell me some of the things that are parallel and some of the things that are different about the two environments?

    Shawn - 
    As a Marine you train to fight in combat and do combat operations. The parallel between the two would be that a security contractor that provides protection has a responsibility to run from trouble but if forced to fight, it must be with the same ferocity as a Marine or soldier. Providing protection or working as a security contractor in a war zone is very challenging. You are a target just like the military but often on your own with minimal support.

    Fiona - 
    Were your contracting jobs structured like the military with chains of command?

    Shawn - 
    Yes, pretty much. Not the same titles but you had a rank structure. Plus, it fit with what the guys were accustomed to. To go back to the environment and the differences; As an example when I first went into Iraq. The very next day we had to drive to the border of Jordan. All we had in the form of communication was a satellite phone (Sat Phone) and a drop dead time to return. No communication with military units or any support. Just us with unarmed vehicles, no body armor, and just Ak 47's with a few mags.

    English: Cambodian AK-47
     AK-47 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    So our Kurdish interpreter took us to this arms market in the Iraqi city of Kirkuk. It was just a regular market where people were buying food and other household items. The interpreter went up to some guy and whispered in his ear. The next thing I knew, all these guys started coming out of the woodwork. You remember those shows in the 70's where the guy would walk up and say, "You wanna by a watch?" and he would open his coat and would have dozens of watches hanging? That was what it was like but with guns or holsters, etc. 

    I remember I needed some ammo for my 9mm. So this guy brought me a box and a lot of the ammo was rusted or corroded. My dad was doing the same thing but not next to me. He questioned the seller as to whether or not the ammo was good. The Iraqi grabbed the gun, loaded, and shot off a few rounds in the air like nothing special. Mind you, it was a very busy market. I almost hit the deck when the gunshot went off but didn't. We bought a few pistols and some ammo and left.

    Fiona - 

    You said you were given a drop dead time?

    Shawn - 
    Drop Dead Time - Basically when we reached a certain time we had to return. This way if we were unable to communicate with the HQ, we would automatically return. The HQ didn't answer our call anyway. The company I worked for didn't have a lot of equipment. We had to buy some of our weapons on the black-market. I had to purchase my own pistol, for example. 

    When I worked for Blackwater we had a lot more assets
    Blackwayer and Triple Canopy had State Department contracts that had to meet pretty stringent guidelines to operate. We had to have armored vehicles, body armor, a certain amount of people to go out on missions, etc. The first company was rather loose. I would often drive out into town by myself.

    My first mission with BW was protecting Kurdish Judges and lawyers and escorting them and DOJ agents around Norther Iraq interviewing Kurds victimized by Sadams war crimes. I actually got to go to his trial for 1 day.

    Fiona - 

    Wow. What an experience. 

    I like that the contracts protected you a bit more with Blackwater.

    Shawn - 
    Yes, I felt a lot more secure, and the people I worked with all had the same training, so I knew what to expect as far as tactics and actions if attacked.

    Fiona - 
    So all of your fellow operators were military background. Any females?

    Shawn - 
    Most had military backgrounds. SEALS, Marines, Army Rangers, Special Forces, DEVGRU, and plain Cops. We had a few females towards the end. Only 1 or 2 where on protection teams. A few others were in support roles. One was a K9 handler.

    Fiona - 
    What are DEVGRU?

    Shawn - 
    DEVGRU - Development Group is the new name for SEAL Team 6. Mind you, I came across very few of these guys. Most would work much higher contracts because of their prior training and experience etc.

    The background of the fellow operators was broad. We all had training and Secret Clearances. Not like the image of a bunch of blood thirsty cowboys running around.

    Fiona - 
    Are the terms like FUBAR the same across military branches and contractors - do you all speak the same lingo? 
    (FUBAR -f*cked up beyond all reason/recognition)

    Shawn - 
    Yes FUBAR is. We didn't use it much but would just say F*cked Up instead. Excuse the language.

    Fiona - 
    You're fine - but in general the lingo was the same all of the little alphabet soup of communications? I'm wondering because you mixed a bunch of guys up, and their training was their training - would it all work out if lives were on the line?

    Shawn - 
    Training is training. Most if not all the teams spent a lot of time in between missions training. If there ever was an incident most of the time everyone acted the way they were trained, because they all knew what each other were doing. Those guys with combat prior experience would act better, because they knew what to expect.

    Fiona - 
    Tell me about that combat prior v. just combat trained - how would the men act/react. Did it worry you to go on missions with the inexperienced men?

    Shawn -
    Getting shot at is not fun. 
    You never know how someone will react under fire. Hopefully with training, they will react like they should. But the guys that were combat tested where definitely a good thing to have around. It is also about having guts and the will to live and win. Guys with that mentality and no combat experiences can pull it together and do the job.

    I wouldn't want to go out on missions with someone I didn't know or trained with. If you get attacked it is a very bad situation that can lead to a lot of lives lost. You are going up against insurgents/terrorist that were in actively fighting military units.

    Fiona - 
    Media is not very kind to Security Contracting groups.

    Shawn -
    Well the media has an agenda. 

    Imagine working in a war zone disguised as a city with the normal activity of a regular city? Now put a $30000 price on your head and drive out of a base that only has 3 exit/entry points and go drive to locations that are commonly visited. Now add in IED's VBIED's ( VBIEDS  - Vehicle Born Improvised Explosive devices, car bombs for short)  ambushes etc. We stood out like a sore thumb and were easy targets. Out of probably 15000 missions BW never lost a principal. 

    Fiona - 
    WOOT! for BW's huge accomplishments.

    Breaking stereotypes and writing it right - what's one thing you'd like us to know that we wouldn't guess?

    Shawn -
    Most if not all the guys in BW are patriots and love their country. Although we got paid good money to do the job, everyone felt they were doing a good thing for their country and to better the mission in Iraq and Afghanistan. There are bad apples in every bunch, but most of the guys just did their job and wanted to make it back to their families. 
    However, we lost dozens of our guys.

    War attracts a lot of different personality types. You have to be a little off to want to work in a war zone.

    Fiona -
    And now you're back in the states and have a school. Can you tell us something about what you do?


    Shawn -
    Sure. My current business is teaching people personal safety strategies based on situational awareness principles and observation skills. I will later evolve into developing security plans for schools, businesses and places of worship that address active shooter threats. 

    The workshops I offer focus primarily on teaching people how to avoid becoming a victim. I feel it is better to not be attacked versus fighting off an attacker. The reality is, if you walk around with your head in the clouds and don't pay attention to you environment, it doesn't matter what you know or what weapon you have. I do teach few techniques that I feel are effective despite the size and drug induces state of your attacker. 

    Remember it takes thousands of repetitions to be able to react under stress. Is your technique you practiced effective? Did you train under stressful situations? 

    What I teach is information backed with stories, pictures and real CCTV footage so you will recall years later.

    Fiona -
    YES! This is one of my pet peeves in literature. A heroine with no experience at anything suddenly fights her way out of a situation or shoots someone dead. It's so improbable that it ruins the story. If a woman goes to kick a guy in the shins, she'll break her toes - if you're going to have her fight - she better have a fighting background, otherwise write it differently - the truth of the outcome is probably a whole lot more interesting anyway.

    Pay attention. Watch your Back. Have a Plan.

    Shawn -
    Exactly. That is the wool put over people's eyes. Take my 2 hour self-defense course, don't practice for 6 months, and when you get attacked you will react properly. Ya right.

    Fiona -
    Or they read a magazine article once. I've trained MA for ten years, and I would always run from a fight if I could.

    Shawn - 
    That's smart. They may have a gun, knife, or be an experienced fighter that doesn't hurt easily. Most victims of attacks put themselves in a position to be a victim. A predator preys on the weak.

    I just want to be real about everything. If you buy pepper spray, don't believe the commercial and think it will work every time. A stun gun does not work every time. A real gun takes a vital hit to stop someone high on drugs.

    Fiona - 
    I was in a NRA workshop, and they said with drugged guys you can unload, and they still come after you - then you're left with pistol whipping - not good.

    Shawn -
    True. Hit vital organs, heart, head, and they will go down. Now try to shoot your gun at someone attacking you, and you never practice? Or your gun jams, and you never practice clearing the jam under stress? Or you never practice taking the gun out of your holster. Now do all these things under the stress of being killed? Different story than practicing in an air-conditioned range with Bon Jovi playing on the speakers

    Fiona - 
    I just want to say to my fellow writers, for me, it's one thing to make it up, it's another thing to read about/talk with someone as I am doing now with Shawn (because there's no way I'm going to a war zone for the experience). But, I think, it takes your writing to a whole different level when you can do some hands on with what you want to write about. If you're writing a fight scene, you might consider trying it out with and instructor, taking a class. Shawn you're in the DC area, would you consider putting together a day for writers' groups to come and ask you a bajillion questions and try out some of the moves?

    Shawn - 
    I would love to teach a workshop for writers. I explore areas like active shooter, traumatic first aid, weapons familiarity (penetrating power, weaknesses) terrorism besides other topics. It really is a full service workshop where I try to cover areas people experience in everyday life.

    Fiona - 
    Now for the traditional Thrillwriting question - would you please tell me the story behind your favorite scar?

    Shawn -
    My favorite scar. Not combat/gun related. I was attacked by a dog (St. Bernard) at 5 and had to get 50 stitches in my face. Sometimes I joke and tell people it was from when I was in Somalia.

    Fiona - 
    Shawn, I totally respect and appreciate your service to our country and that you are trying to help others learn to be safe. Thank you so much for your time and experience.

    And thanks to you for stopping by today. If you have any questions or comments they can be left below. Also, if you find this resource to be helpful to you and your writing, why not share it with your friends? I've placed some social media buttons conveniently below. Happy plotting.

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