The other day I made a mistake, one that I am been processing and chewing over in my mind ever since. One that I have had to own before my peers because it could have been a fatal mistake, not just for me, but for other members of my team.
And my complacency and lack of proper modeling is what could have cost us…
In short, we were hunting another armed man. That’s why we are there in the first place. That’s always why we are there.
We cleared down a hallway and past a laundry room. A closet really, with washer and dryer and miscellaneous clothes and baggage. I checked one side, and it was clear. I told my partner, who had a better angle than I on the other side, to check the other. He did, doing exactly what I had done on my side. Calling it clear, we continued, which involved probing several other areas to search and some circumstances that added operational friction. We were still in the process when a teammate asked a question of me:
“How satisfied are you that the laundry area is clear? 100%?”
I thought about it. I trusted the man’s instincts, knew he was picking up on something (probably several things), and that one of them was probably that what he saw us do on the clear was fairly cursory considering the amount of clutter in that area.
And I doubted…
Now, I could have stood there doubting, but not wanting to show my ass to my teammates, some considerably junior to me, and said “Yeah. It’s clear.”
Or I could have been offended. Why are they questioning me? Don’t they know I’ve been doing this tactical stuff longer than some of them have for total time on the job?
But I knew I couldn’t call it clear. Not through what I had done. And not through what my partner – also very junior to me and not a primary entry team member – had done when he aped my example exactly to clear his side. I’m also smart enough to trust the instincts of people who should be trusted. And to trust my own when they tell me I’m not as good as I often think I am…
So I said “I’m not 100%. Before we go past that again we need to clear it again.”
And we did. And we found our guy, impossibly scrunched up and covered up where a normal sized male would never have fit.
But it doesn’t take a normal sized man to pull a trigger…
So, Hemingway doesn’t go far enough in that quote. While we can get to like the hunting of armed men, we can also get accustomed to it. Acclimated to the point of complacency. In so doing we can learn to dismiss doubts, and to try to cover our asses not from potential gunfire, but from potential embarrassment.
And that is not a good trade.