How to train the most realistic scenarios during your kill house run. 

Learn the difference of kill house training for SOF and Close Protection Services.

Get essential tips from a former SOF member about counter modern terror threats and handle active shooter scenarios effectively. 

An in-depth interview with Ralf Kassner, CEO of Wodan Security and former GSG9 (Germany’s elite counter terror unit), about the essence of great kill house training and 360 degree live fire training!

Ralf Kassner, Wodan Security 

Effective kill house and 360 degree training

CQC: Dear Ralf, as a former SOF unit member (GSG9 and SEK) and CEO of Wodan Security you are a leading expert in kill house training and 360 degree tactical training.

We would like to talk to you about the importance of live fire training and regular kill house sessions for close protection professionals.

Could you tell us something about your „philosophy“ when it comes to kill house training?

What tactics and scenarios do you have in mind, when you set up a kill house training session for close protection professionals during a Wodan Security training event?

Ralf Kassner: First of all, kill house training is not so much about cutting-edge shooting skills and heavy live fire action, as someone might would think.

A good kill house training is very much about coordination, communication, speed and building up operational pressure, even with strangers.

The training should make you work on your ability to build teams and then operate effectively within these teams, even with people you may just have met for the first time.

Why? Because that will be a situation that you will face very often, during your field operations as a close protection service professional.

Maybe your contractor puts you in a new team, maybe one of your team members get hurt, another one leaves the company or the overall operational parameters are just changing – whatever it is: The most reliable constant in the close protection business is change.

That’s why we push the participants of our Wodan Security 360 degree live fire trainings constantly into challenging team-building and team-work scenarios, where they have to show us that they not only able to shoot but also to work as a team – even if they barley know each other.

Because – besides of your shooting skills – this is something you will have to master, if you want to work in this profession.

The final score of your shooting after any kill house training for close protection services will reflect your ability to make yourself comfortable in working with strangers under the tremendous pressure of live fire training and in a challenging environment.

We do not talk about SOF training here – where unit members have the time and the resources to study their team mates operational behavior for month and sometimes even for years.

A 360 degree training for close protection should be about flexibility – operational and individual flexibility.

Teams, operational parameters and objectives can change very quickly.

Your training should reflect that.

© by Peter Busch, Neuss

How to train for an active shooter incident

CQC: Okay, that is quite interesting.

Maybe it would make sense to talk about a specific scenario to get the full picture of your training concept?

Let’s take a common scenario.

There is a business meeting of Fortune 500 CEOs.

And the worst case is happening: An active shooter is in the building.

How do you prepare your trainees for this kind of incident?

Ralf Kassner: An active shooter at a business conference would be a good example for the operational flexibility and the need for excellent team-building skills, that I was talking about before.

Let’s take a good look into this scenario: What do you think, will be most difficult thing here?

Neutralize the threat? Evacuate your VIP?

Well, yes… but not so much, when you did one thing right, before you get into any form of direct action:

The coordination of all close protection service professionals at the scene.

If we have an incidence at a bigger business conference, there will be various close protection service professionals from different companies at the place.

All with different backgrounds, skill levels and experience.

They will differ in their training and in equipment.

Some have a military background, others come from law enforcement.

This means you will have a lot of people around you who counter this situation with different tactics and with different field experience.

But they all will be in a rush to protect their own VIP.

This can be quite a challenge.

Small details can cause big trouble!

CQC: Could you give an example, why this could be a challenge?

Ralf Kassner: Sure, just lets pick out a small but crucial detail:

What if you have to run up several stories and through long floors before you will get to your VIP?

Even assuming, that we are talking about well trained individuals here, we will definitely have different levels of fitness, reaction time and speed in any group.

If you are the first who arrives at the VIP’s location, you may will get shot in the back, if someone freaks out behind you, because he has a lot less experience than you.

If you are the one who can’t to catch up with the group’s speed because you have a bad fitness level, you will put everyone into danger, because you are not doing your job right.

Maybe the whole group gets separated in the building, because everybody is in an uncoordinated rush – then you do not have just to worry about the active shooter but also about several armed individuals under stress who may have a much more nervous trigger finger than you.

Small differences can add up to big problems in close protection.

Can you really be sure, that the guy from the other security company, who never met you before, will not shoot you? He barley knows you.

And he may shoots you, just for seeing you coming in, running to the VIPs room from a different angle, but with a gun in your hand.

Most likely this all will also take place in a environment contaminated with smog, fire, bodies, badly hurt people, blood, screaming, panicking and a fleeing crowd.

This can end up very badly.

Six, eight, maybe ten or more hired guns without coordination are only adding risk to get shot, harm innocent bystanders or getting into trouble with arriving police units.

If you cannot handle this kind of situation effectively and very carefully and at least with a basic structure of essential team work, the presence of a randomly built group of close protection service members will make things only more complicated.

Therefore, a good kill house training or any form of 360 degree live fire training should not only be about precise shots at dummies representing bad guys, but also about challenging your team work skills and your ability to reach a professional level of flexibility in any form of tactical coordination.

If you are getting good at this, it will mean that you won’t be on your own during any form of incident. That can be your edge.

You will be able to team-up with all individual CPS professionals at the scene and in a best case establishing a life-saving 360 degree securing of the operational progress while heading to your VIPs location in the building.

But you have to train this.

© by Peter Busch, Neuss

Are soft skills important in close quarters combat?

CQC: So, does it essential mean, that shooting isn’t so much of importance like the training of your „soft skills“ like team-work, communication and rapport?

Ralf Kassner: Well, honestly, it is not that simple.

We train for highly complex and very challenging situations.

I would not like to break down these very complex challenges into such a simple formula, like „Soft skills are more important than shooting skills or vice versa“.

Because it is not true.

You have to put a lot of pieces together when we talk about training for a situation that may decide if you and other people will live or die.

Kill house and 360 degree training means a lot more than just having tactics and shooting skills, that’s for sure.

Coordination and communication are key elements.

Decision-making under pressure is highly important.

Keeping a quick, clear and very confident perception of your surroundings under tremendous stress is crucial.

Building operational pressure and speed is essential.

Shooting and your shooting skills are very, very important, don’t get me wrong here.

Accurate and good shooting skills are the heart of our profession.

But you should also keep in mind:

Your gun points exactly in the direction and does only, what your current perception, and your imminent interpretation of the given situation tells you to do.

If you shoot quickly and accurate, that’s fine.

It’s a great skill. And it is important.

But this skill will make you the worst day of your life, if you shoot too fast and too accurately, just because someone moves quickly in front of you and seems to carry a weapon – and later it turns out, that it was one of your close protection buddies who was trying to reach his VIP over a different route within the building.

In a highly stressful situation like the one you described within your scenario – with crowded floors, panic, screaming, maybe smoke and fire – shooting another close protection professional could easily happen, when there were no steps of coordination and clear communication before.

This is a serious risk.

If you only learn to shoot at everything that has a gun during your live fire training you won’t be prepared for scenarios where other close protection professionals are with you in the building or even worse – when you run into arriving police forces.

You have to go through these kind of scenarios in trainings to avoid fatal decisions later in real life incidents.

So, it will be a solid mixture of very good shooting skills, soft skills and a lot of experience, that will make a highly professional close protection expert.

It wouldn’t make sense to weight one skill too much over another.

You have to head for the full package.

Or you become a one-dimensional „expert“ in a multi-dimensional threat environment.

What means nothing else than: „You get killed!“

© by Peter Busch, Neuss

Wodan Security training scenarios

CQC: How do you train this with the attendees of your courses?

Ralf Kassner: In our Wodan Security trainings, when we work with realistic live fire scenarios, we always try to bring professionals together who never trained before as a team.

We really try to mix all teams constantly up. This is important.

If you have an incident in an complex environment like the active shooter scenario we have talked about you have to demonstrate tremendous skills in efficient coordination and communication.

A real attack happens so quickly – within seconds you have to coordinate yourself with people you barley know, about who will take the lead, who will cover the back.

You have to communicate, clear and secure your evacuation routes with strangers, and may to deal with arriving law enforcement units.

And let’s be honest: A real life incident may force you to work with some real suckers.

You better be prepared for that.

So, first: In our trainings, there will be no fixed teams, but a lot of randomly mixed up groups, to make our attendees having useful lessons in how to handle any kind of tough operational coordination and gaining the operational flexibility under pressure that is necessary to do this job.

Second: In our trainings we confront our attendees with scenarios that teach them something about operational pressure and speed.

Like in your active shooter scenario, we bring them into scenarios, where they have to make very fast very serious decisions.

Within seconds everybody has to act and to know what to do:

  • Can we establish teams for 360 degree securing?
  • Who will be on charge for an evacuation?
  • Is there any order in getting the VIPs out?
  • Will we gather them together in a save room first?
  • Or will we try to getting them out of building as fast as possible?

If you take all that into account, any serious kill house session cannot be solely about the thrill of a live fire run, anymore.

Your training will be a lot about communicate efficiently and precisely.

It will be about building teams and gaining trust with strangers within a very short time frame, because everybody knows exactly what to do.

That is why we always set up training scenarios that force our attendees into team work, tough decisions and operational flexibility.

And third: It all has to happen in a very close quarters environment.

You must be able to handle all the upcoming shootings in very close distances.

This is not a shooting range.

During a real incident you will have to run around objects like tables, chairs, decorations, all kinds of stuff, and maybe through smoke, fire, low light, panicking crowds.

Our training simulates these challenges by getting our trainees in a very close quarter environment, where they have to handle all kinds of operational pressure.

So, essentially we set up training runs, that test you coordination, your operational efficiency and your ability to fight in a close quarters environment.

© by Peter Busch, Neuss

Real life tips for close protection professionals

CQC: Could you give our readers some tips how to do this in real life?

Ralf Kassner: For example, if you are with your VIP on a bigger conference or a board meeting, normally all close protection professionals are gathering together in another room nearby. And they wait.

Instead of just killing time it will always a good idea to talk with your colleagues in the room.

An investigation of the building, evacuation routes, alternative routes, risk spots, gathering spots or safe rooms – that should be “a no brainer”.

Establish at least a quick scenario routine, to make sure, that all know what to do, if an incident occurs.

Be careful: Don’t lecture anyone or come across with an annoying „I am the team leader, here“ attitude.

Be respectful, and consider that you are talking to people with a certain degree of professional experience.

But make sure, that there is a certain concept of: „If we have an incident…

  • Who will take the lead?
  • Who will cover the back?
  • Can we build teams?
  • Can we leave this room as 2-men-teams?
  • Or 4-men-team for a 360 degree cover?
  • Do we know our extraction routes?
  • Do we know all alternatives to the main extraction route?
  • Will we able to identify each other quickly?
  • What to do if we will get separated?
  • What kind of equipment do we have?
  • Anti ballistic shields? Vests? TCCC equipment?
  • Where is the equipment?

When you have to arrange all this, while an active shooting is going on, you will be in a very tough spot.

Let’s keep in mind: The average active shooter incident lasts about 12.5 minutes.

Within 12.5 minutes you have to handle a complete team-setup and a bundle of very complex operational decision-making?

On these kind of odds I rather would not bet my own life, nor my professional career and at least other people’s life.

You should be prepared before you get into this tough and very narrow time frame of a real life shooting.

That’s why you are a professional.

A professional attitude towards close protection services means for you to talk, to communicate and to make sure that there will be a plan or at least a basic coordination between all CPS members in the building.

This may is not the „Bruce Willis Way of Life“, but it is the right thing to do to for every close protection service professional who is serious with his business and the people he as agreed to protect.

© by Peter Busch, Neuss

The secret of effective kill house training

CQC: Is there any aspect people may do not consider first, when it comes to kill house training for close protection professionals, but becomes very important during the training?

Ralf Kassner: Shooting distance.

Good kill house training will teach you the proper handling of shootings in very close ranges.

Why?

Because in close protection most real incidents happen in a very close range.

If we have an active shooter in a building or even a hostage situation, most shootings will happen in rooms.

Maybe once in a while, there will be a shooting on the floor of a building, what means a slightly larger distance. But this does not happen very often.

From many empirically data we clearly know: The shooting will most likely happen in a room.

And at a very close range.

A good kill house training will teach you to handle these kind of shootings at close ranges in rooms.

Most people come into kill house training with their experience from open and larger shooting ranges. It is different.

So, most likely, you will have people struggling for a while with the transition while they are getting from their shooting range habits into proper handling of shooting within a very close range and rooms.

A second very important aspect is to gain operational flexibility.

Remember, when we talked about „professionalism“ in communication and cooperation?

That is where these skills come into account.

At our Wodan Security training we spend a lot of time and effort in getting people to gain flexibility during live fire training.

  • What will you do, if your position gets compromised?
  • What will you do, if you get hit?
  • What will you do, if a unit member gets hit or comes under fire?

We push our attendees in very tough scenarios where they have to make tough decision very fast.

And at least, every attendee who enters 360 degree training has to face the dilemma that you move with a limited human perception through a 360 degree threat environment.

Every niche, every corner, every dead angle, that you don’t see or simply do not care enough for within the rush oft the moment, can mean that a bad guy end your life with a single bullet.

Gaining proper room entry and room clearing habits means, that you will need a lot of good and flexible training.

Some people might consider kill house training a lot of fun, but it is hard work.

Persistence, caring for details and an open flexible mind will save you from getting killed.

That is why we push our trainees exactly in this direction during our training workshops.

© by Peter Busch, Neuss

Low light and no light scenarios

CQC: What about training in low light and no light scenarios?

How important are these scenarios for close protection service professionals?

And what kind of percentage should they have in someones training schedule?

Ralf Kassner: I won’t make any sense to talk about percentages here.

It depends of the trainees skill level, his experience and also on his most likely working environment.

If you protect your VIP mostly through regular business hours or on meetings and public events you won’t need a lot of low light training, simply because most likely you will never face this kind of situation

Don’t get me wrong: It is always good to have a certain training on this but it doesn’t make very much sense to train extensively for incidents in low light or no light scenarios if 99% or your work happens during daylight hours or during bigger public event’s where nobody can turn off all lights.

If you have a 24/7 business contract, then you should add low light and low light trainings for sure, that will make sense

The „importance“ of no light/no light training depends very much on what you do.

If you are a Navy SEAL you certainly will need a lot of no light training, because you will participate in a lot of raids at night.

If you are driving a CEO to business meetings in big cities during regular business hours you will need less or even no training for no light scenarios.

When we set up low light and no light trainings during a Wodan Security training event, we consider this – but also the level of experience of someone who gets into that training.

Low light and no light trainings need a certain degree of experience and skill level.

If we bring an attendee with significant less experience into a team of seasoned professional for a low light training we will do nobody a favor.

It will be better for the beginner to refine his kill house skills during daylight scenarios until he has reached a level of confidence and skills that allows to mix up his runs with no light and no light scenarios and maybe have some first step in team runs.

No light and low light training need a lot of preparation and work upfront until it make sense to get into it.

© by Peter Busch, Neuss

The importance of live fire training

CQC:  How crucial is training with live fire?

Ralf Kassner: It is essentially the most crucial training experience.

You can spent years in trainings with dry guns, softair or in paintball scenarios, and it simply will never have be the same learning effect like regular training with live fire.

Everybody acts differently when the bullets are real.

A real gun with real ammunition is an entirely different kind of beast.

The sound, the impact, the smell, even fear and more subtile psychological traps like overconfidence, false sense of security and let’s be honest also the human hunger for action, comes into account when the bullets are real.

Every professional needs live fire training.

There is no substitution for it. 

Ralf Kassner © by Peter Busch, Neuss

Training keeps you alive!

CQC: What are you doing for yourself to keep your shooting skill on the top of your game?

Ralf Kassner: When you start to think that you are good, the bad guys bullets will break through your false sense of security pretty soon.

I constantly train and try to learn more, get into various trainings and face realistic and even random setups for live fire training runs.

This year I was participating in some excellent trainings during the TacOps West, a SWAT training congress in the US.

Of course I had some great training runs during our Wodan Security’s 2nd International Bodyguard Conference in Czech Republic this summer.

And right now I am back from a training with Instructor Zero and Paul Bonnici in Malta.

Nobody in our profession can afford to stop training or get lost into the idea, that someone is „good“ or an „expert“.

Train hard – fight hard, that’s the only way to handle your profession well.

Do not trust any instructor, who does not participate in trainings regularly.

Learning keeps you alive.


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