Attendees to this year's TREXPO East had the opportunity to attend presentations by two of the most passionate and inspirational speakers on the law enforcement lecture circuit: Lt. Col. Dave Grossman and Col. Danny McKnight, both retired U.S. Army Rangers.
Grossman opened the trade show with a riveting three-hour performance focusing on the role of police officers in contemporary American society and their duty to remain vigilant to the growing threats to Western civilization. "You have to answer the challenge of the age," Grossman told the crowd.
The challenge of the age, according to Grossman, is protecting America's children from terrorist attack. "The one thing they do with every nation that they have ever messed with is that they kill their kids," he said, detailing a litany of school massacres, culminating with the 2004 Beslan atrocity in Russia.
"Osama Bin Laden has promised us that Beslan is our future," Grossman said, explaining that Bin Laden does not lie about his intent. "This is who we're fighting. They come and butcher the children."
Grossman told the story of a conversation he had with an American soldier preparing to deploy to Iraq. He said the soldier asked him to tell American police officers that they didn't have to worry about what was happening overseas because the military will take care of that and that all the troops ask of the cops is to "cover their six" and protect the homeland. "What he's saying is that you are our domestic Delta force. Somebody has to be the sword and somebody has to be the shield. You are the shield," Grossman said.
Calling officers sheepdogs who protect the sheep (the public) from predators, Grossman chided officers who are so complacent that they don't carry guns off duty. "If a firefighter carried an extinguisher in his car off duty, you wouldn't think anything of it. You, too, should always carry the life-saving tools of your profession. If you don't, I want you to look in the mirror and say to yourself, 'The damned firefighter is more professional than I am.' Stings. Doesn't it?"
Grossman emphasized that he wasn't just talking about carrying a handgun off duty. He urged officers to carry a rifle and plenty of extra ammo in their off-duty vehicles. "Three magazines will only last you two or three minutes in a firefight," he said.
In addition to carrying firearms and lots of ammo off duty, Grossman preached that officers should select hobbies that will help eliminate any complacency in their minds. "Piss on golf. Real men go to the range," he said to cheers from the audience. "There ain't one stinkin' iota of survival skill to be found on the golf course. Anytime you see a fellow cop with golf clubs in his car, I want you to do this: Look him straight in the eye and say, 'Baaah.'"
Grossman said that complacency not only kills cops, it kills the people they are sworn to protect. He told the harrowing story of a church-going officer who chose not to carry off duty in church and who was helpless when a gunman opened up on his fellow congregants. "You need to wake up and treat every day like it was 9/11 and you are preparing to board United 93."
Closing out his presentation, which he has titled "The Bulletproof Mind," Grossman told the officers that they need to prepare themselves now for the fact that they may have to kill in the line of duty. And that one of the best ways to prepare themselves mentally is to embrace the word "kill."
"You prefer to deter," he said. "And let me tell you, you have no idea how good you are at deterrence. But if deterrence fails, you will have to use deadly force to stop the threat. You will make people dead by doing so, and you should make no apologies for that."
Grossman closed his presentation by cautioning the officers to dedicate themselves to justice and not vengeance. "The bad guy doesn't play by the rules. That's what makes him the bad guy. You don't want to cross that line," he said. "Man the ramparts with honor."
The second keynote was presented by Col. Danny McKnight, one of the commanders of the Black Hawk Down raid in Somalia.
As he did at TREXPO West, McKnight focused his speech on the value of strong leadership and not just on what happened to him and his command in the streets of Mogadishu.
Since retiring from the Army, McKnight has traveled the country giving presentations to people who he says do not understand the cost of freedom. Looking out over the TREXPO crowd of tactical and patrol officers, McKnight said that he knew the audience understood what he was talking about.
McKnight, who was awarded the Bronze Star for his actions in Somalia, spent most of his presentation detailing his beliefs about leadership, including a funny series of anecdotes about what it was like for him to assume command of a Ranger battalion in his 40s. When he took command of the battalion, he told his men that he would do anything they had to do. Of course, his men were much younger.
"I swear sometimes I thought I heard them whispering to each other, 'Let's see what we can do to kill the old man tomorrow.'" McKnight says the young Rangers in his command never got the better of him, although his experience was very painful. The crowd laughed with him.
McKnight turned very serious, however, when discussing what he calls the essence of leadership. "Leaders have to make the hard right decision," he said. "And they have to stick with that decision."
According to McKnight, it was indecisiveness and waffling at the highest levels of U.S. leadership that led to the disaster in Mogadishu that claimed the lives of 18 of his fellow soldiers. "Mr. Clinton is not on my Christmas Card list," he said.
Money Raised for Memorial Fund at TREXPO
Attendees, vendors, speakers, and TREXPO staff donated more than $1,200 to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund at the recent TREXPO East.
At the Police Magazine Industry Reception, the audience had an opportunity to win one of two handguns and make a contribution to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.
The two guns were raffled off. A donation of $10 bought one ticket, and a donation of $20 bought three tickets.
DOD officer Samuel Maranto won a Taurus 24/7 .40-caliber duty pistol donated by Taurus. Sgt. Eric Wolfe of the Cleveland Police Department won a Springfield XD .45-caliber duty pistol donated by Quantico Arms.
In addition to the money raised at the raffle, conference speaker Bruce Siddle donated the proceeds from sales of autographed copies of his book, "Sharpening the Warrior's Edge."