With how much time we spend in Cars and Trucks, it makes sense to Practice Car-Centered Self-Defense.
Story and Photos by Paul Pawela
I have had the honor to know some of the best marines the Corps ever produced. I have had the privilege to train with these great men and to receive training from them, as their knowledge, training and experience are unmeasurable. As a trainer in the self-defense industry who is blessed to continue his training and travel as a writer observing and participating in exercises with the industry’s top training leaders, it should come to no one’s surprise that my top three favorite instructors are personal protection specialists (aka bodyguards) and two of the three are marines! This is a continuation of one of those extraordinary instructors. Dave “Boon” Benton has been mentioned before in the pages of the American Shooting Journal and is highly popular for the portrayal of his exploits and heroism in the movie and book 13 Hours, the inside account of what happened in Benghazi.
Benton always humbly states for the record the Benghazi incident did not define him, for that was one of many situations where he kept his cool and helped his teammates and others survive predations. I have spent a lot of time with Benton over the years, both professionally and personally, and the more time I spend with him, the more that I admire the man. Not just because of his vast knowledge, training and experience
– which very few in the industry can top – but because when he is in his element, his demeanor is so calm and relaxing, which makes learning more enjoyable for his students and everyone around him.
I have also become good friends with many who served under fire with Benton, and all confirm that his coolness in a crisis situation is no different from his training to go into combat situations. His leadership is outstanding, as is his calmness when total chaos is surrounding everyone. That’s the sign of a great leader and an even better role model. When I learned he was teaching a class on vehicle defense, or car-based personal protection issues, I could think of fewer men on the planet better qualified to teach that class than Dave Benton. So of course I was there, ready to learn.
With a background in special operations in the Marine Corps, it was natural for Benton to become a contractor as a personal protection specialist for the U.S. State Department, which later led to the CIA. Like the true professional he is, rarely does he talk about his true-life exploits, but one incident is especially relevant. He was working for the state department under contract with Blackwater in Iraq in 2004; he was a team leader in a five-vehicle convoy that was ambushed while driving through Baghdad.
As the driver in the lead vehicle sped away toward safety, Benton calmly kept the rest of the convoy updated on what was happening, allowing them to respond to the insurgents and escape the ambush without casualties.
VEHICLE ATTACKS Once again, readers may be wondering how any of this applies to the everyday citizen, and once again my reply is always the same. For your family, you are the team leader and lead bodyguard! In the United States, the number one location for a violent attack against the common citizen is not the home but the vehicle. According to one source, carjacking is a federally recognized crime defined as “the taking or attempted taking of a motor vehicle from the person of another by force and violence of intimidation.” For civilians to consider, some felony crimes that could and have happened in or around vehicles are sexual assault, road rage, kidnapping, and even murder. We spend a lot of time in our life going back and forth to work; picking kids up from school; going to the gas station, the grocery store, the mall and the movies; or visiting family and friends. If we are responsible gun owners who are concealed carry permit holders, is it not also responsible to practice self-defense for street encounters and home encounters as well as vehicle encounters? Ask yourself these questions. Do you and your family have a plan if you are attacked in or out of a vehicle? Have you ever tried to get access to your primary gun while wearing a seat belt? If you are being shot at while in your vehicle, are you confident you and your family will be protected from those bullets? Do you know if the bullets you are carrying as personal protection rounds will not only penetrate your vehicle’s windshield glass, but how much deflection or bullet drop differential they’ll have when returning fire to threats? If you must exit the vehicle, do you know where critical cover points are to gain the best points of cover to return fire? Do you have a plan for your passengers on what to do if attacked? After the shooting is over and there are medical injuries, do you have the equipment and training to deal with them?
TAKING THE COURSE There are many different schools of thought on vehicle tactics, and they generally include: • Mental conditioning for combat engagements; • Firearms safety and shooting fundamentals; • Different shooting positions inside and outside the vehicles; • Use of cover shooting over, under, and around the vehicle; • Target discrimination; • Ammunition effectiveness into vehicles through glass and metal barriers; • First aid; • Communication skills in a gunfight; • Vehicle deployments and counter-ambush technique
This was the curriculum that Benton taught at the beautiful range hosted and owned by Gladius International Training in south Florida. Michael Bird, who is the CEO, and his excellent staff are worthy of their very own article, which I will accommodate readers with soon. The course was special for many different reasons. Benton’s assistant instructor, Marty Castellanos, is a very good friend of mine and a seasoned veteran police officer who comes with a lifetime of experience, retiring as a lieutenant/detective from his department. Another surprise in the class was another long-time friend Andre Dallau, a gun writer extreme who has written for a wide variety of magazines for years – a man who I respect and admire.
The class participants had an interesting component to themselves. Dedicated civilians pushed themselves beyond their normal shooting levels and went more out of their comfort zone, and if that were not a test unto itself, the civilians would be going head-to-head with some of our country’s most elite military special operations personnel. For obvious reasons, I cannot disclose who they were or what they do, which is sad because they are due all credit they earn. What I can say is how damn proud I am of those warriors who put their lives in danger to keep America safe, to keep us safe, to keep our families safe. You would be proud of them as well, and I ask we pray for them, as well as all our warriors who go into harm’s way!
As stated previously, there are similar types of vehicle tactics courses throughout the country. There are different instructors with knowledge and training, but the real-world experience that applies to us mere mortals is very rare. That is what makes Benton the exception. He has that personal experience of volunteering to go into a gunfight and to help rescue others. He did not have to go to Benghazi, but innocent American lives were on the line, and make no mistake, he did not hesitate as he saved lives. Benton has the experience to tell you what it is to fight inside and outside a vehicle. Benton lives and breathes the Marine Corps motto to never leave anyone behind. I have personally learned so much from him; he has taught me how to lose and how to win. And he turned me on to the writing of Joseph Campbell, who wrote, “A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself.”
That sums up Dave Benton. His training cannot be recommended enough, as the man’s training is second to none! For more information on Benton’s training, go to Threat Management Solutions at shootingclasses.com. For information on Gladius Management Solutions, go to gladiusinternational.com
Editor’s note: For realistic self-defense training, see assaultcountertactics.com. Author Paul Pawela is a nationally recognized firearms and self-defense expert based in Florida.