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VINE VOICEon November 8, 2004
Advertising for this marvelous work states, "a ground-breaking examination of what it takes to perform, cope and survive in the toxicity of deadly combat as a soldier in a foreign land and a police officer in the mean streets of urban America." It really is all that, and more... Outstanding isn't a strong enough word to describe it.

If you are a soldier, a police officer, a martial artist, the holder of a concealed weapons permit, or just live in a bad neighborhood you really ought to read this book. Both authors really know what they're talking about, clearly able to articulate hard won wisdom in this well-written and comprehensive tome. Their thought-provoking, insightful work definitively examines every aspect of the psychology and physiology of deadly conflict.

The book begins by describing what happens to a person anatomically during a battle then covers the perceptual distortions that take place in combat. Having done college studies on eyewitness testimony and psychology and the law I recognize and agree with many of their points. The second half of the book covers why people put themselves in harms way and what happens to them after the smoke clears. It talks about post traumatic stress disorder, survivor's guilt, and a host of related subjects. I particularly liked the section on the Judeo/Christian views of killing which really help warriors understand and come to grips with their actions in battle - be it on the field of war, a city street, or even in their own back yard.

The research is great. The various vignettes and quotes are quite interesting. Even if you are never involved in a deadly encounter it really helps you understand and have a new appreciation for those who are. I have several friends and relatives in the military as well as a few in law enforcement. This book is going to be one of their holiday presents. This compelling study isn't just for professional warriors, however. Anyone with an affinity for martial arts like myself will find it an excellent read as well.

Lt. Col. Grossman is a retired U.S. Army Ranger, scholar, and the Pulitzer nominated author of On Killing, another great book. Loren Christensen is one of my favorite martial arts authors. A retired police officer, Vietnam veteran, and 8th dan black belt he really knows his stuff. Gavin DeBecker who writes the foreword is an expert on preventing violence and author of The Gift of Fear, the definitive work on that subject.

Lawrence Kane
Author of Blinded by the Night, among others
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on March 26, 2005
This book explores in detail what physically and mentally happens to most people when confronted with a deadly threat. Both authors have written previous books dealing with this subject. This collaboration brings together the best both have to offer.

Col. Grossman has an extensive military background as a member of the Army Rangers. His book, On Killing, was written over a decade ago and is still one of the definitive words on the subject. Through research and interviews, Col. Grossman was able to open a window into the soul of a "warrior" and explain why even when directly threatened, it is not a simple thing to take another human beings life.

Loren Christensen is a former police office and co-author of another excellent use of force book, Deadly Force Encounters. That book focused on law enforcement experiences with lethal force. Again through interviews and research, Christensen, and his co-author Dr. Alexis Artwohl, gave a human face to the peace officer forced to kill.

On Combat combines the world of the military combat veteran with that of the police officer. The authors contention is that both are worthy of the term "warrior". The "warrior" is the 1% who protects the 98% from the remaining 1% who would do them harm.

The book is divided into four sections. Each section deals with a different aspect of combat but always from the perspective of how a human deals with combat.

The first section is titled, "The Physiology of Combat: The Anatomy of the Human Body in Battle". The authors describe a basic element of combat as the "Universal Human Phobia". That phobia is the innate human aversion to killing one of their own. With only a small percentage of the population as an exception, human beings will find it difficult to take another human's life in a face to face confrontation.

Equally as important to understand is the body's reactions to being attacked. Interpersonal human aggression creates a "toxic and corrosive" atmosphere in the daily work of warriors everywhere. Our bodies will respond in ways that we may not be able to control but must understand nonetheless if we are to competently handle a lethal threat. Automatic systems designed for thoughtless survival kick into gear. Adrenaline is released, digestive processes cease and even bladder and sphincter control is lost. These are things to prepare for and not be surprised should they happen.

The automatic systems in place are the sympathetic (SNS) and parasympathetic (PNS) nervous systems. The SNS arouses use to action when necessary and the PNS works to regain control and establish a balance in your body. The snapping back of your body from the arousal to an attempt at normalcy can be a dangerous condition. Napoleon said, "The moment of greatest vulnerability is the instant immediately after victory." It may not only be a physical collapse but also a dangerous mental collapse as well.

Maintaining good sleep habits, which would include a minimum of 7-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep, is very important to aid in the bodies' maintenance. Less than that places unneeded stress on the body. There is an amount of stress is actually beneficial, however, that is caused by increasing your heart rate. The increase must be caused by SNS arousal. Heart rate increases caused by exercise will not have the same effect. The authors emphasize that the numbers are not precise and different people will have different experiences depending on factors such as training and physical fitness levels.

Of particular interest is the fact that it appears that an hormonal induced heart rate of 115-145 bpm produces an optimal level of performance in those skills most necessary for combat and survival. Complex motor skills, visual reaction time and cognitive reaction time are all at their peak.

The reason for bringing this information to the reader's attention is to emphasize the importance of realistic and stressful training which can create almost an "autopilot" response to a deadly threat. It is also important not to allow your heart rate to climb too much higher than 145 bpm. Generally, your skill level and reaction times begin to deteriorate when heart rates go beyond 145 bpm.

One major way to combat stress and its negative effects is through tactical breathing. The authors describe that there are only two autonomic nervous system actions you can consciously control; breathing and blinking. Of the two, controlling your breathing will be of great benefit during a stressful situation. You can decrease your heart rate by practicing tactical breathing. The breaths should be deep `belly breaths', that is, during inhaling, your stomach expands like a balloon. Each step is done while mentally counting to four. The four simple steps to this breathing are:

In through the nose, two, three, four.

Hold two, three, four.

Out through the lips two, three, four.

Hold two, three, four.

This tactical breathing sequence is most effective when repeated at least four times.

Section two of the book discusses the possible perceptual distortions that may occur during a lethal force encounter. The authors use information collected by Dr. Alexis Artwohl and Loren Christensen in preparation for the writing of their book, Deadly Force Encounters. The findings were based on a survey of 141 officers. These findings described the most common distortions that occurred.

Perceptual Distortions in Combat

85% Diminished sound (auditory exclusion)

16% Intensified sounds

80% Tunnel vision

4% Automatic pilot ("scared speechless")

72% Heightened visual clarity

65% Slow motion time

16% Fast motion time

7% Temporary paralysis

51% Memory loss for parts of the event

47% Memory loss for some of the subject's actions

40% Dissociation (detachment)

26% Intrusive distracting thoughts

22% Memory distortions

It is important to note that some people may have experienced more than one type of distortion while others experience none at all. Again, having knowledge of a possible experiential distortion will prepare an officer for its occurrence, thereby providing an `inoculation' against its effects.

Section three describes the mental attitude necessary to be a warrior. The book goes into greater detail about stress inoculation and its importance to effective, realistic training. There are also some important training principles outlined.

Principle 1: Never "Kill" a Warrior in Training. Learners are expected to complete a scenario even if hit, stabbed or shot. As a trainer, tell them, "You're not dead until I tell you you're dead!" Don't give up, always win.

Principle 2: Try to Never Send a Loser off Your Training Site. Have your participants go through a scenario as many times as necessary in order to have them succeed. Scenarios designed to make the trainee look foolish or fail just prove that the training designers are jerks.

Principle 3: As a Trainer, Never Talk Trash about Your Students. Don't ridicule or try to tell funny stories about the last trainee who tried to complete your scenario. Your role as a trainer/leader is not only to pass along knowledge but also to inspire. You cannot do this when you are not respected. If criticism is to be given, give it in private. If praise is warranted, do so publicly.

Encourage your learners not to worry over a `bad' day of training. Fix the problem, correct the deficiency, strive to improve and move on.

The will to do the job (kill if necessary) is sometimes enough to change a situation from one of having to use lethal force to something less. The determination to perform the ultimate act may be perceived by the intended recipient of your force and in itself be enough to deter their actions. If you've got that steel-eyed certainty in your eyes, the bad guy may not wish to actually test your resolve. You are the weapon; everything else is just a tool.

Your resolve to succeed must include the possibility of losing some blood. You can loose a half-gallon of blood and your body will continue to mechanically function. Ceasing to fight before that much blood is lost is due to a lack of will, not lack of hydraulics.

You need three very simple things in order to survive a lethal encounter; the right weapon, the skill to use that weapon, and the mental decision to use that weapon, even if it means that someone may die. This decision must be made well in advance of a time during the confrontation with the deadly threat. At the time you are confronted with violence is not the time to wonder whether or not you can respond with deadly force if necessary.

The remaining chapters in this section discuss the history of weaponry (and its effect on combat), and some superior reasoning for the increase in school violence. Although both subjects were interesting, I chose not to include them in this review since my emphasis was on the mental and emotional preparation for deadly force use.

The fourth and last section of the book deals with the aftermath; what does a person feel like after they have taken a life. One of the most common reactions expressed is relief, "Better him than me". This feeling can often lead to guilt of sorts, "Why did he make me kill him". Although the feeling of relief is perfectly natural, allowing that to progress into guilt is not. After all, winning a deadly force encounter is certainly cause to feel happy about being alive.

The authors contend that there are ways of handling an emotional upheaval such as having to kill someone. First, you cannot act like it did not happen. You should talk about it, preferably with a mental health professional. Second, after a year or so has passed, you should not be unduly affected emotionally by remembering the event. As the authors put it, "The memory must be separated from the emotion." If the fear of the repeat of such an event has a significant negative impact on your day to day life you should seek the help of a mental health professional. Examples of this could include; not being able to go near the area an event occurred without feeling anxiety or having nightmares about the event.

The critical incident debrief is also an excellent way to assist personnel in getting through what can be an emotionally tough time. By debriefing we can reconstruct the event in hopes of finding out what worked and what didn't. We can also fill in the holes (if any exist) by bringing all involved parties together and thereby get a much better overall view of the incident. A positive emotional side-effect of this is that pain shared with others is divided amongst the group and not the sole burden of any one person. Additionally, joy shared is multiplied and everyone can feel better at another person's accomplishment and success.

Another important way to assist is simply by letting your friend or loved one know that you are glad they are O.K. It is not necessary to try and approve or justify their actions but just let them know that you are happy that they're O.K. An offer of your personal time to listen or help with anything else they might need would go far in letting them know how important that they are.

One of the last points to be made in this book is the idea of justice not vengeance. Although not considered to be a major problem in law enforcement, it is nonetheless important to emphasize that killing, when justified and necessary, is not something to be glorified or celebrated. It is just something that is. When forced to kill another human being is not something we do with a hatred of the crook or glee at their demise. We just do it. We must strive to dispassionately but effectively protect others as well as ourselves.

Steve Winchell is a 27 year veteran of southern California law enforcement. He has been a firearms instructor for the past 9 years. For the past 3 years he has been a full time member of the San Diego County Sheriff's Department Weapons Training Unit.
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on May 27, 2005
After reading "ON COMBAT", I bought 2 more copies for relatives in law enforcement and another 8 copies for the Sheriff's Office I work for. As a person with over 25 years in law enforcement and a tour in Vietnam, I highly recommend this book for anyone in law enforcement, the military, and their families.

It not only provides a wealth of information on surviving deadly force encounters, both physically and mentally, but it does so in a very easy to read format. Everyone I loan my copy to says they hate to put it down once they start it.

The book contains many insightful first-hand accounts from people who have been in deadly force encounters.

I was so impressed with the book, I added a 1 hour segment to my law enforcement 1st Aid /CPR courses to share highlights from "On Combat" with my fellow officers because it offers much that can enhance their safety and their well being.

The section dealing with the influence of violent video games on our children and their desensitization to violent behavior is something every parent should know.

If you are a cop, a soldier, or a trainer of either, this book should be required reading!
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on October 17, 2005
Overall a very good book which breaks down the effects of combat into detail. The book is divided in to four chapters:

1: The Physiology of Combat:The anatomy of the Human body in Battle.

This section gives a great insight into rationalising combat (those working with the law e.g. police, army etc.) the effects of experiencing a tramatic situation and analysing different levels of fear.

2: Perceptual distortions in combat: An Altered State of consciousness.

Very interesting section of the book, examines some of the reactions a person may experience during combat such as slow motion time. This part of the book is most appealing as anyone can read and take on board the various effects and be better prepared if they are ever in a violent/fearful situation.

3: The call to combat: Where do we get such men?

This section gives an insight into army/police training how to overcome stress and fear. It can also be applied by the average reader if they engage in any martial arts or other contact sport. Throw's light on the strength and will to live in near death situations and how mental attitude can carry you to surviving a dangerous situation.

4: The price of combat: After the smoke clears

This section examines the after effects of combat and is mainly applicable to those returning from war or were in the army. Some still carry the burden of what they saw, did or didnt do etc and gives tips on how to help them re-integrate in 'normal' society.

Overall, the book was an interesting read, a lot of examples used are American (as is the book) and would be great for anyone working in law enforcement/ the army.

For the average person reading this book most of it is interesting. You can apply the some of the learning and perhaps handle an unexpected situation much better. However, some of the information can sound like Americans blowing there own horn as they are fine examples of warriers and they are principled people (shame about those abusing their authority as seen on the news).

This book is quite easy to read, last chapter not very relevant if your not in the army but well written and makes you much more aware and sympathetic to understanding combat.
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on March 8, 2007
This book was recommended to me by a fellow police officer after I was involved in a shooting. I did not read it until a month after my incident. Everything in the book seem to relate to what I was going through. I then realized what I was going through was normal, and that I was going to be alright. This book truely helped me get over a difficult time in my life.
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on February 23, 2005
Lt.Col. Grossman has written an exemplary work on the realities of combat. This is another must read for those who go " . . . willingly into the heart of darkness, into the toxic, corrosive, destructive realm of combat." Lt. Col. Grossman incorporates many of the old studies with new research to give us a better understanding of what to expect, and what to do, during combat. He presents it in a manner which is easy to comprehend, yet interesting to read.

For more than 25 years I've worked in and studied this field, and reading Lt. Col. Grossman's book has helped to put all those years of experience and training into a better perspective. All new "warriors" should read this book before picking up a weapon and heading out onto the streets or into the bush. They must be prepared mentally, as well as physically, and must ask themselves if they can do this. Only then would they be ready for what they will experience.
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on November 4, 2011
There is nothing scientific about this book, and there is very little "science" in it even by way of citation. If you bother to look at the bibliography you will see that the number of listed references are miniscule for a book of this size and especially for one that purports to cover such a wide range of subject matter. For the most part, ON COMBAT: The Psychology and Physiology of Deadly Conflict in War and Peace, is a collection of second, third, and fourth hand war stories as told by (usually unnamed) American soldiers and police officers. "A swat team officer once told me...." is the basic format, and the book reads like an extended gunshop counter type of conversation. Mixed in is an enormous amount of shameless and disingenuous self-promotion. As you might have guessed from the above summary, the book's author, Dave Grossman, isn't overly concerned with facts.

I find it extremely disturbing that this book is taken seriously by professionals in police and military circles.

The loose thinking and fact manipulating style (nothing in this book is relayed in an objective way, everything is carefully characterized) of the writing and content in ON COMBAT led me to look more deeply into some of the more important stories that the author focuses on. The two examples that I looked at were damning enough to make me extremely skeptical about anything this author has written.

In the first example that I looked into, on page 145, at the beginning of a new chapter (Section Three, Chapter One), Grossman has an extended (four pages long) quote taken from the book of Charles "Commando" Kelly, a US soldier who received a medal of honor in WWII. Grossman cites Kelly's war story as, "an excellent example of what really happens in combat."

There are a few problems with this war story. First of all, it (written by Kelly) seems to paint Kelly as a kind of superman and describes all the other soldiers who were with him as if they basically weren't there. That alone should raise red flags about the veracity of the story. Looking into the story more deeply, I discovered that it came from a book published in 1944 (i.e. during WWII), that the book was a compilation of a five part article that had appeared in the Saturday Evening Post that year, and that at the time Charles Kelly was part of a group of US infantrymen who were touring the country selling war bonds. Essentially, the book was wartime propaganda. It's certainly not a serious historical account of anything, it's not a remotely objective account, not a remotely verified account -- it was an "as told to" story in the Saturday Evening Post! But, even taken at face value (which is how Grossman takes it), the account of Kelly's combat experiences is completely anomalous, that's why it became famous in the first place. To describe it as "what really happens in combat" is an amazing misuse of the words.

It's mystifying how Grossman can on the one hand describe at length the common knowledge phenomenon that people in combat (or similarly intense) situations often experience memory disturbances and are unreliable narrators about the events that they experienced, and then take war story after war story at face value without even the smallest grain of salt. War stories (whether told by soldiers, police, or criminals) are well known to be unreliable, in fact they are known to often be outright lies, and this isn't some new knowledge or phenomenon it is a common knowledge of humanity that goes back to the beginnings of written human history. When someone tells you how great he was and what a hero he was in battle, you can't trust the factuality of his account even if he is trying to be completely honest about what happened to him. Grossman knows this and it is a fact described in his book, but he mysteriously ignores it and takes the vast majority of anecdotal accounts that form the backbone of the book at face value.

The Kelly story was bad enough, but it is mainly questionable in the way it was presented and the ingenuousness of the author in accepting the story at face value. Although the Kelly story is probably not factually accurate and it is highly likely that interviews with some of the other soldiers who were with Corporal Kelly would reveal a very different story (as is nearly always the case, which is why detectives and journalists interview "multiple witnesses" when conducting an investigation, not only one witness), it remains possible that the Kelly story is factually accurate. That is not the case in the second story that I looked further into.

In Section Two, Chapter Two, Grossman focuses his analysis and reasoning on the story of school shooter Michael Carneal, who shot eight other students at his high school in Paducah, Kentucky (it was West Paducah, incidentally, but Grossman isn't concerned with details). Grossman uses the story of Michael Carneal to illustrate his idea that teenagers are being trained to be efficient combat shooters by video games, because Carneal shot eight shots and hit eight different students, five of them in the head. "We know that game training was a key factor in attaining this kind of marksmanship skills," Grossman says.

He goes on to say something even stranger:

"When I train elite military and law enforcement organizations such as the FBI, Green Berets, LAPD SWAT and Texas Rangers -- warriors highly trained in firearms -- they are stunned when I tell them of this 14-year-old boy's deadly accuracy in the Paducah case. Nowhere in the annals of law enforcement, military, or criminal history can we find an equivalent achievement."

Nowhere in the annals of law enforcement, military, or criminal history? Amazing! I'm not even an expert on the subject and I know of multiple shooting examples that were more remarkable or equivalent to that achieved by this school shooter, even if we take the story at face value as described by Grossman.

But of course we should not take the story at face value, and unfortunately Grossman is not a reliable source. Grossman claims that Carneal's transition from a video game "trainer" to real firearms practice only occurred on the night before the shooting, when he fired two clips through the pistol that he used in the shooting the next morning. But cursory research reveals that Carneal had first learned to fire a gun in 4H and had practiced shooting in the past with a friend of his and the friend's father. Grossman says that Carneal trained "on the simulator every night for hours on end", but there seems to be little evidence of that. In 1997, when the shooting occurred, there were not very many realistic shooting games available, and in a detailed analysis of the Carneal shooting by the National Academies of Press, the only named violent video games that they cite Carneal as having been a fan of are Mortal Kombat and MechWarrior (neither of which is a shooting game).

That aside, Grossman seems anxious not to let the context of the shooting get in the way of the characterization he wants to make and the conclusions he wants to draw from it. Carneal shot from close range into a group of 25-30 students in a prayer circle. Witnesses said he fired three shots slowly and carefully and then five in rapid succession. From close range, firing into a prayer circle of 25-30 students, and with your first three shots carefully taken, there is nothing at all surprising about hitting eight different students or hitting five of them in the head. Incidentally, only three of the students died (perhaps the first three who Carneal took careful aim on?), suggesting that Carneal's "five headshots" as described by Grossman were not the superhuman feats of marksmanship that Grossman tries to convey. From close range, pointing a pistol at someone's head and shooting it is not difficult even for someone who has never fired a gun before (I have seen novice shooters point a pistol free handed and unaimed at a grapefruit six or seven feet away and have no trouble hitting it, for example), and Carneal had practiced with guns before and knew how to aim. Firing into a prayer circle while they are conducting prayers in front of their high school is also quite a bit different from the combat shooting situations that Grossman attempts to compare the Carneal shooting to (can you say 'shooting ducks in a barrel'?), as is firing a .22 caliber handgun as opposed to the higher caliber handguns that police and military use. And it is not surprising that when shooting five shots rapidly (after the first three "slow" shots described by witnesses) from close range into a group of 25-30 students in a prayer circle the shots would hit five different students. Carneal himself said he was just firing at random (although Grossman doesn't believe him because of Carneal's "superhuman marksmanship skills").

It's also strange that Grossman attributes Carneal's hit ratio to "superhuman marksmanship skills" gained through many hours of playing video games and does not consider the role of luck in Carneal's shooting. Incredible "lucky shot" shooting incidents are not at all unheard of in combat (or police work), nor are incidents where targeted individuals emerge miraculously unhit from a seemingly unsurvivable barrage of gunfire. When people start shooting at each other there is an enormous degree of luck involved as to where the bullets end up, and this is common knowledge.

Grossman goes on to describe how Carneal's video game training resulted in him calmly stopping and putting down his gun when ordered firmly to do so by the school principal, which is completely factually incorrect. In the early stories of the shooting it was widely reported that another student, Ben Strong (not the principal who came after Carneal had already put the gun down), ordered Carneal to stop and Carneal then put the gun down. Upon further investigation this story turned out not to be true, Ben Strong was eventually exposed for promoting himself and his heroism to the media when he actually did nothing heroic during the shooting and became unpopular among many at the high school because of this, and witnesses to the shooting (including, eventually, Strong himself) reported that Carneal simply stopped shooting of his own accord after the first eight shots and set his gun down. All of this information was available well before Grossman's book was published, as, for example, in an article that the New York times wrote about the aftermath of the incident in July, 2000.

What is perhaps even more disturbing than Grossman's blatant factual inaccuracy and credulousness in the face of uncorroborated war stories, is his rah-rah portrayal of soldiers and other "warriors" (very loosely defined by Grossman to include basically anyone who wants to be special) as a breed of humans that are separate and different from everyone else. These "warriors" are "sheepdogs" in Grossman's terminology while the vast majority of human beings are simply "sheep". This conceptualization is not logically consistent with Grossman's analysis of the physiological and psychological consequences of combat (which don't discriminate between different classes of humans), but logical consistency is not something Grossman seems to be concerned with. What is particularly disturbing is the possibility that professional "warriors" will take this idea of their specialness and superiority to heart, which is not rational and not reality. I find it hard to believe that this irrational mentality of superiority and superhuman-ness would lead to more effective combat judgment and performance. In all of the more sober accounts of combat that I have encountered from (often heroic) war veterans, the reality that we are all human beings and subject to human limitations, that no one is special or "a breed apart", and that combat involves an enormous amount of damn luck, are some of the most important take-aways from their experience. "Sheepdogs" and innocent children die just as easily from a bullet through the brain, and believing in your own superiority and superhumanness is rarely an effective long term strategy for success at anything in life. The Japanese had their code of Bushido in WWII, which was not all that different from the "sheepdog" characterizations and "warrior" cult that Grossman espouses, and it was crushed in battle by American pragmatism.

I don't want to say that there is no useful information in Grossman's book, but to the extent that there is it is mostly either common knowledge or common sense. Grossman describes individuals defecating themselves in combat as some big revelation or surprise that (paraphrasing) "you won't have learned about this from Hollywood!", but I actually think that this is common knowledge and something that people who have watched a lot of war movies probably will have learned from Hollywood if from nowhere else. Similarly, in his biggest claim to "science", Grossman describes distortions of vision and time that individuals often experience in combat situations, but once again this is common knowledge and not even outside the scope of experience of most civillians, many of whom will have experienced slow-motion time and distorted vision during a bad accident and/or during sports. Grossman goes on at length about how combat training should be as realistic as possible, which is surely true but only common sense. Serious martial arts, including military training of various kinds, have always focused on making their trianing as realistic as possible. Of course, so have surgeons, athletes, lawyers, and basically anyone else in any field of endeavor that is results oriented and has a "game day" aspect. The importance of realistic training to good performance is both common knowledge and common sense.

I was excited to read this book because I thought it would be what it advertised itself as, a serious and reputable analysis of the psychology and physiology of combat. It's not that. If the book helps US soldiers and police officers to feel good about themselves and special about what they are doing then maybe there is some value in it, but I can't help but feel that reality is what is actually important and that positive delusions and self-congratulatory characterizations are still dangerously misleading and can interfere with the effective performance of an individual's duties. If that effective performance of duties involves actual combat, then a book like this could be very destructive. A soldier is not a sheepdog he is an ordinary human being, and so are his comrades at arms, and so are the people they will be in combat against.

Military science is essential, as science is in other fields, but what is found here is barely even a masquerade of it.
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on July 7, 2008
All the information police, soldiers and other warriors have been missing for over fifty years is right here in this solid volume.

Lt Col Grossman and Loren Christensen put it all together. They've created terms we did not know we needed, for things we didn't even know occurred. Grossman has a cute but very apt description of the function of the midbrain, fulfilled by 'the puppy,' as he calls it. He calls fear of human violence the 'universal phobia,' and tells you why it's universal. He gives a brief overview of what happens to your body when 'fight-or-flight' kicks in, then delves deeply into sensory distortions experienced in life-or-death situations. This is only the beginning.

The authors divulge the training a person needs to enter the 'toxic, corrosive realm of combat,' and why we need those who are willing to do so. Stress and fear innoculation, dealing with killing, being wounded, and cultural issues are dealt with in section three.

Sometimes the aftermath is far more traumatic to a person than the 5 minute episode of all hell breaking loose. The authors use almost 100 pages to discuss what happens after the smoke clears: PTSD, debriefings, a full explanation of tactical breathing, guilt, and communicating with those who've been 'there.' Along with the guilt issue, the author also addresses the conflicts that can develop from within because of a person's religious beliefs after killing.

I believe this book to be of immense value to all emergency responders, police, and military personnel. After borrowing it and reading it, I've ordered it and recommended it to just about everyone I know in those communities.

I would have a hard time recommending this book to anyone on the outside, which is part of why I rated it a four. There is a large amount of insider jargon, and a cultural bias, in the warrior community. This will not translate well for those Lt Col Grossman refers to as 'the herd.'

The second reason I gave it a four is the physical quality of the book. The binding seperated from the spine almost immediately, and I can see the cover coming off within a few readings.
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Many of the prior reviews were from those who go into danger to protect our nation and our neighborhoods. Their universal acclaim speaks volumes about the quality and integrity of Grossman's work in providing the tools to perform, sruvive and return.

On another level the book provides the average citizen the start of an understanding of how much different combat ( in Iraq and the liquor store holdup gone wrong) is different from what we see on TV, read in the papers and hear from those "professionals" who regularly review the performance of those who were engaged in combat. The book is a true eyeopener. On a personal level the book helped me understand what happened, how through chance I survived an armed robbery /kidnaping gone wrong.

For the concerned citizen the book serves another purpose and that is to validate Grossman's credentials to have written Stop Teaching Our Children To Kill. Sadly Grossman was not called upon to appear on TV during the non-stop coverage of the Virginia Tech killings. Perhaps the reason the book does not get the coverage it deserves is the direct and indirect threat it poses to much of the media.

Both On Combat and Stop Killing Our Children are great contributions and highly recommended.
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on September 30, 2006
I am a Sniper in a special STRIKE team in the British Army on my second tour of Iraq. This book is one of the best books I have had the privilege to read. It gave me the tools I needed to go from shooting at great distances under pressure and then picking up my hart-rate to go into a hostile house to arrest the target. It has done more than just that, it has helped me understand who I am and why I am.
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