A Close Call…Lessons Learned


I live in the Reno, NV area and we were fear-struck by a “serial killer” on the loose. There were four murders in a matter of two weeks which is unheard of for these parts. They have since arrested a suspect but people are still on edge and gun sales are the highest I’ve ever seen them here. Everyone is a bit on edge but that being said, life goes on. My activities haven’t changes but my level of awareness is a little higher though I am usually fairly vigilant anyway.

So last night about 9:15pm, my teenage daughter and I went to our gym. This isn’t a public gym but one that is part of a private housing community. It’s gated and requires multiple levels of badge access to get into the gym itself.  That’s better security than most facilities but not fool-proof my any means.

We had finished our workout, leaving one other woman in the weights area to continue her night. We went to the locker-room preparing to leave. Suddenly a loud male voice yells out on the main gym floor.  Neither of us could make out what he said but it was alarming. Immediately, we grabbed the pepper spray and knife I keep in my gym bag.  I didn’t have my handgun with me, I had left it in the truck. A decision I immediately regretted and have since remedied.

Alarmed, my daughter and I immediately constructed a plan. The locker-room only had one exit and it led directly into the area the voice came from. Being trapped without an alternate exit was not ideal. We decided that I would take the weapons and take point leaving the area with her within an arm’s reach behind me. Intentionally, I flung my gym bag over my left shoulder and put the knife in my left hand, pepper-spray in my right. I am right-handed and I train to not carry things on my dominate side because of the grasp-reflex that often prevents us from dropping a held object when we are ambushed thus I had the less effective weapons on my left.

We began to make our way toward the main exit, cautiously checking each section using the gym mirrors to gain greater vantage before proceeding to the next section. We made our way to the exit door which led to a well-lit walkway, still inside a gated section of the community. As we exited, from a darkened area about 15 yards away, the same male voice yelled “Goodnight!” with a tone of anger and contempt.

I knew we were steps away from turning a corner that would afford us cover and a directly line to the exit gate. So we quickly proceeded to round the corner and ran for the gate, to my truck parked nearby. We safely got in the truck and drove away.

Here are some of my after-action thoughts on the event.

1 – I am incredibly grateful that I have invested resources in training for my daughter. She’s skilled with a firearm, pepper-spray, edged weapons and is a hell-cat if physically attacked. More than that she remained calm, she took action and operated with intention. She recognized that there was a potential situation developing and she worked as a team to move to safety.

2 – I am grateful that I had a couple tools at my disposal but realize I can do more to prepare in the future. There are also times when we can’t have any weapons but we can improvise and we need a plan for that.

3 – Being aware of your exits, physical location and options is critical in developing a plan quickly. Using the mirrors and positions of advantage (angles and concealment matter). I am confident that this mindset saved my life during the Route 91 mass-shooting.

4 – I was aware that another woman was potentially in danger. However, my goal was to get my daughter and myself to safety.  In many of the classes I teach, I admonish students to be clear about their own personal rules of engagement prior to a critical incident.  For me, it’s a bit of a hierarchy and may vary depending on the scenario.  Last night, my daughter and I were my priority.  The other woman was on her own until I knew what was happening.  If I had walked out and found her being assaulted, I am confident that my daughter and I would likely have intervened on her behalf.  But that wasn’t the case and my priority was to move to a position of safety as quickly as possible.

Overall, it was a good learning experience and I’m pleased with how things turned out. You never know how you will truly react until you are put a situation like that.  I was very grateful that the training I’ve done over the years have given me tools that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. Panic happens when you feel helpless, presence of mind comes from preparedness.

There is no way of knowing what was really happening last night or if we were actually in danger. As an instructor I like to say “You win 100% of the fights you aren’t in”. I consider last night a win.

Are you prepared for situations like this? I want to hear what you would have done.  Share your thoughts!


Female Army Rangers – Is this really who we want to be?

army-logoThis week it was announced that for the first time in history, two women graduate from the Army Ranger program. That is no easy task so I have respect for anyone who graduates the program. But before we all get out our “girl power” shirts and sing “I am woman, hear me roar”, we need to a bit of a gut check. Do we really want women in combat roles? Is that who we want to be? Prepare to have some ruffled feather’s y’all.

When I was a young girl, my mother often told me I could be anything I wanted to be and I believed her. Being a “tom-boy” and being bit rebellious at heart, I often saw boundaries as a challenge. The more someone told me that a girl couldn’t do something, the more I enjoyed proving them wrong. It was a personal mission to be the girl who defied gender boundaries. I was the first girl to play on the middle school football team. First girl to join my high school wrestling team.

During my first wrestling match, something very interesting happened that has taken me years to fully understand. My first opponent was a young boy who looked scared out his mind. He pulled the referee aside and asked him if he could wrestle me like he does the boys. After all, wrestling is a very “hands-on” sport and you often grab each other in intimate areas, etc. He hesitantly joined me on the mat and when the match started, I completely dominated this poor boy. Not because I was a better wrestler, but because he had reservations about how he should interact with me. It clouded his judgment and ability to engage me like he would a male opponent. Then he had to navigate all the ridicule from his peers about being beat by a girl – oh the horror!

I still have a bit of that rebellious “tom-boy” (ok more than a bit) but I have come to appreciate the differences between men and women. I still work in a male-dominated industry, I participate in activities traditionally reserved for men, I shoot big guns and I drive a big bold truck. But there are limits.

This week’s newsfeeds were filled with praise for these women graduating but I think we are missing something very important.

Men and women are equal in value. Each is the unique creation and image-bearer of God. But that is not to say that we are created equally. The truth is that we are created differently – by design. In today’s world, Bruce can declare he is now Caitlyn but that doesn’t mean he’s a woman capable of bearing children. Rachel Dolezal can claim to be Black but that doesn’t change her DNA. Declaring that women can do anything a man can do, doesn’t’ make it a reality. Reality is composed of facts not perceptions.

Look the recent push for women to serve in combat roles – Female Ranger, SEALs, etc. In the pursuit of political correctness we have reduced the standards so women can be “equal” to men – it’s called Gender Norming (Let me google that for you). Women just can’t perform at the same physical levels as men and so we have changed the standard. What’s wrong with that?

They are called standards for a reason! Standards ensure that everyone has the same skills and abilities so that they can be called upon to perform at a certain level. Reducing the requirements so that women can graduate is a false achievement and endangers the rest of the unit. How many women can fireman-carry an injured 200lb man with a 70lb ruck and carry him to safety? None that I know of. This scenario is likely to occur and if she can’t perform at the same physical level as her fellow soldiers, she isn’t an asset – she is a liability!

Let’s assume that woman who is a genetic anomaly is able to pass the same physical rigors as the male candidates. Should she then be deployed with an otherwise all-male unit?

How are we going to handle issues of biology? No one wants to discuss it but it’s a reality that must be dealt with. Will she require special segregated housing because she is the only female? How are we going to handle the hygiene issues associated with menstruation while on a desert patrol? What about her significant strength and energy loss prior to menstruation each month? What if she becomes pregnant and must be taken off the line? That seems to have been a waste of resources invested in a soldier that is no longer useful.

Let’s assume we are ok with all the caveats associated with biology. What about our morality?

We used to be a country that protected our women as a precious resource. The bearers of life. The heart of a family and by extension, our communities. What does it say about us if we decide to send them into the line of fire? Are we prepared to stomach the realities of our women being captured by enemies like ISIS who show no mercy? Anyone remember PFC Jessica Lynch?  We were appalled at her capture but now we realize how fortunate she was to not have fallen prey to the enemy that roams that land today. Do we really want to be a nation that sacrifices our women on the altar of progress?

How do we ask the male members of the unit to interact with her? Does it change the dynamic of the unit? How do we deal with men’s inherent desire to protect women who are in danger? How do we minimize the risk of sexual assault or relations? Like the boy in the wrestling match, there are a lot of unanswered questions about how to navigate such an intimate interaction where lives are at stake.

Pretending there aren’t differences is not helping anyone. In fact it’s putting us all at risk. Our families, our soldiers, our national soul is at stake here. Who we are as a people hangs in the balance.

It’s ok for men and women to be different. It doesn’t make one weaker than the other. It doesn’t devalue women. The opposite is true, we find strength in our differences.

Is that really how you see me?

Have you ever wondered how other people see you? It’s likely they see you differently than you expect.
This past weekend I travelled to Phoenix, Arizona. And something interesting happened.

The people I was meeting with are highly respected in the firearms industry. I have admired them from afar for several years and had a bit of a “fan girl” moment when I met them earlier this year at SHOT Show.

We had been talking for several hours about my plan to gain a foothold in the industry, when one of the gentlemen leaned across the table, looked me straight in the eye and emphatically exclaimed “YOU ARE BAD ASS!” followed by his reasons for believing that.

I laughed to myself, “Me? You must have the wrong person!”

Life is a constant duel between perception and reality. – Sony Long

Perceptions are a tricky thing and I am my own worst enemy. He saw me in a way I was unable or unwilling to see myself.

Now, working in the firearms industry which often prizes masculinity and relegates women to “eye candy”, I found myself falling into the same trap – I have to work twice as hard to gain credibility. I was measuring my success on a false premise – perception.

The comment, made by a man I hold in high regard, was a bit of a wake-up call. He had a perception of me that I hadn’t considered possible. In the end, I think we are both right. I am a bit of a “BAD ASS” but I still have more work to do. Don’t we all?

The reality is this: We are all a work in progress, never fully realizing our potential. But we should strive to fulfill the purpose we were created for, utilizing our gifting and not let the perceptions hold us back.