Something happened to me over the past year – as if a switch flipped in my mind. All of a sudden, I can’t get enough of life and want to savor its experiences. Perhaps I’ve clocked too many years in the proposal war room, stayed up late nights seven days a week building a business for too long, and spent every free moment with my kids. Maybe I blew a circuit at one of the Chuck E. Cheese birthday parties. I am not yet at the BASE jumping stage, but I find myself fantasizing vividly about stuff like catching a jet ride to a classroom in another state with the top guns I will be training. This from a person who finds even the kids’ rollercoaster terrifying!
So recently, when a LivingSocial adventure for a day in weapons training and extreme driving crossed my inbox, I jumped at the chance. I have written numerous proposals for the Department of Defense and other agencies, and figured it was time to have a first-hand experience living the subject matter I’ve written about. The morning of my outing, I drove down to G4S ITI in Shacklesford, VA—a training facility for people deploying to conflict zones, special ops, SWAT teams, police, and assorted other pro warriors. With my husband on kid duty at home and my dad in tow, I ventured to try something I thought I would never do.
Our instructors were truly bada$$. They were being sweet and lighthearted, trying to be super-gentle with us, the tourists. They wouldn’t have been nearly as scary had they worn a non-smiling, dark glasses-sporting cool. Truly skilled and strong people don’t have to overcompensate to look the part.
After some scenario-based training, our first assignment was to storm a house and participate in force-on-force encounters with Glock 17 air pistols. I was teamed with a passel of burly guys who seemed a tad confused. Having donned my Hannibal Lecter mask, I took charge and made sure we all had clear roles and responsibilities. We ran into the dark building with blasting music, multiple doors, explosions, and smoke. We breached doors and tried to distinguish people from mannequins, trying not to shoot the hostages and not to get shot—I was told air pistols leave a bruise.
My instincts kicked in with adrenaline—all of a sudden I could see more and move faster, keeping up with the instructor who was kicking in doors. I ended up shooting the pretend terrorist execution style while avoiding his shots, and dragging the hostage out with the help of another dude. To my surprise, this exercise boosted my confidence— and reminded me that proposal leadership skills translate directly into any field.
One lesson learned I hope to never use is to play dead if a SWAT team enters the building you are in, as it’s easy to get shot in all the confusion. One instructor commented amusingly, “look at them, so cute, with their fingers on the triggers…” Apparently you are not supposed to have your finger on the trigger. Oops.
Our next adventure took place next to a dismembered airplane (no doubt used for training) that looked a tad sinister near a firing range. I got to practice firing rounds from an MP5, an M4, and a Glock 17 at a variety of targets. I got about a third of my rounds into the targets with MP5, but had more than 90% accuracy with M4. I don’t shoot or own guns, and am generally a peace-loving person. But I always felt unprepared for a situation where I’d have to defend myself or my family –
so it was nice to learn how a gun works.I thought my photos with the weapons looked pretty deadly. If it weren’t against my philosophy to threaten deadline violators on my proposal team with bodily harm, I would parade these pictures in front of them. Instead, I get to just enjoy the idea and never exe cute it. Perhaps. (Muahahaha!)
After the shooting, we all put on helmets and headed to a driving course, where we got hands-on lessons in backing in an alley at a high speed, ramming a vehicle to get it out of the way, and assorted other fun. J-turns were really cool to watch, but as I got in the car and did it over and over again, my enthusiasm faded away. The screeching tires, suffocating rubber smoke, and an instructor (not in the car with me) screaming “GAS, GAS, GAS!!!” over the radio as I was trying to stand in my seat, see out of the back windshield like it was my front windshield, and back across the course at a speed I hardly thought safe – and then spin the wheel, switch gears, and hit gas again—left me dizzy with fear. I did it over and over again. It got overwhelming, but the instructor talked me into seeing the maneuver to the end. I was relieved when it was over.
The pursuit immobilization maneuver they taught me next got my spirits up, however, as I spend too much time in DC traffic. I will never look at the congestion the same way—because now I know exactly in what spot I could push the car ahead of me off the road, tail-spinning out of my way. It’s a safe bet I will never use this maneuver, but I find it amusing to contemplate it as someone rudely cuts me off.
We topped off the day accompanying an instructor who put all the moves together with us. At that point I was jaded and having pure fun— which is a testament to the fact that humans get used to anything pretty quickly – even shots and vehicle chases. I am still not sure that I am ready for a rollercoaster—although I suspect they are safer.
I don’t know if I’m having a midlife crisis—I won’t own up to it until I buy a red sports car. But I want to remind you to have a bit more fun in life, as we muddle through long proposal sections, struggle with the deadlines, and deal with assorted difficult personalities. Do something you thought you’d never do. Push the boundaries. Dare to live. It’s so worth it.