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Use of force is an area where military veterans possess a unique set of skills given their experiences. This can be extremely valuable to security managers.

Earlier in 2021, Dustin Salomon, CPP contributed an article to Security Management magazine regarding the shifts in training that are needed regarding security guard use of force. The ASIS Blog asked him to share his perspective on exactly what these skills are and what we can learn from former members of the armed forces especially when tackling the issue of use of force.

"What unique perspective/skills do former members of the armed forces who possess combat-related skills bring when tackling the issue of use of force and what can civilian security professionals takeaway from them?"

The security industry is a natural career transition for veterans. Military life develops many important skills and personal traits for a security practitioner such as fitness, discipline, time awareness, attention to detail, command presence, and the capabilities to understand and follow post orders, manage stress and perform under pressure.

These are all valuable for security work. However, use of force is an area where military veterans may uniquely possess skills and experiences that can be extremely valuable to security managers.

Those who have training and experience in combat-related skills may have personal experience with real-world threats and in using physical force against other people. They will certainly have training in these areas that, in most cases, exceeds that which is available to civilians.

This is valuable in terms of a security practitioner’s skills and physical capability during a use-of-force situation. However, what is likely to be of even more value is a veteran’s greater likelihood of keeping a cool head under pressure.

The first time that a person experiences a threatening situation can be unnerving and even debilitating—even in training. Security providers with combat-related military training and experience are more likely to stay calm, make good decisions, and perform well in a fight than those without comparable training or experience.

Veterans also have training in how think tactically, and in how to prepare for success against real threats. The military teaches many valuable tools for managing information, managing risk, prioritizing, planning, training, and making important decisions quickly, with limited information. It is in these areas that military veterans can bring the greatest benefit to security professionals who do not have comparable experience.

Consider asking persons with these backgrounds to share their knowledge about analysis and planning. Ask them to help evaluate threats and risk; they may see risks others will not. Solicit advice about how the organization can improve its use-of-force readiness—to include understanding of terrain, skills performance, mobility, and communication. Ask veterans how the security operation can apply military thinking and planning tools to improve its readiness and ability to succeed against a real-world threat.

When engaging in these types of discussions with military veterans, especially those with combat experience, it is often helpful to understand that there is a difference between many military objectives and security force objectives. For example, the basic mission of the infantry in the U.S. Marine Corps is, “Seek out, close with, and destroy the enemy.”

A prior Marine with infantry experience is used to thinking tactically with this objective in mind. This Marine likely possesses both planning tools and thinking processes that are extraordinarily valuable for security operations; however, they may need to be focused towards accomplishing different objectives than he or she was previously accustomed to.

As a security professional, one of the best ways to take advantage of employees’ military experience is to provide alternative objective(s), then ask them to apply the analysis, planning, and decision-making skills that they learned in the military to help the organization improve and prepare to accomplish them.

The Author recommends creating drafts of two short documents. These may be half a page or less and consist of just a few bullet points. Drafts are recommended because experienced veterans are likely to provide extremely valuable input on the contents.

The first is a Mission Statement, or equivalent. If there are multiple missions, they should be prioritized. For example, a security force may be charged with protecting both human life and property. In most circumstances, human life would likely be considered more important. This document defines priorities of objective.

The second document is something the military would call Priorities of Work. This document defines priorities of method. It should prioritize the different options for action that the security organization can use to accomplish its objective(s).

For example, a security organization may prefer that a security threat who is damaging property simply be contained while the security force waits for public sector law enforcement to arrive and make an arrest. Should there instead be a threat to human life, however, the same security organization may prefer that the security force immediately intervene to stop the threat, using force if necessary.

Security providers will succeed in use-of-force and other tactical situations, not by restricting their workforce, but by empowering it to make decisions and take effective action. The key to maximizing an organization’s chances of success is preparation, and nobody will have better insight into doing this right than veterans—especially combat veterans.

Military veterans with combat-related skills bring tremendous value to any security organization. Avoid being intimidated by their experiences. Instead, learn to leverage their unique skills and knowledge—especially in the areas of thinking, planning, and decision-making—to improve your organization’s readiness and performance in use of force.


Dustin Salomon, CPP is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, a former U.S. Navy Force Protection Officer afloat, Operations Officer for a Mobile Security Detachment, and close protection security operative and critical threat security manager. Salomon is the Author of Building Shooters: Applying Neuroscience Research to Tactical Training System Design and Training Delivery and is currently the Founder of Building Shooters Technology LLC, a small business that applies brain science and psychology research to develop improved training methods and systems for tactical applications.