Forward Movement Training Center (FMT), located in Meridian, Idaho is an indoor training facility unlike anything you’ll see in the Western United States. It offers 30,000 square feet of space for civilians, law enforcement, and federal personnel to develop the skills and confidence necessary to defend themselves and their families in the event of a home invasion, burglary, carjacking, sexual assault, or other form of attack. In the wake of the recent Las Vegas tragedy among other random shootings and terrorist attacks, it seems the timing of FMT couldn’t be better.
I interviewed Matt Schneider, the owner of FMT, whose resume resembles something out of a blockbuster action movie. Schneider’s experience includes being a sworn deputy for the Ada County Sheriff’s Office, a detention deputy, a patrol deputy, an undercover narcotics detective, a task officer with the U.S. Marshals Violent Fugitive Task Force, and an entry team operator on the Ada Metro SWAT team. He also worked in the Street Crimes Unit, but what he was most interested in sharing was the “how and the why” behind FMT.
“It’s incredible how many people don’t know what they don’t know,” Schneider said. “They don’t know how unprepared they are until they take this training. Taking a class lecture, watching a video, or reading a book creates knowledge through thought, but people learn the most by doing, which creates feeling. That’s when people experience the adrenaline and how difficult it is to make split second lethal force decisions and have realistic considerations, like there being innocents around,” said Schneider.
“When people have guns for self-defense purposes, or when companies train employees about workplace violence, they have to do more than write a policy. We must emphasize these points,” said Schneider.
- What did you do before starting FMT?
My last two full-time assignments with the Sheriff’s Office was being on the SWAT team; I was also an undercover narcotics detective. While working for the Narcotics Unit, we often worked cases that were traced into Mexico – the DEA route. Undercover narcotics and SWAT are the two coolest gigs in law enforcement. I had a big beard and drove a really nice undercover vehicle. When things would go sideways, our SWAT team would be activated. It always made my wife nervous when my phone would go off in the middle of the night – a SWAT call. Often, she’d hear about it on the news before she’d hear from me.
- Did you leave law enforcement to open FMT?
I wanted to do both at first, but FMT needed more attention. I stepped away from the Sheriff’s Office but I’m still an admin reserve. For a minimum of ten hours a month, I get my uniform, check out a police car and go out on a patrol shift.
- Why did you start FMT?
I became an accidental entrepreneur in a lot of ways. It all began when my wife and I went to Newport Beach [California] for a wedding. While there, we visited a bike rental shop on the water and rented beach cruisers. I spoke with the owner who was selling the bike shop. He was older and looking to get out of it and I was immediately interested. I ultimately decided not to pursue that opportunity, but the whole ride home I was thinking, “What can I do?” I was bitten by the entrepreneurial spirit. I reflected on my background and the things I knew well but didn’t exist in our area.
Being on SWAT, I had the opportunity to travel and train with different Special Operation groups. I was familiar with the different training elements that existed from law enforcement and military standpoints. There was nothing like that for locals and civilians in our area. So, I came up with the business model for FMT and opened at the end of 2013.
- Has your B.S. in psychology helped you?
Psychology is a massive part of being successful in the tactics world in an unpredictable environment, such as law enforcement, SWAT and narcotics. As psychology pertains to FMT, we focus on the warrior mindset, mental toughness, and understanding what the brain does when processing stimuluses that put people into “fight or flight.”
With adversity and dynamic chaos situations, it’s important to understand how the mind works. We explain what happens when somebody suddenly finds themselves in a chaotic situation where stimuluses are calling their survival into question. We talk about the amygdala, the part of the brain that’s responsible for the fight, flight, and freeze response and housing memories of fear and pain.
The amygdala is the part of the brain we share with animals; it’s the part that’s kept humanity from extinction. Since the fight or flight response is automatic, when it’s engaged, it causes a whole series of automatic responses in the brain and body. All sorts of bad things can happen automatically if people are not properly trained.
- What types of mistakes do people make?
The body will not go someplace the brain has never gone before. If someone finds themselves in a chaotic situation, somewhere they’ve never been before, fight or flight, and sometime freeze, kicks in automatically, initially via the amygdala. This is where people can make critical mistakes when it comes to the law and responding in a way that the courts would deem reasonable and justified.
When people aren’t trained and act in fight or flight alone, what they do may not end up being lawful. They think they did what they had to do, but they just broke the law. We work on creating reference points in the neocortex. As those problems occur, they can use reason and logic in conjunction with the amygdala, which we call the lizard brain, and make tactically and legally correct decisions. We call this being in a state of “unconscious competence.” Often times referred to by most as “muscle memory.”
- Can teachers use this training?
We teach active shooter/killer response courses to teachers, school administrators and school employees. It’s a hotly debated topic, do we arm teachers or not? In my experience, most teachers don’t want to have a gun. So, we teach them the processes of regaining control in a dynamic situation through disrupting what’s called the OODA Loop, created by Colonel John Boyd, an F-86 pilot. Boyd developed a method to forecast what the adversary was doing in the skies before combat. It stands for observe, orient, decide and act.
The OODA Loop is a four-step process of decision making that is not only reserved for fighter pilots and combat. We observe the change in stimulus, orient ourselves, decide if anything needs to be done and act upon that. How fast you complete the loop depends on how familiar you are with a stimulus. The average person completes the loop in 200 milliseconds if they’re familiar with a stimulus.
For example, if a civilian were driving and a soccer ball were to bounce in front of their vehicle, the process of going from gas to break would be instantaneous. When the brain is familiar with a stimulus, it has a pre-built response, they are unconsciously competent. Conversely, if someone has never been realistically trained to deal with a stimulus that automatically puts them into fight or flight mode, the time it takes them to complete the OODA Loop is much longer, if they can complete it at all.
In the self-defense world, when people observe an unfamiliar and potentially life threatening stimulus, they automatically tap into the lizard brain and without proper reality based training, run the risk of making incorrect and unlawful decisions, and even risk going into Condition Black [the place in combat or a fight where cognitive functions no longer register]. They are conscious and aware of the problem, but don’t know how to respond.
The OODA Loop is locked up between orientation and decision and they can’t make a decision that leads to action. We teach teachers to disrupt the OODA Loop and to become the action, essentially putting the teachers in a position to make the assailant react to them. To illustrate, a bad guy comes into the room and just wants to shoot people. We instruct teachers to throw objects, to swarm and overwhelm the attacker. We teach them how to properly run if they can, effectively barricade a room and hide, and if they have to, as a last resort, how to effectively swarm and fight the attacker(s) to end the attack situation. We teach them that it does not take a gun to beat a gun and to better understand the criminal mindset.
- How do you teach people to survive?
We present every type of realistic circumstance. We coach people on what’s legal and justifiable and what increases survivability. We prebuild those responses into them. In the real world, the brain doesn’t know the difference between simulation and what’s real. How does law enforcement and the military stay focused? It’s all through training. Being there before and having those reference points. Being in the neocortex. It all goes back to, “The body won’t go where the brain has not gone before.”
- Do you travel to people’s homes and businesses?
We do threat assessments and attack response training for homes and businesses. We help home and business owners understand their vulnerability and how to safeguard their structure. Companies contact us wanting to train their employees in active shooter/killer and workplace violence response to adhere to OSHA’s guidelines. Training employees is one aspect, but companies need to look at the vulnerabilities of their structure. Often, it’s an insurance break – they can tell their insurance company that their employees are trained, that the facility has been evaluated and that they’ve incorporated elements to reduce risk.
- What is the VirTra Shooting Simulator?
It’s the same type simulator found in police academies and law enforcement agencies that are willing to spend the money; it’s rare for civilians to have access to its virtual environment. Our clients are presented different scenarios, such as a robbery and active shooter; everything is life-size. Because the brain doesn’t know the difference between simulation and reality, it feels very real. After people go through it, their heart is racing and they’re sweating. It’s common that a significant number of people who have never experienced making a split-second shoot/don’t shoot decision, have a false preconceived idea of what they would do, but realize immediately that they are not practical resolutions – it’s very humbling.
- Do you educate people on their Castle Doctrine laws?
A lot of people have an incorrect sense of the state and federal laws. We educate them on case law and guiding laws, such as Graham vs. Conner and others that surround lethal force. There’s a lot of people who’d rather be judged by twelve vs. carried by six – lots of people subscribe to that but it’s nonsense. There’s a third option where it’s neither. Learn the law, be tactically superior so when all is said and done, there’s no criminal prosecution or critical injury/death.
- Do you teach people to learn the laws on self-defense?
As a general rule, nationwide these laws are the same. There are Supreme Court cases that have laid the groundwork for a civilian involved in a self-defense situation to be able to be found justified in their actions. However, laws surrounding self-defense, such as Castle Doctrine and Stand Your Ground are different from state to state. That’s one of the most frustrating things in Idaho.
We don’t have a Castle Doctrine. If someone comes into my house at 3 am, the burden is on me, the homeowner, to rapidly determine to the best of my ability if the person has the means, ability, and opportunity to cause an imminent threat of great bodily harm or death to me or someone else inside the home. In Idaho, because of a lack of any Castle Doctrine, I must be able to prove that the intruder entered with the intent to violence to occupants inside the home before I am allowed to be justified in using lethal force.
The vast majority of people we talk with about home intruders think that they have an added layer of protection to automatically feel threatened and shoot. They say, “Well, they came into my home uninvited, why would I not feel a threat to life? I would feel that threat and I would shoot.” It’s simply not that easy. Not in Idaho at least. Many people are unfamiliar with the burden of production, which falls on the defendant, who must show their fear was reasonable. If you can’t prove burden of production, you can’t claim self-defense.
- Is physical fitness important for self-defense?
It’s great to have a safe full of guns in case of a zombie apocalypse or if we’re invaded by North Korea, but you’re in trouble if you can’t climb a flight of stairs and have a heart attack. We encourage people to be mentally and physically fit. People have to be able to physically protect themselves. If you go straight to a gun because you can’t last ten seconds in a physical altercation, how will the courts feel about you going straight for a weapon? You’ve got to be physically prepared as much as you are mentally prepared.
- Do you have handgun training?
Everything we do inside FMT is non-live fire. We train basic, intermediate, and advanced handgun and rifle training at on offsite live fire range. Inside our facility and “Scenario Village,” we use Ultimate Training Munitions (UMT). That’s a 9mm for handgun or 5.56 shot out of a rifle. Those are as close as you can get to live rounds. If you’re shot, you know it. Pain is an excellent teacher. If someone is shot, we evaluate and determine what they did wrong.
- Do you have relationships with similar businesses?
We work closely with different gun manufacturers and others in our community. We use Independence Indoor Shooting Range – a local range where we send business back and forth to each other. We have a relationship with John Correia, a trusted advisor in Arizona. Any type of real-life situation – he does a debrief on that video and walks through what went wrong. John owns Active Self Protection; he can be found on Facebook and YouTube.
- Who are your main clients?
On the civilian side, anybody who has a gun for self-defense purposes. Not just for hunting and shooting soda cans. A “just in case or what if situation,” anything in that realm. Also, concealed weapons carriers and individuals with home defense guns. On the corporate side, we offer leadership courses. The full-scale courses are designed to help employees and managers understand how to structure strong teams; how to build strong leaders from planning to strategy to execution to accountability to grow their businesses. Then, we have workplace violence and active shooter training for businesses.
On the law enforcement side, local and federal departments such as the FBI, U.S. Marshals Service, ATF, and others utilize FMT’s facility for a realistic training ground to better prepare their teams for real world situations.
- Do you plan on expanding operations?
In our model, we have franchising options. Currently, we’re interested in Salt Lake City, Texas and Arizona – areas that are very supportive of the Second Amendment. Places where local city and state governments would support our business model.
- What are civilians’ biggest fears?
Some are worried about large-scale problems like Russia, China, Iran and North Korea. They’re worried about foreign troops on our soil, about terrorists getting into our power grid, and our infrastructure being compromised. We have people on the other side who are worried about getting attacked in their home, being in an Active Killing event like what just happened in Las Vegas, the Pulse nightclub, at the Christmas party in San Bernardino, etc. They are worried about an attack in a parking lot or parking garage. Most people are in between those two areas of concern. They recognize evil exists in their community – rapes, homicides, home invasions – but they realize it’s a national concern as well.
- In case of a home invasion, what do you teach people?
Have different guns staged in different parts of the home. What if they’re in the laundry room or kitchen when an intruder comes in? It depends on their floor plan but as a general rule, it’s good to have various use of force options – from voice to mind to actual tools. Courts are always concerned with proportionality. Was the force proportionate to the threat of attack? We talk about communicating effectively under stress. We talk about non-lethal tools and how anything can be used as a weapon.
- What advice do you give to people you meet?
It’s an absolute necessity to train yourself in a 360-degree realistic environment under stress. If you have a gun and go to the shooting range, that’s great that you’re shooting the gun and feeling the recoil but that’s only a sliver of readying yourself. You have to be trained in a realistic environment. Stress, decision making, and unpredictable elements has to be there.
You have to be educated on the law; ignorance of the law is never justifiable in court.
This includes state and federal laws, the Castle Doctrine, and your state’s Stand Your Ground law. Understand that Hollywood doesn’t do anybody justice. The first time you’re pointing a gun at someone, it can’t be in real life. It all has to be done in advance in training, with highly qualified and expert instructors.
My advice is to make an investment in yourself; in your family. Don’t have an arsenal of guns without training. It’s better to have one or two guns and a ton of training than 30 or 40 guns that you don’t know how to use. Of course, we tell people to have 30 or 40 guns, but be physically and mentally fit as well.
Originally published on elainnaciaramella.com.