Today marks the 18th anniversary of the Jim Wagner Reality-Based Personal Protection system. The first thing that I’d like to say to all RBPP students and certified instructors is, “Thank you for dedication to BE A HARD TARGET.”
2020 was a rough year for all of us, me included. In fact, many of you had not heard from me in over a year. I did not post anything on my website last year, and I made only a few comments on social media, for a variety of reasons. However, as you can see, I am starting 2021 off right by updating you now.
Let’s go back to the end of 2019. I was teaching my Reality-Based Personal Protection system, but what many of you didn’t know, because I did not make it public, was that I was working for The Walt Disney Company part time. I was working with the Disneyland Resort Security & Emergency Services in Anaheim, California, United States of America.
Around November and December of 2019, I became aware of the Coronavirus in Wuhan, China. Most Americans were completely unaware of the Asian pandemic at the time, but I was in close contact with Chinese nationals on a daily basis, many of them coming from Wuhan. I knew where many of them were from because I’d come across their red covered People’s Republic of China passport from time to time when conducting bag searches. Part of my job was to search guests’ bags, run them through metal detectors, and do surveillance when they came into the park. Even as early as then I knew that there was a possibility that I, and my fellow officers, could get infected.
There were no masks worn by anyone at the time, but whenever I did bag searches (for weapons and contraband) I always wore Nitrile gloves, and whenever I came across Chinese nationals, I’d strip off those gloves after I was finished with them and sanitize the area. I’d also warn fellow officers to do the same. Some listened to me, others did not. I knew from my previous training in Nuclear Biological Radiological (NBC) training with the U.S. Army just how dangerous a virus could be.
On December 29, 2019 Keith Thomas Kinnunen was in the back of the West Freeway Church of Christ during a sermon. He stood up, pulled out a shotgun from his coat and shot two members of the church before he was fatally shot by Jack Wilson. It was a “wake up call” for many churches around the nation, and several churches hired me to teach their armed and unarmed church security team members how to deal with an active shooter. When I was not at the Disneyland Resort, I was teaching teams. I was also scheduled to teach in Paris, France in May of 2020, and I instructed Christophe Besse, the Reality-Based Personal Protection Director of France, to reach out to cathedrals and churches to have some of their parishioners trained by us to deal with various attacks. After all, by this time there had been 1,300 attacks against church staff and churches throughout France. Attacks against Christians was becoming a worldwide phenomenon.
The first COVID-19 case reported in the United States was a Washington man who became ill on January 19, 2020. He had just returned from Wuhan, China four days earlier. From that day on the pandemic started to spread rapidly across America.
On the evening of January 25, 2020, I got really sick, and I called management and told them I could not come in the next day. I was out for a couple of days. I got so sick the following night, vomiting an unusual number of times in one evening, that I thought at one point I was going to die. I have had the flu before, and even food poisoning several times before in my life, but this sickness was different. I suspected that it could have been the Coronavirus. Then, as fast as it came upon me, it left. To this day I have not been sick.
Five days later, on January 31, 2020 President Donald J. Trump issued a travel ban from China, and Chinese nationals coming through the Disneyland Resort came to an end. The president got a lot of political flak for issuing the ban, and he was even labeled by many government officials as “racist” for doing so, but I, and my fellow security officers, were quite relieved by the order, because we didn’t want to be more exposed to the Coronavirus any more than we had to. However, that didn’t mean that all of the Chinese nationals had vanished. There were still many Chinese nationals in the United States that had not gone home. On February 15 was the last time that I documented coming in contact with Communist Chinese, because I actually saw their passports.
After the Chinese stopped visiting, there were still over 100,000 guests a day coming through the park and Downtown Disney. Most of the foreigners were Europeans.
In mid-February of 2020 Fabrizio Capucci, the Reality-Based Personal Protection Director of Italy, warned me that his country was being hit hard by Coronavirus, and there was a possibility that the courses we had scheduled for May in Ravenna would be cancelled. Then when I heard from some of my students in Milan, one of which was a doctor working for their emergency services, on just how bad the pandemic was there, I knew that there was a possibility that I would not be going to Italy. However, Fabrizio and I were hoping that it would be contained before then. Then on March 11, 2020 President Trump issued another travel ban, only this time for Europe and Brazil. It was quite apparent that things were going to get worse.
March 2020 was the month that forever changed life in America.
On March 1, 2020 I taught a church security team in Los Angeles, and the group was progressing quite well. The next day I was on a gun range teaching a firearms course to Oli Rawlings, the Reality-Based Personal Protection Director of the United Kingdom. He had some business in New York, and he took three days off to come see me in California.
On March 7, 2020 I trained another church. One of the students asked me what I thought about the COVID-19 pandemic. I told her, “Be prepared. Go out and buy the supplies you need to survive on your own for two to three weeks.” Having worked for the California National Guard I knew that in a disaster that most citizens would be on their own for at least two to three weeks, and I sensed that some lockdowns would occur as they were happing in Italy.
On Wednesday, March 11, 2020 the World Health Organization declared that the Coronavirus was a global “pandemic.” However, most Americans still did not realize the ramifications. In fact, life was so normal that I took a Terrorism Awareness course the following day from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The course was only a couple hours, and then I headed over to Disneyland to let in some family members. One of the benefits working for the Walt Disney Company is having the privilege of getting family and friends in for free.
Just before going through the front gate I asked Linda to take my phone and start videotaping me standing in front of the main entrance. She had no idea what I was going to say. I had a gut feeling, based on my training and experience in law enforcement and the military, and having taught in 20 countries, I felt I had to warn people about the crisis I believed was only days away.
It was Thursday, March 12, 2020 at about noon. Life was normal behind me. I began speaking. I warned listeners that I believed that Disneyland was going to shut down in the next day or two. I had no evidence of it, but I had heard inside rumors here and there. I knew that if Disneyland were to close that Americans would finally realize the severity of the national situation. Therefore, I said the same thing I told my church security student days earlier, “Go out and buy food, water, and supplies.”
Linda’s face was in shock. After she handed me the phone she said, “Do you really think this is going to happen?”
I told her that I believed that there would be mass panic, “And, to be on the safe side, after you are done at the park, go to the store and buy as much as you can before going home.”
Linda did not heed my warning.
The next day I was scheduled to work an evening shift at Disneyland Resort; from 3:30 pm to 10:30 pm. When I arrived my supervisor told me, “This is the last day we will be open. We are closing tomorrow.”
It was a surreal moment. “The happiest place on earth,” closing. Only war and disasters had closed the park in the past.
It was an eerie night. The public had heard about the closure, and a dramatic drop in attendance was the result. In fact, there were so few people coming in that day, that I mostly stood around talking people on my security team. We even took more breaks than normal.
Just before the shift ended the manager came up to my team and said, “As you know, tomorrow the park is closed, and all of you are scheduled to work. Well, I just got word that you will all be off tomorrow, but don’t worry, with pay. Just keep checking your schedule daily.”
That was it. The crisis had begun.
I had already been stocking up on supplies for a week and telling all my friends and family members to do the same, but I stopped at a couple of stores before going home.
The next morning my wife and I went to COSTCO, which is a huge membership store. We wanted some more perishables: Meat, dairy products, and fruit.
COSTCO had not even opened yet, and there were at least a hundred people waiting in a long snake-like line going through the parking lot and out onto the sidewalk of the street.
We both said, “Forget it!” And went to top off the gas tank of my pick-up truck instead.
Karen and I then went to a smaller grocery store – Ralphs.
It was a scene right out of a disaster movie or zombie apocalypse. Many shelves were stripped bare, people were rushing about grabbing anything they could, and everyone was wearing masks. My wife and I were the exception. Short of a military mask with carbon filters, I knew that a surgical mask or N95 mask was not going to stop a virus from going through. I had the military masks at home, but I did not have enough facts about the nature of the Coronavirus to take that measure.
None of the things we wanted were on the shelves, so we threw in some canned foods into the cart. We had plenty at home. In fact, just two weeks prior to the panic I asked my wife, “Why do we have so much toilet paper stocked up?” because we had enough roles in the garage to last an entire year. Well, that was the first item to be sold out in all the stores across the country – toilet paper.
Karen was as cool as a cucumber, while I was a little bit on edge seeing the panic all around us. I said to her, “I can’t believe how calm you are. You act like this is just a normal day of shopping.”
She responded, “This is communism.”
I asked, “What do you mean?”
She repeated herself, “This is communism. This is what it was like when I was a girl.”
My wife had immigrated from the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republic. She knew what it was like to stand in long lines, and then be faced with empty shelves on a regular basis once inside the store. She, and her entire family, never had one good thing to say about socialism. In fact, from that Saturday on March 7, 2020 to this very day, she has always stood by her statement that communist tactics were used during the pandemic.
I went along with the narrative, like most Americans, for the two-week lockdown in order to “flatten the curve.” However, when “two weeks” started to turn into three weeks, and the news was stating that the medical facilities were being overwhelmed, I, and a few of my friends, drove all around Southern California going to hospitals to investigate for ourselves. After what we saw with our own eyes, I stopped worrying about the Coronavirus in April. And, for the 10 months since, I’ve been living my life without any fear.
I know that many people were, and still are, fearful of the Coronavirus, and I respect that, but when I kept pulling up the actual government statistics on deaths caused by COVID-19, and that there was a 99.64% survival rate for people under 65 years old, I determined that the risk to me was low. In my military and law enforcement career I had been shot at, people trying to stab me, and tear my head off with their bare hands, it was hard to have a melt down over Coronavirus. Now, had it been the Black Plague, then that would have been a different story. I would have had on my full MOPP suit, Mission Oriented Protective Posture. The military gear needed to survive a biological contaminated environment.
When the COVID-19 restrictions dragged on I knew that there would be trouble. I didn’t know exactly what, but I knew it was coming. By April 23, 2020 there were 30 million people unemployed in the United States. I was one of them. The Walt Disney Company had put me on furlough on April 19th.
On April 30, 2020 I was supposed to check in with Delta Airline for my trip to Europe. However, the entire world was on lockdown, and I had to cancel my Reality-Based Personal Protection courses in France, Belgium, Germany, and Italy. In addition, most churches I was training were no longer meeting, but their services were being livestreamed. There was no longer any worry about attacks on churches, because nobody was in them anymore. To top it off, I found out from Böker that they were no longer manufacturing the Jim Wagner Reality-Based Blade, one of their best-selling knives since 2005. So, in just a matter of a month I had lost my international training business, teaching churches, my part-time security job at Disneyland Resort, and even my knife royalties. However, my faith in God kept me optimistic.
On May 25, 2020 the Minneapolis police arrested a man by the name of George Floyd. When he died in their custody (you may recall the video of Police Officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on the prisoner’s neck next to a police car), it sparked off riots that still have not ended. Yesterday, on the Inauguration Day of President Joe Biden, protestors carrying Antifa and Black Lives Matter signs damaged both federal and private property in Seattle and Portland.
The never-ending riots, supposedly a reaction to “systematic racism,” “science deniers,” “anarchy,” and people just wanted to steal, kill and destroy, made many cities across America a very dangerous place to be. Even many politicians condoned the violence. As a result of this mayhem, many people and groups came to me wanting training. Since then, and all the way up until Monday, I have been teaching a lot of firearm courses and security courses. People who were anti-gun their whole lives found themselves purchasing firearms, and wanting to know how to properly use them.
In some cities in Southern California, and I saw it with my own eyes and heard it with my own ears, they were like war zones. Then, to make matters worse, a lot of people and politicians across the nation were saying, “Defund the police.” Of course, that just made matters worse, and crime went through the roof. Some large cities were seeing 50 people shot a day. In Chicago alone, according to the Chicago Sun Times, 3,800 people were shot, and 716 murders, in 2020, and that did not even include the last two months of that year.
Thousands of people permanently moved away from New York City, Los Angeles, Seattle, Portland, Detroit, Minneapolis, and other cities. It was, and still is, a mass exodus out of the major cities for fear of the violence. Of course, Sheriffs and governors letting out thousands of prisoners, so they would “not contract COVID-19” only added fuel to the burning fire.
In my region car theft went up 600% and someone even broke into my truck to try to steal it. They tore apart the steering wheel housing, and tried to hot wire the ignition, but for some reason they abandoned their attempt. I don’t know why, but I’m hoping that my guardian angel walked by, and they were scared out of their wits and fled the scene. It cost me a few hundred dollars to get a new lock and door handle, but at least I have my reliable truck to drive. It’s the same truck that I throw all of my range equipment in to go teach live-fire courses.
On May 29, 2020 Bruce, my friend since childhood, and later we were in the same Military Police unit together, and his wife Pam came over to the house to visit me and Karen. Karen had made a wonderful lunch for us, and then we decided to go take a walk on the beach.
As I was driving my pick-up truck, I saw a few cars stopped ahead of me. I could tell that something had just happened. As I got closer and I saw a woman lying in the middle of the road in a contorted position. I could tell that she had been hit by a car. I could tell by a few people standing back that it was a bad injury.
I went into “cop mode,” and I blocked the lane of traffic with my truck. I grabbed my trauma bag that I carry, slipped on my Nitrile gloves, and I told Bruce, “Direct traffic so we don’t get hit,” and I told my wife, “Call 9-1-1.”
I came up to the 30-something unconscious woman and saw a bone sticking out of her left leg through her sporty spandex pants. The blood was filling up the pant leg like a water balloon. I knew that she was bleeding out.
I took out my medic scissors and cut her pant leg all the way up to the hip. Too my surprise her leg looked like she had been standing next to a bomb that went off. Of course, that is what the bumper of a car can do when it hits a leg, that is pumping bicycle pedals, at 50 miles per hour straight on.
I immediately opened up my bag to get my C.A.T. tourniquet.
“Where is it!” I said to myself. It was missing.
My mind was racing to figure out where it might have gone, and the only thing I could think of Maybe I didn’t put it back in after showing a class what was in my trauma bag.
I didn’t have time to waste. The woman was bleeding out. I then remembered how one of my Tactical Medic instructors in Cologne, Germany showed me, and my class, how to make a tourniquet from and Israeli bandage; information I thought was interesting, but something I’d never use. But there I was, and I went with my training. I took the Israeli bandage and wrapped it around her leg above where the knee should have been. I could tell exactly where the knee was, because her leg was completely shattered, and it was only attached to her body by a big flap of skin.
Just then two young men walked up to me, and one of them asked, “How can we help?”
I gave them each an end of the bandage and said, “Pull as tight as you can, and hold it there so the bleeding stops.”
They did, and the woman was conscious, and screaming to the top of her lungs in pain. My wife, who was taking photos with her phone, said that the meat being pushed below the tightening tourniquet looked like hamburger meat coming out of a grinder.
Now that my hands were free, I tried to comfort the victim, stroking her bloody hair, and saying, “Don’t worry, you’ll be okay. The ambulance is on the way.”
I could hear the paramedics in the distance.
Now I had a chance to do triage on the rest of her body. She had only minor injuries elsewhere. Just then a police officer walked up, and I could tell he was relieved that it was I who had put on the tourniquet, and not him, because he said, “I see that you got a tourniquet on. Good job!” and then he started his traffic investigation.
A minute later a female officer jumped in to help the victim, and then three paramedics a few seconds later. Once I saw that the first responders were going to work on her I said, “Okay, I’m backing out now,” and I did when the female police officer gave me permission.
In July I was invited to City Hall, and two police officers presented me with a challenge coin that had engraved upon it IN RECOGNITION OF OUTSTANDING SERVICE TO OUR COMMUNITY. It was the second life-saving award I had received in my life. The first was when I was a police officer, and I gave CPR to a heart attack victim, and he fully recovered.
On August 13, 2020 I had a movie star contact me, and he asked me for private lessons for my Knife Survival program. I drove up to two different locations in Malibu and Beverly Hills to teach him and one of his buddies. He asked me to keep his lessons confidential, and that’s why I am not giving his name.
Although I have been teaching law enforcement and military firearms courses since 1992, and I’ve had the opportunity to train some of the most elite teams in the world, I have always wanted to get some civilian certifications with the National Rifle Association. So, I finally did. I became a Pistol instructor and a Chief Range Safety Officer in August and September.
On September 17, 2020 I took an Insider Threat course sponsored by the FBI, and even took a bunch of online courses with Disney, because technically I was still an employee, and I had access to their D-Learning division.
On November 2, 2020 I was asked by the Irvine Police Department, located in Orange County, to teach a course dealing with church security via Zoom. The conference was titled Inter Faith Security Partnership.
The month of December 2020 I taught a lot of shooting courses, and I even picked up a major client to teach their security team. They said, we want you to teach them monthly for a minimum of two years. Then another one essentially asked the same thing of me.
Unfortunately, one of the saddest moments of my life occurred on December 10th. My father-in-law passed away. I was closer to him than my own father. For Karen, it was devasting, because she was on the phone almost every day. Both of them are very humorous and happy people, and so daily I would hear laughter. Plus, my wife would always hold up the phone when she was done, and my father-in-law would say, “I love you son,” and I would always respond, “I love you Pop.”
When New Year’s Eve came, I celebrated it with family. Everybody was glad to have 2020 over with. It had been a rough year.
2021 has already started off rough. Crime is high, there are still riots flaring up, and President Joe Biden has ordered that masks be worn by everyone on federal property for 100 days, which means that life is not going back to normal anytime soon. Then there is political turmoil across the globe, new acts of terrorism, and plenty of uncertainty. In a sense, that is “normal.” And as such, I’ll continue to teach people how to BE A HARD TARGET.
I’d love to hear from every one of you RBPP students and certified instructors. Send me an email with your name, when and where you took your RBPP courses, and what you are doing now.
TRAINING FOR A VIOLENT WORLD.
Copyright Jim Wagner 1980 - 2023 All rights reserved.