Whats That? Wednesday

Signed Red Ranger Legacy Helmet, What’s That? Wednesday

Take a minute and think back to your childhood. Think about the shows you watched as a kid. If you had to pick one show, more than any other show, that defines your childhood what would it be?

For me, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers was that show. Man, I couldn’t get enough of it. The heroes fighting the villains. The badass uniforms. The fact that 5 kids were selected and the idea that average people sometimes are called to incredible things. The magic of it all resonated with me. I collected the toys, the magazines, the McDonald’s giveaways. I had watches, trading cards, you name it. I had a brother who worked at K-Mart who would keep an eye on the stock before it hit shelves and would buy me the toys. Man, it was a wonderful part of my childhood. Eventually I grew out of it. I hadn’t thought much about it until the dark gritty remake trailer hit the internet. It sucked me back in. A few years later I heard a new movie was coming out. Then I saw the Red Ranger Legacy Helmet. I knew I had to have it. I couldn’t afford the $400 remakes so I watched Amazon like a hawk. I scored mine for like $60 AND had amazon rewards points to cover it. Basically free! The day it came in I was a kid all over again. I came home on duty when my girlfriend told me it arrived. Opening it was exhilarating. But wait…it gets better.

I knew Austin St. John had left show business to be a paramedic. I always thought that was cool. Then he was a medic overseas! But he had finally come back to the nerd circuit. He was coming to my hometown for a comic-con. I proudly took my helmet, like a thousand other people, and waited to meet him. We had a stroller and two little boys. He called us to the front of the line because he knew the struggles of keeping kids waiting. And then he took my son, treated him like he was one of his own kids, let him help hold the marker while he signed the helmet, and chatted with him for a few minutes. My kid was awe struck. “Jason” was as cool in real life as he was on the show. I was double awe-struck. The level of kindness Austin St John showed a couple of strangers almost choked me up.

Fast forward to a Days of the Dead convention a few months later. Steve Cardenas was coming. I have no idea why he comes to zombie/horror conventions but let’s not get hung up on details. I’d been in training all day and was still in BDU’s. I snagged the helmet, on a rainy day, and did everything in my power to keep it dry. I rolled up in a marked car, got out with a helmet to MANY stares, and had to get in past the gawking smokers crowding the door. I bee lined for Cardenas table expecting a long line. I guess I was early and got to walk right up. I’m a 32 year old man looking at one of his childhood heroes. I didn’t have any kids with me. God, I must’ve looked like a weirdo. So, I made sure to tell him, “I’m totally not a weirdo.” Which is exactly what a weirdo WOULD say. He eased my worries by telling me how he was the same way recently meeting Ralph Maccio. Anywho, he signed my helmet, let me take a picture with him, and I was on my way.

I’m torn now between keeping the helmet with just the Jason and Rocky sigs or getting more rangers signed on the red helmet. Such a nerd dilemma. If you ever get a chance to meet Steve Cardenas or Austin St John, do it. They’re were both great to meet and didn’t disappoint at all.

*”Whats That? Wednesday” will be a weekly blog post where I write about things I display in my office that people often point at and ask, you guessed it, “What’s that?”

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Always Growing, Jones Loflin

Always Growing—How to Be a Strong Leader in Any Season

Jones Loflin

As any cop will tell you, we assume a leadership role the day we hit the road. I spent too long assuming I would pick it all up as I went along. Turns out there is a whole world of leadership resources out there. In the past 2 years, I have been picking up a ton of books on leadership, and this past Christmas, my future in-laws were kind enough to indulge my reading habits. I received a book called Always Growing- How to be a Strong Leader in Any Season. It’s a fictional account of “David” accepting a leadership role at his company. Facing challenges with his new team, he turns to his sister, “Kelly,” who runs a successful orchard. What follows are a multitude of conversations between David and Kelly and David and his team mates. Kelly gives valuable lessons to David about agriculture that David metaphorically applies to the business world. It’s cheesy and very eye-roll inducing at times, but I’ll be damned if a lot of it didn’t make sense. Broken down into 4 parts: Grow, Cultivate, Prune, and Harvest; David learns lessons along the way to make his team as successful as possible. He “Grows” the team by making a plan, figuring out what his team needs to implement the plan, and providing the right environment to promote growth. He “Cultivates” his team by staying involved in the plan and ensuring nothing interferes with the growth. He “Prunes” his team helping them cut out things that might not contribute the most to their growth. Finally, he “Harvests.” The “Harvest” is the reaping of the rewards and celebrating the results.

As far as law enforcement, I think the most significant section to me was the section on “Pruning.” Starting out, cops need to establish their roots. They need to get a good foundation of all aspects of law enforcement to build on. I think as we cops start to grow, we all naturally start to find a niche that we enjoy. We might need to start pruning things out to make ourselves the most effective contributing member of our team. I’ve worked on squads where nobody focuses and just wants to do it all. I’ve also worked on squads where everybody has a skill set that stands out. We do a lot of work on our own out here, but when we combine the skills and efforts of everyone on the squad, we can get more done. We have guys who are great at dope work, we have guys who are great at interviewing, guys who are great at DUI investigations. To get to where we all are, we’ve had to decide where we wanted to go, and start saying no to opportunities that might stretch us too thin. We’ve had to self prune to make sure we can focus our energies on things we are best at. The author says to “prune at the first sign of undesirable outcomes.” I think from a leadership standpoint, this is key. Personally, I have had to make decisions on what to prune in my own career. I personally think I have good people skills. I removed myself from the Emergency Response Team and since then have moved on as an Instructor and a Hostage/Crisis Negotiator. I knew I could never be a negotiator if I was still on the team, so I had to prune in one place to grow in another.

To summarize, I liked the book. It was a very quick and easy read. I may never read the whole book again, and it might not be the first book I hand to someone else, but it has a lot of valuable information and I’d definitely recommend it if you get a chance to read it. The end of the book summarizes all the points made throughout and those points are pretty simple to understand without all of the context. Jones Loflin brings a lot to the table with this book as far as leadership principles. It’s very metaphor heavy, but it’s not as exhausting of a read as most leadership books. I’d give it a 7/10.

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Top 5 Gifts for YOUR NerdCop

5. Casio G-Shock Watch

There are so many variations on G-Shock watches, you’ll have to decide what your personal preferences are. But I have worn a G-Shock for years now and I can’t imagine wearing anything else on duty. I have worn expensive watches on duty and they’ve gotten damaged searching cars. I’ve worn cheap Wal-Mart watches and the bands on them have broken off during arrests. Not until I got a G-Shock did I have a mid-price range, but durable heavy duty watch on my wrist. I will link to the watch I wear, but they are available in a multitude of models and colors. Mine cost less than $55 and aside from replacing a watch battery once and replacing the little loop you tuck the excess strap into, it has operated flawlessly. Casio has recently introduced stainless steel watches. I am hard pressed to replace my watch, because it doesn’t need replacing, but the steel watches are gorgeous. They’re priced a little higher but I wouldn’t expect anything less than the best quality for that price.

http://amzn.to/2yT5aTX

4. Edge Eyewear

Much like my watch situation, I have learned some expensive lessons with on-duty eyewear. I have lost expensive sunglasses while on a perimeter. My rifle sling knocked them off my head on a nighttime perimeter. (I would leave my sunglasses on my head all night so I didn’t lose them. Real effective, right?) I also tried the cheap gas station sunglasses. Those would break going on my big head. One day, I found an amazing deal on some Edge Eyewear Dakura’s. I even got a free pair because of a glitch in the ordering system. I kinda feel bad about it. Kinda. Anyways, the Dakura’s were the first pair of sunglasses that I felt really fit my face. They weren’t too big, and they weren’t too tight. Edge also has a tactical eyewear division, but the Dakura’s are part of their safety glasses. I probably go through a pair a year, but I am pretty abusive to them. Whenever I go on vacation, I buy a new pair. I won’t travel without two pairs of them.  My next purchase might be for some of their tactical sunglasses. Or I might just stick with what I know works. I’ll link to what I wear.

dakura

http://amzn.to/2B7FSY9

3. Extreme Ownership, Jocko Willink and Leif Babin

I have written before about my affinity for reading and studying leadership and management tactics. Extreme Ownership, written by Navy SEALs, might be the definitive book on effective leadership. Based on the premise that as a leader, if things go right, everybody had a part in it, but if things go wrong, its the leader’s fault. Jocko, who also has a great podcast which I recommend, tells a story about a friendly fire incident that occurred when he was in charge. He could have blamed any number of different things that went wrong, however, he took full responsibility for the incident. In doing so, he earned the respect of his subordinates and his peers. Throughout the book, the authors alternate writing chapters. They use battlefield experience and relate it to the business world and private sector management and leadership. It’s a book I will come back to many times in the coming years. Personally, this book has helped me in my own life by recognizing how much responsibility I have in everything that goes on around me. I make fewer excuses for my mistakes and own up to my faults. For less than $17 on Amazon, I recommend this to/for anyone hoping to advance their professional life.

extremeownership.jpg

http://amzn.to/2CWY8Rq

2. Salomon Shoes

Before our trip to Hawaii, I knew I needed a new pair of shoes that I could use for hiking. I had heard so many great things about Salomon shoes, but I had never worn any. I got a wild hair one day and ordered a pair of Salomon XA Pro 3D. I got them in and I wasn’t entire sold on them. I usually wear Danner boots and Nike sneakers. These fit differently. I wasn’t entire sure of them until we went hiking in the Iao Valley in Maui. Hopping on boulders across the river coming down the mountain, we tried in vain to keep our shoes dry. I slipped and one shoe fully submerged. I knew there was no drying it out, so I put the other shoe in the water. It was probably the most liberating event of the day. Despite having wet socks and wet shoes, they fit snugly enough I wasn’t bothered with the usual looseness and slippage I’d experience with other shoes. We were able to hike throughout the day, repeatedly submerging the shoes and then hiking further. Since we got home and the weather turned, I haven’t had the opportunity to hike with them again. They have become near daily wear shoes and there have been no negative effects from being water logged and dried repeatedly. I can’t speak to the other styles, but these are a new favorite.

Salomon XA

http://amzn.to/2BbUPIH

Finally, NUMBER 1!

ALPHA BRAIN by ONNIT

This product is probably the single best supplement I have ever taken. I heard about it from Jocko and Echo on the Jocko Podcast. They swore by it. They kept talking about how it increases focus and memory. They even mentioned it’s ability to bring about lucid dreaming. My fiance and I took it before bed one night and we both slept like absolute shit. Turns out, you’re not supposed to take it within like 6 hours of bedtime. So I took it again in the morning. This isn’t some magic pill that motivates me. If I take it and lay around like a lazy bum, I’m the most focused lazy bum ever. If I take it and start a project, I have found myself getting distracted less, being more dedicated to finishing the project, and actually accomplishing things faster because I’m not deviating to side projects as much. Alpha Brain is now one of my daily supplements. I’m only taking 1 instead of 2 because I live on a cop’s salary and two a day stretches the budget. So far, 1 has been plenty. I’ll stay on it as long as it’s effective. I recommend trying it. Unfortunately, I have to recommend getting it from Amazon and two-day shipping. Shipping from Onnit is a little OFFIT. The last time I ordered direct, I was disappointed in shipping times.

Alphabrain

http://amzn.to/2B9wvr1

There you have it folks, the Top 10 Things I recommend for the NerdCop in YOUR life. Stay tuned. After Christmas, I might do a Top 10 List of things I didn’t get for Christmas but still might want for my birthday!

Thanks for reading. If you agree, disagree, have tried any of these products and ALSO love them, feel free to message or comment. Like and share!

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Supporting our Veteran’s Families

I’ve spoken before in another post about the respect and admiration I have for our veterans. They do a job most of us haven’t, in places we’ll probably never see, for people they will never meet. My fiance is from a military family and she knows the pain of holiday’s away from her deployed Dad. Today, I was given the opportunity to support a local event supporting the families of those deployed. There is a huge Christmas party and presents and Blue Star families are invited to come partake. They may not have their loved ones but they have each other and the event is a way for them to know they’re not alone. Probably the coolest part of the event is when Santa and Mrs. Claus arrive in a 1960’s Bell UH-1 Iroqois “Huey” helicopter. Flown by Vietnam era pilots, the whomp whomp whomp of the rotors can be heard before the chopper can even be seen. Santa does a fly by waving from the open door. (I can’t imagine how cold he gets.)

After touchdown, several squad cars from several local agencies come around the chopper with our lights and siren blaring. We had some technical difficulties but we got it done. We couldn’t stay for the party because we had pending runs, but I hope the families had fun. So thank you to those who serve. Thank you to those deployed this time of years. Mostly, thank you to all the families left behind for all of the sacrifices you make.

Several years ago, a friend of mine who is in the army came up to me and thanked me for my service. It felt backwards. I thanked HIM for HIS job which was worlds more dangerous than mine. He explained as hard as it is leaving his wife and girls behind, he takes some comfort in knowing there are men and women back home willing to protect his family in his absence. It was very humbling. It definitely helped me view my duties from a different perspective.

Stay tuned for the next amazing opportunity this job provides!

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Police Courtesy: On Duty

Back again with Oscar Olander’s chapter on Police Courtesy.

Olander suggests there are specific main virtues for police that are all interwoven with each other. He includes “courtesy, good manners, confidence and ability.” Shorting yourself on any one undercuts the support for the others. Our behavior, because we are in such a public role, is monitored more closely than the average citizen. Therefore, we should all strive to enhance the image of the law man. Every action reflects not only on you, but on the very image that people hold for law enforcement in general. “Remember always that there area men wearing your same uniform who have walked into death to maintain the honor and good name of the service they represent.”

Show your strength in how you operate under stressful conditions. Your calm is paramount when those around you are losing their composure and become distracted and excited. Calmness breeds confidence. Olander warns against “officiousness.” I like to think of myself as being well read, but I had to look this word up. Dictionary.com gave me this definition:

Officiousness: objectionably aggressive in offering one’s unrequested and unwanted services, help, or advice; meddlesome:

How many times in our careers do we find ourselves intervening in situations that might work themselves out without our intervention but we still step in and try to help. I’m not sure it’s a bad thing to want to help, and to offer to help, but it’s worth it to consider if some of our customers even WANT our help.

“Officiousness,” Olander warns, gains us only ill will. He suggests officers cultivate an ability to meet people with tact and consideration, and to maintain poise. He goes on to affirm that the “gospel of police courtesy is built on respect.” Giving respect invites respect. Make sincere efforts to understand other points of view to better your ability to make good judgments.

Don’t speak definitively on things you are unsure of, and “When in doubt, keep still.” (While this might be recommended in speech, it might be terrible tactical advice. If you’re ever in doubt in a gun fight, move, get off the “X”.)

Don’t talk about religion, politics, or other’s personalities. (Nobody cares.)

“Learn to take constructive criticism without justifying yourself. It is a good way to learn what people think is wrong with you.” If you read my review on The Trident, by Jason Redman, you’ll know how much weight I put on that advice. Lack of interest in conversation is a breach of courtesy. Focus when you’re being spoken to.

Respond to requests for information with “a cheerful willingness and with a desire to be helpful.”

If you have to call or talk to someone while they’re busy, respect their time and be brief.

We come into contact with all sorts of people, with all sorts of weird behaviors. Olander recommends ignoring a lot of these behaviors, unless they amount to insults. (However; he doesn’t recommend, yet, what we do when insulted.

“Be strictly punctual.” I’ll admit punctuality has been a problem for me throughout my career. I was raised by late parents. I’m not sure we ever left on time. I keep a box of my Dad’s old things and one of them was the minutes from a police meeting from 15 years ago. Noted was his late arrival. Recently, I listened to an episode of the Jocko Podcast with Jocko Willink, a Navy SEAL. He talked about the disrespect that comes with tardiness. When I’m late, he says, I’m showing disrespect to everyone who had to wait for me. I’m telling them their time isn’t as important as mine. It’s something I’m striving to fix.

Olander argues you should preface a request for identification with the reason why you are requesting. Some might argue that this has changed over the years. I’ve been trained to obtain the ID prior to explaining the reason for the stop so you don’t wind up arguing over the reason before you have what you need. On a case by case basis, maybe the introduction and explanation first is more diffusing than requiring ID first.

“Never engage in long sidewalk or curbstone conversations.” There you have it folks; when you get cornered in the gas station by the guy asking incessantly if “you know if they ever caught those guys doing that stuff over yonder,” you can say Part 1, Chapter 5 of Elements of Police Science, Section B prohibits me from engaging in this.

Olander warns against leaning or having a loafing attitude while speaking with people.

He cautions against leaning through car windows, or resting a foot on a running board, during a traffic stop. Despite the terrible tactical position this puts you in, it was viewed as a mild form of trespass.

He recommends furthering your knowledge on topics you know will eventually be brought to your attention. It’s difficult to anticipate every question, but being well read and well versed in a variety of things will never be a hindrance to you.

Mind the chain of command. Failing to do so is “a manifestation of disrespect or ignorance.”

Olander phrases this next point carefully. “Policemen are obligating themselves when accepting extended accommodations or costly gifts.” I’ve heard some agencies argue that any discounts, free food, free coffee, or gifts from the public should be forbidden and that accepting any of those is paramount to corruption and bribery. Any officer who has worked the road has probably experienced an offer of coffee or food while in a restaurant. You’ve had your meal anonymously purchased. In smaller Mom and Pop shops, the proprietors are often so grateful we’ve come in they want to offer us a discount. Trying to decline is almost offensive to them. Olander used those words “extended” and “costly” for a reason. I think it’s important to determine just what the motivation behind the gift is and what the benefit is. Is a free coffee enough for you to change your enforcement behavior? Is a free coffee worth your career? Also, ask yourself why the offer is being extended. Is the clerk asking for favors when you get your coffee? The very second you detect an expectation coming with the coffee, you should decide if it’s a clerk or establishment you want to continue patronizing.

Olander calls a pleasant facial expression an asset. Smile, don’t grin. Don’t boast about or inflate your accomplishments.

Hold your fellow officers in the same esteem you hold for yourself. (I might go one step further and argue you should hold your brothers in higher esteem than you hold yourself. These men will fight and die beside you and they deserve that recognition from you. )

Maintain unshakable loyalty to your agency.

Whenever in uniform, whether on or off duty, the public presumes you to be on duty. (The same could be said about driving a take home car.)

“What the future holds for you depends on what you hold for the future. Avail yourself of every opportunity to learn more about your chosen profession.” One of the things I have been most grateful for over the years has been the ability for me to continue my training over the years. When training has been trimmed back a little, I have sought out books, training videos, and speakers who could help me improve on my own.

Don’t interrupt. (Unless you have to)

“It is possible to be pleasant and courteous without any semblance of familiarity.”

The next section is “Conduct at the Desk.” There are some key points for the desk officer that than can apply to the road officer and I’ll summarize and address a lot of those.

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The Trident, Jason Redman w John Bruning

This is going to sound like one of the most conflicted reviews you will probably ever read. I loved this book. I hated reading it. I love that I read it and I recommend it to anyone. It made me question and evaluate myself and brought on such self reflection; I put it down a few times and didn’t come back for a while. But it’s fantastic.

First, a little back story on how I came to this book: In October of this year, my fiancé and I had the opportunity of a lifetime to go to Hawaii. On our flight to Honolulu, we were seated next to a gentleman with some noticeable facial injuries. We noticed it, but with me in law enforcement and her in the medical field, we’d seen stuff like this before. As the flight took off, this gentleman opened his laptop. I’ll admit curiosity got the best of me and I looked over.  I saw he appeared to be working on a presentation about “Overcoming.” I whispered to my fiancé, “I think he’s a motivational speaker.” In the previous few months, I had read so many books on leadership, command, and decision making, I was already enthralled. I still had no clue who he was, but I was dying to know. When my fiancé left her seat for a few minutes, he stood up and reached into the overhead bin. That’s when I saw it. The Navy SEAL Trident on his belt buckle. When she came back, I whispered again, “I think he’s a Navy SEAL!” Let me explain my excitement: I tried enlisting in the Air Force, the Marines and the Army when I was in high school and college. I was medically disqualified and never got the chance to serve. I have the utmost respect for those  that did and I have to admit, I’m kind of awestruck by people who have done such amazing things in such faraway places.

After we’d been in there air for several hours, and he had gotten up to stretch, he came back to the seat and struck up a conversation. He introduced himself as Jason Redman. In the ensuing conversation, I was amazed at how soft-spoken, humble, and genuine he seemed. Having never met a SEAL before, this small town cop wasn’t sure what I expected. This wasn’t it. I felt like I was talking to a Genie. I had a million questions, but I knew I probably only had about three before I reached a limit. Believe me when I say, in retrospect, I asked the stupidest questions. Knowing what I know now about the author, I wish I’d asked a dozen OTHER questions. He told us he’d been injured in Iraq. He told us he’d written a book. His demeanor was so impressive; I knew immediately I’d buy it. But then he told me there was a DIFFERENT book I should read. That’s where I got the recommendation for Fearless about Adam Brown, which I have previously written about.

Now, THE TRIDENT. Jason Redman was one of America’s finest warriors. He had joined the Navy, became a Navy SEAL, and fought in intense combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. There’s no spoiler in telling you he was shot in the face and seriously wounded. He describes this wound, and the immediate aftermath in such descriptive detail, it might be the closest description you’ll ever hear about what it’s like to die. But Jason “Red” Redman lived. He survived. He thrived. His story of recovery is one of inspiration. It’s motivating. If a man can overcome taking machine gun fire to the face, why do we struggle to overcome our daily obstacles?

What appealed to me most about this book was Jason’s personal journey that brought him to the night of his injury. His immaturity, his arrogance, and his unpredictable ways almost cost him his place in the SEALs. In no way do I compare myself or my accomplishments to Mr. Redman or his accomplishments, but I related to every flaw he brought up. Making rash decisions and lashing out when criticized, becoming defensive when anyone questioned him, pulling stunts that he thought would earn him the respect of his teammates but actually bringing the opposite result, THOSE I could relate to. Mr. Redman’s journey from disgrace to reviving his career and eventually excelling and earning the respect of his teammates was my big take-away from this book. Several times while reading this book, I was uncomfortable. I saw a lot of my own attitude and previous mistakes. I even saw some of what I am STILL doing wrong. I think what took me so long to finish the book was my reluctance to accept some of my own flaws.  It took me weeks to read the first 200 pages and then, when it all clicked, only 2 days to finish the remaining 200 or so pages. In the Epilogue, Mr. Redman talks about what he does now. He travels the country giving talks about the hard lessons he learned about his own mistakes and immaturity and gives lessons on leadership, communication, teamwork, and overcoming adversity. He will use his story as a “cautionary tale.” Mr. Redman says, “I wish somebody had shared those lessons with me when I was younger. Maybe my road would have been easier.” As a 32 year old man, these lessons are nothing new to me. I’ve heard these tales from people who have never seemed to struggle with some of these issues. To read a first-hand account, from a man who had every reason to be arrogant and cocky, yet in person seemed so incredibly humble, a man who could pinpoint in his career when he battled all of these, and then came out a stronger man, a man who has overcome more in the last 10 years than I will overcome in my lifetime, this has been a redefining book for me.  I hope to hear him speak some day. He mentioned on the plane he might put out another book. I’ll probably pre-order it.

This will be a book I buy more copies of. I think some of the lessons in this book would be good for guys who started much like I did: Twenty-two years old and way too cocky. I wish I’d had this guidance then. Maybe I did, somewhere, and wasn’t receptive to it. I think this book really encapsulates everything I wish I’d known. If you find yourself in a leadership position, and you see somebody starting to throw a career away with foolishness, get them this book. If you are unhappy with where you are in your career, get yourself this book.

“You can’t change the past but you control your future as long as you’re willing to.” J. Redman

Trident

http://amzn.to/2ytBEDT

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10 Christmas Recommendations for the NerdCop in your life (First 5)

I have a lot of stuff. Too much stuff. I subscribe to one of those monthly subscription boxes and I get even MORE stuff. But I also get issued a lot of stuff. The following are 10 things I have, I have used, and I recommend for any other Nerd, Cop, or NerdCop in your life.

10. Glock 43

My department issued this weapon to me a year or so ago. Maybe 2. Time flies. Compared to my old S&W .38, this thing has been a god-send. No longer do I leave the range with the palm of my hand aching after qualification. This Glock perfection has operated flawlessly since the day I took it out of the box. With all of the advancements in 9mm ammo over the years, I am confident in the effectiveness of this as a back-up and/or off-duty carry. For years I carried a Glock30 off duty in a Fobus Holster. Now, I can easily slide this weapon into my IWB Holster. Although it MSRP’s in the mid 400’s, seek out a Blue Line Dealer or police supply dealers. Cops might get a lower price. I’ll attach a link for more information.

https://us.glock.com/products/model/g43

Glock43

9. Alien Gear Holster

Since I was issued the Glock43, I made the decision to move away from Fobus Holsters. They served me incredibly well, and I still have some for my larger guns, but I needed something different. I’d been seeing ads on my social media accounts for Alien Gear Holsters. I cant tell you how many times I scrolled right past them because of the name or logo. It looked cheesy to me. Then one day I cashed a big off-duty employment check. Sure, I had bills to pay.  But those bills weren’t going anywhere… my Glock43 was. I was struggling to find ways to carry it without it shifting in my waistband or rotating in my pocket. It was an irresponsible way to carry it and I almost stopped. Then one day I caved and clicked the ad. I bought the IWB Cloak Tuck 3.0. I won’t lie. The very first day I bought it, I carried it to a department store and it fell apart. I had to scoop some pieces, take it home, and tighten the screws. I probably should have tightened them initially. Ever since then, I have never had a problem. Every several weeks, I’ll grab my screwdriver and adjust the tension again on it. It’s never been a bother since. I have worn this holster in 100 degree heat against my skin, I have worn in in sub-freezing temperatures. I’ve worn it in shorts, jeans, khakis. It has never felt awkward or bulky. In the heat against my skin, I’ll feel the neoprene backing, but its never been unpleasant. With a recent acquisition of another firearm, I’ve been looking at their new holsters. With their phenomenal exchange program, I could get a new shell for my new gun, but I think I’d just rather have the two holsters. They offer a 30 day test run of their equipment AND back it with an Iron Clad Lifetime Guarantee. They offer holsters custom molded to countless makes, models, and set-ups. If you have someone in your life carrying a terrible holster, or you just want them to carry concealed, and in comfort, check out Alien Gear Holsters. The link is to their homepage.

http://aliengearholsters.com/

AlienGear 3

8. Secret Path, Gord Downie and Jeff Lemire

Combining incredible artwork and soulful music, with history and heartbreak, this story about a Canadian child, Chanie “Charlie” Wenjack who was sent to live at a residential boarding school. Being from the US, this story was never taught to me growing up. It seems it wasn’t taught as much in Canada either.

I catch a lot of grief for reading comic books. But you can pick this one up, and rest assured, you won’t have to read anything. Told entirely in song and pictures, this story tells the heartbreaking journey of Chanie leaving his school and trying to walk home. He never knew it was 400 miles away. Chanie died on his journey, never making it home to his Dad. Chanie’s life in the school, and the treatment he received, was not unique to him. This was a dark time in Canada and Mr. Downie hoped to explore that time and begin a path to reconciliation.

Written by Gord Downie and illustrated by Jeff Lemire, and with an accompanying soundtrack by Mr. Downie (Tragically Hip singer), the story can be as quick or as slow as you want it to be. Linger on the pages and see the emotion drawn on Chanie’s face, listen to the songs, and feel what Chanie must have been feeling on his long walk. Open your heart and I guarantee this book will hit you in the feels.

Gord Down passed away in October of this year. Help continue his mission by purchasing this book.

SecretPath

http://amzn.to/2jUnAPn

 

7. Gerber Air Ranger

I received this knife as part of one of those monthly subscription boxes I mentioned. I have carried a Gerber Knife since my first day on duty. I carried a Gerber Paraframe. I still have it, and it’s still usually tucked away in a pocket every day in uniform. Last year I received the Gerber Air Ranger. It’s sleek, its professional, it’s beautiful. This has become my go-to off duty carry knife. Paired with my Glock43, it’s what I’ve jokingly called my Gentleman’s Kit. Mine is black handled, chrome bladed, and serrated. When I use it on duty, I feel comfortable using it in front of the public for small tasks. Because of it’s classic appearance, I think this knife is less abrasive to those who are already uncomfortable around our weapons. Link below is to a serrated version, which I personally recommend.

GerberAirRanger

http://amzn.to/2yt0yDP

6. Fallout 4 GOTY Pip-Boy Edition

Fallout is the single greatest video game I have ever played. Fallout has literally taken hundreds of hours of my life. With such a massive open world environment, you can fast travel, or trek on foot between the different locations and discover  huge, inhabited, interactive land. Playing Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas were some of the most amazing moments Ive had gaming since playing Mist 20 years ago. The characters, the mystery, the enemies, the gameplay, the back story, the CHOICES you are forced to make! It’s all so incredibly fleshed out you can dive so deep into it or you can run and gun and do whatever you want. There have been alot of vocal critics about Fallout 4. Some people think they’ve put TOO much into the game. People have argued about the story not being engaging enough. People have argued the game isn’t advancing enough between generations. Those people are wrong. You don’t HAVE to engage in the extras. The story drew me in. They could literally make Fallout 3 over and over in different locations with different stories and I don’t care if the gameplay changes. Bethesda Softworks does amazing things.

In Fallout 4, you’ve witnessed your wife’s murder and you are on a mission to find your missing son. But wait, how many years have passed? How long were you frozen after your child was kidnapped? Bethesda added the ability to build and manage settlements in the game, and honestly, I thought it was a distraction. There were so many needy settlements I felt like I was always handling their problems rather than exploring. So I often ignored them. I’d have been satisfied with building one mega settlement.

The retro-futuristic world, a world with astounding technology but filled with 1940’s and 1950’s decor and clothing, is still prominent. It’s beautiful work flashing back to a classic time in American History. The DLC packs were fun, and engaging. And they were massive add-ons!

The game made 3/4 of a billion dollars its first day on sale. This franchise is massive and continued support means bigger and better games in the future. The linked edition included here is the GOTY (Game of the Year) Pip-Boy Edition. It’s a phenomenal price for everything you receive. The game, all of the DLC, AND A WEARABLE PIP BOY! No case included, but you don’t buy a pip-boy to lock it up in a case! All of this for $99!

FO4GOTYPB

http://amzn.to/2Bojl8U