The Loud Whisper Takeover

7: Acting Research: Interview with a Former Sniper and Special Forces Officer

May 29, 2024 Cindy Claes Episode 7
7: Acting Research: Interview with a Former Sniper and Special Forces Officer
The Loud Whisper Takeover
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The Loud Whisper Takeover
7: Acting Research: Interview with a Former Sniper and Special Forces Officer
May 29, 2024 Episode 7
Cindy Claes

When the bullets flew... he was shot 14 times. Derrick McManus's story (now retired Australian Special Operations police officer), is nothing short of a testament to the resilience of the human spirit. He joins us to recount how he faced some of the most perilous situations in the line of duty. This very day that could have been his last.

As an action actress, I am obsessed with these kind of roles. What better way to research a character than to interview someone who's lived it in real life?

Imagine lying wounded for hours, counting the minutes slipping away, as your body begins to shut down. In this episode, we explore the psychological fortitude it takes to not just endure but also prepare and recover from such extreme realities. It's a masterclass in harnessing fear, the importance of training, and the mindset required to remain grounded in the midst of chaos.

Derrick has now set up his own coaching and speaking business based on the wisdom and life lessons gathered. Human Durability, a philosophy that has helped people and entire organisations facing their darkest hours. As he shares his ongoing mission to inspire and educate, it's clear that Derrick's story is more than one man's survival; it's a blueprint for overcoming adversity, a narrative that resonates with anyone who's ever had to fight to get back on their feet. Join us for a conversation that will leave you awed by the strength of the human soul.

As an actress and human being... I felt pumped, touched, moved and so inspired after this interview!

Guest's Website and Email:
https://humandurability.com.au
derrick@derrickmcmanus.com

Guest's Facebook and LinkedIn:
Derrick McManus

Want to send Cindy Claes a DM?

Support the Show.

Let's continue the conversation on Instagram:

Cindy Claes - Host
@cindy_claes

Loud Whisper VZW - Producers
@loudwhispervzw

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Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

When the bullets flew... he was shot 14 times. Derrick McManus's story (now retired Australian Special Operations police officer), is nothing short of a testament to the resilience of the human spirit. He joins us to recount how he faced some of the most perilous situations in the line of duty. This very day that could have been his last.

As an action actress, I am obsessed with these kind of roles. What better way to research a character than to interview someone who's lived it in real life?

Imagine lying wounded for hours, counting the minutes slipping away, as your body begins to shut down. In this episode, we explore the psychological fortitude it takes to not just endure but also prepare and recover from such extreme realities. It's a masterclass in harnessing fear, the importance of training, and the mindset required to remain grounded in the midst of chaos.

Derrick has now set up his own coaching and speaking business based on the wisdom and life lessons gathered. Human Durability, a philosophy that has helped people and entire organisations facing their darkest hours. As he shares his ongoing mission to inspire and educate, it's clear that Derrick's story is more than one man's survival; it's a blueprint for overcoming adversity, a narrative that resonates with anyone who's ever had to fight to get back on their feet. Join us for a conversation that will leave you awed by the strength of the human soul.

As an actress and human being... I felt pumped, touched, moved and so inspired after this interview!

Guest's Website and Email:
https://humandurability.com.au
derrick@derrickmcmanus.com

Guest's Facebook and LinkedIn:
Derrick McManus

Want to send Cindy Claes a DM?

Support the Show.

Let's continue the conversation on Instagram:

Cindy Claes - Host
@cindy_claes

Loud Whisper VZW - Producers
@loudwhispervzw

Join the community:
Buy Me A Coffee VIP Zone

Speaker 1:

Welcome to the Loud Whisperer Takeover podcast. My name is Cindy Klaas. I'm an action actress. Therefore, I'm super excited about roles that involve the good guys and the bad guys. But also through my training as a screen fighter, I also came to the realization there is so much involved in psychology of the characters that I play. There is so much involved in what they feel when they are in high-stakes situations. So what better way than to do research as an actor, to actually interview real people that work on the grounds? Today I have a very special guest straight out of Australia. He worked for the Special Elite Special Operations Police Force STAR Group Special Task and Rescue Group in Australia. Please welcome Derek McManus. Hi, derek, how are you?

Speaker 2:

doing. It's great to be here. I'm really looking forward to this. It's going to be exciting.

Speaker 1:

Thank you so much for sharing your story. This is going to be really exciting for all the actors that are listening to us as well, and filmmakers that are creating action movies. So first of all, can you tell us a little bit more about what you actually did when you were working for?

Speaker 2:

the police forces. So I've been a police officer for 42 years. I'm retired now because I'm old, but I was 42 years police officer and during that time I spent 11 years in the star group. That's the special task and rescue. Special tasks include high risk arrest, hostage siege, counter-terrorism, vip security, like when the queen came to visit South Australia. Vip security like when the Queen came to visit South Australia. We were the close quarter protection to the Queen plain clothes, undercover, all that sort of stuff, right up close to the Queen.

Speaker 2:

We also do the rescue. So it's cliff rescue, cave rescue, mine rescue, helicopter operations and dropping into environments out of the helicopter, fast roping out of there. And I was always also a tactical diver. So part of it was diving into dark water, as in you put your hand there and you can't see it, and searching for bodies who had passed away. But it was also tactical diving if we had to go and interrupt some incident happening on a boat in the ocean, whatever, whatever it might be. So it's all the in what I consider, all the exciting, intense, brilliant stuff that I absolutely love. My mother, as you can imagine, has a slightly different opinion of that, but it's just. It is one of those environments where, as much as you absolutely need to enjoy it, you also have to be very practical, pragmatic and serious. At the time when the pressure is on, when the pressure is off, we can relax, have fun, train play games. When the pressure is on, the pressure is on and there is no mucking around.

Speaker 1:

So I am acting in movies. Your life was the real movie.

Speaker 2:

Kind of that way and, to be quite honest, it sometimes felt kind of surreal. I'd go into an environment and I'd go oh my gosh, I've seen this sort of thing on TV before. Is this real? Because it was at that level, it was really surreal at times, but obviously we had to keep our feet grounded because it was very real and it could have gone either way many times.

Speaker 1:

So let's just go dive into the thick of it straight away, because there was a massive incident that happened to you. You got shot 14 times in your life and that was a turning point in what happened in your life afterwards. Can you tell us more about the incident? What happened through your mind at the time? What was the just before, and Can you tell us more about the incident? What happened through your mind at the time? What was the just before and after? Tell us more about that.

Speaker 2:

So it was back in 1994, 30 years ago just passed and we were tasked to arrest a guy who had a warrant for his arrest for 197 counts of fraud. However, we knew this guy's history. We knew there was a potential for him to be very dangerous. We knew he had firearms available to him. We went to his house to arrest him. We were wearing what we call flak vests. Now this will be interesting for you, because we call them flak vests. A lot of people call them bulletproof vests, but I am living proof. They ain't bulletproof. They stop a certain type of flak vests. A lot of people call them bulletproof vests, but I am living proof. They ain't bulletproof. They stop a certain type of flak. So they'll stop a certain type of bullet and then other shrapnel type stuff, but they won't stop a military weapon unless you've got other parameters in there. So we call them flak vests. We were wearing flak vests, we were wearing uniform. We went up to the house. I went down the side of the house to see whether we could make an entry through a door that was going to be. It was a glass sliding door, so the entry would not require us to use battering rams and wedges and all those sorts of things. We could just go through the glass.

Speaker 2:

As I got to, within about two feet of that sliding door, the guy inside started to shoot. He was using an SKK Chinese military 7.62 or .308 calibre rifle. He fired 18 times in less than five seconds. He hit me 14 times with either bullets or shrapnel and when I first got hit, just complete overwhelm. I don't remember actually feeling any pain. I don't remember hearing any sound. All I remember was, all of a sudden, I was starting to fall to the ground. And when I was falling to the ground, as you can imagine, highly trained, very skillful star group officer, trained to that level I don't fall over for no reason. So as I was falling to the ground, I was cursing myself you idiot, what's going on? How can this be happening? It was all running through my mind and it was in that space of time, because as I was falling, I looked at that glass sliding door and there were small round holes that hadn't been there before. I then heard the sound of gunfire somewhere in the distance, but I still hadn't felt any impact and I hadn't felt any pain. Distance, but I still hadn't felt any impact and I hadn't felt any pain and as I was falling to the ground, I started thinking to myself Derek, don't be too hard on yourself, because if you're actually getting shot, it's quite acceptable to fall over. So I'd already gone through this rationalization in my mind and able to process it in a way that I became comfortable with what was

Speaker 2:

happening. And then I started processing the whole thing. I fell onto my back feet, pointing in the direction of where the bullets are coming from, my head, facing away, and he was still shooting. This is still within that five-second period and he continued to shoot me and there were two bullets that hit my left thigh and those two bullets hit and time slowed down. Those two bullets seemed and time slowed down. Those two bullets seemed to take 30 seconds. 18 bullets fired in less than five seconds. I was hit 14 times. These two bullets seemed to take 30 seconds. Time slowed

Speaker 2:

down. I felt that impact, that absolute, smashing into my leg. It was like a sledgehammer just driving into my leg. Then a shockwave went all the way up through my body and then it came back down again. And then the second bullet hit and again it's that sledgehammer driving in the shockwave, slowly going up through the body slowly going back down. And again I started processing. How could I lie here for this long and just accept being shot? So I knew I needed to fire back. But before I pulled the trigger in return fire, my thought process went a little bit outside the square and I thought I'm firing back along the length of my body. My feet are at the other end of my body and my feet are pointing up, and I knew that I needed to get up just that little bit so I could shoot over the top of my feet. But as I've lifted my upper body up, my feet have come up to counterbalance. And the thought that ran through my head and this is without a little lie and I don't embellish it at all my thought was I better not shoot myself in the foot because the guys at work will give me shit for it for the rest of my life. And that is exactly what I

Speaker 2:

thought. Now, this is the essence of highly trained individuals, right, and when you are so highly trained, you can anticipate what's coming. You can actually process and manage your way through it, while still having thoughts outside the square. You're still doing everything that you need to do, but you could still have thoughts outside the square because you're more relaxed than the average person. Now how does this work for a normal person? Could a normal person get to this level? If you think about the first time you ever drove a car completely overwhelmed oh my God, I'm going to kill someone with this beast. I don't know what I'm doing Now. When you drive a car, it's completely natural If something happens in front of you. Your feet are moving to brakes, your hands are moving to indicators, you're doing bits and pieces and it's happening like that and you're not even thinking about it. So you are highly trained for what you can expect to encounter. We were highly trained for what we can expect to

Speaker 2:

encounter. And in the movies, is it real for people to have thoughts and be lighthearted and crack jokes in the midst of the worst thing? That's happening? Absolutely, it is the movie Bad Boys one, two and three, and I'm sure they're going to make more of them. Those guys are joking and laughing in the midst of everything going horribly wrong. It is dramatised to the nth degree and they exaggerate it, but the basis of that is based in reality. That is what police are able to do in the midst of those environments, but obviously they exaggerate it and make it great for

Speaker 2:

movies. But when I fired back he stopped. I then rolled to my right a couple of times to get out of the line of fire. I managed to get to my feet and at this stage I'm dealing with one bullet has gone through my left forearm, severed the main artery in my left forearm. A piece of shrapnel in my right wrist severed an artery in my right wrist. Two bullets in my stomach. Two bullets in my left thigh that I've just discussed. One bullet has gone through my right Achilles tendon and taken out 20% of the thickness of my Achilles for about an inch and a half, and then other smaller injuries, but they were the major ones, and so I've got to my

Speaker 2:

feet. Massive injury to my thigh, massive injury to my Achilles, but I still didn't feel the pain. Why that is? Nobody can explain it to me, and I've asked lots and lots of doctors about it, but I wasn't feeling a massive pain. It was like somebody punched me in the stomach and somebody kneed me in the leg, give me a dead leg, and that's the extreme pain that I felt. Other people that have been shot by members of my section as offenders high on drugs, feeling no other pain, but when they get shot, shot absolutely scream like a stuck pig. So there's no way of telling what's going to happen when you shoot someone. Sometimes it's painful, sometimes it's not. Sometimes you're completely overwhelmed. Sometimes you are still able to think rationally through and be light-hearted in the midst of it

Speaker 2:

all. But I got to my feet. I staggered around the corner looking for somewhere safe to hide from the shooter and wait for my mates to come and get me. I called out to my mates I'm hit, I'm hit, um. And in actual fact, if you go to YouTube and you uh Google Derek McManus shot 14 times, you'll see the video of um us approaching the house and the shooting happening and you will hear me calling out I'm hit, I'm

Speaker 2:

hit. Where I was at that time wasn't safe. I started moving to another corner of the house. I only walked about two or three paces. I fell to my knees. My legs just gave way below me. I crawled along on my knees, had my gun still in my hand, and then my body got so weak that I fell to my hands and knees and I crawled along on my hands and knees. I got around the corner of the house and I looked up in front of me and there was a fence that I had to climb to get all the way around the house and I just said to myself I can't, I do not have the energy to climb that fence. I collapsed to the ground, rolled onto my back, and to climb that fence, I collapsed to the ground, rolled onto my back, and that's where I stayed for about the next three hours. Now I don't know whether you want to ask a question, because I can keep on explaining this and the things that happened.

Speaker 1:

My heart is beating so fast just listening to you. I definitely want to know what happened after the three hours. But yeah, let me ask a few questions. So, first of all, you said we were wearing that vest, that flag vest. So when you were doing that job, you were fully aware that if somebody attacked you with a military weapon, this would not protect you.

Speaker 2:

You're aware of that. Yes, absolutely.

Speaker 1:

And even when you're like just going along the house, what is happening? Are you really so grounded or is your heart beating? Are you scared? Does fear ever cross your mind when you're in these operations?

Speaker 2:

I think in reality you have to embrace fear. If you don't have any fear, you're dangerous because you just do stuff that is absolutely stupid. So everything has got to be grounded in. I am fearful of what happens, but it's being able to manage that fear through training, through experience, through embracing the fact that we are choosing to take on these jobs, that as I'm approaching that glass sliding door, my heart rate was down around about probably 50 at the time.

Speaker 2:

My resting heart rate at that time was 38. So as I'm moving towards that house, towards that door, my heart rate's probably elevated to 50, because I know that I need to stay calm, rational, composed, so that I can make decisions under pressure. And if my heart rate is racing and my emotions are going high, then my rational thinking drops and I can't make the decisions and take the actions that I want to. So I've got to be able to keep the emotion down, keep the heart rate down, keep the adrenaline from pumping through my body and my rational thinking comes back up. So no, heart was not racing, it was just absolutely calm. I loved being in that environment, but it is also just being very conscious that everything we do is dangerous.

Speaker 1:

And so that's a huge amount of like, that's a very deep meditation state I would call that. I also want to know, because I practice a lot of Krav Maga, so self-defense, and we are being put in some sort of real situations. We have drills at the end of class and we would never hit another peer student to the point that we hit that person, where we sort of train body, uh like muscle memory I would say, and we have to take the scenario to as close as what it could be. And still I'm asking myself am I really ready to be attacked one day in the street, like I'm not sure? So how do you, when you say, yeah, we are prepared, but how can somebody prepare you to be shot 14 times? Like, what do you get in your training to be prepared for that? How close to reality or how close, yeah, to the sensation of it? Can somebody prepare you for that?

Speaker 2:

Have you ever played paintball, ever gone out and done paintball games? Oh, you know what paintball is.

Speaker 2:

Yes, Okay so people go out and play paintball all the time and they say that paintball is very sore. So you are very conscious, you don't want to get hit, because it does hurt, but it only hurts. We use high-tech paintball which is smaller, faster, more accurate and hurts one hell of a lot more what normal paintball does. So when we're training, we are training as close as we possibly can to the real thing. We know that we want to avoid being shot. Can we actually train to actually be shot? No, you can't. So for that part, you've got to be able to use your emotion, and what I did was I used a visualization process, and I'm sure you're going to love this part. I use visualization to say to myself what have I been through before? What experiences have I had? What injuries have I dealt with Not just in policing when I've fallen off my push bike at 60 kilometers an hour coming downhill. What did that feel like? What was the pain? How did I manage that? What was happening in my mind?

Speaker 2:

I'd also been in another incident before I came to Star Group, when I was on general duties, where a guy had pulled a gun, tried to shoot my partner, but the gun was broken so it didn't fire. We then got into a wrestling match. This guy pointed the gun at my partner's chest and was pulling the trigger. The gun was just broken so it didn't go off. We got into a wrestling match. It was so close that nobody was going to pull a gun and shoot him. We got into a wrestling match and while we were wrestling the guy's girlfriend climbed over the top of us, cocked the gun so it could now fire. As she has cocked the gun, I have put my thumb between the hammer and the gun to hold the hammer back so it can't fire.

Speaker 2:

So when I was picturing, if I ever get shot, how will I handle it, I started imagining what was it like in that scenario. How did I keep my mind so calm and my emotions rational that I was able to use my thought process to get creative and just go. I'm just going to put my thumb in between the hammer and hold it back. That's not something I've trained for either, but when we are calm, rational, pragmatic in the midst of adversity because we've been in those environments before we can find creativity. So I, as I was visualizing this, I've gone. How did I do that? What can I learn from that situation that I can now bring forward.

Speaker 2:

And if I imagine myself getting shot, what's going to happen to my mind? What's going to happen to my body? What's my body going to want to do that? I don't want it to do. So I didn't want to go into a state of panic, I didn't want to go into a state of shock. I didn't want my heart rate to elevate, I didn't want my breathing to be short and panting, because that was just going to increase my heart rate as well. So I went into this visualization process.

Speaker 2:

If I do get shocked, what's a perfect response?

Speaker 2:

What also is an absolute chaotic response, chaotic situation? And if it ends up in chaos, how do I manage that? What do I do to keep my mind and my body under control so I can get it closer to something in perfection, and always accepting that, as much as I want to aim for perfection, I'm probably never going to get there, but that's okay. There's a whole heap of vulnerability in there, of wanting myself to be perfect but not expecting myself to be perfect, understanding that I may not be able to get there, and that's okay as well. Kind of like when I was falling at the door Derek, if you're getting shot, it's quite acceptable to fall over.

Speaker 2:

Go easy on yourself. We're not always going to be able to respond perfectly as much as we would like to, as much as we'd love to be able to tell other people oh, I was an absolute legend at this, I was so calm no, it's probably not going to happen. So I went through this visualization process, and so I had both contingencies, and when I did get shot, my mind didn't get overwhelmed, my emotions didn't go high, my rational thinking didn't go low, it stayed just a little bit off par, and so I was able to do the creativity thinking in the midst of it and try and find solutions. Okay, this is what I'm experiencing. How am I going to handle this? How do I keep those emotions low and create the outcome that I want by design, rather than good fortune, misfortune or whatever else it might be?

Speaker 1:

Well, I loved listening to all what you explained right now. Also, all my training and Krav Maga and stuff now makes a lot of sense because we also have to train to get accustomed to pain. So I get massively bruised and we just have to keep going and we also, yeah, have like sparring sessions and it's about doing it more and more, so then you can kind of remember what your body did in certain situations.

Speaker 2:

I should add into your crab very quickly for a moment, when you are getting bashed and bruised and all the rest of it. The reason that you are getting taught to keep on going is so that you know you can keep on going, Because most people will get punched in the face and they'll go. Oh my God, what do I do? I don't know what to do, but when you've been hit and you're able to keep on going, you've instantly overcome that initial reaction and you're able to start thinking. You're still able to keep your instead of becoming tunnel visioned. Your vision and your perception is still broad and you're able to see people on either side of you and all the rest of it, and you're always still solution focused rather than just being overwhelmed.

Speaker 1:

So your craft training is sensational I want to talk about a very vulnerable topic. You're lying down on the floor, right? So nobody's coming to rescue you for a few hours. What is your relationship with the fear of dying? Because it's a reality, it's a possibility in your world. Does that fear exist? Does the thought of dying while you're having your career in the police force even exist? Are you in denial of it or is it very present? And how do you deal with navigating?

Speaker 2:

I'm going to give you an insight that will show that I am a very bizarre person. I am outside the norm. There's only about maybe 1% of police that think the same way that I do. So the reality of dying was present and real. The acceptance that I may die in this situation was absolutely real and present. But that had been real and present from five years prior to the shooting.

Speaker 2:

I sat down with my wife five years prior to the shooting and said I'm going into Star Group, I'll become a sniper, I'll dive, I'll train with the SAS and counter terrorism. There's a very real chance I may be shot and injured, I may be shot and I may be killed. And my question to her was are you comfortable with that as well? If I die, what's your life going to look like? Now there's only about 1% of police that have those conversations with our partners. This is like the elephant in the corner of the room that's too scary to talk about, because we're all fully consciously aware that this is possible, but nobody talks about it and nobody talks about the consequences and what life will look like after that if it does happen. And so, five years before the shooting, fully conscious, if I get shot, there's a real possibility I may die. So, as I was lying on the ground, that was fully real and present and a conscious process that I was going through, these injuries may kill me. But I also said to my wife five years prior if I get shot and I don't die, I want you to know right now, anything better than death is going to be a bonus for me, anything better than death, Even if I spend the rest of my life in a wheelchair. The one thing that I wanted and I know there's lots of people go what's the one thing you want in life? For me it wasn't a conscious thing, I want this one thing. It was just a casual conversation, you know, obviously maybe a little bit more than casual, but it was a consequential conversation with my wife. The one thing I want is just to be able to interact with my children. If I do that from a wheelchair, I'm going to be happy. I'll find a way to enjoy myself because I know the choices that I'm making, the actions and behaviors I'm going to take, and some of those consequences from those actions and behaviors are going to be the best fun of my life. But it may also be tragic and so as I was lying on the ground waiting for those three hours, the possibility of death was always real for me, but it was also a very conscious thought in my mind that I want to do everything I can to extend my life as far as I possibly could.

Speaker 2:

I was lying on the ground for three hours. I was watching the blood pool on the ground next to me as I was bleeding. It was draining out of my body and then running down the concrete of the pathway to just to the side of my body, and I've got some photos of those pools of blood on the concrete. I felt my body consciously closing down. My arms and legs started getting cold because the blood was being drained from the peripherals and into the core of the body. At two hours 40, I consciously accepted the blood was now going just to kidneys, lungs, heart and brain. And at two hours 45, and this is a police thing I was always monitoring my watch and seeing what time it was and how long it was taking, because if I went to court, the court would expect me to be able to relate these times. So that's a very trained process for police.

Speaker 2:

So at two hours and 45 minutes after I was shot, my blood supply got so low that even my vision closed down.

Speaker 2:

But instead of my vision going to shades of grey or black, as pragmatic copper had expected it to, my vision went to an absolutely pristine white. This is the white light that everybody talks about with near-to-death experiences. And when I saw that pristine white light, it's when I actually started fighting harder than I had before. I started moving my body the little bit that I could, just to give myself confidence I still had something left. I started speaking out loud to myself and saying Derek, don't give up, derek, keep on fighting.

Speaker 2:

Fortunately for me, there were two rifle shots fired from outside the house. These are the first two shots I heard from outside the house. The offender I could still hear inside the house. So when I heard these two shots from outside absolute confirmation that my confidence that my mates will be there to save me as soon as they're possibly good they were on their way. When I heard those two shots dump of adrenaline into my body, my vision snapped back up to absolutely perfect. But I then started passing in and out of consciousness because I just didn't have enough blood left in my body wow, I was so moved by all what you said now.

Speaker 1:

So let me just bounce back to one of the first things you shared, which was this conversation with your wife five years prior to it. It touches me so deeply because my mom has health issues at the moment and I had to build up the courage to have the difficult conversations with her. You know about what if something happens to her, and just having that conversation with a person that is older and we know that like it's something that will was already terrifying for me to address that elephant in the room. So I can only imagine what it means for a husband and wife to sit down together and have these conversations, both for you and for her to take that in emotionally. And so I guess that other of your colleagues avoid these conversations because it's too hard to talk about. And and then all what happens.

Speaker 1:

You know when you're lying down on the floor and you're monitoring yourself by the minute. Are you communicating that to your teammates? Like you have some sort of radio, where are you communicating these times? Look, right now it's 2 hours 40. I know my blood is in that position. Is there communication at that point or you're totally alone?

Speaker 2:

um, first of all, let me say I'm sorry that you're going through that with your mom.

Speaker 2:

That's a very, very hard time. My mom's passed away, so I know what that feels like. It's a very real and very um, intimidating time. So I'm sorry you're going through that. Um, while I'm on the ground I don't have a radio with me. No, two ways about it. I put my hand up. That's a mistake that I made and there's a good story behind that, but we don't have time to go into it. But I didn't take my radio with me on that day and so I wasn't able to communicate with people. So for the three hours lying on the ground, they didn't know whether I was dead or alive. They had, and you'll see on the video. They heard me calling out now and that's a video available on youtube. They heard me calling out. They heard me saying I'm hit, I'm here. They responded derrick's down, derrick's hit, call for backup. But after that absolute silence, the reality is I was calling out to them saying I'm hit, I'm hurt and I need help. They couldn't hear me. They were too far away.

Speaker 2:

The offender was still shooting and he'd moved up into the roof of the house and just shooting in a random direction, looking through ventilation bricks at people moving around and putting bullets at their feet. He was trying to hit them, but because they were going through this ventilation brick, um, they were hitting the brick and just being deflected uh, and so it's just very good fortune that somebody wasn't uh hit. But they were also calling out to me Derek, where are you, derek, where are you? Um? And it's the video that I see afterwards. This part of the video is not available to the public, but the video shows them calling out to me and so I know they were doing it. I didn't hear a thing, so they don't know whether I'm dead or alive. For the three hours that I was on the ground, those two bullets fired. They gave me that adrenaline dump and brought my vision back up.

Speaker 2:

That was the first step of the extraction team, the rescue team, coming in to get me. The guys who came in to get me were told we don't know whether Derek's dead or alive. We don't know whether you're going in to pick up a body or whether you're going to pick up Derek. There's a very real chance you may be shot and injured. You may be shot and killed, and every one of those guys had the opportunity to say no, this is too dangerous, and in my mind that would be a smart decision. This is too dangerous. The threat was there. They may be shot and injured. They may be shot and killed.

Speaker 2:

They thought that the offender had a position in the house where he could see whatever's going on around it. Every one of those guys stepped up to the plate and said no, this is what I've trained for my mate's out there. I want to be the one to go in and get him. And they came in under fire and risked their lives to save mine. The first doctor to get to me said by the time they picked me up, got me into the truck, drove me to where the ambulance was waiting. And the ambulance was waiting in a place that was still in direct line of fire from the shooter just a very unfortunate place and they treated me for 10 minutes in direct line of fire and if they didn't treat me for 10 minutes I would be dead. The doctor said I was about 30 seconds from death. In actual fact, the doctor has said that all the textbooks and I smile because you know this is a little bit lighthearted on the doctor's side, but it's very real. At the same time, the doctor actually said all the textbooks say that my heart should have stopped. He then goes on to say the only reason my heart didn't stop is because I hadn't read the textbooks. And that's how he explains it. He just doesn't understand how my heart didn't stop. So I'm very fortunate, but I put that also down to mindset.

Speaker 2:

As I alluded to before, the four things that I needed to do that I already, five years prior to the shooting, had planned was control panic. Don't let panic take control of the incident. Things that I needed to do that I already, five years prior to the shooting, had planned was control panic. Don't let panic take control of the incident, which is like your craft training Don't panic, keep on going, keep on moving positively. You can have an influence if you don't panic. So I had to control panic. I had to control shock. The body's response to major trauma physical and psychological had to slow down my heart rate and I had to slow shock. The body's response to major trauma physical and psychological had to slow down my heart rate and I had to slow down my breathing. And they are the things being able to keep all that under control for three hours. That actually kept me alive.

Speaker 1:

So a whole team of people really are having your back and are like no, we're going to rescue Derek, and maybe as well you have done that for others during your career when others were injured. What is and maybe that is also linked with why you're doing the job, but what is actually the drive for people to do that? Is it because of your relationships and friendships are so strong, or is it a sense of duty? Strong or is it a sense of duty? Or is it? What is what makes people make these choices?

Speaker 2:

that is, we going in, no matter what. First time I've been asked that question and I love it, and the answer to it is deep and multifaceted. So, first of all, it's personal performance. And everybody going into that section consciously makes a choice and a commitment that if something happens, I am going to do everything I possibly can to find a safe resolution to it. Right. And that mindset is tested during our selection process. And our selection process is a mini version of the military special forces, right, but we are under pressure to make sure that we've got the right mindset.

Speaker 2:

There is a personal pride.

Speaker 2:

I don't want to be in an environment where I'm expected to do this and then I fail.

Speaker 2:

So I need to make sure that I am going to live my performance to not just what's expected of me, but to one level above that, so that I can show that I am worthy of being in this section.

Speaker 2:

And being worthy of being in this section is almost the the calling of every special forces, elite forces around the world, whether it be police or military, is that if I do something that is I can't think of the right word that I want to use but if I do something that is not in a line with the expectations of the section. I embarrass myself, but more than that I embarrass the reputation of the section and the reputation of the section of being elite, being a section that you can rely on to do things at the absolute extreme. If I damage the reputation of the section, I feel worse than if I damage my own reputation. So everybody is performing to the level of expectation of that unit and our unit has, as every elite military and police unit has, that expectation that we are above I'm going to use bad terminology there that we will perform at the highest levels under any pressure. So yeah, it's so multifaceted.

Speaker 1:

You got shot 14 times. It's so multifaceted. You got shot 14 times. You it's almost. It is a miracle that you survived this, this, this shooting. I'm guessing that you spend a lot of time in hospital. What happened after? We often say when you're in a car crash or you are in a motorcycle crash, you will probably be scared to start driving again. Was that the end of your career in the Special Forces? You said, okay, this is done now. Or did you actually go back on the grounds afterwards?

Speaker 2:

Five years prior when I had that conversation with my wife. I discussed with her at the time if I get shot and I get injured and there's a possibility of going back to Star Group, my injuries aren't that bad. I want you to know right now. I want to go back into Star Group. That will always be my aim. I used to ride horses when I was younger and I still love horses and horse riding. But I had my own horse when I was younger and it was always trained into me that if you're riding your horse and your horse throws you off, get back on the horse so you've got your confidence back and the horse knows who's actually in control. Right, because if it gets the idea that it can throw you off, then it will always throw you off when it gets upset. So for me, it was the analogy of I want to get back on the horse that threw me and that was always my aim. And coming out of hospital, I had my first meeting with my rehab coordinator my rehabilitation coordinator from the police and, as you can pick up, I'm kind of light-hearted while at the same time being able to be serious within the moment as well and had this meeting with the rehab coordinator and we were mucking around and having a bit of a laugh and she's like Derek, we need to get serious now. We need to start making your plans. I want to know what your plan is for one year, what your plan is for five years and where you see yourself being long-term and I said well, long-term where I see myself is going back into start group and going fully operational. And this poor lady, she just looked at me and she just she cracked up laughing. Oh really, oh, you're serious. Oh, I'm so sorry, I didn't know you were. I thought you were just mucking around. That was always my attitude.

Speaker 2:

I always wanted to go back into start group While still being vulnerable enough that that was my aim. I may not be able to make it. Doctors are telling me I was lucky to be alive. I was a 50-50 chance of surviving surgery With the injuries I have and the disablement of my muscles and I use that word disablement very different to my disabilities, but the disablement within my muscles. The doctors were predicting I wouldn't walk properly. I'd never be able to run, hop, skip, jump. I'd be lucky to be able to live a half normal life with my physical injuries. So that was always in my mind. That's what the doctors are predicting and these are the experts. So I said 10 years time, that's where, long term, that's where I want to be. I want to go back to start a group while still accepting I may not, all right, and so it's a dichotomy in my mind I want to get there, but I may not get there, and that's okay as well. So it was always that plan.

Speaker 2:

But my first aim was always just to be able to get back and interact with my children. That was my priority, that was my number one, and if that's the only thing I ever achieved, I'd be absolutely over the moon to be able to still do that. But as I started getting that little bit fitter, that little bit extra movement, I started looking at what's the next step? What's the next step? What's the next step, while still keeping the dream of Star Group there. In reality, I was stepping, stepping, stepping and then five step backwards, because I pushed too far, tried something that didn't work and I had to start regaining that. Emotional highs, emotional lows, excitement and exhilaration, tears, fears, all those sorts of things.

Speaker 2:

Two and a half years after the shooting, I went back to Star Group full duties, no restrictions, back to jumping in and out of the helicopters, back to high risk arrests and all the rest of it and absolutely loved being back in that environment. Now that isn't something. I've just gone. I'm coming back to work. Bang, let's get into that environment again. I needed to make sure that I was going to be all right in that environment. The people that I was working with needed to be sure they could trust me as well. The expectation is that I'm going to have flashbacks, I'm going to have nightmares, I'm going to be in a situation and I'm just going to freeze because it's going to overwhelm me.

Speaker 2:

So I came back to work, but then I went back into the outer cordon of a siege, right way, way from the action. But I was just in that environment. And how did you feel about that, derek, and I've gone? Oh, actually, I felt really comfortable. I just want to get in there, always passionate about wanting to get back to my job. Then I went to the inner cordon, so still outside of the actual incident and just containing things. Very comfortable with that. Then I went to the arrest team. The arrest team comes in after the entry team has already been through, brought the offender out, hands the offender over to the ERS team and then they go back and clear the building again and felt very comfortable with that, went back into the entry team. So it was all staged, monitored and I never balked once, always felt comfortable, because I had the same reality of mindset Five years prior to the shooting. I knew there was a possibility I may be shot and injured, possibility I may be shot and injured, I may be shot and killed. Now, going back into the environment, it was exactly the same situation and my mindset was never changed.

Speaker 2:

A lot of people say, derek, you must have gone through an aha moment. It's changed your life. You must look at life from a different perspective now and I'm very, very fortunate that I've gone back to living exactly the same life with the same attitudes, with the same perspectives that I had before. Some of the simplest and most beautiful comments, observations that friends have made of me, most, uh, complimentary, are Derek, you're exactly the same person now as you were before the shooting. You haven't changed and that's just a huge compliment to me. That sits beautifully with me that it didn't change my life and most people talk about after something like this you would have post-traumatic stress. I have actually experienced post-traumatic growth, um so I'm able to learn from this, and now what I do is share that learning with other people and, cindy, it's an honor to be able to share it with you tonight wow, post-traumatic growth.

Speaker 1:

I I just love that term because I'm like in how many other areas of our lives could we actually just take a moment, take that in and think about how can I take this, whatever is happening to me that is not even a shooting but how can we transform this into a post-traumatic moment of growth? You also touched on the fact that when you reintegrate your team, there's not only you that needs to be strong, there's also relationships that need to be. Yeah, people need to trust you that they know that you are strong and focused in those situations. Is it an environment where you lose a lot of teammates or people, sort of, in those police forces for a short amount of time and then eventually they drop out because stress is too high or something happens and they don't come back like you? Is it a constant sort of environment where you have to rebuild teams, or is it, on the contrary, no, once you enter those police forces, these friendships and those work relationships are very long term. What sort of environment are we?

Speaker 2:

working in the relationships within the police department are very long term. Whether it's in Star Group in the elite area, or whether it's general patrols, it doesn't matter. We know that our lives are on the line. Whether we're walking up to a house for a domestic violence situation, a couple of my mates, as they were knocking on the door, somebody is fired through that door. Now we're trained to stay out of the line of fire, but they fired through the door, so the threat is real and present for every member of the police force. They fired through the door, so the threat is real and present for every member of the police force. So we're so close there that those relationships last forever.

Speaker 2:

Having said that, there are personalities that I don't get along with and don't get along with me in the police, and we all have to be able to accept that. There are some people that do you know something. If I never see them again, I am not going to lose any sleep over it, but that's real in every part of life. But certainly there are bombs that I haven't seen people for 20 years now and if we ran into each other it'd be. Let's sit down and have a drink and catch up and the conversation go on like we were with each other yesterday.

Speaker 1:

I also want to ask you who you were before entering the police force, because now we're talking, I know you're retired from the police forces, but you are this very gentle, wise, humble, down-to-earth, funny man. But you had many years to build that wisdom and that calmness in you. But who were you before choosing this career path? Were you somebody that that was extremely intense? Were you somebody that was extremely into combat sports? Were you somebody that, on the contrary, was very introvert? How would you describe yourself before?

Speaker 2:

that's a really good question and it's just an interesting uh perspective, because now I'm out the other end and you're asking what it was like on the opposite end. Before I came in, I think I was just an average child. I wasn't out there, I didn't do any self-defense. I mixed with a lot of people. I probably had a fair amount of insecurities within myself, but I think all teenagers, all children, do have their own insecurities. Am I being judged?

Speaker 2:

There were a lot of people that I didn't get along with back in my childhood, but I also had this really tight community around me. I wasn't bold and brash and brave in my mind. I was in a lot of bullying situations where I didn't fight back because I wasn't bold enough. I didn't know what to do in that situation. So there was a lot of growth and learning from role models as to how to develop my life.

Speaker 2:

As I grew through it and I'll be completely vulnerable here I had some very immature periods even in my adulthood because I just wasn't sure what to do and I tried to be the bold guy and just acted immaturely and so I had to then go. Do you know something? I made that choice. I now need to own that and do something better next time. And that's the first time I've thought about it this way. That's probably where that wisdom started building in. I made the choice to act that way. I've got to own it and just accept. You were an idiot, Derek. Don't do that again. And I think that introspection of being able to analyze what we've done, why we did it and how we would be able to perform better next time was probably the baseline for most of the things that I've done in my life now.

Speaker 1:

And then a pillar of courage, or at least that's the impression that I really get from her seems to be your wife that was able to sit down with you, have these conversations and stuff. How would you describe your wife through that period? Because being the wife of somebody with your career it takes something.

Speaker 2:

I think there was a fair difference between my wife and I. The reason I had these conversations was I wanted to be as real as possible and accept the reality of my choices. I think my wife and we are divorced. We divorced two years after the shooting. I think she was living in the. This won't happen to me. That happens to other people. That happens in movies. This won't happen to me. That happens to other people. That happens in movies, this won't happen to me.

Speaker 2:

And so, as much as she was willing to engage in that conversation, I don't think she approached it with the same reality that I did. And when I did get shot, I think it absolutely shocked her that the reality was here. She'd also read a lot of stories in magazines about tragedies that happen to families and then the magazines do a follow-up 12 months later where everything's nice, sweet for the family, everything's back to normal and they're living a happy life. And that was her reality. And this is a conversation we had afterwards and she said, derek, it got to 12 months and nothing was better, and that's when she lost it. She just absolutely uh, had to accept that this was real and it was going to last many, many years and it wasn't until we got to that moment that she actually realized that it was as real as it is. She loved the reputation that came with being the wife of somebody in the special operations unit in the star group, because that comes with its own reputation and, don't get me wrong, I love that reputation of being in there as well, but it also came with the reality. Whereas I think she was just wrapped up, as a lot of people are and I'm really not trying to be negative about my ex-wife she was a lovely person and we're still good friends now, so there's no animosities there but I don't think that conversation was as real for her as it was for me. But it was still important for me to know that I'd had that conversation and given her the chance to accept it as reality. And I'm just going to give you a little insight into my personality and how you can have those conversations but still be lighthearted while dealing with reality.

Speaker 2:

So I said I may be shot and injured, I may be shot and killed, and if I die, what's your life going to look like? And we discussed part of what we discussed is what will you tell my children about the person that I am, that I made choices to put myself in an environment where I knew this might happen and I still wouldn't. What would you tell my children? So we had that discussion. I then had a discussion with her about what will you do afterwards. Will you just go on and get married? Will you stay single? And it wasn't about me saying this is what I expect. It was about me saying whatever you choose is absolutely fine, and I want you to know I'm comfortable and there's no expectations of doing one thing or the other.

Speaker 2:

But I also threw her a third option. I said you may go on and get married, you may stay single and just look after your kids yourself. And the third option I threw to her was you may just want to build a little shrine in the corner and worship me every day, and that'd be fine by me. Apparently, it wasn't as popular for her. So you can have these real conversations, break that tension. And when you break the tension and then go back to a real discussion, you can do it a little bit more relaxed, right, right, and you're not getting overwhelmed completely. You break that tension and you're, you're thinking, as able to be that little bit more creative, um and and have deeper discussions by breaking that tension and I do those things deliberately in a lot of conversations just so that people go oh okay, let me just breathe for a moment. Okay, now let's continue deep, real conversations rather than just being overwhelmed.

Speaker 1:

Also me as an actress. You know, listening to how your wife reacted, I can totally imagine you know like, how do you even comprehend and compute the reality in which you're living? But can I also ask so obviously you were trained to expect certain things that would happen to the ground, but, for example, your spouses don't get any training. No, no.

Speaker 2:

And, to be quite honest, we get trained to a certain degree. But me going through the visualization, the acceptance, having that conversation with my wife was over and above anything that anybody else was doing. Nobody had trained me to do that, nobody had said that this is something you could do. This is just something that innately came to me and I thought this is something I need to do. Basically it was, essentially it was a service to my wife, just to make sure that she had as much acceptance of the reality of the dangers as what I did, and that made me feel better that she was as prepared as I could help her with.

Speaker 1:

Let's fast forward now. So after a whole career in the police forces, you actually took all those life lessons, took all that wisdom, took a lot of skills that you nourished throughout the years and you build your own business. Can you tell us more about what your business is doing?

Speaker 2:

okay. So I, while I was still in the police, people asked me to speak at conferences and tell the story of the shooting, and I've gone. Not a chance. If you want the hero story, the guys who came in to get me of the heroes pay them money. Human body holds 10 units of blood. I used 24 units of blood in seven hours and the blood service came and said would you like to say thank you to blood donors? And I've gone. Yep, no problem. Saying thank you was easy. That was about them, it wasn't about me.

Speaker 2:

When I started speaking to them about what I did, what their blood donation meant to me and how I handled that, people were saying, oh my gosh, I've taken this out of that. You've changed my life. And I realised there was more to the story than just the hero story. And so then I started talking about personal leadership, resilience, and now I'm talking about what I call human durability, and that is resilience on steroids. It's about our ability to not just problem solve and bounce back and be resilient. It's about having some anticipation of what might happen. How is that going to affect me, how can I best respond to it and how might I be? What might the future look like afterwards. Now, this, in essence, is exactly the conversation I had with my wife what might that future look like afterwards? Now, this, in essence, is exactly the conversation I had with my wife what might that future look like afterwards?

Speaker 2:

But I do that in every aspect of my life, and I now teach people how to do that for themselves as well, but I also teach leaders how to do it for their teams, and I teach organisations how to do it for their people as well. As the organisation your organisation is going to make a choice to take this action. What might the consequences be? We always take action because we want the best, but what might the worst look like? And so I say that we need to have open, honest and confronting conversations about the reality of the future. If the worst happens, will your company survive? Will your relationship survive? Will you be able to look people in the face if you've embarrassed yourself? Where does your passion come from? And so this human durability concept is about making better decisions, taking better action and lowering our mental stress as a result of it.

Speaker 1:

It's just phenomenal. I am so happy that our paths crossed because for a very long time I've been obsessed with Chris Voss, who was a former FBI agent who was in hostage negotiations, and I've studied a lot of his videos because I want to play these sort of characters, and now I feel I found my own Chris Voss that I was able to have a conversation with, and you shared so much knowledge and empowering thoughts. It's just been phenomenal. Where can people find you on the web, on social media, to work with you as a coach or just to follow your phenomenal stories?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, thank you, and I'm humbled to be compared to Chris Voss. He's an amazing man, but the essence of what Chris Voss does is still controlling his emotional state so that he can think through scenarios better than what the criminals can. So for you to compare me to Chris Voss, I'm humbled. Thank you so much. People can find me on the socials LinkedIn, facebook, instagram too, if you really want to Instagram, but I've also got my own website, obviously, and it's DerekMcManuscom, and I love, love, love speaking at conferences, running anything from a 90-minute training to a full two-day training.

Speaker 2:

The other thing that really surprises people is I do these talks and these trainings for 10-year-old kids in schools, schools, but also the RAAF fighter pilots.

Speaker 2:

I do it for CEOs, I do it for executives, I do it for hairdressers, I do it for plumbers. It is universally applicable to anybody who is making decisions about the future, and we need to be able to enable ourselves to make better decisions, anticipate what those consequences might be and have a plan of action to already manage them, and I've got unique programs and models and processes. And, again, one of the greatest compliments that I've been given is Derek. This just all makes such sense. And, again, another great compliment that I was given by the president of the Real Estate Institute of New South Wales was, derek, what you have taught me today, I can take back to the office on Monday and implement it straight away. It doesn't take any great training or great processing. It takes practice. There's no two ways about it, and so I love working with people and coaching them too. Seeing people grow in confidence, in courage and belief in their own capacity, while still lowering their mental stress Sensational, I love it.

Speaker 1:

Derek, have you written a book or are you planning to write a book?

Speaker 2:

The book of the story is about 80% done. I've done the first draft. I'm now going back through the editing process and getting to a second draft, so it shouldn't be too long before that book comes out. And then I want to do a book of the human durability philosophy, where that comes from and how people can use it, because I can talk to people at conferences. But if I can share that philosophy through the book it'll go wider and further than I'll ever be able to reach.

Speaker 1:

Thank you so much, Derek, for this phenomenal conversation. It was just an honor to speak to you and to be a witness of you recounting that journey with so much power and love and resilience, and it's been absolutely fantastic. Me as an actress I am very, not just inspired for the roles that I want to play, but also as a human being and how to go forward from here.

Speaker 2:

Cindy, thank you so much. That's a huge compliment. It's been an absolute pleasure talking to you. Your mind works in different ways as well, and you've asked questions that I haven't been asked before. And as I'm talking to you and I know the audience can't see your face when I'm talking to you, but I can see your eyes just absolutely transfixed and your mind is just ticking over all the time. So it's been an absolute pleasure, Anna, to be able to talk to you tonight.

Speaker 1:

Thank you.

Real-Life Experience of Special Operations: introduction
Being shot 14 times...
About fear
About pain and calmness
Not giving up
The fear of death
Committed to save a teammate
After the shooting
Who was Derrick before STAR group?
The reality of being a police officer's wife
About Human Durability
The stories of Chris Voss started Cindy with her acting research
Working with Derrick