Mike Pannone is the latest addition to the NRA Carry Guard leadership team; you can read Eric Frohardt’s introduction here. We wanted to know a little more about Mike’s background, and he kindly obliged us by answering our questions.
NRA Carry Guard: What can you tell us about the role that you’ll be taking on at NRA Carry Guard?
Mike Pannone: I will be a senior advisor and instructor, helping to develop and review curriculum so it’s the nationwide standard for concealment training.
CG: What does NRA Carry Guard offer that, in your eyes, distinguishes it from other training options that are out there?
MP: I see it as a high-quality standardized and coordinated program that is progressive in nature. That freedom to grow sets NRA Carry Guard apart from the pack.
CG: What benefits do you see in having instructors from elite military backgrounds creating programs for everyday civilian use?
MP: Our level of training and the difficulty of said training are both extraordinarily high, and we are also often called upon to train other U.S. or allied servicemembers. We have in our mental profiles the desire to excel, achieve, work as a team and be the best at whatever we undertake. We never lose sight of the mission at hand, which in this instance is to provide the best training available. We have met extremely high standards to attain our respective units and individual proficiencies, and we bring those high standards to this project. Finally, our real-world experience gives us a window on the practical application of the skills we teach and the realities of their application that are unique.
CG: How does working under the banner of the NRA affect your work or its visibility?
MP: It’s an iconic, nationally and internationally recognized brand. It is a part of American culture, and that elevates anyone’s name and brand recognition to unprecedented heights. Being a part of the NRA is an honor because I believe 100 percent in their core mission and goals and because at its heart, it is a traditional part of Americana.
CG: Can you give us an overview of your military career? How did you end up going from Marine Recon to Army Special Forces to Delta Force?
MP: My father was a Marine and all I ever really wanted to be was a Marine, so I started out in the Corps. There I was exposed to the reconnaissance community and decided to try out. I succeeded and went to Amphibious Reconnaissance School—now called Basic Reconnaissance Course—and was hooked on the “commando lifestyle,” as I call it. I loved the adventure, travel, challenges, training and camaraderie. Recon was a perfect fit and an incredible way to start my career. In Marine Reconnaissance I was exposed to all the other special units in the Army, Navy and Air Force and after training with Army Special Forces in Thailand, I decided it was something I wanted to do. I switched services and once there, as always, I was looking for the next special opportunity. After several years in SF I was selected by Delta, and that was my last unit before my injury cut my career short.
CG: Did your work as an independent contractor and advisor provide you with a different perspective? Were there any takeaways that weren’t necessarily as clear when you were in the military?
MP: Yes, it did. I was never in the regular military as most see it. I was always in all-volunteer units with arduous selection courses, so there was an esprit within the esprit of being a Marine or soldier. As a contractor I was functioning either alongside or embedded within regular Army and Marine units, and I got to see some of their unique skill requirements and impart when appropriate some of my particular skills and experience to enhance both their lethality and survivability. It was a great opportunity to give back to an Army and Marine Corps that had shaped in an incredibly positive way my entire life.
CG: Was competitive shooting always an interest of yours, or did that develop after leaving the military? What was your path to getting into USPSA?
MP: Yes, but it was always a matter of finding time to do it between deployments and schools. I like going fast when it comes to shooting, and USPSA is the best way to do that in a meaningful way. It provides legitimate feedback on your actual skills relative to a national database of tens of thousands of shooters. Given the chance, I’d shoot a match or two a week—I enjoy and benefit from it that much. I am a very competitive Type-A person, so it just suits me and is the absolute best way to validate your skills and training against a national audience of competitors.
CG: What are your hallmarks as an instructor? What about your background do you think causes you to stand out the most?
MP: I was very blessed by my parents to receive a tremendous formal education, and that has fostered my level of formal study on the topics related to shooting. I believe it has been the foundation of my success and sets me apart along with my template for instruction. I have taken it upon myself to study and seek out those who specialize in kinesiology and performance enhancement (sports) psychology as well as adult/neural learning. It helps me truly understand how we move and learn most effectively, how coaches foster peak performance and how to present material that is clear, concise, unambiguous and unassailable. My evaluation and presentation template is the following:
CG: What can you tell us about the short- to medium-range vision of NRA Carry Guard training? In what ways would you like to see the program evolve?
MP: I have to give the caveat that I am the newest member, so I only speak based on my limited exposure. As I understand it, we intend to create a nationwide standard for those who seek training related to concealed carry and self-defense that is beyond compare. In the immediate future we will focus on the existing core NRA Carry Guard courses and curriculum. Beyond that, I see us letting circumstances help us go beyond that as we fill unmet training needs with our unique program and the outstanding skills of the NRA Carry Guard Team.
Although many will discount the benefits of smaller self-defense and personal protection items, there is no doubt that having something is always better than having nothing, especially when your safety and perhaps even your survival depends upon it.
A firearm will almost always be your best defense against an armed gunman. However, in the event that you’re unable to carry concealed, a can of pepper spray has the potential of neutralizing the threat of lethal force.