Situational Awareness

I’m often asked by clients how they can increase their safety while out in public. I find this question especially relevant with recent events. Too many times, the answers I hear to this question in the industry is focused on the latest gear, the popular EDC of the day, or the latest hand to hand fad that the coolest internet personality is shilling. The best solution is often the simplest, but it is ignored because it is not easy. Why put in effort when you can buy the latest piece of gear?


The Problem


People have become extroverts on the internet and introverts in public. We have become cocooned in our technology and convenience. We don’t talk to our neighbors or take interest in our community unless it is on the latest phone app or internet forum. Everywhere you go you see people buried in their devices, disconnected from the real world. It is a double edged sword. We have become much more in touch with global events, but are now completely oblivious to what is happening around us. Terrorist events are constantly happening in the United States. One of the popular TTP’s of the day are pressure cooker bombs as we saw in Boston and now recently in NYC. How many people do you think walked right by them or didn’t notice them being place because they were buried in their phones?


The Answer


The solution is simple. Look around. Pay attention. Look, Listen, Smell. Absorb and process your surroundings, constantly. Of course this takes effort and constant repetition until it is habit.  It isn’t as comfortable as staring at your Facebook feed. It isn’t paranoid to be aware- it is our natural, primal state. We were built with the instincts for survival, to be alert for predators or threat- we have just become domesticated. Here is a question I get: “When you go out- what color state of awareness are you?”. It makes me shake my head to even write it. Let me be clear here- if you think a checklist or flow chart will make you effective in a situation, you have been misinformed. The idea that you should constantly check your state of awareness that it is in line with the appropriate color is preposterous. The thought that you need an OODA loop to respond to a threat is ridiculous. Too often we think that some quantifiable step by step program is the answer to life, when it is not. Life is dynamic and constantly changing. Attempting to shoehorn the environment into rigid steps and categories limits ourselves.




I can’t make it more simple than that. Of course, it will undoubtedly be pointed out that high levels of awareness will mentally fatigue you. That is correct. However, it gets less fatiguing with practice and repetition. Life isn’t easy to begin with, suck it up and do it anyways. Be aware of your state of mental fatigue and use that awareness to feed into your decision making progress.


Be a Sensor


Here is the high effort part. Develop visual scanning habits. People watch. Use the mirrors in your vehicle. Constantly. Take mental note of what you see and try to remember it. Visually observe the path or road ahead of you- if you see something you don’t like, then adjust accordingly. Plan ahead, constantly “what if”: instead of looking for the latest entertaining post on Facebook, imagine what you would do if a car cut you off, or if a threat appeared around a blind corner. Constantly analyze your surroundings: know what drivable terrain is when in a vehicle, know where your positions of cover or escape routes are when on foot. It isn’t being paranoid- it is being prepared. It is not being a useless air thief that is stealing oxygen from other individuals who have to put in extra effort to cover down on your lane because you think it is a waste of time or because you were told that your default level is “yellow”.


An Alert Society


What I want you to take away from this is a wakeup call. I want you to walk out the door tomorrow and immediately scan your driveway/street/neighborhood. I want you to be looking around as you drive. I want you to be observant of your surroundings. I want you to notice something out of place or an unattended bag- and REPORT IT. But most of all, I want you to be a DISCIPLE of awareness. Disciples are not just a followers- they are leaders. They seek out and creates more disciples. They spread the word. I want you to spread the word of awareness and self-reliance. I want you to spread the word of taking personal responsibility for not just your safety, but for that of those around you. I want you to create a network of citizen sensors that are monitoring everything around them. This is the way we create a safer society.



OPSEC in the Tactical Training Industry

OPSEC in the CQB and Tactical Training Industry


There is  great interest in the tactical training industry for tactics articles. Posts detailing CQB and other tactics frequently drive spikes in page views, social media shares, and increased business. But, what are the risks of such articles? How do we balance providing awareness against helping undesirable elements? I’m often asked specific questions about tactics or approached to write specific articles. Most of the time I decline. Often, the people that have approached me are confused as to why I would make this decision. They sometimes argue the rationale that the article will be posted in a closed group or on a vetted forum. This week, I’d like to explain my position on why I limit the videos, posts, and articles on tactical training, CQB, and similar topics to the extent I do.




The best starting point to this discussion is the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR). There are wide ranging opinions about ITAR and its applicability- but it does exist. ITAR is the regulatory enforcement that the United States government uses to restrict defense-related information and equipment to foreign entities or persons. As enforcement, US Citizens and/or companies can be prosecuted and heavily fined under these regulations. ITAR is a very broad set of regulations, and compounding this is the broad content of publications like US Army Field manuals. Certain topics like CQB and Small Unit Tactics are contained in the regulations, and often derived either from these manuals directly or from the training an instructor received that was based on them. ITAR section 120.9(a)(3) clearly outlines this. If you are in doubt you may want to give it a read as this section is designed to regulate training in Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures. The enforceability of broad interpretations of ITAR is debatable, but you should remember that the government isn’t scared to prosecute you with ludicrous amounts of your own tax dollars, whether they have a good case or not.


Enemies of America


Another key point is that we are at war.Yes, that’s right. It doesn’t matter if we have pulled out of Iraq and Afghanistan is spooling down. We are not the sole authority as to whether we are at war or peace, the enemy has a say. Currently we are at war with Islamic Extremism (among others, depending on your views) both at home and abroad. Fort Hood, Dallas, and Boston are examples of attacks by these very enemies. The Dallas shooter, specifically, received tactical training from a tactics instructor in Houston. Ask yourself how it will make you feel if the next shooter reads your articles on tactics and then seemingly applied them.

Our country is also being invaded across our southern border. Thousands of “Special Interest Aliens” are apprehended by enforcement on our southern border each year. These SIA’s are from countries like Syria, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, which are full of terrorist operatives. And those are just the ones that are caught.

I think it is reasonable to take the standpoint that nobody should be providing training or information to people who want us either subjugated or dead. Would you agree?


Criminal Elements

What about those in our country who have less than honorable intentions? Those who specialize in crimes like home invasions, muggings, etc. Would supplying them with specific techniques and exclusive tactical training be detrimental to law abiding citizens? Lock picking and restraint defeat are popular topics these days. Would CQB training be an aid to a home invasion gang? Would marksmanship training help the next active shooter? I think these questions are worth asking and pointing out for the purposes of this discussion. It also broadens the scope of concern when it comes to the disclosure of tactical training and related information.


The Internet

Here is where all these problems really come to light. We use the internet to promote our businesses, share training, or to discuss things in forums. Some of these forums (or websites) are private and only accessible by users who the administrators choose. Let me be clear about something: IF IT IS ON THE INTERNET, IT IS NOT SECURE- PERIOD. This includes forums that are restricted to L/E or Military users. If you would not be comfortable posting something on a public domain where everyone in the world can view it, YOU SHOULD NOT BE POSTING IT. I understand that many of these sites are viewed as useful tools for the exchange of ideas between professionals in the industry. However, caution should be exercised as to the specificity of TTP’s. The same approach is valid for videos. It is worth considering whether hanging a video of ballistic penetration capabilities and the limitations of ammunition types when it comes to sections of vehicles is a good idea. Of course many of us want to validate our training by publicly showing proof of concepts or to refute someone else’s view. Often we do not consider the possibilities of our full audience.



I am a firm believer and supporter of our Constitution. The Second Amendment guarantees our right to own firearms and to receive training in them. The First Amendment guarantees our right to free speech. This causes many in the industry to cringe when our Executive Branch of government proposes that YouTube videos could fall under ITAR. However, it detracts from the larger and more important question- SHOULD the information be shared? I don’t like the idea of the government dictating what we say, but should it have to? If we are so concerned about sharing valuable training information with each other, why are we equally not concerned about it falling into the wrong hands?


My Policy

We all have our lines to draw as to what we publicly disseminate and what we do not. I have published a series on the tactical rifle on YouTube, but it is limited to very basic fundamentals. Is it something that I would email directly to ISIS? Absolutely not. However, when weighing the content versus the value of dissemination- I don’t think it is out of bounds. On the other hand, I don’t post instruction on other certain topics that I feel would be irresponsible- Like CQB and lethal shot placement. BUT WAIT, THAT INFORMATION IS ALREADY ON THE INTERNET SO IT IS NO BIG DEAL! Sorry, that’s a cop out. I don’t care if some other instructor has posted information on the topic previously- it doesn’t validate the choice. Nor does it make it responsible to further expound on the topic. Limiting the dissemination of more sensitive topics to courses I teach gives me the ability to control who it goes to, to some extent. Although the people taught could then share the information with others outside of my control, at least I have some measure of evaluating the initial recipient. If I see something questionable about a prospective client- then I can refuse a slot to them, request further information from them, or just permanently add them to my training blacklist.



I have no doubt that some will not agree with some of my statements. Some will. I don’t have authority over others in the industry- they are free to do what they want. What I hope is that, if nothing else, this article may cause you to reconsider something you might post in YouTube, Facebook, or a private forum in the future. Perhaps you don’t post it, perhaps you re-write it so that it isn’t more specific than is necessary, maybe you decide to just meet with your audience in person. Keep in mind that the internet is not secure and it is forever. Once you share something on it- it can go anywhere.