Saturday, August 8, 2015

Basics 3: Awareness

One of the most basic skills the tactical operator and guy walking down the street needs is awareness.

The first “O” in Boyd’s OODA loop is Observe.  There is a reason nature prefers eyes on the higher parts of the body and not around the ankles.  To survive in any era, the ability to observe danger is critical.

There are many articles on becoming aware of your surroundings and strategies to improve and become a Yoda-like master of awareness.  The easiest one to start with is: put down that phone!

 walking un-aware, head in the electronic clouds
Heads in the electronic clouds

Do you think either of these men are aware of their surroundings?  Either of them could step into a depression in the sidewalk and do a face plant, leaving themselves helpless.  Going Bluetooth doesn’t help either.  You’ve seen the people carrying on a conversation with their invisible Bluetooth friend and be completely out of it.

Driving is even be worse.  During a half second glance at 60mph you’ll travel 14.5 yards.  Is it any better at slow speeds?

In a parking lot, creeping along at 5mph you’ll travel 1.7 yards in a half second glance.   Just far enough to run someone over or crash your car.

Sure, you need to take the message.  It’s from your spouse or kids.  Some messages are important, a doctor’s appointment that opened up, an accident that you need to respond to, a sick child at school.  I could go on and on.

If you’re driving, pull off the road in a safe location, put the flashers on if needed, make sure the doors are locked and check that message.  I keep the engine running and the car in gear with my foot on the brake.  If my environment changes I can start moving by taking my foot off the brake. 

On foot, the same ensconced outlook prevails.   I want to get out of the flow of foot traffic, and I want to get my back to a wall or a solid object.  This limits the access someone trying to approach me has.  Consider stepping into a building and moving to an eddy area of no activity near the doors.

If you’re with someone, ask them to keep and eye out.  They don’t have stand there with a sword in hand like a temple guard, just stand next to you and watch the people move about.  Take a second to look around youself.  Really, no, really look at everyone.  Is anyone still there when you look up next?  Do they have a reason to be there?  Are they a food vendor?  A cop directing traffic?  Someone already there when you arrived?  Every time you finish an operation, (opening the phone, composing the message, closing the phone, storing the phone) look up and around.  Is anyone without a good reason still there?

Just because this is a basic skill, this doesn’t mean it’s simple.

There’s a joke about Holmes and Watson on a camping trip. 

The two drift off to sleep in their tent and Holmes wakes Watson up in the middle of the night.
Holmes:  Watson, do you notice anything?
Watson notices the night sky, the crescent moon in conjunction with Venus.  The Milky Way is especially visible in all its glory and majesty.  He makes smart observations about the mystery of the cosmos and how man’s intellectual pursuits have enabled him to unravel unimaginable mysteries.     

Holmes waits, taking in his friend’s deep thoughts about the relationship of man and cosmic mystery.  Watson pauses and Holmes says to him:
“Watson!  You dunderhead, someone has stolen our tent!

See and obverse. 

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