By Bill Tallen, VP Tactical Operations, Pulse O2DA Firearms Training, Inc.
Protection against violent threats requires you to develop the knowledge, judgment, and physical skills necessary for self-defense. Coupled with the right tools, that is a necessary beginning, and may be sufficient against some varieties of threat. Moving through the world with your head up, aware of what’s going around you, confident of your ability to proactively avoid trouble or to react decisively if you cannot avoid it, will take you off the target list of many potential bad actors.
Unfortunately, more and more potential threats, from street gangsters to home invaders or terrorists, run in packs, and whether it’s in your home, or at your church, school, or workplace, there’s only so much one person can do to maintain 360 degree spherical awareness, assess all the unknowns, and be ready to react appropriately. Threats glide unremarkably through the sanctuary of normalcy in which we conduct our daily lives, and while they will transition to sudden violence where and when they choose, we are almost always reactive and must fight to overcome that disadvantage.
Standing Watch Alone
Anyone who has moved armed through any theater of life knows that you must cultivate a state of mind that balances alertness and readiness against the necessity to live normally – allowing people within your personal space, focusing upon conversations, work, and the myriad activities of daily life. This state of mind, once learned, is neither exhausting nor what the clueless label “paranoid.” It is what Colonel Jeff Cooper memorably labelled Condition Yellow (relaxed awareness), transitioning from time to time on various cues to Condition Orange (nonspecific alert), and cycling back again until the moment when action is required. This challenge has never been better described than in the commentaries to an ancient Chinese classic:
Readiness is everything. Resolution is indissolubly bound up with caution. If an individual is careful and keeps his wits about him, he need not become excited or alarmed. If he is watchful at all times, even before danger is present, he is armed when danger approaches and need not be afraid.
The superior man is on his guard against what is not yet in sight and on the alert for what is not yet within hearing; therefore he dwells in the midst of difficulties as though they did not exist…
[p. 168, Book of Changes, trans. Richard Wilhelm & Cary F. Baynes]
Two Is One, And One Is None
Nonetheless, you do have to sleep or stand down at some point, you must sometimes sit with your back to a door, and until genetic engineering has progressed considerably farther than at present, you will not have eyes in the back of your head, nor despite our fondness for the phrase will you have your head “on a swivel.” If you do ever find yourself reacting to a violent assault you will find that the involuntary sympathetic nervous system (SNS) response will, among other things, narrow your field of vision, create auditory exclusion, and suspend certain mental processes. Your focus and attention will fixate on the first or worst single threat you see; your ability to maintain peripheral vision, continue scanning for additional threats, process sensory inputs, make appropriate decisions regarding tactics and the use of force, and exercise fine muscle control will be very, very limited. Hard, realistic, repetitive training will mitigate these effects, but cannot eliminate them. A second set of eyes and central processor – and hands, and what’s in them – will more than double your odds of survival and success. That disproportionate effect is what we mean by the “synergy of the team.”
If you are obliged to move tactically in a fight – whether in your home, down hallways or room-to-room in a larger structure, or outdoors – you will be at a great disadvantage against multiple assailants, or against even one assailant whose location, intent, and ability you do not know. Moving through a structure is a dangerous business for a highly trained tactical team; for an individual alone, regardless of skill, it is beyond risky and well into foolish, unless there is an overriding need – such as protecting or rescuing a child or other helpless person, or escaping a scene that cannot be secured or a hazard that cannot be defeated. With at least one other person to ”watch your six,” cover you while you move, or take responsibility for half the ongoing spherical scan for threats, your chances of surviving the next few minutes will have increased dramatically.
Another vital advantage to operating as a team in a threat environment is the redundancy it provides. It is all too likely that a lone operator will be slowed by barriers, uncertainty, or the need to communicate; be distracted by the need to guide or care for victims; or be injured. Even a single backup provides depth and continuity. Outside the realm of cinematic fantasy, no lone operator stands much of a chance against complex and capable threats. As the saying goes, “If you know you’re heading into a gunfight, bring a gun, and bring all your friends with guns.” Come with a team.
At Pulse, we define the team as anywhere from two to six persons who have trained together sufficiently to have confidence in each other’s skills, and to operate cohesively and effectively. Most everyone’s heard the term situational awareness, simply defined as I know where I am, where the rest of my team is, where the enemy is, and what is happening around us. But there are two higher levels that are critical to operating as a team:
- Group Situational Awareness: Even if we cannot communicate, we interpret the available facts in a similar way; we’re ‘on the same sheet of music’.
- Situational Understanding: We all know what needs to be done.
This sort of cohesion can’t be summoned up with a snap of the fingers. Individuals who haven’t at least trained together will not achieve this level of cohesion in the stress and confusion of a violent encounter. Even veteran operators whose background is in different schools, agencies, or branches find it hard to work together without prior training, as tactics, techniques and concepts for small team operations are anything but consistent. Whether it’s you and your spouse protecting your home, or a team of work associates or congregants securing a business or house of worship, collective training, beyond the level of individual skills, is vital.
Please welcome the team at Pulse O2DA Firearms Training to the Daily Caller. This series will appear every Saturday. Over the next 10 weeks we will cover: