Lets get back on target. In my last note to you about Situational Awareness, (SA) I said I would follow up with a separate note about body language and human behavior. So here you go.
To have good SA you have to know what you are looking for. You have to be able to put this information in context and be able to take action. If you look closer at the OODA loop you’ll see you have to break down the “Orient” part into these three things:
1.) Understand the baselines of what is or is not normal for your environment.
2.) Understand mental models of human behavior that we should be looking for.
3.) Have plans of action based on your observations.
Wherever you go, you should establish a baseline for what is normal for that environment and look for anomalies.
Let’s talk about anomalies for a minute. Anomalies are things that happen but should not, or don’t happen that should. Anomalies are what attract our attention as we take in our surroundings and what we need to focus on to achieve SA. To do this you need to orient yourself.
Establish a baseline for your environment, then focus on any anomalies.
Next we can talk about keying off behaviors.
We are all human and cannot focus on everything at once. So it’s impossible to have complete SA all of the time. We can only focus on and handle so much information at one time. With that said let’s focus on our safety and that of our family. We know we live in a dangerous world and things can go sideways quick, fast and in a hurry. So, knowing that seconds can mean the difference between life and death, how we direct our attention is key to survival.
We need to focus on the things that give us the most bang for our buck. I’m going to use the six domains of human behavior that the USMC uses in their combat hunter training program. This is how Marines on the battlefield quickly process information and determine if someone is a friend or foe.
- Kinesics, people’s conscious and subconscious body language
- Biometrics, human beings’ “uncontrollable and automatic biological responses to stress”
- Proxemics, the way subjects use the space around them and interact with surrounding people
- Geographics, reading familiar and unfamiliar patterns of behavior within a given environment
- Iconography, the expression of beliefs and affiliations through symbols, and
- Atmospherics, “the collective attitudes, moods, and behaviors present in a given situation or place.”
Let’s look closer at kinesics. Body language is a key area of interest for SA.
Now we will break it down further to look at dominance/submissive behavior, comfortable/uncomfortable behavior, and interested/uninterested behavior.
Generally speaking, most people try to get along with other people. For the most part people act in an accommodating or submissive manner. Because most of us try to simply get along with others, dominant/aggressive behavior can mean an anomaly and the person displaying this behavior should get more of your attention. Keep in mind just because someone acts in a pushy or overbearing way doesn’t mean they are a threat. You have to put it into context. You may expect a boss/supervisor to act in a dominant way in relation to their employees and the employees to behave in more of a submissive way to their boss/supervisor. But seeing a customer act overly aggressive or out of control towards an employee is not very common. This is something/someone you would keep an eye on.
Most people will/should look relatively comfortable in most everyday situations. If someone looks uncomfortable that is an anomaly and deserves extra attention. Again this doesn’t mean they are a threat. They could simply be stressed because they are late for work or an important meeting. Maybe they just got bad news about a family member. Just be aware and keep an eye on these types of people displaying such behavior. Another display of uncomfortable behavior could be someone looking over his back all the time or scanning the area non-stop. Now this doesn’t mean he’s a threat/bad guy, because good guys also check six and scan the area. But this behavior should get your attention. We know most people will have their head in the clouds, texting, or just staring off in a daydream state. Now you can reverse this and if everyone is in a panic but there is someone acting comfortable this is a clear sign or an anomaly. A real world example would be if an IED (Improvised Explosive Device) or VBIED (Vehicle-borne IED) went off and one or more people are calmly walking away or video taping it on their cell phones while everyone else is running around like chickens with their heads cut off. That is a perfect example of an anomaly. If you were running the show you’d want to detain those people for questioning about the IED/VBIED.
As mentioned earlier most people don’t pay attention to their surroundings and are too caught up in their own thoughts or playing games on their cell phones. So when people show interest in another specific person or thing that most other people would not pay any attention to this is an anomaly that deserves your full attention. Continue to observe this person.
Here are a few other behavioral threat indicators to be aware of. Like the old saying watch the hands, for the hands will kill you. There is a reason why military types and law enforcement officers (LEOs) always watch/check the hands first on any person they are approaching/engaging. One, they want to make sure the person is not holding a weapon. Two, the hands often give away hidden intentions. It’s common for a person to touch or pat the area where they are hiding something or carrying something they do not want you to know they have.
Be aware of people that are “acting natural”. It’s difficult to “act natural” when you are not truly focused on the task you are supposed to be doing. People that are “acting natural” will appear distracted and either over or under exaggerate their body language or movements.
Example: Insurgents/foreign fighters will often times act like they are working/farming in the fields when they are actually collecting intelligence on U.S. forces. Others have pretended to be construction workers while emplacing IED’s.
So do not be misled or fooled by smoke and mirrors. As they say, don’t judge a book by its cover. Lesson learned is that things are not always as they may appear.
Here are some final take aways. Predators/criminals are like animals and are creatures of opportunity.
They will normally attack those that look weak and vulnerable. Just as the lion will go after the slower, weaker, injured, animals because they are easier to catch and kill. The same can be said of humans. Criminals typically target people that are not paying attention, look vulnerable/weaker or easy to catch off guard.
SA is a way of life. It is a mindset. You need to reinforce this within yourself and family. Good SA will help keep you and your family from looking like a soft/easy target. So remind your wife and children to look alert when they are out and about. To get their noses out of their smartphones, tablets, their music headphones off their ears and pay attention to their surroundings.
When your wife or daughter is walking to her car alone at night she should have her keys at the ready and should be scanning the area. It’s smart to invest in some everyday carry (EDC) items for them. This could include a Surefire flashlight, folding knife, etc. I will write you another piece on EDC at a later time. I will also discuss tactical flashlights, impact weapons, edged weapons and so much more over the course of our journey to secure this personal protection high ground. So be thinking ahead on all these fronts. Please know you can always drop me a line and I will circle back to you and address any specific questions you may have.
Keep the below in mind and ask yourself which are you?
“There are three types of people in this world: There are people who make things happen. There are people who watch things happen. And there are people who wonder what just happened.”
Talent alone won’t make you a success. Neither will being in the right place at the right time, unless you are ready. The most important question is: ‘Are your ready?’
PS: I recommend the book, Left of Bang. It is about how the Marine Corps Combat Hunter Program can save your life. Authors: Patrick Van Horne and Jason A. Riley