Is There Anywhere You Are Truly “Safe”?

Dear Black Bag Confidential Reader,

The title of this article alone is extremely depressing. However, it is unfortunately very valid in 2018.

Malls, churches, nightclubs, movie theaters and schools have all been targets of mass shootings. And what do they ALL have in common? These places are all considered to be “soft targets.”

SOFT TARGET: A person or thing that is relatively unprotected or vulnerable, especially susceptible to military, lone wolf or terrorist attacks.

Criminals and mass shooters — both of whom I regard as COWARDS — will usually target the path of least resistance.

Here are some examples of soft targets:

  • There are two houses: One of the houses has a large dog barking and an alarm system sticker in the window. A burglar will choose the other house
  • A 200-pound person with an erect posture and eyes forward walks down a dark alley while a 110-pound person shuffles along staring at the ground. The second person is more vulnerable
  • An event with multiple armed security personnel versus one with none
  • Or, in the most recent case, a building with a large group of unarmed students and faculty.

This past Sunday, I was invited to attend a church service with a close friend. I didn’t even hear what was said for the first 10 minutes of the service because I was assessing the situation.

I sized up every individual in the church, looked for multiple exits, rehearsed what I would do if an armed individual approached from multiple points of entry and determined the quickest way to neutralize said individual.

Not to mention that I kept glancing behind me every few minutes. And I was at a church service! It was depressing to say the least. But that is the world we are living in.

I am NOT a hypervigilant person. But I must stress that when you decide to be part of an event or activity that is located at a “soft target,” you owe it to yourself and others to perform this simple set of steps:

1. Survey the crowd

Rely on your powers of observation. It is a human instinct — whether you are a trained special operator or not — that if something looks “out of place,” you will notice it.

Here are a few indicators to watch for:

  • Individual/s who are nervous — look at the eyes or for sweat
  • Individual/s who are positioned toward the rear, far side or entry/exit of the group
  • Individual/s who are wearing unusually heavy clothing or carrying a large bag or backpack.

2. Identify exits

Make a mental note of at least two exits in opposite directions. Three is better if that’s an option.

3. Establish an escape route

What is your path to each exit? The lower you are able to travel the better. Be sure to include any use of cover in your escape route. Remember, cover not only hides you but stops bullets from penetrating.

Be ready to help others by yelling, “FOLLOW ME!” You may run the risk of making yourself a target, but you may also save many lives.

4. Mentally rehearse

Once you have completed all of the above, complete a “mental rehearsal” of this event. This pre-emergency technique will not only enable you to implement your plan but will also begin to train your muscles, allowing you to physically perform without forethought.

I used to do this all of the time during and after mission planning in the SEAL Teams prior to the mission itself. I would meticulously go through every step not only to be prepared to perform the operation on “autopilot” but to try to find any possible errors in the plan (which we commonly referred to as contingencies). If you discover any errors during your mental rehearsal — come up with an alternative plan.

5. Live your life

Once have gone through the steps above, feel confident in your environment and trust in your plan. Try to proceed with a nonfearing attitude.

We are living in troubled times. But if you are prepared, these cowards will not win.

Living in fear is not truly living.

Be a survivor… not a statistic,

Cade Courtley

Cade Courtley

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