-- Two loud men on the public bus talking about how some women’s clothes were just “asking for rape.” Departing the bus, I am immediately met by two guys, with guns drawn, hopping out of a car screaming obscenities and ordering passengers in another car to exit their vehicle. Quickly turning down another alley, a crowd of seven people going to meet the car pass by, prompting another turn into a side alley. Moments later, I pass two prostitutes complaining their skimpy clothes are not protecting them from the cold weather. Exiting the grocery store, my original destination, I decide to turn down another alley only to be met by a truck at the far end stopping to block the passage before the large male driver exits and strides purposely towards me. Taking an immediate right to disappear, I make my way to a public street before making it safe and secure into the house.--
A tactical scenario fit for an exercise in situational awareness, except this is another day in Baltimore.
This is the story my wife shares with me when I get home from work. Her concern is that she only did her best to survive and might not be up to the warrior standard. Actually, what she did was equivalent of passing an end of semester exam in survival. No direct engagement, constantly on the move, fast as the wind in decision making, and home safe at the end of the day.
Baltimore is ranked consistently in the top ten cities for crime in the United States. I call it the urban jungle, a term meant to envision the dense canopy jungles of what veterans experienced in Vietnam and my experiences in the urban environments in Iraq. You don’t know who your allies and enemies are at any given moment. The person you pass may be the scout that signals others to attack you upon passing. It is a common method of operation for the criminal element in this city. A reminder from Sun Tzu remains a constant thought:
“If your enemy is secure at all points, be prepared for him. If he is in superior strength, evade him. If your opponent is temperamental, seek to irritate him. Pretend to be weak, that he may grow arrogant. If he is taking his ease, give him no rest. If his forces are united, separate them. If sovereign and subject are in accord, put division between them. Attack him where he is unprepared, appear where you are not expected.”
There are many different ways to train tactical and situational awareness. The bottom line lies in the word itself – aware. Spend every moment observing, that is the purpose of our senses. There is no need to take it to paranoia, just relish in the moment, every moment. What was that sound? Why is there an absence of sound? Why did that vehicle pass me slowly and is now pulling fast and hard to the curb? Is it suspicious that when the approaching individual met my eyes, he reached inside his jacket? Why is his hand still in there after he has taken ten additional steps and he is not meeting my gaze anymore?
It is subtle clues, visual and non-visual, the “feeling” we get, the brief tension of electricity that passes through our bodies that we should pay attention in our daily lives, the small voice that says, "Here. Now."
I think my wife summed it all up rather correctly, “Obey your gut feeling. You have to protect yourself even if you have no idea what you are avoiding at first. Just trust yourself.”
Go with your gut.