Random Thoughts: A Mindful Miscellany

from Marcus Wynne

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In Honor Of Peter Wang

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If you don’t know who Peter Wang is, let me educate you. Peter Wang was a 15-year-old young MAN who died in the recent Florida school shooting. Peter Wang was a proud member of the Army Junior Reserve Officer Training program at his high school. He dreamed of attending West Point and serving his country in the military. As an ROTC cadet, he received firearms training and was reportedly an accomplished marksman.

He knew how to shoot a rifle and he knew what one can do.

He knew exactly what he was facing when he stood, in his grey and black uniform, in the line of fire and held open the door to his study hall. He herded dozens of his terrified classmates through to safety. He stood there protecting his classmates and saved all that he could till he was shot down.

He died where he stood.

15 years old. A young MAN. A MAN who gave his life to serve others by going in harm’s way to protect those unable to protect themselves.

A MAN. Very politically incorrect in these days of “toxic masculinity” to celebrate Old Skool virtues like courage, service to others, putting oneself at risk to protect those who cannot protect themselves, standing up in the face of evil, and holding the line despite terrible fear so that others may live.

I celebrate those values. And I honor this young MAN who delivered his young life to save others.

Today, in honor of Peter Wang, I’m going to share some insights about school and church security that WORK. How do I know they work? Among other things, I am a researcher. I went to Israel and interviewed and trained with the operators who provide training to the teachers and school security staff (remember, just about every Israeli is a veteran). I studied what others were doing in the US. I studied what worked and didn’t work at events from Colombine and Sandy Hook. I didn’t just recycle the endless Errornet commentary. I worked off actual police reports, autopsy findings, multiple perspectives of the incidents. And I ran all that through the filter of someone who has done high threat protection for over 40 years in some of the most dangerous places in the world.

Then I went and tested these concepts (as I always do and have been documenting and sharing in various forms of media from pre-web gun rags to this little blog since the 1980s) out in the real world. I was asked to consult with a religious school that in the estimate of the FBI and the Joint Terror Task Force has an extremely high threat from terror attack and organized criminal activity. I drafted a plan and launched it and have watched it evolve and survive significant risks over three years. One of the challenges in doing security is how do you document success? With good to great security, nothing bad happens to the target. But quite often there’s a lot of unseen or undiscussed action out at the perimeter.

As I always do, let me say this is not the only way. It is a way. It is a way that was rigorously researched, carefully designed, and then tested continuously. Thus far it has worked well. For OPSEC I’m not going to discuss some specifics.

• Do the school officials understand that there is a risk?
• If so, how much money are they willing to spend to mitigate that risk?
• Do they understand how to do a real threat assessment or do they know how to evaluate one done by an outsider?
• Are all the school officials on board?
• Are all the teachers and staff (including janitors and maintenance people)?
• What about the students? How far is the school administration willing to push them in terms of education and exposure to the reality of danger?

WHERE ARE THE BOUNDARIES? Before you can protect something you must define what it is you want to protect. You want to protect your kids at a school? Okay, then where are the boundaries? During school they’re in a classroom, they are moving between classrooms, or they are outside, or they are leaving or coming to the school.

• Where is the school physically located?
• Where and who are the nearest neighbors within two blocks of the school property line?
• Where is the closest fire station, hospital, police presence?
• Is there a fence around the school?
• Where are the primary entrances to the school?
• Where is the parking lot/bus debus area?
• How are the access points controlled if at all?

• Is there any sort of access control? Locked doors, ID requirements? What if any measures are there to control or monitor people coming and going into the school?
• What sort of alarm system or public announcement system exists?

• Does the school administration have a policy to address violence?
• Do any school administrators have formal training in how to address violence?
• Do any teachers or staff have any formal training (including experience as veterans etc.) in how to address violence?
• Is there a School Resource Officer? Is he/she an armed fully sworn law enforcement officer? Is there a specific spelled out policy on how to utilize a SRO along with detailed rules of engagement in specific scenarios? Does the SRO have radio communications with police dispatch?
• Is there a private security guard? Is he/she armed or unarmed? Is there a specific spelled out police on how to utilize? Are there detailed rules of engagement in an armed or unarmed violent scenario?

• Are there regular fire drills? How are those conducted?
• Are there lock down procedures? How are those conducted?
• Are alternative procedures taught (if fire blocks the normal egress route, what do you do? If an active shooter starts breaking in your door when you are locked down, what do you do?)
• Are these documented? Are they evaluated by an objective observer?

This basic data set provides the baseline for evaluating the school’s current posture, which is essential to improvement. One person can gather this baseline information inside one working day. At the school I’m discussing, it took about two hours with the school executive director.

Then here’s what we did:

The mindset was right on. Everyone from the school administration to the teachers and the parents were concerned (rightly so) about security. They were very smart in that they took advantage of the Department of Homeland Security Security Grant Program which provides some very healthy sums in the forms of outright grants to improve security in schools and religious institutions. People who bleat that there isn’t money to improve security in schools haven’t looked hard enough. Is it an easy procedure? No. it takes attention to detail and diligence, but significant sums (tens of thousands of dollars and up) are available through the process.

Mindset was there. Money was there.

The next smart thing was they asked SEVERAL different people how do we best spend this grant money and the other money we’ve raised to protect our children? We’re educators, we don’t know security.

Very smart to know that you don’t know. The challenge is to find the right person to give you an appropriate answer. Plenty of security experts willing to capitalize on fear and lack of knowledge to take money out of your pockets. So what they did was ask many experts.

Here’s some of the answers:
• Build a bullet proof safe room in the auditorium and in an active shooting event, lock everybody in the auditorium.
• Arm former Navy SEALs and put one in every hallway.
• Put in an extensive camera system.
• Replace all the doors and windows with bullet proof glass.
• Ask the police department to station a police officer full time.
And so on and so forth.

There are several WTF? Answers above, which was my response when I came in at the end and asked the questions none of the others did: have you done a detailed physical security survey including access control, AND have you done a threat assessment in conjunction with the FBI and local law enforcement.

No and No, so I handled that for them.

Here’s the comprehensive solution we came up with, implemented, and test continuously:

We created a one page handout with a list of suspicious things to watch for along with the number of the school/religious institution AND the police department in a RECOMMENDED REPORT FORMAT and made sure every single neighbor for two blocks in all directions around the school got it. That pushes the perimeter back and adds to the number of eyes watching the school. It has worked EXCELLENTLY in terms of quashing some serious pre-operational elicitation and surveillance by bad actors.

We met with the Chief of Police, the County Sheriff, the FBI ASAC and representatives from the local JTTF. We established an ongoing liaison where our information on sightings/tests/suspicious events are reported directly into their system. As civilians its mostly a one way street (us to them) but it does keep the channels open.

We invited the local tactical units, EOD and bomb dog teams, and police training teams into the school and facilitated them using the school as a training resource. We’ve had SWAT teams, bomb dogs and EOD teams, and active shooter response training by the local police conducted there. This promotes familiarity with the facility and alternate breach points to make entry and places to stage from for the people most likely to respond.

We designed a comprehensive physical security upgrade. This included an extensive computerized camera system around the school and the perimeter that records 24/7 AND training for the people who watch the cameras as to WHAT to watch for. Upgraded access controls, better locks/intercoms, hardened primary access point, bullet/blast resistant enhancement to windows and doors. Budgeted for a better exterior fencing.

We identified and recruited an experienced school resource officer out of a gang populated public school. After additional training he was placed into the full time position of armed security director. He has since received extensive additional training in firearms, close protection, active shooter response (he’s an ALICE training certified instructor), unarmed combat, patrol procedures. He is the ideal mix of skilled and seasoned professional gunfighter AND a dad who’s great with kids. He is the primary training resource for the next line of protection, the school security volunteers.

The school implemented a procedure to identify, vett and train parents/grandparents/relatives of kids attending the school (or alumni) with an interest in volunteering to augment security. There are two tracks: armed and unarmed.

Unarmed: basic orientation on the dos and don’ts of security. No hands on, eyes only, radio procedures backed up with a cellphone report protocol in case the radios go down. Their job is to be eyes only, to watch and report on suspicious activity on or around the school during events or the school day. They are trained and coordinated by the school security director.

Armed: All of the above. If they wish to be armed, then they must on their own time and expense attend the necessary training to obtain a state CCW. They must qualify at the state level to do so. After that they must attend a mandatory intensive advanced pistol class conducted by the security director. Upon successful completion of that they must attend a detailed legal overview of the law and their responsibilities by a nationally recognized firearms legal expert. After that they are added to a roster that legally enables them to carry weapons on the school grounds WHEN DIRECTED by the security director. This particular group includes multiple veterans with combat experience.

The security director maintains a roster of volunteers and tasks them at random intervals to assess their continued willingness. If they are unwilling to come when needed, they are dropped off the volunteer rosters and they are no longer able to carry weapons on or around the school.

The training continues on a monthly basis and has included: ALICE active shooter response training, first aid/GSW management, bomb searches, and today there’s a class on responding to a terrorist bomb incident taught by Homeland Security – mandatory attendance for all volunteers.

Training extends to the teachers as well. All the teachers are taught (and regularly tested) about challenging anyone without ID or not known to them on the school grounds or inside the school. There is a set procedure involving challenge and notification of the school security officer/front desk. Inexpensive radios are available to all teachers in the classroom and to those monitoring outside activity that radio net is monitored by the school security director and the front office. The general awareness training includes bomb/IED awareness – unattended packages or abandoned backpacks, etc.

Ongoing initiatives include extending the opportunity to train and be armed to teachers who wish to volunteer, continuing education with volunteers and staff, continual upgrade and hardening of the physical plant and structure, and expansion of the full time security staff.

Someone, somewhere, is saying we can’t do that, we don’t have the money or whatever. I’d suggest reading this again and focusing on the smart process: figure out what you need or find someone trustworthy who can help you do that, get the money from DHS and augment it with local funds, spend it wisely, and invest a good amount in basic physical security and augment it with the force multiplier of good training and education and involve as many people in it as possible. You can’t secure a place with one armed person. You need to have EVERYONE in the facility and outside the facility feeding real time information into a diffuse security network so that the good guys with the guns can act most efficiently.

Some concluding guns and gear data for the people interested in that:

Handguns are whatever they qualify with and maintain. Ammunition is what the local PD or Feds issue. Concealment gear is up to the individual. I see primarily Glocks in various flavors and concealment by Raven, Blade Tech and several custom holsters by Dale Fricke, who is a specialist in church security.

Long guns are available. Because of the law prohibiting the carry of loaded rifles by civilian security forces, AR pistols have been utilized. The Daniel Defense MK18 (10.3 inch barrel) with a LAW folder and a SB Tactical brace topped with Troy folding irons and an Aimpoint Micro fits into a large bookbag and is good for a fast COM out to 200 yards which is the longest legitimate shot outside the school. It is legally a pistol and is so blessed by a national level firearms lawyer. There may be standard ARs with a variety of ammo and shotguns with slugs capable of stopping vehicles in some of the civilian patrol vehicles.

An intermediate option between the pistols and the long guns is the scoped/accurized “long distance pistol.” I was first introduced to the concept by Gary Wistrand, who was at the time the Deputy Director of the Secret Service, who carried an accurized Browning High Power while on Gerald Ford’s detail. He needed it for long distance shots while skiing with the then-President and was (I witnessed) capable of fast presentations and hits on steel at 100 yards with that High Power. At a measured 2 seconds. Gary was the first tactician of the now defunct (sadly) National Tactical Invitational Match to take first place on two separate occasions. We utilize a variant of the “Roland Special” concept – a G19 modified with a KKM match barrel and compensator topped with a Trijicon RMR 3.5 MOA. Good for handheld hits out to 100 yards which is the longest inside shot, and more concealable and faster into play than a bagged rifle that must be debagged, unfolded, charged and then put into action.

There are multiple trauma kits available throughout the school with a “throw bag” of throw down kits and light sticks in the main office. The concept is that a responder can grab the throw down bag and run to the worst injured and drop a basic kit off to someone with first aid training (like the teachers) to use and start immediate medic care. These are inexpensive, packed in plastic bags and include a tourniquet, a pressure bandage, duct tape, and Kerlix gauze.

In conclusion I want to say this to anyone who bleats about money or time and not having enough whatever: Shut up, step up, and make things safe instead of crying about it. Do something.

And honor the courage of a 15-year-old that stood up and did something.

God rest you and keep you, Peter Wang. You earned your seat at the Warrior’s Table. See you on the Other Side.


Written by marcuswynne

March 7, 2018 at 3:56 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Veteran’s Day, 12 years ago…

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Twelve years ago today, a disabled veteran was pursued to a cheap motel in a small town in the Midwest. His pursuers were a collection of corrupt police officers, sheriff deputies, private investigators and several private citizens who among other things laundered money for a variety of criminal enterprises.

Their intent was to intimidate or, if that didn’t work, hurt, kill or imprison by any means necessary the 50 year old disabled veteran they were following.


His misfortune was to discover through a variety of means the involvement of some of them in murder and extortion. Small town criminals, especially low level ones with badges, like to brag amongst themselves or to intimidate others, and in the course of some bad dealings they bumped up against an old man recuperating from a long illness.

There’s something very disconcerting to bullies, cowards and criminals when someone refuses to be intimidated. Of course, that’s not always the smartest or healthiest path to choose. As one of them said, “He could get rolled in a hole.”

A hole in a cornfield, maybe on the edge of a farm owned by an acquaintance, where suspected informants, uncooperative fellow criminals or people who pissed off the bosses could end up.

Protecting the bosses and their lifestyles is the first imperative for the so-called “soldiers” or “troops” as the bosses liked to refer to their thugs. Rewards are plentiful for those who do that job well: prostitutes, bank loans that never need to be repaid, cash money, lucrative side jobs, nice houses and cars that never have to be paid for by the “troops.”

Of course referring to people like that as “troops” especially on Veterans Day is a grave insult. Some people might just end up in a grave as those people liked to say.

And it never entered their mind that it might end up to be them.

It’s an interesting thing to those of us who study Evil. It’s almost a required subject these days for thriving and staying anti-fragile in chaotic times. There’s a lot of fascinating byroads in the study of Evil big and small, and both in my professional life and my personal life I’ve had ample opportunity to see it, smell it, hear it up close. There’s a spectrum that ranges from the casual hatred in a man’s face when he looks at a publicly affectionate lesbian couple, to the indifference shown by a man with a badge crushing a prostitute’s skull under his boot, to a judge that takes away somebody’s kids with the full knowledge that the foster home those children will be assigned to is run by abusive pedophiles who get paid to keep their mouths shut and, of course, there are the various officials who profit from various enterprises and enjoy sex with the “black girls” in the local whorehouse and who will ensure that those girls, should they get uppity, end up rolled in a hole.

So what do you do when you’re faced with that kind of top to bottom corruption? Who knows, maybe you live somewhere the entire line of “authority” up to and including the governor might be on the take. Maybe you have a child to protect, maybe there are other innocents in the line of fire. What do you do?

The smart course would be to go along, do what you have to do, move away.

But if that doesn’t work, and the bad people want to see you snuffed out? How far can you run, where you can hide?

Or what if you’re not inclined to run but have to keep other’s welfare in mind?

Interesting questions, yes?

Especially if the corrupt officials and their goons keep trying to kill or silence him or impeach any possible testimony. Maybe they’ll say the guy’s crazy, or threaten his children or friends, have him arrested on some minor charge so he ends up the recipient of a jailhouse beating that will kill him, compromise him with video of him having sex with a girlfriend he’d want to protect.

Just easier to kill him, yeah?

You’d think.

Maybe sneak into a deserted campground with a few friends armed with baseball bats, hoping to surprise him sleeping in his camp, or pull him over in your squad car, shoot him, and “Have the Lieutenant fix the crime scene.”

One would think they really have something they don’t want exposed to go through such lengths.

Sure makes you wonder what might that be, that an organization of corrupt cops, deputies, private investigators, and “officials” would continue to pursue someone for 12 years?

And why should they worry? After all, the only people with the resources and patience to pursue a 12 year case against corrupt officials and murdering cops for would be the Feds under RICO, which would take care of the whole statute of limitations things, or so I’ve been told. The Feds would have made an appearance, interviewed people, right?


Great grist for a story, huh?

I had an interesting discussion with a friend who is an attorney with Judicial Watch, and another discussion with a friend who is a high level investigator at the Department of Justice (the guys that investigate the stuff the FBI can’t touch) to seek their counsel in how to shape this novel properly.

“Just wait, dude,” said a very tough and experienced retired DEA agent. “There might be something cooking that’s just like that novel of yours, strangely enough. Lots of juicy details you can fictionalize in there.”

It feels like this pot is just about done, so in memory of that old veteran by himself in a cheap hotel surrounded by armed thugs 12 years ago, here’s a bit from THE ACHY MAN – soon to be a FINISHED novel — and movie.


They had been beating him for a long time.

One of them, who’d been a deputy for not quite as long as the other, wondered how long the prisoner would last. His partner, a big porcine man, had been working on the man’s face, which no longer looked like a face – it looked like old meat turning blue in the sun.

But there wasn’t any sun.

Just a quarter moon in the night sky, the only sounds beside the dull wet thump of flesh breaking under fists and boots the whisper of the wind in the corn stalks, and every once in awhile the distant hiss of a car passing by.

“How long before he dies?” the younger deputy said.

The older man looked over at him. Silent. Blood spray on his face. Considered the question. “Not long.”

He stepped away, then kicked the man curled in a ball at his feet.

“I want you to kick him,” the older deputy said.

“I’m not…”

The look on the older man’s face set the younger to almost shitting his pants.

“I’m not asking you. Kick him.”

The younger man poked at the prisoner with his boot.

A slap across his face stunned him, the solid thwock of the meaty palm across his narrow face echoing in the corn field.

“Don’t play with me,” the older deputy said. “Kick him. In the face.”

So he did.

After, when the last breath wheezed between the broken stubs of the dead man’s teeth, the younger deputy leaned over and vomited his fried chicken dinner. The older one threw him a shovel.

“I did the work,” the older deputy said. “You dig the hole. Dig it deep. And roll him in it.” He laughed. “That’s how we roll in Mason County.”

Chapter One

Lieutenant Dick Gant steered his Mason County Sheriff Department squad car around the parking lot in a big circle. The other deputies were careful to ignore him, avoid eye contact. Gant wasn’t a big man, but he had a hateful, bitter twist to his face, and besides the stink of tobacco that surrounded him there was always a sense of, well, jangling was what one deputy described it. Loose cannon didn’t catch all of it.

Just plain mean, was what one dog handler said.

“If he was a dog, I’d put him down,” the handler said. “No training that bitch.”

` The other deputies laughed long and loud, as they always did, as long as the lieutenant wasn’t around. The loot had a long memory, and if you got on his bad side, you never got off, and he had a gift for making life hell for people. He nursed a particular grudge for anybody who did their job well, and an open contempt for the deputies who might actually take their job and the shield they wore seriously.

Made you wonder what his idea of the job was about, but then, in Decanter, you didn’t ask those kind of questions. Not if you were a deputy and you wanted to get out of the jail and out on the road, not get caught in the hell of the corrections unit or, worse, court services.

And then there was always the question of the payroll.

Not the paycheck, meager as it was, they collected every other week.

The payroll.

The Loot had a lot to do with that.

But then, he’d been around for a long time.


Wilhelm (known as Will or Willy at his insistence) Eichmann threw his golf clubs in the truck of his Crown Vic, slammed the hood down and slid into the front seat. From a distance, the brown Crown Vic looked like a police cruiser; it was the same basic model as the State Police used, with a mounted light on the driver’s side, and a set of antennas on the rear bumper.

Pretty fancy ride for a bank guard, or so some of the cops he liked to hang around with said. He pretended not to hear, forced a laugh, and bought more rounds than he should, but that was the price he thought he had to pay to hang out with the real cops. Once, a long time ago, he’d thought about going for it, taking the exam, going through the academy…either the police department or the sheriff’s department, but the prospect of having to ride in a car alone, even with a gun, at night in Decanter, was something he never wanted to face up to.

So he settled for the next best thing, which was an okay paying job as a guard which led to pretty rapid advancement, and after twenty years he had his look alike cruiser, a lieutenant’s rank in the bank’s regional investigation team, and a whole team of his troops, as he liked to call them, to order around.

And he had his cruiser.

He backed out of the parking lot, shooting a hard look at a couple of old-timers who brushed by his car — washed everyday, stroked lovingly by hand himself, in the driveway of his house — almost marring the near mirror finish he liked to keep on the car. He rolled down the power window, and propped his elbow in the open window, just like a real cop, or so he thought.

He drove down Woodrow to Washington and made a left, tooling down past Sacred Heart Church, then onto the main drag that took him into the little downtown of Decanter. He parked his car across the street from the courthouse, checked the time on his cheap Rolex knock off, and went into the lobby, and paused beside the security checkpoint.

“Hey Will,” said Deputy Jeff Parrott. He was short, lean built in the same way a pit bull is, all muscle and bone, blond and with a certain coldness that led most anyone with any sense to avoid him. Hard to do when you’re a prisoner in custody, but then in Decanter, what happened in the jail stayed in the jail. Or so that was what word on the street was.

Willy Eichmann puffed up, looked around as he did, always checking to see if anyone was looking at him – especially someone of importance, somebody higher up the food chain than him, and even in a town this small, there were quite a few, in the Sheriff’s Department, the County Attorney’s office, the County Board, the bank management…the list went on.

But in his little world he liked to think he was the top dog. He wasn’t shy about reminding those that worked for him, including the deputies who moonlighted (against county regulations) as armed couriers on his armored truck runs, and they tolerated him because he paid well and on time, and in Decanter that went a long way.

“Jeff,” Eichmann said. “How’s it going? How’re the troops today?”

Jeff let the hint of a sneer cross his face and looked away. “Troops?” he said. “Yeah, us troops are just fine.”

The other deputy, a heavy-boned man with the long jowls of a hound dog, head closely shaven, crossed his arm and grinned at Eichmann.

“Hey Will,” said the deputy, whose name was Fergus. “Saw your kid the other night. Over by the high school.”

“That’s where he works,” Will said.

“I thought they was a law against school employees hitting on students,” Fergus said. “In this state I believe that’s a sex offense.”

Will grinned, quick and false, looked around. “That’s funny.”

Fergus grinned. “Yep. Real funny. Kinda weird, but what do I know?”

“Kids,” Will said. “Your kids, somebody else’s…pain in the ass. I don’t know why people bother anymore.”

“Funny thing for a father to say,” Jeff said.

Will shrugged and looked into the distance. “Some kids are more of a pain than others.”


Will Eichmann’s kid was cruising around in his red Ford Explorer, his elbow resting propped in the open window, his hand curled around a Styrofoam cup of coffee — just like a real cop. His buddy Danno was sitting in the passenger seat, flipping through a magazine of Eastern European porn, “the fancy stuff” as he liked to say.

“The fuck?” Bryant Eichmann said.

“What?” Danno (known as Good Twin) said, distracted by the high resolution close ups of shaved pussy and dick, something he thought of often in his role as catamite…

To Be Continued…

Written by marcuswynne

November 12, 2017 at 12:08 am

Posted in Uncategorized

The Internet Ate My Podcasts, So A Post On Situational Awareness Training

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As we curmudgeons are prone to do, I neglected to pay attention to my podcast platform, which apparently came down on 1 November along with all my pithy collection of hums and hahs over the last few months.

Ah well.

Another person might be screaming about “Lost content!  Disaster, disaster Will Robinson!” But not this old codger.  It’s still in my head, and all three of you that followed the podcasts, well, stick around.  I may resurrect something similar.  The ease of production for the lazy man I is be most difficult to bypass.  Writing is hard work, and I do too much of it anyway.

I had this great podcast set up, all my notes ready to go, ready to pontificate for my deliberately chosen 17 minutes on novelty and pattern recognition (buzz words in the Tacti-cool community now!) and how cultivating the art of fucking up makes your path to mastery and expertise much simpler — I supposed I could use my Internet Ate My Podcasts experience as an example, but I’m too lazy.

I remember back in the late 80s and early 90s when I first started writing about situational awareness and Boyd’s OODA loop and how interesting it was to watch it catch on as a buzzword and then become a subject of serious study by tacticians.  I’m watching a similar process going on now with integrating cognitive neuroscience into real world training and use by tacticians, and I’m watching with a kind of fuddy duddy paternalistic enjoyment.  You go, young ‘uns!

Anyway I guess I’m stuck writing till I figure out whether to bore you with short videos or do podcasts again.  Any thoughts most welcome.

In the meantime, as I’ve been working on a project about enhancing situational awareness which has been my primary wheelhouse for 30 years or so, I dug up this old piece.  It’s useful, as all this cognitive neuroscience-y kinda lingo comes back into favor (or disfavor) in the tacit-cool community, to realize that the basis of a good sound and productive conversation is an agreement upon the meaning of certain words.  I STILL see all kinds of debate about what defines “situational awareness” — even some people using my original definition from an article back in the early 90s — but here’s something that most hard science researchers in the field of perception and cognition know (unlike some people who love the neuroscience buzzwords but don’t do the research) there actually IS a consensus definition of what constitutes situational awareness, defined and agreed upon by the organizations that lead the way in situational research (the aerospace industry in the US like NASA and ALL of the international space agencies, something like 17 nations…).

I’ve extracted from the detailed study (with permission from NASA, thanks Steve!) the definition, the explanation, etc. with the hopes that researchers in firearms and police science will look to partner with the larger science community instead of adopting only the pieces that suit them or help to sell their products/services.  A good start would be working with established and rigorously (science wise anyway) vetted definitions and academic studies.

For your consideration, Gentle Readers.  Now I’m back to figuring out how I can do this podcast thing so I don’t have to type so much….


In 1996, I published what may have been the first article in the popular “tactical/gun” press on John Boyd’s OODA loop as a model for maintaining situational awareness and decision making for personal combat. I presented a simplified version of Boyd’s elegant thinking and detailed expansion of the OODA loop, in a way that I felt, at the time, would be immediately usable by tacticians unfamiliar with the concept.

Sixteen years later, the OODA loop and Boyd’s work and how to apply it to personal combatives armed and unarmed are the subject of endless articles and internet forum debates and the concept is an integral part for most credible combative training systems.

This wasn’t the case in 1996, when most of the established firearms instructors were weaned on Cooper’s Color Code.  In several discussions with notable tacticians, I pointed out that the OODA loop didn’t necessarily replace the Color Code, but it certainly added an additional dimension for utilizing efficient information processing.

The  OODA loop concept took hold in the tactical community (it had long been part of combat aviation, military psychology and strategic planning) after other instructors and writers found utility in the simplified model and joined me in spreading the word.

So today knowledge of the OODA loop is expected in any serious tactical practitioner.

The concept of situational awareness, which I also introduced in the same article, has grown significantly as well.  Let me make clear I didn’t develop the idea, I took it from military psychology and combat aviation research and put the idea into the context of personal combat.  Situational awareness is a topic of serious study for the military; applying Boyd’s model to personal combat raised questions the military has long batted around:  What is situational awareness?  Can it be specifically defined and identified?  Is it an inherent trait or is it instilled?  And, most to the point, can it be taught in training?

Based on the research, experimentation, and field testing I’d been doing since the late 80’s on how to utilize accelerated learning, stress inoculation, and pre-conscious processing to recalibrate habitual baseline states to enhance performance under stress, I went on to share those concepts in another 1996 article SHOOTING WITH THE MIND’S EYE in which I stated my position:  yes, the components — the critical path of the cognitive process I defined as situational awareness — can be identified, and since those components can be identified they can then be enhanced and taught.

Among the organizations I shared this with was NASA. NASA is the lead agency for study and research of “situational awareness” and provides a clearing house for the various interested agencies like military aviation, the intelligence and law enforcement communities. I consulted with the Psychological Services Division of the Medical Sciences Branch of NASA.  My consultation focused on how to apply the blend of stress inoculation, accelerated learning, pre-conscious processing and scenario based training I’d developed to parts of the Astronaut Training Program.

One of controversial (at that time) positions I took, in discussion with the top military and space psychologists and psychiatrists in the world, was that situational awareness, in my experience as a trainer, was one part genetics, one part life experience, and one part training; and that situational awareness could be identified in prospective candidates, and further enhanced or taught (installed) into astronaut trainees who lacked the operational experience and training of the candidates who came in from the hard-core Department of Defense flow (ie fighter pilots, combat veterans, test pilots, etc.).

The polite (i.e. “official”) response was:  “That’s not our position  The area merits more study, but we tend to believe that situational awareness is in large part a skill you either have or you don’t; if you don’t, all the training in the world won’t give it to you.”

The unofficial response, over beers in a famous astronaut bar also trafficked by the US Naval Special Warfare community, was:  “Ah, bullshit.  You can’t teach that.”  And then a long pause:  “…but if you could…”

I wrote my consultation report and then went on to do other things, among them develop a training program for installing situational awareness subsequently adopted by the South African Police Service (who, at the time, had more officer-involved shootings monthly than the US had yearly) titled “Mental Conditioning for Close Combat” and also taught a significant number of personnel involved in close protection, military special operations, law enforcement, and private sector security on how to enhance their own brand of situational awareness.

Over the last thirty years, I’ve received hundreds of phone calls, e-mails and letters attesting to the effectiveness of the situational awareness and performance enhancement training program from former students operating in America and many other countries.

Anecdotal evidence, yes, but then, I never claim to be a scientist, and those calls and letters are all I ever needed to be assured that what I was doing was not only working in the training environment but translating directly into usefulness on the street and on the battlefield.

I shared that information with the popular tactical/gun press in an article about situational awareness published in SWAT Magazine in 2007.

In August 2010, 15 years after my initial consultation with NASA, the project managers I worked with in 1995 now are in charge of the entire unit, and were good enough to take my nine year old son on the VIP tour of the training facility.  Over lunch they told me, “Remember back in 95 when we were talking about situational awareness and human performance indicators?  Situational awareness?  We did a study you might find interesting.”

They sent me two documents detailing a study: “Human Behavior Performance Competencies” generated by NASA, and the ESA (European Space Agency).  What this study did was focus on specific aspects of human behavior and performance essential to survival in the space environment, with particular emphasis on long duration space travel.  One of the unprecedented products of the study is an easy to use matrix that identifies the human performance competency, the behavior, the behavioral markers, details and examples.

Situational awareness is one of the major human performance competencies identified.  This is the first time that the top scientists and researchers from the world-wide psychological research community have come to a consensus definition of situational awareness.

In order to include it, they had to break down the components of situational awareness as they defined it, as shown in the graphics posted above.

What NASA is doing with this is using these behaviors and traits as tools in the selection and assessment of astronauts and crew selection for long-duration missions; they continue to add rigorously reviewed scientific studies on these traits.  They also work in conjunction with their Training Division to enhance training to develop these attributes, and completed a peer-reviewed study and presentation on the effectiveness and implications of training situational awareness.

This can be an extremely useful model with extraordinary implications for law enforcement and tactical training.

There are two major competencies identified by NASA as principal sub-components of “situational awareness.”  They are:

a.              Maintenance of an accurate perception of the situation; and

b.              Processing of information

Perceiving the situation in an accurate (usable) perception and processing that information adds up to a state of “situational awareness.”

What are some of the implications for situational awareness training?

If a behavior can be identified and deconstructed into components, it can then be reconstructed and woven into a training program.

One of the differences between this extremely useful model and what I’ve been doing is that I combine processing of information with the maintainance of the accurate perception; like the OODA loop, it’s all one flow from my perspective.  Without efficient processing of useful information in the moment, it’s not possible to perceive a given situation, especially a dynamic situation like combat, accurately.  So the two elements are interwoven.

My model for training and enhancing situational awareness focused on improving perception and enhancing cognition while under stress.  These are the principal components of the baseline state of relaxed alertness and situational awareness as I’ve trained it:

  • Vision skills (enhanced use of the full range of visual cues, which leads to enhancement of other sensory inputs i.e. hearing, etc., as well as designing training that enhances visual processing in the neurology),
  • Sensory cue acuity (enhanced use of all senses in conjunction along with pattern recognition templates fed into the other-than-conscious mind)
  • State management (managing the internal representation and physiology in such a manner as to enhance efficient processing of information)
  • Cognitive model (drawing critical path pattern-recognition models from high performers and installing directly into other than conscious mind of students)
  • Time distortion (how to manage and enhance processing of information and utilize time distortion to maximize personal processing time of incident-essential data).

So over twenty years, I’ve focused on simple exercises to install the skill, and test it immediately under stress and in open-ended scenarios to cement the skill in use under immediate onset threat to life stress.  In my last post, I shared a simple exercise that installs one small attribute of the larger skill set.

What I find most exciting about this study is the model NASA’s best researchers came up with; in the same way the OODA loop is a model for decision making and maintaining situational awareness, the Human Behavior and Performance Competency Model is a model for breaking out the components of situational awareness as they define it.

So while some pieces of their definition might not necessarily meet the needs of personal combat, the model of the matrix they’ve created makes a template for us to fill in with the working competencies drawn from personal combat.

So – shall we create one?

Upcoming posts:

Part Two:  The Matrix

Part Three:  Training the Jedi

Extracts used with permission from NASA.  All other content copyright by Marcus Wynne (as is all material on this blog — please respect that…)


Written by marcuswynne

November 10, 2017 at 12:51 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with

STEALING FIRE, or How To Be Promethean and Keep Your Liver (Edit)

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A review of this excellent recent book.  The book is the best *(right now) overview of the field Accentus Ludus does our groundbreaking work in.  Extremely well written and sourced.  The concepts of “state access” and “state management” as fundamental foundations for improving cognition under stress in combative applications is something we’ve been working with since the late 80s.  This book does a good job of the history, and I expand on it in my podcast.  I’m a wee bit presssed for time right now, so I’ll post some of the original documentation from the mid 90s on our work later today.

As I mention in the podcast, one of the interesting aspects of the research coming out is that it’s reinventing the wheel, albeit with better technology, on work that I and others did back in the 70s, 80s, and 90s.  For academics (and gunfighters/trainers) who grew up with the Errornet and the World Wide Web of Wisdom and Worry, it’s as revelation to understand that there’s A LOT of original research that has never been archived on the internet or appeared in formal academic journals, or was translated from Russian, Czech, Bulgarian or German into English.

For a perspective from 1994, when many of the academics involved in the current field were still in elementary or high school, see below for one or two articles after I dig them out of my archives.  The principles and theory discussed will be familiar to those hearing them for the first time in the book (which is not to take away from the book which I highly recommend) and probably piss off some patent and intellectual property lawyers as it may constitute “prior art” LOL.

Enjoy.  Comments always welcomed.  Direct link to the podcast below:


Also now on iTunes:


This ancient (1993/1994) compilation of discussions and UseNet posts from Way Back In The Day distills some of the work we were doing back then.  Full warning:  much of this is old, outdated, was wrong and subsequently corrected.  I’m posting it for historical purposes in context of my podcast discussion.  As I mentioned in the podcast there’s a LOT of information and research in this field that goes back to the 70s and 80s that has never made it on the Errornet , or at least not in English.

Neural Based Operator


Written by marcuswynne

August 23, 2017 at 4:58 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Training Intuition, or Spidey Sense Without The Bite

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A friend of mine in Israel sent me this link:  http://time.com/4721715/phenomena-annie-jacobsen/ 

It references a program I’m familiar with and some colleagues at the Office of Naval Research and elsewhere.  This program focuses on training intution, or “spider sense” as we comic fans like to call it.  I cover my thoughts about this in this short podcast which also includes two exercises you can do in real time to jump start your own spider sense.  I’ve taught these exercises to the most experienced counter-terror unit in the world who came in off the street to do it and then went back out to use it. References in this short podcast.  I also list some errata I made in there — just a note, I do these podcasts as a labor of love for some people who are interested and either can’t train with me or are too busy.  So I cram them in between a lot of other things that take up my attention, hence occasional mistakes.  I made two in the podcast:  when I was referencing DARPA I should have also referenced ONR; when I reference my lead researcher training the Dalai Lama and his monks I should have said that was on the border of Tibet, not in Tibet, as the PRC is not particularly friendly to the Dalai Lama.  So instead of taking another half hour to make and post, just remember the errors.

Have fun!


Written by marcuswynne

July 11, 2017 at 6:26 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Podcast 6: Visualization Skills, or “Shooting With The Mind’s Eye.”

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This podcast will train you to dramatically increase your visualization skills in exactly the time it takes to listen to it.  About 17 minutes.

It’s based off this ancient article from 1994 written by some fossil named Wynne, another curmudgeon/fossil (and brilliant trainer and training commentator for over twenty years) named Ralph Mroz discovered it in his archives and was kind enough to share it as a PDF here:


Go here to listen — do the exercises along with listening and improve.  Or not.  Up to you.



Written by marcuswynne

June 30, 2017 at 12:07 am

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Protecting Our Kids In A Time Of Terror

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I recently got a very nice note from someone I shared some learning with way back in the day, when she was coming up as a superstar firearms instructor. She’s now a world class firearms instructor, and her company www.loukatactical.com is one of the world’s finest especially for women and those training women. Lou Ann Hamblin, aka “Black Widow” to her pals, sent me a nice note recently: “Marcus, I’m glad to see you still contributing at a high level…”

She wasn’t referring to me being high, since I swore off that for Lent, but because this little blog and my podcast, while sometimes puny in numbers, is mighty in who it reaches and where. Which is a gratifying thing to hear, as us Old Guys get mightily frustrated when we have a thing or two that’s been validated in the real world to share and we get drowned out by the younglings and Young Jedi hawking their latest and greatest wares.

You may have noticed that I charge the kingly sum of exactly nothing for sharing 44 years of experience, research and training expertise here so keep that in mind when I start to bloviate or pontificate or whatever-cate.

What’s the point of a lifetime of experience if you don’t pass it on?

So back on point:

Kids and protecting them.

Go here for background   https://marcuswynne.wordpress.com/2016/08/28/repost-you-cant-always-be-there-or-situational-awareness-for-kids/  for my discussion with John Douglas of FBI Behavioral Sciences fame and protecting children with training.

There’s a lot of people smarter and more recently experienced than me adding their useful take on vehicle attacks. See here for what I said before the latest trend took off https://marcuswynne.wordpress.com/2017/03/22/random-thoughts-on-killing-trucks-repost/. So all that is useful info, I suggest you go to www.activeresponsetraining.net and check out what my colleague Greg Ellifritz has done in collating the latest and the greatest from the Interwebz and sorting the wheat from the chaff.

Here’s some basic protocols and ideas to protect your children (and you, and elders or handicapped) when you’re out in about in a time of terror where a vehicle can jump the curb and chase you down in the blink of an eye.

1). Acknowledge that it can happen.
2). Hard as it is, look at some of the videos to see how fast it happens.
3). Acknowledge that YOU and YOU ALONE are responsible for your safety and the safety of your children in the moment.
4). Implement these practices and procedures and training for your children immediately. I’m doing this for kids from pre-school to 8th grade soon and will report back the effectiveness in scenario testing.
A.  Whenever possible always face traffic. Make it a game with your kids: “Which way do we face when we walk on the sidewalk?” Just like “hold hands when you cross the street” — “We face the traffic so we can see the cars” or “We walk where we can see the cars.”
B.  Where do we look when we walk on the street? “We look down the street and we look behind us.” Make it a game: “We walk five steps ONE TWO THREE FOUR FIVE and then we look down the street AND we look behind us. Ready? ONE TWO THREE FOUR FIVE LOOK FRONT AND BACK! Good job!”
C.  What are we looking for? “Cars coming fast!” Are they coming fast on the street or are they coming fast right at us?
D.  What do we do when we see a car coming fast? “We shout CAR CAR CAR and we get out of the way!”
E.  Where do we go to get out of the way? Sideways away from the car! (90 degree offset from line of attack for you tactical thinkers. Why? Because you can’t expect kids to absorb and implement under pressure refined tactical thinking). Keep it simple and at a 6 year old level, make it a game and play it often to install it. Works pretty good for the tacti-cool who are willing to admit they don’t know everything, training at the level of a 6 year old. Jus’ saying.
F.  Hardware practices: make sure your teens/tweens and family numbers are set up on group text. In a crisis easier to send texts than to call.
G.  For your littlest ones, including your infants in strollers, print out on laminated paper their names, cell phones of parents/trusted adults, Address, blood type and any medical conditions (diabetes, asthma, antibiotic allergies, general allergies). Why? Don’t assume you’ll survive an incident intact able to care for your kids. Make sure you have a plan and the means to implement so that your children who may not be able to speak or may be injured themselves can be rapidly identified and medically triaged as priority if necessary. And do the same for yourself. In the aftermath of an incident I’d hope children would be given priority, but toddlers and infants can’t identify themselves or their parents, and if you are separated, injured or killed you want to make sure somebody has what they need to tend to your babies if you are not able.
H.  When planning an outing, especially to a crowded public venue that has access to vehicles, take a look around and think about where you would go if your kids starting yelling CAR CAR CAR! And make sure your kids see it too.
These are simple steps, simple to implement in the fashion advised to young kids, the most vulnerable of all, and simple to constantly reinforce.

Just my two cents worth from 44 years of going in harm’s way to protect others.

Your Mileage May Vary.

Written by marcuswynne

June 9, 2017 at 5:14 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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