Countless times during the beginning of my military career I was told to tighten my gear, tape up loose straps, cut off excess 550 cord and to keep my head on a swivel. Early on, I always assumed it was because my leaders were looking for any excuse to fuck with me. Making life difficult on the younger enlisted was something that a lot of guys took joy in, and riding them for anything they could find was a constant occurrence. This process of always looking professional became engrained in me and it was a huge part of my leadership when I ended up taking over my own team, and eventually, my own squad. It wasn’t until about halfway through my career I realized that “looking professional” had a larger purpose than to just please the Colonel when walking around base.
When I said that I was strict on “looking professional” as a leader, I wasn’t talking about a high and tight haircut, polished boots and starched blouses; In fact, I was quite the opposite. I was notorious for having side burns that tip toed the AR670-1 limit, as well as boots that stretched the conventionally issued norm. I was far from a stellar garrison soldier, but when it came time for training or deployments, that was when I ensured my appearance and posture was as best as it could be. I taught my soldiers how to properly pack their ruck, tape excess straps, fit their helmet and orient their chest rigs to the most functional configuration possible. One of the reasons behind this was so that when the shit hit the fan, they weren’t picking up dropped magazines or pushing their helmet up off their nose. There is a larger reason, one that is often overlooked. Appearance is everything; not to the company commander, but to the enemy.
If you place yourself in the enemy’s shoes, and you’re faced with two different groups to attack, chances are, you’re going to attack the group that has the least amount of situational awareness, crooked helmets, weapons slung and MRE packets pouring out of their cargo pockets. You probably aren’t going to pick a fight with the guys facing outboard, heads scanning the mountainside with weapons at the low ready. Perception is everything. If you appear to always be ready for a fight, odds are, the fight will be taken to the element that is less postured and meek in appearance.
After separating from the military I entered the executive protection field, where posturing and situational awareness, in my opinion, is just as critical to the safety of your principal as it was your men. If a person wants to enter a private venue or awards show, they’re going to approach the young kid with his face buried in his cell phone and his ear piece dangling outside of his ear, instead of the agent standing broad shouldered, hands held in front and head scanning the area. It is human nature to read every individual you see and come to a preemptive conclusion of that person. “I can take him” “damn, he’s jacked” “look at those stupid ass shoes”, these are all thoughts that go through our head daily, whether you want to admit it or not. If you’re an attacker, or someone with ill intent, these pre-conceived notions are exaggerated tenfold.
You may be reading this and think that none of this applies to you. You may not be in any line of work that requires you to thwart an attacker at a moment’s notice, but you are wrong. You are your own protection, and your family’s protection. Everyone has something that somebody wants; whether that’s your wallet, your wife’s purse, your car, or even worse, your life. Whenever I walk anywhere with my wife, I position myself according to what I perceive to be the largest threat. If a homeless man is walking towards us, I’m assessing him; I’m looking at his hands, pockets, posture and eyes, and I put myself between him and my wife in the event he wants to cause her harm, he has to get by me first. The best method to prevent an attack is to make eye contact with everyone you can. Humans, by nature, don’t like to make eye contact with complete strangers, it’s almost taboo. By making eye contact with a would-be attacker, you’re instantly letting them know that you are completely aware of their presence, therefore taking the element of surprise out of their actions. This frequently leads that person to move on to a softer target, as was evident when Arthur Bremer was asked why he didn’t attempt to assassinate Richard Nixon. Bremer stated that Nixon’s security was too tight and he didn’t see an opportunity to strike. The posturing of the Secret Service possibly saved Nixon’s life that day.
By writing this blog, I want to make you think about how you carry yourself every day. I want you to always be on guard and to always ask yourself “what if”. You don’t have to seem like a paranoid nut, but by eating at a restaurant with your back against the wall and knowing where the kitchen is, you have already increased the likelihood of your survival exponentially. Taking these few tips and applying them to your life, you may inadvertently save your life or your family’s life. I would like to stay on this earth as long as possible, and I wish the same for you as well, so get your face out of your cell phone and look around you. Your life is more important than showing the world what you’re fucking eating.
*Know where the kitchen is because it almost always has an exit, knives, pots, pans and ample shit to whack someone over the head with.
**The author is also guilty of taking pictures of his food, but he has assessed the room and his surroundings prior.