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Left of Bang is a training reference for the Marine Corps Combat Hunter program which was designed to help Marines be more proactive in identifying possible threats instead of reactive (e.g., right of bang). The work outlines six different domains of observation: kinesics, biometrics, proximity, geographics, iconography in use, and the atmosphere of an environment or situation. The primary takeaway is that you can dramatically reduce your risk by being proactive, being on the hunt for threats; pretty sage advice for any career field.
Top Lessons Learned
- Stay alert and try to understand the baseline of an environment, possible threats are oftentimes anomalies which should be assessed.
- People suck at multi-tasking and if they are planning something it will almost always be visibly apparent unless they have training in espionage skills.
- People's body language is so much more telling of their intentions than their facial expressions or their words, both of which are much more readily controlled by people.
- General James Mattis establish the combat Hunter program to make Marines more proactive instead of reactive.
- Being left of bang means that you are assessing your environment for possible threat indicators before the bang event happens in trying to negate it or get ahead of it.
- Cooper's color code is used to define varying levels of psychological and arousal States, the ideal state is a constant yellow where you are assessing your environment and looking for threats but not actively aggressing.
- Intuition is heavily influenced by somebody's experience, such as growing up in a rough neighborhood. It is able to help people make decisions in stressful circumstances extremely quickly without needing to analyze a bunch of data. These decisions are often not perfect, but good enough.
- Three specific skills were identified and focused upon in the combat hunter course: enhanced observation, combat tracking, and combat profiling.
- Combat hunting and specifically combat profiling have been proven to be effective in dangerous situations. There is a complementary website for this book.
- There are four pieces to combat profiling: situational awareness, sensitivity of baselines and anomalies, critical thinking, and decision-making.
- Combat profiling is behavior focused and proactive unlike practices like racial profiling or criminal profiling.
- Most people are not actually taught how to make a decision. Even models like OODA tell someone to decide, but they don't instruct how.
- Analytical decision methods are useful when there is time to consider weighing options and there is enough data available.
- Marines often face information overload, they are multitasking, they operate in 360 degree threatening environments.
- Marines are oftentimes expected to make perfect decisions despite the constraints they operate under. Instead, Marines should make good enough decisions so they can stay agile, making quick decisions with the available dates.
- A good heuristic decision is made by 1) knowing what to look for, 2) knowing when enough information is enough (the “threshold of decision”), and 3) knowing what decision to make.
- The most important part of the brain that directly affects nonverbal behavior is the limbic system. The limbic system is unique because, in addition to controlling emotions, it is completely focused on our survival. Stimulus is categorized as either a threat or not a threat and the body will react accordingly which is directly correlated with behavior.
- Freeze: increase the chance of not being seen and gives the target more time to assess.
- Flight: create physical distance between the threat, not just running away, there are many distancing behaviors that could be used.
- Fight: the least preferred response, usually starts with posturing to try to win without fighting.
- Looking out for these behaviors is key since it highlights those who may be under duress or have malicious intentions.
- Hesitation or paralysis by analysis can put you at risk in hostile environments. Always strive to have a bias for action.
- Identifying threats means establishing a baseline and looking for anomalies. A baseline is what is normal for an environment, situation, or individual. An anomaly is any variation from the baseline—and what we are primarily searching for is anomalies. Anomalies are things that either do not happen but should, or that do happen but shouldn’t.
- Most human behavior is predictable across cultures and backgrounds, there are many studies that cite patterns. Combat profiling relies on these:
- Humans are creatures of habit until something clearly isn't working.
- Humans are inherently lazy.
- Humans are not good liars.
- Humans are driven by automatic freeze, flight, fight responses.
- Humans telegraph their intentions and emotions.
- Humans are generally predictable.
- Humans are not good at multitasking.
- Humans are generally clueless and lack situational awareness.
- Humans can't do very many things. These domains range from autonomic to deliberate, and personal to social. They are: a. Kinesics: Conscious and subconscious body language. b. Biometric Cues: Biological autonomic responses. c. Proxemics: Interpersonal spatial interaction. d. Geographics: Patterns of behavior within an environment. e. Iconography: Expression through symbols. f. Atmospherics: Collective attitudes that create distinct moods within an environment.
- There are 6 significant domains of human behavior.
- Kinesics: people's conscious and unconscious body language.
- Biometric cues: the physiological cues the body gives off in response to stress.
- Proxemics: how an individual or group reacts to the space around them.
- Geographics: how people respond to the landscape around them details how comfortable they are where they are.
- Iconography: the use of symbols or lack thereof to communicate affiliations with a group or cause.
- Atmospherics: reading the emotional or social atmosphere to tell if something is off and who's causing it.
- Most children today don't grow up, unless in a hostile environment, learning body language. It's usually learned later in life.
- Studying body language accomplishes two objectives. The first is to identify those people who don’t fit in and thus warrant further attention. The second is to predict people’s behavior based on the subtle behavioral cues that give away their intentions.
- Combat profiling is more about observing clusters of behavior and isn't so much focused on the face.
- Clusters are based on a person’s perception of threats and how they are preparing to deal with them. They are:
- Dominant vs. submissive
- Uncomfortable vs. comfortable
- Interested vs. uninterested (in the person or object they are interacting with)
- Once three indicators are observed, combat profilers then judge the cluster against the baseline: Should the person be feeling dominant/submissive, uncomfortable/comfortable, and interested/uninterested right now?
- its important that all behavior be put into context.
There are six domains of behavior.
People's unconscious cues, this is primarily driven by non-verbal body language. How do people position themselves, is it different? Do people have aggressive facial expressions, aggressive stances when it doesn't make sense?
There are three main types of anomalies with regard to biometrics:
- An individual whose biometric cues do not fit the situation.
- A change in the observed biometric cues, whether sudden or gradual, though a sudden change communicates a more immediate change in the person’s emotions, which would be a more urgent indicator.
- Indicators that an individual is attempting to mask or hide potential biometric cues, or someone giving off nonverbal indicators of attempting to control them through pacifying behaviors.
Anger and fear are the two most common emotions that lead to conflict.
The eyes are incredibly response to both positive and negative stimulus. More rapid blinking is an indicator of more stress or attempting to suppress an emotion. Extremely limited blinking suggests an extreme focus.
Humans like animals move towards what they desire and away from what they fear or don't like. Keep proxemics can be a very powerful indicator of intent or state of mind and can also be used to spot anomalies.
Hall’s four zones are the intimate, the personal, the social, and the public.
Proxemics can be used anywhere in the world analyze somebody's Comfort levels based on how they use the space around them relative to people and objects.
Somebody's movement is often times the best indicator of their intention, such as somebody tailing or Chasing You or a predator creeping up on its prey.
People move more confidently and quickly through areas that they are comfortable in and that they know very well. This can be used as part of the profiling process.
There are different zones of geographic analysis that can be used in combat profiling:
- Common paths and backways
- Anchor points, which are gathering spots either malicious or otherwise
Icons come in many forms, the environment (graffiti or flags), clothing or more personal things like tattoos.
The people around the presence of icons may accept and embrace, tolerate, or reject icons and those who it represents. This can be a powerful indicator as to the presence of comfort level associated with a group.
Atmospheric conditions refer to the general collective mood of an environment. This can be ascertained by feeling or by combing a number of these factors (especially at a distance), for example, proximity and behavioral indicators may suggest a tense or comfortable mood.
Sudden changes in atmosphere should be especially troubling and warrant caution.
Sounds and anomalies in sounds are very consistently useful in gauging whether something is normal or not. Example, it got too quiet so we knew something was wrong.
Combat profilers should make a decision after they observe three indicators, a cluster. They can make a decision with less if the indicator is strong enough.
The decisions will vary based on the situation, the whole point is to provide yourself with as much time as possible left of bang.
Studying all behavior in context and not assigning more weight to any behavior taken out of context is important. Context is everything.
Becoming an expert combat profile air requires a lot of practice. This can be done by attempting to increase one's situational awareness and study on a daily basis.
Gary Klein is a renowned and expert researcher on decision-making and cites the following aspects that experts have the ability to see which novices do not.
- Experts see patterns that novices do not detect.
- Experts see anomalies—events that did not happen.
- Experts see the big picture (situational awareness).
- Experts create opportunities and improvisations.
- Experts have the ability to predict future events using their previous experiences.
- Experts see differences too small for novices to detect.
- Experts know their own limitations.
The website cp-journal.com is there as a resource.