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Offline Flyin6

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Guardian mindset
« on: November 27, 2017, 03:59:52 PM »
A Warrior's Mind, A Guardian's Heart: Character Traits and Mental Disciplines for Executive Protection Operators

By Mike Parks
Senior Protective Intelligence Analyst, Stratfor
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This report was first published on Threat Lens, Stratfor's unique protective intelligence product, on Nov. 18. We think that Worldview readers would benefit from the author's insights and we are sharing this column over the Thanksgiving weekend. Designed with corporate security leaders in mind, Threat Lens enables industry professionals to anticipate, identify, measure and mitigate emerging threats to people and assets around the world. Mike Parks is a senior protective intelligence analyst at Stratfor.
We were gratified not long ago to hear that one of our readers — a senior officer in a global security company — had messaged his executive protection team leaders with a rhetorical question after reading some of our work: "How come these Threat Lens people know more about protection than we do?" (or words to that effect — we did not, after all, see the actual email).
After we regained our composure and made sure our hats still fit our heads, we reflected that there were a number of reasons why it might seem that we know something about protection. First of all, several members of our team have the "been there, done that" street cred that comes with many years of protection surveillance operations in some very dicey places, both in government and private sector work. Equally important is the fact that other members of the Threat Lens team have, in lieu of hands-on tactical experience, developed deep analytic skills on the subject, unpacking one high-risk encounter after another, seeking, explaining and publishing useful and actionable details on the tactical "how" of terrorist and criminal attacks around the world.
We regard those tactical "hows" as a core principle of our service to readers. At the same time, we always remember that there are deeper and more universal subjects that deserve study, and our admirers' kind words reminded us of the fact that one great advantage of having served on executive protection teams is the ability to step back after all those years and contemplate what we learned from both our successes and failures — and with the added benefit of being far removed from the daily churn of events.
Occasionally, we make the time and space to discuss these matters, and we want to share some of our reflections here. What readers find below will likely seem strange because they are subjects that are often taken for granted or otherwise not discussed in the busy daily life of an executive protection team. But we think they should be — especially in cases in which the hiring and promotion of leaders is being contemplated. Some of us have experience in consulting with private clients in training and evaluating potential security operators; in doing that, we have always kept these principles very much in mind.
Like few other professions outside the military — whose work is characterized by long periods of boredom punctuated by short periods of chaos — executive protection teams face a potentially counterproductive dichotomy in their work. Much of their time and energy is spent facilitating the daily lives and travel of their protectees. While there are good security reasons, for instance, why it is important for the protectee not to stand on the sidewalk outside her hotel waiting for her luggage, we tend to forget those reasons when we find ourselves handling such seemingly trivial matters for them on a daily basis. We are intimately familiar with our protectee's schedule, right down to the next five minutes — and of course, if we're smart, we have a close working relationship and ability to instantly get in touch with her personal assistant back at headquarters. All of these ancillary duties (which are not strictly central to the real reason we are there) inevitably distract our attention from core principles, and are one of many reasons why we recommend hybrid teams that consist of close protection supported by protective surveillance operators who can constantly scan the environment without distractions.
Every executive protection operator — including those doing close protection — is there for a far more important reason, however, than mere facilitation. Just as how every U.S. Marine, regardless of his daily duties, is first and foremost a rifleman, it bears remembering that every executive protection operator's working life should be built around the potential for tactical response in a high-risk encounter. Absent the potential for such encounters — however rare — there would be no need for us: We could be replaced far more cheaply by limo drivers, bell staff, etc.
Years ago, a co-worker teased us in a round of friendly banter: "I make money for this company's bottom line. What do you actually do?"
So what justified our paycheck? We answered with a brief thought experiment. "What have we trained you to do in the event of an active shooter here at headquarters?" we asked.
"Run, hide, fight," he replied.
"In that order, right?"
"Well, we only have one option, not three. We fight." And that, in a few words, spells out the difference.
Becoming Socrates' Guardians

In Plato's Republic, Socrates proposes a class of "Guardians" whose duty is to protect and rule over the ideal city. Guardians are selected in early childhood, at which time they begin receiving education. Like the very best guard dogs, Guardians must be "gentle with friends and savage with enemies," among other qualities. Socrates conceived of the Guardians as individuals of high intelligence and sophistication, not mere warriors, meaning that, as far as most of Plato's past and present students are concerned, Achilles would have probably failed to make the grade as one of Socrates' Guardians, his CV as a consummate warrior notwithstanding. In contrast, the Trojan hero Hector — defender of his city and its people — probably would have. There is agreement on this front from modern scholars such as George Lucas, editor of the Routledge Handbook of Military Ethics, although Lucas mentions only Achilles — negatively — in this context.
Like the very best guard dogs, Guardians must be “gentle with friends and savage with enemies," among other qualities.

Although we have used the term "warrior mind" elsewhere to describe the ideal security operator's mindset and attitude, we think that Socrates' Guardian formulation reflects most accurately the character of elite executive protection teams and the people who serve in them. Our use of "warrior mind" has focused primarily on tactical issues. We want to emphasize here that beyond tactical considerations, there are salient character attributes and states of mind that distinguish elite executive protection operators from others in the security industry. As such, we think Plato's "Guardian" concept is more apt. What follows are some of those attributes.

Guardians recognize and calmly accept that while most humans are decent and ethical in thought and behavior, there are also many who are prepared to willingly take advantage of those who cannot or will not defend themselves. Guardians also understand that even as political and religious motivations ebb and flow, there will always be some who fantasize about violence. Some of these people, in turn, will act on those fantasies, regardless of the "why" — there is always a spurious "why" available at any point in history. They also know that mental illness — with its attendant potential for violence depending on the nature of the condition — will always be a factor in any society. Because of this, Guardians tend not to obsess over adversaries' motivations unless they have good tactical reasons to do so, but they will always strive to understand the "how."
Guardians take mature responsibility for their own safety and security — and in many cases, responsibility for their family members, teammates, protectees (of course) and more broadly, humanity as a whole. Their core instinct is to protect the weak, which distinguishes them from many, though not all, others who engage in similar work, such as in law enforcement or the military.
They calmly accept that their line of work entails the possibility, however remote, that they may have to risk their lives to save others. Ultimately, this is their job, and when they perform it in those rare few seconds, they have earned their pay a hundredfold. If not for this plain fact, much of what they do could be done far more cheaply by mere facilitators. And the common phrase heard in law enforcement: "Whatever happens, I get to go home" is not part of the true Guardian's ethos. They are not nihilistic or death-seeking, but their priorities are driven by their protective instincts.
Guardians recognize and calmly accept that while most humans are decent and ethical in thought and behavior, there are also many who are prepared to willingly take advantage of those who cannot or will not defend themselves.They develop the self-discipline to practice appropriate situational awareness for their environment, adjusting smoothly to changes in those environments. Usually without conscious thought, experienced Guardians use some version of tactical expert Jeff Cooper's "colors," which ranges from white to red, to help them adopt the state of mind appropriate to each tactical situation. The U.S. Marine Corps later added "black" to the list, indicating, according to Massad Ayoob, that "combat is in progress." (Note: Cooper's colors are not to be confused with the useless color-coded terrorist threat levels promulgated by government agencies. Instead, they refer to appropriate states of mind for the levels of violence operators experience in real confrontations, as well as the responses appropriate to each.)

Guardians habitually practice two kinds of situational awareness. Tactical situational awareness addresses the immediate environment and circumstances. Equally important, however, is strategic awareness, which involves understanding the broader geopolitical factors that can affect the situation on the ground. With all that said, we believe successful operators have a high degree of tolerance for ambiguity, and seldom chain themselves to inflexible procedural manuals. Real Guardians are beset by neither paranoia nor excessive fear, nor do they exude complacency or a sense of denial. Instead, they are watchful.
Guardians make a balanced assessment of the potential abilities of the adversary, neither downplaying them nor exaggerating them. Simple respect for an adversary's capabilities helps them prepare a proportionate but decisive response in high-risk encounters. When such encounters occur, they are seldom blind-sided by the level of violence they must deal with. Metaphorically speaking, Guardians do not bring a knife to a gunfight, but they do not eschew the sledgehammer and reach straight for the tactical nuclear weapon in an effort to kill a fly either.
Guardians make a balanced assessment of the potential abilities of the adversary, neither downplaying them nor exaggerating them.Within an infinite continuum of potential threats, Guardians know when they must engage and when to retreat or avoid confrontation. They understand that high-risk encounters are fraught with the possibility of injury or death, both to themselves and to their protectees. They put most of their effort and skill into identifying and avoiding threats rather than satisfying a very human but ultimately counterproductive urge to triumph over their attackers.

They have the will to fight on even if incapacitated or cornered. True Guardians will not passively allow themselves or others to be harmed, as long as they are conscious and their bodies are functioning.
They understand that emotion has no place in the midst of a high-risk encounter; that must be saved for afterward, when the situation is resolved. They avoid excessive emotional attachment to a desired outcome while the encounter is continuing, and they understand that fear is always about the future: It is impossible to "fear" a situation that is already happening. Thus, when they are engaged, they are fully in the moment like elite athletes who are "in the zone," dealing with the situation confronting them at that instant, not something that has not yet happened (and may never occur).
Above all, Guardians understand that these character traits and mental disciplines may help them overcome the less desirable effects of adrenaline/cortisol responses, such as constriction of the muscles, tunnel vision and the attenuation of small motor skills. But they also know that the skills they need to control the "lizard brain" response are perishable. Only with training, education and frequent practice can they control the influence of millions of years of evolution. They take personal responsibility for nurturing those skills.
But enough philosophy. Let us talk about some practicalities.
The Benefits of Stress Inoculation Training

In a wide-ranging survey of available scientific research, Dr. William J. Lewinski and Dr. Audrey Honig assert that "physical and mental limitations are the same for everyone" in high-risk encounters — no exceptions. There are, they say, "no superhuman people."
But though the adrenaline/cortisol response, which is triggered by the amygdala or "lizard brain," may well be involuntary and inevitable given a sufficient level of stress over a short period of time, the authors also state that certain training will mitigate some of the less desirable symptoms, which include perceptual errors and failures to act appropriately due to "tunnel vision" (they call it "selective attention," and so will we, because selective attention involves other senses as well as vision). Other effects include physical limitations caused by involuntary blood starvation and muscle contraction, all of which ultimately reduce speed, hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills. Lewinski and Honig know what they are talking about here. Lewinski is the founder of Force Science Institute, a resource we have tapped many times for peer-reviewed scientific studies of human behavior in high-risk encounters. And at the time of their survey, Honig was providing psychological services to the Los Angeles Police Department.
Despite a somewhat pessimistic view of peoples' ability to overcome nature, the Lewinski-Honig study does offer recommendations to police departments for how to mitigate its more undesirable effects. The authors' primary recommendation is stress inoculation training, which presents scenarios designed to mirror the reality of high-risk encounters as much as possible within acceptable safety parameters.
One good example is Close Quarters Defense's "Box Hood Room" scenarios which we've cited elsewhere. Some of us have trained with CQD, and we can attest to its intensity and effectiveness. In the Box Hood Room, students are told to stand on the one solitary "safe spot" in a poorly lit room. A box-shaped black nylon hood is lowered over the student's head and shoulders as distracting noise — heavy metal music, screams and shouting, loud drumming — is played at high volume. The student must wait for the hood to be raised before he can act, as his vision is shut off and the noise robs him of hearing. In the meantime, he will be re-breathing his own exhaled carbon dioxide inside the hood, which further attacks perception and the functions of the prefrontal cortex, which controls executive decision-making.
While the student waits in his hood, highly trained role players — some of whom are active duty special operators — prepare one of dozens of scenarios, perhaps donning protective gear and helmets with face shields that both protect them and hide their identities. When the box hood is raised, the noise volume is increased and strobe lights exacerbate the feeling of disorientation — all of which is intended to simulate the effects of a real combat situation. The student is immediately confronted with a simulated high-risk encounter, sometimes with multiple role players attacking him; at other times, the role players might pretend to be innocent bystanders, hostages or kidnap victims. The student must decide in a moment how to respond. In many scenarios, physical attacks, which are carefully monitored and controlled, play a role, and it is not unusual for students — and indeed role players — to end the evening with a few bruises. Each encounter is videotaped and subsequently evaluated by training staff with the student present. It does not get much more realistic than this. We offer the CQD training as a benchmark, and note that more common video-based training or pop-up paper targets in a "shoot house" pale by comparison.
But the beneficial effects of stress inoculation training are perishable, Lewinski and Honig stress, duly recommending frequent repetition by police departments. We agree, and not just for the police or military. In fact, it stands to reason that executive protection teams — who are less likely to experience high-risk encounters on a regular basis — have a greater, not a lesser, need for frequent stress inoculation training than do cops or soldiers.
Mindfulness in High-risk Encounters

The benefits of stress inoculation training have long been known anecdotally to professionals. Now, thanks to the efforts of organizations like the Force Science Institute, evidence-based scientific veracity has come to lend empirical weight to what we have always known intuitively. But while we respect the authors' adherence to peer-reviewed experiments as the only benchmark for their recommendations, we hold that stress inoculation can be augmented by some practices for which scientific verification is only beginning to emerge. Although there are many current studies exploring how the brain functions under the general umbrella of "mindfulness" and other meditation practices, we know of no scientific work looking at mindfulness practice as specifically applied to high-risk encounters.
At the same time, mindfulness training has long been applied for centuries, if not millennia, in cultural martial arts, which always feature some short guided meditation at the beginning and end of each training session. Also, most martial arts teach and encourage practitioners to remain in a state of heightened awareness — be "in the moment" — throughout the training experience, including during full-contact sparring. And it is well-known that if matters such as size, skill and fitness are equal between two fighters, the fighter who maintains his calm will prevail over the one who gives way to emotion and directs his battle solely from the amygdala.
Increasingly, U.S. special operators are experimenting with and, in many cases, adopting mindfulness techniques to control adrenaline/cortisol responses. U.S. Navy SEALs practice "4-4-4 breathing" to relieve stress and prepare themselves for high-risk encounters. The technique is simple: breathe deeply to the count of four, hold for four and then exhale for four, all while concentrating on your breath and letting extraneous thoughts drift away. Anyone familiar with meditation or yoga will recognize breathing awareness and control as one of mindfulness meditation's foundational principles.
Indeed, on a grassroots, unofficial level, guided meditation sessions are catching on with some Marine units — and not only for stress relief but with a view to combat effectiveness as well. Instructors conducting the off-duty meditation sessions have reported success in overcoming the Marines' natural hesitation by pointing out that medieval Samurai — who knew a thing or two about combat — practiced deep Zen meditation techniques both in preparation for and during combat. The practice lives on in modern times in traditional Japanese martial arts such as Iaido (sword technique), Kyudo (medieval archery) and the empty-handed art of Aikido. In fact, at least one modern combat art — Systema, as taught to Russian special operators — has elements of mindfulness practice built in. This knowledge should resonate with any soldier, law enforcement officer or executive protection operator, and we would not be surprised to see specifically focused mindfulness training officially adopted by U.S. special operations units in the future.
To the extent possible given human limitations, mindfulness practice correctly applied — especially in conjunction with regular stress inoculation training — could help reduce the negative effects of selective attention, enhance muscle relaxation during the encounter itself ("Smooth is fast!"), and improve decision-making under intense pressure by broadening and deepening the operator's awareness of all pertinent information instead of focusing on a single object.
Does it all sound a bit too new-agey? All we can do is resurrect an old saying: "Tell it to the Marines"... And the Samurai ... And the SEALs…
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