Proper Mindset, Situational Awareness, Skill Proficiency and Physical Fitness: Force Multipliers of Great Value to Police

In the introduction to their book Law Enforcement Close Quarter Battle: Urban Tactics For Individuals, Teams and Tactical Units, Special Tactics, defines The Four Pillars of Survival as proper mindset, situational awareness, skill proficiency and physical fitness. They go on to say, these pillars form the basis for mission success and improve split second decision-making in direct combat situations. This holds true to the crisis situations police find themselves in as well.

"An expert marksman who is not mentally prepared for the stress of police encounters and not ready to employ deadly force can lose to an untrained adversary. Lack of situational awareness, even for a moment, can cause police responders to fall victim to unskilled adversaries."

Charles "Sid" Heal says in a great article titled Force Multipliers, an implied objective of every tactical intervention is to impose the will of the commander. Like other tactical principles, however, what is easy in concept can be exceedingly difficult in application. Regardless of whether the opposition is adversarial forces or the forces of nature, the side that is most capable of overcoming the resistance will prevail. All things being equal, chance plays the most critical role, yet all things are never equal! Indeed, no rational person would ever surrender success to chance and seeks any advantage to make success more achievable. Of the most fundamental of these advantages is called a force multiplier.

"A force multiplier is defined as any capability or advantage that, when added to and employed, significantly increases the potential of an individual or organization, and thus enhances the probability of success. A force multiplier can be as diverse as a superior weapon or a better idea. The only requirement is that it provides some markedly greater advantage."

When most think of force multipliers, they think of size, strength, superior weapons or equipment. These can be and are often force multipliers when all else is equal. In this post I want to look at the four pillars Special Tactics has listed as being crucial to winning.

Proper Mindset-is the most critical of the four pillars. In the simplest terms, people with proper mindset devote a large volume of time and energy to prepare for worst-case scenario. Many people will learn to shoot a pistol or study a martial art but their skills decline quickly because they fail to practice every day. Having the proper mindset means being tough, determined, never cutting corners and taking every precaution to ensure survival. Officers with proper mindset set aside time every day to train and maintain their equipment. In a combat situation, having the proper mindset means being prepared to employ deadly force without hesitation and never quitting during the fight regardless of fear or pain.

Situational Awareness-lack of situational awareness is one of the leading causes of failure or death in a deadly force encounter. In modern society, most peoples situational awareness is very low. They generally spend their day wrapped up in their own thoughts and problems, paying little attention to what is going on around them. People who live in relatively secure environments often fall into even deeper levels of complacency and unpreparedness. Most victims of crime, terrorism and other deadly attacks lived their lives thinking, "it can't happen to me." Of course, this mindset can be extremely dangerous and may end up leading to catastrophic results.

"Situational awareness describes a person’s knowledge and understanding of the circumstances, surroundings, and influences with regard to an unfolding situation. A lack of situational awareness can be disconcerting at best and disastrous at worst." ~Charles "Sid" Heal

People with the proper mindset described earlier understand the importance of situational awareness and make disciplined efforts to cultivate it. Situational awareness begins with awareness of the threat and awareness that bad things can happen to anyone. Situational awareness involves trying to remain alert at all times without being paranoid. Situational awareness also involves keeping up with local news, studying trends in violent crime and knowing which neighborhood streets to avoid. Those committed to protecting their families might also conduct research to identify sex offenders in their area. The best way to improve your situational awareness is to make a conscious effort to continually cultivate and improve it.

In the same manner, preparedness or skill proficiency is a force multiplier. Preparedness is multifaceted and takes on many forms. Consider the advantages presented when one opponent has gathered and staged critical equipment, arranged for replenishment and reinforcements, or fortified a defensive location. Even more important is personal preparedness such as proficiency gained by training, education and experience.

"Closely associated with personal preparedness, and probably still more important yet, are the skills and abilities of a highly trained team. This is so because the innate human failings of a single individual can be compensated for by teammates. Thus, a team of people collaborating in harmony creates a synergy surpassing numbers alone."

Skill Proficiency-once you have the proper mindset and maintain good situational awareness, the next step is to ensure you have the proper skills or tools to protect yourself in a combat situation. When striving to choose the best skills that are simple, effective, easy to perform and can realistically apply to real-life scenario. Then you must practice these techniques repeatedly until they become second nature. This will maximize the chances that you will respond immediately in a high stress situation.

Physical Fitness-even skilled fighters with the proper mindset and high levels of situational awareness can lose a fight simply because they run out of energy. In order to maintain adequate levels of combat fitness, it is not necessary to achieve the same fitness level as a professional or Olympic athlete. Rather, the key is to merely stay healthy, maintain a decent level of cardiovascular endurance, running speed, functional strength and coordination. Popular commercial fitness programs don't always focus on the most useful abilities needed for combat. For example, many people jog but how many also run sprints to build speed? Simply being able to run fast without falling is one of the most critical survival skills in a gunfight or emergency situation, yet most people rarely practice sprinting.

The four pillars of proper mindset, situational awareness, skill proficiency and physical fitness are force multipliers and establish the foundation for success in any tactical engagement. Building upon that foundation there are critical concepts and fundamentals that apply specifically to maneuver tactics and close quarters battle. Police must possess the proper winning mindset but they must also possess confidence in their skills and abilities and how they can apply them under the pressure of real time real world conditions. They must be committed and dedicated to their mission, and must be physically and mentally prepared to do whatever is reasonable and necessary to accomplish that objective.

Stay Oriented!