This past weekend, motorists on I-24 in Coffee County, TN experienced extreme violence and chaos as a coward went on a grand theft auto killing spree. Sadly, he managed to kill three and injure three before killing himself. The last person he executed was a man in front of his pregnant wife.
This post in no way seeks to undermine or speak critically of the victims. The intent of this post is to motivate you to maintain situational awareness and preparedness. I have not seen footage of the events, so there is no way I could pass judgement on the victims even if I wanted to. I pray for the victims in this weekend’s incident that God will comfort them during this pain and suffering.
Situational awareness basically means that you are mentally present and actively observing events transpiring around you. There are five levels of situational awareness:
- White – Relaxed and unaware of the situation around you
- Yellow – Relaxed but aware of your surroundings
- Orange – Aware of a specific or potential threat or pre-threat indicators
- Red – Engaging or engaged with a threat (Fight, Flight, Posture, Submit)
- Black – Complete mental shutdown or dead
The average person occupies condition White for the vast majority of their day. They are either daydreaming, texting, browsing social media, watching TV, generally spaced out, or sleeping. People who remain in condition White throughout the day are generally not prepared to respond to a threat.
There are occasions when it is ok to be in condition White, and frankly, it is unhealthy to remain in conditions above White for extended periods of time.
It is acceptable to be in condition White when you have outsourced your Situational Awareness. This can be in the form of an early warning alarm system, a dog, or someone else.
Condition Yellow is the condition you should strive to remain in when you cannot outsource your Situational Awareness. In the military, the term is “keeping your head on a swivel.” If you are in condition Yellow, you are prepared to respond to a threat.
Condition Orange occurs when you have been paying attention and something peaks your Spidey Senses or your early warning systems have alerted you. Condition Orange occurs when you are walking to your car in a dark parking lot and notice an unfamiliar person near you. If you are attacked in condition Orange, it should not be a surprise.
Condition Red occurs when you see the brake lights on the car in front of you as you quickly approach their bumper and need to slam on the breaks. It occurs when you see a dog running towards you or when someone is approaching you in a threatening manner and you need to fight, flight, posture, or submit.
Condition Black was not in Cooper’s original color code system, but it was later added by the Marine Corps to describe the physiological state when you can no longer process due to stress, fear, or exhaustion. It’s basically when you shut down.
Every Day Carry (EDC)
What do you normally have on your person throughout the day? If you are like most people, you probably have your phone first and foremost, your keys, your wallet, and a few other items. While these items may prepare you for the ordinary, they may not help in an emergency (other than the cell phone).
If you are in the minority, you have a less-than-lethal weapon, a firearm, a trauma kit, and some other items that might be useful during an emergency. You are prepared for the unusual.
The sucky fact about what occurred over the weekend in Coffee County and what occurs countless other times every single day in other parts of our country, is that we do not have the luxury of picking the time or the place.
In the instance of a natural disaster, nature picks the time and place.
In the instance of a man made disaster, the bad guy picks the time and the place.
Are you prepared to respond to a threat or render first aid in the following contexts? At the grocery store, at the the park, returning a Redbox movie late at night, at the gym, on a run, at church, driving, etc.
You can have all the cool gear you want, but it won’t do you much good without proper training. This includes physical training, medical training, firearms training, and empty handed combative training.
If you do not place a high priority on your physical health through diet and exercise, you have a higher chance of dying from a heart attack than needing to defend yourself with a weapon (statistically speaking). Also, fighting is a physically exhausting activity and having good cardio vascular endurance could be the difference between life and death in a fight.
If you are trained and prepared to make bad guys bleed, then you also need to be trained and prepared to stop good guys from bleeding.
Your CCW class is not intended to teach you how to shoot or how to fight with a gun. Your CCW class is a check in the box, showing that your at least intelligent enough to not do something too stupid and just accurate enough to shoot in a cardinal direction.
It is possible you’ll rise to the occasion during a defensive deadly force encounter without prior training, but why risk it? Make the decision to take your safety, your family’s safety, and the Second Amendment seriously. Seek formal training.
Less Than Lethal
I think it was Chuck Haggard who said that you need something between a harsh word and a handgun. This is absolutely true. If all you have is a firearm to solve a self defense problem, then you are limiting yourself.
Invest in less-than-lethal options so that you can have a measured response and move up and down the Force Continuum as the situation dictates. Even something as simple as a bright flashlight can serve as a less-than-lethal option.
Empty Hand Combatives
Many fights end up on the ground and understanding how to control a threat using just your hands is very useful. When selecting a martial art, consider sticking with those trusted by the military, law enforcement, and those used by MMA fighters. Just YouTube “Fake Martial Arts” and stay away from that trash.
Brazilian Ju Jitsu is an excellent choice but make sure to avoid the McDojos that just hand out belts. I would place my bets on a three year white belt over a six month blue belt. You shouldn’t be taking martial arts for a pretty belt, you should be there to learn how to defend yourself when you’re not wearing the belt.
Mindset and Spirit
More importantly than the gear you carry everyday or the training you have participated in is your mindset and your spirit.
I will often times play scenarios out in my head to better prepare myself to respond to an incident. Prior to the events in Coffee County this last weekend, I had considered what I would do in that exact scenario. Would I use my vehicle as a weapon? Would I engage the threat from inside my car first before exiting? How would my actions change if I had my kids in the back?
I do this same mental exercise many times a day in various contexts: restaurants, coffee shops, work, grocery store, gas station, picking kids up from school, dentist, etc.
Fighter Mindset basically has two components: 1) Can you master your fear and stress during a deadly force encounter, and 2) Are you willing to kill or seriously injure the threat?
Whether you can overcome the 1st and accomplish the 2nd will largely be dictated by what you are fighting for. Are you fighting for persons or property? Are the persons loved ones or strangers? What do you believe happens when you die? These questions and many more are important when considering how you will be able to adapt a Fighter Mindset during a given scenario.
Force on force training can also inoculate you to the stress of fighting but it will never feel the same as a real fight. Reading can also provide valuable insight.
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We are not just mind and body, we are also spirit. I like the phrase John Correia uses: Spiritual Fitness. Just as it is important to maintain mental and physical fitness, you also need to maintain your Spiritual Fitness.
You may not be a fan of Theology or Faith, but in the final analysis, your relationship with God and Jesus Christ is all that matters.
As humans, we do a pretty good job of compartmentalizing the reality of death. However, this reality will present itself during a fight for your or someone else’s life and you don’t want to be figuring out what you believe then.
This post is not meant to scare you. It is intended to help you or someone you know prepare to respond to a critical incident. If you are one of the minority of people who are prepared or somewhat prepared, then pass this post along to friends and family who is not.