Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Pearl Harbor and Situational Awareness

Many years ago I was in basic training. I had the usual experiences one has in basic training. But an experience that stands out to me has to do with qualifying with the M16 rifle. The instructors asked if anyone had experience with a gun. Like an idiot, I raised my hand. There were a few others too. You don’t draw attention to yourself in basic. You don’t want any instructor to know that you exist. It’s safer. Luckily, the shooting instructors were not the typical training instructors. They liked to see someone do well with a gun. So they had us begin. Many of the guys I was with had never touched a weapon and you could visibly see that they were scared of it. All went well until it was time to score. I ripped a circle of about 3 inches center of mass on my target. I told the instructor that all 50 went through that 3 inch circle. He didn’t believe me so I told him to let me run through it again and he could check each shot. We did that and so I made a smiley face for him on a 2 ½ inch circle. Once he saw that he stopped me at 9 shots and told me he now believed me. That was my introduction to military shooting. I lived on base across the street from the NCOIC (NCO in charge) of CATM (combat arms training and maintenance). I got to know him to where he would have me come to the range whenever they were shooting anything crazy or unusual. Because of our friendship I was able to get qualified on all the service weapons and many combat weapons. Finally, I had spent so much time with these guys that I asked if I could be qualified as an instructor. They told me if it was OK with my commander they would put me through the school. I knew my commander pretty well and he signed off on it. That’s how I become a military weapons instructor when it was not even part of my job. I would help them with their training schedule when they needed someone. It looked good on my record and I loved every minute of it.
Earning that expert marksmanship ribbon with a bronze star meant a lot to me. It was more than a ribbon to me.
The military gave me a true appreciation for this country.
One thing the military taught me was to be aware of my surroundings, have some situational awareness. As we learn about 9-11 we learn that there were some signs of an imminent attack coming. We had some idea that something was coming but many of the pieces were not together. Had all intel been put together, a big picture might have been formed and possibly some action taken.
Pearl Harbor was no different.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt was warned three days before the attack that the Japanese empire was eyeing up Hawaii with a view to "open conflict."
The information, contained in a declassified memorandum from the Office of Naval Intelligence, adds to proof that Washington dismissed red flags signaling that mass bloodshed was looming and war was imminent.
"In anticipation of possible open conflict with this country, Japan is vigorously utilizing every available agency to secure military, naval and commercial information, paying particular attention to the West Coast, the Panama Canal and the Territory of Hawaii," stated the 26-page memo.
Dated December 4, 1941, marked as confidential, and entitled "Japanese intelligence and propaganda in the United States," it flagged up Japan's surveillance of Hawaii under a section headlined "Methods of Operation and Points of Attack."
The memo, now held at the Franklin D.Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum in upstate New York, has sat unpublicized since its declassification 26 years ago. Its contents were revealed by historian Craig Shirley in his new book "December 1941: 31 Days that Changed America and Saved the World."
Three days after the warning was delivered to the White House, hundreds of Japanese aircraft operating from six aircraft carriers unleashed a surprise strike on the US Navy's base at Pearl Harbor, wiping out American battleships, destroyers and air installations. A total of 2,459 US personnel were killed and 1,282 injured.
Some say the government knew it was coming and didn’t stop it, others say it was still a surprise attack, either way of thinking doesn’t change the fact that our country was attacked.
Knowing if and when an attack will come can mean the difference between loss of life and something less. If you are walking down a street and you see a gang of big, angry guys a ways off and you can turn around, or go to the other side, or make a turn, then you have the advantage. If you are blindsided then you have no time to prepare, you have few options.
First you should have a basic baseline for what is going on. What is the general sounds and sights? It would be unusual to see dancing at a funeral, sometimes behaviors seem out of place. Get an idea, a “read”, of the activity.

Imminent Threat Solutions has this advice:
“Three Obstacles in Situational Awareness
1. Not Monitoring the Baseline. If you are not monitoring the baseline, you will not recognize the presence of predators that cause a disturbance. Other events can cause concentric rings as well. Any unusual occurrence from a car accident to a street fight can create a concentric ring. One of the keys to personal security is learning to look for and recognize these disturbances. Some disturbances are dangerous, some are just entertaining.
2. Normalcy Bias. Even though we may sense a concentric ring that could be alerting us of danger, many times we will ignore the alert due to the desire for it NOT to be a danger. We want things to be OK, so we don’t accept that the stimulus we’re receiving represents a threat. We have a bias towards the status quo. Nothing has ever happened when I do this, so nothing is likely to happen.
3. The third interrupter of awareness is what we define as a Focus Lock. This is some form of distraction that is so engaging, that it focuses all of our awareness on one thing and by default, blocks all the other stimulus in our environment. This is when someone is texting and walks into a fountain. The smart phone is the single most effective focus lock ever invented. It robs us of our awareness in times and places where it’s needed most.

Three Effective Techniques to Stay Aware
1. Monitor the Baseline. At first, this will require conscious effort. But after a while, I find that I can monitor the baseline subconsciously.
2. Fight Normalcy Bias. This requires you to be paranoid for a while as you develop your ability. Look at every disturbance to the baseline as a potential threat. This will allow you to stop ignoring or discounting concentric rings and begin making assessments of the actual risk. But as you learn, people will think you are jumpy or paranoid. That is OK. It’s a skill that will save your life.
3. Avoid using the obvious focus locks in transition areas. It is ok to text while you are sitting at your desk or laying in bed. But it’s NOT ok to text as you walk from your office to the parking garage.”

These skills require some work on your part to master. You can practice all the time. Sharing what you’re doing with your family or friends will help them to understand why you’re acting a little more weird than usual. It doesn’t take long until these skills are natural as soon as you walk into a building or an event.

We remember this day with sadness and a resolve to never let it happen again. Even though 9-11 was similar. In our personal lives we need to ensure that there is no “Pearl Harbor” event.

Semper Paratus
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