The difference between being proactive and reactive on the battlefield gets discussed in the military a lot. People have their catchphrases that they like to use in an attempt to try and instill the proactive mindset in the troops, and you hear them pretty regularly during many training exercises. “YOU have to take the fight to enemy!” “YOU dictate when and where you fight, NOT the enemy!” “We have to get into the enemy’s OODA loop and keep him reacting to US!”

I am certainly not going to knock the concept of being proactive on the battlefield. It is what Combat Hunter was designed to do, but I am going to question our leadership (our officers, staff non-commissioned officers, and non-commissioned officers) of all ranks that are involved in training, and question how well we are doing training our warriors to actually become proactive in combat.

In a full-scale war the American military, especially the Marine Corps, has proven that our maneuver warfare principles accomplish our goal of forcing the enemy to react to us and is able to mentally and physically destroy any opponent we face. However, with the counter-insurgency we have been fighting for the last decade, we have found ourselves limited in our ability to maintain the offensive. It is a natural progression that occurs with this type of war. Since the enemy has taken off his uniform and hides behind women and children, it is much more difficult for our soldiers and Marines to separate them from the population they hide amongst.

Unfortunately for American troops, this means that often times we don’t know where the enemy is until the IED goes off, until the ambush on our patrol has been initiated, or until the sniper has taken his shot at our base. Once the enemy has taken those steps and we now know where he is, we are able to go back to our training and overwhelm them with superior firepower and defeat him. But that also means we are still reacting to his actions.

To find a better way to prepare our troops to succeed overseas, lets go into a theory that gets talked about quite a bit in our schools and is a facet of most training we go through. Many of you are familiar with Cooper’s Color Code, but I just want to recap the five conditions that he Lt Col Jeff Cooper identified regarding the mindset that we experience in combat situations.

Condition White: You have zero situational awareness of anything going on around you. If a threat did present itself, you would be completely unprepared to deal with it. We never want troops in this category.

Condition Yellow: This is what we refer to as a “relaxed alert.” You are looking and searching for threats, but have not yet found anything to focus your attention on. This is where we want Marines when they are on a patrol, actively looking for the anomalies that may be out there.

Condition Orange: We refer to this as a “specified alert,” meaning you have found a specific threat to focus on and have begun developing a plan for how you are going to deal with it. This is the time between recognition and actually being engaged in a fight with that threat.

Condition Red: You are now actively engaged in the fight and executing the plans that you developed in Condition Orange.

Condition Black: The stress of combat has become too much to handle and the body physically shuts down, becoming incapable of fighting any longer.

So why do we care about this as profilers? Because the difference between being proactive and reactive on the battlefield lies in Condition Orange. Even if you are the most focused and alert Marine on patrol, constantly searching for threats, if you don’t know what to look for, if you don’t know what would make someone a threat other than seeing them holding an AK-47 or an RPG, you will always be fighting reactively. If the first time you recognize the threat is when the IED goes off or the RPG round is coming at your patrol, you jump from Condition Yellow right to Condition Red because you are now actively engaged in that fight.

However, if you recognize the threat before you are getting shot at, you will enter Condition Orange, your planning time. Even if it is only three seconds before the fight is taking place, you have at least three seconds to prepare for the fight before it happens. This is where being proactive will actually be accomplished, improving our ability to recognize a threat or a situation that is different than before – giving you three seconds or three minutes or three hours before a perceived threat to start putting a plan together. If you begin executing any plan, the enemy is now going to be forced to react to you, putting him on the defensive.

The answer is not more body armor, more heavily armored vehicles, and more restrictions on troops to mitigate the risk of combat. The answer is to give them the training they need to defeat the enemy and prevent an attack from ever occurring.

The CP Journal and the Tactical Analysis Program are designed to assist in that goal. By teaching behavioral cues that are associated with threats, cues that apply anywhere we go in the world, we will improve our ability to recognize the anomalies and take action on the enemy on our terms, not his. If we can identify and locate him before he can engage us, we will be one major step closer to making him irrelevant

If there is more that we can do on this site to help you with that, let us know.

** Note **
There are also the associated physiological and biological responses to the specific Conditions that you could be in that also affect your ability to recognize and identify threats, as well as cause you to or prevent you from falling into Condition Black. I’ll write another post on this topic sometime in the future.