3 Reasons Why Assessing Individuals Is Taught First, But Observed Last

February 2, 2017 in Background Information

The first observable behaviors that we teach in our Tactical Analysis program are those needed to make assessments about individual people. Yet when you observe an area, establish a baseline, and hunt for anomalies, individual people get observed last. Why we have structured our class this way is a question that we often get from our students. If alert observers should start the observation process by looking at the fourth pillar of behavior (how we assess the collective mood), why don’t we teach the observable behaviors in the order they are going to be observed and used when we operate? There are three reasons why we made the decision to teach the class with the last observations taught first.

1. Assessing individuals is the most important pillar of behavior.

Even though a parent shouldn’t show preference to one of their children over the others, the reality is, not all of the pillars that we teach are equal. While each of the pillars (you can view them all here) provides value in its own unique way, it is the learning of the first pillar, how we assess individual people, that should be nurtured and developed more than its three siblings. It is this first pillar that you want to spend more time with because it will provide Continue reading »

WTF Is Situational Awareness?

October 12, 2016 in Background Information

Take a look at the transcript from a former available video from Alex Fox at The Capable Civilian.

.If you’re looking for other articles about Cooper’s Color Code and the role it plays with situational awareness, here are a few more articles and videos that we’ve written about the topic.

The video is no longer available but you can still read the transcript of the video:

Alexander: You’ve probably heard the term situational awareness, but if you’ve ever wondered to yourself, “What the hell is situation awareness, really? And how do I do it?” well, you’re Continue reading »

The Evolution of the Warrior: Preparing For War

February 5, 2016 in Background Information


“Remember that these our allies have not trained their whole lives for war, as we have. They are farmers and merchants, citizen-soldiers of their cities’ militia.”

The Spartan King, Leonidas, in a speech to his officers before the Battle at Thermopylae[1]

This scene from Gates of Fire, a book written by Steven Pressfield about the 300 Spartan warriors who stood up to over two million Persians, came in the final days leading up the seven-day battle at Thermopylae in 480 BC. As I prepared to join the Marines following the September 11th terrorist attack, reading that quote and imagining Leonidas addressing his officers led to the early formation of what became my quintessential definition of what it means to be a professional warrior. Like many others who have served and are serving in the military today, it led to intense study and the pursuit of mastering the science of tactics, the art of strategy and the history of armed conflict. That quote drove me to develop the mental and physical ability to be able to win battles. There was nothing more important than upholding that single standard.

Today, I read the words spoken by Leonidas and realize how simple being a warrior was 2,500 years ago. Back then, it was a matter of deciding if you were going to be a warrior or a merchant or a farmer. Today, not only do warriors have to commit themselves to being a student of combat, but they also have to be the farmers and merchants that Leonidas contrasts the Spartans against. In the days of the Spartans, defeating your adversaries was a fairly simple task of killing them in combat. Today, defeating our adversaries requires that warriors negotiate contracts with local vendors to complete civil affairs projects and advise local farmers on agricultural processes in addition to fighting battles. As we look to create stability, take away enemy safe havens and make terrorist ideologies irrelevant, the service members who make up our military are used as social workers, advisors, and humanitarian aid workers in addition to fighting our country’s battles. Warriors today have been forced to evolve from the warriors of Leonidas’ time because to win today’s wars requires more than simply killing our enemies in combat.

While there will undoubtedly be some who disagree with the way our military is being employed today and add a Continue reading »

“Left of Bang” Presentation at 2015 WINx Conference

January 27, 2016 in Background Information


Last November I had the opportunity to join eight other presenters on stage at the inaugural WINx Conference outside of Chicago.  Here is the newly released video of my 16-minute long talk about what it takes for our nation’s protectors to get and stay left of bang.

In case you want to read a transcript of the talk instead, here it is.

Despite improvements in technology and equipment, the number of police officers getting killed every year continues to rise. And with every officer ambushed and every memorial service we go to, we’re reminded not only about the complexity that this type of threat presents, but also how unique of a problem it really is. Policing is a naturally, inherently dangerous job. If officers safety was truly the most important or highest priority thing that we did, police officers would never leave the station. There’s naturally a lot more risks faced on the streets than there ever would be inside of the safety of a secured building. But if we are going to prevent the next 9/11, if we are going to prevent the next Paris, the next Aurora, Colorado, the next Virginia Tech, the next Newtown, we have to accept the fact that officer safety is a priority, but it comes second to actually protecting and serving the American citizens that we are tasked with overseeing.


And when we take a look at what that really means, and as we accept that statement as just the reality, it doesn’t mean that we go about and we look at officer safety in a negligent or naive way. It doesn’t mean that we don’t do everything possible to reduce the risks that a police officer faces while interacting with the population, while serving warrants, or even while off duty. The simple question is, “How do we do that? How do we protect our nation’s protectors?”

Continue reading »

Which Training Program Is Right For Me?

September 7, 2015 in Background Information

One of the questions we often get asked at The CP Journal from people thinking about purchasing the Tactical Analysis online program is whether there is a difference between all of the courses that are available. The short answer to this question is that, for each level of the program, the different, market-specific courses are both similar and different. Allow me to explain.

When the Tactical Analysis program was first adapted to an online format, we only had one version available for all of our clients. Based on the feedback from those early students we realized that, because they were coming from a variety of different professions (private security, law enforcement, the military, universities), there were a few areas we needed to tailor to the individual student.

A common question we would get would be something like this.

“In ‘Module X’ of the Level One class, the example you provided showed how a police officer could apply the clusters to their job. The explanation made a lot of sense, but can you help me understand how that same concept applies to my job in private security?”

We continued to receive similar questions, and when we opened our Online Academy in February of 2015 and re-released our Level 1/Basic Program, we decided to offer four versions of the class for the four different types of professionals that we typically serve. We now have one program designed for members of the military, one for police officers, one for security providers and one for people concerned about school safety. Today, we have found that people who are interested in the program want to see if there are advantages and tradeoffs to taking the course tailored to one market versus another.

In our Tactical Analysis Level 1/Basic Course, there are Continue reading »

From 6 Domains To 4 Pillars: The Evolution of Behavioral Assessments

July 27, 2015 in Background Information

One of the questions that we get asked the most frequently when we present our course is whether there are any differences between the behaviors that we discuss in Left of Bang, and those that we teach in the Tactical Analysis program. There is and there isn’t. As we are only a few weeks away from releasing our Tactical Analysis Advanced Course online through our Academy, we wanted to take a minute to explain to those who have both read the book and gone through our online programs how our two ways of presenting this information are related.

BLUF (Bottom Line Up Front)

  • The individual behaviors that make up the Tactical Analysis program are fundamentally the same as those that we talk about in Left of Bang.
  • Between the Tactical Analysis Program and the book, these behaviors are simply packaged differently. In Left of Bang, we teach these behaviors as the six domains. In our Tactical Analysis course, we teach these same behaviors as the four pillars of observable behavior.

The Explanation

If you have read Left of Bang, you have learned about the six domains of observable behavior that the Marine Corps uses to assess human behavior. These six domains are taught and referred to as:

  • Kinesics: The study of body movement, which, upon being analyzed to uncover the meaning of the gesture, posture, or expression, becomes body language.
  • Biometric Cues: The body’s physiological responses to stress.
  • Proxemics: Assessments made regarding interpersonal separation and body placement.
  • Geographics: The relationship between people and their environment.
  • Iconography: The visual representation of a person’s (or group’s) beliefs and affiliations.
  • Atmospherics: The collective sense of safety in an area or situation.

The reason why the domains are broken down into six groups in Left of Bang is because each of them comes from a different field of behavioral science. As the U.S.M.C. was building the behavioral analysis portion of Combat Hunter, they needed a way to break observable human behavior down into its component parts so that Marines could better understand what they were seeing and be able to communicate those observations to others effectively.

The reason that The CP Journal teaches these behaviors in our Tactical Analysis program using four pillars instead of the six domains is because we noticed a trend in how our students used and applied these concepts in real life situations following our courses. The wording that we often heard wasn’t in line with the terminology we were teaching and we realized that, if there was a disconnect between the classroom and the street, it meant we weren’t empowering our nation’s protectors to perform at the level we were striving for. We noticed that people weren’t using the words kinesics and biometric cues separately, but that they were naturally tying both of them together to make an assessment about an “individual person,” leading us to call our first pillar “individuals.” We noticed that they weren’t observing proxemics, but they were making observations and talking about “groups of people,” leading us to name our second pillar “groups.” Since the goal of behavioral analysis is to improve the way people make decisions, both through deliberate searches and through intuitive assessments, we wanted to make sure that our behavioral pillars were mirroring the way people naturally look at and talk about the people, the environment and the situations they find themselves in. If there is a disconnect between the deliberate and intuitive searches, it will restrict even the most interested students from using these concepts in the types of situations where they need them the most, when there is a threat present.

Both the Combat Hunter program and Tactical Analysis have the same requirement of ensuring that all of the behaviors taught are backed by science in order to ensure objectivity and accuracy. As the by-product of that capability provides the operators, police officers and protectors on the ground with the ability to articulate and explain what led them to make a decision, the change in the way the behaviors are packaged provides a much more clear and concise terminology to ensure that everyone has the same understanding of a situation. With a shared understanding of the behavior being observed, why that person or group of people was assessed in the first place and the science leading to those observations, it no longer matters if you were on scene or not, but you can attain that common operational picture that is sought after by the professionals in each of our markets.

The Four Pillars: A Translation Guide

To better understand how we teach these behaviors in the Tactical Analysis program and how to connect the book and the course, here is a short guide:

Pillar #1: How We Assess Individuals

  • From Left of Bang: Kinesics, Biometric cues, and Personal Iconography

Pillar #2: How We Assess Groups

  • From Left of Bang: Proxemics

Pillar #3: How We Assess the Environment

  • From Left of Bang: Geographics and Environmental Iconography

Pillar #4: How We Assess the Collective

  • From Left of Bang: Atmospherics

Wrapping Up

As a company and as instructors, our sole focus is centered on how well people can apply the lessons taught in the program to real life situations immediately upon leaving the classroom. We don’t teach for the sake of teaching. We do it to provide the best support possible, and we are always looking for ways to improve our delivery. Transitioning from six domains to four pillars is one of those improvements that we have made to our Tactical Analysis program since delivering our first course in 2011.

We are able to make these changes, updates and improvements to our core program because we aren’t government contractors. We are entrepreneurs. For the members of the military who come through our program, this ability to change and make improvements doesn’t exist in many of the standing training programs that you typically attend and are taught by government contractors or managed under bureaucratic processes. For those programs, the ability to make changes can be a challenging process and, for many in the chain of command, maintaining the status quo is easier than the effort required to adjust learning objectives, method of delivery and packaging of concepts. While people from our other markets might read this paragraph and ask, “Why wouldn’t you improve your program based on the feedback from students and performance indicators?” unfortunately, that isn’t always the case in the military or federal law enforcement agencies.

In our commitment to serve our nation’s protectors in all fields, not only will we continue to look for every opportunity to improve our courses, but we will also keep you updated as to our explanations for the change and the reasons why we make those decisions. For our students who purchase our online training programs, this is also why you have lifetime access to our courses. If you come through our course, you shouldn’t be limited to only seeing our current version, but should be able to see the versions that continue to get refined and improved over time. These changes often come directly from your feedback.

Thanks for choosing to train with us.


Distance and Threats – An Unpublished Section from “Left of Bang”

May 2, 2015 in Background Information

The below article was originally written as an appendix for “Left of Bang” that we decided to take out during the editing process. However, when looking at the dynamics that exist between the time and space that protectors try to maintain from attackers, the concepts discussed below are why we start analyzing those approaching us.

Appendix: Distance and Threats

Many Marines, police officers, and other military and security personnel overestimate their abilities and skills. Even with extensive training, Marines and others are still at risk when operating in close proximity with people. Behavior based observation provides the skills to quickly identify potential threats from a distance, and take the appropriate action against those potential threats. Often, however, observers will have to get close to those they are observing. What all military and law enforcement personnel must understand is that the closer you are to someone who could potentially do you harm, the more prepared you must be to engage the potential threat. This means being mentally and physically ready to use deadly force if necessary. In this brief section, we will cover four main principles related to distance and threats and discuss how that applies to behavioral analysis and the security postures we must take when operating. Continue reading »

Could The Attack on the Ambassador in South Korea Have Been Prevented?

March 17, 2015 in Background Information

Over the weekend, I read a great article by Scott Stewart from StratFor, a global intelligence and analysis company, about why he believes the March 5th knife attack on Mark Lippert, the U.S. Ambassador to South Korea, could have been prevented. This article provides the opportunity to highlight three important points about how the Tactical Analysis program impacts the way that Executive Protection (EP) professionals prepare for a protection detail. You can read the full article here.

Stewart’s premise in his article is that, despite a great deal of media attention focused on the fact that Ambassador Lippert’s security detail was unarmed, that this was not the failure in the security system that allowed the attack on the ambassador to occur in the first place. The failure instead was in the protector not identifying the assailant as being hostile before he drew his knife and attacked. While I haven’t seen the video footage of the attack itself, based on what I have heard about the way that the attack was conducted and the setting in which it occurred, I agree with Stewart and this assessment. It is very likely that this attack could have been prevented, had the protector been prepared. There are three points that Stewart addresses in his article that I want to highlight, as they tie directly to the reasons why our Tactical Analysis course is structured the way it is and how important the content within the online modules are when it comes to recognizing threats.

The first point that Stewart addresses in his article is his own personal transition from working in the State Department as a protector, where he had the authority to be armed while working on a protection detail, to his work as an EP professional in the private sector, where he rarely now has the authority to carry a firearm. Not carrying a firearm had a significant Continue reading »

The Brain Animation Series from Sentis

February 16, 2015 in Background Information
Sentis, “an international company focused on achieving operational excellence,” released a series of videos a couple of years ago about how the brain processes information, learns, and functions.  The seven short videos in the playlist are quick and enjoyable.
As the human brain drives all the behaviors that we can observe, spending the time to truly understand how the brain processes information and drives our responses provides the context to interpret the nonverbal cues we are searching for in our pursuit to recognize violent attackers before the event begins.

From The Horse’s Mouth – Cooper’s Color Code

December 10, 2014 in Background Information

I was recently sent this 30-minute presentation about mental awareness given by the late Marine Lt. Col. Jeff Cooper.  We reference the conditions of awareness that he created (that were later expanded upon by Col Dave Grossman) in all of our courses as an overarching framework for the benefits that behavioral analysis offer an observer.

Since we are standing on the shoulders of giants, we always embrace the opportunity to pass on to our readers and students direct access to the leaders who have shaped our approach.  It is certainly worth the watch.  Enjoy.


Cooper’s Color Code and The Corporate World

October 9, 2014 in Background Information

During my first year as a sales desk manager, I spent a large amount of my time listening to the recorded calls our sales people made with clients.  Internal wholesalers on my team were making these calls to brokers.  To those not in the financial world this sales process can be compared to that of a pharmaceutical rep.  The pharmaceutical rep sells to the doctor and the doctor prescribes to the clients.  In the financial sales world, the wholesaler sells to the advisor and the advisor then presents to the clients.  The typical day for someone on my team consisted of around 75 phone calls in the hopes that fifteen people would be live on the line and speaking.  As you can imagine, some conversations went great, with the client getting all of the information they were hoping for and even some they didn’t know they needed. On the other hand, some calls weren’t so great, with clients getting poor service and no information that would help them or their business. It wasn’t until recently that I realized how relevant the concepts of behavioral analysis apply to environments other than safety and security.

While working with corporate clients of The CP Journal I have noticed moments during our work together when people really start to engage in the content of our training programs.   That first moment is typically when we walk them through Cooper’s Color Code.  Having not served in the military myself, I wasn’t familiar with the code until I started working with the Journal.  Retired Marine Lt. Col. Jeff Cooper developed a system of awareness that he called Cooper’s Color Code that describes the psychological conditions of awareness that people are operating in at any given time.  While you can learn more about Cooper’s Color Code by clicking this link, this particular post is meant to explain the applications of Cooper’s Color Code to those not in the military, outline how you can use the code personally to asses your current state of awareness and for leaders so they may use the code to establish frameworks for their team.

For those that have my attention span and didn’t click the link to get an in depth look at the code, it is broken down into different colors that each provide a template for the conditions of awareness that people go through during the day.  Check out this graph for a visual:

In a customer service or sales environment people on your team can be assessed in one of the following states of awareness to help you build a framework for Continue reading »

The Importance of Analysis Versus Assessment

September 17, 2014 in Background Information

There is a difference between an analysis and an assessment. I don’t know that I have always used these two words properly and, while it might sound minor or like just a semantic difference, the words do have specific and very different meanings.

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, an “analysis” is defined as the careful study of something to learn about its parts, what they do and how they are related to each other. To analyze something is to separate a whole into its component parts, which allows a person to break something complex down into simpler and more basic elements. On the other hand, an assessment is defined as the act of making a judgment about something. To assess something, you are estimating the value or character of the object.

Behavioral analysis is used in a number of different contexts by different professionals in relation to threat recognition, child development, mental health concerns, employee development and countless other fields. The way that we use behavioral analysis is to explain how to use the uncontrollable and universal elements of nonverbal communication to facilitate on-the-ground decision-making and the proactive recognition of threats.

While the difference between an analysis and an assessment might seem superficial, distinguishing between the two helps to frame and understand what an organization requires in order to fill their security gaps. As you establish expectations for the time spent learning to read behavior, knowing the difference between behavioral analysis and behavioral assessments can help to provide some clarity about your new ability.

A Tactical Analysis

The Tactical Analysis ® program that we provide to our clients is an application of behavioral analysis to support and inform the decisions made by the members of our nation’s military, law enforcement officers and security professionals, tasked with protecting our country, our citizens and our freedoms. Being able to go through an analysis process to establish the baseline for people and the areas we visit is a crucial skill for the protectors who take our classes.

Tactical analysis is the way we break down people, situations and the environment into its component parts using the four pillars of observable behavior. These four pillars provide enough information to get a comprehensive understanding of a situation without slowing the decision-making process. The four pillars are: Continue reading »

Information Hunting vs. Information Hoping

April 7, 2014 in Background Information

Possessing situational awareness is a step in the pursuit of proactively identifying threats. But awareness, in and of itself, isn’t good enough.  The goal of the Tactical Analysis training program is to create informed awareness.  To know that you should be looking for something doesn’t mean that you intuitively know what you should be looking for.  Last week I was giving a course to a team from 1st Marine Special Operations Battalion in Camp Pendleton and a comment I made about the need for informed awareness prompted one of the most engaging conversations of the week. One of the students, a school-trained sniper who has conducted countless observation exercises and related training throughout his career, led the conversation off with a couple statements to me during a break in the class. He said that when he first heard that he was going to attend the class he was skeptical because he had always been observing the people on his numerous deployments. After more than a decade of fighting a counter insurgency, focusing on the people was not a new concept.  At the end of the first day, he pulled me aside before we went out in Oceanside to practice these observations to say that he was wrong, that he already realized there were things he had been missing on his previous deployments. He was looking, but not seeing.

Chris Bausch, a good friend and one of the owners of Sensemakers, LLC, refers to this as the difference between information hunting and information hoping. Continue reading »

The Danger Of Condition White

December 23, 2013 in Assessing Groups, Background Information

A couple of weeks ago I posted a video (we have heard that this video is no longer available, but that the text below is still relevant) where I talked about the different conditions within Cooper’s Color Code and how that relates to informed awareness, but I recently found a video on Twitter that illustrates the need to be aware of your surroundings in ways that can’t be covered in a white board talk.  Take a look at this news report from Seattle, WA where a man is robbing bus riders at gunpoint.

The initial response when you watch this news segment is that technology will be our downfall and that it is dangerous to be so consumed by your phone that you are completely unaware of your surroundings.  That is the easy answer though and is a no brainer.   But it is something that happens to all of us and doesn’t explain why it is so dangerous.  Being in Condition White means that you have no awareness of your surroundings and that you have no advance warning about any potential danger because you are not looking for threats in the first place. Without that initial level of alertness displayed by those in Condition Yellow, you won’t have the opportunity to create a plan for how you are going to deal with the threat on your terms.  You will be reacting to whatever the criminal is doing.  He has the upper hand and you are 100% right of bang.

The real consequence of being in Condition White relates to another concept that we talk about in our classes, that close proximity negates skill.  What close proximity negates skill means is that the closer an attacker is to you, there are fewer options available to you and less time to react.  The passenger in this video fights off the attacker not because he wanted to or planned to, but because he had no other choice.  Continue reading »