Getting close

Come whatever, you’ll eventually have to talk to other people.
People you don’t know, possibly armed, and their true intentions unknown.
I’ve come unstuck before doing this past life and civilian security and as a consequence, I’m wary of ‘first contact’ with anyone.”

In another life it was firearms but forewarned, I developed my own ‘coping strategy’ to add to training for what is a VERY dangerous scenario i.e.

Meet and Greet.
Basically for me it boils down to being polite, open, and honest, but always have a plan to defend yourself. That and thinking Proxemics rules aka Distance is king in combat.

So first contact.
Whoever sees the other first has a tactical and emotional advantage.
They are primed, should be within good cover, have set an overwatch, and made a plan. You on the other hand are purely reactive at that point, uncomfortable, and for the most part exposed.

Thus THEY will be the ones dictating the process of meeting.

They dictating?
Because for you to try to force a procedure onto them during the initial phase may, will, be seen an aggressive act.
Remember you are at one hell of a disadvantage.
By accident or failure of patrol technique, if the other person has tactical knowledge, some of you may end up toast if you start a fire fight by being stupid.

So what’s the SOP you adopt?
Screaming put the weapon down , lie down, and two of you patting the unfortunate down?
Yeah right, in some theatres that works, but in others, what you are facing may not wear towelling, may be accompanied by superior forces, may just be better than you, or simply want you close enough to convert you to jam.

But you would have also practiced ambush drills!
‘Only if no one has started shooting’, the wrong reaction to a spurious challenge or meet may result in instant response. Thus blazing away at a messenger or friendly while taking adequate cover, and chucking frag and smoke around may not be the ideal thing to do if not receiving fire.

Especially if it was your intent (or theirs) to make a meet and greet.

So what to do?
It depends on the challenge to you and the overall scenario.

For example, A person stepping out from cover with open hands, or one holding a white flag, or moving into view with a slung weapon, one held easy, or up to the shoulder is not necessarily a direct threat.
Except these four ‘first views’ will grade your response.
(Personally number five will always draw fire from me.)

Now we’re into a quick verbal assessment of the challenge.
“Hi there, can I help you”, or “Help me”, or
“I come in peace”, or
“Be cool, I’m friendly” are outwardly not a threat.

“Don’t anyone move or you’re all dead!”, is plain enough.
“Drop your weapons!”, is also straight forward.
Both are threats or cautions that whatever you do MAY bring down an instant response.
(Both treated by those I’ve worked with as the only excuse they needed to open fire).

So think about it.
Remember you are on their turf, they planned the kill zone you are in.
For most to go to ground is a reasonable thing to do leaving someone brave or stupid (depending on your viewpoint) to enter ‘negotiation’.

Not that it will make a lot of difference if their kill zone has been thought out correctly.

So what now?
Proxemics rules aka Distance is king in combat.
Something I never got it right. As an example.
Someone I didn’t know appeared, armed, anything more than an easy carry, within public range, I’d open up. Public range? around 25 feet.

(Thus they seldom put me on point.)

Only there is another dimension i.e. Vertical.
If someone is higher than you, it puts you at one hell of a tactical disadvantage.
(So 25 feet plus and I’d still open up).
Yet if someone was lower than me, their head level to my feet, I’d hold fire.

Anyway, no one has fired,
I’m stood like a lemon, in the open facing a person,
Armed or not, at around 25 feet.
No threat has been added verbally, it’s outwardly a meet and greet on their terms.

So how to convey trust.
It has to be said, I don’t do trust and my body language usually screams that.
Thus I have to exercise a hell of a lot of control (which also shows apparently).
So, to start.

To say little is good.
Let them lead initially.
The more you say or they say, the more information has to be processed, and quickly too.
(I don’t do quickly incidentally).
So when I’m challenged, especially in a foreign tongue, I’ll hand over to another BUT first of all I’ll try to “defuse” any doubt about my / our intentions.

Whatever the person is doing, I’ll match it but only to the point of holding a weapon easy.
It’s positively stupid to ground your arms at this stage (if at any stage)!!

First thing I do is raise a hand, palm towards them (the old “We come in peace” sign), in acknowledgement to their presence and slowly match stances.
Some experts call it mirroring except my mirror works VERY slowly.
SLOWLY. That’s the one word that works in all this.

That must be your watch word. SLOWLY.
Anything being done in a hurry is a sure sign that something is WRONG!
A nervous challenge with someone who has ‘ants in their pants’ is not a controllable scenario. As is anger, rapid instructions, anything FAST.

So what else.
Ordinarily I’d say stand with arms loosely open (not crossed or concealed) only with a weapon that’s not possible.
At best it’s standing weapon easy (cocked, locked, and safety forward)
If I’m wearing sunglasses, I’ll take them off.
Eye contact even at 25 feet is a ‘calmer’ if prolonged.

Legs apart, as in stand easy, not in combat ready stance (i.e 45 degrees to the opponent with knees slighty flexed), UNLESS they are in combat stance.

The head usually looking straight at the person BUT slowly looking around (scanning) is acceptable providing your point of main interest is them.
Don’t forget that done wrongly is a projection of power like:-
“I’m looking at you but don’t really give a fk.”, it may trigger a response.
As is projecting “I’m jumpy, primed, and ready to go hot”. (Which I normally was)

Distance, proxemics.
In general terms, you let them come to you in a controlled fashion.
If you are part of a team, your protection comes from them and the further away you are from them the worse it is to cover you.
If you have NO CHOICE, approach another but be mindful of your team.
Walk in a curve to clear their view of a potential target. Be mindful of cover during movement and never approach without weapons at least locked and cocked, with safety off, and at the relaxed ready.

Except there is that thing about body bombs.
Big baggy clothing, wires, hands concealed or obviously holding something, stiff in movement, sweating, bulges, the standard 12 point check list of “Is this a boom waiting to happen”.

So how close is close enough?
When you can communicate without raising your voice, or to just outside social range (12-15 feet), that’s when I’ll stop.
Unless they are a natural point shooter, it’s going to take them a few rounds to get on target at that range. Your reaction being to hit the deck.
Under that, i.e. phone box range, basically pointing in your general direction may exact a centre mass hit. From experience, unless you have CLOSE PROTECTION in the ready position, of the same distance away i.e. 12 – 15 feet, or a designated shooter at the ready, people die by getting too close.

After that a crucial distance has been breached, from public to social.
That’s a trust barrier semi-broken.
Then it’s down to reaching a common ground of thinking, understanding, and cooperation.
And that’s down to verbal skills. Something you could even call diplomacy.

(Guess what? I don’t do that either).

There is another point I’d like to make.
Appearances can be deceptive.

  • A friend lost his life when a tatty bleeding man appeared pleading for help.
    Obviously restrained (hands tied in front of him), and suffering from a beating, our medic cautiously walked forward to help him. We all had weapons trained on him and the surroundings, The remote trigger on the vest took them both out.
  • Another had a young child run to him giggling and place something in his hand.
    The grenade went off within seconds.
  • A body sat against a wall wasn’t asleep or booby-trapped,
    BUT it was a range marker for a sniper.
  • The friendly old man chatting away walked up to the interpreter and put two in his chest from a concealed gun. The interchange between the two didn’t “sound” menacing so no one reacted.

Errors of judgement?
Too right they were BUT nobody is perfect (unless they are a liar).

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3 Responses to Getting close

  1. Brittius says:

    Reblogged this on Brittius and commented:
    When all the above fails, break out, “The Marine”.

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