Back in the day, when I was a car jacker, I looked like this:
And I drove like this:
But I was young, and needed the money. On the crew I worked, I held a variety of positions: driver, shooter, ghost/sweeper, designated marksman, assistant/shift leader, team leader, advance man, bottle washer, baggage handler and tea basha. For reasons including interest, training and some talent, I spent a lot of time driving. I joked with a young friend not long ago that you can pick out the old (seasoned) operational drivers: we never go more than 5 miles over the speed limit and drive in the far right lane and let everyone pass us.
Until we have a good reason to NOT do so.
I was asked by a brother paratrooper to develop a short training for his wife and daughter. He was rightfully concerned by the 537% increase in carjackings, most targeted at women driving alone. I never say no to a brother, so I did a hasty training design and delivered it (separately, on two different occasions) for his family. I thought it might be interesting to students of training design to consider how I did this as an example of critical path design applied to a practical training problem.
Two non-tactical, non-firearms oriented females who drive regularly in high risk areas.
Must be delivered in no more than two hours in between shifts/classes.
Deliver the most useful elements of a professional counter-terror/high threat protection driver to novices within that time constraint.
What are the most useful elements of a pro counter-terror driving skillset for a NOVICE non-tactical female?
In addition to personal experience from the 80s and 90s, before the PMC in Iraq/Afghanistan PSD driving evolutions took place, I benefited from the research and experience of my friend and mentor Ed Lovette, formerly of US Army Special Forces, New Mexico State Police Academy, and CIA’s Paramilitary Programs. While at CIA Ed was for a time in charge of training. One of his many contributions to the body of tactical knowledge was a detailed evaluation of After Action Reports focused on what specific driving skills were officers and operators used in the real world. Despite training in ramming, J-turns, PIT maneuvers and other high speed techniques, the overwhelming majority of over 2000 case studies utilized simple backing up or driving around to survive attacks. The single most important skill was situational awareness utilizing vision to recognize an imminent threat and act early enough. My personal experience while much smaller bore out the same conclusions.
The most important skills to avoid car-jacking are:
- Situational awareness especially the ability to see and recognize an imminent threat.
- Basic safe driving skills: i.e. keeping safe distance in front, aware of other cars and road conditions, ability to control the vehicle in simple maneuvers like backing up at speed, or passing at speed.
So as further design considerations let’s parse those elements down further:
This presupposes that:
- The student knows how to see and recognize an imminent threat.
- The student knows where and how to look and has a pattern of what “imminent threat” looks like to trigger a response.
- How to see includes maintaining and enhancing vision around the vehicle by proper mirror positioning, where to maintain visual focus in the windshield, how to maintain a regular scan of right center left mirrors.
- Recognize imminent threat includes what does a carjacking look like? What actions by the actors are necessary to initiate a successful carjacking? What time frames are necessary to embody?
BASIC SAFE DRIVING SKILLS
This presupposes the:
- Basic level of driving skill necessary to obtain and maintain a driver’s license.
- Basic understanding of fundamental car maneuvers: backing up, passing, using mirrors.
DRAFT OF TRAINING OBJECTIVES
- Define and demonstrate situational awareness pertinent to travel via car
- Define and identify transitional phases to vehicular movement: leaving safe place to vehicle, at vehicle, in vehicle, starting vehicle, underway, parking, exiting vehicle, entering safe place.
- Define and demonstrate techniques of LOOKING to identify what is out of place during each phase.
- Preparation of the vehicle and pre-driving inspection.
- Actions on entry and start up.
- Underway procedures.
- Recognize elements of carjacking: proximity, approach, on foot vs. vehicle blocking, actions on, time frames.
- Demonstrate fundamental safety distance bumper zone around vehicle.
- Demonstrate fundamental evasion techniques.
- Demonstrate counter-surveillance/follow techniques including basic Surveillance Detection Route and identification of safe places along routes.
- Techniques if blocked by mob, including slow movement and control THROUGH crowd/mob.
- Actions on arrival, parking, exiting the vehicle, and moving through the transitional zone into the safe place.
METHOD OF INSTRUCTION (MODELING AND IMMERSION)
The method I used and favor is an old one. I was first exposed to this method working with SAS operators who’d honed their skills working solo in cars in Belfast, Northern Ireland. In a car wired for sound, and before cell phones and GPS trackers, the operators would talk to themselves inside the vehicle describing what they were doing, what they were seeing, and where they were proceeding. I’d also experienced a similar method while training with police high speed pursuit drivers.
To teach the methods of situational awareness and driving, I talked the student through the process in real time. We worked one on one. We started in the house and went through the entire process from the mental preparation for a drive, preparing to leave the safe place, approaching the vehicle, walking around, ensuring the vehicle and mirrors were prepped for the trip, locking in and other entry procedures. I modeled what a foot-mobile carjacking looked like (launched from someone lingering on foot nearby) and compared that to a vehicle launched car-jacking which requires the exact same procedures, as the carjackers need to get out and approach the vehicle on foot to take control of it. Then I drove and non-stop narrated my mental processes, the methods to maintain situational awareness while driving and what precursors to look for.
I took advantage of immersion training which I believe very much in, so we drove through the high-risk areas so the student could watch me model my target/counter-target strategies in real time.
I drove the route to her work place and returned, along the way identifying safe places, and basic SDR procedures.
That took about one hour.
Then we switched places and the student then talked through, with coaching from me in real time, the exact methods we’d been through. The first student actually got profiled and followed briefly while we were traveling through the high risk area, and the obvious awareness she displayed (maybe helped by her scary looking old passenger, LOL) caused the suspect car to veer off and look for softer prey.
She accomplished an excellent run through in real time and real stress in about 40 minutes, and we spent 20 minutes going over specifics like how to drive slowly and steadily through a mob, keeping control of the vehicle at SLOW speed, and alternate methods of SDR, and resolving any questions.
Total time investment about two hours in both instances.
“The “don’t get car jacked” class was super informative for me. I think about the tips for staying safe EVERY time I get in the car and walking to my car. I am so much more aware and present in thinking about what is around me and not being distracted, which makes me feel safer because I won’t be surprised by someone.” Mrs. C, Registered Nurse in downtown major hospital.
“I now have multiple flashlights and I’m more focused on what’s around me. I’ve been able to share with my other friends and help explain to them how to be safe, especially when they’re coming to see me in a less than ideal area.” S, Female College Student in downtown campus.
CRITICAL DESIGN FOR ACCELERATED LEARNING = LESS IS MORE, DELIVERED WHILE IMMERSED IN THE REAL WORLD = LONG LASTING RESULTS REINFORCED BY DAILY PRACTICE EMBEDDED IN DAY TO DAY LIFE.