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Tactical Awareness is a term that gets thrown around a lot, normally in reference to military operations. But what does it really mean?
I will do my best to answer this question, as well as including information about:
- Who uses tactical awareness?
- Where did the term come from?
- What is situational awareness?
- How are tactical and situational awareness related?
- How is this applicable to you?
- How can you use it in your daily life?
Where did the term “tactical awareness” come from?
Although the term “tactical awareness” has unclear origins, it likely sprang from usage in military from the phrase “situational awareness.”
Situational awareness is defined as “the up-to-the-minute cognizance or awareness required to move about, operate equipment, or maintain a system” by the National Research Council.
The concept of situational awareness however, is a relatively new one. It mainly began to receive attention in the early-to-mid 1990’s, and I struggled to find any sources mentioning the term from before that time period. You can find psychology papers, military handbooks, and more mentioning the use of situational awareness, and how essential it is for maneuvering equipment such as airplanes and combat situations.
It’s likely that the term tactical awareness was coined to describe situational awareness in combat situations or similar, however the phrase is uncommon, and seems to still be evolving in usage.
Military personnel, pilots, police personnel, professional players in contact sports are all known to perform better if they are tactically aware, and multiple sources suggests that those who are tactically aware are more likely to perform well – even in stressful situations.
Tactical Awareness and Situational Awareness – What it really means
Alright, so you’ve got the basic concept down. But how can the average person use military and aviation pilot strategies? Are you going to have to shuffle through piles of psychology publications and receive training in order to get your mind in such a state? No! You can start right now – right from where you’re sitting!
In practice, however, it mostly boils down to 2 things:
- Being actively aware of your surroundings
- Being actively aware of how to use your surroundings for tasks
Tactical awareness in usage overlaps with situational awareness, but with a key element added- Tactical thinking, or strategizing.
So, not only are you actively aware of your surroundings, and actively aware of the uses of your surroundings, you are also actively planning on how to use your surroundings should the need arise. You’re thinking “If this happens, then I can take this action”.
Other key components, particularly if it’s in a self-defense situation is being aware of:
- Who is nearby?
- What are they doing? What might they be doing? What are they planning on doing?
- Where can you go?
- What can you do to resolve the situation?
- What can you use to better the situation for yourself?
How does one become Tactically Aware?
For starters, pay attention!
Practice on being situationally aware when you are outside of your home. Keep your head up, your ears open, and your eyes scanning the area as you go. As you’re out and about consider things such as:
- What are you smelling?
- What are you seeing?
- What are you hearing?
- Are any elements of the above perceptions that seem “off” or unusual?
Some more things to consider to keep yourself situationally aware:
- Are there any exits nearby? How quickly could you reach one in the event of an emergency?
- Who is around and near you? Are any of them acting in a strange or suspicious manner?
- Are there any features which could conceal something from your current vantage point?
Don’t allow for yourself to become complacent after a few quick scans or a few moments of your attention. Situations can change in an instant, and a low level of constant vigilance is important!
Now, hopefully you’re never commonly in a situation which requires for you to defend yourself, but sometimes the stress of perceiving many things at once, combined with fear of a bad situation can expose weaknesses in your defense.
One of the best ways to reduce or eliminate this stress, is to put yourself in a controlled situation to practice it. If you’re taking self-defense courses, this is definitely something you can practice with your instructor.
How else can being Tactically Aware be handy?
It may at first seem stressful to be situationally aware constantly, but the reality of it is that it can actually be quite relaxing! You’re taking in more of your surroundings, picking up on little details that might break up the monotony of your day.
Observe the small changes and elements of your surroundings. Is there a new flower pot on someone’s porch-? A fresh coat of paint on a building? A new family moved in? Also, while you’re aware and out and about, you can have some peace of mind that you’re taking a simple step to remain safe.
Beyond walking around, it’s also incredibly important to remain aware and alert while you are driving a vehicle.
Distracted driving, zoning out while driving due to the familiarity of the route can all be, and so many other situations where your attention is drawn away from the road. Use your situational awareness (and your mirrors) to keep tabs on:
- Signs. Is there construction ahead? Maybe a road closure? A detour?
- The cars around you. How are they behaving?
- The road itself. Is it clear? Is there anything odd about what’s up ahead?
Keeping your brain active in a tactically aware mindset can also help boost your performance in sports!
Particularly team or contact sports, but can also be applicable to activities such as biking, cross-country running, or any other activity that a change in environment might affect your results!
Chances are you were already thinking tactically while you were playing, but now that you’re aware of it, you can take steps to sharpen your skills. You’re now processing who is where, who is on your team, and what actions can you take to help score points or defend your team’s side of the field (if applicable).
You’re thinking about how to handle that pothole in the road, maybe where you could turn a little tighter – who you think you could outpace maybe?
Go forth and be aware!
Being tactically aware is simply being alert and aware while anticipating and planning for further actions and situations. It’s a frame of mind that’s easily used on a day-to-day basis, and can help improve your safety by eliminating possible surprise factors as you go about your day.