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Advanced Situational Awareness [pdf] (army.mil)
280 points by graderjs 41 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 148 comments

I'm reminded of Amazing Military Infographics [0], particularly one of the kickers: "The United States Military is operating at a conceptual level beyond every other school of thought except perhaps academic philosophy, because it has a much larger budget."

0: https://medium.com/message/amazing-military-infographics-1ba...

>Part of what makes military diagrams so fascinating is that they look a lot like the images civilians use to do their regular workaday jobs. It’s just software and hardware, after all, and there are only so many ways to draw a network diagram. Yet the scale of these systems is immense; the lines being drawn are between jets and satellites, not between a couple of web servers...No matter how abstract they are, these pictures describe systems that the U.S. military uses to make optimal, efficient decisions about killing other humans.

Great article, despite the sardonic tone I found the graphics actually interesting, like something that would be read out loud and discussed on Jocko's podcast. That last line, however, reminded me of just how far we've taken it with systems that stalk targets from the sky for weeks to be used as evidence to authorize drone strikes.


This is incredible.

" After a while you realize that this image could be used anywhere in any paper or presentation and make perfect sense. This is a graphic that defines a way of describing anything that has ever existed and everything that has ever happened, in any situation."

I'm going to dramatically oversimplify things and just blame John Boyd for this.

John Boyd was an Air Force officer who came up with the OODA loop theory. Basically, a pilot in air combat loops through the stages of Observe, Orient, Decide, and Act, and if a pilot is capable of iterating through this loop faster than their opponent, they win. Some people realized this same theory could actually explain combat more generally (particularly maneuver warfare) as well as business and everyday life.

John Boyd's magnum opus was a slide presentation of several hundred slides, which took several hours to present, which he never allowed to be abridged or summarized in any way.

John Boyd was influential and I don't even think he was a complete crackpot, but the military's tendency to overuse PowerPoint and develop vague theories-of-everything as their operational doctrines reminds me of him. I don't think they pull it off as well as he did.

>>John Boyd's magnum opus was a slide presentation of several hundred slides, which took several hours to present, which he never allowed to be abridged or summarized in any way.

I think you're referring to Patterns of Conflict[1] which is/was 187 slides plus around 9 slides of sources. The funny thing is that Patterns is mostly comprised of dense text, not diagrams or pictures. It was a lot of fun trying to absorb Boyd's ideas if one can find the presentations online. They are quite a contrast to (publicly available) military briefings and papers these days given the lower text-to-visuals ratio.

Chuck Spinney and Chet Richards worked with Boyd, as did Ginger Richards, on various major briefings. To your point, most of them are 40+ pages/slides each.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patterns_of_Conflict

Remastered audio combined version, no captions:


Nearly 5.5 hours!

Standalone modern slides, almost 200 pages:


Alternate modern slides with PiP presentation of same presentation as above, but in separate parts, but best audio IMO, with auto-generated captions, typos included:


The story behind the original uploader getting the source videos which were uploaded in separate parts, which have been remastered and combined since:


Original slides:




Which seems to link to an alternate version of the talk in four parts, but which is not exhaustive or complete as above versions.

It seems to be available online [0] (found a link in the linked wiki page).

[0]: https://web.archive.org/web/20210414195621/http://www.ausair...

The theories of everything stuff comes heavily from the academies as I understand it. Cadets go through a curriculum of military history that tries to look at everything since Rome from 100,000 ft altitude abstracting some hodgepodge set of exogenous principals of warfare.

The other part is these "theories of war" become vehicles for self advancement. These become almost cult like fads within the pentagon. Then a few years later the new fad takes over. Remember "Shock and Awe?" Don't hear much about that anymore do we...

It's inherent in hierarchical command structures, especially with advancement (and therefore politics).

From a game theory perspective, groups are incentivized to advertise (and hopefully popularize) their positions.

Individuals are then incentivized to align and advertise their allegiance with either popular or up-and-coming positions.

The end result... exactly what we see.

(And it's not like this isn't present in tech via cargo cultism either)

It's like they're reading the situation, evaluating their options, then printing their results in the form of actions.

But that's the case for a lot of things. REPL and OODA fall into that category of philosophies that are simple once presented, but we needed someone to recognize as existing. And there is a benefit to recognizing these patterns as they allow us to optimize them.

Also, things that get independently discovered in several places are more likely to be correct as they seem to be naturally emergent.

Boyd's stuff is really interesting but yeah, he doesn't provide quite as much of a unified theory of everything as a lot of the Pentagon people seem to think. imo one result of the over-bureaucratized nature of the US military is that ideas that would be considered fairly basic in other contexts are treated as incomparable advances there

[edit] which reminds me of the IDF/Deleuze thing - the grand insight they got from reading Difference & Repetition was that... they could blow holes in walls instead of going around them https://www.metamute.org/editorial/articles/art-war-deleuze-...

Except it’s not novel and it came from strategy consulting decades ago (the Zachman framework in particular, which was popular at IBM in the 80s). In fact it’s one of the main methods of describing an architecture framework, and a methodology I use daily doing EA / strategy consulting.

Consultants are everywhere in the military. Especially the business / strategy / org behavior types. Anything the military does will have been done a hundred times before in industry — the military just needs it at goliath scale.

Yes. Many of these graphs reminded me of stuff I was producing as a strategy consultant. In some cases you wonder if organizations that have too much money spend it purely on philosophical questions, unrelated to any business reality.

I think it's more of a "We're acting on some philosophy, even if it's just our own personal one."

And if you're making million+ dollar bets on the basis of that philosophy, wouldn't it seem reasonable to pay six figures for a set of alternative philosophies to consider?

Or, in concrete terms, the CEO who is successful once because they were lucky vs the CEO who has decades of success in wildly different environments, because they learned alternatives and chose the most apt at any time.

While this is a 4D framework of description, it fails to account for non-local action and seems to assume absolute simultaneity, so this is still thinking inside the box.

This reminds me of the mixed anger and surprise that I felt during the Snowden revelations when I realized that internally, the NSA was using a bunch of goofy-looking crude slides to communicate about the Stasi-like domestic spying apparatus that they had built using taxpayer money.

I had such a good laugh with this. This was so good. Thank you!

It's kind of insane how many documents the armed forces put out like this. Hundreds upon hundreds of pages dedicated to one topic or another. Everything broken down into a template or series of steps, often with little mnemonic devices to help you remember things. Everything standardized and given official nomenclature.

Want to know what an infantry platoon and squad does? Here's 826 pages: https://armypubs.army.mil/epubs/DR_pubs/DR_a/pdf/web/ATP%203... .

What about an infantry company? Here's 618 pages: https://armypubs.army.mil/epubs/DR_pubs/DR_a/pdf/web/ARN8519... .

And those just cover the basics of organization, movement, attack, and defense. Want to know how to call in artillery support? Here's 256 pages: https://armypubs.army.mil/epubs/DR_pubs/DR_a/pdf/web/ARN2193... .

92 pages on military deception: https://armypubs.army.mil/epubs/DR_pubs/DR_a/ARN15310-FM_3-1... .

192 pages on recognizing aircraft by sight: https://armypubs.army.mil/epubs/DR_pubs/DR_a/pdf/web/ARN3274... .

146 pages on "Army Ceremonial Music Performance":https://armypubs.army.mil/epubs/DR_pubs/DR_a/pdf/web/ARN3102... .

There's just a ton out there if you want to dig around: https://armypubs.army.mil/ProductMaps/PubForm/TC.aspx .

A friend worked as a physical trainer in the military and described things like boot camp and getting soldiers on board.

One funny thing she said was the moment they got off the bus, she had someone in her face in perfect military dress, screaming at her every minute of the day and night. She figured out later that they would take short shifts swapping off, getting in people's faces, then leaving and relaxing before showering and changing clothes and doing it again for a few hours.

They got recruits from every walk of life. They were taught every skill, not only how to march or make a bed military style, but also some had to learn how to brush their teeth.

Every skill is new to someone. I guess it makes sense to document everything so you can teach it and make it uniform.

My wife trains our kids this way.


The smart dressing, the loud commanding voice, the whole drill sergeant approach really.

Maybe it's a form of organisational dissociation to deal with the horror of what's on the other end of the weaponry.

If you were in a position of influence in the army would you choose to soul-search about bombed children or try and construct some meaning around "Figure 4-1. Movement of the staff and command bugler around commander of troops".

It's a jobs program. Someone has to employ all those boys who majored in the humanities at the academies and other feeder schools for the officer corps.

Related: Project 100,000 - Build those org chart pyramids, grow budgets, and get promoted.

The MIC is about spending as much money as possible.

Officially, it's $721,531,000,000 FY2020

"In 2018, it was announced that the Department of Defense was indeed the subject of a comprehensive budgetary audit. This review was conducted by private, third-party accounting consultants. The audit ended and was deemed incomplete due to deficient accounting practices in the department."


It's to ensure organization knowledge get passed down.

Job security ftw. Even if it's useless in practice, churn it out to make General PHB happy.

How is your average soldier, as a non-college grad, going to internalize a 316 page document that covers everything from cultural, to environmental, to social political awareness on top of the physical and psychological demands?

That's not rhetorical. I'm curious how this document is instilled in the short period of boot camp training before they are shipped off to their deployments.

When I was in basic, we were all given STP-21-1 and expected to read it. While waiting for other activities (haircuts, range, etc) often we were told to read it. I probably read the entire thing from cover to cover twice in those 9 weeks.

Edit: I was also not a college grad at the time. People can still read without a degree.

Don't tell degree-holders this, they might start to suspect that the worker-ants have the capacity to make informed diecisions, self-actualize, or plan into the future.

I am going to try to dispel a few things about this. "Boot camp" or basic training results in a basically trained Soldier. While in times of a severe national emergency, it is possible that a basically trained soldier may be deployed, in usual circumstances, even during war this does not happen. Soldiers in basic training are selected into Military Occupational Specialties (or basically your job in the military) as an example, 11B is the infantry. After basic training, soldiers are sent to their units and/or specialist schools for additional training particular to their MOS. For some enlistment types, there are exceptions to this, officer and warrant officer candidates go to separate schools and for some MOS there is OSUT which allows a soldier to remain in the same unit from basic through ait. These schools can take anywhere from a few weeks to months depending on the specialty. During basic training, a soldier is expected to read and understand several documents, primary among them, the soldier Blue Book TP600-4 https://adminpubs.tradoc.army.mil/pamphlets/TP600-4.pdf After basic training and individual training, soldiers may have need to memorize and reference things from many manuals but they are not generally expected to memorize large manuals as part of basic.

The requirements are a bit different for officers and warrant officers. The training of officers and warrant officers is much more academically oriented. A 152F, Apache attack helicopter pilot is required to basically memorize the entire Technical Manual for their aircraft as well as many details about Army procedure for radios, weapon engagement, airspace management, etc. There are also joint publications, that are shared across the army, navy, airforce, marines, etc (sometimes with NATO allies) that folks in certain roles (pilots, FACs, officers) must be aware of.

Hopefully you find this helpful.

They're not. Read the preface, while the intended audience is all soldiers, the manual is geared towards trainers.

The value isn't in the content of the publication (hence why it's public), it's in the training that soldiers undergo to make the information 1st-hand nature.

Example--you can read about the OODA loop. Reading about it doesn't make you good at using it. That takes training, and the Army has specific exercises that helps a baseline soldier know the fundamentals.

Like with nearly all skills, start with first principles, ingrain them with drills and repetation, then build advanced skills based on those fundamentals.

I don't believe this is a part of boot camp, this is advanced specialized training. This looks to be a course teaching these concepts: https://www.benning.army.mil/Armor/316thCav/ASA/index.html . It seems to be open only to Sergeants through Captains, many of those will have a college education. From the course schedule it looks like this takes a month. It's not clear but it sounds like it's an all day thing too.

I don't think the average soldier is expected to internalize the entire document. It's more a training tool, or maybe taken into the field as a reference if someone thinks it's relevant. One of my favorite army field manuals is "FM 3-05.213: Special Forces Use of Pack Animal". 99.999% of soldiers don't need to know that when an elephant's body temperature reaches 38.3 degrees celsius you need to let it rest, or the fact that the average working llama needs 4 liters of water per day. But if they ever find themselves utilizing war elephants (which is strongly discouraged in the manual!), they know that somewhere in this 225 page tome they can find information to help them succeed.

My first question would be "how do you monitor an elephant's body temperature in a combat environment?" and my next thought was "this will be answered in the document"

Given that elephants only sweat around their toes, look at its feet?

I'm not in the military so can't speak to this directly, but I've been in training scenarios where you have 100s of pages to "memorize".

The trick here is to actually learn via repetition so you internalize much of the training in a way that it becomes subconscious. The same would apply to me asking a developer how to build an iOS app (random example) -- you probably have so much internalized knowledge that you can write a few hundred pages on UX, UI, underlying tech infrastructure, coding practices, etc.

Or it leads to a situation where the 2nd LT is reciting in his head "3-69 The process of listening is composed of Listening, Receiving, Attending and Understanding... 3-70 Speaking is the call to listen, the speaker has not communicated until the receiver interprets and understands the message sent..." while the guy in front of him is nervously telling him he's ordered a fire mission 50m from the wall they're behind.

> you probably have so much internalized knowledge that you can write a few hundred pages on UX, UI, underlying tech infrastructure, coding practices, etc

This. If I had to put numbers on it, I'd probably say: 4th grade = 250 pages (excluding social skills); 8th grade = 1000 pages; 12th grade = 2000 pages; bachelor's = 10,000 pages; PhD = 15,000 pages

Then about 100 pages(?) for each year of work experience.

Like all good Army manuals this one has a training plan! It starts on Chapter 12.

Seriously though. The goal isn't to make every soldier an expert. At the most this will be discussed for a few hours in Basic Training, and units that are in the training phase of their cycle can spend a little time on it.

Basic training is the Hello World of military training. When Soldiers aren't deployed the spend about half of their work hours on training that is planned and executed at the company (~120 person) level. The Platoon Leader and Platoon Sergeant will most likely incorporate this into other activities. Other specialized training programs (SAPPER, Ranger, SF, ...) will use this document extensively as part of their training.

Different branches tackle this in different ways.

It's probably important to note that each branch has more specific things they need to know. Much of the Marine Corps relies on cross-training to fulfill this demand because their goal is much more open-ended than the rest of the branches (to my knowledge it's something like, "seize forward operation bases and areas of operation".)

To put it in a metaphor: bootcamp is considered dipping your toes in the water, your MOS school is like getting in ankle deep, the fleet is being nose deep with only your clothes on. When you get to "the fleet" is when your real training will begin and it is unending; the only thing that changes over time is that you figure out your clothes are actually flotation devices (fun fact, they actually are). You will spend night after night in the field training, they'll institute artificial stress, and attempt to train you into dealing with it. They'll use simulations like paint rounds, explosions, medical evacuations, and simulation towns in group-training settings with real civilians doing all the erratic things real civilians would do when caught in the middle of a gun fight or normal operation. No expense is really spared, you will actually fight like you play and that is a regular mantra. I'm reminded of a time in 29 Palms where my unit airlifted a radio truck onto a mountain so they could broadcast on the other side of it, which is exactly what you would do in country if you couldn't get to the top of the mountain.

Aside from that you'll be subject to the typical "death by powerpoint" classes that continue to drive in some of these trainings, but they're always referring you to a manual to learn more from. When people do screw up, they'll usually make them teach a class to show everyone what they learned.

I don't know if there's an official statistic on this, but a majority of the training that is conducted in the Marines I would be willing to put three paychecks on is conducted by Lance Corporal through Sergeant.

The goal is to cross-train enough people and foster enough interest that a team can be mostly self-sustaining.

What makes you think this document is aimed at an average soldier? It's a training reference. From this actual training serials are prepared which are aimed at average soldiers.

> What makes you think this document is aimed at an average soldier?

Literally the second sentence in the document, on p. ix:

> Included in the intended audience are Soldiers

> particularly those tasked with integrating ASA concepts into training

They mean soldiers who need to develop training to deliver to other soldiers.

That seems to be your own connotative reading, not what is actually written in the text.

Had the actual written meaning been exclusively those tasked with integrating training, then the wording would have said so. As it is currently written, the intended audience is all soldiers.

Well I don't know what else to tell you - common sense tells you this definitely isn't what they mean. Junior soldiers are not expected to read documents like this.

Your interpretation, irrespective of accuracy, is at odds with what is written in the actual document.

If it is true that junior soldiers are not expected to read a document such as this, then the document should not state that the intended audience is soldiers.

A military manual is not a James Joyce novel. If the manual says the intended audience is soldiers, then you should not be able to come in and say 'actually, regardless of what they wrote, that's not what they really meant'.

> Included in the intended audience are Soldiers...

"We tried to make this understandable by Soldiers, among others, as far as reading level and expected context & background knowledge"

> ...particularly those tasked with integrating ASA concepts into training

"This subset of soldiers are the ones we mostly expect to read it, or to be required to read it, though, so expect that the content is tuned to and most suitable for their needs"

Nowhere does it say that all soldiers read this or that anyone expects that a typical soldier be required to read it. They are stating the background of their intended audience (Soldier, among others, should suffice) and those whom they expect to be best-served by the document ("those tasked with integrating ASA concepts into training"). This sentence is about as clear as English gets, to the point that I'm baffled this exchange is taking place. It says nothing about "junior soldiers [being] expected to read a document such as this".

> A military manual is not a James Joyce novel. If the manual says the intended audience is soldiers, then you should not be able to come in and say 'actually, regardless of what they wrote, that's not what they really meant'.

Your confidence and repeated insistence that your reading is correct here is not warranted. You're wrong. It is not ambiguous whether you're wrong.

> Nowhere does it say that all soldiers read this or that anyone expects that a typical soldier be required to read it.

And nowhere do I make this claim. The discussion is bout the intended, not the required, audience. And the intended audience is explicitly stated to be Soldiers in the manual itself.

OK: let's look at this thread from the beginning. Not the post you responded to, but the one they were responding to. In particular, consider how the word "average" was intended in the post you responded to, and what aspect(s) of the root post that was addressing.

Then consider, given the context of the whole thread, how "expected" was intended here:

> Junior soldiers are not expected to read documents like this.

Webster's for "expect": 1 c. to consider bound in duty or obligated

(1a and 1b also more-or-less apply)

That's what I take as the use of expect here, fitting with the thread before. Most soldiers are not obligated to read this work. No-one will be surprised or disappointed or pissed-off if most soldiers never crack it open.

And then consider how I (and others) may have read your use of "expected" in your response to that:

> If it is true that junior soldiers are not expected to read a document such as this, then the document should not state that the intended audience is soldiers.

By this you mean that the authors anticipate (sense 2 of "expect" in Webster's) that some of those reading it will be soldiers, that they expect (some!) soldiers to be among their readers—at least I assume so, given your agreement with the notion that most soldiers are not obligated to read the text.

You've been writing past everyone in this thread because your original response was a non sequitur to the thread-in-progress, which was about who is obligated or intended, in practice, to read this document.

chrisseaton was addressing something different from what you're trying to argue over. You aren't even contradicting him because you're talking about different things.

Besides, your reading is every bit as "connotative" as chrisseaton's, except that you're ignoring a big chunk of the (not long!) sentence you quoted in order to preserve yours as the exclusively correct reading. In particular, there are two senses of "audience" at play, between this thread and the text in question. Your reading that the piece is intended to be understandable by a "Soldier"—so that is the "audience"—does have support in the text, clearly, but the contention that the "audience", in the sense of who is actually expected to read it, and so for whose needs we may expect the text to have been crafted, is more precisely specified in the second part of the sentence, is also supported by the text, and is what comes out when the entire sentence is considered. That second sense is what was under discussion, originally.

If a non-trainer soldier wants to read it, they are welcome to do so and the manuals will never turn away willing students (unless it is classified material of course). But regular soldiers are not the primary audience of this document.

Again, the document clearly states that Soldiers are the intended audience. In plain English. In the second sentence.

Your interpretation, irrespective of accuracy, is at odds with what is written in the actual document.

Soldiers being the intended audience does not mean _all_ soldiers must read it. What's so hard to understand about that?

> Soldiers being the intended audience does not mean _all_ soldiers must read it. What's so hard to understand about that?

Apparently a lot, based on some of the replies in this sub-thread. I, on the other hand, fully agree with you and have no trouble understanding this distinction.

The poster to which my original comment was a response to, however, claimed that soldiers were not the intended audience.

A possible point of confusion is that 'soldier' means different things in different contexts.

Sometimes 'soldier' means anyone in the Army.

Sometimes 'soldier' means anyone in the Army but not commissioned officers.

Sometimes 'soldier' means only private members of the Army.

In this case obviously 'soldiers' are intended to read it - as people in the Army are intended to read it. But also 'soldiers' are not intended to read it, as private soldiers would normally get training and would not have to read it.

Reading requires context and domain knowledge.

If you have context and domain knowledge, this document is perfectly clear on the audience.

(I've had multiple training jobs in the (British) Army.)

Rote memorization enough to pass the exams, and situational training enough to memorize key behaviors.

100% memorization is neither achieved nor expected.

How would Steve Jobs read this without a college degree?

The last few chapters are all about training.

Checkout the Combat Hunter program. It’s good example even though it predates this document.

I'm sure you've experienced 300+ page textbooks in high school.

I also read a few in undergrad, before I was a college grad.

Video games and super hero movies. They start on them young.

Situational awareness is in fact a teachable/learnable skill and not just a "thing you have". Every professional field has one or another concept of the around it. I'd even go as far as saying it's one of my crucial (soft-)skills and has benefitted me greatly in my career, so it's great to see that I'm not alone with my interest in the topic.

> Situational awareness is in fact a teachable/learnable skill and not just a "thing you have".

It's definitely both, I don't know why you're trying to knock that some people either by birth or through their experiences are just better at something than others. I had Marines who had excellent situational awareness that could spot trouble or issues far before they became a problem and I had others that would accidentally a whole truck. They were trained, for the most part, the same way.

I also disagree that situational awareness is a "soft skill". Having situational awareness, to me, means that you know a subject deeply enough to infer things about your environment from that knowledge. That would make it a very technical skill.

I wonder if people who consciously practice being more situationally aware, who went through some training (or are just naturally able to handle more thoughts and inputs at once) sometimes look at people on the street, lazily walking through an intersection slowly while staring at their phone, or just ambling through life unawares and think: wow, a lot of people are lucky to not be evolutionarily selected out each day.

I think you start to wonder, how do many people in this world get through life sleepwalking?

Not to say that this awareness = "superior", of course, many people have different talents and being situationally aware is just one such thing. And for some, not being situationally aware is necessary to allow some less tangible benefits to appear (creativity, relaxation to enable free thought, intangible problem solving, etc). Hopefully such people, by the way, have other people looking out for them.

But sometimes, you wonder -- person XYZ on the street, neither paying attention, nor having someone who looks out for you as you talk your head off unawares and self-absorbed... What world do you live in?

Absolutely. I'm a naturally anxious person which translates into observing the situation as much as possible before interacting, and I also have significant training in the OP material. Sometimes (often) this is a hindrance to enjoyment. I have to practice a lot of mindfulness to not get unreasonably upset/concerned at some behaviors.

The number one behavior that upsets me is in grocery stores: people who do not realize that their shopping cart placement is causing a noticeable blockade and others are squeaking by or (im)patiently waiting for them to move, or avoiding the aisle entirely. This is not restricted to any type of person either; just today I witnessed a young man in scrubs park his cart sideways in the center bread aisle, halfway through turning around, and then abandon it to walk to the aisle cap to grab something (which he analyzed for some time before deciding upon taking). My mom used to do this same thing and it always bothered me, except now I view it as not just an annoyance but an evacuation and movement hazard.

The other one that bugs me is when I see people stopping at an entrance/top of escalator/exit of elevator or similar choke point. Please, I know it's overwhelming to decide what to do/where to go next, but be aware of your immediate surroundings and move to the side as you figure out the rest.

> (creativity, relaxation to enable free thought, intangible problem solving, etc)

I think ASA is not exclusively focused on outer awareness. I think there's a significant component of awareness of yourself (strengths, emotions, thoughts) that's part of it, and associated with resilience etc. I also don't think that situational awareness, inner or outer, is exclusive with creativity, relaxation, free thought, intangible problem solving.

I think what you're missing here is that the "concrete outer world" can also be manipulated and conceived abstractly at a very high level. I think the "head in the clouds" creative is a stereotype, and exists, but is not representative, and is not a majority one, and there's plenty of super aware people who are also super creative. Me included. Also I think maybe many of those people who "shut away" in the inner (or phone?) world, can probably handle many inputs and thoughts, but it's a case of where they choose to put their attention. Surely there are some who deliberately isolate their senses in this way, because they are so very sensitive, and just haven't learned how to comfortable utilize it, or perhaps just not yet.

In good military fashion, Jeff Cooper (Lt. Col,USMC) developed a color code for situational awareness with respect to the possibility of conflict/combat. White: unprepared / Yellow: Relaxed alert / Orange: Specific alert / Red: Fight

Most people stay in Condition White.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeff_Cooper#Combat_mindset_and...

Yeah I cave dive as a hobby and the lack of situational awareness on and around our roads is abysmal.

Whats worse is knowing that I've done some things and realized I'm not better. Sure I sometimes use situational awareness and avoid an accident. However other times I do something stupid and only because someone else used situational awareness did we avoid an accident. Most people write the latter off as a rare thing, but I've recently had the insight it all balances out and humans are all equally bad at driving.

Which is why I'm careful to leave 3 seconds between me and the car in front no matter how many people fill the gap - I need all the help I can get to stay safe and I don't care how much slower it makes me.

That latter thing is also situational awareness. You're aware of your own limitations and are actively managing in order to drive within them. You'll note that a lot of other people ride the bumper of the car in front of them sometimes getting within 10 feet. They aren't aware of their own limitations.

You actually are better than those other drivers, even if you're not situationally flawless. There's a lot in that manual about the "soldier" understanding their own limitations.

And lot of people drive around thinking that if they open up that much space they'll get cut off so much they'll never get to their destination. Don't know if there's a bit in here about harboring delusions about reality.

Everyone who drives a motor vehicle in public should probably read this back to front.

> 1-5. People emit certain conscious and subconscious signals indicating their mental states and intent. Humans tend to follow predictable patterns of behavior. Continued observation of behaviors and the surrounding environment reveals patterns that can be used to derive other information about the person or people being observed. The goal of this observation is to determine the relevance of the information provided to the matter at hand.

> 1-6. Soldiers can observe indicators based upon an established baseline. Soldiers can identify the enemy among civilians. Baselines are established when the enemy is not present because the lack of enemy presence allows the observer to determine the most complete baseline.

Consider the "enemy" here to be the idiot who is about to pull into traffic without seeing you coming, and the signal to be how they did an aggressive stop, they blew the line of the stop sign completely, and they're displaying aggressiveness and impatience.

Your foot should already be coming off the gas and covering the brake pedal, and if you see them move forwards at all you should be already actively braking.

Generally any vehicle waiting at a stop sign I mentally label as a possible threat, but you can often be better prepared when you observe someone's actions in their vehicle that seems different than baseline. You don't need to react as strongly every time you see a vehicle waiting at a stop sign at a cross street to you, but when you see signs of aggressiveness, you should increase your own defensiveness and preparation to act.

I'm sure I'll hit the sections on visualization and preparation for action later.

If you watch r/roadcam vids on reddit you'll often see accidents that are the counter example to this where people speed at a consistent 8 mph over the limit all the time, and don't adjust their velocity ever for hazards or even just intersections and are caught completely unaware when another vehicle that displays a deviation from baseline, immediately then does something really dumb and collides with them.

Related article:


For motorcyclists, it can be a life or death skill.

Immediately thought about that fighter pilot article as well. I read it some years ago and still have spontaneous moments of “better be careful with this lighting situation” or “let’s check the blind spots here extra carefully” when driving. Highly recommended, should be required driving school reading in my view.

I've been my oldest child case with this very topic to the point they eye-roll me everytime I bring it up. To be clear, they often claim they've lost a shoe or toy just after literally walking past it or accidentally knocking it under a table or chair. I guess its also a prevalent issue for young adults as well as children now? (Table 2-1, specifically)

There's a certain cognitive priming that I have to do in order to be effective at searching for things that I've lost. 'Think of where you had it last' doesn't really help because that's frequently a complete blank. Instead I need to project a mental image of the item into the space I'm searching to prime whatever pattern matcher is in my head. Without that my eyes will literally pass right over the object and not pick it out of the noise.

My wife, of course, had no such limitation. 'THEY'RE. RIGHT. HERE.' a common exasperation of hers as our departure time and planned arrival time converge.

I have a trick that helps me. I say out loud, "I'm looking for ____ " or "Where is ____". The vocalization focuses me, and hearing the word makes my eyes jump to the item if it's in field of view. Sometimes, I find myself stopped, staring at a part of the wall, not sure what's going on, but there is the item at the base of the wall in the corner. Just had to move my eyes more but my whole body was answering the question for me.

I really do feel like I'm holding the reins of a big dumb animal sometimes.

That nonverbal commune with the dumb animal has happened to me a few times. The very first time was so loud and profound it really blew me away.

I was in the bathroom early one morning and found myself staring blank-brained at my eyes in the mirror. Kind of like that sense you get when you suddenly realize you're looking into an open refrigerator, I knew I had just walked in there for some reason but it wasn't coming to me. Meds? No. Shower? I don't think so. Shave? ... ... *pokes out chin* ... man I'm looking a little rough ... and just then, as I start getting distracted with the unkempt dude in the mirror, my right arm raises without any provocation and *angrily* mimes brushing my teeth. Like three.hard.rakes across the grill and then back down.

As soon as that happened it's like someone unclicked pause in my brain and everything flooded back. Brushing my teeth! So I grabbed my toothbrush and toothpaste and as I'm dosing it up with a fresh blob I think wait...what the fuck was that? It was like my arm was possessed and tired of me being an idiot lol.

There are some crazy experiments involving brain injury or brain surgery patients that lost control of their limbs temporarily, including solving problems involving physical manipulation completely outside their conscious recognition when the vocal centers of the brain are isolated.

It's almost terrifying how only a small part of the brain can vocalize, but all parts of the brain are communicating and "thinking". My takeaway is that we observe ourselves and tell stories about it, but have much less real free will than we think.

I have this issue, but no ability to project mental images. Generally, I manage by ensuring everything has a place to be, then I only need to worry when something is not in the right place.

This is counter to my wife who can remember where most things are when placed somewhere random. We mostly manage, but she is the official house 'finder of things'.

Where I seem to have the most difficulty is entirely my domain - The garage. I put tools down mid work and spend a bunch of time finding them again moments later.

I've recently started doing this and has helped me find things much more efficiently. I project the image in my head, and make a mental note of the item's physical attributes such as size, color, etc. Once primed with this info, I go about doing a linear scan around my house.

Usually I'm searching aimlessly while thinking about something completely unrelated and I'm not bothering to be focused at all. The first step is to realize that I'm about to start looking for my keys in the same room for the third time and to stop and actually bother to focus and to bring the task to the foreground instead of the background.

Looking for my keys though is a minor annoyance and I'd rather be thinking about something else, so this isn't something I think needs fixing. It isn't driving a vehicle.

Tile. Know it, love it, accidentally click it in an elevator or in a movie theater.

Edit: I dated a girl once who couldn't tell cars apart, and had a really hard time finding hers or anyone elses.

Constantly being on a kid's case for not behaving/thinking like you do isn't likely to work out well unless you actually know where the disconnect is.

Not everyone processes or thinks the same way.

With respect, I'm keenly aware that they think differently, and as for the disconnect, it's because they're an adolescent with a brain that is still figuring out their body. Unfortunately, Pavlovian reinforcement is sadly sometimes necessary to get a point across, especially when its a repetitive issue.

My parents took that approach, which resulted in me not getting an ADD diagnosis until I was in my mid 30s. While I've been fortunate in life overall, it's no exaggeration to say my life would be dramatically different for the better if I'd learned what was actually going on as a kid.

If you view parenting as a pavlovian process rather than mutual communication and learning, then I'm here to warn you that if you walk down that path far enough, you will experience a day where you discover your children loathe you.

What would you have preferred?

For them to realize something was going on beyond "doesn't apply himself" or similar phrasing that attributed what was happening to a combination of laziness and character flaw and to then consult an actual professional.

Instead I got a whole lot of punishment, much of it physical, because my parents are also evangelical extremists.

I feel sorry for you to hear about that. Hope you're ok :)

Thanks for the kind words. I have my issues but in the big picture I'm no doubt one of the luckiest humans walking this planet and have zero illusions about it.

I'm struggling to understand how Pavlovian training can develop a skill for finding lost objects.

I think it's a form of dependency/laziness. The best approach I know is to not think for them and have them help themselves to get better at independence and self-/world-awareness.

Yeah, it is. Especially people posting comments to spoon-feed them an explanation of something rather than research it for themselves. It's a form of learned helplessness.

This seems to be particularly polarizing. I take the doc as an effort to distill practice, user stories, and a little bit of background theory as required to keep things varied an interesting to various types of learners. There's the rote memorization (do hasty search not a horizon scan), and theory-to-practice (rods and cones for nighttime visual search).

I also imagine that the intended audience for this book has not been exposed to some of the biological underpinnings of senses, and never had an explanation for why it was difficult to resolve colors in darkness.

That facts are placed right next to actionable workarounds and right next to observable consequences is a pretty good writing strategy to educate practitioners.

I can imagine (but have not experienced) some useful rules of thumb coming from this document that are pounded into minds until they are second nature. Range estimation, hasty search + follow-up search, rough ranges at which cigarettes are visible in darkness, speech is audible, and so on. That's gold for its indented audience.

BTW what can explain how this Top drops 10 places suddenly?



Don't take the lord's name in vain, or he'll refer you to the guidelines. ;)

Minor typo in table 3-4. Motor vehicle detection on a dirt road should read 0-500 meters not kilometers.

I would say my most practical experience with increasing situational awareness came from getting into competitive Magic the Gathering. Misreading a card or a line of play = loss many times; it is very easy to miss a key variable on the board that could make all the difference and if you are the slightest bit inattentive or operating by rote habit, you will miss it.

Personally think we were more situationally aware pre mass ownership of smart/feature-rich phones.

>>> And org charts frequently show up. Many of them go up to the President. Who wouldn’t put the President in their org chart if they could?

I am now trying to work out how to fit the UK COBRA response unit into any of my Disaster Recovery Planning templates. They really do need spicing up.

Maybe go with a sentence like "It is considered unlikely that we shall need to notify MI6 of any interruption to our service. The number just in case is 555-12345"

See who actually reads these darn things.

I've taken to putting something similar in job postings that require careful attention to detail (right after the section that talks about said need) - 'If you want to get considered, make sure to put the name of a mammal that flies in your subject line. Otherwise I will throw your application in the trash'.

So far? About 1 in 10 to 1 in 15 does it. Tends to be pretty effective actually, helps a lot with weeding out the spam too. Most lead with the 'I would love the opportunity to work with your company' which is clearly just generic spam and they probably didn't even look at the job posting.

I kind of like the idea, but I am imagining what my reaction to seeing it as I apply will be.

I can't work it out now - wrong context. Probably assume that I would get a day long home test, or something.

Anyway, Volaticotherium antiquus

That would definitely work - bat, flying squirrel, etc.

You can cut and paste the question into Google and get the right answer, so you might be overthinking it a bit.

I did cut and paste :-)

I guess I am being cynical - signalling during the job process is really hard - for both sides, and I doubt there is a quick fix. But I like yours - it might be worth a try next time :-)

> I am now trying to work out how to fit the UK COBRA response unit into any of my Disaster Recovery Planning templates

In organisations supporting UK critical national infrastructure (e.g. power companies), a cyber response plan might involve contacting (or being contacted by) the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC [0]), who as a public-facing component of GCHQ will be part of the government chain of command up to and including the Prime Minister.

[0] https://www.ncsc.gov.uk/

Oh nice - powerpoint porn at that point :-)

I don't see how you can teach SA in a book.

Plus, some people are hopelessly clueless and don't see subtle details as well as others.

It's a nice thought to explain some trail signs, but experience, practice, and particular personal qualities likely prove more valuable to think independently. Primitive hunting, street and wilderness intelligence, and practiced SA in everyday life are probably the best teachers.

There's a typo on page 1-1. Second to last line has a misspelling of "Soldiers".

It's interesting you bring this up. Norbert Wiener (coined cybernetics among other accomplishments) was once working on a kind of visual tracking system for the military, where a human in the loop would provide predictions as to where a plane were headed and this would be incorporated as a signal into the tracking system's prediction.

I think ever since then you get a lot of ideas about using men as parts of machines, rather than the more Stalin-esque idea of making a new type of man

Did they take it down?

no, and I think they don't have any reason to.

>DISTRIBUTION RESTRICTION: Approved for public release; distribution is unlimited.

Isn't it a National Security issue if the document is public globally?

No, this is general doctrine material. By necessity you need to teach a huge number of people in your army about your doctrine and how it works, so it's a really hard secret to keep. And, if your doctrine doesn't work if the enemy knows about it, then it's not a very good doctrine. In the same way that if your encryption program is vulnerable if people can inspect the source code, your encryption program isn't very good.

The only real risk is that your adversaries might "steal" your doctrine and use it to train their own troops. But generally a doctrine on its own isn't enough, you need an established tradition and officer corps, as well as the right tools and equipment to execute it properly. And those (especially a competent and well trained officer corps) are much harder to appropriate.

No. The military has procedures to protect national security information (classification), and those have been intentionally not applied to this document.

The pages, 1 JPEG each (in case the HN Top load kills the above server):


This link will self-destruct in 3 days :P ;) xx

I was able to open it, it's a pdf. Is it legal to re-upload and mirror somewhere?

Yes, it is a US government publication released without classification or restriction.

> DISTRIBUTION RESTRICTION: Approved for public release; distribution is unlimited.

It says this on the PDF itself:

DISTRIBUTION RESTRICTION: Approved for public release; distribution is unlimited.

Approved for public release, right in the cover

Who else wonder if the "This page intentionally left blank." is either redundant or wrong, since the page is not anymore blank, written this information.

This is a very common thing in text.


Perhaps it is done to start the book off with a reflection – This situational awareness intentionally left blank is no longer blank.

Military intelligence borrows irony from the private sector too.

Impressive strategic analysis. But maybe get Clippy to spell check next time boys and girls.

"Solders" lol

I don't think a spell checker would have caught that since it's a word that's spelled correctly.

Perhaps so, but this example is definitely flagged as incorrect grammar.

Yes, that is true.

“No matter how abstract they are, these pictures describe systems that the U.S. military uses to make optimal, efficient decisions about killing other humans.”

And then they are shared with the Israeli military so they can be used to kill in Gaza! Hurray for humanity.

I noticed they have sex in the base level of Maslow's hierarchy of needs, along with food and water. I think we will see movement this century on the topic of whether or not it is a human right.

I think people are assuming some sort of coercive outcome if sex were to be considered a human right. What it might realistically produce are more lenient, practical and compassionate laws around sex work. For example, there are people who are lonely, possibly due to old age, illness, circumstance (incels), etc. What makes them less deserving of intimacy? What right does a society have to proscribe what services an individual is allowed to willingly provide?

This is just another example of some of the hidden suffering that society predominantly refuses to counteract or even acknowledge.

I just want to point out that the document has sexual intimacy as a separate, less important need than sex.

I originally thought your comment odd and out of context, but now that you mention it, the military's view on sex vs. intimacy hidden within these obtuse documents is a pretty interesting tidbit and entirely within the spirit of the article. This is a multi-million staff count, trillion dollar-a-year organization after all. It is about 80% male and skews very young.

It's a human right to have sex with people can give you informed consent to have sex with you. It is not a human right to have sex.

What could that possibly look like in practice? Something beyond legalized prostitution?

Some imagine something like Westworld.

Absolutely stunning example of work by some folks in DoD who clearly have "bullshit jobs." This includes diagrams and descriptions of how eyeballs work, quotes from Hemingway, and case studies of WWII operations. Can anyone imagine actually trying to train Joe based on this manual? A shining example of BS at its peak!

Yes, I can. Having gone through military training, it taught me things that I didn't understand before, or only had an intuitive understanding and not a full understanding.

If you're going to call a reasonable document bullshit, then I might be inclined to say you have a somewhat skewed lens on reality.

Each fact in the document may be true, but the document is so overbroad as to be useless. Who is it intended for? I mean, it is almosth philosophical in starting from how senses actually work from science.

Each lesson included could / should be broken out for Joe to make the desired outcomes practical and achievable.

This document is the foundation for a month-long training course for the Army [https://www.benning.army.mil/Armor/316thCav/ASA/index.html], and likely others in other branches. If you look at it as a textbook, it seems quite a reasonable document.

You seem to be making assumptions about how this is intended to be consumed.

Why do we assume the everyman is unable to do the most basic of rational thought.

If you have a group of 10 random people, you'll have to count on 1-2 of them not knowing something important you think everyone knows (if you're lucky).

If you have a group of 100 random people - that's now 10-20 people. A whole team, maybe two if the cards are particularly bad.

The Army has 479, 000 people. They also have significant, predictable turnover, so if they teach everyone all those things once, in 4-5 years no one in some military specialities will know it again. Based on the average time in service (6.7 yrs) data I can see, even if they teach literally everyone everything they might not know that is considered essential, in ~ half a decade at least 1/3 of the people in the Army won't know some or most of it again.

Add in that people can only pay attention to and retain so much, and you have to repeat things a lot, explain things from a bunch of different angles, and then test and validate on top of that before you can assume they know it.

Even then, they might forget in a week.

It's law of large numbers and people.

present day

present time

That manual is not meant as a pedagogical tool. It's meant as the source of truth to build those tools from.

This criticism could just as easily apply to my entire college career. That doesn't mean that the things I learned weren't of any use. Understanding beyond simple application has value.

This is BS for you because you never faced reality where you simply cannot make assumptions, but must use references (this how knowledge is built over generation) such documents establish clear shared understanding to avoid situation like 10 people have 10 different opinions; what is or what is not an specific thing.

more BS than another CRUD app?

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