We start to appreciate the difficulty of loading a revolver with loose rounds when we have been robbed of our dexterity and our hands are shaking uncontrollably as a result of powerful chemicals that are flooding our body. We start to understand how a guy who earned the award as the top shot in his academy class missed his opponent at close quarters, just across the other side of the trunk.

eJournal: In your book, you wrote extensively about mindset as an antidote to being overwhelmed by odds like those the murdered officers faced. How are, to use your words, mental awareness and preparedness complementary but “very distinct tasks occurring at different times?”

Wood: Sometimes mental awareness and preparedness are incorrectly used as synonyms. In my perspective, preparedness is something that you do prior to the fight, and then awareness is something that is actively occurring before and during a fight. They occur at very different points on the timeline.

As pilots, we talk a lot about the term “situational awareness,” essentially just an awareness of your state and your position as a function of time. True situational awareness allows you to project where you are going to be a few moments from now and understand what your relationship to your environment is going to be at that time. That is the highest state of situational awareness.

It is one thing to be driving down the road and be aware of a car to the left and a car to the right. It is completely another thing to look down the road and see brake lights perhaps a quarter of a mile down and understand that means the cars in front of you will soon have their brake lights on and you are going to need to prepare to stop your vehicle. Thinking about where you are going to be moments from now, and how your changing environment is going to affect you, is the highest form of situational awareness, and it’s something we should strive towards as armed citizens.

Good preparation helps us to maintain this level of awareness, and it gives us the solutions we need when our awareness detects a problem. One of the benefits of preparing yourself with training and education is that you discover what it is you need to look for in your environment. You condition yourself to look for the cues in your environment that are going to warn you about dangers, so it encourages a higher level of awareness. If you do detect a problem, through your awareness, then your preparation will also leave you in a better shape to handle that problem. You can be as aware as you like and recognize that there is a problem, but you’re absolutely no good if you do not know what you are going to do to resolve that problem when it occurs.

I used Massad’s model [Priorities of Survival] as a lens for investigating the Newhall shooting. He establishes priorities where mental awareness and preparedness are at the top of the pyramid and most important. In the book, I discuss the paradox that the most important priorities are the things that we spend the least time on! The least important, equipment selection, seems to occupy the majority of our time and interest and effort. What we really need to do is spend that time thinking about the higher level ideals of mental awareness and preparedness.

I read a letter to the editor in a popular gun-zine recently in which the writer complained that the magazine had a bias towards training-related articles. He wanted more articles on hardware. The editor said, “OK, everybody, write us letters to tell us what you think of the balance of articles in the magazine.” The following month, the editor wrote, “It was split about 65-35 saying that you want more articles on hardware and less on training.”

That is the whole problem in microcosm. It is fun to talk about the guns, the toys, the new gadgets and gizmos.

[Continued...]