Staying Left of Bang

Last year I had the fortune of discovering this book through Brett McKay’s interview with Patrick Van Horne on the Art of Manliness podcast. Van Horne co-authored a book with fellow Marine Jason Riley titled “Left of Bang: How the Marine Corps’ Combat Hunter Program Can Save Your Life“. With a title like that I had to pick it up.

left-of-bangSoon, I began following Mr. Van Horne’s company,  The CP Journal, and I am now in the process of completing their Basic and Advanced Security courses. Once I have finished those I’ll post a review, but for now I want to focus on the book.

This is definitely on my Short List of recommended reads, and easily sits in my top 3 non-fiction books. The practical applications of the concepts in this book are crucial to military, law enforcement, and security professionals. The concepts and methods are also crucially needed in everyday life for general . They also come into play in special situations like natural disasters.

Think of Hurricane Katrina or Sandy, or of the Haiti earthquake in 2010. These led to widespread damage and loss of critical law and order infrastructure for days, and weeks afterward. A lot of the reported crime that was reported after Katrina was found to be bogus, however there was some. Think of the riots going on most recently in Milwaukee, and before that in Ferguson and Baton Rouge. Do you think these are positive environments? No, they are what Travis Haley would term “disruptive environments”, or in the disaster cases what I’ll call “distrupted environments”. Order has yet yo completely return, so our mental and situational vigilance should be increased.

But how? If we walk everywhere (disruptive environments or not) thinking everyone is out to get us, we become more stressed, more mentally taxed, and emotionally fatigued. A solution to that is what Left of Bang offers.

To this point, utilizing the Left of Bang “Tactical Analysis” methodology allows one to remain calm, keep their head on a swivel, but without the tension of constant paranoia. This comes down to “informed awareness”, which is a higher level that what would be more generically termed “situational awareness”.

This is through learning what to look for, instead of looking for everything. Information overload is the enemy.

In Left of Bang, the core concept which will help move you from inaction to action is: Baseline + Anomaly = Decision. The first part, the Baseline, is what you learn to develop by consciously observing your surroundings and finding what is normal. After that, those who do not fit the baseline will stand out. An example of this is the Boston Marathon bombing. The bombers were identified because they were the only calm and comfortable-looking people in the crowd immediately after the bombs went off.

After you have identified the anomalous behavior – that is when you have to make a decision about what to do about that anomaly. This could be finding a safe place to observe the anomaly further, flee the area, or fight the threat – depending on what your duty is (you may be with family, or on patrol – each will affect what you give priority).

An example of this some of you may be familiar with is in the movie The Hurt Locker. In the opening scene, a soldier observes an anomaly while his commanding officer is attempting to diffuse a bomb. While their baseline included seeing locals watching them while disarming bombs, the anomaly was a military-age male with a cell phone. He immediately engages the man, but hesitates to act with lethal force – a decision that haunts him for the rest of the film. While we may find ourselves in Iraq or what we might consider a “high risk” area, one only needs to watch the news to see that these situations can come to us.

This book is a must have. You owe it to yourself to know and practice the concepts it contains. If you are interested in picking up a copy they are readily available on or through the publisher, Black Irish Books.

Photo Credit: Voltage Pictures