Terrorist attacks: Making yourself a hard target

Part two of a two-part series

In part one of this two-part series, we talked about the fact that criminals and terrorists alike prefer attacking soft targets. Here, we’ll discuss how making yourself a hard target will minimize your chance of an ambush.

We’ve witnessed officers murdered in their squad cars, ambushed at home, and even in a donut shop drinking coffee. Many types of environments may make you a soft target — and that’s what the terrorist (and murderous common criminals) are looking for. 

So then, what’s a hard target?

A hard target can potentially be a bank, a police lobby, a federal building, or even an individual uniformed police officer who has the proper state of situational awareness. 

However, we have witnessed over the past decade too many attacks inside police stations and even some officers being ambushed at home. If somebody wants to ambush you,  you may still get ambushed even if your situational awareness is good to go. 

The difference will be that when your situational awareness is locked on and you get ambushed, your reaction will be much quicker, and more appropriate for the battle. 

This raises the question: What good is good situational awareness if you don’t have the ability to respond to an attack? 

It is really simple: without a weapon, you are at a significant disadvantage. Carry a gun and a knife all the time and have plenty of ammunition. Have special code words between you and your family so that one simple word can indicate a dangerous situation, and a second word that indicates and commands a hasty departure on their part as you ready to battle.  

Further, what is the key to a good response? The answer, of course, is training and preparedness.

Terrorists and Target Neutralization 
Target neutralization on a terrorist that just attacked and murdered an innocent victim may require a different response than what our training has provided us over the years. Why would engaging a terrorist with deadly force be different than that of any other criminal? 

We’ve all witnessed over the years that terrorists like to use explosives — either on their person or in an IED located within the battle space — and want to fight to the death. There is only one way to dispatch a terrorist with an immediate IED or suicide-bomb threat: engage with immediate head shots, followed up by shots to the torso. 

Law enforcement trainers seem to be stuck on the “two to the body and one to the head” drill. 

As a police sniper instructor, I teach candidates that they must achieve an “instantaneous non-reflex kill shot” so that they can immediately neutralize their threat or adversary. Most police sniper engagements occur in hostage situations; therefore you can see the need for the instantaneous non-reflex kill shot (so as to not harm the hostage). 

You may not in many cases achieve an immediate non-reflex kill shot when the shot placement is in the torso. Furthermore, handgun and patrol rifle calibers most likely won’t achieve this with one shot. Therefore multiple shots may be required.

You want to stop a terrorist? Then engage your adversary as if you are a soldier in Afghanistan. After all, most of these terrorists are trained and have been battle tested fighting against our military forces.  

While training SWAT students, I use the phrase “overwhelming amount of dominating force” when describing how to dominate a stronghold. Taking out terrorists requires the same amount of overwhelming, dominating force. 

It means we must still operate under the Constitution, Federal laws, state laws, and department policies, but when it’s time to neutralize that terrorist bring everything you got. Push the fight — quickly and decisively — with all of your might. 

The reason a uniformed officer should concern himself with an “instantaneous non-reflex kill shot” is because terrorists around the globe are committed to “fight to the death” as the means to an end. 

They have in many cases also attached explosive devices to themselves or placed an IED near the battle space. Hence, the need for an instantaneous non-reflex kill shot.  

Acquire your target and shoot your weapon system at your adversary’s head and body. Keep shooting until the adversary drops limp and is clearly and obviously no longer a threat. 

Terrorist organizations are using small cell tactics around the world on a regular basis. Lone wolf attacks on soft targets are also happening with increasing regularity.

These attacks can’t be handled by a traditional law enforcement response. When a terrorist chooses you as his next opponent, push forward and fight as soldiers. 

Stay safe,
Sgt. Glenn French 

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