Alright, so you now have some level of skill-at-arms. We must now work on the ‘mindset’. One aspect of the mindset is our decision making skills.

To start off with, we will use a story of an ambush. It is a fictional account, although it is the story of thousands of ambushes in thousands of places.

The Team Leader (TL) of the ambush watched as the opposing unit started to approach the kill zone. Every one of the ambushers is primed and ready to go. Breaths are shallow, as every man feels that if he takes deep breaths – they will be heard. Even now they marvel that the ‘enemy’ cannot hear their heart beats – as their hearts are pounding in their chests. Fingers are starting to lightly touch triggers – all weapons are already on ‘Fire’ or even ‘Auto’ as no one wants to compromise the ambush by the little clicks their longarms give off while manipulating the selector switch. Each man already has a number of magazines laid out to make mag changes quicker than if they had to retrieve them from their magazine pouches. The men are waiting in anticipation of the ‘initiation’ signal; in this case, the belt fed machine gun on the short leg will initiate the ambush with a long burst into the front of the enemy patrol.

The TL already has his hand on the radio ‘talk’ button. He will push it three times, one second apart when the enemy is in the kill zone (KZ). This will be the signal to the Assistant Team Leader (ATL). He is positioned right next to the machine-gunner on the short leg. Once the ATL gets the signal, he will squeeze the arm of the machine-gunner, and then make three ‘punching’ “signs” toward the enemy patrol. Then all heck will break loose. They have already emplaced booby traps and claymores on any possible escape routes.

The ‘enemy’ team is walking along, eyes and ears straining into the darkness for any sounds that are ‘man made’ and not part of nature. This unit is made up of new, green troops. The have practiced IA drills (Immediate Action) a number of times, and are aware that if they ‘go to ground’ in a well laid ambush – their odds of survival are SLIM. But – this is their ‘first time’ out in the REAL ‘bush’ – the bush where a wrong decision will mean death, not just the embarrassing ‘butt chewing’ they got when they screwed up in the rear.

Almost there, the TL repeated in his mind, almost there. He is silently praying that none of his men will cough or sneeze or burp or fart – as these will all compromise the ambush and allows the ambushers an advanced warning.

The ATL’s heart jumped as he heard the three clicks in his earpiece. He grabbed the forearm of the machine-gunner to silently get his attention, and then gave three quiet ‘shadow’ punches towards the KZ.

The Point Man (PM) never had a chance. He was but 5 meters from the machine gun when it started its long burst. The PM took the first three rounds in the chest and collapsed like marionette doll that just had its strings cut.

As soon as the rest of the ambush team heard the machine gun open up, they too started raking the KZ with fire. Every man was shooting as fast as they could sustain ‘combat’ accuracy into the enemy patrol.

The seventh man in the patrol heard the machine gun open up at the front, and then a half second after that burst started, many rifles opened up from the left side. He was stunned. This can’t be happening he thought. This is our first time out! What went wrong? His mind was having trouble processing the information when a tracer round entered his left temple and he dropped like a stone.

The fourth man received a round in the right shoulder from the machine gun up front (the short leg of the ambush). It spun him around and he fell to his knees. He too was trying to comprehend what was happening. It was so LOUD. The gun fire, the screams of the dying and wounded. The thought then went through his head that if he stays here, he will die. He remembers his instructors pounding that into their heads. He must move. He must rush up through the hailstorm of bullets coming from his left. But it felt so secure behind this small bush right now. Maybe he would wait until the fire died down some, THEN he would run through the ambush. Besides, his shoulder was throbbing with pain now. And – how the heck am I supposed to shoot - my right shoulder has been hit? That was the last thought that went through his head before a 5.56mm x 45mm bullet entered it and exploded out the back.

The fifth man in the patrol, the TL, was yelling to his troops to rush the ambushers. He was pushing the sixth man towards the ‘long leg’ of the ambush, yelling for the others to follow. However, the sixth man, with eyes wide with fear, turned to his left and began to run away from the ambush. As he turned with the power of a man possessed, he knocked the TL off of his feet. The TL knew that to run away would mean certain death, but he had no time to explain that to the panic stricken troop that ran over him. IF the TL had not been knocked down – he would have at least a chance of survival, but as he rolled onto his stomach and began to rise up, looking for someone to motivate to join him in rushing the ambushers, he was felled by a number of rounds to his upper torso. He died right after the claymore mines were set off to kill those troops that were trying to ‘run away’ from the ambush.

After ninety hellish seconds, the call for cease fire was given, and the gunfire died. The TL sent down the special team that’s purpose was to gather intelligence from the fallen enemy. They did retrieve some radio frequencies, maps, etc. They shot a few of the dying that were trying to reach for their rifles, and the rest they left where they lay.

The TL then called in the security elements that were guarding their flanks, and the team moved at a brisk pace to put as much distance between them and the ambush as possible. They did not want to be around when reinforcements showed up.

What went wrong with those fresh new troops? They had been trained in performing IA drills for near ambushes – as well as other IA drills. Why had they not performed tonight as they did back in the rear? Why had they all turned into to wide eyed, disbelieving statues when the ambush was initiated?

Let’s take a look at something totally different. Let’s look at shooting drills. We will take the IDPA ‘classifier’ for example. It is a course of fire that one shoots in order to ‘classify’ the shooter as a Master, Expert, Sharpshooter, Marksman or Novice. Many new shooters end up being Novices till they have more than a few rounds down range. The ‘spread’ from Master to Novice is more than 100 points – meaning that if both shooters hit their target (no misses), the Novice took over 210 seconds and the Master did it in less than 99 seconds. Quite a difference, huh? Does that mean that the Master can move his hands twice as fast as the Novice? No, it doesn’t. Both can probably move their hands just as fast as the other.

The difference IS – that the Master can process information faster/better than the Novice. The Master see’s and hears things (cause he is looking for them) before the Novice does. A Master KNOWS what kind of sight picture he wants to see for the shot – even before he ‘steps up to the line’ to shoot. A Master knows that at close range he does not need to see a perfect sight picture. A Master knows that at mid-range he needs to see a little better sight picture, but it doesn’t have to be perfect either. A Novice spends a lot of time LOOKING without really ‘knowing’ what they are looking for.

What do these two subjects have in common? ‘Deer in the headlights’ during an ambush, and two different classifications of shooters – is there a connection? Yes.

There was a US Air force fighter pilot named John R. Boyd that came up with the term OODA loop. It is a descriptor of how we make decisions, and then act upon them.

He who cycles through the OODA loop the fastest – wins.

So – what is the OODA loop?

Observation is the first “O”. We must ‘be part’ of the picture and observe all that we can. Observe not only with our vision, but also with our sense of smell, taste, hearing, touch and our ‘gut’. We need to be in tune with all of our senses in order to ‘sense’ if something deserves further attention.

Orientation – we must then ‘orient’ – or ‘zoom’ in or ‘fous’ on that which we observed. We ‘focus’ our attention that direction.

Decision – after we have observed, and then oriented ourselves to whatever stimulus that piqued our interest, it is time to decide. Now is when we make our decision.

Action. We will carry out our decision.

Here is an every day example. We are sitting outside in a park watching our child play at the playground. We are primarily watching him/her – but we are trying to ‘Observe’ as many things around us as possible. One of our senses (hearing) picks up a potential threat. Once we realize that there is a potential threat, our PRIMARY focus leaves our child to ‘zoom in on’ or ‘orientate’ on the threat. In this case it is a mosquito that is hovering over our left shoulder. We ‘zoom in’ on it, and then decide to swat it. At that point we take action and swat the mosquito. We then go past the ‘observe’ stage and go right to orientate to see if it is dead. It is dead, so we decide that it doesn’t need to be swatted again and that we should go back to watching our child. We then take action by moving our focus back to our child. We then start to observe again. That was a complete OODA loop cycle. We go through MANY THOUSANDS of OODA loops per day. EVERY action we take was preceded by a decision, and the decision came from an orientation that started as an observation.

So –let’s go back to the ambush. Most of the guys in the kill zone were stuck in the “observation” stage. They could not even “orientate” themselves into the reality of the situation. They were ‘deer in the headlights’. They got stuck and DIED at ‘first base’.

Now take an experienced team. Because of time constraints or other unknown reasons they HAD to travel a trail. But PERHAPS the PM would have been more ‘aware’ of his senses, particularly his ‘gut’ – and would have avoided the ambush area altogether. But – let’s say he didn’t. The ambush was still initiated, and the PM and second guy died in the first machine gun blast. The rest of the team – in an instant would have gone from Observation to Orientation (we are in a near left-side ambush) to Decision (rush the ambushers) to Action (RUN THROUGH). Some of them would have survived, or at least had a CHANCE. The other guys that could not cycle through the OODA loop fast enough had NO chance.

Next it the IDPA shooters. The Master knows even before he draws what kind of sight picture he needs to see before he presses the trigger. He is already made his decision and is in the action stage when the Novice is still in the observation stage. THIS is why he is so much faster.

When one can perform some skill almost second nature is PROOF that they have gone through so many OODA loops with regard to that movement that they are all action – the OOD has already taken place months ago. All that remains is Action. And that is what makes them so FAST.

If someone has to consciously THINK about what it is that they are doing, is proof that they are just beginning to scratch the OODA loop with regard to that skill.

Now imagine a ‘street’ fight (or even a sanctioned boxing match for that matter). Can you see that the opponents must cycle through the OODA loop in just fractions of a second? (Observe the opponent, Orient on his cocking right arm, Decide to ‘block it’ with your left forearm, then take Action and block it away, Observe he how has his face exposed, Orient on the chin area, Decide to hit it with your right, then take Action and hit it with your right hand, Observe that he blocked your right, Orient on his left coming up for an upper-cut, Decide to move head to the left, take Action and move head to left, Observe his head is still stationary, Orient on chin again, Decide to roundhouse to temple, take Action and roundhouse. Observe your fist connecting, Orient on results, Decide to follow up with left hook, take Action and connect, Observe……. Can you see it now?

He who cycles through the OODA loop the fastest – wins.

So – RECOGNIZE that you cycle through the OODA many times per day on everyday things. “Visualize” different scenarios in your mind – and OODA them. Try and OODA loop through as many variables as you can, so that when something like happens – you can get to the ‘action’ phase QUICKER than your enemy.

The bottom line is:

He who cycles through the OODA loop the fastest – wins.


tire iron