Single Operative is a term I picked up a somewhere a few years ago and it's the essence what this blog is all about. A single operative is someone who through physical and mental conditioning, has developed the ability to successfully to operate in an unfamiliar or hostile environment.
During my career, I've traveled to Eastern and Western Europe; North Africa; the Middle East; and few other places. Some were nice. Others....not so much. Sometimes I would go with a unit or be part of a small team, but I've traveled alone too. I've always found a certain a sense of safety and security that comes with being part of a group. Even in a hostile fire zone, there's a communal strength that's present when you're part of a shared fate.
But that all changes when you're alone. When you're out there by yourself with no backup, all you have is, well, you. There's no one else to take up the slack if things get tough. And if you can't get it done, it's not going to get done. Pure and simple.
It was during those times that I began to sketch out my own concept of the single operative. I wanted to identify those skills I needed to have in the event that things got dicey and I was alone. As it turns outs, these skills do more than just get you safely from point A to B.
It's a mindset that will help you live an exciting and dynamic life. Here are few to get your started:
Endurance: The road can be long and hard. Whether your broke down on a back road with a dead cell phone battery, or running you're down the streets of Tangier, trying to catch the last ferry back to Gibraltar before the sun goes down, situations deteriorate quick. You can make great demands of yourself if you're mind and body are healthy and fit. Train them both. Eat right, exercise, get your sleep. Take care of your greatest asset.
Awareness: This is a safety issue. When you're out in public, be where you are. Be in the NOW. The mind is a like a time machine. It's quick to transport you to a memory from the past or some dream of the future. That's not always a bad thing, but the distractions come with a cost. When you're connected with something out there, you lose your connection to here - to the present. And it's in the present where robberies, assaults, attacks, and other mayhem happens. Stay alert. Stay present. When you're moving through public, get off the cell phone, texts, and social media. There's always time for that back at the hotel room.
Self-Protection: The ability to protect yourself is one of the pillars of self-reliance. At Rubicon Training Group, we train firearms, edged and impact weapons, and empty hand combatives. We train it all. I could go for days on this issue, but the point is, protecting yourself means being well-rounded.
Language: When traveling, even a shallow grasp of the native language can save you. I've gotten out of several jams in Morocco, Spain, Israel, and other places just using "Dick-and-Jane" sentences. Don't believe the nonsense that learning a language is difficult. It's more about discipline and commitment than intelligence. We are social creatures. Our lives are built around connection and communication with others. Apart from the independence that speaking another language offers; it's just flat-out cool. I love being able to communicate with someone in a language different than my own. It's indescribable feeling, and you don't have to be fluent to experience it.
Navigation Don't skimp here. Know the area, know the customs and how to get around. Reading maps, both topographical and urban, is a skill quickly fading away in the digital age of hand held GPS devices. You need an alternate way to navigate in case the tech fails. And it will fail you, eventually.
I also recommend getting familiar with the local money system and the exchange rate. Know what you're paying for. I failed to do this on first trip to the Middle East and I paid for it - dearly.
- Faith I think Mike Tyson once said that "everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth." Life will do that to you. Sometimes you come up short, and no amount of planning or preparation will change that. It's in those times you have to dig deep, drive on, and believe that things will work out. And they always do. It's easy to trust Step #6 when you have the other five steps tucked away in your back pocket.
Got a story or a comment? Let's hear it.
Mark Booher is a former soldier, prosecuting attorney, and certified close protection specialist. He has trained hundreds of military, law enforcement, and civilian personnel on the subject of intelligence and security operations.