In my engineering career, one of the first projects I worked for was the Canadian Army Battlefield Situational Awareness System (SAS) module. An integrated suite of system of radios, computers, and sensors mounted on military vehicles and personnel, that gave military commanders a real time view of the battlefield.

Serving in the Army Reserves, “SAS kicks Ass” was a phrase my Troop Commander would often say, because it was true.

Situational Awareness has always been a vital part of military command and control, with good reason. If a commander has the most accurate information concerning an operation, he or she could make the best operational decisions.

Situational awareness is, thus, a major force multiplier.

The reason for this is that with high levels of situational awareness, soldiers in combat could be issued orders that could greatly increase their combat effectiveness, or they could more quickly relay information that bolsters the headquarters’ battlefield intelligence.

Outside of a military context, situational awareness is critical for similar reasons.

As an individuals, the greater your understanding of your present situation, the more prudent actions you can take in response.

Consider this video of an action shooting training session from a Young Guns shoot I organized in 2016.

Action shooting is a timed sport, and situational awareness is essential in order to have the best time.

On the safety officer’s signal, a shooter navigates through a dynamic course of fire, engaging an array of targets.

The shooter must maintain high levels of situational awareness related to the condition of their gun, the instructions and commands of the safety officer, their adherence to safety protocols, and the state of the course of fire itself.

During this particular course of fire, I was engaging several falling steel poppers with a Roni Carbine, Glock conversion kit. Several of the steel plates were not falling (my 9mm bullets didn’t have enough power to knock them down).

As a result of this, my situational awareness and observation of the steels not falling altered my stage plan and how I engaged the targets.

Things got silly and at one point (around the 1:35 mark), I was completely befuddled by how one of the steel poppers would not fall after 3 clear hits.

Something unexpected happen, where the target fell and knocked loose a wood railway tie (met with some jeers from some spectators), and in the moment I was a bit stunned at the odd turn of events.

After a few seconds, I regained my composure and realized I still had several more targets in the string to engage. Muttering a swear under my breath, I proceeded to engage the targets and finish the stage.

This is an illustration of a personal situational awareness fail.

Maintaining situational awareness means observing your environment in 360 degrees and projecting clear intention.

In the case of this stage, my intention was to finish the stage I was shooting. However, something unexpected broke my focus and caused me to pause.

In a competitive setting, that pause most certainly would have caused me to rank lower, as the time delay would have negatively impacted my score.

The lesson to take away from this session is to maintain situational awareness at all times, but once you’ve committed to a clear plan of action (such as a stage plan during an action shooting event), to not let external circumstances in your situation to distract you from executing that plan.

In future, advanced training sessions, I’ll share with you tips to develop unbreakable focus to allow you to commit to a course of action and be unwavering in your action to see it through.

Light and life. Love your neighbour. True Patriot Love.