Games to Play2013-08-28T16:50:35-04:00

Gary Cunningham
Mike Wallace
December 1, 2000
Reprint Protection Officer News - Spring 2001

(I wouldn't kid you, the subtitle of the article should be... "Games To Play When You're At Work, When You're Walking A Boring Post Detail, When You're Out To Dinner With Friends, When Your Dog Is Walking You Down The Street...and When You're Pushing A Cart Down The Aisle Behind Your Wife In The Supermarket - and so on!")

with a prologue by Editor, F.C. Miller
(Originally published in "Informed Source" Newsletter, September 1997)

Prologue: "Having been in this profession for some thirty years, I've had the pleasure of being in the company of all kinds of colleagues from the green, fumbling neophyte - to the idiot know-it-alls - to some of the most brilliant and 'honed to precision' professionals who ever drew breath! Like Maestros or Empressarios, these exceptional fellas have several things in common, most notably, an uncommon attention to detail mindset, realistic physical training - and constant rehearsal!

These are the men who are forever four jumps ahead of everyone else, always planning, observing, and analyzing, always ahead of potential problems and threats and the countless scenarios which may be encountered on any day, at any time. With them, there's never a boring moment because every moment is in constant use. My business partner is one of these remarkable fellas who never misses a beat, and a couple of months ago, I was "inspired" during several conversations with Gary Cunningham of TAC-ONE who mentally tossed me head-first into all kinds of potential scenarios with international terrorists and assorted gun-toting bad guys. "Rehearsing me" mercilessly, he had me mentally crawling on my belly through dark warehouses, picking the best position to deal with adversaries in open areas and under cross-fire, analyzing darkness and shadows and sounds...and wound up hanging me from the rafters of a building with one arm shot up, taking down the bad guys below me! I was exhausted from the exercises he put me through, but I was in awe of such well trained mentality! Gary ran me through buildings and parking lots, through crowded streets and alleys.....and never let up on the multitude of scenarios which any of us could encounter while on assignment - or just minding our own business on our days off. He even took that most boring and annoying of all assignments, walking a guard post and showed me how that time can be used to great advantage in training the mind and body to honed precision. Asking Gary to please put some of this exceptional rehearsal perspective to paper for all of us (why should I have go through this alone?)..... he called his partner Mike Wallace, and together - they share the following.

"Games to Play"

Many officers, operatives and agents lose valuable, realistic, training time. These opportunities arise every day, opportunities which allow them to evaluate threat potentials and determine what they would do in the event of a high risk situation. (Although we're going to demonstrate only a few ideas, they share one thing conducive to training, which is the fact that they are normally not an active, dangerous situation. This allows a more low-stress learning environment.) Many operatives and officers already use their time wisely in some similar activity. But, observation has clearly shown that a great number of others do not, so it is to those to whom we address this article.

Mental Evaluation and Planning Not Just During Work Hours - But Other Hours!

We're not talking about daydreaming. In this particular instance, your classroom is your everyday location, and goes beyond the normal activities of awareness, observing and evaluating suspicious personnel or situations. It is in this classroom that you become more prepared for an actual incident, and less likely to be surprised when the unexpected does happen. Let's get rid of the "it won't happen to me" mentality, but approach this with a realistic evaluation.

Mental evaluation takes into account any experiences you have had, anything that has happened to other officers or operatives you know, and a summary of known incidents in your area and around the country. The next step is to evaluate all the things that could likely happen, and begin to mentally and physically rehearse them to the outcome of all realistic possibilities. This is the preparation phase.

If You Walk A Post, Begin Some Serious Site Surveys!

Site surveys are where you learn the physical characteristics of likely threat areas - and includes the following:



Shrubbery or vegetation
Hiding spots for suspects
Entry points, and method of gaining access after business hours
Approach routes
Escape routes
Motor and pedestrian traffic during business hours
Containment requirements
Evacuation of structure and surrounding area
Vantage points for observation or sniper support (other buildings, etc.)
Management and maintenance phone numbers



Floor plans
Main threat areas (vault, tellers, cash registers etc.)
Blind spots
Primary and alternate approach routes to likely threat areas.
Access to offices or other areas during non-business hours
Any key data, such as areas with one-way glass, audible alarms, etc.
Any volatile chemicals or flammable materials

These are only a few examples of the things you want to look for and evaluate. Again, begin with areas most likely to be hit, and work your way down your list in priority order.

Threat Potentials

Next, determine the type of threat you could conceivably encounter. (Gangs, drug dealers and activities, domestic terrorists, and cults are a few things to look for. You need to know their capabilities, training and armament, as well as their normal method of operation. You are not going to learn this kind of information by sitting at the feet of naysayers or the naive, so get yourself involved with good Intelligence information.)

Scenario Planning

Once you have all the necessary information and Intelligence, it's time to begin your "What If?" planning. Imagine a variety of the most realistic possibilities, up to and including worst-case scenarios. Based on your tactical knowledge, begin assessing options and think about what you would do in each particular situation. Also envision situations that may fall outside normal department policy where you must make an immediate officer-discretion call.

Envision yourself giving commands and going through the actions, and things you would do in the same situation if different things took place. It has become more and more common for basic patrol officers and EP Operatives to end up in tactical situations - and the question to ask yourself is "Am I prepared?"


What if it's just a nice, sunny day, and you're having a meal in a restaurant in Killeen, Texas, or one of several McDonalds in California. Or, you're just walking down a street in L.A. near a particular bank.....or maybe shopping for a stereo in Sacramento. For those of you familiar with the murder and mayhem involved in only these few actual instances, you can easily see that in today's urban environment, you are never really out of the combat zone. "It" can also happen in remote Wyoming, where your wife can be snatched from the side of a mountain road while jogging, or an elderly man murdered while stopped at a rest area in North Dakota. How about backpacking or taking a Sunday drive into the beautiful Washington State, Montana or Wyoming mountains only to discover by accident (and too late), a "grow operation" - or violent cult activity? These scenarios have happened, are happening, and can happen anywhere.

Assess the many potential scenarios you can come up with while walking a post, escorting your Executive Protection Principal from the restaurant to the car and finding yourself in the middle of "next door" bank robbery getaway, handling a "routine" traffic stop, finding yourself in the middle of an armed robbery at the mall, being confronted by thugs while vacationing with your family, finding yourself in the middle of a shootout while walking out of the local theater with your wife and kids, moving from pushing a cart down the aisle behind your wife at the supermarket into an in-store hostage situation, being dragged down your neighborhood street by your dog and coming across a mugging...and the ever growing terrorist scenario. Are we painting a dismal picture, trying to make you paranoid? No....just giving you an actual photograph of today's society. And it's not going to get any better (sorry). It's up to you to think about the safety of yourself, citizens, family, friends, and client principals.

Begin to list your actions. Next, evaluate these actions and determine if they are tactically correct. Be brutally honest. Remember, you're talking to the primary individual who is concerned with your welfare - you!

You may find gaps in the list - questions you can't answer, or actions listed that you are not comfortable with. That's OK. This is where you want to identify any problems or weaknesses - not during a gunfight!

Once you have identified areas you need to learn or improve upon, then begin the process of becoming proficient. Even with limited time and budget, there are a number of ways to do this. Police publications, training manuals, Professional Newsletters and Magazines, and asking other experienced veterans questions are a few methods of gaining insight and knowledge. Attend training programs that address your needs, either from the department, state, or credible private organization. Just having honestly identified your weak areas is a good start.

Principles and Techniques

Principles, techniques and tactics are words that are commonly used interchangeably. Although they go hand-in-hand, they are separate entities. For the purpose of clarification, the following definitions are offered:

Principles: Those actions which cannot be violated. Tactical principles are static, and form the foundation for all techniques. Some examples are moving under cover by other team members or officers, cover and concealment, not silhouetting yourself, etc. Principles are not up for discussion or opinion! Most date back to Sun Tzu and have been developed from the beginning of the first battle. There are times, due to a special situation, that one must violate a principle. This becomes a calculated risk, weighed against other factors! However, it is absolutely imperative that you understand these principles, or everything else you learn will have an unstable base.

Techniques: Techniques are situational, and driven by the incident. What may be a good technique in one instance, may be a poor choice in others. As an example, if you must move to an objective and resolve a situation, you will always employ tactical principles of covert movement and security. However, the threat will determine the technique. Your techniques will be quite different if the subject is an old man with a .410 shotgun who is disgruntled with the IRS - than it will be if the situation involves a stronghold for a militant hate-group with a number of well-trained and armed subjects who are committed to their cause who have employed booby-traps and snipers. Techniques are determined by a host of factors, such as the number of subjects, their training and capabilities, your training and capabilities, obstacles, lighting, etc.

PRINCIPLES are the foundation, and
TECHNIQUES are the means to resolution of a particular incident.
(With that out of the way, let's discuss some of the key areas you must become proficient in.)
A few things to be aware of:


Always use cover to your best advantage.
Cover can be anything, if it's all you have.
Concealment is better than nothing.
Pie corners.
Don't telegraph by having your weapon sticking out in front of you.
Where your eyes go, your muzzle goes.
Don't backlight or silhouette yourself.
Be aware of fatal funnels.
Look up! as well as around you.
Learn to make an instant assessment - be globally aware at all times.
Move with stealth - listen and observe.
Check every possible hiding place.
Be prepared for an armed suspect to "pop" out.
Watch for booby-traps.
Follow booby-trap principles.
Don't pass a room that has not been checked.
Use flashlights tactically - remember, the beam ends at the guy at the end of the flashlight, you!
Determine if a situation is too dangerous, and get more help.
Understand areas of responsibility and fields of fire if working with one or more other operatives or officers


Correct training is necessary. Incorrect training is worse than no training at all - and both can get you killed!

Potential Scenarios

The purpose of working on potential scenarios is simply to get your brain-cells moving in the right direction!


Operative and officer survival does not begin with training or experience; it begins when you get out of bed! This is the time you determine not become complacent and that you will survive. Then you go to work or wherever, and employ proper principles and techniques day after day, year after year, continually striving to become better trained and more aware. You had better develop the Warrior Mentality and the will to survive. Mind you, we're not advocating running around in a constant state of tension, gun drawn and covering everything that moves. No jumping at shadows. What we are advocating and emphasizing is something we call "global awareness" which can be accomplished in a relaxed state until the situation warrants acceleration. For the sake of clear understanding, global awareness is the opposite of tunnel vision, which has been touted as a norm during a gunfight or other high-stress situation. If you have tunnel vision, you need to train and work out this deadly vice. The last thing you need in a threat situation is to tune out your surroundings and focus only on the immediate threat. Global awareness is a much broader term which includes knowing what's going on in the world and all around you which may find itself nose to nose with your unprepared self on any given day or night. It means being aware of, and prepared for, any variety of dangerous scenarios, including those which the naive naysayers insist, "Couldn't happen here!"

Let's Talk About Potential Dangers Even Closer To Home

During the LA, Las Vegas and other riots, homes and businesses were threatened and destroyed, citizens were murdered. What are you going to do if this happens to you? A few of the things you need to plan for and know are:


Likely threat approach routes
Areas where a threat can get close to your house without being detected
Vulnerable entry points (French and sliding doors,windows, etc.)
Cover: what areas in your house can stop a bullet - and what kind of bullet (9mm vs .308).
Don't be lulled into thinking just because you're in a room somewhere that a bullet won't reach you.
Understand a key principle: staying low.
Escape routes. Take into consideration the slower movement of children, or the noise of an infant. What if you end up trapped in an upstairs room? And, if you escape, exactly where are you going to go that is safer?
Basic shooting skills. Also, consider any crossfire potential (don't place the bad guy in between you and where your family might be hiding in an adjacent room.) Movement through your house, and in your immediate surrounding outside environment. You need to do this in both dark and light conditions.
You need to know how to quickly "pie" a corner - and not "telegraph" your weapon.
You also need to know the basics of close quarter combat - you will be in a confined environment.
Principles of concealment and stealth. Move quietly, use shadows and light to your advantage, don't backlight yourself. Also learn to recognize likely threat areas.
Survival mentality: be prepared for surprises, a sudden threat in close proximity, being shot at, etc. Don't let yourself "freeze" or take panic actions when you are suddenly loaded up with an adrenaline rush, blood pumping extra oxygen, and fear.

Other considerations such as emergency water, flashlights, clothing and the like - are another topic. Sounds like a lot to know just to be able to survive in today's society? You'd better learn them. If you stick your head in the sand, it simply means you're going to get shot in the butt! It's a fact of life, and if you simply pretend it isn't really all that bad because someone told you the crime rate is declining, you're living in a dream world. If you happen to be one of those sorry souls who doesn't believe in guns or has some warped religious belief that God doesn't allow us to kill to protect our families, society or country, then this report is not for you, the pathetic weak coward who has little to believe in and nothing to fight for. Just continue trying to reform hardened criminals and hope for the best. For the rest of us who live in a real world, remember:


Trouble can jump out of anywhere, and you can find yourself in the middle of it at any time.
You had better be prepared.

An excellent way to prepare is to use the time you have everyday at your normal job, around the house, or while shopping or walking down the street!


This article has been a very brief overview, designed to make you realize that training and self-improvement is a 24-hour job, and that every boring post walk, every trip to the Airport or Supermarket is another opportunity for you to train and rehearse! While many operatives and officers already have this mentality, others are blissfully ignorant - not hampered by such trivia as facts. Others are lazy, and worse yet, some are experienced "experts who don't need anyone to tell them how to do their business." After all, they've been doing it their way for 20 years and nothing has happened...(yet!) We are of the opinion that this type of person is incorrigible, and any effort to change him is a waste of time. Maybe he'll be lucky and not get killed (or get someone else killed) - perhaps not. If this sounds harsh, we make no apologies. Unnecessary death is harsh, especially on your wife and kids. This article is addressed to those of you who are really concerned about your survival, and willing invest the time, imagination, training, rehearsal and expense necessary. Excuses won't keep you alive.

It's pretty easy to see how mindset, using your time, and preparation can affect you as an operative, an officer or just as an off duty private citizen with your family who looks out a window and sees the city on fire and wild mobs rampaging, looting, burning and killing. Crisis planning which begins after the crisis is underway, really creates a challenging environment (a sensitive way of saying it stinks!) Remember, laziness and complacency breed disaster; you only get one chance to die for failing to learn, and doing something stupid.

Stay safe!

© 1997 Gary Cunningham & Michael Wallace May Be Reprinted With Permission