How to help your college student stay safe on campus

Ask most college students what “situational awareness” means, and most will mutter something along the lines of “being aware of your surroundings” or “knowing what’s going on around you.” While their explanations aren’t wrong, they are somewhat incomplete. Though many students may be familiar with the term, their understanding of its depth and value is lacking. And for parents looking to ensure their children’s safety while off at college, vague explanations and general ignorance can be worrisome.

What is situational awareness?

In military terms, situational awareness is known as the ability to identify, process, and comprehend the critical elements of information about what is happening to the team with regard to a mission. This skill is a vital part of operational success. Through this thorough training, each member of the unit knows they can fully count on one another.

How situational awareness relates to on-campus safety

While the stakes obviously aren’t as high on a college campus as they are on the battlefield, that doesn’t mean situational awareness isn’t a valuable skill for college students to practice. Unfortunately, it often takes horrific events like the recent University of Texas stabbing to remind people that these things do sometimes happen.

Rather than blowing these situations off as “random” or “completely unpredictable,” college students owe it to themselves to be as prepared and safe as possible during their time at school.

What does situational awareness look like for college students?

There’s a scene in The Bourne Identity in which Jason Bourne spouts off the height, weight, and characteristics of every person at the diner he’s sitting in — along with the license plate numbers of every car in the parking lot. While this level of vigilance is probably unrealistic (and unnecessary) for college students, there are many ways they can increase their awareness and safety on campus.

Have realistic conversations

In order for students to practice situational awareness, the thought has to first be in their head. These conversations definitely need to take place, but it’s important for parents not to try and scare their kids into obedience. A fear-mongering presentation of the dangers of college can make the parents’ concerns seem paranoid, dramatic, or silly in the eyes of the student — ultimately causing them to disengage and disregard the message’s importance altogether. Instead, talk about real situations that have taken place at universities in the past, how the student would react similar situations, and how those situations could be avoided.

Encourage actionable tactics

Rather than vague warnings of “be careful” or “stay safe,” encourage specific habits that students can employ during their time at school. For example:

  • Don’t walk long distances alone at night
  • Use your headphones sparingly
  • Don’t have your head constantly buried in your phone as you move around campus
  • Take note of callbox locations on-campus
  • Avoid situations where your judgement is impaired

Understand the 5 Levels of Awareness

Though it may sound gimmicky, there are five generally accepted levels of awareness that people employ, and having an understanding of them can be an effective tool in helping students remember to stay tuned into their surroundings.

It’s easiest to think of these awareness levels in terms of driving a car.

  • Level 1 – Tuned out: You’re driving in a familiar environment, engrossed in thought or daydreaming.
  • Level 2 – Relaxed awareness: You’re on the highway — aware of your surroundings and on the lookout for potential hazards, but you’re relaxed.
  • Level 3 – Focused awareness: You’re driving in hazardous weather conditions or in a foreign environment. You make sure to keep your eyes on the road and you’re fully focused on the drivers around you.
  • Level 4 – High alert: A car pulls out in front of you or something dangerous happens that causes you to tense up or gasp.
  • Level 5 – Comatose: Something frightening suddenly happens — causing you to freeze up.

Different situations necessitate different levels of awareness, but a good goal for college students is to remain at level two for most of the day. Humans weren’t built to be on high alert at all times. Staying at level four or five is exhausting and unsustainable. But learning to take note of situations and responsibly evaluate risk is an important skill that can allow students — and people in general — to live safe and happy lives.

Improving your situational awareness is a great way to build confidence and become more knowledgeable about the world around you.

Saturday, August 26th Black Tree will be conducting two Situational Awareness & Survival Training sessions in Austin, Texas at the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center on the University of Texas campus.

Join world-class U.S. Military instructors in a unique training opportunity as they guide you through mental and physical practices that can keep you safe if you encounter an unexpected or life-threatening scenario. This is necessary college prep for students, but equally valuable for all adults.

Gain the skills and confidence to be more in tune with your surroundings. Register now for this unique opportunity.


Click Here to Register:



When: August 26th, 8AM – NOON or 1PM – 5PM

Where: AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center – UT Campus

How to convince your parents to let you study abroad in 4 steps

Studying abroad is a valuable and often life-changing experience for college students. It gives you the opportunity to see other parts of the world, experience different cultures, and meet new types of people with unique viewpoints. The problem is: getting parents to buy in to the idea can be difficult. When they hear the phrase “study abroad,” they’re likely to see dollar signs and danger—and not without good reason. There are a lot of variables for parents to consider when sending their student abroad. Is it worth the money? Is it worth the time? Is it safe?

It’s important that you, the student, address these questions in a respectful and intelligent manner to give yourself the best chance of traveling abroad. At Black Tree, we have extensive experience preparing individuals for life abroad, and we’ve put together a list of four tactics to remember when making the big pitch to your parents.

Prepare your case

Before going to your parents, create a list of all the potential benefits you think this experience could have for you. Make sure to look at this issue from all angles. Here are some things you may want to mention:

  • Studying abroad can help you when you’re looking for a job. Companies like candidates who are globally minded and have had unique experiences.
  • You’ll earn class credit while studying abroad which can help you get ahead for the following semester. And studying abroad isn’t just for liberal arts majors anymore — there are plenty of valuable classes and local learning experiences for everyone from business to biology, and even engineering majors.
  • Travel changes people for the better. It expands their understanding of the world and helps them become more fully developed people. Be sure to emphasize that this experience is for personal growth — not partying.
  • You’ll form new, strong friendships through the experience that can last a lifetime.

 Know the program details

The more prepared you are, the better. You don’t want your parents to ask any questions that you haven’t already considered. So, before you bring up studying abroad, know the classes you want to take and whether they will count toward your degree. Stop by the study abroad office on campus to get more information about the various programs and opportunities available for your major and learn how they fit into your school plans.

Make sure you’ve accounted for all costs and are ready to discuss how you will fund the program. Be prepared to show your parents some scholarship opportunities available to you in addition to other financial plans you have to support your experience abroad.

It’s important to also be familiar with the little details: How long would you be gone? How many people would you be studying with? Who is leading the trip? Where will you be staying? How can your parents contact you? What kind of paperwork needs to be filled out beforehand? Being able to answer these questions will show your parents you’ve done your research and have considered all the variables.

Get a job

Getting a job to help pay for the study abroad program can go a long way in proving your dedication. Parents are more likely to want to help if they feel like you’re working your hardest to make the experience a reality. Getting a job shows them that you’re coming at this from a mature point of view and are willing to make sacrifices for what you want.

Assure parents of your safety

Safety is often one of the biggest factors weighing on a parent’s mind when they’re making the decision to let you study abroad. Traveling abroad can have a reputation for being dangerous. You’re in unfamiliar locations where you won’t know you’re way around, and you may not even speak the language. Don’t disregard these uncertainties. Instead, address the potential dangers and assure your parents that you can act responsibly during your time abroad. Let them know you understand the importance of traveling in groups, not staying out too late, and having your cellphone on you at all times.

One of the most effective ways to prepare for safety abroad (and show your parents you’re taking the issue seriously) is to take a course in Situational Awareness. By developing your situational awareness skills, you will increase your ability to identify, process, and comprehend important information about what’s going on around you. These courses are specifically designed to provide you with the skills you need to avoid and respond to the unexpected. At Black Tree, we take a unique approach to this kind of training: we incorporate proprietary Virtual Reality technology to put you in real-life scenarios. Then, hands-on instruction will help you see your capabilities and teach you how to react properly when faced with a threatening situation. You’ll leave the class with a newfound confidence and tangible evidence of your preparation to stay safe abroad and back on campus.

If you can do these four things, you’ll be well on your way to selling your parents on the idea of studying abroad. Good luck on your pitch, and don’t forget to check out our wide range of courses available at Black Tree Ranch.

By Staff Writer

Chester Security Group (CSG) and its subsidiary company, Black Tree LLC. are headquartered in Smithville, Texas. CSG is a veteran owned small business dedicated to empowering others through comprehensive threat assessments and training in a multitude of physical and personal protection disciplines.  Black Tree specializes in situational awareness training and weapons handling.  To learn more about CSG or Black Tree or sign up for a course of instruction, please visit their websites at or

Preparing For A First Date: 5 Tips That Will Help You Concentrate On What’s Important.

If you’re a young single adult and find first dates a little scary, that’s good. That means you understand that the world of today is not the same as it was thirty years ago when I was that age. As the father of two beautiful young ladies who are out on their own and active in the current dating scene, I take great concern in this topic. That’s why I decided to write this article.

Most of what we focus on at Black Tree are geared toward building self-assurance and situational awareness in the millennial generation so I thought it prudent to share 5 common sense tips to set you up for success and help you feel a bit more confident when going on the illustrious first date.

1. Go early in the day to a very public place. By making your first date take you somewhere public you will see how creative they are, determine if they are interested in the same things as you, and be comfortable in the fact that even if they turn out to be a total loser, at least you will be safer than going someplace secluded and dark where your personal safety may be in danger. Do not do as one person I spoke with and plan on going back to the person’s house after the first date even if it’s just to sit on the couch and watch movies. Save that for a time when you feel more comfortable with the person.

2. Don’t rely on your date for transportation. What if things go badly and you find out that your date is a complete creep? Do you really want them to know where you live? True, it’s relatively easy to find out someone’s address in today’s world of technology but why make it easy for them? Secondly, when you rely on your date for transportation, you have put yourself at the mercy of their whims. It also creates a situation that will not allow you to end the date should you get a feeling that something just isn’t right, which leads to tip number three.

3. If you start feeling uncomfortable, leave immediately. Learn to trust your instincts. If things don’t seem right, they probably aren’t. Even if you misinterpret signals from your date, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Imagine if something goes terribly wrong and you find yourself in a dangerous situation simply because you didn’t listen to that inner voice that said, “Get the hell out of here.” Don’t worry about hurting someone’s feelings. First dates should be selfish in that you are trying to find out if this person is worth a second date. In other words, first dates are about you and your feelings, not theirs.

4. Don’t forget your cell phone and arrange for a friend to call you during the date. If the date is going great, then a phone call appears to be just a curious friend. Your date won’t be offended. It will also put them on notice that you have good friends who are looking out for you. If the date is going badly however, a phone call is a perfect way to end the date. Some people I know have “code words” they use with their friend that will let them know how things are progressing or if help is needed. For added safety, you can also download an app on your phone that will allow a chosen friend to find your location at any time should you need them to physically rescue you from a horrible date. You should also tell you friend as many details as you can about the date before leaving. Give them the “Five W’s” as we like to call them.

a. Who: Your date’s name and any other identifying information (Phone number, address, etc.)

b. What: Let them know what you intend on doing during the date.

c. Where: Tell them where you plan to go.

d. When: What time does the date start and when do you plan on being back?

e. Why: What is the purpose of the date? Is this someone in which you are genuinely interested in pursuing a relationship; are they free tickets to a ball game; or are you going just because you are tired of sitting home alone on a Saturday afternoon?

5. Double date if possible. Double dates are good for a couple of reasons. The first is for safety purposes. If this is your first date, chances are you don’t know the person as well as you may think, or many times, not at all. Having another couple with you provides for a level of comfort knowing that at least with them along, your personal safety is still intact. Additionally, it gives you a second opinion about the person.

Dating, especially first dates, as with anything else in life, comes with risks. Risks that are sometimes scary. But dating doesn’t’ have to be scary. It shouldn’t be. It should be fun, exciting and enlightening. A time of discovering each other. If we mitigate the risks involved in dating, we can concentrate on the things that are most important. Following these tips may not mitigate all risks to your personal safety while on that first date, but it’s a good start!

By Dale Antry

Dale is the Chief Operations Officer at Chester Security Group (CSG) and its subsidiary company, Black Tree LLC. CSG is a veteran owned small business dedicated to empowering others through comprehensive threat assessments and training in a multitude of physical and personal protection disciplines.  Black Tree specializes in situational awareness training and weapons handling.  To learn more about CSG or Black Tree or sign up for a course of instruction, please visit their websites at or

Arming the Sheep: Time to Shut Up and Do Something

Over the past few months, we have seen the horrific events unfold in the United Kingdom.  In March, an Islamist Jihadi P.O.S. drove a van into a crowd of pedestrians, injuring fifty and killing four.  He later abandoned his van and fatally stabbed a police officer before other officers arranged a meeting between the terrorist and Allah.  In late May, we witnessed another event where a terrorist detonated a suicide bomb at the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester killing twenty-two and injuring fifty-nine.  Britons were told more attacks were likely and their alert level was risen.  Then this weekend, just after the threat level was reduced, another attack, which began on the famed London Bridge and later moved into a crowded area, left as of this writing, seven dead and forty-eight injured.

I spent several hours on the road this weekend and I listened to a lot of news radio.  I heard many of the talking heads spouting different ideas about why this happened, lack of security, failed policies and yes, even politics.  I heard a lot of talk about what the government should and should not do.  But what I did not hear, except for maybe one or two very short sentences, is what WE can do.  What can the average Joe do to protect and prepare themselves for when these attacks come to our shores? Because as we’ve seen in our recent history, they already have.
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Can I Buy You A Drink: Preventing Acquaintance – Date Rape

In 2016, Debra, a recent college graduate at her first job, attended a sales conference with her fellow colleagues.  On the last night of the conference, she went to a group mixer with other sales people and a few potential customers.  This was something she had done several times in the past.  Nothing was unusual.  What she had not counted on though was waking the next morning with no recollection of how she had gotten back to her hotel room or how she came to be completely naked, lying in her bed.  Even more terrifying was that although she could not remember the night before, she knew she had been sexually assaulted.

When I hear stories like this my mind instantly begins to focus on my wife, who herself attends conferences and mixers such as Debra, and to my daughters who are young and sometimes naïve to the world around them.  My heart aches for Debra and I fear for the safety of those I love the most.  As much as we would like to say, “This will never happen to me”, reality is, it can happen to anyone. According to the Department of Justice, 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men are sexually assaulted sometime in their life and in 8 of every 10 rape cases, the victim knows the attacker.

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Are you alright?

Are you alright?

So, here’s a crazy story.  When both of my boys were playing football in high school, one a quarterback and the other a free safety, a conundrum presented itself quite unexpectedly.  They each had games in different cities on the same night.  They were both at 7:00.  So, being a good football dad, I thought, “I got this.  I’ll watch the first half of one game and then go watch the second half of the other game.”  Easy enough, right?

I watched the first half of my younger son’s game.  It was amazing.  His team was up by 14 points.  He’d thrown three touchdown passes.  Incredible.  But, as promised, I had to leave to go watch my other son’s game.  It was a typical Texas football night.

As I was driving to the other game, I got the call.  My younger son had suffered a severe concussion.  He’d passed out on the field.  I turned around and probably drove too fast to get to him.  When I got to the field, I was told he needed to go to Dell Children’s Hospital right away.  He was going to need a CAT scan.  So, we went.  Scary stuff.

While my younger son was getting his CAT scan, the othe Continue reading

Terrorist Attack at Airports: Five Simple Tips to Decrease Your Exposure and Make Flying Suck Less

Flying; it has always been a dream of mine to break free from the bonds of gravity and soar through the skies. When I first joined the Army, I wanted to be a helicopter pilot but my eyesight and a less than scrupulous recruiter kept me from pursuing that dream. As a small child, my family and I never flew very much. In fact, I can only remember one vacation that involved air travel. It wasn’t until after I joined the military did I begin to travel by air more frequently, albeit from the passenger seat. These days, I’m on a plane once or twice a month.

I’ve never been overly concerned about traveling by air. Sure, you hear about those rare incidents when a plane must make an emergency landing or when a catastrophic failure occurs that causes a plane to crash. But the Federal Aviation Administration and other regulatory agencies made mechanical failures virtually non-existent by putting into place sound procedural methodology along with rules and safety precautions that govern air traffic safety. I would much rather take my chances in the air than on the ground sharing the roadway with crazy or impaired drivers in mechanically unsafe vehicles.

What seems to be more pervasive in commercial air travel than in commercial ground travel, however, is the threat of a terrorist attack.

Terrorist have made this mode of mass public transit a favorite target of theirs, most likely due to the large kill rate and media hysteria it creates. Now, as it appears the United States of America is becoming more aggressive in the fight against international terrorism, some travelers may (and possibly should) be concerned that future terror attacks at airports could occur.

I wish I had a crystal ball, into which I could gaze, and provide you assurance that it won’t happen. Unfortunately, that’s just not the case. What I can tell you is there are several things you can do that will increase your chance of survival in the event a terror attack does occur. I can also tell you that preparing to survive an attack begins with understanding the threat and the vulnerabilities that exist in air travel.

When I was stationed overseas in the early 1990’s, part of the Army’s Force Protection Plan was a mandate requiring soldiers to endure mundane training so that when traveling, both internationally and domestically, the chances of being involved in any type of terrorist event were reduced. It was basically “Stranger Danger” and “See Something, Say Something” on steroids. Yet all these years later, I still remember at least two of the recommendations that came from those training sessions; Book your hotel room on the second or third floor and always try to get a window seat on an airplane. The third floor of a hotel offers the best protection as it is too high for people to climb through the window and still low enough to allow for an escape through a window. You may break a bone but would likely survive the fall. Sitting in a window seat on an airplane makes it difficult for a terrorist to pluck you from all the passengers and hold you as a hostage during a hijacking.

These remain good practices for travelers. However, the airline industry, since the attacks on 9/11, have reduced the number of vulnerabilities that allow terrorists to board and hijack aircraft. Likewise, just as terrorists now exploit other vulnerabilities in the airline industry, so too has the threat to the traveler changed. Before 9/11, the most dangerous place to be was on the aircraft itself.

In today’s environment, the most dangerous places are the unsecure areas of the main terminal from the security checkpoint back to the main entrance and the baggage claim area.

These areas are considered the most dangerous because they are the most vulnerable areas where a terrorist can easily carry out an attack using small arm weapons, vehicle borne improvised explosive devices (VBIED) or other improvised explosive devices (IED). Understanding this concept is the first and most important aspect to prepare yourself for surviving an attack.

The second-best thing you can do is avoid those areas as much as possible. After all, the easiest way to survive a terrorist attack is not to be where the attack occurs. Unfortunately, complete avoidance is usually not an option because navigating the security checkpoint is part of the boarding process. You can, however, prepare yourself both physically and mentally so that you position yourself to speed through these areas and out of the danger zone as quickly as possible. Here are five things you can do both prior to going through the security checkpoint and after leaving the secured area once at your destination.

  1. Pack Lightly: Before packing, take a few minutes to think about what it is you need as opposed to what you would like to take. You would be surprised how many days’ worth of clothes you can fit into a carry-on size piece of luggage. If you can pack everything you need into two carry-on size pieces of luggage you can forgo checking any luggage. This will decrease the time you spend in the danger zones at both your port of departure and arrival.
  2. Use Curbside Check-in: If you absolutely must bring luggage that is too large to carry on the plane, consider using the curbside check-in available at most airports. Terrorists usually target large crowds. By using the curbside check-in service, you can avoid the crowds at the ticket counter and move directly to the security checkpoint once you enter the main terminal.
  3. Prep Carry-on Luggage: This can be accomplished either before you get to the airport or while you are waiting in the security checkpoint line (and likely complaining about how long it’s taking). If you have carry-on luggage, empty your pockets and place everything but your boarding pass (cell phone if you use an electronic boarding pass) and ID in your carry-on. If you know you will have to remove items from your bag, have them near the top or in a location where you can quickly remove them once you arrive at the screening checkpoint. If you don’t have luggage, conduct a physical inventory of your pockets and make sure that you have everything in one location so that you can easily remove the contents and place them in the bowl for examination. Quickly check yourself one last time before stepping through the metal detector. Nothing slows down the process like having to be re-screened because you forgot to take something out of your pocket.
  4. Don’t Sand Near the Baggage Carousel: This goes back to what was saying earlier about standing in crowds. Waiting by the carousel is not going to make your bags arrive any faster. I like to stand back by the exit where I can watch. When my bag arrives, I walk up to the carousel, grab my bag and leave. Standing near an exit will allow you to escape the building in an emergency. If there is a structural column nearby, I usually stand near, or even against it, as they are typically blast reinforced. If the bullets start to fly, at least I can get behind cover.
  5. Pre-arrange Transportation: If you have someone that is picking you up upon your arrival, let them know exactly what time your plane is scheduled to arrive and provide them with updates if possible should the time change. Most airports I fly from have “Cell Phone Lots” where your ride can wait. If you have no checked bags, call them as soon as you disembark your plane so they are waiting outside as you leave the building. If you do have checked bags, be ready to call or text them as soon as pull your bags from the carousel.

Remember, the best way to survive an attack at the airport, or anywhere else for that matter, is to not be where the attack occurs. Since the areas in an airport which provide public access are the most vulnerable to attacks, you want to minimize the time you spend there. By following these five simple tips, you can greatly reduce the amount of time spent in the danger zone and reduce the likelihood that you will be involved in terrorist attack at the airport.


Dale is the Chief Operating Officer at Chester Security Group (CSG) and its subsidiary company, Black Tree LLC. CSG is a veteran owned small business dedicated to empowering others through comprehensive threat assessments and training in a multitude of physical and personal protection disciplines. Its subsidiary, Black Tree, specializes in situational awareness training and weapons handling. To learn more about CSG or Black Tree or sign up for a course of instruction, please visit their websites at or

When Domestic Violence Enters the Workplace

On Monday, April 10, 2017 at approximately 10:30AM, fifty-three-year-old Cedric Anderson walked into a San Bernardino classroom and open fired, killing his estranged wife, Karen Smith and an 8-year-old student.  A 9-year-old was also wounded in the melee.  According to a report on the CNN website, Anderson, during the shooting, reloaded what appeared to be a .357 caliber handgun, before killing himself.  The report also documented that Anderson had a history of violent behavior in that he had been charged in the past with brandishing a handgun and was the subject of previous temporary restraining orders by other women.

The reason I wanted to discuss this specific incident was not to assign blame on anyone other than Anderson for the tragedy that occurred that morning.  I also don’t want to “Monday morning quarterback” the school for their policies although they should, and I’m assuming will, take a very hard look at their visitor policies moving forward.  But this incident, although according to the CNN report was unforeseen by anyone, quite possibly could have been avoided.  This essay is meant only to provide a recommendation for not only schools but all businesses to follow when adopting and implementing their workplace violence prevention programs.

Domestic violence in America has a far-reaching effect on many people, not only for those who are immediately involved.  Victims of domestic violence feel many different emotions; humiliation, embarrassment, guilt, anger, sadness, depression, seclusion, etc., none of which is good.  Many times, it’s difficult for the victim to reach out for help or even escape the violent relationship.  Many find it difficult to talk about their abusive relationships with others.  The last thing they want to do is tell their employer, but that’s exactly what they should be doing not only for their own safety, but for the safety of others in the workplace.

As part of the workplace violence prevention training that I provide to employees, I always tell them that the company has no desire to delve into the personal relationships of its employees.  What happens in the home is not necessarily the business of the company so long as it does not affect the work environment.  However, when those issues, such as domestic violence, finds its way into the workplace, it is incumbent that the company know about the issue so that it can take appropriate measures to protect not only the employee subjected to the violent relationship but all employees.

There are many things you can do to protect yourself from an aggressor such as moving to a different location, using a friend’s car, changing where you go to socialize however, the one thing you can’t do is change where you work.  After all, you still must pay the bills.

The aggressor may not be able to find you after hours but most times they know exactly where you work, what time you arrive and depart and may even know exactly where you park your car or the location of your desk.

Therefore, I always tell employees, if you are involved in a domestic violence incident, let your supervisor know.  Should the aggressor arrive at the facility, they can be denied entrance into the building.  They should be asked to leave and if they refuse, the police should be contacted immediately, especially if there is a restraining order in place.  A person bent on causing harm to an employee will not allow anyone to stand in their way.  Should someone attempt to come between them and their intended target, most likely others will be injured or even killed.  This policy stops the aggressor from gaining access to the building and helps posture the company to provide for the safety and security of the intended victim and the other employees who may be caught up in the incident such as the two small children at this school.

Employers have a moral, ethical, and legal responsibility to ensure the safety of all employees while on the work site.  But unless they are aware of the actual dangers, they have lost the battle before it has even begun.  It is so important that if you are involved in a relationship that has or could turn violent, you let your supervisor know so that appropriate precautions can be taken on your behalf and on the behalf of all the employees and friends with whom you work.

At Black Tree we mourn for those lost and pray for their families, the survivors and for the speedy recovery of the small child wounded in this  tragic event.


Dale is the Chief Operating Officer at Black Tree LLC, a company dedicated to empowering others through training in situational awareness and weapons handling.  If you would like to learn more about Black Tree or sign up for a course of instruction, please visit the Black Tree web site at



Are You A Soft Target Or A Hard Target?

You’ve all seen the videos if you’ve watched Planet Earth or any nature documentary – the crocodile, slowly and silently slithering towards the gazelle who just stopped for a drink of water. The gazelle puts its head down for a split second, then snap, the crocodile’s jaws are around its neck.

There are some situations in life that are completely unavoidable, sure. However, most of them are completely and totally avoidable, simply by being aware of your surroundings. Let’s talk about the dichotomy between Soft Targets and Hard Targets.

A Soft Target would be someone who isn’t paying attention to their surroundings, or someone who doesn’t exactly pay full attention. Let’s say that someone is in a car. A Soft Target would be unaware of the flow of traffic, how close rush hour is, where the nearest exits are that could get them to their destination faster, and so on and so forth. In a modern age, this is most closely symbolized by a person who will never get off their phone, not even when walking down a busy street.

The majority of the people in the world are Soft Targets, because it takes more than just not being on your phone, it takes a process of actively digesting and analyzing information as you go about your day.

Hard Targets are the literary foil to Soft Targets. They aren’t merely aware of their surroundings, but are actively taking in everything about them, from the weather to the times shops on the street close. This is all a mindset, it takes time to train yourself into being a truly hard target, but the first step is to simply be aware of your surroundings. Clock things, even things that don’t seem important. Timing is everything, and there are some things that could save your life if noticed beforehand.

Being aware of your surroundings is the starting point, but it’s not enough. You need to be able to actively analyze the world as it’s happening around you. The transformation from a Soft Target to a Hard Target isn’t accomplished with just this, but it’s a good first step.

Preparing For College:  Don’t Forget Situational Awareness Training

As the father of two beautiful young ladies I fully appreciate the anxiety a parent feels as they are about to send their children off to college.  You want to make sure they have everything they need to make them successful and keep them safe.  You buy them new clothes, make sure they have enough school supplies and tell them not to talk to strangers.  It’s almost as if we are re-living that day when we put them on the bus for the first time and sent them to kindergarten.  But college is a much different place and as a parent, I often wondered if I did enough to prepare them for leaving home or taught them enough life lessons to keep them totally safe and out of harm’s way.

The answer is undoubtedly “No.”  Nothing we can do and no lesson we can teach our children will prevent them from encountering danger while they are away at college.  While crimes against students and student safety is a high priority for all colleges, many of which maintain their own proprietary police force, colleges are not unlike any other city.  No matter how many officers you put on the street or safety related precautions are included in policies and procedures, crime, to include violent crimes against students, will occur.  In fact, according to the U.S. Department of Education, which requires all post-secondary institutions that receive federal funding to provide crime data, in 2014 and 2015, there were over 8,335 reported incidents that violated the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).

Many students also feel this same anxiety.  Moving away from the safety of home to an environment where there are so many variables and unknowns can be a scary thing for some people.  Just the idea of moving somewhere where you don’t know anyone, where none of your friends are, or where your parents aren’t there to help you, is somewhat daunting even for a seasoned traveler like myself who has lived and worked on several different continents.  There is however, something that we can do to relieve at least a portion of this anxiety, something we can do to greatly enhance our children’s chances of NOT becoming a victim; Situational Awareness Training!

Situational Awareness Training helps to prepare our children by increasing their overall awareness of the environment through which they negotiate.  It gives them the knowledge and skills they need to quickly and effectively assess their surroundings so that they can avoid dangerous situations while increasing their chances of surviving should an unthinkable or unimaginable event occur.  

The Black Tree Ranch, located just outside Austin, TX, is a state-of-the-art facility that is leading the way in situational awareness training to individuals of all ages, including students about to go to college.  With three different levels of training, ranging from 1 to 3 days, students can attend hands on and practicum training at this beautiful location given by an elite cadre of former military and civilian law enforcement officers to include former U.S. Marines and a Navy Seal.

In a society where we are so protective of our children we sometimes forget to teach them some of the harsh realities of life; that the world can be a very dangerous place for the naive and unaware.  As much as we would like to think that our children will forever be in our lives, we neglect to face the fact that someday, daddy won’t be there to protect his little girl anymore. We must do everything to empower our children and prepare them as they leave the protective umbrella of our homes.  You only have two choices.  You can choose to send your children into the world untrained and vulnerable or, you can choose to send them out trained, so that they are aware, ready, and unafraid.  I chose trained.

To find out more about course offerings or to register for a class, visit Black Tree’s website at