Marines teaching troops to read the situational awareness clues

Daily Beast:
The U.S. Navy's research arm has developed a training program to help Marines weaponize their intuitions—in essence, pushing young riflemen to trust their guts in order to detect ambushes, spot buried bombs, and know who to trust on chaotic, urban battlefields.

It's almost, but not quite, a military effort to teach Extra-Sensory Perception, or ESP.

“This is an attempt to improve what regular people already have,” John Alexander, the author of The Warrior's Edge and an expert in fringe military research, told The Daily Beast.

The Office of Naval Research's four-year, $4 million "sensemaking" initiative, launched in 2014, "depends on extracting environmental cues, interpreting their meaning and then connecting them in a plausible story."

The Daily Beast obtained, via the Freedom of Information Act, ONR's 23-page sensemaking training manual. The manual breaks sensemaking down into two distinct skills: "perspective-taking"—basically empathy—and "characterizing," or imagination.

A Marine practicing sensemaking would, through empathy, intuit the relationships and dynamics in the community and environment in which he's operating. Having gathered this raw information, he then imagines stories that, in theory, anticipate threats and opportunities.

To be clear, the sensemaking manual isn't asking Marines to somehow evolve psychic powers. Rather, it encourages them to be mindful of their surroundings, trust their instincts and construct narratives to explain other people's behavior.

Gary Klein, a research psychologist and consultant whose work inspired the Navy's sensemaking project, told The Daily Beast he prefers to call the process "naturalistic decisionmaking."

"I was worried about how this could be viewed in a sensational way with ‘spidey-sense’ or something that sounds like ESP or something paranormal," Klein said. "That’s not what the military’s interested in. They’re interested in developing expertise and the core part of expertise is tests, knowledge and the ability to make sense of situations."
When I was an executive officer of a Marine rifle company in Vietnam in Northern I Corps near the DMZ we did not have much interaction with the locals because most of them were in the cities and we were out in "the bush."  But what I did was become an expert at reading the terrain and spotting likely positions for an ambush while out on patrol.  This situational awareness becomes instinctive.  The training in this piece seems to be focused on an urban environment or working with indigenous troops.


  1. I was in Quang Tri and Dong Ha in 1971 I bet we humped a lot of the Same Ground.


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