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"Crossroads of the Marine Corps"

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Marine officers’ author new book designed to increase situational awareness

By John Hollis | | August 8, 2014

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It’s military parlance for “before an event happens,” but Left of Bang can have practical life-saving applications, too.

But “Left of Bang: How the Marine Corps’ Combat Hunter Program Can Save Your Life,” the new book co-authored by two Marine officers, Maj. Jason Riley, Marine Corps Reserves, and former Capt. Patrick Van Horne, offers a comprehensive guide on how to make quick decisions based on enhanced situational awareness and observational skills.

Based on their own experiences as instructors in the Marine Combat Hunter Program and personal experiences as combat officers in both Iraq and Afghanistan, the authors offer a practical look at knowledge that may prove handy to those in the military and law enforcement communities dealing with life-and-death situations on a daily basis. The book could have civilian safety applications as well by helping people better assess their surroundings, Riley said.

“Every Marine should get this training,” Riley said. “It’s a skill that supplements and compliments the skills they already have.”

The book, which was published by Black Irish Books, says better observance of human behavior is the best way to prevent calamity from happening in the first place. The proactive approach stresses increased observational awareness, combat tracking and combat profiling to better recognize human behaviors and universal body language that serve as a harbinger of things to come.

“That’s been one of the constants in human life, observing other human beings and making decisions on that,” Riley said.

That holds especially true more so now than in the past for Marines and members of the armed services, Riley noted, as modern war has evolved and now involves fewer nation-states and, instead, more rogue individuals. Being able to quickly differentiate between friend and foe could mean the difference between life and death.

“The enemy isn’t always easily identifiable,” Riley said. “That’s going to be the operational environment for a long time.”

The Combat Hunter Program was created in 2007 in the wake of growing American casualties in Iraq. The idea was to teach Marines how to better identify targets by studying the environment around them, always searching for any anomalies. The increased awareness was designed to make them capable hunters in any environment.


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