A lot of Green Beret training involves making decisions with limited information. Special Forces operations succeed or fail on the decisiveness of the men executing the plan.

If you have no capacity for violence then you are a healthy productive citizen: a sheep. If you have a capacity for violence and no empathy for your fellow citizens, then you have defined an aggressive sociopath—a wolf. But what if you have a capacity for violence, and a deep love for your fellow citizens? Then you are a sheepdog, a warrior, someone who is walking the hero’s path. Someone who can walk into the heart of darkness, into the universal human phobia, and walk out unscathed.”—Dave Grossman

There are two general reactions to mass shootings or acts of terror: The sheep think, “Thank God I was not there; I would have died.” The sheep dogs think, “If I had been there, I could have done something to stop him.”

No one can plan a response an unpredictable attack like those we have seen in churches, movie theaters and shopping malls.  One can, however, think about how to think. We can prepare and strengthen ourselves so that if we find ourselves  there, we will be prepared to do all that we can do. I don’t want to speculate about what happened in a specific event or second-guess anyone’s actions, but we can have a discussion about what we should think about for the next time.

I have seen film of the Nazis leading people to the edge of a hole where they were executed. One body would fall in and the next victim walked to the edge and repeated the process. I always wondered why they didn’t fight. I believe that they were in denial and hoped that things would turn out okay if they just cooperated.

The first thing I want to do in a shooting is dismiss the false hope that everything may work out if I do nothing. If I freeze like prey, maybe he will move on. There is a school of thought among some police officers that when you are off duty, you should be a good witness and not intervene. What do you do when they are killing witnesses?

Once you get rid of false hope, you are left with action. When you have to eat a shit sandwich, bite the corner where it is mostly bread. The truth is, your best odds are to rapidly assess, come up with a plan, and do anything that seizes initiative and initiates movement.

Tony Blauer has done more thinking and study on ambush than anyone I know. He has three golden rules for an unexpected attack: