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Tuesday, January 31, 2017

How To Be Invisible in Any Environment


Poor Man Survival

Self Reliance tools for independent minded people…

ISSN 2161-5543

A Digest of Urban Survival Resources


TACOP: How To Be Invisible in Any Environment

One of the first lessons I learned in covert operations was to be a chameleon, to blend into any environment. To do this like a pro, there are four critical criteria that you must address, and they are: personal awareness, cultural awareness, situational awareness and third-party awareness.

Let me tell you about one of the first lessons I learned, call it “Close Call Bravo.” I was attempting a “legal” entry into a Third World playground when I was stopped by customs. I had all my ducks in order, nothing out of the ordinary in my suitcase, just the basic necessities, some clothing and toiletries.

I was wearing a pair of torn jeans, older high-top sneakers and a well-worn jean jacket. I had just seen the last several people breeze through the customs checkpoint without so much as a question … then came my turn.

I causally sauntered up to the customs officer, and he immediately looked at me differently. Studying me for several seconds from head to toe, he finally broke his silence and told me to put my bags on the table for inspection.

I set the bags on the table, at which point the agent opened one bag at a time and literally took everything out randomly.

As my belongings lay strewn across two tables, he asked me what I was doing in “his” country. I replied quickly, “Sir I am visiting some family members.” He said, “So you would classify your visit as ‘personal’ ” ? I said, “Yes.”

Without even a pause he said, “I think you’re going to be very hot here, please remove your jacket.”

For those of you who don’t know this, let me tell you something about these Third World customs officers. They may sometimes come off as jolly and friendly people, sometimes they play poor desperate government employees who cannot afford to eat or send their kids to college. But beware!

These folks are drawn from an intelligence pool, and they can be quite adept analytically when it comes to spotting lies and deception, especially by studying behavior and body language.

It is essential to understand that “presentation” upon arriving at customs is an important key point. Presentation here meaning how you dress, carry yourself, demeanor and body language.

Customs officers are trained to look for certain distinctive signs, like calluses on your elbows and knees, bruising, tattoos and other features that set you apart from what they deem “normal for their environment.

For the non-warrior’s among you, you are probably wondering why they would be looking for things like calluses and tattoos?

And the answer is this: Other than on the rare professional athlete they may see, calluses on your knees and elbows could indicate that you have been crawling around on the ground a lot. And that could indicate to them that you are either a) potential terrorist or other bad-guy type or b) a soldier or a mercenary, such as myself.

As for why they look for tattoos? They could reveal that you belong to a particular gang, triad or syndicate.

So let’s get back to the first of the four elements that help you become “invisible” or blend in with the surroundings and that is personal awareness.

In personal awareness, we want to develop a “look” that helps us blend into the local environment. This may take some research if you have not been to your destination previously. But primarily, you will want to dress as the locals do. And you want to conceal tattoos as well as avoid piercings and jewelry that could set you apart – in this case not something you want to do!


Following that same thinking, you need to make sure your mannerisms and actions also fit with local customs. For example, the sign for “OK” can be expressed in many ways across different countries and cultures.

In America, many of us have used the traditional “thumbs-up” method of signaling to others that things are “OK.” That cultural tradition has taken on a more global significance as the symbol when you “like” someone or something on a Facebook page. However, a rapid thumbs-up has a very negative connotation in places like Greece, the Middle East or even Australia.

The second element we have to address to become invisible is cultural awareness. In its simplest terms, cultural awareness is the ability to recognize the different values, customs and beliefs within an environment and to then be “sensitive” to them.

For example, if you are in Japan and you are an American on a business mission there, do you bow to your Japanese counterparts or shake hands? The answer is usually to shake hands because while bowing may seem appropriate, you will not likely know the correct ritual and this could either offend or more likely be very awkward for them.

Here is a quick checklist of culturally sensitive areas to watch for:

Language Barriers: (verbal and non-verbal.)

Communication and methods of communication: Communication can be challenging within your own culture at times and given the different cultural contexts possible, you must recognize differences and address them for clarity and so as not to offend.

Cultural Identification: Make sure you identify the person’s culture so as not to offend them.

Beliefs: Identify religious and or spiritual beliefs.

Food: Identify what foods are eaten in that region and make note if you are allergic.

Comprehension: Bear in mind that just because someone in another part of the world “nods” in an affirmative way, it does not necessarily mean they understand what you meant or the point you were attempting to get across to them.

Self-Monitor Bias: You may not like a certain way of dress or food item, but be sure you do not express those feelings in verbalization or body language.

Physical Contact: Identify proper physical contact and mannerisms. Consider that when one greets someone within the United States we may shake hands. Or if you meet a person you have known for a period of time and they are of the opposite sex, you might feel a kiss on the cheek and a hug would be appropriate. However, if you are doing business in Paris, a quick kiss on each cheek is acceptable.

The third element is Situational Awareness. Your role here is to get a good baseline on your area of operations (AO) so that you can discern what is normal for that particular region or locale.

In this manner, you will be able to recognize any change in status to alert you something is not right. The key takeaway for you here is that you must keep your head on a swivel but do so casually and without drawing attention to yourself so that you can quickly recognize danger and avert potential critical incidents or conflict.

The final element in becoming “invisible” is third-party awareness. This could also be called “hostile-party awareness” because the concept here is to maintain alertness to anyone that may be “watching” you.

And that means for any reason. So whether you are operating either stateside or at your host country or destination, always stay alert to hostile surveillance.

Remember you are trying to blend into the environment but as you do so keep an eye out for those that have an eye on you.

To accomplish this, you must understand some tradecraft basics. And the first principle is: Listen to your gut instincts. If you see someone at your local coffee shop and then you see that same person on the other side of town at another time in that same day, that should set off some alarm bells.

“It is demeanor that is critical in identifying the intent of the person or group that is watching you”

In the world of hostile surveillance detection, one of the most critical ways in which we “identify” people watching us lies within certain characteristics or demeanors they exhibit as they are watching. Think of demeanor as behavior.

The behavior a person exhibits while carrying out surveillance on a target is what makes the “surveillant” vulnerable to your detection.

Your job is to proactively and in a low-key fashion observe individuals within your environment as you move about your activities and look for things that you find a bit suspicious.

This could be a car that seems to be following you after you have made several turns or a person who stops to tie shoelaces as you stop to window shop.

It could also be that car that is terminally parked on your block or in front of your hotel each day.

From my experience in covert surveillance I can tell you that professionals will never look directly at you. And they may change their hats, glasses and other clothing, even vehicles. But one thing they rarely change is their shoewear! Start now and acclimate your awareness skills to include scanning feet!

As for my close call with customs, well I’m here to tell the tale aren’t I?

Until next time, stay alert, check your six, put your back against the wall and stay safe!


Dr. Jeff Cantor is one of the country’s leading experts on personal and International security, including preparation and response to active shooter and domestic terrorism incidents, kidnap and ransom response, travel security, close quarter combat, tactical edged weapons and personal defense.


Yours for better living,

Bruce , the Poor Man

A Final Note…

You Have a 16-Cylinder Brain-Learn How to Use It and Reawaken the Genius Inside You!


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Additional Resources

The Anatomy of a Breakdown

The Prepper’s Blueprint: The Step-By-Step Guide To Help You Through Any Disaster

Prepper’s Home Defense: Security Strategies to Protect Your Family by Any Means Necessary

Contact! A Tactical Manual for Post Collapse Survival


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DAR said...

Sound advice.

Yvonne said...

Very interesting post-thanks for the share.