Inequality For All

Media Crime ReportingWith the constant media blitz of crime, racist cops, transgender harassment, and corporate scandal, you would think America had completely derailed. Inequality has become the popular defining measure of our society. While there is room for improvement on some fronts, America is by almost any measure one of the most tolerant, opportunity-laden and transparent nations on the face earth. You would not believe that if you picked up any major newspaper or turned on the network news, but compared to the racial divisions, class divisions and risk of citizens in other societies, America is exceptional. We have somehow transitioned national interest from maintaining ourselves as the land of the free to focus on a perception that we are the land of the oppressed.

The real tragedy of the media’s fixation on violence, crime, scandal and bigotry is the national reputation in the eyes of young Americans. In Milwaukee in 2008, at 43 years old, Michelle Obama, a graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Law School announced, “for the first time in my adult life I am proud of my country “. Many young American college students echo similar sentiments from the cafeterias of some of the greatest educational institutions in the world. This loathing is not exclusive to Ivy League institutions, and is rampant in our entire education system. It follows them into the workforce, and permeates every segment of our society. Somehow, over the course of the past 50 years, we have lost the conviction that America is the bastion of freedom and the land of opportunity for the modern world.

When the rights of the few, derail the liberty of the many, it is time to consider whether or not “the few” really have cause for separate laws. There are no means by which we can protect every individual’s freedoms in every circumstance with a specific set of regulations that apply to that one person. The law is designed to provide a framework for our judiciary to make judgments about how they should apply. As we codify new laws protecting classes of people, individuals or institutions as worthy of special protection or exemption, regardless of how noble the cause, we segregate that class of people from the rest of society.

Treated differentially under the law is a recipe for enhancing the social exclusions that invariably accompany special treatments. We need to look no farther then hate crime legislation as a prime example. Why is murder treated differently depending on the racial or social opinions of a theoretically free human being? Is murder some more significant, and deserving of special punishment because an ignorant racist committed it? From politicians exempting themselves from the laws they pass to long-term subsidization of business and from the exemption of religious organizations from taxes to the special protection of individual fetishes; we can find numerous laws on the books that apply only to a small subset of the American population.

Competition - InequalityIn protecting a business, we make it less subject to competition and subsequently less efficient over time. This inefficiency invariably results in underutilized resources and waste. Charles Koch and I do not agree on many social issues but his take on corporate welfare is dead on. Corporate welfare is eroding American competitiveness as surely as long-term welfare is eroding the competitiveness of the individuals receiving it. When we exempt institutions from paying taxes, we burden other productive enterprises with making up the difference, which removes resources that productive enterprises could use to create jobs and opportunity.

When we protect even the most helpless class of mentally competent, adult citizen, we do the same to our society. When we look at affirmative action, we see an entire class of American being told that since they cannot compete, they will be given an opportunity they don’t deserve. That is absolute corrosive to that individuals well being – because the reality is they can compete if we provide the opportunity to do so. Further, we deny that same seat to a potentially better-qualified candidate because they do not fall with the protected class. That is pretty far from equal treatment under the law.

Lately, we seem to be applying special circumstances to smaller and smaller subsets of the population. A high school boy who has decided to dress like a female and use the women’s bathroom is now the national rallying cry for transgender “equal rights” in Hillsboro. Why should the biological females have to share a bathroom with a biological male when our social norms dictate otherwise? If we agree that social norm is unfair, and this particular transgender boy’s request is reasonable, then the correct response is to allow the entire population of high school age children to choose to shower in a locker room of their choice rather then one associated with their biological identity.

If a restriction or subsidy does not make sense for the whole, then we need to take a thoughtful and serious look at the long-term impact on the class of people or organizations that we are segregating. The impact of ever expanding protected classes on the competitiveness of our future generation is catastrophic. Our society needs to convince the future generation of Americans that they have the confidence, strength and skills to look not to government and legislature for protection, but to look to themselves to create the world they want to live in. With every protected class, every restriction, every exempt organization, and every handout, we are chipping away at the ingenuity, creativity and work ethic that made this nation exceptional.

Unequal TreatmentOur founding fathers were brilliant, but, in this case, they got it wrong: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness are not unalienable rights. Those concepts are incomprehensible to much of the world’s population who are simply content to avoid conflict and do only what they are told. That incomprehensibility applies to many of our citizens right here in America. What makes America Great is that Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness are privileges that each American has access to, and the opportunity to put to use every day of his or her life. Segregation, special treatment and exemptions are eroding the value of those ideals.

I see very little empowerment in the candidates of either party vying for leadership in the upcoming election cycle. We opportunity by empowering the American people, not by restricting and segregating us.

Author: Patrick Henry



Thalys Train Attack – A Cultural Bias for Action

Thayls Train AttackIn France this past week, we saw the actions of six people thwart what would mostly likely have been very severe on the Thalys Train traveling from Amsterdam to Paris. There were over 500 people on the train, and yet only six acted. Undoubtedly, there were others in the vicinity who could have acted, but they choose not to, or chose instead to distance themselves from the attacker. Conversely we saw employee’s of the company that operated the train lock people out of cars in a desperate attempt to save their own lives, even though their actions clearly increased the risk for those who could not have escaped the gunman. What is interesting, is that undoubted, Americans were in the minority by a substantial percentage, and yet four of the six who acted, were American.

One of the Americans involved in thwarting the attack was quoted as saying “Do something! Once I started moving, all the fear left me” or something to that effect as I have seen about four different variations of his exact “quote”. There is actually a biological basis for his feeling. The body has a natural programmed response of the autonomic nervous system in response to stressors frequently referred to as the fight or flight response.

Genetic Bias for Action Thalys TrainThe fight or flight response is common across species and evolved as a means of increasing the chances of survival during violent or life threatening experiences. The trigger for the autonomic nervous system in response to stresso is recognition that an organism is in a stressful situation. Most of us have felt some version of this response at some point in our lives in response to an unexpected stimulus. In the case of an existential threat, the autonomic nervous system dumps a combination of cortisol, epinephrine, norepinephrine and dopamine into the blood stream.

We aren’t going to get into the physiology of fight or flight but the impact of this chemical cocktail on the body is decreased sensitivity to pain and increased muscular performance which can be used to fight or run, or anything else we choose to do with it. Many on the train choose to sit and stare, others to hide or run, but only a handful to fight. The biological response to stressors is pretty standard across the human species. In the case of this attack, everyone who was aware of the situation was most likely physically primed to act, but the decision to act aggressively, and solve the problem, was only made by six.

The primary driver of what we decide to do with our genetic abilities and limitations is based on our environmental or cultural influences and is less influenced by genetics. In fact, you can condition people to be more or less prone to act through training. That is exactly what the training for military and some law enforcement personnel entails. It is called by a number of terms, but a bias for aggressive action is an apt description of the end goal of military training programs.

We do this by placing candidates in stressful situations and critiquing their response. One common principle in elite units is that bad decisions are not great and good decisions are preferred, but a lack of decision and action is a reason to be removed from the the unit. The bottom line is that a bad decision may result in a catastrophe, but no decision places you at the whim of the attacker, which will result in a catastrophe every time. Some combination of positive and negative reinforcement is used to instill a bias for doing something aggressive in the face of negative stress.

Many Americans respond well to this sort of training because it is in fact quite similar to what they are culturally used to. Conversely, most of the Arab militaries I have worked with do not have the cultural ability to act with out direct instruction and intense supervision. This is not, as far as we know a genetic limitation as there is no “bias for action” gene that we are aware of. There are certainly examples of Arabs who can learn to function in this type of environment, and many Arab Americans who serve in elite American military and intelligence assignments very successful. This further leads us to the conclusion that it is not a genetic limitation, which means it is likely environmentally induced.

Anyone who has worked with a nations military that comes from a culture of dependance will tell you how very different it is to working with Americans. You can see the culture of dependance result in an almost innate desire to have some else, anyone else make the decision for them. This delay is grossly ineffective in violent encounters. The question is what are the environmental conditions of American culture that lends itself to producing a predilection to act aggressively in the face of stress? Continue Reading>>

Author ~ Patrick Henry

Violence: Riots, Crime, and Police

Cases of potential use of force issues with police are being reported extensively at the moment. Most recently the riots in Baltimore have been the source of media focus.

Blatimore Riots - RacismThe six officers involved in arresting Freddie Gray have been arrested and charged with crimes ranging from misconduct to murder.

As we continue to manufacture a case of racism in the death of every black male to hit the news, we propagate the myth that black lives don’t matter to a younger generation, we provide them with excuses for failure, a scapegoat for their frustration, and perpetuate a cycle of long term dependence. Further, we reinforce a manufactured mistrust of the government. The incarceration rate of black men in America is astonishingly high, but blaming racism takes the personal accountability out of the equation.

A young black man has no ability to control whether or not I am a racist, but he absolutely has control of his behavior. We cannot continue to blame a lack of opportunity, racism, or lack of education for criminal behavior. We need to focus on the behavior of both the suspects and the police in these events.

I read a recent article in which the writer was critical of the president for use of the term “thug” in his description of events in Baltimore. She claimed that thug was “the new N word”. I am not sure where the writer has received her definition but thug is quite consistently defined as follows:

“Thug: a cruel or vicious ruffian, robber, or murderer.”

I would say there is stark contrast between the definition of a violent criminal and a derogatory term for blacks. Further, I am not sure what term would apply more aptly then ‘thug’ to the looters, rioters and arsonists in Baltimore. I for one find it a pretty accurate description of some of the individuals involved in the “protests” of the treatment of Freddie Gray. In this case, I felt the presidents’ statements regarding the rioters were reasonable considering the circumstances, and thug an apt description of the participants.

Obama Racial divisionEven a sitting black president who has largely spearheaded the effort to make every black arrest a racial issue is now failing to support the cause because he identified misbehavior on the part of some of the protesters; this has truly entered the realm of delusion. The consistent focus on race vice behavior is becoming a dangerous and counter-productive undercurrent in our society.

The article then went on to defend Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin and lump them in the same category as Eric Garner, Freddie Gray, and Walter Scott. The one thing these men had in common was that they are dead and black. Aside from that, there is nearly nothing uniform in theses cases – and yet the race factor is adequate to cause the media and much of America to ignore nearly all other factors.

Personal Security Edged Weapons Training

Trayvon Martin was looking in peoples windows in a neighborhood in which he did not live or have any reason to be, and assaulted a man who confronted him about it. According to the story the jury believed he started slamming his head into the concrete. Thug seems an appropriate description of Trayvon Martin. The number of times I have looked in peoples houses while wandering through neighborhoods I do not live in – Zero. Additionally, the Martin case has nothing to do with police. Continue Reading >>

About Author

Patrick Henry (President at Aegis Academy)

Patrick Henry received his operational training and experience from the U. S. Government, 22 years of which were spent in the Marine Corps where he served in the Reconnaissance, Infantry and Intelligence fields. During his active service, he spent more then five years deployed overseas in combat, operational and training assignments. After the military, Pat worked as a contractor and as the Director of Operations at a private paramilitary firm specializing in training military special operations forces and providing protective services to select private clients. His education consists of an MBA from the University of Southern California (USC), and a BS from San Diego State University with an emphasis in Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology and a minor in Psychology. He holds an extensive list of security and training related certifications from a variety of government and nationally recognized entities. He currently sits on the advisory committee at USC’s Master of Veterans Business Program, and is an active member of Infraguard and the American Society of Industrial Security (ASIS). He has been a guest speaker at ASIS, the San Diego Industrial Security Awareness Council and other private organizations on physical security, travel security, and competitive intelligence collection counter-measures.

A Semester Abroad: Arrogance, Apathy, and Ignorance, Part 2

Traveling abroad is an opportunity for endless enrichment experiences. Traveling to unfamiliar territory also inevitably invites the opportunity for security threats. In the last article of this series, “Arrogance, Apathy, and Ignorance: What a Student Traveling Abroad Ought to Know“, I provided an introduction to my own travel experiences in Moscow, Russia as a student in a direct exchange program. I briefly shared about how my arrogant attitude towards my own status as an American citizen not only revealed my naivety about foreign cultures, but may have also resulted in the piano bar attack I described.

Travel Experiences in Moscow, Russia as a StudentIn “A Semester Abroad: Arrogance, Apathy, and Ignorance, Part 2″ I would like to elaborate on the piano bar attack using a lens more analytical than theoretical. In doing so I will outline some of the mistakes that I made — be they false assumptions, improper preparation, or just plain old stupidity — which ultimately resulted in potential threats becoming a scary reality. With recent reports showing that each year near 300,000 American students study abroad, roughly 65% of these students are females, more discussion needs to be had on issues of travel security; because ultimately if you find yourself facing an attack situation then you have already made mistakes that led you to this point. Knowing how to prevent safety and security issues when traveling abroad is the best self-defense mechanism you could ever teach yourself.

Lesson One: ‘Prepare for the Worst’ is Not for the Weak!

Traveling to Moscow, Russia I would have never predicted that I would be the victim of a violent attack, let alone the victim of two violent attacks. Growing up in America where statistically two-thirds of Americans will never be the victim of a violent attack, I had grown comfortable with the assumption that my safety was practically guaranteed. My first presumptuous mistake was made long before my plane ever touched down in Moscow — I decided to dismiss the warnings of my friends and family as propaganda-motivated paranoia. I was not even remotely invested in any form of risk analysis — a process which considers any catastrophic events that could occur — but, I should have been. For students who are planning to travel or study abroad for any amount of time, particularly in an Eastern European nation, there are certain warnings which deserve your attention. You should give your attention to these warnings not only to alert your awareness to the possibility of such events, but in order to break down any false or arrogant assumptions you may have about the potential for such security issues. Here is a brief list of the warnings given to me by parents, friends, university officials, and experienced travelers of Russia which I, for the most part, dismissed:

  • Do not be out on the streets of Moscow after dark.
  • Do not go anywhere alone — day or night.
  • Avoid hailing taxis from the street. Instead, call a registered taxi company.
  • Do not drink (for too long) with a Russian. They can tolerate more alcohol than you. (Not a stereotype…a reality.)
  • Pick-pockets are slick. Take extra precautions to avoid being the victim of theft.
  • Do not carry too much cash on you. And never pull out your I-Phone (or smart phone) in an unfamiliar environment.

‘Prepare for the Worst’ is Not for the Weak‘Prepare for the Worst’ is Not for the WeakI failed to acknowledge, at one point or another throughout my stay in Moscow, nearly all of the above listed warnings. The series of events that led up to me being the victim of an attack at the piano bar, however, were the direct result of me assuming I need not pay attention to four of the above warnings. Talk about arrogant! Being prepared, cautious, and alert is not a sign of weakness. To the contrary, it demonstrates wisdom and a respect for the realities of the world that we live in.

Lesson Two: ‘Playing it By Ear’ Does Not Result in a Good Night Out

I could say that the best way to avoid being the victim of any sort of piano bar attack would be to avoid leaving your Moscow dorm room, unless traveling to class, the grocery store, or your nearest Visa office. The reality is, however, that most twenty-somethings traveling to Moscow, or any country for that matter, will choose to experience the culture in one way or another in daytime and at night. Entirely avoiding a threat may be improbable, but threat avoidance to some degree is certainly still possible with proper planning and situational awareness.

I certainly did not plan ahead to any degree on the night of the piano bar attack. A fellow American student knocked on my door and asked if I wanted to join him as we “went exploring”. Without a second thought, I grabbed my purse, all of my cash, and set out for a busier part of the city. Mistake: not giving it a ‘thought’ is typically not a good idea when traveling in unfamiliar, unforgiving environments.

We popped into a restaurant and ordered some traditional Russian dishes. After a while, we overheard two men sitting next to us speaking with British accents. We decided to be friendly and assumed these men were friendly Westerners. Before long we were sharing stories over drinks and eating up every word that these ‘friendly Westerners’ were telling us. Not once did we think to ‘red flag’ these men, despite the discrepancies in their conversation: misplaced accents with un-matching stories of origin, unusual advice which was contrary to all the warnings we had received elsewhere, and vague information about their own professional endeavors in Moscow. We simply went along with the coincidence of the night — we had found two friendly tour guides and it was time to play the rest of the night by ear. Mistake: assuming friendly strangers, no matter how much you may have in common with them, genuinely want to show you a good time.

Lesson Three: If It Seems Dangerous, it Probably Is

Threat avoidanceThreat avoidance is a period within the progression of any given attack cycle that only lasts so long. Eventually, a threat shifts from being potential to imminent. At such a point, there is no more avoiding a threat, only mitigating such threats.

As the first restaurant closed, we hopped in a street taxi (See above warnings) with our new British comrades and headed for Chinatown — a notoriously criminal part of Moscow. It would have behooved my friend and I if we had chosen to call it a night before heading to Chinatown, but again we assumed there was no need to worry. We arrived on a busy street and one of our British friends led us to his “favorite little pub” – a piano bar located undergrounds. The night carried on; I was consumed in conversation with our British friends, while my American friend struck up conversations with Russian patrons who, quite frankly, had had way too much to drink. All five of us (two Americans, two British, and a Russian) moved, on the request of the Brits to a small table secluded in the back corner of the restaurant — on the side without the piano. (Just a note: my hope is that at this point in the story you, my reader, are picking up on the numerous naïve, dangerous, and careless decisions that we made that night.) An older Russian gentleman had been pestering me all night, but my new-found British friend assured me that he was a regular here, and to pay him no mind.
Then, all of a sudden, one of the British men proclaimed he had received a text stating his mother had had a heart attack and that they must leave immediately. We offered our shocked condolences and encouraged him to be on his way. We, being filled with joviality at the nights festivities, decided to stay to talk to more Russians. Mistake: do not stay late, in a dark corner of an underground bar, with no one but locals around. Two are easily outnumbered.

We had stayed maybe twenty minutes after our British friends left when my friend excused himself to the bathroom. I told him we ought to leave when he returned. I was all alone in the corner when the older Russian man that had been a slight annoyance all night suddenly turned aggressive. And thus, the potential threats that had been there since the before we had ever left our dormitory were realized in actuality. I had not avoided them, I had not mitigated them, and now I was left to defend myself against these actual threats.

Physical ViolenceThe man pushed me into the corner of the table, while I yelled for help to anyone in the bar, while another Russian (the one that we had befriended throughout the night) stole my money and phone. Not a single bar patron looked our way — they were locals and knew better. My friend came out of the restroom only to be greeted by another Russian man in cohorts with this criminal scheme wielding a knife. He warned my friend not to interfere and that we would be able to leave soon. Sure enough, just as I thought that the physical violence was going to escalate to a point of serious injury, the older man stepped off of me and they fled the piano bar.

I tell this story not to dramatize the stupidity of the decisions I made that night, nor to fulfill any stereotypes about criminal activity on the streets of Moscow. I am telling this to encourage readers, especially those who may find themselves studying or traveling abroad in the near future, to take the time to think about your daily or nightly excursions. Listen to the warnings of those that care about you. Have a plan and stick to it. And most of all, do not walk into a trap — if it seems dangerous (underground bar in a criminal part of town) it most likely is.

Stay tuned for the next part in this article series, “ Arrogance, Apathy, and Ignorance: What a Student Traveling Abroad Ought to Know“, where I will introduce a different attack experience I encountered towards the end of my stay in Moscow. Along with this introduction, I will conceptualize apathy in terms of personal safety and security.

Stay Safe!

Author – Anna Johnson

Originaly posted at Aegis Academy

ISIS – Can they target American Military Personnel on U. S. Soil ?

ISIS recently issued a global ‘order’ to target American military members, publishing a list of 100 names along with a variety of personal details. Undoubtedly by now, the U.S. Defense Department has provided security assistance for those named in the publication. Additionally, they have issued a list of instructions to all military families to effectively do what they should have been doing all along which boils down to: keep private and personal information off of social media. There is no simple long term solution to this potential problem.

News ReportAdditionally, this is not the first time this has happened. The self-proclaimed Islamic State made this request about a year ago on Jihadi social media sites asking Muslims to attack military personnel, and determined that their families were acceptable targets as well. This attempt to extol the followers of Islam to do violence against military members and their families has resulted is ZERO attacks. I am not saying there is no risk, nor that all American military families should not start to be more careful with the amount of personal information they display on Facebook. What I am saying is that the threat from ISIS here in the United States is rather remote.

When ISIS calls for Muslims to commit acts of violence globally on their behalf, we have a precedent for who responds. Men like Aaron Alton and Zale Thompson, Man Haron Monis, and Martin Roulea respond. These are individuals with extensive criminal backgrounds (all but one violent), who had been recently “radicalized” (converted to Islam), and decided to act out. Is it terrorism when a criminal acts out in the name of Islam, or is just an extension of there penchant for violent behavior? That is the question analysts will study and likely never be able to answer fully; but from a practical perspective, it doesn’t really play into solving the problem.

Social MediaWhat ISIS specifically provides violent criminals is an excuse to act out. The emotional appeal of supporting the establishment of a global caliphate probably has less appeal then the sensational media reports that are likely to ensue. Acting under the banner of Islam provides a higher purpose, then just attacking as a local cop. How much that justification plays into the actions of long-term criminals on the outskirts of society remains to be seen.

What we do know is these Islamic converts are, in these four examples, is ostracized from social opportunity by virtue of their criminal past. They have poor social skills, and were all grossly uneducated. These are the types of people who are attracted to a random call for violence in support of a far off cause. They are quite different from the Boston Bombers, the Charlie Hebdo attackers and other comparatively educated Islamic Extremists. These individuals had received training and support from Muslim Terrorist organizations. These people developed a specific plan and executed it reasonably well.

It is the latter type of Muslim terrorist that has the ability to mount a successful attack against a specific target, not the former. TerroristWhen you look at the impact of a successful attack against military members, it would be significant. While most people are intelligent enough to differentiate between the two types of attacks, the ignorant criminal type of Islamic terrorist is probably not. Meanwhile ISIS takes credit for every criminal follower of Islam who does violence against the West.

What we can expect to see is more of the same. Socially inept, disenfranchised, ignorant criminals committing violent acts under the banner of Islam. Those are hard to predict, difficult to identify, and nearly impossible to prevent. Conversely, those capable of planning, waiting, and executing an act of terrorism requires training, support, and intelligence. In seeking this information and skills, they often identify themselves to national and international security forces. This is where we catch and prevent attacks from occurring – and occasionally fail to prevent.

American military families probably have nothing more to fear this week then they did last week or the week before. Yes, they are targets, but the random criminal attracted to Islam is unlikely to successfully pull it off. The Muslim terrorists have yet to pull it off in the United States, and probably not due to a lack of effort. In short, the media frenzy over the threat to U. S. military personnel is not well thought out. It espouses a capability that ISIS has yet to demonstrate and who has largely touted that ability for years.

In closing, ISIS requesting more attacks has not changed the threat profile of their intended target. Hopefully it has raised the awareness of responsible social media use among potential targets (and everyone else).

Author: Patrick Henry (President)

Patrick received his operational training and experience from the U. S. Government, 22 years of which were spent in the Marine Corps where he served in the Reconnaissance, Infantry, and Intelligence fields. Patrick has worked as a contractor and as the Director of Operations at a private paramilitary firm specializing in training military special operations forces and providing protective services to select private clients. His education consists of an MBA from the University of Southern California (USC), and a BS from San Diego State University in Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology and a minor in Psychology. He holds an extensive list of security and training related certifications. He is an active member of Infraguard and the American Society of Industrial Security (ASIS). He has been a guest speaker at ASIS, the San Diego Industrial Security Awareness Council, The Counter Terrorism Symposium hosted by New York’s Mobile Trauma Unit, and other private organizations on physical security, travel security, and competitive intelligence collection counter-measures.


A Semester Abroad: Arrogance, Apathy and Ignorance Part 1

“Assumptions are dangerous things.”– Agatha Christie

Student Traveling AbroadUniversity-aged students are more and more choosing to travel to foreign countries to participate in study abroad, direct exchange, and semester abroad programs. While these education and travel opportunities provide invaluable experience to young adults, they also come with hefty price tags and unique security concerns. If you are a student, or a parent of a student, who may be traveling abroad to study in the near future then this article series is for you. Your student’s life is far more valuable than any Ivy-League education — learn how to prepare for a semester abroad by reading through my own mistakes while traveling abroad in Russia, in this article series “ Arrogance, Apathy, and Ignorance: What a Student Traveling Abroad Ought to Know.”

In the first article of the series covering ‘arrogance’, I will explore how an arrogant perspective can lead to false assumptions about one’s safety while traveling abroad. A spirit of honest reflection has allowed me to identify many flaws in my attitude, the ways in which I prepared, and the habits I practiced before and during my time in Russia. Here, I will specifically focus on how danger manifested itself in my arrogance towards the Russian culture, which lead to costly assumptions about the likelihood that I would be the victim of a violent attack.

Finding myself staring into the eyes of my intoxicated Russian assailant was most certainly not the way I had envisioned my first acquaintance with the sleepless Moscow nightlife. Yet, there I was feeling utterly helpless as my pleas for help to the local bartender, just a pace or two away, were blatantly neglected. The attacker’s breath reeked of a lifetime of vodka, as he asserted himself more until his nose was pressed against my cheek.

My mind was racing in disbelief. How could my seemingly innocent decision to stop at the local piano bar have divulged into a terror of this sorts? Where was my American friend—had he not only stepped off to the restroom? Why was everyone acting like this was not even happening? Could not one patron see this aggressive man as he pinned me down on the table and began his assault? I had heard of those students who traveled to a foreign country for the semester of a lifetime, and were never heard of again – but that was not me! I had taken precautions: bought the anti-theft wallet, spent years learning the language, and immersed myself into studying the nuances of the Russian persona. Suddenly, it was clear that I had made some hefty assumptions about what “safety in Russia” meant; and to assume too much in an unforgiving place such as the streets of Moscow, had turned out to be a very dangerous thing.

Arrogance comes in many forms; it can be prideful, justified, and presumptuous. My arrogance assumed a more subtle role during my travel experiences in Moscow. Armed with my two and a half years of Russian studies at the university, I felt confident that I had a rather solid grasp on how the Russian mind worked. Refusing to buy into the American propaganda machine, I had made many assumptions about the Russian population – that all Muscovites were familiar with a tourist culture, and must have friendly intrigue towards the American tourist. I flippantly dismissed the warnings of friends and family concerning the high volume of criminals masked as unsuspecting and welcoming figures, as nothing more than paranoia. (It was clear they had been watching too many movies with Cold-War undertones!)

My arrogance showed itself in the form of assumptions. While it is only natural to make a certain degree of assumptions concerning one’s safety while traveling, I had gone much further than that and assumed absolute safety in a place where not even the residents make such arrogant assumptions. In my mind, I was safe as long as I did not wander off into some dark alley or give out personal information to a suspicious-looking individual; but, I need not worry about the café patron who wanted to hear about Hollywood, or ask if I had ever seen Alexander Ovechkin. Indeed, assumptions were frequently made in the first few weeks I spent in Moscow: I was a rare occurrence, I was an American, and I was untouchable. I was doomed for a violent reality-check…

Waking up the next morning I was thankfully alive and physically unharmed, but had an empty purse devoid of nearly two hundred dollars and I-Phone, and a wounded ego. I was bruised and shaken-up, yet determined to deliver a swift dose of justice to this criminal with the help of the Moscow city police department.  Russian policeSurely they would be distraught to hear of my trauma, wondering “How could this man tarnish the image of Moscow by preying on an American traveler?!” And surely the police department would spring into action: checking surveillance cameras, taking a thorough testimony, and investigating the scene of the crime. Unfortunately, my assumptions would again reveal my naivety—the police department was a bureaucratic nightmare with little regard for the plight of unknowing foreigners. I was beginning to realize that I was responsible for my own safety in Russia.

I refuse to believe that my own experiences in Russia are merely ‘unfortunate circumstances’ in which I was the doomed tourist, prey to the schemes of unruly criminals. Rather, I believe that I too am at fault for my assumptions and for my arrogance. Further to that point, I believe these experiences have warranted a careful reflection of the role I played in ensuring my own security. In this series, Arrogance, Apathy, and Ignorance: What A Student Studying Abroad Ought to Know I will meticulously recall the dangerous encounters I had in Russia and further, breakdown the components of each attack. Unfortunately, this incident was not the last of my experiences with criminals during the six months that I spent in Russia.

In the next article, I will provide a detailed timeline of the events leading up to the attack at the piano bar, applying notions of self-defense, preventative action, and travel security to the events that led up to my attack. My hope is that by sharing my travel experiences with you, my readers, I can help you to understand when, where, and how you can intercede in, or even prevent, the ‘attack cycle’ you may find yourself the victim of while you are traveling abroad.


Author: Anna Johnson

A Veteran’s Reflection on Veteran’s Day

Today, as our Nation pauses to honor its veterans, some Americans are enjoying a day off of work… some are cashing-in on some internet and retail sales presumptuously named after the federal holiday… and others are actually reflecting on what this day means to our Nation and her veterans.  While I don’t claim to speak on behalf of all veterans, I’m not soliciting for any charity or cause and I’m not prodding anyone to go out of their way to “thank a vet.”  After 20 years of serving our Nation, however, I feel compelled to share a few thoughts on Veteran’s Day from the perspective of just this one veteran.  I believe the veteran’s story is a compelling one that is worth sharing… for our veterans are both a product of and protector to the families, schools and communities that raised us.  In the following paragraphs, I will tell you about the history of Veteran’s Day, a very brief history of the American Veteran, and share an inter-generational message among veterans.

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The story of the American Military Veteran is both unique and inextricable from the story of the United States itself.  Since 1775, there have been over 49 million Americans who have served in our armed forces.  This includes 31 of 44 Presidents. (Click here to view the list)

However, the impact of the American Veteran goes far beyond numbers and titles alone. Today, I would like to discuss the role and impact of the veteran on the freedoms that we enjoy.  I would also like to pass a message from the current generation of veterans to those who have preceded us and those who will follow.

But first, I believe that it is important to study the importance of Veteran’s Day in the context of history.

Veteran’s Day draws its roots to the close of the First World War… when the Armistice was beaaleau-woodsigned on the 11th Hour of the 11th Day of the 11th Month in 1918.  It was first celebrated by President Woodrow Wilson on November 11, 1919, and continued through Congressional Resolutions and Presidential Proclamations every year until May 13, 1938, when it was formalized by an act of Congress which defined November 11th as: “a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as ‘Armistice Day’.”  On June 1, 1954, the act was amended to replace “Armistice” with “Veterans.”  It has been known as “Veteran’s Day” ever since.

While eminently important, Veteran’s Day is eclipsed by the impact of the veteran in American history.  We can trace the importance and impact of the American Veteran all the way back to the very formation of our country.  The seeds of bravery, selflessness and common purpose were sown by the first patriots throughout the original 13 colonies who chose “service” above “self.”  They left the relative comfort of the status-quo and made the tough decision to fight against what they called “intolerable acts,” and thus rose in active rebellion against the Kingdom of Great Britain.

lexconcord2At great peril to themselves, they set in motion the establishment of a new and sovereign nation based on liberty, freedom and self-government.  Realizing that the fledgling nation would not survive without a means of defense, the Continental Congress created the Continental Army and Continental Navy in 1775.  And thus, the American Military Veteran was borne.

From the opening salvo of the American Revolutionary War at the battles of Lexington and Concord in 1775 through all conflicts at home and abroad… in the fields of Europe, in the Pacific, in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan through today’s fight in countless other areas, our Veterans have exhibited that same bravery, selflessness and common purpose every time they have been called to be the “MOST READY” when the Nation was “LEAST READY.”  The American Veteran always has and always will stand a vigilant watch.

I believe that we, as a Nation, need to routinely view our current liberty, freedom and prosperity through the lens of history.  In doing so, we can clearly see the important role the veteran has played in both establishing and guaranteeing our freedoms… and will preserve it for generations to come.

graunke_wideThere is no doubt that our current generation of veterans consistently exhibit the enduring virtues of honor, courage, commitment and selfless service as they have volunteered in a time of war and have been very successful in combating a complex enemy network in the most challenging environments.  I believe it is important to also view the current successes through the same lens of history and recognize that our current generation of veterans did not “create success,” we inherited a legacy of steadfast devotion to duty and unfailing mission accomplishment from the generations of veterans who preceded us… and we have a solemn obligation to both preserve this legacy and pass it on to the next generation of veterans.

By taking pause to celebrate Veteran’s Day, we are simultaneously connecting the generations of veterans with each other and, more importantly, with the citizens whom we serve.


Try as we may, few of us could communicate the inextricable link between the veteran and our Nation’s freedom better than former President and fellow veteran, Ronald Reagan, who said:  Ronald-Reagan-Scholarship“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.”  I believe it is eminently clear that the American Veteran has been at the forefront of this fight, sacrificing to preserve our freedoms, and passing them on to the next generation.

090524-M-1318S-123On behalf of today’s generation of veterans, I want to convey a heartfelt “thank you” to the veterans who’ve preceded us… for the service that they have provided this Nation during their time in uniform… and for their continued service in their communities.  Those of us who serve today recognize that our responsibility is not only to win our current battles and preserve our freedom; we also have the solemn responsibility to maintain this tradition of excellence by developing the next generation of leaders.

Veterans-DayPlease accept a heartfelt thank you from this veteran for taking the time out of your day to read this article.  As we all go back to our daily routines and the busy lives we lead, please never forget that “Freedom Is Not Free!”  It comes at a cost… and it is the American Veteran who has willingly paid the price for this freedom from 1775 through the current day… and always will…

About Author

Howard Hall – Range Master

Howard HallHoward has served for nearly 20 years in the Marine Corps. He has served as a Platoon Commander, Company Commander, Battalion Executive Officer, Regimental Operations Officer, and Battalion Commander. He has multiple combat tours to include serving as a military transition team member in Fallujah. He is an NRA Certified handgun instructor and holds numerous Marine Corps training credentials. An active competitor in action pistol (United States Practical Shooting Association), long range rifle (NRA F-Class), and shotgun (Amateur Trapshooting Association, National Skeet Shooting Association), howard has earned numerous accolades and medaled during DoD competitions with the 1911 platform in bulls-eye shooting.

First Published at Aegis Academy