EDC Tools: Augment Your Soft Skills

A relevant question posed by active professional protection experts and those concerned for their safety, and the safety of those around them alike is, What should be included in your everyday carry loadout (EDC tools) in terms of protection?

EDC kit including an Individual first aid kit
Much EDC Gear is (or should be) focused on what we call soft skill. Proper use thereof may well prevent any need to switch to hard skills.

Professional protection details are comprised of two or more protective agents assigned to a protectee or protectees. Depending upon the operational environment, members might be high profile (carrying guns in plain view) or low profile (carrying concealed). Assignment parameters will dictate whether or not a protective security detail (PSD) is armed. 

Gear can be lost, stolen, misplaced, or malfunction. Mental preparedness cannot.

An example of a high-profile detail may be a dignitary protection team formed up by uniformed police officers equipped with level-one retention holsters. An example of a low profile would be special agents of the United States Secret Services (USSS) Presidential Protection Detail (PPD) who wear suits and carry concealed.

Protective detail on comms

Although you may not be a current member of a professional protection detail, you are the de facto protective agent of your family. As such you are also known as a ‘solo agent’. This means that you are ‘working’ alone and not with any other trained protective personnel.

As a solo agent, and based on your operational environment and circumstances, carrying a firearm may or may not be an option.

Real-world examples of where a protective detail may not be armed are:

  • flying on commercial airlines
  • operating inside government buildings
  • servicing venues with a primary or on-site protective element
  • in situations where a protectee has requested the PSD be unarmed for specific movements
A small kit of a pocket gun with a holster, a light, a reload, and a knife beats a race gun in a box at home. My Colt Agent in a pocket holster, a PoBoy Benchmade Emerson, an Emerson LaGriffe and a couple of small lights makes for a easy carry setup for the beach.
A small kit of a pocket gun with a holster, a light, a reload, and a knife beats a race gun in a box at home. Here: a Colt Agent in a pocket holster, PoBoy Benchmade Emerson, an Emerson LaGriffe and a couple of small lights. This covers most EDC considerations save for medical and makes for an easy day at the beach.

Part of the answer to the question ‘what EDC tools to include’, is a direct result of your operational environment. If you find yourself in a situation where you must remain unarmed (government buildings, commercial airports, etc.,) then you don’t have the option to carry a firearm either open or concealed.

A more thorough answer is best presented in constituent parts:

  • Software, i.e., what you should have on board mentally
  • Hardware, i.e. what you should have on board physically

Mental preparation and gear selection are two completely different protection categories and should be addressed as such. It is also important to remember that while gear can be lost, stolen, misplaced, or suffer a malfunction, mental preparedness cannot. 

The greatest battle is that which you have won without stepping on the battlefield. Software (your mind and most powerful weapon) never runs out of batteries or bullets and cannot be misplaced.

The more often used of the two in the world of professional protective service is your software. It is implicitly understood that if you find yourself needing to go to hardware, that you have failed in applying your software skills.

Starting with the hardware, your essential gear should be commensurate with the requirements and demands of your threat environment:

  • Is it high or low threat?
  • Is the operational profile high or low?
  • Anticipated attire, i.e. winter clothing, athletic attire, business dress?

Once you know these parameters you can then create a basics checklist.

EDC Tools

Comms: Can you call for help?

Communications should minimally include your cell phone. Don’t forget your charger (USB and power block) on longer trips.

Communications are a vital part of a selection of EDC tools.

Most professional protective teams also use other forms of communication to include radios or satellite phones as a communication backup in the event of no signal or otherwise out of service areas.

Emerson Gear PMAC phone charger that looks like a PMAG magazine.
The PMAC style power bank is just a phone charger made to look like a PMAG. Might not be the most subtle of phone charges, but it works. Point is, have ready access to a battery vault of some sort. 

Will You See Your Way Through It?

Bring a flashlight. Everyone these days claims “Well, I’ve got a light on my phone.” Yes, now try and find your phone, and then the light app, when you are under duress and in exigent circumstances. What happens when you need your light and your phone for communication? Having a small, lightweight handheld flashlight is bank in any protective movement.

The Streamlight Wedge is a pocket sized EDC light with a lay flat profile. Perfect for EDC.

Always be sure to keep at least a half-tank minimum of gas or the equivalent of a 200-mile drive radius just in case you need to seriously unass a threat area and must remain mobile.

Can You Cut It Free? 

Having a good, reliable utility knife on board is strongly recommended. You never know when you may need to cut something. A quality blade can also be used as a weapon of opportunity.

I knife can be used as an alternative use of force option to your firearm should that be unavailable (or if it happens to not be the right tool for the job under the circumstances).

DeSantis's Inside Heat holster along with some EDC items that are essentials: A spare magazine, Spyderco Para 3 folding knife, and a Streamlight flashlight.
Spyderco Para 3 folding knife and a Streamlight flashlight: two minimums to have on board even if the rest of it isn’t available., 

What If You Go to Guns? 

If you do carry a firearm, then it should be to full capacity, as opposed to an empty chamber, for obvious reasons and with at least one readily accessible backup magazine.

Gun news - Nexbelt EDC Supreme Appendix Carry Belt

Be aware of your carry system, accessibility and holster retention based on your environment and attire. If you’re using a red dot system (RDS) always perform a functions check prior to deployment that you know your gear is ready.

Last but certainly not least is protection from the elements: sunscreen, eye protection, rain gear, cold weather gear and the like.  

If your movement involves aircraft or watercraft there are additional transportation gear considerations. In most cases your protective movement would predominantly be ground transport. As such always be sure to keep at least a half-tank minimum of gas or the equivalent of a 200-mile drive radius just in case you need to seriously unass a threat area and must remain mobile.

Pay Attention and Keep Your Wits

Important as it may be, hardware, is only one aspect of professional protection. The more often used EDC element is the software or soft skills such as being mentally prepared. Like having a functional RDS and cell phone, you also need to have your onboard computer – your brain and awareness – turned on.

Situational Awareness, atmospherics, stalker in alleyway. PC: Victoria Kubiaki

Your Own Agent

When on the job you must maintain a higher-than-usual situational awareness, a mental plan to solve any potential tactical problem that may inadvertently present itself, and the willingness to step in harms’ way without hesitation.

Walking with purpose and confidence, like you’re supposed to be there, because you are supposed to be there. Exhibiting purpose and confidence helps to lower your soft target indicators from any potential or actual threat elements.

Situational awareness fail: walking while distracted or appearing lost.
Do not present as a weak, distracted, or easy target.

You must be prepared, but you may not always be alone, you may be with other people. You may also not find yourself pitted against a single threat. You may find yourself pitted against multiple threats. The best prepared are those who keep these potentialities in the forefront.

It’s a possibility that you may find yourself with several others under your protection versus one or more terrorists, criminals or opportunists who may be younger harder faster, more ruthless, well organized well equipped and have a formidable attack plan.

Inside the Waistband IFAK first aid kit
Inside the Waistband (IWB) IFAK first aid kit. 

A formidable attack plan is one that is well-thought-out ahead of time by the predator or opportunist (aka actors).  A solo actor would perpetrate an uncoordinated attack whereas multiple actors could perpetrate a coordinated attack. Initially such actors introduce multiple advantages such as the element of surprise, physical position, geographical location, micro terrain (higher ground), gear (equipment), etc.

It’s always a good idea to  assume that you are at a disadvantage, disparity of force, outnumbered and outgunned. Being prepared for the worst places you in the correct mindset. Your actions can only be as organized as your thoughts as the body cannot go where the mind has not been.

Use the Software 

Software is paramount to hardware because if you do everything right then you will use it more often than your hardware. If you are forced to go to hardware and your hard skills, then you have failed to effectively employ your soft skills to initially observe and then solve the tactical problem at the onset.

Applying your awareness (software) is the currency that buys you the kind of time and opportunity where you may not need to go to your hardware.

Operating in any protection environment demands the everyday carry of both your software and hardware to support your prevailing in a real-world altercation.

The more important of these and most-used of the two categories is your software.

The first tool in your defensive toolbox should be a self-defense mindset. (Photo credit: Medium.com)
Steve Tarani is a former fulltime CIA protective programs employee, small arms and defensive tactics subject matter expert who served on POTUS 45 pre-election executive protection detail. He is the lead instructor for NRA’s non-ballistic weapons training program offered nationally. Tarani is also a DoD and FLETC-certified federal firearms instructor who has been on staff at Gunsite Academy (AZ) as a Rangemaster for over twenty years. Formerly sworn, he is also a former federal contractor and service provider for the US Defense Intelligence Community, US Naval Special Operations Command and other government agencies. Tarani additionally serves on the National Sheriffs’ Association Committee for School Safety and Security.

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