Can your family be gray?
Written by: Eddie from Urban Shield Craft
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Before we dive into this lets define what a gray man is for those that may not know. A gray man is an individual who can effectively and efficiently adapt to the baseline of whatever environment they are moving in, consequently allowing them to navigate the environment without notice.
When we think about gray man concepts, we often imagine a man embedded deep in the Middle East, walking through a market gathering Intel on the local population for some shady sector of a government office. This man is usually decked out in "covert" tactical gear and bad ass sunglasses. However this is far from the truth and it is also far from any practical application that the common man will use.
The reality is that most of us are not "lone wolves" nor work in the intelligence community. Most of us have a spouse or family that depend on us. They rely on us for taking action and navigating potential dangers. They look to you as a leader and take comfort in the thought that you can get them out of any situation. Even though we realize this, a lot of us do not take steps to deal with this reality and are forced to improvise during an emergency. This can put not only ourselves in danger but also the well being of our family. Another important factor often overlooked is the fact that just because you have the mindset of a survivor does not mean your family shares that value. Perhaps your family is your typical, happy-go-lucky family with the mentality of "what's really the worst that can happen?" As a leader, it is your responsibility to take precautions for them.
The gray man concept is probably one of the most essential skills to have in life and not just in an emergency situation. As I mentioned above, being the gray man is all about being adaptable and matching the baseline of the area you’re moving in. The concept is no different when traveling with family, with just a few added variables. What we will discuss today is how to apply the gray man concept when traveling with your family (while still enjoying your vacation).
Things to keep in mind when considering "gray family” application:
1. Age of children. The more dependent a child is, the more difficult it will be to apply gray man concepts. For example traveling with a crying newborn will require more planning in order to effect seamless traveling through potentially dangerous environments then traveling with say, a pre-teen.
2. Local street fashion. The "dead giveaway" for traveling families is the way they dress. Try and do research on how families dress in the area you’re visiting (google images/earth). Keep in mind this will change based on economic climate but will give you a general sense of what to wear. For example no New Yorker in the history of New York City, has ever worn an "I Love New York" tee shirt in public!
3. An itinerary. When you were a single lady or a single man, traveling was so simple. No plans, no restrictions, hell you didn't even need that much money. Well those days are gone now. Keeping an itinerary is essential for traveling safely and intelligently in a new environment. A schedule provides security to your little ones and when executed correctly will allow little time for "empty space”.
4. Routes. In 2011 an American family was traveling in Morocco. They stopped to ask directions. They were then led to an ambush where they were stabbed and robbed. If they had known where they were going and how to navigate urban environments, would they have been stabbed? (No one died btw)
5. Geopolitical conditions. Research the political climate of the area you’re moving in. Is their a problem with insurgency? Are there talks of a potential riot or revolution? What's the crime rate and what does the state department have to say about foreignerstraveling to those parts? (The CIA website has, usually, up-to-date information)
Simply working around the 5 topics listed above and the potential set-backs you may experience with each one, will greatly decrease the probability of encountering danger on your trip.
Another thing to consider is your packing list. What does the "gray family" travel with? How do they carry these items? Most of the people reading this (maybe all) have an EDC they work with everyday. However you may not be able to carry that same EDC in the area you’re visiting. You have to become much more discreet while increasing your "carry load" since you are carrying for your family and not just yourself. Remember, you won't be carrying your tactical molle-ridden backpack as that is not the baseline, so you will have to carry intelligently. First let's focus on what is most important to carry when traveling:
1. Cash. Cash is king all around the world and needs little explanation as to why you should carry it. However the manner in which you carry it should be much more discreet yet accessible. A favorite carry method of mine are titanium pendant capsules. They are not very expensive, extremely light, water tight, andcan be worn around your neck as a necklace or around your waist inside your pants. They can easily hold a few hundred dollars of emergency cash. You can carry a small amount of cash in your wallet, in the event you are robbed you can part ways with this cash.
2. First aid kits. Keeping a first aid kit is essential however for a family of 3 it is not practical to carry. For this reason, every member of the "grey family" carries their own kit. These kits have to be slim, easy to carry, robust, and effective. I've been able to fit an entire "boo boo kit" with multiples of common medication, triple antibiotic, bandages (multiple sizes) in a container not much larger then a dip can. There are also pre-made robust kits that can fit into a back pocket. It's all about packaging. If you’re very concerned about first aid (which you should be) and insist on carrying a full kit, you can use a regular shopping bag to hold your kit. It's discreet, disposable, and in-line with baseline.
3. Escape and evasion. Threading your families clothing with tools for counter-custody and escape from illegal restraints, will be an non-invasive way of making sure everyone carries some basics that will aid in the escape of illegal detention. Keep in mind training is key here as these skills are not easy to learn and are even harder to apply during times of stress. We are assuming that the individual reading "how to apply gray man concepts to a family" has already applied these concepts to themselves.
4. Personal defense. I don't advocate knives for self-defense as it is easy to discuss in theory but not in real life application. Stabbing someone with a knife is extremely traumatic, graphic, and can lead to years of psychological damage. Especially when young children witness it. Take my word on this. However a powerful deterrent and easily concealed weapon is pepper gel. Notice the word gel. Foggers and sprays are not recommended as blow back can backfire onto your family putting you in deeper shit. A gel however, has enough weight and range to counter-act blowback. It's also devastating as it will stick to your attacker and cannot come off until it liquifies slowly.
These 4 carry items can, in theory, be carried seamlessly and comfortably on one person. However because you conducted research beforehand, you have purchased a bag or are using clothing that is common in the area allowing you to carry more items should the need arise.
But let's reel it in for a second. You’re trying to enjoy a vacation; you want to do some typical tourist things. That is absolutely fine, as being a tourist in a tourist area is in fact the baseline. The gray family, like the gray man is adaptable and can seamlessly transition from tourist site to local site.
When we talk about researching what people wear we are not doing it with the "playing dress up" mentality. For example in New York City black is king. Most people wear black. They wear it to work, they wear it to lunch, they wear it to the park. Yet in Miami, light colors are the norm while dark ones are reserved for the evening. This is really intended for common family vacation areas that do have potentials of danger. If you’re traveling to a war zone with your family… you are simply irresponsible. Also if your traveling through the Middle East or parts of Africa, I don't expect you to wear a man dress and your wife with only her eyes showing. However it would not be crazy for her to wear a head wrap. It is their country, their laws, if you don't agree with them, don't go. Your ego canand will put your family in danger. (A friend of mine visited Tunisia and was very disrespectful, things did not go in his favor.) Common sense and common courtesy will save your life.
There is so much material to cover and so many factors to consider. This thing we call a "gray man//family concept" is not all that complicated. Be aware of your surroundings, do your best to connect with the people around you and become a fixture in the environment you’re moving in, home or abroad. Use some common sense and hone your situational awareness skills.
Thanks for taking time to read this as it is invaluable information that I have learned through years of experience and training. Stay vigilant
Written by: Eddie from Urban Shield Craft
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