Lessons Learned through sacrifice

Yesterday, we learned of the tragic death of Ronnie Smith from Texas, in Benghazi, Libya. Smith was a teacher at an international school and one of the last American’s living in the area. According to news reports, he was out for a jog when an unknown gunman shot and killed him.

There are numerous reports that this was possibly a terrorist act due to Smiths outspoken nature and posts he had made on social media, condemning local militias and terrorist groups. Others are speculating that this murder was committed due to petty theft. The US Government stated that they had asked him to leave and he refused. He sent his family home, but understandably stayed to finish his work. The question is, could this heinous act have been avoided?

We are not going to look back and judge anyone, but we are going to look at the circumstances and try to learn from possible mistakes that were made. Any comments or recommendations are not tied specifically to actions taken by Mr.Smith, but are looked at because the circumstances have caused us to think about how to be more safe and secure in dangerous places. This is not meant to diminish the obvious sacrifices this man made to bring education and love to those that need it most. Regardless, he is a hero.

That being said, we do not want to let this type of incident go without looking at how to do things better, so it does not happen again. The blame for this act lies one hundred percent with the shooter. This individual did not have to choose to shoot Mr. Smith, but did it anyway. The problem is that there are bad people out there, making these decisions and taking innocent lives. How can we protect ourselves?

You would be surprised at how many times we have told travelers and ex-pats not to do anything that would cause them to stick out in a crowd, only to hear the following responses; “I should not have to live in fear” or “nothing has happened so far”. Our response is, your right,….you should not have to live in fear, but that does not mean you ignore the threat or lose respect for the threat. Regardless of how fearless you are, the threat still exists. A security or military professional will tell you that a man without fear is reckless and dangerous, attracting and putting others in danger. A little fear sharpens the senses and helps with balanced decision making. A little fear….not a lot.

The greatest mistake most victims of violent crime make, is letting their guard down and becoming complacent. They think that they are in control, forgetting what is happening around them and where they are. Unfortunately, many Americans have never put their guard up and live complacent lives, assuming nothing bad will ever happen. This is a sad truth and it follows many travelers and expats when they travel or relocate.

Our advice is this…….don’t do anything that the majority of the population is not doing. If you are in a country that does not have an LA Fitness on every corner, and the majority of the population smoke cigarettes, you might not want to go out and do Cross-fit in the parking lot of the hotel. You will stand out and you are screaming to everyone around you that you live at a level where you are comfortable enough to worry about your physical fitness. It says, I am not a farmer, who does enough manual labor to stay fit. It says, I eat so well, that I have to work out to keep the fat off. It says I care about my life and how I look. You have pegged yourself as a Westerner or American with something to lose, and that makes you a soft target.

If you decide that there are necessary activities that you must do in order to maintain a certain quality of life, do not set patterns doing those activities. Don’t go to the same stores everyday at the same time. If you have a regular cafe that you visit, go at different times and maybe take a break on random days. Take different routes on your way to work or school. The most important thing is to pay attention to your instincts. Your sixth sense does exist and when the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, something is wrong. Listen to yourself.

It is impossible to completely eliminate risk and be secure in everything you do. There are always going to be risks and in reality, utopia does not exist. Bad people are constantly training and working to victimize innocent people. Maybe its our time to train just as hard to ensure that they fail. Please be aware and stay safe.

Pete MortonAbout Pete Morton

Pete Morton is a Security Professional and the Founder of Morton Security Solutions. He is a prior Military Intelligence Officer in the US Army and has advised numerous Law Enforcement agencies, the DOD and Civilian Organizations on how to conduct operations safely, domestically and abroad. www.mortonsecure.com

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