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in: Manly Know-How, Podcast, Skills

• Last updated: March 20, 2022

Podcast #688: Protection for and from Humanity

When celebrities, dignitaries, and executives go out and about and travel around the world, they’re often surrounded by bodyguards whose job it is to protect them and their loved ones.

My guest today offers a look at what’s involved in offering these professional protective services for VIPs, and how average citizens can apply the same principles to protect themselves and their families. His name is Todd Fox, he has an extensive military and law enforcement background, and he’s the founder of Close Protection Corps and the author of Protection for & from Humanity. Todd and I discuss why the soft skills around mindset constitute the foundation of personal protection, and the prep work that’s necessary to keep both VIPs and normal folks safe, including the process of “advancing” and a system from the Vietnam era you can use to make yourself a “hard target.” We then discuss what you can learn from the Marine Combat Hunter program, the Cooper Color Code, and the OODA Loop to develop better situational awareness. We end our conversation with the hard skills you should learn to protect yourself, and the order you should learn them in.

If reading this in an email, click the title of the post to listen to the show.

Show Highlights

  • The distinction between security and protection 
  • Why soft skills are more important than hard skills in self-defense
  • Why fighting should be your last resort in any and every self-defense scenario 
  • What is “advancing”?
  • How can a civilian do this type of thing when vacationing?
  • How do bad guys pick their targets?
  • Methodologies for assessing the various threats and risks in your life 
  • Protecting your home 
  • Detecting anomalies and determining their importance 
  • Using Cooper’s Color Code to your tactical advantage 
  • Useful hard skills for the Average Joe to learn 

Resources/Articles/People Mentioned in Podcast

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Read the Transcript

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Brett McKay: Brett McKay here, and welcome to another edition of The Art of Manliness Podcast. When celebrities, dignitaries and executives go out and about and travel around the world, they’re often surrounded by bodyguards whose job is to protect them and their loved ones. My guest today offers a look at what’s involved in offering these professional protective services for VIPs and how average citizens can apply the same principles to protect themselves and their families. His name is Todd Fox. He has an extensive military and law enforcement background, and he’s the founder of Close Protection Corps and the author of Protection for and from Humanity. Todd and I discuss why the soft skills around mindset constitute the foundation of personal protection and the prep work that’s necessary to keep both VIPs and normal folk safe, including the process of advancing, it’s called advancing, we’re gonna talk about what that is, and a system from the Vietnam Air that you can use and make yourself a hard target. We then discuss what you can learn from the Marine Combat Hunter Program, the Cooper Color Code and the OODA loop to develop better situational awareness. And we end our conversation with the hard skills you can learn to protect yourself, and the order you should learn them in. After the show’s over, check out our show notes at

Alright, Todd Fox, welcome to the show.

Todd Fox: Thank you.

Brett McKay: So you got a book out called Protection for and from Humanity. You are the founder and director of a personal protection services, and so in layman’s term, people would say you’re a bodyguard. But tell us a bit about what you do, your background, how you got involved in what you do.

Todd Fox: Okay, so that’s all correct, and I think the common reference point would be bodyguard, but I own a company and it’s called Close Protection Corps. And I started out in the Marine Corps straight out of high school and went into professional fighting, which now is known as MMA; back then, it was called No-Holds-Barred or Vale Tudo if you’re Brazilian or Japanese. And then eventually, transitioned into law enforcement and worked on a SRT team, which is Special Response Team. And I started the protective services company in ’99, and it was based out of LA, predominantly executives and entertainer-types who were going down to Mexico on vacations or for business. I’m a Spanish speaker, so that was a very easy transition for me to make. And then eventually, it shifted toward entertainment-types. So we’re probably 80% entertainment-focused, which is film and music, and then the rest are dignitaries, executives and miscellaneous. So our start was in the Latin market, so starting in Mexico and then moving into Columbia and Brazil and throughout the region. Now, we’re shifting a little bit more toward training civilians after 20-ish years of training, military law enforcement, and focused on operations.

Brett McKay: Gotcha. So and besides the celebrities, what kind of dignitaries you’re talking about? Like political leaders, things like diplomats?

Todd Fox: Yeah, so a lot of times, we’ll get national or international diplomats. So the State Department typically does the protection for US diplomats, but sometimes, they’ll have other people that are connected or related to them or dealing with something, and they’ll hire us for it. Or it may be a foreign diplomat that’s looking to get an outside source in because maybe they don’t trust their own host nation or they don’t have the degree of confidence that they want and so, we’ll be brought in to supplement and/or set up complete security for that kind of diplomat.

Brett McKay: Gotcha. So this book is, you’re basically taking some of the big-picture insights from what you do in protecting dignitaries and celebrities and things like that, and showing civilians, private citizens how they can use those same ideas to protect themselves and their loved ones. But you start off the book, that was interesting, you make this distinction, and I think it’s an important one, that you started the book off with this, the distinction between security and protection. Why is it important to make that distinction when you talking about the work you do? And yeah, what is the difference?

Todd Fox: It’s a nuanced difference. Security, when you look at definitions, which usually, when you educate someone, you’re trying to look at what the baseline definition is. It often refers to security as a state of being free from danger. In the reality of life, that just doesn’t exist almost nowhere. If you’re out and you’re free and you’re active and you’re doing things, you’re not free from danger, there’s always danger, and that comes in many formats. So protection, conversely, for us, is more of a mindset. And in terms of definition, it’s to protect, to shield, to defend someone from harm or danger. And that better aligns with our operational missions, and it also aligns with our training objectives. So the focus for our clients or students is more in alignment with protecting them or defending them or shielding them from something that could harm them.

Brett McKay: Alright, so your job, you can’t eliminate all risk, it’s impossible, but your job is to protect clients from as much risk as possible that’s there, even though you can’t eliminate those risks.

Todd Fox: Correct.

Brett McKay: Gotcha. Well, and I think oftentimes, when people hear protection services, bodyguards, the first thing they think about are sort of those hard skills like the Jason Bourne stuff like how to use a firearm, combatives, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, how to drive tactically or whatever. But most of this book is that mindset stuff you’re talking about, it’s very soft, it’s about mental models and how to make decisions. Why do you think… And you’re starting out the book talking about, “You have to have the right mindset when you’re thinking about protection.” Why do you have to start there with mindset? And what kind of mindset do you need to have when you’re thinking about self-defense?

Todd Fox: Well, first, let me address the fact that everybody fixates on the hard skills, the shooting, fighting, driving; that’s normal, and that’s what people think about when they think about what we do. The problem is that everything starts with your brain, which is why I’m focused on mindset. No matter what you do, it has to have some pathway in your brain. You have to understand something, and you have to have some frame of reference for what could solve the problem. So that’s really where we’re at. Also, I’m not a very big guy. I’m 5’10” and 185 lbs, so relative to protection, everybody’s expecting this big, huge guy. And so my primary tool, as with anybody working in this business, is your brain, how you utilize your brain, how quick you can see something, how you can correlate it to a possible solution, how you quickly you can implement that based on how your brain works. So that’s where the mindset is. It’s more critical than any piece of hardware.

A gun, like I talk to people about a lot, is an inanimate object. You have to do all of these things with a gun. You have to have a magazine, you have to load rounds into it, you have to insert it into the mag, well, you have to cycle the slide and get the round in the chamber, you have to align your sights, you have to press the trigger when your sights are aligned. There are so many things that have to go on first, but all that stuff is done by your brain. And so the gun alone is nothing, the car alone is nothing. You think of your brain as an operating system, and that’s what we want. We want this operating system functioning at a high level, and we wanna condition the operating system first. And then the hard skills are basically the tools that are provided. So for us, that comes second. The first is the brain and the mindset and utilizing it because you don’t always have the actual tools that you may need in a situation, so a lot of impromptu stuff occurs in protection when you’re in a foreign country and you’re dealing with high-stress situations.

So we typically use our brain first and we try not to go where there are problems. So if I know, “Hey, we shouldn’t go to Iraq because there are a lot of problems in Iraq, or Afghanistan, or Yemen, or Syria, or,” you name it. So I try not to go there. And then when I have a client that needs to go there, we try not to go to the hot spots within that particular region. And then when we do have to go there and we start seeing these indicators or anomalies from the baseline that occur in that environment, we try to get out of that environment. And then the last, the very, very, very last thing we do is utilize our hard skills, our shooting, fighting, driving to defend ourself when we can’t leave, when we can’t evacuate, when we can’t escape something. So the whole point for us is use the hard skills to create the opening to get out. But the better option, obviously, is to be smart and don’t allow yourself to get into the situation that forces the hard skills.

Brett McKay: Yeah, you spend a lot of time in the book talking about what protective services do. Their whole job is to avoid the risk at all. And so you have this section, Response Options. And the first one, you just said that, the best option is don’t be where danger commonly occurs. And then the good option is leave at the first sight of a problem, and then you said the last bad option is stay and fight. I think often times when people think, “Oh, self-defense, I gotta learn to stay and fight.” It’s like no, most self-defense is learning how to do number one and number two, like don’t be where danger is, and then leave so you don’t have to fight at all.

Todd Fox: Yeah, when you think about that, and I’ve had a storied history between the military and law enforcement. Even as a kid, and I’ve done martial arts my whole life, and I don’t mean esoteric martial arts. I mean fighting, combative martial arts, boxing, wrestling, Jiu-Jitsu, Muay Thai. And as a young kid with a lot of testosterone, I was involved in a lot of fights. And I wasn’t smart enough in the moment to realize that, “No, I’m not starting a fight, but I keep getting in fights. Why is that happening?” Well, I went to the places where fights were gonna occur. If you go to a location that has fights frequently, the chance of you gonna fight are much higher than normal. If you go to a place where fights almost never happen, you don’t end up in a fight. And so that’s the biggest part. And sometimes, it takes a little effort. A lot of people will say like, “Oh, that’s common sense.” Yeah, it’s common sense, but no one thinks that way, and no one applies it that way.

So it’s a huge part of our job is just to understand where we’re going, what risk exists there, and generally, we do that through historical analysis. So you say where you’re out there, there’s Bob’s Bar and in Bob’s Bar, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, there’s fights from, let’s say 9 o’clock at night until 2:00 in the morning when they close. Well, that’s probably the ideal time not to be there if you don’t wanna be in a fight. And so something simple like that. “You know what? We’re gonna go on Thursday and we’re gonna go at 6 o’clock after work, instead of going at 10:00 or 11:00 or 12:00 on a weekend.” Little, simple selections and decisions like that help us to survive and also thrive in those conditions.

Brett McKay: Well, another thing you talk about that you and what your protective services do to avoid where dangers that commonly occurs is this thing called advancing. What’s advancing? And how does that help you avoid conflict or problems?

Todd Fox: Yeah, advancing is a critical and fundamental and core part of protection, any type of protection, whether you’re talking about executive protection, dignitary protection, celebrity protection, overseas, high-risk security, doesn’t matter. Advancing is essentially the choreography of what you’re gonna be doing. So it’s admin and logistics. So advancing would be me going ahead to look at an airport, to look at a hotel, to look at a restaurant or a venue, to look at the routes to going to and from, and to create plans based on the information that I’m gleaning from a particular situation. So you can do it in writing, you can do it through physical walkthroughs.

Modern-day, pretty much for most of what we do is we create a document that tells somebody what we want, whether it’s a director of an airport, or the general manager of a hotel, or the owner of a restaurant. And we’ll send it out to him and say, “Hey, here are the things we’d like for our visit with X, Y, Z person. Can we get on the phone and talk about this?” And they say, yeah. And so you get on the phone and you start talking to them about what your needs and wants are, and you start asking about, “How is this situated? How is it laid out? How do you operate? Where are ins and outs?” And then they say, “Okay, well, we’re gonna send you a floor plan, and these are the options that you have for dining locations, and these are the servers that you could potentially have.” And you walk through all of what could happen. And so, “Hey, if that doesn’t work out, if we have an issue in this area, where are we going to?” You figure out where your safe havens are, your temp holds are.

And all of that’s done before you get there because it’s much more difficult to figure out a solution under stress while things are going upside down. So you do the advance work, basically, to create plans and options. If I know where all the doors are, if I know where all the emergency medical equipment is or fire equipment is, if I know who the key players are. And that’s another big component of advancing. If I’m meeting the owner of a place, if I’m meeting the general manager of a place, if I’m meeting the director of a place, those guys can override their existing systems. So maybe an entry-level person like a front desk manager can’t do something, but the owner of the hotel or the general manager of the hotel can override what their policy is and say, “No, no, no, in this case, we’re actually gonna violate our policy and we’re gonna do what that client wants.”

And so meeting with those people and knowing who has the power or the authority and knowing the physical set-up is critical. And we typically do that during the day time. We do it at night time. We do it on holidays. We wanna see what it’s like in different environments and different conditions, if we can do it. And on a bigger team or a larger scale, you have a dedicated advance guy who goes ahead and does that. So if that gives you any kind of idea of what the general objective is for an advance.

Brett McKay: Yeah, so it sounds pretty thorough, and you guys create contingency plans based off of this thing, but how would, say a civilian, they’re planning a trip somewhere. How could they use some of the principles of advancing for their own protection?

Todd Fox: Sure. And a lot of people ask this. I get this for the last 20 plus years, “Hey, I’m going here, I’m doing this. What should I do? How should I think about it?” And my answer is that you start with collection of historical data. So I start to look at what is the murder rate like in this place? And what is the economy like in this place? And what are the cultural norms? And what type of currency do they use? And what language do they speak? And I start gathering the general data. And then once I have that, I might start getting into very specific data. And let’s just say you’re taking your family on vacation and you’re going to Cancún, you’re going to Mexico. Well, Cancún’s a tourist spot, so it’s not like mainland Mexico, so you wouldn’t assess it the same way you would assess something like Sinaloa, the State of Sinaloa. But what is happening there, and who is there, and what’s law enforcement like there, and what are the common scams there? And then I would find sources, parallel structures to what I’m operating under like in this case, the government.

So I’d go to the US government and I’d use something like the State Department’s entity called OSAC, Overseas Security Advisory Council, and I start looking at something they have called crime and safety reports. So now, all of a sudden, I have a crime and safety report and I’m starting to get data from that, and I’m figuring stuff out. And then I go back to where I’m going, “Okay, which airport I’m coming into? How far away is it? So what’s the drive time like? What’s the traffic like?” And then I start to look at, “Okay, well, are people targeted in cars like carjackings? Or do they do express kidnappings there? And what kind of countermeasures can I create?” ‘Cause I know this going in. And then my hotel, I start to look online and see what past incidents tours have had there at that hotel in Cancún. And then I start to reach out to those people, “Hey, who’s this person? And can I contact them? And are they open to giving me their personal information? Can I get the GM’s cellphone number?”

And you start to create these things from a distance. And then when you get there, you spend a little bit of time, let’s say you have a family of four or five people, and you are a more traditional family, and you’re the male role model in the family, is the father or whatever you are, you would say, “Hey, guys, come in and unpack and stay in the room. I’m gonna walk the hotel for five or 10 minutes.” That’s advancing, that’s what you’re doing, you’re learning it and preparing yourself for a bad situation. And a lot of guys will say, “Well, I’m not paranoid.” And I say, “Well, neither am I; I’m just prepared. And because I’m prepared, I’m more relaxed and I can enjoy myself ’cause I have a ton of options because I know this property inside and out.”

Brett McKay: Okay, so another thing you talk about in the book in order to avoid problems is also understanding how the criminal mind works and how they pick targets ’cause that can help you avoid being the target. So what is, generally, what is someone who wants to do bad things to you? What are they looking for in a target? And then what can you do to be less of a target?

Todd Fox: Okay, so generally speaking, a criminal needs something of value. And most people think about this in terms of money, a wallet, a purse. Some people think of it in terms of an asset, something that they have, they can fetch value through fencing it. Some people think of like a carjacking in terms of the actual car. Those are pretty common. So they need something of value. So if you have something of value, you’re a potential target. If you look like a weaker person, you’re a potential target. If you have a relationship to an entity, let’s say information-based, you know something, you work on the stock market, you have some type of insider trading information, and they want that. You, yourself, as a person, are a value to them. Or in a foreign country, a lot of times, you as a human, are of value, assuming someone’s willing to pay for you to get you back. And so those are the typical things of value, things that have cash value immediately like things that can be taken to a pawn shop, things that produce information that’s of value that will later result in money, or the person themselves when you look at kidnapping. So those are the three common things.

And then from that, normally, doing things like advance work, essentially, shows you where exposure points are, where choke points are, shows you how the culture moves or flows. So the biggest part for us is not having something like your Rolex watch on, not having a bunch of jewelry on, not taking a cash out of your pocket or wallet when you’re paying for something and you’ve got a handful of cash that everybody around can see. Things like moving in groups. So if you’re moving three or four or five, you’re a less desirable target because the chance of them being successful is pretty low. And even when you’re overseas and you’re by yourself, there are things that you can do to look bigger than you are. So if I start to walk into a group of two or three or four people that are moving down the street, I blend into that. I’m not right in the group, but I’m a couple of feet back, and I look like I’m with them. And if I’m wearing local clothing, I look even more like I’m with them. And if I’m laughing when they’re laughing, I look like I’m with them. So a lot of little things that you can do, your posture, your demeanor, your eye contact, all of these things will make you a less likely target. And in general, it’s back to mindset. Do you look like somebody easy to take money from, to take a life from, to take whatever it is. And if you have the right posture, the right demeanor, and you blend and they don’t even see you, chances of that happening are pretty slim.

Brett McKay: And you said in the book, in protection, you call this target hardening, or make yourself a hard target.

Todd Fox: Correct, that’s exactly what it is. So you figure out what the target is, and then you reverse it, and you figure out how to make it hard to get access to that target. And we talk about that through a bunch of different systems that we use, threat and vulnerability systems, in particular.

Brett McKay: Well, let’s talk about that, let’s go through that sort of methodology that you use to do that threat assessment.

Todd Fox: Yeah, so we break it down into different categories. So we have a threat assessment, we have a risk assessment, and we have a vulnerability assessment, they’re different things. And I realized that that vernacular is common vernacular, and for most people, threat risk and vulnerability are the same, but for us, it’s not. And even in the security world, protection industry, people use those words interchangeably, and they’re not. So for us, the threat is the means and source, kind of like a gun or a knife or a bomb. A risk is a percentage of likelihood, so I’m looking at more at numbers, the chance of occurrence and then that occurrence being successful. And then vulnerability is essentially assessing the flaws or the chinks in the armor, the weaknesses in the existing security structure.

So we go in and we do assessments on all of those things, and we talk about a couple different assessment processes that we use in the real world in the book. We talk about something really simple that anybody that went to business school would learn about, something like a SWOT analysis, where we’re looking at strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. And that’s a, what we would refer to as a down and dirty assessment system, where you’re just doing it on the fly, it’s not something you’re sitting at a desk thinking through or brainstorming or in a working group. That’s just a, “Hey, I’m here and I’m trying to break it down quickly, and I’m gonna do it in two minutes.”

And then we get into to much more complex systems, and one of the ones that we talk about in the book is the CARVER methodology, and that is exactly target hardening. So CARVER, basically, is a Vietnam-era system that was a targeting analysis system. So it was used to find targets that the US would wanna target inside of Vietnam. And this system for us is not that ’cause in protecting people, you’re not targeting others. You flip it and you figure out what the adversary would target for you, and then you harden those particular points.

So CARVER’s an acronym, it stands for Criticality, which is the critical value of a person, place or thing. Accessibility, how accessible, how easy is it to gain access to a person or a place or a thing. Recoverability, which is if it’s attacked, how quickly can it recover, whether it’s a physical structure or person or information or a database or anything like that. And then Vulnerability, which we talked about briefly, which is a chink in the armor, a weakness. So they have all the security structure in place, but where is the weakness, the weak person, the weak physical door, or link, or locking mechanism?

And then E is Effect, meaning the effect of the attack. Obviously, the effect is pretty self-explanatory, meaning if we’re targeting a person, the person’s death would be a high-value effect. If I’m attacking that person physically and I break their pinky toe, it’s gonna have a pretty low-value effect. And then in our system and also in the governmental side, too, they assign a point value to each of these to get a number at the end to see how good the target is or how bad the target is, and we wanna make a bad target and so, we’ll talk about that a little bit more. But the last one in CARVER is Recognizability. So think about that in terms of: An attack happens, how recognizable is it? And if you are a terrorist, you want it to be super high. So if you think about 9/11, you think about the planes going into the towers, that’s seared into people’s memories. So the terrorists get a five-point, on a one to five, they get five points for that because that’s seared in your memory.

Now, if you think about other things like for us, think about the Secret Service or something like that, people penetrate all the time these layers that the Secret Service have, but they never talk about it. And they don’t talk about it because if other people hear that it’s possible, they may try to do it, so they reduce the signature or the recognizability by not talking about it, by suppressing it, by doing a bunch of little things, so it’s not common knowledge that people penetrate it or do on a regular basis. So that’s CARVER, that’s one of the systems that we use, C-A-R-V-E-R, Criticality, Accessibility, Recoverability, Vulnerability, Effect and Recognizability.

And so if I figure out what’s critical to me like air and blood, I safeguard those things. So I put, say body armor on or a helmet on. Accessibility, “I want to reduce access for outsiders to my celebrity client.” Recoverability, “Well, if I wanna recover, let’s say I have trauma kits with tourniquets and QuikClot and Israeli bandages. Or I have an AED, some type of defibrillator that helps me recover if I am attacked.” Vulnerability, “I start to look around and if I know maybe a person in my group has a certain type of dependency or habit that can get me in trouble, I know that that person is potentially my vulnerability. And then when there’s an effect, I try to reduce that effect and then I try to reduce the ability of the public to see what occurred.” So that’s kind of a, it seems like a long-winded explanation, but I really, really cut that down to something simple.

Brett McKay: Right, so this is all going back, this is how you harden your target, basically, you go through this process.

Todd Fox: Yeah, you figure out what they want and what they need and how they’d go about getting it. And then you basically shut down those methods and you make it very hard to do any of those things.

Brett McKay: And when you’re doing this as a professional, how long does this take? Does it get really detailed and drawn out, or you’ve gotten to the point where you can do it on the fly?

Todd Fox: Yeah, that’s great question. This is dependent upon who you’re working with, how much they value security, what the risk level is. When you start to talk about politics and religion and fame, those things change drastically, versus you going on vacation somewhere with a normal family. So if we have somebody that’s saying really crazy things and we have clients that do that, that’s gonna make this process much more arduous and much longer in terms of time, and then we’re gonna have to get the budget, financially, to be able to do this. Now, that’s assuming we’ve been told they’re going somewhere and doing something, and we didn’t get a short-fuse mission where it’s like, “Yeah, we’re going here tomorrow,” and there’s zero chance of advancing that place. You know, “Well, your car leaves tomorrow morning.” “Okay, that’s a little bit short. We’re just gonna have to adjust on the fly if we don’t have people in-country that are able to do it immediately.” So we get all of that.

Sometimes, we get months to plan for events and activities and trips; and sometimes, we get days. And in some cases, you think about restaurants or events. You have a friend and he tells you about this great place, and then you turn to your protective security guy and say, “Oh, yeah, we’re going here,” and you have zero time. So now, we’re in a car and I’m trying to look on my phone, the layout of this restaurant through image searches and histories, or make a quick phone call to somebody that’s in that region and see if they can jump ahead because I know it’s 45 minutes away and they’re five minutes away. So it changes drastically, but it goes for months, literally, or even years when you look at the Olympics, and then the Olympics got pushed back and you start to look at the planning for that. But up to and including like, “Hey, we’re going in five minutes.” So that’s pretty a broad span there.

Brett McKay: Well, let’s say, like the regular person, could you do a CARVER methodology for your home? Is that something that would be useful?

Todd Fox: Yeah, absolutely, absolutely. What’s critical in your house? I would say that you, your family members, whoever you have, maybe your pet. Those are critical things in your house. If you look at the human or pet side of it, and then you’d figure out how to limit access to that through certain mechanism, physical mechanisms, you’d figure out what things, if you were attacked, can you do in your house to keep that up. And you look at the vulnerabilities, the weakness of your physical structure to come in. You look at the effects of somebody doing some type of home invasion, and you start to harden things based on that.

You can do one that’s purely physical, and we do a system, also, and I believe a small portion of this is in the book, that we use this system where you basically have layered security approach. And if you’re doing your house as a physical entity, the first thing you’d want is power because without power, you’re in a pretty bad spot. You don’t have lights, maybe it’s, right now, where I’m at, last week, it was below zero, and you don’t live too long in below zero conditions with no heat, no electricity, nothing like that. So you’d figure out how to safeguard your power, and you’d figure out how to have redundancies like generators. You’d figure out, “Okay, do I have firewood on hand? And how long do I have access to food for? And if I don’t, do I know how to hunt?” And you start to put these contingencies into place.

But the layered security approach is probably more appropriate for your home if you’re asking for a normal person. So how you do that is you deal with the outside in, and you start by deterring people. So if you have good lighting around your house, the chance of a criminal getting caught is much higher, being detected is much higher. So you have nice, good lighting. Let’s say you have a fence, let’s say you have a dog. Those are all deterrents, and people don’t make the attempt because they say, “Okay, the house next door doesn’t have those things.” So that’s your starting point. And then you come in, and the next mechanism that you have is a detection mechanism, say like your alarm. Your alarm might not be a deterrent, no one knows you have it, but when they breach or break into your house, the alarm starts going off. That is a detection method, it tells you, just like your fire alarms would, your sprinkler systems would, your carbon monoxide detectors would, a detection method. So the detection method, dog. If you watch cameras actively or you have them that alert, that’s also a detection mechanism, as well as your alarm.

So you detect it; now, you wanna delay it. So let’s say you move your family members into a specific room, it doesn’t have to be a safe room, but you move them into a spot in the house where it’s hard to get to. So now, this person has to go through one room or two rooms or three rooms or into the basement, and along the way, they have to break these doors down or do whatever. You’re basically delaying that attack. And so you set up that kind of method in your house and you look at what things in your house can be used to do that to delay the attack. And then you look at what response methods you have. Do you have guns? Do you have knives? Do you have really good hand-to-hand skills? Do you have the police on speed dial, and you have a great relationship with them?

And then the last phase for us is mitigation. And so as a homeowner, you start to look at: What insurance policies do I have? And in the world that we deal with, we deal with lawyers and managers and agents and people like that, that assist us in mitigating these circumstances. But for a homeowner, it would be: Do I have a homeowner’s insurance policy? Do I have a medical insurance policy? Do I have, let’s say I’m on a family trip, do I have a policy that gets me back to the US and gets me to a private clinic because maybe in Cancún, the hospitals aren’t high-end hospitals that are trauma level one hospitals? Or they’re just not sanitary, and I have a better chance of dying going to the hospital than not? So I have these policies in place, and that would be a mitigation feature. So I think that speaks more to your private citizen, home environment.

Brett McKay: No, that was really useful. And we’ve been talking about, this is like we haven’t even gotten to the point where we’re recognizing threats. We’re just doing the pre-planning phase.

Todd Fox: Correct.

Brett McKay: And I think you make this point, the reason why you do all of this groundwork is that when you are in a protect mode, you are at it, you’re in a disadvantage ’cause you are responding.

Todd Fox: Absolutely, absolutely.

Brett McKay: Right, so talk about that asymmetry and what you… Between a protector and attacker.

Todd Fox: Yeah, so the unfortunate truth, and a lot of people won’t say this, but the unfortunate truth is that the attacker typically has the advantage. And we break down a lot of different systems and scenarios and processes, but when you look at the general attack cycle and you look at the key factors, the attacker gets 75%, and the victim or target gets 25%. So the first phase of that is, is the attacker picks the location that they’re gonna attack you in. Then they pick the time that they’re gonna attack you. And then they pick the method of attack that they’re gonna use. So now, they get the time, location and method of attack. Well, all of that is acting. And then the target is getting to select their response to the attack, which is a reaction. So now, you have action versus reaction, and most of us that have been around a little while realize that action is way faster than reaction. And really, the only way to offset that is through training. And through training, you have these exposures and hopefully, you recognize it before it happens, you start to see that that person’s watching you or moving with you. You start to mirror your movements and positions and angles. And this kind of thing, early identification, can help you thwart the attack. You never get to the point where they actually attack. So that’s the first phase.

And then the second is through training, and they get to the attack phase and you have, let’s say martial art skills or you have firearm skills or you have edge weapon skills. Your chance of survival goes up through the roof. Also, when you look at this kind of stuff, training creates this ability to recognize certain patterns, and then make you or keep you calm in that situation. And it builds up a tolerance to things, and it also creates pathways, neurologically. So there’s a guy named Klein that wrote a great book on this, and it’s focused on recognition, primed decision-making. So think about in your life anything you’ve done where you’ve never done it before, and it’s pretty serious thing. And now, you’ve gotta go in and do this brand new thing under stress, and maybe the potential loss is really high for you. You’re gonna be nervous, you’re gonna have an increased heart rate. You’re gonna have physiological response to stress elements like tunnel vision, loss of fine motor, so it’s all these things pulling in the blood to the center. So all these things will work against you; not for you in this particular case. So when you have recognition primed decision-making, you basically, your brain says, “Oh, I’ve seen something similar to this before, and I think I know the solution to it.” And you’re calmer and you go to your solution much quicker, so your response time, your reaction is better because you’ve trained it, you’ve planned it, right?

Brett McKay: Right, so you’re trying to close that asymmetry that exists as much as you can. You can’t get rid of it completely, but you can reduce it.

Todd Fox: No, it’s almost impossible, and especially if you’re unaware of your environment, especially if it’s a new environment, especially if the criminal is really good at what they do and they’re good at blending in and masking themselves and they ambush you. You never wanna be on that side of the ambush. It’s always better, if you think of the military, to be actually setting the ambush and deploying, versus being the one dealing with an ambush. That’s a horrible situation, and you’re seeing it a lot right now in law enforcement, and then they’re on the back side of it because they’re bound by the law, and a person acts, and then they only get a chance to respond to it. So it’s a tough situation to be in.

Brett McKay: So we’ve been talking about prep, things you can do before an event happens to reduce your reaction time, but let’s talk about when you’re actually on the scene, so you’re executing the plan. During that time, I’m sure a bodyguard, protective service, we wanna call it, they’ve gotta maintain situational awareness so that they can know if they need to respond or do something. So talk about that. How do you guys train for situational awareness? What does that look like?

Todd Fox: Well, there are a lot of different methods that we use and that we train, but probably, the one that’s easiest to talk about comes from the Marine Corps, and they had a program called the Combat Hunter Program, which I think now, has become pretty famous ’cause some of the guys left it and started talking a lot about it, but we use a lot of similar methodology. So for us, environmentally, having some type of environmental awareness is critical to do in our jobs, and knowing when to stay, when to leave, when to go to hard skills. And we talk about that, normally understanding the environment, knowing what’s normal in terms of baseline. So we try to establish these baselines, it’s like, “I know what’s normal in… ” You’re in Tulsa, Oklahoma, right?

Brett McKay: Right.

Todd Fox: “So I know if I go to the BOK Center in Tulsa,” for example, “I know what behavior’s like there. I know what people’s accents like. I know when they come and go, how they behave, what the structures. I know all of these things ahead of time, so I know it’s normal.” The whole reason to know what normal is, is to be able to detect or identify an anomaly, something that’s not normal. And when I can detect something that’s not normal, I can focus attention on it and say, “Okay, is this anomaly critical? It can hurt me? Or is it benign?” And the truth is that most anomalies from the baseline, they’re benign, they’re not gonna hurt me. It’s just, “That guy is weird,” or, “That guy’s homeless,” or, “That guy, he’s on drugs,” or whatever it may be.

And then when you have that anomaly, anomalies come in two general formats, which is anomaly above the baseline, and anomaly below the baseline. So an anomaly above the baseline would be in addition to the environment. So you’re somewhere and there’s always three people there and now, there’s four or five. That’s an anomaly above the baseline. And you’re somewhere and there’s always three or four people there and now, no one’s there. That’s an anomaly below the baseline. And this gets talked about in the Middle East a lot where a military team comes into a market, a bazaar or souq, and it’s teeming with people, people are all over, all ages, a lot of activity, a lot of sales, doors and windows are open. And they come back at the same time the next week, and there’s 50% of the people there, almost no women and children, doors and windows are shut, people are looking left and right actively. That’s an indicator, that’s an anomaly, certain people are missing, certain things have changed. And then you would adjust your behavior based on that. And so from a situational awareness perspective, that awareness that there’s an anomaly, and let’s say we connect it to three things; that’s the norm for us. Like, “Here’s an anomaly, that’s one anomaly. Now, we have a second anomaly. Now, we have a third anomaly identified; that pretty much tells us we need to change.”

So we have three options, and I think in the book, I refer to it as the three C’s. But the first option is to continue as planned. “Yes, I see those anomalies, but I don’t think they’re critical, I think they’re benign, and I’m just gonna keep doing what I’m doing.” So that’s continue as planned. So I continue just doing my behavior, whatever, whether it’s a route driving, whether it’s a physical activity, moving something, walking through a bazaar, whatever it is. The second one is to change, change my behavior, change my route, change my plan. I don’t continue as I normally would because we’re trying to avoid something like an ambush or being targeted in some sort of way. So any minor change will throw off that enemy in a general sense. So instead of going down that main street, I’m gonna go over two streets down another street and back around, and I’m gonna enter from a different location than I normally would. And that’s changing behavior.

And then the last one is kind of the most extreme one. “I’ve recognized an anomaly and I’ve got two or three or four anomalies, and I think that they’re critical, and I think it’s something that my skill set, me as a team of one or two or five or whatever I have, can’t meet that threat. I’m gonna cancel the operation immediately. I’m gonna pack up, I’m gonna leave, I’m gonna cancel.” Those are components of situational awareness for us. The situation awareness alerts us to something, and then it also drives our decision.

Brett McKay: Gotcha. And so I imagine this situation awareness ties back into what we were talking about earlier, like advancing. In order to know what the baselines are, you’d have to come to, say Tulsa and experience what the BOK Center is like on a busy night with a concert or something like that, so you could establish the baseline, and then you can know… By knowing what the baselines are, you’ll be able to know what the anomalies are.

Todd Fox: Correct, 100%.

Brett McKay: Okay. And then also, you talk about the idea of just being aware of your environment, like having that head on a swivel, and you talk about the Cooper Color Code can be useful in developing that head on a swivel idea.

Todd Fox: Yeah, so Colonel Cooper was a former Marine who developed a bunch of different systems that were really unique and special in his time. Some of the stuff today is dated in terms of how we see it, but the reality is that his material is timeless. And so Colonel Cooper, when he got out of the Marine Corps, he went to Paulden, Arizona and he started the first gun-fighting school, and it’s changed names several time, but is best known as a Gunsite. And he had a number of books that he wrote, Principles of Personal Defense is one of them. If you read that from 40 years ago, 50 years ago, it’s literally applicable today. It’s pretty amazing. He was well ahead of his time.

So Colonel Cooper’s Color Codes were not like the governmental color code you see now about airport warnings and stuff like that. His color codes were more in alignment with your emotional and mental, your awareness states. And he started with white, and white was and is basically unaware, unprepared. You’re staring at your phone, you don’t expect anything to happen, you’re in a state of bliss and you’re disconnected from everything around you. And there’s a large portion of society that operates that way today. And when something happens to them, they’re shocked. There’s zero chance of them responding to it because they’re gonna be caught off guard, they’re gonna be surprised. And the common thing we hear in protection or law enforcement in the military is, “They came out of nowhere!” Well, nothing happens out of nowhere. There were plenty of indicators; you just didn’t see them because you were in a state of white. So generally speaking, the only acceptable times for being in a state of white would be something like sleeping, taking a nap, some form of intentionally disconnecting to restore your body.

The next phase that he spoke to is yellow. And yellow is a general state of awareness. And he talked about it in terms of just accepting that, “Hey, something bad could happen to me today, and I need to acknowledge that and be ready to address it if it does occur.” And so part of that is just looking around like take your eyes off your phone and look in front of you, look to the left, look to the right, look up above you, and just pay attention to what’s going on around you. For people that have those skills already, people that are great people-watchers, they have a lot of information that a person that’s heads buried in their phone will never have and so, they can make better choices, generally speaking. So yellow is a condition that he said you can stay in indefinitely. So your heart rate doesn’t go through the roof, you’re not panicked, it’s just, “Hey, something can happen. I’m good to go.” So if you are in the state of white, and let’s say you’re 60 beats a minute; then in the state of yellow, you’re also 60 beats a minute for your heart rate.

Then he moved on to orange. And in orange, basically, what he said is you’ve identified something that is an anomaly, something that could harm you and your environment and now, you’re making the decision that if that entity, if that thing presents or crosses a certain threshold, you’re gonna act, you’re gonna do something specific. And so we talk a little bit about that in the book, too, in the terms of: If, Then Thinking. “If this guy reaches in his waistband and pulls out a metallic object that looks like a gun, then I’m gonna take my gun out and shoot him.” And that’s an extreme example, but it could be anything. So, “If this happens, then I’m going to do that.” And so this also gets back to recognition-primed decision-making where you’re training your brain so that you don’t go into some type of panic mode like, “Okay, I had already established what this threshold is and now, he’s crossed the threshold.” So that’s the orange, which your heart rate starts to go up at that point, and you’re starting to get that feeling of anxiety.

And then it gets into the red. The red is when they’ve tripped that wire when they’ve crossed that threshold. Now, this guy reaches into his waistband and he pulls out that metallic object that’s shaped like a gun and he starts to point at you, that’s when you actually, in theory, execute whatever it is that you plan to execute. So we have the “if” moment and now, you’ve gotta do the “then” thing, whatever it was. And so you’re in the fight in phase red. And so you typically have hormonal heart rate at that point, so your blood pressure and heart rate will skyrocket. And then on Colonel Cooper’s system, the Marine Corps added to that something that didn’t exist before, which is black. And black is essentially like you’ve gone into a tailspin, you’ve disconnected, you’ve frozen, and you’re not in the fight or flight. You’re frozen, you can’t act or don’t act or don’t have the capacity to process it mentally. So those are the phases that Colonel Cooper identified 50 years ago, and they’re still valid today.

Brett McKay: Yeah, so basically, we wanna stay in condition yellow, most of our time. Yes, be aware, yeah.

Todd Fox: Correct, yeah, you wanna be aware. It’s just that it doesn’t take any energy, it doesn’t take much effort to just look around. And if you have to look at your phone, great, look at your phone, but then look up from your phone, don’t fixate on it. So I’m just, I’m aware of what’s in my environment. “Oh, yeah, there’s somebody I’ve never seen before. There’s a car I’ve ever seen before in my neighborhood. Or there’s somebody doing something that’s very abnormal,” and whatever. Or it’s just kids joking around, playing. “I know those kids. They live two houses down. Okay, it’s not that big a deal.” So it’s just being aware of what’s happening around you.

Brett McKay: Well, the other thing you talk about in the moment situation as a protective service agent, you have to make decisions on the fly in environments that are constantly changing, they’re fluid, they’re dynamic. So there, you’ve also, you’ve got, I say decision-making tools that you can fall back on to make those decisions faster because the faster you can make a decision, the more likely you’ll be successful in protecting your target. And one decision model you use or talk about in the book is the OODA Loop. For those who aren’t familiar with OODA Loop, what is it? And how do you use that in your work?

Todd Fox: Yeah, so it’s a good one. It’s also ties into the If then Think. It also ties into the recognition-primed decision-making, and then these color codes. So these are all crossover subjects, and that’s why I pull them together in one book. These are not things that I just created out of my brain. These are existing systems that I see as connected. And my background, military law enforcement, fighting, protection, all these things utilize all of these components. But the OODA Loop, in particular, was created by a guy named John Boyd who was a Colonel in the Air Force, and Colonel Boyd was a fighter pilot. And basically, he came up with the system to address the thinking and decision-making cycle as a fighter pilot. So who would win that dog fight? And what he came up with in a nutshell is that every time that he’d engage in these dog fights against other fighter pilots, he would observe, he would orient to it, whatever he observed, and he would decide what he’s gonna do, and then he would act. So O-O-D-A, Observe, Orient, Decide and Act. And he had to do that, and it’s a cycle that’s ongoing. So every time the situation changes, if that plane’s not where it was before, it changes course or movement or angle now, he’s gotta start that OODA Loop again. And so whoever can cycle through it the fastest and act typically wins that fight.

And so it’s the same thing for us. We wanna observe something, we wanna orient to it, we wanna decide what we’re gonna do, we’re gonna be able to act. And if we can cycle through that faster than, say the bad guy, we typically are gonna win that fight because we’re preparing for it mentally through mechanisms like the OODA Loop. And that’s how we look at making decisions, so we try to shorten the OODA Loop. The faster that you can cycle through the OODA Loop, the more the OODA Loop of your adversary is expanding. And so his chance of actually reacting and dealing with your change in your behavior, think about it, it starts again for him. So now you’re here and he’s coming to attack, you’ve observed it, you’ve oriented yourself to it, you’ve decided what you’re gonna do and you start to act; now, he’s gotta change his OODA Loop. He’s gotta start a new OODA Loop for attacking you because you’ve changed the scenario that existed when he started to plan.

Brett McKay: Right and so, and you would think something you got… People, the human mind is like an attacker’s OODA Loop, he knows it’s going on before you do so you have to basically start orienting. And so that’s with all this planning stuff we’ve been talking about, you’re orienting yourself so that if you find yourself in a situation where you’re in an attack situation, an attack response situation, you’re able to start that OODA Loop as fast as possible. So you’re not starting from square one; you actually have a plan in place that you can… Okay, you observe, you got your plan, and then you’re gonna decide and act, and then speed that up as fast as you can.

Todd Fox: Absolutely. That, in a nutshell, you’re exactly right. In a nutshell, you’re preparing yourself for something, specifically. Like any type of training, you’re literally giving yourself options for a bad situation. And that, essentially, increases your probability of survival, which is our end objective. For us, preservation of human life, in particular, our clients and then ours is critical, and that’s what we’re after. And so the more we plan, the more we prepare, the more we put these systems in place, the more we thought through all of these things, the higher the probably of survival is. So you got it. I’m glad you said that.

Brett McKay: Well, so we’ve been taking about this mental stuff. And that’s what most of it is, like you said at the beginning, protection is primarily, it starts with your brain. The other stuff, the tactical skills, those are just tools. So let’s hit on, and again, in the book, you sort of touch on them, and I think you’re trying to make the point like, what’s really important is this mindset stuff. But let’s hit on, what do you think, for just a regular person, what are some useful skills, hard skills they can foster to be ready for a self-defense situation?

Todd Fox: Yeah, the objective is not to get to the hard skills, but the reality is that sometimes, plans fail. And I’ve certainly been in a lot of environments where that’s happened. As much as you’ve prepared, it just didn’t work out the way you planned. And so you gotta back up to the hard skills. And ultimately, for us in protection, the hard skill is what creates that distance between an attack and your principle, and gives them a chance to get away or escape. But for a normal person in a day-to-day kind of environment, you start to think about how you live and what you do. Most people live in a house or an apartment, and most people, they move from that point to a car, and they get in the car and they drive. And driving is extremely dangerous, way more dangerous than most things that we do. [chuckle] And then they go and they meet with people in a workplace, and maybe, in modern times, people are stressed and disgruntled and maybe things didn’t work out right. Now, you are working on people that are maybe volatile, and you’re going to places where things are happening or you’re traveling on a vacation.

So if I just look at it from that perspective, the first thing that I would say is learn a medical skill. One of the basic courses, and they’ll call it a lot of different things, but it came from the origin of what’s called TCCC or Tactical Combat Casualty Care. And this TCCC course is great. The guys that founded it, the guys that have contributed to it have done a great service for the military and law enforcement. But even for the civilian side, if you start to understand how to address medical issues first in helping other people, but also in saving your own life, and I mentioned it a little bit earlier on, but if you have not a first aid kit, but a trauma kit, where you have things like tourniquets, and you can apply the tourniquets to other people, you know how they work, how they function, where to put them, how long they’ll last, all this good stuff, you can save someone’s life.

But equally important is you can apply it to yourself, and you can apply it under stress, and you can apply it with one hand, and you start to learn how to do that stuff. You start to learn how to use things like QuikClot, a cauterizing agent, a hemostatic agent that we can apply to something like arterial spray like, “Okay, I hit an artery, I nicked an artery and now, I’m gonna bleed out in less than a couple minutes. I can utilize this particular tool to help me survive. And can I put it on? And where do I put it on? And how do I put it on?” And then things like Israeli bandages or pressure dressings and things like chest seals for gunshot wounds for pneumothoraces. So I start to learn the medical side. How do I move people? “If it’s me by myself and I’m with somebody that’s, I’m 185, and I’m with somebody that’s, say 300 lbs, that’s gonna be hard to move them. So what methods can I use to manipulate their body when they’re injured or incapacitated?” That’s another thing to learn. “If I have these, and then I have the hard items,” like the trauma kit, “Where do I put the trauma kit? Well, I should probably have one in my car. I should probably have one at work, maybe at home, so wherever I spend the most time.”

So I would start with something like medical, and then I would move in to something like driving. And the reason I say driving is not because most people are gonna need protective and evasive driving. You don’t need to go spend 40-60 hours because somebody’s chasing you, but the reality is you spend a ton of time behind the wheel of a car, and that very, very heavy piece of metal that you have can kill someone else or you. So just learning how to manipulate that under stress, which happens in protective and evasive driving, people are shooting at you or chasing you or you’re driving in teams, that kind of training, I think, is really beneficial to an average, everyday normal person. So those were the places that I would start.

And then after that, I would get into martial arts. And as I also mentioned earlier, I would focus on combat martial arts. It’s not to say that Tai Chi and Aikido and all of this, they’re more esoteric don’t have a place, but I’m talking about the martial component of martial arts, less art, more martial. And that would be Jiu-Jitsu, that would be boxing, that would be Muay Thai, that would be wrestling. Those things actually do what they’re gonna do in a fight in training. And so those are massive, massive advantages to have if you’re attacked physically or otherwise. And it also produces a different mindset, too, because I know, let’s say I’m going to train Jiu-Jitsu, which I am. I’m rolling around with these guys, they’re trying to choke me and break my limbs and throw me and smash me down into the ground or against the fence or in a wall, I have to fight back and I have to build this mental focus like I know the fight’s not over. I’m continuing to fight until the end. And even in a controlled environment, the timer goes off and now, I find another person and I start the process again, it’s mentally conditioning me to deal with hardships and to not stop under stressful situations. So martial arts, but combat martial arts would be where I go next.

And then I think after that, for the civilian sector, then I would do firearms. And the reason I leave that for last, not ’cause it’s not valuable, not because it’s not the most valuable, but because you can get into a lot of trouble with guns. You can shoot yourself, you can shoot someone accidentally that you love, you can leave a weapon somewhere or loose a weapon. There are a lot of problems that come with it as well, even things like weapon retention on your person. That’s a whole separate skill that a lot of Americans don’t even train. So that would be the last. And there’s a ton of schools that you can go to and learn about firearms, they’re everywhere. But I would do that last, just because I think that it takes more attention, and the cost of a mistake in that realm is catastrophic. So it’s important, it’s very important, but I would learn the things that occur in a daily life more. So medical, driving, martial arts, and then into shooting.

Brett McKay: Well Todd, this has been a great conversation. Where can people go to learn more about the book and your work?

Todd Fox: We have a few websites. Probably the best one, if you wanna learn about the business side of it would be, and that talks about some of our entertainment clients. We can’t list executives or dignitaries, but we can talk about entertainers because they talk about us. And then if you’re interested in training,, the And then for the younger group, which is below my demographic, if you’re on Instagram. @tourtraining, T-O-U-R-T-R-A-I-N-I-N-G, @tourtraining. So those are the best spots. And for the book, specifically, you can buy it on our site, at, or you can go to Amazon or Apple or any purveyor of books that are out there. And it’s in paperback format, which I would recommend ’cause you can make notes on it, you can see things in a different way than you would digitally, but we also have the e-version available.

Brett McKay: Fantastic! Well, Todd Fox, thanks for the time. It’s been a pleasure.

Todd Fox: Thanks, Brett, appreciate your time.

Brett McKay: My guest there was Todd Fox. He’s the author of the book, Protection for and from Humanity. It’s available on You can find out more information about his work at his website,, that’s Todd with two D’s. Also check out our show notes at, where you can find links to resources, we delve deeper into this topic.

Well, that wraps up another edition of The AoM Podcast. Check out our website at where you find our podcast archives, as well as thousands of articles written over the years. And if you’d like to enjoy ad-free episodes of The AoM Podcast, you can do so on Stitcher Premium. Head over to, sign up, use code MANLINESS at checkout for a free month trial. Once you’ve signed up, download the Stitcher app on Android or iOS and you can start enjoying ad-free episodes of The AoM Podcast. And if you haven’t done so already, I’d appreciate if you take one minute to give us a review on Apple Podcasts or Stitcher, it helps out a lot. If you’ve done that already, thank you. Please consider sharing the show with a friend or a family member who you think will get something out of it. As always, thank you for the continued support. Until next time, this is Brett McKay, reminding all of you listening to The AoM Podcast to put what you’ve heard into action.


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