I had picked TC up at his hotel earlier in the day as he was visiting my town of Dallas/Fort Worth. After a few hours of driving he pointed out the window and stated, ‘ That is where a lake is right?’ There was no way that he could have seen the lake and I knew he wasn’t a native to this area and so I asked in a perplexed tone, ‘Yeah, there is a lake over there. How did you know that?’
‘Tuning’ was his automatic and matter of fact reply.
‘Tuning? What in the world is tuning?’ I had heard of tuning an instrument, yet tuning to know where the lake was made absolutely no sense to me.
TC began to then explain what was all together fascinating and ultimately very simple at the same time. ‘Well, tuning is what a SEAL will do when he enters a new environment. The SEAL will take a mental inventory of his surroundings. When I was in the air before we landed – I was tuning. I was taking into mental note the direction of the lake in correlation to the city, where the major roads, buildings and points of interest were.’
As he was relaying his explanation of tuning, my mind was recreating an incident that I had heard involving some SEALs at a bar near a base. I was told the story as a group of sailors sat around and exchanged sea stories. The sailor recanting the events that he had witnessed unfold was not aware of tuning or if he was failed to make note of it in his telling of the events. He told of a group of SEALs that were attacked by a group of drunk military men who saw catching a group of SEALs off guard and roughing them up as a badge of courage to be worn proudly on their chest. Unfortunately for the attacking men, they understood that SEALs are the elite among the elite, yet failed to realize that being a SEAL is a 24 hour commitment and not a 07:00 to 16:00 job. Even when a SEAL is at a bar relaxing near base they are in a state of constant tuning. While it may appear they are thoroughly engrossed in dialogue with one another, they are trained to take note of their environment – possible threats, clusters of people and quick exits. Because of this the SEALs were not caught off guard that night and within seconds of their attack, they had handidly defeated their foes and raced out of the most often overlooked back entrance. Because of tuning, they spotted the attack before it developed and when trouble erupted knew exactly where the back exit was. As the SEALs scampered out the back exit and their attackers lay on the floor in pain, the shore patrol entered though the front and found no SEALs.
Tuning in warfare is one of the reasons SEALs are set apart from the ordinary fighting man. When a SEAL exits a helicopter in a new environment, the first items of business are to get away from the helicopter, set up a perimeter and get in tune with the environment. The helicopter is generating so much noise that the SEALs are not able to be in tune with their environment, instead they are in tune with the helicopter. Once they have exited the landing area and established a security perimeter the SEAL will then get close to the earth because it is more cover, yet it is also an effort to get in tune with the environment. They will run their fingers through the dirt and rocks to get a feel for the terrain. They will smell the ground and sniff the smells flowing in the air. The SEAL will effort to become one with their environment.
This tuning process continues as the SEAL examines the landscape. He then begins the questioning : Do we have tree tops? Do we have jagged rock terrain? Do we have mountains? What is the environment? Are their wild animals in the area? What are the sounds these animals are making as they walk? This is an important question for a SEAL to know the answer to. When he is in a high tension situation and he hears a noise, it is much to his benefit to be able to immediately recognize the sound as that of a native animal moving through the brush. What sounds do the animals make when they are moving through the brush? It is important to be able to distinguish the sound of a deer and a human moving through the sticks. This is only possible as a result of tuning. The last thing a SEAL wants is to be jumping at every sound.
The SEAL listens closely for rivers or sounds of water moving. It is important to get a feel for the area and the terrain. What the SEAL evaluates from this tuning process the most desirable route of escape should trouble break out. Understanding if there are rocks will give you a feeling when you walk of how much noise is emanating from your steps. All your senses are collaborating in tandem – sight, smell, touch and hearing to work as a computer diagnostic center to create an evaluation of your environment. This diagnosis could very well save the life of you and your men. In Vietnam there are stories of SEALs being so incredibly in tune with their environment that when they smelled the bubble gum of the enemy – an obvious cue of human presense they were able to kill their enemy because they were in tune and their enemy was not.
TC Cummings recants a time when he and his fellow SEALs were training on a desert island. They had become incredibly in tune with that island and its surroundings. The class was completing a jog and just as the base camp came into view in unison the heads of the SEALs begin looking around the noses began sniffing. The SEALs, who were one with their environment, had smelled the scent of a woman’s perfume yet the female was nowhere in sight. Tuning means recognizing what does not belong in your environment and understanding what your environment is. You evaluate the location of the water, the trees, the lakes, the brush, the exit routes, the human presense, sights, sounds and more. When in the jungle, the best way to hide is with camoflauge – when out in the open the best way to hide is to become one with the environment. A wonderful example would be if a SEAL is in the water, he becomes the kelp not the rock. He is flowing with the water, he is lose and free. A rock is not one with the water, it stands in defiance as a force separate from the water. The SEAL gets in tune with the water and hides by becoming one with it.
Tuning will allow the SEAL to perform his mission effectively because when trouble breaks out he does not have to ask himself where is the best exit route? He has already explored this through tuning and he simply reacts when the challenge presents itself. He is not taken aback when blindsided by an attack because in his tuning process he has already evaluated the potential threats and possible attack scenarios. He is able to detect the presense of the enemy because he is in tune with the smells of the area. In short, the SEAL knows his environment inside and out and it is one of his first items of business when entering a new territory.
What about you? In your life are you caught off guard or are you rarely stunned with surprises because of tuning? When giving a sales presentation and you arrive at the room before the prospect, do you take note of the surroundings? Where would be the best place to sit to keep noise and distractions at a distance? Or perhaps, when on the shuttle train at the airport, have you ever stopped to notice the emergency exits in the event trouble erupts? Tuning means that you understand where you are at. It implies that you have become comfortable and familiar with your environment.
Find out more in the MIND OF A SEAL CD PACKAGE
Ron White the National Memory Champion has hired TC Cummings as a Coach.