Walter Bizzarri: Today, the combat is 24/7 and 720 degrees – online and offline. As an operator, you have to understand that. You let your guard down, and you might be surprised by the new world’s rules, and you don’t make it home alive.

About the author

Walter Bizzarri is founder and CEO of Universal Shield.

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With apps tracking constant communication, video streaming, and powerful mobile devices all around us, the combat zone is everywhere now

The Interview

The Operator: Walter, could you give us a personal outlook on what you think will be significant changes and challenges for the tactical industry and the operators in LE, military, or close protection services?

Walter Bizzarri: First, with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, we have a full-scale war in Europe.

It will change the operational landscape.

But at this point, it is too early to oversee all consequences and changes we will see because of this war.

There will be plenty and new lessons to be learned.

But besides the war in Ukraine – let’s not forget: there are many more “battlefields” out there.

The “battlefield” of today is worldwide and 24/7.

It includes organized crime, cartels, terrorism, civil unrest, civil wars, proxy wars, and a general level of rising violence worldwide.

Today, one of the most significant changes for operators is that the individual “combat zone” isn’t clearly defined anymore.

As a result, the lines of where attacks happen or can be expected to happen are blurring.

And everything happens so much faster through the rapid pace of worldwide technological change.

With apps tracking constant communication, video streaming, and powerful mobile devices all around us, the combat zone is everywhere now.

With apps tracking constant communication, video streaming, and powerful mobile devices all around us, the combat zone is everywhere now. 

Terrorists conduct their attacks on ordinary streets and video stream their killing spree to a radicalized audience on social media.

Apps can organize riots.

Some people are just freaking out on subways, in shopping malls, or even in the hallways of their company and starting to beat, attack or even kill people. 

This seeming randomization of attacks is in full effect.

But it is not random but instead guided by an all-present technology that we as operators never can fully oversee. Even the deep-pocket houses of big tech cannot fully control what is happening on their own platforms.

A series of comments and postings or chats can be part of the next big terror attack.

Or a seemingly random killing spree of some weirdo has a long history of posting violent comments on social media, and it all ends up with him killing people in the neighborhood.

Our battlefield is complex and everywhere now.

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Significant challenges for operators and the tactical industry

Thomas Lojek: But doesn’t it work in both ways? Also, in favor of the operator?

Walter Bizzarri: Yes and no. Operators can use modern equipment, high-tech surveillance systems, tracking software, more sources of information, and so on.

And it makes sense.

It is a good trend that gives us more options.

But I was pointing out how the nature of attacks and threats is changing.

See, the nature of how and where high violent attacks can be expected is different today.

Last year, a local group of Chechnyan clans had changed a small French town into a warzone for days because of a turf war with Algerian clans.

For hours, the sleepy Austrian capital Vienna was under siege by a lone wolf terrorist.

In France, several people were beheaded on the street or in public places, like churches.

See, if you are a police officer or a close protection service member – even in our developed countries – you can run into a violent situation that will come close to third-world warzone brutality at any point and any place.

No country is safe anymore.

And this worldwide spreading of complex threats, as well as the constantly rising level of violence and the more sophisticated nature of attacks, is driven by technology.

These things were unthinkable in the 70s, 80s, 90s, or even in the new century’s first decade. At least in Europe or the US.

Rules were clear before.

War was a defined space on the world’s map then.

Today, it’s not. A proxy war in Lebanon can have an effect in Berlin or Brussels and lead to violent gang wars, turf wars in organized crimes, or terror attacks.

When nations are interested in destabilizing a region, they can hire sophisticated experts or have state-funded companies running a devastating information war on social media.

Today, the combat is 24/7 and 720 degrees – online and offline. As an operator, you have to understand that.

You let your guard down, and you might be surprised by the new world’s rules, and you don’t make it home alive.

I don’t want to sound too pessimistic, but the new combat rules are tough.

And omnipresent.

All the time.

We lure ourselves into the sleep that we have an advantage only because we use the term “tactical” for everything

Thomas Lojek: Do you have a suggestion on how operators, or our industry in general, could counter these trends or at least adapt?

Walter Bizzarri: Our industry only works when there is an advantage.

I somehow see our industry in an illusion of “we are having the tactical advantage” by being too much in love with tactical gear, TTP, and great-looking videos on social media.

It’s not about that. 

It is to understand that we cannot win the next war with what we know from the old war.

For three decades, CQB, tactical gear, and TTP were to our advantage.

But technology is blurring – again – the rules and our edge on the operational battlefield. 

You might feel safe with your latest carrier plate and tactical helmet, and coming from a two-week CQB course…

But one guy on a street corner secretly filming your team with his $50 smartphone can mean that you are maybe already dead, without even knowing it yet, and just because the bad guys know where you are now.

And only thanks to the guy on the street corner and his cheap crappy smartphone. 

Suppose we lure ourselves into the sleep that we have an advantage only because we use the term “tactical” for everything.

Our industry may be heading towards a very painful awakening in that case.

We have to be better than that. 

I see some trends toward commercialized individualism in our industry.

It seems to me that too many ex-military guys or former police officers are picking up their gun, putting their tactical gear on, and trying to make it big on social media. 

Well, it’s a free world.

But the common ground of all effective warfare, from being a police officer to conducting high-risk special operations under the command of state-side military agencies … the common ground of being a warrior is having a team.

A unit, a team, a group, a bunch of brothers, a tribe. And this spirit of “team” is getting lost in the hunt for social media fame. 

Of course, there are a lot of quiet professionals around the world.

Yes. But the industry’s growing trend to hunt fame and likes is picking up speed, especially now in a time of economic crisis.

And it worries me. 

We have to put teams first. Everyone is a “one-man war machine” on social media, which is not true.

We can only operate, advance, and fulfill our missions in teams. 

And I would like to see this spirit coming back into our industry’s communication and promotion habits. 

We need more good networks, good communication between our leading experts.

And we need to invest in events and training where we can connect and share with our brothers where we can. Everyone should be able to learn a few things.

Cooperation is my path in this world and my profession.

And I am a little worried about social media creating an underlying toxic movement of “me… me… me…” 

That is not what we have learned in the units and operations that made us who we are. 

Repeating what we have learned during the last 20 years will not prepare us fully for the war we will have the next time

The Operator: Let’s put these aspects into action: What would you recommend training for? 

Walter Bizzarri: Most people in our profession still train for a war that is over.

Or at least over in the form, we knew it.

But in many training courses, the drills repeat what our forces have learned in places like Fallujah, Ramadi, and Mosul. Or in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan. 

And don’t get me wrong: Of course, this kind of training represents a portfolio of vetted combat tactics that has reached an impressive peak of efficiency in performance.

The CQB tactics of units which have been on active duty in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan – these tactics might be the highest form of effective warfare of our generation. 

But repeating what we have learned during the last 20 years will not prepare us fully for the war we will have the next time.

Or for the war, we are already in, and maybe without even noticing it.

Terror attacks happen in public places with knives, machetes, cars, or trucks.

Most terrorists don’t even try to get explosives because they know that this will catch the attention of our intelligence units. 

Both sides are getting better at what they do and how to hide their activities.

That is why the attacks are coming from within today.

On a subway, in a church, on the streets.

Even we might have to put the riots of Portland, Seattle, and Capitol Hill into this category when we imply the possibility that there are maybe foreign forces at work who seem able to use modern forms of unconventional warfare and information wars against us.

And perhaps far better than we ever could imagine before. 

Let’s look at modern warfare and combat as a fragmented but all present continuity.

We have to understand that the doors of Fallujah are everywhere now, so to speak… on our subways, in churches, in schools, on the streets, in company buildings.

And even in police and military buildings because we have seen the effective attacks in the Fort Hood Shooting in 2009 and in the deadly knife attack in a Paris police department in October 2019.

Nothing is safe.

The enemy is hiding deep within our culture and our daily life. 

That is why we need a most flexible and full-spectrum form of combat mindset and combat action.

But we have to put this full spectrum of possible warfare or self-defense actions under the microscope of “What will most likely happen and what could do the most damage to us in a situation when we do not expect it to happen?” 

It may sound like a contradiction, but we have to train for the most likely attack and forms of attack we can’t even think about yet because we haven’t seen these kinds of attacks before.

But this is what makes even empires win or lose a war, since ancient Greece, Rome, and empires like China and Japan, and it even happened to a tactical mastermind, like Napoleon. 

They all were caught by surprise by enemies who came into the battle with tactics they couldn’t counter because they didn’t anticipate them, nor did they understand them.

And it will happen to us. 

Let’s be honest, deeply, and frighteningly honest: Most military forces and police forces aren’t ready to counter enemies and attacks that come from within and are camouflaged in the same culture and population. 

And this is exactly the most dangerous security threat we are facing.

So the best way to train is to take the vetted principles of what we know works in a particular context, understand them, and move them into today’s context.

Or drop them. Or redefine them. 

We have to be confident in what works but keep open-minded to the fact that enemies adapt, learn, and counter-attack. 

Our fundamentals in TTP are not going away.

We have to teach fundamentals, no doubt, but we also have to train our operators to adapt constantly.

We need confident warriors who carry the fundamentals of warfare in their DNA.

Because they have been effectively trained in these fundamentals by instructors with a good sense of reality and who understand that every soldier has to stay flexible in their thinking and combat action. 

Train confident in what you know, but keep open to the fact that you will face attacks and combat conditions that will need you to go beyond all that… in thinking and action! 

If you follow this principle and if you connect with a network of good and like-minded instructors, where everyone is willing to share expertise and experience, that can widen your operational capabilities.

If you follow this path, you are ready to be an effective operator for the challenges of our new battlefields. 

For civilians: Train reality-based and open-minded for what most likely could happen to you and your family

The Operator: Any advice for civilians?

Walter Bizzarri: In general, any civilian who is serious in his interest in self-defense should follow the same advice that I would give professionals: train reality-based and open-minded for what most likely could happen to you and your family.

But train your thinking around the fact that any attack will be most likely different from what you have learned.

Learn good fundamentals, but keep your mind open and be able to adapt to any situation.

And, please, understand that you train as a civilian.

Your goal is to protect your life, your family, and maybe your property.

You don’t need CQB, SWAT, and counter-terror training.

So stay away from instructors who want to sell you these courses.

Most likely, it is crap, or you will ally yourself with immoral people.

Because these tactics should not be sold to the civilian market, and everyone who does it has a doubtful moral compass.

And it is simply not necessary.

During a home invasion, you won’t have a SWAT unit behind your back while you are moving forward in your fancy tactical gear.

No, most likely, you will be sleepy and in your pajamas and ask yourself what is happening.

So train to become a good shooter, train in a few effective self-defense moves, train in some realistic situations that will most likely happen to you.

Understand that you aren’t a member of a tactical unit.

Therefore, you are just wasting time if you train yourself in things that you have seen in the movies or on Youtube.

With Universal Shield USA, we are creating a line of products for the civilian market now because we understand that civilians are worried about the deteriorating security situation worldwide.

But, of course, we don’t sell our high-end tactical shield for operators to civilians because it doesn’t make sense.

But we offer homeowners smaller, highly adaptable anti-ballistic shields that can be used effectively in the environment of a civilian home.

You can quickly pick our home-defense shields and move freely in small gangways, stairways, and rooms full of furniture.

Our new home defense shields will protect you and your family against bullets and knife attacks.

And they give you the freedom to use them in the range of possibilities and in scenarios, you will really face.

It is precisely the principle in action that I discussed before: Take operational experience and put it into a new context.

That is what we did with our new line of shields for home defense.

Our shield for home defense reflects what most likely will happen during a home invasion and gives civilians the maximum flexibility to move, escape, and protect an entire family while adapting to any situation in a real household environment.

Along the same vein, we are now starting a line of anti-knife attack gear.

The product line will have a different look than the one for professional operators.

Our anti-knife clothes and accessories will completely blend in, perfect for the civilian markets.

You can sit with our anti-knife shirts, trousers, scarfs, and gloves in a subway, and you will be completely protected against any edged-weapon attack while not attracting anybody’s attention.

You blend in.

Our line is completely fashionable.

But you are wearing it inside your civilian clothes.

These are high-tech layers that can withstand any form of knife-stabbing, slicing, and hitting.

And being protected in this way while not attracting anyone’s attention isn’t the worst option in many neighborhoods today.

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Photos by Walter Bizzarri

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