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By Richard Busch. February 19, 2021
JPFO Ambassador


To paraphrase an old alleged Chinese curse and merge it with Thomas Paine (The American Crisis, 1776): we live in interesting times that try men's souls! And we do. There's no doubt about it! With all the uncertainty, day to day danger as we lose right after right, even just walking down the street is a potential risk. We constantly flirt with unknown danger as we dance with the possibility of encountering pure hate and evil at a moment's notice. Just being in a mall, a shop, a restaurant, virtually anywhere, even at home, is without question a lot more dangerous than at any time in many decades.

Let's say you're away from home with your spouse or another friend. You already know all about the importance of situational awareness and want to discreetly transmit a safety reminder or alert to your spouse without creating an outward fuss. Is there a reliable way to do it? Might it be useful to always be ready at a moment's notice to let your mate know what you know, and see what you see? YES! And no, there is no such thing as reliable ESP, so we can't pretend there is. But is there something else truly dependable that we can count on? YES!

Lt. Col. Jeff Cooper's Color Codes of Mental and Situational Awareness is the answer! Since you are reading this, I bet most of you have already studied his Color Coded Threat Levels. Some of you may have forgotten part of it. But a greater concern to you may be how to first teach it to your spouse or friend, and then be able to take it to the next level by transmitting it by code, quickly and easily.

The good news is, I have some great mental jogs that will not only help you remember it and teach it, but then make it super easy for you to secretly transmit it in just two words. Plus, I'll give you two different systems to do it. Take your pick! Or learn both and change up from time to time. That's exactly what my wife and I have done over the years. Keeps us on our toes!

Cooper's Color Code is WHITE, YELLOW, ORANGE, RED, and some even add BLACK, which was not part of Cooper's original system. WHITE is the usual mindless blur most people spend most of their waking lives in. The trick for you is to wake your mate up, snap them out of WHITE, and quickly alert them to what they immediately need to know by cueing them the correct color level to be in.

Here's my secret: All you have to do is remember that the first letter of each color spells "ROY" (for Red, Orange, Yellow). Say "ROY" and then say the "COLOR." Easy Peasy. By simply saying "ROY" and then the "COLOR", you will first code the system to your mate, and then the color. As promised, all in two words!

"ROY RED" - The threat is real. You must be ready to defend right now, as it is happening right now. Immediately go into defensive action: Run, Hide, Fight!

"ROY ORANGE" - A possible threat may be near. Something is "off" so pay special attention. ORANGE is a lower alert than RED, but higher than YELLOW. That means something has been noticed that may require you to either advance to RED or go back to YELLOW. Be very careful!

"ROY YELLOW" - Everything is fine, but stay alert. Pay attention, keep scanning and stay situationally aware. Do not fall asleep on your feet and descend into WHITE.

With my two-word ROY - COLOR approach and a mere modicum of practice, forgetting becomes next to impossible. When seconds count, this will save lives!

Thank you Jeff Cooper, for your four color code, your famous four rules, and so much more!

Ever since I first learned Cooper's Colors, I thought there might be an even faster way to get to the correct level. As I see it, there is a brief nanosecond step in first thinking of ROY, picturing and seeing the letters of ROY, and then getting the COLOR from ROY. One day a very long time ago, I decided I wanted to shave off that nanosecond when even nanoseconds matter and just might make the difference that makes all the difference. Here is my thinking, and solution ...

All of us first learned about the three traffic light colors in kindergarden or preschool. Soon, we became well-conditioned to know what they mean and why they are important. Before letters and numbers were taught in school, we already knew the importance of RED, YELLOW, GREEN by either walking to or being driven to school. All these years later, we instantly know RED is stop, YELLOW is caution, and GREEN is go. We don't have to visualize anything. We just know it! The truth is, the three traffic light colors are lifetime information. Instantly known. Impossible to forget. And there you have it. In keeping with my two-word code for this system, first will come the COLOR for instant recognition, and then the word EYE. Why EYE? Is it more than just a reminder to watch, to really see and pay attention? YES!

I wanted a word that would pass muster and not arouse suspicion or panic by saying a word like threat, code, condition, or alert. RED EYE has medical connotations, as with allergies, dry eye, and broken blood vessels. There is pink eye. YELLOW EYE describes jaundice. GREEN EYE is an eye color, and a beautiful one at that. So you see, all three of my prompts make perfect sense. A nearby eavesdropper will not be affected in the least! Now let's see what this means for our purposes.

RED EYE is "STOP" what you're doing ... and then has exactly the same meaning as ROY RED.

YELLOW EYE is "CAUTION" ... and then has exactly the same meaning as ROY ORANGE.

GREEN EYE is "GO" on and continue with what you are doing ... and then has exactly the same meaning as ROY YELLOW.

Now let's add another dimension. For years my wife and I would verbally code directions, just to look at something or someone. We would consider the nose of the receiver, the listener, as 12:00. If I said 12:00, it meant my wife should look straight ahead. If I said 3:00, that meant Cynthia should look right. 9:00 meant she should look left. 6:00 meant she should look behind her.

In keeping with my two-word limitation for both codes taught here, I'll give the speaker a silent option. Tilt your head in the direction of the area being coded. A quick peek at the sender's head by the receiver will code the direction. 12:00 in front of you, just look down at the ground, thus tilting your head forward. 6:00 behind you, look up, thus tilting your head back. 3:00, your head tilts right. 9:00, your head tilts left. You get the idea. Now, using your favorite system, you can code to your receiver what they need to know, do, and even verbally or nonverbally, code where the disturbance either is or may be, depending on which color was just sent! For ROY YELLOW and GREEN EYE, there is no disturbance. In this case, it doesn't matter where your head is, as long as it remains on your shoulders.

To my knowledge (and I've asked experts), I am the only person to ever conceive of the importance of using a code to transmit the various color levels. They were originally designed to be a teaching tool for individuals developing their combat readiness. I hope my expansion and additional coding ideas presented here, will help save even more lives, regardless of the skill level of either the sender or receiver.

Which of the two systems is better, Cooper's or Busch's? The correct answer, the only answer is the one that works best for you, the one you find most comfortable, and most important of all, the one that YOU WILL DO. As I said, my wife and I have used both. But to tell you the truth, we have settled on one and you should too. Avoiding confusion (especially when so much may be on the line) by keeping things clear and easy as possible is always a must! Remember the old KISS principle. Keep It Simple Stupid. I could change it to Keep It Simple Safely. And I just did.

I sincerely hope you and yours will spend 90% of your time reminding each other either ROY YELLOW or GREEN EYE, 10% either ROY ORANGE or YELLOW EYE, and never ever need ROY RED or RED EYE. May you always be reminding each other to wake up and get out of WHITE! Pay attention! ROY YELLOW or GREEN EYE will make sure of it and help you stay safe by reminding you to keep scanning the area you are in, looking for exits, entrances, who is where, what they are doing, where the cash register is, etc., and always while maintaining good situational awareness. Safety skills are otherwise just as perishable as any other skill we must continually practice.

BUSCH'S GOLDEN RULE: Readiness and of course training and practice always begin by paying attention to detail. And for that, we must PAY with our ATTENTION. Why? Because attention truly is the initial downpayment on safety!

Live Well. Live Safe. Live Free.

And always remember ...


This article is dedicated to the memory of

Rush just died today, February 17, 2021, as I was finishing this article.
At times like this, we Jews often say:
"May his memory be a blessing."
Rush ... your memory IS a blessing!
We will never forget.
G-d bless you Rush, and THANK YOU!

© 2021 Copyright by Richard Busch


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