SLLSS for Better Observation and Awareness

IMG_2498In 1990 I hd the opportunity to attend my first Pre-Ranger Training/ Selection. Though I did not get a recommend at that atempt I took away some really valuable information to prepare me for my next attempt as well as techniques i still use today in a non-combat format. One of these is SLLSS.

In a combat patrol SLLSS is what you do when you pass from forward friendly lines into bad-guy country. The acronym is Stop, Look, Listen, Smell, and Scan. It helps to get you use to the new sounds, smells, and even the possiblity of finding potential enemy waiting in ambush for you. I use it quite differently today.

When teaching awareness and even basic tracking, SLLSS is the first exercise I place new students into when we hit the back country. I walk them from camp and set up a comfort zone for them. Let me break down the basics of what I teach:


Stop moving, stop adjusting gear, stop writing stuff in your journal. Stop thinking about work, school, or what’s in your pack for dinner. Stop and be in the moment.


Look around your area. Take a few moments to just understand where you are. See how the terrain flows. Look where the position of the sun is, the trees rocking, the ants on the ground. Notice animals scurrying around. Look both near and far, narrow and wide.


After being in the woods for 15-30 minutes, many of the sounds will return. Animal chatter, bugs, birds. Listen for water flowing, other students coughing or adjusting gear, the sound or the breaking limbs when the wind blows.


Every environment has its own unique smell, and sometimes by just turning your head you can pick up new smells. Pick up plants close to you and smell them to better relate the smell with what it looks like.


Using a SLOW scan like a figure 8 or z pattern you can pick up movement or even something you never noticed before.

By slowing down and conducting a SLLSS after everytime you occupy a new comfort zone, stop to rest on a hike, or when tracking you will pick up more signs in the woods.

I teach the SLLSS method to anyone interested in going out to the back country with me. Hope you will join us on one of our outings.

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