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I am Yousef Badou, a former U.S. Marine and I teach people Behavior Profiling and Tracking-Ask Me Anything!

I served for 10 years in the US Marine Corps and then went on to teach at the Marine Combat Hunter Program for the last decade. I just started my own business teaching people to profile behavior in order to proactively look for threats or violence before they happen. I also teach tracking to Police, Fire and Search and Rescue.

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Is there one thing that you could teach a civilian going overseas to do that would help them before they get into trouble?

Original Poster19 points · 6 months ago

Just one thing would be tough, but if I could tell you only one thing would be to observe where peoples attention is. When you walk into an area, does everybody go about their business or does someone shift their body language and orient on you? Most people don't realize what cues they are giving off. Also, watch for anybody who exhibits situational awareness. Odds are they are some kind of player.

How would you differentiate between a true player and someone that is also -perhaps naturally- situationally aware?

Original Poster12 points · 6 months ago

Situational awareness just indicates situational awareness. I couldn't tell you if that person is a bad guy but most people do not exhibit situational awareness. It's either a good guy or bad guy that tend to do this. You have to figure which one they are through more sustained observation. Whoever it is just got my full attention though.

8 points · 6 months ago · edited 6 months ago

Being a Marine who recently just got out after 5 years, in an intelligence related job, I tend to practice basic situational awareness almost everywhere I go. Especially when out with family or wife.

A week or so ago I was in Target while my wife was walking up and down a cosmetics aisle and I was staying with the buggy on my phone and people watching. I likely looked suspicious since I have fully grown out my beard and was wearing loose fitting, comfortable sweats.

I noticed an employee acting like he was looking at something on a shelf down the aisle but he wasn't really doing anything.. Then he looked at me and we made eye contact and I kept my gaze until he looked away. Then as he walked away I could see by the writing on his shirt that he was store security. Made me chuckle a bit.

Original Poster11 points · 6 months ago

Semper Fi Brother! That is textbook example of knowing where peoples attention are focused. When you try to act like you're doing one thing but really doing something else, it can stick out if you're paying attention. Also when someone's behavior appears to have no beginning or end you need to pay attention.

Thank you for writing “try to” instead of “try and”!

Original Poster2 points · 6 months ago

No problem ;)

Thanks very much, I am pretty happy go lucky individual, sadly I know I am not that observant, so thanks much for the tip!

Original Poster6 points · 6 months ago

You might not think you're observant but we are all actually hardwired for it. It's just like working out a muscle group, all you need is some training and it kicks back in!

What is the most common indication that someone is up to no good? Looking for something practical we can all use in our day to day lives. Thanks in advance!

Original Poster15 points · 6 months ago

There are many behaviors out there but one you need to pay attention to is Pacifying behavior. Rubbing the back of the neck, self touch, face cleansing, tapping of the foot. wringing hands etc. This indicates that an individual is under some type of fear or threat response. Doesn't mean 100% he is a bad guy, just that person is dealing with upper levels of stress and you should pay attention.

6 points · 6 months ago

You just described every little bit of my behaviour when I am sitting in a bar drinking some beers. Yet I am not looking for fights or trouble, I am just stressed because of anxiety and depression. Can those things cause the same body language ?

Original Poster6 points · 6 months ago

Yes they can. Your brain is very binary when it comes to threat. Either it's a threat or not to your brain and your body will react in similar ways. This is why I never say "oh he's lying" or "he's 100% a bad guy!" You have to do some type of sustained observations to tell if someone is up to no good.

2 points · 6 months ago

Holy shit I never knew those were signs of somebody being up to no good. Guess I´ll have to work on my body sign language and calm down a bit. Thanks a lot !

Original Poster4 points · 6 months ago

Got to start somewhere!

Hi Mr. Badou. Tracking is a large part of anti-poaching operations throughout southern Africa. Usually tracking operations are a result of a failure to deter poachers from targeting and entering a property or park, resulting in scrambling tracking teams and stop-groups who attempt to interdict fleeing suspects. Having talked with trackers of various nationalities and disciplines, it's always interesting to hear about their own training and how they've utilized their tracking skills in the field.

Did you have any interesting experiences while going through your tracking/trailing courses? What has been the longest spoor/track that you and/or your team has followed and what kind of support did you have?

Original Poster7 points · 6 months ago

I have always been a big supporter of the Anti Poaching efforts and commend you for what you're doing. I bet we know some of the same people ;)

I've been a tracking instructor for 10 years so I have had some pretty interesting stories but the best ones always come from my students. The one that always comes to mind is when a unit of guys I trained called me directly from Afghanistan with a tracking win. Their unit was about to enter a compound and he insisted he scan it first for any sign. He scanned the courtyard and got a bad gut feeling and wouldn't allow thy unit to enter the compound. After everything calmed down, they engineers searched the building and found 13 IED's just in the courtyard. It would have been a catastrophic attack. That one still gives me the chills.

There's no replacement for the development of sound intuition and excellent training. Glad to hear your student and his unit made the right decision.

Thanks for the kind words, your efforts, and your wisdom!

Original Poster3 points · 6 months ago

No worries but now I got to ask. What's your favorite tracking story?

This is not the most action-packed, but one of the best trackers I've met has told me a couple great stories. They are not mine to repeat, but here is a funny one I can share:

This tracker was doing in-ops training with a large group of rangers and they tracked some suspected poachers through the woods of Malawi for several hours, finding the usual spoor: foot prints, a bit of counter-tracking sometimes, occasionally the men would squat or sit on the ground to rest. But they didn't see the expected imprints of a rifle butt in the sand near where the suspects rested. Curious.

The rangers went on until they damn near walked into a huge pit in the forest ground that had been covered over with a tarp and some leaves. After exploring it a bit, they found that it was plenty large enough to hide even the largest mammal species in Africa.

Naturally the rangers setup an ambush around the pit, figuring that whoever had been digging would be back eventually. The forest was unfortunately quiet at night because of the dramatic level of bushmeat poaching that had been going on for years. It was rare to see or hear even small mammals - or the animals that prey on them because their populations had been reduced so significantly.

The poachers came back and were interdicted (not without a small chase, I imagine). When asked why they had dug the large pit they explained that they had no guns, but were planning to trap an elephant in the pit, presumably to kill it for its ivory. The rangers were somewhat surprised by this, because elephants had migrated away from the area years ago as a result of the civil unrest and poaching.

When told this one of the poachers replied along the lines of "yes, but if I do not make a trap, I cannot catch anything."

Original Poster3 points · 6 months ago

Ha! Great story! I read a really great book on Tracking in Africa. It's called Shadows in the Sand by Sisingi Komango. It's about South Africa's "Koevoet" unit. It stands for "crowbar" because the would "pry" the bad guys out of the area. Your story reminded me of some of their stories.

Thanks, I will look into this! I recently read "Koevoet!" by journalist Jim Hooper and man, the things those guys did took some balls! Pry indeed. Granted, they had up-armored vehicles and were properly equipped for the opponent they were facing, but it emphasized the tenacity of their spirit and their unit cohesion.

Original Poster3 points · 6 months ago

Those guys were nuts! They would have their trackers run the entire track line sometimes with the threat of booby traps!

Hi Yousef! Would you recommend "Left of Bang" for civilians as a form of continuing education on the subject of awareness and profiling? Additionally, are there any other books other than your awesome courses that would help us stay sharp?

Original Poster6 points · 6 months ago

Enthusiastically recommend the book. The author and I served together at the program and it is the meat and potatoes of what I teach. However most people just read a book and think the learning stops there. If you want to get good at profiling you have to constantly exercise it like a muscle group. Another good primer is "what everyBODY is saying" by Joe Navarro (sp) and "The Gift of Fear" by Gavin DeBecker to get you started.

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How can you maintain good situational awareness without giving off the telltale signs that you are?

Original Poster3 points · 6 months ago

That is actually pretty hard to do if you are maintaining real situational attention. It's actually what I rely on to give people away. There are some types of urban masking like sunglasses and head ware that can minimize some indicators but not get rid of all of them. You can fool some people some of the time but not all of the people all of the time.

Can you target human predators in the more urban social setting? The opportunistic ones that have spent a life-time blending in?

Original Poster4 points · 6 months ago

Depends on what you're asking. Your typical criminal doesn't usually realize how much their behaviors can give off. I often tell my classes natural human behavior is just that, natural. When it doesn't match, those people will stick out. On top of that, the other non-criminals in that area can be giving off cues when the actual criminal comes around. Even if they are being super-ninja, other people know them and their actions and can give off indicators too. Let me know if this is what you were asking about and if not, I can elaborate.

Do you look for things like behavioral signals that show they are intending to do something, and look for normal things that are out of place?

Original Poster6 points · 6 months ago

You just summed up the training pretty well. Establish baselines or behavioral norms in a given setting then try to spot for anomalies in that baseline. There is a ton of information swirling around your head at any given moment and training can help you spot these pre-event indicators.

What are the most interesting examples of false positives or false negatives you've encountered?

Original Poster3 points · 6 months ago

Not super over the top but you always get in trouble when you let your biases creep in. I was contacting an individual who looked disheveled, scruffy and over all bad vibe. I was thinking great this guy's gonna be a treat. I talked to him and he was the nicest most helpful guy I talked to that day. It's hard but you have make the most objective observations you can.

which celebrities that have not been accused of misbehavior yet give off a vibe that makes you think they may be hiding something?

Original Poster6 points · 6 months ago

Sorry, I really stay away from social profiling as the farther you get away from the brains fear center, the less reliable the behaviors become. On top of those people got famous for acting!

Original Poster2 points · 6 months ago

I'm going to shove off for about an hour but I'll be back. Great questions so far, keep em coming!

Original Poster2 points · 6 months ago

Annnnd I'm back!

Hello, are some people sharper in general and able to pick up on behavior and body language better than others? Can you straight up teach someone these skills or is there the need for a seed of perception in the student?

Original Poster3 points · 6 months ago

Just my opinion, but my students who grew up in bad areas had a lot more natural talent for observing anomalies. Having said that, we are all hardwired to profile, we've just gotten so far away from it with the advent of technology. Through training I like to say that I'm not teaching you anything new, just waking up parts of the brain that have been dormant for a while. Everyone can learn!

Yeah, living in relative security removes the need to pay attention, learn patterns and discern changes. I liked the part where you compare it to a muscle group.

Apart from exercising these skills, are there some of the personality traits you have developed that make you better at this task? Do you feel like the work has influenced you as a person?

Original Poster2 points · 6 months ago

"Learn patterns and discern changes" That is exactly what I want people doing. Most people walk around paranoid or in a state of "hyper vigilance" that can't be maintained over time. By basing you observations on specific behaviors it's like a mental checklist. Now your scanning with confidence rather than fear as a motivator.

As for being influenced, hey just cause you're paranoid doesn't mean there not out to get you ;)

There are mentions of plenty of books throughout this thread about behavior and body language. Any recommendations for references on tracking?

Original Poster3 points · 6 months ago

Yes!! Some tracking love! For a great story on a tracking team in South Africa "Shadows in the Sand" written by Sisingi Kamango. If your looking for more of a technical manual David Scott-Donelan's "Tactical Tracking Operations" is a great way to learn the mechanics of tracking. David has been a mentor for the last ten years. Those will lead you down the rabbit hole.

Ok thanks!

Do you have any books to recommend?

Original Poster4 points · 6 months ago

Gift of Fear Just 2 Seconds On Killing Shadows in the Sand Tactical Tracking Operations What everybody is saying

Thanks for doing the AMA!

As a new police officer I was trained to "always watch the hands, these are what will kill you" but I've always been under the assumption to watch the person I'm in contact with's face cause that will give the tells I need to know if they're a threat or not. In your opinion do you believe the tells from the face or the tells from the hands are more important or is it a combination of both?

Original Poster2 points · 6 months ago

I would have to defer to hands. Hands are the weapons of the body so there is my nearer danger. Besides that I would watch for target glancing, looking over their shoulder looking for routes or worse continuous glancing at your weapon. Bad ju ju. Might indicate they are feeling froggy.

As someone who is insanely curious about people watching and noting peoples behavior, I'm surprised to see that this is something that one can actually study. I'm currently an undergrad in college studying criminal justice, and have a vested interest in national security. How can I further my study (maybe in grad school) and focus on this field in particular?

Original Poster2 points · 6 months ago

That's a great question. There is no degree program specifically tailored for this subject matter. Most academic behavior analysis is geared towards clinical observations. All the subjects exist in academia, just not in one place. If it helps, for the people who can't make it to my seminars I have online classes on my website. I have released 2 classes and am working on the next ones right now.

The Secret Service has been getting a lot of flack over the last couple of years-- is there anything you think they should be doing better?

Original Poster7 points · 6 months ago

SS is a very tough job with a very tough mission but they are one of the most well trained units out there. If you think about it, they do a job were they have to be 100% right every time and humans are not infallible. What I suggest to anybody I train is if your organization is 98% efficient, those are good numbers right? However you can always squeeze a few more percentage points into your efficiency. Never get complacent with your training.

How accurate is the show Criminal Minds?

Original Poster6 points · 6 months ago

I haven't actually seen that one but i assume it has to do with Criminal Profiling. I focus on real time observation of threat behavior to disrupt a threat before it happens. Criminal profiling is mostly to do with building a psych profile on an individual and using algorithms to narrow down a search field. You have to watch what movies and TV put out as they are there to entertain. A great new show on the beginning of criminal profiling in America is called Mindhunter. Not to be confused with the older movie Mindhunters.

Hi Mr. Badou! Do culturally driven behaviors (like etiquette) ever change how you would track behavior? Like in a completely foreign country for example.

Original Poster3 points · 6 months ago

For me, I stay away from training cultural behavior learned behaviors. Not because they are not important, they are, but that is for you to figure once you get there. I never know where my students are going so I can't really spend to much time on it. I focus on hard wired survival behaviors exhibited by all humans no matter where you go.

2 points · 6 months ago


Original Poster1 point · 6 months ago

The youtube link is me providing my username and date now. Thanks.

What does it take to change someones's behavior?

I've studied behavior economics and find some people just can't change their behavior. Things like controlling addiction, spending, etc...

What advice would you give for safety to someone planning to travel to Mexico, Peru or Colombia? (Or anywhere with a higher than small village in the woods population?

1 point · 5 months ago · edited 5 months ago

Tips/tricks for someone hoping to become a Marine after high school?

Thoughts and opinions on JROTC, CAP, etc. cadet programs?

What was your rank?

Any scary/disturbing/“WTF was that” stories?

Boot stories?

Boot thing that you did or saw new Marines do?

How can I uh, “start” (for a lack of better term) tracking, using my gut instincts, etc.?

1 point · 6 months ago · edited 4 months ago


Original Poster6 points · 6 months ago

Hmmm tough question. They have great intentions but they get bogged down with a lot of regulation and rules. My training consists of observing something out of place and then ACTING on it. That ability gets worn down when you have three levels of approval you have to go through.

I see you have a picture of the VPD in your website. What services did you provide for them?

Original Poster2 points · 6 months ago

Sorry, that is just stock photos I licensed. I haven't done any training in Vancouver yet. I will hopefully be in Toronto in April for a seminar though!

I hope one day you have seminars in Vancouver.

Original Poster1 point · 6 months ago

I would love to visit! We'll see what 2018 brings ;)

Is it so?

Original Poster1 point · 6 months ago

Mmm yes?

-5 points · 6 months ago(0 children)
Original Poster6 points · 6 months ago

No, but I did hurt someone's feelings once if that counts.

I think that's a close second. Did it keep you from your objective or hinder you from doing something important?

Original Poster3 points · 6 months ago

Not sure about your question. Can you clarify?

When you hurt someones feelings, did it ever make your job more difficult? Or did you have the opportunity to go back and "hey my bad. That's part of my job."?

Original Poster3 points · 6 months ago · edited 6 months ago

We would always try to mend relations with the locals when we could. Never know where the next bit of information would come from and it's not that hard to learn the Arabic phrase for "I'm sorry." Regardless of what people would make you believe, we're not all heartless bastard killers. Unless you were the enemy than yes that's exactly what we where ;)

Oh I wasn't trying to insinuate you were killers. This is the answer I was looking for.

And it makes sense. If you don't apologize the next time you show they won't tell you were the hostages are if you had been rude to them previously. I would imagine killing them is probably counter productive.

Original Poster1 point · 6 months ago

No l didn't take it like that at all, just a general comment on what people think sometimes. It was good question.

Is that a reference to the movie Ronin?

Bobby DeNiro says that when Sean Bean asks him if he ever killed anyone.

Original Poster3 points · 6 months ago

Thank You!!! I've been waiting for someone to get that! One of my favorites. You win a free profiling class. Check your messages and I'll send you a code. My man!

Will the class teach me to use a cup of coffee to ambush someone? Ha, thanks I will check it out.

Original Poster2 points · 6 months ago

I see you learned how to shoot in the Boy Scouts too ;)lol

Original Poster2 points · 6 months ago

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