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Valour (Vol. 11, No. 4)

Book Reviews

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Enhancing Human Performance In Security Operations. International And Law Enforcement Perspectives

by Paul T. Bartone, Bjorn Heige Jonsen, Jarle Eid,
John M. Violangi, and Jon Christian Laberg (eds.)

Springfield, Illinois: Charles C. Thomas Publisher Ltd, 2010.
457 pages, $93.95 (HC), $66.95 (PB).

Reviewed by Bernd Horn

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For those involved in security operations, whether military or in law enforcement, the title of the book alone is enough to attract interest. Simply opening this hefty volume will pull it all together, and it is, by all accounts, an impressive book. Notably, however, it is not for those who are looking for light reading on the subject. Enhancing Human Performance in Security Operations is an authoritative handbook on the subject, written by a collection of international experts, both military and civilian, in the fields of stress, resiliency, and human performance. There are 35 contributors, many of whom are psychologists, and all of whom have unimpeachable credentials.

The book examines research and the practical applications related to security operations in the widest sense. It is designed to provide some guidance on the ever present problems of human adaption, stress, and resilience in ambiguous and dynamic situations where human decisions, often made in split seconds, can have life and death consequences. Specifically, it provides insight and perspectives on the psychological pressures faced by operators in this domain.More importantly, the book also furnishes practical recommendations on how to optimize human performance in the complex and dangerous realm of security operations.

To accomplish this monumental task, the volume is divided into three sections.The first section provides an excellent grounding in basic theoretical perspectives on psychological and social factors that significantly affect human performance in high stress work. It includes a theoretical model of resilience that, while centered on law enforcement, has relevance to all those who work in security operations. Many aspects of the model resonate throughout the book, as do the selection and training issues it raises.

The second section of the book emphasizes practical approaches for selecting, training, and preparing personnel to function effectively in today's dynamic operating environment. The data is scientifically based and it deals with such critical topics as personality measures in selection programs, as well as organizational, leadership, and training approaches with respect to increasing individual qualities and skills that are critical for successful performance in high-risk professions.

The final part of the book provides some outstanding case studies that explore real situations, and thereby provide a degree of vicarious experience for the reader. Chapters include topics such as training new police officers in Kosovo, the challenges of training indigenous forces for demining and explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) clearance in Sudan and Iraq, psychological processes in deadly force incidents, and preventing abuse of prisoners and detainees, to mention but a few subjects covered. In sum, the third section provides an excellent array of scenarios that are of great utility for study.

In all, Enhancing Human Performance in Security Operations is an extraordinary handbook. The chapters are well written and well researched.In addition, each chapter has an extensive, detailed list of references that allows the reader to access related material. Moreover, this very handsome book contains high quality paper, as well as clear and precise charts and graphics. Importantly, it also boasts an outstanding, comprehensive index. In sum, this volume is an excellent resource for anyone working in the security domain, and, particularly, for those who are entrusted with selecting, training, and preparing individuals for operations, whether military or in law enforcement.

Colonel Bernd Horn, OMM, MSM, CD, PhD, is the Chief of Staff Strategic Education and Training Programs at the Canadian Defence Academy. He is also an Adjunct Professor of History at the Royal Military College of Canada.



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