With 23 years of experience designing training for high-stress occupations, Marcus Wynne taught at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center as well as law enforcement and military academies. He discussed how he uses research in cognitive neuroscience to create his counter terrorism and security training programs. “What I do is I take a lot of the academic concepts,” he said, “and I translate that, through my experience, into something that the guys and gals on the line can use.” He explained that by studying how the brain processes and learns information while under stress, better training techniques can be developed to help law enforcement and military personnel be prepared when they actually encounter such situations.
In tracing the origins of his work designing training programs, Wynne recalled joining the air marshal program following the downing of Pan Am Flight 103. During his training, Wynne was tasked with five hijacking scenarios and his team was the only group which passed all of the tests. Disgruntled supervisors insisted on learning how he passed the final two tests, because they were “designed to be non-survivable,” and requested that he teach their program. In turn, Wynne set about trying to decipher how exactly he was able to solve problems in violent situations and eventually came to the conclusion that superior performance can be attained by tapping into the psychological components at work in such high stress predicaments.
Regarding modern terrorism and how to combat the threat of ISIS, Wynne dismissed the strategy of “standing back and bombing” because it does not address the nature of the terrorist group. To that end, he warned that the group’s sophisticated use of social media allows it to both gain new recruits as well as manipulate emotions to psychologically prepare their fighters for battle. Therefore, Wynne suggested that usurping the social media platform fueling ISIS would be more effective than traditional warfare tactics to defeat the terrorist group. “We’d be better off if we rounded up the top on hundred Youtube and Twitter people in the country,” he mused, “and sat them down with the top hackers in the country and just put them in a room and said ‘you guys figure it out, go wage war.'”