Military experts teach Austin students importance of awareness during attacks

A Central Texas group is teaching students how to avoid becoming a victim of violence on campus by being more aware.

AUSTIN - It's only been a few months since University of Texas freshmen Harrison Brown was stabbed on campus.

Over the last year, the university and many schools across the country have experienced heartache when it comes to violent crimes.

It's why one Central Texas group is teaching students how to avoid becoming a victim by being more aware.

When it comes to a dangerous situation, education can be one of the best lines of defense.

"We want to introduce them to as much adverse things as possible, as safe as possible so the first time they experience it it isn't in a life scenario," lead instructor John Badon said.

He's part of the Smithville survival training firm, Black Tree. His team gave free lessons to local college students to help create a higher sense of awareness on campus, Saturday.

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Their courses are led by experts in military special ops. The goal is to train students to become a hard target, exposing them to a number of circumstances.

"A lot of people go out and about and don't know how to -- or what to pick up on," said classroom instructor Derrick Higgs.

He says it's about decoding other people's body language and noticing events out of the ordinary.

Students also had the chance to experience VR technology that puts them in threatening situations to apply the lessons they've learned.

Instructors say they want to push people out of their comfort zones, like build gun handling skills. Students learn the different sounds the guns give off when fired, and are trained on how to shoot a gun properly.

Badon says they want them to get familiar with the weapons instead of being afraid of them.

"I had never touched a gun in my life," 17-year-old Marissa Diaz said.

Her mother signed her up because she is moving off to college in Corpus Christi this fall and is concerned for her safety.

"I had never really been by myself anywhere," she added. 

The 17-year-old feels what she's absorbing from these lessons can help her in the long run, preparing students to be proactive rather than reactive.

Black Tree staff also incorporated tactical defenses into the program as well.

"Because we do not want them to cower down, people are so much more than that," Badon said.

At the end of the day's lessons, they want students to feel more confident to defend themselves and notice signs sooner.

"Like if it came down to it -- like I could," Diaz said.

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