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There is a false truth present in the “tactical” shooting community that has been around for decades. This lie goes back to the old mythology of “one-shot stops” and the mantra of “I’ll only carry a pistol if it starts with point-four.” That lie is the misguided faith in a two-shot default response to a bad guy problem that requires a ballistic solution. This used to be taught as the “double tap.” Based on conversations I’ve had with supposedly “trained” tactical shooters, including numerous “instructors,” the stupidity that is the double tap is still being promulgated.
To ensure a shared point of reference, a “double tap,” by definition, is simply two shots fired as quickly as possibly. It is simply “sight picture–shot-shot.” The greatest problem with the double tap is that you don’t know where the fuck your second shot is going, since it wasn’t aimed. You must see your sights for every single shot. YOU MUST ACCOUNT FOR THE IMPACT OF EVERY SINGLE ROUND THAT EXITS YOUR WEAPON. It doesn’t matter if you’re a cop on the street, an armed citizen defending your life or home, a soldier in Afghanistan fighting a counterinsurgency, or an insurgent trying to kill members of a totalitarian regime’s security forces, while gaining and maintaining the support of the civilian populace. YOU MUST ACCOUNT FOR THE IMPACT OF EVERY SINGLE ROUND THAT EXITS YOUR WEAPON.
In two decades of running a gun professionally, I’ve yet to see ANYONE who could shoot double taps accurately, with any degree of consistency at all. Sure, at three meters, with a pistol, shooting a stationary IPSC silhouette, on a flat, level, square range, double taps seem to work, and pretty well at that. However, as soon as you begin adding no-shoots amongst the hostiles, in tight confines, or allow the hostiles to move, or add any other kind of stress to the equation, at realistic pistol and rifle engagement ranges (all of which you know…happens in real life and shit…), the double tap shit falls completely fucking to pieces…in a hurry.
Being fast is great, and it is inarguably important when you’re trying to kill the other guy before he kills you. Fast misses though, will get you (or more importantly, your buddies) killed just as quick and just as dead as slow misses. Hits on target are what ultimately count, and the only way to ensure hits on target, is to AIM YOUR FUCKING WEAPON, EVERY SINGLE TIME YOU SQUEEZE THE GOD-DAMNED TRIGGER!
Controlled Pairs are the answer….maybe…sometimes…
Controlled pairs, sometimes referred to as “hammers,” are the trained gunman’s response to the inherent inaccuracy of double taps. Controlled pairs require three distinct sight pictures to be executed properly: “sight picture-shot-sight picture-shot-sight picture.” Assuming you can actually shoot worth a fuck, this means that, all other things being equal, all of your shots will be hits, because you aimed every one (obviously, that’s not going to work out in real life, because shit happens, Mr. Murphy gets to vote, and the bad guy may be moving, or the shot is just too difficult for you to make…As long as you can account for the shot though, you’ve got a chance of surviving the court of popular opinion when dealing with the local civilian populace after your errant round smokes some yahoo in the head that didn’t have enough fucking brains to exit stage right when the guns starting making noise).
Controlled pairs will be slower than double taps, at least initially, because you have to build the ability to aim/shoot/aim/shoot/aim as quickly as humanly possible. With good, effective training and subsequent practice though, it is more than possible to get two aimed rounds downrange at CQM ranges (call it out to 50 meters), in less than 1/2 second (at 100 meters, two shots to the “A-zone” or “sniper’s triangle,” in one second, is readily achievable).
The Rest of the Time and That Bitch, Little Miss Reality
The controlled pair is a useful tool in teaching fundamental combat marksmanship and weapons craft. In fact, I use it all the time in teaching. It’s an excellent tool for developing the mechanics of follow-through. The problem is that, far too often, in both training and execution, the controlled pair becomes a default response and a de facto double tap.
As soon as someone who’s trained exclusively in controlled pairs has to fire a third or fourth or fifth round in the same string, the miss the last shots, and shit just generally falls apart, because they’ve trained and conditioned themselves to blow the follow-through on the second shot. At best, they end up firing a string of controlled pairs, with a noticeable pause between, allowing the enemy time to adjust his position relative to their sight picture, slowing down the next controlled pair, or causing it to miss entirely.
Your shot string doesn’t end with the last shot. It ends after you’ve assessed the effects of your work. You’re done shooting when you’ve looked through your sights and seen that the threat no longer exists as a threat. The controlled pair becomes a default response and a de facto double tap, because shooters conditioned to controlled pairs invariably blow the follow through on the second shot, in their hurry to get to the next target.
The problem with default responses, whether they are controlled pairs, hammers, or double taps, is that they don’t take reality into account. You might have missed, regardless of how well you shoot IPSC silhouettes on the square range. Or, your hits may not have been as precise as you thought they were. Or, maybe the dude’s just not a pussy, and it’s going to take more than two hits to the vitals to put him down (before any of you fucktards start blathering ridiculously about how it only takes one hit from a real man’s gun, like a .308, you need to go read the autobiographies of both Colonel Charles Beckwith and General Boykin. Both men took hits from 12.7mm anti-aircraft guns, to the torso, and not only survived, but returned to duty and spent years more in the SOF world. Newsflash: 12.7mm is the old Warsaw Pact answer to .50BMG. It makes a much larger hole, and delivers a fuck-ton more energy to the target than your pipsqueak 30-caliber does…). That’s where the currently fashionable-and correct-adage comes from, to “shoot him to the ground.”
“Yeah, but I’ll just pull a Mozambique Drill on his ass, and put the third one in his brain bucket!” Of course you will, because you are a rare, delicate, and special little flower, and gosh darn it, people like you!
Outside of the bad guy wearing rifle plate body armor (in which case, you ought to be shooting the motherfucker in the hips any way…), what if your two to the chest were misses? What if they turned out to be just peripheral hits? Now, out of the blue, after missing the largest fucking part of the dude, you’re going to magically pull precision accuracy out of your ass, and hit a smaller, more difficult target? Of course you are…Are you fucking high? Even if they’re wearing armor and you smoked him in the hips, what if you missed? What if you did hit him, but he hasn’t bled out enough yet?
What if the bad guy is not a fucking silhouette or photo-realistic target printed on a sheet of fucking paper? What is the bad guy is a real person and is smart enough to use cover? What if all you can see of him is his shoulder, or part of his leg?
The only sensible response, and the one that any thinking person with a modicum of common sense and realistic training or experience would provide is, to forget using a two-shot default response. In fact, forget a default response at all. We live in a world of shades of gray (maybe not fifty shades, but there’s lots of grays in the world….see what I did there? Damn, I’m a funny fucker!). Hell, even black and white are shades of gray!
Shoot the motherfucker with a non-default response. Whether it’s one shot, or two, or three, or five, or ten…you need to be able to fire accurate, fast, repetitive shots, and assess the effects of your shots, through your sights, without slowing down.
Change it up from time to time in training. On one target, shoot three; on another shoot four. Then two, then one, then five; you get the idea. The key is not to go slow, nor to go fast. The key is to go as fast as you’re able, while still being accurate enough to get the job done. Shoot only as fast as you’re able…but be able to shoot as fast as you need to. Any hillbilly with a squirrel rifle can take his time and get accurate hits. You need to be able to shoot accurately, fast.
“But John! What if there are more than one bad guy? Do you shoot each guy once or twice, and then come back, or do you shoot the first one to the ground, and then move on?” It’s a question I get asked a lot, and it’s a valid one. The simple, and brutally honest answer is…it depends on the situation.
The practical answer, in my experience, is that there are a couple of factors to consider…
First of all, remember that we’re not talking exclusively, or even primarily, about a home or personal defense situation, where you’re the only good guy with a gun. If you’ve got to kill every bad guy, all by your lonesome, you seriously need to reconsider your personnel selection and your training programs for your group, because they are FUCKED UP!
Second, outside of CQM distances (and even within), your first or second or third shot might not kill the dude, or even hit him. It might, however, force him to duck deep enough behind cover that he’s no longer a threat to you, or you’re just no longer able to effectively engage him any more for the time being.
Third, common sense and tactical logic says that you should address the most dangerous lethal threat first, right? Then shoot him until he’s no longer a threat, or at least not the most lethal threat, and then move on. Whether it takes one round, or ten rounds, to either kill him, put him down hard enough to be out of the fight, or make him seek cover (i.e. “Make him more concerned with not getting shot than he is with shooting you”), shoot the fucker until he’s no longer a threat.
The rifleman has to learn how to relax, as much as possible, regardless of his firing position. Unnecessary muscle strain or tension will, amongst other things, result in trembling, which is transmitted to the rifle. This increase in the apparent “wobble” of the sight picture will result in either misses, or slower shot times, either of which will result in you getting dead.H
In any position of course, some muscular contraction is necessary to suspend the gun, but intentional, deliberate practice achieving a natural point-of-aim (NPOA) will allow the shooter to achieve a solid, steady, durable firing position as fast as possible, and still achieve consistent first-shot hits.
It’s an old platitude that, in the hands of a skilled user, a weapon becomes an extension of the user’s body. That’s not the “who-flung-poo kung fu, New Age Zen Ninja” bullshit it sounds like. In weaponscraft, it means that the shooter adopts his shooting position (whatever shooting position), so that his rifle naturally points at the intended target.
While learning to shoot accurately, fast, this means that the aspiring rifleman (or pistolero, for that matter), adjusts his body position until his NPOA coincides with his desired POI, every single time he mounts his weapon, before he bothers trying to take the shot. This allows him to avoid unnecessary muscular tension in aiming his rifle. If he has to push or pull the sights onto the target, he’s not using his NPOA, regardless of how small a movement is required. That means a) he’s using muscular tension, leading to trembling, leading to misses, or b) he’ll have to adjust his sight picture, after mounting the gun, causing him to be slower than necessary.
Speed in getting your weapon into a fight is absolutely critical. Some people have erroneously pointed out, there are no timers on the battlefield. While there are certainly probably not going to be any PACT timers present, there will be a far more important timer: the bad guy who is going to be trying like a motherfucker to beat you. Use a timer in your training to make sure you’re adequately fast, or getting closer to being adequately fast.
At the same time however, “you can’t miss fast enough to win a gunfight.” No matter what stage of learning you are at, take the time, from the very beginning, to develop your position in each firing position, to ensure that you’re shooting with the fundamentals: NPOA, solid shooting position, trigger squeeze, sight picture/sight alignment, grip, etc. Strive to acquire the tightest groups you can get. This will develop the critical accuracy that will remain, as you increase your speed, as long as you apply them consistently. In other words, “mount the gun, the exact same way, every single time.”
Shooting fast, close-quarters marksmanship drills is fun. Don’t misunderstand me, I genuinely love to ring steel at 400 and 500 meters, but I’m also as prone as the next guy to fuck off and run CQM drills. I’m reasonably good at them, and I love running my gun fast, just like any red-blooded, American man. If you’re not willing to do the “boring” stuff though, and work on developing precise, tiny, shot groups, you’re fucking yourself and your buddies.
You have to practice the shit you don’t like if you want to becomes a great rifleman. If you can’t shoot small, tight, accurate groups, from any shooting position, you haven’t mastered the fundamentals of marksmanship, and you don’t have what it takes to produce an accurate hit on demand. If you can’t do that, on demand, then you won’t be able to do that, on demand (ooh….that was deep, huh?). You are NOT going to suddenly make a shot that you’ve never been able to make in training, just because now, it’s “for real!”
Whether it’s 5 meters, 50 meters, or 500 meters, when all you can see of the enemy is the edge of his head and shoulder, and the muzzle of his weapon, along the side of a boulder or building corner, you’d sure as shit better be able to purchase an accurate shot, on demand.
Front Sight Focus
One of the biggest problems shooters have is shitty front sight focus, even with optics. I’m as guilty as anyone…and it’s a far more egregious sin on my part, because I genuinely know better.
At the end of any marksmanship training the HH6 and I do, here at the the SFOB, I always try and finish with some slow, aimed fire, for precision. This forces me to work on the fundamentals at a basic level, especially front sight focus.
As an example, yesterday, after an hour of pistol work and a half hour of rifle work, I sat down to shoot steel (half-scale IDPA silhouette) at 100 meters with my Glock 19 (actually, I smoked it at 200 before that, but only once out of a magazine). I can generally get anywhere from 75-90% hits when I do that. That’s a significantly smaller target, relatively speaking, than the A-zone on a full-size silhouette at 10 meters. Yet, when I start shooting for speed at 10M, I will–unless I consciously focus on going only as fast as I can get a CRISP front sight picture, blow one or two rounds per magazine.
Yesterday, in fact, I ran a simple reload drill:
Draw, fire two rounds to slide lock, execute a speed reload, and fire two more rounds.
The first three iterations of that drill that I ran, I blew the first round coming off my reload. Every-single-fucking-time. Now, by miss, I mean I was less than an inch outside of the A-zone, but that’s still a miss in my standards.
It happened, because I was fast as fuck, knew it, and wanted to go faster. My reload was seated before my spent mag hit the ground. That’s pretty god-damned fast…but if I fucking blow my shot, being fast is pointless. It would be easy enough for me to blow it off. “It was just training,” “I was trying to push myself,” blah, blah, blah, blah….
Here’s the secret though…if you actually see that your front sight (or reticle) is on target, at the moment your finger breaks the shot, it’s a mechanical impossibility to miss the shot (assuming your weapon is zeroed, etc). If you miss, it’s because your sights were not, in fact, on the target at the exact moment you broke the shot (yes, this covers jerking the trigger…think about it…).
Under the stress of a fight, with all the shit your brain will be trying to accept–trying to watch what the target is doing, looking for other bad guys, keeping track of where your buddies are, trying to fit your fat ass behind the little bitty pebble that is available for cover, and accepting that some motherfucker actually wants to kill you–it can be really easy to miss seeing that one critical element. You have to glue your vision to your front sight at the instant you are actually making the shot, regardless of distractions. If you can’t do that when no one is shooting at you, do you really think you’re going to be able to do it when they are?
Tying it together
I love working on my drawstroke and rifle presentations. It’s fast, it’s fun, it’s important, it’s simple, and it doesn’t require much effort or ammunition. Unfortunately, it’s too often misunderstood. Yes, it’s absolutely critical to shoot the other dude before he shoots you; that’s a given. A fast presentation however, as in the sheer speed of moving the gun isn’t what matters. A fast first shot is only a small portion of what makes a good, fast, presentation. Two things are important in your presentation, whether with rifle or pistol: a fast first hit and equally fast follow-on hits.
In order to achieve that fast first hit, your final position of your presentation must have the gun on target, without having to make adjustments to your position. This is why, when beginning how to do this shit the right way, we go “slow.” Take the time, every time you mount your weapon, to check and see if you’ve attained a NPOA (see the end of this article). The old mantra of “slow is smooth, and smooth is fast,” has become an over-used, misunderstood cliche. SGM Lamb has even taken the step of saying, “smooth is fast, but slow is just frickin’ slow.” He’s got a valid point, of course, but too many keyboard commandoes and internet insurgents have managed to misunderstand that one as well (that whole frame-of-reference thing is a motherfucker, ain’t it?).
At an applied level, in a fight, you’d damned sure better be able to put accurate fire on target in a goddamned hurry. In order to learn to do so however, you need to go slow enough to ensure that you’re doing shit the right way. Dialing in your presentation until it’s perfect means you should be able to fire the micro-second that your weapon stops moving. Fast follow-on hits will only be possible if your presentation ended in a position that will allow you to shoot multiple shots without magnifying the position due to recoil.
There’s no effective way to stop recoil. It’s simple physics, and absent divine intervention with the laws of nature and science on your behalf (and let’s face it, God really doesn’t love you that much), it’s physically impossible to stop recoil from happening. All we can do is recover from the recoil as precisely and consistently as we can, as fast as possible. This is accomplished by utilizing a solid, square firing position, with as much relaxation as possible in those muscles that are not actively suspending the gun. The most important goal of a good presentation, synergistic with natural point-of-aim and front sight focus, is that it puts the sight directly onto the target, and provides adequate, consistent muzzle control so that, at the end of the recoil cycle, the sights end up in the exact same spot they were in when the shot broke. It doesn’t matter how much the gun jumps from recoil, as long as it comes back to the exact same spot…every…single…time (on the same hand though, a lesser recoiling gun will move less, meaning it will return to that same spot in a shorter time).
To shoot accurately, fast, don’t “hold” the gun. It’s got to be an extension of your body. There’s no tension in the muscles beyond supporting the weapon in position. You’re not muscling the sights onto the target, because you’re utilizing your natural point-of-aim. Lean into the gun and let the gun keep you from falling forward. At the same time, your support hand should be grabbing as much of the gun as possible, and holding it in position, to keep it from getting launched forward, off your shoulder.
That is the “secret” of shooting accurately, fast. Timing is not a specific rhythm of cadence. It’s not a certain number of shots per second. Trying to time your shots in this manner, instead of letting your vision time your shots, WILL NOT WORK. In order to shoot at the speed required when being slower than multiple bad guys means you being dead, we cannot rely on the slow, deliberate trigger squeeze we learn in traditional, competition target shooting. At the same time however, we can’t “trap” the trigger, trying to force the shot to break at a given time. That results, invariably, with jerking the trigger, which would result in your sights NOT being on target at the moment the shot breaks. The actual break of the trigger needs to become almost subconscious. Through proper, slow, deliberate training, it becomes tied to what the eye sees.
This ties, synergistically (imagine THAT shit, huh?), and directly, to everything we’ve discussed thus far in regards to the fundamentals of marksmanship and natural point-of-aim, solid presentations, and getting solid, accurate hits in a hurry. Look at the specific aiming point on the target (“Aim small, miss small.” As much as I hate quoting cinema for training mantras, that is one of my two favorites. The other one, completely unrelated to this article, is from the excerpted scenes from “Shooter” with Mark Wahlberg….”Camouflage is what you do when you get there.”), mount the gun, and if you’ve practiced all of your fundamentals properly, you’ll see that your front sight–or reticle–is exactly where it should be, as your finger breaks the shot.
Cool, Bad-Ass Ninja Killer Training Tip
To accomplish NPOA in training, every time you acquire a good, solid firing position (regardless of whether it’s prone, rice paddy prone, seated, kneeling, standing, or some “jackass” position), stop for a moment and close your eyes. Breathe through a couple of natural respiratory cycles, then re-open your eyes and see where your sights are located in relation to your intended POI. Instead of pushing the sights to the aiming point, adjust your entire body position/stance, to re-align the sights. Repeat this process until you’ve achieved a solid NPOA and make a mental note of how it feels.
Repeat this drill, every-single-time-you-mount-your-weapon, regardless of firing position. You’ll quickly find that it doesn’t take any time at all, because you’ll discover that you’re naturally assuming a position that takes advantage of NPOA, every time, the first time. This single drill, if practiced religiously, will go further, faster, towards getting you solid, accurate shots, fast, than all the “up drills” you can do.
Epilogue: “Jackass” Shooting Positions
(Okay, it’s technically not really an epilogue, but I’ve always wanted to write an epilogue, so piss off!)
There is a lot of emphasis placed, in a lot of “tactical” shooting videos and courses on what Colonel Cooper called “jackass” positions. These are variations of the basic positions, or alternative positions. There’s nothing wrong with learning some alternative positions like the SBU prone and and the urban prone, etc.
Here’s the rub though, based on my experience, and the experience of pretty much every other dude with experience that I’ve discussed the subject with…
If you can’t get solid, accurate hits, fast, from the prone, squatting, kneeling, and standing, you’re not going to get solid, accurate hits, fast, from any of the “jackass” positions. On the same hand, if you CAN get solid, accurate hits, fast, from the fundamental positions, you’re going to be able to get solid, accurate hits, fast, from the jackass positions when you need them. I’ve shot from some pretty fucked up positions, none of which I’d previously practiced, and I generally got hits from them. If I didn’t, it wouldn’t have mattered what position I was shooting from, I’d have missed.
If you want to practice some high-speed, cool guy shit you saw on a video somewhere, whether from a major trainer, or on YouTube, more power to you, but recognize that, if you can’t get hits from the prone, you’re not going to get hits from the “jackass” positions, so you probably ought to focus on the fundamentals first.
I am writing this as a woefully belated After Action Report for John Mosby’s 12-14 APR2013 Combat Rifle course held in Northern Idaho. Better late than never, as some wag once helpfully formulated probably to cover for his own lack of punctuality. This man was likely a direct ancestor of mine which would offer much in the way of explanation. But I digress. So on with the AAR…
Reading the blog that originally bore the moniker, Nous Defions and is currently referred to as Mountain Guerrilla, one has the natural tendency to form an image of the writer. The human brain is wired thus and so it searches for something to which to ascribe the thoughts conveyed to us by the author of the blog. I am certainly no exception and had not a clue what to expect once I’d made the
decision to attend his Combat Rifle course. Having had the benefit of prior training under some well known experts and specialists in the field, I knew that I could and should expect just about anything within the near infinite variety of human nature and behavior. But, there was no doubt whatsoever in my mind that I would be dealing with an individual with a serious professional background in the use of the gun as a fighting weapon. That much was sure.
Boy was I in for a surprise on meeting the real guy himself. And I could not mean that in a better way.
As it turns out, John Mosby is, in point of fact, a highly affable character, animated, entertaining, considerate, appreciative of all his students, and as one might expect, deadly serious about his training responsibilities. Since I am on the subject of Mosby the man, let me further add that although in his blog he once referred to himself comically as nothing more than a knuckle-dragging, Luddite, gunslinger, let me assure the reader that this is very far from the truth (bullshit. I really am a knuckle-dragger. All you fuckers telling people I’m smart are going to make them expect miracles out of my ass.!). Indeed, Mosby is quite well read and literate yet never wasting energy or effort on extraneous trivialities. I found throughout the entire course of training that he always had a ready answer to any subject matter related question that might be asked. His is a well trained and ready mind.
And although there is certainly a generous helping of, ahem, spicy language sprinkled throughout his blog writings, you will find that this impulse is highly tempered and moderated during his training. The point? Bring the wife and kids without fear and trepidation. They’ll love it.
On to the boots-on-the-ground stuff.
Drills, drills, drills. Oh, yeah, did I mention drills? Too many to list, but… For the first time in my personal experience I was trained in the art of closing on a bad guy with the clear intention of killing me for whatever nasty reasons he carries in his hostile mind. Also, shooting over and around cover brought new knowledge to me in spite of prior training in these tactics. Here is something further that was new and surprising to me and made me a believer almost instantaneously – the NON-use of the sling (I fucking hate slings! I understand their use in certain situations, and my rifles all have slings on them, but this whole, “You’ve GOT to have a sling, because all the cool guy Jedi have them, is fucking retarded. I need a sling to hold my rifle if I have to climb, or if I’m providing aid, or searching a detainee. Period. I do NOT need a sling in order to transition to a sidearm at CQM ranges.). In a CQB situation it can often be more of a hindrance than a help, as in maybe getting you dead. Now for you Appleseeders and Highpower types out there who have just begun hyperventilating let me encourage you to first breath into a brown paper bag for a minute or two and hear me out. As it happens, in one of my alternate guises I am an Appleseed Instructor so I am aware of that which I speak. I am a firm believer in the value of the A.S. Program. The fundamentals of marksmanship as taught in A.S. and practiced at a vastly more advanced level in N.R.A. Highpower Competition matches nationwide are a wonderful thing – for making really nice holes in paper on one way ranges. And yes, some of these skills do transfer directly into serious rifle fighting scenarios.
However, at the risk of alienating some, I have to be bluntly honest with the folks who come from these or similar shooting backgrounds. Most of it as taught and practiced does not, NOT, NOT apply to close quarters battle and in fact, if those excellent but basic skills are your default they will rapidly elevate your risk of getting yourself ventilated by the bad guys and turning you into daisy fertilizer.
This includes the classic marksmanship use of the sling as a supporting mechanism and aid to accuracy. Sorry folks, but them’s the facts and facts are stubborn things and also foolish to ignore.
You want to know how to fight with a rifle? Here’s your man and he has the goods.
All drills were first performed on a dry-fire basis repeatedly until John Mosby and an excellent assistant he had on hand were satisfied that all participants were ready for live fire. Personally, I appreciated this approach for a couple of reasons. On the one hand it saved huge amounts of training ammo and we all know that ammo is not exactly growing on trees these days. Also, there was an enhanced confidencenlevel not just for yourself, but due to the fact that you are now shooting a live fire drill in close proximity to other shooters that you may have only just met.
I would also point out that during all points of instruction, John Mosby took the time to ask the students if what he had just described made sense to them. At the completion of the training on Day 3, he asked for constructive criticism and suggestions for improving the training in any way. My critique, meant sincerely and mostly from the perspective of public speaking, was that he try not to ask that question of the students quite as much in future classes. However, after much additional reflection I have come to realize the great value of his use of that teaching technique and I am formally rescinding my original critique and suggestion and hope that John does continue to offer this question and style of teaching to his students. I believe it is very helpful (I actually get called on that every single class, but every single class, it ends up causing someone to open up and ask relevant questions that someone else wanted to ask but was shy about it…)
Other aspects of training included getting square behind the gun at all times, shooting while moving, clearing stoppages, variations on reloads while engaged in fighting, correctly transitioning to your sidearm, learning to mount your weapon the exact same way every time to ensure shooting consistency under all circumstances.
Think you understand the oft repeated “Shoot, Move, Communicate” tactical paradigm? Well, unless you have some kind of serious experience as a professional operator or soldier I feel pretty confident telling you what you won’t like hearing. You don’t. No, seriously, you don’t. I thought I did.
Studied it, was trained in it, but then learned I had no clue how to dynamically put this into action under the simulated stress of a close range fire fight. Instant revelation (this class had the interesting benefit of having myself and another instructor, whom HH6, as soon as she heard he was coming, irreverently nicknamed “SCUBA STEVE” it would have been funnier if he’d known the cinematic reference, but…I wouldn’t call him an assistant instructor…More a co-instructor. Said C.I. was a 20 year veteran of Naval Special Warfare, including well over a decade with JSOC. The participants in this class got to hear and see things from the ARSOF and SEAL perspective…strangely, it was all pretty much in agreement….it’s like they call shit the fundamentals for a reason or something)
Speaking of the notion of being dynamic, this was another feature of the training that I thought I knew something about but did not. Put briefly, it is all about DYNAMIC MOVEMENT, always at all times. And you will be taught what that really means and how to do it. As Mosby made abundantly clear, this is a major component of exploiting the OODA loop of the hostile who would prefer to send you home in a pine box or at least get you out of the fight right now.
In this training I learned more about aggressiveness in advancing against a murderous enemy to put him out of action than I had ever been taught in the past under some very high profile trainers.
As one of the older participants in the course I highly recommend using a set of high quality knee pads because you will be on your knees at times. Also, I made the mistake of using a non-Stoner carbine platform that I had never spent any time shooting under the demands of high stress training. Bad idea because the manual of arms is different enough from the AR15 that I struggled with certain aspects of it that detracted from my training experience slightly. And although, I actually had one of my M4′s as a back-up gun with me, after the first day I made the decision to tough if out with my Swiss engineered wundergun. The takeaway? Bring the gun that you know and that goes bang every time. And while you’re at it test all your gear more than a few times if at all possible to make sure everything works for you. Even so, you will likely find that some stuff you have just doesn’t cut it or may need to be modified, deleted, or completely changed out. This was certainly my experience and I am glad of it for what I learned.
Oh yeah, get in shape. It is entirely plausible that I was in the worst physical condition of anybody in the class. And I paid for it, believe me. Time and the daily grind have a way of mesmerizing you about your perceived physical abilities. Don’t kid yourself like I did. Your gunfighting skills are only as good as the platform that is your body. If you are not a 20 or 30 something or even a teeny bopper you are living in a fantasy if you think you will be able to sustain any level of serious fighting for even a very brief period of time. Ask me how I know. Now you know what you need to do.
So what’s the bottom line you ask? I will state here unequivocally and with as much clarity as I can muster that John Mosby’s Battle Rifle course is hands down the best and most serious training of its kind that I have ever had the privilege of receiving.
You want to be fully prepared and ready for what is likely coming down the pike in the not-so-distant future? You want to find out what you and your gun are really capable of when it counts? Then get yourself to one of Mosby’s courses ASAP. Do it by hook or by crook. Lie, cheat, and steal if you have to (no, not really), but get there. I have had a good deal of high quality training under firearms trainers whose names would be instantly recognizable to almost anyone reading this, but I have never received training even remotely like what I got from John Mosby.
As an aside, Mosby is clearly a man who loves his family. So what, you ask? What has this to do with serious firearms training? These questions may be your immediate first thought. Well, this is no obscure philosophical question. It is those whom a man loves most that he will fight to protect with his most unrestrained and focused ferocity. Remember that, men, and do a little heart searching of your own while you are at it.
P.S. Special mention and thanks to the guest assistant instructor (Scuba Steve) for his seemingly inexhaustible patience and always excellent suggestions; to HH6 for her endless hospitality and friendliness; and to The Morale Officer (she was promoted to ATL, remember?) for keeping all of us on our toes at all times.
I have discussed, ad nauseum, on this blog, the importance of training to a standard in every individual and collective task that you can determine your group or organization needs to master. If you are not training to a standard, you are not training; you are fucking around, playing soldier.
When developing training and standards, keep the following training principles in mind:
- Train how you want to fight. Within the constraints of reasonable safety restraints and common sense, leaders must demand realism in training, in order to set, and achieve, combat-level standards, whether their people can achieve them yet or not (after all, if your people can already achieve them, then they are already perfectly trained, or your standards are too low. I’ll let you decide which….).
- Use real-world, effective doctrine. Base your training and standards on real-world experience and knowledge. If you don’t possess real-world, outside-the-wire combat experience (no, mortars impacting at the other end of the FOB you never left for your entire deployment, doesn’t fucking count as outside-the-wire combat experience, FYI…), find someone that does, and get their input. Failing that option (and if THAT fails, you’re really not trying very hard, because we’re a dime-a-dozen nowadays….), look at the published resources, whether Army ARTEPs manuals or training manuals written by experienced warfighters passing the information on. Don’t use airsoft or paintball competitions as a source for “what works” doctrine, and for the love of Baby Jesus, quit using Call-of-Duty: Black Ops, as a training reference!
- Use Performance-based training. Individuals and units become proficient at critical tasks by performing those tasks to standard. You cannot learn a physical skill, of any type just by reading about it or watching a video. You have to actually perform it, even if initially you suck donkey balls. Trainers are responsible for developing and executing a training strategy that allows for this type of learning.
- Train to challenge. If this shit was easy, they’d call it fucking video games. Fighters are motivated and stimulated to learn by tough, realistic training that leaves them intellectually and physically exhausted by the end. Challenging training forces participants to dig deep spiritually, emotionally, and physically, in order to discover the initiative an enthusiasm for learning life-saving skills. For you guys that can’t get members of your group to show up regularly for meetings, this is a perfect tool to re-kindle enthusiasm: don’t just set around and talk. Get physical and make it challenging.
- Don’t succumb to the peacetime Army blandishments of “sustainment” training. Once you’ve accomplished the standards, across the mission-training plan (MTP), adjust the standards to be more difficult, and continue getting better. Shoot faster, more accurately, run faster, climb higher, carry more weight. Never settle!
- Training using multi-echelon techniques by making leaders trainers. The leaders in your organization, all the way down to the senior man in a buddy team, are responsible for the training of their people. Maximize what limited training time and resources you have available to you by training individuals, leaders, and units at the same time. Allow junior leaders to train their subordinates while larger unit training is on-going. Don’t stop organizational training every time a new guy shows up, and needs to get caught up on the standards.
A Training Exercise
The following exercise is specifically intended to teach individuals and buddy team to work as a team, under combat conditions, more effectively, using a fundamental light infantry fighting task. It covers shoot, move, and communicate, at their most fundamental levels. It indoctrinates aggressiveness of action, and the importance of life-saving speed. It develops the critical mindset of protecting your buddy and allowing him to protect you. It is efficient, effective, and as combat relevant as a motherfucker can get. It demands accountability of marksmanship, and is a simple GO/NO-GO standard, with the option of adding a time component to the standards, as well. It can be conducted during daylight conditions, or at night, if you have NODs (it won’t work particularly well with just white-light illumination).
It is as inexpensive as you need it to be, since it can be set up with whatever scrap materials the partisan band can scrounge to fabricate a range out of. Targets can be steel plates, half-silhouettes, or F-type silhouettes, or whatever you can come up with: paper plates, chunks of plate steel hung from a tree or leaned against a tree or rock, etc…Barricades can be man-made, or they can be natural positions of cover for less expense and greater realism.
Set up a series of barricades or other objects to represent “positions of cover” for shooters to shoot from behind as covered firing positions. On a square range, these could be as simple as partial sheets of plywood or old plastic, 55-gallon drums. Elsewhere, use your imagination. Positions should start at either the 200 or 100 meter line, depending on skill, fitness levels, and operational environment considerations. Barricade positions should be set up at 10-15 meter intervals, all the way to within 15-20 meters of the targets, with a 10 meter interval between lanes.
Suggested targets are half-scale IPSC steel plates, paper silhouettes folded in half (lengthwise or crosswise), or F-type cardboard silhouettes. Cardboard IPSC targets should be cut in half.
Shooters should carry a full fighting load complement of rifle magazines, half loaded with five rounds, and half loaded with ten rounds. While this reduced ammunition payload will make it difficult, if not impossible to maintain a completely realistic rate of fire, it will force shooters to slow down, focusing on making solid hits on target, while simultaneously forcing movers to speed the fuck up, in order to complete the exercise before they or their partner runs out of ammunition. Different loads in different magazines will cause speed reloads to be surprises, rather than allowing shooters to count rounds in low-count load magazines.
Shooters begin at the first barricade, standing, with loaded weapons, safety on, at “patrol ready” or some similar, appropriate carry method. On the signal to commence, both shooters drop behind cover and begin engaging their target. Shooters move forward, by buddy team bounds (one shooter moves while his buddy protects him by engaging the target, and vice versa), from one position of cover to the next. Shooters MUST communicate effectively, before moving, and for reloads: “Cover Me!” “Moving!” “Cover me while I move!” are all appropriate (honestly? I genuinely just don’t give two fucks what verbiage you use!), while “reloading!” or “magazine change!” or “Oh fuck! I’m empty!” may work for reloads. Shooters must respond to their partners communication! “Covering!” “MOVE!” “Gotcha covered!” are all appropriate.
Shooters may use low crawls, high crawls, or 3-5 second rushes to move from one position to the next. However, if a 3-5 second rush (“I’m up! He sees me! I’m down!”) does not get the shooter all the way to cover, he has to get down anyway, and must crawl the rest of the way to his next position, instead of popping back up where he just went down.
Shooters will progress to the last set of barricades. As soon as the second shooter arrives at his last barricade, and fires one round, the clock stops.
Scoring and Standards
At it’s most basic, this exercise is a simple GO/NO-GO exercise. The addition of time standards however, will increase its training value by instilling the need for speed and violence-of-action.
To score, this exercise will require one scorer/coach per shooter. Scorers will follow their assigned shooter, watching for safety violation and keeping track of missed shots on steel. Safety violations are an immediate stoppage and NO-GO (safety not being used, moving with finger on trigger, etc). Failing to communicate with the Ranger buddy in accordance with good tactical practice results in a NO-GO, as will moving without protective suppressive fire from your buddy.
If shooting steel, scorers are also responsible for listening for impact and counting missed shots. If shooting paper, number of hits on paper is deducted from number of shots fired to determine missed shots. Each missed shot adds 5 seconds to the total elapsed time for the drill.
To establish a time standard, have your five fastest teams perform the exercise 3 times each. Average all of the unadjusted (for marksmanship errors) times, and subtract 10%. That time, with zero NO-GOs, is now your standard to start with. Once 1/4 or 1/2 of your personnel can achieve the standard, you can re-test it, or simply deduct another 10% of the time standard.
Modifications can be useful to keep training challenging and interesting, but avoid the tendency to turn it into a game. Keep it serious, and real-world relevant. Adding modifications does not mean you need to change the time standards.
- The simplest, and perhaps most applicable modification would be to run the exercise in reverse order and turn it into practice for breaking contact.
- Partially obscure the targets behind nominal cover, and paint them a suitably drab color to make target acquisition more difficult (and thus, more real).
- Add no shoot silhouettes in depth and near the targets, as occurs on real-world battlefields. This will force the shooters to focus on extreme accuracy, despite the need to go fast enough to meet the standards.
- If you have access to artillery simulators, flash-bangs, smoke grenades, or other pyrotechnics, use them to increase the chaos, confusion, and combat relevance during execution of the exercise.
- Have shooters run the drill with an alternate rifle system than their normal (Kalashnikovs for Stoner guys, Stoners for M1A guys, Kalashnikovs for FAL guys, etc….the possibilities are endless), or have the shooters have to pick up a different weapon system at a position of cover along the exercise lane and use it the rest of the exercise.
- Set up four lanes, instead of two, and have two buddy teams run it simultaneously, as a fire team.
So, an exercise, with a way to determine standards, that allows you to practice and train to standard on a basic individual and collective tactical task. How’s that shit for a Monday morning gift from Uncle Mosby? Told you fuckers I was back with a vengeance!
(I’m back, bitches! With a vengeance. Sorry for the spotty performance. I’ve been busier than a one-legged man in an ass-kicking contest, and simultaneously suffering from a horrendous case of writer’s block. More regular posting should commence forthwith. –J.M.)
Tactical intelligence is information that provides leaders and planners with an accurate information picture of the operational situation. The possession of ACCURATE information about what is going on in the operational environment allows the planner to draw accurate conclusions about the situation. This results in plans that actually have a chance of success. A lack of accurate information, and the incorrect conclusions that can result, leads to mission failure and dead good guys. That is generally acknowledged as a bad thing, at least in my experience.
Whether you are an active fighter in your community defense group, a member of a combat support echelon, or an auxiliary living and working in the midst of a hostile occupational force, a solid grasp of the type of information needed, as well as active and passive methods for gathering that information is a crucial aspect of contributing to the successful defense of your community.
Basic Ground Rules
Information is not necessarily intelligence. Information can be defined, in our terms, as any tidbit of potentially relevant knowledge of an actual or potential hostile force, the terrain in a given area, a potential target, likely weather conditions, and a host of other considerations. This information may come from direct observation, overheard or intercepted communications, rumors and reports, and/or imagery, amongst numerous other sources.
Any information that is potentially relevant should be recorded and reported. This apparent relevance however, still does not make it intelligence. Intelligence is information that has been collected, evaluated for accuracy and relevance, collated and integrated with other accurate information, and analyzed and interpreted for significance and meaning. This is so critical a point that it bears repeating: until it is evaluated for accuracy and interpreted for meaning, information is not intelligence.
Directly relevant to that point is that ANY information related to the operational situation may be critical. Everyone should be trained to observe and report those observations, and ANY observations should be reported within your network. Stick to that job, You are not an analyst, so don’t try and analyze what you see for relevance. Don’t try and determine what part of the information is useful. Unless you have access to ALL of the incoming information, you have no way to determine the relevance and accuracy of what you are gathering. Be a sponge and absorb all of the information–all of it, then let it be gently squeezed out of you. When you are reporting it, don’t analyze it. Just report it.
Let me repeat that one for emphasis too: UNLESS YOU ARE AN ANALYST AND ARE RECEIVING ALL INCOMING INFORMATION, DO NOT TRY AND ANALYZE…you’ll just fuck it up and create an inaccurate information picture in the end.
“It’s all METT-TC dependent!“
A lot of people, including many who should genuinely know better, throw the term METT-TC around very loosely, all too often in a fashion that demonstrates am inherent misunderstanding of the depth of meaning intrinsic to this apparently simple tool. The first objective of tactical intelligence is to help planners and leaders make sound decisions. Getting intelligence is the first step in planning an operation. It assists us by giving us an idea of what the enemy can do, where he can do it, when he can do it, and if he is likely to do it. The most important thing for the novice to understand is that none of the elements of METT-TC (Mission, Enemy, Terrain, Troops, Time, and Civilian Considerations), exists in a vacuum. Each element exists and is relevant only as a synergistic part of the whole information picture, in relation to each and all of the other elements. While we have to, for comprehension issues, discuss each independently, we need to understand how they tie together as well.
Mission: What is the mission you hope to accomplish? On a grand, strategic scale, of course, the mission could simply be stated as “provide security for the community.” On an operational level, we can be more useful and perhaps say, “protect the community from the depredations of mutant-outlaw-zombie-biker-vampire-liberals” (hereafter referred to, in this and future articles as “cannibalistic San Franciscans.“). For most general information gathering activities, we will be gathering information on an operational scale and filtering it through a tactical mission statement to determine its relevance to specific tactical missions. PIR on the other hand may be requested that answers questions specific to a specific mission. That requires a tactical scale mission statement, in order to determine how the information we have, and the information we require, relates to the other information in the METT-TC analysis. A simple “who, what, when, where, why” statement of the mission can directly correlate to the METT-TC outline, allowing the planner to determine what specific information he needs.
“The East Tiddly-Winks Militia of Foot (WHO/TROOPS…..on a side note…why the fuck do “constitutionalist” militia groups insist on using 18th Century British designations for units? They were the enemy, remember? If you want to have a militia and a cool name for it, call it a fucking Infantry unit, or something….calling it a “militia of foot” is gayer than a bag of dicks!), will conduct a security patrol (WHAT/MISSION), from 0300 on 12 JUNE 2013 until 0900 on 15 MAY 2013 (WHEN/TIME), from the town of East Tiddly-Winks, to the Piranha Creek Bridge on Highway 69 (WHERE/TERRAIN), in order to interdict infiltration by the Mutant San Franciscans (WHY/MISSION and ENEMY).”
This more specific mission statement allows the planner to determine what information he has that can be applied to the tactical planning of the mission, as well as determining what further information he needs to request from assets in the field. For general information collection however, any information that might fit the strategic or operational mission statements should be gathered and reported (as an example…when we looked at property to purchase for the SFOB, I did a complete METT-TC work-up, as we’ll discuss below, with what information I had available, based on the strategic scale mission statement of “protect the community from hostile forces.” I considered it from numerous angles, as we’ll see at the end of the article.)
Knowing the “enemy” situation, or how to read terrain doesn’t do you a bit of good, if you don’t have a coherent mission statement.
Enemy: The first step of the troop-leading procedures (TLP) is to analyze the situation. This gives the leader an accurate information picture of what he is facing, in order to determine what other issues he will need to address in planning his mission. Knowing the enemy situation is pretty important to accomplishing that accurate information picture.
The planner needs to understand the type of force he is facing (is it a “professional” military organization, or well-trained/experienced irregulars, or untrained/improperly trained personnel? If it is “professional” is it professional in the western military sense of the word, or is it “professional” in the sense of the Iraqi National Army?), the size of the force he is facing (a couple of rifle squads? A platoon or company-sized element? Or an invading Army?), the type of equipment they are using (individual small arms only? Individual and crew-served small arms? Do they have indirect-fire weapons? How about armor? Air?), as well as the organization and tactics used by the enemy. The doctrinal method for reporting enemy information is the SALUTE report, for Size, Activity, Location, Unit/Uniform, Time, Equipment. It’s a perfect format for recording and reporting enemy information, when its done right. Unfortunately, too often its taught in entirely too brief and general a format.
For example, the Ranger Handbook (1992 edition in this case), illustrates the use of SALUTE with the following example:
Size: Seven Enemy Soldiers
Activity: Traveling SW
Location: Crossed Road Junction GL123456 (a grid coordinate on a map)
Unit/Uniform: OD fatigues with red, six-pointed star on the left shoulder.
Time: 211300 AUG (1300 on 21 August)
Equipment: Carrying one machine gun and one rocket launcher
On a conventional battlefield, that may be adequate. In the unconventional warfare environment however, we may need a lot more information:
Size: How many personnel? How many are of fighting age? How many are armed? How many are fit? How many are wounded/injured? Can you tell what size the sub-units, if any, there are? If there is an identifiable leader, how many bodyguards does he have? Knowing there are 100 personnel is great, and might tell me that my twenty guys don’t stand a chance. On the other hand, if only 30 of them are armed, and of those, half are walking wounded, licking their wounds after the last fight they had, with the rest being camp followers, my odds start looking a lot better.
Activity: So, they’re traveling SW? Cool. How fast were they moving? Were they moving in a tactically proficient manner, or were they just bopping down the block? Did they stop? When they stopped were they deployed in a defensible manner, or did they just fall where they stopped. When they stopped, did they put out security? Did they eat? Did they have a rest plan, or did they all pass out? Were they drinking when they stopped? The idea of the activity report is to give me an idea, not just of what they are doing, but of their capabilities, and level of ability. If 75 of the 100 are armed, but they just bop down the road looking at their feet, and don’t bother putting out security at night, with everyone falling asleep at the same time, my 20 guys suddenly have a MUCH better chance of kicking the dog piss out of them in a fight. If we’re talking about enemy forces in a fixed location, are they conducting sustainment training of any type?
Location: Crossed Road Junction GL 123456 is great….When they were there. Did they stop moving there? When they left, where did they go? When they stopped, did they stop on a key terrain feature with good OCOKA considerations (see Terrain, below), or in a very tightly-vegetated, hard-to-access hide site? If they are in a built-up area, are they stopping in buildings, or are they sleeping outside in vacant lots? Are they taking over occupied homes, or only empty buildings? If its an organized security force, where is there headquarters? Where are their outposts? Do they have LP/OPs set up around their positions? Where are those located? Where is their base of operations located?
Unit/Uniform: The doctrinal idea behind identifying the unit that the enemy is in is that, by knowing the enemy’s order of battle, we can determine the level of ability of the forces we’re facing. There’s a lot to be said for that. A 12-man SFODA can be a hell of a lot more lethal than a single conventional infantry squad of 9 guys, and not just because they have four extra guys. On the other hand, in an UW environment, the enemy may not be wearing uniforms, and the uniforms they are wearing may not mean shit. Everyone, I’m sure has seen the hilarious photograph of the fat kid playing airsoft, kitted out like a JSOC ninja. I’ve been to shoots with people who had been to three or four shooting classes, could run their guns pretty well, while having no concept of what SUT even means, but were kitted out from boots to do-rag in multi-cam (it’s gay enough that HH6 always looks at me when she sees them and asks, “Why is that guy wearing pajamas at the range?). Having the gear doesn’t mean they know how to use it. On the same hand, it could be a bunch of GWOT veterans who still have all their shit, or have purchased their own shit, and DO in fact, know what the fuck they are doing.
On the opposite vein, a bunch of scruffy looking dudes looking like they raided a fucking yuppie backpacker’s yard sale may be a bunch of yuppies with little or no clue what they are doing, or it may be a bunch of SOF veterans who are experienced enough to be more concerned with being as comfortable and efficient as possible, and less concerned with looking like a goddamned recruiting poster (there’s nothing wrong with looking professional, and I am, and always was, a fan of starched BDUs and spit-shined jungle boots in garrison. Call it a throwback to growing up in the Ranger Regiment of the 1990s. In the field? I only give a shit about being efficient, and if possible, comfortable). If you can tell that they are an organized unit, based on their cool-guy Velcro patches, then record it. If you are gathering information based on what others are telling you, or that you overhear, and they are mentioning specific units, by all means, identify them. In a field environment though, don’t get too wrapped around the “uniforms=unit=training levels and professionalism” horseshit though.
Time: Where are they, when? When do they stop? How frequently? Do they operate at night, or just during daylight hours? Operating only during daylight hours may indicate a lack of night-observation technology, and/or training for night operations. If my guys are trained to move and fight at night, and the enemy isn’t, that can provide me a pretty lethal force multiplier. If the enemy can move and fight at night, and my people get separated, lost, and involved in blue-on-blue every time they try and function at night, then I’m probably going to get my ass kicked (as a side note observation, this is one of the most critical reasons I introduce you to functioning after dark in my classes….if you can’t fight at night, you can’t fight. This got aptly demonstrated at a recent patrolling class when communications and connections broke down and two guys got separated from the rest of the element. Fortunately, one of them was an experienced infantry veteran with experience moving in the woods at night, or my ass probably would have spent a large portion of my rest interval looking for lost students while the rest of the class slept). The idea of reporting time information about the enemy goes to identifying capabilities, which can tell the planner about the enemy’s possible courses-of-action.
Equipment: I don’t want to just know what kind of weapons they have. I want to know if their weapons seem to be well-maintained. I want to know how many weapons they have. Does everyone have a weapon? Do they have crew-served machine guns? Do they have vehicles? Are their vehicles soft-skins or armored vehicles? Do they have (Please, God, no!) tanks? Do they have mortars or other indirect-fire assets at their disposal? Do they have air assets (just because they are an irregular force, doesn’t mean they don’t have air assets. I have a friend who has a light experimental airplane…I’ve flown in it and am pretty sure I could put rounds on a target, from the air, accurately enough to fuck up a dude’s week. Plus, considering the research and innovation happening in the civilian-sector UAV department, never assume they DON’T have air assets, unless you find out conclusively that they don’t have air assets. On the same hand, just because they are an organized, “professional” regime security organization that is known to have air assets, don’t assume they’ll be readily available to your particular hostile element. Lots of Afghanistan veterans can tell you stories about needing air support and finding out all available assets were occupied elsewhere and a long way from being readily available to them, when they needed them….)
Developing an understanding of the enemy situation, in relation to how it’s going to affect your forces is absolutely critical to developing an accurate information picture of the situation, and determining if you will be able to accomplish your intended missions. Developing a comprehensive SALUTE report can allow the analyst/planner to determine the enemy’s composition and disposition (how he’s arrayed within the battlespace), as well as likely and possible courses-of-action the enemy will take (i.e. an enemy force of 100 with only 30 armed fighters, who doesn’t know enough to maintain security when moving and stopped, and moves during daylight, and stops at night, is not LIKELY to suddenly conduct a night-time raid. In the event of my forces hitting them with a raid at 0230, the most likely course-of-action may very well be to break and run, scattering to the four winds, allowing my forces to then hunt them down one or two at a time, as necessary.)
Terrain: Terrain is a dominant factor in mission-planning, as well as in the success or failure of operations. It’s an age-old adage that a “guerrilla knows his home terrain better than the invader.” There’s a lot of truth to that, but it’s only part of the story. Knowing the location of every creek, draw, and ridge within ten square miles is useful, but only if you understand the tactical significance of those terrain features. This tactical significance filter must be applied to the terrain both in how it impacts the enemy as well as how it impacts friendly forces. To analyze terrain, we use the OCOKA framework. Again, like METT-TC, every element is synergistic with the others. One element has to be analyzed not just in light of friendly and enemy force capabilities, but also in light of the other elements.
Observation and Fields of Fire: When analyzing positions to stop, as well as routes of march, we have to look at what we can see and what we can shoot at, given the limitations of our STANO (Surveillance, Target Acquisition, Night Observation–in other words, “optics” of all types, although audio surveillance equipment could be considered in the STANO list as well) equipment and weapons, as well as where we can be seen and shot at FROM, given the limitations of the enemy’s STANO equipment and weapons. Cover and concealment (see below) can impact this from both angles.
Cover and Concealment: What is available for cover along a particular route of march or at a proposed stopping point? Will it stop direct fire only, or will it stop indirect fire, if the enemy is so equipped (see the inter-relationship between Terrain Factors and the Enemy Situation, now?)? If no cover is available, is there sufficient concealment to keep us hidden from observation from the enemy? What if he has NODs? What if he has thermal imaging? What if he has aerial FLIR assets? Thick, northern coniferous forests offer a great deal of concealment from visible light observation, both during daylight and through NODs, as well as from thermal imaging in many cases, including overhead FLIR. Thick, overgrown jungle-like swamplands in the Southeast can offer many of the same benefits. Being inside of buildings in built-up areas can offer cover and concealment, or just cover. Moving within the normal patterns of urban foot and vehicle traffic, in a non-suspicious manner may not offer cover, but it may offer more than ample concealment to allow partisan forces to move amongst hostile occupiers in a relatively free manner. Quit being pigeon-holed and ass-raped by your preconceived misconceptions, and think outside of the box, when it comes to determining what determines concealment. Multi-cam ACUs and old woodland BDUs are camouflage out in the boonies, but when you’re moving into built-up, populated areas to conduct actual operations, whether reconnaissance and surveillance, or direct-action (raids and ambushes) missions, sometimes dressing in street clothes is the more prudent and effective “uniform” of the day, and may be the only “concealed” way to approach a target.
At the same time, what cover and concealment is available to the enemy to hide in? As you’re moving along your route of march, and you are looking at potential lanes of observation and fields of fire, what cover and or concealment do you see that could potentially be hiding enemy fighters? How far out are they? Are they within the maximum effective range of your enemy’s weapons?
Obstacles: When most people consider obstacles, they think of man-made emplacements such as roadblocks, or concertina wire emplacements. Both of those certainly fit the description, but limiting yourself to just man-made obstacles will not only limit your offensive options, but will ultimately result in your getting fucked from a defensive aspect. Man-made obstacles generally serve one of two purposes: to either block you from going somewhere, or to channelize your movement into a desired corridor. In the first place, if properly emplaced and utilized, they will always be overwatched by someone with a gun. That may mean a sniper, or a rifle squad or platoon, or it may just be a forward observer with a radio and the ability to call on indirect-fire assets or air.
In the second case, they may also be under observation, but by bypassing them and taking the route the enemy desires, you may very well be walking into an ambush kill zone. It’s sort of a fucked if you do, fucked if you don’t, when dealing with man-made obstacles, unless you take the approach that coming across a man-made obstacle pretty much means you’ve gotten WAY too predictable, and completely change your operational modes.
Natural obstacles are the guerrilla’s best friend. These are natural choke points and terrain features that restrict or limit the enemy’s ability to move somewhere he wants or needs to move. A narrow, two-lane road along a lake, with steep, heavily vegetated mountainsides on the other side are a natural choke point, and no thinking commander is going to utilize that approach, unless he’s so ignorant that he holds his enemy in complete disdain (don’t for one minute think that U.S. commanders are immune to underestimating the enemy….). On the other hand, steep, heavily vegetated terrain severely constricts the movement of vehicle-borne forces, often times forcing them to take routes that traverse natural obstacles that are natural choke points (another reason I despise the emphasis on vehicle-borne operations in lieu of traditional, foot-mobile, light infantry patrolling skills). Even air assets can be channelized by terrain, if you use the terrain to your advantage. Make ridgetops impossible to land helicopters on, and the helicopters HAVE to set down in the valleys, where they are subject to interdiction from any fuckhead with a century-old .303 Enfield….let alone a 12.7mm.
When looking at terrain for protection, we look at how natural obstacles can be used to “disrupt, turn, fix, or block” an enemy force (quote is from FM 7-8 Infantry Rifle Platoon and Squad, 22 APR 1992). Knowing that the enemy is a bunch of weak-sauced Nancies, who can’t move more than 50 yards from their pick-ups and SUVs or ATVs without going into cardiac arrest (apparently a characteristic of most of the rifle hunters in the northern Rockies, from what I’ve seen over the last decade of living here), means you can use a steep, high ridge with lots of vegetation as an obstacle to approach, thus “disrupting” them, forcing them to use the logging roads and/or ATV trails (turning), so we know where they’re going to be, allowing us to set up ambushes to interdict them….
Key Terrain: Key Terrain is any location or area, the seizure of which affords the force in possession with a distinct tactical advantage over any hostile force that attempts to approach. In a nutshell, key terrain can be simplest defined as a location that offers covered and concealed positions, with observation and fields of fire on all probable or likely avenues of approach, and natural obstacles on any potential avenues of approach that do not afford easy fields of fire or observation (see what I did there? Damn, it’s like I planned that shit or something…..).
Avenues of Approach: “An avenue of approach is an air or ground route of an attacking force of a given size leading to its objective or key terrain feature in its path. In the offense, the leader identifies the avenue of approach that affords him the greatest protection and places him at the enemy’s most vulnerable spot. In the defense, the leader positions his key weapons along the avenue of approach most likely to be used by the enemy” (quote is again from the 1992 edition of FM 7-8).
I didn’t quote the manual because I’m lazy and couldn’t think of a better way to express it. I quoted the doctrine in that manner, because it pretty much tells you everything you need to understand about avenues of approach. Some important details are encompassed in that. The avenue of approach that a small unit of elite personnel can use (such as scaling the cliffs of Point du Hoc at Normandy) are not going to work for a large conventional force without the advanced individual training necessary to utilize that approach. On the same hand, the avenue of approach that a Stryker brigade may be forced to use, based on the limitations of the trucks (I know they can dismount too, but stay with me…) mobility are not going to be the same routes that a SEAL platoon may elect to use.
A HALO-qualified Special Operations element, such as a SEAL platoon, or an MFF SFODA (MFF=Military Free Fall=the real name for HALO and HAHO operations), has a significantly different avenue of approach available to it than a static-lined inserted platoon or company from the 82d Airborne Division. A Ranger company fast-roping into an LZ can use a significantly different avenue of approach than a company from the 101st performing an Air Assault mission…and of course, a JDAM dropped from a bomber at altitude has access to an extremely different avenue of approach than any of the above. It’s critical, when determining what avenues of approach the enemy can use, to determine what his capabilities (based on knowledge of training and rehearsal”activity” and what “equipment” he has…) are. When you know what avenues of approach he’s CAPABLE of using, you know can start figuring out which ones he’s likely to use, allowing you to determine the most advantageous places to put your SDMs and .50BMG marksmen, as well as any crew-served machine guns and mortars you might have come across.
When determining what avenues of approach your forces can use, it’s important to have a realistic, objective analysis of what your forces are trained and equipped to be capable of. A bunch of 50-something accountants and programmers turned guerrillas who have spent all their time “prepping” and “training” by shooting full-size E-type silhouettes at 500M on the square range are not going to scale a 2000′ elevation 70-degree rock face in Montana in the middle of the night, with fighting loads and assault packs (let alone real rucks), in order to approach an objective (Hell, I’m a fit guy in my mid-thirties with experience climbing all over the world, and I’m not going to pull it off at this point….). On the other hand, a bunch of young studs in their twenties and thirties who run obstacle races for fun, do regular PT involving forced marches with rucks, and spend a couple hours a month at the rock gym climbing, might actually be able to pull that shit off (note to self….see if any of the gyms in town have a climbing wall….).
Terrain is a third force operating in the battlespace. Knowing how to read and how to use terrain can make it an ally instead of an enemy. Ignoring terrain, or simply not understanding what it means, from an operational and tactical standpoint, means you will not only be fighting the enemy, but actually fighting the fucking planet…and that’s just going to suck.
Troops: In an UW environment, knowing what friendly forces you have available may only be determined through information-gathering, as “friendly” force commanders hedge their bets by holding troops in reserve, to hide their true capabilities from their erstwhile allies, in recognition that, in a wartime environment, especially in UW, today’s ally may be tomorrow’s enemy. It may also be done in order to conserve power for dealing with tomorrow’s enemy.
On the same hand, exhibiting slightly more faith in humanity, even if you are confident that you have a true representation of what friendly forces are available, understanding what is available means you can analyze the other factors: enemy, terrain, time, and civilian considerations, in light of what forces you have to work with. For the UW leader (as opposed to the foreign SF advisor), this can be difficult, due to the need to be thoroughly, brutally objective. If you’ve spent two or three or four years or more, training with your group of beer-drinking buddies, to start, organize, and develop the East Tiddly-Winks Militia of Foot, having to admit that you do not have the ability to conduct an effective security patrol, react to an unexpected contact, or do fuck-all at night could be disheartening, to say the least. Having to admit it, at the same time you realize that the ONLY way you have a rat’s ass chance in hell of beating the enemy you are facing could be depressing enough to make you want to eat your gun.
I teach guys to perform a SALUTE report, just like they did for the enemy, on their own forces…
Size: How many actual trained fighters do I have?
Activity: What training have we done? Have we learned and practiced foot patrolling? Have we mastered react-to-contact and break contact? Have we practiced conducting raids or deliberate assaults? Have we mastered clandestine movement in our operational environment, whether urban or rural? If urban, have we learned, practiced, and mastered conducting link-ups in urban environments without getting compromised by the old lady with 45 cats that sits in her nightgown on the balcony smoking Pall Malls at 0200, because the bitch has no life? Or, have we sat on our asses, drinking beer and eating nachos and barbecue while we plink steel at 50 yards and call each other “sniper?”
Location: What locations are my guys able to access? Can they run across rooftops and cross from one building roof to another with scaling ladders in urban areas, or can they get down in the sewer system and traverse country that way? Can they scale cliffs? Swim fast-moving rivers, or at least construct and cross rope-bridges? Are they even capable of walking a mile or two with all their fighting load on, if we can get them that close with pick-up trucks?
Unit/Uniform: Am I only using my guys, or do I have other cells/units coming to help? What are the capabilities of the others? Do I need time to train them up? Are they actually trained to the standards my guys are? Are they better trained? How will we identify them as friendly in the heat of the fight, if we don’t know them? If it’s darker than three feet up a bull’s ass?
Time: Can my guys operate at night, or are we limited to daylight operations? What about my allies? How fast can my people move, stealthily, on foot? If I have a limited time window within which to accomplish my mission, does my guys’ inability to hump a ruck mean I need to have access to trucks? Do I have the resources within my auxiliary network to procure adequate trucks to accomplish the movement?
Equipment: What weapons do we have available? What STANO equipment? What vehicles?
I need to know the enemy’s abilities, but I have to know my abilities also. Misconceptions about the enemy can be catastrophically bad. Misconceptions about my own forces are the mark of an incompetent fucktard of a leader and planner.
Time: Time available is not simply a measure of how much time you have to accomplish a mission. It also represents what times you and the enemy are capable of operating, and how that impacts the timetable of different operations. Will the target of a precious cargo recovery (prisoner rescue or piece of vital military equipment) be moved? When will they/it be moved? Do I need to hit the objective before they or moved, or will it be simpler and safer to hit them while in transit? If I’m planning on raiding an encampment of cannibalistic San Franciscans, do they move first thing in the morning every day, so I need to hit them in the last of darkness, or the evening before at last light? Can my troops get their in time to hit the objective within the time window available. given the requirements of planning and other troop-leading procedures?
Civil Considerations: Civil considerations is a relatively new addition to the tactical intelligence packet, outside of SF, as far as I know. I remember, as a young RIP student, in the early 90s, someone (I believe, twenty or so years later, that the guy was a former ROTC Nazi) asking one of the cadre (for the Regiment veterans, the RI in question was “The Evil Christian,” for the rest of the readership, that’s actually a compliment to the individual in question…so don’t start burning me in effigy yet…) a question about METT-T. The RI informed us all that METT-T was obsolete, because it was now METT-TC.
Regardless of when the addition was made, in UW, civil considerations impact EVERYTHING. Let me re-state that one for emphasis also: In UW, civil considerations impact EVERYTHING! If you think otherwise, you’re fucking retarded, which actually doesn’t impact me at all, so don’t take it personally, but recognize that you’re going to lose and die as a result, because you’re fucking retarded.
The enemy’s response to your actions has to be considered, and the impact on the civilian population. Will the enemy grab ten civilians and execute them for every on of his guys you kill or wound? What impact is that going to have on the local civilian populace’s willingness to aid you? It might piss them off and make them more active in helping you. Or, just as likely, they may decide since you’re not protecting them, you’re not capable of protecting them, so they better side with the enemy, just to stay safe.
Civil considerations will impact your relationship with terrain. If an avenue of approach requires crossing in view of eight different farms, will the farmers provide you food and shelter? If not, can they at least be trusted to keep their mouths shut about you being in the area? In urban areas, will the locals make you as a non-local (Yes. Always.)? Will they help you, or simply ignore you? Will they rat you out to the enemy in hopes of gaining a benefit?
Friendly forces has an impact on civil considerations, as we’ve discussed. Your people need to know how to be genuinely friendly and helpful, whether you actually like the locals or not. Just because you think Islam is a 10th Century anachronism full of barbarity and should be stomped into oblivion under the boot heel of modern liberal (in the classical sense of the word) philosophy and liberty (which I do), when you’re working in an Islamic country to defeat insurgents, you better know enough not to piss on dead bodies and burn Korans if you want to win…
Always, always, always consider the impact your operations will have on the local civilian populace. Gather information from the locals on local attitudes towards your forces. Are they on your side? Do they support the goals of the partisans, without being willing or ready to lend active support? Are they neutral and just don’t give a shit either way? Any of those are okay from our point-of-view, although the first two are obviously preferable.
Are they actively opposed to you? Do they believe you’re nothing more than a bunch of wanna-be Rambo criminals who should all be thrown in the darkest cell in the basement of a prison somewhere, and then the key melted down to slag? If so, what would it take to change their minds and gain their support? Is that possible for you to accomplish (I’ll give you a hint….”Kill them all” will not work, regardless of how tempting it might be to “hoist the black flag and commence to slitting throats.”)?
A thorough understanding of the implications of METT-TC to developing an accurate information picture of the battlefield is a critical element in determining what information is necessary to develop an actual tactical intelligence capability. In addition however, we also need to develop the ability to gather the requisite information to determine the validity of targets for attack, whether that target is an enemy encampment, a physical structure, or a specific individual.
Too often, when keyboard commandos and militia “commanders” discuss the implications of applying unconventional warfare methods they oversimplify the discussion by stating that they will use raids and ambushes, sniper attacks, etc, to destroy the power of any enemy. While the ancient dictum of KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) is valid, oversimplification is a flaw of amateurs training novices, resulting directly from a lack of knowledge.
Yes, raids, ambushes, sniper attacks (a form of ambush, really), and sabotage, ARE the fundamental tactics of irregular warfare (and small-unit conventional warfare, for that matter), but a sound grasp of the fundamental realities of these methods, as well as a solid grasp of strategic target selection and analysis is critical to prevent a waste of limited material and manpower resources on tactical level targets of insignificant worth.
Partisan leaders must consider the METT-TC factors in their operational area, when considering suitable targets for offensive operations, but there’s a lot more to it as well, unless you like wasting the blood and lives of your friends and neighbors on pointless bullshit.
The current doctrinal method of target analysis/selection is the CARVER matrix. An analysis of any potential target, using this matrix will provide a planning organization with a method to categorize the cost-benefit value of potential regime targets in a hierarchical manner, allowing the greatest emphasis to be placed on the targets that offer the greatest value (i.e. hitting a fuel depot that re-supplies occupation force Strykers or BMPs will be of much greater value to the resistance than ambushing a squad-sized element of conscripted infantrymen. In turn however, a sniper attack that assassinates key members of a special operations element within the regime security forces may have greater value than a raid on a vehicle park that results in destruction of a half-dozen armored vehicles). It’s critical to recognize that like the METT-TC factors, the CARVER matrix is not independent and stand-alone. Every aspect of the matrix is related to and dependent on the METT-TC factors.
Criticality: A potential target can be considered critical when its destruction or severe damage will create a SIGNIFICANT negative impact on the enemy’s ability to continue projecting military force in the operational area. Criticality is dependent on several key factors:
- How rapidly/soon will the destruction/damage of this target impact and affect enemy operations in the operational area? Will it happen immediately (i.e. the destruction of his armored vehicles may preclude continued mounted patrolling the next day, especially in areas that require lengthy, time-consuming travel, such as in much of the western U.S.A.) or will there be a noticeable delay (destruction of a fuel storage depot might negatively impact the enemy’s ability to continue operations, but not until the fuel supplies maintained at the unit level are expended…and they may be able to replace the fuel depot before that happens)?
- What percentage of enemy operations will be curtailed by target damage or destruction? What level of damage must be incurred in order to ensure a given percentage of curtailment (if I destroy ALL of their vehicles, will it curtail operations 100%, or will they continue with foot-mobile operations? It depends on the enemy’s ability to conduct foot-mobile operations effectively)?
Do substitutes for the damaged/destroyed material/manpower assets exist within the enemy’s logistics trail? How long will it take for those to be put into place?
How many targets exist, and what is their position/value within the greater scheme of the enemy’s order of battle?
If I’m dealing with cannibalist San Franciscans, of course, instead of a professional security force, any mission-essential equipment may well be a critical node, with no capacity for replacement in a grid-down situation.
Accessibility. The target, in order to realistically be the subject of a planned attack, must be accessible. While it has been accurately stated that NO target is completely inaccessible, some high-value targets must, after being weighed on an objective cost-benefit basis, be considered as practically inaccessible, due to the cost involved with actually damaging/destroying them, in terms of friendly force manpower/material assets. A target can be considered accessible to attack when it is possible for the maneuver element to physically infiltrate the target’s immediate area, or the target can be successfully engaged via direct or indirect fire weapons (the current focus on the development of open-source UAV technology by some elements within the liberty movement will greatly expand the accessibility of future targets for partisans, due to the inherent “guided missile” nature of these force multipliers).
Critical concerns when considering the accessibility of a potential target include infiltration and exfiltration routes/methods, route security concerns for the maneuver element, the requirements for barrier penetration, obstacle negotiation, and survival/evasion considerations during exfiltration of the maneuver element. All of these, of course, fall under the OAKOC terrain analysis we discussed previously.
Recuperability. The ability of the enemy to repair and return the target to service should be a critical element in target selection and analysis. This will vary, depending on the target, as well as other variables present only during the planning process. The effects of economic downturns/depressions, sabotage by the subversive underground in the manufacturing facilities that build the necessary repair parts, and the ability of the resistance to continue interdiction missions to prevent repair of the damaged/destroyed targets are all factors that must be considered when determining the recuperability of a given target. On the same hand however, if the target is not actually CRITICAL, then recuperability may not be an issue to the enemy, as they may be able to afford to ignore the damage sustained.
Vulnerability. The vulnerability of a specific target refers to the actual ability of the maneuver element, given its organic or available inorganic weapons and assets, to cause the requisite damage/destruction needed to accomplish the stated mission (if a unit is limited to individual small arms, a tank unit in a vehicle park will not be particularly vulnerable, while a unit that has access to stockpiled HE munitions, underground-manufactured thermite weapons, or battlefield recovered munitions and/or anti-tank weapons will be much more dangerous to those vehicles. On the same hand, while an in-flight UAV will not be particularly vulnerable to resistance threats, the personnel that run the UAV, and the UAV itself, while grounded, may be particularly vulnerable to various resistance threats). A target can ultimately only be considered vulnerable if the maneuver element has the capability and expertise (or can acquire/borrow the expertise) to successfully attack the target. Vulnerability will be predicated on the nature and construction of the target (soft-skinned patrol vehicles will be inherently more vulnerable than armored vehicles. Personnel are often more vulnerable than material assets), the amount of damage required to affect it’s recuperability (it’s a lot easier to slash tires and punch holes in the oil pan of a soft-skinned vehicle than it is to damage a M1A2 Abrams MBT), and the assets available to the friendly force (the use of open-source UAV technology to provide the resistance an indirect-fire/air support mechanism, locally-manufactured HE weapons, and the availability of heavy-caliber, long-range sniper systems all provide interesting force multipliers to future resistance elements).
Effects. The positive or negative influence on the civilian population of the operational area, as well as the PSYOP value on enemy personnel is defined as the effect of a specific targeting operation. The effects paragraph of the CARVER format must consider public perception of the destruction of the target (i.e. destruction of a critical bridge in the area may have a severely detrimental effect on the ability of the local civilian population to continue their daily lives. While it will also impact the ability of the enemy to conduct vehicle-borne patrolling operations, it will more negatively impact the civilian population, since the security forces can always resort to airborne transportation methods, using rotary-wing assets, while the local civilian population is simply out-of-luck. Obviously, this would be a negative effect when looked at from the PSYOP angle, since it would negatively impact the public opinion towards the resistance. Similarly, as we discussed in the Civil Considerations section above, the effects of enemy retaliation on the local civilian population, both directly, i.e. punishing the civilian populace for the actions of the partisans, and indirectly, the changes in public perception towards the partisans as a result of the enemy’s actions towards them, must be considered, based on what we know, or can learn, of the enemy’s possible and likely courses-of-action in relation to the civilian populace as an effect of targeting a specific target).
- Will regime forces retaliate against the local civilian population? To what degree? Will that impact the civilian population’s willingness/ability to aid the resistance (harsh enough reprisals may terrorize the local population enough that they no longer feel the risk is worth the potential rewards of aiding the resistance. On the other hand, reprisals that result in the death of family members may drive some members of the civilian population to more actively support the resistance. There is an extremely fine balance that must be considered during all operational planning)?
- Will the resistance’s PSYOP themes be reinforced by the destruction of this target (is one of the major themes that the regime cannot protect themselves, let alone the public? Is a theme that the government is inept, and so the people have no reason to fear reprisals)?
- Will the local civilian population be alienated from the regime, or more closely supportive of the regime? There is a fine balance that must be kept in the forefront of all planning during UW missions, with the effect on the local civilian population being at the forefront of everyone’s mind, from the highest planner, to the lowest trigger-puller (For the record, doing things that are inherently inimical to the civilian population’s core beliefs….say, pissing on corpses, or burning religious items/texts, or murdering a dozen innocent non-combatants…is ALWAYS going to have a negative effect…just sayin’).
Recognizability. This pertains to the degree to which a target can be easily identified under adverse conditions, including inclement weather, low-light conditions, and other factors, without being confused for other nearby targets (a mission to assassinate a critical member of the regime’s local leadership will be difficult to effect if he has a member of his staff with a close physical resemblance who may be accidentally targeted due to low recognizability. On the same hand, a raid on a commandeered local home used by regime leadership may backfire if the next-door neighbor has a similar-looking house, full of kids, and it gets hit instead. This happens…a lot. For one simple example, look at the number of LEO warrants served on the “wrong house.”).
Putting It All Together
Understanding that all aspects of tactical operational intelligence are synergistic; none of them can exist in a vacuum absent the others, it the first critical step in developing an intelligence capability. For leaders, knowing what types of information he needs in order to develop effective planning, and how the different aspects relate to one another allows him to develop PIRs for information that allows his intelligence cells within both the underground and the auxiliary, as well as guerrilla patrols, to gather the specific information he needs.
For the individual partisan, whether guerrilla fighter, support echelon personnel, or auxiliary member, knowing the depth of information, and understanding how the information he/she is tasked with gathering will be useful creates a multiplier effect in their ability to gather information. Instead of just looking at “avenues of approach” and saying, “Well, shit, Bob, yeah, there is a road there!” By understanding that Bob actually needs to know whether the road in question will support the enemy’s armored column, and/or if there are suitable ambush points along the route, and knowing how to conduct a comprehensive OCOKA assessment, the auxiliary member will be able to provide Bob with actual USEFUL information.
Active and Passive Information Collection
The difference between active and passive human intelligence information gathering lies in the efforts made to collect the information. A reconnaissance patrol is an active collection asset. They are setting out with the stated, intentional goal of gathering information. A combat patrol, setting out to conduct an ambush of a convoy of cannabilistic San Franciscans, and discovering a uniformed, serving UN advisor amongst the dead has just demonstrated passive information collection. In other words, passive information collection is the collection of information you “stumble” across, versus information you were actively seeking to discover.
For the auxiliary and underground, active information collection will require the use of high-level interviewing skills (versus interrogation skills), and the ability to build a great deal of rapport with people. This may involve interviewing other auxiliary personnel in the area, or non-auxiliary personnel in the area who happen to be supportive of the partisan force. At the same time, superb interpersonal skills and the ability to build rapport, coupled with the “gift of gab,” and a sublime sense of the subtle, may even allow the agent to perform active collection of PIR from people who do not support the partisans (the barkeep or hooker wheedling information out of security force personnel/customers is the classic example of this), whether the target is a member of the local civilian populace who is in a location or occupation to unwittingly gather information, without realizing they are aiding the partisans, or it may be an actual member of the enemy force. In either case, it is absolutely critical that the intelligence agent understand the severity of the risks they are taking, know when to stop, and be willing and able to walk away from a contact without having collected the needed information in order to avoid compromise. This is another example of my previously stated adage that the auxiliary can, in many ways, be far more important than the actual paramilitary guerrilla force. They gather information that a dude jocked up in multicams and plate carrier with a rifle squad of buddies may not be able to even get close to. At the same time, they don’t have the plate carrier, or the squad’s worth of rifles protecting them if shit goes South during an agent contact. They are on their own.
Handlers dealing with agents need to recognize the difference between an agent just being scared to put themselves out on a limb to gather information, and the legitimate feeling an agent can get from knowing they pushed too far and either compromised themselves, or are on the verge of being compromised. Partisan forces need to be ready to jerk an agent out of danger and move him to the guerrilla base camp area, where he can be utilized for other tasks, instead of just leaving his ass out to dry if he gets compromised, or feels he is about to get compromised (thus the importance of recognizing the difference between the two). Human intelligence functions, whether collection or agent handling, requires a thorough understanding of practical psychology, and genuine human empathy, along with the ability to look a dead man walking in the eye and not flinch when asking for critical information. The difference is, any time you send an agent to actively gather information, you’re basically signing a death warrant, because he may not realize he’s been compromised until he’s staring down the muzzle of a rifle, or feels the hemp prickling against his neck.
Passive information collection, for the auxiliary and support echelon is information that is collected without actively seeking it. This can range from things seen during daily activities (“Hey Bob! This morning, on my drive to work, I noticed the UN guys had a bunch of BMPs and MRAPs parked in the marshaling area, going through maintenance checks. I don’t know, but it looked like they might be spooling up for an operation.”), to conversations they overhear (“No shit! So there I was, sitting in the bar, nursing a cold one, and I hear this Dago lieutenant talking to this German feldwebel. They mentioned the safe house out on Highway 19, like they knew what was there. I couldn’t hear everything, but I definitely heard the words “raid” and “helicopters” in the conversation. Thought you’d want to know!”).
While a great majority of specific tactical intelligence may require active collection, the best operational level intelligence is often passively gathered information that someone overheard someone saying, somewhere, or something someone saw (“Hey Joe! How are ya? Hey, I know you guys like to use the old Piranha Creek Bridge to bypass the checkpoints on Highway 19, but I was out there for a roofing job the other day and noticed that the thunderstorm last week must have knocked the bridge out, because it’s not passable now. Ya’ll are going to have to find another way around, man!”)
1) Understand what constitutes tactical intelligence information: METT-TC and CARVER, primarily. Don’t get bogged down on unrelated, useless shit that just doesn’t matter.
2) Understand how to relate what you’re seeing to what matters. That way, both when gathering information, and when asking others to gather information, you know WHAT information to gather.
3) Record anything that might be relevant, within those parameters. You’re not an analyst, so don’t analyze. If you are doing double duty, gathering information, and analyzing it, separate the two tasks. Even if you have a “big picture” view of things, due to access to information, you don’t have that access unless you’re sitting at your desk. If you’re trying to analyze on the fly, while looking at something in the field, you will fuck it up. Collect it all now, collate it at your fucking desk (desk being a figure of speech oftentimes….it may be in front of your laptop, laying in a cave, or in the backseat of an SUV tearing down a two-track in the mountains).
4) Know the difference between active and passive information collection. Develop the ability to do either, under tactical field conditions, and in street clothes, in a built-up area, under the noses of the enemy.
Postscript: I owe a heartfelt thank you and apology to Max Velocity. He mentioned and linked to me in a brief article he had on Rawles’ SurvivalBlog, and I forgot his recent contribution to the battle drills discussion when I wrote my article the other day, although I did mention AmMerc and Ryan. So, Max, one, my apologies for overlooking you, and two, my thanks for the mention. Hope we get to see you in West Virginia while we’re there.
(A couple of really experienced guys, namely American Mercenary and Ryan from TSLR, have both recently done articles on battle drills. I don’t have a beef with what either man wrote, and even if I did, I’m not really in the practice of responding to other blogger’s articles in that manner. This one has been in the queue for awhile now, and since I haven’t posted fuck-all in a month, as was pointed out to me in a class on Memorial Day weekend, I figured, what the fuck? –J.M.)
A battle drill, doctrinally speaking, is “a collective action rapidly executed without applying a deliberate decision-making process…” FM7-8 Infantry Rifle Platoon and Squad, 22APR1992, claims that characteristics of a battle drill include:
- they require minimal leader orders to accomplish and one are standard throughout the Army (yeah……anyway…..the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital ain’t performing any battle drill to the same standards as the Ranger Regiment….see what I did there?).
- sequential actions are vital to success in combat or critical to preserving life.
- apply to platoon and smaller units.
- they are trained responses to enemy actions or leader’s orders.
- they represent mental steps followed for offensive and defensive actions in training and combat.
A fight is a fight. It doesn’t matter if it is a back alley brawl behind a bar (something I’ve NEVER experienced……), a small-unit engagement in South Camelistan, or the Armies of Good and Evil clashing on the plains of Meggido. A fight is a fight. The numbers can change. The armaments can change. The underlying principles that result in success do not: Speed, surprise, and violence of action.
Just like the barroom brawler’s ability to eat a punch and roll with it, coming back with an overwhelming barrage of left-right-left-right-pool cue to the brain determines his success, a unit’s ability to accomplish it’s mission depends on on the individual fighters’ abilities to conduct key actions quickly, without waiting for specific instructions. Well-trained, disciplined fighters who have mastered the individual and collective tasks inherent in battle drills have the ability to pull success out of the maws of obvious defeat, because they have to ability to (figuratively speaking), throat punch the other dude’s OODA loop. Nathan Bedford Forrest famously said that victory went to the dude that got there “the fustest with the mostest.” I’d argue that he Nate was only partially correct. The dude who hits the hardest, soonest, where it counts, and keeps up the pressure, wins (of course, his other famous quote suits me much better: “No damn man kills me and lives,” or, even better, “Never stand and take a charge….charge them too!”)
Hick’s Law (or, more properly, the Hick-Hyman Law), describes the time it takes for a person to make a decision based on the number of possible responses he has to choose from. Without turning this into a fucking Algebra or Trigonometry lesson (let’s stick to “triggernometry” shall we?), at it’s practical level, the more possible responses you have to choose from, the longer it’s going to take you to do anything at all. So, to avoid getting into a lengthy discussion of the aforementioned mathematics, or the neurophysiology of Colonel Boyd’s OODA loop (of which I’ve needed to pen an article for a long time), the fewer choices you have to sort through in response to certain critical stimuli, the faster you’ll do something useful, instead of standing around with your head up your ass.
Battle Drills are the foundation of small-unit tactics. They are the “Oh shit!” response to lethal threats that require instantaneous violent response, so they must be mastered to the point where they are executed instinctively, without conscious thought about “let’s try this technique!” It’s the collective version of going “Oh shit!” and covering your head with your left arm to protect it from the drunk frat boy throwing a haymaker at your head, as your right is already driving forward into his Adam’s Apple.
FM 7-8 listed eight battle drills:
1) Platoon Attack
1A) Squad Attack
3) Break Contact
5)Knock Out Bunkers
6) Enter a Building/Clear a Room
7) Conduct Initial Breach of a Mined/Wire Obstacle
In the new version, FM 3-21.8, March 2007, not only can I not find a listing in the Table of Contents for Battle Drills, it’s not even listed in the index…..Fucking New Army….
In my small-unit patrolling classes, I teach two: React-to-Contact and Break Contact. I teach these two for a very simple reason. They are the same fucking battle drill, in reverse, and they are the foundation of every other battle drill, and tactical task. Period. Full-stop. End of story.
It doesn’t matter if you’re conducting a security patrol in an urban or suburban neighborhood or a rural/wilderness retreat location; or if you’re moving to your bug-out location at the onset of a total breakdown, if you encounter a violent ballistic, physical collision with another armed party, one of these two drills will keep you alive. They are the “oh shit!” response. Consider them the seatbelts of small-unit combat, if you will. The underlying concepts apply, regardless of the operational environment.
At a more “advanced” level, those same concepts apply to the platoon and squad attack (unless you’re an acolyte of the “hey diddle, diddle, straight up the middle, fix bayonets and forward at the double time!” school), react-to-ambush, knocking out bunkers, approaching a bunker, building, or mined wire obstacle to breach it. The coolest part is that the underlying principles are inherent in one of the most basic collective tasks we teach: fire-and-movement while executing buddy team bounds. One guy is protecting his buddy while his buddy is moving to a more advantageous position, and vice versa.
I’m a fan of John Poole’s work, despite his apparent homo-erotic fascination with ninjas. My biggest beef with him with him is that he apparently doesn’t realize that any evolution has occurred in American military theory and practice since he was in Vietnam. I don’t know what things are like in Big Green (Army or Marine Corps), but in my experience, most of the bitches he was trying to address in the late 1990s and since had been addressed in my communities by at least the early 1990s. Amongst those complaints is the rigidity of textbook approaches to TTPs (Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures) such as battle drills. Here’s the rub though: the battle drills are ALWAYS adapted to the situation. If you’re not adapting them as you go, you’re fucking doing them wrong!
For the purposes of this article, I’m going to describe these two battle drills as I teach them, based on an eight-man “squad” comprised of two four-man “teams.” The numbers are simply what they are though. They can be larger or smaller (within reason) and the concepts and techniques still apply. It’s the FUCKING CONCEPTS THAT ARE IMPORTANT!!!!!!!!
Conditions: While conducting a foot-mobile patrol, a small-unit partisan element makes sudden, unexpected contact with a hostile enemy force. Either the partisan patrol or the enemy force may initiate the action with individual or crew-served small-arms fire.
1) Soldiers immediately take up the nearest covered positions and return fire in the direction of contact.
2) Team/squad leaders locate and engage known or suspected enemy positions with well-aimed fire, and pass information to the squad/platoon leader.
3) Fire team leaders control fire using standard fire commands (initial and supplemental) containing the following elements:
- description of target
- method of fire
- command to commence firing
So, here’s the deal, as I’ve experienced it. The old school answer was, if you could move to cover in less than three seconds, move to cover, and then return fire. If it would take longer than three seconds, return fire and then move to cover. Now, I’m no Annie-Fucking-Oakley. I’m not going to get surgical headshots at 100M, or even 25M, at a dead sprint, while moving to cover. I can damned sure dump three or four rounds at a muzzle flash at those distances and if I don’t get a hit, they’ll at least be close enough that the motherfucker IS going to duck for a second or two. Absolute worst case scenario, for me, it’ll disturb his aim enough that he won’t hit my Carl Lewis impersonating self, as I move to cover. My way ain’t the only way, but it’s worked for me.
Others would point out that this seems to contradict my previous statements about being accountable for every shot you fire and not accidentally killing the neighbor’s kid, or a non-combatant bystander. Nonsense. I KNOW where my rounds were intended to go. I wasn’t firing blindly. I was deliberately placing rounds in a manner to protect my life. I know where my rounds are impacting. I’m not going to fire an “oh shit!” burst if Ali Baba has three toddlers crawling up his legs. It’s going to be modified by the situation, without any need for real thought. It’s a general response. My way ain’t the only way. It’s just a way that’s worked for me.
If the bad guys are far enough away that I can’t get a quick burst into their position of cover, I’m not going to bother shooting. I’m going to move to cover, then shoot. Or, if they’re not accurately targeting me, I’m going to dump a couple of well-aimed shots into them, and then move to cover.
Don’t fire “in the direction of the contact.” Every swinging Richard in the in-contact element should be using well-aimed fire to engage known or suspected enemy positions. Every swinging Richard should be communicating, to his buddies, and to his team leader (TL), where and what the contact is:
“Contact! Front (or left, or right, or 1:45PM, etc…..what-fucking-ever verbiage works for you.)! 150 meters! (If possible, you can be more specific with your communications: “troops in the treeline!” “There’s a fucking TANK!” “Machine gun in that window on the left, second floor up!:)“
4) Soldiers maintain contact with the soldiers on their left and right.
5) Soldiers maintain contact with their team leader and report the location of enemy positions.
6) Leaders check the status of their personnel.
7) The team/squad leaders maintain contact with the squad/platoon leader (next higher element).
Yeah, none of this is bad dope, but in a small-unit situation, like we’re discussing, it’s going to be a lot more fluid than this…
You should ALWAYS be maintaining contact with the guy to your left and to your right. That’s why we teach to stay as far away from your buddy as you can, and still maintain visual contact with him. When the first round goes out, every man in the in-contact element should return well-aimed fire at known or suspected enemy positions, as quickly as he can shoot accurately, for an entire magazine (or whatever your team SOP or the situation calls for…honestly, at 200 meters, I probably don’t need an entire magazine to develop fire superiority when engaging most bad guys armed with small arms and light machine guns….I know how to shoot accurately, and they generally don’t….at least not on a collective level). If the TL decides his guys need to slow down their rate of fire to sustain ammunition, he can give that command, “Hey shithead! Slow it the fuck down! Take your time and aim your fucking shots!”
8) The squad/platoon leader–
a. moves up to the fire team/squad in contact and links up with its leader.
b. determines whether or not his squad/platoon must move out of an engagement area.
c. determines whether or not he can gain and maintain suppressive fire with his element already in contact (based on the volume and accuracy of enemy fires against the element in contact).
d. Makes an assessment of the situation. he identifies–
- the location of the enemy position and obstacles.
- the size of the enemy force (the number of enemy automatic weapons, the presence of any vehicles, and the employment of indirect fires are indicators of the enemy strength)
- vulnerable flanks
- covered and concealed flanking routes to the enemy position.
e. determines the next course of action (for example, fire and movement, assault, breach, knock-out bunker, enter and clear a building or trench).
The TL, in our situation is the senior man with a relatively accurate context of the fight at this point. He’s going to communicate with the follow-on TL, what the situation is. This may be via radio, voice commands, or hand-and-arm signals. With my emphasis on speed, surprise, and violence of action, I’m a fan of developing the SOP that the in-contact TL simply turns and makes eye contact with the follow-on TL and signals which way he thinks the follow-on team should maneuver, based on what he can see of the battlefield (left or right), as well as verbally communicating the situation again (“Contact front! 150 meters! Troops in the treeline!” And he punches his fist, left or right, indicating which direction he believes will provide the maneuver element the most covered, concealed, or otherwise protected route of movement. This hand-and-arm signal, for “Action! left or right!” can be given or the radio also).
I have three problems with waiting for the fucking PL to show up to make determinations that a team leader should be smart enough to figure out.
a) while I’m waiting for a fucking lieutenant to show up (admittedly, the lieutenants I served under in the Ranger Regiment were squared away motherfuckers…but they’re still lieutenants….), the enemy may already be maneuvering. If I’m experienced enough to lead men in combat, I ought to be experienced enough to know if the element I’ve got backing me up can deal with the situation or not.
b) SPEED, surprise, and violence of action. I want to hit the motherfucker in the throat before he even realize what kind of fight he’s in. There are numerous stories of six man SOG recon teams in Vietnam assaulting all the way through NVA company and battalion sized elements because the enemy couldn’t catch their decision-making matrix up to the audacity the SOG guys demonstrated.
c) we aren’t going to have the time or infrastructure to wait for help if we get pinned down waiting for a decision. The lead team leader has about ten fucking seconds to make the decision….can we take them, or can’t we. If he can, we move straight into fire-and-maneuver. If we can’t, we move straight into a break contact. Simple, binary decision-making context. The only way we could be faster would be to either a) always assume we’re going to pull a Monty Python and “run away! run away!” or b) we’re going to make like British cavalrymen following Lord Cardigan into the Russian guns….(“Charge of the Light Brigade,” for the culturally challenged….).
If we can take them, let’s fucking take them, and be done with it. If we can’t, let’s break contact and run, then set up an ambush down the road, for them to chase us into…..
Here’s the follow on…..
So, TL decides we can kick their asses (and ignore that old conventional adage about 3:1 odds. Train your guys so you can reverse those odds if necessary…), and signals the follow-on TL to maneuver left, because there’s a slight draw there with some brush in it (or an irrigation ditch, a small ridge, whatever….).
At this point, we assume that the enemy is using the same playbook, so we go back to Forrest, and we get there the “fustest with the mostest.” The follow-on team will become our maneuver element and will move out, as rapidly as possible, along that protected route, towards the flank of the enemy position. It’s a fucking foot race!
The team leader goes as fast as he can, keeping his guys together in cohesive unit (generally at a dead run at this point), ready for a collision en route, but trying to get into position before the enemy element can send out a maneuver element at all.
Now it becomes a matter of mathematics…geometry specifically, with angles and shit….If you imagine the enemy position and the support element position to be connected along an axis, (see illustration
(well, apparently I can’t include the illustration. I’ll try and fix that…..)
for the numeral 1, representing the suppressive fires), then the maneuver element, represented as T-2, will move from it’s trail position, T-2 #1, around the green represented ridgeline, to a position somewhere between 45 and 120 degrees off that axis, to T-2 #2. 90 degrees is probably the ideal blend of security and safety, but the fight will be what the fight will be.
We have now managed to catch the enemy force in the quintessential “flanking maneuver.” If he is successfully hiding behind cover from the fires of Team One, he’s probably exposed to the fires of Team Two. If he’s hiding from Team Two, he’s exposed to Team One.
Of course, it’s not quite that simple. Some poor motherfucker is still going to have to assault through, in order to ensure that no one is hiding there, in a position that neither team can see. It most cases, it’s going to be Team Two. They will begin to assault forward, using fire-and-movement, by buddy teams, until they get close enough that the incoming fire from Team One begins to become a threat, at which point they signal a lift fire (for the doctrine Nazis, I know it’s supposed to be a “shift fire.” You wanna explain that, in print, to a bunch of untrained G’s?). They continue to assault all the way through the objective, killing anyone who resists, and securing anyone who doesn’t, before the whole element consolidates and re-organizes on the objective.
That’s React-to-Contact, in a real-world nutshell…..With a little bit of conceptual thinking, you can see how it applies to a deliberate attack…a raid (the support element doesn’t begin shooting until it becomes absolutely necessary)….knocking out a bunker (in which case Team Two would be carrying hand grenades or satchel charges….)….or approaching a building.
Alright, I fibbed. It’s 0400 local, so I’m going to bed, without having finished the break contact portion of the article. So solly Chollie.
I apologize for having been gone for a month. I’ve taught something like six classes in the last two months, all over the West, and am getting ready to drive my happy ass to the East Coast. I’m pretty sure I’ve lost my day job (I’m afraid to call in and find out….), and my wife is getting very impatient about getting a fucking house built….So, I’ll try and get back to posting more regularly, as well as getting all the other shit going that’s been slacking.