Commentary on Squad/Section Attacks

OPSEC & Family/ Retreat Security
August 20, 2013
Training Slots & Planned Posts
August 26, 2013
I had links to the following two Canadian Army articles sent in by a reader (links below). These are both excellent articles and summarize what I am teaching with Small Unit Tactics. They are a worthwhile read if you have a few minutes and a tactically interested mind. The details on squad attacks (known as ‘section’ attacks in the British and Canadian armies) are covered in detail in my manual: ‘Contact: A Tactical manual for Post Collapse Survival’
I also covered some of this topic in THIS POST on tactical use of terrain.
A little commentary on the articles:
The articles are detailed and self-explanatory. They chime in exactly with what I teach. When I begin running my patrol and SUT classes I will take students through more detail on squad attack tactics. For now, on the Combat Rifle / Contact Drills Course, once we have dialed in the basics of fire & movement and break contact drills, I run the students through an orchestrated live fire squad attack on a bunker on the Sunday evening. The purpose of this is to show the technique of a squad flanking attack. It illustrates the tactics and also shows what may be used against you.
The linked Canadian articles discuss the lost art of the section attack and the essential tactic of flanking. Deployment of infantry in armored vehicles and the proliferation of fully automatic weapons are largely blamed for this. There is a lot of truth in this. For example, armored infantry assault tactics are to approach the objective at speed with a mixture of main battle tanks (MBT) and armored personnel carriers (APC). The MBTs will adopt a position of fire support and flank protection while the APC’s will drive onto the objective. The APCs will stop slightly short of the enemy trench line while hosing the objective down utilizing their turret mounted chain guns. The APC door will drop and the infantry section will debus, the fire-teams moving out to the left and right of the APC. They will then assault directly onto the enemy objective to achieve the ‘break-in battle’. As they move forward they will occlude the fire from the APC and it will reverse out to a better position of fire support. This is all undertaken within an envelope of massive fire support, both preparatory fire and direct fire support as the troops fight onto and through the objective.
I spent my British Army career in light infantry/airborne style units. Much like the Ranger Regiment. It was essential to keep the solid basics of light infantry tactics alive. I am trying hard to communicate to you that I am not trying to bring you the latest armored infantry fad from Afghanistan. I am bringing you solid basics that are in many cases a lost art to our modern military. These things will prove essential to success in an SHTF or resistance situation where you are attempting to operate civilian tactical teams.
One commenter asked me why I bring so much from my British military background rather than my US Army service. There are several reasons for this, one being that my greater training and experience was in the British Army, and at a far higher speed and tactical level. When I bring you four man break contact drills, they are based on SAS four man team break contact drills. When I bring you section (squad) attacks, I am bringing a mixture of light infantry solid basics tied in with an ‘old school’ approach that is determined not to forget what works best. 
That is why I detest FM ‘dogma warriors’. A mixture of real experience tied in with a historical tactical perspective is required. You also have to adapt what you are doing to a non-military SHTF or resistance fighter situation. That takes you away from the nasty place of forgotten tactics that the modern infantry is finding itself in (as per the linked articles) to the necessity of remembering and practicing good solid tactical basics with the weapons and equipment, the capabilities, that you have within your tactical team. 
There are several elements to this. I touched on the topic of squad attacks being ‘drills’ in my post about ‘Rationalizing Training Drills with Combat Reality’. What you must realize that a section attack is not a pure drill. It needs input from leadership. It is a response to a situation that you encounter on the ground (whether you are doing a hasty or deliberate attack) and requires the leader to conduct a mental combat estimate before issuing rapid quick battle orders (QBOs) to initiate the attack.
The combat estimate is a rapid mental process to assess the location of the enemy in relation to the terrain and friendly forces, taking into account factors such as relative strengths, fields of fire, mutually supporting and depth positions. A plan must be determined to make best use of available terrain as covered approaches, supported by suppressing fire, to close with and destroy the enemy on the objective. 
This takes an eye for the ground, an understanding of the mechanics of fire support and moving elements, and the ability to communicate and lead. This is where it departs from being a drill. It is only a drill in as much as when the squad leader shouts “X Fire Team, prepare to move left flanking!” the riflemen in that team will know what to prepare to do, what to expect.
The ability to read ground with an infantryman’s eye is essential. If you are to assault an enemy position you must be able to organize and move your fire support element into a suitable location and identify a covered approach with which to move your assault element to a  flank. With the limited double envelopment, rather than a simple flank assault, you may initially move your fire support element to a flank, supported by the assault element, then move your assault element in the opposite direction. Given that the ideal angle between fire support and assault elements is 90 degrees it stands to reason that if you move the fire support element out to 45 degrees in one direction, and then the assault element moves out the other way by 45 degrees, you have achieved a 90 degree angle while utilizing what may be limited approaches on the available terrain.
Where I diverge for the article a little is in its criticism of the eight man section, split into two four man fire teams. It is not the squad of two four man fire teams with a squad assault weapon in each team that is the problem, it is with the forgetting of section tactics such as the flanking move in favor of a doctrine of massive ‘fire superiority’ and frontal attacks.
During my time in the British Army the size and composition of the section was constant source of debate and analysis. Should there be three four man fire-teams etc? This is where it not only does not matter, but it shows how you have the ability to adapt to what you have in an SHTF situation. If you have a four man tactical team, then you are spit into two two man buddy teams. If you had to mount an attack, they are effectively your fire teams, one to flank while the other supports. If you had more numbers, you could have a six man squad with two three man fire teams, or three two man fire teams. You need to task organize and run rehearsals and drills to suit your personal situation. If you are travelling in vehicles, then the vehicle crews, whether two, three or four man crews, become the maneuver elements if you have to dismount and assault or break contact.
You have to be flexible and adapt to the situation. Stop reading FMs and read a practical manual such as ‘Contact! A Tactical Manual for Post Collapse Survival’ – it was written for the express purpose – then get some practical training.
If you have greater numbers, then you could have a squad of six or eight, split into two fire teams, or you could have three fire teams perhaps of three of four persons. The three fire team task organization allows you to conduct satellite patrolling as laid out in ‘Contact!’. It would also allow you greater flexibility in a squad attack – you have three four man elements, which allows you to follow the assault cycle of each element rotating through fire support – assault – reserve. This is normally done at the lowest at platoon level, with each squad rotating through the cycle in an echelon style attack (echelon = in series i.e.  a squad assaulting and then the next one moving to the next objective). Or you use the reserve element for flank protection. Or have two elements in fire support. Or two elements in assault. Get the picture? This is where it departs from drills and becomes dependent on what you have and what you need to achieve.
But remember, if you come up with these specific size groups and squads, then you need to rehearse, train and drill the specific SOPs into your guys, or it will all go for a ball of chalk. Back to training and drills. Drills are nothing without competent combat leadership and training. This is also where your tacticool ‘all stand in a line’ training on square ranges falls desperately short of being adequate for combat training. Unless your idea of combat is to stand in a line and fire volleys at the redcoats from your muzzle loader?
Going back to the need to train in accurate effective suppressing fire, and to assault from a flank, this will become essential in any SHTF or resistance fighter situation. This is where you need to be in touch with, and train hard at, the real effective light infantry tactics that should be your bread and butter. You won’t have the massive amounts of fire power and fire support that modern infantry are used to, and which has caused the dumbing down of tactical ability at section/squad level in the military. 
The foundation of this will be competent tactical teams that are trained in realistic and effective small unit tactics. They need to be physically fit and robust to spend a lot of time simply existing out there before they are called upon to do any of this. They need to endure, the real basis of endurance. Bottom line, the resistance or your SHTF tactical team  must be able to endure out there and then perform in a physically robust manner with solid battle tactics when required. 
With these sort of solid tactics you will run rings around any federalized militarized goon squad, whatever firepower or armored vehicles they have. Just don’t get in front of them when they perform a  Beirut  unload on full automatic. Although you should never underestimate your enemy, and no doubt there are high speed guys among them, but these types are so massively hamstrung by their focus on ‘CQB’ and being ‘operators’, their lack of fitness and huge amounts of tacticool gear, and their lack of understanding of good solid infantry tactics. Get these guys out in the woods and they are lost. 
The basis of this ability to endure and to perform when required despite being cold wet and hungry is your unit morale. Morale is not based on whether or not, for example you got the MRE with the M&Ms in it that day. No, it is a deeper thing and goes down to self-motivation, determination and will to win. Morale is that slow burning determination and  aggression that you harbor deep with in you. Controlled aggression as it is sometimes called. You have to be able to bring it out when required. This is not the same as being a yes man, full of false motivation and command watching bravado. If I, and any other soldiers I used to know, are not complaining about anything and everything, then we are not happy. A silent soldier is one to be worried about. If its all “gopping shit”, then all is good. When the ‘chuntering’ stops, it should be because there is a call to action, at which point it should be nothing but professional fighting. Of course, having a good chunter, a good bitch, a good bit of black humor,  is not the same as whining like a baby over stuff, like a  blister, which should result in a swift smack to the head.
If you think SHTF is going to be easy, or the resistance fight is going  to be easy, then forget it. Get used to wallowing in shit and misery. Embrace it, embrace the suck. Learn to love it. Make fun of it. Then you will win. 
“Boots fit, mail getting through?”
“No.”
All good then.
I often see smug people out there, commenting on blogs. Apparently they have it all. They have the solution, they have the killer bees. They have the perfect prepper set up. They are all about looking after number one, and number one only. Most likely, they are the prepper-coward type, hiding away. In fact, they are selfish to a cloying degree.Well, I don’t have all that, but I have been trying, and I will do my best to muddle through. Of course, there is nothing wrong with planning to protect and hide your family from the troubles – I recommend that as a course of action. However, if I can secure my family, I’ll throw a ruck on and go fight the bad guys.  And I know this – all the selfish little ‘number ones’ hiding away counting their dehydrated bags of food and silver, paying lip service to tactics and defense, deluding themselves, are totally psychologically unprepared for any dislocation of expectations such as may occur by a drone strike on their retreat, or a determined attack by any sort of tactically competent opposing force. These guys are not in the resistance, they will not fight tyranny, and they expect to crawl out of their holes after all is done and inherit the earth. 
It’s called the selection-destruction cycle – the better, more motivated, more competent candidates self-select into the more risky units and stand less chance of survival, leaving those that could not or did not to inherit what is left after the war.
Here are the linked articles:

Live Hard, Die Free.

MV

17 Comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    IMO this prepper/loner shtick comes from standard Contard political chatter of “rugged individualists” and from the Libertarian exhortations to eschew all “collectivism” in all shades lest the evil left calls you bad names or something.

    And that is where we are today, paranoid, de-moralized loopers with a basement full of guns waiting to be taken by those who call us names.

    One piece of advice to all the trainers, start with the concept of Buddy Pairs. I guess that is how Rangers start, perhaps a Ranger could fill me in if I am wrong.

    If you start talking more than a buddy pair the propaganda training we have all been subjected to our whole lives kicks in and we start to suspect the person next to us is a bad “ist” believing in bad “isms” or is a stooly to catch/frame those kinds. RRS

    • mtnregnar198 says:

      Ranger School does emphasize the use of doing every task with a minimum of two personnel. “The Lone Ranger died in the 60s” was a quote I remember when I went to Ranger School in the 90s. How ever it’s core curriculum is Squad, Section, and Platoon tactics, such as ambush, recon, and raid. Combat is definitely a team sport!

    • mtnregnar198 says:

      Ranger School does emphasize the use of doing every task with a minimum of two personnel. “The Lone Ranger died in the 60s” was a quote I remember when I went to Ranger School in the 90s. How ever it’s core curriculum is Squad, Section, and Platoon tactics, such as ambush, recon, and raid. Combat is definitely a team sport!

    • Anonymous says:

      Wish I said it better I was trying to imply the social part of our training. Most people IMO would be lucky if they could scrounge up a buddy for this kind of training and outlook

  2. Anonymous says:

    The “loners” won’t stay that way for very long. They will (1) Get picked off waging their “privet war” or be picked up sleeping, or (2) They will join up to form (we hope) effective groups. No matter what we (or government) plan, War NEVER go’s according to plan. Whatever happens it will be different than everything that has gone before. In some ways it will be just as all other wars have been. The “four horsemen” will rage across the land and the woman, children and the old will suffer the most. If “Planning” makes you feel safer then bless you. But the Reaper is blind and dose not care who he takes. “Survival” is purely a matter of luck. If we fight we die and maybe loose. But if we DON’T fight back we die and “sure as hell” will loose. In WW-2 many of the Jews decided to hide-or “wait”- or “go along” with their “lawful Government”. How did that work out for them?–You are spot on about “dogma” Max and have forgotten more about tactics than I learned in my time in service. But I think there are still many things that the older FM’s can teach.

  3. Anonymous says:

    With ref to small unit tactics slowly becoming a lost art form – another lost art is the ability to actually live off the land. Knowing SUT’s is all well and good, but if the situation requires having to take off to the hills then it’ll probably mean you’ll either be alone or in a small group. You may have a small quantity of supplies but eventually they will run dry, and unless that person(s) has taken the time to also learn about wilderness survival. They won’t last long.

    I would say wilderness survival and knowing have to survive, live and fight on with what Mother Nature provides is equally as important as SUT’s. Not just knowing how to kill game and prepare it, but also how to utilise the remaining carcass. As an example, rabbit hides make an excellent and unbelievably strong glue when mixed and prepared with urine and a few other natural elements. The bones can be whittled down to make very effective surgical instruments.

    If TPTB are coming for you, then chances are you’ll not have the luxury of being able to rely on friends or other family members for quite some time.

    Youtube is full of crappy tacticool ninjas and their shitty fast draw square range killer skills, however youtube does have an excellent collection of wilderness based and survival videos with many being very detailed in how to live off Mother Nature.

    SP

    • Chuck says:

      Living off the land is a very short-term, worst-case solution to a really piss-poor resupply plan and is not sustainable for an effective insurgency. It is NOT a good plan.

    • Anonymous says:

      Not really. History is littered with groups/races of people simply living from what nature provides. As an example, during WW2, many resistance fighters and small groups fought against the Nazis by living off grid. They had basic supplies but consisted mainly of naturally sourced supplies. Granted, doing so does take up much more time and implementation, and they did also boost their supplies by capturing equipment ect from enemy units. But it is certainly not something to be ignored or scoffed at. Back then there were no 7-11’s or happy boxes of MRE’s or frequent air drops. It was a miserable existence, but they did it none the less…..

    • Historian says:

      With respect, I have read the memoirs of several partisan groups during WW2. Without exception, all of them depended upon food and supplies from local farmers. The idea that a combat unit can conduct operations AND forage for sustenance in the wild is a fantasy. Even urban foraging runs dry pretty quickly; there are only so many cats and dogs in a given neighborhood.

      Having the skills to stretch your food supply is an excellent adjunct to essential logistics, for make no mistake, food is a weapon and TPTB know this better than you do, but living off the land in a SHTF scenario is not viable.

    • Anonymous says:

      I do agree, your points regarding combat units not being able to fully consist just off the land are very valid. Like you say, there’ll only be a certain number of suitable game and other edible resources within any square mile of a rural environment, even less so within an urbanised location. Even in ancient history, large military units found it incredibly difficult to sustain themselves just from what the local environment provided and they too had to rely on large amounts of pre-prepared supplies. Some of the most powerful armies in ancient history were defeated not by battle, but because they made the mistake of assuming they could simply re-supply their armies on the move from the land they were attempting to conquer.

      However, I do believe the situation is different when referring to only small groups of people. Again, it does require the people involved having very good practical knowledge of wilderness living, but if it’s a small group that know what they’re doing, they could last a very long time. Hard work but doable non the less.

      SP

  4. Anonymous says:

    As a former US Army Light Infantryman, I say this article is dead on. When CAS (Close Air Support) and IDF (Indirect Fire) fails, small unit tactics win the firefight. Especially in a built up or heavily wooded area where a dismounted squad can move around virtually undetected. On a separate note, it is impossible to understate how physically and mentally exhausting light infantry life can be. Exhausting dismounted patrols followed by weapons maintenance, guard duty, and improving fighting positions. Even when you get to sleep, you often can’t because you’re so “switched on” with adrenaline and had to consume too much caffeine to keep going. Pay attention to the author’s comments about mental toughness as it is the truth that many preppers choose to ignore. Thanks for a great blog, Max.

    Very Respectfully,

    11B

    • Chuck says:

      I think you meant to say it’s impossible to OVERSTATE how physically and mentally exhausting…

      Also, I never had a problem falling asleep. I’ve literally drifted off to sleep while walking (and this was while chain-dipping MRE coffee) at night. When you go 36 hours without sleep, funny things happen to your brain.

  5. Use doctrine as your guide, but do not become its slave.

    • Chuck says:

      Focus on the principles, not the TTPs. TTPs are situational, (and they make you predictable…which gets you killed) but principles never change. For example, making sure you ALWAYS have security is a principle, “scrolling the road” is a TTP (and a bad one at that).

  6. Anonymous says:

    Adapt,Innovate,Overcome.

    Until “it” happens we likely will be unprepared or rather it will go as you are not what you have stockpiled.

    I believe that is why the government will create an incident or incidents or allow them to happen in order to implement a first strike-preventive measure.

    The roundup detention with charge or trial. In the dead of night replete with black bags.

    They are gearing up for a first strike to create fear and remove all those they have identified that they believe will give them the most problem.

  7. FormerSapper says:

    Good drills, Max. I hate clichés but the “no man is an Island” rings true here. I get that in places it’s good to work alone and isolated from the community such as if you’re running a SIGINT station or running a comms relay but really, networking is a prep in and of itself.

    Additionally: I haven’t forgotten about the review I owe you, just been so bloody busy.

  8. Anonymous says:

    I have been in the movement for a while and have managed to put together a really good group and got away from the large organization that claim to be national, provide things for their members and never deliver. Our Group the GA Volunteers has decided to use Max’s material as our main training source along with other great folks that help get our folks ready.

    Some of our folks had the lone wolf mentality, but now understand by learning to work as a team that they would not last long on their own because one man or women can’t do it all. Yes they were paranoid at first but soon realized that most of what they were paranoia was system created and self created.

    We also work within a group Call America’s Volunteers, which is a network helping individuals find groups to work with and helping groups find other groups to work together under mutual aid agreements. So if anyone is interested please check us out at the link below and we do not accept dues or money so no one has anything to lose, but we started this due to reading Max’s material. Thanks Max.

    http://americasvolunteers.wix.com/ready-to-stand