Excellent Input on Tactical Clearance: A Green Beret’s Journey
This comment came in on a post on the MVT Forum: ‘What’s so Special about Special Ops?‘
Here is the comment:
When I see SOF teaching poor Iraqi’s to buttonhook and hope into a room, and to strongwall against a threat, when they aren’t even holding their rifle properly and wobble through the doorway, I cringe.
Let me throw you another article, from a friend of mine.
He is a Green Beret. He has been a big influence in promoting limited penetration techniques in the Western world. He regularly comments on the wrongs of the “American method” – what we’re doing, what we’re teaching and what we’re committing to. But when push comes to shove he has to do it the “Army way.”
And you see this “way” promoted by other tactical trainers. The “Army way.” The way I was taught and the regurgitated, if not obsolete, tactics and techniques. You see this commonly. Especially in standard infantry units, you see crappy tactics and techniques filter down, or be promoted by doctrine, and used casually without consideration to their tactical issues.
You can be an uneducated Talishitban with an AK, sat in a corner awaiting entry, and kill a million dollar “super soldier” with a burst of your rifle. Talk about attrition. Innovation is the forefront of change to any subject area. Unfortunately we are grounded right now in some tactical aspects because of dogma, sticking to the grounded framework and not considering different concepts. I see this weakness from the Close Quarters Battle side. This weakness can be based on its principles and projected across the spectrum: inability to be flexible (rigid structure), lack of free-thinking and most of all doing, dogma pushed from the top-down.
Hearts and minds. Village Stability Operations. All that jazz. There are inherent issues and weaknesses within this spectrum. We teaching ‘old generation’ tactics and techniques, based on operation and mission profiles that ‘work’ mainly because of our technological and tactical capabilities. You ever see ISIS teach a room clearing seminar? Nope. They’ll blow the building sky-high, throw a few grenades in the room, at worst charge in and go for glory without consideration. We can’t afford the collateral damage they can. And we bleed because of it. We then leave the country due to political reasons, and the one’s we leave behind bleed because of it – and what we left them with. Insufficient tactics. Insufficient supplies. Poor capabilities.
When the incapable soon fade away, the capable appear. And capable terrorists with all we have left them become bigger and badder enemies. Just look at present Iraq or Syria. And when this is working to the enemies advantage, does that mean our present actions (such as Military advisers on the ground) are doing more harm than good?
This is someone unrelated to MVT or the MVT Cadre, who has made a similar journey towards Tactical Clearance of limited penetration techniques. Looking at the post linked in the comment above, you can see he is writing it to deal with the hateridiots, the CQB drones:
Here is the link again, to the 88Tactial Site: ‘A rebuttal to all the haters by 88 Tactical.‘
By TT from 88 Tactical
Second Referenced video: https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=797640783623504&set=vb.181030808617841&type=2&theater
I posted a couple of videos of myself and DC running a drill at a recent course that has generated a great deal of controversy, expected ridicule, and questions. Knowing that our methodology is so completely different from the norm, we don’t expect people to be able to properly evaluate what they see. It is a complete paradigm shift for a lot of people, especially those who haven’t been exposed to dynamic limited penetration tactics.
Let’s start with my background. I have 25 years of military service, the vast majority of it in the Army Special Forces. I currently serve as a Team Sergeant on an ODA in a National Guard Unit. I have multiple combat deployments to several A.O.s, my most recent being Afghanistan in 2013. All of my wartime Army deployments consisted of direct action missions with national commando units. In addition to my military experience, I have 20+ years in law enforcement holding various assignments to include a street crimes unit, SWAT, and duty as the primary defensive tactics instructor for a large department. Currently I work part-time in law enforcement to maintain my credentials. I have worked in the dignitary protection field for about 15+ years as well, protecting everyone from high profile individuals to various presidents, first ladies, and other dignitaries and business professionals. For the last 11 years I have also deployed in non-disclosure operations in high-risk assignments for the U.S. government as a contractor. I have attended advanced courses in just about every combative subject, and have completed numerous instructor courses including Israeli counter-terrorism tactical courses. To summarize, my life has largely been a laboratory of violence and human behavior under duress. I have been good enough at it that I have been able to work with some truly great people, and it unfortunately has sometimes been at great cost.
As far as CQB is concerned, I learned pretty much the same things as everyone else and practiced those things operationally at fairly high levels. Over time, with exposure and perhaps a unique breadth of experience, I began to question a lot of what I was taught versus the reality of what I saw and experienced. There seemed to be a massive disconnect between training and reality, and expected performance and actual behavior. The more I learned, the more I rejected. I found much of it to be massively dogmatic, or ego based or personality worship driven.
For the record, I will admit to being dumb enough to be dogmatic about shooting in a weaver stance, always demanding front sight focus, and practicing Tae Kwon Do thinking it was legitimate self-defense art. I even ran into rooms with my hair on fire trying to process and shoot on the move. With almost all of that I have either completely changed course or found a way to put it into context. I became an expert grappler and competed in MMA, I am a heavy advocate of point shooting in context and I rarely run into a room to clear it unless it is obviously more dangerous outside or if I absolutely need to enter to accomplish my mission.
In my operational free time, I began an academic-like study of motor learning and behavioral psychology as it relates to the combat field. The first thing I learned was that instinctive and natural-intuitive behaviors frequently override training in the first and most critical moments of a sudden life-threatening encounter. I also learned that training out of context does not transfer well to the real world where things are not only physical, but also mental and emotional, and come with great uncertainty. In real life there are a lot of overrides that get in the way of the high brain activity training that most people practice, often exclusively.
For example, someone might do their CQB based on paper target shoot house methods thinking it is going to transfer to the real world. As soon as real resistance is encountered that training usually goes out the window. With paper targets there is no worry about getting shot, which ignores rewarding the most important part of CQB, decision making is dumbed down, and there is little emotional activation of the body alarm systems. The dogmatic line of “you fight like you train” is mostly a lie! The truth is that you fight like you train, as long as the fight is like your training. If you plan on fighting paper in a shoot house, then it will probably go as expected. There is a need to shoot paper in shoot houses to confirm a lot of things you otherwise practice based on observed reality, and human behavior when fighting real life opponents. Most of the time, people get in it reverse and try to run in real life what they developed in a shoot house. I could provide a hundred other examples.
Prior to a military deployment to Mosul, Iraq in 07-08 where I knew I was going to have a direct action role with Iraqi commandos in CQB operations, my research went into overdrive. I already knew that running into a room—traditional immediate entry—worked mostly when surprise was certain and resistance was weak. I looked to see who had dealt with similar opponent in similar environments and this led me to the Israelis who had been dealing with the exact same thing for decades. What they did was so different it didn’t initially make sense. But I patiently did my research, tested things out, and sought out Israelis special operations instructors for training in their methods.
My introduction in limited penetration tactics was quickly cemented by real life application, the viewing of every possible real life combat video I could get my hands on, and my previously mentioned study of human behavior. Never being one who was satisfied with what I was taught, over time I merged the limited penetration tactics with some aspects of immediate entry CQB. I found a way to simplify it and wrap together in a pretty good package based on three main criteria for testing: Did it make tactical sense? Did it make behavioral sense? And, could it be efficiently trained. I tried to confirm as much as I could through videos, studies, and testing force on force training. It is still in process.
That leads me to what I currently do and what you see on the videos. I will simply take some of the common questions and try to explain what we do and why. Most of my objections to what people believe are usually summarized by simply asking for empirical evidence, or pointing out that it is either tactically unsound or not compliant with human behavior under real world conditions. Show me the studies or video of people doing it under real life duress. I don’t care about what someone else says and I don’t care what people do when fighting paper on the range. If you simply believe something different and can’t provide any evidence other than you were taught that way, then have your belief and move along.
First of all, the video is of a drill, not a scenario. Who sends in one man to take on four or five ready threats with hostages? Its purpose was to build upon what we call a segmented search and cornering, working angles and doorways to engage threats, and adapting to the geometry to ensure you are minimally exposed to threats while engaging targets with hostages and third parties in the way. The walls were considered cover. It was both of our first runs on the structure. I pulled DC (the other shooter) off another range and slapped him around a bit and told him to clear it spontaneously. He only had a simple brief about the need to only engage humanoid targets holding a gun and that the plastic targets were third parties not to be shot.
Why don’t you move into the room?
I could write paragraphs upon paragraphs of all of the benefits of limited entry. The way we do it maximizes survivability, allows two guns to get into a fight quickly, gives the team the opportunity to bail out and allows shooters to avoid outrunning their eyes and brains. Most SWAT team catastrophic entries used immediate entry tactics. It produces a greater number of casualties in precision environments. I have had plenty of students tell me they wished they had learned it earlier so some of their friends would be alive. On my last deployment I saw an entire company of commandos switch to doing it after one commando got killed doing immediate entry. They immediately knew it was dumb and switched against their training.
We don’t immediately enter a room as a default. We do it when it is clearly makes the most sense. Most of the time, we feel that it doesn’t. Behaviorally when people are exposed to a sudden high intensity threat they stop forward movement and as muscles tighten under duress, you will see shuffle stepping dominate. Look at the top tier teams in France and Australia dealing with recent hostage situations. All of that cool guy flow went out the window as they stopped, addressed threats, and at best carefully shuffled forward under kill or be killed pressure. It’s the same for almost any entry.
The idea of flowing into a room in the face of threats is something largely theoretical. I have scores of tactical team videos and hostage rescues and in none of them does a person roll in shooting on the move against an immediate threat. They all stop. Can you really train a large pool of even above average CQB assaulters to do it? I’m not so sure. It certainly puts the burden of proof on someone to prove it. Of course if the threat isn’t immediate or aware, you can move forward or you can be forced to shoot on the move due to momentum. I know teams that have switched over to limited penetration see their guys covered with a lot less paint at the end of a training day. Most smart tier I teams are using limited penetration tactics. Are they all wrong?
Why do stay so close to a corner?
Tactically staying close limits your exposure to other angles versus pie-ing out wide and around. It also allows teammates to maneuver around you in tight confines without crossfire issues. Behaviorally nearly everything I have seen or experienced shows that once fire is received or sudden threats appear, people instinctively or intuitively hug cover. Watch video. From a training perspective it simplifies a lot of things and allows one to intuitively know how much their body is exposed. We fight from cover to cover, angle to angle, moving from quickly from one point to the next, then slowing down and working the next piece. It’s the same indoors or out. We don’t clear like we are rolling invincible tanks.
Why do you flag your weapon?
Our rule is this: when moving slow, don’t flag; when moving fast, flagging is allowed to address an immediate threat. Our priority by a large margin is to deal with the known immediate threat in the best way possible first before worrying to much about could be or might have been threats. If you don’t survive the next few seconds of your life, it doesn’t matter who else is in the room or in the building. If you are pie-ing close it is sometimes necessary, it allows for a braced shot, and it better ensures good use of cover. When working with a team, your teammate usually has an angle across from you letting him shoot anyone you don’t see simultaneously. The Israelis flag their weapons massively in comparison and when asked about it, they say it hasn’t caused any real world problems after decades of constant war. Most of the objections to it are from people who were scarred by instructors who purposely waited around every corner to grab muzzles that might emerge. Ideally we would never flag, but we believe we set a reasonable standard. What if I guy grabbed my barrel? I would shoot him or scrape his arms off using the edge of the doorway and I would be happy he let me know he was in there before I walked in and fully exposed myself possible turning my back to him as I picked a corner and hoped.
Why do you compress your weapon, use a high ready, or come out of firing posture?
We are non-dogmatic about weapons flow and we teach several ready, carry, and on-threat positions. We believe a shooter should be able to shoot from all positions to all angles quickly with minimal effort. When we search or pie off a corner, we generally search from a slightly compressed low ready. If a guy likes another ready position, they are free to use it. They all have their merits. We do like the high ready when maneuvering in close confines and feel it is significantly safer and more efficient in that aspect. We also compress weapons when moving through a door, but you will note we snap them out immediately into a firing position. I come out of low ready twice: once when pivoting well past 90 degrees and slightly to compress before attacking my final corner in the last room. DC stays in low ready pretty much the whole time. Some people thought it was odd that we came off our sights at all. I didn’t know anyone taught to clear rooms through their sights anymore, but apparently that is what some internet commandos expected.
Why did you cross an open door?
That is easy. In all cases there was a no shoot target in the way and we intuitively felt it was better to take the shot from the other side of the door. The only other viable options would have been to try to take the shot while moving across the door once there was a clear angle. This would be very difficult for anyone. The other option would be moving into the room and exposing ourselves to other threats. Remember the camera is not where our eyes and muzzle were and there was some pretty good wind blowing targets around. Once we realized the need to maneuver to make the shot, both of us move across the door and begin shooting from the other side in 2 seconds or less. This is a trained action we call “snapping to cover.” It allows you to maintain visual contact on the threat and weld your body tightly to cover for a stable and protected shot. Apparently to some, moving laterally and engaging a threat from cover is now a bad tactic?
We will stick with our decision even if it wasn’t perfect. One of our training methodologies is basically the 20/80 rule or Pareto’s principle. We heavily work the 20% of things that will get us through 80% of the solutions. We try to work them enough that they can almost always squeeze us through the last 20%. Trying to have a technique to do the ideal thing in every situation is hopeless. It is like second guessing every cruiser camera video after watching it five times from the safety of your mother’s basement. I hate the “tool in the tool box” analogy. It is more like another tool in your rucksack which you are going to have the training burden of carrying around with you every second of your life. How much do you really want to put into that rucksack? When it comes to intuitive solutions, you don’t have time to dig around in an oversized rucksack and make a bunch of ideal choices. Your skill isn’t based on your training; it is based on your retention. In other words, what can you do right now on demand. I am a pretty decent shot, but can I move laterally on demand and hit a narrow near hostage shot right now with no warm-up? Maybe? But, I know I can snap to cover and make the shot nearly every time.
Why did you fire too many shots and why were you too slow?
We had several people comment that we should have shot each target twice and moved on. This is caused by more training dogma. I was done with the double tap over 15 years ago. I am not saying I would never shoot two then move to the next, but I will say conditioning yourself to shoot two and evaluate is about one of the dumbest things I have ever heard. First, it is not a legal standard. Every modern instructor I know teaches to shoot to stop the threat. That means as many rounds as it takes. Any understanding of the OODA loop would tell you that you are going to be behind the curve if you are evaluating when the threat is still shooting. Any study of how many shots end gunfights and review of video will tell you its dumb. If you study human behavior at all, you know most of the time you are going to lock onto that first, most intense threat until something changes. As a standard we teach 3-5 rounds mixing the number. Occasionally we will shoot two to save ammo and still test recoil control. In DC’s run he shot 4 rounds at each target, one at the hostage taker, and I shot 5 at each. Ideally we would have mixed it up, we usually intend to. In no case did I have two targets in one field of view and DC had to first deal with a hostage taker then switch to a second obscured target. You have to deal with immediate threats immediately and thoroughly before worrying too much about the maybe or might be.
As far as speed is concerned, it was not a hostage rescue operation. It was a dynamic drill. My run was a demo at 23 seconds for three rooms and four targets firing 20 shots. DC had five targets including a hostage rescue shot and difficult shots and was done a few seconds slower. We could definitely pick things up if we were overly concerned about ego, had practiced specifically to do that or if it was to be done at what we call rescue speed. But to call it slow without even knowing the methodology is a bit ridiculous. Simply show me a team doing anything close to the same thing at greater speed in a real environment. In the Paris incident an entire team takes the same amount of time to shoot one gunman in one larger room. In Sydney, the first group of four men didn’t make it past the first door in half that time and it took quite a bit of time to eliminate the hostage taker. Again, we don’t base our training on what we can produce at the range for the sake of speed. We determine the tactics based on real world encounters, then work those tactics at the range.
Why didn’t your gun always follow your eyes?
Again, this is a dogmatic belief ingrained by abusive instructors who beat their indoctrination into the brains of young impressionable soldiers and Marines who weren’t trusted to think independently. Does my gun generally follow my eyes? Yes, it is a generally sound principle, except for when it creates greater risk or problems. At times we feel it makes a lot more sense to keep the gun oriented on the primary or most significant threat area as we quickly check a secondary area by looking over our shoulder for a brief moment. This was something again taken from the Israelis. We call it a shoulder check of check back. It is a technique we frequently use when moving forward quickly on an angle or area to clear it or when we are forced to enter an area with opposing openings, such as prior to one man entering a center-fed doorway.
This is the exact technique I used on the last room. It was trained and purposeful. We have multiple ways of dealing with the situation and all are trained and used at different times. I am not going to cover them here. It is faster than what can be achieved by swinging the whole gun and shooting platform around. If there is a threat that has your back for any length of time and is prepared to engage you, the best solution is usually to bail out of the doorway and find another way to address the threat. If your solution is to run into the room only to spin around, fully exposed, to find a guy getting ready to shoot you, then I suggest you sim that out a few times. The shoulder check is an admitted compromise that works for specific conditions. But when clearing as one man, you have to make compromises. If you don’t like it, there are other options based on context.
You would have been killed multiple times because you (fill in the blank)
Using my run for example. First target hit from outside the room from behind cover. Second target hit after lateral movement and behind cover; third target hit from what is often a surprise narrow angle deep into the room using cover; last target hit from outside the room from behind cover. I engaged every target after seeing it in about 1 second taking about two seconds to move laterally and engage from the far side of the door. If we were engaging real people who reacted and forced us to shoot sooner, we would have assumed more risk of an errant shot and fired quicker. That is called reality. Thinking only of speed and precision is a range-based error. We evaluate speed, precision, survival, and decision. In other words, we try to make ourselves a hard target through different means as we effectively engage threats.
I was never bodily exposed to two targets at one time and there was nothing more than the tip of my barrel at most while I engaged a threat in the room. What if they could shoot through the cover (meaning it wasn’t really cover)? Well, if they were that ready, what would you gain by not having any cover or the ability to bail out? What if the other guy in the room saw your barrel as you shot the first target? If he was not armed and ready, he would have a few seconds before facing me, ready to shoot him from the protection of cover. He might even have a bit more stress since I just shot his buddy. My question is this: what if he saw your whole body enter the room as you engaged the first target? What if you tried to stay so far off that door that you exposed yourself too much to the known immediate threat and got shot by him? There are a lot of “what if’s.” for something that was a simple drill.
I know this was lengthy, but I felt the background was important to understand the context. If you absolutely think what we do is stupid and we suck, then please continue to do what you will. Most likely I think what you do is something I already tried for a decade or so and realized it sucked. It is also probably something I can disprove the validity of very quickly with real world video. If you know what we are doing and have been significantly exposed to limited penetration tactics, then you most likely approve of what we did but might have a few minor points that you specifically disagree with. This is pretty expected. If you know what we are doing and think we really suck, then please get in contact with me because I am willing to learn. If you are one of those people with an open mind and you want to try to understand it more, please reference some of my articles on the subject of limited penetration and the main deadly errors in CQB. Research it as much as you can, and if you want, find a course we teach and jump in. I start to change a lot of CQB religions in the first hour with my power point presentation. Showing real world videos.
On a side note, if you are one of the complete arrogant idiots who said my EOtech was on backwards (It was an Meprolight M.O.R. on correctly) then please go choke yourself in a third world sewer and banish yourself from ever commenting about tactics or gear ever again. For those of sufficient character to apologize, apology accepted.
Most of us, including me, are out there trying to stay alive, trying to learn, and trying to help save the lives of fellow Americans and our allies. You can hate all you want, or opine all you want, but try to have an open mind, question everything you are told until it is realistically tested, and train hard.
P.S. here are a few real world video links for you to review and consider.
- 1.Bank Hostage:
- 2.Sydney Siege:
- 3.Paris Shoot Out:
- 4.Marines in Fallujah:
- 5.Israeli two man assault drill:
- 6.SF Stud:
And lastly for all you badasses….
And yet, people who learn classic American CQB at schools, and even claim to be high speed former operators (and may well be), will still argue this. Becasue running into the unknown through the fatal funnel is clearly the best way to do this, right….
I finally saw Zero Dark Thirty last week. The assault on the compound was supposed to be a realistic representation. Did you see who it went down? Tactical clearance. Steady breaching, searching and fighting from/though the doors.
Here are links to a couple of articles of mine on Tactical Clearance: