Breaking Contact – The Dilemma

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    • #144686

        For offensive actions you need an adequate superiority of force to make a good outcome possible. It allows you to gain and hold fire superiority and like that free the hands of a moving team taking aggressive actions. fire & maneuver.
        But what if you bump in an superior force were you can barely hold fire superiority and can’t free a hand or lost it completely and just desperately try to fight for it? Well, without a good reason you probably want to get out there. But how are you gonna fire & maneuver your way out and break contact with your unsteady fire superiority?
        The dilemma is that like that casualties on your side are way more likely plus the enemy will probably maneuver on you in such a situation so you have to get out of there fast but to keep or at least sufficiently contest fire superiority you want the majority firing and only a small team moving. But with each extra sub team you’ll have to wait for an extra team before completing the whole groups bound which costs you more and more time.

        What can really help you out is if you performed traveling overwatch as it gives you a team already back. But then you have to make the decision to break contact right away which isn’t always the case.

        What worked best in my experience is that if max. 2/3 can hold fire superiority it will be sufficiently fast in most situations to break contact by fire & maneuver if initiated as soon as possible.
        If not then even if fire & maneuver is possible in most situations it’s too slow and kill you in the long run so you dash away. Smoke if available, crawl as far as possible and then take a run. Max uses this catchy phrase: I’m up, he sees me, I’m down. You do exactly that when any kind of cover is available giving the enemy a harder time. If not you wanna expose yourself as short as possible and just dash for the next cover. There is no reason to lye in the open.
        Disadvantage: Like that of course you cant take care of casualties which you will probably take. Its the privilege of the superior anyway.

        What are you guys experiences? What worked for you best to deal with this dilemma?

      • #144705

          If you study guerilla warfare, you will see these kinds of things all the time. In fact VC insurgents made an art form of it. One or two guys would stall whole Bn’s. Yes it’s dangerous, but in their case, terrain and situation gave them an advantage.

          You seem to be speaking with a set scenario in mind, as far as terrain, weather, visibility, etc. If you are in typical eastern woodlands, then yes, it can be difficult to break contact because oftentimes you don’t have enough cover and concealment to make it over the next terrain feature and disappear. But that’s not always the case.

          In triple canopy jungle, you could be literally 3 steps away from disappearing. In an urban jungle, much the same. So it’s not always a question of fire superiority; it may be another way of getting out of the line of fire. The VC also used extensive tunnel systems to disappear after firing off a few pot shots at you. All the fire superiority in the world won’t change a thing in this case.

          In your particular scenario, you may well just be fucked. There are no guarantees in this business. If you are caught out in relatively open country, and I just assume oftentimes it will be a superior force, you are in deep doo doo. Movement in gonna save your ass, not firepower. If you sustain casualties, you have a choice. Neither one of which is good. You either stay and die with them, or you leave them to save the rest of the patrol.

          Your best hope is on that day the enemy aim is so poor that you get a break and make it out of there. I have a bud who said he should have been dead 3 times, but the enemy’s aim was so poor, he skated. We should all be so lucky.

        • #144707

            Well, what Diz said. There is so much that goes into this on a sliding scale until you actually die. Breaking contact is an emergency drill and there are no guarantees.


            Intel. Patrol planning. Movement. Formations. Risk mitigation. Training and adequate ability to generate superior firepower – which isn’t just about how many guns, but acccuracy on target in combat. All of these things go together to mitigate your risk.

            If you are on patrol and run into a surprise contact, it could be anything. Reading about MACV-SOG actions is eye opening – but don’t forget they had immense firepower on call – but even in the intial unsupported stages due to the weapons they carried, the drills they trained in, and their ability to immediately roll into a highly aggressive IAD, was what got them out of that immediate situation, till they could strongpoint for extraction and bring in the air.

            So you may be running a break contact against a lone sentry post you bumped, or a full ambush (which you walked into despite what patrol planning you did or didn’t do). Another saying I have is that we survive in the gaps. In the gaps of enemy incompetence and human mistakes.

            But you may just die.

            Patrolling in Northern Ireland was a perfect example of a cat and mouse game where the enemy would inly attack if they had full advantage and could guarantee an escape. It was all about patrol planning, intel, and effective satellite patrolling. Even so, despite best efforts, cards stack up and you walk into an IED, a snipe, or a multi-weapons shoot (read ambush). Training and aggression wins.

          • #144721

              This is truth. The Brits and Aussies have always been better at this stuff. Their Immediate Actions drills are the gold standard. If you emulate their T,T,P’s, vs falling back and calling in fires, like we are wont to do, you will probably be more successful at they small, unsupported unit level.

              Oh, wait, I think there’s a book I read about this stuff.


              The one in the middle is highly recommended.

            • #144728

                The book Recce by Koos Stadler (sp?) Is a great book. I’m rereading it now. The tactical situations they found themselves in has quite a few similarities to what a civilian in a catastrophic crisis might find themselves in. Very small teams, your team looks just like OP4, no/low air support, etc.

                To Diz’s point of not getting hung up on a specific scenario, this is where solid formal education (MVT) comes in. It’s all about mastery of the fundamentals, being able to access the situation and “knowing what good looks like”

              • #144838

                  Yeah and to Max’s point, you should be analyzing the sit, and acting accordingly. In the planning stages you need to decide what the best estimate of the situation is, and that includes your ability to cross whatever terrain is in play that day, without getting caught out. What is the enemy’s strength and capabilities? What is his latest activity? Where? You should be factoring all this in to your course of action. For instance, if the terrain is such that if you get caught out in it by a superior force, and, there’s a very good likelihood of the enemy being present, then you might want to re-consider the route, or at least the timing, to give yourself better cover from darkness, rain, fog, etc. They don’t call that shit “ranger weather” for nuthin’.

                  But in the end, you places your bets, and you takes your chances. In spite of doing everything right, you may still get the big green pickle.

                  I think it prudent that you cover this in your team SOP. A small 4-man patrol is in very deep shit if they bump and larger, determined foe. If they pursue aggressively, and mean to run you to ground, then you very well may have to do a “bomb burst” and everyone E&E on their own; that might be the only way to avoid complete extinction. These things should be hashed out way before it happens. Everyone should have a clear conception of what you can, and cannot do. Acknowledging the risks, and accepting what could happen.

                • #144852

                  • #144875

                      I haf za compleet manual in my data base. You should too. Humans.

                    • #144877

                        In rural areas a good “point” man is worth his weight in gold. I live in semi desert so can’t add a whole lot to this.

                        But, even back when I was working down on the Rio Grande River, think as close to jungle, except for Fl. as you can get in the US, when we went to lay in on river crossings, we had a point.

                        That and know the AO.

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