Re-Post: Stomping on the Near and Far Ambush Drill

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        This is a re-post from a post I had originally put up on the blog, in support of a post I am currently writing on “Man Down,” so that I can link it:

        I just saw and read a post by DTG HERE: “So, What Do We Do If We’re Ambushed?” (h/t WRSA)
        The article references a post I wrote on the ‘The Drake Method’, or ‘cover shooting’. I see the post on DTG as a follow on to a comment made by DTG in detail on my ‘Fight Through! Fight Through!” post. In that comment, DTG brings the conversation back to the ‘near and far ambush’ drill. I was actually reluctant at the time to let the comment be published, because I felt that although well meaning, it clouded the water of what I am trying to push. I did indeed reference the ‘near and far ambush’ drill in the post, but simply to make the point that I don’t agree with it and don’t use it. But at the end of the day, DTG appears like a good bunch of guys and having a discussion is always good.
        The bottom line is that although there is good stuff in the DTG article, and good tactical common sense, including the reference to RTR drills and TAKING COVER, I fundamentally disagree with the use of even a modified ‘near and far ambush’ drill, even if you modify the ranges involved.
        So, let’s look at that in detail.
        In the article, it is suggested that the ‘near and far’ ambush drill is changed from a definition at a range of 50 yards (I always thought of it as about 35 yards, which is grenade throwing range as per the definition) to a modern definition dividing it at 7 meters (within 7 meters being near, farther away being far).
        When you go out, you have one drill. The only way this varies is as per the direction of the contact. More in a bit. Let’s look at some other fundamentals.
        Firstly, this is not an ambush, it’s a contact – you just ‘bumped’ the enemy. How are you going to know if it’s an ambush? By weight of fire maybe? However you don’t know, so treat it all as per a contact. The more simple you can make the drill, the more likely you will successfully carry it out under fire.
        Running through the enemy position.: This is old school, and not taught. It should not form part of your IA drills. However, historically in certain theaters of war against certain enemies, it has been shown to work. Either as a final charge through after fighting close using a skirmish line, by short rushes, or as an immediate reaction to a very close enemy contact. Rhodesia is the prime example. The only time you would bring this method in as a drill is if you found yourself in those conditions and it was a tactic that would work i.e.: chasing entitlement zombies off the position after they ambush you for your stuff (which is a little like Rhodesia, really…note to self: bring bayonet).
        On the Combat Team Tactics class, I focus on individual react to contact drills (the combat rifle part) with RTR and the rest. I then move on to break contact drills up to team (4 person) level. (We also run a squad attack, but that is not the point here). The point is: How do you know what drill you are going to run when you go out that day? The answer is that it was included in your pre-patrol orders/brief.
        The team break contact drills that I teach are taken from drills used for small military specialist reconnaissance patrols. Thus they apply to small SHTF groups, whether conducting recce, forage or other tasks. The key point is that when bumping the enemy and coming under surprise contact, they will always carry out a break contact drill. Why? The mission is not to fight, and given that it was a surprise contact they don’t know what they just bumped into.
        Thus, for a small team, every contact is treated the same, with a break contact drill. The variation is the specific way the drill is run due to enemy direction – hence “Contact (front, left , right and rear)!”
        The other variation is due to the weight of fire encountered. You may be caught in a full well sited ambush, or you may have bumped a sleepy sentry (the fact that his whole company is waking up and stretching in the main position behind him exemplifying why an immediate assault,  regardless of range, is not a good idea). If the fire is very heavy, you may end up fire and moving at a crawl, dragging any casualties with you. If fire is less heavy, and you are able to suppress it to a certain extent, then a more bounding rush-style drill will work. The mechanics are the same, whether at the crawl or the run. If you can’t identify all the enemy positions, use the cover shoot method to suppress as best as possible.
        Clearly in such a situation, some guys will be more heavily pinned down than others. This is why those who are least suppressed need to man-up and provide the cover fire to let their buddies crawl out.
        The vital thing about this whole scenario is that when the patrol went out that morning, their mission was not to fight. They have hit an unknown enemy position in unknown strength. They seriously lack information. If they bump the enemy they will always break contact. If they want to fight that enemy, they need to rally, recover back to base and send out another recce/OP patrol(s) in order to gather the information to plan a raid (in appropriate force, with sufficient information).
        Ok, so now on to the fighting patrol. If you are in a fighting patrol, which is usually a larger force but may only be a squad of maybe eight but better twelve men in an SHTF situation, then you went out that morning looking for a fight. As part of your orders/brief the SOP for IA drills on contact with the enemy will be established. Even if you are an ambush patrol on the way to your objective area, you may still have a break contact drill planned if you yourself are ambushed en route. This is because you don’t know what hit you. Alternatively, you are in aggression mode so your IA drill will be aggressive.
        If you intend to fight and go forwards on bumping the enemy, then you need to employ aggressive drills which should be essentially the same as a squad hasty attack. You would hope that with a  larger force not all of you would be caught in a the kill box (on the X). However, you may well be. You need to consider if you will employ such aggressive hasty attack drill onto an unknown enemy in an SHTF scenario. You may simply want to break contact, rally up and then consider your next move (as per the recce patrol with the break contact drills). *NOTE below
        If you are going forwards to attack, then you will ALWAYS seek to flank the enemy. No matter what range they are at. Here’s the other thing: if it is a ‘near’ ambush, then unless the group in close contact is right on top of the enemy and can actually fight through with any chance of success, they will likely be pinned down with casualties. So, those outside contact need to put fire down to relieve the pressure, before assaulting from the flank. The ‘far’ ambush drill was always basically a squad hasty attack, so we can leave that there with a note to attack from the flank. So really, I am saying there is no ‘near ambush’ drill – it is only, if you are going to attack, a hasty attack drill, the difference simply being the range.
        To summarize:
        Do not attempt use the ‘near’ and ‘far’ ambush drill. How are you going be able to tell the range when you are in contact? Is it six, or eight meters away? Have you located all the enemy positions?
        A break contact drill should be automatic and will be rolled into as a result of an enemy contact, having briefed the patrol before going out that break contact IA drills will be employed.
        Prior to going out all SOP IA drills will be rehearsed, with all patrol members in their respective positions for that patrol.
        If you decide to employ a hasty attack drill, then it happens regardless of range to the enemy. Remember that unlike a break contact drill, which only requires a direction to be automatic (i.e. Contact Left!) a hasty attack is a drill but it requires command input. What do I mean by this? It’s a drill, but squad/team leaders need to call out a direction to attack, unless it is obvious. Thus, someone needs to make a decision – left or right flanking, and route to the objective.
        An example would be a ‘contact left’ with the lead element pinned down in the kill zone, let’s assume on a trail. It’s a no-brainer – the follow element needs to go left flanking, off the trail onto the enemy, to fight onto the enemy position. But it still needs leadership to make it happen. Remember – the enemy also may not know the true size of your force, and may hit a lead team not knowing you have more behind.
        Here is a snip from ‘Contact‘ illustrating an aggressive flanking response:
        This goes back to the simplicity of IA drills – they are not actually hasty attacks, but drills that can be rolled into without a leadership call. It’s simply a direction. Thus, if you are breaking contact you peel back to a call of contact left or right. In the same way, if you are the Rhodesian Light Infantry, you turn towards the enemy fire and either skirmish or charge straight through. That is a simple IA that only requires an enemy direction to initiate.
        *NOTE: when you analyse the option of going forwards as a reaction to contact, with a hasty attack, I have already told you that if at all possible you need to assault with a flank element. However, if you are ambushed by an enemy in sufficient strength, such as a large linear ambush with cut-off groups, then you may well find yourself enveloped by the enemy kill group/cut off groups. In such a situation a flank attempt will not work, as the flank attempt itself will be hit by the enveloping enemy line/cut of groups. An aggressive reaction to contact like this best works if not all your elements are in the kill zone, and can thus flank, as in the example above. This brings us back in a  circular fashion to the idea of utilizing a break contact drill to ALL surprise contacts, even if your mission that day was raid or ambush but you yourself were ambushed on the route to the objective. Thus, even if you were a platoon sized element, ambushed by a company, you would try and peel back out of the ambush, using fire and movement, with the best suppression from those elements less suppressed by the enemy (use available ground and micro cover to shoot from and crawl along). In such a worst case scenario, you would either die in the kill zone, or you would survive in the gaps, the lay of the ground, and the play of chance. Also, if all seems lost, you can do this: ‘Fight Through! Fight Through!’ – the point of which being, not that it is the best IA drill, but that it may be all you have! Or you just may decide to take one (or more) for the team.
        The first conclusion of this post is that you should not try to use the concept of ‘near’ and ‘far’ ambush to inform or initiate your IA drills in a contact situation.
        The second conclusion is that in an SHTF situation, you are most likely better off planning to break contact as a result of all unexpected contacts generated as a result of bumping unknown enemy positions.
        If you break contact and rally up, then you can decide on a further course of action.
        The only way I see this changing is due to your historic experience with the enemy as a campaign  develops, where you may decide to adapt you IA drills accordingly.
        More info here:
        Illustrated here:
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