Tactical Clearance: An Alternative CQB Technique
December 23, 2014 at 9:26 pm #95912
For those of you who have read my blog for a while, you will know that I have big issues with the way CQB is taught and conducted. Traditional dynamic entry/immediate entry style CQB clearance methods show obvious tactical disadvantages against prepared or barricaded defenders. What is needed is a shift in thinking and training in the way CQB is conducted, with the priority becoming gaining an immediate tactical advantage, leading to greater survivability. The traditional ‘SWAT style’ dynamic room entry and clearance technique is already old hat. It has been replaced at the top end with better ‘combat clearance’ and ‘fighting from the door-style’ techniques. This article is not going to be about what is wrong with the traditional dynamic entry technique. However, in summary:
Dynamic entry techniques rely on Speed, Surprise and Violence of action. When breaching into rooms and flooding the room with a team, you rely on somehow getting the drop on the enemy inside – either that or you are in fact entering a low risk environment. When it is a high risk environment with a prepared or barricaded enemy, you may not have the element of surprise – this is particularly applicable to further clearance after first making entry. The whole action of entering, sweeping for threats, cornering and running the walls leaves you extremely vulnerable. The way this is properly done in a high intensity environment (think war) is that the target building will be reduced by firepower before entry. If that cannot be done, shock will be achieved on entry by the use of fragmentation, concussion or flashbang types of grenades. The type will depend on the threat, the assessed presence of civilians or hostages, and the rules of engagement. Once you get away from high intensity clearance, you are beginning to assume more and more risk with each entry. If you cannot shock the room on entry, then there is not much to stop the enemy inside engaging you as you flood into the room.
Essentially, dynamic entry is designed for high intensity environments and when not used in such, it is not a sensible methodology, unless you are only dealing with low risk situations. Think SWAT, where they will avoid entry if there is a real threat inside, such as a barricaded enemy, and try to negotiate. Yes, current active shooter protocol is to go straight in, but that is not normally a barricaded threat situation, but one of a mobile shooter who needs to be taken down immediately.
As civilians if you are ever forced to conduct CQB, then you will not have the grenade type shock devices in order to gain that surprise as you enter. You don’t have remote robot cameras in order to see the enemy and gain a tactical advantage. If you try dynamic entry, you will be running into the muzzle of anyone in the room. This methodology is taught across the country at ‘tacticoolaid’ schools. It is teaching people what they want to know because it’s the ‘cool guy’ stuff and everyone and their fan boy wants to know it. They all want to stack up on the door and flood the room. It’s exciting, right?
On the other hand, tactical clearance allows flexibility with the situation at hand and encourages tactically adaptive behavior. It also, in fact, is a phenomenon that happens naturally, when there are active enemy shooters inside a breach and dynamic is not going to work.
Dynamic entry often fails in the face of effective resistance, without complete surprise and low levels of resistance. Flowing through the door as a stack, ‘running the walls’ to the corners, and achieving overlapping fields of fire works well under conditions of total surprise, with near perfect execution of its users, and with scant resistance from the occupants. Without those conditions, it is only viable against low levels of unprepared resistance, unless the team is willing to accept casualties. This can be seen in training with many examples of failed entries. Rather than trying to flood through a doorway immediately, blind, it is preferable to have time to observe and react to the situation and threats inside the room. This allows for greater safety and a flexibility of response. The amount of time spent at the doorway can be minimal and it can be done while still applying the principles of speed, surprise, and violence of action. Remember, the speed part is not how fast you move, but how fast your reduce the threats inside the room.
With the Tactical Clearance method, multiple shooters engage immediate threats from the doorway, initially using limited penetration techniques. If a standoff ensures, perhaps with a barricaded enemy, wounded can be more easily extracted, and the team can withdraw and re-engage with justifiably greater force, or can abandon and destroy the structure if appropriate. Remember that if a standoff occurs, in a military setting you may be looking at the doorway engagement as a base of fire to allow you to establish an alternate breach, or for the guys who are engaged to break contact in the face of overwhelming threats in the room, and reduce the enemy by another means/breach. However, as civilians you will perhaps not have the means for an alternate breach, particularly an explosive one.
The Tactical Clearance method utilizes TTPs from a variety of techniques, with the purpose of keeping the drills flexible but simple. The limited penetration method of ‘fighting from the door’ has been in use for some time and is part of current ‘combat clearance’ methods used in the GWOT. This clearance method can be used at variable speeds and can be done cautiously, or immediate entry can be facilitated as soon as the room or situation is observed. It uses cover/concealment, cornering (slicing the pie), mutual support and bounding overwatch.
I knocked up some basic slides of these drills. Just remember when you look at them – this is dynamic, responding to what is encountered in the room, and not step-by-step slow as the diagrams may suggest. Sweeping the room with your muzzle as you ‘slice the pie’ is a rapid movement only taking as long as you need to scan and assess, shooting as necessary:
- Cornering (Slicing the pie).
- Bounding Overwatch
- Mutual support (2 guns up front).
- Limited penetration in order to observe and engage.
- Observe 80% of the room before entry.
- Identify threats from the breach point
- Two men enter simultaneously/slight offset (factors of door size/operator size) and immediately get guns on the remaining near corners – back to back button-hook.
- Use of the high/low technique.
- Use of ‘quick peek.’
- On call commands to adapt to changing situations.
Example: 4 man team moving in corridors:
- 2 front men mutually supporting, number 2 offset and slightly back from number 1.
- Number 3 = Team leader.
- Number 4 = Breacher (if required) and rear security.
- Corner right:
- Number 1 slices the pie to begin to get eyes down the opening, stepping left as he corners.
- Number 2 steps out left from beside Number 1 and completes the corner/steps across the gap if there are no threats to engage.
- If applicable, number 3 covers down the corridor they were originally moving down.
- Number 4 covers rear.
- Number 2 active muzzle awareness, if he crosses behind number 1 due to a change in direction/corner direction, he drops his muzzle and then brings it back up on the new side.
- Offside shoulder technique used with weapons when cornering on support side.
- Corner left:
- Opposite, Number 2 comes out on the right.
- Number 1 and 2 corner in opposite directions.
- Number 3 and 4 step out left and right respectively .
- It’s just a double corner.
- Team continues in desired direction, Number 4 pulls rear security.
Example: 4 man team, door closed, center fed room:
- Split breach point if possible, team split on either side of the door (door closed only).
- Number 1 and Number 2 split either side of doorway.
- Number 3 and 4 also split, providing security – cover up and down the corridor or external as appropriate.
- Open door – use Number 4 man to mechanically breach if necessary (try handle!)
- Number 1 & 2 are immediately covering from their opposite near corners (minus 10% unobservable each side deep in the near corners) through opposite far corners to center.
- Don’t initially flag weapons into the room!
- Number 1 & 2 engage any threats and observe situation in the room.
- As they move their muzzles into the center of the room from their opposite near corners, slicing the pie on the door corners, they sidestep into the doorway.
- Simultaneously if there is space (doorway size?), or Number 1 fractionally ahead if there is not, they step into the door and button-hook back to back into their near corners.
- ‘Quick Peek’ and ‘high/low’ techniques can be used to view the near corners as appropriate.
- Number 1 and 2 push into the room a limited distance – not ‘running the walls’ – followed by number 3 (team leader).
- Number 4 covers rear, will remain in corridor/room until called in if they are moving into another room and not back into the corridor/out through the original room.
Example: 4 man team, door closed, corner fed room:
- Same as center fed room.
- Depending on the side of the near wall, either number 1 or 2 will have a limited field of view.
- Only one near corner will be an issue.
- Depending who has that near corner that operator will be the one to button hook first, getting eyes on the unseen near corner.
- Other operator number 1 or 2 immediately follows and moves along the near wall to support his buddy.
Example: 4 man team, door open right side of corridor, center fed room:
- This situation is like a corner, but there is more space beyond it, due to the center fed room i.e. it’s not just a change in direction of a corridor.
- We cannot be split either side of the door, because it is open and that will expose us crossing the doorway.
- Approach as per a corner, number 1 covering into his opposite near corner.
- Number 1 corners, sweeping his muzzle into the center of the room as he side steps.
- Number 2 comes up on the left, steps into the entrance, and continues to corner into the right side of the room and his now opposite near corner. He ends up on the other side of the doorway.
- Number 3 is covering down the corridor, Number 4 pulling rear security.
- Once both near corners (minus 10% unobservable) have been covered, including 80% of the whole room, Number 1 & 2 simultaneously (or slight offset) button-hook into their respective near corners.
- Any threats that come into view are engaged prior to making entry. Decision whether to enter or stay back is made.
- The rest of the drill is as per a door closed.
- An alternative, if he has it, is for Number 1 to pie the whole entrance, getting to the opposite side of the doorway, number 2 taking over his original position by the door, then Number 1 and 2 continue as per the same drill.
- There are alternatives about how to cross the open doorway – only expose yourself if cornering correctly with muzzle up, and not flagged into the room.
Remember that rooms will have exits. You will either be leaving the way you came (hence security remaining in the corridor) or moving through a room via another exit. If there are other doors out of the room, the rooms on the other side of them will be cleared the same way as you initially entered. This is why it make a lot of sense to keep the penetration into the room shallow at least initially, because you do not expose your flanks the same way that you do with classic dynamic entry, where you will be moving to corners possibly past open doorways or similar.
Here is a useful video illustrating some of the movement cornering concepts:
(You don’t have to have the support Number 2 weapon so close to the front mans face).
<iframe src="//www.youtube.com/embed/rQbj77LBAQA" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe>
Here is a useful video illustrating some similar fighting from the door and limited entry techniques. It’s a bit dated and some is not exactly as I describe above. Also, there are multiple oddities, weird rifle grips and other things that I don’t advocate, so use it just as a visual on some of the concept of fighting from the door with limited entry techniques. Take the good and ignore the bad:
<iframe src="//www.youtube.com/embed/QJXGNzH6KA8" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe>
I have been talking for some time about building a facility and bringing some CQC training to the MVT curriculum. We will be working on our specific instructional SOPs. In the meantime ‘enter and clear a room’ will be part of the MVT Rifleman Challenge instructional/testing segment. You will not be taught the old failed ways. You will be taught a version of Tactical Clearance. This will be instructed, practiced and ultimately run live using a simulated room set up on the square range.
December 23, 2014 at 10:16 pm #95913
I am going to read this article 5 times……
December 24, 2014 at 10:38 am #95914
This is a lot of information if you haven’t had prior training. This is one of those things you can’t just learn from a book or a YouTube video. I’d recommend staying tuned and saving your pennies for MVT training.
December 24, 2014 at 12:23 pm #95915RRSParticipant
Like the one guy wrote I’m probably more interested on what happens on the other end of that “dynamic.”. So far my plan is to get low since I notice these training videos all the entrants engage standing targets
December 24, 2014 at 1:47 pm #95916
Going low on the defensive is ill advised generally. It limits your movement, field of fire, elevation and you’re a longer lower target that’s easier to fire into. Unless you’re at some distance it’s mostly a stand up fight. The upside is that one way or another it’s over pretty quickly.
December 24, 2014 at 6:20 pm #95917
I posted this on the blog version of this post:
Note to all: this post is about Tactical Clearing and better CQB techniques. I will not allow it to be turned off topic into a discourse about CQB defense.
That being said, there have been questions/comments here and on the forum version of this post about defense against these sort of tactics. I will say this briefly:
If you knew they were coming, you would not be there. Simple. If they catch you there, then you probably got taken by surprise, otherwise logic says you would have bugged out. If you get trapped the best you can hope for is delaying entry to allow you to try and get your shit together. Then you get burned to death. You effectively become that barricaded enemy and have to be winkled out. Have an exit plan!
There are strategies for defense in urban fighting. I cover this in both ‘Contact‘ and ‘Patriot Dawn.‘ Mostly you are better off with a mobile defense withdrawing while causing attraction to the enemy. If you fight back to and are caught/trapped in your strongpoints, you will eventually die. Think Alamo.
Tactics for surviving room entry in defense include building bunkers/inner walls within the rooms, even coffin like sandbagged areas, within which you wait until the grenade comes in. It goes off and they rush into the room, at which point you pop up/out and let them have it. If you have grenades of your own, you will roll one out so that as they run in, it goes off. You will still die in there in the end, unless you have a series of mouseholes to get out of the building. Sewers.
So taking that back to a raid, the best thing you could do against a surprise raid is to harden the entry points to delay them and give you early warning, then have some sort of protected area to get into. When they eventually flow into the house you are protected and able to return fire. But unless you have QRF coming, or can get out, you will still die in the end. Don’t be there, if you can. If they knew this about you, they would just take you in your car on your way to work. Job done.
Urban Fighting is manpower intensive on both sides. Lots of casualties.
If you want to discuss CQB defense, start another thread in the forum for it. Thanks.
December 30, 2014 at 8:42 am #95918
In Facebook Comments:
Timothy Wittmer: I noticed you referenced in a later thread the AAR written by Sgt. Catagnus with 3rd Battalion 5th Marines after the battle for Fallujah. I was also in 3/5 L at that time as a casualty replacement and served during the battle. I found that it took precisely 1 day and 1 casualty for our entire “CQB” or “MOUT” doctrine to completely change in to something similar to what you’re advocating. Although I would disagree slightly with some of the movements you are teaching for individual room clearance, the overall principle remains the same. Move only so fast as you can identify a threat and accurately engage it. An enemy barricaded inside a room waiting for you should get only a partial view of part of your shoulder, arm, head and muzzle (flash) as your 1 man makes entry. I’ll link a copy of the AAR- http://www.blackfive.net/main/2005/03/showdown_the_ba.html
Techniques that individual Marines need to be taught and practiced are the following:
1. Pieing off all danger areas. Even before entry into a room as many danger areas as possible should be pied off leaving only one or two corners that need to be cleared. Don’t blindly rush into a room, especially if the door is opened.
December 30, 2014 at 3:13 pm #95919
August 10, 2015 at 8:32 pm #95920
Bumped for excellence!
August 28, 2015 at 7:14 pm #95921
Nice post, I read this a while ago and never commented. I have been advocating the same outlook on Close Quarter Battle for a number of years now. I’m apart of a group called CQB-TEAM and we have dealt with all ranges of opinions when it comes to these entries. We still have an active forum if you’re interested in any further reading.
I’d like to mention a few things in relation to what you have wrote.
There is an escalation and de-escalation in force with any form of entry depending on what you encounter. As you have put, within the context of combat clearing, “shock” can be achieved through a variety of methods and firepower can saturate the target building or room prior to entry. I just have to put this out there that this is not a guarantee of turning a contested room into a non-contested room. There are cases where this is not true, such as the case of Sergeant Baird of 2nd Commando Regiment here in Australia. There were three separate attempts at entry by Baird and his team against a small outhouse housing six armed Taliban. Grenades were utilized multiple times, entry was made multiple times and engagements from the doorjamb were unsuccessful. On final entry Baird was killed and the remaining Taliban were killed by fellow members of 2nd Commando. Explosives, fighting from the door and other methods to reinforce entry do not guarantee entry. So what, if any, considerations are made towards this scenario? Failed, contested entry with no ability to get in without casualties.
The “traditional” outlook to entry has been argued from your standpoint for a long, long time. It is hard to project the failures of immediate entries to a crowd trained solely on immediate entries because they see no alternative, no solutions – and sometimes even no problems. If you discuss immediate, barricaded or prepared threats, some people recognize this as solvable by “pushing through” the fatal funnel, even though you’re trying to show them that the premise of pushing through an active shooting lane in an active firefight into a muzzle less than ten meters from you is often not a survivable action. They know no different. So then the challenge becomes projecting the potential problems with entries and offering alternatives. Recognition is key. So what problems are there with immediate entries?
As you say, they often rely on surprise. Being reliant on surprise for a successful entry in a combat situation is ridiculous. In an active firefight you often do not have surprise, and if you often only have partial surprise – that is that you can only distract or suppress the enemy rather than actually ‘get the drop’ on them. They often have the drop on you. Like you stated, after the initial entry you are often compromised. From there on you should expect a prepared defender. Rushing into a room may lead you to a quicker death by walking into a door ambush, into a muzzle. This is often why immediate entries are seen as ‘blind’ entries, they do not have a limiter, they just keep going blindly into one room after another. This is a robot-like way of conducting things and when shit hits the fan it often proves fatal. Let me link you to a more detailed response when it comes to the “three principles” that I have made: https://www.reddit.com/r/badmilitaryscience/comments/328k6x/immediate_entries/.
So I completely agree with the ocmment that these entries are designed for high intensity environments, I would go further to add that they are designed for low-resistance environments. Anything higher than this often means a contested entry in which “pushing through” the door would leave casualties. I would go even further by saying that entries made for low-resistance meeting high-resistance often fail and are not behaviourally compliant. They are GOOD INTENTIONS within INCORRECT CONTEXT. You cannot conduct an immediate entry against prepared threats IF you don’t want to get hurt.
Anyway, enough of that. Onto the TCM. This reminds me of multiple similar methods I have seen out there including High Threat Limited Entry (HTLE) by High Threat Systems LLC, the Israeli Limited Entry (ILE) used by the Israeli Defense Force, and the Offensive Stronghold Clearance (OSC) by Redback One. These are classed, as you say, as limited penetration techniques – also known as limited entries or limited incursion techniques. Basically you clear most of the room and clear from the door, on entry you do not over-penetrate (open yourself to exposing angles) the room. A number of things are very similar such as a segmented search, splitting the door, engaging immediate threats before entry and a simulatenous entry usually clearing each hardcorner. It’s good to see more people advocating this, it just makes sense AS DEFAULT.
Just noticing on scrolling down you linked the HTLE in a video. The “weird grips” are the Counter-Supine Method (CSM) grips first taught by Hank Iversen. Not everyone’s cup of tea. You can shoulder transition without taking your firing hand away, it has some pros but again, personal choice. Good read Max.
August 28, 2015 at 10:57 pm #95922
Roger that. Great comment. Keep this up. Keep pushing. Thank you.
August 28, 2015 at 10:57 pm #95923
Roger that. Great comment. Keep this up. Keep pushing. Thank you.
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