There will be no theme music
THERE WILL BE NO THEME MUSIC
What is my point?
It is this: ‘IT’ will never happen when you expect it to happen. Expect ‘dislocation of expectations’. Expect surprise. Be aware of the danger of denial. You may be taking a dump over a cat hole out in the woods with your pants down around your ankles, when ‘Contact!’ is shouted. Snap it off and get going!
I realize that I have run a couple of ‘reality call’ posts recently (‘Reality Check: All the Gear No Idea‘ & ‘SHTF Combat Casualty – Considerations & Realities‘) and to a certain extent they can be a little depressing. This post is also about getting a grip with reality, but if you keep reading, I aim to end it on a lighter note, with a little bit of morale.
When you end up in combat for the first time, you will most likely not be in control of the situation. Combat is chaos, but it can be understood. You can ‘read the battle’ and the better trained you are the more you will be able to move past fear and panic to understanding.
When “IT’ does happen, expect to be surrounded by sudden violence. The crack, zip and whine of impacting enemy rounds. People may be hit, wounded, screaming.
There will be no theme music. You will not all stand up in a line and advance on the enemy, like they do at the end of Hollywood movies. Notice how they always do that when the aliens are already on the run, with theme music, and it looks really cool?
If you have never been in combat, never been under enemy fire, what can you do about this?
You can do as much ‘battle inoculation’ as possible. This means realistic training, doing real drills, with live fire. You need to train as you will fight. You need to be as fit as you can be.
When the day (or night) comes, you may be weakened by starvation, sickness, exhaustion. You need to develop an aggression and will to fight, a will to win. Otherwise, you will curl up and allow yourself to be killed. Don’t believe me? Just wait and see how many will behave when SHTF happens.
If you conduct realistic training, you will become more inoculated to the environment of combat. You will also train the right muscle memory to the stress response of ‘fight, freeze or flight’. The repetitive training will develop muscle memory that will aid you in reacting in the right way. If you can get past the freeze and roll into the drill, then you are half-way to being alright.
If you can have as part of your team a combat experienced vocal leader, then this will aid in snapping the green ones out of the potential freeze when you find yourselves crawling into micro-cover as enemy fire whips and snaps around you, snapping branches out of trees and kicking dust up off the ground around you. That is the value of a capable and experienced NCO type.
When you have a quiet time, a very good preparation is to visualize situations. Visualize the drills you have trained and run them through in your head. This can either be done in general or specific to a new situation. What do I mean by this? You can generally visualize your, and your teams, reaction to a surprise enemy contact. You can also visualize it relevant to a specific role you find yourself in. For example, if you find yourself manning a gun in a turret on a convoy, as you are driving along visualize situations and run through your reaction. As you approach an overpass, or a village to the side of the road, run through actions on contact and prepare yourself for when it happens. This will keep your mind in the game.
You can also use the visualization process as part of running combat estimates, or scenarios, through in your head. For example; you find yourself in a patrol base or defensive position. Before you selected it, you would have run through the location factors in your mind and decided how suitable it was (i.e. METT-TC & OCOKA in US Military terms). Once in occupation, you will base contingency plans off how you are sited to the terrain, approaches and egress routes, and how you expect an enemy to approach and attack you. You can then visualize your responses and in this case turn that into actual plans/positions and brief accordingly. You can even do rehearsals within the allowances of the tactical situation.
Alternatively you can have ear buds in and listen to heavy metal music. And be taken completely by surprise when rounds start striking. Your mind will not be in the game, is my point.
When you come under fire, you won’t know if you are going to be hit or not. When you put your head up to locate the enemy, which is necessary if you are ever going to suppress him and thus allow movement, you won’t know if you are going to take a round through the skull. Well, that is why combat is scary. It takes courage to put your head up. However, if you have trained right, you won’t be thinking too much about that, only in the back of your mind – that is why we have drills. You should be thinking of your role and your place in the drill. If you are the team leader you have to think about how to get your team out of there. If you are a rifleman you need to think about locating and suppressing the enemy before communicating a target indication to the rest of the team. That is why we train and have drills. Not only because the drills work, but also so we actually have a clue what to do when we find ourselves enveloped in violence, when death stalks around us.
If you truly are ‘pinned down’ you will know it and you will be glued into whatever micro-cover you can find. Do you know what micro-cover is? You need to figure that out, or come to WV and I will show you. Anyway, if you are the individual or element that is truly pinned down by effective fire, you are relying on other team members, who are under less pressure, to locate and suppress the enemy to allow you to fire and move.
The good news is that despite the absence of theme music and glory, there are some upsides. A firefight is dangerous, but it can also be very exciting. There is a visceral excitement to the sound of gunfire and also the explosions of indirect fire. Well, at least I think there is. Particularly HMG fire – although mostly if is on your side! The beat of a 240 (7.62) or .50Cal HMG carries with it a deep motivational force. The staccato beat of the gun will lift you and move you. If you ever can, in an SHTF situation, procure machine-guns and utilize them in support, it will do a lot for you, not just the physical suppressing effect or the firepower, but the effect on your morale. But even without belt-fed machine guns, the sound of rifle fire is exciting. You can see it when I run the squad attack on a CRCD class – as the first bunker is being assaulted and the depth enemy is being suppressed, there is a crescendo of excitement that everyone gets caught up in. That is why training must be realistic – all that is missing is the rounds coming the other way, but if you are drilled enough you will follow through and do it anyway when the time comes.
One of the things that good live firing training will do for you, is allow you to operate with less panic and better as a team. At the basic rifleman level an example is your shooting – rather than panic shooting, over the top of the sights, better training will allow you to apply accurate steady fire onto the enemy position. After the essential task of actually locating the enemy (for which you have to observe from your position of cover), accurate fire will allow that enemy to be suppressed effectively, which will therefore allow movement coordinated as a team, which will ultimately mean less of you will be wounded or killed.
Of course, in the above situations I am really talking about situations where you are taken by surprise, where the enemy has engaged you and they have therefore seized the initiative. That is why we have ‘contact drills’. Even a squad that is offensive minded and intending to ‘advance to contact’ and then execute a hasty attack, has to wrest the initiative off the enemy, locate them and win the firefight, before they can move on to the successful assault. A small team on patrol, if surprised and contacted by enemy, has no business going on the offensive. You are trying to survive, so break contact and get out of there.
As I mentioned in my post about casualties, a contact situation can be worst case and potentially not survivable, such as getting caught a well sited ambush. However, these contact drills originate with the British SOF, designed for small dismounted recce patrols. That is not only why they are ideal for small groups out on patrol, but it also shows the provenance of the drills: they are not weak-assed ‘run away’ drills. It is simply that there is a time and a place. Correctly executed break contact drills are extremely aggressive, with a weight of accurate fire put down on the enemy and aggressive movement conducted to get out of the kill zone. You should hit the enemy hard before melting away. If they follow up, you hit them with a hasty ambush. These are not submissive drills, they are ‘time and place’ drills.
The time to go forwards is when you plan a raid, or perhaps an ambush. It may be that you do this after ‘bumping’ the enemy and breaking contact, before circling back to recce their position. Either way, you need to locate and recce/OP the enemy. You will then plan a raid. For a raid, you will use the element of surprise and you will start with the initiative. This is the vital difference between a surprise contact (or hasty attack) and a raid/deliberate attack. For the deliberate attack, you will have scouted the area and made a plan. You will have identified a fire support location and a scheme of maneuver for your assault and flank/cut off elements. That is when you will want to consider going forwards.
Here are some videos for your morale. In these clips, they all have theme music for their battles, which you won’t have. Draw whatever parallels seem most appropriate between today’s Regime vs. Liberty situation – it occurs to me that in the Gladiator clip, the FreeFor are more like the Germanic Barbarians and therefore need to get a grip of how to outwit the heavy artillery and flanking cavalry employed by ‘the might of Rome’. Oh yea, in the ‘We were Soldiers’ clip, even though I enjoy the use of the bayonet, you won’t have helicopter gunships in support…..
Live Hard, Die Free.