Today we have another post from our friends Kevin aka “hognose” to his many readers and admirers. Kevin passed away too soon in spring of 2017 and we repost some of his work every week to preserve it.
By Kevin O’Brien
There’s nobody quite as good at CQB/CQC/good-ole-doorkickin’ as the unit known as Delta. Not anybody, not worldwide. The SF teams that are best at CQB are the ones that train to be an interim stopgap, available to theater combatant commanders if Delta’s too far out or too overcommitted for a given tasking.
Delta’s skills came from its origin as a Hostage Rescue / Personnel Recovery unit, and it now has nearly four decades of institutional memory (some of which cycles back around as contract advisors so that old TTPs don’t get lost) to bring skills back up when real-world missions sometimes take off a little bit of the CQB edge.
In a wide-ranging post at the paywalled site SOFREP, fortunately reposted at the unwalled site The Arms Guide, former Delta operator George E. Hand IV discusses how the most important building block of CQB is, absolutely, the guts to actually do it.
Close Quarters Combat (CQC) is to the effect about 75% (maybe higher) testicles, and then 25% technique. I don’t like to over complicate things, especially CQB…. It is the very nature of the degree of difficulty inherent in ‘the act’ of CQB that bids its techniques to remain very simple, lest the mind become incapable of holding the process at all.
… if you can find a person that will take an AR and run into a small room of completely unknown contents, expected deadly threat, then you already have ~75% of what you need to create a successful CQB operator. All that remains, is to teach and train your operator the very few principles, and the very simple techniques, for room combat.
You are ~75% ‘there’ once you have that individual who will storm blindly into a deadly room. Now, it can’t be a person who just says they will do it. It has to be a person that in fact WILL do it, and WILL do it over and over.
See, no matter how high-speed low-drag you are, the enemy gets the proverbial vote, too.
There is a constant that exists, though you may disagree ferociously, it remains nonetheless: “no amount of high-speed training and bravado will ever trump the thug behind the door, pointing his AR at the door, and with finger on trigger.” ….
That’s right, the Chuck Yeager of CQB has a bullet waiting for him; all he has to do is wait long enough, however long that is. I have known a team of Delta men who lost their junior and senior team mates to the same goat-poker in the same small room in Iraq.
Both were head wounds from the same rag-head firing blindly over the top of a covered position. For the senior brother, that room was supposed to be the last room, of the last attack, of the last day, of the last overseas deployment he was ever supposed to make. The wait was over.
That “senior brother” is MSG Bob Horrigan, whose picture (courtesy Hand) graces this post. The new guy was MSG Mike McNulty, whose image is also at the link.
Hand’s entire post is worth reading, studying, and even contemplating. Do you go in, when going in could well get you shot by some “rag-head goat-poker”? (For police, substitute “brain-dead gangbanger” or “booze-drenched wife beater”). Real life for guys in these jobs is a daily reenactment of Kipling’s Arithmetic on the Frontier.
No proposition Euclid wrote
No formulae the text-books know,
Will turn the bullet from your coat,
Or ward the tulwar’s downward blow.
Strike hard who cares – shoot straight who can
The odds are on the cheaper man.
(Background on the poem. Of all the things I read before going to Afghanistan, Kipling was the best preparation. The Yusufzais he mentions are today still a Pathan (Pushtun) tribal group, frequently in opposition; the Afridis are still dominant in the Khyber Pass area, and some of them still affect green turbans. Only the weapons have improved).
If you have the attitude, and are willing to go into the Valley of the Shadow because you’re not going to be in there with them, instead those poor throgs are going to be in there with you, what are the simple tactics he has in mind?
(Caveat. Your Humble Blogger has never served in Delta. He had a short CQB/HR course called SOT many years ago, the short course which ultimately evolved, in two paths, into SFAUC and SFARTAETC).
You need to have the basics first:
- Physical fitness. If you’re not ready to sprint up five flights of stairs you’re definitely not ready to train on this. Bear in mind that actual combat is much more physically exhausting and draining than any quantity of combat training. That may because fear dumps stress hormones that either induce or simulate fatigue. Perhaps there’s some other reason; it’s enough to know that the phenomenon is real.
- Marksmanship. This comprises hits on target but also shoot/no-shoot decision-making, malf clearing and primary-secondary transition. In our limited experience, almost no civilian shooters apart from practical-shooting competitors are ready to train on this stuff.
- Teamwork. It’s best to train a team that’s already tight. If not, no prob, the training process will tighten you.
- Decision Making under Stress. This is vital, because the one thing that you can plan on is your plan going to that which is brown and stinketh.
The military stresses doing complex events (“eating the elephant”) by breaking them down into components (“bite-sized chunks.”) The process we use is lots of rehearsals in which risk and speed are gradually increased. One level is absolutely mastered before reaching for the risk or speed dial. (There are guys who go to SFAUC and are still carrying a blue-barrel Simunitions weapon in the live-fire phase. They’re still learning, but they’re not picking it up at the speed of the other guys. They’ll have to catch up and live fire to graduate).
Numerous rehearsals and practices are done in buildings of previously unknown configurations. A culmination exercise is full-speed, live-fire, breaching doors into an unknown situation. It can be done with dummies playing the hostiles and some hostages, and live people playing some no-shoot targets. (George has a story about this at the link. Not unusual to have a Unit commander or luminary like the late Dick Meadows in the hostage chair on a live-fire; at least once before Desert One, they put a very nervous Secretary of the Army in the chair).
The term the Army uses for this phased training process is widely adaptable to learning or teaching anything:
Most civilian students, trainers and schools go from zero-to-sixty way too fast. To learn effectively, don’t crawl until the training schedule says walk, crawl until you’re ready.
Training should be 10% platform instruction and 90% hands-on. This is a craft, and you’re apprenticing, you’re not studying for an exam.
Tactics on Target
The most important thing you get from all these drills is an instinctive understanding of where the other guys are and where you are at all times, and where you’re personally responsible for the enemy.
Divide the sectors by the clock (degrees are too precise) and have one man responsible for a sector. Don’t shoot outside your sector unless the guy covering that sector is down. Staying on your sector is vital for safety! You should not only own the sector between your left and right limits, but also the vertical aspect of that sector, from beneath you, at your feet, through the horizontal plane to overhead.
Shoot/No-Shoot is vital and the only right way to do it is look at the hands and general gestalt of the individual to assess a threat. Weapon in hand? Nail ’em. Empty hands? Wait and keep assessing. (In this day of suicide vests, any attempt to close with you should probably be treated as a suicide bomb attempt).
If you have the personnel, the shooters do not deal with neutrals or friendlies on the X. There’s a following team that handles them, for several reasons including the shooters being keyed up to a fare-thee-well at the moment of entry.
You can’t learn CQB from a book, or a lecture, or some assclown on YouTube who never suited up and took a door. You have to physically practice, and practice, and practice. Ideally, under the beady eye of someone with a lot of doors in his past, and a skill at setting targets that borders on malicious mischief. (MSG Paul Poole, rest in peace, you old goat).
But first, absolutely first, you need guys with the guts to try. George is absolutely right about that. There is much other good stuff in his post, including a funny history of the term “operator” in the Army. (If you didn’t attend the Operators’ Training Course, it’s not you. Sorry ’bout that). You know what we’re going to say now, right? Damn straight. Read The Whole Thing™.