5.56 Timeline

Two man tactics: Where to begin?

So you and your friend/spouse/family member/partner decide you two are going to become the ultimate fighting team, an army of two. But, how do you get there?

We have to start with a very critical teamwork skill, communication.

You and whom ever you are working with need to sort out leadership, SOPs and ROEs.

A team needs a leader. This leads to a couple possible problems. If you have two type-a personalities they make challenge each other for leadership. You could have two people who neither want to be charge. Even if there is a clear leader and followers, there can be all sort of tension, intentional or unintentional sabotaging of leadership, etc. You two have to sort this out.

Unfortunately in the majority of tactics discussion leadership is just sort of an assumed given. If you and your buddy were out hunting,and saw the prey, when one of you wants to shoot and the other wants to wait to see if you can get a bigger score, who makes the call? If the two of you were sitting in ambush, who decides when the initiate the attack? Who makes the final decision when you two disagree on what to do?

This is something you need to work out before the shooting starts.

Then think about communication, SOPs, ROEs, and all that unfun stuff to think about.

The military and the police have the advantage of standardized training and rules. When I was a rifleman in the Corps I knew that if I ran into another 0311 from a different unit, we were suppose to know the same room clearing techniques, the same hand/arm signals, and the same rules of engagement. In practice, it didn’t always go smoothly, but we had enough of the same procedures and vernacular that we could make it work.

Unless you and your buddy are both military or police, it is unlikely you have common commands and terms for the types of tactics and actions you may need to do in a fight. That needs to get sorted out.

For example, lets say you and your spouse or battle buddy were leaving a big store after shopping. If you noticed a potential threat, could you communicate the threat, direction, and distance to your partner quickly and with out pointing at the threat.

Two quick examples. At some point when I was young my father had us use the codeword “click” to indicate to each other that there was a problem. When I deployed to Iraq, we used the term “firecracker” in lieu of IED when in front of the locals. We could mention firecracker to alert our teammates, then give the direction, description, distance, like a normal ADDRAC command.

You and your battle buddy should go over simple things like hand arm signals. Make sure you are both on the same page with the same understanding. Many things are pretty obvious, but we don’t want miscommunications in a fight. To someone from the military the difference between “Halt” and “Freeze” may seem apparent, but if the person you are working with does know, it could end up being a problem. And there are all sorts of commands that we don’t commonly use, but are good to have. Like how would you signal to your partner to increase or decrease their rate of fire?

When we taught the difference between halt and freeze we explain that halt is just telling you to stop moving forwards. Freeze is telling you to not move a muscle, not even a twitch. Moving after the “Freeze” command is given may compromise your location to the enemy, or might put you at risk of other dangers. The classic military example being if you suddenly find your self in a minefield, you signal “freeze”. Telling everyone to immediately stop all movement might be what stops someone else from putting their foot down on a mine.

Rules of Engagement are set by higher ups in the military and police. Those individuals are taught when they can use lethal force. If it is just you and a buddy fighting with out an external chain of command you need to know when you two want to fight, run, or hide. There is a time and place for each of those options. It would be rather bad for you if you ran into a superior force and you want to run away but your buddy wants to go out in a blaze of glory. I don’t want the guy who believes that there is no more noble death than fighting an impossible battle telling me which fights we are going to fight.

Often unintentionally, but sometimes done as unconscious sabotage, team mates can ruin a great plan in moment. A trigger happy team mate can cause all sorts of problems for you, up to and including defeat and death.

Imagine trying to hunt with a buddy who has buck fever, who will fire at the first bit of brown colored movement they see. That person might be more of a danger to you and other hunters than the prey. If you are laying in ambush for an enemy force and your team mate goes off half cocked, not only might you fail to destroy the enemy force, you might get killed by those enemies. You need to work with your team mates to ensure that you all are going to work effectively and cohesively. You are not going to bag much if your buddy keeps shooting to early and spooking everything out there.

As much as we Americans love to romanticize combat, and then the training for combat, we can’t overlook that prior to that, a group needs to have leadership, direction, and plans.

It is similar to when business advisors who will parrot terms and phrases like, “We need the team to develop a rapport to solidify a united homogeneous strategy in order to allow us to function in step and work shoulder to shoulder for maximum effectiveness and efficiency.” But unlike corporate buzzwords and bullshit to dodge the real work, we need to get things done. You need to take the time to talk with the person you would fight along with and make sure that both of you will be able to work together and understand each other when things get bad. Then train together to find the points of friction in your communication and team work, so you can fix it.

Then start working on all the cool stuff.

APC Leadership Development Forum #1: Tactical Decision Game

I think this could be interesting and fun for some of you. I am hoping you ex military guys will respond to this in the comments and I will gather them together for a part 2 if a few of you chime in. This was posted over on good old B-arfcom the other day by one of the military members there.

Good afternoon all,

On account of our limited ability to meet in person at the moment due to current events, there is going to be a handful of online leadership development forums over the next few weeks.  This forum is an introductory exercise, in the following weeks we will post a combination of readings, videos, and live classroom exercises.

What follows is a Tactical Decision Game, or TDG.  TDGs are utilized by the armed forces as educational exercises, especially for student officers.  Developing your ability to rapidly evaluate a situation, come to a decision, communicate it to others, and take action has positive benefits both inside and outside the military- especially in an organization like the American Pioneer Corps where you may be operating in chaos in response to an emergency situation.

Please post your responses to the below TDG.  Do not simply explain what you will do, but explain in as much detail as possible your train of thought that brought you to your posted conclusion.  Please do not edit posts- make corrections via subsequent posts.  You should be done typing within 5 minutes of reading the TDG, and should only make corrections for spelling at that point prior to hitting submit.

Officer Shooting, Glock Malfunction

Skip to 6.50 to get to the relevant part.

Never mind the guy had no weapons in his hands and didn’t “move his hands towards his pants in a furtive manner”..lets not bother with that today..

No, instead notice how the cops Glock had a serious malfunction and stopped dead after one round. I would LOOOOOOOOOVVVVE to tease you glock guys about that. Believe me. But I’m not going to because the glock is not a factory glock. Its one of those pimped out glocks with all he bells and whistles and all the crap a glock doesn’t need.

This is great because it’s something I been saying for years. Take a 500 dollar Glock that works perfectly, spend $5,000 on it getting it all tricked out and gunsmithed on just to make it not as good as it was as a 500 dollar plain factory glock.

Another point is, I would not have re used the same magazine after a malfunction if I had the usual 2 to 3 more loaded mags like most cops carry. The mag may have been the problem as it usually is. Clearing the malfunction just to put the most likely problem back in the gun is not a great idea. Luckily for him he didn’t have to find out. I am not even going to bother with his execution in clearing it..

Two Man Tactics Part 3 – Sectors of Fire,

I’ve been struggling with writing this one as there are so many parts of this topic.  Hard to say where to start or what to cover.

Well, what is a sector of fire?  It is “A defined area which is required to be covered by the fire of individual or crew served weapons or the weapons of a unit.”

Preferably, a sector of fire could be completely observed by the individual (or team) from single place with out movement.  Ideally, a target could be engaged in this sector of fire without obscuring visible observation of the rest of the sector of fire.  For an individual, this usually ends up being a maximum angle somewhere around 90-120 degrees.  A smaller of sector of fire is preferable as it is easier to maintain complete observation over it.

But if you are alone, you need cover 360 degrees around you, not including the potential of threats above and below. You have to turn your head (or entire body) to maintain observation on this area. That sucks! Fortunately, we are talking about two person teams. That drops your area to cover to a 180 degree swath, not mentioning looking up and down.

Previously we established that there are three different two-man formations.  Column, Line, and Echelon.  Let us look at the column formation.

It would be easy to assume that the optimum way to do things would be the split coverage front and back and each person would cover a 180-degree swath.

Some would immediately argue that each person should cover as much area as they can.  While there is some truth and wisdom to that, there is also a reason why we say not to do that.  I’ll come back to this topic.

There may be any number of situations where one individual of the pair may not be able to cover a 180 degree swath.  For example, if were trying to move through thick brush, an area of booby traps, or a hallway.  The lead person might be focused on clearing a path, looking for traps, or looking into/pieing/observing rooms and windows or other avenues where threats may reside.

I think one of the most realistic examples of this might be a hallway. The rear person do their best to cover forwards and backwards down that hallway, while the lead person covers forwards and looks in each door, window. As the lead person is covering potential problem areas to each side, they will not be covering forwards, so the rear person needs to be covering it.

When you are moving, and especially in small teams, your sector of fire is continuously changing, and you need to be observant and reactive to this.

Covering to the rear is often seen as slightly less important than covering to the front or sides. This tends to be due to the direction of movement potentially moving you closer to hostiles, and that you have likely cleared the area you have just moved though. If this is not the case, if you are fleeing a hostile group, then covering towards the rear may be much higher priority than to the front.

It seems to me that when working in pairs, be it two vehicles with turrets or two individuals, splitting the coverage for direct front for one and the rear 180 degree arc for the other made sense, it was a little easier if the sectors of fire were angled.

front and rear sectors of fire
angled sectors of fire

While the sectors of fire depicted on the left picture worked ok, something like the right picture tended to work a little better in practice. The lead person often had to look back (look over their shoulder or turn) to maintain awareness and communication with the tail element (rear person) that which ever side they favored they could also cover more in that direction. The person in the rear almost never is able to just walk backwards watching the rear (walking backwards is a good way to fall on your ass). This angled sector of fire can be completely observed by turning ones torso when walking forwards. You can’t cover the a rear 180 degree as well as an angled one.

But this is something you need to practice with your partner/battle buddy/buddy cop/etc. It will come naturally with practice, but you won’t find what works best with out actually doing it. Lefties will be more comfortable using a different angle than righties. If there is a height difference, it might be better to have the tall person in the rear where they can look over the short person. (If I were shorter I would want the tall person in front so I would have more concealment from enemy fire). Etc, etc, etc.

Yes, but no.

Let me share a reason why we don’t teach sectors of fire like the picture above. Each individual has a job to do and needs to be trusted to do that job. Only once they have done their job should they try to help others. If you are trying to cover your buddies sector of fire and yours, and a hostile pops up in each sector of fire, you might end up engaging the one in your buddies sector of fire, leaving the one in your sector free to kill both of you.

How do I explain this?

And why beholdest thou mote that is in they brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?
Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the most of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?
Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out from thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the most out of thy brother’s eye.

Even Jesus says to cover your sector of fire first.

Let me share a story. When I was in School of Infantry East (SOI), at Camp Lejeune, as one point we went though a live fire shoot house. Mine you, SOI’s shoot house was two rooms where you could only shoot one direction (downrange). The shoot house was a major culminating point in this urban warfare training. But to be realistic, the shoot house really wasn’t much by way of training, and the urban warfare part of SOI curriculum was really lacking. But it was all new to us, and between the stress and trying to learn everything else, it was hard.

We did lots and lots of dry runs in a field near the shoot house. Looking back, we got more out of those dry runs than the couple minutes of live fire in the shoot house.

The Marine I was partnered with must not have thought very much of me. I am not sure if it was intentional or subconscious, but he must have thought that I couldn’t do it. We were having a good bit of trouble during the dry runs and practice. Finally the instructors pulled my partner aside and talked to him. They pointed out that each of us had a job to do, sectors of fire to cover, and targets to engage. My partner was trying to cover his entire sector of fire, engage all his targets, while covering my sector of fire, and engaging my targets. He was trying to do twice as much work as he needed to, and in turn, prevented me from being able to do what I had to do. I couldn’t do my job due to his interference, reinforcing his thought that I was unable to do it. I was too inexperienced to realize what was wrong. They instructor talking to him pretty much had to tell him that I was doing what I was suppose to be doing, and he wasn’t. That all he had to do was his share of the work.

A few more dry runs and we finally got proficient enough that we did the shoot house. Went fine.

It is good to help people, but you gotta talk care of the things you NEED to do first.
I’m not saying not to engage targets in your buddies sector of fire, I’m saying don’t do it unless you are completely confident your sector of fire is secure, will remain so while you are not observing it, and that your actions are necessary for victory.

Different shorter story. When I was in Iraq, I got shot. When I came back to my unit from the hospital, some of my squad mates joked about my getting shot because I didn’t cover my sector of fire. I pointed out that I was shot from behind. NO ONE got shot from MY sector of fire. All that joking quickly stopped. No one ever did say who was watching our rear when I got shot.

Working with other people involves trust. They may fail you. You might die because of that. But if you don’t trust people, you will never be able to work effectively with them.

Two Man Tactics – Part 2 – Rates of Fires & Talking Guns

I know I said I was going to do sectors of fire next, but this was quicker and easier to talk about first.

In the past I was taught than when your buddy is reloading or if their weapon malfunction, you need to pick up your rate of fire to compensate for their lack of shooting. I believed this and taught it to others.

Now I don’t think so.

A good example of when this would be necessary would be if you had two mortar teams and they were going to fire 4 rounds each for a total of 8 rounds on target. If one gun were to go down during the string of fire, the other would fire more rounds to get the proper number of rounds on target.

But if you are talking about a 2 man team, I don’t think this applies.

Back when I carried a M16A2, I found that my buddy and my self would each start with 30 rounds in a mag, and end up having to reload around the same time. If the other guy had to reload first, if I tried to pick up my rate of fire I would nearly immediately have to reload. Leaving us both reloading.

On that note, it might make sense for small teams to plan for some individuals to reload early to prevent everyone from reloading at the same time.

I think this advise comes from military highers ups looking at individuals as a commodity. If each individual rifleman is suppose to be outputting 15 rounds a minute, if one soldier goes down you have a deficiency in your firepower. So you tell one of your guys to increase their output to 30 rounds a minute to maintain the total unit firepower.

Let us back up a moment. Why do we shoot? We shoot when the alternative would be worse than not shooting. This isn’t just about combatives, we shoot to test equipment, hone our skills, or to have fun. Not plinking is a worse outcome that plinking.

So, if we are in a fight, touching off rounds for no reason gives us no benefit. If I shoot uselessly, the enemy might initially be deterred by the noise, but once they realize I am not effectively engaging them, they will be emboldened to effectively press the attack.

If I am in a fight, I need to strive to be as efficient and effective as possible. Wasting any resources, ammo, energy, etc, mean that you might not have that for the next fight.

Instead of adjusting your shooting rate off what your partner is doing, you should be adjusting your tactics off what your partner is doing. If they are unable to shoot, you may need to cover their sector of fire. But you should be shooting what ever amount and rate of fire is necessary do get the job done.

If you are shooting to destroy the enemy, shouldn’t you already be shooting as fast as you can do it effectively? If you are shooting to suppress the enemy, shouldn’t you be shooting just enough to keep the enemies from returning effective fire to you? Why in either of those cases would you shoot faster because your buddy is reloading or clearing a jam?

I think this concept makes sense when you are talking machine guns. If there are two teams of belt fed weapons firing 3-5 round bursts and one gun needs to reload, it would make sense for the other gun to fire longer bursts during that reload. But if you and someone else are fighting with handguns or rifles, our rate of fire should be dependent on what is necessary to engage the enemy, not some set number.

If shooting fast will let you win faster, do it. Doesn’t matter what your buddy is doing. If shooting faster won’t make you win faster, don’t.

Now, on a similar topic, let us talk about “talking guns”. My intent it to explain the concept of “talking guns” and then explain why a two man team is not likely to be using that tactic. Then I will contradict my self and wrap up with an example of when it might be useful.

With machine guns and machine gun gunnery there is a very common and well known tactic known as “talking guns”. Talking guns is where two or more machine guns alternative firing bursts. There are many reasons for using this strategy. First it can keep constant rounds going downrange towards the enemy, while each of your machine guns are just firing normal bursts. A second, but not lesser reason, is to make it harder for the enemies to pin point the location of your machine guns if your machine guns are alternating bursts.

Now I read people claim that well practiced Machine Gunners will have their alternating gun fire sound like a single long burst from a single gun. I never heard that from when I was in and I somewhat think that this is a bullshit idea from people who are not machine gunners. It would be easy to mess up and have both guns fire at the same time

If you are a two person team of automatic riflemen or machine gunners, this would be a great tactic for for the two of you. Out side of that, not so much.

I’ve sometimes heard or read people suggest using talking guns for any two man team.
I think people suggest this because the concept of talking guns is cool and just seems like it would be good for a group of two.

Let us imagine that Shawn and I each are carrying our pistols and facing down a hoard a baddies.
What justification would there be for us to hold fire in order to alternative taking shots?
Each of us would want to shoot as efficiently as we could.

Especially once you get distance involved. You and your buddy should not be side by side as that would make it easier for the enemy to engage the both of you(or an explosion taking out both of you). Dispersion aids survival. But that distance means that you and your partner see different things. Each one of you may see different enemies or have very different experiences.

If I can see two enemies, and my team mate can not see any, should I hold off firing at the second baddie until my team mate fires?

Let me use another example. Different people have different skill levels. One shooter might be slower at lining up and making good shots. Another much faster and more effective. If the better shooter waits for the slower shooter to shoot, they are drastically reducing their own effectiveness. In most scenarios, there is little to gain by alternating shots.

But to wrap up, it isn’t bad to know or practice these things. Imagine a situation where you have a two man marksman/sniper team working individually in separate locations. If the two shooters engaged their enemies from different locations, alternating shots, it would make it much harder for the enemy to locate each shooter and/or respond appropriately.

With this silly drawing, you can see how a situation where two marksman in two different locations can cause quite the problem for the enemy. If they take cover from one shooter, they are exposed to the other. If they actively move to engage and destroy one marksman, the other can still engage them.

In the initial engagement, our 2 man team might want to alternate shots to help prevent the enemy forces from identifying where the shots are coming from, delaying their ability to effectively respond to the incoming fire. If one of is spotted, using the tactic of talking guns would be pointless.

Most of the time, in a small team, each individual would be best off shooting to their full potential. Rarely would you want to limit that rate of fire, or push someone to shoot faster than they can engage their targets effectively.