23rd Feb2012

Ten Mistakes That Will Get You Killed in CQB

by A.J.

Avoid These Mistakes and Survive Your Next Mission

I recently got back from a training iteration for work and I noticed that a lot of us kept making the same simple mistakes so I decided to make a list of ten of them so we can avoid them and strengthen the force. I decided to leave out the obvious stuff like “fatal funnels” and not digging corners but instead included some of the big stuff that doesn’t get as much attention.

disclaimer: I have no egoic investment in being the greatest CQB warrior on the planet. I know there are hundreds of guys out there who have forgotten more about CQB than I will ever know, but that being said, I think I am a pretty good teacher and I feel I have enough training, instruction experience, and combat experience to talk intelligently on the subject. Also I have taken great pains to exclude any classified information or non-open source intel so as to not give away any TTPs that you can not find on ‘Youtube’ or the like. Please take this as a guide and not doctrine and if you think something I put out violates common sense or is just plain wrong feel free to throw it out cause heaven knows I have no problem blowing off bad tactics myself. Also I am not talking about other people exclusively, I have made most if not all of these mistakes myself not only in training but, also in combat.

Close Quarters CombatWhat is CQB?

CQB for those who aren’t familiar with the term stands for Close-Quarters-Battle or Close-Quarters-Combat and in the grand scheme of things I think it falls somewhere between combat from street corner to street corner, to hand-to-hand fighting. I would say if you think you can engage accurately in combat using your pistol with a high degree of precision then you are in CQB range.

The following is a short (not exhaustive) list of mistakes I regularly see guys make in CQB with hopefully a few gems to improve combat skills and tactics.

10. Hesitation

The confused look you see in the eyes of your buddies when he decides whether to go or stay is an indicator that he has reached his mental or physical capacity to solve the CQB problem. At its root CQB is about angles, opportunity and percentages. Not every tactic works in every situation and often times you can do the exact right thing and take a round to the trauma plate anyway. The CQB skills are based on the most likely course of action you need to take to have the highest chance of survivability and it is not a 100% solution because nothing is. So the question becomes, can you mentally negotiate the problem at a speed that provides the highest success rate. Often times for guys who are new to the tactics the answer is, “no” and when this happens there is an introduction of hesitation that gives the opposition force advantage.

I feel the solution is multifaceted, but starts with repetition of SOP’s (Standard Operating Procedures) and making sure everyone is dancing to the same sheet of music. Having a well established and planned SOP before you get out to the training site is imperative, making sure everyone understands those SOP’s  intellectually will save hours in the glass house or shoot house. Secondly I think some mental rehearsal just prior to execution of an IMT (Individual Movement Technique) can greatly speed the learning process. If you are beyond the training environment you may simply have to move the offending team member to a location in the stack to where he is no longer in a position to slow the flow. This removal should be done in a non judgemental way and used as a training tool and not a means of ridicule or you will create an environment where failure is so feared that no one will have the courage to do anything.

9. Rabbiting/One-Man Room Clearing

Rabbiting is a situation where the number one man starts off so fast that no one has the time to catchup conversely a one-man room clear is when the number two-man just plan drops the ball and sends the number one man off into danger areas alone. The reaction time of a bad guy in a room is very fast and it should be within that time that number two-man is able to get in and provide support. If number one man runs into a danger area and doesn’t give two-man a chance to catch up it can be very bad and conversely if number two-man sort of gets behind the power curve  and allows number one man to go it alone there can be dire consequences.

“NEVER ENGAGE IN A FAIR FIGHT”

-ME

 

Number one man needs to recognize that the guys behind him have to react to his movement before they can go so moving at below normal combat speed can mitigate that break in contact. Number two-man has to be on the ball, he needs to have the situational awareness that number one man can’t get, number two-man needs to be ready to go and support his number one man.

Room Clearing Sometimes Involves Chemlights8. Chemlights Don’t Pull Security

Okay I know this sounds dumb, but I see it all the time. Often when an assault team clears a room they will mark the room with a Chemlight to let others know that friendlies have cleared it already, or so they know the status of that room. If for some reason you lose eyes on that “cleared” room and have to pass it again to get out of the structure or to conduct a secondary search you need to re clear that room. The Chemlight is glowing because it is full of Predator blood but what it is not doing is keeping that room safe. Any number of things can happen when your team leaves the room, so if you need to go by or reenter that room be sure to respect the threat.

7. Find a Hole Fill a Hole

Like I said earlier, CQB is a solution to a very complex problem, to include the angles, levels and shooter’s solutions; be flexible enough to fill in the blanks. If you see a team-mate drop a threat or blow off an important danger area do not stop the operation to argue about what he should have done, just do your part to fix the omission.  Many structures provide overwhelming threats and you arguing about who should do what will jeopardize your security and could cost you your life.  So if you find a hole in the team security posture or a hole in mission tasks just fill the hole. If you find yourself standing in the middle of a structure or threat area with nothing to do then, do it quick and go pull security.

6. Getting So Amped You Loose Your Mind

Combat is stressful and stress will cause an increase in your heart rate, an increased heart rate can cause tunnel vision and tunnel vision will kill you. If you are in a tough scrape and the world looks as if you are viewing it through a toilet paper roll then you need to calm down and get you situational awareness back on line. Take a deep breath do a 360 to make sure you aren’t standing in a window or silhouetting a danger area and take inventory of what is going on. Often when we get amped up we don’t even know it so be sure to monitor your buddies for this kind of behavior.

5. You Don’t Need To Turn Your Head To Talk

This one may not kill you, but it is definitely a pet peeve of mine so I am including it. I know we grew up in a society that really values eye contact and outside of the CQB environment go nuts creeping people out with an icy stare, but in a house if your job is to lock down a crack in the door that sees the hallway please don’t turn to me to tell me you think you see something. Here is an experiment: go to the kitchen with your wife, face away from her so you can’t see her and tell her you are thinking of calling your ex girlfriend to give her make-up tips, if you get hit in the head with a frying pan then you never have to take your eyes off your assigned threat again.

In Combat Training Don't be That Guy4. “Break the Wrist and Walk Away”

If you have spent more than five minutes in the profession you have most likely met this guy. This is the guy who for whatever reason is teaching you and your team about CQB or Shooting or Tactics in general that knows absolutely everything there is to know about armed conflict, just ask him. This guy will get you killed! He is so wrapped up in the idea that he is awesome that he will not answer any questions or explain why he does anything the way he does it. There are a ton of guys that are teaching skills they don’t understand and only teach them because someone told them it was a good technique. Of all the stuff and BS you have to deal with getting this guy out of your training cycle will work wonders for the team. I try very hard to be open-minded and you would be hard pressed to get me in a tactical school where I couldn’t walk away learning something. There are no Jedi knights and no one left their parents on Krypton, so if we all just ratchet it back a bit and ask “WHY do we do it that way?” maybe we can learn something. That being said if you have no idea what is going on just do as your told by someone you trust to lead you.

Aside: I was doing training with a guy for hand-to-hand and when asked why he likes the palm strike so much he said “because I learned all the martial arts in the world and I took out all the stuff that doesn’t work.” This is a guy who when I asked him to spar told me that he “trains to be lethal and doesn’t want to kill me.” My answer to guys like that is “really bro….” (confused look)

3. Slow is Smooth, Smooth is Fast

Here is one I know we have all heard and to my analytical mind I interpret it as Slow=Smooth, Smooth=Fast, therefore Slow=Fast. Well slow isn’t fast in fact “slow” is the opposite of “fast” I looked it up in the dictionary. This is a saying that has floated around for a while and some of the guys I consider legends, who I really respect, who I would pay hundreds of dollars to learn basic skills from say this all the time.

Aside: I don’t think there is a such thing as basic skills and advanced skills I think there are basic skills done well and basic skills done poorly.

Doing skills slowly can provide a smoothness that being a spazz won’t allow, and yes when you see a masterful practitioner do a skill fast it also looks super smooth. I would say that “slow is smooth and speed is a product of the economy of motion.” So to sum it up: don’t be a spazz, do practice your skills, and when you have mastered those skills you should be able to move smoothly and quickly.

2. Speed is Your Only Security

Speed, is one of the basic principles of Close Quarters Combat: Speed, Surprise, and Violence of Action. That being said speed is not the only principle and if you are so worried about going fast that you lose security you are going to have a real problem. Never outrun your headlights, do not think that speed can compensate for poor security. Speed is an enhancer like sugar in your coffee, but you still need the beans and water to make it work. I see guys charge head long into complex scenarios that they have no chance of getting out of. I have made this mistake a ton due to frustration, or fear, or plain stupidity. You can regain the initiative with explosives, gas, distraction or misdirection etc. You do not need to be a team of guys running around like your hair is on fire unless you are trained to be incredibly fast (read this as Tier 1 operator with huge budgets, training apparatus, raw skill, advanced selection and support to execute huge amounts of training in which case you don’t need or want my advice on CQB anyway) So be deliberate, methodical, calculated and competent. If you master the skills speed will happen as a natural byproduct.

1.Playing Pic a Boo With Bad Guys

Great guys get killed because for some reason they decide to engage in a fair fight with the bad guys. Often we will gain entry into the breach point and get a foot hold in a structure, at the same time the bad guys get out of bed and decide to engage us. If we are in the first room let’s say and he is in the far room and he shoots we will go  to a position that provides cover and return fire. If there is a linear danger area separating these two places (read this as hallway, stairwell, etc) we will sit on one side and he will sit on the other and we will play pic a boo together until someone gets hit. This game is deadly, it will kill 50% of the people who play it and it is totally unnecessary. If he is there and you are here do not engage in a fair fight. If you are overseas throw your damn frags at him, use an AT-4, get out the m-203, have someone place a charge on an exterior wall to the room he is in, if ROE allows break contact and kinetically reduce the structure, please do not play this game. If you are in the US in a law enforcement capacity you can yell changing magazines (when you have ammo) drop elevation out of the gun line and get him when he shows himself, use Gas, have snipers take a shot, fill the house with bees for all I care just don’t attempt to fight fair in a gun fight it is dumb and can make your wife a widow.

Chinese Special Forces

Tactical Urban Rover Detachment or T.U.R.D. for short

Conclusion

First off thanks for reading to the end, your awesome. While writing this at first I made a list of ten things that I have seen cause problems in training and overseas, it was actually hard not to include everything, but I know it is tough to get guys to read more than ten things so I cut it short there are probably 125 or so. It is my hope that you will find this useful; I wish someone had given me this list ten years ago it would have saved me a lot of trouble. I have been working pretty hard to get the word out to guys like you and if you think there was something useful here I would really appreciate it if you left a comment or at least shared it on your social network of choice so I can get more feed back from guys. Thanks again for stopping by De Oppreso Liber.

 

24 Responses to “Ten Mistakes That Will Get You Killed in CQB”

  • Hambone

    Good talk…

  • Great stuff brother.. I been working on these techniques in not particular order of fashion with a few civilians at my civilian range. a few former Marnins, Rangers, and gun enthusiasts .. this makes it easier to come up with a solid class.. Thank You sir!!!

    • Hey thanks for taking the time to leave a comment. I really hope this can help elevate the dialogue overall and I am ecstatic that guys are finding some value. So till next time Semper Fi, Rangers lead the way, and De Oppreso Liber

  • Gingy

    Great advice. Its nice to get some tips from someone with real world experience and not just some self proclaimed “combat expert”. I love the idea of never engaging in a fair fight. Ive always been a big believer in using any method possible to solve the problem at hand and if fighting “unfair” means that all of your men get home safely then i say amen to that. Thank you for taking the time to share this stuff with us, im sure this can help a lot of people.

    • Gingy,
      Hope all is well where you are at. I am definitely not a super “CQB Jedi” but we were raised to do the right thing and sometimes that means holding back and fighting fair. In a gunfight fighting fair is out of the question, I am not going to let some dog doo stuck on the sneaker of life keep me from getting home to see my wife and I am glad that resonates. I really appreciate the feedback and my your targets be big and your decisions be fast. De Oppresso Liber

  • Wilkie

    AJ,

    Very well put. I will send this off to my team for reading. You are right there could be many more things to talk about, but I believe you did a good job and hit the right nails on the head.

    Wilkie OUT

    • Thx man I always appreciate the feedback. That being said I think you really got it right recognizing that the subject is huge and I hope to bring more stuff out there to help get the ball down the field. And of course if there is anything you want to see in the future don’t hesitate to bring it up. De Oppresso Liber,

  • Matty

    The peek-a-boo caution is a good point! It’s what every movie we have ever seen tells us to do, and I’ve found myself doing it in training. I will try to remember to use the “distractors” we have at our disposal like frags or bangs instead of sticking my head out all the time. I guess sometimes there is a moment where you just need to suck it up and cover your team though.

    Great article, thanks!

    • You make an awesome point! Unfortunately these meat helmets make movies with ridiculous scenarios that program us to do the wrong thing. On the suck it up side and I know we are treading on some classified info here but I will sanitize it by saying “some times all you can do is stand firm and drive that gun with a 15 round rhythm drill.” Thanks for the great points I really appreciate the time you took to comment.

  • Rob (B/2)

    Great tips AJ. Now a fan after this no nonsense/no waffle article. Great tips that are often overlooked. My 4 man CQB team will be reading this at the next training session.
    We thank you,

    Bravo team-

    • Thanks Rob,
      I really appreciate the thoughtful response. I hope to have some new stuff coming out this weekend if I can get away from the office long enough to put together something worth your time and the time of the guys on your team.

      De Oppresso Liber

  • DG

    Awesome stuff! Thanks for “dumbing it down”, KISS, and adding some humour…made for a good read!

    IYAAYAS!

    • Contrary to what the “experts” will tell you, I don’t think CQB has to be “rocket surgery” just don’t violate the rules of security, treat all unknowns as threats and use common sense. Every rule, tactic, technique and procedure stems from those simple rules. Thanks for the comment and stay safe.

  • Felix

    AJ,

    First i want to thank u for ur service to this amazing nation and as for ur article i have to say i had a good time reading it and will use it to polish wutever cqb skills i have and teach the members of my team wut to do and wut not to do in another note i hope all is well where ever u are stay safe and thank u again for ur service…

    • Thank you Felix, for your thoughtful comment. I spent the day today teaching CQB to the awesome operators on the Boulder SWAT team in Boulder Colorado and a heart felt thanks always makes the job worth it. Well, the thanks and shooting at bad guys in the face.

  • Dan

    Firstly AJ, Thank you for your service.

    And thanks for taking the time to write this gem.

    Rob posted here earlier and then asked me to read your article. I totally agree with your practice of basic skills done well will inevitably speed things up and that the whole team needs to be dancing to the same sheet of music. Plenty of amazing things here that do go overlooked but no more, thanks to you.

    We’ll post our findings once we’ve put this into practice.

    Dan
    Bravo-team

    We’ll definately put your work here to work at our next training session,

  • Alexander

    Thank you for this post and the whole site. Stellar work, I can’t overstate how much I appreciate it.

  • Excellent reminder and just the slightest twist on what we see. We see these things LEO side as well. Just getting guys to breathe as new Operators while PRACTICING cqc is tough! how blessed are we that Simmunitions came out where you can really put guys into some great situations and build that memory in the right way!

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