Posted on August 28 2019
Raid, Recon and Ambush. They are the three tactical building blocks.
Have you ever trained in any of them? With all your time on the range, have you dedicated any time to actually running your gun against opponents? I hadn’t—having spent most of my training time on the shooting range and in military service.
I travelled from Western Pennsylvania all the way to the hills of Utah to learn to conduct raid missions. It was the most unique form of training I have heard about for civilians. As fate would have it, the training was, hands down, one of the most exciting things I’ve done since serving in the military. With the guidance from special forces operators, ten family men/survivalists trained to assault an enemy camp during a SHTF scenario.
Starting off our day in full kit and armed with the IR tactical system (kind of like MILES gear but a lot more precise and with shock belts to add a little “pain compliance”) we ventured up steep hills and through brutal brush, attempting to surprise the OPFOR (opposition force) and avoid losing any of our own men in the process.
I had a personal goal to see if I had become mentally weak; knowing beforehand that I was not in the best shape but was willing to push myself. I was excited and nervous, but my heart was in it. I missed the feeling of working with a team. Thankfully, they were an amazing group of dudes from all backgrounds. This was no Navy SEAL BUD/S torture camp and we were all true-blue “preppers,” each man with experience in his own area.
The goal of the first raid was to remove trespassers from “the Homestead” by negotiating or fighting if necessary. Our recon team set out and found three fighting-age males with women and children, held up at a camp under the canopy of trees. Our negotiator tried to draw them out as we slowly flanked the position. Eventually we gained a line of sight on the trespassers. Our negotiation team got a bit impatient and things went to guns. That forced my fire team to rush in and start eliminating threats. But we couldn’t locate one OPFOR—a young man. In the melee, he appeared from behind and took a heavy toll on our team before we eliminated him. So much for not losing any of our own. We ended up with six dead and two wounded from our group of ten, which certainly did NOT constitute a “win.”
We learned a valuable lesson from this. Patience is not just a virtue, it’s a necessity if the shit hits the fan. By rushing the negotiation and being closed-minded to compromise with the trespassers, we cost ourselves four-fifths of our squad. We managed to refrain from killing women and children, but the cost in lives, if this were a real-life situation, was entirely unacceptable. We also learned to keep our heads on a swivel, and be sure to account for all possible threats.
Given this experience, it leads me to believe we would need to be more flexible and forgiving in a SHTF situation, just to strengthen our numbers and prevent bloodshed. Granted there is a time and place to squeeze a trigger, but to be completely honest, a family would have been destroyed in this scenario, and repercussions could easily have included revenge or even guilt and remorse in our own homestead. It was sobering to point even a laser combat rifle downrange at women and children.
The second scenario drew us further up the mountain, with a plan of attack putting us up the ridge to an LP/OP in some very thick brush. The team was to assault a ramshackle cabin in the woods, with remnants of the same family we’d confronted earlier—only these guys were staging their own attack for sure against our homestead. Our job was to take them out first.
I ended up pulling security on the rucks we were carrying because I frankly ran out of gas. I was physically exhausted and falling asleep standing but I knew I was absolutely no use to my team at this point. I could hear radio chatter as the team screwed up land nav and moved past the area of operation.
The assault finally went down as evening fell on the mountainside. Once again, the young kid made an unexpected move and the casualty rate almost mimicked the first scenario, AND we lost one of our own to friendly fire. The OPFOR teenager managed to run around our flank in a flanking maneuver of his own and take out almost everyone. We eliminated all OPFOR but at an entirely staggering cost: seven of our own ten were killed or wounded.
The goal of the exercise was to avoid casualties, and there we were, with a casualty rich outcome, and no one to call for reinforcements.
It’s easy to be a bit bold headed when in full kit, carrying a rifle, but boldness is not enough. Not needing to use the firearm seems to be a better approach. Friendly fire risk is no joke, even with laser rifles. I never knew where my team could end up in any given scenario. Rule Four violations abounded once the “bullets” started flying. (Rule Four: know your target and what is beyond it.)
My sense of the need for physical fitness, if the SHTF, moved from “not much of a priority” to “more important than any gear or supplies.” I was probably the last person I would choose to go on a raid. Hands down I failed my team by being out of shape but that’s why training is important--to learn weaknesses and to fix them.
The third and final scenario put everyone in an interesting position. The plan was to pull recon on a ridge and get a count of the number of enemy holed up in a pole barn. One fire team was to use suppressive fire and engage the OPFOR while the rest of us moved in to flank them and raid the structure. This went south, again, because our recon team got caught in the open and became sitting targets. They may have had the high ground, but the high ground wasn’t enough to protect them. Not everything that looks good on paper is good on terra firma.
Ultimately, we did manage to take the pole barn with minimal casualties compared to previous raids, but the major lesson learned here was, hit hard and fast, like a hammer. We also learned that entering a building can be a disaster, even if the enemy is eliminated.
I learned a lot from Jeff, Kevin and Wali—our commando trainers. I would gladly go back for training. They clearly had the first-hand knowledge of how to conduct these missions and we had a TON to learn. As far as fitness goes, I’m convinced that it should be a top priority. The bad news is that there is a lot to learn from force-on-force training. The good news is that learning, with the right buddies and instructors, is an utter kick in the pants.
Thanks to everyone at the Homestead for the experience and sharing of knowledge.
by ReadyMan Member George Grimm