I came across the following video on YouTube. I found it very interesting. It is discussing the ‘fatal funnel fallacy’ and I find it very refreshing that some are starting to question the ‘conventional wisdom’ of CQB. I have written about this often in the past and have often criticized what I term ‘SWAT Style’ CQB tactics.
Nathan Wager, who made the video, talks about the faults and assumptions of this ‘American Style of Clearing’, a sentiment that I feel is very much on the nail. He talks about the fallacy of the fatal funnel and the definitions of it, and how this leads to dangerous assumptions when designing room clearing techniques. You see this all the time. Actual operators or their fanboys will learn ‘the speak’ and can reiterate it to anyone challenging it, but they don’t really know. You see these stylistic room clearing drills.
If I have any issue with the video, it is this: from my point of view, all the CQB techniques he is discussing are already, for want of a better term, ‘down the rabbit hole’. In that sense, he has also gone down that rabbit hole to argue about specifics of why things are wrong, when I will just step back and look at the bigger picture. But I give him credit for doing so and he makes a good argument. This is how I would summarize my thoughts:
1) The ‘SWAT Style” room clearing drills are for low threat situations or ones where you are ‘clearing’ and not really expecting a serious threat, such as barricaded enemy. SWAT do not go into a high threat situation. If you go dynamically against a real threat without maximum shock and violence you are cruising for a bruising.
2) Top Tier dynamic entry units will do similar drills in high threat environments, but they get away with such techniques by using shock to actually dynamically gain entry, such as use of explosive breaching and/or flashbangs to create shock, to seize and maintain the initiative when entering. Speed, aggresion and surprise.
3) The original meaning of the ‘fatal funnel’ was a warning to ensure that you did not pause or remain in doorways or windows. It was to prevent silhouetting yourself there. Of course, when readying to prevent a room entry, the ‘bad guy’ will naturally set up to shoot towards natural entry points. So, rather than over-defining the ‘fatal funnel’, as the video says, it is more about enemy lines of fire, corners, and avoiding silhouetting yourself there. Don’t try and define the ‘funnel ‘ geographically and over complicate it, creating a whole bunch of stylized drills based on over-complicated assumptions about the fatal funnel.
4) In a similar way, if you go through a door and are confronted by an enemy in the middle of the room, shoot him! You see so many of these drills where the guy switches away from the center of the room to the near corners when there is a target right there. You need to engage the threats that you can see and let your team coming behind clear other areas. Yes, blah blah, you need to clear the room, but you don’t ignore real threats to do so. This is another problem of the ‘over stylize-ation’ of these drills. If you are wondering how you do all this with bad guys in the room and you are funneling through the door, then welcome to the essential problem with these drills unless you have pre-shocked the room!
5) If you up the intensity of these operations to MOUT (FISH – Fighting In Someones House), then you will find violence is the answer. If you have to enter rooms, you need a grenade or similar violence first to gain the initiative by shocking the enemy. Avoid doors, use windows. Avoid windows, create an explosive breach through the wall or roof. Use grenades, rockets, anything that is violence. Otherwise, as you go in the room the enemy can shoot you. Simple, right? I would rather knock down a wall with a bulldozer or truck than do these drills when there are known bad guys in there. Entering a room through an explosive or vehicle breach in the wake of debris and plaster dust is going to be a way of avoiding death.
6) If you don’t have to go in there, burn it down or destroy it from standoff. Bang a thermobaric in there, that will take care of it, so long as you escalated through your rules or engagement to give anyone a chance to come out. If you do have to go in there, then if you expect a high threat, such as barricaded enemy, then you will need to change your tactics. You will be better off doing a technique such as ‘combat clearing’ which is a slower technique where you approach a dangerous room, get the door open, and then use a technique based off the ‘pie the corner’ technique to get visibility onto sectors of the room and identify the threat or lack of. Once you identify the barricaded enemy, then you can make a plan to take care of it. A grenade into a room may cause temporary shock to an enemy, but if he is barricaded he will pop back up and be able to engage you from cover as you swarm into the room.
7) Don’t get me wrong, if you are doing classic MOUT, you will have to clear through a building and will have to use room entry and clearance techniques, similar to the SWAT techniques shown, but using whatever you can to grenade or alternatively breach rooms to maintain shock and surprise as you go in. But there is a reason why MOUT is a highly casualty intensive operation of war. SWAT are not engaged in the same thing. If you end up sending two, three or four men into a room to clear it in a MOUT operation, with furniture and bad guys, you can run basic drills but you have to play it as it comes. Go left, go right, but shoot what you can see as you enter, with your buddies coming behind taking care of the corners etc. You can run drills, but at the end of the day it’s a fight, and cannot be over-sequenced or stylized. Don’t go at it like an unthinking robot or a set sports play!
Nathan mentions ‘High Threat Systems’ at the end of the video and the training they are doing. Here are a couple of those videos illustrating some of these points of criticism (note: the part of the video where the is a POV camera firing very close to a friendly can be found on YouTube as a ‘Delta Force’ CQB video):