The use of CS gas in break contact drills is something that I have started to become aware of as a reality out there on the interwebz. Frankly I am perplexed. It is not something that I have ever considered doing in my professional career as a soldier. I’m wondering where this is coming from. Perhaps its the usual: someone made it up in their Mom’s basement and it started to propagate on the interwebz?
However, no doubt someone will tell me that SOG used it in the Nam. And apparently Mosby talks about it in one of his question and answer sessions from February. So maybe I just don’t know what the hell I am talking about? If so, please educate me.
I originally had someone email me about the use of CS to break contact. I answered as politely and constructively as I could, but I could tell by his response that he wasn’t convinced, and was hell bent on using it. The latest discussion raised itself up in this FORUM DISCUSSION on Fire Superiority. The thread itself raised some other interesting questions, and then the CS thing popped up. WTF?
One thing I take away from that forum topic is the need for a grounding in professional training, to get the basics down.
Anyway, some of my job has been done for me. Extracts form the forum thread:
So, to apply some critical thinking to this, these are my thoughts on the use of CS gas to break contact, in no particular order:
1) CS gas is non-lethal. In the open air it is simply an irritant. I would rather be spending my time putting lethal stuff back at the enemy, in order to break contact. They used to use CS gas on us in training, in defensive positions, to simulate nerve agent. It’s nothing to worry about. Inside a designed training gas chamber, or a room, you may be more incapacitated.
2) CS gas is not smoke. Smoke will provide you with concealment, through which enemy fire will go, but at least you are making it harder for him to sight in on you. CS gas will not have this effect. Sure, you could mix CS with smoke, but who has the luxury when trying to break contact? Just keep shooting and moving till you go down or get out. It’s easy to have an SOP to throw smoke, where muscle memory will allow you to remember to do this. Anything more complicated will be forgotten.
3) What type of CS gas do you have and what is the range? Do you have a launcher of some sort? I doubt it, and I wouldn’t think it was worth it to add one to your gear. You may make the enemy’s eyes water and make him cough a bit, but other than that what’s the point? If we are talking about some sort of CS grenade, then that will only go as far as you can throw it, which is about nowhere. That means you will also likely be in the gas cloud. Are we wearing pro masks now? Are we spending time getting immune to CS (you can do that, with exposure)? I doubt it. If you are that close to the enemy, you need to be getting rapid fire down on his positions.
4) As you create space and maneuver away from the enemy, you will now likely be out of range of throwing CS gas at him. You are best off, if you want to throw something, using smoke to conceal your movement as much as possible. Remember that if you are using civilian available smoke, which is not WP, then it is signal-type smoke and is not instantaneous. You have to wait for it to ‘build’ to get any use out of it.
5) The whole point of break contact drills is to use SOP fire and movement to allow us the best chance of maneuvering away from the enemy, creating space, and thus allowing us to ‘break contact.’ Once we achieve that, we can rapidly rally and bug out. If the enemy is following up, we may have a hard time breaking contact, and be stuck in a running gun battle. My priorities during that time are generating accurate suppressive fire to allow movement as best as possible. If the enemy fire is very heavy you will likely take casualties and have to maneuver out at the crawl / using whatever cover there is. You may not get out, worst case. That is why breaking contact is most usually an SOP for surprise enemy contact, and will be mitigated by route selection and patrolling skills. Light enemy contact, all may be fine. Heavy enemy contact / well executed ambush and your chances start to go downhill.
That’s about all I’ve got here. I’m genuine when I say I am curious as to where this comes from. I’m trying to be a grown up in analyzing the use of CS gas. I mean, look: is there chance that you could make some bad guy start coughing and tearing up and stop him shooting at you? Sure. But what is our priority? Shooting and trying to make holes in that bad guy, right? I would use smoke anytime over CS gas.
Let’s put this to bed. Seriously.