In my last blog post we brought up some of the finer details of Small Unit Tactics that are overlooked by those who have little experience with real life employment of SUT. A challenge was brought up over the acceptability of changing “buddy pairs” on the fly. The most succinct comment went as such…
“I flatly disagree with this article. Buddy teams get separated quite a bit during chaotic combat situations. This is why we have SOPs. A 4-man team should be able to bound in any random order.”
There does exist some slight merit to this statement. Well trained individuals who have worked often enough with each other, they NEED to have the ability to swap partners on the fly. You must always be prepared for a worst case scenario, which in the case of a four man team, taking even one casualty. When one or more of your people is incapacitated or dead, reorganization needs to happen fast.
What is NOT acceptable however, is reorganizing pairs and teams in the middle of a gunfight, except in the circumstance of a casualty. You need to avoid reorganizing under fire if at all possible. Why do you ask? Well that’s a matter of having been there, having done that.
I make no bones about the fact that I cut my teeth in SUT in the jungles of S. America. My first operational experiences were there, and only better prepared me for the urban jungles of Iraq that I would later experience. The rough and extremely dense nature of the jungle terrain required the utmost in accountability. In these conditions, even if your entire unit is only four men, it is impossible to maintain visual contact with all four members and keep proper distance between individuals.
In a desert situation, where an individual rifleman can see his entire team, it really is not a big deal if when contact is made, each man scatters randomly and bounds as individuals. It works, although it is not ideal. Why it is not ideal is due to what happens in jungle terrain.
Say our four man team is in file formation as depicted below on a recce patrol in the NE woodlands where I live. It is very thick and you can usually only see the man in front or behind you, but never the whole team. Andy is running point and his buddy is Bob. They are AB pair. Chuck and Dick are CD pair. Together they are team Knucklehead:
Now, team Knucklehead makes unexpected (surprise) contact to the front. Team Knucklehead is at least smart enough to have a standing SOP to break contact when on recce patrols. But team Knucklehead thinks it’s okay to just team up and bound in any random order. So they get online and are set up in this random order before they start bounding back. Andy went left, Bob went right, and pair CD lost their minds and wedged themselves in between the two.
Andy Dick Chuck Bob
Now it’s a gunfight people. And since team Knucklehead “bounds in random order”, Andy decides that Dick is his new buddy, since Dick is all he can see. Chuck and Dick are already buddies anyway so they just stay buddies, hell they are right next to each other. Bob can see only Chuck so he decides that Chuck is his buddy, although Chuck does not know this. This is because team Knucklehead does “random”. Their SOP is “random”.
Team knucklehead bounds back over a terrain feature, and effectively breaks contact. They rally up and their formation looks like this…
Andy Dick Chuck
Everyone: Wait! Crap! Where the f*ck is Bob? Andy, where is your buddy?
Andy: I dunno I was paired with Dick.
Dick: No you weren’t I was paired with Chuck!
Chuck: Yeah I was right next to Dick. It was me and him.
Andy: Well who was with Bob?!
Chuck: Oh crap, do we have to go back into that mess to find Bob?
You see what happens here is that Bob gets shot, breaks an ankle, goes a different direction, or whatever the case is and NO ONE KNOWS ABOUT IT because we have random accountability. No one is watching Bob specifically. Now in open terrain, this is usually not a problem since more than likely, someone would have seen Bob go down, or go the wrong way. They would have known he was gone before rallying up, and done something about it to keep him from getting lost. But in dense foliage, it is real easy to get separated if you have no specific accountability.
For my MVT Alumni out there, how easy would it be to lose your buddy during a gunfight? How many of us got sucked into the targets, and paid absolutely no attention to our buddy or the rest of the team? How many we mercilessly attacked by the Muscle Memory Gorilla about SCANNING and seeing your buddies? No imagine all that, and having “random” buddies instead of an assigned one. Uh-oh…. New students have trouble enough keeping track of an assigned buddy until we get properly trained.
Now thankfully Bob only got separated. He had enough skill to make it back to a rally point and meet back up with team Knucklehead who thankfully had the discipline to ID their targets, and not shoot Bob as he snuck his way alone back to the rally point.
Now team knucklehead has reviewed their SOP’s and changed it to “do or die” buddy pairs. They also change their call sign to team Lucky. Now when someone gets separated, cannot move, or whatever the case, team Lucky knows about it BEFORE they accidently leave Bob in the dust and alone.
The point here is at MVT we teach the BEST tactics. Just because random bounding worked for some guys in the sandbox does not mean it won’t screw you over later (again the specter of survivors bias). In the Jungle, or where I live in the NE woodlands you will lose contact with your own people during firefights unless you have specific accountability at all times. (Hell you don’t need a gunfight, it can happen in the middle of a low light patrol). If your buddy gets hit, we need to know now so he does not get left behind, or we know where to look for him later depending on the tactical situation. If your buddy starts bounding away and losing contact with the team, YOU need to stop him from getting separated. RALLYS are NOT the time to find out you lost someone, when you are hundreds of meters away and have an Appalachian mountain in between you. That being said, you should take accountability on every rally, and not just personnel but casualties, ammunition, and critical equipment.
Left or right, forward or back, for better or worse, STAY WITH YOUR BUDDY! Do not lose contact with him!
The Exception: If I’m dead, I’m dead. Grab anything of intelligence value or critical equipment and GO.
Max Adds: Yes, we saw this with some jaw jacking in comments on Lee’s last post. Those who have trained at MVT know the deal. For example, if you have trained at MVT, you will know that on a break contact left or right drill, where we peel, I focus on peeling as controlled buddy pairs, for precisely the reasons that Lee iterates. If Billy gets hit and falls in the bush, his buddy has an eye on him every bound, so we know about it right then, and not when we take accountability back at the rally point.
If you haven’t trained at MVT, you won’t know about the quality or depth of the training, and your comments lack credibility. MVT training is not your prior service ‘survivor bias’ low level SUT training you received, and were lucky to get away with if you deployed, and it’s not your FM regurgitation with no real world experience to back it up. What the heck do you think we are doing here? High quality light infantry training, for the most part. Come and train, or STFU.
That is all.