My last content post was on June 11: ‘Training, and how it relates to the Four Stages of Competence.‘ Since then I have been up at site for 10 days on a private class, and doing various admin and site cleanup and improvement since then. It’s been busy, but it has been very rewarding. The training on the recent private class was excellent, with a 3 day Combat Team Tactics (CTT), a 3 Day Combat Patrol (CP), followed by Force on Force Team Tactics (FoF) training and a final exercise utilizing UTM ammunition for various activities such as an ambush and dawn raid onto live OPFOR volunteers. This training is very rewarding for both the students and cadre. If you have not been to an MVT class, or it has been a while, then I am at a loss for words because of the training opportunities you are missing. I could not be more happy with the advances we are making with our training classes and teaching techniques, and I simply want you to experience the benefits and be a part of it.
I plan on discussing a little bit about decision making in this post. In doing that, I will relate it to combat but I will deliberately keep it away from the doctrinal rabbit holes that formal military discussions about this topic often follow; this is designed to be about you, not a military unit. So let’s talk about decision making as it relates to you and potential life threatening situations that you and your family may experience. I have seen many comments regarding a section of the ‘prepper community’ being very analytical, with the whole ‘list of lists’ thing, and this is something that can be a problem, and this type of mindset can result in much being analyzed and little being done: analysis paralysis. Analyzing and making lists may be a comfort blanket, but it will not be the solution when the hammer falls.
It can be argued that the primary issue faced by those who suddenly face a need to make a decision, is understanding that they have reached that decision point, that point at which a decision must be made. If that decision point is not recognized, and a relevant decision is not made, then we are in big trouble, and we have certainly handed the initiative over to the enemy. Denial of a developing situation is often to blame for this. In our everyday lives, nothing happens that fast, and there is often little consequence to decisions that must be made. When things of significance, perhaps life threatening, happen, then you will most likely find yourself in a time crunch, with the situation having ‘turned left.’ This is where denial comes in: you cannot do it over again, once it has happened, as much as you may perhaps want to. This denial, and wish for an alternative course of events, is what contributes to the freeze response to a situation, as you wish that it just goes away and you can return to your normal pattern of life. Without even relating this to combat, we can easily relate this to a sudden life threatening situation, which you may see develop very rapidly, such as a threatening approach by some muggers. But, you are just leaving the movie theater and you have a plan for a relaxing romantic evening! No. That wish will not make the threat go away, and you have to be able to recognize that the situation just took a left turn, and that you have reached a critical decision point, and you must react to it. If they are psychopaths, then you cannot rely on appealing to their better nature to resolve the situation, because your lives are nothing more than the wrapper on the way to the candy that they want, to be torn open and discarded. Make a decision, and execute.
Many people spend a lot of time worrying about, and preparing for, the ‘collapse.’ Ok, so, you are sitting here reading this post, and suddenly
*SCREEN GOES BLACK*
Power cut. You go to the breaker panel and try and turn the power back on. It’s not happening. You try calling the power company on your cell, but you can’t get through. The situation does not resolve itself after an hour. You cannot communicate with anyone. Your kids are at school and your wife is at work. No one is going to tell you what is happening. You have imperfect information. This is not a movie when you roughly know how this will pan out. You are alone. What is your decision on your next move?
I use that as an example to show you that you will not have perfect information on what is happening. Perfect information is a movie thing. In ‘Mission Impossible’ they have perfect knowledge on all of the sophisticated enemy protective security systems before they go in and do their really cool abseiling-underwater-computer-hacking-whatever-thingy. In reality, you will not have perfect information, or perhaps any information. If you are sitting in your house in the dark right now, what information do you have on potential hostile forces coming through the woods?
There are a number of ways to deal with the denial and the lack of perfect information that do not in themselves require minute to minute decisions, but rather take that initial decision to take action. For example, let’s look at how we may take care of lack of information, through a combination of the following:
I provide the examples above to show how you can better prepare, through training and operational planning, for situations occurring to you and your group. This sets the base level which will place you in a better position to address those decision points that arise.
Experience is something that will help you make decisions on an intuitive basis in response to an arising decision point. Experience gives you an understanding of capability and in effect ‘what right looks like’ in terms of tactical decisions. You may not be a combat veteran but you can embed the right instincts through effective training. Experience will help you with visualization of courses of action and thus the ability to reach a quick decision. Among all the talk about OODA loops is the fact that you are usually having to make decisions against a living and breathing enemy who seeks to outwit you, and thus speed of decision making is important.
If you seek more, or perfect information, in a bid to conduct best analysis of a developing situation, you may fail to act in a timely manner and thus lose the decision window, thus allowing the enemy to seize the initiative. You must understand that in a crisis situation you will not have perfect information and that seeking to wait for that unicorn may be a huge mistake. The flip side is that if you can avoid it, you don’t want to rush into things in order to allow time for planning, but that should form part of your intuitive decision making process – if you wait, that should follow a decision to do so, not the result of a freeze.
In ‘Contact!’ I provide you with a version of the ‘Combat Estimate” which is similar to the MDMP (Military Decision Making Process). This is designed as a leader / staff planning tool when time is available to consider all the factors and courses of action. If time is short, you need to be more intuitive when considering the situation and the correct decision to make. I do not expect you to get the Combat Estimate out under fire. This is something that you may decide to do as part of a TEWT (Tactical Exercise without Troops), which is similar to actually being forced to write QBO’s (Quick Battle Orders) physically down on paper as part of something like a training platoon attack. This is not because you actually expect to conduct your decision making and implementation in this way on game day, but it is a method of mental training that prepares your mind to consider the factors in a logical way. Thus, with a better tactically trained mind, you will be better equipped to make those intuitive decisions when time is short. This is related to developing an infantryman’s feel or view of the terrain, where you can assess the battlefield and relative location of enemy and friendly troops and it simply becomes a game of angles, cover and the sequencing of fire and movement.
In a situation of imperfect knowledge, or even any knowledge, you may need to be proactive in order to develop the situation. If you know or suspect that there is any enemy out there that is a threat to you, then you may make a decision to seek greater knowledge. This could be in the form of reconnaissance patrolling, or even an advance to contact in order to make contact and thus gather information from that. If your team is well trained in battle procedure, TTP’s and SOP’s then you will be in a better situation to develop the situation based on the first pieces of information that you gather. Because, remember that as you make contact there is an enemy commander reacting on the other side to the information he is gathering, and you seek to gain and retain the initiative. Waiting for perfect information is a mistake. Given that most reports will initially be inaccurate, waiting for better information is a judgement call. If, through a combination of violence of action and a maneuver, you can throw the enemy off balance, then that puts you in a position to develop the situation to your advantage, as you make further decisions to reinforce success, or perhaps to break contact if you further ascertain that you have launched into a far stronger enemy force.
On the Combat Patrol class, as part of the theory at the beginning, we talk about the principles of battle procedure, otherwise known as CAKE:
If you can master that, along with effective rehearsals and team SOPs, then it will go a long way towards giving you a team that can be utilized by an effective commander. The team becomes an effective tool, but will not be used well unless the commander is able to make timely decisions. Remember, it is often inaction that is the problem, not necessarily going off with an imperfect plan, because the situation can be developed. Better to go off with an imperfect plan that can be changed or finessed, than be inactive waiting for the perfect information unicorn: “Go left, go right, but make a decision!”
In order for the commander to be effective, he must understand when he has reached decision points, and he must be unafraid to make decisions. He must, in fact, relish responsibility, which is one of the fundamentals of the German Auftragstaktik, which evolved into the modern day Mission Command. Here, subordinates are given a mission with a unifying purpose, or reason why, in order for them to understand the higher commander’s intent, and thus be able to take action as the situation changes to develop the situation to what the commander actually wants. Not just blindly following orders. It must also be recognized on the flip side of this that the philosophy does not simply authorize loose cannon, but rather subordinates operating within the intent of the commander and within the mutual support of fires and control / phase lines: otherwise, you go off on your own and find yourself being lit up by your own supporting fires, because you didn’t listen to the coordinating instructions…..
On the modern battlefield, with so many ISR sensors, commanders can be deluged with TOO MUCH information, along with meddling superiors who have a view of the action simply due to modern technology, and are perhaps acting in line with restrictive politically-motivated ROE and also ‘CYA’ ass covering due to career fears of subordinates committing some sort of atrocity, or making the wrong call. Such an atmosphere is professional death for an army. You, as a survivor, will not have access to too much information and will not have to worry about any of that, simply try to keep your people alive. One of the vital facets of mission command is trust at all levels, which means that the commander must trust his subordinates and must trust their call on the ground. A better modus operandi is for remote commanders to simply act to support the call of call-signs on the ground, through providing assets / QRF as and when called for. More of a ‘top cover’ role than meddling with an extremely long screwdriver. Trust the man on the ground. Of course, that level of trust and competence can only be gained by training together in ways that allow it to develop.
At MVT, we are running the Force on Force Team Tactics classes. These are woodland based but we already have one hut site out in the woods under construction, soon to become two, which add an additional dimension to the classes. In the classes you will find yourself fighting against an actual adversary who will be using team tactics against you. This is an excellent training vehicle to develop to ability to make decisions when they need to be made. This applies whether you volunteer to step up to a team leadership position, or if you are simply having to maneuver with your team against the enemy. You will learn whether they were right or wrong!