4 June 99

This was just given to me by a friend associated with the NTI. Some excellent tactical points made:


The September 1998 ATSA study day force-on-force (FoF) exercise seemed
simple enough when first explained. You dropped your wife/sister/friend
(innocent) off at the beauty parlor an hour ago. You remember she was
wearing a bright pink sweatshirt when you dropped her off. Now you are
back to pick her up. Sounds easy, but then this is the ATSA beauty parlor…

When you open the door, you hear a man and woman shouting at one another in
what sounds like a robbery confrontation. Your mission then becomes to
find and extricate the innocent and live to tell the tale. Low light
levels and numerous corners to negotiate before you find the confrontation
complicate the situation. Let’s examine how the study participants solved
the problem and what lessons can be learned from this exercise.

This scenario presented a new challenge to most of the participants, even
those with much exposure to FoF training. FoF training is typically
predicated on an attack against the trainee. Giving them a dynamic and
developing situation with the danger directed against an innocent, forced
the participants into a new roll, that of rescuer. In this instance the
role-players were programmed to focus on each other unless the incoming
rescuer made their presence known. Once alerted to the participant’s
approach, the robbery quickly turned into an ambush. As many quickly
learned, a stealthy approach was definitely the best answer. The loss of
this stealth advantage, when it occurred, was caused by shouts of assurance
or poor noise discipline while moving. Even the unnecessary use of a
potentially helpful flashlight could and did give them away.

The most prevalent immediate reaction among all participants was to develop
a tunnel vision type response to the sound of the confrontation. Racing
through the outer portions of the building to reach the site of the
confrontation caused almost everyone to miss potential hiding places for
other bad guys. Hurrying to the aid of a loved one is commendable, but not
at the expense of potential ambush. Several people did remember to search
as you go consciously and correctly, taking time to gather all the audible
information they could about the nature and approximate location of the
problem. The initial assessment was updated as they cautiously worked
their way in. Remember to do an assessment. The time this assessment
takes will be well paid-back if there is an ultimate confrontation.

This exercise presented several challenges of movement skills. There were
a variety of trip hazards, some of which were found the hard way. Several
partition corners were in the path of travel. Skills exhibited at corners
ranged from extreme crowding to the good use of available back-off
distance. Sound movement and searching skills should be exercised, not
forgotten, during FoF.

Indecision manifested itself in the form of hesitant movement (chicken
walking). Jittery actions such as an involuntary finger on and off the
trigger and flashlights flickering on and off were other tip-offs to
indecision. Ki Aikido, the martial art of “mind and body coordination,” is
grounded in the principle of a body being lead by a relaxed mind. This
trainer believes that there is potential for calming the thinking process
by forcing smooth body movement. Tactical students with habitual chicken
walk syndrome may find relief through practicing slow and deliberately
smooth movement, think “seamless.” My theory is, if you can force the body
to move smoothly in training, the mind will slow down as a result.

The actual scene of the confrontation is around a final corner in the
darkest part of the set. If the participant successfully arrives at the
scene without alerting the role players to his presence, he sees the back
of the robber, who is facing the innocent seated in a corner. This linear
alignment, with the robber in the middle, offers up a dilemma to the
rescuer. An immediate response and challenge to the robber will result in
an almost certain violation of rule No. 4 – “Identify your target and what
is beyond it.” Does the urgency of the unfolding confrontation outweigh
the innocent’s safety and require an immediate challenge? Far too many
people forced this response. Additionally, many were reluctant to give up
the perceived cover afforded by this final corner. Only one participant
rushed to close laterally with the robber and in so doing gained a
favorable angle of fire.

Few people took advantage of the element of surprise and the situation
quickly went from bad to worse. Once the confrontation “Go Button” is
pressed all advantages of stealth are forfeited, all tactical options are
minimized and the luxury of time to plan is lost. Success at this rescue
mission is built on a foundation of sound tactical skills and decisions,
the paramount of which should be to have a plan. If shots were necessary,
those who remembered to move while shooting generally survived. Lateral
movement seems to offer the best advantage, so much so that the seasoned
roll-players in this exercise complained of poor hits. One marker round
impact was found directly in-line with the participant’s original position.
Although lateral movement seems to work there may be other instances where
retreat or even closing with the threat may be the best option. Movements
that restrict further motion, such as squatting or dropping down may be
counter productive or even deadly. Do something, don’t just stand
flat-footed and fight it out.

Where flashlights were used with a direct blinding beam to the robber’s
eyes, they proved very effective. The verbal commands offered by most
participants proved much less successful. Vague and unrealistic threats,
such as “I’ll shoot you in the head,” were ineffective and
counterproductive. Repeated threats with no follow-up were likewise
wasted. The best use of verbal skills came through short specific commands
followed by decisive action.

In sum, the most successful participants in this exercise remained quiet,
moved carefully, decisively planned a response and presented themselves as
a moving target throughout.”