Category Archive: Tactics

Recondo After Action Review I

Huginn’s Report
12 May 2019

A week ago I was a student in the 4-day RECONDO course, put together by Greg, and run by him and a cadre of instructors, all with Ranger, SF, Force Recon, JTAC, and similar backgrounds. It was a fully immersive 4-day weekend: no down time. Students bunked, ate, trained, and patrolled together, around the clock, for the duration. It’s incredible the camaraderie that can develop between a few dozen strangers in a short time in those conditions.

As you’d expect from Greg, the training started with basics and layered the complexity in, piece by piece. We learned basic small team and squad movement formations appropriate for various types of terrain and visibility during the first training session. Then after a quick lunch we got an intel brief that enemy activity was suspected in certain map grid squares, and we were sent out on LRRP as 4-man teams, to scout those squares and report back. We were immediately putting into practice the training we had just received.

The terrain was hilly, rocky in places, with quite a bit of tree cover in many places, but not much underbrush. There were some open areas with long sight lines to adjacent hills and the creek beds below. Up above everything plateaued and eventually the trees gave way to surrounding grassland. Plenty of oak and pine, with large crunchy pinecones and bone-dry deadfall on the floor. Creek beds, often dry, lined with rough volcanic rock, marked the low points between hills.

During the daytime, you could find good footing that was pretty quiet. My team did OK (compared to some others) on noise discipline on that first daytime patrol. We got to our recon objective, observed what we could, and got back to camp while there was still good light, reporting our findings to the TOC operators. They were collecting intel from all the LRRP teams coming back, and assembling a cohesive intel picture to inform the next missions. After some brief rest and some chow, we got another intel brief with more specifics and were all sent back out, right around sunset, I think.

Hilly, rocky terrain with some obstacles is one thing when you can see it. When there’s no moon, and tree cover filtering the starlight, that changes things.

Formations had to shrink to just about touching distance. One pace away you could tell your teammate was the slightly different color black shape in front of you. Beyond that, he was completely gone except for sound. The way you’re accustomed to walking when you can see doesn’t work at all when you can’t. And on the slope of a hill, sometimes with loose rocks and fallen logs, walking the wrong way in the pitch black can get you hurt. I have a few bruises and cuts as proof. (First night patrol, me as lead, I stumbled in the pitch black while leading my team on exfil, and ended up butt-stroking myself in the face. Kept all my teeth, but got cut and bled pretty good for a while. Learning achieved! On the plus side I didn’t yell out when it happened.)

Your steps need to contract to essentially heel-toe-heel-toe, and you need to slow way down. If you do it right, you’re moving slowly and quietly, but steadily in the direction you intend, while keeping track of your guys ahead and behind.

First night patrol was hairy, and in retrospect we probably picked the most difficult exfil route when returning to camp from our recon objective. My team was last to return, probably a couple hours later than most of the others, which meant we only got a few hours sleep before our next pre-dawn recon mission. That sucked, but oh well. Nothing to be done but sleep fast and get all you can before heading out, and try to do better on the next night patrol. Subsequent night missions went more smoothly, but were still challenging. Teams at times struggled with navigation, noise discipline, and control. At least on one occasion a team wandered apart by accident, and struggled to regroup.

After a few recon missions, we were getting a better feel for the terrain and a decent picture of enemy locations, numbers, equipment, weapons, and activities. Our instructor cadre, who had been walking with us on the recon missions, began instructing us on battle drills: react to contact and break contact. Continued instruction covered harassing and destructive ambushes, EPW (enemy prisoner of war) search and capture, and raids. These more complicated operations were combined with movement and control drills for larger squads, starting at 4-man, then 8, then eventually 12. As we got accustomed to moving with larger squads composed of smaller elements, and the different layers of leadership for those, we added the contact drills back in, as the increased squad size adds a lot of confusion when there’s gunfire, and that confusion can be costly.

Every mission started with a Warning Order from the OIC or TOC and required an Operations Order from each team leader, presented to one of the instructor cadre for review and discussion. Team and platoon leadership rotated throughout the course. Everyone had plenty of opportunity to lead. We used topo and satellite maps, as well as a terrain model the TOC guys built, to aid our mission planning. We were conducting 2-3 ops per day. When we weren’t out on missions, we were eating, napping, or getting briefed and prepped for then next mission. Early missions were all recon (6x 4-man teams) to build the intel picture. Midway through we did a VIP escort ambush and did EPW capture (3x 8-man teams), taking the prisoner back to camp for interrogation. With the additional intel he provided, we planned and conducted harassing ambushes and later simultaneous, synchronized raids (2x 12-man teams) on both enemy camps.

Throughout the weekend, our instructors pushed us to improve, and (from my POV anyway) pushed us just the right amount. I’ve done some hard work in my life, most notably commercial sockeye fishing in Bristol Bay. Parts of this weekend reminded me of that, because I was exhausted, scraped up, bruised, and bloody but the job wasn’t done yet and I had my team counting on me. You just keep going, and do your best to keep your team’s mission priorities in mind.

My main struggle was fitness related, specifically leg endurance. My tasks were made much harder because of that struggle, and it detracted from my ability to focus mentally, which of course compromised my team to some extent. I’m proud to say that even though I slowed down, I didn’t quit. There were guys in worse shape than I, and nobody quit. I think for a lot of people it was a serious gut check.

On the final day we did a couple very controlled live fire drills against cardboard enemies as 12-man squads. React to contact + break contact (bounding to the rear), then a destructive ambush + react to secondary contact beyond the objective. A 12-rifle ambush sounds as awesome as you’d imagine. ~350 rds going down range in about 8 seconds. Probably sounds better, actually.

Hopefully my glowing description above motivates some of you to join in the fun next time. Pro tip: make sure your stair workout is solid.

A Cooper Classic: Principles of Personal Defense

With 2015 well underway, and those flimsy New Year’s resolutions underwater, here’s an easy project. Tune up your mindset and increase your awareness. And without breaking a sweat you will increase your personal safety.

A great book to read about this is Jeff Cooper’s Principles of Personal Defense. First published in 1972, and reprinted a couple times since then, it is a self defense classic. In short, he explains seven qualities that you should cultivate:

  • Alertness: Trouble can appear at any time — know what is behind you, and pay attention to anything out of place.
  • Decisiveness: Decide instantly upon a proper course of action to be carried out immediately, without hesitation.
  • Aggressiveness: Whether it is a counter-attack or a pre-emptive attack, give it everything you’ve got.
  • Speed: Be fast, not fair — end it before the loser fully realizes he has bitten off more than he can chew.
  • Coolness: If you know that you can keep your head, that you must keep your head, you probably will keep your head.
  • Ruthlessness: Anyone who willfully and maliciously attacks another without sufficient cause deserves no consideration from you–don’t hold back.
  • Surprise: The criminal does not expect his prey to fight back — surprise him!

Track down a copy and read it. In the meantime, here is an exercise Cooper mentions in the book to increase your awareness:

“Make it a game. Keep a chart. Every time anyone is able to approach you from behind without your knowledge, mark down an X. Every time you see anyone you know before he sees you, mark down an O. Keep the Os ahead of the Xs. A month with no Xs establishes the formation of correct habits.”

Try it for a week or a month and see how you do. Increase your awareness and you never know what you might notice.

Stay safe and we’ll see you in class.


By Alan Hines

AAR: General Defensive Handgun 5/8/2010

This weekend, we conducted our two day General Defensive Handgun course. The purpose of this course is to provide students with the necessary foundation to be successful in a violent lethal force confrontation. Throughout the course we emphasize the point that a superior combat mindset is most important for a successful outcome.

To this end, GDH is not just a repackaged LE or Military combat arms course. It is built around the Priorities of Survival (Mental Conditioning, Tactics, Skill, and Equipment). While there is a ton of shooting and skill development, we spend a considerable amount of time discussing mindset, tactics, legalities, wound ballistics and scenarios in an effort to sharpen the mind and properly prepare for the stress of a violent lethal force confrontation. Our desire is to provide students with the complete package, not only physical skill development. Click here to read more »

Public Relations for Tactical Teams

Some SWAT teams have a big public relations problem. Either they are the heroic rescuers, rushing to a job that is too dangerous for the “regular police,” or they are the overzealous and trigger-happy cowboys just itching to violate civil rights. Very rarely do the media report on a SWAT team for anything other than its purely good actions or its purely evil actions. And because of such coverage, public opinion follows the same train of thought. Click here to read more »

Concealed Carry Identifiers

After reading some of the discussion about having some kind of CCW Identifier (badge, sash, or drop down panel) I have to conclude that this an answer looking for a question.

The theory is that if there was some kind of incident, an armed citizen would display this credential and be less likely to be shot by responding police officers. The bad guys can’t get these? Who says the police are going trust people wearing them? If you are at ground zero of an incident and holding a gun you just have to hope that the police are observing your actions rather than simply seeing you as a “threat target.”

If you are standing there with a gun you are forcing the police to deal with you immediately and I would rather have the police deal with me after they have a handle on the situation. Once the police arrive on scene I want to be holstered and I want to have moved to a location where the police can deal with me on their terms (meeting the police in the parking lot would probably be best), hands up and identification out.