AAR: Direct Action Resource Center: Law Enforcement Counter Terrorism Course
By: Randy Hudspeth
Enter and systematically clear a complicated residential and/or commercial structure that is occupied by a well equipped, well organized and fanatical terrorist cell with a small group of officers.
Execute a coordinated deliberate, hasty, assault with support elements and multiple teams.
Counter-assault armed suspects from a vehicle.
Pursuit of multiple armed suspects on foot while in urban and open terrain.
Limited visibility operations.
Sustain effective contact & disruption of the terrorist’s goal(s) while managing casualties.
Non-electronic Communication and Coordination TTP’s.
Stronghold domination techniques.
Coordinate & Link-up with rapid response teams(uniform officers) on and/or IVO active terrorist cells in contact.
Rapid & fluid (scalable) response to simultaneous attacks, both mobile & fixed, in variable terrain under adverse conditions.
Proper coordination, training and use of Patrol Officers, and other Emergency Personnel, for active counter measures.
Establish mind-set for the LEO to appropriately deter, counter & contain a homicidal paramilitary operation within their jurisdiction.
Direct Action Resource Center (DARC) held another Law Enforcement Counter Terrorism Course (LE CTC). This course is based on proven urban fighting techniques currently being used to combat terrorism. They are very well vetted SOP’s and DARC’s pedigree is impressive.
The course description is:
“Equip the LEO with relevant & useful counter-measures to combat a swarm type attack within their jurisdiction. Other purposes are to broaden the officer’s scope of knowledge of enemy tactics, their reactions to counter measures, and their determination and fanaticism. It will also familiarize the officer with terrain analysis, hasty planning and to develop COA’s to combat a coordinated multi-cell attack within their jurisdiction.”
Orientation was on Sunday. There was a variety of experience in the room – some with prior military experience, some without, some from smaller agencies and some from urban areas. After orientation and prepping equipment for the course we set off for a steak, knowing it would be our last decent meal for the week.
Day 1 weather was decent. Arkansas is pretty humid, but the temperature wasn’t bad. Being from Missouri, I was ready for it. The first day consisted of learning the basics of multi-room fighting, hallways and intersection SOP’s. It was a chance for me to tighten up what I had learned in the September class. Since my team has been training the DARC SOP for a few months, they were able to hit the ground running. They were picking it up and doing well. Even with the prior course under my belt, I was still able to pickup some things and improve.
12 hours after the start of class, we got set up for that night’s scenarios. The scenarios at DARC are challenging and a “pain in the ass” literally. The OPFOR don’t just stand around and let you shoot them so you’ll feel good about yourself, they actually fight but it’s not unrealistic or paintballish either – they are incredible training tools at DARC. So, right from the beginning, the scenarios proved challenging. I started off missing some angles and getting welted up for my carelessness. Rich says, “Pain is a motivator…extreme pain is an extreme motivator”. We were motivated.
Day 2 was threatening thunderstorms, but it didn’t interfere with training. We continued adding to the SOP and increasing the problem solving capability of the team. The small unit SOP was designed for a small group of officers to push forward under heavy resistance. We were taught to shoot, move and communicate under intense resistance without much verbal communication at all.
The scenarios of night 2 were even more challenging than the night before. One of my teammates missed an angle in his sector and I ended up getting blasted with a burst to the leg that really rocked me. Again with the extreme motivation….Buddy is only half a word. As we applied the SOP’s we rapidly gained control of the interior of the shoothouse and pushed forward. However, the OPFOR still had the ability to maneuver and pick at us from angles beyond our areas of control. Irritating. It was nice to blast the OPFOR when we were able to maneuver them into a corner.
On day 3 we began working the large element and multi-cell portion of the DARC SOP. As relevant as Day 1 & 2 were for organizing small unit response, the SOP scaled upward from there. We began working a large element response. I think this has direct relevance for mutual aid applications. Although the first responders will be small groups, mutual aid has the potential of being 15, 20 or more officers showing up at once. Team tactics, communication, command and control, and casualty management were all part of the SOP.
Night 3 scenarios had a different tempo entirely due to the larger element. Rapid movement WITHOUT compromising security gave us a significant advantage. We also learned the difference between ‘sacrificing’ vs. ‘compromising’ security with that wonderful DARC motivation again. Basically, you never want to compromise your security when facing a trained, experienced and/or determined terrorist threat. They will exploit it & hand you your ass. One of the benefits of DARC’s methodology is that you usually realize when you’ve made a big mistake but you are forced to correct it on your own…with motivation of course.
Day 4 began with learning the DARC task organization model. This model provided us with organizational concepts that allowed us to organize personnel and clearly delineate tasks. Rich has a mastery of the material and described the concepts in plain language. Even some of the new guys I brought were able to understand it. The task organization works for a deliberate assault (like a warrant or HR) but proved vital to the ‘flying by the seat of your pants’ multi-team scenarios that came later in the course. Once we learned to do it on day-4 we were able to apply the concept in all of the hasty situations we faced the last two days of DARC training.
The night scenarios allowed us to coordinate personnel to limit the OPFOR’s mobility. As they tried to displace to move, they were quickly eliminated by other personnel. I should point out that the DARC SOP for support units is not as simple as sending guys out to surround the place. That’s simply not realistic given the type of resistance a motivated terrorist cell could dish out. Sending a few guys out to the backside on their own would simply be sending them to their own slaughter. I don’t want to get too TTP specific in an open forum, but the SOP allows for coordination between elements to gain control of the structure as the team pushes forward. There is heavy emphasis on non-verbal, anti-fratricide measures as well that build or facilitate into the normal PID’ing of all persons on the objective.
Rich also gave some familiarization training on night vision equipment and how to effectively use them. Most law enforcement agencies don’t have night vision, so it’s eye opening to see what an advantage they provide. That advantage was apparent during the night’s scenarios.
I didn’t take any rounds at all on the night 4 scenarios. Although the number of role players remained the same, and the level/type of resistance increased, the DARC SOP’s simply provided too much pressure and security for them to mount any type of effective or coordinated resistance. Despite it being early in the morning (a really long training day!), the whole group was fired up after night 4 and glad to get some payback.
So to recap, days 1 through 4 were dedicated to learning deliberate clearing SOP’s designed to allow us to push forward in coordinated fashion in a reduced visibility environment without the ability to communicate verbally or electronically. These techniques are directly pointed at countering small arms based terrorist attacks such as those seen in Mumbai and Mexico. They’re designed to be used when facing a determined, well armed, fanatical and trained opponent.
On day 5 we covered rapid movement to contact. In my opinion, this is THE technique for first responders to handle the majority of typical armed intruders or active shooters. It’s a fairly simple protocol that allows officers to move toward the suspect, without giving up their backs, and smother the suspect. It doesn’t rely on geometric shaped formations being held together under fire. It’s based on rapid movement and team security. The principles and movements can be applied with as little as one officer up to dozens, if available. We worked a lot with 3 to 6 officers. We spent time working on rapidly moving to contact and transitioning tactical solutions if, OR should I say when, resistance was encountered. We knew we were headed to the village that night, so we got plenty of repetitions trying to iron out the wrinkles.
The scalability of the SOP’s is what impressed me most. Within 5 days we were provided SOP’s for everything from the proverbial lone gunman to facing unknown numbers of motivated fanatics who were fighting for every room and hallway in the structure, even an enemy counter-assault to our presence.
We also spent time working on element link ups. To me, this is a critical and often overlooked component to rapid response. I don’t want to give up too many of the surprises, but Rich constructed scenarios that closely resembled typical LEO responses – fragmented and uncoordinated. We had to use the hasty task organization model to get our shit together and start pressuring the suspects. This wasn’t easy. On a few occasions during the first rep there was some yelling and cussing at each other, but I chalked that up to growing pains – the scenarios happen fast & can be quite stressful. The village is a confusing mess to deal with on it’s own. Add a group of similarly equipped bad-guys that are trying to eliminate you that are devoted to their cause & things can get overwhelming quick. Having to get coordinated in the maze of pain, in the dark, while getting fired upon, is a stressful deal. Again…extreme motivation but it is usually self-induced. The scenarios are the scenarios: team mates acting as individuals, not following a SOP or plan, lapses in judgment, laziness, etc. all have a cumulative effect on the scenario which is beyond the control of any one person. Rich said “…any time you are fighting with each other you are wasting precious time & energy fighting the enemy… it’s a waste of time and a distracter from accomplishing your mission or your goal… in the moment, you need to fix the problem not the person…” We did it to ourselves but we eventually learned to “shut-up & color” (another Rich’ism) when we needed to, flow tacitly towards the decision point & focus our collective effort into defeating/crushing the bad-guys.
The final day was more complex problem solving in the village. However, taking the lessons from the prior night, we were much more coordinated and where much more successful. In a nutshell, we were able to respond to the fight in progress in small numbers, link up with each other, coordinate/unify our effort to smother the bad guys (limit their movement) and then eliminate the threat(s). I got some great VIO POV helmet cam footage. I’m going to put together some highlights and post them up when I get time.
Overall, the course was even better than the last time I attended. DARC’s primary clientele are military Special Operations units, but Rich has gone a long way to tailor the scenarios and information toward the types of incidents LEO personnel will face in the event of a small arms based terrorist incident on U.S. soil.
As expected we all dropped weight from the hard work in full kit and gas masks. I drank about 8 gallons of water over the course and still dropped water weight. Rich said that the average weight loss in a DARC 6 day tactical program is 5-7lbs. I believe him x2 – I worked my ass off in both courses…
I have declared the AVON FM50 / C50 gas mask to be the best invention since fire. I wore a different make during my last visit to DARC and suffered. It was like breathing through a coffee straw all week. Running… in full kit… being shot at… moving casualties… and breathing through a coffee straw. So, after some recommendations, I got the AVON masks for my team. They made a huge difference!