In close quarter battle (CQB) the standard practice with regards to hallways with most U.S military, standard operating procedures (SOPs) is to treat halls very much the same as linear danger areas. Those danger areas should be crossed and entered only when you have to, and at your own risk! One reason for this is based off the fact that bullets when striking a wall tend to ricochet off, continuing towards the direction they were fired a few inches off the wall (which is true). There is a fear of becoming a bullet magnet from ricochets and stray rounds, fired from threats shooting Somali style (Only the gun is exposed, push out from and fired blindly). Makes sense, right? Stay out of the hall avoid enemy fire. The issue I have with this is: Why give the enemy the opportunity to shoot at the team in the first place? The problem with the classic SOP is that it assumes the team will be able to gain fire superiority, every time they enter the hall, as they flow in and out of rooms. Unfortunately, this assumption has proven to be false on multiple occasions. As many SF teams learned especially during the hard CQB fighting in Iraq in the mid-2000s in Baghdad against Mahdi Army Militias.
The Classic SOP
This is not to say there is no long security in the standard SOP, there is- but the problem is it’s temporary. The number one man as he advances down the hall covers long, but typically drops long security once he commits to going into a room. From there the team relies on their speed flowing into the room to get out of the hall. Once the room is clear, it usually falls to closest to team member to the door to pop his muzzle back out to pull security and decide to where to go next. The issue is every time security is dropped you are giving free reign to the enemy to maneuver against and shoot at the team. Think about it, say you have a hallway with six doors feeding off it with a bad guy in the last room. If the team does not keep the threat suppressed down the end of the hall, as they deliberately clear the five rooms before reaching the threat. They are actually giving the bad guy two chances per room to shoot at them.
Chance number one: As the flow into the room. When number one drops long security to flow into the room, even if it just for a split second, that is still plenty of time. A threat can exploit that momentary gap and shoot at the stack as they flow into the room.
Chance number two: When the team comes out of the room to continue clearing, the team member attempting to look out and pick up the hall may very well have to re-find the threat and suppress him.
This is where the assumption in the SOP comes into play. It assumes the team will have no problem picking up threat down the hall (assuming he has not moved) and be able to suppress him. What if the enemy has moved? The enemy could be set up aiming at the door waiting to ambush the first team member to come out. The advantage is with the bad guy. That doorway has just become a fatal funnel back out into the hallway.
Now doing the math, if the team has to clear five rooms before getting to the bad guy room with two chances per room the threat has to engage them – that equals ten chances the team is handing to the bad guy to shoot at them! Not good odds.
Permanent long security, Using a Point Man
The solution is of course to establish permanent long security for the time the team will be needing to move in the hall. Think about it, no need to worry about enemy bullets following walls and hitting team members if you are the one sending all the fire down the hall. If a team has fought to gain entry into a hall and suppressed the enemy why give that up? If you have one or two team members posted up covering long, the tables can be turned in the team’s favor. Now any time a threat tries to pop out and shoot at the team. They will be ambushed by long security members. Even if all the rooms have not been cleared, if you own the hall by fire, you own that floor. The security man or element is in position engage any threats that expose themselves from uncleared rooms.
Now I’m not advocating just leaving one or two guys to stand there in the middle of hall waiting to catch a sudden burst of fire from a AK shot Somali style. I won’t get into the specific naissance of certain techniques, but a method that I first learned at the Direct Action Resource Center (DARC), in Little Rock, AR. Called “Minimum Exposure Point Man”. It utilizes at least a 5-man stack with a long security man or “Point man”, that does not not just stand in the hall the whole time. Instead he stands next to number one man, opposite side of the hall of the room they are about to go in. As the team flows into rooms, he sidesteps in after the last man just deep enough to use the doorway as cover and keeps his muzzle trained down the hall at the unknown.
Long security or “Point Man” pulling security from doorway of the room the team has cleared into. His job: Maintain the control of the hall the team might have had to fight for upon first entry. Engage any threats that expose themselves. Denying freedom of movement to the enemy. Control the hall, you control that floor.
Additionally, the point man, since he is not involved in room clearing, also decides on the next threat or the next problem to solve (Instead of whoever is closest to the door and may have to suppress enemy fire just to get a look down the hall). Having someone predesignated to cover long not only means never giving up coverage of the hall, but also can speed up the decision-making process of where to flow to next. To employ a fixed long security man or element is going to require bumping up the standard CQB cell from four to at least five members. This maintains the 4-man room clearing team which is a good thing as some Special Operations team have also experienced in combat. A 4-man stack is not enough personal to properly cover all the angles that a team will be exposed to in CQB which I will cover in part II: The Folly of the 4-Man Stack.
Part 2: The Folly of the Four Man Stack