Credit is typically given to Clausewitz for the modern principals of war. I will attempt to break these down as they relate to LE SWAT missions. I did not invent them obviously, but I was exposed as a Sergeant in the Army and during my SWAT career by such prevalent experts as Sid Heal, and many others less known. Some of this will be regurgitating their thoughts since there is no need to re-write cogent and concise thinking. I honestly don’t remember where the line blurs between others thoughts and where my own take over, but please suffice to say that I am a product of good training, leadership and good mentors. All credit here to good men that cared enough to pass on information. I apologize for length in advance.
The military acronym used to help you pass a promotion exam is MOOSEMUSS. I often see one of two things when I say it, most often is a blank stare. LE leaders don’t have a damn clue about the 9 principals. And in other cases, they spit forth with a “Sir sandwich” naming each letter, but there is very little understanding or thinking about application. Hopefully this will spark conversation and more importantly consideration when planning missions.
MANEUVER – This clearly means moving the force from briefing to pre-stage to target. Within that maneuver piece it could mean the whole force loading onto bread trucks for the ride to pre-stage. Once there, sub elements may divide onto separate armored vehicles or move on foot. The critical component to me is the timing of the maneuver piece if there are multiple elements that must arrive at precisely the same moment to affect containment of the target. Based on location, this may also require some elements to leave early and be in place before the main body. Consideration must be given if those early elements are compromised and/or engaged, how will the main force react?
OBJECTIVE – Every mission must have a clearly defined objective. “We will serve the warrant, detain all occupants and make the scene safe for detectives to search.” Often called the Master principal since everything we do is geared toward accomplishing the mission. The mission paragraph in SMEAC covers this, no need to belabor this one.
OFFENSE – There is nothing about my job that is defensive in nature, and indeed defense is NOT one of the principals. Even on a single barricaded subject, we are taking offensive action. A simple mission statement for a single barricaded subject is “Contain the location, safely take the suspect into custody”. Negotiators are on the offense when they are talking to the suspect trying to convince him to come out. We are on the offense when we use TTP’s to speed that process up. Warrant service is certainly offensive in nature. HR is without questions offensive. Unfortunately I see and hear alot of instances where commanders and even team leaders take the stance that “time is on our side”. Time is never on anyone’s side, it is what it is. Time can be your worst enemy f hostages are being killed before you have had the time to properly plan, or if the bad guy presents an opportunity and you are unable to exploit it due to lack of time to field the appropriate amount of men or equipment to take advantage. Contingency planning happens at the objective, not the CP. Get on target and start working QUICKLY.
SIMPLICITY – The simpler the plan the easier it is to enact and remember. Within the larger concept fo the operation, each sub-element should have a simple plan to accomplish their task. And each of those sub-elements should have simple drills ingrained to react to shots fired on approach, at breach point and interior. If they are convoluted, they will fall apart. Great leaders are always great simplifiers. KISS for fucks sake. When things get exciting, keep it simple. I use WIN, what’s important now. I handle the most important thing then the next then the next. Now that may be over-simplifying management of an element taking fire, but it has worked for me in the past.
ECONOMY OF FORCE – Prudent use of available manpower. On the barricaded subject I must consider METT-TC (Tore Haugli will be covering this soon) How long in the field, weather conditions and so forth all can take their toll. This is especially important for small teams to consider since their ability to self relieve is limited. What is the focus of effort? Use only the numbers necessary to manage the problem so others can warm up, get dry, take off the helmet or whatever. This can be formal relief like moving people back to the CP location or in the field by rotating dudes in and out of the Bearcats and clamping the doors shut. The above is primarily related to barricaded subjects or S&C, since dynamic warrant service is over and done with quickly and HR will require all hands in a constant ready state. Better have a plan to relieve the ENTIRE team for HR.
MASS – This is the corollary of Economy of Force. It is the concentration of superior power at the decisive moment and location. Often times I am forced to explain this to Chiefs of Police who will say “Why do you need 16 dudes for a motel room!”. They are worried about overtime, I am concerned about such overwhelming odds that surrender is the only logical conclusion for a reasonable bad guy. I must also consider the unreasonable bad guy, and as a team leader I have to plan to get shot at AND to have men shot. So 8 dudes might be able to hi the motel room until two of them are hit and hit badly. If that is the case all 16 dudes that I planned for will be real busy and I will likely wish I had more. There are other aspects of this but it will force me to go down the tactics trail, and I wont do that open source. Suffice to say that I may use Economy of Force to start a job, then Mass, then go back. Focus of effort. (I teach the finest SWAT team leaders course on the planet, contact me to register (:)
UNITY OF COMMAND – In any tactical situation there comes a point where a final decision must be made and that should be made by a single authority. Now you immediately think that must be the Incident Commander, right? The answer is complex, it might be him if its a single barricaded subject. The decision to employ chemical agents is probably his. The agency takes risk for this, financial and from the community if the use is perceived as improper. There is no penalty to wait for the IC to wring his hands, ask for opinions, call the Chief, pray for divine intervention or whatever. So we will wait, usually on the fat clock, until he makes the decision. It might fall to the SWAT Commander who is subservient to the IC. As an example, he could abort the mission enroute, he could obtain intelligence that causes hm to recall the team even if we have deployed. He can restrict ROE. However the team leader, the man on the ground, the first line fighting leader, must have authority at a defined time. On approach there should be a phase line where the Commander shuts the fuck up and allows me to run the element. Based on circumstances, I must have the ability to launch chemicals of my own volition with the only expectation being that I can articulate the need. And most importantly, I must have compromise authority to launch the team on a HR mission when fleeting opportunities present themselves. The MUST be the SOP and as long as it is in line with the Mission statement should be the expectation of the Team Leader.
SURPRISE – This principal will achieve far greater results than than the effort it takes to get it. Imagination, decisiveness and Force of Action will get it AND maintain it. I often hear about Knock & Announce being a reason to not conduct Dynamic Warrant service. I disagree whole heartedly, it has been my experience that an aggressive K&A is the START of the surprise, then the door(s) coming in, P&C the windows, exterior and interior bangs, and then the efficient and ruthless application of clearing TTP’s continue to affect the organism to a point that they cannot cycle through their OODA loop. I have encountered many hard criminals, who would gladly fight you on any given day, who could not move due to fear of what was going on around them. Urination, defecation, vomiting and visibly shaking are common reactions on a well executed plan.
SECURITY – Most guys only consider the security of the element, we adhere to basic tenets like fighting pairs as a minimum,360 security and so forth. While this is a part of it, it is also referring to OPSEC. Within my own team the only guys that are aware of the full plan and location are the guys who scouted and planned it. We drop that on the guys a few hours before the mission and then full brief immediately before the operation. Briefing is complete, collect those printed copies and ensure they aren’t laying around for anyone to view. OPSEC until mission complete. Last is that you must work with your attorneys to ensure they understand the gravity of allowing the defendants attorney to view the Op plan. Now it is discoverable, but it should come with a fight EVERY time. The last thing I want is to expose TTP’s to the criminal who is going to spend a week in jail and then be right back doing criminal stuff. I have hit the same houses and arrested the same crooks numerous times over the last 20 years of my SWAT career. I dont want those guys to get training on how best to defeat us, fortify a location against us or mentally prepare against us.
For LE there is one more principal, LEGITIMACY. You can be DEAD right. Just because we can, doesn’t always mean we should. If I can come up with alternative to killing the dog, I absolutely should. If I can use a less intrusive means of arresting the suspect, I should. If I can do less property damage and still accompish the mission, I should. I must always remember that I took an oath to uphold the constitution first, ALL parts of it, not just the ones I agree with or because probable cause exists, it does not give me license to act like a goddamn thug and this will guarantee you an e-ticket ride off my team after you get the ass kicking. Articulate the need, consider options, do the right thing. Simple.
Again this was meant for LE SWAT dudes and particularly team leaders. Military dudes may have a different take on some of this and I hope a good conversation ensues. Recent conversations about context and differences between LE and Mil have surfaced, hopefully this will start to bridge the gap. I apologize for typos.