My first military CQB (Close Quarters Battle) training experience was not actually in a room or building, but instead in a trench. Back in 1990 (yes, I am old) my infantry unit spent a lot of time clearing trenches in preparation for the 1991 Gulf War. It was during this training we were taught the ‘High Man/Low Man’ technique of clearing corners. Two men dynamically step out from the corner, one going to a knee, the other stands over him. Both have the job of shooting any threats that could be around that corner. Later (much later) during Special Forces CQB training, it was also explained that the low man shoots inside to out, high man outside to in -in order to have crisscrossing fires, that are sure to speedily kill any enemy that could be waiting around the bend. This is all well in good, but the problem is: The High Man/Low Man technique was a peacetime technique, that while in theory makes sense, in practical application it falls terribly short.
Classic High Man Low Man technique, developed during peace time. Users of it, are rolling the dice to see who gets shot, if the enemy is waiting for you. (Photo courtesy DOD)
The problem with dynamically taking a corner in a hall, whether it’s using High Man/Low Man, or some other dynamic technique where you just pop out is: It works only if you have the element of surprise. If the enemy knows you are coming he can be sitting there waiting to ambush whoever comes around the corner. He has the advantage as he is in the ambush position. Think about it. The bad guy only needs to shoot the first part of the body he sees of the assaulter, to stop the team. While the team members must turn the corner and try and see/identify where the threat is and then ensure he is a threat. The OODA loop is working against them, advantage is with the bad guy. So with that in mind, if there are two of you using High Man/ Low Man there is a 50% chance one of you is going to get shot, before the threat is engaged. Like many techniques the military employs in CQB, they only work if you have the element of surprise which of course many SOF personnel have already learned the hard way via taking casualties in urban combat. Sure an explosive entry will get you into the building, but after one or two rooms have been cleared, trust me, any other bad guys around now know you are coming.
Save Your Life, Slow Down
Variations to the High Man/ Low Man such as: The Near Far technique or as I learned it in Special Forces the “Hopping Hebrew”. (No negative intentions here) The story being is that the Israelis developed it, hence the nick name. (I don’t know if it’s true, but the nickname has stuck. With this technique one guy steps out using the corner as cover, the number two man passes behind him, coming up on the far side, from the corner. To support the 1st man. While this is a lot better than High Man/Low Man, (as least if done right, first guy uses the corner as some cover), the flaw in this technique is it still utilizes a dynamic pop out. This means you could be popping out in front of a sand bag emplaced belt fed PKM set up in the hall (Which has been encountered down range). At CQB distance, a PKM trumps two guys with M4s.
Near Far or “Hopping Hebrew”; Better than High Man/Low Man, but still relies on the element of surprise to work. (Slide courtesy slideshare.net)
The solution: Pie the corner. What’s the rush to get around the corner? Speed, surprise, violence of action. Well, if you have surprise then ok, dynamic can work. But once they know you are there, that key factor to success with dynamic techniques is gone. The only thing speed will get you now is killed. Why not allow the number one man, time to pie the corner? If done right along with using a technique called “Pressing the Corner” one can greatly even the odds against a waiting bad guy.
Pieing the Corner
Coming up to a L-shaped turn in a hallway. The stack should stop short, leaving enough room for number one man to have some space to be able to pie outside to in, around the corner. Now with pieing, one can only pie so far, there is a point where one will expose a part of his body as he attempts, to see the last inner most angle. The correct thing to do before you reach this point, (to see that last inner space) is as you pie to that angle, then actually step forward pushing the muzzle past the corner, right along the wall while using as much of the corner as cover. Now I know this might sound contradictory, but that last angle where you push the muzzle should be fast and dynamic. Doing so will allow you to see the bad guy same time he sees you. Pieing the corner slowly of course can allow one to see the bad guy (or part of him before he sees you). That final press at the end ensure he does not see a part of you before you can see him. If there is a waiting and ready bad guy, you will most likely never see him before you, but at least this even the odds and he will not see you, or a part of you before you see him.
Pieing and pressing the corner. Here number one man just got done pieing the corner and has pressed forward with the muzzle to clear the last angle. Number two man stepping around after “all clear” given.
Doesn’t pieing slow the stack down, losing momentum? Well I am not saying to do an ultra-slow pie but, allowing five seconds or so for the number one man to pie and press the corner is nothing if it saves you from taking a casualty in the hall. Speed and violence of action does not mean just rushing around as fast as you can. You are not going to outrun the bullets you fire at bad guys. Speed should be just ensuring you have constant pressure on the enemy. That does not mean always rushing in at face to face distance or “Bro Docking” the enemy (shooting it out at gun barrel distance from each other). Keeping the enemy suppressed with fire from a room away or more works just as well, and at times even better. Next time you hit the shoot house, I encourage you to try this: have a guy stand deep around the corner and then have the team try different corner methods. While doing it, have the bad guy yell freeze whenever he sees a part of a team member. You might be surprised with the amount of times he sees the team before they see him. Then try pieing and pressing the corner. While chances are you still might not see him first, but you will at least see each other at the same time if done correctly pressing the corner and using it as cover. This ensures the only thing the bad guy does see is, your muzzle and a tiny percentage of your body exposed. That’s a hell of a lot better than dynamically popping out in a two-man team, with one on a knee (perfect height to take one in the face). It’s rolling the dice to see who gets shot out of the pair of you, if you do not have surprise on your side.