In difficult ground, press on; On hemmed-in ground, use subterfuge; In death ground, fight” – Chapter 11 of Sun Tzu‘s The Art of War
For decades, Green Berets have been sent all over the world, often going into complex dangerous situations with host nation forces. The opportunities for disaster are obvious and frequent. How do Green Berets thrive in chaos? One priceless technique is the immediate action drill.
Immediate action drills are procedures designed to provide swift and positive reaction to enemy contact. They are simple courses of action in which all members of the unit are so well trained that minimum signals or commands are required to initiate action. Immediate action drills can help you recover from a surprise attack and gain the initiative.
There is no way to plan for every eventuality, but there are some simple guidelines which, when properly applied, can keep you and your recently trained non-English speaking friends alive.
When I was a kid, I loved the Roadrunner cartoons. They were great preparation for Special Forces and I still highly recommend them. The Coyote is a clever predator with access to military grade hardware and technology. The Roadrunner was a bird gifted with speed and intelligence. Every episode depicts Coyote setting up an ambush. Roadrunner never hesitates. He is never indecisive. He always gets off the X and lives another day. I always wanted to have the Roadrunner’s ability to see what was coming and stay one step ahead.
By the time you realize that you are under attack by a competent enemy, you may well already have wounded and be in a poor position to defend or counterattack. What to do? After an excusable moment of distraction and profanity, you will take action or die. Green Berets don’t choose death.
The Army loves acronyms. They provide a template for quick orientation and decision making. If well chosen, they can be remembered under high stress and require few spelling skills. Below is a mnemonic that I learned in training. I never forgot it and still use it today. It can be applied in any dangerous situation, ambush or car accident.
Fight – What ever the threat, resist. Return fire, operate your equipment, stay conscious. Force yourself to size up the situation and formulate a plan. Some times the best medical care is to return fire.
Uncontrolled bleeding – When you can, check your self and your mates. If there is blood spurting, this will not last long. If it is not spurting, it is more a distraction than a problem. My medic used to say all bleeding stops eventually. Use direct pressure of a tourniquet to stop the bleeding before somebody dies.
Communicate – Talk with your comrades, tell higher your situation, call 911, get a MEDIVAC and air support headed your way. Figure out your situation then develop and share a plan.
Keeping moving – The place you are in is dangerous or you wouldn’t be using this mnemonic. The longer you stay here, the worse things will get. Move and take your friends with you. Escape or take the fight to the enemy. Live for another day.
It is said the action always beats reaction. I disagree. The race is not always to the swift nor the fight to the strong. Your reaction can protect you and astound your enemies. There is a process Tony Blauer describes as Predator Prey reversal. The attacker thinks he controls the fight. A counterattack can regains the initiative. A successful counterattack puts you back in your proper role as predator.
Think like a Green Beret. Be bold, save yourself and your friends. You have the rest of your life to talk and get moving.
This article was originally published on the Loadout Room and written by