Dividing the threat’s attention
I will be honest. I was not sure if I should include this point in the list. It requires a somewhat mature intellectual approach with experience glittered on top of it. Dividing the threat’s attention, or in other words messing up his OODA loop, is one of the most important principles. Especially when the threat is oriented and you have no other means to distract him. However, before I am going to dig into it, it is necessary to give an example in a bigger form.
When we used to practice raids in small unit capacities on fortified compounds, we used to employ a very simple but effective technique. We used to refer to it as “suppress and flank.”
While it consists of more than the name suggests, it would work like this:
1. Initially, a specified element opens fire from either one or several positions with heavy/accurate/indirect weaponry in three different phases of fire.
2. After minutes of pounding the target, another element(s) begins to deliberately flank and penetrate the objective from a specific direction(s).
3. By exploiting different angles of attack, the enemy will start to split his strength concentration into smaller pieces which are easier to handle. Those pieces are automatically reacting to what they see.
4. By splitting his strength and having his leadership OODA loop constantly interrupted, we force the enemy to react quite slowly, or in other words, we reduce the threat’s strength and ability to immediately respond.
(Figure A) Bigger picture — SUT of outnumbered medieval age knights who are dealing with force concentration. Note the same principle of threat divided attention aka Split Force which is being used to thin the opponent’s resistance. IMPORTANT — formations are not similar to the modern formations due to trajectory and FF.
Taking this into the microcosm of CQB:
Author Disclaimer: I am aware that the majority of respected organizations will not advocate going into a kneeling position when committing to an entry. However, throughout my career, I have witnessed many who were, in fact, instructed to kneel, for many rainbow and glitter kinds of shit reasons.
When things are moving fast and have the same configuration of Attackers versus Defenders as depicted above, we used to employ the same principle but in a slightly different way in order to increase our survivability odds. Dividing the enemy’s attention works best in “known” type of entries.
One person is acting as “bait” as he moves fast into the known direction, deliberately drawing attention by movement or sound from the threat. This forces the oriented threat to shift his attention to the fast-moving picture, while the point man follows in to engage the threat from cover. The threat will basically be forced into reestablishing his subconscious OODA only to be interrupted a moment later by the next team member who will gain a trajectory on him.
I’ll give you another example that we use specifically in low to no-light conditions. One person enters the room in X direction with a strong source of light aimed at the target, while the other members entering in Y direction, initially without lights, are concealed by contrast and darkness. Here the effect is even more devastating for the threat since he will be essentially blind and fixated on the source of light.
Some thoughts on the video above:
- L Shaped Room.
- Camera View: Threat View
We teach the same principle even to patrol officers who are approaching a person in an open space, say a parking lot, for the purpose of communication or search. As soon as the officers perceive danger or the officers are getting into the combative bubble, they may begin to divide attention (see figure below). They will essentially be breaking off laterally, turning one picture into two, thus forcing the observing individual into recycling his decision making (OODA) and overloading the amount of data he perceives.
What we teach normally in the next phase is that one teammate is talking, drawing verbal and visual attention, while the other remains quiet, aware, and exploiting the opponent’s flanks for better covering his partner, view, and proper fields of fire. From observing, orienting, deciding, and eventually acting, the threat is forced into two dimensions of consideration. More data to process, less time to react. Mental physical cage.
In summary, dividing the threat’s attention, or similar concepts such as “running the rabbit’’ is all about exploiting your opponent’s human limitations. Some people will frown upon RTR, but it worked for us and for other people I know. It’s all about human performance. Consider an assault with two elements on an objective, one by air (helicopter) and one by land (vehicle). They strike the target simultaneously. By the time the target decides which direction he wants to fight in, the aggressor force is already breaching the door and clearing the building.]
Avoid kneeling, if possible.
Note – This rule is in reference to clearing interior structures.
Back in the day when I served in the IDF, the first CQB course we took was obviously a basic infantry level program. You know, corners, and box-shaped rooms. In that course, it was a standard that once a person gets to his corner, he immediately goes into a kneeling position to “avoid” the first bullets fired by possible resistance. With the years and progress of training, this methodology was quickly dismissed by my unit’s CQB instructors, but it was a reality that made me really understand how stupid and potentially what a death sentence kneeling can be in a CQB environment.
General issues with kneeling
Before we get into why it is important to highlight the difference between the trigger and switch zones that a threat normally has.
- Trigger zone — Trigger zones are often the chest and below. We call them trigger zones since in most cases they trigger a certain chain of reactions (bleeding, loss of mobility, trauma) rather than death. It might not eliminate the threat right away, but will allow a “certain wished reality.”
- Switch zone — You hit that area and its lights off. Neck and up. Shitty day to the maximum.
Back to the issue: By kneeling an individual is not only losing mobility but often replacing a “trigger” zone (aka his plate) with a “switch” zone (aka his head). Why is it important to highlight this issue? Because the majority of tactical institutions are still teaching, in their basic courses, kneeling and crowding covers in the context of firefights that take place within 10 feet.
While in the majority of kill houses I’ve trained in the environment was a simple empty box-shaped room with one to two doorways, the reality is very different. Several interconnected compartments, doors, hallways, and other partitions exist in any warehouse, apartment, or tunnel. They will require the team to be responsive and take on the challenge as soon as possible. By kneeling down, reaction time is decreased and one’s view becomes less general and more fixated. Getting people to reinforce others by numbers is critical in a multi-room clearing. Mobility is the key; accuracy is the lock.
c) The little things
Additional stuff I have recognized over time when I saw individuals kneeling by default during room clearing:
1. Equipment is caught in the edges of tables, closets, etc.
2. Losing orientation with additional teammates who are moving around.
3. Becoming more fixated on visual covers.
4. When humans are afraid, or the need to self-preserve is initiated, the last thing a human likes to do is to settle down and wait (freeze is a different phase).
With that being said, kneeling should be avoided in most cases unless you are working a threat from the doorway or cover and concealment (HL for example). There are several reasons, but the most important one is the simple fact that by kneeling you simply replace your plate carrier with a head in the enemy’s sights.
Stay tuned to the third part of this series!
This article was written by Eli Feildboy, founder and CEO of Project Gecko and former Israeli commando. It was originally published in 2019.