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Replace Battle Drill 6

by CPT Drew R. Meyerowich


There are numerous techniques for close combat engagement based in our doctrine, but basic infantry tactical success essentially depends on one thing: Battle Drills. Our doctrine has evolved over time, but our battle drills have not; Battle Drill 6 - Enter Building/Clear Room is one case in point. Based on my experience as a Rifle Company Commander in Somalia and FM 7-8, Battle Drill 6 is a dangerous, ineffective and an outdated method of clearing a room for any type of military operation.

FM 7-8 describes the basic room-clearing technique by first positioning a clearing team on either side of the room entrance. Once the team is in position, the lead man "cooks off" a hand grenade and throws it into the room. Following the explosion, the lead man enters the room by engaging all "identified or likely enemy positions with rapid, short bursts of automatic fire and scans the room. The rest of the team provides immediate security outside the room." Following the initial entry, the lead man is responsible for positioning the other members of the team as he calls them into the room with the command "NEXT MAN IN, LEFT (RIGHT)". Based on the enemy situation, this battle drill can be done with two men entering the room at the same time from opposite sides of the entrance. Both men enter the room simultaneously with one high and one low to prevent fratricide.

While serving as the Company Commander in 2-14 Infantry, I had concerns about Battle Drill 6 prior to departing for Somalia for Operation CONTINUE HOPE. The unit leaders and soldiers felt they were ready for any contingency. However, hostile activity had escalated since my first tour in Somalia during Operation RESTORE HOPE. This escalation led to many conversations within my company about small unit tactics in urban terrain. Based on the rules of engagement, we knew that entering a room and spraying it with automatic weapon fire was not possible based on that ROE. Even if we could, tile floors and sub-standard building construction typical in Mogadishu left concerns of ricochets and fratricide. These initial concerns became reality when my company conducted a raid in Mogadishu to capture a enemy mortar tube. We entered the building by first clearing a hallway with a fragmentation grenade. The resulting explosion made the building almost impossible to clear due to poor visibility and obstructions from the collapsed roof. The mortar cache was never found in the rubble and the extra time needed to clear the building resulted in us receiving RPG and small arms fire from enemy reinforcements. Following this raid, our internal after-action review (AAR) concluded that we needed to modify Battle Drill 6 or risk mission accomplishment, or more seriously, soldiers' lives.

In this article, I will present a combat proven technique that, in my opinion, should replace the current Battle Drill 6. I was fortunate to have a truly professional squad leader from 3rdRanger Battalion, part of Task Force Ranger, bring his squad to my company area in Mogadishu and teach us their method for clearing rooms. My First Sergeant and I then took their technique a step further and developed a room-clearing drill and a three-day training plan to teach it to every man in the company. This drill applies not only to limited operations typical in peacekeeping, but also to operations as intense and hostile as those seen by my unit and the members of Task Force Ranger on 3-4 October 1993.

Understanding the basic layout of a room is critical to understanding this proposed drill. Based on experience in Somalia, over 95 percent of all engagements inside a building were within 25 feet. Additionally, the entrance to a room is where the enemy expected us to enter and is, therefore, the most vulnerable and critical point (decisive point).

Figure 1 shows a basic room with this decisive point or Fatal Funnel. We also identified four "Points of Domination" (PDO) and a direction of fire ("No Man's Land") using the four corners of the room. The side of the room entrance that the clearing team enters from determines the location of "No Man's Land" (Figure 1). The key to this battle drill is to mass the maximum amount of fire power possible at the fatal funnel and quickly move through it to your assigned POD orienting all weapons toward No Man's Land. Each man has one mission: secure your POD. Any perceived threat along the route to each POD is engaged. Fragmentation grenades should only be used on heavy resistance and stun grenades are preferred due to less obscuration and fratricide potential. Either fragmentation or stun grenades should be used sparingly to avoid establishing a pattern for the enemy to detect when a room will be entered.

The "Stack" or positioning of personnel outside the room is vital in getting firepower quickly through the fatal funnel. What POD for which each soldier is responsible is based on the position he is in the stack. Unlike the current Battle Drill 6, this drill does not attempt to synchronize and push two men with equipment through a doorway at once, or send one man in to fight a room alone. The physical contact of the men as they flood into the room provides the synchronization and confidence needed.

Figure 1

Knowing the responsibilities of each position in the stack is essential in actual combat situations. The casualties, fatigue, security and confusion associated with actual combat makes maintaining even platoon integrity difficult. It was not uncommon for soldiers from different platoons to be tasked to clear a room or series of rooms. Knowing all the positions of the stack made this possible.

Figure 2 describes the responsibilities for each man in the stack. Regardless of what side of the entrance the stack enters, the duty of each man remains the same. The two primary positions, 1-Man and 2-Man, are responsible for the left and right limit PODs. Depending on which way the door opens, one of these men must ride the door all the way to the wall to ensure it is clear. The 1-Man always moves across the doorway and goes to the deep corner of the room (straight and long). The 2-Man always buttonhooks the doorway and moves to the near corner (buttonhook and short). The 3-Man and 4-Man follow the 1-Man and 2-Man respectively and establish their PODs. Additionally, these men must complete their lead man's mission in the event he is wounded or has a weapon malfunction (signaled by taking a knee). The 4-man has the additional duty of placing the door charge in the event the door is blocked.

Figure 2

While it is possible to conduct this battle drill with only three men, using four men is the preferred technique. Four men clearing a room gives the flexibility to a team required in the event there are additional, unknown rooms, or casualties. In Somalia, rooms were typically cluttered and extremely difficult to move around. The fourth man assisted greatly. In actual combat, the probability of success decreases greatly after three men and only under the most extreme circumstances should two men attempt to clear a room. One man should never attempt to clear a room alone.

Figures 3 and 4 illustrate this battle drill using four or three men.

Figures 3-a/4-a

Figures 3-b/4-b

Figures 3-c/4-c

Figures 3-d/4-d

Figures 3-e/4-e

All soldiers in the stack must understand several key points when executing this battle drill. Massing combat power at and through the fatal funnel does not equate to running through the doorway. Movements by the members of the team must be deliberate and synchronized with each other. This is why physical contact between members of the team is critical. Each man stacks up outside the entrance as tight as he can with the man to his front. Weapons are pointed down with the exception of the 1-Man who provides front security. Once the 4-Man is ready to move into the room, he pushes his knee into the 3-Man to signal he is ready. The 3-Man does the same to the 2-Man and 2-Man the same to the 1-Man. Once the 1-Man feels the tap of the 2-Man, he moves into the room quickly focusing on his route to his POD. Any threat he sees that prevents him from getting to his POD is engaged with two rounds using the basic quick-fire technique from FM 23-9. Developing this tunnel vision as well as trusting yourself, your buddy and your equipment is essential for success in this battle drill.

Understanding the concept of this battle drill, and given the constraints placed on us in Somalia, my First Sergeant and I began to develop a plan to train the company. The fact that we operated on a three day rotation between training, MSR Security, and the Quick Reaction Company, created the opportunity to either train the entire company in three days or over several three-day training cycles. While tasked as the Quick Reaction Company, the unit could conduct some training similar to when a unit is in garrison. The result of our planning was five phases of training conducted over a four-day period.

Prior to the three days of range training, we conducted Phase I training. This training can be conducted anywhere with nothing more than engineer tape to outline different room layouts. Soldier performed the battle drill in these rooms while a leader observes to ensure understanding of the drill. Box training is critical to this plan because it allows all soldiers involved to see what is being done inside the room without being in the room. This allows the leader to present different situations to his men with everyone viewing the battle drill from the outside of the room. By using different types of room layouts, a leader can ensure complete understanding of the battle drill prior to getting on the range.

The three days of range training provided the company with more than enough time to become proficient in this battle drill.

Figure 5 illustrates the basic layout of the range in Somalia. The buildings were located outside the city of Mogadishu and allowed for 360-degree fields of fire. They were constructed of cement and consisted of a series of rooms with tile floors. Additionally, they had no roof so there was a limited possibility of soldiers being injured by falling debris. The area used for the Quick Fire Range was an open field across from the buildings approximately 200m in size. With minimal resources and effort, the training area was cleared by battalion assets in less than one day and ready for training.

Figure 5

Phase II training or Quick Fire training is based on the individual technique discussed in FM 23-9. Soldiers first practiced the technique using the dry fire method. Leaders ensure that each man correctly identifies the target from the low ready position, simultaneously lifts the weapon and uses his thumb to move his M-16 selector switch to "SEMI", engages the target from above his sights, and switches his weapon back to "SAFE." Only after correctly executing this method does the leader allow the soldier to move to the live-fire area.

Figure 6 the live-fire range is where soldiers execute the quick fire drill from the stationary position and while moving forward, left, right and backward. Soldiers had to hit 100 percent of E- type targets at the 5-ft, 7-ft, and 10-ft lines before advancing to the next line. Eighty percent target hits were required at the 20-ft and 25-ft lines. The squad leader's assessment of the soldier's confidence in the drill was also required for advancement to Phase III. We conducted Phase III-V all in the same buildings.

Figure 6

Figure 7 is where both buildings were set up in the same manner with half the building designated a dry-fire area and half a live-fire area. Targets were set up using sand bags as a backdrop and also to enclose windows. A wooden pallet was placed against the back drops with E-type silhouette stapled to them. There was a concern about safety due to the tile floors in the buildings, but leaders maintained strict quick fire performance standards and no training accidents occurred. Each room contained two or three targets. To maintain the element of surprise, targets were frequently moved. If time permits, furniture and different rules concerning the engagement can be added to increase the difficulty.

Figure 7

Phase III training is conducted as an individual drill. Each soldier performs the duties of the 1-Man for every room of the dry-fire area and then the live-fire area. The leader evaluates the soldier by following him into the room, staying behind him to ensure he performs the same drill he used on the quick fire range. All leaders conducted the drill prior to any soldiers maintaining unit integrity and understanding of the standards. During this phase of training, soldiers engage each target with two rounds per target to ensure it was disabled. Any stray bullets missing the target area (sand bags) resulted in retraining on the quick fire range. Leaders also assess individual confidence on this drill prior to allowing the soldier to move to phase IV of training.

Phase IV training is the 2-Man Quick Fire Drill. The standards for this phase are the same as for Phase III with the exception that Phase IV also includes night fire. Each two-man team had to conduct the dry-fire rooms prior to executing the live-fire rooms. Leaders ensured each man was proficient at both the 1-Man and 2-Man duties. Only after successful completion of the day fire were soldiers allowed to conduct the night fire. Night fire was conducted with flashlights taped to the M-16 and turned on as the team entered the room. On successful completion of Phase IV, Night Fire, the company was ready to conduct the Battle Drill, Clear a Room.

The training events for Phase V training, the final phase of training, are identical to those for Phase IV. Platoon Leaders and Platoon Sergeants observed and evaluated their own platoons. Fire team integrity was maintained throughout both the day and night fires.

Figure 8 a-e shows different room layouts to further clarify the drill. Validation of the battle drill at the platoon level was done by taking soldiers from different squads and making them execute the drill as a team. Company validation was done in the same manner using soldiers from each platoon to execute the drill.

The results of this training were overwhelming. Soldier accuracy in hitting each target was well over 90 percent with the first round and close to 100 percent with the second round. Inspection of the targets following the three days of training showed well over 95 percent of the hits were center mass of the silhouette. The lethality and precision that every clearing team developed left no doubt to their ability to clear a room. In Somalia, the company conducted this training from 30 September 1993 through 2 October 1993. We returned to the battalion area on the morning of 3 October unaware of just how important this training would be to us that evening. Late on the afternoon of 3 October 1993, my company became the lead element from 2-14 Infantry to break through and rescue Task Force Ranger from deep behind enemy lines. For over 8 hours we fought our way through intense enemy fire down the streets of Mogadishu, secured a shot-down UH-60 helicopter, and rescued over 90 members of Task Force Ranger.

In conclusion the confidence and proficiency demonstrated by the soldiers in the company was even greater than the First Sergeant or I imagined. All questions were quickly answered by conducting box training prior to going to the range. Every soldier, regardless of his position or weapon system, was required to pick up an M-16 and execute the drill to standard. Soldiers received effective, realistic training that was fun and valuable. Following the events of 3-4 October, the company AAR described the new drill at length and compared it to the old battle drill. Without exception, leaders felt more confidence in this drill. The new drill was proven in combat and the end result was a company completely confident in its ability to clear a room in any given situation.

Figure 8-a

Figure 8-b

Figure 8-c

Figure 8-d

Figure 8-e

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