I do not have the time or space to explain things like battle drills, types of ambushes and raids, building clearing etc to my readers. Neither my level of expertise in the subject or in web writing are up to the task. These things are written better in other places. I will try to direct you to them. I would suggest the US Army Ranger Manual as a place to start. Also, check the links to my other tactics pages at the bottom.
But, while tactics vary from unit to unit and with types of conflict, there are several key principles that remain universal. I think a brief discussion of these is a good idea. They would apply equally to a man defending himself on the street to a SWAT team planning to rush a barricaded suspect in an urban environment or a brigade level attack on a conventional battlefield.
Remember, no plan survives first contact.
This page is in five parts.
I. The US Army’s Version
II. Colonel Rodgers’ Standing Orders
III. Carlos Marighella
IV. My thoughts
V. A final Word from Mao
I. The US Army’s version.
While some people (and some manuals) might add elements to this, the US Army lists five general tactical principles. I have listed the most common version of these and added my own discussion.
A tactical plan should be simple. It should be simple in concept and execution. The more elements to a plan the more “failure points” it has. Whether it be battle drills, or a plan for an assault… keep the plan as direct and simple as possible. Every person involved needs to understand not only their part, but every body else’s as well. Rehearsal is always helpful too.
The one thing every fighter wants on their side is surprise. You don’t want the enemy to know what you are about to do. In an urban self-defense environment this may be achieved by a subtle appearance, on the battlefield through proper employment of stealth and deception. Sometimes it can be achieved by doing something so audacious that it would never be expected. Fighting without surprise should ALWAYS be a last resort thing.
Whatever you are going to, do it quickly. In chess we make a move and then wait for our opponent to make a move. On the real battlefield, of any size, you should already be on your next move before your opponent even has time to form a reaction to your first. This is achieved by adhering to the first two principles.
Whether in the attack or defense you should never forget that the enemy might be about to make a move. Don’t forget your rear or your flanks. This keeps the enemy from doing to you what you want to do to him.
5) Violence of Action
Apply all your power early… an enemy should be “amazed” at your initial moves and they should destroy his will to fight. In the US Military this is frequently called “shock and awe.” While you won’t be able to achieve what they do, plan ways to do as well as possible.
II. Colonel Rogers’ Standing Orders
If you don’t know who Robert Rodgers was, you should read up. He is basically the father of the American ranger tradition and he wrote down his thoughts on unconventional warfare as the “28 Rules of Ranging.” They may seem dated today, but they are sound advice nonetheless. Rather than post them verbatim here I would suggest you read the article about them on Wikipedia.
III. Carlos Marighella’s seven sins of the [urban] guerrilla
Marighella was a communist revolutionary in South America… that doesn’t mean you should ignore his advice. He is one of the most well thought of revolutionary theorists, and his advice is sound whether applied to a force in action, or an individual preparing for the (hopefully unlikely) event that they will ever be “in action.”
We’re all inexperienced in the things I am talking about. That’s okay, but don’t let this lead you to indecisiveness and a lack of self-confidence.
Don’t talk about how great you are, what you plan to do, or what you have done. It may impress one out of ten people on the internet, but won’t impress anyone that knows anything. It is also a serious violation of security.
A combat force, whether it be a small guerrilla band or Ranger battalion is a machine with many moving parts (the people) no part should be more important than any other.
4) Exaggerating your strength (to your self and to friends)
In all likelihood you are weaker than your enemy. Get used to it, live with it, learn to work around it.
5) Rash action
Don’t go off half-cocked.
6) Attacking the enemy when he is most angry
I don’t quite get this one. In fighting a modern military they won’t seem to get “angry.” If their performance varies with a mood then you are lucky.
7) Failure to plan
This kind of goes along with number five. Your plan should always be ahead of your actions. That way you know what to do when finished, and when your current action fails.
IV. My own thoughts
There is a saying that is frequently attributed to the Marines… “Always have a plan to kill every motherfucker in sight.” I’m not sure where it really came from, and I have heard many versions. But this is really the opposite of what your “default plan” should be. I know it sounds cowardly, but the default plan of the guerrilla or citizen soldier should be to run like hell.
Your tactics, your equipment and your training should always be geared to this idea. The US military is willing to trade lives for objectives. Over the years they have become very adept at minimizing the cost, but when a man dies there is a replacement ready to take their place and they can always default to vastly superior firepower.
The goal of the citizen soldier should be to survive and stay in the fight. You don’t have a replacement waiting to take over your life and feed your family. I’m not saying never take a risk, all conflict is risky… but planning for the withdrawal up front, if it becomes necessary, will prevent your force from becoming an ineffective rabble.
V. A final Word from Mao
Mao suggested in his Principles of Guerilla Warfare that you should not enter in to a fight unless you KNOW you can win. This is a good idea, hiding until easy targets present themselves is fine. It is the guerilla’s job to survive, above all else.