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CAGE Code: 6LAB9  

5-Day MIL/ LE Advanced Hostage Rescue Course

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Post Engagement Sequence & the Importance of Situational Awareness

The post engagement sequence at Redback One includes the initial scan and assess of the immediate threat area, followed by a secondary scan into the peripheries and finally a check to the rear. We incorporate a system check to identify any stoppages then apply the safety catch and return the ejection port cover to the up position (where appropriate or if time permits).

The scanning and assessing part of the post engagement sequence is all part of follow through and should be trained correctly in order to prevent any tunnel vision and also to increase the shooter's situational awareness.

There are many situations that require the conduct of correct post engagement sequence, here are some examples:

1. During team movement drills (fire & movement / break contact) there is a need to identify the location of team members to ensure that you are maintaining spacing and can effectively communicate.

2. During team movement again to ensure that you maintain good fields of fire during assault or break contact drills and not encroaching on safety angles which leads to fratricide particularly when operating in close terrain.

3. During the conduct of room combat operations there is a need to communicate (verbally or non-verbally) with other elements in the room. Keeping your head on a swivel allows you to maintain good Situational Awareness (SA) during these times. (Think using NVG's) Incidentally, lacking SA is one of the quickest ways to fail a CQB course.

4. As a singleton and operating in a 360 degree environment there is always a need to check your surroundings for the presence of multiple threats (think Patrol Officers). Particularly during high risk periods such as a traffic stop or felony stops. Even more so when there has been an exchange of gun fire. Patrol Officers will need to continually scan their threat area which as a singleton is 360 degrees. Officers will also need to be aware to check on the presence of responding or assisting units moving into the incident site.

I believe that the post engagement sequence is over-looked during training. We (RB1) always include a lesson on our preferred method of conducting the Post Engagement Sequence. We break the threat area down into three sectors.

1. The Central Vision Scan - 50 degree left and right of your axis. This is the high risk sector where known threats are present. The eyes lead the muzzle during the scan, the flashlight / laser illuminates darkened areas and identified targets are engaged quicker using this technique. We incorporate some scientific evidence on Dynamic Visual Acuity here that has been proven to increase the shooters ability to track and engage targets.

2. The Near Peripheral Scan - This sector exists 50 degrees left and right of the center axis and continues to 90 degrees left and right. This is where we are looking for other team members or bringing objects / threats / unknowns out of our ambient vision and into our central vision for processing.

3. The Hindsight Scan - using a position that allows the shooter to maneuver his weapon without flagging others (high ready is the preferred position) the shooter uses trunk rotation to scan behind in both directions. During the hindsight scan, it is important to (look and see) objects and areas of interest to the rear. We may need to identify any combination of the following: friendly forces, fire positions, enemy positions, cover, concealment, defilade, extraction routes, etc etc. This is super critical especially if you are conducting break contact drills or tactically withdrawing from that area.

In order to train students to a higher standard of scanning, we continue to reenforce the need to look and see during the conduct of the scan and assess to all students until they get it. We use imaginative ways to have the students identify certain things during the conduct of the scan and assess. IE, having an AI move to concealed positions and hold up fingers for the students to count, or just identify the AI's position. Alternatively at the base level, we tell students to slow down and look for likely fire positions and positions that would afford cover during a bound to the rear. During the peripheral scan, we ask our students to look at the student directly to the left and right and assess what they are doing. Have they finished their scan, have they incurred a stoppage on the primary, if so I should be covering, do they have any equipment that is unsecured (retention on holster, buckles on pouches undone, magazines not bumped up to position 1 on the belt or the vest). These are great ways to keep your mind active and engaged in what you are doing and not slip into the mindset of a one dimensional shooter where you are only concerned about what you are doing.

Maintaining situational awareness during room combat is very important to ensure that communication is effective between team members via verbal or non verbal methods. Assault team members will be very aware of the need to continue to scan the room looking for anything in the threat matrix, the position of other assaulters, uncleared spaces, open doors, closed doors, not forgetting about objects and clutter on the floor.

I see all too often the tunnel vision effect when we teach Shooting On The Move (SOTM) and individuals fail to use ambient vision to maintain the integrity of the line during forward movement. If you are going to train SOTM in your own time or at your department or Unit, you need to train to a higher standard and incorporate scanning during the move if you are not already. Actually get off the trigger, apply safe and look! Then get back on the gun.

Break contact drills are another skill that require each shooter to conduct a full scan to identify team members to the left and right prior to picking up and moving. Failing to scan during these times will only end up one way!

Another contentious issue is the position of the safety catch and the indexing of the finger either on or off the trigger during the scanning process. In many Military Units and LE Agencies the position of the safety catch and finger position will be mandated or fall under Unit / sub-unit / Department SOP or policy. Typically the level of training will drive these policies and how critical it is to the success of the mission. I have seen everything from scanning with the safety catch on safe, finger off the trigger, to weapon on fire, finger on trigger during the scan. This is a debatable subject and just like high ready versus low ready there will be no clear winner as different Units are trained to different standards and different requirements when it comes to operating weapons. For some checking safe will have no adverse effects to the mission whereas for others, the distinct sound of the safety catch moving from safe to fire may jeopardize the element of surprise exposing personnel to undue risk. Being an instructor we have to be aware of this and be able to adjust accordingly.

SA was hammered into me so much during my time in the military that it's just flat our part of me. From conducting long range surveillance patrols to break contacts, to diving or CQB, situational awareness is a huge part of the successful conduct of the activity or mission for those going into harms way and if not performed to the highest standard can quickly lead to someone getting hurt or killed.

Be safe with what you do but don't forget to keep your eyes up and head on a swivel. -JF

Posted: May 4, 2013

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