Nobody goes into a room like Delta Force: A CQB attitude primer

Close Quarters Combat (CQC) is to the effect about 75% (maybe higher) testicles, and then 25% technique. I don’t like to over complicate things, especially CQB, one of the most absolutely horrifying things a human may ever do. It is the very nature of the degree of difficulty inherent in ‘the act’ of CQB that bids its techniques to remain very simple, lest the mind become incapable of holding the process at all.

I say ~75% intestinal fortitude, because if you can find a person that will take an AR and run into a small room of completely unknown contents, expected deadly threat, then you already have ~75% of what you need to create a successful CQB operator. All that remains, is to teach and train your operator the very few principles, and the very simple techniques, for room combat.

I felt the virtual presence of many peers with chins dipped low peering at me over the tops of reading glasses when I said “operator.” An operator used to be a person that answered the phone when you dialed zero. Then it became a title of excellence bestowed on men who were leaders of the entire world in their game at combat skills.

Eventually the title was raffled off at National Guard family picnics, passed on to garrison Soldiers of the Quarter, featured as a prize at bingo clubs, clipped in the form of coupons from the Sunday Gazette. Finally, operator vouchers were left under windshield wiper blades in bowling alley parking lots by a meddling faux marketing plan.

Today an operator is once more a person who answers the phone when you punch zero. As far as this former operator is concerned, “What’s in a word?” A monkey dressed in silk is still a monkey. A cuddly chihuahua that eats expensive kibble from a glass goblet and wears a diamond-studded collar–mommy’s little precious… will still try to eat its own shit if given the chance. So I’m an operator, you’re an operator, EVERYBODY is an operator, and gets a new car–thanks Oprah!

You are ~75% ‘there’ once you have that individual who will storm blindly into a deadly room. Now, it can’t be a person who just says they will do it. It has to be a person that in fact WILL do it, and WILL do it over and over.

There is a constant that exists, though you may disagree ferociously, it remains nonetheless: “no amount of high-speed training and bravado will ever trump the thug behind the door, pointing his AR at the door, and with finger on trigger.” “Well I would throw a banger in there to stun the thug.” Really?

Is that really what you ‘would’ do? Well if that thing from the Movie Alien ever popped out of my thorax, I would put it in a half Nelson and snap its neck. Get it? I’m quite sure I have it on good faith with Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit that nobody knows what the hell they ‘would do’ in a deadly situation until it happens, empty macho chest-thumpers not withstanding.

That’s right, the Chuck Yeager of CQB has a bullet waiting for him; all he has to do is wait long enough, however long that is. I have known a team of Delta men who lost their junior and senior team mates to the same goat-poker in the same small room in Iraq.

Both were head wounds from the same rag-head firing blindly over the top of a covered position. For the senior brother, that room was supposed to be the last room, of the last attack, of the last day, of the last overseas deployment he was ever supposed to make. The wait was over.

These were Team Leader MSG Robert Horrigan and newly arrived Delta brother MSG Michael L. McNulty. Bob wasn’t even supposed to be there. He extended his time in-country to work with Mike and make sure he knew the ropes well enough before redeploying. If… if… if; “if ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ were candy and nuts, we’d all have a very merry Christmas.”

I did not know Michael; he was slightly after my time. I knew Bob well though, and I cherish the many months we spent together in Bosnia, fighting the good fight there. A better man never lived.

What about this CQB then. What are the principles? I offer the following, not in order of priority, as there can be no hierarchy of principles. Then: CQB is not a defensive operation; it is purely an offensive event. Therefore CQB is, by all definition of the word, a Raid, and the three principles of a raid are:

Surprise: surprise fords the attacker the upper hand against an opponent that is unaware, and therefore unprepared for the impending attack. Understand that surprise, owes its existence to sound tactics and techniques. Surprise is a product of stealth, stealth is a product of noise and light discipline…etc.

Speed: speed compliments surprise nicely, in that if you have achieved effective surprise, speed will ensure that the enemy never recovers from the element of surprise. Seize the initiative, keep the pressure on. As Civil War General Nathan Bedford Forest described it: “Keep ’em on the sceeer (southern drawn ‘scare’)!” Conduct a flanking maneuver. Forest: “Hit ’em on the iiind (end/flank)!”

Violence of Action: complimenting still the other two, violence of action further continues to destabilize the enemy’s posture, robbing them of the chance to ever effectively overcome the juggernaut of surprise and speed. CBQ is a raid, and encompasses those principles of the textbook raid.

Maintain 360 degree security is a principle of CQB. In such an environment, you have to maintain a vigil on security all around your battle space. If you are moving through a building with many rooms, it is never likely that you will have enough men to leave one behind in each room as you move through your objective. To respect speed, you can only conduct a cursory search of a space, then continue through to the end of your objective. Return for a more comprehensive search once the objective is secure.

Every time you move into a room, you own it. Every time you leave that room empty, you have lost it, and must capture it again if you ever need to return to it.

There you have it, a model of CQB that I can defend against anyone’s shit-house notion of the axiomatic truth of the CQB paradigm. On the one hand, I look at my simple model of room combat; on the other hand, I listen to the Audy Murphy’s at the gun queer range:

“Well, when I go into a room, I pull my rifle barrel back toward my chest in case I get jammed by an unseen someone right inside the door.”

“Well, when I go into a room and someone tries to jam me right inside the door, I jab the B-Jesus out of them with my rifle barrel and plow them over.”

Children please!!

Don’t make a Rube Goldberg out of your CQB tactics. The best mechanisms for CQB are the ones with the fewest moving parts; the fewer the moving parts, the less the propensity to break down. Remember: the more commands the mind has to process during the worst moments of its life, the more likely it can become overwhelmed.

Scared is bad enough; scared and overwhelmed is deadly.

Nobody goes into a room like the Delta Force; CQB is the Unit’s primary charter.

Consider these two extreme cases:

1.) We hosted South Korea’s purported Delta equivalent at our compound one year. I set up targets in one of our shooting houses. When I was done, the team leader brought his men on a walk-through of the shoot house, pointing out all the target locations to his men.

“We are not allowed to go into a building unless we know the floor plan and the target dispersion” explained the team leader. Ah, then you will never go into a building.

In disbelief and out of utter curiosity, I removed one of the targets from a corner of a room. I watch from the overhead catwalk as the kimchi commandos cleared the house. To my expectation, but to my horror still, a Korean soldier entered the room and fired twice into the empty corner.

The Koreans deployed home unexpectedly early, as they were caught shoplifting at the Fort Bragg Main Post Exchange. The monkeys dressed in suits, had fallen from their own trees.

2.) We moved through a pine forest of Ft. Bragg at night to a blacked out building in a clearing. I moved to the porch to shotgun breach the front door. There on the porch were three unexpected targets. I emptied the shotgun on the targets, body breached the door, and we flooded in systematically clearing rooms with gun lights.

In the last room, two of us kicked our way in and began blasting two targets in the corners of the far wall… and there between the targets, on his knees, in the dark, with headphones on and hands in the air, was a live Israeli Sayeret Matkal officer.

He was visiting the Unit and wanted to see what it was like to be in a room during a Delta assault. We didn’t shoot him of course; he had not presented a threat. The principles of CQB are simple enough.

I postulate that an unexpected live person in our assault scenario is decent testament to our ability in target discrimination. General William Garrison loved to quietly place himself in a shoot house prior to us busting in. There he would be sitting at a table, covered in toothpicks from the explosive door breach, eyes closed, and cigar hanging from his chops. There was blind faith there, in that room. Here’s to you, Bill; you’re a class act!

I was recently surprised to see the shock in the face of an acquaintance at the tell of how Delta will flood an objective from as many entry points as possible, even ones that are directly opposing. “How it that possible, without blue on blue casualties?” The answer is not complicated, yet difficult to conceive, if you have not lived it:

“We just don’t shoot each other; we only shoot the bad guys.” The principles of CQB are simple enough.

My answer comes from a level of CQB with acute target discrimination abilities not really even understood by other than Delta. It is an environment where a single off-target round can buy a fellow five extra hours of training, either before or after normal duty hours.

The Unit is a place where, for an Accidental Discharge (AD) of a fire arm, be it a full-caliber weapon, a sub-caliber weapon, a paint gun, a blank gun, in the floor, ceiling, wall, dirt—where ever, you will be gone for a minimum of one year, before you are able to apply again. It’s where hitting a friendly hostage made of paper, can buy you a ticket off of the compound—forever.

I ask you then: “would you consider those standards high?”

I tell you now: “nobody goes into a room like Delta.”

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By George E. Hand

Master Sergeant US Army (ret) 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, SofRep Contributing Editor, Master Photographer

This post first appeared on SOFREP.com

(Cover photo: my good bud Robert Horrigan, KIA in Iraq)

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