Will your SWAT team's tactics survive first contact?

If all team members are trained to a common standard, every one of them should be interchangeable within the team


Editor’s Note: While you’re reading the below article by PoliceOne Contributor Kyle E. Lamb, you may want to consider checking out the upcoming course schedule posted at Viking Tactics. If you’re an active-duty officer within a reasonable distance of the San Francisco Bay area, there are still some slots available for the course taking place April 4-9, 2010, at the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office Regional Training Center.

Anyone who has participated in a decent number of tactical entries knows that these operations are high risk. Risk is a given and it is every entry team member’s job to work toward minimizing that risk while still accomplishing the team’s assigned mission or task. One of the biggest risks a tactical entry team will face is movement through a hallway. Hallways, typically devoid of cover or concealment, present the same tactical problem to an entry team as a large open field might present to a squad of infantry advancing toward an objective. We learned in Army Special Operations that to expose a team too long in either situation is inherently risky. We also learned — through experience and more than a little bit of blood shed — that most of the basic principles which apply to a squad attempting to cross an open field also apply to the entry team making its way down a hallway.

Tactics should be principle-based rather than based on one specific technique for each task. In other words, an entry team — just like its infantry counterpart — should have basic tactical principles that they do not violate, and should then apply techniques that both adhere to those tactical principles and address the context of the individual situation. For example, infantry soldiers understand that massing fires can be effective but massing personnel is often deadly.

Thus, basic principles such as dispersion, overwatch, and movement from cover to cover must be rigorously observed even as the individual tactical circumstances dictate how they are applied. It’s the same for movement in a hallway.

Example: Forward Security
No matter the particular technique for negotiating a hallway, someone on the team must always have cover to the front toward the most likely potential threat. Another example may be that no one on the team may enter a room alone — he must always have a teammate with him. These principles are the framework within which the team should establish their specific techniques. Too often teams develop overly-detailed techniques for accomplishing simple tasks. Consider these two examples, both of which apply directly to team movement in a hallway.

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