Throughout my entire Airsoft career, the biggest problem I’ve had, personally and while leading a squad, is a lack of proven tactics. Lacking effective tactics, I have always resorted to my rifle’s extreme range and accuracy to take out enemies and get kills. Once things get up close and personal, you’re usually in Urban and can get away without proper tactics. Finally, at the beginning of the 2011 season, I learned that I would finally get an opportunity to turn things around.
While talking to Cobalt – a respected member of the community and a NEASG staff member – at the beginning of the season, I was told of a squad tactics training course that would be offered at Feel Good Farm. This was exactly what my squad and I needed to move from being a formidable force to a death-dealing team. The course was to be taught by Army Major Ret. BlackSheep6 (as he is called on the forums). The Major is a teacher of military tactics in both airsoft and the real world. He teaches tactics in the real world and has also adapted his course to be highly effective in airsoft application. This differs from most courses, such as the NEASG Sniper Qualification Course, where the real world practices have barely been adapted at all.
The Major teaches his one-day course with a “Crawl-Walk-Run” mentality. We start in the classroom, learning the tactics on paper and talking about how to apply them. We then do walking drills in the parking lot, going through our newly learned tactics on foot, in squad formations. At the end of the day we literally run, doing live-fire, force on force application in the field.
The classroom session was very informative, and while I could intuit some of the things the Major was teaching, other aspects were totally new to me. When the Major got to teaching squad formations and the layout of the fireteams within the squad, it was simple on paper, but clear that practical application would be a big challenge. I was glad to see that the Major had brought two booklets, detailing the tactics he was teaching, which he sold for $10 a piece. He also supplied, with the booklets, a set of mini poker chips which can be very effectively used to show a squad and its fireteams. This allows you to easily teach someone the tactics or demonstrate to your squad what you’re going to execute before you do it.
The walking drills put the squad formation training into practice. It was a bit challenging at first, but it quickly became clear how it works. What was clearly uncovered in the walking exercises was that these tactics could only be effectively applied if the squad trains together and the squad leader is good at evaluating the situation and giving clear orders. The two fireteams of a squad operate as interdependent units, linked by the squad leader. If the squad leader does not constantly give orders to the fireteam leaders, everything crumbles quickly. If the squad leader is good at giving clear orders, it is then the fireteam leaders job to control his fireteam, which operates as a chevron. The chevron has the fireteam leader (FTL) as its point, with the two arms comprised of two operators each. The FTL has to command his chevron arms in much the same way that the squad leader commands the fireteams. It is a tiered system which, if employed correctly, was clearly going to be highly effective in the field.
During live-fire operations, everything deteriorated by a large degree. We operated as one squad against another. The first two scenarios were one squad defending and the other attacking. I was an FTL, so I answered to the squad leader, then commanded my fireteam appropriately. It is the job of an FTL to make sure he communicates with the squad leader. The FTL must tell the squad leader what his fireteam is doing and what kind of resistance he’s being met with. I commanded my fireteam well, though we definitely need a lot of practice to make it run smoothly. The biggest issue with the live-fire operations was a breakdown in communication between the FTLs and the squad leader. The squad leader was not giving clear orders and was mostly allowing the fireteams to operate as independent squads. This is ineffective because the fireteams rely in interdependency to be functional.
All in all, I got a clear picture of how squad tactics are supposed to work, and it was plainly obvious why they didn’t during the live-fire operations. As of now, I don’t have enough people on my team to make a squad, making me a fireteam leader. I have no doubt I will be able to streamline my fireteams operations, but will have to rely on a competent squad leader during operations, until I have a big enough team to run my own squad. During the following day’s Run and Gun, I was able to implement my fireteam tactics fairly well and I’m looking forward to getting some training time with my team so we can polish the process.