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Reaction to Ambush
There’s a bit of conflicting information I’m about to share with you. Generally, my advice to preppers and small units is to retreat and not advance to the enemy. This advice is given with the consideration that you may not have a fully trained and capable fighting force, or your supplies are limited, or you are in a small unit not capable of, or have little chance of success of, defeating a larger enemy.
The fact is that if you are truly ambushed, you are screwed 99% of the time. Last year I ran an exercise where only two of us set up an ambush against six prepared soldiers who were told to expect an ambush. We wiped them out before they knew what hit them.
Today’s advice is given with the expectation that you are trained and you are prepared. It’s also given that you are probably going to die anyways in a real ambush against a capable enemy, so go down with a fight (rather than retreat)!
An ambush typically is a more coordinated enemy effort than your average “meeting engagement” firefight. The ‘kill zone’ (where the enemy focuses their fires) is under heavy, concentrated fire, and those within it have to rapidly react to the situation if they hope to survive.
The reaction to an ambush depends on whether it is a ‘near’ or ‘far’ ambush. Both will be described below. The guidelines above for a general “Reaction to Contact” should be kept in mind as well.
A ‘near ambush’ is defined as an ambush occurring with the enemy within grenade-throwing distance.
When an element is subjected to a ‘near ambush’, the action required varies depending on whether any given teammate is in the “kill zone” or outside of it. The voice call for a near ambush is simply “Near ambush, (direction), and should be said by the first person to identify it. Due to the confusion caused by a near ambush, the element will likely require a moment to identify the type of ambush. This means that you’ll likely hear a “Contact (direction)!” call, followed by “Near ambush!” after a brief pause. Even if you can’t see the enemy, shoot in the general direction being careful to avoid fratricide. As with other combat drills, you should be moving and seeking cover/concealment at the same time that you are returning fire and telling your teammates where the enemy is.
If you are in the kill zone (meaning, the enemy is focusing the bulk of their fire in your area), you must immediately return fire and take up covered or concealed positions. Immediately throw frag grenades (if you can get your hands on some) or smoke at the enemy and assault their position once the grenades have exploded or the smoke has formed. The speed and force of violence of your team’s reaction to the ambush will be the deciding factor as to how many of you walk away from it.
If you are not in the kill zone, your job becomes one of support. Identify and engage the enemy with as much firepower as you can bring to bear, as quickly as possible. When the “kill zone” element assaults into the ambush, shift or cease fire to avoid friendly fire.
A ‘far ambush’, on the other hand, is any ambush in which the enemy is further than 50 meters away. These can take a multitude of forms, and the only positive aspect of them is that the increased distance of the enemy means that friendly forces can potentially maneuver better and the enemy may not be as deadly with their fire from an extended range.
Again, the action of each individual varies depending on their location within or outside of the “kill zone”. The voice call for this is “Far ambush, (direction)”. In practical usage, this will most likely simply be called as a normal contact report, and it will be up to the element leader to determine whether it’s a meeting engagement or an actual deliberate ambush.
If you are in the kill zone, immediately return fire and move to a covered or concealed position. Focus fires on enemy crew-served or high-volume weapons (machineguns) and try to knock them out as quickly as possible. Smoke grenades can be used; toss them around the “kill zone” ambushed squad to conceal them from enemy fire. (Are you detecting a theme? Smoke is important! You can get some here.)
In a far ambush, the ambushed element does not attempt to assault through the ambush. Instead, they form a base of fire while the elements not in the kill zone maneuver against the ambushing enemy force. Once the maneuvering team begins to assault the enemy ambush team, the base of fire team should shift or cease fire to avoid friendly casualties.
If you are not in the kill zone, your job is to flank and knock out the enemy ambush element. You should move with your element via covered/concealed routes when possible and try to work your way onto a vulnerable enemy flank. Ensure that you notify the base-of-fire element when you begin the close assault on the enemy to avoid friendly-fire (you have comms right?)
Next week, I’ll cover reaction to sniper fire. My hope is that these articles are useful to you in forming your strategy and for building training scenarios for your group.
A good scout is prepared. So is a good sheepdog.