Critical Thinking

How often do we encourage people to apply higher order thinking to tactical problems? What is the benefit to analyzing a situation in order to construct your actions.

The subtle difference

The other day I had a casual conversation with a good friend, a solid operator. We were discussing what one usually discusses when bored; which is what new toy to buy and by toy I mean gun. Eventually our conversations turned serious and we were discussing the responsibility of current instructors to instill the ability for their students to think on their feet. While typically not a part of flat range training the moment you move into a shoothouse it becomes imperative the students can read a situation then make correct split second decisions. You will notice I added “correct” to the sentence in an effort to bring attention to the fact many times these decisions being made are not correct.

Higher order vs. lower order

For those of us who have been around shoothouses long enough you realize the most important trait an individual can have is critical thinking. Yes, there is the knowledge and application of their tactics, but that is the lower order level of learning. The higher order level has to do with their ability to analyze a situation, decide what to do then evaluate the effectiveness of their actions. The mistake I see in the assault world is teaching people choreographed movements through a known floor plan. Congratulations, you have memorized your movements. The moment you throw a wrench into the plans effectiveness as a cohesive unit falls apart or worse.

Back to the basics

Decentralized command and control is critical to the timely accomplishment of your mission. You cannot wait for instructions on how to solve a problem when the problem is starring you right in the face. I see hugely expensive shoothouses popping up all over the place and believe me I’m stoked to see this, but they are part of the problem. I am not saying you should avoid these facilities, quite to the contrary. The instruction on tactics, techniques and procedures is what makes or break these facilities. Despite all the grandeur it is fundamentals executed decisively that make up close quarter battle. They are principle based and therefore transcend a multitude of situations and scenarios.

To put your hands up or get on the floor

A perfect example is the decision to go deliberate or dynamic. It’s a trick question for the simple reason you will jump from one technique to the other on a single target and this is the problem. You therefore cannot say we always do this or always do that. The situation will dictate and the ability for the assault team members to recognize the situation and then adjust accordingly is sourly missing in many team structures. You may start out deliberate and have to jump to dynamic because the situation is changing, rarely do plans survive first contact with the enemy. To make matters worse, this transition may be conducted multiple times, can each member of your team examine the situation then develop a new plan in a compressed time frame.

The heart of your battle plan

Before you can expect to perform at this higher order of thinking you have to master the fundamentals. It doesn’t matter what kind of uniform you wear there are constants you will face and need to master. Some of these constants are breach point procedures, hallway/stairwell management, room entry/management and consolidation. Each of these principles are unique and must be thoroughly practiced and rehearsed with their appropriate contingencies. Any structure take down will have these constants preformed and often times performed multiple times. I consider this to be the lower order, the higher order comes when you change something and the team has to recognize the change, evaluate it and then implement their change to tactics and this is how you get to correct split second decision making.

I have always said it and my mentors said it to me long before me, CQB is a thinking mans game. It is not for the dull or dimwitted, but the cleaver and creative.

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