Today is the one year anniversary of the Paris terror attacks. Let us remember all the innocents who perished while out for an evening’s pleasure, and may the information I presented here a year ago help anyone caught out under the same circumstances when we see a similar event. While I certainly pray otherwise, I think in these days a prudent person will consider the possibility of another such event, and take the time to think through in advance courses of action that may save their lives or those who depend on them.
There are a great many much more qualified (than me) commentators on the tactical implications of the Paris attacks for armed professionals, law enforcement, and the private citizen. For a very good compilation go here http://www.activeresponsetraining.net to my friend and colleague Greg Ellifritz’s excellent blog.
Since we are mental software type people, I thought I’d share a few observations from that perspective.
So in no particular order, some random points and implication.. As always, nothing I say here is more than my opinion based on my experience and training, so let your own experience/expertise/training/opinion be your guide as to its value
The axis of the attack
One way to take this is that the insertion of the operators along a north south axis utilizing primary avenues of approach and egress into the heart of the city was purely a matter of chance, or convenience for whatever support element MAY have assisted…of course they could have just taken the bus, subway, or private car.
A result of coordinated attacks taking place along that axis is that it creates a series of interlocking traffic stoppages/grid lock into the heart of the city. If one refers to the timeline/sequence of events, near simultaneous and in rapid succession, one result is to tie up traffic and responding units into tight little balls, and subsequent units and follow on help will end up being tangled, slowed, distracted…vulnerable.
For LE/professional responders/EMS etc.: You may be cut off and diverted out of the usual way to a particular scene. You may be unable to drive directly to the scene and have to dismount some way off. If so, are you physically able to move from your vehicle carrying all your gear (rifle, plates, spare mags, blow out kits, EMS gear, whatever)? Do you have a plan for alternate communications in the case you dismount? What if your comms go down? (for instance, in a more fully integrated attack that simultaneously hits the power grid and the radio network and fiber optics that run many public safety VOIP communications? Imagine responding to a mass shooter event in a blackout and with no communications….)
For us regular folks: You may not be able to get to your vehicle, if you have one, or take public transport out if you use that. Do you have good shoes to walk all the way from a downtown venue to your home if you had to? Back in the early 2000s when NYC was hit with a major blackout, several friends of mine had to walk from Manhattan to Brooklyn. That’s a long hike in strappy Ferragamos, as one of my lady friends said. Do you know how to get back to where you need to be on foot? Do you have downloaded (on your actual phone drive) maps of your local areas in case phone/GPS goes out? Could you navigate blacked out city streets without a GPS or paper map? Do you have a flashlight with you in case you have to read street signs in the dark? Can you figure out which way is north or south or east or west? A little button compass might be useful then.
Fire discipline displayed by shooters
At each of the restaurant/café/street side shootings along the way, police recovered approximately 100 shell casings. With two shooters, that adds up to about two magazines of 30-rounds each. That’s discipline and experience. Shooters debuss from the vehicle, empty two magazines into the crowded streetside venue, jump back in and drive away. What does that fire discipline tell us? Training, rehearsal, experience. Most of all experience. These are seasoned, i.e. they have killed before, shooters who can remain cool and keep track of their ammunition expenditure, who display fire discipline, and continue moving along their pre-determined route to hit either targets of opportunity or (more likely) carefully pre-scouted venues that provide the most access from the street combined with the largest number of people.
LE/armed professionals. These are seasoned killers. That doesn’t mean they’re particularly superior tacticians or gun handlers, but their big advantage is simple, robust tactics coupled to (most importantly) not only the willingness to kill but experience in killing. And they’re not concerned about getting caught or dying. So facing an opponent in that fashion requires moving to kill, not to arrest. The vast majority of LE are not trained or supported in training to kill in this scenario – and that’s not normally the job of the police. However, there is no question that if you are armed and you engage with or are identified by operators like this in a scenario, you will immediately come under fire and be engaged until you are dead. So that’s a good motivation to keep in mind.
The armed citizen. A very good reason to pre-think decision making. A handgun against a long gun at the distances involved from the street to a sidewalk café, especially in a lone handgunner against a seasoned fire team with long guns is not an optimal situation for the handgunner. Moving to cover, shooting from ambush, understanding and knowing what one’s baseline of performance under stress, having sufficient ammunition to sustain an extended fire fight and knowing/understanding that in this scenario suppressive fire with a pistol to cover your own or other peoples evacuation might be a viable tactic.
Trained in that lately? Against resistance? Against dedicated attackers who mean to fix you in place and kill you?
If you are unarmed in this instance, it’s best to channel Monty Python and run away, run away, run away. Going empty hands against seasoned killers with long guns is a non-starter unless you are within arm’s reach, which requires motivation and a skill set that is not common in most.
Sophistication in IED manufacture, i.e. bomb vests/belts.
Contrary to popular fiction and film, you don’t just gin these up in your basement. Building vests/belts that go off when they’re supposed to, and yet are comfortable enough (or at least non movement inhibiting) to wear while fighting requires a sophisticated skill set, expertise, and specialized equipment. And of course explosives. On a recent visit to Israel, some operators shared with me details of a particular bomb/shooting operation: the female bomber was wearing a bomb vest that had been built off a cast of her torso; at visual examination it looked like a pregnant belly, but was a sophisticated device with safety triggers (and possibly with a remote detonating capability with encrypted cellular as a back up, but I’m not sure). The team included 4 active shooters equipped with long guns and pistols, whose job was to make sure she got into the venue and detonated the device and then they were to engage responding units and civilians till they ran out of ammo or were killed.
They didn’t get to do that, because the very hard guys got to them first, but it’s a good example of what is not just possible but standard operating procedure. It also means that serious professional bombmakers are involved somewhere, and so those devices are not of the pressure cooker type (though those may be around too). Higher level of sophistication in IED.
Professional responders: You must plan for bombs and explosives as a given. If there’s shooting, there will be explosions. Whether hand grenades or IEDs. What is your level of knowledge on handling IED in THE STREET FIGHTING ENVIRONMENT? Not render safe procedures, or bunkering and waiting for the robot to water cannon the package, as in running to and into a fight where there may be IEDs on the targets you’re shooting, or in the bags around them, or in the grenades they throw your way? Will you anchor a downed shooter so they don’t detonate their vest and kill you and your fellow officers? Do you have a procedure to back people away to a safe distance? Do you know what the safe distance is for an IED bomb vest/belt/grenade? If not, who are you going to ask for that information and how will you remember it/train it?
Us civilians: Remember Monty Python. Run away, run away, run away. Rule of thumb: move far enough away from a downed shooter/suspect package so that when you extend your arm full length, you can hide from your view the shooter/package scene behind your outstretched thumb. In the event of a blast or if there are grenades, etc. being flung in your direction: Ass to the blast. Turn away from the device. Get behind cover if you can in 1-2 steps. If not, get down flat on your belly, ass to the blast, cross your feet at your ankles, press your elbows to your sides and press your hands to your ears and open your mouths. If you have a child/children, shove them underneath you, compress their heads under your chest with your arms squeezed against your side so that their ears and head are protected; squash them flat under you. They will probably be screaming so their mouths will be open. Try to cover your ears as well if you can. Same if you have a loved one who’s too slow or doesn’t know how. Press them as flat as you can and cover them.
If you are injured, self assess: can you keep going to get further away from the scene, or are you truly too injured to proceed? Other folks write at length about the need for medical training; really first aid is an essential life skill and you don’t need to be an expert on trauma management to save a life including your own.
If there’s one explosion, there’s two (or there will be). When you run, pick your direction and consider, if you are able to in the moment, that you might be herded along the most likely avenue of escape into another explosive killing zone.
A lot of what I’ve read lately on the Error-Net focuses on gear and what you, Joe Civilian or Mary First-Responder should be carrying. I like gear, don’t get me wrong, and I’m fully on board with having the right stuff when you need it. I’ve been toting myself, weapons and gear in harm’s way since the 70s, and here’s a few pithy things I’ve learned from people smarter than me:
*Training trumps gear.
*Specific real-world experience trumps generalized training.
*Knowledge derived from experience and supplemented by training allows quantum leaps in improvisation.
All that being said, yes, it’s better to have a t’quet instead of a belt, or a table cloth; yes it’s better to have an Izzy or some other pressure dressing; yes it’s better to have an airway instead of a safety pin…
There’s a balancing point between what you can reasonably (i.e. comfortably, have immediately available, concealed if that’s a concern, if off body in a every day carry sized bag) have with you and what you would actually WANT in a full blown low probability high risk scenario like what happened in Paris. There’s lots of other people opining about that who are much better qualified to discuss the latest and the greatest than me.
Here’s a couple of things a friend of mine whose experience and training is significant suggested:
*Have a weapon and a concealment system. Preferably high capacity with a minimum of one high capacity magazine.
(He likes a G19 with a flush 15 round mag, and as a back up mag a 17 rd mag modified with a Dawson Precision +5 baseplate and spring, which gives him a minimum of 38 rounds. He has been known to slip two back up mags in his waistband. He conceals it with a system that consists of a Boxer Tactical belt, a Black Center Tactical holster modded with an Incog extra long strut, and a couple of mag pouches similarly modded for deep concealment.)
*A strong knife. Pocket knife is fine, or a small legal sized fixed blade, like the Boker Coye Razorback in a good sheath.
*Breaching tool. Not a big-ass tacti-cool one, but something with glassbreaker capability like the superb Spyderco Rescue Knife, or a small ti pry bar, etc. Or even the key chain mounted ones. Breaking a window is harder than it looks, and having the capability to break hardened glass to get out of somewhere is vastly under rated.
*A flashlight, preferably with high lumen and a strobe or signal capability (MiniMag Light with SOS signal in it is just fine).
*A bandana (to dab his fevered brow, or improvise as a blood stopper)
*iPhone 6+ with several specialized apps installed that work WITHOUT cell or wi-fi signal. These apps include OsmAndMaps, which allows the user to download detailed maps onto the phone so in the absence of cell/wi-fi you have detailed maps to navigate with, and Lofty Wiseman’s SAS Survival app. The feature of the SAS app he likes best is the built in (not dependent on wi-fi/cell) Morse code communication app. You can type in a plain text message, the program translates it into Morse code and then uses the built in smartphone flashlight (or the screen itself) to transmit the message. No doubt someone is laughing at sending Morse code these days; however given a major event and the amount of aerial and satellite coverage dedicated to an in-progress event, synchronized flashes whether recognizable as Morse code or not (and they are to the computers, kiddies, the algorithm sorts it….) can show location (like trapped in a rubble pile) or convey useful information to the Fed computers who can translate that for the tacticool knuckle draggers (3 T long gun, 2 ied ne entrance, roof clear) if one were playing mouse in the wall.
Anything else is nice to have, if you have the time and wherewithal to lug stuff around. These days I see people lugging backpacks stuffed with trauma bags spare magazines and AR pistols to go to the coffee shop; there’s so much just in case gear in there you can’t squeeze a laptop in. All cool with me – just have a plan to use it and be cool about it.
Note about the AR pistols: It’s a “thing” to have an AR pistol in one’s backpack or whatever. Great tool for those who know how to set it up, zero it, and run it. Those that know how to do that are familiar with the ballistics and how your particular round choice (300 Blackout or 5.56) will be affected by the different barrel length, and zero accordingly. Most of the people blasting away with them at public ranges have never zeroed them and have no idea where their rounds will hit past 7 yards, much less at 100 yards or more (very easy inside of any mall and many schools). Yeah, having a rifle caliber in a compact package is awesome up close – assuming you can deploy it and hit with it. A 10.5 inch barrel AR pistol zeroed at 50 meters gets you easy center of mass hits out to 200 meters; up close you have to account for offset if you want precise head shots, but keeping it in the body is not hard. An extremely experienced friend counts kills at 500meters using a MK-18 with an ACOG – 10.3 inch barrel.
If you’re going to carry stuff, know how to use it and what the capabilities are. And yours.
Since the brain responds best to focused questions, here’s some to consider when you mull readiness and preparedness. Think about these as a way to create a foundational neural net to build your mental rehearsal on:
How are you mentally prepared? Do you have relevant experience and or training? Do you have skills to improvise weapons and medical equipment? If armed, what is your real skill level as opposed to your training day skill. How far can you engage accurately under stress? What is your performance when tested cold to establish your real baselines? Do you have any previous experience with threat to life stress? Do you have sufficient ammo to SUSTAIN an engagement against automatic carbines/rifles at close range? Can you do suppressive fire with a pistol against carbines/rifles? (Harrington Drill: empty 3 15-rd mags as fast as you can at 7, 15, 25 – all hits on a pie plate.) Can you engage when surrounded by injured panicked innocents? Can you kill? Do you have a plan not to get killed by responding units or other armed citizens? How do you respond? What’s the decision tree? Are you alone or with someone you must be responsible for? (Kids, family, friends who are NOT fighters or armed?) Are you injured? Are you armed? Do you have a cellphone and is it functioning? Are you pinned down or herded into an environment conducive to hostage taking (killing)? Can you engage? Are you able to engage without being immediately killed? Can you hide and wait, even if you must see horrific things (children killed, women raped, etc.) while you are waiting? Can you wait till the right time? Would you recognize the right time if you saw it? Can you realistically feign compliance to achieve a superior fighting position?
There’s some food for thought (actually a feast for thought, but then I’m a cognitive neuroscience enthusiast…)