Tuesday, 27 November 2012


A Post Engagement Drill

Scan and Assess

The mantra ‘scan and breathe’ is shouted regularly by range staff during military range practices and private tactical courses. Those of us that have participated or lead instruction in this training have hoarseness in our voices by the end of the training day. The concept to continually update your situational awareness (SA) and regulate your breathing to control your Body Alarm Response (BAR) is widely accepted.

Situational awareness is being aware of what is happening in the surrounding area and understanding how one's own actions will affect objectives. Accurate and up-to-the-minute SA is indispensable when dealing with complexities of battle. The Observe, Orient, Decide, Act Loop or OODA Loop is a combat operations process used for decision making at all levels of operations. The OODA Loop was conceptualized by USAF Col. John Boyd; a fighter pilot. On a tactical level, an individual who work the cycle rapidly, observing and acting on unfolding events more rapidly than an opponent, can  "get inside" the opponent's decision cycle. ‘Scan and Assess’ post engagement drills keeps the operator’s OODA loop flowing, continually processing tactical data and allowing action, rather than reaction.

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During tactical encounters, the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) ramps up; commonly referred to as a Body Alarm Response (BAR) or “fight or flight” reaction. The positive effect of the BAR is the release of adrenaline; which prepares the individual to deal with the stress of battle. The negative effects of the BAR include perceptual narrowing, cognitive disruption, and motor skill alteration. The effects of the BAR on vision can be extreme. Perceptual narrowing is the loss of peripheral vision and a narrowing of the field of vision (FoV). This means a second adversary may go unnoticed unless the operator is scanning and updating their SA constantly. Auditory exclusion is the body’s way of trying to avoid sensory overload when processing threats. However, with auditory exclusion, you may not hear a team mate shouting a warning or other crucial communication. Tactical breathing techniques will help reduce the negatives effects of the BAR and allow the para-sympathetic system (PNS) to kick in sooner.

From personal experience, the ‘scan and breathe’ or ‘scan and assess’ is not a complete drill. While updating SA and controlling the BAR, they do not address working in a team environment and communication. They do not deal with weapon status or what to do next. The SCORE drill has been calculated to focus on all post engagement requirements.

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Scan and Breathe, Communicate, Observe, Reload/Remedy, Evaluate

Check Six O'Clock
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Scan and Breathe: After engaging your threat or threats, follow them with your muzzle to the ground. Assess whether or not they are neutralized. Follow your Rules of Engagement (ROE) or agency’s Use of Force policy (UoF). Scan with your weapon right to left; opposite how we read. This will allow you to process your environment more accurately. Scan with your weapon up; especially in a built up or close terrain. Shoulder check for additional threats and update your SA on the tactical position and physical condition your partner or fire team. Look for non-verbal communication like they are targeting a specific area. Check your six o’clock; look behind you for additional threats and update your SA on the tactical position and physical condition the rest of your element. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. This can only be done consciously thus controlling your breathing.

Communicate: Use your element SOP verbage. Now is not the time to sort out SOPs. However, it must be closed loop communication, either by a verbal, hand signal, or head nod with eye contact response. Communication may be through personal radios using code-words or phrases; get acknowledged by the teammate at the other end of the radio.. Remember, your fire team is controlling their BAR as well. Remember the ABCs of tactical communication; Accuracy, Brevity and Clarity. 

Observe: Canting your weapon without removing it from your arcs of responsibility. Observe the position of the bolt or slide. This is a real value added step. Your last round could have been a stoppage. One hundred percent weapon condition verification with one simple step. Transition to secondary if threat is imminent. 

Remedy or Reload: Using your element SOP verbage, communicate with your fire team partner your requirement to perform an immediate action or tactical reload. Perform required immediate action, remedial action or tactical reload.  When complete, communicate that information to your fireteam partner. Be prepared to support them as they do the same. Should you be supporting your fireteam partner with their Remedy or Reload and your weapon requires an IA; transition to your secondary and cover your team arcs. If there is time, bump ammunition forward into empty pouches. Do not waste an opportunity to increase your readiness.

Evaluate: Continually conduct threat assessment. Continually route plan for access and cover. Illuminate dark places. Think like the enemy. Be prepared to use this gathered information should the situation change. Be prepared to act on command.

CBRN/Hazmat environs, will further 
reduced field of vision (FoV)
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Remember, SCORE is a living drill shaped by the tactical environment. In a CBRN or Hazmat environments, with the further reduced field of vision (FoV) by the respirator and increased hearing loss by the hoods of the CBRN suits, scans will be more deliberate and communication may require physical contact to close the communication loop.  In adverse lighting conditions, scans will be deliberate, possibly with a hand held light, and non-verbal communication will include the orientation of IR LADs and weaponlights. SCORE is a complete post engagement drill that solves tactical problems within a team or element action. It allows for continual situational awareness, cycling through the OODA loop, constant communication between members and rapid confirmation of firepower.

Take care out there.

Special thanks to Don Reber at Tactical Photographer

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