In Part I, the ambush was defined in finite terms along with common elements of all ambushes.
“Condition of Use: The SHTF and WROL scenarios are common place; there is no capability for recognized ‘first responders’ to nullify the threat to your NPA (Neighborhood Protection Area) or keep you and your ‘precious cargo’ safe. You are on your own.
NPT Scenario: So, you’ve been diligent about getting a NPT established and trained before SHTF/WROL occurred (or even after, before things got really dicey with the associated steep learning curve), have been doing extensive reconnaissance, and have determined that a significant (you judge on what ‘significant’ means) number of MZB’s mean to come and raid your small, secure NPA for whatever staples you have. All first response entities that are out there are busy taking care of their own families and won’t respond (think police, fire, and ambulance response during Katrina).
Your reconnaissance team(s) has/have been out several times in the last few days, and they keep coming back with indications that you’ve been being reconned from without. There are definite signs you’re little NPA is being targeted by MZB’s.”
This installment will describe various categories of ambushes as well as some of the skills required to successfully perform the task.
Ambushes can initially be divided into two categories: Purpose and Target
We’ll look at the purposes for an ambush first.
- To Harass – Harassment ambushes are designed, and are effective if executed properly, to slow down an opposing force’s movement toward a particular location or objective. There is no attempt to get in close or to destroy the bad guys. It serves well as a delaying action. Harassing ambushes may be accomplished by one person or a large team.
- To Kill – Killing ambushes are focused on killing a specific group or individual within the kill zone with a secondary objective of destroying equipment. They’re usually conducted by larger groups, say, for example, a squad (10 to 13 people), but can be done with smaller or larger groups, up to a platoon (33 to 44 people, approximately). Destruction of the ambushed party is projected to be extremely fast and complete. It may be comprised of personnel, explosives, organic light machine guns, or all of these. There are many and varied formations for these ambushes, which will be described later. Successful reaction to these ambushes requires a high degree of repetitive training by a group simply because reaction time and routes out of the kill zone will be extremely limited.
- To Resupply – These are designed to equip or re-equip, supply or re-supply of the group performing the ambush, or a group the ambushing group is supporting. Complete destruction of the ambushed party is not the objective; gaining the material or equipment possessed by the ambushed group is the desired end result. Basically, it’s an armed robbery on steroids. The one element that will set this type of ambush party apart is the ‘carriers.’ Supplies taken must be carried out, and depending on the weight and containers, more carriers than ambushers may be needed, which will require the carriers (if not participating in the ambush) to be secured close enough to the kill zone to be quickly employed, but far enough away to ensure they won’t be accidentally discovered and will be reasonably safe until needed. Doing so also requires that well-trained NPT members be assigned as a security element for the carriers in the event that something goes awry during the ambush.
- To Kidnap – Formally, this is called a ‘prisoner’ ambush. Both formal military and informal civilian groups have and continue to use this ambush to capture high value persons that may be from the opposition’s command structure or highly valuable to hold for ransom or propaganda purposes. As the object of this ambush is to take the primary target(s) alive, killing power must be strictly controlled. The ambush team must also be able to leave the ambush site quickly and cover it’s back trail to ensure they can evade any follow on response force.
- Any of the Above in Combination – Depending on the group or entity, ambushes can always have a secondary purpose of capturing equipment or supplies, kidnapping important people, and so forth. Situational factors during planning will have the greatest impact on the specific type of ambush to be performed.
Now we can look at ambushes by target, specifically who or what is the ambush focused on.
- Dismounted Groups – That means, groups or teams that are on foot walking along roads, trails, streams, in deployed formations, or in other areas they may be brought under fire. This ambush is extremely difficult to successfully perform on regular infantry type units in anyone’s military, provided the troops in question are well-trained in reacting to ambushes. One reason is that military units have front, rear, and flank security screening elements, and today, may in fact, have drone screens above the group moving that can see down into a probable ambush site and alert the military unit moving through the area. When these types of ambushes are successful against military units, chances are that severe lapses in security combined with catastrophic failure by the troop commander, patrol leader, or members to take rapid counter actions to break contact or turn the initiative away from the ambushing party. Conversely, these ambushes typically work spectacularly on the lone civilian dignitary who may decide to go ‘walk about’ without his or her trained security detail, even if they are personally armed, civilians typically targeted for this ambush do not train in counter-ambush techniques or carry enough ammunition or a weapon capable of getting them to safety.
- Against Vehicles – The easiest ambush to conduct and most difficult to counter. Speed at which the vehicle(s) move is no real defense against the ambush, as most of these use either improvised explosive devices (IED’s) or military grade explosives that are activated either by the ambushing party or mechanisms when tripped by who or whatever. Speed is actually a liability to the targeted group due to vehicular spacing, reactions of drivers, ‘march’ control, and discipline within the convoy (two or more vehicles).
- Against Watercraft – The more narrow the inland waterway, the better for the ambushing party. This ambush is very similar to the vehicular ambush in execution and purpose. Countering difficulty is magnified by the water itself, as dismounting can only be done when the craft reaches the shoreline. Additionally, point, flank, and rear security duties, which can be performed by other watercraft, are subject to the same countering conditions as the primary watercraft or convoy. If conducted for propaganda purposes, these ambushes can have great psychological impact on the economy of a state or nation by branding travel by boat as ‘too dangerous’.
- Against Trains – Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid were ahead of their time. They used train ambushes to their advantage and the methodology used then is still valid today. These ambushes combine some elements of both the raid and sabotage functions. Getting the train to stop at or near a desired ambush point typically requires sabotage of the track. If successful, the ‘ambush’ team conducts a raid on the train and secures its objective or destroys the train, mission dependent.
- Against Aircraft – These require great stealth getting into position either at the ends of active runways, landing zones, or along the path of initial take off or final approach for fixed wing or within effective range for slow moving rotary wing aircraft which are always the most vulnerable areas for any aircraft. Typically, groups that have aircraft available also have an area denial capability (also known as Air Base Ground Defense or Distributed Area Defense) to preclude the loss of aircraft. When these are carried out, they usually require man portable Surface to Air Missles (SAM) or belt fed machine guns and trained gunners. The ambush team also must possess the ability to quickly leave the area to ensure they are not taken out by any Quick Reaction Force (QRF).
- Against Individuals – Comprised of any sized team against dignitaries, officials, wealthy people, rival criminals, or disfavored ethnicities. The person can be walking, driving a car, riding a bicycle, sitting on a bench, having dinner at home, literally doing anything anywhere. All that is required is confirmed intelligence on patterns, habits, locations, preferences, and likely courses of action the target may or may not take.
Chances are, if you research this subject in more depth, you’ll be able to come up with quite a few more classifications that are valid; just remember that all classification systems everywhere are artificial, that is, there is none that is invalid, and the classifications are totally user dependent. The key is to to determine common elements of what must be done, plan the task, rehearse it, and execute it effectively.
In the case of our fictional NPT scenario, that means stopping the MZB’s and getting everyone back inside the NPA perimeter with a minimum amount of damage.
Before we start to describe the composition of an ambush teams and effective ambush formations, we need to provide an overview of the skills necessary to be an effective member of an ambush team:
- Be Physically Fit – Yes, we’re beating that dead horse again. If you’re not fit, you’re not going to make it there and back. You’re not an asset, you’re a liability. You may be carrying a lot of ammunition in and captured equipment/supplies out. Regular rucking helps.
- Proficient with Personal Weapons – That means you need to be able to shoot. Whatever you have. Deliberately. Accurately. Aimed at the MZB’s.
- Proficient in Individual Movement Techniques – High Crawl, Low Crawl, Stealthy Movement, Hand and Arm Signals (there is NO talking on a patrol, especially when you’re out looking for trouble), and so forth.
- Land Navigation/Terrain Association – Sure, you might not be the ‘compass man’ or ‘keeper of the map’, but if you get separated, you’ll be glad you can figure out where you are, where you need to be, and how to get there, especially if it’s been made clear that there won’t be time to look for lost/separated members.
- Camouflage – Individual, weapons, equipment. This doesn’t just mean donning the latest and greatest ‘multi-flage’. You might be in an urban environment. Looking like everyone else is sometimes your only camouflage. Being able to blend in to the surrounding scenery is a cornerstone of success.
- Ability to ‘SALUTE’ – Every patrol, even an ambush, is a reconnaissance mission. You must be able to accurately report what you have seen. Others may have not seen it, and nothing is to be taken as ‘irrelevant’.
There are more, to be sure. What would you add?
Next Installment: Composition of Ambush Team and Basic Formations