After Action Report - Sunday 12 January 2020

My apologies for the delay in getting this out.  Real life stuff prevented me from typing this up until now.

Disclaimer - Nothing here is meant to be critical in any way.  It is 100% meant to be a review of the main things I saw, both good and bad, during the operation.  Ideally, it will lead to improvements in teamwork and overall execution of upcoming missions.  Also, this is not necessarily prescriptive.  It's just thoughts and ideas that should get people thinking and incorporate into their tool kit.

For some perspective, this mission would typically require 1-2 platoons of conventional troops.  A smaller element of Special Forces may be the assault force, but they would typically still have a platoon of Rangers or conventional forces as support.  So, good job on executing a difficult mission with extremely limited resources.

Mission Command (Planning & Control)

1. Urban environments suck, period.  Urban terrain is by far the most difficult terrain to fight in.  

This presented itself from the very beginning while discussing how to identify buildings.  Typically, an alpha numeric system would be used.  City blocks or groups of buildings would be grouped into sectors designated with a letter, and within the sector individual buildings would be numbered.  This allows easy reporting on location and improves situational awareness.  This can be further modified by using different colors or other marking schemes.  There's no real right or wrong way.  Just keep it simple.

2. Utilize the terrain - During our refit at FOB Churchill, I set up on top the building to pull security.  I had an amazing view of the surrounding town.  I say this to point out that a quick 1-2 minute recon of the immediate surroundings could have been hugely beneficial for situational awareness.  I'll discuss this more in the technique sections, but leaving one team here while the other team assaulted the first house would've been a good idea.

*Side note*  This reminds of me of my platoon leader in Iraq directing our platoon through a village from a rooftop.  We gave him a bunch of grief for pretending to be a modern day Napoleon.  While funny, what he was doing was pretty smart.  He was able to move his forces and see everything that was going on.

3.  Tracking where you are and where you have been -  As such a small element, we don't have a huge issue with tracking our progress.  However, there were a few times in the mission where it took some time to reorient ourselves.  This is inevitable, but can be mitigated.  This will be especially important as our group grows. 

I have typically used chem lights to mark buildings.  Green to mark clear, red to mark obstacles (explosives, traps, etc...), blue for casualty collection points.  This can be whatever you want it to be.  I'm not sure how well chem lights work in ARMA.  So, may not be viable, but we will probably want to figure something out.

4.  Conceptualizing the battle space -  As the ground commander, it may be helpful to simply imagine each city sector/block as a house.  What I mean by this, is as a team maneuvers through a house, you should push your squad(s) through the block/sector.  Your doing the same thing as the team leader, but one level up.  Imagine buildings as rooms, roads as hallways, and the whole sector as the house.  This can greatly simplify your control of the fight.  

5. The raid - This was executed pretty well overall.  I think everyone was clicking pretty well at this point and it showed.  Utilizing a short recon of the objective from the hilltop was a text book example of how to do the final preparation.  Essentially, this was a simplified version of an Objective Rally Point leading into Actions on the Objective.  (I'll explain those terms in more detail in the coming weeks)  I would recommend keeping ARs on the hill as a support by fire.  Sprinting with the LMG across the field was rough, and I ultimately was no good to anyone.  The only other consideration would be to try to assault from an angle so as to give the support by fire maximum ability to support the assault.  Due to the elevation this was mostly a non-issue.  Just for future consideration.


The above section was focused on more on command and control elements.  This section will focus on the way we execute the commander's intent.

1.  Movement in an urban environment - Given that we knew we were facing numerous enemies that were well equipped, we should have utilized a different posture initially.  Movements in an urban environment should be controlled and deliberate in order to maintain control.  However, executing each move should be a flat out sprint from one point of cover to the next.  Plan your moves slowly, then execute them rapidly.

We began our mission by slowly walking with weapons up in a staggered column which was basically a presence patrol.  (Also, pretty sure my team was going to the wrong building at first)  Rich saw an issue with this and attempted to fix it.  However, he halted us in the open so he could talk to the team leader.  This leads me to my next point.

2. GET OUT OF THE OPEN! -  This is the type of mistake that gets people kicked in the chest by their team leader in real life to keep them from doing it in combat.  I can not emphasize enough how important this is.  Cover is your friend.  Cover will keep you alive.  Don't get comfortable, and don't get complacent.  We essentially got ambushed three times while hanging out in the open.

3.  Get inside the building - The safest spot in an urban environment is inside of a building.  It can be claustrophobic and distressing to have limited visibility on your surroundings, but it's basically 360 cover.  Get inside and then figure out what comes next.

4.  Overwatch always -  Points 2 & 3 can be dangerous if you just do it blindly without support.  This is why one team always supports the other.  As mentioned earlier, our initial movement out of the FOB would have ideally been executed by one team sprinting to the first target building while the other team supported their movement.  Once that first foothold is secured, the trail team can move up.   One team can stay on assault or teams can alternate and leap frog each other.

5.  Clearing the courtyard first - This seems to be a scaled down version of a cordon and search, but is sub-optimal for several reasons.  I understand the thought process, but here's where it really breaks apart.  The team that is clearing the courtyard is exposing themselves to fire from the building while the enemy has freedom to engage from inside with good cover, and is ultimately unnecessary.  It is much more effective to pull overwatch from outside, ideally from elevation.  The assaulting team should clear the portion of courtyard they see as they move to the door to be breached.  Then breach and clear as quickly as possible while still maintaining control.  This is extremely difficult with only two four man teams.  Trail team can finish clearing the courtyard after the building is clear, or if teams grow to 5-6 men each, other team members can do it.

The technique we used also increases risk of friendly fire.  I didn't see the incident, but I think this was a contributing cause to the one we suffered in this mission.

6.  ARs suck for room clearing or anything that requires agility.  IRL, I never allowed my SAW gunner to clear a room unless the S had truly hit the fan.  Make them the #3 man in the stack.  #3 man has least responsibility.  He can toss grenades in the room, then get out of the way.

7.  Get the foothold as fast as possible - This is a continuation of the "get inside" point.  Get a foothold inside of the building as fast as possible.  Then you can take a pause in relative safety while you figure out the next move.  Turn it into a strong point where you can consolidate casualties and prisoners.  This should be the casualty collection point.  Medic knows where to go as soon he gets the call to go save lives.  Squad Leader also goes here in order  to assess the situation.  All this can happen simultaneously while the building continues to get cleared.  



I think we all mentioned this during the debrief.  I'm not really sure how to solve this in ARMA.  Do what you have to do to get pumped up and tuned in.  Watch a video of Mel Gibson killing Englishmen, Vietnamese, or more Englishmen.  Play Fortunate Son by CCR.  Whatever you gotta do.  


I apologize for the long post.  As always, I hope this a net positive for the group.  I'm open to feedback on how I put these together.
Great feedback and insight.

Building on Point 2 of the overview points, we could consider taking a portable drone into urban environments to allow mission lead a birds eye view at any time to basically steer the personnel through the objectives.

Something McBride and I spoke about tonight, 1st Air Assault is moving to a more formal command structure, having a mission lead (Zero Alpha) for each mission, allowing all levels of leadership to focus on their own areas of responsibility more effectively. This should help with some of the other points raised by McBride.

Also, remember this. The group did this mission with not one formal urban/MOUT training. When we incorporate the above with the MOUT training many of the legacy members have enjoyed in our previous groups, can you imagine how awesome we'll be?
Great feed back McBride and some really good points raised.

As Rich has said considering as a group we have not yet covered FIBUA training the points you have highlighted are going to be really helpful. I mentioned to Rich the other day that I that I was not happy that you would not make your points during our after game debrief. I unreservedly take that back, your written AAR is concise and valid.

Well done buddy
Well done!
BTW.... I have nothing against the English. Mel Gibson just has a penchant for making dramatic war movies lol
Great feedback and good points. Always tough to really find the sweet spot between real world tactics that work and ArmA being....well ArmA. These write ups, I think, help bridge that gap between game and tactics and hopefully we can take some points away to help us out in future scenarios, it seems like other members appreciate your efforts as well making these. Between our upcoming trainings and once we have members in a formal command structure and leadership roles more fleshed out like Rich has talked about, I think we are heading in a good direction to being a well oiled machine. Nice work
That was a great and informative read, well done and thank you for sharing it with your experience as well Smile

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