Small Wars Journal

Getting Beyond Door Kicking: Four Tasks for Urban Warriors

Getting Beyond Door Kicking: Four Tasks for Urban Warriors by John Spencer - Modern War Institute

Ask any group of infantry soldiers what they train to prepare for urban operations and the answer will usually be: Battle Drill 6, “Enter and Clear a Room.” Battle Drill 6 is one of the fourteen drills, defined by doctrine, that infantry platoons and squads are intended to master. But it is also ingrained in soldiers—alongside shooting and breaching—as the foundation for preparing for urban combat. These skills are necessary for success in urban environments, but not sufficient. A review of historical urban operations shows that there are several other tasks that units need to add to their training programs.

I practiced and trained others to enter and clear a room for most of my twenty-five years as an infantryman. It is simple. The initial training takes almost zero resources. You put white engineer tape on the ground in the shape of rooms to construct “glass houses,” and start practicing the methodical movements that make up the battle drill. Four soldiers line up, one behind another, and follow a very prescribed choreography to enter and move through rooms. Once the drill is trained to standard, the squad or platoon moves to a shoot house to conduct dry, blank, and live-fire repetitions on a single room, and then progress to clearing multiple rooms in a single house.

Depending on the unit training schedule, soldiers may expand to urban assaults, where they attack a series of buildings that simulate a city block or small village. Unfortunately, the majority of the home-station urban training ranges are limited to between five and twenty buildings. I have argued that the Army needs bigger and better training sites and schools. Until that happens, units can train in large urban training areas located at the combat training centers, the Muscatatuck Urban Training Complex (MUTC), and civilian-run training sites like Guardian Centers in Perry, Georgia. But even prior to major training events at sites like these, which usually are only annual or semi-annual, units can still use their home-station urban training sites and local urban areas to train a wide variety of tasks besides just Battle Drill 6 and small-scale urban assaults.

Major historical fights in dense urban terrain—Stalingrad, Aachen, or Manila in World War II—and more recent fights in Panama City, Mogadishu, Grozny, Fallujah, Sadr City, and Mosul combine to show that there are reoccurring challenges that small units need to train to overcome, in addition to mastering the fundamentals of entering and clearing rooms and buildings…

Read on.