OP­ER­A­TOR OLYMPICS

RE­COIL GETS A FRONT-ROW SEAT AT THE USASOC ASSAULTER’S COM­PE­TI­TION

Recoil - - Contents - BY TOM MAR­SHALL PHO­TOS COUR­TESY OF U.S. ARMY

RE­COIL Gets a FRONTROW Seat at the USASOC Assaulter’s Com­pe­ti­tion

The U.S. Army Spe­cial Op­er­a­tions Com­mand, com­monly re­ferred to as USASOC, is the largest sin­gle com­po­nent of the in­ter­ser­vice U.S. Spe­cial Op­er­a­tions Com­mand (USSOCOM) and the con­trol­ling el­e­ment for all Army Spe­cial Op­er­a­tions Forces. Head­quar­tered at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, USASOC is re­spon­si­ble for units like the 75th Ranger Reg­i­ment, 160th Spe­cial Op­er­a­tions Avi­a­tion Reg­i­ment, 1st Spe­cial Forces Com­mand, and the John F. Kennedy Spe­cial War­fare Cen­ter and School. In short, USASOC is re­spon­si­ble for train­ing and lead­ing sol­diers who are ex­tremely pro­fi­cient at putting boot to ass for free­dom.

Part of what makes th­ese units so ca­pa­ble is the im­mense amount of time and ef­fort they put into their train­ing. They at­tend laun­dry lists of schools and put in thou­sands of hours of unit-level train­ing. But even pro­fes­sional badassery like clear­ing rooms and jump­ing out of air­planes can get mo­not­o­nous if it’s all you do, day after day, with no va­ri­ety. Com­pe­ti­tion of­ten breeds a drive for in­creased per­for­mance and can serve as a valu­able train­ing tool that both im­proves skill level and dis­tracts from the repet­i­tive­ness of for­mal­ized in­struc­tion.

It was, in part, be­cause of this value that USASOC started the In­ter­na­tional Sniper’s Com­pe­ti­tion — which, at time of writ­ing, is in its eighth con­sec­u­tive year. Much newer and less well-known is the sub­ject of this story: a coun­ter­part com­pe­ti­tion known as the Spe­cial Op­er­a­tions As­sault Com­pe­ti­tion. The lat­ter is still in its in­fancy, with this be­ing only the sec­ond year. But it’s grow­ing quickly, and RE­COIL was given an ex­clu­sive chance to watch teams from all around the Spe­cial Op­er­a­tions com­mu­nity face off in a multi-day event that posed some highly de­mand­ing bat­tle­field chal­lenges. Agree­ing to work around some op­er­a­tional se­cu­rity is­sues, we were al­lowed to put to­gether a run­down of some of the com­pe­ti­tion’s high­lights and came away im­pressed not only with the cal­iber of the com­peti­tors, but also by the amount of hard work and ded­i­ca­tion ap­plied by the or­ga­niz­ers - the Range 37 staff, who bust their asses to lay on a world class event.

EVENT #1: EN­DURANCE EVENT

The very first stage of the com­pe­ti­tion was, in true army fash­ion, a phys­i­cal fit­ness event. But this was no 30-minute med­ley of push-ups, sit-ups, and run­ning. The en­durance event is both prac­ti­cal and in­tensely gru­el­ing, test­ing ev­ery ma­jor com­bat task in ad­di­tion to car­dio­vas­cu­lar and mus­cu­lar en­durance. Think you could hack it? Here’s a rough set list of the var­i­ous course ob­jec­tives. Run ap­prox­i­mately a ½ mile to the base of a three-story tower.

Carry 14 .50-cal­iber ammo cans up to the top roof.

All that ammo is no good with­out a ri­fle. Go back down, get the Bar­rett M82A1, and bring it up too.

Rap­pel from the top of the tower.

Run ap­prox­i­mately a ¼ mile to a sec­ond three-story build­ing. Climb a ny­lon cav­ing lad­der to the roof.

Once on the roof, haul a 100-pound duf­fel bag, tied to a fast rope, from the ground to the roof. Run down the stairs and out­side to a non-func­tion­ing ve­hi­cle (sim­u­lated IED). Push the ve­hi­cle an un­spec­i­fied dis­tance.

Don a gas mask, en­sure proper seal, and run through a short course that takes you in and out of houses and be­tween al­ley­ways. At the end of this course are two truck tires.

Flip said tires for ap­prox­i­mately 50 to 100 me­ters.

Re­move gas mask, run to downed air­craft, ex­tract 200-pound dummy, and carry him on a lit­ter an un­known dis­tance, travers­ing more than two 6-foot walls

Did we men­tion you have to com­plete the course in full boots and bat­tle rat­tle, car­ry­ing a com­plete com­bat load of am­mu­ni­tion and equip­ment? And you’re on the clock, mov­ing in a four-man team, so ev­ery­one has to fin­ish.

We watched sev­eral teams go through this event, and it was no joke. At least one sol­dier was in­jured se­verely enough to miss the next two days of the com­pe­ti­tion. Luck­ily, he came out of it fine and was re­turned to duty. But it was a poignant re­minder that even train­ing is risky.

EVENTS #2 AND #5: DAY/NIGHT PIS­TOL SHOOTS

One of the things that ar­guably sets Spe­cial Op­er­a­tions sol­diers apart from con­ven­tional forces is their skill with a va­ri­ety of in­di­vid­ual weapons be­yond the pri­mary ser­vice ri­fle. The day and night “scram­bler” events tested pis­tol skills in a di­verse ar­ray of short stages, in­clud­ing ev­ery­thing you’d imag­ine from a well-thought-out train­ing class or club steel match. Bar­ri­cades, un­con­ven­tional shoot­ing po­si­tions, mul­ti­ple tar­get en­gage­ments, no-shoot tar­gets, and reloads were all in­cluded in the var­i­ous cour­ses of fire.

It’s worth not­ing at this point the num­ber of red-dot-equipped pis­tols we saw. They were par­tic­u­larly help­ful dur­ing the night shoot. A slide-mounted op­tic al­lows you to shoot your pis­tol with night vi­sion gear just like you would nor­mally. It was also in­ter­est­ing to see how much of th­ese par­tic­u­lar “com­bat fo­cused” stages in­cluded el­e­ments from USPSA, IDPA, and Steel Chal­lenge matches. Any­body who still be­lieves that shoot­ing com­pet­i­tively will get them “killed on the streets” should talk to the in­struc­tor cadre down at USASOC.

EVENT #4: DI­RECT AC­TION CQB

This was, by far, one of our fa­vorite events to watch. A four-man as­sault el­e­ment was re­quired to ap­proach a build­ing, con­duct an ex­plo­sive breach for ini­tial en­try, and then clear more than 15 rooms as a solo el­e­ment. The course was run with SRTA train­ing ammo. All other gear was “real steel,” in­clud­ing shot­guns with breach­ing rounds, ex­plo­sive cut­ting charges for breach­ing, and flash bang grenades — in­clud­ing “twin banger” and “nine banger” ver­sions, all of which were ap­plied lib­er­ally.

For­get­ting your eye or ear pro­tec­tion on the cat­walk was a rapidly self­cor­rect­ing er­ror. There were cer­tain ad­min­is­tra­tive rules in play to re­duce “gam­ing” the stage. No solo-CQB was per­mit­ted. An undis­closed num­ber of hid­den to­kens were scat­tered through­out the house, forc­ing teams to slow down and ex­e­cute proper Tac­ti­cal Site Ex­ploita­tion through searches of fur­ni­ture, clos­ets, and down tar­gets.

There were both shoot and no-shoot tar­gets, and teams had to sim­u­late re­strain­ing and cuff­ing all no-shoot tar­gets. But, as long as teams checked all th­ese boxes, they weren’t graded on their style of CQB. We re­ally liked this ap­proach as it took the graders, all of whom were full-time CQB in­struc­tors within USASOC, out of their school­house role. It also al­lowed the in­di­vid­ual teams to ap­ply their own unit-in­ter­nal Tac­tics, Tech­niques, and Pro­ce­dures (TTPs) as they might on a real-world mis­sion.

We wound up di­rectly over a ninebanger at least twice that we re­mem­ber and got chest thumped by one or two breach­ing charges. Each time, our se­nior editor came off the cat­walk with a stupid, nos­tal­gic grin on his face. As al­ways, it was truly in­spir­ing to wit­ness first­hand the sur­gi­cal ap­pli­ca­tion of in­tense vi­o­lence by good guys in high­speed kit.

EVENT #7: BREACH­ING

Our other fa­vorite event was breach­ing, af­fec­tion­ately re­ferred to around the range as Breacher’s Al­ley. The goal of this stage was to force each team to em­ploy a well-rounded va­ri­ety of breach­ing meth­ods, while also think­ing crit­i­cally about their load-out and equip­ment se­lec­tion.

Each team ap­proached the stag­ing area where a wide va­ri­ety of breach­ing tools were laid out for the team to choose from: cut­ting torches, back­pack saws, var­i­ous types of ex­plo­sive charges, hal­li­gan tools, etc. Teams were al­lowed to bring as many tools as they wanted, but tools couldn’t be dropped or cached in the house along the way. Ev­ery­thing had to be car­ried through ev­ery room.

There were a to­tal of 14 breaches re­quired through­out the build­ing, many with com­pound chal­lenges. Here’s an ex­am­ple: You ap­proach a typ­i­cal res­i­den­tial wooden door. A cou­ple breach­ing rounds from your shot­gun should be plenty to knock off the hinges and get the door down — ex­cept be­hind the

door is a floor-to-ceil­ing grid of welded re­bar cov­er­ing the en­tire door­way. Hope you brought one of those torches or a saw. Or how about a steel door with

4x4 dead­falls be­hind it? No door was as easy as it looked in Breacher’s Al­ley. What we learned from watch­ing this event was just how time con­sum­ing a door breach can be­come.

In the movies, it al­ways looks like a sub-sec­ond event fol­lowed im­me­di­ately by a smooth en­try. The re­al­ity is that a well-for­ti­fied door can take min­utes to cut through — a fright­en­ing prospect when you con­sider that, some­where on the other side of that door, are peo­ple who prob­a­bly want to cut your head off and put it on the In­ter­net. While the like­li­hood of a sin­gle four-man el­e­ment tack­ling such an op­er­a­tion with­out di­rect sup­port from other as­sets, or a larger sup­port­ing force is low, it’s not en­tirely be­yond the scope of re­al­ity. Proper in­tel­li­gence prepa­ra­tion is also crit­i­cal to prop­erly equip and out­fit your team for the spe­cific build­ing be­ing tar­geted.

EVENT #9: LONG DIS­TANCE SHOOT

The long-dis­tance shoot was a car­bine-fo­cused with mul­ti­ple steel tar­get ar­rays at vary­ing un­known dis­tances from 25 to 300 yards. Shoot­ers were re­quired to first run to the top of a rap­pel tower and en­gage tar­gets from in­side a faux he­li­copter fuse­lage. After knock­ing down this set of tar­gets, the shooter ran down one floor and en­gaged a sec­ond line of tar­gets from a bal­cony. Once all tar­gets were cleaned from the bal­cony, they had to rap­pel down the rest of the tower and move through a se­ries of fir­ing po­si­tions on the ground.

Fi­nal score was based on the time to com­plete the en­tire course, ad­justed for any tar­gets left stand­ing — due to misses or, in at least one case, run­ning out of ammo. Since teams had to “run what they brung,” it was an in­ter­est­ing test of the var­i­ous car­bine/op­tic set­ups. The ma­jor­ity of shoot­ers we watched were run­ning sup­pressed 10.5-inch guns, with one team shoot­ing 14.5-inch set­ups. The lat­ter seemed to have an eas­ier time with the longer-range tar­gets, par­tic­u­larly from el­e­vated po­si­tions — but it wasn’t a uni­ver­sal re­sult. We’re not sure if teams were al­lowed to swap up­pers be­tween stages, and we didn’t see any ded­i­cated DMR-style guns. Ei­ther way, at­tempt­ing to game the stage re­newed the age-old strug­gle of mov­ing quickly in full kit ver­sus be­ing able to hit ac­cu­rately in as lit­tle time as pos­si­ble.

HAND­SHAKES AND PRIZES

One of the unsung he­roes of the as­sault com­pe­ti­tion was the Spe­cial Forces As­so­ci­a­tion. SFA did a lot of be­hind-the-scenes setup for this event, in­clud­ing help­ing to co­or­di­nate the prize ta­ble and in­dus­try part­ner­ships. Ad­di­tion­ally, they per­form a num­ber of great sup­port func­tions for the Spe­cial Forces com­mu­nity, in­clud­ing re­siliency re­treats for fam­i­lies, schol­ar­ships for wi­d­ows and chil­dren, and the cre­ation of busi­ness op­por­tu­ni­ties for Spe­cial Forces veter­ans sep­a­rat­ing from ser­vice. If you’re look­ing for a tax credit or good karma, a do­na­tion to the SFA would be a great idea.

The USASOC As­sault Com­pe­ti­tion was an awe­some look into how some of our na­tion’s most ca­pa­ble warfight­ers work to master their craft. Check out RECOILtv for ad­di­tional cov­er­age of the event.

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