TDG 12: Rock and a Hard Place

Originally posted on American Partisan on May 24, 2022

I started this series called TDG (Tactical Decision Game) Tuesdays, to get you more in the mindset of how you could potentially handle a given tactical scenario with a limited amount of resources and manpower.  I have decided to resurrect this series and write a couple more TDGs for you guys to further hone your decision-making skills.

You will be given a scenario, confronted with a tactical problem, and given a time limit to think about and write out your answer.  The time limit is to simulate the pressure of a real-world tactical decision, where you must quickly assess the information you are given and come up with the best answer you can.  Then comment below with your answer so you can discuss the different approaches together.

TDG 12: Rock and a Hard Place

Week 3 into WROL.  You are a member of a MAG that has been holed up at a buddy’s home in the countryside where the terrain is rolling hills with farmland and patches of forest.  In the last week your security patrols have twice encountered a band of thugs aggressively patrolling the area.  You have heard reports over CB radio that this group is approximately 30 strong and has been scouting out remote farms and conducting raids.  They are equipped with a variety of small arms, and some of the thugs appear to be somewhat competent, likely prior military or LE.  They are known to wear all black clothing as a uniform, so they are easily PID’d.

Yesterday you observed a small quadcopter drone over your compound that flew away to the North when you attempted to shoot it down.  The MAG leadership suspects that you are being scouted for an attack, and decided to send out a squad-sized ambush facing the most likely avenue of approach, the road to the NW.  The ambush squad decides to emplace on the military crest of the ridge NE of the road.  5 men are left watching the compound while you’re away.

You are in charge of a 4-man LP/OP tasked with providing early warning to the ambush squad.  Before you stepped out on your patrol, the ambush squad leader briefed you on your mission.  “Let us know over the radio when you see them coming.  Don’t try to take them on yourself, wait for us to trigger the ambush.”

At 2130 you take your fire team and patrol West to your LP/OP on the ridge facing NW.  You call the ambush team on your radio to let them know you’re in position.  The radio check is broken, but readable.  While you are emplacing your OP, you pause for a second, thinking you might have heard something to your SW.  You send Greg to scout the South side of the ridge while you continue camouflaging your LP/OP.  5 minutes later, Greg comes back out of breath.  “There’s an enemy patrol of about 15 men in the valley due south of us heading East!” he says.  “They all have rifles, and at least two of them are using night vision with IR floods on their helmets.”

“Did they see you?” you ask him.

“I don’t think so, I snuck back here as fast as I could without making noise.”

You immediately grab your radio and try to tell the ambush squad about the enemy sighting.  “Roger- *static* -ready for them.  Remember, don’t shoot until- *static* -ambush.”  is the reply you get.

“Negative,” you say, but through your radio you hear the ambush squad leader talking to his men.  He must have rolled over onto his PTT.  “Hot mic, hot mic!” you try to say, but to no effect.  You attempt to radio the compound but they are closer to the ambush team than you, which means that they are getting “jammed” by the hot mic.

The time is 2240.  Weather is cloudy and the moon is a waxing crescent.  Your team is equipped with the following gear:

In a time limit of 5 minutes, write the fragmentary order that you will give to your fire team.  Comment it below and discuss each others’ responses.  

Each square represents 100 square meters.

Published by vonsteubentraining

Mike is the owner and chief instructor of Von Steuben Training & Consulting (VSTAC). A self-described “Tactical Scholar,” he spent 6 years in the Marine Corps as a radio operator and small-unit tactics instructor. He has dedicated his life to honing the tactical prowess of himself and his fellow patriots, guided by the wisdom of his commanding officer, Jesus Christ. He can be contacted via email at

13 thoughts on “TDG 12: Rock and a Hard Place

  1. My heart started racing as I finished reading that. Looks like surprise went in the wrong direction. Yikes.

    I’d say: start moving east below the crest of that east/west ridge as fast as we can towards the road/compound. Every so often try to make contact with the ambush squad.

    If we make it to/past the radio tower we still have the high ground of the marauders are still in the valley. If there’s still no response from ambush squad engage from conver. The sooner that squad hears a gun fight the sooner they’ll head our way.


  2. I’d first attempt to use the alternate frequency to reach the compound. Then, advising my team that the copmound is at risk because the enemy is not passing the ambush, I would issue the order to move at speed behind the ridge line and establish a hasty linear ambush with the automatic rifle last in line to hit the enemy from their left as they near the compound.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. First, this is why you have a PACE plan. All they have is P.
    I’m fresh, so I take off at a sprint to the ambush squad. It’s 600m, so hopefully the PT has been kept up with if the comm plans haven’t. (Alternatively, if I have a good runner, I send them.) Message for the main ambush is, “15 men, rifles, 2 with NVG, on the southern path to the compound. Hasty ambush being set up at the antenna, need reinforcement.”
    I tell my buddies at the LP to wait 180 seconds, and if the radio jamming breaks, to try to signal. If they can’t get through by the 3 minutes, fire 3 rounds into the ground and take off to the antenna placement. Fast tactical movement, not sprinting. They need to get off the X they just marked for the enemy (if they investigate the shots, hopefully they do or just get spooked off). The 3 men set up a hasty ambush to the west/southwest on that hill. If the raid checks out the LP and finds it empty, they might just track east on the hill, so this ambush is to catch them there, and be reinforced by the main ambush team.
    If he can get through on the radio, the ambush can still potentially be setup at the antenna site. If he can’t get through, hopefully this warns both the ambush and compound, and a hasty defense can be set up on the antenna hill.

    In an ideal world, we would have had a PACE plan.
    P: Radio
    A: X and O halos in the air with the IR lasers. (Could be intercepted by enemy, but thankfully it turns out only two of them have NVG.)
    C: Runners
    E: Rifle Fire


  4. Definitely try to get comms on alternate frequency first. If that fails again, I’d move my team to the SE of the radio tower overlooking the valley that the bad dudes were spotted in, attempting to get comms with the ambush team and the compound along the way. IF I can get comms with the Ambush team I will advise them to move south to the intersection of the valley and the road and set up a hasty ambush there. IF I can’t establish comms I will initiate an ambush on the bad guys while they are still in the valley to interrupt their plans and force them to reevaluate. Most probable course of action is for them to bug out back to the west, in which case we will pursue and engage from the ridge line. Most dangerous course of action is for them to press their attack on the compound, in which case we will continue to engage them and attempt the flank them from the rear. 4 min 28 sec.


  5. IR lasers are definitely out but the fact that two guys are running floods on their NVG’s is good. Two simultaneous shots into whoever is lit up in their party and then break contact and move at speed towards your ambush party. The rifle reports SHOULD at least prompt the TL to check his radio and slow down the raiders. The whole party falls back to an alternate ambush position closer to the compound.


  6. I would move toward my ambush team and try to get clear communication. Notifying him that their ambush position will not be affective and the location of the enemy, my rifle team will be taking on the enemy with a quick burst of accurate fire and then move north. Hoping to lure the enemy towards us and away from our compound.


  7. In a time limit of 5 minutes, write the fragmentary order that you will give to your fire team.

    Fragmentary Order
    1. An abbreviated form of an Operation Order (OPORD) used to make changes in missions to units and to inform them of changes in the tactical situation.

    I believe the assignment is to, write the frago, rather then state how you would solve the problem. The Frago is what you will say to your team members, for the purpose of informing them, the mission has changed, due to a break down in radio communications; And this is how we will deal with that situation.

    The Frago will inform them of the new plan, which several have represented above, however, it is not in the form of a Frago. If I’m correct, the purpose of the lesson is to teach you how to quickly come up with a speech, Frago, that you will deliver to the team.

    As an aside, I’ve seen them in the past in a training manual, however, I had to go back and look it up again, so I’m no expert.



    1. Correct, this was my intent. Although everyone else’s answers here are great, you get more out of the exercise if you also distill that into a short, concise FRAGO that you actually say to your team. An example is as follows:
      “Okay guys, we’re packing up the OP and moving East. We’re gonna set up a hasty ambush position by the radio tower. Josh, keep trying to hail the ambush team on the radio as we move. Let’s go.”

      It’s short and not detailed, but it gets your guys moving. You can add elements to the FRAGO as you’re moving. Practicing this helps you work the communicating skills of being a team leader.


  8. I’m with TH on this one. Firing into the ‘Black Raiders’ will let both the compound and the ambush team know that things have gone sideways, and it will draw B.R.’s attention away from the compound. At first I thought ( as others have) that I would double-time my team along the ridge towards the ambush team. Two potential problems with that are that we may break some legs in the dark, and/or it’s possible our ambush team may mistake us for the B.R.’s. As ‘everlastinghelps’ said, ‘Where is the PACE plan?” . Over reliance on any one thing, especially technology during the fog of war is a risky affair. Great thought experiment. Thanks this is good s##t.


  9. Send runner with message ” 15 troops, 2NVG’s and IR illuminators, moving up the draw toward compound. Displace and assault down draw. Re-establish radio comms. Will Engage enemy from saddle west of tower.” Runner to make haste. Three man fire team left will move quickly to saddle west of towe, and ambush enemy force at approximately 300 meters. Target IR illuminators first. Violence of action and the inbound flanking element should be reasonably effectivein disrupting the raid, and probably in effectively destroying the raiding force.


  10. I’m calling in the blind, checking freq’s and alt freq’s as much as possible. Prep the teams to move to the tower in 2 minutes, close up the OP and hopefully establish some sort of broken comms with the main ambush team. Hopefully the OPFOR is not checking or scanning nearby freq’s and picking up on our whereabouts but when all else fails, best plan is to move your guys back to a main element where support by fire is an option. Wishing had some sort of homemade claymore mines to set up.


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