TDG 15 Recap and Analysis

Originally posted on American Partisan on June 29, 2022

No matter how much effort you put into planning for combat operations, the enemy still gets a vote on what actually ends up happening.  In TDG 15: The Best Laid Plans, you are suddenly thrust into a situation where your original plan has gone out the window and you must improvise fast.

Before I get into our options, let’s take a quick look at two of the major factors in this situation; darkness and proximity.

Darkness: The fact that this scenario occurs at night complicates matters, especially for an improvised plan.  There is a very real risk of friendly fire, so we must be very careful to mitigate that risk.  Darkness also places restrictions on our speed, so it will take longer to move into position than it would during daytime.  Given how soon the enemy will arrive, it is unlikely that we will be able to displace any squads more than about 100m in time to affect the firefight.

Proximity: The terrain is restrictive here, which could result in much shorter engagement distances than normal.  “This has the potential to be an up close and nasty fight,” reader “John” pointed out.  “…overwhelming violence of action and fire is going to be essential.”  The initial moments of this ambush could prove decisive, so it is vital that we overwhelm the enemy quickly before they realize what is happening.

Camouflage mesh, incredibly useful for camouflaging a pack or observation post. Affiliate link:

Bearing these factors in mind, lets take a look at our options.

Hold fire and let them pass

We may decide that there is too much risk involved here to improvise on the fly.  And depending on the skill and experience level of our guys, this could be a valid choice.  However, just because the enemy has thrown us a curveball does not mean that we have lost the advantage.  We still have the element of surprise, or else the enemy wouldn’t be moving the way they are.  We are still ahead of their route and have freedom of maneuver for the moment.

Reader “John” also points out; “This is a ‘specialist’ patrol (Reconnaissance). Taking them out is a strategic loss for the enemy commander and will likely degrade his ability to conduct operations in the area going forward. It takes considerably more time to select and train a reconnaissance unit than it does a “typical” infantry unit.-We are in a good position to strike them.”  John also goes on to correctly assess that we could glean weapons, NVGs, intelligence, and a significant morale boost if our attack is successful.

In the end, if our group has even the smallest bit of competence, the opportunity is too good to pass up.

Consolidate into one large ambush

We may choose to completely scrap our initial plan and keep our new plan dummy simple by eliminating moving parts and grouping together into one large ambush formation.  This practically eliminates the risk of fratricide and makes it incredibly easy for us to control our men.

In order to do this quickly and in the dark we should refrain from making overly complicated plans.  Reader “Timbersour” said, “Getting a very simple plan out to the team quickly trumps any big-brain stuff.”  We don’t want to risk our new plan being difficult to execute safely, taking too long to brief, or exposing ourselves to the enemy by moving too much in the dark.  A simple linear or T-shaped ambush would be the easiest to implement quickly, or even an L-shaped ambush if we’ve trained enough in the past.

The only downside to this plan is that having only one firing element makes the enemy’s job of maneuvering on us or assaulting through us simpler.  This can be mitigated, however, if we make sure that our opening volley is devastating enough that there is no one left to maneuver on us.

Slightly change the original plan

We might not need to come up with an entirely new plan.  After all, we already have control measures and rehearsed signals and maneuvers established, so why not use them?  All we would need to do is find suitable locations to relocate our teams, and maybe tweak the control measures just a bit.

As long as we have rehearsed this ambush thoroughly, we should be able to execute this action with no difficulty.  Thoroughly rehearsing an action should not just consist of flawless runs every time, you need to throw curveballs to your guys when it gets too smooth.  Between rehearsals, encourage your people to ask all the “what if” questions to predict what could go wrong and how you would handle it.  If you have done all that, this slight adjustment should be a breeze.  If not, this course of action may not be ideal.

“Cat’s eyes” patch. On the back of helmets/packs, these luminescent patches help keep a patrol together in the dark, with or without night vision. Affiliate link:

If you take one thing away from this TDG let it be this.  Thorough rehearsals are absolutely critical.  If you have extra time during the preparation for a mission, you should use as much of it as possible for rehearsals so that everyone knows every detail of the plan and how they can make adjustments to it.  Sloppy rehearsals make for sloppy operations.

Story Time

This TDG is actually a scenario I faced during a force-on-force exercise in the Marine Corps.  While I gave you 5 minutes to evaluate the situation and come up with a hasty plan, I had 60 seconds.  In two minutes the enemy would be upon me, so I had one minute to think and issue the order, and one minute to get my guys in position while remaining undetected.  Since I know you’ll all be asking me in the comments, here’s what happened.

I quickly decided that there wasn’t time to create an elaborate new plan, so I chose instead to keep most of the elements of my original plan with a few amendments.  I sent my second squad to the tree grove in the middle of the field at 9430 3837 and set my first squad in the trees to the Northeast where they could see the road.  My frag order was as follows;

“Second squad, see those trees over there?  That’s your new firing position.  Same scheme of maneuver and signal plan.  First squad, your trigger to open fire is when I start shooting.  We will try to bait them into attacking East into the field.  Second squad, your new trigger to open fire is when the enemy squad is on line in the open.  If they try to break contact North, we will pursue them until they get past the town.  I will be with first squad.  Move.”

The end result was surprisingly better than anticipated.  The enemy, when ambushed, didn’t take the bait and attempted to break contact by peeling North along the road.  When I saw that they weren’t taking the bait, I called my second squad to join us and prepare to pursue.  However, the sudden appearance of two M240Bs belching fire into the night pinned the enemy squad, and we were able to close with and destroy them in place.

Bayonets may have been involved.

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

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