Gunfighting and the application of the gun as a violent option is most often seen in modern combat.

Photo credit Andras Schram 
To understand tactical awareness in a rifle section, or as our American allies refer to as a “squad”, one must first understand the roles within that section. Your knowledge of those roles will increase your fighting potential and allow you to be a more effective soldier .
The rifle section is the most important link in a modern combat team, it’s where gun battles are won or lost it is where the dirty work at the tip of spear happens.  Most importantly it’s  where the tactics designed to achieve the objective are executed.

Experience dictates that in a gun battle, the moment the first shot is fired your planning is obsolete.  The objective remains the same but the tactics and methods used to achieve it will now ebb and flow.  A riflemans tenacity and tactical awareness is vital in this action and its success.

This is why as an individual in a rifle section you must completely understand the mission, the orders, the concept and the execution.

 To enter a gun battle without an understanding of your orders in their entirety is not only fool hardy but extremely dangerous to the other members of your section.  Their lives, and more importantly, the absolute success of the mission depend on your understanding of those orders.

Individual tactical awareness starts with the complete understanding of your weapons, their operation, function, and effectiveness and their applications.

You must understand how all platoon support weapons, such as machine guns and mortars, interact with your movement as a platoon.  Awareness of the ‘big picture’ and its application are crucial.

Awareness of your vision and what you see and what’s about happen is also paramount.  You awareness and understanding of the combat environment will increase your survialbility and make or break the gunfight. 

So, the first shot is fired and the plans changed… What now?

Follow your leadership and maintain the initive to win that gun fight.

Initative is gained by understanding and foresight which is ultimately attained through practice and experience.  So, in a sense tactical awareness is tactical understanding.   To better understand this let’s look at the individual roles in a rifle section.

Let’s discuss the role of a Corporal.  The journeyman of the infantry, it’s stated that the Corporal is the keystone to battles.  This junior level leadership that sees the battle up front in the blood and mud at the tip of the spear is the most important factor in any military operation. It’s the heart of the section the pulse of the rifle company.  Battles are won and lost at this level.  

It is the corporals duty to mentor and teach.  To fairly and with “good sportsmenship” take the junior members of that section and ensure they understand.   Mission success and strong unit integrity depends on this mentorship.  It’s the foundation to build leadership on.  It’s how you as a Corporal climb the leadership ladder and build your complete awanersnes and understanding.

Privates and new riflemen need to learn from those around you period.  In order for you to achieve the tactical awareness you require to succeed and survive,  you need to pay attention and put it on receive.  As in written in the airborne 10 commandments “Be shy of speech and incorruptible, the weak chatter the strong act chatter will bring you to the grave. ”
Learn and follow those who are professional in their actions.  Mimic their actions watch how they are, find good senior soldiers around you and emulate their example.  Use it to inspire and motivate your peers.

Refine your individual soldier skills. Achieve awareness in your periphal vision when doing weapons drills, learn to see the whole picture and understand how you “see” things.  Not just precieve things but how you think the fight will go.  The ability to see things before they happen to gain initive comes from this basic awareness.

True tactical understanding comes from wisdom and wisdom comes from experience.  The Corporal maybe the keystone but the Sergeant is the mortar that holds it all together. This role is the hardest and most vital job in any army.

The Sergeants tactical awareness and understanding needs to be sound.  The corporal maybe the journeyman but with no question the Sergeants the fucking boss.

The wisdom your leadership has and your ability to see it, retain it and apply it will expontially increase your tactical awareness and understanding.  Your understanding of this not only makes the Sergants job easier it makes managing the risks of battle easier.  It should be the priority of any section commander to make sure his knowledge is passed on in a sound, fair and an easily understood manner to his subordinates and peers.  Its also the duty of those under their command to actively understand this role.  Every member of that rifle section needs to understand how to lead that section. For you may find yourself the leader of this fight and you will have no option other than to win it.

Your retention of your senior NCO’s combat experience and wisdom will undoubtly increase your tactical awareness and understanding and in return increase your effectiveness and survialbility in a gunfight.

Finally the most overlooked role in the rifle section is the 2 I/C.  This role is all about initive and the next step.  It’s the supply and support role the den mother of the wolf pack.  Your job is solely the well being of every member of that rifle section.  The demand in this position is high and this why it is extremely important for every member of the section to understand  and have full awareness of this vital role.  For it is through the execution of this role that the fight moves and is fed with lead.  It goes without saying that the best way to help this role is have a full awareness of your kit, your surroundings and most importantly your Ammo.

Speed, agression and communication win gunfights.  And all of this is attained through tactical awareness and understanding.  Gun battles are won by warriors.  Wars are won by professionals.  Be a professional warrior and truely understand its craft and your role in the fight.

It’s what gives warriors the confidence to be professionals while they seek to earn Valhalla.  For in this world of warriors nothing is given and everything is earned.