By Bruce Alexander
Richard Nance’s article From the Mat to the Street: Realistic takedown defense at Officer.com and started thinking about how to apply Rich’s points from the Executive Protection perspective. It’s pretty clear that being on the ground is not where you want to be but you need to accept the fact that you are most likely to end of there at some point in time. However, Rich’s article got me to thinking about whether there was a time when you want to go to the ground despite the inherent dangers. I came to the conclusion that there’s at least two times I can think of in Executive Protection when going to the ground makes sense.
The first instance I can think of when going to the ground is the right response is when you are responding to an Attack on Principal (AOP) and you are arm’s reach from the threat. Quick (and simplified) review here.It the most basic form, the proper response to an AOP is sound off, cover and evacuate. However, let’s assume for the purposes of this explanation that you are arm’s reach to the threat as one of the agents in the protective formation. In this case, you’ve got to engage the threat. Since action is faster than reaction, at this point you are already behind the power curve so what to do? In a situation like this, your options start to narrow very quickly. Therefore since time is of the essence, you move to a situation of neutralizing by containing which can best be accomplished by taking the subject to the ground without any further delay. Taking the subject to the ground at this point reduces his/her ability to present a threat. It doesn’t eliminate the threat entirely but for the very same reasons we don’t want to be on the ground, it places the adversary in a situation of limited mobility, limited options and distracts from their initial intent. Simply put, your objective is two-fold. You want to neutralize the threat while creating sufficient time to evacuate the principal. Taking the subject to the ground answers both of these requirements.
The second situation for taking a hostile to the ground is much clearer but more difficult for us to acknowledge and that is when confronting the suicide bomber. The media has been full of reports these days about teams of suicide bombers heading to the U.S. and Europe. Since suicide bombers have effectively targeted key officials in the past, Ghandi as one example, the Executive Protection community should develop options for countering the suicide bomber to include tactics when that threat gets up close and personal.
When confronting a suicide bomber in an Executive Protection assignment you are trying to prevent the suicide bomber from detonating the device in proximity to your principal. What makes the threat of the suicide bomber particularly difficult to counter in the Executive Protection arena is that the bomber doesn’t need to be glued to your principal in order to be effective. Bombs have the ability to inflict both direct and indirect damage which means that proximity when dealing with suicide bombers is relative. The further away you can detect and neutralize the suicide bomber from your principal obviously the better. However, what about when the suicide bomber gets within close range of your principal? First we should understand that the ability to use lethal force might not be an option, or the most appropriate option at that time. Therefore we have to be prepared to put hands-on that threat with a very clear view that your primary purpose is contain the effects of any blast of any explosion. Your intent should be to force the bomber to the ground so that the blast effects are directed downward and away from your protectee. Just like Rich Nance highlights in his article, mobility is restricted and that’s exactly what we want for the bomber in a case like this. We want to reduce the suicide bomber’s ability to detonate the device and, if detonated, to mitigate the effects of that blast. Taking the suicide bomber to the ground is really the only effective option we have at that moment
Also, lest anyone think that suicide bombers are only a threat to government protectees I would remind everyone that most of the suicide bombings have been directed against predominately civilian targets. If your principal is a corporate, business or entertainment executive you should be just as concerned as someone responsible for a government principal.
You’ll notice I did not address the hardest aspect of responding to a suicide bomber which is coming to grips with neutralizing the suicide bomber at the cost of your life. I’m not a philosopher so don’t look to me to give you soothing words of wisdom on how to deal with that other than to say be sure your will is up to date (I like to provide helpful tidbits wherever I can).
I’d really be interested in getting a discussion going on Executive Protective tactical considerations for dealing with the suicide bomber. Thoughts, comments, (as well as money, free gift certificates, car washes, and lawn care coupons) are most welcome.
My response came after yours, Damon, but I wasn’t arguing with you specifically, merely addressing various points made. And I too work mostly alone and make assumptions, or disregard certain suggestions, based on my own work situations. So when you wrote lethal I did think firearm (many guys will, or think they will, go to the gun for anything), and I hadn’t considered the scenario we’re looking at because of its (so far) unlikeliness.
But the thing is, and we could discuss this ad nauseam, the quantity and type of explosive will likely be completely unknown to us, just as the means of detonation, or the reality of it all. So to me a suicide bomber is a bomb, period. As you stated, wrestling with it/him sounds like a bad idea, and so would be shooting at it/him, although I’ll give you that IF (and that’s a big one) your rounds may stop the detonation, they’re worth any risks to bystanders.
So without monopolizing this comment section further, I’ll just repeat that this article gives food for thought, and that I’d like to see someone come up with a SOP for the man nearest a bomber. As it stands, I’m thinking that immobilization (possibly containment) of the threat, however the means, sounds like the right thing to do. And as repellent as the notion is, it may not be survivable.
Until we live in a domestic climate similar to Israel’s or the Middle East’s, I’m pretty sure I’d yell “bomb!” to clear out the area and tackle a suspected suicide bomber IF on his way to my client. I do not plan on using lethal force unless I do know that’s what I’m facing for sure. And I do consider a brandished gun, loaded or not, different in that shooting the shooter would stop the threat. Police often get in trouble for shooting at vehicles for very much the same reason, I believe.
(And the above is probably not worth the time it took you to read it, so apologies to all.)
I would have to think I was about to die before I’d put my mouth around another man’s naughty parts.
i like a good groin bite here and there to keep em in line.
Thank you for commenting and adding more to the conversation. Could I ask you to clarify when would be the right and most effective time to use lethal force? If you are concerned about bystanders in a crowded scenario then surely the possibility of them being fragged by a PBIED is far more a certainty then accidently being shot (which i never stated as the only form of leathal force). Also the number of causalities would be far higher if detonation occurred.
Secondly if you are close enough to shoot in on the bomber for a take down it means there are no obstacles or people in your way and the use of lethal force not hindered. I did assume that the scenario presented was for a single operative as 70% of my work is by myself. So I do see the advantages of stalling or deflecting in the case of multi-man detail.
Clearly, and as Bruce stated, going to the ground is neither SOP nor even desirable for EP agents (we primarily C&E). And in the presence of a bomb, covering the principal and getting them as far as possible from the threat is the proper course of action for the AIC or sole bodyguard.
But in the case of a multi-man detail, and while the principal is being taken care of by another team member, we may have to stall/engage/neutralize whatever threats.
Yes, it’s safe to assume that a suicide bomber will either detonate his device himself or it will be done by remote for him. The headshot recommended by the Israelis could prevent movement toward the principal (and, however unlikely, maybe stop him from triggering), but that may not be the right or effective thing to do in a crowded environment.
Definitely something to think about.
Bruce, thanks for the article and the opportunity to provide thoughts and comments on both it and the subject of suicide bombers. Firstly I’d like to clarify what you meant by the comment that the use of deadly force may not be “the most appropriate option at that time”. Surely I can think of no better justification for the use of deadly force than the scenario you explained. I am then drawn to the perception that forcing the suicide bomber to the ground “so that the blast effects are directed downward and away from your protectee”. Obviously this is dependent on the numerous factors like the type and amount of explosives however unless you weigh 300 pound plus and are made of sand bags to tamp the blast downwards, the explosion will firstly propagate in the direction of detonator then in the path of least resistance which will be upwards and out wards. On a small amount of explosive charge you may provide some shielding from the blast wave and initial fragmentation. However you are more likely to provide a new source of secondary frag with bone particles and an impressive pink mist.
History will also show us that there is usually a secondary trigger man observing from a distance with a remote trigger so to ensure the success of the mission in case the bomber him / herself losses their nerve. So even if you do stop an initial attempt to detonate it will not mean that you are out of the woods so to speak. My other concern with wrestling around with a homemade explosive device is its stability and sensitivity and the ease of detonation. However in bringing these points to life I am not dismissing your proposal and the fact it may be the only option in the circumstance. I would be looking more towards using lethal force if available and getting to principal to ground and hoping to shield them with cover and distance.
I cringe at the thought of going to the ground. I have studied and still go to Krav Maga classes at least two time a week, and in Krav, we never go to the ground.
Having said that, I can see where taking a suicide bomber (should be called a mass murderer with a bomb) to the ground may be a better option except for the poor EP agent on top of the bomber.
The quicker the bomber is “neutralized” the better, but trying the MMA/Ground fighting stuff will get you blown up. A contact shot to the head is much more effective.
In addition to being blown to bite sized bits, you also have to worry about the threat of multiple attackers while you’re rolling around on the ground fishing for and arm-bar or chock.
I don’t think anyone willing to blow themselves up will tap-out. Train for drawing your firearm and shooting a contact head shot with a blue gun.
Just my two cents… Let me know if you need change.
Sorry Bruce, couldn’t disagree more!
I’m with Alonzo on this.
The quickest most effective/efficient way to take a man out of a fight is to knock him out! In both cases you outline, AOP and Suicide Bomber a KO punch to the side of the jaw will cause maximum brain dis…ruption and will cause instant ragdoll effect before he hits the ground. Hopefully the fall will cause massive craniail/further brain damage and death. End of threat. I never advocate ground techniques in EP work. The fight starts on your feet and should end on your feet. You can’t cover and evacuate your client on the ground or deal with multiple assailants. Taking a suicide bomber to the ground will maximize the blast effect and your body will become thousands of further lethal projectiles.
IF I have to neutralize someone, my instinct is to put them on the ground, that’s for sure. I try my darndest not to end up there with them (unless it’s to plant a knee behind their neck or shoulder blades)… but we gotta be prepared for anything as you said.
Hadn’t given much consideration to the suicide bomber situation yet. Sobering food for thought…
Bruce, I appreciate your solid contributions to the website.