Tactical Rescue: Considerations When Planning

In the last few years the topic of tactical rescue/high threat extraction has become increasingly popular. New techniques and products enter the field almost weekly. While some of the techniques have merit, some do not. Some of these are presented as a panacea, but have extremely limited application in the tactical or combat arena.
When performing a tactical rescue the most important component is the employment of proper tactics. Failing to have a well rehearsed tactically sound plan for varying terrain, building structures and locations (e.g., hallways, stairwells, rooms etc. ) within that structure will seriously hamper your efforts. We will not cover how to conduct a rescue due to the open nature of this blog, but we will cover several things to consider when developing your plan and selecting techniques.

Fitness levels/size
Keep in mind you will be moving a significant amount of weight when using a drag-device. For example, have your smallest operator move your largest operator and see how effective they are.

Terrain/surface
A technique that works well on a buffed tile-floor may not work well on a concrete walkway leading to the front of a house, or in the middle of a road in Baghdad. Increased levels of friction will seriously hamper your movement out of the danger area. If the surface is slick enough to facilitate casualty movement it also increases the risk of a rescuer losing their footing due to pooling blood or other bodily fluids.

Size of the rescue team
Find the balance between efficiency and clutter. A larger team brings more guns, but it is also a big target. A four-man rescue team can rapidly turn into a four-man team in need of rescue. Minimize the amount of human assets you place in harm’s way whenever possible, especially if they can more effectively engage from another position.

Who will provide security?
Will the rescuer provide their own security? How effective are they with their weapon when pulling the heaviest member of your team? Generally, they are not effective at all. If the rescuer is the only person available to provide security, it may make more sense to delay the rescue. All other options should be considered before this is chosen. It makes more sense for a security element to establish an over-watch position from a position of cover to provide security than to expose itself to an adversary that has the advantage of cover and deciding whether to engage or not. In a military setting this is less of a concern if suppressive fire can be placed on the enemy position during the rescue attempt.
Do I have a ballistic shield? How can I employ it into my rescue plan?

Determined enemy vs. just a bad guy
All bad guys are not created equal. A truly determined enemy will take risks and make sacrifices far beyond what you would see in a “regular” bad guy. This also holds true for the mentally ill or chemically impaired. Suppressive fire from a crew-served weapon may not deter some enemy combatants; do you think a lone soldier or officer firing his M-4 one-handed from the hip will? Most likely not. If your enemy is determined to kill you he will not be scared of a few rounds. You need to be in a position to make those rounds count, not just wildly spray a doorway or wall.

Abort criteria
At what point does this not make sense anymore? Set your limits and stick to them if possible. These limits should be set before emotions get involved. Don’t wait until it’s time to do it for real.

There is an old saying, “speed is security,” and this is a scenario where it holds true. The primary focus of the rescue team should be rapid movement out of the danger area. You cannot perform every task of a tactical rescue by yourself, while performing those tasks to standard. You cannot move casualties and effectively engage hostile personnel at the same time. It briefs well, but it does not go much farther than that. Instead of practicing 50 ways to use tubular nylon, pick 5, and then spend the rest of the day working as a team to save a friend’s life.

Performing A Wound Sweep

During the initial phases of treatment, one should perform a wound sweep to ensure there are no injuries that have been overlooked. There are different techniques, and ones tactical situation will dictate the best approach. The video above offers a broad framework and tips, which one can adjust as needed.