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10 years after 9/11: SEAL Team Six and police SWAT tactics of CQB

Close-quarters battle (CQB — also known as close quarters combat, or CQC) was fundamental in taking down Osama bin Laden and is the cornerstone of American SWAT officers everywhere


U.S. Navy SEALS train relentlessly in places like Moyock, in North Carolina.

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Our nation continues to celebrate the triumph of America’s most wanted terrorist being taken at the hands of an American Warrior. This victory is bittersweet. One on hand we have eliminated one of the most feared enemies, and on the other hand we have to face the fact that his demise didn’t eliminate the threat of terrorism.

The past couple of days I have gathered as much information as possible on the attack and capture of Osama bin Laden and the tactics used by SEAL Team Six. The information is obviously very guarded and limited, but it’s apparent that the tactics used to capture bin Laden were fundamental basic close-quarters battle (CQB) tactics.

Those of us who have been in law enforcement and tactical training for the past two decades can remember when the military came to us to learn CQB tactics. It was, at the time, a relatively new change in battle tactics for the military when terrorism and the urban battlefield came to the fore.

As cops and soldiers trained together, we learned from each other. The military took our CQB tactics to war and developed some enhancements of their own. Today’s breaching tactics and technology was furthered by our military counterparts. I spent my time in the Army with demolition in hand. Back then we spent the majority of our time blowing objectives like bridges, air strips, and small structures. The Army Sappers were teaching breaching tactics but on a small scale in comparison to today’s military.

When I first started in SWAT, I stumbled across an explosive breaching school taught by a former SAS commando. I was fortunate that my SWAT team commanders were progressive in their thinking and I was allowed to attend this course. In short order we were conducting explosive breaching operations on SWAT calls.

This military tactic proved valuable time and time again. I suspect the same holds true for SEAL Team Six and all the countless other military units that took the law enforcement CQB concept and made it their own.

We in law enforcement can always learn from our military brothers. Back in the day they sought our help since we were conducting CQB operations on a daily basis but after two wars these men have learned plenty and are always willing to share their knowledge.

What strikes me about the operation to take out bin Laden is that SEAL Team Six focused on fundamental CQB operations. The intelligence gathered from various sources was used to formulate an assault plan, the plan was rehearsed, and the plan was executed as designed.

The compound was cleared room by room just the way we have been doing SWAT operations for decades. When bin Laden refused to surrender and placed a woman in front of him as a shield (coward!) a shot to his head ended the short standoff.

Reportedly, twenty three soldiers started the operation and twenty three boarded the Blackhawks to return home. The terrorist didn’t fare so well. Obviously they didn’t have a plan, nor did they rehearse and execute their tactics as well as the American warriors. If they did, the outcome might have been different.

This al Qaeda security force had five years to prepare for and train in this compound for such an attack. Seal Team Six reportedly had only five days with their intelligence on the operation however, SEAL Team Six trains every day on basic fundamentals of all their collective battle tactics.

It’s this concept that keeps cops and soldiers safe every day as they conduct tactical operations. Preparation and the focus on fundamentals are key to conducting safe CQB operations.

Today, as we boast about SEAL Team Six they are already preparing for their next mission. They are somewhere training on the fundamentals of battle tactics so they can live to see another day. Their drive to be the best fighting force in the world should motivate us to be the best tactical operators we can. Let their success motivate you to train in the fundamentals of CQB on your next training cycle.

I would like to thank the American Military Warriors whom have spent the past decade fighting two wars to keep our shores free of terrorism. I am proud to be an American citizen, an Army veteran, and American Police Officer but today I am most proud of and grateful for the American Soldier. Your sacrifices over the past decade have been great and today you are victorious. You American Warriors promised the NYPD and this country that you would avenge their loss of life during the 911 attacks. You have lost many in your pursuit but you never gave up.

Today, I thank you for serving justice — something that we cops usually do for ourselves. As you continue to fight this war against radical terrorists, have no fear for your loved ones at home Your brothers in blue stand ready to sacrifice our lives for the freedom and safety of your wives, husbands, children, parents, and the rest of your family as you did for ours this past decade.

Glenn French, a retired Sergeant with the Sterling Heights (Mich.) Police Department, has 24 years police experience and served as the Team Commander for the Special Response Team, and supervisor of the Sterling Heights Police Department Training Bureau. He has 16 years SWAT experience and also served as a Sniper Team Leader, REACT Team Leader, and Explosive Breacher.

Contact Glenn French.