I’ve been working through SWAT 4 more lately then RvS, and when I am Element leader, more often setting the advanced plan of action — the [SAS] style plan of action.

My thoughts is to expose the younger members to more of these fluid, embedding, and flowing assault plans: and let them learn from it by sight and sound. I hope it will eventually trigger an evolution of their thinking, because my demostrations are in the direction they will be heading in a few months.

I rarely care for the “Immediate Action Plans” that some of my peers will occasionally employ; little more then a liquid element full of flashbangs with orders to neutralize everything that moves. It’s too simple and while it may reflect a common infantry problem of advancing into the unknown or opertional boondocks, however it does not reflect most of our SWAT 4 or Raven Shield environments significantly. 95% of the time we have intelligence enough to form a suitable Deliberate Action Plan and more then enough time to get it put together. Just assigning a liquid element IMHO is best done when any element formation (period) is unnecessary, or the effort of creating one far outweighs the value obtained from organization. Just doing it without the on the spot corrections or routine training sessions, is also not going to teach anyone how to better utilize their time in a liquid element. Most of the time I look at it as a stroke of laziness.

A fixed element has some advantages:

  1. It helps build that discipline you only seem to get with rigorous close order drills
  2. It is very simple, that’s why it is what Recruits are trained in
  3. That simplicity allows less experienced members to optimize their brains thinking around the static structure of the formation and how they will be able to perceive the environment around them

While a simple rigidness is its greatest asset—it can also become slow and unwieldy on tight contested grounds.

Having to drone on through overly verbose loadouts and duty assignments (usually >5min) are the finest sign of either of two things: the Element Leader is still in the learning stage or the plan is overly complicated. In my experience the former is understandable (Rct/Trp/LCpl are still mastering it) and the latter is doomed to failure (effective now is better then perfect later). Not the side effects of a fixed element, only the institutionalization of young minds around them. Fixed elements are very effective and require the least level of experience to employ them optimally; yet this still leaves much to be desired in many situations.

Liquid elements can be highly useful:

  1. It offloads most responsibility from leaders to subordinates
  2. It can quickly adapt to changes in the environment
  3. And it can be very smooth and effective when utilized by seasoned members who have trained long together

It is also like a tidal wave, liquid elements may crash down hard and obliterate all in its path—but it may just as easily wash away under its own weight.

Because it offloads so much down the chain of individual intelligence and experience, it creates a lot more mental over head for those who have yet to adjust fully to the ebb and flow of an element in a close quarters engagement. Everything that was static and rigidly unchanging is now dynamic and flexing every second of play; using it with newbies or the young in general, often results in watching newbies at work. I can only compare a liquid element formation to taking a section of fresh Privates and making them all commanders of StoƟtruppen units, then expecting success…. not gonna happen without the training and the experience. When the element members are up to the task it is highly effective but requires a driving will to keep the tidal wave always striking, and never fading in the wrong direction. To often I have seen liquid elements lead to “sloppy” actions, because of the inclusion of inexerpeicned members in the liquid formation or just a lack of directive!

An assault element must be both fixed in nature and free as a liquid—it must flow through the cracks like a fluid and overwhelm the enemy.

Fluid elements combine all of the mental-optimizational attributes of a fixed formations static nature, but frees operators minds to further-optimize their collective actions, much as they must do (or die) in a liquid element. Often times when working in a fixed formation, I’ve had those “Uh, this is so F’ing stupid, but I’ll do as the young one expects” moments that makes me cringe. It is generally the sign of one who is still learning being in the EL slot, one one whose brain was institutionalized at that level, and has failed to grow beyond it. Elements must have fluidity – that freedom to optimize things on the run that fixed elements drop on ELs alone, and lead to overly intricate plans (Yes, if you are reading this I and wondering if your included, I mean YOU). Professionals should have no need a rigidness or “liquid” way of doing things: instead a simply fluidness of action that comes with experience.

I find describing my point very difficult, beyond a simply exposing it to light through action. It keeps the circle jerking to a minimal.