Rules of Combat
By Antonio Aguilar
At the time that I’m sitting down writing this, the situation in Boston and Watertown hasn’t yet settled, and already I’m seeing a little bit of negative speculation on anti-government sites about the government response. When it’s all over and the people are safe again, there will be plenty of time to arm-chair quarterback the response. People who weren’t there and in “the know” will make various assertions and talk about how those in uniform facing the murderers did this or that wrong. They may or may not be right, I don’t know. I’m not there and I’m not “in the know”, but I have been in combat before, briefly, and I survived. As a police officer I am faced with violence sometimes and so far, crossing my fingers here, I’ve come out on top. I don’t want to speculate how this thing will end, but for those who might be upset if the FBI rolls armored vehicles down the streets of Boston and if police cordon different areas, violating people “right” to travel freely regardless of the circumstances, I would like to point out a few simple facts.
Combat is combat, regardless of the setting or reasons behind it. If you don’t go in with the mindset that you will do whatever it takes to win then you will likely loose. Losing is not an option when your life or the lives of others are on the line. Now, that being said, civilian consideration is also very, very important. If you kill innocent people in the process of trying to stop someone who also wants to kill innocents then you’re accomplishing their mission for them and failing in yours, so you still lose, even if you survive. But, that doesn’t mean that you essentially take a knife to a gun fight.
The North Hollywood Shootout is a good example of this. For those not familiar with this incident, two heavily armed and armored bank robbers got into a fire fight with police and even though they were heavily outnumbered by police they were still able to hold them off due to their body armor and the fact that they had more powerful weapons than the police did. In the end, one suspect took his own life and the other bled out from his wounds. He was never hit with anything that would have killed him instantly. The police were facing men who were better equipped and better armed than they were, and it ended in disaster with the police taking multiple casualties.
Now, this is not an argument for gun control. There were already gun laws in place that should have prevented those two men from having the weapons that they got their hands on. Those didn’t work because criminals don’t follow laws. There were also rules preventing the police from having heavier weapons and those did work, so much so that they police were horribly out-gunned in this incident.
This is also not an argument for a police state. We have civil rights in this country for a reason, dash cams on our police cars for a reason, and in my humble opinion some of our rights are a little too restricted right now. But, politics isn’t the point here. Once the bullets start flying, politics go out the window and the only thing that matters is survival.
There are countless other incidents that demonstrate these truths. In combat there will always be someone who is better trained, better equipped, stronger, faster, or better armed. If you don’t stack the odds in your favor as much as possible then you aren’t really trying. If your aren’t really trying then you will lose, and the people you are supposed to protect will lose too. For our law enforcement and our military that should never be an option. If the enemy has bombs, then the answer needs to be armor, regardless if it’s the mountains of Afghanistan or the streets of Boston. If the enemy has ARs, then the response needs to be more ARs, lots more with a more rapid rate of fire and maybe heavier calibers as well. If the enemy is running loose and hiding in a civilian area, having proved a desire to kill civilians, then there’s nothing unreasonable about cordoning that area to keep him contained and limit his chances of killing more civilians.
For the arm chair quarterbacks out there, think about this. What would you be saying if every possible effort wasn’t made to stop this mad man and he kills even more people? For those who wear a uniform, be it military or law enforcement, sometimes it’s damned if you do and damned if you don’t.