Rules of Combat

Updated: April 20, 2013


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.

Boston Marathon ExplosionsNow, 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.




  1. Heidi

    April 20, 2013 at 10:53 am

    Firstly, thank you for being one of our protectors. Your service to your department is appreciated

    What many Americans do not understand is that War is War. It doesn’t matter if it is in your backyard or in Afghanistan. When those in the know, i.e. FBI, Troopers, Police, request citizens to remain indoors, they are not doing it to take our civil rights away but to protect the people they are sworn to protect. How can they have control of a situation with business as usual going in around them? There is no way they will retain or even gain control with civilians running around.

  2. Instinct

    April 20, 2013 at 10:54 am

    I’ll just point you to this excellent view of the situation


    • Heidi

      April 20, 2013 at 11:06 am

      Well said!!!!!!!!!

  3. Scott

    April 20, 2013 at 11:04 am

    I don’t think it’s so much a problem with the police as it is with the civilians. The civilians elect the leaders who make the policies and then cower in fear. Just think, this is the very area of our country that launched a revolution that changed the world a couple centuries ago. Now…that very area was terrorized into paralysis by a wayward teenager. They have gone from “The shot heard ’round the world” and degraded to “Shelter in place”.

  4. leftoftheboom

    April 20, 2013 at 11:46 am

    I support the use of low yeild tactical nuclear devices by local law enforcement.

  5. David Charpentier

    April 20, 2013 at 12:53 pm

    While I think this was a safety measure I think even more it did not allow the suspect to move or blend in with people out and about it their daily lives. With people on lock down if you were moving you were going to get stopped. With 8 million people in the greater Boston area moving about you make it much easier for someone to slip out and away from LE.

  6. defensor fortissimo

    April 20, 2013 at 2:31 pm

    I think the problem goes a lot deeper to the perceived nature of law enforcement. As the military is forced to turn to law enforcement type tactics as a result of Coin over a protracted period, civilian law enforcement is being drawn towards military weapons and tactics as a result of escalated violence from organized crime and high profile scenarios. When cases like this come up, the public eye comes across a side of law enforcement they’ve never seen, or have convinced themselves is restricted to a specialized unit, and that contrasts with the image they’ve formed in their head of the boys in blue. Look at England, they’ve dedicated themselves so completely to this archetype that the majority of the patrols on the street carry no firearm, (incidentally i’ve never understood how getting bashed over the head with a baton is a more civillized means of demise). But what the public doesn’t realize is that as you said, it’s all the same fight. Donning body armor and unlocking the AR from the trunk doesn’t mean we’re moving to a police state, it means that we’re dealing with a specific threat that unfortunately exists.

  7. ET1(SS) Princess

    April 20, 2013 at 2:33 pm

    I don’t have all of the details about what did or did not happen. My wife and I sat by our Police Scanner for most of the day yesterday, listening in on everything that was happening. My wife continuously asking me what certain acronyms mean.

    Seeing the events that unfolded earlier in the week I have drawn my own arm-chair quarterback conclusions on the matter. Regardless of people being “corded” off from their homes, the Boston PD responded as they thought was necessary.

    They not only found the suspects within days of the bombings, but they ended the fight and came out on top having killed/captured the bombers without the loss of any civilian life. I’m personally utterly blown away by the efficiency and time in which the bombers were identified and apprehended. Not only did they do a fantastic job, but they showed the nation and world just exactly how the job gets done.

    Maybe we should send the Boston PD over to the Middle East…

    Godspeed to the fallen.

  8. Maestro63

    April 20, 2013 at 4:33 pm

    Fucking-A, Mr. Aguilar! Abso-fucking-lutely well said!


    April 20, 2013 at 10:46 pm

    As a retired police sergeant from a major metropolitan police department and being retired from the Army, I can say that you are right on. Citizens wonder why the police are so cynical. Citizens are sheep and they don’t like sheep dogs. They HATE the reminder that they are not safe and that there are wolves on every corner waiting to eat them, blow them up or rob them

    • RangeThreat

      April 23, 2013 at 9:33 pm

      FWYSGT, you are now collecting two taxpayer supplied pensions. I detect some serious attitude in your post. You are WRONG, citizens are NOT sheep, the leftist welfare collecting are the sheep. We, many of The “CITIZENS” are the front line sheepdogs, you with a terrible attitude are possibly a wolf…The dogs like me watch out for you. Too many of you feel you over rule the Constitution. Boston was in a “Police State” when the powers that be decided it was okay to roust law abiding citizens from their homes at gun point and search the homes and persons.

    • Dan

      April 25, 2013 at 1:15 pm

      FWYSGT, When you assume that the only sheepdogs are the guys with badges, you start to become the wolf. I try to remain pro-LEO, but they aren’t all dragon slayers and sheepdogs. Sometimes the wolves wear badges. A lot of LEOs promote the us versus them mentality and, like you, blame their shitty attitude on the taxpayers.

      Also, plenty of the sheep love and respect the sheepdogs.

  10. Jono

    April 21, 2013 at 4:08 pm

    The police do not have any obligation to protect anyone. And yet, they do. And yet, people hate them for it…

    “There is no constitutional right to be protected by the state against being murdered by criminals or madmen. It is monstrous if the state fails to protect its residents against such predators but it does not violate the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, or, we suppose, any other provision of the Constitution. The Constitution is a charter of negative liberties; it tells the state to let the people alone; it does not require the federal government or the state to provide services, even so elementary a service as maintaining law and order.” –Bowers v. Devito, 686 F.2d 616 (7th Cir. 1982)

  11. Mayhem, Inc.

    April 22, 2013 at 11:14 am

    Some people like to speak of sheep, sheep hate the sheepdog, bla bla bla. Well I’m not a sheep and I’m not a sheepdog.

    I agree with the poster who said, “we’ve gone from the shot heard around the world to ‘shelter in place’.”

    There will be plenty of time to armchair this, and it should be, who among us has not suffered through a brutal AAR? Who among us would suggest that AAR should not occur???

    War is war and yet we have people trying to restrict my ability to defend my home and my family. In the same sentence saying I somehow am a sheep and hate sheepdogs. Personally I think the entire sheepdog analogy is gay.

    It will be interesting to see more details on what took place from the command and control perspective, combat may be combat, but here in the United States we have a Constitution. It doesn’t matter if the citizens were happy to have LE come into their homes, we don’t define success by happiness. I’ve seen more than one video showing happy citizens with their hands on their heads while their houses were searched.

    In the end, despite the awesome efforts of our LE’s, it was a citizen who found the suspect. A citizen who was finally “allowed” to leave his house.

  12. Mayhem, Inc.

    April 22, 2013 at 11:24 am

    It’s interesting to see the comments from all the “Sheepdogs”, about how all of us sheep are scarred, how we don’t like to be reminded of how unsafe the world is, and how we don’t like all the Dogs that “protect” us, bla bla bla…

    They wonder why we don’t understand how cynical they are.. lol.. Please, you’ve got one group of citizens who call themselves “Sheepdogs” and stating that all the other citizens are sheep and fearful and so ungrateful.. As I said before the analogy is gay and insulting, perhaps you have your answer as to our sheep’ish disposition towards all these self-proclaimed “Sheepdogs”.

    I saw plenty of sheep running towards those who were injured or dying, I saw plenty of sheep do whatever they could to help. I also saw a sheep who after finally being allowed to leave his home found the bad guy…

    Hmmmm…. perhaps it’s time to rethink your attitude towards us sheep, whom as stated, you have absolutely no requirement to ‘protect’.

  13. Mayhem, Inc.

    April 22, 2013 at 12:24 pm

    Fire away Sheepdogs! 🙂

    • Antonio Aguilar

      April 22, 2013 at 2:03 pm

      Sheep, Sheepdogs, and Wolves is only an analogy about capacity for violence. If you read the actual article (it’s been up here in the Rhino Den before), what it explains is that “sheep” are the normal citizens who don’t commit violent acts except under instances of great stress or duress. That doesn’t mean they aren’t capable of self defense, etc, not at all. It just means that they choose to follow a peaceful life for the most part. The “sheep dogs” are the people who choose violent and dangerous professions such as the military or law enforcement because they do have a greater capacity for violence but temper it with a strong empathy for their fellow man. The wolves are those people who have a greater capacity for violence but, quite frankly, don’t give a shit about other people.

      • Mayhem, Inc.

        April 23, 2013 at 9:46 am

        I know all about the analogy, I’ve read it at least a hundred times throughout the years….and oddly, every time I’ve come away more convinced that it’s a homosexual conspiracy started by 3rd Batt Rangers to attract tacticool laden LEO’s into their dens.

        Whether it’s Grossman or some reference to Heinlein, it doesn’t matter. I reject the sheepdog gayity at it’s core.

        I specifically love it when all these sheepdogs decry they are there for our sheepish protection, while working with politicians to deny us the very weapons we would use, meanwhile getting all tacticooled out in the latest military garb. Like I said, it’s a 3rd Batt plot! Please take care sheepdogs!

        The arrogance and disdain that many of these sheepdogs present themselves to the sheep is one very good reason of why there is a growing divide between LEO and non-LEO. This idea that somehow we need to be looked over and protected, not only from criminals but obviously from ourselves is pure asshatery. Dividing yourself from the ‘flock’ and arbitrarily assigning yourselves roles is not what I would consider good community policing.

        I’m not suggesting that all cops do this, but there are plenty. I haven’t done the research but it’s probable in my view that this attitude is probably the main driver behind cops no longer thinking they are community police officers. That they are now some ultra secret squirrel special tactics never been in the military civilian with a badge sheepdog protector warrior elite… LMAO (Yeah I pulled some of that from a different blog, but it rings true to me).

        Anyway, I think you get the picture. I think the analogy is gay and you should be wary of 3rd Batt Rangers.

    • Last Round

      April 23, 2013 at 9:03 am

      What someone does in the face of threat says more about who they are than how they earn their pay or what they wear on their backs. Just because a citizen hasn’t or isn’t wearing a uniform does not exclude them from Sheepdog status…those folks who responded outside of their professional responsibilities to render aid in Boston are good examples of this. Retired military/police/fire/ems folks who still step up at need retain the title. Lastly, Sheep is not used as a condescending term. If I recall LTC Grossman’s use correctly (and I think I do) their life is one of peace, pleasure and prosperity that has much to recommend it. Wolves are predatory and Sheepdogs accept personal risk, discomfort or harm to protect what is worth preserving. They are individuals who step into the arena upon need and don’t just watch from the stands criticizing the actions of those who commit themselves to action on others behalf. Take some time and read “On Killing,” or “On Combat” or better still sit and absorb a “Bulletproof Mind” lecture and step off of what you think the terms you find offensive and divisive mean and respond to them as they are actually employed.

      • Mayhem, Inc.

        April 23, 2013 at 10:12 am

        I read On Killing when it first came out, I’ve also read most of On Combat. I’m familiar with the BulletProof Mind stuff as well.

        As far as ‘step off’ from what I think… I will say it one more time, I understand the analogy and how it is employed perfectly. Given that I understand it, I deny it completely as a false analogy which is probably doing more harm then good when it comes to policing and the such.

        Further to that, regardless of stepping off what I might think about the terms themselves (and trust me I get it), you cannot separate the language from the model. Period. You can say it means this and it means that and sheep are bad and sheepdogs are this or that and wolves..bla..bla..bla Whatever, say what you will, it is impossible to separate the meaning of words especially in this model and what it imparts to the believers of this retarded analogy. Sheep and sheepdog alike.

        Further I find it to be Marxist in nature, doing nothing but developing class conflict. To borrow and paraphrase from my pals at wiki: Freeman and slave, patrician and plebeian, lord and serf, guild-master and journeyman, Sheepdog and Sheep, in a word, oppressor and oppressed, standing in constant opposition to one another.

        I’m not saying you sheepdog types are a bunch of oppressors, I’m saying many have bought into a model that does nothing except create class conflict and they don’t even understand it.

        Anyway, just a few ramblings. From a non-sheep, non-sheepdog, non-wolf, Ranger type, who rejects this model if for no other reason; it’s gay. LMAO

        San Dimas High School Football Rules!

        • Mr. Twisted

          April 23, 2013 at 11:31 am

          Mayhem, Inc.,

          Let me guess…1st Batt?

          At any rate, your comments crack me up. And they do have some validity, but let me address a distinction briefly if I may.

          You are making the assumption that the term “sheep dogs” (short-sided in many regards, I agree) only applies to those who are acting in some official, state-sponsored role–it does not. A citizen, who has chosen the path of self-reliance, responsibility, and knows well his or her rights, can just as easily be the sheep dog. It does not require a badge, nor should it. To be honest, I would prefer to live in a place where more people thought of themselves as capable than having only LEO’s take on that attitude.

          I completely agree that there are good numbers of those in the LEO community who view themselves in the over-seer role and how problematic that can become over the long run. However, it must be understood that the primary reason why they view themselves in this light is because the public at large has cried out for it, time and again, for a very long time. The average citizen desires to have a protective force so that they don’t have to worry about it themselves.

          It is here that the sheepdog analogy, for all its faults, is a fair one (if albeit not ideal). The average citizen desperately desires the role of sheep dog to be filled so that they can continue in their blissful nature of…whatever.

          This should in no way assume that it is a *good* thing for a large number of the populace to be sheep, or that average people, when the time comes, cannot become the actor against aggression. It is a simple analogy to express the common norm which, sad but true, is what it is regardless of how we would like it to be.

          I find it unfortunate that many (not all, by any means) in the line of peace officer have taken advantage of this mindset and, as you pointed out, the analogy that goes along with it. But this is a mindset that needs to change with people, not necessarily those who have taken on the role designed to fulfill their will.

          • Mayhem, Inc.

            April 23, 2013 at 12:56 pm

            Mr. Twisted,

            Excellent post, 1st Batt indeed.

            One point of clarification, I understand completely that anyone can be a ‘sheepdog’. More than likely my ramblings have been unclear on that note, but I do understand the model and that dog status is rendered to a mindset not necessarily a role or badge.

            I also feel compelled to also clarify that I am not condemning police officers…. Most of my mil cop friends understand this, some civilian officers may not, so I will pre-empt any hurt feelings with, “I’m sorry.” 🙂 In fact some of the biggest moron sheepdogs I’ve encountered are not police officers at all, but the random loon who has bought into this mindset x10 and see themselves as some Dark Night: watching, waiting, and ready.. They make me the most nervous.

            Has the public really cried out for the militarization of the police force? I see that as one of the outcomes of this overseer role, demonstrated to a degree in the original article about how combat is combat. A natural extension of which, in my mind, leads us not to community police operations but combat operations being conducted by police. (maybe that’s a stretch, certainly debatable).

            I agree that many of people have no inclination whatsoever to take a role in their own security. I think we could talk all day about how, within a generation or two, this has come to pass. Does the average person really desire this new norm? Or has it been pushed upon them?

            My distaste for this analogy is that, IMHO, it advances this new norm. We are not teaching people to be more self-reliant, we are teaching them and reinforcing with our actions to shelter in place and to dial 911.

            Anyway, great conversation. Hopefully no one took offense, if you did.. I will have to assume you are from 2nd Batt or even worse, a dirty nasty leg.

          • Mr. Twisted

            April 23, 2013 at 1:38 pm

            Mayhem, Inc.,

            I didn’t take offense at all, and I’m definitely not a leg. Haha.

            “…but the random loon who has bought into this mindset x10 and see themselves as some Dark Night: watching, waiting, and ready.. They make me the most nervous.”

            Indeed and sadly very true.

            “Has the public really cried out for the militarization of the police force?”

            I believe that it has, yes. Two points, one quick and the other could take a thesis, but you’ll get the point: One, remember that after 9/11 the biggest and loudest cries heard from the public were those in the theme of “why didn’t the government *do* something???” People wanted desperately for a more protective government. While I may disagree with both their reasoning and the outcome, this is absolutely what they wanted and several election platforms reflected that.

            Which leads me to point number two, namely, that “the government” is still you and I and our neighbors. There is no big, maniacal machine pulling all the strings; the powers that be can only do what the people allow them to do by voting them in or reelecting them every few years. Yes, politicians act against the will of the people all the time. But they are often given a pass by a large segment of the population who thinks it’s just grand that their rights are being trampled on because, hey, the cable and the Netflix are still working!

            “Does the average person really desire this new norm? Or has it been pushed upon them?”

            I don’t think it’s a desire so much as it is a lack of desire to change into something else. Working is hard — working hard at providing one’s own security is even harder. As to the latter question, it’s a self-feeding monster on a downward spiral. Both sides contribute once it gets going.

            “My distaste for this analogy is that, IMHO, it advances this new norm. We are not teaching people to be more self-reliant, we are teaching them and reinforcing with our actions to shelter in place and to dial 911.”

            I think there is a lot of truth to this statement–especially the first part–the more I think about it. And I believe it warrants some serious thought, to be sure.

          • Mayhem, Inc.

            April 23, 2013 at 2:22 pm

            Mr. Twisted,

            The ‘take offense’ and ‘leg’ comment was a shotgun blast, not at all directed at your Twistedness.

            As to the rest of your points, you’ve left me no option but to concur.

            Damn you!…must be SF. ha

  14. Ed

    April 23, 2013 at 9:57 am

    If the ‘sheep’ where encouraged to be proactive in their communities, take pride in their nation, and learn to take care of themselves instead of being brain washed to rely on the government for everything, there might have been a better response. I was raised to respect military, police, firemen, those serving in public office. It was a sacrifice they made because most of them were volunteer or took a massive pay cut to serve. As the city spread and took over where I grew up there was a change in those officials. It was a job, and in order to make themselves more needed we were told as citizens ‘don’t protect yourself, call the police’. Now where I live the police are no more then a legalized gang. A bunch of thugs that care nothing for the law and view themselves as above the law. They are nothing but wolves in ‘sheepdog’ clothing. Now not all are bad, but the majority are corrupt. We as a population have been primed for this type of man to take these positions. We have gotten lazy, listened to the government that we should let the ‘professionals’ take care of it (would any of you let a grass fire that you could control get out of hand because the fire department is trained to do that? No, you’ll control it till they get there or put it out so your house doesn’t burn down.). It is our responsibility to take care of ourselves. We are free. To give the responsibility of our lives to others is to give up the freedom we have.

    I know this won’t be a popular view here, and I’m not an ingrate, I am very grateful for those who serve with honor and for the right reason(and I see his point in the article).

    “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
    ― Benjamin Franklin

Get notified of new Rhino Den articles and videos as they come out, Also, find out before anyone else about new product launches and huge discounts from RangerUp.com, the proud parent of the Rhino Den.

  • Videos (The Damn Few and more!)
  • Military-inspired articles
  • MMA (and Tim Kennedy) coverage
Close this window

Join the Rhino Den / Ranger Up Nation

Read previous post:
Hero of the Week: Carlos Arredondo

  By Sgt Awesome Often when one thinks about the word “hero” your first thought is usually of a Soldier...