The Combat Triad

combat_triad.jpgEvery Citizen Soldier

“Out of a hundred men, ten shouldn’t be there and 80 are just targets.  Nine are the real fighters, and we are thankful for them because they make the battle.  But the one, the one is a warrior and he brings the others back.”

That quote from 500bc is as true now as it was then.  Think back and realize, this was the time of the Greek citizen soldier, the height of hoplite warfare.  The city states of Greece were defended by their citizens who drilled in the summer time and engaged in brief campaigns against their neighbors.  If you took 100 modern American civilians I would imagine a similar ratio.  The Spartans, still citizen soldiers, took their soldiering seriously.  Through dedication and training they upped the ratio of real fighters and warriors and were able to clean house.  

How can we approach the combat ratio of the Spartans?

Years ago Jeff Cooper, father of modern defensive shooting laid out what he called the “combat triad.”  This was a set of three areas that must be honed to up the chances of success in personal combat.  His three areas were mindset, gun handling and marksmanship.  Modern instructors in the art of self-defense using firearms have grouped gun handling and marksmanship in to one area called “skills.”  They added a third side of the triad called “tactics.”

While originally applied only to the individual citizen defending him or herself against criminals, the combat triad is a valuable tool in evaluating you growth as a citizen warrior.  The principles that apply to one-on-one mindset, skills and tactics are applicable in preparing for small unit, unconventional warfare.

To some authors, mindset translates most completely into your willingness to defend yourself.  More properly, mindset includes situational awareness and ability to keep a clear head and mission focus in the fog of battle.  It is an important part of the triad, because without the proper mindset, the desire to win, whatever you do to prepare yourself is moot.  Your mindset is probably the hardest leg of the triad to work on.  This is because it is less tangible than the others.  You can measure the development of skill, and evaluate it against that of your peers.  Mind set may be impossible to evaluate short of actual combat.

Your skills are how well you utilize various equipment and techniques.  To Cooper this was mostly the pistol.  To the citizen soldier it means not only your weapons but also a variety of equipment and techniques.  These include all survival and sustainment equipment, communications, vehicles, night vision, chemical defense equipment and more.  You should be able to use and maintain these items under harsh conditions.  It also includes other skills, such as land navigation, first aid, foraging etc.

Given the proper mindset and skills, tactics are how you apply these things.  When do you perform a particular skill?  How do you utilize cover and concealment? How do you recognize and prioritize threats?  Tactics occur on an individual and group level and will be discussed in further detail.  Group tactics are the hardest thing to effectively practice.  It requires the coordination of several people and more time than the others.

triad-stool.jpgI have read a good bit about the combat triad, and will continue to study it.  One person who has influenced my thought is an internet personality known as “Tire Iron.”  He views the triad as a three legged stool, because the three elements need to be balanced.  I have adopted this view.  It is handy because it shows that these three elements are equal and must all be worked on.

I would be remiss if I did not mention that there are other factors that can contribute to success in combat operations.  Two other factors are equipment and luck.

Equipment takes up far to much of the survivalist/citizen soldiers time, money and thoughts.  While it is true that equipment can win a battle, the skills of using that equipment and the tactics of employing them are much more important.  You are only going to be able to afford so much equipment, master its use and don’t worry about it.  The soldier that has a proper mindset and trains effectively in the skills and tactics to employ a bolt action Enfield rifle will almost always outclass the man who has had the best whiz bang automatic rifle with all the do-dads, night vision etc dropped in his lap.
Tire Iron described equipment as the “paint” for the triad “stool.”  It’s easy to change the paint of a stool, but if it is fundamentally unbalanced it is useless.

Luck can also severely affect the outcome of any conflict. During the war of 1812 the British were within miles of reaching Washington DC but were stopped by a powerful storm.  Bad luck, act of God whatever you want to call it.  As they say, luck is a fickle thing, and cannot be controlled.  There are even those that would say that luck does not exist.  Certainly, proper planning and preparation on your part can reduce the “luck” of an opponent.

The combat triad is not a concept that will make you a real fighter, but it can help.  It is a tool that you need to use to prioritize your development.  If you approach training with an eye toward maintaining a balance between mindset, skills and tactics, you will effectively push yourself to the highest plateau you might achieve.

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