Through this article I am going to shortly review the importance of training, the reasons I believe the urban terrain is and will stay the main area of operations in the future, and the main gaps in CQB training which is of great importance to properly prepare tactical level forces to the operational challenge in the urban terrain.
One thing that my experience has taught me was that preparing a unit to war is an extremely challenging job. The ability to adequately confront the challenge lies with the soldiers’ level of readiness which is a direct product of the unit’s level of training and cannot be fixed by focused effort during emergencies.
It is true that the actual state of combat could never be replicated in a perfect manner. However, laying a solid training foundation that is based on a high level of realistic training contributes greatly to the unit’s ability to deal with the operational challenge.
It is hard to belittle the damage of training in inadequate training environments. A unit that has been trained in such an environment would have to go through long, agonizing, learning processes, under harsh deployment conditions, to make up for that gap. Not once, this gap in training quality has caused the loss of human life.
The main way to support those units and provide them the means to integrate proper tactical habits throughout training. There is no doubt that the future battlefield is the urban terrain, more and more people are immigrating to the cities and there is no indication that this trend is going to slow down. This is not merely my opinion. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and former Chief of Staff of the Army, Gen. Mark Milley, has stated during the annual AUSA conference, that the future battlefield “will almost certainly be in dense urban terrain” and that in the future the Army will have to “optimize for urban combat.”
Therefore, executing training in fortified urban terrain that includes the subterranean medium is of the utmost importance. The training environment must engage the trainees in the same manner as a real operation will engage them. Additionally, it must include the presence of uninvolved civilians as their presence has also become one of the main challenges of urban warfare.
It is no secret that many militaries and defense agencies are lacking sufficient training infrastructure to conduct this type of training. The existing infrastructure is usually not available for all units, or available after a long period of waiting. The units must wait a long period of time or adapt by simulating walls with different means, plywood, or other improvised solutions that may cause the trainee to adjust to nonrealistic training conditions.
A similar opinion is stated in a report written by Sanders, William R., and Peter S. Schaefer:
“A recurring concern expressed by many leaders was that their units do not possess the equipment needed to train with and access to ranges to build the skills they need when deployed. Lack of CQB training and lack of access to the .50 cal were often cited as examples” (Sanders, William R., and Peter S. Schaefer, 2009) .
Another problem is that the same training area is used again and again thus not allowing the trainee to experience a “reactive training environment” but just memorize a specific urban layout. The trainee might improve is technical capabilities, CQB Fundamentals and Principles, Lethal Shot Placement, shooting while moving Forward and Laterally, Lateral Target Transitions, Target Discrimination, Tactical Order of Engagement, 2 Man room Entry, 4 Man (Team) Entry, Basic Clearance Procedures, Post Assault Procedures.
However, without the proper training infrastructure, the trainees will experience a similar scenario time after time. Although their basic abilities will improve there will be no significant improvement in their decision-making time, ability to react to unexpected operational conditions, or to be more familiar with untraditional urban areas that may require a special approach.
An additional element that requires our attention is the amount of time needed to get to training locations that have CQB training capabilities. Some units are spending a lot of time moving to and from those bases, mobilizing their equipment, and dealing with related logistics, thus making this option even more problematic.
Training in urban terrain is not a simple event. Safety considerations, such as minimum engagement range, ricochets, and direction of fire all impact the training execution. I can’t count the number of times I went into a training site to find completely empty rooms or lack of friend targets. These lacking elements are causing the trainees to adjust improperly to the operational challenge. In real combat the safety range is rarely a reality, the enemy may use civilians as armor, and the clearing for an empty room our completely different than when furniture is involved
 Sanders, William R., and Peter S. Schaefer. Identifying the training challenges and needs of deploying units. No. ARI-RR-1891. ARMY RESEARCH INST FOR THE BEHAVIORAL AND SOCIAL SCIENCES FORT KNOX KY, 2009.