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Method of Entry 101
Breaching. Getting your team into the building. That is what it all boils down to. Breachers, or as we call them in the U.K. method of entry (MoE) officers, are a vital part of your team and must have the knowledge and training that their position warrants. A recent breacher training day with a local SWAT team convinced me to write this article about our approach to the breach.
Let's say your team has been tasked with executing a warrant, or better still, you are about to rescue a hostage. So, how do you go about it?
At some point, you will make the highest risk portion of the operation…you will breach and make entry. It simply isn’t good enough to throw the ram at the biggest team member and say, “Get us through that door.”
The breacher must have the latest training in breaching techniques and be trained in the equipment that your team uses. The breacher’s equipment is a whole separate article.
Breaching is a science, an art form, which requires practice and skill. I was not the biggest on our team, by far, but I was always given the task of getting the team in, and thankfully, I always did.
You need to select your breacher wisely. Choose someone who is keen to learn and has an aptitude for swinging and hitting. Depending on the size of your team, I would recommend that you select one in four members to be trained as breachers. So if you have a 16-man team, choose four breachers.
Once you have identified the right people, give them all the training they need. I can’t stress enough how important the role of the breacher is. After all, if they can’t get you into the building, your team has no role to play.
We all learn from our mistakes, and training is where they should be made. For example, recently a breaching workshop took place while the rest of the team was planning an entry. The monoshock ram was the tool that was used. A self-professed expert who claimed to have opened “thousands” of doors was about to practice on a flimsy metal door.
After the fourth strike, I stepped in and told the breacher to turn the tool around; he was using the wrong face to hit the door. While not wishing to labor the point, this person was a so-called expert, but he had never been given formal instruction on breaching. Like many breachers, he picked up his skills “on the job.” I have trained many officers in many different roles throughout the past 16 years and never advocated on-the-job training. It is too dangerous to learn when the risks are that high. This is why training is so important.
So you have selected your breachers, you have given them some important training on how to use the equipment you carry and they are ready to attack the next entry point. Not so fast. The team needs to work with the breachers, and your tactical approach to the entry point needs to be as smooth and as safe as you can make it for the breacher. All too often the team approaches the entry point exposing the breacher to danger.
Whatever type of door I faced, I always tried to get my back to the hinges, which was not always possible due to the configuration of walls. On inward-opening doors I would consider my forearm and the door jamb. The breacher should open the door with one swing, so he should give it 100% effort. I would not give it 100% if there was a risk that my forearm would hit the door jamb.
With the breacher’s back to the hinges, there is more than enough room (generally) for Number 1, hopefully using a shield, to stand by those hinges pointing a weapon into the room as the door is breached. I know this description may be difficult to picture, but the teams I have trained with agree that the more protection the breachers have, the more likely they are to get you into the door more quickly because they are focused on the door and not the risky position they are in.
Breachers are trained, and your team is versed in working closely with them to gain effective entry. The entry point is the breacher’s concern and not the concern of any other team member. How many times have you witnessed a team member trying to assist the breach by kicking the door or shouldering it to open it? Believe me, if a tool dishing out three tons per square inch cannot open the door, your foot, leg, shoulder or head will not open it either. As painful as it might be, you must allow the breacher to gain entry without your help.
If you find that the breacher is struggling to gain entry, what do you do? Before the job, identify a backup breacher. On the word “CHANGE,” he will step up to the entry point and take over. The original breacher steps back and gets a breather in case he is needed again.
Generally, we give the breacher a maximum of five strikes, then he is out. It stands to reason that the breacher gets less effective with every strike, so be aware of this and have the contingency in place if “CHANGE” is called.
One last point on a technical issue: we are focused on the handle side of the door and pay most of our attention to this area. During a recent training day, I deliberately strengthened the handle side of many doors to make them harder to breach.
After a discussion with the breachers, they agreed that they would be better off hitting the hinge side of the door. Although there are two, maybe three, hinges on a door, they actually break far more easily than a strengthened handle side does. During the rest of the training day, the hinges were destroyed and entry was gained very quickly and efficiently.
Keith Suddes, CertEd, MBA was a police officer, senior instructor and team leader in Kent, U.K. from 1988 to 2007. He was an MoE (breacher) on his team, Kent Police, UK-Training And Tactical Firearms Unit, which is a full time tactical team working in the southeast of England. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Published in Tactical Response, Sep/Oct 2009
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