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Immediate Action Drills
By Jon T. Harris

When you play scenario games , and I mean really play scenario games, your team can benefit from practicing Immediate Action Drills.  The Military calls them Battle Drills.

I will attempt to help you understand how the proper use of proven tactics will make you and your team better players.  The term, enemy and opposing team are interchangeable in these articles and throughout the website.

These small routines can mean the difference in living and getting splattered in paint on the scenario field.  The military sees these drills as so important that units fail combat readiness tests if they cant perform them adequately.  My squad practiced these drills and many more weekly. I can tell you from experience, they work. Are they hard?  Not on the face of them but coordination is the key. That, and everyone needs to be working on the same sheet of paper.  I remember practicing crossing the same road maybe 50 times in a day until I was satisfied we had it right. Then we would do it again with different people in each other’s position. Everyone had to know the other person's job.

So what are immediate action drills and why are they so important?  For our purposes, these questions need one more part.  Why do I need these for paintball?  Well, the answers are pretty simple but lets go through them one at a time.

What is an Immediate Action Drill?
Immediate action drills are rehearsed reactions to contact or anticipated contact with the enemy. Basically they involve practicing your immediate reaction to a threat until it becomes an automatic response.  Immediate action drills are most frequently used by fire teams and squads.

Why are they so important?
The enemy (other team) normally seeks contact with units only under favorable tactical circumstances; for example, ambushes.  The small-unit encounters with the other teams are likely to be sudden, violent, and of short duration. Slow reactions to an ambush can result in excessive losses or the loss of an opportunity to punish the opposing team. Contact is often made at close range, particularly when operating in woods, forests, or heavy brush. Immediate action drills aid teams in reacting quickly and properly.

Why do I need these for paintball?
This is probably the easiest to answer.  When we play paintball in the woods we normally play scenario/recball games.  These can of course be very short or last days.  The tactics used by the military and the tactics used by a well-practiced team are have many similarities.  Almost NO teams practice these drills.  IF your team does, they are head and shoulders above the other teams. Non-practiced and disorganized teams (the norm) will have little chance against a team ready with the tactical knowledge and ability to use those skills.

The tactics I’m showing here are real world and practiced.  They are proven in real combat and I personally have seen them make the difference in a REALLY bad day and one I’m able to write about. Coincidently, I’ve used these drills in paintball with just a little bit of practice by only a couple of players on the team and even that was enough to completely annihilate the other team.

So lets start:
Immediate Action Drill (contact while on patrol) Assault

Given you have three members of your team moving down either side of a trail. Your team moves slowly and quietly.  This could be a patrol  (like in a long game) or your team is moving to an objective like the other side’s bunker.

You stagger your team. Everyone knows where his or her team members are and can see them. The lead member makes contact with the enemy.  He may simply see them, or be shot at by them, but the contact is made.  That lead member must immediately determine if your team has been seen or not, because that will decide your best response.  For this drill assume your team has been compromised and all Hell is about to break loose.

Your team responds by going into its immediate action drill.  For this situation we will use the assault drill.

Your lead member makes contact. While yelling “CONTACT FRONT,” he takes cover and shoots.  The rest of the team echoes the info, “CONTACT FRONT,” and rushes forward. Remember, your lead guy is in a world of dog doo so the rest of the team needs to get moving fast. Remember the word immediate?  

The team moves forward in a quick leapfrog style.  First, the lead guy who has already taken cover lays down covering fire.  It is not so important that he hit anyone, just that he keep them from sending paint in the direction of your team.

The second member moves up a to a position forward but to the other side of the trail if possible of the lead member, but not in his line of fire.  He then fires at the enemy while taking cover.

The third member is already moving.  He passes #2 and does the same thing.

Now the team member that was in the lead is the farthest back and they move up, repeating the drill.

No one moves unless the other team members are laying down covering fire.
All team members yell, “COMING THROUGH,” as they pass their forward team member.  This way you don’t get shot in the back running into your team mates field of fire.

There is another point that needs to be brought up here.  If a team member runs out of ammo he yells  "LOADING!"  This lets the other members know that there is no fire coming from the loading member so the team waits until all are ready.  When that team member is reloaded he signals by yelling “UP” or “READY!” The exact wording is up to the team, and you might consider picking some code words that aren’t so obvious to the opposing team.  Whatever words you use, it is practice and drilling that will make them an automatic response.  Loading under combat conditions and moving is another  Immediate Action Drill and we will cover this in another article on teamwork.

This advancing leap-frog technique continues until either the enemy is severely painted, runs away or you find you have bitten off more than you can handle.

About the author 

Jon T. Harris has served in civilian SWAT and hostage negotiation teams in Texas from 1977 through 1988. In 88, Jon joined the US Army and served in rapid deployment and small independent units in Europe until he retired due to combat related injuries. Jon was rated as The NCO of the year while serving in Europe and is a permanent member of the prestigious US Army Europe Morales Club. 

Jon is a published author.  He has written several articles on small unit training in the US Army magazine as well as several short stories. He is the author of the action adventure novel "Breakpoint" which is at the publisher now and is the tactical adviser and owner of, a site dedicated to scenario and military simulation paintball use. His interests are in Scenario Play and Mil/Rec games. 

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