Low Light Tactics for Military Law Enforcement
Using the modified prone to displace from the light around a corner.
Robert Carlson / SWAT Digest
It’s instinctive to fear what you can’t see. It’s the unknown that we fear; where are they, do they have a gun? These are all thoughts that race through your mind as you search for a target in the dark. By the same token, we can feel secured by the darkness. We’re safer if they cannot see us. Over the years many people have been lulled into a secure feeling by that old phrase and misnomer cover of darkness.
There is something about those dark shadows that can both play upon a persons fear and at the same time bolster a sense of security. The reality is that both thoughts are correct to one extent and wrong to another. Unfortunately, not understanding this and allowing either perception to override the other could very likely result in the death of a military LEO at the hand of an adversary.
Statistics (as well as common sense and operational experience) consistently show our adversaries prefer to operate at night. Every cop knows this. This has been the primary impetus for the many advances in flashlight technology in recent years. The military has always this and have long made the development of NODs (Night Optical Devices) a priority, to provide our forces with an advantage. The military traditionally chose to stay away from lights, feeling they compromised your position, using them only for things like map reading. NODs such as NVGs (Night Vision Goggles), though initially heavy, temperamental and hungry for batteries, were great! They allowed us to see without being seen and prevented the compromise of positions and personnel with non-tactical white light.
NODs do, however, come with their limits, even the most recent generation; loss of depth perception and peripheral vision, difficulty in adapting to changing light conditions, and of course, cost. Now don’t get me wrong, NVGs are perhaps one of the best pieces of kit you can have with you on a night operation. Other times though, especially in urban operations, there might be something better. Urban operations are a unique environment, consisting of many angles, dead spaces where you can’t see, and a multitude of light levels even at night. Lighting conditions can change rapidly as we move through an urban area—street lights come on and off, we move into and out of shadows, are exposed suddenly to headlights or flares, search a dark room when lights are suddenly thrown on, etc. So, could we not perhaps learn something from our civilian counterparts in Law Enforcement about how to fight at night? Might there be something that surpasses the limitations of NVGs, that could be easier to utilize (if practiced effectively) and simpler to deploy?
Enter the flashlight.
Such a statement should and does sound self- evident and obvious, but it’s not. There are large numbers of SPs and MPs out there that lack even a basic understanding of low- or no- light operations. This is more a result of a failure on the part of their career fields as a whole than any dereliction on the part of Training Section NCOs—they are faced with so many constraints it’s a wonder our troops have any proficiency at all. The fact is, there is more to using a light properly than just pointing it where you want to look.
First, the Security Forces SP or Military Policeman should understand that it is not just any flashlight will perform effectively in such conditions. Through my years in both military and civilian law enforcement, I’ve often noted how little thought most of my peers put into the selection of the flashlights they carry. I’ve seen officers spend almost a thousand dollars on the best handgun available, but settle for a mere thirty dollar light. Unit S-4s often exhibit the same skewed priority, purchasing expensive, often little-used pieces of kit without any consideration for superior, easily carried and easily manipulated lights.