Understanding terrain may seem like common sense for most, and it is, but its a topic that many completely gloss over in lieu of thinking they look cool doing those immediate action drills. How did you get there? How are you going to get out? Can you prevent your adversary from getting out? In all cases, this is dependent upon your own terrain analysis. We do this using OCOKA: Observation and Fields of Fire, Cover and Concealment, Obstacles affecting movement, , Key Terrain Features and Avenues of Approach. You move through the worst terrain possible to prevent pursuit, you attack at the worst possible juncture to prevent an enemy from effective fire and maneuver.- NCS


Not to trivialize terrain and its effect upon the battle space, but most folks have a basic understanding of how terrain can influence a battle. When considering terrain, again another generalization, it’s major land features such as hills, rivers and valleys that come to mind. Such geographical features can be lumped together under the term macro-terrain. By contrast, micro-terrain is any land feature that would otherwise go unnoticed by the passer-by. Examples include a low roll in the earth, a sight depression, a mid-calf high clump of grass or small bush. When properly utilized, its micro-terrain that can be the difference between surviving in a gun fight or falling to enemy fire.
As a former Naval Aviator and fast mover, I had never heard of the term micro-terrain and knew nothing of its meaning. That is until I took some training courses through 1 Shepherd. While conducting a patrol exercise, my squad came under attack. As per our training we conducted our react to contact drill and engaged the OPFOR. Eventually, my squad began to take causalities and we succumbed to the OPFOR’s continuous fire. During the AAR of the engagement, the term micro-terrain was brought up by the instructor. When applied to the context of the engagement, there was a small rise in ground that was about four feet behind where my squad was located when attacked. Once we went to prone and began to return fire, moving backward behind this small rise would have provided additional cover for my squad by complicating the OPFOR’s sight picture, making it more difficult for them to get hits and kills. Thus was my introduction to micro-terrain.

Micro-terrain is not a difficult concept to understand or put into use. However, it is a skill that does take some practice to identify and utilize. It’s not a skill that can be developed on the square range. It requires getting out into the woods and fields and practicing contact drills, going prone and performing rushes and fall backs, all the while learning to identify those rises or low depressions in the earth that are just a few feet away from you and utilizing them to your advantage. It just might be the difference surviving and dying.

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