Veterans React to 10th Mountain Division Room Clearing Video

February 23, 2021Maggie BenZvi
room clearing video

Screen grab from Instagram.

It’s all over the internet: a viral video of a shoot house gone horribly wrong. In it, soldiers from the Army’s 10th Mountain Division train ineptly to clear rooms, while their superiors watch from above. 

The video spread widely enough to catch the attention of Command Sgt. Maj. Mario Terenas of 10th Mountain Division. “It is not the standard, it is not how we do business, it is not acceptable,” he said in a public message. “We will investigate, we will take action, and we will retrain. That is a guarantee.”

But what exactly went wrong? Here’s what four former service members had to say about the chaos seen in the video.

Luke Ryan, veteran of 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment

“The obvious reaction most people have been having is the blatant flagging. That means that as these guys are moving around each other, their barrels are pointed right at one another — this is a huge safety violation. It’s made waves because this is one of the first things you learn in the military: Don’t point your weapon at anything you don’t intend to kill. It’s a fundamental rule that has had zero reason to change in the slightest.

“Another clear problem is that they aren’t hitting their points of domination, which basically means they aren’t clearing the entire room. They’re entering the room and immediately getting tunnel vision on the targets without so much as a glance anywhere else. This is quite clearly because they already knew where those targets would be before they reached the door. If the ‘target’ (meaning, enemy combatant) had been in any other part of the room, and this was a real scenario, they would have been dead. That could have been resolved with good training on clearing corners, mixing up the target building every time they entered it, and having them all slow way down.

“Granted, every time someone enters and clears a room, armchair quarterbacks could probably find something wrong with it — that’s why you train and train and train again. But there’s a difference between ‘you need improvement’ and ‘this is a total failure of an exercise and we need to go back to the drawing board,’ and this video falls in the latter category.

“What really irked the military community about this video wasn’t just the fact that these soldiers need a ton of work. It was that the video was posted with the apparent expectation that everyone would drool over how tactically awesome they are.”

Jason Lutcavage, veteran of 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Division

“This is seriously some of the most piss poor training I’ve seen in a long time, and you could be forgiven for thinking it is a foreign military because of how bad it looks. This couldn’t be their first time, because you’re not jumping straight to live ammo in a shoot house and bypassing dry-runs or blanks. Whoever filmed this, edited it, and thought it was a good idea to post it is an idiot.

“Everything that could be wrong is, outside of someone getting shot — I’m surprised it didn’t happen considering the amount of flagging going on here. Corners aren’t being cleared, they’re stacking up all wrong, they evidently were not taught Mozambique drills, and so on. I may have been out of the game for a while, but there is not a chance in hell I would have been trusted to run point if I had done any of this.

“Move fast and don’t clear a room with your ass is probably the most succinct way I could express this. Well, and don’t shoot your buddy. You’re not training for a shoot house scenario, you’re training for those moments you’re exhausted and know that there’s someone on the other side of that door who will blow your brains out of your skull. Unbelievable.”

Aaron Pettit, veteran of 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment

“It’s easier to describe what they did right in this training exercise than it is to detail all the wrongs, and that’s nothing. They should have stayed home and not come to work. At any given time there was a loaded weapon being pointed at a fellow soldier who could have been Swiss-cheesed at any moment.  

“The good idea fairy clearly came down, whispered in someone’s ear, and told them, ‘Hey, go do something so insanely stupid, dangerous, and poorly executed that the entire world makes fun of us.’ At literally every turn was a chance for disaster and friendly fire, which was averted by sheer dumb luck, not competence. There’s less muzzle awareness than a puppy’s cold wet nose and more flags than a parade field.  

“Every single member of leadership that approved this and set these guys up for failure should be removed, demoted, promoted again, then demoted again just to prove a point. We deserve to have our troops trained better.  

“All jokes aside, this is one of the most dangerous and stupid things I have ever seen, and there needs to be serious corrections made before someone kills their friend by accident.”

Veteran of 1st Marine Division, Marine Special Operations Advisor Group

“The Command Sergeant Major of the 10th Mountain doesn’t identify what the issue is or how he intends to address it. There were obvious safety concerns that most people have harped on in social media commentary, but that primary focus is not all that was done dangerously wrong in the video. To correct training issues, this would need to be approached with the kind of experience, perspective, reasoning and understanding that is often overlooked when responding to outrage.

“The conceptual understanding of the task was clearly not understood or taught well. Many of the soldiers are seen doing shoulder-to-shoulder two-man entries, moving straight through the center of the room as they enter it — at no point taking their corners, holding dominant positions to flow through, or covering dead space as they encounter it. This shows a lack of fundamental knowledge in what needs to be getting accomplished in room clearing, knowledge that will apply in a real world environment no matter what layout they encounter.

“How did these soldiers reach the point of running live fire shoot houses without having been taught these concepts? How had they not yet done some level of force on force with an opposing force who would expose all the flaws in their current tactics, techniques, and procedures? Was this an example of soldiers who know how to do things correctly but were expected to do them differently for a check in the box training evolution?

“There are many questions that need to be answered and explored, and it is encouraging that the CSM seems receptive to the need for correction and eager to do so. Hopefully, this isn’t done through the metrics of the ‘risk aversion’ perspective that seems to be dominating the discussion currently. More funding for sim-munitions will be needed, more rehearsals on ‘glass house/tape house’ structures. Maybe even dust off a few of us older types that fought through structures in Iraq in the early GWOT years to help sharpen the focus from the ground up.

“Every war, we learn that our risk averse approach to training has left us less prepared for the next conflict, losing years of institutional knowledge to satisfy outrage. As the GWOT continues to dwindle, it’s only right that we honor the great men and women who were killed as a result of our lacking knowledge by ensuring we don’t ever leave them so ill-prepared for a dangerous environment again. We know what happens when we send our forces to fight in mountains or densely packed urban areas to fight in ways their training didn’t reflect.”

Read Next: WATCH: The Grueling ‘D-Series’ Exercise That Prepared Elite Ski Troops from the 10th Mountain Division for Winter Warfare

Maggie BenZvi
Maggie BenZvi

Maggie BenZvi is a contributing editor for Coffee or Die. She holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Chicago and a master’s degree in human rights from Columbia University, and has worked for the ACLU as well as the International Rescue Committee. She has also completed a summer journalism program at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. In addition to her work at Coffee or Die, she’s a stay-at-home mom and, notably, does not drink coffee. Got a tip? Get in touch!

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