Occupation and Clearing P1
Problems in Technique and Tempo
By Brian C. Hartman

One of the greatest benefits of teaching tactics is, how many students from varied backgrounds we come in contact with. Like all of us, students bring to class, a willingness to learn, and a host of both good and bad habits.
A problem I often observe is a lack of situational discretion as it applies to tempo. Another is an operational misunderstanding of the occupation of space versus the clearing of space.
While clearing a structure or space, a shooter will encounter walls, doors, steps and all the other defining attributes of a building. Obviously negotiating these will necessitate the use of movement. By proxy, this means that as our shooter ‘moves’, their body will physically occupy new/conquered space, while surrendering old / relinquished territory. Meanwhile as the shooters eyes and muzzle pass through areas, they are indeed searching for the common indicators of human presence: form, shape, noise, weapons, light, flash, color/contrast, etc. And it is here where the problems begin...Occupying does not necessarily equal clearing, while clearing does not necessarily mandate occupying. The following principles will attempt to explain this further Problems in Technique and Tempo Principle #1: You can clear a great deal without occupying.
Imagine a shooter is tasked with clearing a football field in broad daylight. With nowhere for threats to hide, he needn’t set foot on the field. In this case, a simple orderly visual search pattern does the trick.
A more practical example is a glass-doored shower in a residence. Here, a physical barrier prevents spatial occupation (unless opened) but does not prevent visual clearing. Simple concept right? It stands to reason that when operating at a methodical deliberate tempo, that the majority of the clearing effort should be undertaken before entering a given room. Try to make the brass land in the hall.
Principle #2: Vulnerabilities stem from occupying without clearing.
Imagine this: From a hallway, our shooter hears a distinct loud noise from a closet within a bedroom. The hero boldly charges into the room focused on the closet and the closet only. By occupying a space first without clearing, this action exposes our man to any additional unknowns or threats in the room.
Another example showcasing lateral vulnerabilities is a door centered on a room. As our shooter enters, he focuses his attention on the far wall (opposite the door). As he has been trained to not dwell in the doorway / fatal funnel, he sidesteps, left or right three paces into the room. Thus with gun and eyes in alignment, the shooter is moving, and occupying unobserved territory 90 degrees to the axis of coverage. Left or right corners may contain viable threats that the shooter not only doesn’t see, but is advancing on! Add low light variables to the equation and you may as well be blindfolded.