How U.S. Army Soldiers Clear A Building

 September 6, 2023

The U.S. Army's building-clearing operations are a masterclass in precision, teamwork, and valor. These operations are crucial in urban warfare and counter-terrorism efforts, showcasing the Army's commitment to safeguarding civilians and neutralizing threats with minimal collateral damage.

The Importance of Sound Tactics in Building-Clearing Operations

Building-clearing operations are a critical facet of contemporary military engagements, especially in the complex landscapes of urban warfare. Far from being a simple act of entering a structure, these operations are the result of intricate planning and tactical brilliance.

Dual objectives guide their design: to ensure the safety of military personnel and to protect civilians who may be caught in the crossfire.

The Complexity of Urban Warfare

Urban environments present a unique set of challenges that are vastly different from open-field combat. Buildings, narrow alleys, and high population densities create a labyrinthine setting where threats can hide and ambush soldiers. The presence of civilians adds an additional layer of complexity, requiring extremely cautious and calculated moves to avoid collateral damage.

The Role of Intelligence Gathering

Before any building-clearing operation, intelligence gathering is paramount. This could involve aerial surveillance, informants, or even cyber intelligence to get a clear picture of the layout, potential threats, and the presence of civilians. Accurate intelligence is crucial for planning the operation and equipping the soldiers with the right tools and information.

Tactical Planning: A Multi-Dimensional Approach

The planning phase involves multiple departments and experts, from strategists and engineers to medical teams. Planners consider various scenarios and develop contingency plans for each. They often simulate the operation digitally or through tabletop exercises to identify potential pitfalls and fine-tune the strategy.

  1. Entry and Exit Points: Determining the best points for entering and exiting the building to minimize exposure to threats.
  2. Force Allocation: Deciding the number and types of units involved, such as regular infantry, special forces, or even canine units for specific tasks.
  3. Civilian Safety Protocols: Establishing procedures for identifying and evacuating civilians, or directing them to safe zones within the building.

Execution with Precision

Once the planning is complete, the execution phase begins, and this is where the tactical training of the soldiers comes to the fore. Every team member synchronizes their movements, takes deliberate actions, and knows their role down to the minutest detail. Communication is key, often involving hand signals or coded language to maintain stealth.

The Human Element: Training and Discipline

Beyond the tactics and tools, the human element is perhaps the most crucial. Soldiers undergo rigorous training to prepare for these high-pressure situations. This includes not just physical training but also psychological preparation to make split-second decisions that could mean the difference between life and death.

The MOUT Framework: Backbone of Building-Clearing Operations

The Military Operations on Urbanized Terrain (MOUT) serves as the cornerstone for the U.S. Army's building-clearing operations. This comprehensive framework outlines a multitude of techniques and strategies, ranging from initial isolation of the target building to the final room-by-room clearance.

The overarching goal is to minimize risks to both military personnel and civilians, while exerting maximum control over the operational environment.

The Genesis of MOUT

The recognition of the unique challenges posed by urban warfare led to the development of MOUT. Traditional battlefield strategies often fall short in densely populated areas, where the enemy can easily blend in with civilians or take advantage of the complex terrain.

To address these challenges, designers created the MOUT framework, which provides a structured approach to urban combat scenarios, including building-clearing operations.

Key Components of MOUT

Several key components make up the MOUT framework, each addressing a specific aspect of urban warfare.

Isolation of Target Building

Before entering, soldiers secure the area around the building to prevent enemy escape or reinforcement. This often involves setting up roadblocks, sniper positions, and possibly even drone surveillance.

Perimeter Security

After isolating the building, soldiers establish a secure perimeter to protect the entry teams and manage any civilians in the area.

Entry Techniques

Soldiers employ specialized entry techniques, such as "breaching," to gain access to the building. This could involve mechanical methods like battering rams, or explosive methods like breaching charges.

Room-by-Room Clearance

Teams move through the building in a coordinated manner, clearing each room methodically. To minimize exposure to potential threats, soldiers often use a "stack" formation.

Civilian Management

Throughout the operation, soldiers take special care to identify and secure civilians, moving them to a designated "safe room" or evacuating them from the building as the situation dictates.

Tactical Innovations

Over the years, the MOUT framework has evolved to incorporate new technologies and tactics. For example, the use of drones for initial reconnaissance, or the integration of augmented reality systems to provide real-time data to soldiers, are some of the latest advancements enhancing the effectiveness of these operations.

The End Goal: Safety and Control

The ultimate aim of applying the MOUT framework in building-clearing operations is twofold: to ensure the safety of all involved—be it military personnel or civilians—and to establish control over a potentially volatile situation. Every step, from initial planning to final execution, aims to minimize risks and maximize operational success.

By adhering to the MOUT framework's principles and guidelines, the U.S. Army conducts its building-clearing operations with the highest levels of precision, safety, and tactical superiority.

Techniques and Tools: The Arsenal Behind Successful Building-Clearing Operations

In building-clearing operations, the U.S. Army utilizes an array of specialized tools and techniques designed to maximize efficiency and safety.

From the use of flashbangs for disorientation to the strategic employment of ballistic shields for protection, each element serves a specific purpose. Teams operate in highly coordinated manners, often adopting formations like the "stack" to cover all angles and blind spots.

The planning is meticulous, with contingencies in place for a variety of unexpected scenarios.

The Role of Specialized Tools

Not only do standard military-issue tools feature in these operations, but soldiers often use specialized equipment tailored for urban combat scenarios. Here are some of the key tools:

  1. Flashbangs: Also known as stun grenades, these are used to temporarily blind and deafen the enemy, giving soldiers a few crucial seconds to enter a room.
  2. Ballistic Shields: These provide mobile cover for soldiers as they move through the building, offering protection against bullets and shrapnel.
  3. Breaching Tools: These can range from mechanical battering rams to explosive charges, used to quickly and efficiently gain entry into locked or barricaded rooms.
  4. Night Vision Goggles: Often used in low-light conditions to give soldiers an advantage, allowing them to see clearly without exposing themselves by using flashlights.
  5. Tactical Ladders: These are used for reaching windows or rooftops without exposing the team to unnecessary risks.

Coordinated Techniques

The techniques employed are as specialized as the tools. Among the most commonly used are:

  1. Stack Formation: This is a single-file line that soldiers form behind the point man, allowing for quick and coordinated room entry.
  2. Slicing the Pie: This technique involves approaching a room's entrance at an angle, allowing soldiers to gradually see into the room without fully exposing themselves.
  3. Dynamic Entry: This is a fast and aggressive technique where soldiers quickly flood into a room to overwhelm any potential threats.
  4. Limited Penetration: In contrast to dynamic entry, this technique involves taking a position just inside the doorway and methodically engaging threats from there.

Contingency Planning

Every operation has multiple contingency plans to account for unexpected situations. These could range from encountering booby traps to dealing with hostile civilians.

Rigorous training ingrains quick decision-making protocols and fallback plans into the soldiers, enabling them to adapt to rapidly changing conditions.

Valor in Action

Stories of heroism are not uncommon in these high-stakes operations. Soldiers put their lives on the line to ensure the safety of their comrades and civilians. Their actions are a testament to their training, dedication, and the unwavering commitment to their mission.

This video shows GoPro point of view helmet cam footage of U.S. Army troops in a building clearing exercise during a military demonstration:



The U.S. Army's building-clearing operations are a blend of tactical brilliance and raw courage. They exemplify the Army's dedication to excellence and its commitment to safeguarding lives. As urban warfare continues to evolve, so too will the techniques and technologies employed by the Army, but the core principles of valor and precision will remain unchanged.

Frequently Asked Questions About U.S. Army Tactics

1. What is MOUT and why is it important?

Military Operations on Urbanized Terrain (MOUT) is a framework that guides the U.S. Army in building-clearing operations, particularly in urban settings. It is crucial for ensuring the safety of both military personnel and civilians, and for effectively neutralizing threats.

2. What are some specialized tools used in building-clearing operations?

Specialized tools include flashbangs, ballistic shields, breaching tools, night vision goggles, and tactical ladders. Each tool serves a specific purpose, such as disorienting enemies or providing cover.

3. What is the "stack" formation?

The "stack" formation is a single-file line that soldiers form behind the point man. This formation allows for quick and coordinated room entry, covering all angles and minimizing exposure to threats.

4. How is intelligence gathered before an operation?

Intelligence can be gathered through various means, including aerial surveillance, informants, and cyber intelligence. This information is crucial for planning the operation and equipping soldiers appropriately.

5. What is the role of civilian safety in these operations?

Civilian safety is a top priority. Protocols are established for identifying and evacuating civilians or directing them to safe zones within the building. Special care is taken to minimize risks to civilians.

6. How are contingencies handled?

Multiple contingency plans are developed during the planning phase to account for unexpected situations, such as encountering booby traps or hostile civilians. Soldiers are trained to adapt to rapidly changing conditions.

7. What kind of training do soldiers undergo for these operations?

Soldiers undergo rigorous physical and psychological training to prepare for high-pressure situations. This includes scenario-based exercises, digital simulations, and tabletop exercises.

8. What is "slicing the pie"?

"Slicing the pie" is a technique where soldiers approach a room's entrance at an angle, allowing them to gradually see into the room without fully exposing themselves to potential threats.

9. How have technological advancements impacted these operations?

New technologies like drones for reconnaissance and augmented reality systems for real-time data have been integrated into the MOUT framework, enhancing the effectiveness of building-clearing operations.

10. What is the ultimate goal of building-clearing operations?

The ultimate goal is twofold: to ensure the safety of all involved—be it military personnel or civilians—and to establish control over a potentially volatile situation. Every step is geared towards minimizing risks and maximizing operational success.

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2 comments on “How U.S. Army Soldiers Clear A Building”

  1. Well I just watched part of your video of soldiers. What's the reason you're showing this video. As an MP in the Army that's not particularly exciting. What purpose is there in showing this video?

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