Amen brother, Amen.
This very long post is in response to Tex, a reader who requested information regarding the camouflage clothing and equipment being utilized by the characters in “The Patrol”. His questions, as well as those submitted by others, are one of the reasons why I decided tackle the project. I wanted to provoke questions and debate as well as put out information that covers: BASIC tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs), equipment that we have used/are using, and some unusual skill sets all wrapped up in a (mildly entertaining, I hope) story. Time will tell.
I occasionally hear the statement “Camouflage is something you do when you get there.” And while that statement has some merit, my question is: “What do you do until you get there?”. I believe that not taking advantage of manufactured camo is a mistake, as long as you don’t think it will make you invisible.
Stack the advantages in your favor. Here is a relevant, true story from my life regarding this personal philosophy: I once had the opportunity to work closely with a certain Brigadier (1 star) General. Even though he was Airborne and Ranger Qualified (he had punched all the right tickets) he was at the time commanding a straight-leg (non-airborne) infantry unit. One day toward the end of my assignment he asked me “,
Sergeant Morgan, are all Special Forces as good as you?”
To which I replied “Absolutely not sir,…. most of them are a lot better.”
He laughed and then asked “Why is that, what makes the soldiers in Special Forces different?”
“Well sir”, I answered, “as best as I can tell, it’s because we train a little harder and longer than most, and we are constantly trying to broaden and improve our skill sets. We’re always attempting to stack up all the advantages in our favor.”
I tell the students in my classes that this is an important individual aspect of war fighting. You keep your weapons maintained properly. You use good quality magazines. You run mil spec ammo. You train realistically with with your rifle and sidearm while wearing your gear (train-like-you-fight). You dry fire…a lot. You do your PT and watch your weight. You practice UN-armed combatives individually and with your team. You put your field gear to the test…in the field. You practice patrolling and run battle drills with your team…over and over again, in all types of weather. You forgo that fancy vacation to Cozumel in order to attend professional training with your team. While that other fellow and his buddies are sitting at home drinking beer and watching the game, you’re busy stacking up advantages for “that day”. When you start piling up all those small advantages, eventually the stack can get pretty high in your favor. Then you stand a much better chance of winning encounters of the violent type. Camouflage should be viewed as another advantage if use properly.
For the remainder of this article, if you only take away one lesson it should be this: Camouflage done properly will allow you to get inside of the other fellows OODA loop. If he can’t Observe you due to your ability to camo properly, he won’t Orient properly. If he can’t correctly Orient on you, he will now make an incorrect Decision followed by an incorrect Action. Check and Mate.
How does camouflage work and what are Targeting Indicators?
From Websters Dictionary:
French, from camoufler to disguise
First Known Use: 1917
a: concealment by means of disguise
b: behavior or artifice designed to deceive or hide
The three textbook methods of camouflage are: hiding, blending and deceiving. Hiding is using objects to conceal yourself and your equipment. Blending is matching your personal camouflage to your surroundings. Deceiving is used to confuse the enemy regarding your true location, intentions or movement. This post deals primarily with blending.
Instead of just covering the old standbys: shape, shine, shadow and silhouette, we will go a little deeper and discuss Target Indicators (TI). If you’ve attended Army Sniper Training an/or the Special Operations Target Interdiction Course (SOTIC) this information will not be new to you. TIs are anything you do or fail to do that could result in being detected. TIs fall into four areas: Auditory, Tactile, Olfactory, and Visual.
Auditory: Anything that is heard. Talking, snoring, coughing, digging, walking, crawling (footfalls, rustling of vegetation), gear/equipment/clothing noises, alerting and/or flushing of wildlife, (such as deer, birds and domestic dogs), insects suddenly becoming quiet, etc. Sound is especially important at night and during periods of fog/stillness.
Tactile: Anything that is touched. Cut/broken branches, crushed/disturbed vegetation, broken spider webs, dried/wet urine splatters, disturbed soil/stones/moss/dust in unused buildings, foot prints, silted streams, litter, trip wires, etc. We have all seen sign of someone walking across dew covered grass or down a dirt road.
Olfactory: Anything that is smelled. Food/cooking, smoke, body wastes, body odor, tobacco, insect repellant, deodorant, sun screens, scented soap and shampoo, detergent/fabric softeners, gun cleaning agents/lubricants.
Visual: Anything that can be seen or observed. This is the big one. The first three TIs will usually disclose your general location. When you are seen, your exact location is now known. Visual TIs are broken down in the following areas: Shape, Shadow, Surface, Shadow, Silhouette, Surface, Siting, Spacing, Color, and Movement.
The human brain and eye constantly work together to identify what it sees and to place it in a category or group. When you see something that normally doesn’t belong, such as the silhouette of a man in the forest, it demands your attention and you will immediately place it in the category of “man”.
During Jumpmaster school we were taught to look for what was right and so when we saw a deficiency rigged into a jumper, it would jump out at us. During an assignment to JTF-Bravo in Honduras, C.A., my team conducted an exchange jump with the Honduran Airborne School. They were using hand-me-down MC1-1B parachutes from the U.S. Marines Corps. While inspecting my stick of Honduran jumpers, a process known as the JMPI, I immediately noticed that instead of closing the main ‘chute with a type 1, 1/4 inch cotton tie, the Honduran riggers had used a strip of hot pink nylon, presumably from female underwear. After the O.K. from our riggers, we jumped our ‘chutes, they jumped theirs, Y no habian problemas. Point being I had seen so many correct examples, I immediately keyed in on the incorrect and then placed it in the category of female underwear (don’t pretend you’ve never seen hot pink woman’s underwear).
Shape: The shape or outline of an object is visually very important since our brains are programmed over time to categorize things based primarily on their shape. The human head and body are very distinctive shapes, even when seen from a distance. We use the E-type target on the range to not only to train us to unconsciously react to a threat (classical conditioning) but also because we quickly recognize it as a human shape. Cold War era soldiers might remember the GTA armored vehicle and aircraft recognition playing cards. They were black silhouettes of friendly and threat vehicles or aircraft. We used them to quickly memorize shapes for immediate identification and action.
In order to camouflage shape you need to break up it’s outline to make it appear irregular to the eye. Natural shapes are very random. Straight horizontal lines and geometric shapes are rare in nature. One method used to break up the distinct edges or outlines of familiar shapes is to use dark colored splotches to create false edges. When using splotches, the concept of fade distance states that the human eye can distinguish a 1 MOA object if it’s in stark contrast to it’s surroundings, such as black against white. 1 inch at 100 yards, 2 inches at 200 yards, etc. If the object is less than 1 MOA the unaided human eye cannot easily resolve it. Keep in mind that your threat may be using magnifying optics. Fade distance is the idea behind the pixelated camouflage uniform schemes. Small pixels less than 1 MOA. Keeping the contrasting splotches less than 1 MOA is part of what makes the Ghillie suit appealing to snipers. To make the splotches even harder to distinguish make the contrasting colors similar and then match them to the natural colors in the AO.
Another method of shape camouflage is to physically change the normal shape. This is the idea behind the boonie cap and the ghillie. The boonies large brim provides shadow to the lower part of the head and ears as well as breaking up the shape of the head. It also has loops to attach some natural or man-made enhancement which further breaks up the heads shape. Add an effective camo. pattern and you are on the right track.
The ghillie uses natural and man-made attachments to disrupt the entire human shape while adding texture, depth and color blending. Its smaller counterparts, the sniper cape, veil and hat are used when the entire suit is not appropriate. Proper construction and employment of the ghillie is another subject for another time.
Shadow: The eye cannot adjust to two areas of high contrast simultaneously. When given the choice of a bright, sunlit area or surrounding shadows, the human eye will initially be attracted to and observe the lighted area. The dark colors used in camouflage patterns create the illusion of empty spaces or shadow. While it is usually to your advantage to stay in the shadows, be careful not to create an unusually large dark area or shadow by the sole virtue of your presence.
Silhouette: The outline of a recognizable shape when viewed against a contrasting background. Examples include a soldier standing on a ridge line or against the wall of a building. Another very common example of silhouetting occurs when one is standing in a shaded area that is back lit by a bright sunlit area.
Surface: Surface contains two subcategories: Shine and texture.
Shine: The surface of an object that is very smooth can reflect light, or shine, which the eye is attracted to. Items that fall into this category include: worn or unpainted metal such as a knife blade, eyeglass frames, firearms, metal mags., belt buckles, rings and watch bands. Lenses: Telescopic and binocular lenses, wrist watch and compass bezels, eyeglasses. Plastic eyeglass lenses, frames, and ammunition magazines. Fabrics made into that new camo boonie, uniform, rucksack and plate carrier can shine. Even the sides of the soles and heels of those black boots give off a shine.
Texture: Texture represents depth and shadow. Camouflage patterns alone cannot overcome a lack of texture and depth. A flat camo pattern adds no depth to an object. Attention to the use of texture is very important especially when operating in a woodland or jungle environment. Texture is another reason a properly constructed Ghillie suit can be very effective. Civilian camo manufacturers address texture with items such as Realtree Leafy.
Siting: A detailed study of the area to be occupied or traveled through is required to determine the type of camouflage that will blend in. Will you encounter broad leaf or pine needle, high grass or low bushes, shades of green or brown, flat ground or rolling hills, forest or desert? The area might have several combinations that you will have to adapt to as you move through it. Blending using natural vegetation requires a keen eye in order to determine the colors, textures, shapes, depth and density that are found in the surrounding area. Once these items are determined, the orientation they are attached must also match the area. Grass grows vertically, so don’t attach it horizontally. Leaves are dark on the top but lighter on the bottom. Will natural camo wilt due to high heat? Will you leave tactile TIs when cutting vegetation? How often will you have to change natural camo as you move through adjacent areas?
Spacing: Nothing in nature occurs in a perfect linear layout with regimented spacing. If it does, then it is man-made and will attract attention. This should be considered when laying out multiple fighting positions and using items such as binoculars with a pair of identical lenses set on the same horizontal plane.
Color: Must be carefully considered so that you do not contrast against the surrounding natural colors. Black is not a natural color.
Movement: Camouflage is used to avoid detection and the primary method of detection of a Target Indicator (YOU) to the unaided human eye is MOVEMENT.
“Wait a minute Dan,” you ask “What’s that got to do with me? I’ve got my brand new Multicam Man-Jammies and my M-1. I’m going to lay low in my FFP and wait for them to come to me. I’m not going anywhere, I’m golden”.
O.K. Killer, let’s think about this. We all have to move sooner or later. Take, for instance, you folks in the one-shot, one-kill crowd. In order to occupy your Black Ninja Stealth Commando Sniper Final Firing Position (TM) whereupon you plan to deal out death and destruction at 1,000 meters with your trusty M-1, you have to move there from somewhere.
The average human eye and brain processes movement at about 60 frames a second (1/60th of a second) depending on light levels. Quick, jerky movements are noticed much quicker than slow, smooth movements. Even if your camo is perfect, if you move quickly, you will be seen. I once spotted a fellow, who was poaching turkeys on my property, from about 30 feet away when he blinked his eyes. His camo was great but his movement compromised him.
If you have to move, plan your route in short stages, stay low, move slowly, watch your foot placement and what you brush against, and stay in the shadows and concealment.
Putting it all together:
The old saying goes “A picture is worth a thousand words”. Spend some time watching the “Camouflage Effectiveness” series of well done videos which are available at https://www.youtube.com/user/Brent0331. H/T to Weaponsman for the find. Brent has a video for just about every pattern made. Watch each objectively with regard to the areas covered in my post. While most patterns are pretty effective when the wearer is not moving, almost all are useless during movement. Keep an eye out for patterns that still provide some camo ability during movement. Notice which patterns that are too dark or too light for the surrounding terrain and vegetation. Watch for uniform shine on the shoulders and head, and instances of silhouetting, especially in shaded areas. Also watch for the signs left behind when he moves through still water. I won’t comment on his face paint or his movement techniques and I haven’t watched any of his other videos.
So, how do we put all this information together? Start with basic clothing. Solid colored clothing won’t conceal as well as camouflaged clothing. It will generally fade into the surroundings at about 300 yards, However, there are some instances you will need to move through an area where wearing camo might bring unwanted attention. When worn, solid colored clothing should be in earth tones that match the local vegetation and the time of year. I always keep a set in a dry bag in my ruck to sleep in at night or to change into when moving through a populated area. Do not mix different colors in order to avoid creating large areas of visual contrast at the waistline, i.e. brown shirt and green pants.
When selecting a manufactured camouflage pattern, you have two choices: military or civilian.
Military: Usually expected to work in most, if not all environments. A recent example is UCP, the pattern used in the Army’s digital ACU (or as we knew it the “I See You”). It is a great pattern… if your AO is a gravel pit. While some of the newer military patterns such as MARPAT and Multicam are superior to the older Woodland and 3/4 color desert, they are still expected to work across a wide range of areas and conditions. While they might work, they might not be the best fit for your area. In my area of the Southern Appalachians, both MARPAT patterns would be followed by Multicam.
Civilian: An almost limitless, bewildering array exists to separate you from your hard-earned cash. With some research and a little time spent talking with the local hunters, you should be able to put your hands on something that works well in your area. In our area Realtree and Mossy Oak are the favorites of the hunters with Mossy Oak Obsession leading the pack. I am not completely sold on the leafy versions of civilian camo clothing. While it does provide texture and depth, I question it’s ruggedness. Nothing like leaving pieces of man-made leaves hanging in the briar bushes along your path to bring the trackers right to your location.
My picks for our area would be Mossy Oak Obsession for spring/summer and ATACS AU for fall/winter. If you could only have one pattern in our area I would choose Multicam.
Military comes in stick form with three schemes; Light green/Loam, Sand/Loam, and White/Loam. Civilian comes in many colors and is usually easier to apply. Stick with what works in your area. Do not go too dark. Face paint is applied to all areas of exposed skin to include the inside and back of ears, the entire neck, hands and wrists. Lighter colors are applied to naturally shaded, darker areas on the head: around the eyes, under the cheekbones, and the neck under the chin. The lighter areas, the chin, lips, brow and cheekbones are darkened. The overall effect is likened to a negative exposure of the human face which is not easily recognized.
Camo face paint must be checked regularly due to perspiration and rain. Have your Ranger Buddy check you over. Since I always wear gloves in the field (and on the range), I don’t trouble myself to camo my hands. I prefer to use the Mechanix brand coyote or green camo gloves.
Another option to be considered for the face/head is Spandoflage. I’ve used it and while it seems convenient, it tends to cause my glasses to fog up from my breath. If you aren’t wearing some type of eye protection during patrol your wrong. It also has a tendency to get hung up on every briar you pass. Both Spandoflage and the leafy-type clothing should probably be left for use when you are occupying a hide-site and not moving around.
Paint your rifle. Long, black, straight, horizontal clubs don’t exist naturally in the woods. You can get it painted professionally by a competent gunsmith using a product such as Duracoat or Cerakote, which will add to the resale value of the weapon. Or you can do like we did in the military, paint it with Bow-flage which is removable or Krylon, which is permanent.
Rucks and load carrying equipment require camouflage treatment also. If you are concerned about a camo ruck standing out in the city, cover it with a removable, conventional colored, pack rain cover.
Hope this answers your questions Tex.
The title says it all.
Having the latest and greatest high-speed, low-drag tactical gear and training can be a good thing. Being in the best physical, mental and spiritual shape of your life is a good thing. Being a part of a group of like-minded folks that have been tempered by working through and overcoming the hard things together is great. Being at the pointy end of the sharpest and longest spear in the valley can be a result of those things.
However, experience has shown me that if you don’t have intelligence that is timely, relevant, accurate, specific and actionable, your spear will usually be pointed in the wrong direction at the wrong time.
Our group recently had a member that needed to get spun up in the S-2 (Intelligence) area but converting the Army’s intel. programs to something usable by civilians is not my forte. So we both recently attended Sam Culper’s Intelligence Preparation of the Community Course. http://guerrillamerica.com/2015/04/intelligence-preparation-of-the-community/
Sam has successfully converted the Army’s Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield (IPB) into an entry-level, two-day civilian community based course. It was well worth our money and time.
If you decide to attend this course he will patiently guide you through the processes that will allow your group to develop a systematic, continuous process of analyzing the environment and the threats in your community. While his online courses and posts are a good starting point, attending a class in meat space is much better. While in class you can ask questions and receive timely answers, as well as work through practical exercises geared toward the physical and human terrain that is unique to your area. These can be done alone or as a group, with instant feedback from Sam. Sam will also assist you in configuring your laptop for use in your ACE. The experience is worth it’s weight in gold.
The final result: Keeping that pointy end in the right direction.
Had a reader recently ask about the scanner used in Chapter 4 of “The Patrol”. My answer, of course, was the ICOM IC-R6 which, due to it’s small size and weight, works great for a patrol. I added that the Uniden HomePatrol is used as our retreat fixed base scanner.
This article produced by Sparks will give you some information regarding an alternative to the fairly expensive, and limited HomePatrol. If you are fairly computer literate and somewhat familiar with basic radio communications, this might be the ticket for you. I’m currently working on this setup as a new addition for the radio room.
And thanks to all the readers and the comments regarding my latest madness.
Originally posted on Sparks31's 3% Signal Corps:
Unfortunately for those of us into COMINT, everything is going digital. The stock COTS solution is a P25 police scanner averaging $400-$500US each. A P25 police scanner, however, will not decode DMR/MOTOTRBO, NXDN, and D-STAR. DMR/MOTOTRBO and NXDN are used extensively in the business/industrial sector. D-STAR is seeing increasing use on the amateur radio bands.
Fortunately, there is an alternative that only costs $20: the RTL-SDR and the right software.
The RTL-SDR with the free SDR# and DSD software packages will decode DMR/MOTOTRBO, NXDN, D-STAR and ProVoice. DSD will also work with any regular police scanner modified with a discriminator tap. Now all those old cheap police scanners have a new lease on life.
http://ukradioscanning.com/viewtopic.php?f=4&t=312 – DSD for Windows, Basic Setup – Info on how to set up DSD under Windows.
The area around us has been quiet for 10 minutes and I decide now’s the time to cross the road and continue the mission. I slowly rise and give each man in the patrol the up signal, slowly lifting the up-facing palm of my support hand, followed by the sign for a linear danger area (the road), using the same hand, palm down, drawn across my throat, then point to the road. Finally, I tap my left shoulder indicating we will cross the danger area using the “scroll-to-the-road method” and then point to the area on the road where we will cross. The crossing point has good visibility in both directions down a long stretch of the road with no nearby curves. We won’t be surprised by someone suddenly turning a bend in the road at a short distance from our patrol.
The point man in the patrol, in this case Andy, stands and moves toward the road. He takes a knee just inside the treeline, using a large poplar tree for cover and concealment, with his left shoulder (the Ranger scroll or unit patch is on the left shoulder) facing the road. He is now looking down the road to the west, providing security in that direction. When he is in place and sees that the road is clear in that direction, he motions the next man, Jim, forward. Jim moves to Andy’s position, and taps him on the shoulder. Andy then turns around to face the opposite direction, east, insuring it is also clear. By then Jim has taken a knee in Andy’s old position and Andy then quickly stands and moves across the road, still facing east, until he has found concealment just inside the opposite tree line. There he takes a knee still facing the opposite direction from Jim. Andy’s left shoulder is still facing the road but since he is on the far side, he is still facing east. Now both directions of the road are under our observation. Next Al moves to Jim’s position, where he taps his shoulder, and the entire process is executed again. This time however, as Jim turns and moves quickly across the road, he taps Andy on the shoulder. Andy stands and moves into the woods a few yards where he stops at the head of the patrol. He is now on one knee facing in the direction of forward movement. Finally I move to Al, tap his shoulder and the process repeated once again, this time Al turns and after moving across the road, he taps Jim who moves into the woods to Andy’s old position as Andy moves deeper into the woods. Finally, I quickly cross the road, bump Al who moves into the woods with me following when he reaches the proper march interval. If done correctly, the patrol will cross the danger area smoothly without stopping movement. As the last man crossing, I drag a small branch behind me in the dirt of the shoulders of the road to help obscure any footprints we might have left. This technique is more useful when crossing a dirt road and while it will not cover all traces someone has crossed, it does help to conceal the number of folks who have crossed.
We continue movement in a file formation through the ever thickening underbrush and canopy until we come up hard on Ben Creek. The branch is narrow and twisting and so we don’t treat it as a danger area. We ford the noisy, narrow branch, through the knee-deep, ice-cold water and with the help of one another, struggle to scale the high, steep bank on the far side. After crossing we continue to move perpendicular away from the road, due south up the rapidly rising slope. At about 100 meters beyond the branch, Andy passes back the new rally point signal, pointing to a massive, room-sized, boulder jutting out of the mountain side. This activates our last rally point at the saddle on the top of the ridge we have left behind. I send up the signal for the patrol to turn west in order to handrail the road. After we’ve moved about 200 meters from the danger area crossing location, I feel it is safe to stop the patrol long enough to allow each of us to empty the water from our boots and wring out our wool socks.
We continue to slowly, steadily and silently follow the terrain features, checking off each on the map as we pass it, in order to keep track of our location. We wind in and out of the draws and cross the spurs while hand-railing the road below us. In a matter of minutes the fog lifts but the rain steadily gets harder and the temperature is noticeably dropping; our breath now is visible in the air. After moving nearly 1 kilometer Andy stops the patrol and signals for me to come forward. As I approach his position I see that he is looking down the mountain at a small home in a clearing on our side of the road.
Scanning the house, I quickly decide to bring Jim, the assistant patrol leader, up to my present location. I get Andy’s attention, point to him, then send him the security signal, index and middle finger forming a “V” held under my eyes. I bump the stock of my AR with my closed fist, then holding my palm facing down I show him two fingers pointing down, close my fist, then five fingers, also pointed down, (25 meters) and point in the direction I want him to go in order to provide left side flank security.
Next I motion Jim to join me and for Al to provide right side security at his present location, using the freeze/hold sign, a closed fist. Both Al and Andy know to include rear security in their respective sector scans. 360 degree security is ALWAYS our first priority
Jim joins me in the prone under a small copse of bushes at the edge of the clearing where we have an unobstructed view of the homestead below. Through the binos our gaze is immediately drawn to the bodies of a man and boy laying about 15 feet apart in the tall grass of the large overgrown yard behind the 1 story ranch style house. Or what is left of the bodies. It appeared that they had been worked over pretty good by coyotes or buzzards. Four of the large black birds are standing around the adult now. The man, who was fully clothed except for his bare feet, is laying on his back with both arms, which are probably bound, under him. If he had a face above his bearded chin, it would be staring into the sky. His torso has been ripped open by the scavengers who have been after his intestines, which were strung out like random lumpy red and yellow ropes around his body, as well as his lungs and other organs.
“Jim, looks like his head and face have been crushed like an egg. That’s not something coyotes can do.”
“Yeah, whispers Jim. I’d say someone took a sledgehammer to him.” After a moment’s hesitation he adds “Dan, take a look at the young’uns neck.”
The boy was thankfully laying on his side away from us but I noticed his head is laying at an odd angle. Looking closer, I see a thin piece of line or thick wire that had been pulled so tight it around his neck that it has nearly severed his head. His wrists have been bound behind his back then lashed to his bound feet.
“Father and son” Jim grumbles as he lowers his binos and turns to look at me. I see the darkness in his eyes.
I’d seen that look and heard that tone from him in the past and it usually meant it was going to end very badly for someone. Jim is a fellow that keeps score.
We both turn back to the scene below when Jim nudges me and says, “Dan…the clothes line at the far side of the house.”
To the left side of the house I see the line. Hanging among the now wet sheets, towels, pants and shirts are several dresses.
“Dresses?…. Women….. Where are they?” I think to myself.
Glassing the house carefully, I look for any sign of other bodies. Nothing. There are no bullet holes to be seen from our angle in the wooden structure. All the window glass is still intact. The back door is open into the house and is hanging loosely from the top hinge.
“They gained entry from the back” I think out loud. “Subdued the family inside, bound those two, but why drag them outside to finish them?
“Dunno,” Jim whispers back. “Who knows why friggin” psychos do what they do.” He pauses for a few seconds, then adds slowly in a flat tone, “All I know is… this won’t stand.”
“No it won’t. Not if I can do anything about it” I think to myself.
A small stone building set into the hill to the right of the house was most likely the family’s root cellar. Most folks in the mountains have built them to store their garden produce and home-canned goods in when electricity for refrigeration had become unreliable. The root cellar door, with the hasp and lock still attached, has been torn from its hinges and now lies flat on the ground near the small building. Empty canning jars and lids are scattered on the trampled grass around the front of the root cellar where the looters had eaten the family’s carefully raised, prepared and stored food.
Jim remembers Wade throwing the empty canning jar he had been eating from, out of the UTV earlier in the day.
The last building in our field of view is a small shed just below us at the bottom of the hill. It’s situated next to a piece of tilled ground, which was most likely the family’s garden plot. On one side of the shed is a covered area where several cords of split fire wood are neatly stacked. The closed portion of the shed had been their chicken coop, but it’s now empty except for a few feathers on the ground near the open coop door.
While I am trying to wrap my head around the scene below, Jim throws yet another wrench in the works. He slowly says as if thinking to himself “Wonder why no one has buried those two yet? Why have they been left to rot and be eaten by the critters? Where are their neighbors and other family?”
Jim is right. No one lives alone out in the sticks anymore. In order to survive in the small, isolated coves of these mountains, everyone lives in small clusters of family and friends who help and look out for one another.
That little switch in my head clicks. “Time to go Jim. We need to get to the objective and call this in. Nothing we can do for them now.”
“Sucks that we can’t bury them” Jim says flatly.
“Turn it off man. We’ve seen a lot worse.” I reply without looking at him as I slip my ruck on and start to back out from under the bushes.
“Still sucks” he says.
We move slowly through the dense morning fog, for all appearances simply dark shadows slipping silently through the forest. Each man constantly scans his area of responsibility around the patrol while also keeping track of each others disposition. Foot placement is carefully considered to avoid snapping twigs or rustling brush. Slippery moss-covered stones and logs are stepped over or around to avoid injury due to the burden of our heavy kit or leaving any sign of our passing. Branches in the way are lightly grasped with gloved hands, slowly moved to the side or up to allow for better vision and ease of movement. After passing they are slowly returned to their former position to avoid quick movement or noise when released and to avoid tell-tale breakage.
The predominant sound in the woods is the steady dripping of the mist from the trees which, along with the thoroughly soaked and rotting leaves covering the forest floor, helps to mask our footfalls. With experience from extensive time spent in the back country, we all understand that while this weather is not the best for a stroll in the woods, it is great for patrolling. The untrained eye of the casual observer traveling through the area would be hard pressed to notice our passage along our route-of-march.
Quite frequently while walking point, Andy stops and slowly drops to a knee, using a nearby tree or boulder for concealment, to thoroughly scan under the low branches in and around our path. He looks though the brush and beyond the trees and foliage surrounding us for movement and anything that does not belong or look natural. Some patrol leaders let the point man set the pace. However, this method can cause members of the patrol to lose contact with one another or move like an accordion through the woods. Our method is to let the last man in the patrol set the pace. If I felt we were moving along too fast, when the man in front of me would turn and notice I was lagging behind, he would then stop until I caught up. We have worked together long enough that this was not a problem we encounter very often.
We trekked just below the ridge top along the northern side of the spur heading west on an azimuth of roughly 260 degrees magnetic. As the trees thinned and the terrain opened, we automatically spread out into a diamond formation, still just within visual contact of one another. Jim, the second or even-numbered man in the file, now moves to the right, and Al, the third or odd-numbered man moves to the left. Each man would still be responsible for watching their sector, right and left respectively. I, being the last man in the file, stay roughly aligned with Andy in the front. This makes communications between members of the team tricky. Now, the lead man needs to ensure both men behind him see his hand-and-arm signals. A signal from one of the men on the flanks would need to be seen by the man on the other flank. The diamond movement formation is our primary formation used during a 4 man patrol since it allows 75% of the teams firepower to be concentrated any direction. While the file formation is very easy to control, it only allows a small percentage of the patrols total firepower to be projected to the front or rear of the formation, in our case 25% or one man. At least until the even and odd-numbered men step out to the right and left flanks, respectively, in relation to the point man. Then they must each move forward until they are in a line abreast in order to avoid fratricide. This is not a simple battle drill, especially at night, and requires extensive rehearsal.
Soon Jim’s pace count indicates we are below the saddle in the ridge above and he passes the halt signal up and down the patrol. After the patrol halts and everyone has taken a knee, he touches his support hand to the heel of his left boot (pace count) then bumps his support fist once on his carbine and held up 5 fingers bumps it again, and holds up 4 for a total of 900 meters traveled. He then points to the top of the ridge. We all give Jim a thumbs up to indicate we understand. Andy and I both check our route cards against our memory, then set the next azimuth, 225 magnetic, into our compasses and the patrol moves out along the new azimuth.
Due to the thick fog, Andy can’t see the two hilltops at the top of the ridge to verify we are in the saddle. He does recognize that the ground on both sides is now rising and that the pace count is positive we were nearing the top of the saddle. Before crossing the saddle, Andy sends back the hand-and-arm signal “Rally Point”, indicating the saddle as our next en-route rally point. That would activate the last en-route point, the RON. In order to minimize his profile and to avoid silhouetting the patrol when crossing the ridge line in the saddle, Andy now drops on all fours and began a modified high crawl. We fall back into the file and follow suit. As I cross I momentarily let my head and shoulders drop to rest my arms on my elbows and am quickly rewarded when my ruck suddenly slides forward and slams my face into the ground. Spitting leaves and dirt out of my mouth, I roll onto my back in order to get the ruck off of my head then roll again back on all fours. Looking up ahead, I notice Al has crossed over the ridge line and is almost out of sight. I began moving forward again, ignoring my aching shoulders and arms.
I think to myself, “Got to do more push-ups and chin-ups when we get back home.”
After we cross over the ridge and have moved a few meters down the spur, the danger of silhouetting ourselves against the skyline has passed. We stand, fall back into the diamond formation and continue toward the road ahead. I soon call a rest halt where we drop into the prone, rest, hydrate, and set the next azimuth into our compasses. As usual, security is paramount, so we are each in the prone behind and under cover or at least concealment and are each scanning our sector. While resting the fog begins to switch over to a light rain. I glance over at Jim who was giving me one of his infamous “This is starting to suck” looks. I shrug and pull my snivel gear from the top section of my ruck. He watches as I put on the light Gortex MossyOak jacket and pants and then one-at-a-time each man follows suit. Even though the rustling sound of the rain gear can be noisy, the sound of the falling rain will counter-act it and the gear will protect us from hypothermia in the chilly spring air.
Soon we start back down the south face of a spur falling away from the ridge above. After about 20 minutes, and a pace count of 400 meters, we all know that we are within 100 meters of the road and the bench mark pillar. Suddenly Al stops short, calls a halt, then puts his hand over his ear (since he is monitoring the scanner through the ear bud in his ear, this is our team signal indicating he is picking something up) and takes a knee. We all go into the prone. I watch Al for a few seconds as he is writing intently in his storm pad, then shift my position to monitor his sector as well as mine. After few minutes he motions me over to his location. I rise to a low crouch and move slowly to his side and drop into the prone next to him, now both watching our separate sectors. Al hands me his open pad where I quickly read the following:
030835RMAR20 GRID 01206545
1. SS8* 462.5625M/FM**
0835** Voice 1: “Lewis, this is Wade’?” (Male, nasally)
0837 Voice 1: “Lewis, you there?”
2. SS3 Freq Same
0837 Voice 2: “Yeah, whats up!?” (Male, gravelly baritone, sounds angry, loud, over-driven mic )
3. SS8 Voice 1: “Lewis, were at the end of the hard road at the top of the mountain. There’s nothin’ up here but a foot trail that follows the ridge. We’re turnin’ back. (Voice 1 drops gs at the end of words, southern accent)
4. SS2 Voice 2: “No houses at all above those two we hit already?”
5. SS8 Voice 1: “None so far. We took another side road through the woods comin’ up. We’ll check the rest of the hard road down to those houses on the way down.”
6. SS1 Voice 2: “What’s on the other side of the mountain at the top?” (Lots of static, signal popping in and out).
7. SS8 Voice 1: “Can’t tell, fogs too thick, we can smell smoke though. Somebody’s burnin’ wood down there”.
8. SS1 Voice2: “All right, that’s good to know. Get on back, I’ve got other work for you.”
9. SS8 Voice 1: “On the way”. Sound of engine starting in the background.
* (SS is signal strength 1 to 10, a rough, subjective indication of range of the emitter from the communications receiver due to the signal strength bar display on the receiver) **(Time of transmission with time zone indicator, in this case Romeo time zone)
*** (F is the Frequency of the Emitter, in this case 462.5625 Mhz channel 1 FRS / FM – Type of modulation
**** (End Of Transmission)
I nod to Al, “Good work man. I’ll pass it on to Jim and Andy. Sit tight”.
I move to Jim’s position. “Sounds like we have some company using a FRS HT (Handy-Talky or hand held radio) nearby checking for houses along the road. The other end was weak, probably not close by. Heard a vehicle on the radio also. Might be using the road up ahead.”
Jim just nods his head and continues to peer toward the road through the light rain. I leave him to his thoughts and move on to Andrew’s position at point. When I give the news to Andy, he grimaces slightly and whispers “OK.”
“Keep your head on a swivel, that first signal was pretty close. Let’s get a move on.”, I reply.
“Not that it is necessary to tell him that”, I think to myself. Andy’s got eyes like an eagle, which gives him the uncanny ability to spot anything out-of-place.
I motion us up and forward. As the patrol makes its way down the east side of the small spur just below its ridge line, and passes my position where I had been with Andy, I take up my position at the rear. We only move about 50 meters when Jim holds up a tight fist “Freeze”. He was facing downhill but now has turned his head to the east. After a few seconds of listening, he touches his ear with his support hand, indicating he has heard something unusual, makes the hand-and-arm signal for vehicle, a “V” formed with the index and middle finger of his support hand palm facing toward himself and then points to the east using the same hand, all fingers and thumb extended.
Looking quickly at the terrain around us, I decide I want us on-line, parallel to and facing down the slope toward the road below us as quickly as possible. I signal for a”Hasty Ambush”, my index finger pointed skyward and the thumb parallel to the ground forming an “L” with the remaining fingers folded to the palm. I then sweep the same hand one time from left to right parallel to the road. This is not our first rodeo and it shows: everyone immediately moves to concealed positions. We had rehearsed this battle drill many times prior to leaving on our patrol. Also, in the past couple of years as times had gotten hard, and then even harder, some seriously evil human predators have descended on our little valley, as well as on our neighboring communities, giving us the opportunity to defend our home turf and to conduct several real world hasty and prepared ambushes.
As I move forward to the left flank, I pass Al who has already set up in a small depression behind Andy’s position and now faces to the rear providing security in that direction. I set up behind a large stone to the left of Jim, facing about 45 degrees off axis of the road providing left flank security. Jim is now in the prone providing security on the right flank facing 45 degrees in the opposite direction while Andy has set up in the center facing the road. We are now in a rough line, parallel to the road below, spaced out about 20 feet apart. This would be the same hasty ambush battle drill for a large combat patrol, but for our small unit this was now our defensive position battle drill. Because we are a 4 man R&S patrol, we have no intention of conducting an ambush. We’re merely using the drill to get us into a well protected, hidden position with 360 degree security in the event we are compromised and need to break contact. We are set up about 35 yards above a narrow paved road named Ben Creek Road on the map. Directly in front of Jim’s position a small tree has fallen across the road, blocking it totally.
Soon we all hear the faint sound of a small diesel engine approaching from the east, or up the road, moving toward our position. Now I pick out the movement of a large green 4 door all-terrain vehicle with yellow wheels making its way down the road. From my position, using my binoculars while laying in the prone, I can just make out the face of a man behind the wheel as the single small wiper sweeps quickly across the windshield. The UTV comes to a slow stop just outside of my peripheral vision in front of the tree blocking the road. I catch myself trying to shrink even closer into the ground as my breathing becomes shallow. I am looking for any target of opportunity.
Before the vehicle pulled up, Jim had already retrieved his binoculars from the exterior pocket of the ruck he was laying next to. The old fallen tree stump in front of him provides good concealment.
“Now it’s time to put all the “Kim’s Game” stuff that Dan had us practice to use.” Jim thought to himself as he was adjusting the pair of small binos. “What was it he always said?…… KIM means Keep-In-Mind. Yeah, another of the bazillion acronyms the Army used.”
Glassing the vehicle with his binos, Jim is amazed at its size. 4 wheels in the back under the bed and two at the front. Green and yellow: “John Deere” he whispers to no one in particular. Jim is able to read the sign on the door. Under the picture of a fish the lettering reads “Kyle Trout Farm”. Jim vaguely remembers a visit to the trout farm a few years back when things were normal. It was a Mom and Pop operation run by a pretty good fellow with a nice family. He is trying to make out the occupants behind the fogged up side windows when the noisy little diesel shuts down, the doors swing open, and four men step out into the rain. Jim watches them intently as they stand gazing at the tree blocking their path. The tree had fallen in such a way, suspended about 2 feet above the road bed due to the high banks on both sides, that the group would not be able to drive the UTV over it. The trees and brush on both sides of the road are too thick and the banks are too steep to allow them to circumnavigate.
“This ain’t rocket surgery guys, ” Jim thinks to himself, “Your going to have to move it or go back the way you came.”
Jim studies the men closely making mental notes to transcribe later in his SALUTE report. They are a rough-looking group. All four are deeply tanned indicating a recent life in the outdoors and only one looks old enough to be called an adult. The other three appear to be older teenagers. The older man, who had been riding shotgun, is dressed in filthy blue jeans, muddy cowboy boots and an old faded woodland pattern BDU shirt with a military patch on the right sleeve.
“Looks like the head of a black bird screaming at the sky on the patch.” Jim thinks. “Have to ask Dan what that stands for.”
The man has long stringy, unwashed dirty blonde hair falling out from under his tan ball cap. The hair matches his thin beard. His sleeves are partly rolled up and his exposed arms, hands and fingers are covered with tattoos as is his neck. Jim also notices when he moves that the right side of his shirt is tucked behind a holstered sidearm.
“Looks like a semi-automatic pistol in a black fabric holster. One of those cheap clip-over-the-belt types. Maybe a spare mag in the pocket attached to the front of it.” Jim notes to himself.
He is carrying, slung over his right shoulder, muzzle up, what appears to be an AR-15, with the collapsible stock retracted completely, and iron sights. A magazine is inserted, the bolt is locked to the rear, dust cover open and there is mud smeared on the butt plate.
“Doesn’t appear like he’s too worried about running that weapon in a hurry. And so much for weapons maintenance” Jim concludes.
He can see no outright evidence of him carrying additional magazines except for the bulge in the lower right pocket of his BDU shirt. But then he notices the bent, short black whip of an HT radio sticking out of his right back pocket.
“Bingo.” Jim says to himself. “Wade with the whinny voice is right-handed.”
The skinny driver has long greasy black hair under an old blue ball cap, a scruffy beard and lots of piercings. Ears and nose. He also wears bent wire framed glasses. As he moves to the front of the vehicle next to Wade, Jim notes he was wearing dirty black pants, with the left knee torn out, which are tucked at the bottom into old scuffed black combat boots. He is also wearing a fairly new, brown denim jacket about three sizes to big. More importantly, in his left hand he is carrying a beat up wooden stocked SKS without a sling. No optics, only iron sights. As he appears to be talking to Wade, he gestures and points at the fallen tree with the carbine.
“Wonder were Skinny Man is carrying his extra ammo?” He thinks, “Maybe in his jacket pocket? And where did he come across that clean jacket? It doesn’t match the other dirty clothes he’s wearing. No sling, watch him set that SKS down and walk away from it. Wonder if he can use those iron sights with those dirty glasses? Wonder if its even BZO’d?” Jim remembered Dan requesting Martin to authorize extra ammo for the patrol to Battlesite Zero our weapons before leaving the retreat.
Jim now watches Wade talking to the others and motioning toward the tree. They were too far away to make out what was being said, but it appeared that he is giving orders to the others.
“So, Wades the boss of this crew” Jim makes another mental note.
Another stooped over scrawny teen with long brown hair is carrying a bolt-action hunting rifle with a wood stock in his right hand. It also has no sling and by the diameter of the barrel it appears to be a .22. He is wearing filthy green pants, a gray hoodie type sweater and muddy black boots.
The last man is a short, stocky fellow with dark features, with his long dark hair tied into a pony tail. He walks with a noticeable limp, and is carrying a rusty AKM, with the standard brown stock, slung upside down over his back, magazine inserted. Again, no optics. The sling appears to be made of rope. When Shorty turns his back him, Jim can see that the bolt is forward and the safety selector is in the “fire” position.
“Holy Crap, what a cluster this bunch is. I’m surprised any of them have lived long enough for their weapons to rust.”
Shorty is wearing a dark rain jacket, black pants, low-cut black leather shoes and a dark green boonie style hat with a wide brim. Jim sees he has a wooden revolver handle protruding from an old leather holster and a large, wooden handled knife in a leather sheath, both on his right hip. Again, no sign of spare magazines or ammo. Jim makes a mental note of the fact that Shorty also has several long fresh bloody scratches down his right cheek and neck.
“How did they get the UTV and diesel to run it with?” he wonders to himself. He doesn’t remember the trout farm being big enough for the owners to have any employees working for them.
Jim watches as the three move to the tree. Then Skinny leans his SKS against the vehicle, while Hoodie lays his on the road.
“Yep, that figures.” thinks Jim.
The three squat under the tree and attempt to pick it up and move it. After a few minutes of playing with the hand-held radio while leaning against the hood, Wade walks up behind them, slaps Hoodie on the back of the head and points to the winch mounted on the front of the UTV. After a few minutes of discussion, they have the cable played out and are hooking it around the tree. While the three stooges are working on the cable and tree, Jim watches as Wade walks back around to the passenger side of the UTV, drop his pants, squats and defecates on the road.
“Wonderful.” Jim thinks. “Just what I wanted to see today.”
Now Jim can read the tags sewn on Wades shirt just above the pockets: “CONNER” on the left and “US ARMY” on the right. When Wade finishes, he stands, pulls up and fastens his pants, then walks around to the driver’s side. He yells something at the group, opens the driver’s door and climbs in. He promptly starts the UTV, puts it in reverse and pulling the cable taught, with the help of the trio pushing on the opposite side of the tree, tugs the crown end of the tree far enough into the center of the road to open a space that the UTV can now pass through. Wade then shuts down the vehicle, opens the door, leans out and shouts at the group. While the trio works in the rain unhooking and retrieving the cable, Wade slides back over to the passenger side and appears to be eating something with his hands from a large glass jar. Soon the others have disconnected and reeled in the cable, loaded up and are passing the downed tree that is now out of their way. Wade tosses the empty glass jar out of the window into the grass beside the pavement. Soon they disappear down the road to the west and the sound of the little diesel fades away.
After waiting silently for 5 minutes, Andy wonders “What are we waiting for?”
He finally turns in Jim’s direction with a questioning look and gives him the “What?” signal, both palms facing up and raised simultaneously a few inches. Jim looks back at him, then points to the road directly in front of his position. On the road, partially hidden under the repositioned tree, lies Hoodie’s .22 bolt gun. Andy sends Jim the “OK/I acknowledge” sign: a thumbs up.
Sure enough, within a few minutes, Jim gets our attention and signals “enemy approaching” from his flank, using the “L” shape, thumb pointing toward the ground, index finger facing the direction of the “enemy”. Shortly we see a lone, wet, miserable looking Hoodie come into view slowly running up the road toward the fallen tree, where he stops and sits down on it, sides heaving, with his head between his knees.
“So much for the Buddy Team concept.” Thinks Jim. “If we were a combat patrol we could snatch this lone guy, easy, and no one would notice. Probably would spill his guts in a heartbeat.”
After a few minutes to get his breath back, Hoodie stands, looks around and sees his rifle under the tree, retrieves it, and while turning to leave, promptly steps in Wade’s pile of feces on the road. When he looks down and realizes what he’s stepped in, he shouts and throws the rifle to the pavement, breaking the wooden stock into 2 pieces. Suddenly realizing what he’s done, Hoodie stops and stares silently at the broken rifle for a few seconds, picks up the broken pieces and shuffles down the road, head down and soon disappears out of sight.
“Ah, why so sad Hoodie?”, Jim chuckles silently in his head. “A little duct tape and it’ll be good as new. Wade probably wont even notice”.
Read & heed, kids.
Originally posted on Sparks31's 3% Signal Corps:
- Everyone in the group should have the same model of radio. It makes logistics of accessories such as microphones and batteries easier.
- Radio model should have readily available accessories.
- Radios should be rugged enough for heavy field (ab)use.
- Radios should be capable of operating off of common alkaline batteries. Most HTs capable of doing so will take either AAs or AAAs.
- Radios should be able to run on 12V DC, either directly or via an adapter.
- Radios should be frequency agile, or front panel programmable. Ham HTs are. Most commercial LMR HTs are not unless they are specifically mentioned as being FPP. Amateur radios should have fairly easy “MARS/CAP” extended frequency coverage modification. Your mileage may vary.
- Radios should preferably have a BNC or SMA type antenna connector, for ease of attaching gain-type antennas. This is not a problem with ham HTs. Many commercial LMR HTs will not.
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