The Patrol – Chapter 7

Posted: 08/23/2015 in The Patrol

As we continue our movement to the west, a thought nags at me; we’re just getting bits and pieces of the situation in this valley. There’s no way those four knuckleheads in the UTV could have caused all this destruction. It’s imperative that we get to our destination, a hide site on the mountainside overlooking the valley, in order to get a better look at the overall situation.”

During mission planning, we decided that it would be best to take the more populated route, the forest/clearing interface that follows the roads around the valley, rather than taking a direct route going against the grain across the unpopulated mountain spines. Although we would have to be extra cautious to avoid contact with any inhabitants, resulting in slower movement, we would have access to much more information regarding the situation on the ground.

My thoughts are interrupted as we approach a typical small mountain field, some 100 meters across from where we stood. It has been cleared of forest from the road below us to a point about 300 meters up the mountainside. The clearing follows the sides of a small, relatively flat draw, known locally as a holler. It is widest at the road and then tapers to a point at the highest end. The hay stubble is ragged, uneven and cut close to the ground. In the absence of tractor pulled haying equipment, someone has cut the hay by hand, and then stacked it in several piles, 1800’s style, around 20′ long locust poles that have been stood with one end buried into the ground. Only folks with livestock such as cattle or horses would go to the trouble. Considering that the field is not fenced in, then their livestock would not graze there. The hay would have to be transported to the animals. That meant in the absence of a vehicle, the animals must be close by. Most folks in these mountains don’t let their livestock get out of sight these days. Not if you wanted to keep them. My best guess is that unless we come upon another farm shortly, it belonged to the folks in the ruined homestead we just left.

Jim halts inside the tree line, slowly takes a knee behind a tree trunk and sends back the danger area signal. This is not linear danger area like the road we crossed earlier. But it fits the definition of a danger area: an area where the patrol can be exposed to enemy observation and/or fire. Due to the pastures width, we would be in an exposed position much too long if we were compromised while crossing it, and so we use a different method.

Jim scans the far side of the clearing and identifies a large, lone white pine tree standing just inside of the wood line on the opposite side of the pasture. Using his compass, he verifies that the pine is nearly on our azimuth. Once he has chosen the pine as his far-side target, the patrol swings to the left, and staying well back in the wood line, we handrail completely around the southern perimeter of the pasture until we arrive at the pine. Even though it is the only pine of its size in the area, Jim verifies that it is the correct tree. Kneeling near the pine, he shoots the back azimuth to our previous location across the clearing by using the opposite end of the compass needle, in this case the white end, and aligns it with his direction of travel arrow. It matches the general location where we came upon the clearing, 180 degrees out. Satisfied, Jim now designates the lone pine he is next to, as our next rally point, activating the last RP above the earlier Ben Creek crossing point. We then turn back into the woods where we resume the march on our original azimuth.

We enter a dark section of pine forest which has very little underbrush and each man slows without being told, in order to spread our interval. The pines are thick overhead, cutting the wind somewhat. Small snowflakes noticeably drift slowly to the ground around us. After walking quietly across the soft pine needles for about 400 meters, we come to our next planned backstop, the T-shaped road junction made up by the road which we have been hand-railing, and another road coming from the north. Jim stops next to a small pine tree that is surrounded by boot high grass, and looks back toward Andy, watching him slowly scanning his assigned sector; our patrols right flank. Andy slowly moves his head right-to-left and when he finally looks toward him, Jim bends slightly to his left, and, because his boots are not visible in the high grass, touches his support hand to the side of his calf. Pace count. With the signal acknowledged, Jim takes a knee as does the remainder of the patrol, one-by-one. Andy fingers the Ranger beads secured with 550 cord to the front of his chest rig, and counts 4 of the 9 beads pulled up from the knot. Using his support hand, Andy bumps his carbine with his fist, then holds up 4 fingers, bumps it again and points 2 fingers down. 420 meters. Jim acknowledges by giving him the thumbs up.

“Pretty close match” Jim thinks, but quickly verifies his memory is correct by checking his map. Satisfied, we turn on the new azimuth of 200 degrees and continue our march, continuously matching our pace count against the changing contours shown on our maps. The pines give way suddenly to deciduous forest. The forest lightens, the underbrush thickens and the wind picks up again through the bare limbs. We close our interval.

Soon, we come across the faint signs of two old logging roads running perpendicular to our path. Jim’s keen eyes quickly notice subtle differences in the forest; 2 slight, sunken linear depressions running parallel to one another and the sudden dominant presence of thin young pines and poplars growing in the old sunken road beds. While they are so thickly over-grown that neither constitutes a danger area, they show up on the map and match the pace count so we use them as a checkpoint. Jim sends back the rally point signal, indicating a stand of young pines growing on the spot where both old road beds intersect. This activates our last RP at the lone pine on this side of the pasture behind us. We move through the area, passing the RP signal to one another as we each pass the point.

Not long after passing the small crossroads, Jim sees the dark outline of two houses, set close together, in the distance, down the steep slope to the west. Stopping to get a look at them with his bino’s, he determines that they’ve long been abandoned. Neither house has a chimney for wood heat, which nowadays is a primary requirement for a dwelling in these mountains. The yards are neglected and wildly overgrown, the forest is reclaiming them. Most of the windows are broken and dark. A tree has fallen against the roof of one and both back doors are standing open. We can just make out the paved road running north and south that the houses front. We move on.

Soon, as we are descending from a spur into a large draw, Jim signals another danger area and he calls me forward. When I join him, he is lying on a bluff that is the lower end of the spur coming down from the mountain above us to the east. We are overlooking a small, noisy, rock filled stream running below and parallel to a dirt road. Jim hands me his open map case and, with the blade of grass he had been chewing on, indicates our location. The name on the map reads “Gold Pit Creek”. Looking up again, I can see that on the far side of the stream is a steep red clay bank about 6 feet high that leads up to the near side of the road bed. The far bank of the road is nearly vertical and about 10 feet high. From the top of the far bank the slope runs straight up the thickly wooded mountainside. Jim bumps my shoulder and when I look his way he mouths the words “Road Bed” and nods toward the road.

Looking down from our vantage point we can see that the road bed has been churned up and is covered by numerous footprints of men as well as the tale-tell sign of horseshoe prints. It appears that a small army has passed down the road into the valley below. Another piece of the puzzle falls into place.

Jim bumps me again and whispers “Head Count”?

I think to myself, “Good idea”. We were sent here to recon the valley. The “S” in SALUTE stands for Size of Enemy Unit. Just because we don’t have eyes on the folks that came down the road doesn’t mean we can’t use this opportunity to get a head count. We can see that the footprints are filled with water, so they’re not new, which means there’s a good chance no one is in the immediate area. Establish a listening halt for a few minutes, then put out security; far side, up and down the road then let Andy put his tracking skills to work.

I look at Jim and give him a thumbs up. We watch and listen for 15 minutes.

During th listening halt I look the trail over for a relatively hard packed and dry stretch of the road to use as our crossing point. Luck is with us and I spot an area where the creek bank on both sides is covered with laurel. Unless someone traveling down the road climbs into the laurel thicket, they won’t see any slide marks we might in-inadvertently leave while climbing the slick red clay of the opposite bank in order to cross the road. In fact, with the loads we are carrying, it’d be a miracle not to leave a very obvious trail. The far side road bank at that location is also covered with the same Ivy and appears to be much shorter there also. I signal “scroll-to-the-road” to Jim and indicate the crossing point. Then I pass the signal back. We move to the left a few yards and enter the thicket. Jim carefully crosses the stream, avoiding stepping on the moss-covered rocks. The stream itself is too choked with vegetation to be considered a danger area, and he slowly moves up through the laurel tangles to the lip of the road where he alternately peers down its length in both directions.

When he is satisfied the way is clear, he signals me forward to his position. I pick my way through the stream and push through the tangled thicket as quietly as possible. Moving individual branches aside to avoid breaking them, I finally reach him and bump him across. Once he has cleared to the far side. I signal Andy forward. He picks his way through and up the bank. When he joins me I notice his face is red and sweat streaked. I wonder how I look. When he bumps me, I cross and bump Jim, who moves to a point further up the opposite slope and deeper into the woods. He disappears from my view into a stand of holly trees. I trust him to have us still under his observation.

When Andy is bumped by Al and joins me, I point to him, signal “head count” by tapping my head, and point to the tracks on the road. I then indicate myself, then signal security to a position up the road, followed by indicating Al, make the security signal again, and indicate down the road. Andy nods “OK” and I head up through the brush along the road for about 30 meters where I can just make him out down the road. When Andy sees that I am in place, he signals Al to cross, who then gets his assignment from Andy, and moves down the road to his security position.

Al is lying near the upper bank of the road, well hidden under a long, tangled hedge of blackberry briars, where he is peering down the length of the road below. He chose this position for two reasons. “First,” he thinks, “I’m only about 100 meters from the junction of the two lower roads. If we get compromised and they have horses or vehicles, they will be below us pretty quick but the steep bank and the briars will slow them down. Then we head up hill into the thick stuff. If the riders are stupid enough to pursue us through the low hanging branches, horses make big targets. Just don’t get intimidated by them.”

“Second reason,” he muses, “This is the only concealment on this side of the road.”

Confident that we are adequate security, Andy stands a few feet away from the road at the foot of the bank looking over the area for a few moments. He is looking for a soft spot that will reveal all the “ground spoor”, or tracks, of those who passed this way. He notices a low pine bough overhanging the road that has been partially broken and is dangling in the direction of travel. Inspecting the break closer, he sees that the pine sap has started to harden and turn white giving an indication of time. In tracking parlance, this is known as “aerial spoor”. Along the road side he finds a bit of “litter”. It is a brown cloth glove partially buried in the mud.

Finding a low, silted up section of the road, he squats near it and begins studying the tracks. The water standing in each is clear. If they had been recent, the water in each would still be muddy. Andy also notices that quite a bit of forest debris, such as leaves, have blown into the some of the tracks and settled to the bottom and each bit covered with a thin, watery layer of silt. The top edges of the foot prints are crumbling and worn down, not crisp and sharp.

“Definitely not today” he thinks to himself.

Andy studies a strung out pile of horse manure or “road apples”. The lumps have started to dissolve and have begun to turn from their normal dark brown color to gray. This falls into the tracking category of “sign”.

“These tracks are several days, but not more than 2 weeks old.” he decides. “Fortunately, this is the only rain we’ve had during past two weeks and they haven’t washed all of the detail away.”

Looking closer at the tracks he quickly identifies the distinctive tread of a boot. He then locates matching right and left bootprints. This is the “key print” he has been looking for. Andy lays a long thin branch across the road at the heel of the rear print. Next he lays another similar branch across the instep of the forward print. He then counts all the full footprints in between the two branches. 1 footprint for every person meant that approximately 16 men and 3 women (indicated by their smaller, narrower prints) have passed this way on foot. The size of the prints indicates they were all adults.

“No one is barefooted” he thinks to himself.

Some of the prints are deeper and the strides are much shorter. The heels and toes of these prints show long drag marks with each step.

“Huh, looks like some of them were carrying heavy loads” he notes.

Andy turns his attention to the hoof prints of the horses. He moves a few yards up the road to a drier, rockier area. All appear to be shod. By the way the triangular-shaped, flatter toed, rear prints are nearly over the more rounded front prints, he determines they were walking slowly. The flatness and depth of the prints indicates they were all loaded with riders or gear.

“That’s odd” Andy frowns while peering at 2 peculiar sets of hoof prints. “These aren’t horse prints. They’re too small and more angular shaped.”

He rocks back on his heels for a few moments, thinking. “I’ve seen these before but where”? he mutters to himself. Suddenly he remembers:

“Mules,” he breathes quietly to himself, Old Jack’s mules out in Sanderstown. That’s it. So, O.K., here we have 2 mules…and they’ve been shod…., that’s really odd. Most folks around here don’t bother to shoe their mules unless they are working them on pavement or gravel. And I don’t know anyone around here that does. Well, let’s see what we’ve got here”

Laying out another area spanning roughly 36 inches, he determines there are 8 individual sets of hoof prints.

“If all the horses and mules had riders,” he thinks to himself, “the final count would be around 27
people passed down the trail. Unless they were both pack mules. Then it would be 25”

After looking over the area for a few more minutes to see if he missed anything important, Andy is satisfied with his numbers. He retrieves the 2 sticks, tosses them into the woods, signals Al and I to rally on him and, working his way up the steep slope joins Jim further into the woods. Jim is cloistered in a thick holly grove well above the road. We have a perfect over watch well above the road.

Andy gives us the head count and other particulars.

“Do you think they all went on down the road”? I ask.

“Looks like it from here. He replies. No telling where they got off though. We’d have to follow both sides of the road down to the road junction to see which way they went then follow it to their exit point to be sure.”

“We’re definitely not doing that”. I replied flatly. “Anything else”?

“They were pretty spread out across the road, that made it easier to get the count. If they had any military training I would expect to see the tracks in 2 single files one on each side of the road. Then it would have been a lot harder to get a number, what with the rain and all”

“If they had any training worth a darn or some common sense, there wouldn’t be any tracks on the road. They should’a hand-railed it.” Jim adds, then turns his gaze back to his sector.

“Yeah, but then not everybody can be as tough as you are Jim”. Al adds quietly, with an impish smile.

Jim glares at him or a moment, then retorts as he looks away, “You forgot to add that I’m also a freakin’ military genius”. I can see the satisfied grin on Jim’s face as he continues to look over his sector.

“Or maybe they weren’t worried about being followed. Jim, you still good with point”? I ask.

“No problem” he replies.

“Then let’s do it”

We continue on azimuth for roughly 30 minutes when Jim stops and signals me forward once again. When I join him behind the trunk of a large oak tree, he is staring intently through the trees to an area down the slope about 50 meters away. There, beneath the trees, is a large area at least 100 meters across where the brown winter vegetation has been beaten down and the ground churned into mud. Numerous old fire pits are visible at various locations around the camp, each near crude shelters that were constructed from forest material and roofed with pieces of blue or green tarps. Litter is everywhere as well as discarded articles of clothing. Stumps reveal where many smaller trees have been chopped down, while the larger trees that haven’t been felled are missing every limb within reach of the ground. The wind is blowing in our face and carries with it the reek of unburied human feces and urine, mixed with the smell of wet wood ashes and cooked food.

From what we can observe from our position it appears that the large party that moved down Gold Pit Road, had taken the left fork and traveled using the dirt road below us. Then they camped here for several days before moving on. With our binoculars we can see the route they took from the camp through the woods further down the spur to the hard ball road. They went south straight into the upper section of the valley.

How the residents of the valley didn’t discover them is beyond me. Nearly 30 persons on horseback and foot, cutting trees and burning fires nearby is not something you would miss if you were conducting even rudimentary security patrols in your AO. Then, thinking back, I recalled during our mission brief, Joe had passed on details regarding his previous radio conversations with his friend Jack Conner. Jack had stated that the homesteads in his community were fairly scattered and while the families got along and helped one another, they tended to resist any organization, preferring to keep to themselves and their extended families. That lack of basic organization and streak of independence may have cost them dearly.

“Wonder why they left their tarps on the hooches?” Jim asks quietly.

I think about it for a second and reply.

“Maybe they figured they wouldn’t need them anymore. They had found new digs.”

Jim just grunts.

Feeling too exposed near the old camp we decide to move out and so, soon we find ourselves back on our azimuth, again slowly following the contours of the unfolding terrain. We don’t stop to eat, but push ourselves to stay alert and to ignore our aching backs and tired legs as well as the freezing sleet and wind.

At one point Al picks up additional radio transmissions on the same frequency as earlier and stops to transcribe the traffic. He finishes quickly and I look over the sheet. Same freq. as before, one transmission with a much stronger signal strength.

A weak signal sending: “Hey this is Frank, where’s our food, when will it get here?”

A much stronger signal answers: “Frank, quit yer whinin’. It’s on the way”.

Soon after we resume movement, we hear the sound of the little diesel engine from the UTV passing some distance off to the west. We go to ground and attempt to get a visual on its location but the forest is too thick and soon the sound fades off behind the long ridge bisecting the valley.

Rucking up, we pick up the march again. As we move through the forest we occasionally catch the smell of wood smoke in the wind coming from the west. The sleet is starting to mix with small snowflakes as the temperature steadily continues to drop and the wind increases. After 2 hours of slow but continuous movement we stop well behind a large home situated squarely in our planned route.

Jim spots it from point, calls a halt and signals me forward. Again I move to the front of the column, where he points out the house in the distance through the trees. Jim retrieves his aerial photo of the A.O. and passes it to me. The house isn’t on the older topo map but the newer aerial photo shows it situated about 15 meters on this side of the road that we were intending to use as our backstop. I wonder to myself how we missed it on the photo during our pre-mission planning.

With our glasses, we can just make out a roof line with two large dormer type windows attached. Dark black scorch marks above both window openings indicate that this home too has been attacked and if it fits the model, probably ransacked, then set ablaze. Due to the thickness of the trees between our location and the house, we can’t observe the lower floor or the ground surrounding it. We decide to give it a wide berth.

I point to the east and give Jim the hand-and-arm signal for 200 meters. Jim looks over his map and the photo for a few moments, then gives me the thumbs up and dials in the new azimuth of 110 which is a 90 degree offset from the original azimuth.

Soon we are perched on a small knoll overlooking a paved road known locally as Forest Service Road 711. The road follows a deep, steep-sided gorge which separates us from our final destination, Holloway Branch Ridge. 711 is a wide paved road with narrow ditches on each flank. The ditches are now overgrown and the road has been made impassable down it’s length by random dead fallen timber. At first glance I think someone has deliberately blocked the road by dropping dozens of tree across it, but then realize that the stumps are not the clean, neat cuts made by a saw. They are mostly ragged and occur at random heights above the ground. Some of the trees entire root ball has been upended out of the ground. This is just nature doing what it does in these mountains.

I remember that this road was once a favorite of hunters, fishermen and sightseers in times past when gasoline was commonly available. It started on the edge of the wilderness and ended on the opposite end with only thickly wooded and wild National Forest between. When the Forest Service went away due to lack of funds, road maintenance and downed tree clearance on these isolated roads ended. This is good for us since the road cannot be used as a high-speed avenue-of-approach. In layman’s terms, we don’t have to worry the off-chance that bad guys in wheeled vehicles or horses using it to quickly bear down on us as we cross it. The downed timber actually gives us quite good cover and concealment and the crossing is made without incident.

Once on the far side of the road, Jim leads us across White Oak Creek, a wide, shallow, but swift moving stream. This creek is so wide and straight, that we treat it as a linear danger area and cross it accordingly. Now we slip again into the dark, tangled laurel that chokes all normal movement.

As we push through the tangled mass, guided by the sound of water splashing across the rocks ahead, Al is checking our back trail. He sees a branch that has been freshly broken by our passage and retrieves a small folding multi-plier from one of the pistol mag pouches attached to the front of his plate carrier. He cuts the branch cleanly at an angle next to a leaf junction below the break and then shoves the cut branch, break down into a small space between the river rocks at his feet.

“It won’t fool a good tracker, but it’s not obvious to the average guy” Al thinks as he continues his scans.

Finally we clear the laurel and wade up a small stream that runs perpendicular to, and feeds the larger creek we left behind. Named “Holloway Branch” it leads up into a small isolated valley. Once in the cove, we ascend up the east face of the mountain and deeper into the valley that we have designated to establish our patrol base in. At about 700 meters I send up the signal for the “J” hook to over-watch our back trail. Exhausted and panting from the climb up the steep slope, we drop into our ambush positions per our SOP. Though our sweat soaked clothing is uncomfortable in the cold air, we are all grateful for the few minutes to rest our aching legs and shoulders during the listening halt.

NC_Wayah Bald_165034_1957_24000_geo-001-001 Story part 6

Information from a reader that might be of interest. Due to the high volume of training being conducted this summer, I have not had time to take a proper ****, let alone verify the information provided. Do your due diligence.

HT to:  RWilliams

For cheap secure tactical comms also consider:

Digital dPMR or DMR radios:

dPMR:
Kirisun S760/780 ($120/ea)- voice encryption option built in, software programmable (free),
Cannot be decoded by radio scanners.

DMR-

Connect Systems CS700 ($200)
4 watt TX on high power
Free programming software.
16 bit Basic Privacy built in voice scrambler (65,536 codes), set a 4 digit key
Digital signal cannot be decoded by scanners

Tytera MD380 ($165-$200/ea)
5 watt TX on high power
Free programming software
*128-bit Enhanced Privacy encryption (set a 32 digit key) built in, 128 bit Privacy offers an unfathomable amount of possible keys!*
Cannot be decoded by scanners, even without encryption.

There are videos on You Tube on how to program these radios. You need a programming cable, the software (free), and a computer.

Also search radio reference.com to learn more about radio communications.

I’ve been delinquent in answering the questions forwarded to the blog comments section lately. It’s been a very busy summer. I know, “What’s the maximum effective range of an excuse?” …… Zero meters Sarn’t.

So a fellow blogger picked up my slack and not only answered the question but did a pretty good job while he was at it. A little copy and paste and here you have it from scavengersray@wordpress.com. If you have a few minutes, go check out his blog.

weston.pecos, My experience with thermals vs. NODS is based on 7 years in the US Army Infantry. I’ve had the opportunity to use the AN/PAS 13 (multiple variations), as well as the SkeetIR and MTM(Mini Thermal Monocular). As far as NODs go, I’ve used both the AN/PVS-7’s and AN/PVS-14’s. I’ve messed with a set of some whiz-bang combo where the thermals are overlayed(slightly offset, orange in color, and you can use each individually or together) with our armorer in Afghanistan for a few minutes, and they seemed interesting. I prefer the thermal imaging 95% of the time. If given the choice, I would grab the SkeetIR over any normal NOD that I’ve used. However, the version I used was in 2012 at NTC and had some software bugs. Essentially, my peeve against standard NODs is that even through it enhances the image, you still have to deal with shadows. Granted it’s not hard to hide from thermals to begin with, it’s stupid easy to not catch something in the shadows with NODs. This is especially true when ambient illumination is low(woods, urban environments, palm groves). Now, if you’re in the open desert with a full moon above you, a set of AN/PVS-14’s are nice to have. But after a “COP Defense” at night with partial illum on a mountain, and a set of the 14’s in one hand a SkeetIR in the other, going back and forth between the two as the action is going down, I wanted to take the SkeetIR home with me. TI doesn’t have any issues with shadows. In the end though, it’s what you can afford. I would recommend your group/tribe try to find someone with examples of both that is willing to let you try them out one evening(if possible), otherwise if it were me, I’d attempt to have the group invest in at least one of each. IIRC, a decent set of AN/PVS-14’s runs about $3-4 K US. However, I haven’t looked at the price of them in a while. I have no idea at this time what a decent set of thermals would run. Hope this helps.

 

Back to DM. I concur with his entire article. Just remember that most non-thermal night vision equipment amplifies (intensifies) existing light. If you’re working in extremely overcast conditions, or in a dark building, it’s effectiveness will be drastically diminished.  If OPFOR is good with camo and concealment, (stay in the shadows boys and girls) they will probably defeat your light-enhancing equipment. TI, not so easy.

Comms 101 at AmRRON

Posted: 07/24/2015 in Uncategorized

If you haven’t seen it here’s the link to a pretty good comms primer from the folks over at AmRRON.

https://www.amrron.com/2015/05/17/comms-101-2m-vhf/

Thermal Imaging

Posted: 07/20/2015 in Uncategorized

Tex recently posted a question regarding Thermal Imaging (TI). He asked if the use of a thermal monocular would have been appropriate for the situation described in Chapter 6 of “The Patrol”.

Good point. It might have. The effectiveness of  TI depends on a few variables but it is not the all-seeing Eye-of-Mordor most folks think it is. The proper use of cover/concealment will usually degrade the effectiveness of TI. Put something substantial between you and it and you should be good to go.

TI is greatly affected by the ambient temperature (emitted infrared radiation level) of the mass surrounding the object being targeted. On a hot, sunny day when the surrounding mass has absorbed and is now emitting a lot of that heat, TI is nearly useless, unless your body and gear is quite a bit cooler. In which case you then appear as a human-shaped, dark object.  Unless you are using cover properly. For example, if I were in the prone behind a log that completely masks my body from your view, with the exception of that tiny space just large enough for me to surveil my sector, which you are currently standing in, then, depending on the range separating us, you might see that tiny dark spot (or light spot) that is the exposed portion of my face. But most likely not. We have used them pretty extensively during the day and have found ourselves chasing after small forest critters and birds perched on low limbs. More often than not, the tree trunks and limbs in our thickly forested AO create so much vertical heat clutter that we are better off relying on our normal vision.

The same concept applies when dealing with the aerial TI threat. If you are in a heavily forested area and have thick overhead concealment, than the aerial TI threat is also degraded. Max Velocity uses the TI defeating angle of concealment in the construction of his “Thermal Shield”.

Other environmental factors that can degrade its effectiveness include: Rain, fog, snow, sleet, dust and smoke.

Also, thermal imagers are completely useless when looking at glass such as a windshield or window. The glass will reflect the emitted IR image of the person using the device.

We have also tested our imagers  through open doors and windows of various building in order to determine if a building is occupied. Again, everything hinges on the amount of heat that has been absorbed by the interior of the building and the use of concealment by the person occupying the building.

A word to the wise:  Unless concealment is very thick, moving targets are easily tracked by TI, day or night.

So, in answer to your question Tex, yes, a TI might have been effectively used in the story against the bad guys laying in the shadows if they weren’t using cover and/or concealment properly. Especially since this portion of the story takes place on a cold day. However, was the falling sleet thick enough to interfere with the imager? Dunno, have to wait until next winter to test it.

P.S. Thermal Imagers are like ‘scopes: not all are created equal. Do your due-diligence and op for the highest resolution screen you can afford. If the options include display in both gray-scale and color, that’s a plus.

The Patrol – Chapter 6

Posted: 07/19/2015 in The Patrol

Jim slowly slides back out from under the thick brush that conceals our position overlooking the homestead. He joins me at a spot deeper in the forest roughly centered between Andy and Al, who are still providing security to our flanks and rear. It’s time to move on, but first I take advantage of the break to rearrange our order of march. Walking point requires a constant, intense mental focus and Andy needs a break. If left at that position too long even the most experienced soldier will eventually loose concentration and begin making mental errors which can lead to disaster. I also want to give Jim something else to occupy his mind other the carnage that we are leaving behind. I signal Jim to take point, with Andy behind him where he will take up pace count duties. Al stays in the number 3 slot, manning the receiver, while I stay in the slack position at the rear of the patrol.

We don’t waste time discussing what we’ve seen. We’ve all experienced much worse in the last few years and if we feel like we need to talk about it, we’ll have time for that later. Andy had gotten a good look when he initially came up on the site while walking point. While Jim and Andy are occupied verifying our present location on their maps and going over the next leg of our journey, Al and I provide security.

Soon Jim and Andy agree on the route, give me the thumbs up, and we resume our trek on azimuth to the west. The temperature continues to drop as the wind increases out of the northwest. Low gun-metal gray clouds scud by and the rain changes to a fine, hard sleet that bites at the exposed skin of our faces. The sound of the wind blowing through the bare tree limbs and the sleet rattling on the dead leaves combine to mask the noise of our footfalls.

Due to his extensive experience on previous patrols, Jim instinctively uses the noise of the wind through the trees and underbrush along with the subsequent increase in the ambient noise level as an invitation to pick up the pace. With the probable exception of a cold rain, this is the best weather for patrolling. He knows that if anyone else is out in this weather, they will most likely keep their heads down. But we don’t have that luxury and so we keep up our guard, using all of our senses to continually scan for threats.

We’ve only traveled about 300 meters when Jim suddenly detects the slight smell of wood smoke mixed in the bitter wind. He stops the patrol, takes a knee, turns to Andy, and touches his support hand to his nose, then points in the direction of the wind, indicating he smells something unusual. Andy gives him the thumbs up and passes the signal. Standing slowly, Jim turns back in the direction of movement and stepping out cautiously, begins to intently look for the source. Jim suspects it is wood smoke coming from the chimneys of the homes he noted earlier during his map and photo recon. Soon he spies the obvious horizontal ridge line of a roof ahead about 75 meters through the trees. Jim calls a halt, signals for me to come forward and waits in the prone while I move slowly in a low crouch to his location. After dropping silently beside his prone position, he points toward the roof. I nod. He then points to me, touches his thumb to his chest, touches his eye with his hand and then to a clump of evergreen trees a few meters ahead. I nod again and after sending the “provide security” signal back, I follow him as we low crawl about 15 meters and then push under and through the lush low branches of a massive hemlock tree.

Laying side-by-side, hidden under the branches that are so low they touch the ground, we survey the scene below us. Per our surveillance SOP, one observer will conduct a hasty scan, looking for threats and threat indicators with the unaided eye, while the other conducts a deliberate scan of the area before us. Once those scans are completed, usually taking no more than a few minutes, one will then conduct a detailed scan with optics while the other either sketches the scene or provides security. Jim, who has better eyesight, starts the hasty scan after seeing me retrieve my binos. He is looking at the overall scene trying to spot obvious threats. I quickly scan the same area concentrating on specific spots that are more likely to conceal a threat but might be missed by the naked eye. Starting directly in front of our position, we each scan in an arc from right to left from 0 out to 50 meters, looking for threats that would be an immediate danger to our patrol. Then we enlarge the area out to 100 meters and repeat the scans. We continue to enlarge each subsequent scan area by 50 meters until we are finally observing the area to the far tree line and can see no further into it. Next, I repeat the cycle using my binoculars for a slower or detailed scan paying extra attention by lingering over areas that would conceal someone, such as areas in the shadows and on the right-hand side of any cover and/or concealment since most folks are right-handed. As a rule-of-thumb, I look at the areas that I would normally take up a position in. I also look for any observable indicators that would betray their presence.

Two building clusters stand slightly off our path in a large clearing to the right, down the mountain side, well below our current position. The closest house, which is about 60 meters from our location, sits on our side of the paved road. It is a two-story wood frame affair with a metal roof that has been twisted, blackened and warped by fire. The nearest side of the slightly smoldering structure has been mostly consumed by flames which leave it partially collapsed over a gaping black opening cluttered with burned, darkened timbers and other blackened debris.

Neatly mown lawns are a thing of the past due to the shortage of gasoline and as usual, the ubiquitous, well-worn foot paths wind through the tall grass and weeds between the outlying structures and the main house. The weeds and grass in the yard on the damaged side of the house have been burned away in a strange semi-circular pattern and several broken and blackened glass containers lay among the ashes. Someone has used the containers as Molotov cocktails to start the blaze, most likely to force the residents out of the structure.

The root cellar, and the small greenhouse have both been looted and the very large early spring garden has been trampled and ruined, the cold weather produce having been pulled up by the roots. Next to the greenhouse there is a long wooden building that was most likely used as a chicken house. The wooden door to the house as well as the chicken wire door to the run are both standing open. Random feathers are scattered on the ground around this building but no birds are to be seen. I make out 2 sacks, which appear to be pillow cases taken from inside the house, trampled in the mud at the coop entrance.

On the far side of the house away from our location stands a medium-sized 2 story wooden barn. It appears to be intact. The doors on the front facing the house have been slid open exposing the front of a small blue tractor parked inside. It is too dark inside the barn to make out any further detail. On the nearest side of the barn, the long wooden gate to the fenced-in corral is standing open also. Since the hay bunker in the corral holds fresh hay, I assume that whatever livestock that may have been kept fenced in has been stolen. A second pen near the first appears to have held pigs. The lot is muddy and a wooden feeding trough is next to the fence on the ground. It’s gate also stands open.

A man’s nude body is laying curled up in the center of the road that bisects the two homes. I swap out the binos for the teams more powerful spotting telescope kept in the long outside pocket on the back of my ruck, which Jim retrieves for me. Looking back at the scene I can see the man’s hands have been bound behind his back and he has been shot in the back of the head. His skin has taken on that very light gray, almost porcelain shade of the recent dead. From this distance it’s hard to tell how long he has lain there. The weather has been cool lately. I spot the shine of a single piece of sidearm brass not far from his body. He has been executed, probably for the benefit of anyone watching from the house across the road.
The second, smaller, single story, wood frame home across the road has been severely damaged by gunfire. All of the windows within our view are shattered and the exterior walls surrounding them are riddled with bullet holes. The area around the front door shows the heaviest gunshot damage. A quick study of the amount and placement of the gunshot damage indicates a lack of fire discipline as well as the type of weapons used. Bullet holes ring the tops, bottoms and both sides of the windows as well as the top and both sides of the front door. Random holes appear along the length of the exterior walls. An experienced soldier understands that most folks are right-handed and will tend to post up behind cover on the left-hand side facing out. Usually only trained shooters can easily transition to the left shoulder to take advantage of right-hand cover. The more experienced also understand that wooden structures offer very little cover to small arms fire and wood exterior walls are easily penetrated unless properly hardened with sandbags. They will then concentrate their fire below windows and on the right hand side of openings from their perspective. When faced with a concrete or stone structure they will concentrate their fire on the lower right hand or left hand corner of windows and doors.

Laying face-up, just outside the front door on the porch, is the body of another man. From our vantage, it appears he has taken a shotgun blast to the upper chest, neck and face at a very close range while attempting to gain entrance at the doorway and subsequently died in place. Through the ‘scope I can see that he is barefoot and his pants pockets have been turned inside out.

Discarded items apparently looted from the house and garage are scattered between the front porch steps and across the overgrown front yard to the paved road. The tall grass around the house has been trampled flat in numerous paths from the road and the woods surrounding it. The doors are standing open on a pickup and small car parked on the circular drive in front of the house. From the looks of the dust-covered vehicles, they haven’t been moved in months. Both have flat tires, while the body of the truck is pock-marked with bullet holes and it’s windows shattered. There is a large, ominous brown stain on the concrete drive on the road side of the truck. Expended rifle and pistol brass of various calibers and a few shotgun shell casings are scattered around the scene, but are mostly grouped behind the truck and car near the large stain. This is curious since most folks now-a-days save even the smallest caliber brass for possible future reloading. Obviously, the raiders tended to cluster in groups behind what they thought was good cover but had to cross large open areas along natural lines-of-drift to get to it. Both are signs of arrogance, laziness, and lack of experience. Hopefully for us and others in this valley, they won’t learn from their experience and adjust their tactics.

Still scanning with the spotting scope, I notice a large, bright piece of cloth at the edge of the overgrown yard next to the road. Adjusting the focus, I make out a ripped woman’s print dress laying discarded in the weeds. Lying near the torn dress there is a single small shoe and torn undergarments. A coldness creeps up my spine and when I lower the scope and close my eyes I see the faces of my wife and both daughters-in-law back at home. I suddenly get the feeling in my gut that we should be back at the retreat protecting them. Jim notices that I have lowered my face and closed my eyes. He bumps his boot against mine to get my attention.

“What?” he mouths, looking in my direction.

“Nothing” I shake my head, not looking his way. I slowly bring the scope back to an eye and gaze back at the house, careful to avoid looking toward the dress. I keep the my thoughts to myself for the time being. Jim has a wife and small granddaughter at home.

Nothing at the scene is moving except the torn curtains in the shattered windows. The only sound is the wind blowing through the trees and the clattering of the sleet on old leaves. No one is alive here.

Jim touches my boot again and points over his carbine in the direction of a line of neatly stacked cord wood under a long, low shed about 50 feet to the right of the smaller house. There, unwittingly thinking the split wood would provide adequate cover, sprawls the body of another man. The top of his head is missing as well as his shoes, trousers and weapon. He still has a glass container with a rag stuffed in the top clutched in his left hand. The fire-bomber got his reward.

“Looks like he was peeking over the top of his “cover” and caught one in the melon,” Jim thinks to himself. “Stupid mistake that you can’t take back. If you’ gotta’ look, look around the side of your cover. Didn’t help that he’s bald as an egg and his head could have used a little camo or at least a hat to cover that bright white dome. Split cord wood’s not good for cover anyway.”

I continue to study the scene for a few more minutes when Jim suddenly leans toward my ear and remarks so quietly I almost miss his words over the wind, “I’d say these raiders don’t give a rats-ass about their dead. They stripped everything useful off them and left ’em for the buzzards, just like their victims.

“Yeah,” I whisper back, “Great for morale, I’m sure.”

As I continue to take in the scene, it appears to me that the bad guys didn’t catch whoever was in the small house by surprise and the homesteaders gave as good as they got. But the final result was still the same; they lost. Probably it all came down to numbers. More of the bad guys, less of the good. I still don’t understand why folks think they need to defend their homes from inside. It didn’t work at Masada, Yorktown, the Alamo, the Maginot Line or Waco. As a defensive tactic, it really limits your options. Let the bad guys have it and take it back when you decide and on your terms. If your going to go on the defense, make sure it’s a defense-in-depth using terrain and maneuver to your advantage. Know the terrain in your AO like the back of your hand and make them pay for every inch of ground prior to the house and then make them pay even more to keep it. And most importantly, get them before they are in your front yard.

At least now I’ve answered my earlier question; why no one buried the dead at the first house we came upon. There’s no one left. Their neighbors/family have either been killed, taken or ran away. By the looks of the smoldering embers at the burned house, this happened a few days ago.”

While thinking about all this Jim suddenly exclaims, “Sons-a-bitches” a little too loud for my comfort. I look sharply his way, about to give him a quiet dressing down when I see that he has his binos out and has seen the dress in the grass. His lips are tightly pursed and his hand are clenched around his glasses so tightly that his hands are shaking. This time I tap his boot. He turns to look at me and I see that same far-away look clouded in black.

“Get a grip” I whisper quietly while looking him straight in the eye. He blinks a few times and then his eyes regain their focus.

“Yeah… yeah, okay man” he whispers back before he turns back to the scene.

“You sons-a-bitches, that’s two” he whispers again, this time, full of venom.

Studying him for a moment, I’m wondering how this is going to play out and if we can keep him under control when the time comes. I find myself thinking of the Norse Ulfhedinn and how Jim always carries that big-assed black Osogrande combat kukri knife on his kit.

I’m thinking,“This is really gonna’ suck for someone” when my closest friend turns back to face me, gives me that quizzical look I’ve seen many times before and shrugs. He’s seen enough and so have I. Time to go.

I give him a quick nod while I’m thinking to myself. “Yeah, it’s really gonna’ suck.

Motorola DTR Repeater

Posted: 07/09/2015 in Communications

Had some folks asking about a repeater for the Motorola DTR series radios. Here you go. Disclaimer:  I have not tested it. If someone has, send us the information and we will post it.

http://www.canewirelesspro.com/drx-repeater.html