Archive for January, 2015

More good info. from DTG.

Some history on the USMC ILBE:

As stated, the ILBE was produced by Arcteryx, a well-respected civilian backpack manufacturer. There are actually 2 generations of the ILBE. The first gen., produced in 2004 will have black padding and the later gen. will have coyote padding. The major problem with the ILBE for the Marines was the internal frame, which consists of 2 metal outside bands and 2 larger spars that run down the middle of the back.  The pack works fine in a civilian backpacking role, however, the two spars in the middle make it nearly impossible to wear the pack while also wearing the rear SAPI or the follow-on ESAPI plate in their modular tac. vest. So, unless you plan on toting it around while wearing your body armor, don’t throw out the 15 ILBEs you picked up for your group at a great price down at the Army/Navy store.

DTG also mentioned the Military Sleep System. These are popping up at surplus stores and gun shows everywhere. Hint: don’t buy the ACU camouflaged bivy, stick with the Woodland pattern. The system consists of 4 parts: A compression bag, a Gortex bivy, a green light patrol bag and a heavier black intermediate cold weather bag. The patrol bag is touted to keep you warm to 35 deg. The black bag to -5, and in when snapped together down to -30. YMMV depending on what you consider comfortable. Here in the Southern Appalachians, the system works fine. You have to get out and test them in the cold in your AO.

In the interest of lowering our ruck weight and bulk, a few friends and I have tested a bivy, made by Survive Outdoors Longer. The Escape is a highly water-resistant, breathable, thermal insulated, very lightweight (8.5 oz) bivy. This thing is tiny when rolled up in its stuff sack. In case you are concerned about the blaze orange color (and you should be), they do come in green.

I have used it extensively with the MARPAT woobie down to 20 deg. F. and down to 4 deg. F. with the green patrol bag. All tests were done while wearing a long-sleeved shirt and long pants, light polypro long underwear pants, a poly t-shirt, light wool socks, walking shoes and a poly snookie.  I also used my Klymit Static V2 sleeping pad (which now comes in a subdued color version called the Recon) for ground insulation. No overhead cover was used. I slept like a baby.

The Military Gortex bivy is bullet proof and you will probably get a thousand nights sleep out of it. It is very bulky and provides very little to no insulation. Will the SOL bivy hold up as well? Most likely not. I’ve used it several times this winter and if I can get one seasons use out of it and cut down on weight and bulk, allowing me to carry more ammo, I’ll buy several to keep on hand. Another plus, using the SOL allows me to go with the woobie or lighter patrol bag which also cuts down on weight and bulk. I was also able to ditch the issue compression bag and replace it with a smaller, lighter civilian version since I was only using one bag. The downsides: the SOL bivy’s zipper system is only  about 30 inches long, but with practice, I can slip out of the top of it very quickly; less than 3 seconds. It is also tight around the shoulders, so if you are not used to mummy style bags or are claustrophobic, this might not be the bivy for you. Good hunting.



Study this, get out and practice as a team, and build your IAD SOPs.


From over the transom:

First off, a little background.  I enlisted in the Army when I was 18 as an 11B (Infantryman) and have now served 6 years.  During that time I’ve spent two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan, on the line. (Rapid deployments, 6 months or less)  I was assigned to a sniper team and graduated from Sniper School recently and have been a recon sniper team leader for 18 months now.  

I had originally titled this brief article, “Recon, another essential element in conducting combat operations.”  After some thought, I decided to remove “combat” from the title because reconnaissance goes well beyond combat operations and it is critical to understand this.  Every day, everywhere, every minute you are conducting some type of recon whether you realize it or not.

It’s time to begin learning and, more importantly, understanding the information you are gathering and how to…

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The Patrol – Chapter 1

Posted: 01/22/2015 in The Patrol

Our RON (Remain-Over-Night) is hidden well up the mountain in a draw, deep in the tangled nightmare of a laurel thicket, known to the locals as an “Ivy Hell”. The name speaks for itself.

Andy spotted the potential location as we patrolled slowly following the spur northwest, first in a diamond formation then later, as the trees and vegetation thickened, into a Ranger file formation, down from the ridge line of the mountain behind us.

Andy was walking point and, doing double duty as the compass man, reading the terrain and keeping us on course. Al, the second man in the patrol, was keeping the pace count. Andy noted, as he frequently looked back, that Al was maintaining a good interval, just far enough back to be barely visible to Andy.

He stopped after passing the large laurel thicket about 500 meters down into the draw, turned to Al, and made eye contact with him. Andy slowly raised his support hand to a point just below his shoulder, palm open, fingers pointed up, and moved them slowly in a tight circular motion, then pointed to the thicket. Rally point. Al nodded and when he passed the same point, he sent the signal back to the next man in the file, Jim.  When Jim passed the same point, he sent the signal to me, the last man in the patrol. By designating this new rally point, the previous designated RP at the top of the mountain behind us, now became the active point. Per our SOP, we would meet there if we were separated.

As I passed the thicket, I knew what Andy had in mind. We needed to find a place to RON soon. It was very early spring in the Southern Appalachians where night comes on quickly in the deep, narrow valleys.

We continued on the same azimuth further down into the draw about one hundred meters, turned north, to the right, continued another fifty meters, then turned west on our back azimuth until we passed the thicket once more, about 150 meters or so.  The J-hook put us into position to watch our back trail as per our SOP. Again, making sure Al saw him, he held his hand up just below shoulder level, same as with the rally point but motionless this time, just his hand in the air. Then he touched his ear with the hand. A listening halt.

The signal was passed back. We all slowly dropped to the prone, each selecting a nearby position which would provide some cover and concealment, such as a large rock, tree trunk, slight depression or mound of earth. Then, when in the prone, each of us slipped one arm out of a shoulder strap of our ruck and grounded it at our front to provide additional concealment, weapons support and maybe a little cover from small arms fire. Team patrolling Standard Operating Procedure (SOP)  required each of us to keep one arm in the other strap in the event we needed to get them back on quickly. This technique worked especially well at night when you couldn’t see to find the ruck straps. Each man scanned his sector. First man in the direction of travel, second man to the right, third man to the left and last man to the rear.

We silently monitored our back trail for about fifteen minutes listening to the sounds of the forest for anything unusual: cracking twigs, rustling leaves, voices. Looking for anything out of the ordinary such as movement, unusual colors, familiar shapes, such as the human form and straight lines like a rifle.  Sniffing at the damp, earthy smells in the air in order to detect unusual odors associated with humans: smoke, cooking food, bug spray, body wastes.

Satisfied the area was safe and we weren’t being trailed, Andy looked toward Al for just a moment and touched two fingers to his forehead just above the brim of his boonie cap. The signal was passed back to me. I, being the Patrol Leader (PL) for this mission, was wanted forward. Rising slowly, I slipped my ruck on and moved quietly past Jim, who, in noting my passing, now turned slightly and began scanning my old sector to the rear, as well as his to the left, keeping our patrol’s 360 degree security intact.

We had intentionally spread so far apart, barely able to make out the outline of the man to the front and back, that I couldn’t make out Al’s location. Jim noticed I had stopped, crouched, and was scanning for him. Jim motioned with a slight tilt of his head toward Al’s location. Al was lying prone in the long afternoon shadows of a large poplar tree among some smaller saplings.  He was wearing our groups standard winter patrol uniform: Realtree shirt and pants, Multicam boonie with a little jute and burlap tied through the hat-loops to help break up the shape of the head, coyote Mechanixs gloves and Marine Corps RAT boots. With camo face paint covering his face, neck, and ears, front and back, and an AR-15 painted Duracoat green and brown, he was nearly invisible to the unaided eye. I was still scanning when I suddenly saw the motion of his head turning to look in my direction. He grinned at me, white teeth shining. As I moved past him, he was still smirking, so I gave him a “gentle” love tap with my foot into his outstretched leg to show my appreciation for his camouflage skills.

Soon I was laying next to Andy who pointed to the laurel thicket and said quietly “RON site?” I glanced toward the thick mess. These men had been trained to choose a RON location that a hunter, hiker or OPFOR wouldn’t inadvertently stumble upon. It wasn’t along a natural line of drift. Hell, no one in their right mind would think to look, much less venture into the jumbled-up mess, for the four men who were resting there while planning and preparing for the next phase of their mission.

Looking back at Andy, I whispered “I’ll check it out, you and the fellows stay tight and provide security. Andy nodded as he continued to scan. Looking around toward Al, I waited until he was looking in my direction during his sector scan. I caught his eye and touched the fingers of my support hand under my chin to indicate “me”. Then pointed toward the thicket. I then repeated the sign but then swept the same hand forward and pointed to him. You. I then formed the index and middle fingers into a “V”, and touched the cheeks below my eyes.  Al nodded. I had told him I would check out the potential RON site, he would stay and provide security. It was Al’s job to pass the message down the line to the next in line, in this case, Jim.

After occupying the RON, we will normally send out a small two-man Reconnaissance & Surveillance (R&S) patrol into the area surrounding our perimeter, probably over both spurs surrounding our site. So, while Andy continued to scan his sector, I moved to a large nearby oak tree, stood up next to it and looked over the surrounding area. The draw was still wide and steep, about 800 meters across, heavily wooded and littered with small moss-covered boulders and large rocks that were found mostly along the quiet stream.  The stream meandered down the middle and bisected the laurel thicket on its way down the mountain to become Burningtown Creek. Wouldn’t have to go far for water. No major game trails or human footpaths could be seen and the surrounding foliage was just starting thicken, so we should be able to hear and see someone approaching from a distance. The natural lines-of-drift wouldn’t lead someone into our site. Nothing left to do now but investigate the thicket. Even though we understood this wasn’t considered a patrol base, the requirements for a RON would be similar.

I left the concealment of the tree, and moved toward the darkness of the thicket. This would be a one man recon-by-force. Not exactly SOP. If there were bad guys waiting, hidden in the laurel, I was a dead man. The terrain was so thick that Andy, the other man on my fire team, would not be able to offer much in the way of support anyway, so I had him remain in place outside the thicket providing security. After finding a small opening near the ground, I got on my hands and knees and began slowly crawling, rucksack still on my back, and AR still in my weapons hand, into the thicket. Pushing aside the occasional briar vine with a gloved hand, I continued to make my way until I came into a fairly large opening that had been caused by the uprooted trunk of a large fallen tree. The rotting trunk had left a small path out of the uphill side of the thicket. It would work as an alternate egress path. The small, depressed stream bed running downhill would be another.

The Mountain Laurel doesn’t lose its leaves along its canopy top and sides, even in the dead of winter. The leaves just droop somewhat until the day warms. But under the canopy of a large thicket, the laurel is a network of interwoven limbs that are usually bare from lack of sun on the inside with a layer of green leaves along the outside. It appears you are in a large room complete with a very thick layer of dead brown laurel lives covering the ground much like carpet. Older, undisturbed thickets can be thirty feet tall and hundreds of feet wide. So, we would have plenty of overhead concealment to help break up our heat signature tonight from the prying eyes of any aerial platform equipped with thermal imaging equipment that might over fly our area, as well as thick concealment on the sides to thwart handheld thermal devices from ground forces. There were a few small boulders that would provide some cover for a short period of time.

A four-man reconnaissance element shouldn’t be expected to wage a protracted fight. It relies on stealth and camouflage and therefore travels very light. Or if it is compromised, it relies on speed to un-ass the Area-of-Operations (AO) quickly. Stealth and speed requires proper training, specialized equipment, good fitness and a plan.

Having checked out the thicket to my satisfaction and noting that it met all the criteria for a RON, I rolled out of my rucksack and pushed it under some dead fall to hide it.  Retracing my way back out of the thicket to the patrol, I caught Andy’s attention and called them in by making the rally hand signal and then placed my hand on top of my boonie. Rally on me.

Up next, establishing the RON.

1 has a new post titled:  “The Big Lie About Wanat (COP Kahler)” that’s well worth your time. As usual for his site, it’s well written and laid out with some great terrain analysis graphics. He not only makes the case for the M-4 as a well-built, time-tested, practical weapons system, thus skull-stomping many myths, he unintentionally informs the astute reader regarding small unit tactics as practiced in this case by an indigenous group of guerilla fighters; the Taliban. No, they didn’t achieve their apparent primary objective; displacing or destroying the American conventional force. Yes, the Taliban took heavy casualties, about six-to-one, which is indicative of an assault by lightly armed guerillas on prepared positions manned by a conventional force.  Their ability to quietly and quickly mass and position their forces utilizing conventional military tactics, then perform the initial assault on key weapons positions, while using the surrounding terrain to their advantage (proper terrain analysis) is an indicator of effective intelligence, communication and logistics systems, thorough planning and rehearsals, well-trained leadership, good command and control and most importantly, support by the locals.


Here’s the link: