Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

We return to the MSS by a slightly different route to avoid possible ambush on our previous route, eventually making our way to the designated entrance entrance/exit point. Using multiple entrance/exits at an MSS or patrol base increases the risk of it’s compromise by anyone coming across the additional sign. Also, anyone not approaching the base toward the designated point should be regarded with extra scrutiny.

As we approach the entrance, Andy assumes we are close enough to be under the observation of the man on security, so he signals a halt and then goes to ground. I turn to watch our back trail as he reaches up with his support hand, lifts his boonie of his head and holds it with the sewn-in VS-17 panel inside showing toward the entrance. After waiting for a few seconds, he sees the reply through the thicket, the magenta side of another small VS-17 panel flashed our direction. This is the proper IFF sign-countersign per our current SOI. If the wrong color is displayed on either end, it is assumed that end is compromised and under duress.

Moving through the concealed entrance we find Al on security. Andy and I take up positions on his right and quietly watch our back trail for a few minutes.

After determining we aren’t being trailed, I stand and move next to Al. “Rally on the rucks” I whisper to him, having noticed that our rucks have been retrieved and are lying ready next to the others at the center of the MSS. Jim is lying prone near them, watching in the opposite direction.

Al nods, falls in behind Andy and we gather next to Jim, who looks our way and gives a nod.

I look toward Al and ask, “Messages go out O.K.?

“Yes,” he replies, “No traffic our way though.”

I nod and then tell them, “We’ve found a good spot for the hide. Good news is, it’ll fit all four of us and there’s not much digging involved.”

“Digging, all four of us?” Al questions, a confused look on his face.

He goes on to say, “I thought you were going to set up a hasty above ground hide while we were running the MSS here. Just long enough to look the area over before we go down to Mr. Conner’s place. You know, make sure nothing is out of the ordinary first. “

Jim rolls over on his side to face us.

“Al, do you honestly believe that everything we’ve seen in this valley is “ordinary”?” Jim remarks using his fingers to make apostrophes in order to emphasize the word “ordinary” and then adds, “I agree with Dan. I think we’re gonna be here longer than we bargained for. There’s a lot of bad actors moving around in this AO and I for one don’t want 30 of them bringing heat down on the four of us just because we were too lazy to build a proper hide. All it would take is a hunter out looking for a deer or turkey for his pot to stumble on us and next thing you know we’re fighten’ for our hides. No sir, I’m all for diggin’ in.”

Jim has said his piece and turns back to his sector. It’s quiet while we take in Jim’s comments. I look over at Al half expecting him to take offense at Jim’s usual tactless reply.

Andy not wanting to be left out of the conversation adds dryly,

“Jim, we haven’t seen any sign of a deer, bear, hog, or a turkey in these mountains for over 2 years, let alone the real thing. Not even a whistle pig.” Andy adds, referring to the local name for the ground hog. “They’ve all been hunted out, you know that. It’s so bad the coyotes have left”

“Well… squirrels then. We still got lots’a tree rats around here.” Jim responds, this time not turning to face us.

I shake my head and smile at Andy. He grins back.

“Okay guys,” I say, “I’m doing a FRAGO (fragmentary order or change) to the OPORD. That’s why the MSS is listed as “Tentative” in the OPORD. That gave us some flexibility in case the proposed site sucks or the mission changes. And as I see it, the mission has changed from checking up on Jack’s place to getting an understanding of the overall situation in this valley and sending that info back to the retreat so they can analyze it and make an informed decision on how we’re going to handle this. Remember, this is very close to our back yard. You wrote the radio intercept transcript Al. You know they were making comments about our valley. My guess is that after they clean this area out, they are headed there next.”

Al nods in agreement, or at least understanding, as I continue. “It’s going to take a little longer than we anticipated and the threat level has gone up considerably. So we’re going to all move to the new location where we’ll set up a dug-in observation hide. I know in the past you’ve worked out of a temporary “sniper hide” or FFP (Final Firing Position). This is a little different. An observation hide is a long term hide used primarily for surveillance missions, so it’s more complicated and usually takes more time, muscle, material and different tools to construct. We’ll run a combined MSS and hide until Martin pulls us out or the mission changes.”

“Al,” interjects Andy, “It’ll be built a lot like the over-watch bunker up on the hill at the entry road to our cove only not quite as permanent.” Then he adds, “Hey, remember when Jim, and Randall and I had to work out of one over near the airport back before everything started to get real bad? This is the same thing.”

“Yes, I remember. “Al replied. Then he added quietly, “Randall never came back, he’s still buried over there.”

Jim, turning again on his side toward us says quickly, “Andy, thanks for that great example, you knuckle head. Al, this ain’t the same as that. We were pretty green then. This ain’t our first rodeo and you know it, so don’t go gettin’ all spooked on us.”

I reach out and put a hand on Al’s shoulder.

“Jim’s right Al.” I add. “This isn’t the same situation. Back then we had no idea who was our friend and who was our enemy, and we were stabbed in the back by some folks from outside of our community. A lot has washed out since then. I trust you three men with my life and the lives of my family.”

“Sorry about that.” Andy says.

“No big deal.” Jim responds with a shrug. “We took care of those SOBs and nobody in the entire valley has missed ’em.

It’s quiet again as I watch for Al’s reaction. He lowers his head sightly, peering toward the ground for a few minutes, deep in thought. Andy fiddles absentmindedly with his knife.

After a few moments Al shrugs his shoulders, looks up and asks, “So we’re going to run everything from the hide, no MSS?”

“No MSS. It’ll be tight but it’ll make it easier on all of us. One less body pulling security, smaller footprint, less chance of compromise, more rest.” I reply.

Al asks, “What about comms? How will we run comms back to the retreat without a separate MSS?”

“We’ll run them out of the hide.” I answer.

Al gives me a confused look.

I reply, “Not to worry Al, I’ll help you set up. I’ve done it that way more often than not. Really, the only difference is instead of leaving our extra equipment and rucks with the MSS, we will have to build a separate hide for the rucks once we empty them. No room for them in the primary hide.”

“You’re not concerned we’ll get DF’d transmitting out of the hide?” asked Al.

“From what we’ve seen so far I don’t think this bunch has the capability. In this environment, I’m a lot more concerned we’ll get scarfed up by someone out looking for some meat for dinner, like Jim so eloquently stated.”

Jim snorts.

Al has been listening with a thoughtful look on his face and then abruptly replies, “OK, I’m on board.”

“Good,” I reply. “Any questions?

There are none.

Jim, this place sterilized?” I ask.

“Yep, ready to go.” Jim replies.

“Andy and Jim up front, Andy take point, you know the way. Al pick up slack, let’s go.”

We ruck up and slowly leave the thicket then stop about 50 yards out to watch our back trail again. While waiting, we notice that the snow has completely stopped and the wind has slowed a little. The clouds are thinning out. I figure we have about 4 hours of daylight left.

We patrol back up the backside of the spur, stopping about 50 yards short of the hide spot. Prior to occupying the hide location, we set up another over-watch and keep eyes on it for about 15 minutes in the event that someone moved in while we were gone. If we had a larger patrol, I would have left a 2 man team to maintain eyes on the site while Andy and I returned to the MSS to bring up the remainder of the team.

Andy takes security while we work on hide construction.

Per our SOP, we approach the tentative hide from the side opposite of the target area and will avoid moving through the target side if at all possible. Regardless if it would be near impossible for threat personnel to approach the front of this hide due to the cliff, it would build bad work habits that could lead to future mistakes. Surveying the hole under the unearthed root ball, we determine that we will be able to fit all four team members in it.

“Well, you’re right, we won’t have to do a bunch of diggin’, unless you want a full-on sub-surface hide.” Jim states, staring down into the hole.

“No”, I reply, “We don’t have the tools or supplies to build one. We’d need shovels and mattocks and pre-fab roof sections. I think a modified belly hide will do. A little deeper than a belly hide where we can move around some and sit up occasionally, and a deeper area where the observer can stay seated.”

Jim steps into the depression to locate the direction of the target and to determine the best location for the viewing aperture. The rest of the hide will be situated and built around it.

“The clouds are really lifting out.” Jim states as he looks over the lip toward the west. “We’re gonna have a birds-eye view of the whole valley from here.”

“This is a good spot.” Al adds, looking around. “The cedars provide a nice dark area to work in. There’s very little danger of being silhouetted against the ridge behind us. Very good for antennas.”

“Yep, good piece of real estate.” says Jim. “The cliff out front is a nice touch. The only way anyone gets to us is from the rear or sides and we’ll have plenty of warning if they try. I like it.”

“I’m glad you two approve. Now let’s get to work.” I reply.

We pull all of the empty sandbags from our rucks and lay them out in a square outlining the proposed hide. Then due to the wind, we temporarily peg ponchos around the outside of the hide to protect the area from disturbance and to catch any loose dirt taken from the hide.

Next we remove the large twigs, limbs and leaves from the ground on top of the future hide and set them aside for later use. Jim then uses a small pair of pruning shears to lop off the brambles and small saplings growing from the bottom of the pit.

We then cut any sod inside the hide boundary with e-tools. We carry one per 2 man team. The e-tools are locked at a 90 degree angle and the sod is first cut into 2′ wide sections perpendicular to the hide, from the center of the pit toward the sandbag boundaries. When the sections are all cut length-wise, we set the e-tools at full extension, then undercut and roll the sod away from the hole onto the ponchos, keeping the outside edge of the sod attached to help hold each section in place when it is rolled back out. Next we cut the walls of the hide perpendicular until the floor is completely flat, about 24 inches deep. Then we cut a lip in the dirt, 8 inches wide and 6 inches deep, completely around the hide next to the walls. Most of the spoil is placed in the empty sandbags. Jim points out that we have enough room to excavate a sitting area for up to 2 side-by-side observers. This area is directly behind the aperture, near the right hand corner of the pit, facing the target. The area for the feet is about 24 inches deep below the seat. The seat is about 30 inches below the lip of the hide. Any roots we encounter are either cut with the e-tool or by plunging the 10” blade of a Sportsman folding saws into the ground and cutting it loose. Rocks are pried out with the e-tools.

Since the heavy sod will cover about 1′ to 2′ of the hide roof from the edges when it is rolled back out, its weight will cause the poncho roof under it to sag. To support the sod, we select 4 small trees, place a poncho on the ground at their base to catch the sawdust, then cut them as close to the ground as possible and limb them. The sawdust is placed into one of the sandbags while the small limbs are cut into small sections with the pruning shears and disposed well away from the hide along with any extra soil. The tree stumps are painted with a mixture of soil and water to age the cut and then covered with leaves.

To support the poles, a filled sandbag is placed about a foot from each corner of the lip. The end of each pole is then laid on a corner sandbag and the pole ends are lashed together. Each horizontal pole is then supported at the center by lashing it to a short vertical pole stuck into the ground. We stand back and look at our handiwork while Jim completes the last of the lashing. He puts the weight of his body on each pole in turn and grunts his approval. We now have a sturdy pole support system, about a foot inside the lip, completely surrounding the pit.

We fill the rest of the empty sandbags with a majority of the removed soil. To deal with the left over soil, Al and I empty two of the rucks, then line them with black trash bags. After we work for a few minutes I notice Al is shoveling a lot of soil in his ruck.

“Al, you might want to take it easy with the dirt” I warn him.

“Why don’t we fill the rucks? Less trips right? Al replies.

“Well, these are 110 liter rucks and 1 liter of dry clay weighs a little under 2.5 lbs. Do the math.” I say as I close up the bag and top flap on my ruck.

Al stares at his ruck for a moment, and then with a grunt, attempts to lift it. He tips the ruck back into the hole, dumping a good portion.

“Ready” he announces as he lifts the ruck onto his back.

It takes 3 trips. We find an area of thick briars growing just below a small rock face. There we dump it off from the top of the cliff into the thick mass below.

“Al,” I point out, I picked this spot out to dump the dirt because these rock faces usually make good dens for Timber Rattlers. I don’t think we need to worry about anyone poking around in the briars beneath them and finding it.”

Al looks the rocky area over intently and nods.

I go on to add, “If we didn’t have this slide, we could look for a groundhog hole or the hole from a rotted tree stump to dump it in. Even better would be a large creek or river. Worst case we would have to scatter it over a large area.”

While we are dumping the soil, Jim connects and arches 4 flexible fiberglass tent poles sections over the top of the hide and then pushes the ends into the ground on each side forming a low dome. The poles are held together with internal shock cords. Then the overlapping poles are secured to one another with duct tape at each cross-over point. He snaps 2 military camouflaged ponchos together, stretches them over the poles and secures them at the lip surrounding the hide with small aluminum tent stakes pushed through the grommets. Next he places the filled sandbags along the lip surrounding the excavation and onto the edges of the ponchos to hold them in place.

Jim retrieves the patrol’s two 4’x8′ camouflaged nets, tie-wraps them together and drags them face down on the ground through an area behind and below the hide. This will cause the net to pickup a lot of natural plant material. The net is then stretched over the camouflaged ponchos and sandbags and also pegged into place. Last, he rolls the sod back in place over the sandbags, the wooden support poles and up the net about a foot. We return from our dump mission in time to help camo the sod and the rest of the net with the dead fall and leaves that were saved from the pit.

Al asks, “Why do we use the camouflage netting, isn’t the camouflage poncho enough?”

Jim looks up from his work, wiping his hands on his trousers as he replies. “Well, the poncho works O.K. at a distance, but its better if you add a little depth and texture for up close. The net adds that. Now, if the sod completely covered the hide roof, we wouldn’t have needed the net, but we would have to spend a bunch a’ time building a stout frame underneath to handle the weight. So, I reckon it’s a wash. Another thing, when that nylon poncho gets wet from rain or the sun hits it at a certain angle, it’ll shine like a nekid babies butt. So, we use the net and the leaves and twigs and such to hold down the shine.”

“Interesting” Al replies, looking closer at the netting.

“Yeah, interestin’” Jim replies.

Opposite the aperture, I dig a small entry opening below the support pole and the 2 sandbags are removed. At the opening, I hang the door itself which consists of a brown section of burlap with a small section of camo net sewn at the top edge. It has also been garnished with natural vegetation. It is then attached to the exterior net and is allowed to drape over the door opening. It will be held in place from the inside with a few small rocks placed on the lower end of the flap. During the day the burlap section can be rolled up inside and tied off while the net is left hanging covering the opening. This will provide more ventilation.

The aperture is constructed next. Al and Jim dig a wide ledge, 36” wide by 12” deep, slightly below ground level to accommodate 2 sandbags. They will be used as a rest for the spotting scope tripod. Several short branches about 12 inches long are pushed into the ground about 24” apart on each side of the opening and lashed together with 550 cord. Next a filled sandbag is placed on either side of these branches, perpendicular to the sandbags around the perimeter of the hide. Then several other large branches about 36” long are placed on top of the sandbags forming a top shelf. The ponchos edges are pulled over the shelf, sandbags placed on top to hold them into place, then the sod is rolled back over the wood frame opening. From the inside, the small aperture opening is then cut out of the sod. Lastly, the camo net is draped over the aperture and pegged down.

“Jim” Al asks, “Why is the hole in the sod so small, why don’t we make it bigger like the bunker at home. Then we would have a wider field of view.”

“Well, mainly because at night, if someone down there,” he points toward the valley below, “has a thermal imager, then all the body heat inside this hide would cause a bigger opening to light up like a neon sign. So we keep the opening just small enough to get our scope or nod lens a good view. We’re far enough away they won’t spot a small image. Don’t take much of a hole to see out of. Now, during the day, we can roll it open and just use the net. It’ll get some fresh air in, and believe me we’re gonna need it if were here for long. We’ll get mighty ripe.”

While Jim and Al are busy inside, spreading out a large piece of black plastic that makes up the floor covering, I do a walk around the hide to look for deficiencies.

The hide is about 18 inches above ground level at the center and about 12 inches at the edges. The south side of the hide is hard against the upturned root ball which adds to the camouflage effect with its tangled mass of roots jutting over the net. The north side is partially covered by some low hanging spruce boughs. I adjust and add camo here and there. Then I moves about 25 yards away and carefully walks around the hide looking for problems just stopping short of walking in the area facing the target. I will do another check after dark when we will use a red lens light inside to test for leaks.

Next, we unload the equipment from our rucks that we will need to operate in the hide. The following equipment is kept in a dry bag in the observation area: Our 0-60 power spotting scope, one set of binoculars, one set of NVGs with spare batteries, blank sector sketch sheets and a small log book.

Al places all of the communication equipment and batteries as well as the radio log, SOI, and one-time pads in a dry bag in the admin area next to the observation area. We unload 1 sleeping bag; it will be warm in the hide and only one will sleep at a time. Food is packed into another dry bag kept in the admin area. Other non-essential equipment is kept in the rucks, which are placed in rain covers, then moved to a separate simple hide site, an area of thick briars, about 50 yards down the mountain but still within view of the man pulling security.

The interior of the hide is now separated into three areas: observation, rear security, and admin/sleeping area. A blackout poncho is hung from the ceiling tent poles to separate the admin area from the observation area. Another is hung near the rear opening or rear security area. No light will be used in the observation or security areas, and only red light is used sparingly in the admin area.

One man will be on observation, one on radio watch and one on rear security at the door opening. The last will sleep. We will rotate through each position once every 2 hours with the man sleeping getting 6 hours at a stretch.

Al and I setup the HF antenna system. We cut and install the dipole antenna low and well hidden in the trees about 25 feet away from the hide, insuring that the antenna wire is not touching any vegetation. This time the cobra head at the center of the antenna is located at a fairly large tree. After the antenna is hoisted, we trace the flat gray painted coax down the tree trunk and lightly tack it at the top and bottom with painted fence staples. Next we cut a shallow slit in the ground with our e-tools from the base of the tree to the hide. The portion of the coax on the ground is then pushed into the slit, which is then closed as we go. Ground litter is then sprinkled over the slit.

Next we install the 292 receive antenna for the scanner. It is ran up into a cedar tree overhanging the hide where it disappears between the boughs. It’s thin coax is also stapled loosely to the tree trunk, then buried in a slit in the ground which runs into the hide. Both buried coaxes will be checked every morning, if one were to be dug up at night by animals, they could be seen and would lead to the hide location.

“Dan,” Al asks as we work, “Are we going to have to re-cut the antenna every day since the SOI stipulates a new frequency every day?”

“Yes” I reply. “Even though I said I don’t think these guys have the ability to DF us, if they have access to Jack’s radio room, they can listen in. I don’t want to make it easy for them.

“You’re probably right, It’s just that I thought it would be better if we stay out of sight as much as possible.” Al replies without looking up from his work, burying the coax.

“You say that now,” I say. “I think you might re-think that after you have been cooped up in that hole for a few days.”

Al stops working for a moment then replies, “Jim said the same thing earlier. I hadn’t thought about that. This will be a new experience for me.” He mulls it over for another moment, then goes back to his task.

After we push the end of the scanner coax into the hide, I call everyone together.

“OK, let’s go over our routine. This will be a little different than operating two sites like we normally do. First, clothing. Put on whatever clothing you are going to need. That includes cold weather gear. Since the sod doesn’t completely cover the hide, we’ll lose some heat. Also bring your load bearing gear, you’ll have it on at all times, to include when your in the sleeping bag. That goes for boots too, we sleep with our boots on. Once we cache the rucks, we won’t access them again until the mission is complete. You can take stuff off if you get too hot. I would suggest everyone have his woobie to wrap up in if it gets real cold. For sleeping, I had Jim put my fart sack in the hide. We will hot rack until we finish. If you want a change of socks or underwear, there is enough room for extra dry bags in the hide.”

Everybody nods understanding.

“Next, shifts. We will rotate on two hour shifts to each position. Sleep shift will be 6 hours, then rotate to observation first, then admin, last security. Then back to sleep. Observation follows sleep because it’s the only position you can sit up in. Less chance of falling back to sleep.”

I look into each man’s face. Still no questions.

“Duties will be per SOP. Admin will monitor the radios, scanners and their logs. Security will keep an eye on our six as well as emplace and monitor the solar panel as needed. We don’t know how long we’ll be here, so it’s whoever is on admin to monitor the batteries. Observation, we made the hole big enough to fit two, so if you feel like there’s too much going on to keep the log, call in the man on admin to help. If that happens, the radio will answer a call on its own, just take the scanner with you. Make sure you keep good logs, everything you see gets logged; structures, personalities, activities, supplies, vehicles, weapons, comms, anything you see day and night. Speaking of night, watch the nod batteries, keep the spares charged.”

“Eating will only take place in the admin area. No hot food, we don’t have enough butane canisters for the Jet Boil to heat food and if even if we did, the smell could give up our location. Also, no MRE heaters. Start one and the fumes will run us all out of the hide. The Whisper-lite stove is a no-go in the hide also. We don’t need a liquid fuel spill or fire in the hide. The man coming off of sleep detail can heat a cup of water for an instant coffee or whatever. Again, use the Jet Boil. The dry bag with the food will be in the admin area. I don’t have to tell you that we will be on short rations due to the situation we’re in. Originally we thought this would be a quick 4 day in-and-out. So we gotta stretch it as far as we can. Good thing is, we won’t be burning a lot of calories lying around in the hole.”

“Hygiene. Not much chance of bathing in the spring, it’s too small plus you’d contaminate the water supply. About all we have is the bottle of hand sanitizer Kathy gave us. She had squirreled it away in the medical supplies but felt like we would need it. Use it to keep your hands as clean as possible. We don’t need someone with the squirts while we are in this hole.”

“Too bad we can’t get wet-wipes anymore. I sure miss them.” sighs Andy.

“They were a crutch” replies Jim.

Andy rolls his eyes.

I ignore them and continue.

“Lights only in the admin area and try to hold it down to red-light if possible.”

“Hey Dan, can we get a flap that we can cover the aperture with so we can fill out the observation log at night?” asks Andy.

After thinking about it for a few seconds I reply, “No, I don’t want to take the chance of any light getting out through the only opening we have facing the target area. On a moonless night, even red light can be seen a long ways off. If you have to record anything in the log at night, pass it over to the man in the admin area and dictate to him.”

“I agree.” Jim replies.

“30 minutes before BMNT and EENT we will have stand-to. Everyone will be up with their gear on, weapons ready. 30 minute listening, then first light walk around to check camo by the man on security and re-cut the antenna and check the coax by the man on admin. Last light checks after EENT will be security’s job.”

“Water resupply.” Jim says.

“Oh yeah” I continue, “we got real lucky there. While we were out dumping the spoil earlier, Al spotted an old game trail which we followed back this way. It led to a small spring in a rocky area with lots of tree cover. So we don’t have to make the daily trip down the mountain. Whoever is cutting the antenna will take the man on security in the morning to refill canteens. Standard IFF per the daily SOI applies when returning. Remember, it changes daily so make sure you check it before you leave. Same goes for the man pulling security. Water detail gets compromised, we go into E&E plan back to the rally point over the mountain. Jim, I’m thinking iodine tabs instead of the filters.”

“I’m with you, lots faster, less time at the water source and less to carry. The morning Joe will taste a little funky though.” Jim replies wrinkling his forehead, then he adds, “I guess if we get bored we could filter the iodine out once we get back inside the hide. What about latrines?”

“Thanks, getting to that.” I reply. “Each of us should have a 2 quart collapsible canteen with a big “P” in black permanent marker on each side. That’s your personal urinal. Keep it with you, if it leaks we’ll be smelling your piss on everything. Don’t be that guy. Make sure you keep the caps tight. Enough said. It gets dumped in a hole and covered during the morning check by the guy re-cutting the antenna. When you have to take a dump, do it in one of the MRE outer bags, roll the top over and seal it with duct tape, then put it in a large zip lock bag. We’ll keep them stored in the admin area in one of the black garbage bags we used to haul the dirt out. When we pull out of here, we’ll bury them.”

“Looks like we’re gonna get to know each other real well over the next few days.” blurts out Andy.

Everyone laughs quietly.

“Yeah, now I wish I hadn’t ate that meatball marinara MRE yesterday.” Jim added.

“Us more so.” Al replied quietly, giving Jim a sideways look.

We all laughed again as Jim reaches out smiling and rubbed the top of Al’s head vigorously.

“Last area to cover is actions in the hide if we are compromised.” I said looking toward Jim. “Go over it for us Jim.”

“Sure thing. First, anyone can call a compromise but most likely it will be the guy on security who will know it first. When Dan makes the decision to pop smoke, whoever is the radio man sends the “compromised” message back to the retreat. It’s already loaded in the radio, right Al?”

Al nods, “Yes”.

Jim continues. “Good, then the radio man stores the comms equipment in the dry bag and pulls it out with him. The observer does the same with his equipment and logs. Security man exits, goes right and establishes a position facing the threat. His team member does the same. Other two go to the left of the hide and set up same facing the same direction. From that point Dan will decide which direction we move out. We run a standard break contact drill, bounding in pairs until we break contact with the threat. Then we go into standard formation and move out of the area. Just like we rehearsed at home. Any questions?”

“None? O.K., if we make contact while we’re in the hide, security calls contact front, right, left, whatever. When the break contact command is given, security man lays down a base of fire until he empties a mag, he reloads, exits to his right and lays down suppressive fire. The radio man assumes his old position at the exit and lays down the hate until his mag is empty. He does this based on what he sees or by command from the man that is outside the hide. He will reload, exit to the opposite side and begin suppressing the bad guys. The observer will follow suit to the right and the last man will go left. At that point we have two bad-ass fire teams that will then perform a flawless break contact drill, where we kill all the bad guys that haven’t shit their pants and ran, ’cause all they know is they’ve come up on a humongous ground hornet’s nest and a bunch of stone cold killers are pouring out of a hole in the ground. Then we scalp th’ dead as a lesson to the rest and un-ass this pop stand. Just like we drilled.”

“Thanks Jim, I think.” I replied.

“Welcome” Jim replies with a broad smile on his face.

“Just one thing guys, no scalping” I add as an afterthought.

“Party Poop” Jim interjects.

“Any questions?” I ask, ignoring Jim. I search the faces of the team. No response.

“I’ve got to say this” I continue, “you men have really accomplished something today. We’ve moved a fair distance over some fairly rough terrain, gathered a ton of information, got it back to the folks back home, then found and managed to build a pretty substantial hide site. I’m proud to be with you”

Looking at one another, they all nod in agreement.

“Then let’s get this show on the road. Looks like the sun’s going behind the ridge across the valley. Jim you got ob, Andy on radio, I got security, and Al, you get to sack out. Andy, do one more look around the site before you come in. I’ll turn on a red light inside”

“Got it.” replies Andy.

“Once everyone is inside, I’ll take security while you men take a few minutes to grab something to eat. Then one of you relieve me, I’ll eat. When I finish, we start the work plan.”

While waiting my turn to crawl into the hide, I notice the sky is clear, the wind has died down and it is getting colder. I walk along the left hand side of the hide, through the dense cedars, close to the edge of the cliff. The sun has descended below the mountains to the west highlighting their massive silhouettes. Looking down between the boughs into the darkening valley below, I can see the vague outline of a large house about 500 meters away along the paved road.

Several of the windows are lighted.

 

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CAMP COMMS

Posted: 09/25/2015 in Uncategorized

Source: CAMP COMMS

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.

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.

Amen brother, Amen.

http://www.maxvelocitytactical.com/2015/04/clarification-on-a-common-misunderstanding/

Camouflage 101

Posted: 04/23/2015 in Uncategorized

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.
Face Paint:
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.

Equipment:

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.

DOL

DM