(During the Vietnam War, among many other responsibilities in the SEA AOR, SF fulfilled a core mission, providing leadership cadre for indigenous ranger-type units referred to as "Mike" Forces. The project under which this was conducted was Project Delta, or B-52 (any errors in my recounting of that two sentence history are the result of OPSEC. They have nothing to do with my ongoing battle with CRS syndrome..."Can't Remember Shit"). One of the lasting legacies of Project Delta was the production of the now-famous Recon Tips of the Trade. This ongoing article series will be my feeble attempt at updating them, with modifications for irregular force partisans in a non-SEA AOR....--J.M.)
The mini-manual known as "Recon Tips of the Trade" was developed by SFOD-B 52, 5th SFG(A), with assistance of the MACV Recondo school.
General Tips of the Trade
conducting operations, minimize fatigue. A tired shooter is a
careless shooter. Sleep deprivation is a well-known and common
training tool in special operations, specifically because it creates
extreme stress in individuals. Contrary to popular opinion, you can
become accustomed to sleep deprivation, but not inured to it. On
operations, it will be necessary at times, to set aside sleep in the
interest of mission essential tasks and operational necessity, but
this should be minimized. Considering the considerable disadvantage
individual groups will face in dealing with large numbers of
potentially well-equipped hostile forces, maintaining the mental
equilibrium of individual shooters and leaders should be a critical
element of planning and logistics. Don't skimp on sleep gear and dry
clothes in an attempt to "be hard." There's a fine line
between hard and stupid.
always, ALWAYS possess and display confidence in front of your
people. If you are confident, they will feed off that confidence.
False bravado is not the same thing as confidence. Confidence in the
tactical arena only comes through realistic, effective training. You
can't fake it. Train.
lose your temper in the field. Not with your own personnel, not with
the enemy, and certainly not with life. A temper tantrum, or rage,
will have a deleterious effect on your judgment and lead to rash
decisions. Plan for contingencies, and keep them in mind when shit
seems to be going wrong. Don't be afraid to take solid advice from
subordinates. It does NOT make you less competent.
work is the crucial element in tactical success. It only comes
through constant practice and training. You MUST practice your
collective training tasks and battle drills as an element. "Chalk
talks" and walk-through rehearsals have their place, but should
never replace realistic field-training (including live-fire
other considerations aside, a good PT program will lead to less
health issues arising in the field. A healthy, athletic body, under
combat stress WILL end up sick. An unhealthy, unathletic body, under
combat stress will not have a fully functioning immune system to
help resist those illnesses. Historically, illness and disease has
killed and otherwise made combat-ineffective, legions more
warfighters than enemy fire has.
is critical, but do not overlook the replacement of electrolytes in
the system. Today, under normal circumstances, the average American
diet contains FAR more than enough salt and electrolytes, without
supplementation. Field rations, under austere, combat conditions
will require supplementation.
loose-fitting, comfortable clothing, suitable to the environment,
for field operations. This does not necessarily mean the latest
cool-guy ACUs in multi-cam. It does mean clothing specific to
outdoor athletic activities (I've
gone to the field in Levi's. I don't recommend it),
whether mil-spec or outdoor sports such as mountaineering or
backpacking (that having been said, if you show up to a class
in climbing tights, expect me to laugh at you).
Tight-fitting clothes will restrict movement, and more often than
not, tear at inopportune times, in inopportune places.
a system of pre-mission checklists to facilitate your pre-combat
inspections, in order to ensure that no patrol member is forgetting
anything. Whether built around a team SOP (a good idea),
or specifically developed for a given operation, this will help
alleviate showing up at a breach point on a structure and going,
"Who the fuck left the breaching shotgun at home?"
you need to criticize a member of your team/element/unit/crew, use
tact and common courtesy when doing so. Take the man aside and do it
in private (especially if he has ANY leadership authority),
in order to allow him to save face and thus react positively to the
of what type of radio communications devices you utilize
(FRS/GMRS/Marine Band/HAM/etc), pre-set frequencies so that you can
change channels in the dark, on the run.
Rifle/Carbine Specific Tips
or otherwise cover the muzzle of your weapon in rural/wilderness
environments, to keep out water, dirt, and other debris. Condoms
are, of course, a popular mainstay for this, and there are plastic
caps available for AR-15 platform muzzle devices (I've always
used 100-mph tape, and never had a problem. --J.M.). You can
shoot through the cover when needed, with no deleterious effects on
you are the only guy in your element running NODs, alternate tracer
and ball ammunition in your magazines (I run a 4:1 ratio of
ball:tracer. --J.M.). This will allow you to identify
targets for your technologically-impaired compatriots to focus their
firing on (I never bother with the whole "last three
rounds are tracer" concept, because when I did, I never noticed
I was dumping tracers before I hit bolt-lock anyway --J.M.).
with your weapon locked and loaded, safety engaged, in case you are
awakened by hostile fire and need to engage bad guys,
right-the-fuck-now! In the morning, if you haven't fire it, always
replace the round in the chamber (quietly, if it needs to be
said...). Condensation in the chamber, combined with powder
residue CAN lead to stuck cases. Further, if you are dumb enough or
cheap enough to run a non-chrome-lined barrel, this will lead to a
pitted chamber that will result in you dying with a fucking cleaning
rod jammed down the barrel of your weapon. Even with non-corrosive
powder (in plain English, get a fucking chrome-lined weapon!)
your weapon thoroughly, every day in the field. A wet weapon is a
happy weapon (they're like women that way). A dry
weapon WILL fucking choke (as I point out in classes, if I
could dump a gallon of lube in my weapon and get it to stay in
place, I would. You cannot, in my experience, use too much lube,
especially on the AR platform). Carry a bottle of lube on
your fighting load-out. The choice of lube doesn't matter in the
long run. (Yes, CLP sucks. We all know it. Yet, I used CLP
exclusively for almost 20 years and have NEVER had a problem,
because I oil the ever-loving-shit out of them. I currently run
Mil-Tech, and have heard nothing but good about Frog-Lube).
your fucking safety selector switch on "safe" unless
you're killing someone. It will NOT make you any faster to have it
already on "fire," but you WILL end up shooting your
buddy, or dumping a round in the dirt on a patrol, leading to a
compromise and the whole fucking element getting killed. A negligent
discharge is ground for dismissal from the Ranger Regiment. I firmly
believe a negligent discharge in the field should be a fucking
are to rifles what holsters are to pistols, but don't treat your
sling like some sort of irreplaceable sensitive item. Outside of
vehicle-based operations and MOUT, most of the time, you ought not
have the fucking thing slung anyway. An M4 weighs less than seven
pounds, until you start adding shit to it. If you can't carry that,
all day, without a sling, do more PT.
your weapon as slick as possible. A light is a necessity. An optic
is not a necessity, but is useful enough it ought to be considered
one for most applications. A sling is generally a necessity. If you
are running NODs, an IR laser is a necessity. Nothing else is a
necessity. Run your gun slick (I run a vertical
fore-grip much of the time, but seldom use it for anything beyond a
reference point when I grab the gun. --J.M.)
first magazine change should be a speed-reload. Do not worry about
retaining or retrieval until after the fight is over. Focus on
getting rounds downrange to occupy the enemy and disrupt his OODA
loop. Other than that, the only time a speed reload is necessitated
in a gunfight is a) when you are providing suppressive fire to
protect a buddy who is still exposed to enemy fire when your rifle
runs dry, or b) shooting while moving from one position of cover to
the next and your weapon runs dry. B) should seldom occur, because
you should be conducting reloads-with-retention while in a
covered/concealed position if you know or believe you are close to
and test all magazines before conducting an operation. Ensure they
feed properly and inspect for bent/damaged feed lips, weak springs,
etc. Mark every magazine you own and if one fails to perform in
training or inspection, throw the motherfucker away. DO NOT PUT IT
UP FOR SALE ON TOP OF YOUR GUNSHOW TABLE. If you do, you're a
fucking scumbag, and I hope you die a slow, painful death that
involves anal rape with a sharpened implement, you fucking
assume your weapon is clean enough on an operation. While an
IG-level cleaning may lead to premature wear on some parts (still
open for debate in my mind),
at a minimum, wipe down the bolt-carrier group, and run a patch down
should be self-evident, but place your magazines in the mag pouch
with the feed lips pointed down, to prevent loose rounds from
falling out on the ground.
rules apply, regardless of what type of weapon you carry. We all
"know" AKs are impervious to abuse, can be run over by a
fucking Abrams tank and still function flawlessly (I
think I just threw up in my mouth a little...),
but humor the Gods of War, and maintain them any-fucking-way.
Load-Bearing Equipment Tips(My preference for modern, MOLLE/PALS-based LBE is no secret. This version of the "Tips" will focus on that system. --J.M.)
certain that all velcro closures are closed before leaving the
patrol base. Ensure all fastex buckles are snapped. Let's be real.
Velcro is far from a perfect method of closure for gear that needs
to be silent. However, it beats the living shit out of the old snaps
that always seemed to quit staying closed about the time you exited
a MC-130 at 800' AGL, at 0330, over some god-awful DZ, and then
refused to work again until you went to DX the item at CIF. If you
can't figure out how to be quiet while using velcro in the field,
have a seamstress of equipment manufacturer replace all your velcro
with fastex buckles somehow.
sure you can get your magazines out, in a hurry. If you can't,
either replace your mag pouches with something more user-friendly,
modify them by cutting the edge down, or (most
fucking train more.
off EVERYTHING attached to your LBE. Snaps fail. I've yet to have
any of my MOLLE gear fall off in the field, but I've seen it happen.
Forgo the expense and inconvenience, and tie everything off with an
end-of-the-line bowline knot of 550 cord (honestly?
This SOP used to annoy the shit out of me as a private. Everything
had to be tied off, in accordance with the RSOP at Regiment. Then I
lost some equipment that I hadn't tied off properly, and paid for
it. Fuck that. Tie your shit off. I've NEVER lost a piece of
equipment that was tied off properly).
carry some type of knife on patrols. Quit worrying about what a
bad-ass man-killing piece of weaponry it is, and focus on a
functional field tool. It's one hell of a lot easier to kill a guy
with a goddamned Swiss Army knife than it is to cut aiming stakes at
0200 with a fucking Gerber MKII dagger (ask me
how I know...). Too
many guys focus on edged weapons instead of cutting tools
(seriously, I started out carrying a Gerber MKII
as a private at Regiment. Then I went to an Ek Commando dagger. Then
I went to a Ka-Bar for a LONG time. Then I went to a push-dagger.
Finally, I figured out a small, 4-5 inch blade knife was more than
adequate for a combat-utility knife. I currently run a RAT-3 on my
warbelt, and a Benchmade folder in my pocket. If I need a bigger
knife, such as in the rain forests of the PNW, I toss a Cold Steel
kukri on my ruck).
lot of guys ask me about machetes and hatchets and tomahawks. Here's
my two cents: machetes are great in the jungle. That makes sense,
they were designed for that environment. Hatchets generally suck. If
I need a hatchet, I probably really need an axe, which is far too
large to carry on my ruck. I have carried a tomahawk, and still have
a soft spot in my heart for them. It's the whole Roger's Rangers
thing. If a guy in my crew showed up to train with a 'hawk on his
LBE, I'd ask him what it was for. "Bushcraft" would be an
acceptable answer. "Breaching" would be a semi-acceptable
answer, since I prefer other tools for breaching. "Killing the
enemy" would get his ass kicked. "Bushcraft/Breaching with
killing the enemy as a secondary purpose" would get him a
snicker and a pat on the head for being a motivated little
guerrilla. I recognize that a lot of "bushcraft" experts
badmouth the tomahawk for field chores. I greatly prefer it over a
some sort of "pogey-bait" in your pockets as emergency
SERE rations. Even a couple of bouillon cubes, dissolved in some
water, will provide a motivated evader energy for a day or two. A
couple of MRE entrees, taped together in a cargo pocket will provide
a much better caloric boost, with marginal weight, while reducing
the amount of effort you will need to expend gathering food when you
should be running.
much as we want grenades, and as useful as they are, most of us are
not going to have them, at least initially, with the possible
exception of smoke grenades. Smoke grenades should be carried in
your ruck, rather than on your LBE. You don't fight with smokes, and
99% of the time, if you need one, you will have time to get it out
of your ruck.
member of a patrol should carry at least one ground signaling flare,
if you cannot access or manufacture thermite grenades. These will
burn hot enough to allow you to functionally destroy equipment that
you cannot remove from the battlefield, whether the enemy's or your
own. While battlefield recovery should always be your first option,
when it's not possible, at least try to fuck the enemy by not
letting them use it.
you are going to carry a patrol radio, besides a small FRS/GMRS type
walkie-talkie, sew or have sewn, an antennae pocket on the outside
of your ruck to allow easy access to the long-whip antenna.
dope leaks and spills easily, and the good stuff will flat destroy
any synthetics. Separate it from all other gear in your ruck, wrap
it in its own plastic bags, and check it daily.
most environments, including alpine winter environments, a poncho,
poncho liner, and casualty blanket, with some long underwear and
maybe a fleece jacket, will be sufficient for sleeping comfortably.
In deep snow, you always have the option of a snow trench or cave if
necessary, to hold more body heat.
field glasses, cameras (for surveillance and
and other mission-essential items, in external pouches or pockets on
your ruck, as possible, to facilitate easy access without having to
dump your whole fucking ruck in the ORP (objective
use the water from the Camelback on your ruck before using the water
on your LBE. This ensures you will still have water if you have to
dump your ruck and run.
and double-check the shoulder straps on your ruck before a mission.
Carry extra 550 cord on patrols (you should
to facilitate repairs if they break (as cool as
it is to carry your daypack over one shoulder around town, in the
field, with a 40-80lb ruck, it gets old in about two steps).
a waterproof bag (I still use the USGI version,
but whitewater rafting wetbags are good too)
to protect the items in your ruck on patrol. It sucks to hit a
remain-overnight (RON) site and dig out your poncho liner, only to
discover that it is a sodden mess.
More will follow. It's a long document, and longer to re-write......
In the mountains