18 March 2012

"You can't beat a conventional military force with guerrilla tactics in today's world!"

I don't normally do this, but I happened to be fucking around on YouTube this evening, and came across this video of Taliban insurgents ambushing a patrol from the 101st Airborne Division (AASLT). I'm posting the link, and I'm going to make some comments in critique of the actions. Call it an armchair AAR, if you will.

Conventional Force (U.S. Actions)
  1. When the enemy rounds first start impacting, everyone moves to a relative position of cover. Not a bad idea. Rocks are generally better at stopping bullets than body armor, in my experience.
  2. Communications aren't too bad. The key leaders are trying to communicate to their Joes. Never a bad thing, although I see a whole lot of junior guys who would be getting some serious wall-to-wall counseling upon return to the FOB, since none them seem to give two shits what their leaders are telling them to do.
  3. At 2:07, the video shows the patrol traipsing down a road, like they are on a fucking walk in the park. It's a good thing Hajji went to AKMs in the 80s, and subsequently loss any cultural heritage of marksmanship. Three well-trained riflemen with decent weapons could have dropped half the patrol in a couple of seconds.
  4. Nobody is really making any use of cover. Guys are sitting and kneeling on the rocks, or standing around. When bullets fly, your best bet is to hug the ground.
  5. At around 4:30, when they are being instructed to move the fuck out, or be outmaneuvered, they are too busy looking pitiful to actually do what the fuck they need to do.

Ultimately, while a few guys are trying to return fire, no one in that patrol showed any interest whatsoever, in aggressing forward and taking the fight to the enemy. Instead, they decide to sit on their asses and wait for air support. Even after the Kiowas arrive, they “bound out of the valley to the safety of their vehicles” instead of killing the enemy.

Unconventional Force (Taliban)

  1. The Talibs wait until the Americans are in a shitty spot to engage. They chose a well-canalized piece of key terrain, with ample fields of fire, and little cover of real value. They chose an ambush site with poor footing that would keep the U.S. Forces from effectively maneuvering well, and chose to assault from the high ground, with stand-off attacks.
  2. To their detriment, none of them are apparently fuck-all for marksmen, since they didn't hit a single motherfucker, despite the fact that the American soldiers were traipsing down the road out in the open (did I mention the traipsing down the road part already?).
  3. This lack of marksmanship ability, meant that they ended up staying in the engagement long enough for the U.S. Forces to call for air support. A far more effective method would have been to have a small element of well-trained marksmen to engage the U.S. element, killing or wounding several, then exfil the ambush zone, under cover, as rapidly as tactically possible, while still staying alert for incoming air support. When the air support was inbound, they could have simply disappeared in the rocks (big rocks offer enough of a thermal mass to provide a barrier from FLIR imaging, even at night), until the aircraft left for refueling, then continued their exfiltration.
  4. Further, consider the implications if the Talibs had used a remote-detonated IED to initiate the ambush (much like American infantry forces have long used the Claymore initiated ambush), followed by a barrage of well-aimed rifle fire....It would not have been hard to hide a well-placed IED/mine in that terrain that would have seriously impacted the Americans' OODA loops, if not killed or wounded several.

(I assume it goes without saying that there are numerous other lessons that can be learned from this video...These are just what jumped out at me in an initial viewing)

This is not intended to be critical of the Puking Buzzards in the video. I'm sincerely glad that none of them were killed or injured, but....next time someone tells you there's no way to beat a conventional military force with the strength and technology of the U.S. Army, consider this video, and the lessons to be learned from it....

Unconventional Warfare Concepts: Target Analysis and Selection

Too often, when keyboard commandos and militia “commanders” discuss the implications of applying unconventional warfare methods in the coming hot phases of the fight for individual liberty and the restoration of human rights, they simplify the discussion by stating that they will use raids and ambushes, sniper attacks, etc, to destroy the power and structure of a totalitarian regime. While the ancient dictum of KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) is valid, oversimplification is a flaw of amateurs training novices, resulting directly from a lack of knowledge.

Yes, raids, ambushes, sniper attacks (a form of ambush, really), and sabotage, ARE the fundamental tactics of guerrilla/insurgent/resistance combat, but a sound grasp of the fundamental realities of these methods, as well as a solid grasp of strategic target selection and analysis is critical to prevent a waste of limited material and manpower resources on tactical level targets of insignificant worth. The level of potential effectiveness of resistance offensive operations against a regime that can be sustained over time depends largely on the guerrilla base camp support and auxiliary support available to the resistance (it is hard after all, to sustain on-going combat operations, when your fighting men haven't eaten in two weeks, have been barefoot all winter, due to a lack of footwear, and have nowhere to hide long enough to get some sleep after weeks of continuous combat. The guerrilla base MUST be located in order to maximize isolation, as well as difficulty of approach by regime forces (thus precluding the use of a suburban neighborhood as an effective guerrilla base). The base camp area must be inherently defensible, and tenaciously defended by well-trained, highly-motivated forces. This provides the resistance's fighting elements with a safe haven to operate from, ensuring they have the time and ability to properly plan offensive operations (this does NOT mean that resistance forces will be conducting their offensive operations in remote, rural areas, if that is not where the enemy is concentrating his forces).

Guerrilla element leaders must consider the nature of the terrain in their operational area (METT-TC), as well as the level of training and tactical expertise of their forces, when considering suitable targets for offensive operations (sending a bunch of 40-somethings with no combat experience and little realistic, tactical training, up against an AFV-equipped security forces element, with close-air support and reinforcements only a radio call and helicopter ride away would be a ridiculous waste of assets, regardless of their marksmanship abilities and/or motivation levels).

The current doctrinal method of target analysis/selection is the CARVER matrix. An analysis of any potential target, using this matrix will provide a planning organization with a method to categorize the cost-benefit value of potential regime targets in a hierarchical manner, allowing the greatest emphasis to be placed on the targets that offer the greatest political value to the resistance's efforts (i.e. hitting as fuel depot that re-supplies occupation force Strykers or BMPs will be of much greater value to the resistance than ambushing a squad-sized element of conscripted infantrymen. In turn however, a sniper attack that assassinates key members of a special operations element within the regime security forces may have greater value than a raid on a vehicle park that results in destruction of a half-dozen armored vehicles).

Criticality. A potential target can be considered critical when its destruction or severe damage will create a SIGNIFICANT negative impact on the enemy's ability to continue projecting military force in the operational area. Criticality is dependent on several key factors:

  1. How rapidly/soon will the destruction/damage of this target impact and affect enemy operations in the operational area? Will it happen immediately (i.e. the destruction of his armored vehicles may preclude continued mounted patrolling the next day, especially in areas that require lengthy, time-consuming travel, such as in much of the western U.S.A.) or will there be a noticeable delay (destruction of a fuel storage depot might negatively impact the enemy's ability to continue operations, but not until the fuel supplies maintained at the unit level are expended...and they may be able to replace the fuel depot before that happens)?
  2. What percentage of enemy operations will be curtailed by target damage or destruction? What level of damage must be incurred in order to ensure a given percentage of curtailment (if I destroy ALL of their vehicles, will it curtail operations 100%, or will they continue with foot-mobile operations? If I destroy x percentage of rotary-wing assets, will it create a y percentage reduction in their operating ability)?
  3. Do substitutes for the damaged/destroyed material/manpower assets exist within the enemy's logistics trail? How long will it take for those to be put into place?
  4. How many targets exist, and what is their position/value within the greater scheme of the enemy's order of battle?

Accessibility. The target, in order to realistically be the subject of a planned attack, must be accessible. While it has been accurately stated that NO target is completely inaccessible, some high-value targets must, after being weighed on an objective cost-benefit basis, be considered as practically inaccessible, due to the cost involved with actually damaging/destroying them, in terms of resistance force manpower/material assets. A target can be considered accessible to resistance attack when it is possible for the maneuver element to physically infiltrate the target's immediate area, or the target can be successfully engaged via direct or indirect fire weapons (the current focus on the development of open-source UAV technology by some elements within the liberty movement will greatly expand the accessibility of future targets for the resistance, due to the inherent “guided missile” nature of these force multipliers).

Critical concerns when considering the accessibility of a potential target include infiltration and exfiltration routes/methods, route security concerns for the maneuver element, the requirements for barrier penetration, obstacle negotiation, and survival/evasion considerations during exfiltration of the maneuver element.

Recuperability. The ability of the enemy to repair and return the target to service should be a critical element in target selection and analysis. This will vary, depending on the target, as well as other variables present only during the planning process. The effects of economic downturns/depressions, sabotage by the subversive underground in the manufacturing facilities that build the necessary repair parts, and the ability of the resistance to continue interdiction missions to prevent repair of the damaged/destroyed targets are all factors that must be considered when determining the recuperability of a given target.

Vulnerability. The vulnerability of a specific target refers to the actual ability of the maneuver element, given its organic or available inorganic weapons and assets, to actually cause the requisite damage/destruction needed to accomplish the stated mission (if a unit is limited to individual small arms, a tank unit in a vehicle park will not be particularly vulnerable, while a unit that has access to stockpiled HE munitions, or battlefield recovered munitions and/or anti-tank weapons will be much more dangerous to those vehicles. On the same hand, while an in-flight UAV will not be particularly vulnerable to resistance threats, the personnel that run the UAV, and the UAV itself, while grounded, may be particularly vulnerable to various resistance threats). A target can ultimately only be considered vulnerable if the maneuver element has the capability and expertise (or can acquire/borrow the expertise) to successfully attack the target. Vulnerability will be predicated on the nature and construction of the target (soft-skinned patrol vehicles will be inherently more vulnerable than armored vehicles. Personnel are often more vulnerable than material assets), the amount of damage required to affect it's recuperability (it's a lot easier to slash tires and punch holes in the oil pan of a soft-skinned vehicle than it is to damage a M1A2 Abrams MBT), and the assets available to the resistance force (the use of open-source UAV technology to provide the resistance an indirect-fire/air support mechanism, locally-manufactured HE weapons, and the availability of heavy-caliber, long-range sniper systems all provide interesting force multipliers to future resistance elements).

Effects. The positive or negative influence on the civilian population of the operational area, as well as the PSYOP value on enemy personnel is defined as the effect of a specific targeting operation. The effects paragraph of the CARVER format must consider public perception of the destruction of the target (i.e. destruction of a critical bridge in the area may have a severely detrimental effect on the ability of the local civilian population to continue their daily lives. While it will also impact the ability of the enemy to conduct vehicle-borne patrolling operations, it will more negatively impact the civilian population, since the security forces can always resort to airborne transportation methods, using rotary-wing assets, while the local civilian population is simply out-of-luck. Obviously, this would be a negative effect when looked at from the PSYOP angle, since it would negatively impact the public opinion towards the resistance). The effects paragraph must also consider the regime's reaction to the destruction of a specific target, in relation to their actions towards the local civilian population however.

  1. Will regime forces retaliate against the local civilian population? To what degree? Will that impact the civilian population's willingness/ability to aid the resistance (harsh enough reprisals may terrorize the local population enough that they no longer feel the risk is worth the potential rewards of aiding the resistance. On the other hand, reprisals that result in the death of family members may drive some members of the civilian population to more actively support the resistance. There is an extremely fine balance that must be considered during all operational planning)?
  2. Will the resistance's PSYOP themes be reinforced by the destruction of this target (is one of the major themes that the regime cannot protect themselves, let alone the public? Is a theme that the government is inept, and so the people have no reason to fear reprisals)?
  3. Will the local civilian population be alienated from the regime, or more closely supportive of the regime? There is a fine balance that must be kept in the forefront of all planning during UW missions, with the effect on the local civilian population being at the forefront of everyone's mind, from the highest planner, to the lowest trigger-puller (For the record, doing things that are inherently inimical to the civilian population's core beliefs....say, pissing on corpses, or burning religious items/texts, or murdering a dozen innocent non-combatants...is ALWAYS going to have a negative effect...just sayin').

Recognizability. This pertains to the degree to which a target can be easily identified under adverse conditions, including inclement weather, low-light conditions, and other factors, without being confused for other nearby targets (a mission to assassinate a critical member of the regime's local leadership will be difficult to effect if he has a member of his staff with a close physical resemblance who may be accidentally targeted due to low recognizability. On the same hand, a raid on a commandeered local home used by regime leadership may backfire if the next-door neighbor has a similar-looking house, full of kids, and it gets hit instead. This happens...a lot. For one simple example, look at the number of LEO warrants served on the “wrong house.”).

Once the evaluation criteria for a specific target has been established, the guerrilla planning cell use a numerical ranking system to to rate the CARVER factors for each potential target. In a 1-10 rating, a 10 indicates a highly desirable factor (from the insurgent's PoV), while a 1 means the target is fundamentally off the chart for mission success. The analysts must tailor the criteria and rating system to suit the particular strategic/tactical situation in their operational area, for their elements, as well as the particular target(s) being analyzed.

Leadership within the guerrilla element must consider the potential adverse effects of a particular target selection, on both future resistance operations and the civilian population. Targets that will hinder civilian population life must be attacked ONLY AS A LAST RESORT!!! The goal is to diminish the regime's ability to project military force in the operational area, not to piss off the locals. Similarly, unsuccessful guerrilla operations will have a tremendously bad impact on fighter morale within the resistance, probably leading to desertion by less committed individuals. Successful operations, on the other hand, will raise morale, even in the face of other morale-crushing factors, such as insufficient material re-supply, as well as raising the status of the resistance in the perception of the civilian population.

For the resistance element training to conduct necessary future offensive operations to ensure the adequate defense of their community against incursions by regime security forces, proper target analysis/selection, utilizing the doctrinal CARVER process, is a critical element in maximizing the cost-benefit application of necessarily limited manpower/material assets. Think strategically, plan operationally, act tactically.

Nous Defions!
John Mosby
Somewhere in the mountains

09 March 2012

Logistics Considerations for Resistance Forces

The types, quantities, and availability of necessary supplies play an intrinsic part in the capabilities and limitations of resistance forces, as well as the types of missions a given resistance element can successfully perform. Further, an adequate availability of re-supply plays a critical role in the maintenance of all three aspects of a successful resistance. For the active, fighting elements—the paramilitary guerrilla force and the subversive underground—each successful re-supply represents encouragement and reassurance that others are sharing in their struggles and actively supporting their efforts. For the auxiliary and supporting elements of the civilian population, it offers moral encouragement that they are, in fact, actively “doing their part” to assist the movement (thus my constant harping on the logistics support role of the auxiliary).

Historically, many claim that guerrillas “lived off the land.” While true to a degree, it was not in the typical sense most consider when they use the term. Guerrillas didn't historically spend all of their time hunting for meat and foraging for edible wild plants, although both have certainly played a part in the logistics plans of some historical guerrilla resistance movements. Instead, resistance forces have typically, when outside support was unavailable, relied on “taxation” of the civilian population and battlefield recovery. The resources of the country, represented by how well these demands can be filled through these methods, has limited the size of guerrilla bands that could be successfully organized and maintained in a given unconventional warfare operational area (UWOA). Guerrillas have historically had no choice other than to rely on these indigenous resources for re-supply of critical needs.

As prepared citizens, looking at the potential need for future hostilities in the protection of our local communities, and the restoration of the Republic, we enjoy an unprecedented historical anomaly that greatly benefits us. To wit, we have the opportunity to provide our necessary logistical supplies right now, before we actually need them. The study of historical guerrilla logistical requirements, contemporary unconventional war-fighting tactics, techniques, and procedures, and the ability to leverage the same technology (as well as an inherent cultural understanding of that technology), can allow us the ability to stockpile and prepare the material needs for a successful resistance to tyranny before the hostilities ever begin in earnest (and as so many of us claim and sincerely hope, may in fact result in the preparations never being necessary). This adherence to the “principle of the Ps” (Proper Prior Planning Prevents Piss-Poor Performance) serves the additional future role of preventing unnecessary stress on the part of the civilian populace by reducing the demands placed on them to successfully support the resistance.

The logistics demands of an unconventional force include many of the same demands as a conventional force, although with different challenges in disbursement. Problems with transporting supplies and equipment through regime-controlled territory complicate resistance logistic efforts even more than the hazards posed by the resistance to regime logistics disbursement efforts.

Geographic location and local culture/economy largely determine the logistic support needs of a resistance. In agricultural-centric areas, the need to stockpile and pre-position food needs will be far less than for a resistance element in an urban area or areas incapable of reliably producing adequate food to support the local civilian population and the needs of the resistance. Environmental conditions in the operational area will affect the type and amount of personal clothing and protective gear that the resistance needs to survive and thrive. These factors have serious bearing on diseases and non-combat injuries and health issues. Finally, the socio-economics and geography of an area, as well as the enemy situation, will influence the type of targets that can be attacked by the resistance successfully.

These logistics factors are critically important to consider from the beginning of planning, since the limitations of these issues may limit the possible size of resistance force elements. They also affect the possible operations that a unit can successfully undertake (if the only weapons the unit has access to are bolt-action, big-game hunting rifles, they may be limited to “simple” sniper attacks. If however, they have access to industrial machining equipment and farm supplies, through the auxiliary, they may be able to expand operations to convoy ambushes due to the ability to manufacture heavy weapons. Simple first-aid or TC3 supplies may limit the ability of the resistance to successfully care for injured/wounded personnel, as opposed to a unit with more advanced medical supplies, who can greater afford to risk personnel being wounded, thanks to their intrinsic ability to provide care to the casualties).

The logistic planning needs of resistance forces must be continuous, and plans to provide that support must be kept flexible to meet the constantly changing conditions. Flexibility is generally achieved by having primary, alternate, and contingency plans, locating cached re-supply installations throughout the operational area to reduce the need for resistance forces to expose themselves to compromise by reducing their travel times for re-supply. Establishing multiple primary and alternate points and routes for delivery of equipment and supplies for the resistance will further serve to maintain the flexibility of resistance logistics planning.

The primary method of logistical support for any resistance force is battlefield recovery. This is the acquisition and use of regime equipment, supplies, and arms, picked up following successful operations. Through the surgical application of well-selected offensive operations, a resistance force is actually able to fulfill many of its own logistics demands, while also denying the regime the use of these materials. With good intelligence and proper planning, even small guerrilla elements of four-to-six personnel can successfully conduct raids and ambushes against small, isolated enemy outposts and convoys to capture the needed items from these targets as they are presented.

Resistance movements may use regime currency or other tangible forms of currency (silver, gold, foodstuffs, tobacco, alcohol, or other barter items have all been used), to purchase supplies from local indigenous sources. Procurement through purchase or barter is generally restricted to the procurement of critical or scarce items that cannot be acquired through any other source, whatsoever. It is imperative that these purchases, when they must be made, are not made in such a manner as to disrupt the local economy, unless economic disruption is part of the resistance's operational planning to achieve its strategic goals.

One aspect of re-supply that historical resistance movements have utilized (and which I highly suggest any future American resistance element avoid like the plague) is the levy of a tax on the civilian population, especially in enemy-controlled territory. The taxed civilian population is generally promised re-payment, once the insurgency is successful, even to the extent of using written promissory notes (almost inevitably, the newly established government has ended up neglecting to re-pay these notes, including our own, following the Revolution...look into the issues that George Rogers Clark faced, as a result of promissory notes he issued while fighting for the Continental Army. It's been even worse in the aftermath of successful Communist insurgencies). The levy system is detrimental to the political efforts of the resistance (and, as we have established, quite thoroughly, insurgencies are political efforts first and foremost), due to the prevalence of chronic food shortages in war zones, regime competition for resources and/or interference in resistance procurement efforts, the impact of regime “scorched earth” policies, such as the use of Agent Orange defoliation efforts in Vietnam, and even competition for resources from other resistance elements.

Resistance forces that have been successfully cut off from civilian population supplies and civilian production facilities have and will continue to need to improvise their own field expedients. This may range from a requirement to plant and raise, or hunt, some of their own foodstuffs, to the manufacture of weapons and munitions, including non-small arms munitions such as explosives, incendiaries, and other weapons not easily procured other than through battlefield recovery. A well-organized auxiliary element, with the services of a well-trained and equipped machinist and trained gunsmiths, may even be able to manufacture small-arms in varying quantities (and, with the prevalence of recreational reloaders in this country, with proper stockpiles of equipment and supplies, an auxiliary can even produce much of their own ammunition).

The final method of commonly utilized logistics procurement methods in historical resistance movements has been confiscation, when necessary supplies can be procured from no other sources. While it may be useful if the resistance limits its confiscation efforts only to those members of the civilian population who are known collaborators, this method is inherently inimical to the conceptual framework of a future American resistance. It rightly alienates the civilian population, and is readily susceptible to abuse (this has been seen in Afghanistan and Iraq, as innocent civilians have been marked as Taliban or Al-Qaeda operatives and/or supporters, leading to them being renditioned by U.S-supported government forces. While, as they say, “shit happens,” this is contrary to the efforts to win the public support of the civilian population, since it may very well be their uncle, cousin, brother, or dad who is disappeared in the middle of the night (again, just to ensure it's being adequately indoctrinated...you CANNOT win an insurgency or a counter-insurgency effort until you win the support of the civilian population, or at least its tacit approval).

Doctrinally speaking, there are four phases of supply for Special Forces support of resistance forces: accompanying, automatic and emergency re-supply, and on-call or routine. While the probable lack of any external support for an American resistance effort means that these phases will not be mirrored absolutely in future efforts, they do have merit in forming the basic foundation of a resistance supply plan.

Accompanying supplies are items an SF ODA carries with it during the infiltration of an operational area. The ODA receives these logistics items during the isolation planning stage. The threat in the operational area dictates the quantity and type of supplies and equipment the ODA will include in their planning. Other influences include: capabilities and size of the resistance element the ODA will be assisting and advising, the enemy situation and capabilities, the method of infiltration, available resources on the ground, the anticipated size and capability of the reception committee that the resistance will send to meet the ODA when it infiltrates, and SERE requirements for the ODA in case things get ugly, as well as any specific need for critical items of equipment that the ODA knows that the resistance force will need. Additionally, a well-trained and led ODA will ensure they have some materials in their packing order specifically to establish rapport with the resistance (in my experience, the best thing we included to build rapport with the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan was lots of cash and laser target designators for guiding in airstrikes. But hey, that's just MY perception....).

For the future resistance, accompanying supplies are, and should be, those items, from basic arms and munitions, load-bearing equipment (“battle rattle”), and the other assorted equipment we all like collect. Despite my recommendations and previously posted lists of what I generally suggest for a framework guide for “equipping the guerrilla fighter,” the specific METT-TC needs of a particular resistance element's operational environment, capabilities, and perceived mission-orientation will dictate what accompanying supplies that element should prepare and pack.

Automatic and emergency re-supply for a resistance element will be of limited availability, based on the pre-planned and positioned re-supply caches the active resistance and auxiliaries have developed These will generally be mission-essential items that were unavailable for the accompanying supply load, due to space, weight, or security constraints (a supply of improvised explosive components is generally not something the wife is going to want you keeping in the woodshed. The local fire department or law enforcement agency is even less likely to be understanding...). While this is different than the doctrinal descriptions of these phases of re-supply, it is an apt description of how they would work for a future resistance. Once a re-supply cache has been established and located, it is imperative that the planner leave it alone. Plan properly, pack properly, then...leave it the fuck alone. Don't “check on it.” Don't “make sure it hasn't been messed with” or “discovered.” Simply walk away and leave it alone until it is needed. All members of an unit should know the locations and recovery instructions for the unit's re-supply caches. In the event a member or members of the unit are separated and must conduct and escape-and-evasion, they can make their way to the re-supply caches both for its intended purpose and as an expedient rally point for rendezvous with other members of the unit.

On-call and routine re-supply for the resistance will come in the form of caches of equipment initiated by the auxiliary, or those items of logistics necessity that the auxiliary supplies from the black-market, purchase, or theft from the regime during on-going hostilities. These would be re-supply efforts that are specifically requested from the auxiliary by the resistance elements through the communications networks.

Decentralization of logistics, to the extent possible, is critical to the success of the resistance. This decentralization will increase the security of the resistance logistics network, since the compromise of one cache, or even multiple caches, or of one element of the logistics transportation/disbursement network will not result in the loss of the entire logistics supply chain for the resistance. The movement of supplies between sectors of the resistance should be minimized as much as possible. Even when it is necessary to move supplies from one sector to another, in order to support specific needs or operations, personnel names, storage cache sites, rendezvous points are not passed along. This is the true definition of compartmentalized information in a resistance movement. It is critical for security, especially in an active, fighting resistance that leaves ample opportunity for the regime to compromise elements within the movement through various means and methods.

When compared to a similarly-sized conventional force unit, a guerrilla unit has far fewer logistics demands but a far greater need for the more basic supplies and equipment needed to prosecute combat operations. Fundamentally, these include food, clothing, shelter, weapons, and ammunition (any patriot that doesn't stockpile adequate amounts of this to survive for a year or more without outside resources, in this day and age of on-going economic imbalance and impending economic collapse, is fucking stupid. Focus on these fundamentals before worrying about NODs/NVGs, thermal optics, home-built UAVs, etc...). Areas suitable for guerrilla bases, such as alpine regions, and/or thickly-forested jungles/swamps, will generally have some naturally-available food sources, such as wild game, berries, and edible plants. These food sources will not provide adequate sustenance to sustain the nutritional needs of a guerrilla band of any size (although a small element of two-to-twenty personnel MIGHT be able to develop a large part of their sustenance from these sources). The reality is, resistance personnel will need high-calorie energy sources such as rice, sugar, grains, and protein sources (sound much like other recommendations for food-storage? Preparedness is preparedness, whether for economic collapse or future hostilities).

Guerrillas will need seasonally-appropriate, environmental-protective clothing in areas where radical weather changes can occur (like, I don't know....mountain regions...). While cutting-edge technology mountaineering and outdoors clothing can be expensive, it is generally worth the investment (in many places, especially here in the inter-mountain West, these items, even the very expensive items, can be procured dirt-cheap at good second-hand and thrift stores. Military-surplus Gore-Tex, especially the first-generation ECWCS stuff, can be found for a few dollars at thrift stores in many places...I once picked up three of them in woodland camouflage in a Goodwill store in Seattle, for a total price of less than $20). The guerrilla ultimately, depends on his feet for transportation. He needs quality, well-fitted boots for walking in, with heavy loads. Invest in multiple pairs of quality boots (I went through three pairs of issue boots and two pairs of civilian hiking boots in one year once upon a time during my tenure in SF...For the auxiliary member, trying to determine what they can do now in order to help the resistance in the future, here's my suggestion, also shared via email by another former SF soldier....stockpile boots. Civilian hiking boots, military-surplus boots, etc; it doesn't matter. If you want to stockpile equipment to help the resistance, set aside a portion of your preparedness budget and invest it in boots of various sizes. Check out surplus stores and thrift stores for good prices on them. I've picked up unused USGI desert boots for less than $20 a pair in the recent past).

Natural shelters generally provide the best form of shelter for the guerrilla element. Naturally-occurring caves in hill and mountain regions offer protection from the elements and enemy observation, as well as providing protection from thermal imaging by aerial assets. Dug-in and earth-sheltered structures can also provide these benefits in areas without naturally-occurring caves. Sturdy, weatherproof shelters can be built with boughs and branches for roofs in timber country and swamp/jungle. If well-hidden under thick enough living foliage, these can also provide concealment from direct enemy observation and some protection from thermal imaging devices.

During mission-planning for UW operations, SF ODAs identify threat weapons and request and issue similar weapons and ammunition (thus my disdain for the AK was not developed out of ignorance of the limited capabilities of the rifle, but ample experience). The resistance should look at the weapons commonly carried and utilized by regime security forces in their operational area and consider those as their first options. Initially, outside of the weapons they already possess, battlefield recovery will provide the primary source of weapons and ammunition resupply and replacement. Since no replacement of weapons is likely outside of those captured from the regime, resistance planners should stockpile armorers' kits, gunsmithing tools, and spare parts and cleaning kits to maintain weapons and increase their service life longevity.

When determining ammunition supply needs, one valid argument can be effectively advanced that there is no such thing as too much. The reality is however, that there are limits to how much one can carry, as well as how much one can afford to stockpile (in addition to boots, stockpiling ample supplies of 5.56mm NATO, both 55-grain M193, and 62-grain M855, as well as other common calibers, such as 7.62mm NATO, 9mm, .45ACP, and .40S&W are solid activities for auxiliary personnel now). Considerations in determining how much ammunition to stockpile and caches should include the fact that a resistance element needs to determine its doctrinal basic load (for the record, the Army's basic load for combat arms patrols is 210 rounds...but they are seldom performing foot-mobile patrols that take them more than few kilometers from vehicle support, and they have readily available aerial re-supply assets. Current doctrine calls for re-supply of consumables including ammunition, food, and water, by airborne or ground vehicle transport, every 72 hours). The lack of readily accessible re-supply transport can and should, be mitigated during planning through the use of widely disbursed re-supply caches, and the fact that guerrillas, since they strive to fight on their terms, may used less ammunition than conventional forces. Strict fire discipline must be trained and imposed in order to conserve the limited supplies of ammunition available to the resistance (See? The limited availability of automatic weapons is not all bad!). The basic load should be predicated on the concept that a guerrilla element will fire one-half to two-thirds of its basic load in a single engagement (SF UW doctrine). If projected missions, such as a raid or an ambush will require three magazines to prosecute, the basic load must be a minimum of six magazines. This of course, does not account for emergency expenditure of large amounts of ammunition, such as in a “break contact” immediate action drill, when each individual may need to dump two or three magazines just in the initial seconds of the encounter. Time being on the side of the guerrilla, current UW doctrine states that a guerrilla force can be reasonably expected to engage in active, offensive combat operations on an average of once per month (take that doctrinal statement for what it is worth to you).

Determining individual equipment requirements, both for the accompanying supply demands and re-supply demands must be predicated on METT-TC, either perceived in advance, or as the situation develops. In addition to the aforementioned environmental-protection gear and footwear, priority logistics needs include medical supplies (especially TC3 supplies for care-under-fire and tactical field care), sleep gear (including all-season sleeping bags, field/camping mattresses, etc), load-bearing equipment, weapons cleaning supplies, and POL (Petroleum, Oils, and Lubricants) for maintenance of equipment and vehicles accessible to the resistance. Wool socks, canteens/water bottles, clothing, and other items should all be priority items for procurement and caching.

Beyond individual medical supplies, planners should procure and stockpile other medical supplies, ranging from antibiotics and minor pain-killers (and even prescription pain-killers when feasible or possible), to bandage materials, surgical kits, bed pans, cast materials and/or reusable versions, and other items. Consultation with a right-minded medical professional (especially an ER or trauma doc/nurse, or a former military trauma surgeon) is highly recommended for determining the specific needs of a resistance medical network (If all else fails, check out the “Ship's Medicine Chest” manual to get a solid idea of the beginnings of a serious long-term medical kit).

In the event of actual hostilities, the auxiliary will provide most of the transportation network support for the guerrilla elements and the subversive underground. In some remote areas, inaccessible to vehicle-borne travel (the ideal place for guerrilla bases, after all), this may require the use of pack animals. Logistic planning should include sustainment materials for maintaining the function of the transportation network. That may mean POL materials and spare tires for vehicles, or farrier supplies and training for pack string operators.

The fundamental logistics demands of urban-based resistance elements are the same as those of rural-based guerrilla bands. While some of the specifics will change, such as suitable shelters (rather than caves, urban-based elements will utilize abandoned buildings, underground tunnels—sewer or subway—and the homes of auxiliary members), and foodstuffs (there will be far less opportunity to procure food clandestinely in an urban area than a rural agricultural region, thus demanding a greater reserve of stockpiled food stores), the general classes of supply needs remain the same.
As the adage says, “Amateurs study tactics; professionals master logistics.” Do your homework. Everyone needs to know, understand, and master the tactical skills of unconventional warfare, but equally important, we must master the logistics, and take advantage of the unprecedented ability to prepare for whatever hostilities may come, by preparing our logistics needs now.

Nous Defions!

John Mosby

Somewhere in the mountains

Post-Script: Just as a quick note. Don't mistake this article on the importance of logistics material support  as an excuse to avoid actually getting out and training. All the material support in the world won't do you a bit of good if you're not willing to get cold, wet, hungry, and miserable in order to learn and master the methods of applying those materials.

05 March 2012

Individual and Team Tactical Movement Concepts for Irregular Force Elements

Unlike conventional-force troops, for small-unit irregular war-fighters, the success of a mission, as well as personal survival, may often depend on the ability to close the distance to the target, engage, and withdraw, without being observed. To succeed, he must master the ability to move silently through various types of terrain.

The guerrilla must know the operational area and its terrain. If he will be operating in an area outside of his “home turf,” he needs to conduct thorough research, including map reconnaissances, interviews with people who have lived in the area, or recently moved through it, and review any available terrain analysis intelligence on the area. The guerrilla must determine what camouflage materials he needs to procure for use in the area, and may need to prep his equipment prior to moving into the area. All shiny equipment must be subdued and anything that may make noise must be silenced. Only mission-essential equipment should be carried, in order to lighten the load as much as possible. Not only does this make the guerrilla more agile, but it also increases his ability to move silently.

When selecting a movement route, the guerrilla avoids known or likely enemy positions and obstacles, open areas, and any area believed, or known, to be under enemy observation/surveillance (this applies to both terrestrial and airborne observation). The guerrilla should choose the most forbidding terrain that he can safely cross in the time he has allotted to accomplish his mission, in order to avoid unwanted or unnecessary contact with enemy forces, except of his own choosing. Because the guerrilla element cannot afford to be seen by anyone while moving to an objective, his movement should be slow and deliberate, and he will constantly and continuously observe his surroundings, in order to facilitate seeing before being seen. The guerrilla force's movement over any given distance will be considerably slower than a conventional-force unit's movement over the same terrain and distance, because stealth is the tool of the guerrilla.

When moving, the guerrilla should always consider the following “rules:”

  1. Assume that the area is under enemy observation. Move slowly; progress will be measured in feet and inches, not in kilometers or miles.
  2. Do not cause vegetation to move unnaturally by rubbing against it, leaning on it, pulling on it, or anything else that might create a noticeable visual target indicator.
  3. Plan every movement, and traverse every segment of the movement route only after visually reconnoitering it and determining the most secure route.
  4. Stop, look, and listen often. In Vietnam, SOG teams would stop every 10-20 yards and look and listen for minutes before moving on.
  5. Whenever possible, utilize environmental distractions to mask movement noise. These may include aircraft noise, wind gusts, thunderclaps, explosions, vehicle highway noise, or anything else that will conceal the element's movement, or distract the enemy's attention.

Movement at night is generally the same as movement during daylight hours. The primary distance is that at night, movement is slower, more deliberate, and more emphasis is placed in noise discipline since sound travels further at night (again, going back to Vietnam, John Plaster describes in his history of SOG operations, that teams would often move as slow as fifty feet per hour. I've done missions that involved moving twice that speed and it is excruciatingly slow...). The guerrilla will have to learn to rely more heavily on his other senses, rather than his vision. Whenever possible however, the guerrilla should opt to move under cover of darkness, even if he lacks NODs/NVGs. Additionally, fog, rain, high winds, blowing snow, or anything else that can hide the sound and sight of his passing will aid the guerrilla in clandestine infiltration and exfiltration of a target area.


Largely ignored in the conventional-force, except for snipers and scouts, stalking is the irregular-force fighter's art of moving undetected into a final assault position that will ensure a high degree of surprise and prevent the enemy from mounting an effective counterattack response to the guerrilla attack until it is too late. Stalking involves all aspects of field-craft and can only be learned by repetitive practice over various types of ground.

Prior to any movement, whether “simply” patrolling, or a stalk, the guerrilla should perform as thorough a terrain reconnaissance as is possible, in accordance with (IAW) METT-TC. When planning patrols, the element may not find it feasible to look at the actual ground. This is less an issue for the irregular local defense force than for a regular military special operations/unconventional warfare unit, since the former will generally be operating on “home turf.” Nevertheless, even the local irregular element should perform a thorough map reconnaissance during the planning process. Additionally, prior to an actual stalk, the guerrilla element must stop and study the ground they will be forced to traverse. This final terrain study should focus on identifying the target or position that is being stalked towards, areas of both cover and concealment, the locations of the best firing positions to engage targets for both the support-by-fire elements and the maneuver elements, and natural or artificial obstacles that will impede the clandestine movement of the element during the stalking process. These should be used to determine the best line of advance for the stalk. Known or suspected enemy positions along the route, or that allow observation of the selected route should be identified, as well as potential observation points along the movement route. The best, most secure movement methods should be selected for each section of the movement route. Most critically, a fast but secure route for the withdrawal following the assault should be identified.

Due to the intense concentration required of the individual guerrilla fighter during the actual stalking movement, in order maintain camouflage and concealment discipline, and see the enemy before he sees the guerrilla, it is relatively common for the fighter to lose his sense of direction. This is especially true when the stalk requires lengthy periods of crawling. The ability to terrain associate and use a map and compass can rectify this to a great degree (I can't count the number of guys I've had to teach that it's okay to pull out your map and compass in the middle of a stalk, to ensure they're still stalking towards the target. Fortunately, I had good mentors that taught me the same lesson). Proper planning of the stalk route during the final reconnaissance, including the aforementioned route selection, will allow the stalker to use his map and compass in this manner to maintain his route.

The guerrilla light infantryman must remain alert to all incoming sensory stimuli, at all times, during the stalk. Failure to do so leads to a relaxation and the resulting carelessness ends up with the stalker being compromised and the entire element engaged before they are prepared for it. Since the guerrilla survives by initiating any action on his own terms, this compromise generally results in the entire element being killed. If, however, the element is compromised during the stalk, immediate reaction is required to expect any chance of survival. A superb mastery of the “break contact” battle drill/immediate action drill is essential.

The slow, steady, and deliberate movement of the stalker, if performed properly and professionally, will generally prevent his startling wildlife and birds unexpectedly. Suddenly disturbed wildlife draw the attention of alert war-fighters. If the stalker is professional, and notices wildlife disturbed in this manner, he should assume there are enemy personnel causing the disturbance and stop, look, and listen, ensuring that he remains thoroughly hidden from observation until he is sure the enemy is no longer present. Nevertheless, since the stalker should take advantage of any local environmental disturbances to conceal the noise of his movements, the individual element needs to determine their standard operating procedures for these situations, on an individual basis. What may work for one element may not work for another. What may work for one element in one situation may not work for the same element in another situation. SOPs and contingency plans must be developed during training.

During pre-planned observation halts along the stalking route, the guerrilla should identify his next position of concealment and plan a specific route to reach it (While I've gone back and forth speaking of the stalk as both an individual and collective team task, the need for guerrillas to be able to infiltrate a target area in buddy teams or even as individuals, then rally at the objective for the final assault, generally means that stalking is an individual, or at most, a two-man affair). When crossing areas of tall grass, especially dry, late-summer or autumn grasses, the stalker needs to change direction regularly. This not only prevents the grass from waving in the wind in an unnatural pattern, but also presents a more natural “trail” in the grass, like those left by wildlife (these paths are unavoidable. The only key is that they should appear like those of wildlife, rather than the direct, straight-line paths that humans—especially westerners—tend to create). Crossing roads, trails, or open meadow areas (the doctrinal term is “danger area”), the stalker should attempt to find low spots or the leading edge of corners/curves in the trail. As much as possible however, the stalker does his absolute best to avoid spending any time in open areas, since this increases the odds of the enemy successfully observing his movement (I live in an area with large swaths of open sagebrush-covered desert. Sagebrush, for those unfamiliar with it, can be as tall as a grown man, or as short as five or six inches. Crossing a large sagebrush flat, with only six inches of vegetative cover, even with the best camouflage expertise in the world, is a pretty sure way of failing dismally at your stalk) are greatly increased.

It should go without saying to anyone who has ever hunted big game, whether deer, elk, moose, or African Cape Buffalo, that the stalker should never allow himself to be sky-lined in the view of the enemy. If the guerrilla needs to look over a high-point, he should crawl carefully to the summit, and look over, keeping as low as humanly possible, in order to reduce his visual signature.

During the movement, the stalker must select his route a minimum of two positions ahead, in order to prevent stalking into a dead-end position. He must remember to observe his surroundings and take careful note of any changes to the local vegetation, in order to change his camouflage when necessary in order to maintain his concealment.

Stalking at night is both more difficult and more simple than stalking during daylight. Obviously, the reduced visibility of nocturnal stalks makes it more difficult for the enemy to observe the stalker with the naked eye, and in the event of a compromise, will reduce the effectiveness of enemy aimed-fire. Nevertheless, the contemporary guerrilla needs to remember that regime security forces will possess and make extensive use of night-observation and thermal imaging devices, and the use of shadows to conceal movement is much more critical.

Whenever possible, the resistance fighter should utilize NODs/NVGs himself, both to locate enemy personnel in LP/OPs and roving security patrols, as well as to assist in route selection. He must remain conscientious however, to not rely on the NODs/NVGs alone, to the exclusion of using his natural senses of hearing. An over-reliance on visual technology enhancements during night-time movements will result in missing key target indicators, leading to mission failure (with a little practice, it's easy to hide from NODs/NVGs. It doesn't take much more practice and expertise to learn to defeat thermal imaging also) and death.

Whether during a stalk or a general patrolling situation, silent, stealthy movement is the key to survival for irregular small-unit forces. Much more than conventional, infantry forces, the irregular-force element must rely on silence and stealth in movement. Since the irregular-force unit cannot rely on indirect-fire support or close-air support to pull its collective ass out of the frying pan, they must master silent, stealthy movement techniques to augment their camouflage and concealment skills (One of my biggest pet peeves, during Infantry One-Station Unit Training/Basic Training at Ft Benning was the complete lack of mention of silent movement in the woods by the Drill Sergeants. Having grown up stalking through the woods, and the son and grandson of special operators from past wars, their lack of instruction didn't make sense to me as young would-be hooahs went crashing through the Georgia brush like a bunch of fucking elephants. I understand now, of course that, as conventional force infantry NCOs, in a peacetime army, they just didn't know any better. It's hard to teach something if you've never been taught it, nor intrinsically understand its criticality to survival. I only hope today's cadre at the various infantry courses understand it. Considering the generally conventional-force background of Infantry School cadre however, I doubt it).

Ultimately, like all other aspects of guerrilla tactical movement, silence and stealth can be taught and learned. It requires the ability to study and memorize the ground and surrounding terrain, and using effective tactical movement to traverse the terrain properly, while avoiding obstacles that impede silent movement. The guerrilla fighter must learn to select a route, memorize the terrain he will cross, communicate with his partner(s) using silent communications methods including touch and hand-and-arm signals to communicate, and be completely comfortable with extremely long periods of absolute silence (perhaps the hardest part of successfully executing successful small-unit operations in an unconventional role, at least for most people, is the necessity of going days without speaking to one another).

In order to accomplish these requirements and successfully negotiate silent patrols during combat operations, guerrilla elements, during training, must:

  1. develop a SOP within the team for silent communications. While there are ample examples in various publications of these, each team, based on their operational environment still needs to develop their own SOP utilizing only those which they particularly need to master and utilize (trying to memorize every hand-and-arm signal ever developed by different infantry units, SF units, SEAL teams, SWAT teams, and sniper teams is fucking retarded. Cherry-pick for the ones you need in training, then master those. If, down the road in training, you discover another one that you need, then you can add it to your tactical vocabulary).
  2. Focus on learning the specifics of silent, stealth movement, including moving slowly and deliberately and conducting frequent halts to look and listen (if you're moving one mile an hour, you're probably moving too fast, METT-TC dependent). Look ahead to the next two or three movements, and move any intervening foliage out of the way with your hands, not by brushing up against it accidentally and letting it get hung up on loose gear (that “sproing” sound as a branch whips loose from a rucksack strap is extremely noticeable when you've moved silently for three or four days, no one speaking, and you're conducting the final stalk to a target less than 200 meters away...). Learn to tape, pad, and thoroughly silence every piece of your gear. Even two pieces of nylon LBE rubbing together can be an auditory target indicator. Learn to unfasten the hook-and-loop fasteners on LBE pouches silently. (If you can't open them in a dark room without your partner hearing you, get rid of them and figure out an alternative fastening system, or keep practicing). Learn to observe and recognize the natural patterns of wildlife movement, so that you instantly notice any changes in their behavior that may indicate the presence of enemy personnel...or that may indicate your presence to the enemy. Learn to use the basic elements of stealthy “walking.” Maintain a low, centered balance, shift your weight slowly and carefully from the trailing foot to the lead foot, rather than simply taking a step and “tromping” through the brush (when you move the trailing foot to the lead position, gently nudge any intervening brush or debris out of the way before you set your foot down. Generally, toe first is the ideal, but depending on ground conditions, you may find it necessary to set it down heel first, or edges first. Practice will teach you what is necessary. When you shift your weight, again, do so slowly. This will help prevent twigs or leaves from crackling underfoot unexpectedly).
  3. Avoid moving through mud or muck if it can be avoided. Like deep snow, it's nearly impossible to completely mask tracks from such passage, and it tends to be extremely noisy as suction is created by pulling your feet out of the depths of the muck. Crossing sandy, or loam-type soils on the other hand, are simpler to mask and tend to be much quieter.
  4. When crossing obstacles, whether walls, fence lines, or anything else, the stalker must maintain as low a silhouette as possible, keeping as close to the top of the obstacle as possible, while not brushing or scraping against the obstacle, and potentially knocking debris off the top, creating even more noise. When crossing walls or other obstacles in debris and rubble-strewn environments, the stalker should take the time to prelude his movement by testing the surface with his hands and removing any debris that might break off or fall, before moving.
  5. Always maintain positive control of his weapon, keeping it close and tight to the body, both to prevent a recognizable profile, and to prevent it snagging on vegetation. In the event that his equipment or weapon (slings are notoriously bad for doing this) does snag on brush, the stalker should take the time to carefully untangle it or cut it loose carefully. Simply jerking or pulling it loose will result in a lot of noise being produced and risks compromising the presence of the guerrillas to the enemy.

Part of the guerrilla's required skill set will be analysis of terrain and the selection of a tactically sound route of movement to the target, using obstacles and the terrain to the best advantage. On the ground, when patrolling, the guerrilla must look for the most covered route, offering the best concealment. The use of low ground, dead space (areas unobservable from likely observation points), and shadows, and the avoidance of open, sunlit areas, easily observed by enemy positions, is the mark of the professional stalker. He should look for movement routes that will facilitate easy, but silent movement, and then selects the best movement techniques for traversing the sections of that movement route, in order to allow undetected movement over that movement route.

Selecting positions for halts and observation along the movement route is equally critical. Positions that obviously offer good cover and concealment for the guerrilla team will be equally obvious to the enemy. Selection of observation points away from prominent terrain features, but that place at least one obstacle or terrain feature between the observation point and the enemy position/target, is ideal.

Teams, regardless of the number of personnel, must master the concepts of fire-and-maneuver, even when moving silently. A two-man team will move one at a time, with the second man providing cover for the maneuver element. Larger elements may be split along buddy-team lines, still utilizing a maneuver element and a support element, alternating as needed to maintain cover fire if necessary. This supporting position is fundamentally the same as the support-by-fire element in a conventional assault, albeit without belt-fed machine guns. The support element needs to be in constant communication via visual signals, with the moving element. This allows him to signal the moving element if necessary to avoid contact with or observation by, enemy security personnel.

Maneuver elements must ensure they conduct their observation halts during movement in positions where they have the ability to provide adequate fire support to the alternate element if necessary. The support element should only fire on the enemy if it is the absolute only method available to protect the maneuver element. In the event the support element is forced to engage the enemy, the maneuver element immediately begins to either aggressively maneuver towards the enemy unit in a normal fire-and-maneuver assault, or pours fire into the enemy element in a break-contact drill.

The amount of distance each element covers during their alternate movement “bounds” will vary depending on terrain considerations and the likelihood of enemy contact. In deep, thickly vegetated areas, the distance may be as little as 10 or 20 yards, whereas in open terrain or alpine regions, the distances may be at the limits of the support elements organic small-arms ranges (yet another reason, despite the prevalent belief that firefights are all nut-to-nut affairs, for the guerrilla resistance fighter to master his weapon at intermediate-distance ranges. Just because the maneuver element is engaged in a close-quarters fight, the support element may need to lay down suppressive fire at ranges in excess of 300 yards—especially in terrain like that prevalent here in the western mountains).

The silent and stealthy movement techniques required of the guerrilla in rural environments are, at a fundamental level, the same as those required of the urban operative. When simply blending into a crowd in order to get close to a target in built-up areas is not feasible, such as at night, the urban operative will find it necessary to find “low ground” and shadows to hide and mask his movements in alleys, poorly-lit streets, and even sewer tunnels. Observation points may very well be found only in buildings (see the previous post on camouflage and concealment for concepts of concealing an individual or small-unit elements in built-up areas). Like alpine environments, only on a greater scale, urban areas are truly three-dimensional battle spaces.

Avoiding Technological Detection Devices

One of the greatest concerns of many potential future resistance operatives is the common, widespread use of technological detection devices by regime security forces (doctrinally, these are referred to as STANO, for Surveillance, Target Acquisition, and Night Observation devices). As I have stated repeatedly, in this blog and in classes, these devices are NOT fucking invincible. There are various ways to defeat them. At the risk of sounding like a “man-gina” I am not putting this out on an open-source blog. Regardless of my issues with the current regime, and my recognition of the probably future need to engage in active hostilities against regime security forces, I don't begrudge my former comrades-in-arms their profession, and am not willing to put information out there that will put them in danger from foreign enemies of our nation. Besides, I said from day one, I wasn't going to violate my confidentiality agreements by revealing information on here that wasn't readily available from open-source information. The only reference material I have on avoiding STANO is information I learned in the line-of-duty and was forewarned was classified, as well as a couple of doctrinal publications that are still restricted. Sorry for any inconvenience. I promise though, if you think about it, there are relatively simple ways to overcome them, evidenced that a bunch of fourth-world goat herders manage to do it daily...

Nous Defions!

John Mosby

Somewhere in the Mountains

04 March 2012

Camouflage and Concealment 101

(I have often lamented the disturbing proclivity of “survivalists” and other patriots for wearing the latest camouflage patterned uniforms. Whether the latest multi-cam or A-TACs, or some bizarre foreign pattern, from British DPM to the newly available Russian Spetsnaz patterns, the idea of decking one's self out, head-to-toe in camouflage utilities, in an apparent need to pretend you are some sort of high-speed, low-drag Tier One JSOC Jedi, is—to put it bluntly—fucking retarded. Further, it's really pretty gay. --J.M.)

The ability to conceal one's self and equipment from enemy observation, during daylight or night-time operations, is an obvious, basic critical tactical task for the resistance/guerrilla fighter. Camouflage is one of the most basic historical weapons of small-unit warfare. For irregular forces, the ability to effectively apply camouflage techniques may very well mean the difference between life and death on the battlefield. For lightly-armed, poorly-equipped irregular forces, camouflage is critical since the team cannot afford to be detected at any time while infiltrating an objective area, or while operating from an assault position/MSS/hide site. Just as marksmanship training teaches the guerrilla how to kill the enemy, knowing how and when to apply camouflage teaches the guerrilla how to avoid being killed by the enemy. The guerrilla element must remain camouflage-conscious from the time he departs the guerrilla base or underground safe-house, until he returns. Detailed attention to the fundamentals of camouflage and concealment is one mark of a well-trained guerrilla band.

When determining camouflage needs, the war-fighter must adhere to critical fundamentals, recognizing that the camouflage pattern of his clothing is the single least important aspect of the total package (in point of fact, simple earth-toned clothing is better, in many ways, than any engineered camouflage pattern). These fundamentals include taking advantage of any and all natural concealment such as trees, brush and grass, the natural lay of the land (folds in the terrain), man-made structures, and shadows. The guerrilla must recognize the need to camouflage himself and his equipment against both terrestrial and airborne observation (it's pretty embarrassing to sit in on an AAR of a training exercise only to discover that the OPFOR walked directly to your hide site because the air support elements spotted you laying in a ditch in the open...ask me how I know....). The shape, shadows, textures, and colors of man-made objects and equipment must be altered to blend into the surrounding environment. It is equally critical however, for the guerrilla to recognize that even in crossing a short distance, the vegetation may change color and consistency numerous times in a given operational area.

For these reasons, the guerrilla must learn to practice and master camouflage discipline. He will change his camouflage to match the terrain patterns and foliage as he moves, as well as when it dries up and wilts. The natural foliage utilized to augment camouflage must look natural at all times.

The guerrilla force should constantly work to develop an eye for terrain, in order to observe terrain and vegetation changes, allowing them to select the the most concealed routes of advance and to ensure that their camouflage fits the selected routes (in his book “Phantom Soldiers” on east Asian guerrilla methods, John Poole describes a fight wherein a USMC unit spotted the NVA infiltrators because they were camouflaged as bushes...while crossing a rice paddy dike...). This allows the guerrilla to use shadows caused by vegetation, terrain changes, and man-made features, in order to remain invisible to enemy observation

According Special Forces sniper course doctrine, there are three basic techniques to accomplish this: hiding, blending, and deceiving.

Hiding enables the guerrilla to completely conceal his body and equipment from enemy observation. This may be accomplished by lying in growths of thick vegetation, burrowing under fallen leaves, or even simply digging in and “burying” one's self and equipment underground (this last method offers the additional benefit of creating thermal mass overhead, helping to absorb any thermal emissions...thus aiding the guerrilla force in hiding from thermal imaging from airborne assets). Hiding may be used if the guerrilla force suddenly finds themselves in need of concealment to evade an encountered enemy patrol, or to develop a hide-site/MSS to lay-up during daylight, and wait for darkness.

Blending is simply the perfection of camouflage so that the guerrilla war-fighter is indistinguishable from his surrounding environment. A well-constructed ghillie suit, suitable augmented with local natural vegetation, is an obvious form of blending. A well-camouflaged guerrilla should not be recognized through optical aids such as spotting scope or binoculars, nor with the unaided eye. The enemy must be able to look directly at the guerrilla and not see him. This takes a great deal of practice, knowledge, and experience.

Deceiving is the act of tricking the enemy into believing the guerrilla is somewhere other than where he actually is. This is generally accomplished through leaving false clues, such as ammunition debris (empty bandoleers, stripper clips, spent brass, etc), food containers (empty MRE packaging, used food cans, etc), tracks and spoor, or other subtle, but intriguing clues that the enemy will be unable to ignore as potential signs of the guerrilla force's presence. Using deception operations to mislead the enemy is one ideal method for decoying the enemy into a target area suitable for the execution of an ambush, sniper attack, or other interdiction-type assault. Another doctrinal example might be severing enemy communications wires, then ambushing the repair crews sent to fix the cuts.

A target indicator is anything the guerrilla does or does not do that may reveal his position to enemy observation. In order to prevent compromising his own position, as well as aiding him in detecting enemy presence, the guerrilla must know and understand typical target indicators. There are four general types of target indicators: olfactory, tactile, auditory, and visual.

Olfactory indicators are obviously those which the enemy smells. Cooking foods, fires and woodsmoke, cigarette smoke, aftershave/deodorant/scented soaps. And insect repellents are all olfactory target indicators. In Vietnam, it was well-established that the NVA/VC were often able to smell US servicemen in the jungle, just as some Americans developed the ability to smell the enemy due to their regular consumption of nuoc man, a fermented fish sauce used on rice (I hope I spelled the Anglicization correctly). In Afghanistan, there were often times we could smell the enemy simply because of his overwhelming body odor.

In order to hide his own olfactory target indicators, the guerrilla fighter must refrain from consuming spicy, highly-seasoned foods, excessive consumption of alcohol, smoking in the field, or in field uniforms (on my ODA, the only two smokers were even prohibited from smoking in the ISOFAC--Isolation Facility, where a team goes into isolation in order to maintain operational security while preparing for a mission--during final mission-planning. This was not only because the rest of us tended to be anti-smoking health nuts—despite the fact most of us chewed Copenhagen—but also because it gave some time for the stench of stale cigarette smoke to leach its way out of their systems). Burying human waste, including urine, will also help reduce the olfactory target indicators that may alert the enemy to the presence of guerrilla forces in the area.

Tactile target indicators are those the enemy can touch. These may include trip wires on early-warning devices, or deserted hide positions. In the tracking/counter-tracking world, we would refer to these as spoor. Tactile indicators are defeated through awareness of altered vegetation left in the wake of movement, expert tactical prowess (trip wires for EWDs should always be in a position from which the enemy will be seen if he bypasses them), and simple good field-craft, including light, litter, and noise discipline.

Auditory indicators are those the enemy can hear. These may be created by the guerrilla force moving, such as equipment rattling (this should have been negated during pre-combat inspections by key leaders, including the “bounce test.”), breaking twigs and brush underfoot, couching, talking/whispering, dropping weapons or other equipment, or simply moving through noisy vegetation. Auditory indicators are the most obvious during night-time periods, when the enemy realizes he cannot trust his vision, as he will during daylight hours. It is absolutely critical that the guerrilla force learn, practice, and master, the ability to function, at night, without NODs/NVGs, in absolute silence.

Visual indicators are the most important, since as humans we tend to trust our vision above all other senses. There are some basic sub-categories of visual target indicators that can help the guerrilla understand better how to avoid being compromised by the enemy. These include the detection of anything that is out-of-place in a given location. Vegetation appearing out-of-place, a bundle of vegetation where there was none earlier (such as ghillie-suited sniper or guerrilla trying to cross an open pasture or meadow), or unnatural terrain patterns may all be examples of obvious visual target indicators. Additionally, obviously man-made shapes (such as perfectly straight lines, or the half-circle of a helmet—geometric shapes in nature are man-made), out-of-place shadows, silhouettes that are easily recognized as all or parts of a human body, or military equipment, the shine of light reflecting off even moderately reflective surfaces not only instantly draws the eye, but can often be seen at ridiculously long distances. The final, and generally the visual indicator that fucks everyone at some point, is movement. A fighter can be perfectly camouflaged, without a single target anywhere causing the enemy to believe the guerrilla is anywhere within 50 miles, and one sudden, mis-timed movement will compromise him completely. The movement may not even be the guerrilla's. Animals suddenly frightened or startled into movement may draw the enemy's attention to the vicinity, or a piece of brush or other vegetation moving unnaturally, may be all it takes for the enemy to focus in on one area and lead to detection of the camouflaged guerrilla.

Fundamentally, there are two basic types of material that the war-fighter uses to camouflage himself and his equipment. These are natural and artificial. Each type may offer specific benefits that the guerrilla may find useful under different circumstances.

Natural camouflage however, should always be the priority choice of the guerrilla. Natural camouflage materials are vegetation and other materials indigenous to the specific operational environment. Whatever other methods are used, the guerrilla should always augment his camouflage with at least some local natural camouflage materials, but the fighter must remain alert to the hazards of it wilting and ensure he replaces any natural materials before that occurs.

Artificial camouflage, on the other hand, is comprised of any man-made substances that the guerrilla uses to alter his appearance and blend into the environment. This may range from camouflage face paint and spray-painting clothing or equipment to break up its appearance, to a full-blown ghillie suit (contrary to popular mythology, mud should seldom, if ever, be used to camouflage bare skin. Not only does it dry out and lose its effectiveness too quickly to be of value, but it may also contain dangerous parasites that may render a fighter combat-ineffective due to infection/disease).

The guerrilla fighter must also camouflage all of the equipment he will carry in combat. It is critical however (and more than a little disturbing that it even needs to be mentioned) that the camouflage applied to equipment not interfere with the actual function of any equipment.

The guerrilla's rifle should be camouflaged. If you own a “safe queen,” you're not a guerrilla, you're a dilettante and a douchebag. The mark of a well-trained and motivated war-fighter is a weapon that has the scars to prove its been used in hard, realistic training. It's not a toy, it's a tool, and the war-fighter recognizes that. If you're afraid to camouflage your weapon with a little Krylon treatment, then it's not a fighting weapon. Your weapon will, undoubtedly end up painted, stripped of paint, and re-painted many times over, in order to change the pattern to fit different operational areas (although for those of us in the northern Rockies, I can attest, a tan base coat, with a few strips of green will generally work in almost any terrain you are likely to encounter). Do not be afraid of spray-painting your weapon. There is very little pure black in nature, and fewer things yet in nature are constructed with as many straight lines as a modern fighting rifle. You need to break those images up, as much as possible (for the artistic minded, I'd like to point out that a human being with 20/20 vision can only see approximately 1 MOA, so getting all high-speed with digital patterns and netting overlays for your painting stencils is a little bit of overkill, not to mention an assinine waste of time. Any pattern consisting of images smaller than one-inch will generally just coalesce into a solid image anyway, rendering your avant-garde masterpiece of camouflage into the visual image of....a fucking painted rifle!). Your optics should also be camouflaged, although (obviously) you need to cover the lenses with either lens caps or tape before painting them. Covering the lenses themselves with a section of your wife's pantyhose will also help to prevent a visual target indicator to the enemy by reducing the possibility of shine reflection off the lenses. While it is critical to avoid binding the rifle barrel itself, and thus disturbing the barrel harmonics, the addition of burlap camouflage or natural materials to the weapon and optics will further help to break up the outline and reduce the visual signature of the weapon.

Rucksacks should be thoroughly camouflaged as well. From spray-painting a few stripes to break up the outline of solid-colored packs, to adding some strips of burlap to further the effort, the use of paints, dyes, netting, garnish, and natural camouflage materials will all help to ensure the survivability of the guerrilla fighter through good camouflage discipline.

Camouflage Considerations During Guerrilla Operations in Urban Environments

To survive in combat in built-up areas, the guerrilla must take into consideration to the impact of previous combat operations on the immediate environmental area, as well as the specific nature of on-going operations. For instance, if there is little or no damage to buildings, such as in surgical MOUT operations (the IRA in Ireland, as an example), he will not make loopholes for firing and will use only the minimal materials needed to conceal himself.

Buildings naturally offer numerous concealed positions to fire or observe from. Additionally, thick masonry, stone, or concrete walls often offer ideal protection from enemy fire, as well as hiding the visual (and thermal) signature of the guerrilla.

During urban/built-up area operations, the guerrilla will generally operate from one of two types of hides, either hasty or deliberate, with hasty hides being the most commonly utilized. While the fundamental concepts of camouflage remain the same from rural to urban operations, the selection of hasty hide sites in urban terrain differ dramatically from rural operations. Typical urban hasty hide sites include:

  1. Engaging the enemy from the corners of buildings. The corner of a stout building provides cover and concealment for a hasty engagement by the guerrilla. In order to maximize these advantages, the guerrilla must be able to accurately fire his weapon from either shoulder, in order to maximize the protection offered by the building, and should never fire from the standing position (this is the place the enemy would expect fire to come from, and makes it easier for him to identify where you are. Drop to the kneeling or prone, or stand on something to get higher up than expected).
  2. Firing from behind walls. Whenever the guerrilla engages the enemy from behind a solid wall that provides cover and concealment, he should strive to fire from around the sides, or through naturally occurring loopholes, rather than over the wall, in order to reduce his visual signal, concealing his location for as long as possible.
  3. Firing from windows. In any built-up area, windows and doors provide readily-made firing loopholes. It is critical to learn and remember to never allow the muzzle to protrude outside of the portal however. It is a readily observable indicator of where the fire is coming from. This is especially true at night or in reduced-light environments, when muzzle flash becomes a key target indicator. Instead, get as far back into the room as possible, while still maintaining the necessary field-of-view to fire. Always strive to fire from a supported position, using furnishings such as chairs, tables, or even bookcases, as firing rests. Be cautious not to allow muzzle blast to disturb curtains or drapes, providing an easily recognized target indicator.
  4. Firing from the peak of a roof. These positions offer a key terrain feature dominance of the battle-space, increasing the range at which the guerrilla can engage the enemy, as well as increasing his field-of-view of the battlefield. Any architectural features that protrude from the roof of the building, such as chimneys, smoke-stacks, HVAC installations, or other features, can provide cover and/or concealment, and should be utilized by the guerrilla.

Further urban concealment and camouflage “tricks of the trade” may include:

  1. avoid any unnecessary movement at all during daylight hours. When movement is required, during daylight or night, slow down and be deliberate. Plan every single leg of any movement.
  2. During movements through buildings, remain alert to the principles of camouflage. Do not allow “being inside” to lull you into a sense of complacency.
  3. Stay in the shadows. Match your clothing to blend in with the room or attire within the operational area (i.e. don't wear multi-cam when you're running a clandestine operation in a suburban neighborhood. You'll look like a fucking moron, AND stand out like a whore in church).
  4. Don't shoot from the only open window in a climate-controlled building. Use existing curtains and leave windows intact. To create a shooting loophole, remove one pane, or a small corner of a window.
  5. Blend into the activities of the local area as you infiltrate. Dress like a maintenance crew, or wear street clothes and carry civilian luggage (stay away from guitar cases and baseball bat cases...both are tired cliches and will make you look like a tool).
  6. Choose a position that is naturally in the shadows in a room. If that is not possible, create a “shadow cave” by hanging dark cloth (ponchos or poncho liners may work is set back far enough into the room). Avoid background light, such as doors opening behind you.
  7. Maintain a way to silently neutralize threats to your security, without compromising your position. Killing non-combatants is always a bad idea, but restraining them long enough to allow yourself to exfiltrate the area should be considered as an option, as long as restraining them will not result in their death (flex-cuffing a kid to a chair in an unheated building in January, in Denver, will likely result in his death from exposure before he is found. You're better off, from a PSYOPs standpoint, and thus ultimate success of the resistance, to just let the kid go, and get the fuck out of Dodge in a hurry, even if it means dumping your gear and losing it). On the other hand, a member of the regime security forces accosting you as a suspicious person during your infiltration may require the use of a suppressed weapon, a knife, or empty-hand attacks, to restrain or kill, followed by disposal of the body in a secure location, in order to allow you to continue and accomplish your mission.

Some brief notes on the legendary ghillie suit....

Easily recognized as a staple piece of equipment for snipers, the ghillie suit offers numerous benefits for other small-unit irregular forces as well. Even in the U.S. Army, LRSU and reconnaissance elements often make use of ghillie suits. While the method of construction of a ghillie is not particularly complex, it is beyond the scope of this article. Instead, a few minor observations on the ghillie suit as it applies to the guerrilla:

  1. The ghillie should be constructed to match the operational area as much as possible. Do no fall victim to the typical novice urge of putting too much garnish on the ghillie suit however. Doing so creates a specific silhouette that is in itself identifiable and generally not seen in nature. Additionally, too much garnish acts as insulation and can overheat the fighter when infiltrating during periods of even moderately warm weather.
  2. The full ghillie suit is an unnecessary extravagance for most guerrilla applications, outside of surveillance/reconnaissance teams and sniper teams, as well as being ridiculously bulky and difficult to transport in a rucksack without drastically reducing the mobility of the guerrilla fighter. A ghillie sniper veil is a much more economical tool for the guerrilla, covering the head and shoulders, and part of the upper torso.
  3. The ghillie suit, whether full, or veil-type, must be augmented with local natural camouflage material in order to be effective. Additionally, the colors of burlap garnish used in its construction must be consistent with the operational area's vegetation.

Critical Individual Tactical Task: Camouflage Self and Equipment

Conditions: Given individual combat equipment, including three-line load-bearing equipment (LBE), individual weapons, local natural camouflage materials, assorted artificial camouflage materials, including burlap garnish, camouflage face-paint, and camouflage colors spray paint. The fighter will be wearing earth-toned outdoor/work wear.

Standards: Camouflage yourself and your equipment in order to prevent detection by visual, auditory, olfactory, or other detection methods.

Performance and Training Steps:

  1. Identify critical camouflage concerns, including specific target indicators to avoid.
    a) movement: Movement draws attention and reduced-light/no-light conditions do not prevent observation. Minimize movement, and slow down any necessary movement. Time is on the side of the guerrilla.
    b) shape: Use natural and artificial camouflage materials to disrupt easily recognizable shapes and silhouettes of man-made objects/equipment. Stay in the shadows when moving, whenever possible.
    c) shine/reflection: Avoid the distinctive and easily recognized visual signatures created by reflected light by covering (or removing, if possible), mirrors, eyeglass lenses (including sunglasses/safety glasses), watch faces, pressed and starched clothing/uniforms, sun/wind/dust protective goggles, weapons-mounted optical lenses and flashlight lenses.
    d) color: Blend individual camouflage into the color scheme of local environmental foliage, and ensure that nothing on your person or your equipment contrasts with your background as viewed from the enemy perspective. Change camouflage as often as needed when moving from one area to another.
  2. Camouflage your exposed skin.
    a) wear gloves. Not only does this help camouflage your exposed skin on your hands, they provide protection from rough, rocky terrain, as well as dangerously hot, freshly fire weapon barrels, and other battlefield hazards.
    b) when camouflaging your face, use the appropriate color combinations for your local environmental area, and remember to use the lighter color in the shadowed, recessed areas of your face, and the darker color on the raised, high-lighted areas of your face. Do not forget to camouflage, your neck (front and back), your ears (including the backs), and for those with white walled, “high-and-tight” hairstyles, or shaved heads, the back of your skull (and for those with high-and-tights, let your fucking hair grow out already. Even the Ranger Regiment no longer mandates high-and-tights!)
  3. Camouflage your clothing and LBE.
    a) wear long-sleeved, earth-tone shirts, and roll your sleeves down.
    b) attach leaves, grass, small branches, and burlap strips to your clothing and LBE. These will assist in distorting shapes and blending colors with the natural background of the environmental area.
    c) cover or remove any shiny items on your personal equipment. If necessary, use black or green spray paint to re-cover tarnished items that may reflect light, thus serving as a target indicator.
    d) secure items, using 100-mph tape, rubber bands, or 550 cord, that rattle or make noise when moved or worn.

Training Exercise for Camouflage and Concealment

Task Description: The guerrilla buddy team will conceal themselves within 200 yards (100 yards if in broken or heavily-vegetated terrain) of an observer. The observer will use 10X binoculars to try and locate the guerrilla buddy team. The guerrilla element must be able to engage the observer with blank rifle fire (live ammunition may be used if it can be done in a thoroughly safe manner that precludes any change of accidental injury or death to the observer, only if blank ammunition is completely unavailable). The guerrilla element must remain unseen by the observer throughout the duration of the exercise.

(In order to maximize the effectiveness of this exercise, it should be conducted at different times, in different terrain environments. For instance, it may be conducted in a fairly open area, once along a wood-line, once in a heavily-vegetated area, and once in broken, rough terrain. It may also be conducted in a built-up area if the local operational area demands it.)

Conduct of the Exercise: The trainer assigns the guerrilla buddy team a specified area with boundaries in which to camouflage itself properly. The observer turns his back to the exercise area and allows the guerrilla team 5 minutes (during initial training, longer periods may be allowed, to provide for unhurried practice) in which to camouflage itself. At the end of 5 minutes, the observer turns and begins his search for the concealed guerrilla element. The observation may last up to ½ hour. If at the end of 30 minutes, the observer has not successfully identified the location of the concealed guerrilla buddy team, he will radio and instruct one of his assistants to move within 10 yards of the concealed team. If the observer can still not locate the team, the team will fire one round (the observer is looking for visual target indicators of the shot, including muzzle blast, vegetation flying from the muzzle blast, movement of the members of the guerrilla buddy-team, etc). If the team can still not be seen, the walker will point in the general direction of the buddy-team. If the team is still unseen, the walker will place his hand above the head of one member of the buddy-team. If the team passes all of these tests without observation, the observer will hold up a sign with a number or letter on it that the team must correctly identify.

(This is a fairly basic, standard camouflage and concealment exercise during military sniper courses, from the U.S. Army Basic Sniper Course at Ft. Benning, GA, and USMC Scout-Sniper Course at Camp Lejeune, CA, to the Special Forces Sniper Course (formerly Special Operations Target Interdiction Course) at Ft. Bragg, NC. As impossibly challenging as it seems, this exercise must be passed to graduate from any of those courses. It is a prime example of the mastery of camouflage that the guerrilla must possess in order to be combat-effective against numerically- and technologically-superior enemy forces.)

In order to create and maintain interest in this exercise, as well as providing practice in observational skills for other members of the guerrilla force, one-half of the class may be positioned with the observer so that they can profit from the mistakes of others. Once a buddy team fails the exercise, they move directly to the observation point to observe.

Nous Defions!

John Mosby

Somewhere in the mountains