28 May 2012

So, in the interest of spreading rapport and knowledge amongst the American resistance-to-be, I'd like to point out that I'm not the only SF/former SF guy currently teaching classes/clinics. The guys over at SFMedics are currently offering clinics. I don't know everything they're offering, but, while I DO teach TC3, up to the Tactical Field Care, inclusive of both the current doctrinal protocols and expedient modifications for guerrilla/resistance elements (taught it this weekend, in fact, with an AAR forthcoming from a participant), I guarantee you that the 18Deltas (SF medics, for the uninitiated) can present the information even more clearly and comprehensively than I can (and I teach it really, really well, if I do say so myself). Especially if you are a medical professional, look into them for some training!

Nous Defions!
John Mosby
Somewhere in the mountains

22 May 2012

Resistance S4: The Logistics of Successful Cache Plan Development

Of the four major aspects of support in military and paramilitary operations--personnel, intelligence, operations, and logistics--the fourth is often the most misunderstood by aspiring students of resistance theory and history. As the oft-cited cliche so accurately states, "Amateurs study tactics. Professionals study logistics." When Napolean famously stated that "An army travels on its stomach," he wasn't talking specifically about the quality of the food in the French military, but about the importance of ensuring that the logistics train managed to keep pace with the fighting force, in order to keep the men re-supplied and fed.

For the inexperienced, the amount of material logistics support necessary to support even a single twelve-man SF ODA over the course of a six-month long deployment can be mind-numbingly massive (plane loads, not duffel bags full). The idea that a resistance cell will grab their individual rucksacks, LBEs, and weapons, and run off to the woods to fight it out in some Red Dawn, live-off-the-land scenario is a fantasy of hubris at its best. At its worst, it's just fucking stupid.

Similarly naive however, is the typical survivalist/prepper idea that, in a totalitarian regime, ruled by the force of ninja-clad stormtroopers who kick in doors at 0300, stomp puppies to death, and jerk citizens from their beds by the hair, a stockpile of food and supplies in the pantry and basement will be adequate or secure.

The key to successful logistics support if a resistance movement is the establishment, by both individual tactical cells as well as dedicated auxiliary logistics networks, of widespread, secure, and well-equipped caches of critical supplies (for the record, it's pronounced "cash," "cashes," and "cashed," not "cashay," "cashayes," and "cashayed!"). Caching is the process of hiding equipment or other necessary logistics materials in secure storage locations with the express intent to later recover those materials for future use (hiding them without the intent of later recovery is referred to as "losing shit.") In a resistance movement, cached materials may provide numerous benefits to resistance forces. They may meet the emergency needs of personnel for items that can no longer be procured on the open or black markets, due to regime interference or lack of supply, or they may provide necessary travel documents and funds for the initiation of escape-and-evasion corridors by compromised personnel. Most critically perhaps, caching provides a realistic supply solution for long-term operations conducted over wide areas, far from secure bases of operations. In the specific words of the doctrinal literature on caching for UW, "caching can also provide for anticipated needs of war time operations in areas likely to be overrun by the enemy."

Cache Planning Considerations

Selection of the specific contents of any particular cache requires a thorough analysis, careful estimation, and more than a little scientific, wild-ass guessing (technically termed "SWAG"), regarding the needs of particular resistance elements for particular operations. Fortunately, we still have the benefit that procurement of most of the likely candidate items for future re-supply caches currently pose no significant difficulties. In fact, as has been repeatedly belabored in this blog previously, the relative ease of procurement before hostilities become any more heated is the major benefit in favor of caching logistics materials now (fundamentally, it goes back to a previously asked question. How serious are you? Is it real, or are you playing "Gus the Guerrilla" so you can dress up in multi-cam and shoot guns?)

Planners, whether members of an individual tactical cell, or a dedicated auxiliary logistics cell, must determine the purpose and contents of specific caches, since these basic factors influence the location of the cache and the necessary methods of concealment. A cache containing liquid assets, such as silver or similarly small, readily concealable items may be established in relatively accessible places, since the recovery agent of the cache can simply conceal the contents on his person with ease. A cache of rifles and ammunition for a raiding party however, will require establishment in a less accessible, more remote location, since hiding the weapons from casual observation will require more effort than simply shoving them in a pocket (honestly, one of the few benefits I can see of owning AKMs, other than the fact that there are hundreds of millions, of not billions of 7.62x39mm ammunition floating around this country, is the convenience of a being able to conceal a folding stock AKM under a jacket like a Carhartt barn jacket).

Further, certain items, such as medical items like antibiotics, painkillers, IV saline bags, and other consumables do possess limited shelf-life and may require periodic rotation or other specific storage considerations. This may require easy access for the planners to service these caches, as needed. Ultimately, resistance planners must balance the logistical objectives of the cache with the actual possibilities when selecting items and locations for a cache. Realistic options for items included in re-supply caches may include, but certainly not be limited to: money, weapons and ammunition, explosives components, medical supplies, tools, food and water (water purification methods may be more appropriate in many environmental areas), batteries (overlooked far too often by amateur guerrillas. Realistically in modern conflict, even guerrilla warfare, combatant elements will go through batteries like shit through a goose), clothing, and spare/replacement load-bearing equipment (I utilize ALICE load-outs for cached load-bearing equipment, since it's cheap and will suffice, even if it's not as ideal as my current or future load-outs. If I'm to the point of relying on LBE cached months or years before, I'm probably not going to be too particular about how Gucci it is. If it's gear to outfit new resistance recruits, they don't get to be picky).

When planning a resistance supply cache, planners absolutely must remember that "the enemy gets a vote." The successful recovery of a combat re-supply cache will ultimately depend on how well the planners anticipated the various obstacles to successful recovery, which will be created, intentionally or not, by the enemy if he occupies the area of the cache. Hiding a weapons cache in a small meadow surrounded by brushy woods because it is near the junction of several major roads may seem ideal, since it's hidden and yet readily accessible. Unfortunately, those same considerations may lead the regime to decide to plant an encampment of security forces troops there. It might be difficult to recover a buried barrel of M4s when there are a bunch of guys in blue helmets with funny accents eating supper over the top of it. Further, future non-conflict related obstacles may arise (Anyone remember the incident last year when an arms cache was found buried under the right-of-way for a highway being constructed? I personally know of a guy in the northern Rockies who has several cases of dynamite cached. Unfortunately, it is now buried about eighteen feet below a road-side DOT weigh station).

In addition to regime security forces activities, actions of the local civilian populace may interfere with the security and/or recovery of caches. Planners must project how the local populace will react to the pressures of occupation/war-time living. One likely reaction is that many people, even those unaligned with the resistance, will resort to caching their personal and family valuables to prevent theft or confiscation by either criminals or the regime (but then, I repeat myself, right?). In such an event, ideal cache locations may become too well-traveled for the security of recovery teams, as well as gaining greater scrutiny by security force intelligence units looking for such cached materials.

Often overlooked in theoretical discussions of supply caches is the actual task of transporting the materials to be cached to the location. The most secure packaging of cached items is performed in secure areas, rather than in the field or at the cache location. While it may be simpler to transport a pre-packaged supply of cache items to the cache site from a safe house, than to transport the goods and the packaging material, it will still not be a simple task (consider the weight and space needs for a cache of six M4s, plus a basic load of 210-330 rounds each, or for food supplies, even in dry staple items like rice and wheat, for a two-week supply for a four- or six-man element).

Finally, anyone who is involved directly in the placement of the cache, from planning the location, to actually placing the cache in its determined location will know where the cache is located and is thus subject to compromising that cache location if captured and interrogated (as we will discuss in a forthcoming article, if you are captured and interrogated, you WILL talk. Everyone talks. It doesn't matter how tough you think you are, a skilled interrogator can break your will to resist. Unfortunately, it's even easier if the interrogator is from the same cultural background and speaks your language than it is if he's a foreign invader). The same considerations apply to recovery personnel. While a cache site that only one person knows the location and contents of is of little use to the resistance, and the members of a logistics cell will need to share the information data on various caches, there must be serious consideration given to the operational security requirements of doing so. Among these is limiting the access to information to the actual emplacement personnel and planning cell until the need for the contents of any particular cell is required, and spreading the planning and emplacement duties for various caches to various independent cells within a network.

Caching Methods

The specific methods used to cache materials for future use are as varied as the people who cache those items. The most obvious (and probably the most common) method, of burying goods, may be of limited value in some operational environments (it would be harder to bury a cache of arms for a platoon-sized element of resistance fighters, with adequate ammunition, in a large urban enclave, than to hide them in attics or basements. Burying items in a swamp is far less efficient than underwater cache methods). This wide variety of possibilities open to cache planners means there is little value in laying out general rules, or even too many specific concepts for caching. Nevertheless, one rule remains inviolate when developing a network of caches for resistance supply: Planners must always think in terms of suitability. The method most suitable for each cache, considering its specific purpose, the actual and projected situations in the particular location, and the impact of possible regime courses of action.

  1. Concealment of the cache means utilizing permanent man-made or natural features to hide or disguise the cache. Focusing on superb concealment of caches offers several benefits for planners and installers. Employment and recovery of the cache can both be accomplished with minimum labor, in a minimal amount of time. Items concealed in buildings or caves are protected from the elements and extreme weather, thus requiring less elaborate packaging (a cache of medical supplies concealed in the walls of an otherwise abandoned barn or out-building may need little more than to be placed in a plastic garbage sack before being concealed). A concealed cache may be more readily accessed from time to time, in order to replace perishable items that may be nearing or past their expiration dates. The potential risk of accidental discovery of concealed caches however, means that this method is most suitable for extremely secure sites safe from search by regime security forces (concealing a stockpile of old Mosin-Nagants in the basement of the president of the local gun club would be pretty fucking pointless, no?), or situations where rapid access to the cached items is of high enough priority that it outweighs the chances that the cache will inadvertently be discovered. Concealment may range from securing a small pouch of "junk" silver coins behind a heating vent in the wall, to building a false wall in a basement to hide a cache of workshop-manufactured mortars and ammunition.
  2. While burial is not always the best option for cache establishment, there is a reason that, when people think of caches, they almost invariably consider it first. Suitable burial sites can be located damned near anywhere, and if the cache is properly established, it will be next to impossible to find, without the utilization of very expensive, highly-technological equipment, and ample amounts of time. While the security of a well-placed buried cache is without compare, unlike simple concealment, burying a cache is an extremely labor-intensive process, requires severe and thorough packaging of the cache to protect it from the burial process and the exposure it faces from dirt, moisture, burrowing fauna, etc.
    Burial of caches almost invariably requires the use of specialized containers and/or special wrapping to protect the contents from the environment. Emplacement and recovery of a buried cache often takes so long that it can only be accomplished during the night, to preclude discovery, unless the cache site is placed in such a ridiculously remote location as to completely preclude any effective usefulness whatsoever. It can be extremely difficult, even for the initial emplacement element, to successfully locate and recover a buried cache after any length of time.
  3. One method of cache emplacement that is often overlooked (for good reason) is the submersion method. If the cache is properly prepared; and the cache site is genuinely secure; and the recovery team can actually locate it; and the tides or currents don't move the cache in the intervening time between emplacement and recovery, the submersion method may work. However, submersion sites that are suitable for secure concealment of a cache of any size are exceedingly rare, even in swamp/jungle environments. Further, the container for a submerged cache must be of such high quality that it almost requires the use of specially-manufactured containers to ensure adequate water-proofing and protection from other external pressures. Field expedients are seldom successful.

Selection of Cache Sites

The most thorough, careful study and hypotheses regarding future operational conditions cannot guarantee that a cache will be readily accessible when it is needed. It is crucial to remember the now-overused maxim, "Two is one; one is none." Establish as many re-supply caches, in as many widely spaced locations as you can afford to establish, including duplicate caches of critical items such as weapons, ammunition, and foodstuffs.

Site selection criteria should center on three basic questions of absolute importance to the resistance element: a) Can the site be located by someone who has never been there, through simple, easily-understood instructions? A site may be absolutely ideal, but if your hillbilly Cousin Billy-Bob from East Toadfuck, Texas cannot find it using simple verbal instructions, it's going to be useless. It must have multiple (at least two, preferably three or more, for compass triangulation) distant landmarks, and at least one suitably near landmark that is not likely to be moved between emplacement and recovery (don't use a fucking tree as a landmark. I always assumed it went without saying, but I've seen cache recovery instructions that included "use the old dead tree as the near landmark. Take a magnetic bearing of ___ and walk fifteen meters." Seriously? Because, you know, old dead trees don't get blown the fuck over and rot away?) b)Are there a minimum of at least two access routes to get to and away from the cache site? Do both the primary and secondary approach routes offer concealed movement corridors so that both the emplacement and recovery parties can access the site without being seen by anyone who normally transits the area (I'm a big believer in at least tertiary access routes as well)? c) Can the cache in question be emplaced and recovered at this site, anytime of the year (A cache located in the Teton Mountains on the Idaho/Wyoming line might be pretty tough to recover if it were needed in February or March, since it would be under five or six feet of snow...assuming you could even find it, since many landmarks would be buried under snow as well)? Snow or frozen ground can make recovery impossible, since it is difficult or impossible to dig in, and snow means it is impossible to hide the presence of tracks leading to the cache site.

The first step in developing a cache site is the utilization of a map survey. By carefully scrutinizing the map, planners can decipher whether a specific area must be ruled out for cache emplacement, due to the nearness of human activity and facilities. A good topographical map can be used to determine all the positive features of a given area for a potential site, including the topography, proximity of roads, trails, and buildings, natural concealment such as vegetated terrain and/or rocky outcroppings, and adequate drainage. A map can also provide the indispensable reference points that will be necessary for development of a recovery plan for the cache, such as the geographical coordinates of nearby peaks and ridges, stream confluences, and deserted man-made structures and features.

Once several promising possible cache sites have been discerned through the map survey, someone in the caching element must conduct a personal surveillance of the potential sites, in order to determine that the on-the-ground reality matches the theory of the map. The survey member will need to carry adequate maps, a method of measuring distance, a compass, and a notebook to record specific coordinates and directions for potential emplacement sites (I hope it goes without saying that you should not record GPS way-points for cache locations). Since this individual will seldom be able to complete a field survey without being observed by members of the local civilian populace, even his neighbors, a solid cover story for his actions of critical. The observer's story must offer a quick, concise, but logical reason for his being where he is (the local couch-potato who everyone knows sits in his mommy's basement playing XBox all day claiming he's always secretly been an avid outdoorsman and is simply out for a jaunt in the woods, isn't going to fool anyone. It's likely to get the local constabulary called on you for suspicious behavior).

Reference Points
When a planner or member of a dedicated logistics auxiliary network has located and determined to emplace a re-supply cache in a given location, he will need to include easily discernible key reference points in the cache report to help the follow-on elements to locate it.

The final reference point; the key to unlock the ultimate lock on locating the useful cache; is referred to as the FRP, and within the instructions, the FRP must meet four basic requirements. It must 1) be readily identifiable and at least one element of the FRP must be useful as a precise reference point (i.e. the northeastern-most corner of the abandoned church, or the last headstone on the southern corner of the cemetery, etc). 2) it must be something that will not be moved or disappear as long as the cache may be in place. 3) It must be near enough to the cache location to pinpoint the exact location of the cache by using precise linear directions and measurements from the FRP to the cache location (a 186-degree magnetic azimuth from the corner of the church is far more precise than a 186-degree magnetic azimuth from the front door of the church...). 4) The FRP must be related to any en route reference points by a simple route description proceeding from the intermediate reference points to the FRP (follow the old logging road from the intersection with County Road 99 south for two kilometers until you see the abandoned cemetery on the left side of the road). The route descriptions and reference points should be minimized to the absolutely essential details while being readily identifiable but still secluded enough to be functional for the role. Some commonly used reference points operators have used in the past for reference points include, but are certainly not limited to: small, infrequently used bridges or dams, geological boundary markers, mileage markers and culverts along infrequently used roads, monuments, churches, and other cultural reference markers with respected, but not commonly voiced local significance to ensure that they will not be "paved over" in the interest of development in the immediate area. When all else fails, it IS possible to use specific geographic coordinates for references, assuming that both parties involved, emplacement team and recovery element, will have GPS and the ability to utilize it for the task without compromise (far from certain in the coming struggles).

Using the Final Reference Point

Recovery instructions MUST include precise details to explain the EXACT location of a cache. These instructions should describe the location of the cache in relation to the FRP. For concealed caches, it is generally sufficient to precisely describe and locate the FRP, with the cache concealed inside the FRP. For the far more common buried cache however, there are four basic methods.

The simplest method is for the emplacement team to simply bury the cache directly next to the FRP. Pinpointing the cache location is then simply a matter of describing the precise reference point on the FRP. A second method is sighting the cache by projection. This is useful if the FRP has a flat side long enough to allow for precise aiming along the flat side of the FRP to the cache. The cache is simply buried a precise distance away from the FRP along the sighted line. The critical key here is to remember that the slightest deviation error in sighting the line will be magnified as the distance increases, so the cache should still be placed as close to the FRP as practical.

The third method of using the FRP is the use of two or more FRPs within a close proximity (ideally within a couple of meters at most). This is the most difficult method of precisely referencing the cache location and should thus be a last-ditch method (I've used this method on numerous occasions. It HAS always worked, but never well. I once solo backpacked across the southern half of Utah, from Cedar City to Moab, without following roads. At one point, crossing a small two-lane blacktop, I decided my pack was overloaded with extraneous shit, so I decided to cache a large portion of it. Since I was in the middle of fucking nowhere, I didn't even bother to bury the cache. Instead, I wrapped all the material in a large trash bag, then placed it in a USGI waterproof bag, and tied the cache in the forks of a juniper tree. I used a mileage marker on the roadside as my intermediate reference point, and two nearby mountain peaks as my FRP to shoot magnetic azimuths from to intersect the exact location of the cache tree. I dutifully recorded all of it in my ever-present notebook/journal, and proceeded with the rest of my trip. Three weeks later, at the end of the overall four week trip, I got my shit back in order, and the following weekend, jumped in the truck and drove to the mileage marker. I easily identified the two peaks, shot azimuths, and walked to the cache tree....which wasn't fucking there! I shot another azimuth, realized I was a degree or two off on one of my bearings, so I fixed it and adjusted. Still no cache tree...I started a search pattern, walking in increasing spirals, looking for the tree. Twenty minutes later, I found the tree, recovered the cache, and got back in the truck, and left. While I'm a HUGE fan of using azimuth bearings to locate the cache, this is ample evidence of the difficulties of using intersection/resection of multiple FRPs to locate a cache. If I had needed to locate the cache in a hurry, under cover of darkness, with my life and that of my comrades on the line, we'd have all been fucked.)

The final method of locating a buried cache reliably from the FRP is sighting with a magnetic azimuth from your compass (if you don't know what the fuck a magnetic azimuth is, quit reading, right now, and Google your local orienteering club. Go join them and learn how to use a fucking map and compass!). It is utilized by simply taking a bearing with your compass from the precise reference point of the FRP to the cache location (this is generally my favorite method of locating caches. Every time I've ever used it--a lot--over the years, I've had no trouble whatsoever with locating the cache later). The only potential drawback is the level of ability and precision of the emplacement team and the recovery team to accurately read a compass and shoot an azimuth. Like sighting by projecting, any error will be magnified by distance. In general, either method should locate the cache within fifty meters of the precise reference point on the FRP.

Measuring Distances
While the mythical standard of measuring distances for caches in paces (walk ten paces from the big rock in the meadow) sounds simple and effective, if a moment of thought is put into it, the resistance element will realize what an incredibly fucking stupid idea it actually is. What are the chances that the emplacement operative will have the same length of pace as the recovery operative? Slim to none. Even if they turn out to be the same person, any number of issues could change the individual's stride length from the time of emplacement to the time of recovery. Instead, use the normal, standard of measurement for linear distance in your area (for most of us, that's yards. I use meters a lot, because of the military, but I still use yards when describing distances for most Americans.)

Concealment Sites

The "ideal" cache concealment site seldom is, simply because it IS "ideal." Do not for one moment think that Sam the Stormtrooper will not check likely concealment locations for cached contraband when the door-kicking starts. Even in the event of a warrantless "sneak-and-peak" entry, Ned the Ninja is going to look for cached goodies. Do not, do not, DO NOT cache critical items in your home! Instead, seek out good concealment cache sites in the area, and consider the habits and customs of your neighbors and other local civilian populace when developing your cache resupply program.

Seek out abandoned buildings that are unlikely to be destroyed (or moved into by refugees!) public buildings (assuming you can figure out a way to smuggle your cache contents in), infrequently used facilities like stadiums, or other public venues, culverts, abandoned mines and quarries, and sewers/septic tanks.

The concealment location must be equally accessible to both parties. While it might seem feasible for the logistics cell to emplace a concealed cache in the attic at Aunt Myrtle's, since she's a nice old lady (if a touch daffy), and a vocal supporter of the regime, if she's not related to the recovery team as well, it might be difficult for them to come up with a legitimate reason to show up and demand to grab some shit out of her attic!

Further, in case the cache IS discovered by regime security forces, it must be in a location that will not compromise individual network members. If Aunt Myrtle finds the cache of 10,000 rounds of 5.56 M855 in her attic, you better bet your ass she's going to call the local constabulary. They're going to start looking for Nephew Neil the gun-nut in a hurry. Besides, if Aunt Myrtle passes on or ends up in a nursing home while Cousin Connie sells the house, getting in to recover the ammunition is going to be a bitch.

Burial Sites

There are six critical considerations when planning a buried cache, along with the standard concerns about suitability and accessibility. Drainage considerations include both the elevation of the cache site and the surrounding ground, and the type of soil in the area. Clay or swamp muck is going to be far more difficult to work with than loam soil or an old garden spot. If the cache is located near a river or stream, the emplacement team must ensure that it is above the flood-plain to ensure that the cache doesn't end up washing away.

Local vegetation is a far more critical concern than it would first appear. Deciduous forests, while a perfect choice at first glance, can be a bitch, since the roots of the trees make digging extremely time-consuming. Coniferous trees on the other hand have far less extensive root systems, typically indicate well-drained soil, and have the added benefit of doing a pretty good job of masking thermal signatures of human beings (oops...did I just type that?). This of course, ties into the third consideration of natural concealment on the location. Not only do you need to hide the personnel who are placing or recovering the cache, but you have to do something to conceal the burial site as well. For those who operate in deciduous forest country (God bless the spruce, pine, and juniper trees of the Inter-Mountain West!), consider the impact of seasonal variations in foliage and the resultant changes in natural concealment.

For those of us who do reside in high elevations and cold-weather country, it is critical to consider the impact of normal snowfall, depth of ground freeze, and the usual freeze and thaw dates. Since it will be almost impossible to mask the disturbance to snow cover in winter conditions, cache locations should take this into account by emplacement in areas that mask the snow fall and drift to some degree, or where the disturbance to the snow cover will not seem out-of-place.

Finally, consideration must take into account the possibility of underground obstacles such as large rocks or sewer, subway (in urban environments), or water main lines that can interfere with the ability to dig a burial site for the cache.

Part Two will encompass strategies and tactics for packaging cache items, as well as methods of actual emplacement of buried and concealed caches, recovery methods, and ideas on cache contents for specific purposes. Considering it took me this long to develop the time to complete this nine-page portion, look for a week or two, minimum, for the next part.

In the meantime, I've been putting a lot of thought into this. In addition to my normal practice of relatively lengthy--for a blog--articles, in order to get more information across, I'm going to quit limiting myself, by including shorter tid-bits of information as they come to me on various topics. I'm not sure how well this is going to work out specifically, but I see it as a way to share thoughts on the relevant subject matter. Things from what I'm doing with a specific drill and why, to what optic I'm currently running on my rifle, or even comments on others blogs--hell, everyone else does it, why not me? Hopefully, this will not monumentally change the flavor and nature of the blog. If it seems to be doing so, I will revert.

On a couple of personal notes:

We have had quite a bit of interest in training clinics/classes, with training provided throughout the northern tier of the mountain states, from Washington to the Dakotas, and Montana south to southern Colorado and Utah. We'll be returning to a couple of groups it appears to advance their training further. For more information on this, please feel free to email me through the blog.

I've also received a number of emails requesting information on people from outside the Redoubt region wanting to attend training if someone will host an open enrollment clinic. I am currently in discussions with an individual rancher who is interested in building a training facility, to host various instructors and events. I know him previous to the blog, and he is good people, extremely dedicated, and righteous. If it pans out, I will have a location to host training for individuals on an open enrollment course basis. In the meantime, if any reader in the inter-mountain region is willing or interested in hosting an open enrollment clinic, feel free to email me. I think we can probably put together a class that will cover my expenses without it getting ridiculously expensive for any participants who need to travel.

I have recently taught classes in close-quarters marksmanship with rifle and pistol, individual and small-unit tactics, tactical combat casualty care, survival and evasion, and a couple of others. Course content can be modified to fit your needs/desires, within reason.

Okay, enough pimping myself...(trust me, I'm REALLY not making money on these. Actually, I've been eating a lot of the cost myself. I'm only interested in getting the information and skills out to right-minded people in as many places as possible, in order to create more force multipliers who can go on and teach their groups as well.

HH6 and I may be looking for a new place to settle. We're looking for 10-20 acres, at a reasonable price, with the option of owner financing. We'd prefer northern Idaho, northwestern Montana (I know, I know), pretty much anywhere in Wyoming off the I-80 corridor, Utah, or Colorado, in that order of precedence (no offense to my friends in Colorado, but the politics in your state pretty much blow ass). We don't need (or want) a house on the place, although I'd be cool if a well already existed). Again, please feel free to email through the blog if you know of anything.

Sorry for my long absence. Things have been hectic. As I like to say, "Life's a bitch, then you die, and gravity sucks in the meantime!" I'm sure my new plan will keep me here more regularly.

Nous Defions!
John Mosby

06 May 2012

Some Notes on Current Load-Outs and Gear

(This is not an article I want to write regularly. I personally believe it places far too much emphasis on the cool-guy CDI gear, rather than on the individual and team tactical expertise we all need to be developing. Nevertheless, since I've been asked about it in classes/clinics, and via email, I wrote it. 

I'm currently working on an article, per request, on caches and establishing a cache network for logistics support. Following that, I will write one on the development on Escape-and-Evasion networks, also per request, as well as one on the OODA loop developed by Boyd.

I received a request to write an article on developing intelligence networks, but I've got to tell you, I really don't feel qualified to do so. If any readers are former intel guys or cops and feel up to it, I'd be happy to edit and publish it, attributing it however they would like. Otherwise, when I get an opportunity, I will do my best to cover the subject, at least in how I've personally gone about developing my networks. --J.M.)  

My personal survival and fighting load-outs have changed recently (within the last couple of months). One rather expensive aspect of what I do, as a "journalist" and a trainer, is to constantly test new concepts in gear. A lot of stuff i can look at and instantly see that the practical drawbacks outweigh any purported theoretical benefits (butt packs on the LBE being a classic one. They're a great idea...unless you have to hump a real ruck too!). On the other hand, some stuff that's coming out, as I look at it more and more, or hear first-hand reports from friends who are still wreaking hatred and discontent in foreign lands, I have to step back and take another look at.

Additionally, as I get older, and as I consider the options and obligations of the Resistance more, my thoughts and theories change and alter. These two issues combined mean that my load-outs and my load-bearing gear change pretty regularly. Granted, a lot of stuff gets tried out for a couple of weeks or a month, then ends up on a gun show table or traded off (or even just ends up tossed in the "I might need to outfit somebody else someday" boxes. Yes, boxes!)

I've been wearing the same basic load-out, with minor variations, for a couple of months now and have pretty much fallen in love with it. I'm actually at the point of considering setting up a second set, simply for R&D purposes, so I can keep this one the way it is, as my "go-to-war" kit, unless something jumps out at me during research trials and makes me scream "Oh my God! This piece of kit is better than sex! I've got to adopt this!" The following notes include and itemized description of what I use, as well as the reasoning behind it. As some who have been in recent classes with me can attest (not that I expect them to sacrifice their anonymity to do so), these reasons are all demonstrated and proven in classes/clinics regularly.

Basic Level One Survival Gear

  1. Glock 19 9mm, carried Appendix-Inside-the Waistband (A-IWB), with a dedicated Streamlight TLR-1 mounted. Yes, I conceal carry a weapon-mounted light. It's not that hard and it's not that uncomfortable (not that it's comfortable either, but it's tolerable anyway). I've beaten this equine carcass repeatedly, but I've never shot anyone with 9mm or 5.56mm and failed to have the rounds do their jobs, as long as I did my job. End of argument/debate/discussion/lecture/proselytizing. If you want to carry a tricked out, custom 1911A1, because it's what LTC Cooper carried, and you believe you should never carry a pistol whose cartridge doesn't start with point-four, then knock yourself out. I don't give two shits.
  2. A Streamlight TL2 tactical light, clipped in my left front pocket (although I am having serious issues with the fact that the light keeps getting turned on in my pocket. 120 lumen, confined within a trouser pocket, gets hot in a hurry!). I'm not going to use a weapon-mounted light (WML) on my sidearm to conduct a house search. Remember, although she's not ambulatory, I DO have a child in the house. I'd feel like a dick if I inadvertently pointed a weapon at her because I was looking for the source of a strange bump in the night.
  3. A Benchmade folding knife clipped in the right front pocket. I've owned a plethora of folding knives, from every major production company: Gerber, Kershaw, Cold Steel, CRKT, etc. While all of them have performed more than adequately, I will never own a folder by any company other than Benchmade again. On the one hand, the Benchmade knives I've owned always seem slightly more finished, and more importantly, their customer service and warranty simply cannot be beat. I own a Benchmade that I've had for almost twenty years now. I carried it in a lot of ugly places, full of ugly people, doing ugly things, After about ten years, the clip fell off (never mind all the other cosmetic wear it had suffered). I tossed it in a gear box and forgot about it. A couple of years ago, while living in Oregon, I found it. I brought it into the factory store in Tualatin one day, to try and purchase a new set of clip-mounting screws. The customer service rep asked me if I could leave it with them overnight, and they could simply install the new screws. The next day, when I returned to pick up the knife, the only original part left was the blade. They had replaced the scales, liners, screws, clip; everything except the blade itself, and that had a factory edge put back on it! That's the kind of service that will guarantee my return business, as long as they still function as a corporate entity.
  4. A Bic lighter, wrapped in Ranger bands. For the un-initiated, Ranger bands are simply rubber bands cut out of bicycle tire inner tube. An average-sized one will burn, hot, for a minute or two, more than long enough to ignite kindling if you know what you are doing. I also carry a flint-and-steel kit, in my ruck, as well as a modern flint-rod striker on my key chain, but for ease and convenience, the Bic and Ranger band combination is handy, light, and small enough to shove into my pocket and forget about.
  5. A spare Glock 17 magazine, for the G19. The chances of needing a reload in day-to-day are slim. The G19 after all, has 16 rounds on tap, and it is a Glock. Nevertheless, if I'm going to carry a spare, the extra two rounds sure can't hurt. I vary between carrying it on my belt in a kydex pouch, and simply shoving it in my left rear pocket, next to my can of Copenhagen. Doctrinally speaking of course, it should always be in the exact same spot, but convenience sometimes wins out.
  6. Every pair of lace-up boots that I won has had the laces replaced with 550 cord, ensuring that I ALWAYS have cordage with me, for shelter construction, equipment repair, snare manufacture, etc.
  7. Finally, a new addition to my every-day carry (EDC) survival load, acquired this weekend, through trade, is a brand-spanking new Smith and Wesson Bodyguard .380 pocket pistol as a back-up gun (BUG). I've wanted a little pocket gun for a long time now, and never seem to find one for sale private party. A friend had one and was willing to trade it to me, so I've not got it riding in my trouser pocket, in a little ballistic nylon holster, until I can fabricate a kydex rig for it.

The Fighting Load-Out

For most people in the resistance, whether urban guerrilla, subversive underground operative, or auxiliary member, the kind of fighting load-out I carry will not be particularly useful. It was developed and is idealized for operations conducted from rural alpine bases in my specific operational environment. Nevertheless, it does have value as a conceptual framework from which any paramilitary can adapt and develop a suitable load-out.

I've finally bitten the bullet (or been bitten by the bug), and converted to the war-belt/battle-belt concept. The only issue I have with it is, why the fuck didn't I see the brilliance of this long before now? Some of the gear on my fighting load-out replicates or replaces my survival load-out (like carrying my G19 in a drop-leg holster on my war-belt, instead of A-IWB), but for the most part, it's a completely separate echelon that builds on the basic survival load, rather than replacing it.

  1. I started out with an ATS Gear MOLLE war-belt in coyote brown (for whatever reason, mostly because I live in the desert, all of my LBE in coyote brown). I tried ruck it buckle-in-the-back, like the old RACK (Ranger Assault Carrying Kit) set-up, but it really just didn't work for me, so I went back to buckling it in the front and have had no issues with it.
  2. On the right side of the buckle, I've got a Tactical Tailor grenade pouch that holds a USGI tritium-illuminated compass, a signal mirror, another Bic lighter with Ranger bands, and camouflage face-paint (a brief aside: if you're decked out in head-to-toe camouflage, but don't have camouflage for your face...well, you know what I'm going to say...it starts with a "G" and rhymes with day). I like the GI compass, because so much of my movement is at night. I know a lot of guys, even some high-speed JSOC ninjas, who prefer a sport orienteering compass, and that's cool. I just like the GI model and always have.
  3. Next to the grenade pouch is a CAT-T tourniquet, attached to the PALS webbing of the belt itself. I've looked at a lot of the different tourniquet options available, and like most of what I see. The only reason I stay with the CAT-T is because I have a buddy that gets them for me for free (he's not a GI anymore, and they're not stolen U.S.G. property). Otherwise, I'd probably go with the TK-4, since the last time I checked, Chinook Medical had them for around $5.00 each, versus $25.00+ for the CAT-T (at a gun show last weekend, I saw CAT-Ts going for $40/each. That's fucking ridiculous!)
  4. I was using an Eagle Industries external medical pouch from my medic ruck for my IFAK/BOK, but it was too big and got in the way whenever I dove to the ground. I switched it out for a single-stack rifle magazine pouch instead. It holds a large Israeli Battle Dressing, a Nasopharyngeal Airway device, a chest punch needle and chest seal (needle thoracostomy, for reduction of pneumothorax issues), and a pair of nitrile gloves. It wouldn't hurt my feelings to add a package of compressed gauze, but I'm not overly concerned about lacking it either. This set-up provides me with enough gear to provide basic self-aid for most battlefield injuries that I'm likely to sustain and still be able to treat (to reiterate, since the question came up in a class/clinic recently, your IFAK/BOK is there to treat YOU. It's NOT for your buddy. If he doesn't have one, make him build one, build one for him, or improvise when the time comes to patch holes in him. DO NOT USE YOUR PERSONAL IFAK/BOK to treat ANYONE else. In addition to her personal IFAK/BOK, HH6 even had me mount on on the morale officer's diaper bag!)
  5. The final item on the right side of my belt is my holster. I'm currently running a Blackhawk Industries Omega VI drop-leg holster. I like it, although I'm not in love with it. I'm still considering switching to the SafariLand, as soon as I can cook the books enough to hide the cost from HH6, since the Omega VI was a birthday gift from her a while ago. One of my spare pistol magazines is stowed on the holster, in an integral magazine pouch.
  6. On the left side of the buckle, I've got a HSGI Taco magazine pouch in the "kangaroo" , configuration. I really, REALLY, REALLY like this piece of kit! I wish I was smart enough to develop a piece of gear this fucking cool, and while I haven't yet, I will probably be switching all the magazine pouches on both my war-belt and HH6's war-belt to the Tacos.
  7. Immediately behind the HSGI pouch is a Gen 1 FastMag magazine pouch. I really, really like this piece of kit too, although not as much as I like the Taco pouches. I came across it in the possession of a buddy who was selling a couple of them and bought both. It is an extremely secure pouch, but SMOKING fast to reload from as well. I'd certainly recommend them, if you can find them, since they've been discontinued. I can't speak for the Gen 2 upgrades, but if they are an actual upgrade from the Gen 1, they must be the cat's meow.
  8. I run two magazines on my war-belt solely for speed reloads. Any "tactical reloads" come off my chest carrier or plate carrier. Despite the nay-saying of some supposed "guerrilla gurus" and "Tactical Timmy's, there are at least three times in a fight when a speed reload is absolutely critical, and not simply a "gamer's gimmick." One is the first mag-change in a fight (I'm talking light infantry fights here, not home defense, just to clarify). Once you've gained fire superiority with your first burst of fire, you need to maintain it, even if not at the same rate-of-fire. Keep your gun in the fight until the rest of your element is keeping up as well. After that, you can worry about magazine retention. The second is when you are providing suppressive support-by-fire for your Ranger buddy, If your weapon goes down while he is exposed, for ANY reason, you need to get it back into the fight before he is killed, and fuck a lost magazine! Finally, any time you need to reload whole you are moving in the open (if you're in the open, not shooting, and not moving, you should be focused more on basic tactical skills than on speed-reloads), whether due to running it dry (whoops! You fucked up! It happens--get over it!), or a malfunction, you need to get your gun back into the fight, not worry about losing a god-damned magazine. If you win the fight, you can go look for the lost magazine, or take replacements from the dead bad guys. If you lose the fight, you're going to have bigger concerns than a lost magazine. Things like, "I wonder what St. Pete made for supper tonight?" and "I DID go to confession last weekend, right?" (for the record, I am neither Catholic, nor anti-Papist. The joke just worked well.)
  9. I am currently in the process of transitioning from aluminum GI magazines for the M4s to Magpul PMags. It's been a struggle to convince myself. While I've heard very few negative reports from the field about PMags, and lots of positive reports, I still remember the old days of testing polymer mags and them being total pieces of shit. Now that I've got several months of running the PMags, in both winter and spring conditions here in the mountains, I'm starting to trust them thoroughly. While I've still got no issues whatsoever with GI mags, the PMags have won me over finally. All my GI mags will end up stored away or placed in caches in the area, as well as any stockpiled PMags, after I've replaced all my basic load magazines. Take it for what it's worth.
  10. In addition to the war-belt, I'm still carrying an additional eight magazines of ammunition. As I told an acquaintance at a tactical shoot/training day recently, if I could carry 1000 rounds into a fight, I would. Realistically though, I'm restricted to the 11 I run now (one in the gun, two on the belt, and eight on my chest), although I've contemplated adding three more magazines on my chest. I currently transition between a Blackhawk Industries Rhodesian-style chest carrier and an Eagle plate carrier with Level III+ plates, depending on the METT-TC considerations of the training I am conducting/participating in. I don't carry anything else on my chest however.
    I've considered changing out the chest carrier for something with a quicker method of removal if I need to. I'm leaning strongly towards the Tactical Tailor MAV or Mini-MAV, based on stellar reports from friends and former associates. I've also been eye-balling a simple Eagle set-up that a friend is currently running. Basically, all it needs to have is real estate for four double-stack rifle magazine pouches.
  11. As I've mentioned previously on this blog, I've pretty much moved completely away from using the plate carrier as a load-bearing platform for most guerrilla functions, at least conceptually (affording to do in actuality is a whole other issue). I am convinced of the greater utility for the resistance fighter, of a separate systems that is a concealable, low-profile, plate carrier with stand-alone Level III+ ceramic plates, under a hoodie sweatshirt or jacket, with the chest carrier thrown over the top when needed. I've not decided on a plate carrier for this application yet though.
  12. I've got four or five basic, USGI 100 oz Camelback bladders around the house that I've cached away at different times. I keep one in the normal carrier (for use when I'm running the chest carrier), one in my plate carrier, and one in my ruck. While I've heard rumors of Camelbacks exploding and sending water down some forlorn GIs back, I've never experienced or witnessed it (although, I have seen lesser brands suffer from this). I've been carrying a Camelback since the mid-1990s, even before they were officially authorized for use in the Ranger Regiment. I've jumped them during airborne operations, fast-roped out of helicopters with them, and thrown them out of the backs of trucks and Humvees. I've NEVER seen one burst (the sad reality is, the only drawback I've ever suffered with Camelbacks is my propensity to fill the bladder with Kool-Aid or Gatorade, and forget about it so long the shit goes bad, and I play hell getting them clean on the inside of the tube).
  13. One frighteningly critical, but too often overlooked aspect of the fighting load-out is personal protective equipment (PPE), which goes beyond just ballistic protection. This includes eye protection.
    I pimp the Wiley X or Oakley sunglasses pretty much every waking minute of daylight that I'm not indoors (and I've pretty much gone to Wiley X only within the last year). It doesn't matter if it's sunny, overcast and raining, snowing, or anything else. The only time I don't wear them is in the dark, and even then I've got them on my head, with the clear lenses close by. I'm only getting one set of eyes in this life, and I've come close to losing one or both of them on several occasions. I will not risk them because I'm too cheap to buy, or too lazy to wear, quality eye protection.
    Additionally, I am a dyed-in-the-wool fan of electronic hearing protection, such as Peltors. As a young Ranger, I categorically refused to wear hearing protection, except when I was specifically instructed to do so, because "I won't have earplugs in during combat, so I need to get accustomed to the noise now!" (Yeah, can you spell dumb ass? In this case, it's spelled "Ranger Mosby!") As a result, when I ETS'd in 2003, my exit physical determined that I had 40% hearing in my right hear and 65% in my left. Today, I still occasionally pull a stupid and have my Peltors up on top of my head as I instruct someone in something, as another person is running a drill nearby. Nevertheless, I am religious about having hearing protection on anytime unsuppressed gunfire occurs in my immediate vicinity.
    I am also adamant that people should move to electronic hearing protection, if just for better communications. In a class last year, I had a shooter running a protection drill who ended up pushing the principal down behind cover, and then looked up to locate the bad guys. He was pointing his muzzle at the principal's lower back the entire time...with his finger on the trigger. Since he had non-electronic hearing protection on his head, he couldn't hear me yelling at him to wake the fuck up...until I hit him with a flying body tackle at a dead run and buried his face in the gravel of the range, and jerked the muffs off long enough to tell him to get the fuck off my range.
    One aspect of my PPE that some of the older attendees at recent classes have commented on is my practice of wearing high-quality knee pads when I am going to do anything even remotely physically demanding in training (for me, this means even square range work, since it will invariably end up including something like the "D Drill" or some "run-and-gun" work, where I invariably end up diving onto my knees). I have knees as bad as anyone's, and far more damaged than most people's. I've torn both ACLs, as well as the meniscus, patellar tendon, and MCL in my right knee, and fractured the patella in my left. I cannot afford further injury in either knee if it can be avoided, if I intend to remain physically active and pull my own weight in the coming struggles. If you have knee problems (or even if you don't and want to avoid them), invest in high-quality knee pads and wear them when you train!
    Finally, wear gloves anytime you will be utilizing large volumes of rapid-fire rifle fire, as part of your fighting load-out. From inadvertently grabbing a smoking hot rifle barrel (been there, done that) on accident, to diving into a pile of rocks for cover (or landing on a cactus!), there are countless ways in a gunfight to tear your hands up, bad enough to make you combat-ineffective. Even expensive gloves are a cheap insurance policy, with the added bonus that you don't have to worry about adding camouflage face-paint to your hands. While there are myriad high-end tactical cool-guy gloves out there with high-impact polymer knuckles and kevlar reinforced palms, among other features, I still wear the old-school cool-guy Nomex aviator's gloves, regardless of the weather (if it's really cold, I wear them as liners under heavy winter gloves. I can jerk the outer glove off if I need to). One of my associates still stands by his choice of the well-made mechanic-style gloves that you can pick up at the auto parts store for around $15-20 per pair.

The Rucksack Sustainment Load

The concept of small, lightweight "assault" packs, in the form of one-day or three-day packs, are not new to light-infantry forces. From the haversacks of pre-industrial armies that lived largely off of pack trains, to the ALICE LCE buttpack (as previously mentioned, as dismal failure of a concept, if you ever have to hump a real ruck as well), the concept has a great deal of historical precedent. Unfortunately, for the future resistance guerrilla light-infantryman, outside of urban enclave-based elements, it's a largely over-rated concept for carriage of the sustainment load.

The contemporary re-birth of the assault pack in the enduring fight with the Caliphate is due, almost totally a result of the vehicle-based operations, even for "light" infantry (as I've mentioned repeatedly, calling a fighting force that travels to within two kilometers of the objective in motorized vehicles and then walks the last little bit "light infantry" is ridiculous). When you expect to perform a mission after a one-mile jaunt, then return just as quickly to the trucks, only to be returned to the FOB in time for a meal and bedtime, there's little reason to carry more than a simple day-pack. When a guerrilla fighter has to literally live out of his ruck, with his entire sustenance and shelter only what he can carry for the duration of an operation, an assault pack will only suffice if your missions will be raids on the next door neighbors.

For the future resistance guerrilla fighter, operating in a jungle/swamp environment, alpine environment, or other non-urban area, a return to the traditional rucksack will be called for, regardless of how well supplied your element is via well-planned and placed caches, and logistics networks. The simple amount of equipment necessary for successful long-term operations in these non-urban environments is great enough to require a full-size rucksack, despite the best efforts of tactical experts throughout the military to reduce the basic payload of gear to the smallest amount possible. Even with a basic payload nearing the minimal 20-25 pounds, the requirement to add extra ammunition, bolt cutters and entry tools, extra food, and other mission-essential equipment, mandates a load-bearing system larger than the typical assault ruck.

The sad reality is, the assault pack concept only works for modern conventional infantry forces because a) they are getting resupplied on an average of every 48-72 hours, and b) the trucks are generally less than two hours of walking away if they do run out of something. While we SHOULD have re-supply caches and well-developed logistics networks in place throughout our projected area of operations, the reality is that any number of things, from observers in the area to being on the run for escape-and-evade requirements, could preclude our ability to access either of these resources (I keep my "go-to-war" ruck equipped with enough to sustain me, in the field, for two weeks or more at a time).

  1. I've gone through a wide range of rucksack options over nearly two decades. I started with the ALICE large ruck and frame, as a young Ranger, moved on to a civilian mountaineering rucksack courtesy of Dana Designs, as a SF NCO, then tried a couple of different high-end military rucksack systems from the commercial market before reverting to the "big green tick" of my youth. The ALICE pack is not ideal for anyone, and is simply unbearable for most. I accept that reality, and seldom, if ever, recommend it, unless someone is on a budget (and often not even then. Kelty makes some extremely durable, large-capacity internal frame packs that are not much more expensive than a surplus ALICE ruck, while being far more comfortable for most people to carry). Nevertheless, my body long ago developed the necessary contortions to carry an extremely heavy ALICE ruck and still remain tolerably comfortable doing so (at least as "comfortable" as a "gut-check" can ever be). It works for ME.
    (I should point out that I DO own an assault pack/3-day pack that I generally carry when I'm teaching classes/clinics, simply for convenience. The class load-out is similar to my "go-to-war" ruck, except for the exclusion of specialized "mission-essential" gear that I simply don't need when teaching a class. This pack also serves as my 24/7, everywhere I go, "go-bag/get-home bag/bug-out bag." Unfortunately, since I traded it from a buddy who didn't remember where he got it, and it doesn't have the manufacturer's labels anymore, I can't tell you what brand it is, or where to get one from...)
  2. One issue I've always had, is my well-developed ability to move quickly, cross-country, with inordinate amounts of weight on my back (I once jumped into a three-week training mission with a ten-pound, cast-iron dutch oven in my ruck, just for the ability to cook peach cobbler for my ODA...), without complaint. This was beneficial when I was a young Ranger, packing a M249 SAW, and a basic load and a half of ammunition for it, as well as when I was a junior SF weapons sergeant, and had a senior Bravo who insisted I needed to pack a mortar, base-plate, and a half-dozen rounds for it, as well as my personal gear. It has been a drawback in recent years however, as I still tend to over pack my ruck, burdening myself with gear that is "nice-to-have" but not "need-to-have." Even here in the Northern Rockies, in the depths of winter, if I am packing a rucksack, fighting load, and a weapon, I do not need four fleece jackets, and three pairs of long underwear in my ruck. This re-awakening of the fundamentals has led to drastic reductions in my basic payload weight, as I deliberately and mercilessly cull my gear on a regular basis. I'm currently down to two sets of base layer long underwear (one silk weight, the other medium weight polypropylene), a single medium weight fleece jacket (in the winter, this is augmented by an old-style quilted M65 field jacket liner), and an ultra-light wind- and water-proof outer shell for cold-weather "snivel" gear, supplemented by a fleece cap, polypropylene neck gaiter, balaclava, and a shemagh, as well as heavier, winter-weight gloves. If I'm moving through the timber, across the desert, the heater on my back (the rucksack) keeps me creating body heat. If I stop, I'm generally going into a hide-site, which means I'm either moving into my sleep system/shelter (see below), have the ability to use a small warming fire to create heat, or need to stay cool (but not hypothermic) enough to stay awake for a surveillance mission, or other essential tasks.
  3. One area I suffered through as a young Ranger that I now refuse to scrimp on is my sleeping comfort. I recognize the importance of being able to function for lengthy periods of time without adequate sleep, have done so, and can still do so. Nevertheless, when the opportunity arises to sleep, especially under tactical conditions, it is imperative to get the highest quality sleep/rest you are capable of, under the circumstances. In the summer months, this means I use the standard "Ranger Taco" bivy system. It is a quilted poncho liner and a poncho, folded and snapped together into an sort of "pseudo" sleeping bag, with a heavy-duty casualty/space blanket in the inside. This will keep the average person comfortably warm in temperatures well down into the single digits, if he/she possesses even a moderately normal metabolism. In a snow cave or snow trench, this system has kept me on the edge of sweating, even when the outside temperature was in the negative double-digits. Outside of the summer months however, these days, I generally pack a sleeping bag system in my rucksack. Again, minimalism is my goal, so rather than a complete GI sleep system, I pack the Gore-Tex bivy sack, and the black, intermediate-weight bag. If the temperatures in my area are going to reach -30F or colder, it means there is at least a couple of feet of snow already on the ground. It doesn't take that much effort or time to build an expedient shelter that, combined with this sleeping bag system, will keep me cozily warm, even in these extreme cold conditions.
  4. In lieu of a tent, which is just an absurd liability in a light-infantry tactical environment, and recognizing the drawbacks of the bivy sack as the sole shelter for extended stays in the outdoors, I still keep a "Ranger Hooch" system in my ruck. While the basic "Ranger Hooch" involves simply stringing up your poncho to provide a roof to keep precipitation off your head, I once had a squad leader who had developed the concept into a highly refined architectural marvel. His system, which I blatantly and unabashedly stole, allowed for the hooch to be pitched anywhere, under any conditions, and protect the individual from the vagaries of almost any imaginable ill weather conditions, from snow and rain, to high winds, and any combination of the above. The "Ranger Hooch" that SSG P used (I've always assumed he got the idea from somewhere else, rather than developing it, whole cloth, himself) I chose to modify, as I gained more experience. Mine includes a basic USGI rip-stop nylon poncho (I still use the old woodland BDU pattern type, because let's face it, ACU sucks for a camouflage pattern), with a loop of approximately eight inches of 550 cord tied to every eyelet around the perimeter, and a 12-inch loop tied off to the inside where the waist-band strings were originally. In addition, the hood is cinched as tightly closed as possible, tied off with 550 cord, and has a six foot long length of 550 cord extending from the noose. This allows for a great deal of tie-off real estate for constructing shelters in the field. I include 8-10 stainless steel tent pins (tent pegs are too space-consuming, as well as harder to drive into the ground in most terrain), 6-12 one-foot long bungee cords, and three sections of the old USGI shelter half poles, allowing me a great deal of flexibility in creating elevated corners and sides of the shelter. Combined with the Ranger Taco, or a sleeping bag with Gore-Tex bivy, this provides me a wide range of shelter options for "protection" from the elements when in a lay-up position or hide site.
  5. I have, in the past, carried a small multi-fuel individual camp stove in the field. When I was serving in SF, I swapped back and forth between the Whisperlight 600 Internationale and the Dragonfly, both from Mountain Safety Research (MSR), because of their ability to run on pretty much any sort of fuel, including aviation fuel and kerosene (both can be much easier to find in many parts of the world than white gas). I've also gone to the field, cooked field rations in a tactical environment, and not had a stove to use. A properly constructed cook fire for an individual or small-unit element does not need to produce a large visual or even thermal signature. I can build a fire that I can cook a one-quart meal on, warm myself, dry clothes, and it will not be visible, even in the dark, at distances greater than 50 feet (that's handgun range for the range-estimation challenged...if a security forces fighter is that close, I have bigger concerns than whether they can see my fire). While I still retain the option of adding a cooking stove to my load-out, I don't generally bother unless I am camping/training in an area with a high fire hazard (that whole volunteer firefighter thing). For those who find a stove more emotionally comfortable to cook on that a fire, but refuse to pay $75.00 or more for one, look into designs for the various "hobo stoves" that are simply variations on a homemade stove, constructed from an old tin can.
  6. For sustenance, I don't carry MREs as a primary meal option. I do have a half-dozen stripped MRE entrees and sides in my ruck as a lightweight emergency back-up, but would have to be pretty well into starvation to lower myself to eating them. My personal foodstuffs in the field range from whatever junk food I can find on the grocery store shelves as I'm on my way to teach a class (several participants in recent classes have commented that apparently my diet consists entirely of Coca-Cola, Kool-Aid, Copenhagen, and various types of candy, since that's all they ever saw me consuming. Unfortunately, HH6 would concur with that assessment, even if only half in jest), to various vacuum-sealed and dehydrated foods, as well as basic staples such as bannock bread/biscuit mix and rice. I can function effectively for several days, even in highly active tactical environments, with nothing but water, so the trash calories in sugar-laden junk food, while certainly not healthy, are not really cutting me short either.
    I've used everything from one-quart, locking-lid MSR stainless steel and/or titanium pots, to large-capacity metal enamelware mugs and old tin cans to cook in. Today, for my "go-to-war" kit, I've limited it to a large stainless steel mug. It cooks up just enough to keep me well-fueled for moving cross-country in alpine terrain, regardless of weather conditions, and it weighs less than half of what a one-quart MSR pot does.
  7. In addition to the 100oz Camelback I wear on my plate carrier, which can be worn under my rucksack, I also keep one tucked inside my assault pack. For my primary ruck, I fall back on the old mid-1990s Ranger Regiment RSOP, and keep a USGI two-quart collapsible canteen strapped to the side of my ruck. Unlike the RSOP though, in lieu of an e-tool on the other side, I have an additional two-quart there as well (the whole "I live in the desert" thing). Basically, despite the weight, I carry a LOT of fluids (it's seldom pure water. Usually it will be Kool-Aid with half the prescribed sugar. I refer to it as combat Gatorade).
  8. Besides these survival essentials, and mission-essential gear that changes, depending on what particular training I am doing, my ruck contains various sundries. Of important note, everything in the main compartment is contained in a USGI rubberized-interior waterproof sack. The items in the three large external pockets are contained in one-gallon Zip-Lock bags. In the left side pocket (facing the back of the ruck), I've got the aforementioned stripped MRE components. In the central pocket are the components of the Ranger hooch, minus the bungees, which are strapped across the frame as additional back support. In the right side pocket are three pairs of wool socks (I wear wool socks year round).
    Additional items in the main pocket waterproof sack include a small hand towel and a personal hygiene kit (basically, a hand mirror, razor, toothbrush, foot powder, and Doctor Bronner's Organic soap, which is really rather "hippy-dippy" of me, but I like the soap, and it can fill the role of soap, dentrifice, and shaving lotion, all in one), two rolls of toilet paper, a sewing/repair kit (assorted fabric and glover's needles, dental floss and fishing line, and flat-packed 100 mph tape, plus a small tube of Shoe-Goo), a couple extra fire-starting devices and tinder, a dozen pre-fabricated wire snares, and whatever luxury items I decide to throw in as I'm doing my pre-combat inspections to make sure nothing is missing.
  9. The small upper external pockets hold a variety of waterproofed batteries, including AA, AAA, and CR123s for flashlights, headlamps, and optics, plus a Petzl-brand LED headlamp, assorted spare chemlights, a container of ionization water purification drops (I cannot think of the name off hand, and am too lazy to go dig through my ruck to look. I order them from Peggy Layton's website out of Utah. They are inarguably, the single best water purification method I've come across, bar none), and three or four emergency candles.
  10. Attached to the side of the ruck, above my canteen and e-tool, I have an Eagle pouch on either side. One is a clearly marked IFAK/BOK, with more components than my fighting load IFAK, including two CAT-T tourniquets, three packages of H&H compressed gauze, a chest-punch kit, a nasopharyngeal airway device, a surgical chric kit, two large Israeli Battlefield dressings, and two packages of Quick-Clot combat gauze. The opposite side has the same pouch, not marked, for general purpose miscellany, ranging from a pair of small field binoculars, to whatever other gear I decide to stuff in there on any given day.

That's it. I've pared the basic payload down as far as I feel comfortable paring it. I can run with this load on, still manage a 12-mile movement in two hours (for conditioning purposes, obviously, not tactically), and live out of the pack, as long as necessary, supplementing whatever rations I am carrying, with whatever I can gather, hunt, snare, or procure from caches. With this load, supplemented by whatever supplies HH6 mandates I add for the morale officer (notably, diapers, wipes, extra clothes, blankets, and formula/food), I would feel as confident as possible performing an escape-and-evasion in a grid-down collapse. As a fighting/combat sustainment load, with the addition of mission-essential gear, ranging from the aforementioned entry tools, to specialized optics such as my spotting scope and/or NODs, I feel as well equipped as I need to be for a resistance guerrilla fighter.

Hopefully, this will help someone trying to figure out what is essential and what is not, and get their own payload developed, while avoiding the trial-and-error method of acquisition. For the guys in the class a couple of weeks ago, it should answer their request for a list of what I carry and why, to help them overcome their perceived shortcomings. Never make the mistake however, of substituting cool-guy, CDI (Chicks Dig It) gear for knowledge, ability, and skill-at-arms.

Nous Defions!

John Mosby

Somewhere in the Mountains