(somehow my formatting is getting fucked by WP’s software again. I apologize for readability issues…..)
I’ve not gone to Bunkerville since events got, shall we say, “western” down there. I didn’t even hear about it until a couple of days ago. I have followed some of the goings on with the Bundy family for well over a decade, through western agricultural journals. I’m not about to step in and say there are any innocent angels in this mix, even though that will probably piss off a lot of people.
That having been said, I’ve spent enough time in the West, I’m always going to side AGAINST the BLM. I have it—from people who have been on the ground there in recent days—that there is at least some “adult supervision” on the ground there. This article is not intended—in any way—to slight the efforts of those with boots on the ground. On the contrary, it is to give those without the wherewithal to be there—for whatever reasons—food for thought on other ways to contribute to the efforts.
There is a lot of content flying around the blogosphere right now about IPB (intelligence preparation of the battlefield/battlespace) in light of events in Nevada. People are advocating gathering and reporting information on BLM officers and offices, as well as anyone else who may or may not have been present on the BLM side of affairs. Since it is a given amongst even the most marginal thinkers that there was/is ample intelligence collection and dissemination going on from the other side, let’s look at how we gather and collect intelligence information, from a guerrilla perspective. –JM
Tactical intelligence is information that provides leaders and planners with an ACCURATE information picture of the operational situation. The possession of ACCURATE information about what is going on in the operational environment allows the planner to draw accurate conclusions about the situation. This results in plans—hopefully—that actually have a chance of success. A lack of accurate information on the other hand, and the incorrect conclusions that can result, leads to mission failure and the pointless death of good guys. That is—at least in my experience—generally a bad thing.
Whether you are an active fighter in your community defense group, a member of a combat support echelon, or an auxiliary living and working in the midst of the hostile regime’s power, a solid grasp of the type of information needed, as well as active and passive methods for gathering that information, is a crucial aspect of contributing to the successful defense of your community and tribe.
Basic Ground Rules
There are some basic ground rules that have to be understood if you intend to be a useful member of the intelligence collection function of any organization. Violation of these rules will largely invalidate the majority of the information you provide, thus reducing your credibility and usefulness to the organization.
Rule Number One
Rule Number One is that information is not (necessarily) intelligence. Information can be defined, in our terms, as any tidbit of potentially relevant knowledge of an actual or potential hostile force (like say, the BLM, Nevada State Police, US Forest Service, or other agencies), the terrain in a given area, a potential target, likely weather conditions, and a host of other considerations. This information may come from direct observation, overheard or intercepted communications, rumors and reports, and/or imagery, amongst numerous other sources.
Any information that is POTENTIALLY relevant should be recorded and reported. This apparent relevance however, still does not make it intelligence. Intelligence is information that has been collected, evaluated for accuracy and relevance, collated and integrated with other accurate information, and analyzed and interpreted for significance and meaning, within the parameters of the local operational area. This is so critical of a point that it bears repetition: UNTIL IT IS EVALUATED FOR ACCURACY AND INTERPRETED FOR MEANING, WITHIN THE CONTEXT OF LOCAL OPERATIONAL ABILITIES, INFORMATION IS NOT INTELLIGENCE!!! So, when you see something on the news about what’s going on at Bunkerville, or read it on the Internet….it’s NOT INTELLIGENCE, it’s just information, and I don’t care if it’s John-Fucking-Mosby reporting it. Until you’ve verified it, and figured out how it affects YOUR operations, it’s just fucking information!!!
Rule Number Two
The corollary to that however, is that ANY information related to the situation may be critical. Everyone should be trained to observe and report those observations, and ANY observations should be reported within your network. Stick to that job. You are not an analyst, so don’t try and analyze the information. Don’t try and determine what part of the information is useful. Unless you are an analyst (in which case, quit reading, and start writing a POI to teach classes within the community on this shit!!!), don’t try and determine what part of the information is useful. Unless you have access to ALL of the incoming information, you have no way to determine the relevance and accuracy of what you are gathering. Be a sponge, and absorb all of the information into your notebook or voice recorder—all of it—then let it be squeezed out of you gently by an intel guy or girl. When you are reporting it, don’t analyze it, just report it. It’s the analysts’ job to analyze.(If you want to be an analyst, step one is go and take one of Sam C’s classes from GuerrillAmerica.)
Just for good measure, let me repeat that one for emphasis as well…..UNLESS YOU ARE AN ANALYST AND ARE RECIEVING ALL INCOMING INFORMATION, DO NOT TRY AND ANALYZE….You’ll just fuck it up and create an inaccurate information picture. Pretend it’s a Saturday morning and you’re back in college…Regurgitate it all.
A lot of people, including many who should genuinely know better, throw the term METT-TC around very loosely, all too often in a fashion that demonstrates what is apparently an inherent misunderstanding of the depth of meaning intrinsic to this awesome intelligence tool. The first objective of tactical intelligence is to help planners and leaders make sound decisions. Getting intelligence is the first step in planning an operation. It assists us by giving us an idea of what the enemy can do, where he can do it, when he can do it, and if he is likely to do it.
Arguably, the most important thing for the novice to understand is that none of the elements of METT-TC (Mission, Enemy, Terrain, Troops, Time, and Civilian Considerations) exist in a vacuum. Each element exists and is relevant only as a synergistic part of the whole information picture—in relationship to each of, and all of, the other elements. While we have to—for comprehension issues—discuss each independently, we need to understand how they tie together as well. Let’s look at them, both generally, and in relation to ongoing events in The Silver State.
What is the mission you hope to accomplish? Are you only interested in getting the BLM to leave the Bundy’s alone? (Good luck. I’ve been following that story for well over a decade, because they are sort-of neighbors, and it’s not going away anytime soon) Are you interested in destroying the BLMs ability to function as a regulatory agency throughout the West? Are you only interested in making a political statement against the federal government, using the BLM as the agent of that statement? The problem is, each of those is a strategic goal, and we’re functioning at the tactical level…or we should be….but, knowing our strategic goal is instrumental to defining our tactical goals.
If your strategic goal is ONLY to get the BLM to leave the Bundy family alone, then your first tactical mission is to get the BLM to leave. That was already achieved, at least in the short term. In the long-term though, we need to start doing more thorough IPB. We need to know and understand the rest of the METT-TC factors.
If your strategic goal is to destroy the BLMs ability to function as a regulatory agency throughout the West (does the BLM even have any functioning field offices east of the 100th meridian? I genuinely don’t know….), then your tactical mission needs to change, because it’s bigger than just the Bundy Ranch, the Pahrump Field Office, or the Southern Nevada District of the BLM. Now, you’re looking at every field office, in every district, in every western state. While that sounds daunting, it actually makes shit WAY easier. Now, instead of gathering information on one field office, in one district, far, far away from where you live, you can focus on the local office.
If your strategic goal is to make a political statement against the federal government, using the BLM as the agent of that statement….well, job well done. Now, ya’ll go home and leave the Bundy family to pay the penalty of your political shenanigans.
My personal stand is, let’s accomplish one and two. Let’s get the BLM to stop fucking with the Bundy family by destroying their ability to function as a regulatory agency throughout the West….unless someone can show me some sort of Constitutional legal precedent for the federal government controlling 85% of a sovereign state’s land area? Buehler….Buehler…..I’m waiting……
That means, we have to determine what our operational and tactical missions will be—locally—in support of that mission. For most general information gathering activities, we will be gathering information on an operational scale and filtering it through a tactical mission statement to determine its relevance. Priority Intelligence Requirements (PIR) may be requested that answer specific questions about a specific tactical-level mission. That requires a tactical-scale mission statement, in order to determine how the information we already have, and the information we still need, relates to the other information in the METT-TC analysis. A simple “who, what, when, where, why” statement of the mission can directly correlate to the METT-TC outline, allowing the planner to determine the specific information he needs.
“The East Tiddly-Winks Lightfoot Militia (WHO/TROOPS….but on a side note….why the fuck do so-called “militias” insist on using 18th century British unit designations? If you want to have a cool name for your militia, I’d suggest not naming it after the enemy….Call it something cool and American like “Volunteer Infantry” or—if you’re in the Nevada desert, and on horseback “Volunteer Cavalry.” Calling a militia “lightfoot” like you’re going to war in a red tunic with white-washed LBE is gayer than a bag of dicks!) will conduct a harassment and interdiction mission (WHAT/MISSION), from 0300 on 25APR2014 until 0600 on 25APR2014 (WHEN/TIME), in order to cause damage/destruction to BLM facilities and vehicles (WHY/MISSION and ENEMY…Note, I’m not specifically suggesting you do this….This is all hypothetical for training purposes, right? On the other hand, before someone suggests I’m a coward, for not targeting specific personnel in BLM uniforms….sabotage is a legitimate…and effective…tool in the UW/guerrilla toolbox).”
This more specific mission statement allows the planner to determine what information he has that can be applied to the tactical planning of the mission, as well as determining what further information he needs to request from assets in the field. For general information collection however, any information that might fit the strategic or operational mission statements should be gathered and reported. Don’t overlook the forest, because you’re too focused on the tree. Knowing what the enemy situation is (i.e. how many BLM employees there are at the national or local level) doesn’t do you a shit stain bit of good if you don’t know what your specific mission is.
The first step of the troop-leading procedures (TLP) is to analyze the situation. This gives the leader an accurate information picture of what he is facing, in order to determine what other issues he will need to address in planning his mission. Knowing the enemy situation is pretty critical to accomplishing that accurate information picture.
The planner needs to understand the type of force he is facing. Is it a “professional” military or paramilitary organization, trained in small-unit operations? Is it a police/regulatory agency trained in individual weapons and tactics? Is it a Barney Fife, security guard organization, who were issued weapons that they’ve never even touched before, for an emergency?
What is the size of the organization he is facing? Is it a couple of rifle squads, or an infantry-battalion? What type of equipment are they using, and more? The doctrinal method for reporting enemy information is the often-cited, but all too often, misunderstood SALUTE acronym, for Size, Activity, Location, Unit/Uniform, Time, and Equipment. It’s the perfect format for recording and reporting information, when it is done right. Unfortunately, all too often, it’s taught incorrectly, using entirely too brief and generalized of a format.
For example, my 1992 edition of the Ranger Handbook illustrates the use of SALUTE with the following report:
Size: Seven Enemy Soldiers
Activity: Traveling SW
Location: Crossed Road Junction GL123456 (if I have to tell you that is a map coordinate, you are as wrong as two boys fucking….Go do push-ups.)
Unit/Uniform: OD fatigues with red, six-pointed star on the left shoulder
Time: 211300AUG (1300 on 21 August)
Equipment: Carrying one machine gun and one rocket launcher (individual small arms are assumed to be present and carried)
On a conventional battlefield, with the enemy having a fixed Table of Organization and Equipment (TOE), such as the Soviets barreling through the Fulda Gap, that shit MIGHT have been sufficient. In the UW environment though, we’re going to need a LOT more information…
Size: How many personnel work in your local field office? How many of those are secretarial or janitorial staff? How many are biologists or bureaucrats who don’t carry guns (and might shit themselves at the sight of a gun, let alone the suggestion they carry one!)? How many are sworn LEOs and thus can be expected to carry a gun, at least on duty (in my experience, like cops everywhere, most BLM rangers don’t carry off-duty)? Of those that are armed, how many are actually fighting fit?
Knowing that the BLM has 10,000 employees (souce: blm.gov) is nice, but fundamentally useless at the tactical level. I want to know how many the local field office has. I also want to know how many are on duty at any given time, on any given day. Knowing that the BLM field office has 20 employees is useful, and MIGHT tell me that my four man cell can’t do shit against them. If I find out though, that only two are sworn officers with the legal ability to carry a weapon on duty, that sort of changes the paradigm a little bit, doesn’t it? If I delve deeper and find out that one of those had triple bypass surgery last month, and is on restricted light duty, and so can’t leave the office, that REALLY starts to change things!
So, they’re traveling SW? Cool. How fast were they moving? Were they moving in a tactically proficient manner, or were they just bopping down the road? Did they stop? When they stopped were they deployed in a defensible manner, or did they just fall down with exhaustion, wherever they happened to be standing? When they stopped, did they put out security? Did they eat? Did they have a rest plan, or did they all pass out? The idea of the activity report is to give the analyst an idea, not just of what they are doing at a specific moment in time, but also of their level of ability and their capabilities.
Looking more specifically at our BLM example….what level of training do the local guys maintain? Do they do their annual qualification and call it good? Is one or more of them a Tactical Timmy, concerned about his survival, who gets off-the-job training in gunhandling and small-unit tactics? Do they train with the local PD or SD SWAT team? Is the SWAT team any good?
Where do they eat breakfast? Do they have a field office working lunch or breakfast once a week? Do they link up during the day, in the middle of their patrols, to compare notes? God is in the details…
When they write citations, do they exhibit basic officer survival training tactics, or do they have their nose buried in the citation book? Do they walk up and lean on the window frame of Bubba’s pick-up when talking to him (No shit, I had a rural cop do that one time…tiny little female. She’s damned lucky I wasn’t a bad guy, or she’d have been a midnight snack. The world is full of fish, swimming around the ocean, just looking for a shark to eat them!)
Equally as important, what agencies do they cooperate with/train with locally, that they might call on for help in a bad situation? Do they cross-train a lot with the local sheriff’s department, or with the local FBI office? DEA (pretty common in parts of the West actually, as both agencies look for illegal marijuana growing operations on “public” ground)?
Crossed Road Junction GL 123456 is great. When they were there. Did they stop moving there? When they left, where did they go? When they stopped, did they stop on a key terrain feature with good OCOKA considerations (See Terrain, below), or in a tightly-vegetated, hard-to-access hide site? If they are in a built-up area, are they stopping in buildings, or are they sleeping outside in vacant lots? Are they taking over occupied homes, or only empty buildings?
Where is the field office located? Do an OCOKA assessment of it. Where do they stop for their mid-shift, in-vehicle nap? Do an OCOKA assessment of it. How much of a PSYOP victory would it be if the local Sheriff’s Department had to go rescue the fish cop, because some unidentifiable miscreants (no doubt troubled youth!) snuck up on him, stole his clothes and guns, and truck keys, and left him to sit in the woods in his truck? I know communities in the West where he’d never be able to show his face again in public…..NOT THAT I’M SUGGESTING SUCH AN APPLICATION OF YOUR STALKING SKILLS, MIND YOU. THIS IS HYPOTHETICAL!!!!!
The doctrinal idea behind identifying the unit that the enemy force is part of is that, by knowing the enemy’s order of battle, we can determine the level of ability of the forces we’re facing. There’s a lot to be said for that. A 12-man SFODA can be a hell of a lot more lethal than a single conventional infantry squad of 9 guys, and not just because of the four extra warm bodies. On the other hand, in the UW environment, the enemy may not be wearing uniforms, and the uniforms they are wearing might not mean shit.
Everyone, I’m sure, has seen the photograph of the fat kid playing airsoft, kitted out like a JSOC ninja.
I’ve been to shoots with people who had a couple of classes under their belt with some well-known trainers, and were kitted out from boots to do-rags in multicam, although it you’d asked them what SUT was, they’d have thought you were from Mars (it was so gay, even HH6 looked at me and asked “Why is that dude wearing pajamas to the range?”) Having the gear and cool uniforms doesn’t mean they know how to use it.
On the other hand, looking like a douche doesn’t mean they DON’T know how to use it either….
For all of our laughing at the fat kid playing airsoft……at least one of them has an idea of WTF is going on……
Being a cop doesn’t give them a pass on the “I know what I’m doing, because I’ve been trained” bus though, now does it?
And let’s not forget this genius….
But, on a tangential note, too often, the milita dudes are giving up PERSEC information, unnecessarily, in their quest to be “cool.” You do NOT need to be in head-to-toe camouflage, to stand watch on a fucking highway overpass! Wearing the uniform doesn’t make you skilled, anymore than not wearing the uniform makes you unskilled.
If you see a bunch of dudes in matching uniforms wearing the same velcro patches, don’t second-guess it. Just record what the fuck you see. Let the analysts figure out the other shit. If the people in the uniforms are not who they seem to be, then the analysts will figure that shit out, by….you know….analyzing ALL of the information, rather than just the microcosm of the battlefield that you see.
Before any of the militia dudes start sniveling, there’s nothing wrong with looking professional. I am, and always was, a fan of starched BDUs and spit-shined jungle boots in garrison. Call it a throwback to growing up in the Ranger Regiment. But, walking around in public, in ACUs, when most of the people around you are in Wranglers and button down shirts, just makes you look like a Tactical Dick….seriously.
If you can tell that they are an organized unit, based on their cool-guy Velcro patches, then record it. If you are gathering information based on what others are telling you, or what you overhear, and they are mentioning specific units, by all means, identify what you’ve heard. Just don’t get too wrapped around the “uniforms=units=training levels and professionalism” horseshit though. It doesn’t work very well.
Where are they, and when are/were they there? When did they stop? How frequently did they stop? Do they operate at night, or just during daylight hours? Operating only during daylight hours may indicate a lack of NV technology and/or training in low-light operations. It may also indicate a wage-slave mentality that can be leveraged to your advantage.
If your guys are trained to function at night—with or without NODs—and the enemy isn’t, or doesn’t function at night because it doesn’t fit into the agency budget, that opens up a wide variety of tactical options, doesn’t it? The idea of collecting and reporting information about the enemy goes to identifying capabilities, which can tell the planner about the enemy’s possible courses of action. Their ability or inability to function in the dark is a critical aspect of that.
I don’t want to just know what kind of weapons they have. I want to know if their weapons are well-maintained. I want to know how many weapons they have. Does EVERYONE have a weapon? Does the local field office have a sniper-grade weapon, and a trained marksman to run it? Do they have just their soft-skinned vehicles, or do they have armored vehicles too? Do they have automatic weapons at their disposal? Can they requisition them from other agencies? Do they have air assets, either agency-owned, or on contract?
Developing an understanding of the enemy situation, in relation to how it’s going to affect your local forces, is absolutely critical to developing an accurate information picture of the situation, and determining if you will be able to accomplish your intended missions. Developing a comprehensive SALUTE report can allow the analyst/planner to determine the enemy’s composition and disposition—how he is arrayed in the battlespace—as well as likely and possible courses-of-action the enemy might take (for instance, a local field office with 30 employees, only two of whom are sworn, armed LEO, who have NEVER made an arrest or written a citation after dark, except during elk season—and then only at checkpoint stops—are not likely to be ready to do much about half their vehicles in the motor pool suddenly having every single hose and wire under the hood ripped out….except call the Sheriff for investigative help….and be the laughing stock of the local ranching and hunting communities for a week or so….)
Terrain is—or should be—a dominant factor in mission-planning, since it us critical to the success or failure of operations. It’s an old adage that a “guerrilla knows his home terrain better than the invader.” There’s a lot of truth in that (thus the reason it’s become a cliché), but it’s only part of the story. Knowing the location of every creek, draw, and ridgeline within ten square miles is useful, but only if you understand the tactical significance of those terrain features. This tactical significance filter must be applied to the terrain both in how it impacts the enemy, as well as how it impacts friendly forces. To analyze terrain, we use the OCOKA framework. Again, like METT-TC, every element is synergistic with the others, as well as with the other METT-TC factors (wow, shit just got complicated, didn’t it?). Each element has to be analyzed, not just in light of friendly and enemy force capabilities, but also in light of the other OCOKA elements.
Observation and Fields-of-Fire: When analyzing positions to stop, or routes of movement/approach, we have to look at what we can see and what we can shoot at, given the limitations of our STANO (Surveillance, Target Acquisition, and Night Observation—in other words, “optics” of all types, although audio surveillance equipment could be considered in the STANO list as well) equipment and our weapons. We also have to consider where we can BE SEEN FROM, and SHOT AT FROM, given the limitations of the enemy’s STANO and weapons. Cover and concealment are obviously impacted by both of these angles.
Cover and Concealment: What is available for cover along a particular route of approach/movement, or at a proposed stopping/firing position? Will it stop direct fire from the weapons we know or suspect the enemy to be armed with, or will it stop indirect fire weapons, if the enemy is equipped with them (are you starting to see the inter-relationship between Terrain and the Enemy situations now?)? If there is not reliable, suitable cover available, is there at least sufficient concealment to keep us hidden from the enemy’s observation? What if he has NOD or thermals? What if they are using aerial FLIR assets? Thick, northern coniferous forests offer a great deal of concealment from visible light observation, both during daylight, and from NODs, as well as from thermal imaging in many cases, including aerial FLIR. Thick, overgrown, jungle-like swamplands in the South East USA can offer the same benefits. Being inside of buildings in built-up areas can offer cover AND concealment, or just cover. In the southern Nevada desert? You’re not hiding from thermal imaging much….
Unless you start using your imagination….moving within the normal patterns of foot and vehicle traffic, in a non-suspicious manner may not offer cover, but it can offer more than ample concealment to allow partisan forces to move amongst hostile occupiers in a relatively free manner. Quit being pigeon-holed and ass-raped by your preconceived misconceptions, and think outside of the box, when it comes to determining what defines concealment. Multicam ACUs and three-color deserts look great in photographs, and work relatively well out in the boonies. In a crowd of people dressed in Wranglers and shit-kickers though, like at Bunkerville, all they do is serve as a target identifier for snipers. Sometimes dressing in street clothes is the more tactically prudent and effective “uniform” of the day, and may be the best concealment for approaching a target.
What cover and concealment is available for the enemy? As you’re moving along your route of movement, are you looking at potential lanes of observation and fields of fire? What cover and concealment do you see that could be potentially hiding enemy fighters? How far out are those positions? Are they within the maximum effective range of your enemy’s weapons?
Obstacles: When most people consider tactical obstacles, they think of man-made emplacements such as roadblocks or concertina wire emplacements. Both of these certainly fit the description, but limiting yourself to just man-made obstacles will not only limit your offensive options, but will ultimately result in your getting ass-raped in the defense as well. Man-made obstacles generally serve one of two purposes: to either block you from going somewhere, or to channelize your movement into a desired corridor of movement. In the first place, if properly emplaced and utilized, obstacles will always be overwatched by someone with a firearm. That may mean a sniper/marksman, or a rifle squad or platoon. It may just be a forward observer team with a radio and the ability to call for support.
In the second case, they will also be under observation, if done properly, but by bypassing them and taking the available route, you’ll be walking into an ambush kill zone. It’s sort of a fucked if you do, fucked if you don’t deal when dealing with man-made obstacles, unless you take the approach that coming across a man-made obstacle pretty much means you’ve gotten WAY too predictable, and completely change your operational modes.
Natural obstacles are the guerrilla’s best girlfriend. These are natural choke point and terrain features that restrict or limit the enemy’s ability to move somewhere he wants to—or needs to—go. A narrow, two-lane road along a lake, with steep, heavily vegetated mountainside on the opposite side of the road is a natural choke point, and no tactically proficient commander is going to utilize that approach, if he has even the slimmest glimmer of an alternative choice, or he’s so ignorant that he holds the enemy in complete disdain (don’t think for one minute that US military or LE commanders are immune to underestimating the enemy). On the other hand, steep, heavily vegetated terrain severely constricts the movement of vehicle-borne forces, often times forcing them to take routes that traverse natural obstacles that are natural choke points. Even air assets can be channelized by terrain. Make ridgetops impossible to land helicopters on, and the helicopters HAVE to set down in the valleys, where they are suddenly subject to interdiction from any fuckhead with a century-old .303 Enfield….let alone a .338 Lapua….
On the desert, there are thousands of dried, creekbed wadis that inhibit vehicular traffic (there’s a reason those Nevada ranchers still use horses to cowboy on…and it’s not all nostalgia). When looking at terrain for protection, we look at how natural obstacles can be used to “disrupt, turn, fix, or block” an enemy force (quoted from FM7-8 Infantry Rifle Platoon and Squad, 22APR1992). Knowing that the enemy is a bunch of overweight, donut-eating, weak-sauce sisters, who can’t move more than 50 meters from their pickups without going into cardiac arrest, means you can use the desert terrain as an obstacle to approach, this “disrupting” their approach, forcing them to use ATV trails and established, known, and noted trails (turning), so that we can set up roadblocks, or man-made washouts to “fix” or “block” them in position for an ambush (Damn, ain’t is sweet how this shit all works together so well?)
Key Terrain: Key terrain is any location or area, the seizure of which affords the force in possession with a distinct tactical advantage over any hostile force that attempts to approach. In a nutshell, key terrain can be simplest defined as a location that offers covered and concealed positions, with observation and fields of fire on all probable or likely avenues of approach, and natural obstacles on any potential avenues of approach that do not afford easy fields of fire or observation (see what I did there? Damn my soul, it’s like I planned that shit or something….)
There is one very key, common misunderstanding about key terrain (pun not intended) that must be clarified. To most laymen, “key terrain” is synonymous with “the high ground.” Here’s the catch though…especially within the context of our current specific discussion…..”The High Ground” quit being automatically synonymous with “Key Terrain” on 17DEC1903, at approximately 1035. Think about it for a moment (or, just Google the date)
Avenues of Approach: “An avenue of approach is an air or ground route of an attacking force of a given size leading to its objective or key terrain feature in its path. In the offense, the leader identifies the avenue of approach that affords him the greatest protection and places him at the enemy’s most vulnerable spot. In the defense, the leader positions his key weapons along the avenue of approach most likely to be used by the enemy.” (quote is again from the 1992 edition of FM7-8)
I didn’t quote the FM because I’m lazy and couldn’t think of a better way to express it. I quoted the doctrine in that manner, because it pretty much tells you everything that you need to understand about avenues of approach. Some important details are encompassed in that. The avenue of approach that a small unit of elite personnel can use (such as scaling the cliffs of Pont du Hoc at Normandy) is not going to work for a large conventional force element without the advanced individual training necessary to utilize that approach.
A BLM SWAT team (do they have one?) may or may not use helicopters to effect a pinpoint assault on an objective (like the Bundy Ranch HQ), but the FBI HRT team sure as fuck will. An assault force of BLM officers, in trucks, is going to be limited in their avenues of approach in that particular corner of Nevada desert (seriously….if you’ve never been there, go check it out some time. You guys that are on the ground, take a hike away from the roadside festivities and go check out the surrounding desert……), but what if they do bring in helicopter-equipped “special operations” officers (I know I’m a dick, but using the term “special operations” in the same sentence as most cops just makes me giggle). At the same time though, the chances of even the FBI HRT using the same overland, foot-borne infiltration routes that say a SF or SEAL sniper team would use is pretty laughable (not entirely though…..).
It’s critical, when determining what avenues of approach an enemy force can use, to determine what his capabilities are (based on knowledge of training and rehearsal “activity” and what “equipment” he has available.). When you know what avenues of approach he’s CAPABLE of, then you can start figuring out which avenues he’s INCAPABLE of using, and crossing those of the list. That means you can put your most effective weapons (like .50BMG and .338LM heavy rifles) in the places they’ll do the most good.
When determining what avenues of approach your forces can use (say, to sneak up on the snoozing BLM fish cop in his truck, out in the field), it’s important to have a REALISTIC, OBJECTIVE analysis of what your forces are trained and equipped to be capable of. A bunch of 50-something accountants and programmers-turned-guerrillas who have spent all of their time “training” by shooting at full-size E-type and IDPA silhouettes at 10M on the square range, but bitch when I suggest doing “MORE PT!!!”, are not going to scale a 2000′ elevation, 70-degree rock face in Montana, using NODs. They’re not going to infiltrate, across the desert, at night, into an overwatch site, from 10 kilometers away, with five days worth of sustainment gear, to avoid being seen by the BLM spotters still watching the scene.
On the other hand, a bunch of young studs in their twenties and thirties, who run obstacle races for fun, do regular PT that includes forced marches for fun with heavy rucks, and spend a couple hours a month at the climbing gym in town, might actually be able to pull that shit off….
Terrain should be viewed as a third, neutral—but active—force operating in the battlespace. Knowing how to read and understand the tactical implications of terrain can turn it into an ally instead of an enemy. Ignoring terrain, or simply not understanding what it means, from an operational and tactical standpoint, means you will not only be fighting the enemy, but actually fighting the planet as well…and that’s one big bitch to have coming after you!
Troops: Knowing what friendly forces you have available may only be determined through active information gathering, as “friendly” force commanders hedge their bets by holding troops in reserve, to hide their true capabilities from their erstwhile allies, in recognition that, in a wartime environment—especially in UW—today’s ally may be tomorrow’s enemy. It may also be done in order to conserve power for dealing with tomorrow’s enemy.
On the same hand, trying to exhibit slightly more faith in humanity—even if experience and a knowledge of history and human psychology indicates it to be a misplaced faith—even if you are confident that you have a true representation of the number of friendly forces available to you, understanding what is available means you have to analyze the other METT-TC factors in light of that. For the UW leader (as opposed to say, an SF advisor working with foreign indigenous personnel), this can be difficult, due to the need to be thoroughly, brutally objective, about people who may be your buddies—or even your relatives. If you’ve spent two or three or four years—or more—training with your group of beer-drinking buddies, to start, organize, and develop the East Tiddly-Winks Volunteer Infantry Company, having to admit that you do not have the ability to conduct an effective sabotage mission, react to contact, or do fuck-all at night could be disheartening, to say the least. Having to admit it, at the same time that you realize, your brother-in-law is the chief training officer, might make Christmas supper awkward, to say the least (on the other hand, it’ll still be less awkward than explaining to your wife that her brother got smoked by the fish cop because you weren’t honest in your Troops assessment….)
I teach guys to perform an objective SALUTE report, just like they do for the enemy situation, on their own available forces.
Size: How many actual TRAINED, FIT fighters do we have?
Activity: What training have we done? To standard? Have we learned and practiced foot patrolling? Have we mastered hasty attack and break contact? Have we practiced conducting raids or deliberate assaults? Have we mastered clandestine movements in our operational environment, whether urban or rural? If we’re urban, have we learned, practiced, and mastered conducting link-up operations in urban environments without getting compromised by the old lady with 45 cats, who sits in her nightgown on the balcony, smoking Pall Malls at 0230, because the crazy bitch has no life? Or, did we sit on our asses, drinking beer and eating nachos and barbecue, while we plinked at steel at 50 yards, and called each other “sniper” while trading velcro patches?
Location: What locations are my guys able to access? Can they run across rooftops and cross from one building roof to another using scaling ladders in urban areas, or can they get down in the sewer system and traverse the city that way? Have we done it in training, or am I making shit up because it sounds cool? Can they scale cliffs, swim fast-moving rivers, or at least construct rope-bridges? Are they capable of even WALKING a mile or two with their fighting load on, if we can get them that close with pick-up trucks?
Unit/Uniform: Am I only using my guys, or do I have other cells/units coming to help? What are the capabilities of the others? Do I need time to train them up? Are they actually trained to the standards my guys are? Are they better trained? I’d be nervous as fuck if I were at Bunkerville right now, with guys from all these different “militia” units showing up, and no way to know their respective levels of training and safe-firearms handling habits….
How will we identify them as friendly in the heat of the fight, if we don’t know them? If it’s darker than three feet up a bull’s ass (what if they’re all wearing the same fucking multicam as the BLM guys are wearing?)
Time: Can my guys operate at night, or are we limited to daylight operations, and night time static sentry posts? What about my allies? How fast can my people move, stealthily, on foot, in the dark? If I have a limited time window within which to accomplish my mission (like the fish cop’s lunch break in his truck), does my guys’ inability to hump a ruck quickly, mean I will have to scrub the mission? Can my guys move, fast enough, across rough, broken country, in fighting loads, quietly, that we can get to the truck, and get the guy captured, before he drives off at the end of his lunch break?
Equipment: What weapons do we have available? What STANO equipment? What vehicles?
I need to know the enemy’s abilities, but I have to know my abilities as well. As the man said, “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”
Misconceptions about the enemy can be catastrophically bad but can be the result of poor intelligence collection or counterintelligence efforts by the enemy. Misconceptions about your own forces can only be laid at the feet of an incompetent fucktard of a leader.
Time available is not simply a measure of how much time you have to accomplish the mission. It also represents the impact of the ability of your forces and the enemy’s forces, to function at night, on that timetable. Will the fish cop still be there, or will he have driven off to ticket birdwatchers for disturbing migratory fish? Do I need to hit him before he’s moved, or can I do it while he’s driving (obstacles can help here, right?)? Can we keep enough people around Bunkerville to keep the BLM occupied until this affair is no longer front page news on the East Coast, or do we need to do something drastic to keep it on the front pages, in order to protect the Bundy family?
Civil considerations is a relatively new addition to the tactical intelligence packet, outside of SF, as far as I know. I do remember, as a young RIP candidate, in the early 1990s (I believe, 20 years later, the guy was a former ROTC Nazi, but I could be mistaken), asking one of the cadre (for veterans of the Regiment, the RI in question was “The Evil Christian.” For the rest of the readership, that’s actually a compliment….so don’t start burning me in effigy) a question about METT-T. The RI informed us, even back then, that METT-T was obsolete, because for “the cutting edge of special operations” it was now METT-TC. That having been said, I don’t really remember seeing the C factor much until I got to SF, several years later…..
Regardless of when the addition was made, in UW, civil considerations impact everything!!! Let me restate that for emphasis: IN UW, CIVIL CONSIDERATIONS IMPACT EVERYTHING!!!! If you think otherwise, you’re a complete fucking retard, which actually, probably doesn’t impact me personally at all, so don’t take it personally, but recognize that you’re going to lose—and die—because you’re fucking retarded.
The enemy’s response to your actions has to be considered, as well as the impact of that reaction on the civilian population. Will the enemy grab ten innocent civilians and execute them for every one of his guys you kill or wound? What impact is that going to have on the local civilian populace’s willingness to provide you aid? It might piss them off and make them more active in helping you. Or, just as likely, they may decide since you’re not protecting them, you’re not capable of protecting them, so they better side with the enemy, just to stay safe.
Civil considerations will impact your relationship with the terrain. If an avenue of approach requires crossing in view of eight different farms, will the farmers provide you food and shelter? If not, can they at least be trusted to keep their mouths shut about you being in the area? In urban areas, will the locals make you as a non-local (yes. Always!)? Will they help you, ignore you, or turn you in? Will they rat you out to the enemy in hopes of gaining a benefit?
Friendly forces has an impact on civil considerations, as we’ve discussed in this blog, ad nauseum. Your people need to know how to be genuinely friendly and helpful, rather than acting like dicks, even if they like the locals. Just because you think Islam is a 10th Century anachronism, full of barbarity that should be stomped into oblivion under the boot heel of modern liberal (in the classical sense of the word) philosophy and liberty (which I tend to), if you’re working in an Islamic country to defeat insurgents, you’d better know enough not to piss on dead bodies and burn Korans if you want to win….
In Nevada ranch country? Don’t start talking shit about rednecks or hillbilly farmers. Don’t talk shit about a man’s hat or his horse. Don’t discipline another man’s kids or his dogs (seriously. I almost got my ass kicked by a couple of Nevada cowboys once, because I grabbed one of their cow dogs and threw it out of the back of my truck…..). If you’re out on the desert, pulling overwatch, and get tripped over by some liberal fuckwit backpackers, or field biologists, don’t go all Rambo on them. Be polite, offer them water. When they leave, move. If you’re at the outdoor store, buying gear, and hear some patchouli-smelling douchenozzle with dreadlocks and tie-dyes one, talking smack, don’t engage directly. Be polite, and turn the conversation to anti-government common ground….then you can point out that the only difference between them and the Bundy family is that the Bundy family has better fashion sense, and grooming habits…..and NOW who’s the redneck, making prejudicial judgments solely on appearance (it worked for me recently, in Jackson, Wyoming….)
Always, always, always, consider the impact of your operations on the local civilian populace. Gather information from the locals on local attitudes towards your forces. Are they on your side? Do they support your foals, without being willing or ready to lend active support? Are they neutral and just don’t give a shit either way? Any of those are okay, from our point of view, although the first two are obviously preferable. Is there anything we can do to sway them towards the first two?
Is there a vocal faction swaying public opinion against you? Is that element actively opposed to you? Do they believe you are nothing more than a bunch of wannabe Rambo criminals who should be thrown into the darkest cell in the basement of a prison somewhere—preferably in a third-world nation they can’t pronounce the name of—and then have the key melted down to slag metal? If so, what would it take to change their minds and gain their support? Is that possible for you to accomplish? Chances are, in today’s America, the answer is a resounding yes. Not even liberals are happy with the government today. I’ll give you another hint….”Kill them” is NOT a valid answer, regardless of how tempting it sometimes is to “hoist a black flag and commence to slitting throats.” So, you just killed the naysayers….How is the rest of the populace going to perceive you, now that you killed their brother/father/uncle/cousin/boyfriend/husband/best friend from grade school/etc?
A thorough understanding of the implications of METT-TC in developing an accurate information picture of the battlefield is a critical element in determining what information is necessary to develop an actual tactical intelligence capability. In addition however, we also need to develop the ability to gather the requisite information to determine the validity of targets for attack, whether that target is an enemy encampment, a physical structure, like a motor pool, or a specific individual. That will be covered in part two of this article.
In the meantime, consider the implications of Tactical Intelligence Collection and Reporting, with the SALUTE report, in light of the current happenings in Nevada, and what those mean to the rest of us in the coming weeks and days.
(My personal thoughts…..Between the actions against Ares Armor by the ATF, and now the BLM ratcheting up efforts against the Bundy Family, in what has–up until now–been largely handled in the federal courts–if I were the paranoid type, I’d think someone is scared of something happening that they do not want the general American public paying attention to….what will they do next to keep people from following twisty trails to dark recesses?)
One of the complaints I often hear via email is the cost involved in traveling to training. Training itself, whether with me, Max V, Mason-Dixon, or any of a variety of other trainers, is not particularly expensive. Getting TO that training CAN be though. With trainers working all along the eastern seaboard, and throughout the midwest, as well as here in the mountain northwest, one of the shortcomings in training has been the southwest. I’ve done a few classes there, and will continue to do so in the future, but it’s not a place I go regularly (or at all in summer!).
Fortunately, there’s a new kid on the block ready to step in and do their part. Sierra12 (www.sierra12.com) is run by a couple of combat arm vets from the Army and Marine Corps who have been in a couple of classes with me, and know what they are doing. They’ve helped AI classes, and generally can be trusted to know what the fuck they are talking about in the context of their classes.
Most important of all, since they conduct at least some of their training on the same place I do training in Arizona, and I’ve had discussions about them with the land owner, I can attest that they won’t rape your cattle, steal your women, or show you a bunch of stupid bullshit that will get your ass killed earlier than fate decrees.
Perhaps most important of all, while I was doing important shit like taking classes for work, they were actually doing what they believe in and standing on the line in Nevada. Support their efforts.
If you’re in the SW, check them out.
Please accept my apologies for not posting in a couple weeks. Following the Iowa class (another AAR forthcoming, from the host), had to attend two weeks of a “professional development” course for my other life. I did not have any internet access for that span of time. Instead, when I wasn’t in class, I took the opportunity to work on the book revisions (more below), and spend time with the family.
As such, I have absolutely no comments on the situation in Nevada, as of this point, since I haven’t had the opportunity to look into it at all yet.
Book revisions are almost done. I know I keep saying that, but well, shit happens. It should be available for order by the end of the month, TEOTWAWKI not withstanding.
More skull-stomping of sacred cows….
Don’t be this guy…..
The family and I were driving a couple weeks ago (I think it was en route to the Iowa Rifle Class, but it might have been on our way back west), across the vast emptiness that comprise large swaths of the American West, where the only reliable radio reception is intermittent opportunities to pick up AM talk radio in the middle of the night. As we were driving, and HH6 was scanning through the AM bands on the truck radio, she came across that bloated, blathering, idiotic paragon of the neo-con Right, Rush Limbaugh. Since it was the only station with any reception, we listened.
A caller came on the show, apparently a middle-aged woman, complaining of today’s youth. From bitching about how fat and inactive today’s young people are (the irony of someone complaining about fat people on the Rush Limbaugh show apparently lost on her), compared to her youth of running around outdoors and staying out until dark, rather than sitting around playing video games. She went on to complain about their “horrid” music and lack of fashion sense.
These, of course, are laments that I hear (and admittedly, sometimes voice myself….) all too often in comments across the blogosphere, in emails, and in conversations amongst the preparedness/III/Liberty movement segment of society. We (like I said, I’m guilty as well) bitch, moan, whine, and complain about the young people in our society today, from teenagers in school to young adults in their 20s. The funny thing to me, is the inherent dishonesty, stupidity, and sheer irony in it all.
We bitch and moan about young males with their “saggin’” britches (and let’s face it, it IS pretty fucking retarded), and baseball caps with flat bills cocked off at some stupid angle that does dick-all to protect their eyes from the sun…We whine and complain about how ignorant, pointless, and flat stupid their music is. We complain about their lack of physical activity, as they prefer to stay inside and play video games or watch television.
…just like my parents bitched and moaned about my multiple piercings in high school (three in my left ear, two in my right ear, and my nose for a brief period), my green-dyed mohawk (only for a couple of weeks. The rest of the time it was shaved, or hanging over my ears and collar in a disheveled mop), and a half-dozen or more other fashion travesties of my youth (and yes, looking back, I know they were travesties...)…just like my parents bitched about my musical tastes in high school (ranging from Nirvana and Metallica and Guns-N-Roses—still the best band of the 1980s!– to Public Enemy, NWA, and Too Short)……
…just like my grandparents bitched about my parents’ bell bottoms, paisley shirts, and long hair….just like my grandparents bitched about my parents’ listening to the Beatles (rightly so, let’s admit it….), Dylan, the Doors, and Pink Floyd…
The point? Bitching about the tastes of young people makes no more sense today than it did in 1940….when a huge proportion of those young people went off and fought World War Two.
You bitch about this:
….and rightly so…..
….but then you overlook these guys as representations of American youth….
and these guys…..
and this guy…..
and this fella as well…..
We bitch that America’s youth lacks a work ethic….they’d rather get a hand-out from other people’s labor than go out and get a job (well, except the examples shown above, of course...). Ever wonder why that is?
Perhaps they’re just following the examples set for them by their parents and role models. People like this….which, considering that 65 percent of American adults are overweight, and over 35 percent are obese, are probably more representative of parents than most people I know…..
Probably the single most recurring theme over the life of this blog has been, “Do PT, get training, and live the life you claim you want to live.” Besides my own ranting, readers with combat experience have repeatedly shared the importance of PT, as have students who have taken different classes from various realistic trainers. Even readers with zero experience voice their recognition of the importance of tactical training.
In return, we hear constant, continuous sniveling and whining about how hard it is….how we’ll realize, as we get older and accrue injuries, that PT just isn’t realistic anymore….how “John is some kind of physical superman” (nothing could be further from the truth)….and–the one that completely pisses me off the most–”I’ve got too many old injuries to do PT!”
Are your injuries worse than this guy’s?
Because, he’s still doing PT and training….
So is this guy….
….oh….and this guy?
Not only is he still doing PT….he’s also run several marathons, and served as the platoon sergeant of a Ranger Platoon in combat…since his amputations….
So, you were whining about old injuries again?
You were whining about being old?
Look, it doesn’t matter if you can bench press or squat or overhead press or power clean what I can. All that matters is that today, you can lift more weight, run a little faster, or run a little further, than you could yesterday, and that tomorrow, you can do better than you did today.
This is not Sparta, because Spartan youth, in the Agoge, had leaders, fathers, uncles, and other people to look up to as examples of what they should be and strive for. Today’s youth, even within the preparedness and liberty movements, have a bunch of whining, sniveling bitches making excuses for shit they know they need to be doing, but is too “hard” (fucking waaaaahhhhh) to bother with.
PT is too hard. Shooting and moving is too hard. Getting out in the woods and getting cold and wet and muddy is too hard. Fucking cry babies.
You want to be a leader? You want to change the path of America? Get off the fucking couch and go run an obstacle course race like a Spartan Sprint or Tough Mudder; go join a Crossfit box or (better yet) build a home gym and start working out in your driveway, rain or shine. Join a judo or Brazilian Jujutsu or MMA school and start rolling. Better yet, do all of them, and bring some young people along with you. I guaran-fucking-tee you, they will love it.
Be this guy…
Harden the fuck up already.
(WRSA posted a link the other day, to an article giving a heads up to survivalists about needing to know how to deal with animals….It was so spot-the-fuck on, that as I was looking through my bookshelves tonight, and saw the SF Pack Animal FM, I decided to knock out this article….so, here I go again….crushing delusions.
My experiences with horses and packing began…briefly…in the military, but really picked up when I got out. Living in the rural West won’t make you an expert on pack horses or riding horses, but it will damned sure make certain that you have exposure to both….. –J.M.)
One of the great things about living in the American West, is the prevalence of a wide variety of interesting outdoor recreational activities. From horseback riding and white-water rafting, to big-game hunting, backpacking, and all the long-distance shooting you can hope for. As a life-long avid outdoorsman, living on the edge of the largest wilderness area in the lower 48, with elk, wolves (legal to hunt again!), mountain lions, black bears, mountain lions, world-class rock climbing, and some of the best whitewater rafting in the world within a couple hours driving time, I’ve got everything a red-blooded American man could ask for in recreational activities.
One of the great UW advantages to living in this area is the number of backcountry hunting and fishing outfitters in this area. I see a lot of people post comments on survival blogs and forums about the theoretical use of pack animals, ranging from llamas and goats to horses and mules. With the amount of naiveté often evident in those posts, I thought I’d offer a few first-hand observations on the subject for your consideration.
A quick note on my experiences with this…
1) I’m no expert. The first time I was ever actually exposed to horse packing was in the Stan…and I didn’t do it. I watched other, far more qualified guys, both American and Afghani do it. Having seen it, and recognizing the value in it, I decided, that when I returned CONUS, I was going to learn more about it. Living in the northern Rockies, as I mentioned above, has given me a pannier-load (packing reference) of opportunity to do so. I’ve taken a couple of packing classes in the last decade, and have helped friends and neighbors pack everything from elk to camps into—and out of—the mountains.
2) I’m not a horse expert either. I can—generally–stay on the horse, as long as he doesn’t buck much, and I’ve been taught the rudiments of horseshoeing, so I can keep him from going lame. I’m certainly not a horseshoer. I’ve spent a lot of time around horsemen (and by horsemen, I mean people that make their living, every single day, sitting on a horse, NOT your wife or mom who owns a horse she rides a couple hours a week), and listened to their conversations, and I’d like to think I’ve learned a few things.
One of the most important things I’ve learned? The world is full of would-be experts on horses, most of whom aren’t entirely sure of which end the hay goes into.
In addition to horses and mules, I’ve been around people who packed llamas and goats…and once met a guy who had an oxen he could pack loads on (which was cool…but also just kind of…weird…)
METT-TC Considerations of Using Pack Animals
So, let’s look at a relatively new Special Operations FM, and consider the UW planning implications of using pack animals to haul your shit around. FM 3-05.213 Special Forces Use of Pack Animals JUN 2004, starts out with the following caveats:
“ Field Manual (FM) 3-05.213 is a guide for Special Forces (SF) personnel to use when conducting training or combat situations using pack animals. It is not a substitute for training with pack animals in the field. This manual provides the techniques of animal pack transport and for organizing and operating pack animal units. It captures some of the expertise and techniques that have been lost in the United States (U.S.) Army over the last 50 years. Care, feeding, and veterinary medicine constitute a considerable portion of the manual; however, this material is not intended as a substitute for veterinary expertise nor will it make a veterinarian out of the reader. SF personnel must have a basic knowledge of anatomy and physiology, common injuries, diseases (particularly of the feet), feeding, watering, and packing loads to properly care for the animals and to avoid abusing them from overloading or overworking.
Though many types of beasts of burden may be used for pack transportation, this manual focuses on horses, mules, donkeys, and a few other animals. One cannot learn how to pack an animal by reading; there is no substitute for having a horse or mule while practicing how to load a packsaddle for military operations.”
(emphasis is mine—JM)
Now, like I said, I’m not a fucking horse expert. I do however, have a fellow SFfriend who IS a certifiable expert with horses. Dude has made his living horseback since he got out of the army. He absolutely loves it, and while he is consistently even more broke than I am, he cannot imagine doing anything else for a living anymore (which reminds me, I should probably call the fucker). I do however, know that—like my buddy—all of the professional horse guys I know do all of their own farrier work, do all of their own veterinary work (with the exception of major surgical stuff), and eat, drink, and breathe horses. This is NOT something you pick up on the fly in a couple of days, weeks, or even months.
The FM then goes on to discuss some of the characteristics of pack animal operations, and METT-TC factors that impact on pack animal operations…
“Commanders use military pack animal operations when the AO restricts normal methods of transport and resupply. Animal transport systems can greatly increase mission success when hostile elements and conditions require the movement of combat troops and equipment by foot…the weight bearing capacity of pack animals allows ground elements to travel longer distances with less personnel fatigue. The pack train can move effectively and efficiently in the most difficult of environments with conditioned animals, proper/modern equipment, and personnel with a moderate amount of training in handling packs. The pack detachment, without trail preparation, can traverse steep grades and heavily wooded areas, and can maintain acceptable speeds over terrain that is not mountainous, carrying 35 percent of their body maximums (150-300 pounds). This amount should be decreased for loads that are prone to excessive rocking as the animal walks (for example, top-heavy loads and bulky loads). This capability continues indefinitely, as long as the animals receive proper care and feed. In mountainous terrain, with no reduction in payload, the mule or horse can travel from 20 to 30 miles per day….the success of pack operations, under extreme weather and terrain conditions, depends on the selection and training of personnel and animals…Personnel involved in pack animal operations require extensive knowledge of pack animal organization and movement, animal management, animal health care, pack equipment, and load planning. Planning the use of pack animals is not a simple task, nor is it always a satisfactory solution to a transportation problem.” (again, emphasis is mine—JM)
So, let’s look at the highlighted points…
“the weight bearing capacity of pack animals allows ground elements to travel longer distances with less personnel fatigue.” This, of course, is the allure of the pack animal in the prepper mythology. There’s a couple of catches to this though, too often overlooked by too many people…
1) Do you know how to ride a horse? I don’t mean sit on a horse in the lesson arena either. Have you ever ridden a horse across country, through the brush? Across steep terrain. Like I said, I’m not an expert, but I’ve done both of these enough to know…and witness…untrained people fall off horses all the fucking time in rough terrain, seldom with healthy results. Have you ever actually sat on a horse ALL day long? I helped some neighbors pack a camp into the Bob Marshall Wilderness area a couple of years ago. I’d always wanted to get into the backcountry of the “Bob,” and it seemed like a much easier alternative to walking in. What would have been a two-day round trip for them turned into a four-day trip because, after sitting on a horse for 16 hours straight on the ride in? I literally, could not walk the next two days, let alone get back on the horse to ride out. It was not pretty, at all…and I’m in pretty good condition.
2) If your thought process runs to packing the loads on animals and walking next to them….how far can you walk, keeping up with the pack animals. The fact is, horses walk relatively fast, compared to us. It’s not going to be a leisurely stroll in the woods. Do you know how to safely lead a horse? In rough terrain? The first time I tried to lead a pack horse, I was sitting on another horse, and he STILL ran over me, knocking me off my horse, when the pack horse decided to JUMP over a six inch stream of water that my horse had simply stepped over as if it weren’t even there. Had I been on foot, I’d have been trampled and probably seriously injured. As it was, I just ended up bruised.
“...with conditioned animals, proper/modern equipment, and personnel with a moderate amount of training in handling packs...”
Here’s the real problem that arises with the notion of “Oh, I’ll just use pack animals! I read an article about it/my sister’s best friend has horses/I’ve got a neighbor that has llamas.” One of the great lessons I learned from some of my professional horsemen friends? “Pet horses” are not conditioned for hard work. Now, that SHOULD have been readily apparent to me. After all, most humans are not conditioned for hard work in this country, why would I expect their horses to be? I’ve heard horror story after horror story about some middle-aged woman with her pet horse trying to keep up with professional horsemen, only to end up with a lame or crippled horse, or the horse ends up in physical distress with “colic” (while colic is a specific equine ailment, apparently, it is also used colloquially as a general catch-all term for any number of horse maladies).
Let’s move beyond whether your sister’s best friend’s horse is actually conditioned for work, or is actually an over-fed, under-exercised pet…do you even know what proper/modern equipment is required to pack an animal? Does anyone in your current network? Do you know the difference between a Decker and a Sawbuck pack saddle is? The difference between a saddle pad and a saddle blanket? Do you know what a pannier is? Can you basket-hitch a load to a pack saddle? Because the reality is…” a moderate amount of training in handling packs” is a necessity, and those questions are so basic to packing that even I know the answers to them…
“ …as long as the animals receive proper care and feed…”
Do you know how to care for a horse/mule/llama/goat? Under working conditions? Do you know how much grain it needs for sustainment? How many pounds of forage/grass? Do you know what local plants are toxic to the pack animal of your choice? Do you know how to shoe a horse, if your horse loses a shoe? Do you know what an E-Z boot is? Do you know how to put hobbles on your pack animals, so they don’t wander too far in the night? If you tie them up, are you going to use a “high-line” where you have to feed them hay and grain? How are you going to haul the hay and grain in? Or will you use a “picket rope?” If you use a picket rope, do you know how to keep the horse from breaking his legs tripping over it? Or strangling himself with it? (In my admittedly limited experience…while horses are completely fucking awesome animals…they’re not the brightest of creatures…)
“…the success of pack operations, under extreme weather and terrain conditions, depends on the selection and training of personnel and animals…Personnel involved in pack animal operations require extensive knowledge of pack animal organization and movement, animal management, animal health care, pack equipment, and load planning. Planning the use of pack animals is not a simple task, nor is it always a satisfactory solution to a transportation problem…”
The reality is, too many people, with absolutely no frame-of-reference whatsoever (damn, I haven’t brought up frame-of-reference in an article in a long time, have I?) have Daniel Boone fantasies of pack animals as the go-to answer for moving logistics in a UW context. But…if you don’t know fuck all about the pack animal you want to try and use, and you don’t know anyone with actual backcountry packing experience with those animals….you’re NOT going to successfully use those animals in that context.
As with ALL operations, “successful pack animal operations depend on thorough mission planning, preparation, coordination, and rehearsals. Initial mission planning should include a mission, enemy, terrain and weather, troops and support available—time available and civil considerations (METT-TC) analysis to assist in determining whether or not to use pack animals in a mission.”
What is the mission? Are you doing a raid? An ambush? A security patrol? A bug-out/E&E operation? A raid, you might be able to use pack animals to move equipment to the objective rally point/mission-support site…but will the horses, whinnying for company when they see other horses in the area, compromise your security? We’ve all read stories about indians and mountain men training their horses to NOT whinny at other horses, but do you know how to do that training? I sure as fuck don’t.
On a bug-out/E&E mission, what are you going to do with the horses if your evasion route requires crossing large bodies of water, or large urban areas? My previously mentioned buddy has told me stories about riding horses to an through town…it’s not real subtle, according to him.
What is your specific enemy situation? Is the enemy a regime or invasion force with technological assets that will make your use of pack animals unfeasible? If you think you’re worried about hiding from IR and thermal imaging…think about trying to hide the thermal image of a fucking horse….let alone several horses…are you going to be able to hide the horses in your objective rally point patrol base/mission support site?
Terrain and Weather
Is the terrain conducive to pack animal operations? Granted, as a ranch owner friend once pointed out to me, when I asked why he didn’t just use ATVs to gather his herd in…”There’s an awful lot of places an ATV cannot go. There ain’t many a horse can’t go.” Nevertheless, I’ve seen the scattered carcasses and bones of pack horses that fell off cliff side trails. What if you have to cross large bodies of water? What if you have to cross swampy terrain? Can your pack animals deal with that? Do you know how to deal with the animals in that terrain?
Is seasonal bad weather going to restrict the use of pack animals. I’ve seen lots of pictures of guys riding horseback in deep snow. We have some really cool calendars for sale at the local feed stores that feature that kind of shit. I’ve also met a lot of professional horsemen, sitting around the woodstove at the feed store in the winter, because they had broken legs from where their horse slipped and fell on the ice and snapped their fucking femur. How combat effective are you going to be in that case?
Do you know how to deal with, and navigate with pack animals in limited visibility conditions?
Troops and Support Available
Does your team/group have the training and experience to do all the shit we’ve mentioned so far? Do you have the pack animals you’re planning on using, so you can…I don’t know…TRAIN in these tasks? Or do you just figure that if your granddaddy could do it, you’re smarter than him, so you can probably do it too, and fuck that training shit, it’s like….work!!!?
What types of pack animals are available in your area? It’s easy to say, “Oh, we’re going to use llamas!” Or “We’ll use mules!” Do you KNOW anyone in your area that has those animals and packs them? While I know a few people that pack llamas, most of the llama people I know raise them for wool or meat. I know a lot of people in the West who pack their elk out on their pet saddle horse every fall, but I never met anyone who actually packed horses at all, until I moved to the West.
Do you have access to the necessary pack equipment? Does your route offer grazing for the animals? If not, are you going to pack feed for them, or count on the local civilian populace/auxiliary to provide food? Are enemy intelligence assets going to get suspicious when they notice Farmer X suddenly had a patrol’s worth of pack animals in his pasture the day before the raid on Target Y occurred? Do you think that maybe—just maybe—that might result in him getting a rather stern visit from them? Do you trust him to NOT talk under interrogation? (This is also a Civil Considerations issue, of course)
Are you planning using local civilian populace/auxiliary personnel to handle the packing tasks, including supplying the animals, equipment, and expertise? Have you DEVELOPED an auxiliary, or are you just talking about it? (I find the current emphasis on auxiliary fundamentally wonderful, while also more than a little disconcerting, since one of the primary reason I started this blog was to point out the fact that no one in the “prepper/militia/III%” community seemed to understand that the auxiliary was so fundamental. Look at the comments on some of my first blog articles on the subject….So…are you actually developing an auxiliary, or are you just talking about it?)
What are you going to do with the pack animals while you are conducing actions on the objective? Do you have enough people that you can afford to leave extra security personnel with the animals as “horse handlers?” Or are you going to trust that task to the auxiliary guy whose horses you pressed into service? Will he still be there when you get off the objective, or will he have decided you’re probably going to lose, and decide discretion is the better part of valor and go home?
Or, do you think you’re John-Fucking-Wayne and George Armstrong Custer rolled into one, and reincarnated, and so you plan on conducting a mounted cavalry assault?
Some Other Considerations
“While not farriers, Soldiers must be able to replace at least, a loose or missing shoe when a farrier is not available. The usefulness of a pack animal depends on the health and condition of its feet. The use of a “hoof boot” (I’ve always heard them referred to as “E-Z Boots”–JM) should he the first course of action when an animal loses a shoe. This item is part of the pack animal first-aid kit (you DID realize you were going to need to build a veterinary blow-out kit too, right?)”
“Regular metal horseshoes throw off a lot of sparks as the animals walk over rocky ground. These can easily be seen from a distance at night and may compromise location and activity. Additionally, these sparks can start fires if the tinder is very dry. Nonsparking horseshoes made of softer metal or hard plastic avoid these problems, but do wear out faster.”
This next part is critical, if you have access to horses, but no experienced pack horses…or packers…Like I said, I can sit on a horse, and I can sort of pack a horse (if I’ve got adult supervision), but I’m sure as fuck not a trainer…
“The attitude of personnel training pack animals is extremely important. A person assigned to train animals must have a better than average knowledge of animals. He must also have patience, tact, firmness, and a liking and aptitude for animal management. Experienced and knowledgeable trainers seldom need much in the way of restraint. They work confidently, orderly, and efficiently around the animals. As a result, the animals are cooperative, more productive, and sustain fewer injuries. Inexperienced trainers tend to use more restrain than necessary; are less confident and orderly; and consequently less efficient. Likewise, the animals buck more, are less productive, and sustain more injuries. A person who is afraid of animals or who will become frustrated easily with them will not do well. Above all, the trainer must not take out his frustrations on the animal by beating, kicking, or using excessive restraint on the animal. A good animal trainer combines and intelligent respect for animals with a lack of fear. An ideal pack animal trainer should be…systematic…patient (and thus…I am not a horse trainer...)…tactful (ditto….)…. resourceful…. moderate…observant… exacting…. logical… tenacious…. consistent…. “
Animal Health Management
Then, we get into dealing with health issues. You’re going to feel really, really fucking retarded, if, halfway into your mission, you get stopped dead in the water, because your pack animals die of sickness, aren’t you?
Actually, this section of the FM was pretty enlightening. We have a couple horsepacking and horse care books on our bookshelves, but the FM listed horse ailments I’d never even considered…..granted, I’m not a veterinarian, but….I’m pretty sure some of these could be pretty fucking detrimental to mission success. Do you know how to recognize the difference between a healthy horse, and one that’s about to get sick as fuck and die?
“Common Horse Ailments”
Lacerations, incisions, and puncture wounds….(these I’ve witnessed and even helped care for). From horses getting cut after getting tangled in barbed wire fences, to cutting themselves on trailer gates and nails sticking out of fenceposts, to getting kicked by another horse. These are BASICALLY treated just like we’d treat the same type of wound on a human, only they tend to be not as serious on the horse, because there is so much more meat protecting the vital organs.
“Closed wounds result from external mechanisms such as overuse, hyperextension or hyperflexion…injuries include bruising, stretching, or tearing of connective tissue; joint dislocation; bursal inflammation or rupture; cartilage damage; and various degrees of bone fracture. Symptoms of these injuries are swelling, stiffness, and a partial or complete loss of function….major partial- and full-thickness burns and displaced or open fractures require specialized, lengthy treatment and recuperation. Destroying the animal becomes a matter of operational necessity when conducting a mission. “ Here’s a couple of things to consider in this context. Do you know how to put the horse down, without shooting it and the resulting noise signature, and without causing it unnecessary pain? You might be a stone-cold killer and unfazed by the pain of the animal, but if it starts squalling in pain, is that going to compromise your presence and the mission? I’ve watched a few horses get put down. I’ve watched hard-as-woodpecker lips old men bawl their eyes out, as they had to shoot their favorite horse. On one occasion, I watched a young kid have to put his horse down. His pistol shot missed (he closed his eyes and looked away as he jerked the trigger). I can guarantee you…you DO NOT want to watch a horse, that’s been shot in the head, and not killed by the first round, go through it’s death throes. Fuck, I cried it was so sad! ( The kid was even more traumatized by that than by having to put the horse down in the first place. I thought he was going to turn the gun on himself).
What impact is that going to have on Civil Considerations, if the locals realize you’re so inept you can’t even put a damned horse down without fucking it up?
Allergic Reactions…..(seriously? WTF,O? I never even considered this as a risk…)…bites and stings, hives…Burns…Lameness…can result from things as simple as a “stone bruise” where the horse gets a small stone lodged in the crevices of the foot and bruises the sole of the hoof (happened to me once on the backside of a mountain. It was a long walk out wearing riding boots), but it can also result from a bacterial infection of the hoof called thrush, or from a cracked hoof (my former SF buddy-turned-cowboy told me about having to put one of his horses down. The horse didn’t have shoes on, and he was chasing a cow on frozen ground. Going through some rocky ground, the horse sheared half her hoof off. He tried just turning then horse out to let it heal, but he just laid down in the pasture, and was starving, so my buddy ended up putting her down. He told me the story a couple years after it happened and he still teared up over it. His view on it “I knew better than to run him across the rocks barefoot. My pride about not letting a goddamned $500 piece of shit cow get away resulted in having to put kill one of my favorite horses.”). Horses can also go lame from injuries to the tendons of the lower legs and joints from undue stress and strain…
Then there’s shit like parasitic infections: ectoparasites, like fleas, ticks, flies, and mosquitoes (West Nile Virus that we’ve all seen in the news? Flat fucking kills horses apparently). Endoparasites like tapeworms and shit will also fuck up your pack horse fantasies.
Then there are diseases like “strangles” (I don’t have a fucking clue, so don’t ask me! I’ve heard people talk about it, but have never seen it.), tetanus, equine infectious anemia (again…not a fucking clue), and the aforementioned “colic” (from the FM: “Colic is a term used to denote a pain in the abdomen from a variety of different causes, Colic is often caused by distention of the bowel resulting from excessive fas production…impaction of feces or bowel obstruction from colonies of intestinal parasites…twisted intestine…or goring or overfeeding. Colic may also result from circulatory problems due to the inactivity of bowel segments. Colic from intestinal impaction often occurs when horses do not drink sufficient water. This often occurs at the change of seasons when the temperature suddenly becomes cold or hot, or when horses are moved to an area with a different source of water unfamiliar to them.”)…encephalomyelitis (FYI, I probably misspelled that, even looking at it in the FM as I typed it)…Rhinopneumotitis (ditto)….Potomac Horse Virus (yeah…again…not a fucking clue…)….
I’m not even going to get into all the equipment needed to pack gear on horses….there’s two major types of pack saddles: Deckers and Sawbucks…but I’ve also watched really experienced packers sling loads onto their riding saddles just like it was a pack saddle. Then you’ve got shit like mantees, panniers, pack boxes, sling ropes, halters and lead ropes (pretty fucking self-explanatory), breast collars, breechng, and cruppers, cinches, and that’s before you even get into the shit you need to RIDE a horse!!!
One thing about tactical pack animal operations….especially if you think you’re suddenly just going to go jump on a horse and ride it….If you exposure to horses has been limited to trail rides at National Parks or the county fair….or even just lessons in the arena….riding in the brush….especially at night or in the rain or snow…is a whole other kettle of fish. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you can just jerk the reins left or right to get the horse to go where you want it to go. I made that mistake the first time I rode a horse in the backcountry in Montana. Shit, I knew what I was doing! I’d done trail rides before! I decided I wanted the horse to go left, so I moved my hand to the left to “neck rein” him. He didn’t turn, so I pulled to the left harder. He started tossing his head around, so I jerked left with all my might. He promptly reared up, just enough to get me to QUIT pulling on him (actually, I dropped the reins and grabbed the saddle horn in a briefly successful attempt to stay on), before he proceeded to go running away through the timber. To this day, I’m not sure if it was the third or the fourth tree branch that smacked me in the teeth that knocked me off the horse….
Fortunately, after watching that incident, the guy who owned the horse proceeded to sternly lecture me, for the rest of the pack trip, on how to use my legs to steer the horse, so there were no repeats of that particular mishap.
How are you going to carry your weapon while you ride the horse? You can’t just slide it into the scabbard like elk hunters do. What if you get ambushed or make a chance contact? Are you going to sling it? What if you get bucked off and land on it? The weapon probably won’t break, but your face where the muzzle device smacks into it sure as shit will.
Other Pack Animals
Other potential pack animals (for us….some parts of the world use everything from camels to reindeer as pack animals), include llamas, goats, oxen, and even dogs. Just like with horses and mules though, you need to know the specifics of HOW to pack those animals, as well as how to take care of them, before you can actually consider them in your planning processes.
HH6 was doing her usual stellar job of taking care of administrative nonsense today, when she noticed that we’d passed a pretty major (I think…but don’t KNOW…it’s major to us anyway) milestone.
Since switching over the WordPress, we’ve had over 1 million views of the blog (1,105,546 when I looked). With the numbers we had at the old site, that means we are past the 2 million mark. I don’t THINK those are unique visits (although I do know they don’t count the times we come on for admin purposes), but it still means a shit-ton of people are reading the drivel I put out.
On days we don’t post anything for a couple weeks, we’re still averaging 2000+ views a day, while posting days–and those immediately following–generally result in 4000+ hits (and when Matt Bracken posts links on Facebook, they suddenly jump past the 7000+ marker…).
Thank you all. 1) for realizing that things are ugly enough to realize that reading and heeding this type of information is important to the future survival of our society, and 2) for putting up with my blithering constantly about PT, PT, PT, fundamentals of marksmanship, fundamentals of marksmanship, fundamentals of marksmanship, and get off your ass and train, get off your ass and train, get off your ass and train.
Now…..get off you ass, train, and go do PT.