The “prepper/survivalist/patriot/III%” community has absolutely zero social or political import, because the public face of the community is a bunch of fat, lazy, self-important redneck fucks who are failures in modern society. Despite the guns and macho-blustering bravado, the community poses absolutely zero real threat to the mainstream status quo, and the mainstream status quo recognizes that. All “they” have to do is point at the idiots—the “crazy gun nuts” and the “whacky survivalists,” and the sheep giggle and join in the finger-pointing and mockery. That’s not going to change, until you begin to be able to convince people that you are not just a string hanging on the fringe.
Until that changes, nothing changes.
Until that changes, the entire “liberty” aspect of the prepper community is utterly pointless.
If the patriot community is going to reassert traditional western liberal morals, and constitutional values, it’s not going to be done through a social uprising or the voting booth. The majority of voters are content with their lives exactly the way they are. They’ve got their NASCAR and Pabst Blue Ribbon, their cheap wine and late night soap operas. They’ve got their Labor Day weekend camping trips and summer trips to Disney World.
It’s not even going to happen from armed revolution. Comfortable people don’t rock the boat, because they don’t need to to become comfortable. They’re already there. Sitting on your couch, eating your USDA-approved food pyramid-based diet—specifically designed to make you soft, lethargic, and weak—and watching mind-numbing (literally), socialist value reinforcing programming on television is comfortable.
It doesn’t matter how loud we yell. There will be no “great awakening” of the masses; there will no resurgence of rugged American patriotism, because for most people, being a slave is a painless comfort. It’s EASY.
The “revolution” will only be achieved through the development of relatively small, extremely tight-knit tribes and bands of people, capable of existing within or without the socio-economic mainstream, who spread their message, face-to-face, to individuals and groups with whom the mainstream has lost credibility of intimidation. This autonomy—the collective independence—is the only thing that poses enough of a “threat” to the mainstream status quo, to be effective.
Ultimately however, for that autonomy to be effective, it has to be….real.
You can blame liberals all you want, but doing so is intellectual cowardice. “Statists gonna state.” It’s the nature of the beast. We have LET them achieve their aims. It is only through tribal efforts at the local level that we can reclaim our values. There is no possible agreement between the values of traditional western liberty and the Statist. In rebelling against this, we have to be willing to recognize—and accept at the visceral level rather than the intellectual level—that it is a total war against us.
You have to build your local community and ensure its resilience. Can it survive—with or without the government’s help? What if the government is opposed to the existence of your community? Can you defend yourself, your family, and your friends?
“Give me liberty or give me death” and “don’t tread on me” must return to being legitimate, genuine, core values, rather than feel-good, macho posturing platitudes that they have become in recent years. As your tribe/band/group/community moves towards greater autonomy and independence of the mainstream, you have to recognize that the very real threat it now poses—versus a bunch of corporate accountants playing dress-up as commandos on the weekends—IS a threat to the status quo, and will be dealt with as such. “Don’t tread on me” has to become, “Don’t tread on me, or I’ll chop your fucking head off and stick it on a pole!” “Give me liberty or give me death” HAS to become, “We WILL live our lives, and respect our values and morals. If you don’t like it, the only way to stop us is to kill us…and we WILL resist.”
The sad truth is, all of the negative shit we see in the news, from the Islamic State beheading infidels as it retakes ground that American and Allied kids spilled blood to protect, to the president offering Amnesty to every swinging dick that can make it across our southern border, to the constant inanities of the GOP and the Dems; it’s all part of what you’re SUPPOSED to see.
Keeping the masses riled up and angry is the president’s job, so the GOP has someone to point at and raise funds and blame. If you think “your guy” had a chance in the next election, it will keep you silent and obedient, in the hope that “he” will change things.
Quit worrying about what is going on nationally. Worry about YOUR community and YOUR family and YOUR friends.
I need to apologize, for having been absent so much the last several months. Between dealing with the printers for the book, packaging and shipping, training, teaching classes, and spending time with the wife and kid, I’ve been busier than the proverbial one-legged man in the ass-kicking contest.
There is a remedy.
Sam Culper (Guerrillamerica) has asked me to join the staff of Forward Observer Magazine, and I’ve taken him up on that offer. Beginning next month, I will be writing a minimum of one article per week for the FO blog, and will have at least one article in each quarterly issue of the print magazine. While this will—obviously—change some things concerning control of content, I am willing to make those changes for several reasons.
1) I am tired of writing a dozen articles in a week, and then not writing anything for six months. FO will require me to write one article per week and one per quarterly print edition of the magazine. This will force me to make sure I continue putting content out that I believe is of value to the community, on a regular basis, instead of so randomly.
2) While it will require me to reduce the incidence of fuck-bombs in my writing, I believe what Sam is doing—putting a respectable, more mainstream face on the community—is critically important. Something I have made quite clear from the very beginning of writing the blog is my belief, despite being pretty much a “fuck it, let’s chop some heads off” sort of knuckle dragger, this community needs a more respectable face for the public. We need to “win friends and influence people.” Right now? It’s a giant fucking circle jerk as everyone eye fawns pseudo propaganda that we all agree with anyway, but has no bearing on anyone not already part of the community, mentally.
FO has not been all that it could be, but Sam recognizes that and is working to improve it. In a recent exchange he stated: “Well, here’s the deal. FO is about to get 100% more professional. We have a brand new site coming out. We’re picking up steam on the design and article quality front…but right now? Our site sucks.”
I’m honored that he thinks my efforts will help that.
3) In addition to training and doctrinal information, I will continue, at least once per month, to write an editorial on current events, as they pertain to readiness and preparedness, under the “Skull-Stomping Sacred Cows” motif. I’ve avoided getting too involved with current events on the blog—beyond what is necessary—because it didn’t fit the theme of the blog. Moving to FO will allow me to piss in more Wheaties….and I guarantee, some of my opinions on current events will be controversial.
4) Finally….I am horrendously opposed to the cult of personality surrounding too many small arms instructors and tactical trainers. It reeks of gay. Unfortunately, somehow, as others have noticed, it seems to occur, even when we actively try and discourage it. It makes me uncomfortable, and damned sure creeps out my wife who cannot understand what’s so wonderful about the guy who leaves the toilet seat up.
I am just a dude. I happened to have once had a really cool job, surrounded by really cool people who happened to teach me a lot of really cool shit that happens to be important. I am not a hero. I don’t even personally consider myself an expert. Any motherfucker who tells you his way is the only way, is full of shit. Period. Full-stop, end of story. Are there best practices? Sure, but that doesn’t mean they work for everyone. I can only pass on what has worked for ME, under the conditions that I used them. Trying to impose them on every situation? Bullshit. I am not a hero, I’m not a badass. I’m not some sort of fucking celebrity. ‘m just a dude.
Nevertheless, since people have been demanding it for at least two years now, and a reader of the blog decided to commission the inestimable Jack Donovan to create a logo, we will be offering t-shirts and hoodies with the mountain guerrilla logo (seriously, go ahead and buy one. I’ve got another kid on the way, and TMO and HH6 deserve an awesome Christmas, since last year’s pretty much sucked scrotum. But if you show up at my class wearing it, I’m likely to call you nineteen kinds of homo….). My agreement with Sam is that 20% of the profits from sales of MG logo stuff will be donated to the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, providing scholarship financial aid to the children of Special Operations servicemembers killed in the line of duty (training or combat).
Additionally, once the current stock of The Reluctant Partisan (yes, we still have copies available. After the fuck up with the first printer, I increased the initial print run) sells out, future printings, as well as Volume Two (currently being written. This one WILL be out by Christmas), will be sold through Forward Observer, rather than the total clusterfuck the current method has turned out to be.
I look forward to seeing all of you at Forward Observer, beginning next month. The content currently available at this site and the old site: www.mountainguerrilla.blogspot.com will remain available.
In the previous installment of this article series, we briefly discussed some of the foundational concepts for effective psychological operations, and introduced the seven-step PSYOP process. In this article, we will begin to discuss the seven steps in more detail.
Before we begin however, it is important to understand that, inherent to successful PSYOP, is some level of organization. To the public perception, one guy producing PSYOP by himself is a Ted Kaczynski. Even at the local community level, it is too easy to alienate and discredit one dude all by his lonesome. On the other hand, even a small group of individuals, focusing their message and product—through a variety of vehicles and to a broad cross-section of different target audiences, becomes a force to be reckoned with, quite quickly. Even if one member of the cell or organization is rendered inoperable (killed, wounded, detained, etc), the ability of the others within that organization to continue producing effective PSYOP product not only is not necessarily impeded, but it simultaneously confirms to the public perception that their IS an organization behind the messages.
People don’t fear outlaw bikers as individuals—well, okay, SOME people don’t fear outlaw bikers as individuals. Sane people, even experienced fighters, fear—or at least maintain a healthy respect for—the strength of the pack represented by outlaw bikers. That is the strength that says, “You don’t fight any of us—you fight ALL of us!” In short, PSYOP product produced by some hillbilly in his basement bunker will not be successful unless it is perceived—correctly or not—as product that is produced and backed by an effective GROUP of individuals. Step one of producing effective PSYOP, even before you start the seven-step process? HAVE A FUCKING TRIBE!
Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield
I am sure Sam Culper, at GuerrillAmerica, has written on IPB. I’m unable—at the time of writing this—to go look, but you should check and see. Either way, this is another interpretation of that. Without understanding the context within which you are trying to communicate, you’re not going to be able to communicate your messages to the target audience. It doesn’t do me much good to stand in the front yard and yell at my ninety year old, deaf neighbor who lives three miles away. It doesn’t matter if I’m saying something he wants to hear or not. If I send him an email though (ironically enough), he will respond to the message quickly. Likewise, posting “PSYOP Product” in my comments, or on WRSA, or anywhere else on the Liberty-themed blogosphere is NOT going to have an effect on the average citizen who has never even heard of WRSA. YOU HAVE TO UNDERSTAND THE BATTLE SPACE!
Step One: Define the Battlefield
In order to begin defining the battlefield, as it applies to your PSYOP efforts, you have to focus your intelligence collection requests or efforts, on characteristics of the battlefield that will influence the PSYOP-specific aspects of both friendly and hostile forces. This is an advancement on the basic, tactical-level METT-TC. Enemy troops information needs to answer questions that will allow the PSYOPs production elements to target specific elements within the enemy with targeted PSYOP. The same MAY apply to friendly forces, in order to maintain morale. OBVIOUSLY, the civil considerations need to include non-combatant personnel within the battlespace that will provide the PSYOP production team with target audience information.
At the same time, you have to establish limits of the area of interest. I want x,y,z information, but I’m not interested in t,u,v. This allows the intelligence collection—or analysis—teams to only provide the PSYOP element with useful information, rather than flooding them with a whole bunch of shit that is completely irrelevant to their needs, inundating them with data they have to filter through before they can even begin real production. This means identifying gaps in the current intelligence information collections. “Hey dude, I know this, and this, and that, but what I really need to find out about the local Elks Lodge is xxxxx? Can you get me that information from your sources?”
Step Two: Describe the Battlefield’s Effects
This is where the analysis of the PSYOP-specific METT-TC information is actually analyzed. Using the information provided by intelligence collection, you can begin analyzing target audiences (which methods and messages will get our points across most effectively?), as well as terrain factors (besides human terrain factors, physical terrain will play a factor here as well. In thickly wooded, steep mountain terrain, with widely separated populations, loudspeakers may be of limited application, versus in a built-up area. In a place where the literacy rate is non-existent, leaflet efforts might be limited to simple pictographs, etc).
Step Three: Evaluate the Threat
This is your propaganda and information operations analysis. Who in the operational area is producing what propaganda? How well does it seem to be working? What will you need to do to counter it?
Step Four: Courses of Action
While generally speaking, step four of IPB is “Threat COA,” this is where you can actually start producing your PSYOP product, because you’ve taken the time and made the effort to actually learn what you needed to learn to target an effective message at a valid, viable target audience.
Evaluate The Threat
For better or for worse, and love them or hate them, the media, including news broadcasts, literary, and internet, play an important part in our society. The increasing availability throughout the work day, of media and information networks like Facebook and other social media, through smart phones and the prevalence of computers and internet in the workpace, has a profound impact on the propagandization of the civilian populace. PSYOP producers must understand the role of the media and its perception, AS IT AFFECTS A SPECIFIC TARGET AUDIENCE. This is one of the biggest issues I have with the “I don’t use Social Media” attitude. Social media, as a conduit to what is going on in the world of news, politics, television, and music, can provide important—and exploitable—themes, symbols, and myths of our culture and society.
Some time ago, I posted a photo on my Facebook page, with a quote accredited to Michelle Bachman, about English being good enough for Jesus (because her Bible is in English), so it should be good enough for anyone. I noted that this was the kind of stupidity that kept me from supporting Neo-Con Republicans. Unfortunately, I did not pursue due diligence, and verify that Bachman actually said that…and she didn’t (at least not on the date attributed. It wouldn’t surprise me to hear that she did say something that ignorant, thruthfully….), as was pointed out to me, rather acidly (just kidding….it was a reader who pointed it out to me….). The point is, the image of the Neo-Con as a Bible-Thumping reactionary who speaks without thinking, and sometimes with no idea of what the fuck they are talking about, is believable, because their opposition has made a conscious effort to trumpet it, every time it happens. It is, in many—not even only in evil-liberal-democrat-voting-cannibalistic San Franciscan circles—commonly accepted that anyone aligned with the mainstream Republican party, is a Neo-Con, and is an idiot, for that very reason. It is an exploitable theme, because—to some degree, let’s admit it—it’s true.
In order for it to be exploitable though, it has to be “important” in that it has to be a commonly-shared belief within the specific target audience (I am about 90% sure I first saw the meme in question on a Libertarian FB page….).
METT-TC Media Assessment Questions of Relevance
- What are the key radio and television stations and networks within the community? Obviously, in a world of inexpensive satellite and cable, many will be common to any community (I’ve seen HBO and CNN on lodge televisions in remote Bush Alaska….)?
- Who owns the station and controls the programming? What kind of programming do they offer? There are lots of programs on television—and even some big-money Hollywood movies—that are not the same pro-government pap that we are all accustomed to considering from the major producers. From zombie-themed shows that have opened the “cool guy” door to young adults and teenagers owning guns and prepping, to movies like the latest Captain America: The Winter Soldier, that has “Cap” voicing some of the same concerns about the security vs. liberty questions that all of us voice. Who is allowing stuff like that to be produced and aired? Can we get our messages into THEIR hands?
- Is it possible to buy advertising time or programming?
- Who—indirectly controls the viewpoints reflected in their programming? Are they pro-government or anti-government? (Let’s face it, FoxNews is decidedly not anti-government. They’re not even anti-big government. They’re just anti-Democrat…as long as it keeps their ratings up.) For most national television providers, this is a no-brainer. Same for public television. What about local radio and locally-owned stations however?
- What are the effective broadcast ranges? What major terrain features affect transmission? For example, out here in the mountains, some radio stations might have extremely high power transmissions, but can only be heard ten miles from their broadcast, because of intervening terrain. It wouldn’t do me much good to pay for advertising on a station that my target audience lives thirty miles from, would it?
- What format and type of pre-recorded messages can the stations broadcast? What WILL they broadcast? Can we produce those types and formats of messages?
- What is the listening or viewing audience of that station? While it’s not a huge issue where I live, since even the hard rock stations’ listeners will at least be familiar with country music icons, somewhere like Chicago, having Clay Walker’s voice read a message supporting your efforts played on the hip-hop stations would be pretty fucking pointless, wouldn’t it?
- If talk radio or a call-in television program, what subjects for discussion are popular and common? What topics are taboo or avoided? For all of his rural Nevada ranching charm (and I genuinely like the guy), someone should have pointed out to Clive Bundy that, as soon as he brought race into the conversation, even obliquely as he did, people were going to take it out of context, AND distort the message.
- Is the station credible in the eyes of the population? Does perceived credibility differ by economic background, social group, religion, or other social factors? Yes, Democrats watch FoxNews, and listen to AM talk radio hosts like Glenn Beck and Rush….but those guys don’t have CREDIBILITY as news sources for the average cannibalistic San Franciscan who listens only to scream obscenities at the radio during the broadcast…paying for a PSYOP message, aimed at them, on that AM station, during those broadcasts is not going to have credibility with the target audience.
- What are the peak viewing or listening hours for the target audiences? “Don’t target working class stiffs from 9-to-5 local,” might seem to make sense initially…unless the target audience is construction workers who may very well have a radio blasting on the job site throughout the day (every house framing crew I’ve ever worked on over the last twenty-five years has—invariably—had the local rock station blaring throughout the day).
- What is the major printed media within the operational area? Do you know the local mainstream and “underground” or—more accurately in many cases (for people in the Pacific Northwest, think the Willamette Weekly in Portland, for example) “alternative” papers? How influential is printed media within different target audiences?
- Who controls the print media? Can ads be purchased? Can editorials be submitted? In what languages is the print media produced (think about it, there are boatloads of Vietnamese refugee families who are opposed to any level of collectivism beyond the family/community level, since they already fled that shit once—yes, that rather tasteless pun was completely intentional…and it made you laugh, didn’t it? Can you access the local Viet language alternative papers and magazines?)?
- What is the local standard for outdoor media? Are billboards, posters, handbills, or flyers used? How sophisticated are the outdoor media? In some places, nothing but billboards will be the norm. In larger urban areas however—and especially on college campuses—flyers, handbills, and even banners, are commonplace. Can we purchase/rent billboard space, or are we limited to smaller production methods? Which will be more effective? Do we have the artists and graphic designers to produce products that will get attention, or will it just be one more piece of clutter?
- Are there mailing lists that can be accessed that target specific target audiences (the answer is a resounding YES!!!!)? Can we produce a mass flyer, in such a way that the recipients will actually look at it, instead of just tossing it in the round file with all the other “junk mail?”
- Which leads to our next question—is printed media credible in the eyes of the population? Does perceived credibility differ by social factors? Yes. How many of us even bother looking at the mass-mail circulars that show up in our mailboxes, let alone take the time to read them? On the other hand, for some people, a hand-addressed envelope, with an actual typed letter inside, might be read, if just so the recipient can figure out who the fuck sent them real mail for a change!
- How literate are people within the target audience in the operational area? This doesn’t JUST mean the actual ABILITY to read, but also the willingness to read. I can’t count the number of working class people I’ve met, throughout the South and West, who will tell you—with a straight face—that they just don’t read. Period. “I ain’t read a book since I graduated high school! I don’t even read my mail!”
- What media do people within the target audience trust most for obtaining information. How accessible is that media to our efforts and abilities? FoxNews is the “most watched cable network on television” and apparently a LOT of people really do consider it “fair and balanced” (morons) and thus, credible. John Mosby’s MountainGuerrilla is NOT going to be able to produce a commercial for FoxNews, let alone afford the cost of advertising, even if FoxNews would be willing to air said commercial.
- What are the key symbols within the country? Do they differ by target audience group? What are the visual and written taboos that might negatively affect the target audience response when they look at print or other visual PSYOP products? Posting a photo of beheaded or gunshot victims of totalitarianism—while laudable and important, if just for educational purposes—on the pillars on a children’s playground is NOT going to fly well with most parents. Hell, I let my kid see some pretty graphic stuff, and I would be pissed. On the other hand, distributing old Schoolhouse Rock DVDs (available for purchase anywhere they sell DVDs. We bought them for the TMO the other day), or Liberty’s Kids DVDs, through a PTA/PTO organization “gift bag” type of effort, might be a great way to start educating youth…especially if the parents sit down to watch it too, out of nostalgia (we certainly did!).
- What internet or websites are popular and commonly accessed within the local area? Craigslist is broken down into relatively local sections, and everywhere we’ve lived over the last decade has had area-specific websites, including forums and bulletin boards. What are their policies and stands on the type of information you want to transmit to your target audiences? Are members of your target audience going to be active on those forums? Are the forumites a specific target audience themselves?
Target Audience Assessment (TAA)
The target audience assessment, as we’ve discussed, is the SINGLE MOST CRITICAL ASPECT of PSYOP planning and production. It is a detailed, systematic examination of selected target audiences in order to determine how to persuade one specific target audience to affect one specific behavioral change. It is NOT an overview sketch of the target audience and will not provide a general overview of all aspects and social factors pertaining to a target audience. It’s just about how to get ONE response out of ONE target audience.
Because of this, while there may be multiple specific objectives (SPO—specific PSYOPs objectives) supporting one general objective (PO—PSYOP objective), a new target audience assessment will need to be done for every single SPO. Suddenly, rather than a cool way to get a “general message” across, using your artistry and creativity, PSYOP becomes a fucking job, huh?
At it’s basic level, your TAA is intended to answer four basic, fundamental questions:
- What TA(s) will be most effective in accomplishing the desired behavioral or attitudinal responses? You can’t make a leopard change his spots. Targeting a bunch of fat bastards to get off the couch and do PT doesn’t work particularly well (ask me how I know), but aiming the message at the specific target audience of people that are serious about survival and will do whatever it takes, no matter how uncomfortable, may convince those people who are not lazy, but simply don’t know what to do, that they need to do sprints, weightlifting, and conditioning. (Which leads us to the uncomfortable dawning of realization that EVERYTHING you read, to one degree or another, is a PSYOP product…).
Likewise, trying to convince a bunch of flaming liberal hippie pacifist fuckers that they need to put the bong down and go kill some statist thugs is not going to work particularly well. Aiming that message at outlaw bikers and street gangs however—or better, a bunch of pissed off at the VA recently returned combat veterans who realize that their brothers are being left to die—combined with the message that they are not the only ones who will be drawing hostile fire that day…..
- What lines of persuasion will influence the target audience? Nobody likes to be threatened with physical, bodily harm. Some people are big enough pussies that it works, and they will be suitably coerced by the threat of “Fuck with me, and I’ll kick your ass.” As Americans, most of us—even those who are delusional about it—see ourselves as the legitimate heirs of hardy, courageous pioneer stock who thumbed their noses at a totalitarian regime and went off into the frontier to eke out a living from the land. We’re fucking independent and free, man!
The Fourth of July just happened. We went with friends to watch the local fireworks show, that happened to be synched with music from one of the local stations (see the relationship to the above portions of this article?). It was an awesome show, with some pretty cool pyro going off. The spoken messages throughout however, were “We’re grateful for our veterans who have died so we can be free.” I turned at one point to my friend (also a veteran) and went, “Fuck me. The last American serviceman to die for American freedom was in 1865. Who are they fooling?” The problem is, keying on that THEME of patriotism and freedom; that patriotism IS freedom, rather than the other way around, works on most Americans. “Rah! Rah! Shish-Boom-Bah!”
Hell, if I’m honest, I STILL get choked up and sing along when I hear the Star-Spangled Banner and America the Beautiful! The point though, is telling someone they’re un-American and un-patriotic, or threatening to kill their families, is not the message that will persuade most Americans, regardless of how vocally they support the United Nations and “one-world government.”
Instead, you have to look at the values of the target audience and figure out what they believe, and how that can be turned to get them to perform the behaviors you want/need them to pursue. I get chastised by readers/commentators often, for my use of vulgarity, and I never let it bother me. I certainly don’t change my language. Why is that? Because my specific target audience—the same people who will actually get off their ass and do PT—aren’t going to be bothered by my foul language (I can’t count the number of times in comments and emails, I’ve had to tell some moron “Don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out!” because they’ve bothered to tell me they cannot read my blog anymore because they find my language offensive….)
- What media will effectively carry the chosen line of persuasion? Is the television the best method, or radio? Perhaps the internet media sources, or social networking sites? Is face-to-face contact the best way to deliver it? Which of the probably effective media is achievable for your assets?
- What event(s) will indicate success or failure of the PSYOP effort? Here’s a newsflash for you. I consider the 2012 presidential elections to have been a PSYOP success for our side. Now, wait before you start hanging me in effigy. It’s not because President Obama was relected. It’s because Mitt Romney wasn’t. In fact, there were two successes in the 2012 elections.
–Number one: With POTUS retaining the White House, all those middle-class, white, suburban, soccer mom Republicans who are scared of what the Commie in the Chair is going to do…they stay scared. Had he been replaced by Romney, most of those would have gone back to complacency land, sticking their heads in the sand, because “our guy” got in. Everyone “knows” Republican presidents reduce the deficit and reduce big government….right? (This is me falling off my chair and holding my sore abs as I laugh myself sick). They’re still pissed off and scared, which means some of them are still looking at alternative sources of news, and stockpiling preparedness items, even if they’re not training and using them yet.
–Number Two: The GOP had to lock Ron Paul’s supporters-delegates out of the convention! When in the HELL has that ever happened before? Mitt was the media favorite to win the nomination, right? Dr. Paul didn’t stand a chance of getting the nod. So, why bother locking them out? Because, the party bosses KNEW that Dr. Paul had one hell of a good shot at getting the nomination, and THAT would have fucked up their program.
How did it happen? Because the anti-big government, anti-status quo in Washington groups—people like us—managed to convince enough people that Dr. Paul was a viable solution to what is happening in DC, that he could have won the general election. All the Republicans would’ve voted for him, even if they disagreed with him on things like legalization of marijuana, and foreign interventions, simply because he had an “R” behind his name. All the libertarians who would NEVER, in ten million lifetimes vote for Mitt Romney, would have voted for Dr. Paul, DESPITE the “R” behind his name, as would the constitutionalists. Anti-abortion activists would have voted for Dr. Paul, because he’s openly pro-life. None of that is any real surprise….But…..
Ron Paul ALSO would have cut a HUGE chunk out of President Obama’s voter support. All the anti-war hippies who supported BHO in 2008, by 2012, they knew he was just as bloodthirsty as President Bush. Dr. Paul has been anti-interventionist since before his first day in politics, and has a consistent record of voting his conscience. All the pro-legalization potheads? They know now that, while BHO might tell his AG not to prosecute, he’s not interested in making waves with the criminalization syndicates by actively pursuing legalization either, whereas Dr. Paul has always stated—and voted—for the sanctity of the human body and private property. The same thing applies to gay and lesbian voters. BHO has NOT led his promised charge to institute gay marriage, for better or for worse. Dr. Paul on the other hand, says, “the government has no business being involved in marriage.”
The fact is, people from numerous target audiences—including people who would never step foot inside a Republican convention—KNEW that Dr. Paul would have made the best President. The GOP KNEW Dr. Paul would win the general. EVERYONE—except the morons who only got their election coverage from the major media networks and are incapable of critical thinking—knew Mitt Romney was not going to beat Barack Obama’s re-election. Now? More libertarian-leaning, legitimately freedom-loving (if sometimes confused by definitions of that) Republicans are being seriously contemplated as presidential candidates in 2016.
Obviously, the PSYOP campaign of the freedom lobby was not as successful as we might have liked, or Dr. Paul would be sitting in the Oval Office right now. It was however, a success in some degrees, because it opened a lot of people’s eyes to choices between the basic “Left versus Right” selection.
You have to determine, through your TAA, what YOU will consider a success or failure—and to what degrees—of your PSYOP production efforts.
(The next installment in this article series will look at the Target Audience Assessment process in greater detail, as well as the Target Audience Assessment Worksheet—TAAW.)
Like many aspects of practical post-grid down security and preparedness, PSYOP is a subject of tactical and strategic importance that all too often are given ample lip service, despite a complete lack of relevant frame-of-reference. While a lack of frame-of-reference when it comes to gunhandling, PT, and small-unit tactics will have a significantly negative impact on your individual and family/tribal survival, this same lack in regards to PSYOP—especially when you ignore your ignorance and attempt to produce PSYOP product—will also have a significantly negative impact on my family’s survival, since a poorly developed, ham-handed attempt at developing PSYOP product will generally result in the exact opposite effect you were aiming for. That means you will actually be driving off potential allies and strengthening the resolve of the enemy.
Definitions, Scope, and Purpose
“Persuade. Change. Influence.”
PSYOP can be defined as a series of PLANNED operations intended to convey selected information and indicators to specific audiences, in order to influence their emotions, motives, beliefs, and ultimately their BEHAVIORS. Targeted audiences, in our context, may include government employees, opposing political organizations, groups with opposing or related interests and goals, and individuals within any given demographic.
Ultimately though, the most important purpose of PSYOP is to induce or reinforce BEHAVIOR favorable to your overall strategic and tactical objectives. Anything else that results from your PSYOP attempt is misguided and wasted effort at best, and flat fucking suicidal at worst.
Generally speaking, successful PSYOP efforts can encourage or increase popular discontent with opposition leadership, while increasing support for your own cause by combining persuasion with a credible threat. It’s the practical execution of “talk softly, but carry a big stick.” The drawback to this, for the typical patriot prepper on the internet or in the gun shop, is that, in order to be successful, all of your PSYOP product must be credible. All products must be consistent and not contradict each other, obviously, but more importantly, any information disseminated has to be believable!
If you’ve not got the training and experience to back up your thinly veiled threat that backs up your PSYOP product, or you’re 200 pounds overweight and cannot walk a city block without worrying about heart failure, there’s no credibility. If you’re pontificating about the President of the United States being the direct and immediate descendant of reptilian aliens, your message lacks credibility to anyone over the age of 6, unless your target audience is composed solely of National Enquirer reading residents of the trailer park.
Types of PSYOP Product
Professionally speaking, there are three types of PSYOP product: white, grey, and black. White PSYOP is truthful and not strongly biased information, wherein the source of the material is acknowledged openly. Broadcast teams of PSYOP soldiers, with their truck or rucksack-borne loudspeaker systems, and leaflet operations that encourage enemy fighters to defect or surrender, are obvious examples of white-side PSYOP.
Grey PSYOP is largely truthful information, while any “untrue” information is of such a nature that it cannot be disproved. More importantly, the actual source of the PSYOP information is masked through attribution to other sources, such as non-aligned groups, independent media sources, etc.
Black PSYOP, of course, is inherently deceitful information, the source of which is disguised by attributing it to the enemy (generally speaking). This is the ultimate expression of disinformation.
In the general imagination, when the application of PSYOP efforts is considered, the first images that come to mind are leaflet drops. To combat veterans of recent vintage, this will be closely followed by the image of a three-man PSYOP broadcast team with either HMMWV or rucksack-born loudspeakers. While both of these are legitimate examples of how PSYOP product can be delivered, the totality is that PSYOP dissemination can be much more widespread.
At the tactical level, besides the employment of loudspeaker teams, face-to-face encounters with the local population and the dispersal of leaflets, fliers, and posters, are common tools. More deliberate efforts at the tactical level, as well as at the strategic level may include radio and television broadcasts, as well as the well-known and previously mentioned leaflet operations.
At the strategic level, PSYOP efforts may focus on the publication of printed materials like magazines and newspapers, or the placement of information within media sources that reach a wider audience. This can be particularly effective, since as everyone knows, “they can’t put stuff on television if it’s not true.”
One method of PSYOP dissemination that we’ve seen a recent surge in the application of is the obvious: the internet. Through the construction and maintenance of websites and social media pages, to efforts to guide search engines to guide potential readers to your sites, the internet genuinely should be your go-to first choice for the dissemination of effective PSYOP information, even locally.
It’s popular—as one example—within the patriot prepper movement, to denigrate Facebook and other social media sites because of the inherent PERSEC violations built into them. On the other hand, as any 12 year old can tell you, pretty much anything anyone wants to know about you can be found on the internet, and being on Facebook is so common now that NOT having a Facebook page is actually more of a target identifier than having one is.
More importantly, Facebook, has well over 2 million users, approximately half of which log onto their Facebook account each day. Between your own social network and the connection of social networks of each of those individuals, you might be surprised at how quickly and effectively that a legitimate, well-crafted PSYOP product can be dispersed. There are, of course, infinite other internet resources for the effective dissemination of PSYOP effort, but the point is, ignoring the internet is done only at your own loss.
Patriot Prepper PSYOP
Ultimately, Patriot Prepper PSYOP should be encompass a range of efforts, with a variety of target audiences. First, there is the ongoing effort to reach like-minded people already within the prepper movement and convince them to alter their behavior by actually getting training, then getting outside and practicing what they learn and using their gear in a realistic, effective manner.
Second, we have to reach out to like-minded people, amongst libertarians, gun owners, non-political preppers, and groups that SHOULD share our goals, whether they realize it or not, and whether they currently share our values and goals or not.
Finally, we have to reach and influence the behavior and mindsets of people intrinsically opposed to our goals and values. In this last case, obviously, we are not concerned with convincing them to side with us, but rather, to either leave us the fuck alone because we’re not a threat to them, or to be so afraid of fucking with us, that the mere thought of our presence makes them piss themselves.
The 7-Step PSYOP Process
Within the established, professional PSYOP community, there is a 7-Step PSYOP Process used to develop PSYOP materials, in order to garner the greatest benefit for the efforts expended. While not all of these will apply directly to our efforts, understanding and incorporating the process into your PSYOP effort will allow you to create more effective PSYOP campaign that serves specific goals and messages to target audiences.
- Planning. The first step of the process involves the formulation of PSYOP objectives, specific to the mission and/or target audience(s).
- Target Audience Analysis. Potential target audiences are refined and analyzed, in order to determine the most effective methods to influence the behaviors of the target audience. The military utilizes a Target Audience Analysis Worksheet (TAAW) for this. We will attempt to develop a TAAW that fits the needs and abilities of the patriot prepper effort.
This analysis is the SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT TASK IN DEVELOPING WELL-CRAFTED PSYOP PRODUCT!!!! You absolutely, positively, MUST possess sufficient knowledge and understanding of a target audience in order to develop effective methods to influence their behavior.
Contrary to popular delusion within the patriot and prepper communities, “Grab them by the balls, and their hearts and minds will follow!” is NOT a valid PSYOP effort. As I pointed out to someone in a class once who voiced this opinion, grabbing them by the balls generally leaves them a hand free to punch you in the throat. While it MAY work with some people and groups, using force as your end-all, be-all approach to PSYOP is a pretty solid way to ensure someone stabs you in the back down the road.
- Series Development. Once you have developed what you hope is an accurate analysis of your target audience(s), THEN you can begin to develop a PSYOP product series. All of the interrelated products designed to elicit a specific behavioral change from a specific target audience is referred to as a series. They must all work together and…..synergistically.
- Product Development. Once your series is developed and planned, then and only then, are you prepared to start actually developing and designing the PSYOP products that will disseminate the messages you hope to use to change the target audience(s) behavior.
- Approval. Step Five for the military PSYOP force is gaining approval from higher of the proposed product. For our purposes, not generally having a strategic level chain-of-command, and focused (hopefully) more on the local level than anything, out approval process may simply be a matter of having someone within your network, but divorced from the PSYOP development effort take an objective look at the material developed and ensure that a) it actually will have a positive effect on the target audience, and b) it is adequately targeted to the intended audience. Sending a message of Christian love and hope to the local imam—for an exaggerated example—is probably not only NOT going to reach the target audience, it won’t do much to elicit the desired change in behavior either.
- Production, Distribution, and Dissemination. This involves producing enough copies of the product to distribute to the end-user who will disseminate the product to the target audience, as well as the dissemination by these individuals to the target audience. This step, like all the others, is part of the initial PSYOP planning phase.
- Evaluation. The final phase of the PSYOP process is evaluating the effect that your products are having on the target audience. This step begins with the development of the initial assessment criteria during Phase One, as you determined what would constitute a success with the effort.
The follow on installments of this article series will focus on the 7-Step PSYOP Process, as it applies to the patriot prepper, and how we may be able to apply this to various target audiences. We will discuss both white and grey PSYOP efforts, while touching only briefly on black PSYOP efforts.
I had a student in a class recently (IIRC, it was the Iowa Combat Rifle course, but I could be mistaken), ask the very serious question, “How do we prepare mentally for the act of killing another person?” While, after giving him the tongue-in-cheek answer of “go chop people’s heads off with a pen knife?” I gave the legitimate answer that it’s a matter of overcoming cultural conditioning, it’s a question that’s been nagging at my conscience ever since.
For the most part, neither I, nor any of my friends who have been downrange, has ever voiced a concern over a reticence to drop the hammer and kill the enemy. Unfortunately, because of the prevalence of feel-good, New Age humanist bullshit in the soft sciences like psychology, there is a lot of nonsense in the world about “mankind’s natural, inherent reluctance towards intra-species killing.” All the archaeological evidence to the contrary, too many people have conflated a CULTURAL conditioning that illegitimizes interpersonal lethal violence, with a “natural” human reluctance.
Regardless of the status of the oft-voiced reluctance—inherent at the genetic level, or culturally conditioned—the fact is, it is a very real concern for a lot of people (FYI, before anyone starts citing BG SLA “Slam” Marshall, do more background research into the repudiations of his “research.”). At the risk of getting slightly side-tracked, as we all know I am wont to do, I will point out that I am an inveterate journalist. At any given time, I’ll have anywhere from six to a dozen different journals floating around. These serve as PT records, a means to record ideas I want to develop into articles for the blog, and things I’ve come across in my reading, as well as simply random thoughts that pop into my head. Once or twice a year, I’ll sit down and compile all the notes and records into a single volume, then dispose of the old, partially full journals that now are serving no purpose other than taking up valuable space on my bookshelves. This is important, because I spent much of last night and yesterday on that very task.
As I collated journal notes from a round dozen different journals, I came across an entry on the subject of this article. I am not sure when I recorded it (this particular journal actually has notes from over four years ago, so it’s been stashed away in hiding for quite some time!), or what the original source was, but…..
According to the journal entry (which I obviously agreed with, or I wouldn’t have written it down in the first place), there are six basic facets to developing a predisposition towards effective violence.
One of the first “training” lessons I ever learned was from my grandfather. While I’d like to believe he picked it up during his OSS training in WW2, I honestly never bothered asking him, so I genuinely just don’t know. I’ve since heard the same advice from dozens of different sources, have practiced it myself for well over twenty years, and have repeatedly found…it works. Not just well; it works like a Creole hooker during Mardi Gras…
That lesson was on the importance of visualization. Play the “what if” game. Not just in the context of this conversation, I play the “what if” game constantly. “What if” that car in front of me suddenly loses control and starts sliding all over the road? “What if” that dude walking into the steak house pulls out a Glock and starts shooting people? “What if” I look out my front window and see a group of jocked up dudes in black nomex in my yard? “What if” I’m driving down our road and come to a tree across the road, then gunfire starts pinging into the truck? “What if” I take a gunshot wound to the lower abdomen below my plate carrier?
The key to effective visualization of course, is REALISTIC mental images. Basing your visualization on John Woo action movie behaviors is not going to do you much good. Fortunately, if you’re reading this, there is an amazing resource just a couple mouse clicks and typing away, in the form of YouTube. Despite the noise:signal ration on YT, the fact is, there are lots of camera recordings of everything from helmet cam footage of gunfights in Iraq and Afghanistan to criminal assaults and convenience store robberies. By studying the appropriate videos, and dissecting the behaviors and movements of the key players, you can begin to form a relatively accurate mental image of what a given scenario might look like, when you experience it.
This allows you to begin formulating realistic, effective responses to those scenarios. There is ample scientific experimental, research, and anecdotal evidence out there, aptly proving that if you can create a realistic image in your head—visualization—of yourself performing certain actions in response to certain key stimuli, to your brain, it’s as if you had actually performed them. You get the benefits of the experience, without the attendant risks and costs of the experience.
Ultimately, for the inexperienced, the surest way to inculcate the ability to be extremely violent, without actually going out and beating the shit out of people…or chopping off stranger’s heads with a pen knife, is through visualization. Visualize the reticle of your optic superimposed on a bad guy’s face or chest, and “feel” your finger squeeze all the way through the trigger break. Visualize the recoil cycle of the gun, and visualize seeing the rounds impact his shirt or jacket. Visualize his face being distorted from the impact, and the violence of high-velocity blood and brain matter spray out the back of the skull.
Visualize the slight resistance and sudden give of the tip of your kabar puncturing his clothing and flesh. Visualize the warm, stickiness of blood flowing over your hand. Visualize punching a dude in the face so hard that you can “feel” his cheek bones fracture under your fist.
The catch of course, is that you have to actually visualize the entire physical performance, in all of its details, and ACCURATELY. You also have to actually be physically capable of performing the action. I don’t care how realistic your visualization is, if you’re a quadriplegic, you’re not going to be able to perform a Master-level run at the local 3-Gun match. Having the physical ability to perform the tasks, of course, requires,
You have to engage in effective training. This means learning proven, effective TTPs, and then practice them in an effective manner. Shooting Appleseed alone won’t cut it. You need to be able to shoot, but you also need to know what it feels like to run a dynamic, fast-moving break contact drill, from the way your movement patterns change when you’re kitted up, to the way it feels to twist and slam into the ground as you bound backwards while your Ranger buddy provides protective suppressive fire. Performing as the maneuver element during a Hasty Attack requires actually having trained in the task, so you know what it feels like to make that long, sprinting bound around. You need to know what it feels like to perform 3-5 second rushes and crawls through the terrain you will be visualizing that you will be performing on.
Beyond visualization, you also just have to be able to perform the tasks necessary. From throwing a rapid-fire, machine-gun barrage of punches to beat the piss out of an attacker, to executing a blistering fast drawstroke from concealment, to SEEING the front sight superimposed on the bad guy’s face. If you don’t train and learn how to actually, accurately, effectively perform any given task, all the visualization training in the world won’t do you a fuck-all bit of good.
At the same time (and you KNEW I was going to slip this in somehow….), you have to be physically fit enough to execute the violence you need to execute. Knowing HOW to crash and clinch then stab a dude in the carotid artery is not the same thing as being fast enough and strong enough to actually pull it off. Visualizing humping a 40-50 pound rucksack for 6 days straight, on less than 2 hours of sleep per night is NOT the same thing as having the physical and mental discipline and conditioning to actually pull it off.
That doesn’t mean you have to be able to pull off any given physical feat today. You just have to be trying to improve. If you are doing more today than you were yesterday, and tomorrow, you do more than you did today, you’re doing the right thing. Right?
You need to know your legitimate, honest level of skill…and your limitations. If you’ve never managed to hit an e-type silhouette at 200 meters, there’s little point in trying to project violence at 300 meters, until you improve your marksmanship abilities. If you’re a short little fat bastard who has no interest in doing PT or getting into a Jitz class, there’s even less point in planning on choking some pipe-hitting powerlifter in SWAT kit.
Be objective about your abilities, and you can limit your attempts at violence to what you are capable of.
Teach yourself to relax under stress, and you’ll be able to focus on the fundamentals of executing a particular skill set or task. Use patterned breathing. I tend to be really, really good at remaining disturbingly calm under stressful situations, because of positive self-talk (see below) and a lack of negative reinforcement (in other words, remaining calm has never caused me any harm under stress). As I’ve pointed out to people in daily life, ad nauseum, “unless you’re getting shot at, there are few things in life worth getting panicky about, and if you are getting shot at, panicking will only result in your dying, so calm the fuck down!”
In those occasional moments where I do lose my cool and start getting stressed out (truthfully, they usually only happen when HH6 is driving me absolutely, batshit fucking crazy), I generally catch myself in a hurry and calm down quickly and easily because of controlled, patterned breathing. Some instructors suggest a 4-count. Inhale for a count of four. Hold for a count of four. Exhale for a count of four. Hold for a count of four. I use seven, because at some point in my youth, my grandfather told me seven was the “magic” number (or perhaps the “magical” number, since I recall him saying something about it having had spiritual significance prior to computers….fucking weird if you ask me). All I really know is, THAT SHIT WORKS!!!
Positive self-talk, during training and daily life, will go a long way towards making you more effective in violence and in life in general. It goes right along with the visualization mentioned above. “Hey, if that car starts sliding into my lane, I’ll be fine. I can steer into the ditch and control the car, because I’ve done a lot of off-road driving, at ridiculously high speeds.” “Hey, if that dude walks in with a Glock, I know how to handle the situation, because I can draw and fire an accurate first round head shot at twice the distance between here and the front door. I do it all the time in training.” “If the cannibalistic San Franciscans start rioting in the streets and my life, or the life of my family is in danger, I can deal with it. It’s easier to shoot them effectively in the middle of the street than it was to hit that half-sized silhouette at 300 meters last weekend on the range!” “Hey, I’ve had SUT training, and my wife and I have practiced buddy team bounds using fire-and-maneuver, so if I have to fight off a home invasion by MS-13 banditos, we’ll be alright!”
Arguably tied for the most critical with visualization in developing a predisposition towards effective violence is having a positive support system, starting with—most important—a deep, legitimate belief in the righteousness of your actions and your cause. If you believe that your actions may be too aggressive, or you hold some retarded, childhood belief that only fair fights are okay, then you’re not going to be effective, because you will unconsciously hold back. On the other hand, if you KNOW, in your soul, that what you are standing up for is right, and that the actions you are taking are justified, then you won’t have any reluctance to do what needs to be done.
At the same time, after the fact, you shouldn’t have to deal with your friends and family second-guessing your actions. Sure, an honest appraisal, in the form of an AAR critique can be useful…but ultimately, if your friends and family don’t share your values….I’d suggest dumping all the fuckers and finding better people to hang out with.
This belief can be seen in elite military units (so much for Grossman’s sociopath arguments….), with a strong sense of esprit de corps. The cultivated belief system that “we’re better than everyone else, and we’re fighting for the man next to us” IS a support system that facilitates the use of effective violence. We know, at least amongst our brethren, that as long as we use it in accordance with the rules, no one is going to judge us harshly for being violent. It’s not until we start dealing with outsiders who don’t understand the culture or mindset that we start having to deal with doubters, non-believers, and second-guessing.
Ultimately, all of these—like so many things—are intertwined and synergistic. None of them work particularly well without all the other pieces in place. So, get training so you can practice effective visualization, and engage in positive self-talk. Most of all, develop a legitimate belief that you are doing the right thing.
It is my firmly held belief that the idea that humans have an inherent, genetic resistance to intra-species violence that can only be overcome with operant conditioning is a bunch of statist, mind control bullshit. If the prophets of this nonsense can convince you that you need special conditioning to be effective at violence, that can only be achieved through military or law enforcement training, first-person shooter video games, or being abused as a child, then they can facilitate your being effectively controlled, without worrying about violent revolt from the proles.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a Christian who follows the adage of “turn the other cheek.” Intra-species violence is—truthfully—one of the most natural acts of human kind. Christ may have said turn the other cheek, but I’d point out, his daddy only created you with two cheeks…..what do you do after you’ve been bitch-slapped on the other side? Same thing he did in the temple. You beat the shit out of the offenders, and drive them off with weapons.
For us heathen non-believers? The archaeological and historical record is amply clear that there is NO inherent genetic resistance to stabbing a motherfucker in the face, chopping his head off with sword or axe, or burning his house down around his ass.
If you can manage to practice the six aspects of developing a pre-disposition towards effective violence, then dropping the hammer, fist or firearm, will not be an issue when the need arises.
Growing up in the Ranger Regiment, it always seemed like Cherries carried everything. As a SAW gunner, between 1200 rounds for the gun, and the rest of my basic load, plus an M-3 Combat Lifesaver’s bag, plus all the munitions and shit we had to pack, it always seemed like we actually carried more shit than would fit on our LBE and in our ruck. The fact is, a lot of the time…that was true.
I have pictures stored away, of doing patrols, with so much shit hanging off me and my ruck that you’d be lucky to figure out where the Ranger stopped and the ruck ended. It got that special sort of retarded that is lovingly referred to as “Army Stupid.”
Then I got to SF. Now, instead of a platoon worth of guys humping a platoon worth of gear, we had a dozen guys carrying a company worth of gear. The 18D’s (SF Medics) would sub-load medical gear into packets that got cross-loaded between team members. The Charlies (Engineers) would do the same with demo gear. The Echoes (Commo) would pass out batteries for the different commo shit they carried. We Bravos, being the heart, soul, and backbone of the team, of course carried all the weight…(except mortar rounds. I always shared out mortar rounds when I had them…and belt-fed ammunition….but other than that heavy shit…being the heart, soul, and backbone of the ODA…everyone supports the Bravo….I carried all the heavy shit…). Before I even went to Selection, I’d read enough stories about SF, from SOG guys in Vietnam, all the way to Desert Storm, with epic tales of ridiculous loads being carried, and I had my experiences in the Ranger Regiment to give me an idea of what I was getting into. Stories of guys with 120 pound rucksacks, PLUS their fighting load, then carrying two five-gallon Jerry cans of water on top of it into the desert. Recon teams running with 20+ magazines, a couple claymores, and then smoke and frag grenades on top it…before they even loaded dry socks and rations into their rucks. The tales are epic, and to an outside sound either superhuman or simply fictional.
They’re not. Ultimately, that is the difference between the SF, LRS, and other UW worlds and anyone else doing a conventional mission (and make no mistake, the Ranger Regiment IS a conventional force unit…or was anyway, from the rebirth of 1/75 in 1974 until at least the late 1990s, with the change of mission-focus. Whether they are conventional light-infantry now or not is arguable, based on mission parameters). When you’re asshole deep in alligators, and your only hope of effective escape is self-extraction, you’d damned well better be able to carry everything your team needs, or you’re going to end up in a really bad spot.
Ultimately, THIS is the difference between the paradigm of conventional force traditional light-infantry and the SF/LRS/UW paradigm, and why the UW paradigm is so important from the prepper standpoint: whether you’re at the 82nd Airborne Division, the 101st Airborne (AASLT), the 25th Infantry Division, or the 1st MarDiv, while you might be on your own for a little while, you KNOW that at some point, SOMEONE is trying to come get your ass and bring you more shit…and they’re not so far away that it is ever going to seem impossible.
Drop an SF ODA 500 miles behind the Iron Curtain, or a SOG team on the wrong side of the Cambodian border, or dump a few ODAs into Afghanistan before any other US forces are even spooled up to go in-country…if shit gets hinky, they KNOW they are on their own, and for the foreseeable future, anything they need, they’d better be carrying with them, have in a pre-established cache location, or be able to beg, steal, or borrow from the local population.
We’re all light-infantry when we’re on the two-way range. Until we get to the range though, there are entirely different mindsets at work.
A lot of people have emailed me privately asking if Mr. FAG’s description of what he carries is legit or not. I can assure you, it is. In fact, as I was writing this article, he emailed me a series of photographs showing his load-out (not including his ruck), to illustrate how he carries it. You’ll find those appended to the end of the article.
In the meantime, to illustrate why I carry my gear the way I do, and to help illuminate why my shit looks so bulky, I’ve done an item-by-item photo inventory of what is on my person as 1st line gear, what’s on my 2nd line fighting load/RACK, and what is in my rucksack, as my BASIC packing list inventory. While this load may be added to, depending on operational parameters and environmental conditions, in my area, this is my MINIMAL packing list for foot-mobile, light-infantry type security patrolling operations.
1st Line Survival Gear
1) Item number one is my Banshee Plate Carrier from Shellback Tactical. This is a relatively minimalist plate carrier design. It’s got Gamma III+ plates front and back. The only permanent attachment to it is the CAT-T tourniquet holder mounted high on the front, where it sits above my RACK, for easy access with either hand. No matter what else you do with your medical gear/BOK, a minimum of one tourniquet needs to be somewhere that you can get at it with either hand, in a hurry. It should also be readily visible, and the location should be known to everyone on the team, so they can put it on you if needed.
The paint pens and Sharpie marker are tucked into the PALS webbing solely for convenience when teaching. They make it easier to mark targets, and to illustrate concepts when I’m doodling something on the targets, to make a point.
2) Camillus Cutlery version of the Kabar. This is actually out of an Army supply room, the location of which shall remain nameless, lest they decide and try to hit me with a Statement-of-Charges for the cost of it, even at this late date. The kabar, as I’ve mentioned before, is big enough to get most of the shit I need a knife to do done, while also being small enough to not be a pain-in-my-ass. If it had to, I suppose I could stab a fucker in the throat with it. It’s certainly been used for that before (not MY kabar…the design in general). Most importantly, they’re cheap enough that I’m not freaked out by the possibility of breaking it (and yes, I’ve broken kabars before. Generally by greatly exceeding their intended purposes).
3) Safariland drop-leg with a Glock 17. Notice that I’ve greatly modified the drop leg strap, and removed the upper leg strap? If you show up to a class, with the fucking holster dangling around your knee, I’ll let you run it for a little while, to experience the misery, before I show you how to mod it, but I’ll also name you Angelina for the duration of the class.
My leg strap is snug enough to keep the fucking gun from flopping around like a fat chick’s lips at a hot dog stand, but not so tight that it interferes with the circulation in my leg, or my ability to tense the thigh muscles for sprinting and climbing or humping my ruck.
4) DIY leg panel. I’ll admit, I saw Chris Costa running his HSGI version of this and thought, “that’s fucking retarded.” Then, as I fought with the hip belt on my ruck getting in the way of my belt-mounted mag pouches, I started rethinking it. There comes a time, in every man’s life, I believe, when he has to admit, someone came up with something that he can only wish he’d come up with. This is the slickest set-up I’ve found. Mine required a lot of modification, since I used an old Blackhawk drop-leg subload panel. I cut it in half, taped up the bottom seam with 100MPH tape, and shortened the drop leg strap. It fits x3 HSGI kangaroo pouches perfectly. This gives me three rifle mags for speed reloads, during break contacts or the initial mag change of the fight, without having to fuck with flaps, or reach up on my chest. It’s retarded simple and superhero fast.
What’s critical to understand is…I don’t do tactical reloads or reloads with retention from here. These are just my “Oh shit!” emergency reload pouches, when speed of getting my gun back into the fight is the single most important attribute. Similarly, by reserving the use of these magazines, and by making them my first priority for refill during consolidation, if I have to dump my RACK, I’ve got rifle ammunition, even in worst-case scenarios.
Like the holster, the leg strap is set up to not interfere with movement and range-of-motion of the leg.
5) Zippo lighter. If you’re not familiar with Zippo, you need to crawl back into your cave and keep beating your obsidian chunks together. Zippos are the bee’s knees of lighters. Mine are all wrapped with a dozen or so ½ inch wide chunks of bicycle innertube, for use as tinder when starting fires. It burns hot and fierce, even when soaking wet (it’s rubber, after all), and lasts long enough to start even wet kindling more often than not.
6) A WindStorm signal whistle and USGI signal mirror.
7) Streamlight ProTac2L multi-function flashlight. This is my EDC light as well. For $60 at Cabela’s, and considering the abuse I’ve put mine through…you really can’t ask for more in a flashlight.
8) Benchmade folder. Benchmade is the only company whose folders I will carry. They’re expensive, but they’re worth it….and they have a no-shit, no-questions asked 100% lifetime guarantee. Literally.
9) Leatherman WAVE. While I despise the idea of the Leatherman (if I want pliers, I want fucking pliers. If I want a screwdriver, I want a fucking screwdriver. If I want a knife, I want a fucking knife…), I have to admit, it’s a nice change carrying one, versus always asking if someone has a multiplier on them….
10) Wiley X Safety Glasses. While there are definitely times to NOT wear safety glasses, for camouflage and concealment reasons, for the most part, I live in—and preach living in—my safety glasses. They don’t have to be Wiley X or Oakley. They can be the $5.00 ones from the Stop-and-Rob…just have safety glasses. And in bright, sunny weather, have shaded lenses. Although, I hasten to point out…if the cost difference between a $5.00 pair of safety glasses from the 7/11 and the $100 I pay for my Wiley X is more important to you than your eye safety….Well, you’re probably dumber than I think you are (although, if it’s a legit finances thing, I can understand that…)
2nd Line Fighting Load
1) Old-as-fuck three-color desert boonie hat (seriously, I think I kept if from my original CIF issue at the Ranger Regiment when I was 18…it’s been around for a really, really long time…), with a chunk of netting Shoe-Gooed to it, and some burlap garnish added. Notice that there’s very, VERY little garnish added. The problem with most people’s idea of Ghillie suits and garnish like this, is the tendency to add too much. It’s GARNISH!!! Most of your camouflage should be local vegetation.
Putting too much garnish on your shit is—to me—the camouflage equivalent of putting A-1 Steak Sauce on a perfectly seasoned and cooked, medium-rare steak (guess what I cooked for supper tonight?)…it’s as wrong as two boys fucking.
2) The Tactical Tailor MAV/RACK. This one has an extra medium-sized pouch on it that I picked up somewhere, that I put emergency food/snacks in. Otherwise, it came with all the pouches you see, as well as a couple of extra grenade pouches that I don’t use.
3) Ranger Handbook and x2 Rite-in-the-Rain memo book notebooks for planning/commo/note-taking. Wrapped in a Zip-Lock bag.
4) x8 PMAG rifle magazines loaded with 30 rounds each. I’ve got a couple of Lancers running around, at least one steel E-Lander Mag, and probably a half-dozen old aluminum GI mags still hanging around. For my money, PMAG just can’t be beat yet. With metal mags, even the steel feed lips can get deformed and you might not notice it until you’re dealing with malfunction after malfunction. With the PMAG, for the most part, a deformation of the feed lips is easy to notice—the fucking feed lip is broken.
5) AN/PVS-14 Night Observation Device (NOD). Mine is housed in the Blade-Tech hard case. In case any representatives of Blade-Tech happen to read this: I LOVE the level of protection this offers a $4000+ piece of relatively fragile electronic equipment. I HATE how much of a motherfucker it is to get the NOD out. I always feel like I’m going to break the damn NOD getting it out of the case.
On the plus side of the ledger though…hey, it carries two spare AA batteries! (The NOD runs on a single AA battery)
6) Fleece beanie cap for cold weather (not pictured is my polypro neck gaiter).
7) Petzl brand LED headlamp. I don’t remember who, but a student at a class loaned this one to me when we discovered my batteries were dead….and then just let me keep the headlamp. I’m glad to, because I LOVE this particular headlamp, with the flip up red filter.
There are times when you just need a headlamp. A handheld flashlight won’t cut it, and NODs are a pain-in-the-ass (like map reading at night….Yeah, I can do it too, it still sucks. I’d rather throw a poncho and woobie over my head and use a fucking white light. Same-same when doing the medic/TC3 thing…and then you can’t use a red lens flashlight–bonus points for anyone who figures out why medics don’t carry red lens flashlights…..not a lot of bonus points mind you, because it’s stupid simple to figure out….).
8) USGI tritium-illuminated lensatic compass. Best device I’ve yet found for night land-nav…and it can double as a close-range signaling device. Just recognize, to someone wearing NODs, that fucking tritium looks like a goddamned spotlight.
Ideally, this would be attached to my person, not my LBE. The fact is though, accessing it from a pocket, while geared up, is a pain in the ass, and I have other options (like another compass on my watch) for land nav emergencies in E&E situations…
9) Ten feet of flat-rolled 100MPH tape. Infantrymen are like the rednecks of the military. I use 100MPH tape like a redneck uses duct tape. Shit’ll fix anything (Not shown: the 25 feet of 550 cord that is stowed with the 100MPH tape).
10) Protein bars. The ones pictured provide like 350 calories per. I run protein bars instead of more balanced bars, because a) I’m into the whole high-protein Paleo diet thing, and b) the last thing I want to do if I’m down to eating bars out of my LBE is lose any more muscle tissue than I have to…
11) USGI signal mirror (ignore the apparently random order of the numbering. My beloved bride did the photoshop work. I’m too fucking stupid to figure it out).
12) Camouflage face paint.
13) Chicken salad on crackers snack pack. I’m actually going to add like six of the cans of chicken salad to my LBE loadout. They taste good, are relatively Paleo Diet friendly, and are light weight. They don’t pack the caloric punch that the protein bars do, but they’re fuck all easier to eat, and taste light-years better. Morale is important too.
14) Chemlights x3. Red, white, and blue. Why? ‘MURICA! That’s why. No, seriously? Red is for marking myself or another casualty, for evac purposes. It would suck to get back home and realize you left your buddy out on the objective, because he was wounded, unconscious, and somebody forgot about him. The other two are for signaling, and/or last-ditch illumination to see what the fuck you’re doing.
The reality is, these days, most of my chemlights end up getting used by TMO as night lights. The kid LOVES her some chemlights. I figure it means she’ll either grow up and be a bad-ass Viking shield-maiden type female….or spend her college years hanging out at raves….
15) Yaesu FT-60 two-way radio. One of the local HAM geeks did some sort of work on these. I can get FRS/GMRS freqs, MURS, and still pick up SW/HF. Additionally, it has the first 150 out of 1000 channels loaded with local and regional emergency services freqs, ranging from the Sheriff’s Office to DHS tactical channels…it’s handy. HH6 has it’s ugly twin sister on her RACK.
16) Bushnell 10X compact field glasses. I love me some Steiners, but the last pair of Steiners I owned got dropped off a 150 foot cliff in Utah. I didn’t even bother climbing down to look for them. So…If you happen to be wandering around northern Utah and find a pair of Steiner 10X compacts….you know where to send them to…In the meantime, I haven’t been able to convince HH6 that the Bushnells are inadequate for the purpose enough that I just HAVE to have a new pair of Steiners…
17) USGI roll of trip wire (Not shown: Assorted related goodies)
18) Water purification drops. These are the “stabilized oxygen” drops I’ve mentioned in previous articles in the past. There’s some argument over their effectiveness. All I know is this: I’ve used them for well over 15 years. I’ve used them on water with all kinds of creepy-crawlies in it. I’ve used it in water out of cow troughs. I’ve never gotten sick from drinking water I’ve used it on, while I’ve watched others drink the same water, using other methods of purification and filtration get kicked in the ass by the revenge of the Aztec king….They work for me.
19) stainless steel cable locking snares, x3. Honestly? These are mostly a feel-good item for me. I can’t imagine, if I’m down to living out of my RACK, that I’m going to have time to set a trap line. If I did, I know I’m a shitty enough trapper that three snares probably ain’t going to keep me alive. But honestly? I just feel better—more prepared—by having them. They don’t weigh shit, and they roll up nice and compact and out of the way. Fuck it.
20) It’s hard to tell in the photo, but that is a Zip-lock bag with a bunch of AA, CR123, and CR2 batteries stowed in it. My OTAL IR laser runs on AA. My PVS-14 runs on AA. My Streamlight TLR-1HL on my rifle runs on CR123s. My Streamlight TLR-3 on my G17 runs on CR2s. It’s a pain-in-the-ass, but it seems to be working okay for now…and we’ve got a metric shit-ton of each cached away at home and assorted other places. I don’t imagine I’ll run out of batteries for at least an hour after I can’t get them at the Stop-and-Rob anymore.
21) Work gloves. I’ve gotten tired of dropping $30 on Nomex aviator’s gloves every month, as they get torn to shit. Now, I’m running either Mechanix gloves, or whatever other, lightweight, leather-palmed, high-dexterity gloves I can find for less than $15 a pop.
22) BOK/IFAK. Wrapped in Zip-Lock bag. I’m still—after twenty-fucking-years—looking for the perfect BOK pouch. I was using a double-stack rifle magazine pouch for a really long time. Now, I just stuff the BOK in the top of one of my large GP pouches, until I find what I’m looking for. While I’m a pretty good Combat Life-Saver and medic, my BOK is for ME. As I’ve mentioned in previous articles, it doesn’t get used on anyone else…even my wife or kids. They have BOKs. If I die, because I used my BOK gear on them, I can’t do much good taking care of them, now, can I?
3rd Line Sustainment Load
I get asked a lot, why I chose the biggest fucking rucksack I could find. “But John, doesn’t that lead to you over-packing? Don’t you carry more gear than you need?”
Honestly? It’s a legit question. I hear the same thing from backpacker friends when they see the big-ass packs I carry for that too. I’ve seen guys do that too, both in the military, and in the backpacking world (Hell, I’VE done it!). In the end though, it comes down to one of two things:
a) If you’re a section/team/squad leader, it comes down to making sure your guys aren’t doing that. That’s why we do pre-combat inspections, and have a mandated packing list.
b) If you don’t have a section/team/squad leader, or yours is too fucking lazy or stupid to give a shit, it comes down to self-discipline.
The fact is, when I pack all this shit in my ruck, including the items listed below that are not pictured here, I’ve got a metric shit ton of space left in my ruck. Further, if I dropped the sleep system (which I won’t, see the explanation below), all of this shit would fit in an assault pack half as large, and STILL have space left over. That leftover space is critical. You don’t know, until you’re into the planning process, what OTHER equipment you might need to pack. It could range from a medic’s bag, to subloads of demolitions material or radio batteries. The fact is, the items listed here are my MINIMUM packing list, for my general area. Some items could be replaced or removed entirely, if I lived elsewhere. Other items might need to be increased (like water, if I lived in a more arid desert). It’s all…ahem…shall we say….METT-TC dependent?
1) Nikon 45X spotting scope with tripod. This is really a sort of mission-specific item. In our specific area though, with the mountains and timber and desert so closely interspersed, this offers a lot of advantages for E&E patrolling, with my wife and daughter in tow. I can stop and glass an area for a long time before moving into and through that area. If I’m using a spotting scope to do so, I can see into shadows and other positions of cover/concealment a lot better than I can with 10X binoculars. That increases the safety margin for my wife and kid.
In the training context currently, I use it during classes to spot targets and make adjustments to expedite the zero-confirmation/adjustment process during classes. I’ve been doing this long enough, I can usually call out corrections based on what I see in the spotting scope, and get a guy’s POA/POI to coincide faster than walking downrange every time (which is NOT the same thing as saying we don’t ever walk downrange during that process. Seeing is believing is understanding).
2) USGI Poncho liner/”Woobie.” Also affectionately referred to as “The Infantryman’s Best Friend,” “GI Joe’s Security Blanket,” and “The Best Piece of Gear the US Army Ever Issued.” I don’t believe I know an experienced infantryman anywhere, who doesn’t still have at least one of his issue woobies hanging around. My kid LOVES hers, and sleeps with it every night. Hell, I sleep with one every night. My wife uses hers to wrap up in sitting on the couch. The woobie is—generally speaking—my bed and shelter in the field. While weather conditions may require me to use more than just my woobie, given my druthers, it’s my first choice for keeping warm enough to sleep. With dry socks and clothes, and a beanie on my head, wrapping up in just the woobie, or just a woobie and a poncho is more than adequate to keep me survival sleeping warm well into the mid-20s Farenheit (notably different from “comfortable sleeping warm.”)
Mine gets stuffed—inside of a USGI waterproof sack—in the top pocket of my ruck. It’s easy to get in and out, so even if I have to pack up and un-ass a patrol base in a hurry, I don’t have to leave it behind.
3) USGI Therma-Rest brand, self-inflating sleep pad. I’ve used Therma-Rest sleep pads for well over a decade. I’ve also used the old closed-cell foam “iso-mat” sleeping pads. The TR is hands-down better than the iso-mat, and rolls up much tighter, making it easier to pack.
One thing that a lot of people don’t understand about outdoor sleeping: The temperature rating on sleeping bags is determined based on the sleeping bag being on a sleeping pad, inside of a tent. So, consider that when you look longingly at the 20F sleeping bag you’re finger-fucking at Cabela’s next time you’re there. You won’t be conducting patrols and sleeping in a tent. That having been said, just the sleeping pad itself will go a long way towards, a) allowing you to actually get a little sleep, and b) not increasing the arthritis you will confront from humping heavy shit.
I spent my first three years in the Army sleeping on the bare ground. I can still do so if I have to, but I’ll never again do it by choice, Further, in my country, where we can get snow in July and August, it’s stupid to not carry the sleep pad.
4) Gransfor-Bruchs Scandinavian Forest Axe. This is a ridiculously expensive axe. Seriously…$165 for what is basically a high-end Boy Scout Axe. That having been said, it’s worth twice the money, at least. Gransfor-Bruchs axes are forged in Sweden, and the individual smith’s initials are stamped onto the head of the axe. Unless you go the route of a custom blacksmith, these are the best axes money can buy…period.
I was not an axe guy until about fifteen years ago. When I first started spending time in the Rockies, I was introduced to a book called “Bushcraft” by a guy named Mors Kochianksi. He’s a wilderness living instructor out of Canada, specializing in the boreal forest region. All my life, I’d read old time bushcraft books like Horace Kephart’s and Nessmuk’s (George Washington Sears), that extolled the virtues of the axe. It wasn’t until I read Kochianski’s though that the import of what I was reading really sank in. In the kind of country I live in, when it comes to pure survival, the axe is the ultimate survival tool. It’s more important than a knife. It’s damned sure more important than a rifle.
If I lived elsewhere, like the southeastern US, I’d not carry an axe, probably. I’d switch over to a machete, or kukri, or even a big-ass Bolo-type knife like Mr. FAG carries. The reality is though, in this particular environment, I don’t spend a lot of time cutting my way through berry and briar thickets. The most important application for a chopping tool up here is construction of shelters and getting firewood chopped up for staying alive. An axe does that better than any other chopping tool out there.
(I do have to admit though, I also have a really cool fransisca-style hand axe from Allen Foundry, purchased from Ragweed Forge…check out some of their cool Scandi knives too…that I sometimes carry instead of the GB. While I love that little axe, it’s far from ideal. While it will chop, it’s not as handy as the GB, and the head is cast stainless steel, which I hate on both counts. It sure looks bad-ass though!)
5) USGI Three-Bag Sleep System. I’ve heard a lot of guys bitch about these over the years. I don’t know why. I LOVE mine. I run it with just the black intermediate bag and the Gore-Tex bivy, unless I KNOW temperatures are going to drop retarded cold (by which I mean -30F or colder). Anything “warmer” than that, and I know—from experience—that dry clothes, dry socks, and some long johns, with the addition of the woobie and maybe a casualty blanket, will keep me adequately warm. Really, even if it’s retard cold, I can always burrow into a snow cave, or under a snow-covered spruce tree, start a very small fire, or even just light a candle, and stay warm to the point of sweating (the fire thing only works under the spruce tree….in a snow cave, you’ll regret it in a hurry…and I do mean a SMALL fire).
Most other places, especially south of the Mason-Dixon line, I could easily do without the sleeping bag. I’ve slept outside in just a woobie and poncho in December across the South, and been just fine. The fact is though, as I mentioned above…we can—and have—see snow in July and August, as well as the cold-weather conditions that go with it. Dying, because I didn’t want to carry a sleeping bag, just because it was “summer” would be a really stupid way to not survive… Cold weather conditions—with improper or inadequate equipment/preparation will kill you as quickly, or quicker, than enemy rifle fire.
6) Two one-quart Nalgene bottles of water. These are carried in MOLLE pouches on the padded portion of the hip belt of my ruck, tucked tight against the body of the ruck. They’re handy, although not as handy as the Camelback. These typically end up being my cooking water, if I’m afforded the opportunity to brew up some tea (I can’t stand coffee….I know…sacrilege, right?) or soup. Again, looking at environmental specifics, sometimes hot tea or soup….anything hot getting inside your guts…can be the difference between survival and dying in cold-weather environments.
7) Shemagh. Why? Because all the cool kids have shemaghs, right? Actually, you’d be hard-pressed to see me wearing one except in cold-weather, over—or in lieu of—my polypro neck gaiter. The great thing about the shemagh is….they literally have like 500 functional uses, and not all of them are retarded uses…and they keep your neck warm in cold weather….and they look all high-speed “operator,” which is why we really wear them, right? Right?……..right?
8) wool socks. MINIMUM of five pairs (which I think is how many are in my ruck right now). I taught a rifle course in knee deep snow last weekend. I think I changed my socks like four times a day. Fortunately we were inside a very nice house every night, so they had time to dry. Wet feet…especially in cold-weather conditions…will fuck up your internal thermostat AT LEAST as much as a lack of headgear will.
9) Polypro long underwear and clean, dry t-shirts. I keep a minimum of two clean, dry undershirts in my ruck (same thing…dirty, wet underclothes are killers in cold-weather country). I only keep one pair of lightweight polypro long underwear in my ruck. It’s really just for sleeping in. If I KNOW it’s going to be cold, like say, I’m in Montana in January, I’ll add another pair for wear during the day, but trying to hump a ruck, while wearing snivel gear…even in below zero temperatures…is a good way to end up as a heat casualty. You want to feel embarrassed? Be a fucking heat casualty when it’s -10F outside….
10) One pair of clean, dry, utilities. Pictured is a set of my multi-cams. In Arizona, I was rocking three-color deserts. In Mississippi, I’d be pimping some old-school woodland pattern BDUs. In our environment, plain earth tones, or the multi-cam are kind of the shit. Really though, these are for sleeping in. If I have to jump and run in the middle of the day though, interrupting my sleep, I don’t want to do it wearing day-glo fluorescent pink pajamas (before anyone asks…the cool-guy morale patches on the uniform sleeve are: 1) HMFIC—Head Mother Fucker In Charge, 2) “The Chair is Against The Wall,” and 3) “Embrace the Suck.” I can assure you though, I have much more tasteless ones in my collection…The one on the front of my plate carrier, in the first picture, reads “Meat Eating Viking Gun Fighter.” For the record, I don’t think I’ve ever bought a morale patch.)
11) Ranger Hooch Kit. Mine includes x4 12” bungee cords, x6 stainless steel tent pins, a USGI nylon poncho, and a mylar backed, “quilt” style casualty blanket. Normally, the casualty blanket goes down as a ground cloth, but it’s also been used, inside a sleeping bag and/or the woobie, for better body heat retention (someday I will actually get around to doing an article, with photos, on setting up the hooch).
12) 100 oz Camelback bladder. I’ve seen water bladders explode. I’ve seen them burst inside a ruck when somebody dropped a ruck off the back of a five-ton truck. I’ve seen them burst when somebody executed a combat roll over the top of it during IMT.
I’ve never personally had one burst. A big part of that, I attribute to good luck. The other part I attribute to using Camelback bladders, and not whatever knock-off imitation the DoD issues. I love the convenience of them and being able to stay hydrated while moving. I also keep a smaller 70 oz Camelback on my plate carrier normally, but pulled it off a couple weeks ago for something and haven’t put it back on yet. Now, I can’t find the fucking thing, in the 10 different piles of gear laying around our house. As Mr. FAG pointed out…drink the water off your ruck. Leave the water on your 2nd line gear alone. You might need it when your ruck isn’t around.
13) Mountain Safety Research (MSR) XGK multi-fuel stove. This stove is louder than a Thai hooker faking an orgasm. I mean, we’re talking fighter jet punching the after-burners loud. It’s not something you’re going to want to use in a patrol base in thick terrain where you don’t know who’s within ear shot….unless you’re LOOKING for a fight. Sitting on a high, barren ridge, where I can see anyone approaching from a couple hundred meters out though? Or in the snow-insulated confines of a snow-draped spruce tree, it’s handier than a glove for quickly and efficiently brewing hot drinks or soup. I carry one ½ quart bottle of white gas. I choose a multi-fuel stove though, because it will also run off unleaded gasoline, avgas, diesel, or even kerosene (I’ve run the MSR Whisperlight 600 Internationale off all of the above).
14) Cold Steel “Spetznaz” Shovel. I always thought these were pretty gay (I’m deeply prejudiced against pretty much anything labeled “Russian,” which come to think of it, may explain much of my antipathy for the Kalashnikov…Although I do dig the shit out of Sombo/Sambo combatives…and Vodka….I like Vodka too….and hot blondes named shit like Petra….See? I’m not COMPLETELY prejudiced against Mother Russia! I’m kind of prejudiced against Cold Steel products too. I’ve owned a few, and they treated me well, but something about the company just annoys the shit out of me.) A student in a class in Idaho gifted me one at the end of the class (He also gave my wife a RAT-7 knife….I love that guy….you know who you are. Now, email me you fucker). I’ve been in love with this shovel ever since. Sure, for digging catholes—which is really this particular shovel’s most common use—a little garden trowel would be just as effective, and much lighter and more compact. For digging shell scrapes or more advanced fighting positions (fuck that! I joined SF so I wouldn’t have to dig fighting positions like some leg infantry fucker…bwahahahahahahahahahahaha….and I promptly re-learned how to dig them. I KNOW I did more digging in SF than I did in the Ranger Regiment), the e-tool/spade is hell for handier than a garden trowel. It’s also about ten to the hundredth power more convenient than trying to dig with the abortion that is the US Army-issue tri-fold entrenching tool.
So yeah, I love me some Cold Steel “Spetznaz” shovel. Besides….according to Lynn Thompson, I can throw it at the bad guys, and be a real Spetznaz operator! (<–gay)
15) Not pictured: USGI Gen II ECWCS Gore-Tex Hardshell Parka. I’ve got two different soft shell parkas. One is a Coyote Tan one from Condor (which I am loathe to admit, kicks ass), and a Ranger Green one from Propper (it’s brand new. I’ve worn it twice, and neither time was in bad weather. It was chilly, but not cold, and decidedly not snowing or raining). I love the soft shells. I wear them on the range all the time.
The reality though? In extended wet weather, they suck big, fat, juicy, morsels of monkey balls. So, I reverted back to a hard shell, old-school Gore-Tex parka for those conditions. I’ve got both the three-color desert camouflage and the woodland pattern camouflage versions. Which one is in my ruck is entirely dependent on where I’m at, with a strong preference for the woodland pattern one (Seriously….who wants to trust a DESERT camouflage-patterned WET-WEATHER parka? That just doesn’t make sense, now does it?)
16) Not pictured: Food. I’ve got an article, from a reader request, on my thoughts on field rations. In a nutshell, I’m not sure I’d eat MREs anymore, even if it meant starving for two weeks. The last time I tried eating one, as soon as I smelled it, I started puking up breakfast. Besides, the nutritional composition of MREs is retarded. Sure, I’d feed them to my kid if it meant keeping her from starving, but that’d even be a stretch.
17) Not pictured: My MICH helmet, like my boonie hat, has netting tied and Shoe-Gooed to the multi-cam helmet cover, with some burlap garnish attached. It generally stays stowed in or on my ruck, until it’s time to a) put my NODs on, b) do any sort of CQB-type room clearing stuff. Outside of room-clearing, even my clumsy, retarded ass is athletic enough to generally avoid getting knocked the fuck out by running headfirst into shit, and it’s not like the fucking thing will actually stop a 5.56 round…usually. Besides, wearing helmets just sucks.
A Last Minute Appendix
As I was typing this, Mr. FAG (Dude, seriously? Can I PLEASE go back to calling you the Team Sergeant? Team Daddy? ANYTHING other than Mr. FAG? It seems so disrespectful…even though I call myself a FAG in the same vein all the time….pretty please? With sugar….err…honey…on top? Gotta stay Paleo!), emailed me a series of photos of his LBE set-up for your viewing pleasure. He also promised me some more written material in the coming days.
See the photos below. They should be pretty self-explanatory. Before you start looking at them though…a brief anecdote, specifically regarding Mr. FAG’s gear, from my personal experience:
Last summer, during the WV patrolling class, Mr. FAG showed up to volunteer to help out. I, of course, immediately drafted him into a teaching/cadre position (how fucking stupid would I have been not to do so?). During the night patrolling portion of the class, Mr. FAG managed to injure himself. When we got to his position, I volunteered to carry his gear out, because he wasn’t going to be able to (actually, IIRC, I think I volunteered to carry HIM out…he was THAT fucked up…but he wasn’t so fucked up he was going to let me carry him.
While I didn’t get to carry his survival vest, I DID carry his LBE and his ruck. As a point of reference, his LBE weighed more than my LBE, and plate carrier combined. His ruck weighed as much as my ruck, my LBE, and my plate carrier…and I’ve got a solid 60 pounds of size advantage on him…when I say this old fucker (with every ounce of due respect!) is harder than woodpecker lips, I’m not exaggerating, in the slightest. I wish I was 1/8th as hard as Mr. FAG is….
Any chance you an do a junk on the bunk picture to see how your fighting gear and sustainment gear are set up? –From a reader.
I hate doing articles specifically on how I wear my gear. The fact is, how a certain load-out will work for one person is, in no way, the same as how it will work for someone else. We’ve seen this in two recent articles on LBE, one each from Max Velocity and from JC at Mason-Dixon Tactical. Both guys have a great deal of legitimate, light-infantry patrolling experience, and mounted patrolling experience, including in combat. Neither guy’s set-up is the same, and neither is the same as the way I run my gear.
The fact is, there’s a pretty slim chance that my gear set-up is going to run as well for you as it does for me, because I’ve got two decades of experience running my gear in the way I do (even accounting for changes in the type of gear I’ve run over the years, as well a changes in mission-focus). At the same time though, considering the ways I’ve seen guys show up at classes with gear set up over the last couple years….perhaps ANY guidance is better than no guidance.
All that having been said, I’m writing this article, but I strongly urge you to go read Max’s article and JC’s article as well, to get two different opinions—based on experience, rather than internet hyperbole—about what works for them. Some of what I say will sound—or even be—completely contradicted by their experiences and preferences. That doesn’t mean I’m saying they’re wrong. Their method is just wrong for ME, and vice versa.
The Foundation of Load-Bearing
The foundation of load-bearing is…bearing a load. (Damn, am I working PT into an article again? It’s like it’s important or something!) If you’re belt line is larger in circumference than your chest, there’s not a single type of load-bearing rig in existence that’s going to make humping that shit comfortable, or even bearable. If you can’t walk up a flight of stairs without getting winded, it doesn’t matter what type of LBE you use, you’re not going to be able to carry shit.
A SMOLES Refresher
As a reminder, when it comes to packing a load—of any sort—for tactical purposes, I use the old-school acronym SMOLES. This stands for Self-Defense, Medical Aid, Observation/Optics, Land Navigation, Extreme Weather Conditions, and Survival. Survival is further divided into the fundamentals of human survival: water, food, and shelter/clothing.
I don’t carry the same load in my ruck when I’m in the woods for recreation (like backpacking), as when I’m training for combat patrolling operations, because the missions are different. I still use the same acronym however. I also use the same SMOLES framework for packing my LBE.
To me, for our purposes, self-defense involves 1) not getting killed, and 2) killing anyone who is trying to kill me (which greatly facilitates #1).
1) Not getting shot encompasses the obvious: if you’ve got body armor, and it’s not going to restrict your ability to complete whatever your mission is, wear the fucking armor. I use a Banshee Plate Carrier from Shellback Tactical, with TAP Gamma III+ stand-alone plates. The total weight of this package is a whopping 13 pounds (all weights were done today, as I was preparing this article). I see and read lots of stories on the internet about guys whining about the weight of their body armor. Granted, if you’re running AR500 steel plates, and soft-armor in a IOTV vest, that shit is probably retarded heavy. If you can’t move around with 13 extra pounds, in the interest of like, you know…staying alive…you need to add more strength training and stamina (strength-endurance) training to your PT program.
Are their times you might have to fight without body armor? Sure. It’s not like I drive around town or even the two-lane blacktops of Montana and Idaho with my fucking plate carrier on. It sits in the back, where I can get to it in a hurry, if I’m given the opportunity to get to it prior to the fight, or following the initial burst of the fight. I don’t wear it around the house and property every day. If I know I’m going to look for a fight though? I’m putting that shit on. If I’m going on a patrol, even if it’s a simple reconnaissance patrol with no intention of getting into a fight, I’m still expecting the possibility of a fight. Otherwise, why would I bother rehearsing my “Hasty Attack” and “Break Contact” battle drills?
Others will complain that by wearing their body armor, they cannot move as fast as they can without body armor on. This is patently obvious to anyone who is not completely fucking retarded. Here’s the catch though…it’s not just about how fast I can move. It’s also about how fast the slowest guy on my team can move. Whether we’re talking patrolling, or buddy-team bounds…if I’m vastly out-pacing my partner, I’m going to die just as dead as if I were moving slower, because he’s not going to be able to protect me with suppressive fire. As long as I can move faster than the slowest guy on my team, my body armor is not—for practical purposes—slowing me down (besides, that gives the slow dude motivation to do more PT…”Damn, he’s wearing body armor and can STILL outrun me! I MUST be a fat piece-of-shit!”). The Truth is…the only reason to NOT wear body armor is because you’re a slow, fat fuck who needs to do PT. If that’s the case, not wearing body armor is NOT the answer. More PT is the answer. If 13 pounds is the defining factor in living or dying…do more fucking PT already.
Beyond Body Armor
Body armor, “chicken plates,” are—of course—a pretty lousy last-ditch choice in the “don’t get shot” equation. For me, the rest of the “don’t get shot” equation involves personal protection of another nature. Camouflage and concealment, and shit like gloves, and protective eye-wear (I damned near put my left eye out at a Colorado patrolling class last year, when I declined to put my clear safety lenses in, and led a night terrain run through some trees. When you FEEL the end of a two-inch thorn punch into the lens of your eyeball, you KNOW you fucked up!). Getting seen by the enemy, before you see him, is a good way to get shot, by being caught in a hasty ambush.
I don’t really wear camouflage clothing as a general practice (although I should admit, I do wear old BDUs or ACUs—in multicam—during classes, simply because I don’t actually give two shits if they get torn up). I’d rather stick with basic earth tones that—in my experience—work much better across different environments and sub-environments than even the best engineered camouflage clothing patterns. I do however, keep a bundled-up old boonie with some netting and a little bit of burlap garnish tucked into my ruck. I also have netting and garnish attached to my MICH helmet, although that is solely used as a mount for my NODs at night. There’s not a LOT of garnish on either one. It’s just enough to break up the silhouette a little bit, and act as depth for natural camouflage materials added during movements.
More importantly perhaps, I keep camouflage face-paint in my fighting load, and I use it. Judging by photographs from Iraq, a LOT of the US military has forgotten that camouflage facepaint even fucking exists. That’s too bad, because it’s actually one of the most important things you can do to strengthen the “don’t get shot” motif.
Doctrinally speaking, the Army says, “darker color goes on the high points, lighter color goes on the shadowed spots.” What they’re trying to do is create a sort of “photo-negative” of the pattern of your face, so it doesn’t look like a face at all. Here’s the thing…think about how many times you look at a human face in the course of a single day…not just how many times you look at different people, but how many times, even during one short conversation, you look at each individual’s face…unless you’re simpering, shy Nancy, or a hermit, living alone on the mountaintop, you look at a LOT of human faces over the course of a day…it’s the single most recognizable image in any human mind.
In my ever-present interest in intellectual honesty, I will admit, I still use the Ranger SOP when I paint my face. But, here’s a rub pointed out to me by a SF Warrant Officer once, as he bemusedly watched me “apply my make-up,” after just kind of smearing a bunch of green on his face. “Sergeant Mosby….if you think about it, the human face is such a small object, in the expanse of the woods, that it really doesn’t matter if you use a pattern…or what pattern you use. Just make it not look like a face.” I’ve seen vertical stripes, half-and-half on the face, like a character out of Braveheart, without the pretty blue, and lots of guys who just smeared their faces with paints. It all worked, just find. If you don’t have the camouflage facepaint though, you’re going to be scrambling for shit to use…maybe literally.
I’ve gone through a bevy of gloves over the years, running from the old standby of Nomex aviator’s gloves, to cool-guy Oakleys and Mechanix gloves, back to aviator’s gloves. Now? I just wear whatever brown leather work gloves I can pick up at the Stop-and-Rob when I realize I need new gloves.
For my boots, I’m pretty well stuck on my Keens now. I’ve worn jungle boots, desert boots, Vasques, Asolos, and pretty much every other type of combat or backpacking boot you can imagine. I’m stuck on Keens because, well, on the one hand, GI boots suck, and I’ve not found another pair of civilian backpacking boots that fit my wide-as-fuck feet quite as well (when I’m backpacking in spring, summer, or fall, I’m as likely to wear sandals—Chacos to be specific—as I am to wear boots, but I don’t think I have the balls to wear them on actual patrols. I’m not that bad ass, apparently.)
Of course, the original query that started this article probably wasn’t interested in what boots and clothes I wear. He wanted to know about LBE. Which goes back to #2 in the self-defense question: “try to kill anyone trying to kill me.”
My weapon of choice is a Stoner platform carbine. For general purposes, a 14.5” to 16” barrel is more than adequate—both for accuracy and for handiness—as most of us are ever going to need for a general purpose carbine. That having been said, I also need to feed the bitch, which means I need a way to carry ammunition.
In a nutshell, here’s Mosby’s philosophy on ammunition carriage: I may die in a gunfight. I might be outnumbered. I might be outclassed. I might just have a (really) shitty day that day. What I refuse to allow to have happen though, is dying in a gunfight because I ran out of fucking ammunition.
How much ammunition? As much as I can carry and still do my job (which means walking as far as I need to walk, and still being able to fight—including sprints and IMT movements for up to a couple hundred meters at a time—when I get where I’m going, while still being able to carry my shit when the fight is over as well). For me currently, that means I’m running 8 loaded mags on my LBE, 3 mags on my hip, and one in my rifle.
Undoubtedly, someone will point out—probably someone whose idea of PT is 12-ounce curls and getting off the couch to change the television channel—that guys like Kyle Lamb and Paul Howe have both publicly stated in classes and in writing that 3-4 mags is all you need on your LBE. I’m not about to argue with Lamb or Howe. Both of them have far better man-killing creds than I do. Here’s the thing though…neither of them, when at SFOD-D, were running the types of missions we’re discussing here, and neither of them had to worry about re-supply if they ran out during the fight. SF guys on most missions in a UW context—just like LRSU guys–don’t have the luxury of speed balls of ammo and water resupply getting dropped from rotary-wing assets on the objective. Hell, we don’t even have the conventional infantryman’s advantage of getting a wheeled-vehicle or rotary-wing re-supply every 48-72 hours, which is the doctrinal standard, even in Afghanistan today.
Further, as far as I know, neither Lamb nor Howe are in the stated business of teaching guys to fight like infantrymen. They’re focused on personal and home defense, and urban rifle fights for LEO (I could be wrong. I’ve actually not had a class from either of them in the civilian sector).
During a properly executed break-contact drill, you’re going to burn through magazines of ammunition like a bad ’80s action movie hero, in an effort to provide suppressive fire for your buddy. One single break-contact—in heavy brush where it might only involve 50-100 meters of fire-and-movement before you begin the actual “run like a raped ape” portion of the drill, can burn through 4, 5, or more magazines. What happens if your pursuers catch up to you before you get all the way back to a resupply point? Are you going to fucking throw rocks at them? Or maybe hurl insults? Oh, I know! You’re going to fight off a M240B crew with your ultra-cool tactical combat knife!
How much ammunition should YOU carry? AS MUCH AS YOU CAN AND STILL DO YOUR FUCKING JOB. Of all the places to look at for reducing weight…ammunition load is NOT one of them.
So, how do I carry my ammunition? The eight magazines on my chest are carried in a Tactical Tailor MAV. JC Dodge mentioned the open-front, or “two-piece” MAV in his article I referenced above. I run a one-piece, like a traditional RACK (Ranger Assault Carrying Kit). It’s a big, bulky fucker, but I’ve never seemed to have the problem with it that a lot of guys (including Max and JC) seem to have.
The generally stated argument against the chest-rig for dismounted operations is that it keeps you from getting your dick in the dirt deep enough when you’re under fire. Perhaps it’s all differences in experience (probably), but I’ve never personally had that problem. For one thing, even at 6′ tall and 210lbs (weighed myself tonight, actually..209.8 pounds.), I’m lean enough that I can get down behind my rifle, in a magazine monopod, and engage targets.
Now, the chances I’m actually going to need to get that low in most fights is pretty slim. In the vast majority of fights we were in, we had plenty of available cover to get behind, from micro-terrain like small gullies just big enough to mask your body, to piled up stones and boulders. I don’t generally make it a habit of dropping and staying in positions in the wide open, flat areas, whether the middle of the street, or an open meadow. When I’ve been forced to, I’ve been more concerned with shooting at the bastards (from the magazine monopod prone, admittedly), than I was in laying there, waiting to get shot. That’s just my experiences though. I know a lot of guys with almost identical backgrounds to me who hate chest rigs.
The other common complaint about chest rigs is the stress they place on your lower back from carrying all that weight on your chest. Again, unless you’re patrolling around without a ruck on, it’s actually not the case. There’s a DoD study floating around (I used to have a copy, but don’t know who I loaned it to) that talks about the medical and physiological impacts of military load-bearing equipment. Among the wealth of other interesting topics it discusses, it actually investigates the benefits of a load on the front of your body to counter the musculoskeletal impacts of humping a ruck around.
In a traditional, dismounted infantry patrolling environment, while carrying a ruck, a chest-rig is actually MORE beneficial to spine health and fatigue prevention than any other LBE system. The preference or impression otherwise is predicated solely on individual preference and comfort—generally based on personal experience. If you’re more used to wearing a battle belt or LC-2/ALICE system, it will FEEL better to you than a chest-rig system.
Of course, for the duration of a fight, when you’ve dropped your ruck (hopefully), there’s certainly going to be an impact on your lumbar spine supporting muscles trying to support that load. Considering however, that you’ll spend more of your time patrolling just walking than you will dumping your ruck and fighting (unless you really suck at patrolling), it’s really a non-issue, in my experience.
In addition to the eight magazines on my chest-rig, I carry three more on my belt. These are carried in HSGI Kangaroo-type “Taco Pouches,” with Glock 17 magazines piggybacked. For quite some time, I was running these on a war belt, but what I consistently found was that they interfered with my ability to use the hip-belt on my rucks. I could just lengthen the suspenders and let the war-belt drop lower, but I’ve never liked that method, for various reasons (mostly personal preference, based on my experiences), despite it being a classic favorite in both LRSU and SF.
As a young hooah, coming up in the Ranger Regiment, I watched (and emulated) my team leaders and squad leaders wearing their ALICE gear like chest-rigs. We wore them up really high, around our chests, over the top of our old RBA (Ranger Body Armor—the precursor to the IOTV…and a markedly better design, I’ve always felt). Whether patrolling under rucks, or kicking in doors; from fast-roping out of CH47s, to performing night mass-tac airborne operations, the system just worked really well for us. (Regular reader and commentator Attack Company 1/75 might have some feedback on this. Ranger K, do your memories mesh with this, or do you remember something different?) Then of course, in the later part of the mid-1990s, the Regiment started switching over the RACK, which was a Godsend, for the simplicity and comfort it provided versus the Erkel look with the ALICE system.
When I got to SF, I tried the low-slung thing on my LBE a few times and—frankly–hated it. It felt awkward to me, and I always felt like I had to fish for magazines during reloads. I went to carrying a RACK system, until we started mounting mag pouches directly on our body armor.
A second reason I don’t use the low-slung LBE method is because of my sidearm. As Max correctly points out, in numerous articles, the chances of needing to use your pistol in a light-infantry patrolling environment are pretty slim. The reality is, a sidearm, in this context, is largely a comfort item. Nevertheless, I don’t know very many guys, regardless of their experience level, who—when given the opportunity—don’t carry a sidearm. The Team Sergeant, who helped teach the WV class last summer, actually carried TWO sidearms (both CZ75s). One was on his LBE, and one was on the aviator’s vest he wore under his LBE (and before you start decrying THAT as ridiculous, keep in mind, this was a guy who was running real-world, no-shit operations in EAST Germany, through the 70s and 80s…unless you can cite better credentials than that, well….you’re full of shit.).
I carry a pistol, and will continue to. I’ve carried my pistols in drop-leg holsters as long as I’ve been allowed to carry a pistol with LBE (which is a relatively long time—over 15 years now), and have never experienced any of the problems with them that I read about guys having. I don’t notice it when I’m humping a ruck (and the pistol actually DOES get carried even when backpacking!). It doesn’t flop around on my leg, because I’m not trying to impersonate Angelina-fucking-Jolie in Tomb Raider. Here’s the deal with pistols as sidearms, in my book. Yes, the chances are, I’m never going to need it in the context of light-infantry patrolling operations. If I do need it though? I’m probably going to need it, RIGHT FUCKING NOW!!!! I don’t want to be trying to figure out where it’s at on my low-slung, flopping around war-belt, and I sure as fuck don’t want to dick around with a bunch of flaps and other retention devices to get the cocksucker out, when I need to shoot some fat fucker who’s huffing and puffing towards me with the bayonet on the end of his SKS.
I run a drop-leg Safariland, with all of the retention devices removed except the thumb break. I’ve never seen one fail, and I’ve had guys literally pick me up by the pistol, trying to get it out when I demonstrate how well the retention device actually works (Hell, during EPW search blocks during classes, I’ve had guys who couldn’t figure out how to work the fucking thumb lever until I showed them!).
All of this together adds up to meaning I needed a different way to carry the magazines on my belt….so I did the unthinkable. Having seen Costa’s drop-leg magazine panel posted on his FB page, I fabricated one for myself out of an old Blackhawk leg panel I had laying around in one of my boxes of discarded gear. Like my pistol, I don’t wear it hanging down around my knees. It’s up high, so the magazines just clear my rucksack hip belt, allowing me to perform speed reloads out of it, even if I haven’t been able to dump my ruck (such as the first reload of a fight, or during a break-contact drill).
Oh, I know….fucking heresy, right? Here’s the rub though…I’ve done a couple of lengthy ruck movements with this set-up now (because you know…we actually TEST our equipment…), and had exactly ZERO problems with it. It doesn’t cause any undue wear on my leg stamina, no raw spots, and it’s hell for convenient. Honestly, despite my own strongly-held reservations surrounding the idea, it’s actually turned out to be handier than a glove.
In addition to firearms, I keep a fixed-blade knife on my belt. While I have a really awesome, custom fixed-blade knife coming, I’m currently just running an old Camillus version of the Kabar that I don’t remember how long I’ve had. (The new knife should be here relatively soon, right? The maker is a reader…hopefully it’ll be here soon.) That Kabar has been used to cut aiming stakes, brush for fires, and parachute cord. While my Kabar never has, the Kabar design has also been used by an awful lot of awfully hard motherfuckers to defend their lives in some awful tight situations. I have every confidence it will do the same for me, should the need arise.
Because of my “point-centric” philosophy of knife combatives, a dagger would seem to make a lot of sense. After all, it’s DESIGNED for stabbing. Here’s the catch though. I don’t make a fetish out of my weapons. They’re tools. I’m far more likely to use my knife for cutting things than I am to use it for stabbing people, so the Kabar is a better choice (that’s actually why I moved away from using a push-dagger for me EDC knife. While I have a couple pocket knives and a–finally!–multiplier, on my EDC, I’m still more likely to need to use the larger fixed blade knife for cutting things than I am to stab someone with it).
Medical aid, in the context of infantry patrolling, needs to focus on the Care-Under-Fire, and the Tactical Field Care phases of TC3. Doctrinally of course, TC3 calls for you to provide self-aid whenever possible and necessary. In our context of extremely small units, defending against probably larger elements, you’d better count on providing self-aid for 99% of your injuries (yet, another reason to WEAR YOUR FUCKING ARMOR!!!). For me, that means I’ve got a CAT-T tourniquet on my plate carrier, and another 100mph taped to the stock of my rifle. In addition, I carry two BOKs. One is on my RACK, in a double-stack magazine pouch. The other is wrapped in plastic, and tucked into a cargo pocket on my trousers. While there is a chance I could catch a round in the hips that a tourniquet isn’t going to help, or to the torso somewhere my plates don’t cover, the reality is, some days you get the bull, and some days, the bull gets you. I can only hope that, if I don’t take a hit to an extremity that a CAT-T will deal with for the immediate short-term, that the shot elsewhere either kills me quickly, or doesn’t kill me before I can pack the wound and get pressure on it, or before a buddy can help me out.
Of course, one of the biggest whining complaints we get (I’ve seen it on Max’s site as well) when we try and discuss TC3 is the lack of follow-on care. Here’s the catch, if you actually do your homework, like reading Keeley’s War Before Civilization, you’d realize that, even in primitive cultures—outside of 19th century battlefield medicine that wanted to bleed and amputate at any opportunity—if you didn’t die from a wound on the battlefield, there is a pretty good chance you’ll survive. (Actually, don’t worry about reading the book if you don’t want to. I’ve got a lengthy series coming up that will be a book report/study of the relevant parts to our concerns. Nevertheless, I DO recommend reading it. In it’s own right, it’s a pretty fascinating fucking book!)
In my ruck, I carry a complete third BOK, as well as a couple bags of IV fluids (currently normal saline. In actual patrolling, I’d switch to Lactated Ringer’s, since I can’t get Hextend).
Observation, in the context of light-infantry patrolling, covers two basic concepts, both of which involve seeing the enemy before he sees you. One is during daylight, the other in low-light.
To most people, the use of binoculars is self-evident, from childhood. They help you see shit that’s far away, right? Well, yes, but they do so much more. At closer distances (I’ve used binos inside of 50 meters actually), they help you see DETAILS much better. In brush, or even in the sagebrush we’ve got out here, they can actually help you see enough detail to tell the difference between the bush/tree foliage, and the camouflaged dude hiding in the middle of that foliage.
This doesn’t require some super-ultra-powered 45x Nautical Binoculars. Even an inexpensive pair of 7-8x birdwatching glasses will help (although, as in all things, you generally get what you pay for). I’ve used a pair of compact 10x Bushnells for years, and they’ve always done the work I needed them to do.
Spotting scopes work for the same thing, as well as being far more useful for studying people and targets at longer ranges. My spotting scope stays in my ruck, unless I need it. It’s a 42x Nikon that I bought used a couple years ago. Literally, nothing fancy about it. The tripod for it I bought used at a yard sale for $5.00.
A lot of people in the world are scared shitless of night-vision technology. Here’s the catch though…It’s easier to hide from passive night-vision like PVS7s and PVS14s than it is to hide from the naked eye during daylight. The trick is simply to remember that you ARE trying to hide, and the darkness does not hide you all by its lonesome. Nevertheless, simply because most people are so ignorant of NODs, I think they’re a pretty fucking useful tool, once you’ve learned to function at night without them. On the night terrain run that Tex wrote about the recent Arizona class, I actually loaned my PVS14s out to students, rather than wearing them myself. I still managed to outrun and elude the group during the run.
That having been said, NOT having and using NODs when appropriate, out of some ignorant idea that “I’m so fucking bad ass in the woods, I don’t need NODs!” is about as stupid as you can get. I use my NODs, when patrolling, when I’m not moving, because they do allow me to see BETTER. When I’m moving, I rely on my other senses, so I have some degree of peripheral vision that keeps me from running into shit like trees and catching branches in the throat (on the other hand, I will point out that, during the aforementioned terrain run, I did walk chest first into a four-strand barbed wire fence. I actually saw it, even in the dark, with no NODs, but misjudged how far away it was. Ain’t nobody perfect).
My -14s ride in a Blade-Tech hard case, nestled inside one of the large, general-purpose utility pouches that ride on my chest harness. Along with a head lamp (visible white light and red lens), and a handful of chemlights.
I don’t run handheld thermals, because—frankly–I can’t afford them. While they offer the same advantages (and a couple others, obviously) that NODs do (most people are either unaware of the threat, or don’t know how to hide from them), hand-held thermals are not particularly hard to hide from—in most contexts—either. As I’ve said repeatedly, I’m not discussing that on an internet blog, but it is something we discuss in classes, and when a student conveniently brings one to a class, we even demonstrate it. While I’d not be heartbroken to have a set of the FLIR handheld thermals, the biggest advantage they would offer me is the training value in teaching people to hide from during infiltrations.
I’ve belabored my hatred of GPS previously on this blog, numerous times. So, I carry a compass and topo maps. I use a standard, tritium illuminated USGI compass, carried in a grenade pouch-turned-utility pouch, on my chest rig. While it seldom comes out (I’m not sure I’ve even worn it during the last several patrolling classes I’ve taught), I normally keep a slim, Silva-brand orienteering compass on a lanyard around my neck, under my shirt and plate carrier, in case I ever have to dump my chest rig in an E&E situation.
While a lot of guys really prefer civilian orienteering compasses, I still love the GI model, despite the additional weight.
Maps get acetated, folded, and either shoved in a cargo pocket, or tucked into the kangaroo pouch on my plate carrier, behind my chest-rig. I also have a set of Ranger beads for pace counts, attached to my plate carrier.
Extreme Weather Conditions
I don’t carry a lot of gear for this on my fighting load. Most of it is in my ruck. I do keep a couple of Zippo lighters in my pockets, and have hurricane lifeboat matches, in a match safe, in my fighting load.
In my environment, cold-weather and wet-cold weather is far more of a concern, even in summer, than extreme heat (although we did see a lot of triple digits last summer…). Nevertheless, the 100oz Camelback bladder on the back of my plate carrier gives me enough to survive hot weather in the short term.
For food, I keep a half dozen protein bars in one of the general purpose pouches, plus tea bags and a cone of pure cane sugar (in the case I have to live out of my RACK, I’m far more concerned about quick, pure energy than I am about staying true to a Paleo diet). I also keep a half-dozen wire snares, although to be honest, the chances of actually using them—let alone my ass actually catching anything—are pretty slim.
For water, as I mentioned above, I keep a 100oz Camelback on my plate carrier. I couldn’t do this when I ran an ALICE pack, because the pack wouldn’t sit well on the bulge formed by the bladder and its pouch. With the Eberlestock and other internal frame rucks though, since the hip belt carries the weight, and the pack frame actually sits a considerable distance from my body, there’s ample room. I also keep the Potable Aqua drops I’ve mentioned in previous articles on my RACK (and truthfully? Pre-sweetened Kool-Aid packets as well. I fucking hate drinking tepid water).
I don’t do any clothing or shelter on my fighting load. Yes, I could add a buttpack or something and carry a woobie and/or poncho, but honestly? That’s what my fucking rucksack is for. If I need to move so fast that I can’t carry a ruck, then I need to move too fast to be stopping and building hooches and sleeping. The other advantage of my system is that even in cold weather, I can get away with less snivel gear, because the load-bearing equipment and body armor do a pretty good job of trapping body heat. On the other hand, obviously, in hot environments, that can be a detriment. Fortunately, even when I wore this shit last summer in triple digits, by staying in the shade, and staying hydrated (and trying to restrict serious movement to hours of darkness), I managed to work it without getting too dangerously miserable. Even in WV during the patrolling class there, not only did I manage to function with this basic gear set-up (actually, I think I was wearing more and heavier gear), I still managed to function, and something that people don’t realize, as cadre, we weren’t just humping a ruck with the students, we were moving back-and-forth through the formation, offering advice and tips, and checking on students (although, I’m pretty sure I whined like a bitch more than a few times about how fucking hot it was there!).
How heavy is all that shit?
In the aforementioned DoD study on the medical and physiological implications of load-bearing, the conclusion is reached that a fighting load should be no more than 1/3 of your total body weight, and the sustainment load total (with fighting load and ruck), should be no more than 45% of your body weight. That’s the cut-off point at which the weight genuinely begins to impact on the individual’s ability to function in a tactical field environment. While every infantryman in history can attest to having carried loads—in training and/or combat—heavier than that (sometimes MUCH heavier than that—the heaviest ruck I ever carried was 125 lbs, at a bodyweight of 215 lbs, and that was just my ruck, not my fighting load), that 1/3 and 45% cut-offs are the ideal we should strive to beat.
So, let’s see where my “way too heavy,” and “way too big” load falls…
Today, while weighing all this gear, I weighed myself first. In my skivvies, I weigh just under 210 lbs. With my jeans, shirt, and Keens on, my total body weight was 212.9 lbs.
Glock 17, loaded: 31.93 oz
Glock 17 magazine, loaded: 9.89 oz (x3= 30 oz)
Streamlight TLR-3: 2.32 oz
Safariland Drop-Leg: < 1 pound (shipping weight is one pound, including packaging)
Drop Leg Panel with HSGI pouches: < 1 pound (my scale wouldn’t register the weight, but it weighs about the same as my holster)
PMAG loaded with 30 rounds: 18 oz (x3= 54 oz….so just under 3.5 lbs)
Sub-Total thus far: < 9.2 lbs (147.92 oz divided by 16 oz per pound)
My plate carrier, with TAP Gamma III+ plates, a CAT-T holder, and assorted markers and paint pens (used for target marking during classes), according to our bathroom scale, weighs exactly 13 pounds.
My RACK, loaded with 8 loaded PMAGs (total weight nine pounds), a PVS-14 (12.4 oz) in a Blade-Tech hard case (can’t find a weight for it, and I’m done looking), my BOK, and assorted other goodies in pockets, including Ranger Handbook, notepad and pens, spare batteries, and more, weighs in at 13.9 pounds.
My rifle, with a Burris MTAC 1.5-6x optic, OTAL IR laser, and Streamlight TLR-1, weighs 11 pounds loaded.
So, my total fighting load weight is 36.9 lbs…which is CONSIDERABLY less than 1/3 of my body weight (at 210lbs, 1/3 of my body weight would be 70 pounds, for the mathematicall challenged).
My rucksack, loaded with a bevy of SMOLES-compliant gear, a 100 oz Camelback (that can be attached to my plate carrier when needed), and two 1-liter Nalgene bottles (all water containers were full when I weighed the load), but missing the 12 loaded PMAGs I would normally carry (total weight 13.5 pounds) and food, which would vary according to duration of the planned operation, weighs in at 54lbs total, according to the scale. That, combined with the 36.9 pounds of my fighting load brings my load to a sustainment load total of 90.9 pounds, although if we add the weight of the missing 12 magazines, the TOTAL load just breaks the 100 pound mark at 104.4 pounds. That total is 49% of my total bodyweight, which just breaks the doctrinal ideal by a couple of percentage points. If I dropped the loaded magazines, the total weight would drop well below the 45% ideal sustainment load total, but the cost is worth the extra ammunition, to me.
The best method to set up a fighting load and sustainment load is an extremely personal matter, within the realm of what will work depending on your personal physiognomy and the particulars of how you handle your weapons and mission. For me, in a gunfight, a couple things are paramount:
1) The ability to effectively engage hostiles at distances from collision range to 500+ meters, with rifle fire.
2) The ability to conduct speed reloads, when necessary, to protect my Ranger Buddy (if I protect my Ranger Buddy, and he protects me, we both survive. That’s a win!)
3) The ability to use camouflage, concealment, and cover, to protect myself from getting killed. As a last resort, I want body armor on, to help increase my odds of surviving, if the other protection methods fail me.
For light-infantry type patrolling operations, surviving gunfights is my number one priority. After that, my priorities are being able to carry all my other survival gear, while still accomplishing the above three tasks.
The load-bearing equipment load-out I use allows me to do all of those things.
With that in mind, whatever you learn from reading one more take on the same thing, learn this…the only way to determine what method of load-bearing is going to work for you is by trying shit out and figuring it out.
1) What is your opinion on using grease(particularly automotive stuff) to lube an AR15 in place of oil?
2) We’ve seen a lot of gun companies relocate businesses or refuse to sell to LEO and GOV organizations because of restrictions on civilian ownership. Do you think this is going to lead to a new trend in conservative politics, a kind of “sanctioning” against the statists?
3) Do you like the Tavor clones that are now available in the US?
4) Were you as disappointed as I was in the new Glock 41 and 42?
1) Honestly, I don’t have one. I just lube my shit with motor oil and call it good. Sorry.
2) I can hope, right? I don’t know that it will make much of a difference, since I have my doubts that the politicians who are so statist actually give two shits about the survivability of the cop or soldier on the ground, but any sort of sanctioning or shunning is a step in the right direction, in my opinion.
3)On the one hand, I’ve not even gotten my nasty little fingers on one of them yet. Unfortunately, none of the dealers or manufacturers out there—with a couple of notable exceptions (and I’m talking to you about that KeyMod fore end AmTac Precision…..) have contacted me about reviewing products yet, more is the pity. Deep in the stony, frozen recesses of my chest where my heart is supposed to reside, there is a little kid who is 110% as gear queer as a person can be.
On the other hand, I’m not particularly fond of bullpup designs. I like the compactness of bullpup designs, but the manual of arms completely fucks me up for some reason. I CAN run one, but I’d never choose to as my first, second, or even third choice, given my druthers.
4) I’ve not touched either one yet (see #3 above), but I was really, really hoping the 42 would be a single-stack 9mm. I’m not sure what customers Glock was listening to that demanded a .380, but considering the fact that it’s as large as a single-stack 9mm sub-sub-compact, I don’t see why they just didn’t make it a damned 9mm.
How many magazines are you comfortable carrying?
Depends on context. If I’m trying to be all sneaky-Pete the Ninja dude in an urban environment, I might just toss one extra mag in a pocket, but if I’m wearing patrolling gear? I carry 11 spare magazines. Eight on my RACK and three on my belt, along with three spare G17 magazines.
Then again, I usually keep twelve loaded magazines in my rucksack as well. So the answer COULD be 24…
Do you prefer single-open topped or double-flapped mag pouches for the bulk of your ammo load?
The pouches on my belt are HSGI kangaroo-type taco pouches, so they’re open-topped. Those are supposed to be strictly for those “Oh shit!” moments that demand a speed reload. The pouches on my RACK are double-stacked and flap-covered, for retention and protection, but are supposed to be used for tactical reloads/reloads with retention, when I’ve got the “time” of luxuriously taking 2-3 seconds for a reload instead of being involved in a drag race to get it done, or get shot in the face.
Where do you have your trauma kit or whatever? Chest or belt?
Gear layouts are a tough question for me to answer, because I’m always dicking with it. I’ve been running my IFAK/BOK on my belt for quite some time, but I’ve recently put it on my RACK, as I’ve moved away from using the war belt as much. Unfortunately, because of the layout of my RACK, that limits my left-hand access to the IFAK, so I ALSO carry one, wrapped in plastic, in a cargo pocket, when I’m wearing pants with cargo pockets. My tourniquets get carried on my RACK and on my plate carrier both.
I know (or think) you carry a fixed blade on your fighting load, do you also carry a Leatherman or Gerber in addition to that? Why or why not?
I actually carry two fixed blades. I’ve got a Kabar on my belt, and a smaller knife attached to my Safariland holster in front of my G17. I don’t currently carry a multi-tool, mostly because I haven’t been able to decide which one I want. I REALLY want the MUT from Leatherman, and HH6 has okayed the purchase, but I still can’t bring myself to drop $150 on a pair of damned pliers.
You said you had an Eberlestock pack somewhere on the blog—which one and why?
The biggest one they make. Why? Because it’s cool? I mean, everyone knows all the cool JSOC dudes are running them, right? No, seriously, I like the Eberlestock because a) it’s big enough, b) it’s not in some gayer than a bag of dicks backpacker color, and c) it’s made in the Redoubt.
Do you wear your RACK over a slick plate carrier? I know this was covered in the Load-Out articles, but I’m just wondering if anything has changed?
Yes, I do. I can ditch it if needed, to be all ninja-stealthy, and still have ballistic protection in case I screw up and am not as ninja-like as I want to think I am.
Do you use stand-alone or ICW plates and soft-armor backers? What brand is your armor?
I’m running TAP III+ stand-alones. So is HH6.
I was interested in learning more about your combatives and knife instruction. I understand that you are using an MMA type of program as the basics. Just curious if you are following the Ranger Combatives/MACP program completely or have added some of your own special sauce to it. Or am I misunderstanding? Also, I like your thinking for your knife program to just stick them but is that all there is because you are probably in a grappling type situation and so you are locked up and stick them? Do you ever foresee having to draw a knife pre-grappling stage? Would love any clarifications or further information regarding your combatives and knife program.
At a basic level, I teach—and practice—pretty much the MACP program, with a couple of variations.
1) My stand-up striking and entering game is almost straight Crazy Monkey Defense western boxing, from Rodney King in South Africa (Cecil Burch is a CMD coach, down in Arizona. I’m not sure who else is a legit coach of CMD, but I know Paul Sharp’s material is pretty similar).
2) My unarmed against weapons defenses are Red Zone Defense program, developed by Jerry Wetzl of Centerline Gym in California (Jerry is the lead CMD coach in the US also, AFAIK).
3) My stand-up clinchwork is a blend of judo, Greco-stuff I’ve learned over the years from different guys, and Paul Sharp’s stuff off the old ISR Matrix program (incidentally Paul…..any word on videos?). It’s about either knocking the dude out in the clinch, or setting up a throw or takedown.
4) “Put the pointy-end in the soft spots. Repeat as necessary, rapidly” really is the end-all, be-all of my philosophy of using any edged weapon like a knife. Even the ancient Romans knew and taught “Point beats edge.”
Could I cut my way out of a hold if necessary? Sure, but stabbing the dude is probably going to be a lot more effective. There has always been the myth in Asian martial arts—especially the Filipino martial arts—that guntings, or “defanging the snake” by slicing and dicing on the guy’s extended weapon-bearing arm would force him to drop his knife, leaving him exposed. But ask any ER doc or nurse and you’ll quickly discover…it’s just that…a myth. Fairbairn’s legendary Timetable of Death, recording how long it would take someone to bleed out is mythological in its conclusions. “If you slice someone’s brachial artery, they will lose consciousness in XX seconds, and die in XXX seconds.” That’s nonsense on the very face of it. Whose brachial artery? Mine? My two-year olds? A dude that weighs 290 pounds of fat and muscle? It doesn’t take variations in human physiology into account…let alone mental fortitude.
On the other hand, scrambling someone’s hash by slicing their heart apart, inside their chest? It’s a given THAT will stop their heart. Stab them in the lung and THEY will end up with air leaking out and fluid leaking in.
Is it going to stop them instantly? Not necessarily. That’s why the second sentence is there. “Repeat as necessary, rapidly.”
One thing that a lot of people overlook with using knives and other edged weapons, including guys who’ve adopted the “put the pointy-end in the soft spots” mantra, that helps explain my preference for grappling, is…depending on whom you’re fighting, there may not be a lot of soft spots available…If a dude is kitted up in the complete Interceptor Body Armor suite…you may be stabbing down into the neck, behind the neck guard, up into the groin, around the groin protector, or into the armpits. That’s pretty much all you’re going to get. Would you rather try and hit those tiny targets against a guy with full-mobility, or have him restricted in his movements, because you’ve got a hold of him and are putting him where you want him to go?
Do you continue to stay “informed” on current events, geopolitical situations and issues associated with your previous occupation? If so, what “open source” resources do you utilize specifically, and how do those resources scope and evolve your vision of assymmetrical warfare and how you think it should be applied at the small unit level? I’m also assuming that there are a few “closed source” resources that folks in your circle have access to…if you can’t comment about that, that’s fine.
Dude, everyone knows, the best source of news is Facebook!
A SCIF is a Secure, Compartmented Information Facility. It’s where a unit’s intelligence information comes in. Here’s a not-so-secret secret I learned as a private (it may or may not still be true…): Every single SCIF in the United States government has at least one television in it, tuned to CNN.
Does the mass media suck? Of course. Does the media have a statist bias? Of course. Does Faux News suck as bad as everyone else? Of course.
Nevertheless, if you can use logic and deductive reasoning, and balance your news sources between US and foreign sources, you can generally get a pretty good idea of what is going on in the world. Equally important is the ability to tune out what the talking (air)head is saying, and LOOK at what’s going on in the background.
We don’t have cable or satellite at home. Our television is only used to watch movies (and most of those are children’s educational videos, and training videos, to be honest). Most of my news comes from international new sources, via their websites. A lot of times I WILL come across an interesting link on FB, and then follow it elsewhere. Sometimes, I find something on FB, fail to do due diligence, and someone later points out to be, it was false information.
As far as closed-source information? I watch the news.
My views on how SUT applies to asymmetrical warfare is constantly evolving. While those evolutions are based on my previous training and experience, and are filtered through that prism, my theories and thoughts on the subject do evolve, absolutely. Having that foundation in the doctrine though, gives me a place to fall back to, if I discover down the road that my theories were theoretically full-of-shit.
Any chance you an do a junk on the bunk picture to see how your fighting gear and sustainment gear are set up?
Wait! You want to see my junk? That’s a little too DADT for me…..
Seriously, though, we’re going to try and get some photos shot during the upcoming Arizona class. I’ll try and remember to get some of my gear layout.
1) Do you know/recommend anyone within the Texas/Oklahoma region that offers similar knowledge?
I did a class in Oklahoma last year or the year before. I don’t really know anyone in those states though. Paul Howe does a lot of stuff at his place CSAT in Nacogdoches, but it’s mostly geared toward LEO, as far as I know.
2)Another option is to self-train skills that can be self-taught. Would you be willing to write a blog post outlining a list of essential skills useful for light infantry and possible ways to learn/practice those skills? For example, in Contact! Max Velocity mentioned orienteering clubs as a way to hone navigations skills. That’s just one example.
Sure. We talk about this a lot.
Orienteering is a great way to learn land nav with map and compass. If you want to do the GPS thing, try geocaching. If you want to learn to run a gun fast and accurate and get lots of practice (albeit without tactics involved really), get into 3-gun or IDPA or IPSC. If you want to learn how to live out of a ruck, go backpacking.
If you want to learn some more primitive bushcraft type survival skills, watch some YouTube videos, and then go practice, or go to Rabbitstick. The ability to self-train is unlimited in any skill set beyond those that necessarily require other people. It’s impossible to train in combatives by yourself. Sure, you can do bag work and shit, or (please don’t) martial arts kata, but unless you’re practicing shit against an actual, resisting opponent, you’re not really training.
You can’t practice SUT by yourself, obviously.