General Logistics Considerations for Resistance Movements
(Originally published on the old site, March 2012–J.M.)
The types, quantities, and availability of necessary supplies play an intrinsic part in the capabilities and limitations of resistance forces, as well as the types of missions a given resistance element can successfully perform. Further, an adequate availability of re-supply plays a critical role in the maintenance of all three aspects of a successful resistance. For the active, fighting elements—the paramilitary guerrilla force and the subversive underground—each successful re-supply represents encouragement and reassurance that others are sharing in their struggles and actively supporting their efforts. For the auxiliary and supporting elements of the civilian population, it offers moral encouragement that they are, in fact, actively “doing their part” to assist the movement (thus my constant harping on the logistics support role of the auxiliary).
Historically, many claim that guerrillas “lived off the land.” While true to a degree, it was not in the typical sense most consider when they use the term. Guerrillas didn’t historically spend all of their time hunting for meat and foraging for edible wild plants, although both have certainly played a part in the logistics plans of some historical guerrilla resistance movements. Instead, resistance forces have typically, when outside support was unavailable, relied on “taxation” of the civilian population and battlefield recovery. The resources of the country, represented by how well these demands can be filled through these methods, has limited the size of guerrilla bands that could be successfully organized and maintained in a given unconventional warfare operational area (UWOA). Guerrillas have historically had no choice other than to rely on these indigenous resources for re-supply of critical needs.
As prepared citizens, looking at the potential need for future hostilities in the protection of our local communities, and the restoration of the Republic, we enjoy an unprecedented historical anomaly that greatly benefits us. To wit, we have the opportunity to provide our necessary logistical supplies right now, before we actually need them. The study of historical guerrilla logistical requirements, contemporary unconventional war-fighting tactics, techniques, and procedures, and the ability to leverage the same technology (as well as an inherent cultural understanding of that technology), can allow us the ability to stockpile and prepare the material needs for a successful resistance to tyranny before the hostilities ever begin in earnest (and as so many of us claim and sincerely hope, may in fact result in the preparations never being necessary). This adherence to the “principle of the Ps” (Proper Prior Planning Prevents Piss-Poor Performance) serves the additional future role of preventing unnecessary stress on the part of the civilian populace by reducing the demands placed on them to successfully support the resistance.
The logistics demands of an unconventional force include many of the same demands as a conventional force, although with different challenges in disbursement. Problems with transporting supplies and equipment through regime-controlled territory complicate resistance logistic efforts even more than the hazards posed by the resistance to regime logistics disbursement efforts.
Geographic location and local culture/economy largely determine the logistic support needs of a resistance. In agricultural-centric areas, the need to stockpile and pre-position food needs will be far less than for a resistance element in an urban area or areas incapable of reliably producing adequate food to support the local civilian population and the needs of the resistance. Environmental conditions in the operational area will affect the type and amount of personal clothing and protective gear that the resistance needs to survive and thrive. These factors have serious bearing on diseases and non-combat injuries and health issues. Finally, the socio-economics and geography of an area, as well as the enemy situation, will influence the type of targets that can be attacked by the resistance successfully.
These logistics factors are critically important to consider from the beginning of planning, since the limitations of these issues may limit the possible size of resistance force elements. They also affect the possible operations that a unit can successfully undertake (if the only weapons the unit has access to are bolt-action, big-game hunting rifles, they may be limited to “simple” sniper attacks. If however, they have access to industrial machining equipment and farm supplies, through the auxiliary, they may be able to expand operations to convoy ambushes due to the ability to manufacture heavy weapons. Simple first-aid or TC3 supplies may limit the ability of the resistance to successfully care for injured/wounded personnel, as opposed to a unit with more advanced medical supplies, who can greater afford to risk personnel being wounded, thanks to their intrinsic ability to provide care to the casualties).
The logistic planning needs of resistance forces must be continuous, and plans to provide that support must be kept flexible to meet the constantly changing conditions. Flexibility is generally achieved by having primary, alternate, and contingency plans, locating cached re-supply installations throughout the operational area to reduce the need for resistance forces to expose themselves to compromise by reducing their travel times for re-supply. Establishing multiple primary and alternate points and routes for delivery of equipment and supplies for the resistance will further serve to maintain the flexibility of resistance logistics planning.
The primary method of logistical support for any resistance force is battlefield recovery. This is the acquisition and use of regime equipment, supplies, and arms, picked up following successful operations. Through the surgical application of well-selected offensive operations, a resistance force is actually able to fulfill many of its own logistics demands, while also denying the regime the use of these materials. With good intelligence and proper planning, even small guerrilla elements of four-to-six personnel can successfully conduct raids and ambushes against small, isolated enemy outposts and convoys to capture the needed items from these targets as they are presented.
Resistance movements may use regime currency or other tangible forms of currency (silver, gold, foodstuffs, tobacco, alcohol, or other barter items have all been used), to purchase supplies from local indigenous sources. Procurement through purchase or barter is generally restricted to the procurement of critical or scarce items that cannot be acquired through any other source, whatsoever. It is imperative that these purchases, when they must be made, are not made in such a manner as to disrupt the local economy, unless economic disruption is part of the resistance’s operational planning to achieve its strategic goals.
One aspect of re-supply that historical resistance movements have utilized (and which I highly suggest any future American resistance element avoid like the plague) is the levy of a tax on the civilian population, especially in enemy-controlled territory. The taxed civilian population is generally promised re-payment, once the insurgency is successful, even to the extent of using written promissory notes (almost inevitably, the newly established government has ended up neglecting to re-pay these notes, including our own, following the Revolution…look into the issues that George Rogers Clark faced, as a result of promissory notes he issued while fighting for the Continental Army. It’s been even worse in the aftermath of successful Communist insurgencies). The levy system is detrimental to the political efforts of the resistance (and, as we have established, quite thoroughly, insurgencies are political efforts first and foremost), due to the prevalence of chronic food shortages in war zones, regime competition for resources and/or interference in resistance procurement efforts, the impact of regime “scorched earth” policies, such as the use of Agent Orange defoliation efforts in Vietnam, and even competition for resources from other resistance elements.
Resistance forces that have been successfully cut off from civilian population supplies and civilian production facilities have and will continue to need to improvise their own field expedients. This may range from a requirement to plant and raise, or hunt, some of their own foodstuffs, to the manufacture of weapons and munitions, including non-small arms munitions such as explosives, incendiaries, and other weapons not easily procured other than through battlefield recovery. A well-organized auxiliary element, with the services of a well-trained and equipped machinist and trained gunsmiths, may even be able to manufacture small-arms in varying quantities (and, with the prevalence of recreational reloaders in this country, with proper stockpiles of equipment and supplies, an auxiliary can even produce much of their own ammunition).
The final method of commonly utilized logistics procurement methods in historical resistance movements has been confiscation, when necessary supplies can be procured from no other sources. While it may be useful if the resistance limits its confiscation efforts only to those members of the civilian population who are known collaborators, this method is inherently inimical to the conceptual framework of a future American resistance. It rightly alienates the civilian population, and is readily susceptible to abuse (this has been seen in Afghanistan and Iraq, as innocent civilians have been marked as Taliban or Al-Qaeda operatives and/or supporters, leading to them being renditioned by U.S-supported government forces. While, as they say, “shit happens,” this is contrary to the efforts to win the public support of the civilian population, since it may very well be their uncle, cousin, brother, or dad who is disappeared in the middle of the night (again, just to ensure it’s being adequately indoctrinated…you CANNOT win an insurgency or a counter-insurgency effort until you win the support of the civilian population, or at least its tacit approval).
Doctrinally speaking, there are four phases of supply for Special Forces support of resistance forces: accompanying, automatic and emergency re-supply, and on-call or routine. While the probable lack of any external support for an American resistance effort means that these phases will not be mirrored absolutely in future efforts, they do have merit in forming the basic foundation of a resistance supply plan.
Accompanying supplies are items an SF ODA carries with it during the infiltration of an operational area. The ODA receives these logistics items during the isolation planning stage. The threat in the operational area dictates the quantity and type of supplies and equipment the ODA will include in their planning. Other influences include: capabilities and size of the resistance element the ODA will be assisting and advising, the enemy situation and capabilities, the method of infiltration, available resources on the ground, the anticipated size and capability of the reception committee that the resistance will send to meet the ODA when it infiltrates, and SERE requirements for the ODA in case things get ugly, as well as any specific need for critical items of equipment that the ODA knows that the resistance force will need. Additionally, a well-trained and led ODA will ensure they have some materials in their packing order specifically to establish rapport with the resistance (in my experience, the best thing we included to build rapport with the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan was lots of cash and laser target designators for guiding in airstrikes. But hey, that’s just MY perception….).
For the future resistance, accompanying supplies are, and should be, those items, from basic arms and munitions, load-bearing equipment (“battle rattle”), and the other assorted equipment we all like collect. Despite my recommendations and previously posted lists of what I generally suggest for a framework guide for “equipping the guerrilla fighter,” the specific METT-TC needs of a particular resistance element’s operational environment, capabilities, and perceived mission-orientation will dictate what accompanying supplies that element should prepare and pack.
Automatic and emergency re-supply for a resistance element will be of limited availability, based on the pre-planned and positioned re-supply caches the active resistance and auxiliaries have developed These will generally be mission-essential items that were unavailable for the accompanying supply load, due to space, weight, or security constraints (a supply of improvised explosive components is generally not something the wife is going to want you keeping in the woodshed. The local fire department or law enforcement agency is even less likely to be understanding…). While this is different than the doctrinal descriptions of these phases of re-supply, it is an apt description of how they would work for a future resistance. Once a re-supply cache has been established and located, it is imperative that the planner leave it alone. Plan properly, pack properly, then…leave it the fuck alone. Don’t “check on it.” Don’t “make sure it hasn’t been messed with” or “discovered.” Simply walk away and leave it alone until it is needed. All members of an unit should know the locations and recovery instructions for the unit’s re-supply caches. In the event a member or members of the unit are separated and must conduct and escape-and-evasion, they can make their way to the re-supply caches both for its intended purpose and as an expedient rally point for rendezvous with other members of the unit.
On-call and routine re-supply for the resistance will come in the form of caches of equipment initiated by the auxiliary, or those items of logistics necessity that the auxiliary supplies from the black-market, purchase, or theft from the regime during on-going hostilities. These would be re-supply efforts that are specifically requested from the auxiliary by the resistance elements through the communications networks.
Decentralization of logistics, to the extent possible, is critical to the success of the resistance. This decentralization will increase the security of the resistance logistics network, since the compromise of one cache, or even multiple caches, or of one element of the logistics transportation/disbursement network will not result in the loss of the entire logistics supply chain for the resistance. The movement of supplies between sectors of the resistance should be minimized as much as possible. Even when it is necessary to move supplies from one sector to another, in order to support specific needs or operations, personnel names, storage cache sites, rendezvous points are not passed along. This is the true definition of compartmentalized information in a resistance movement. It is critical for security, especially in an active, fighting resistance that leaves ample opportunity for the regime to compromise elements within the movement through various means and methods.
When compared to a similarly-sized conventional force unit, a guerrilla unit has far fewer logistics demands but a far greater need for the more basic supplies and equipment needed to prosecute combat operations. Fundamentally, these include food, clothing, shelter, weapons, and ammunition (any patriot that doesn’t stockpile adequate amounts of this to survive for a year or more without outside resources, in this day and age of on-going economic imbalance and impending economic collapse, is fucking stupid. Focus on these fundamentals before worrying about NODs/NVGs, thermal optics, home-built UAVs, etc…). Areas suitable for guerrilla bases, such as alpine regions, and/or thickly-forested jungles/swamps, will generally have some naturally-available food sources, such as wild game, berries, and edible plants. These food sources will not provide adequate sustenance to sustain the nutritional needs of a guerrilla band of any size (although a small element of two-to-twenty personnel MIGHT be able to develop a large part of their sustenance from these sources). The reality is, resistance personnel will need high-calorie energy sources such as rice, sugar, grains, and protein sources (sound much like other recommendations for food-storage? Preparedness is preparedness, whether for economic collapse or future hostilities).
Guerrillas will need seasonally-appropriate, environmental-protective clothing in areas where radical weather changes can occur (like, I don’t know….mountain regions…). While cutting-edge technology mountaineering and outdoors clothing can be expensive, it is generally worth the investment (in many places, especially here in the inter-mountain West, these items, even the very expensive items, can be procured dirt-cheap at good second-hand and thrift stores. Military-surplus Gore-Tex, especially the first-generation ECWCS stuff, can be found for a few dollars at thrift stores in many places…I once picked up three of them in woodland camouflage in a Goodwill store in Seattle, for a total price of less than $20). The guerrilla ultimately, depends on his feet for transportation. He needs quality, well-fitted boots for walking in, with heavy loads. Invest in multiple pairs of quality boots (I went through three pairs of issue boots and two pairs of civilian hiking boots in one year once upon a time during my tenure in SF…For the auxiliary member, trying to determine what they can do now in order to help the resistance in the future, here’s my suggestion, also shared via email by another former SF soldier….stockpile boots. Civilian hiking boots, military-surplus boots, etc; it doesn’t matter. If you want to stockpile equipment to help the resistance, set aside a portion of your preparedness budget and invest it in boots of various sizes. Check out surplus stores and thrift stores for good prices on them. I’ve picked up unused USGI desert boots for less than $20 a pair in the recent past).
Natural shelters generally provide the best form of shelter for the guerrilla element. Naturally-occurring caves in hill and mountain regions offer protection from the elements and enemy observation, as well as providing protection from thermal imaging by aerial assets. Dug-in and earth-sheltered structures can also provide these benefits in areas without naturally-occurring caves. Sturdy, weatherproof shelters can be built with boughs and branches for roofs in timber country and swamp/jungle. If well-hidden under thick enough living foliage, these can also provide concealment from direct enemy observation and some protection from thermal imaging devices.
During mission-planning for UW operations, SF ODAs identify threat weapons and request and issue similar weapons and ammunition (thus my disdain for the AK was not developed out of ignorance of the limited capabilities of the rifle, but ample experience). The resistance should look at the weapons commonly carried and utilized by regime security forces in their operational area and consider those as their first options. Initially, outside of the weapons they already possess, battlefield recovery will provide the primary source of weapons and ammunition resupply and replacement. Since no replacement of weapons is likely outside of those captured from the regime, resistance planners should stockpile armorers’ kits, gunsmithing tools, and spare parts and cleaning kits to maintain weapons and increase their service life longevity.
When determining ammunition supply needs, one valid argument can be effectively advanced that there is no such thing as too much. The reality is however, that there are limits to how much one can carry, as well as how much one can afford to stockpile (in addition to boots, stockpiling ample supplies of 5.56mm NATO, both 55-grain M193, and 62-grain M855, as well as other common calibers, such as 7.62mm NATO, 9mm, .45ACP, and .40S&W are solid activities for auxiliary personnel now). Considerations in determining how much ammunition to stockpile and caches should include the fact that a resistance element needs to determine its doctrinal basic load (for the record, the Army’s basic load for combat arms patrols is 210 rounds…but they are seldom performing foot-mobile patrols that take them more than few kilometers from vehicle support, and they have readily available aerial re-supply assets. Current doctrine calls for re-supply of consumables including ammunition, food, and water, by airborne or ground vehicle transport, every 72 hours). The lack of readily accessible re-supply transport can and should, be mitigated during planning through the use of widely disbursed re-supply caches, and the fact that guerrillas, since they strive to fight on their terms, may used less ammunition than conventional forces. Strict fire discipline must be trained and imposed in order to conserve the limited supplies of ammunition available to the resistance (See? The limited availability of automatic weapons is not all bad!). The basic load should be predicated on the concept that a guerrilla element will fire one-half to two-thirds of its basic load in a single engagement (SF UW doctrine). If projected missions, such as a raid or an ambush will require three magazines to prosecute, the basic load must be a minimum of six magazines. This of course, does not account for emergency expenditure of large amounts of ammunition, such as in a “break contact” immediate action drill, when each individual may need to dump two or three magazines just in the initial seconds of the encounter. Time being on the side of the guerrilla, current UW doctrine states that a guerrilla force can be reasonably expected to engage in active, offensive combat operations on an average of once per month (take that doctrinal statement for what it is worth to you).
Determining individual equipment requirements, both for the accompanying supply demands and re-supply demands must be predicated on METT-TC, either perceived in advance, or as the situation develops. In addition to the aforementioned environmental-protection gear and footwear, priority logistics needs include medical supplies (especially TC3 supplies for care-under-fire and tactical field care), sleep gear (including all-season sleeping bags, field/camping mattresses, etc), load-bearing equipment, weapons cleaning supplies, and POL (Petroleum, Oils, and Lubricants) for maintenance of equipment and vehicles accessible to the resistance. Wool socks, canteens/water bottles, clothing, and other items should all be priority items for procurement and caching.
Beyond individual medical supplies, planners should procure and stockpile other medical supplies, ranging from antibiotics and minor pain-killers (and even prescription pain-killers when feasible or possible), to bandage materials, surgical kits, bed pans, cast materials and/or reusable versions, and other items. Consultation with a right-minded medical professional (especially an ER or trauma doc/nurse, or a former military trauma surgeon) is highly recommended for determining the specific needs of a resistance medical network (If all else fails, check out the “Ship’s Medicine Chest” manual to get a solid idea of the beginnings of a serious long-term medical kit).
In the event of actual hostilities, the auxiliary will provide most of the transportation network support for the guerrilla elements and the subversive underground. In some remote areas, inaccessible to vehicle-borne travel (the ideal place for guerrilla bases, after all), this may require the use of pack animals. Logistic planning should include sustainment materials for maintaining the function of the transportation network. That may mean POL materials and spare tires for vehicles, or farrier supplies and training for pack string operators.
The fundamental logistics demands of urban-based resistance elements are the same as those of rural-based guerrilla bands. While some of the specifics will change, such as suitable shelters (rather than caves, urban-based elements will utilize abandoned buildings, underground tunnels—sewer or subway—and the homes of auxiliary members), and foodstuffs (there will be far less opportunity to procure food clandestinely in an urban area than a rural agricultural region, thus demanding a greater reserve of stockpiled food stores), the general classes of supply needs remain the same.
As the adage says, “Amateurs study tactics; professionals master logistics.” Do your homework. Everyone needs to know, understand, and master the tactical skills of unconventional warfare, but equally important, we must master the logistics, and take advantage of the unprecedented ability to prepare for whatever hostilities may come, by preparing our logistics needs now.
Somewhere in the mountains
Post-Script: Just as a quick note. Don’t mistake this article on the importance of logistics material support as an excuse to avoid actually getting out and training. All the material support in the world won’t do you a bit of good if you’re not willing to get cold, wet, hungry, and miserable in order to learn and master the methods of applying those materials.