(Originally published on the old site, APR 2012–J.M.)
Of the four major aspects of support in military and paramilitary operations–personnel, intelligence, operations, and logistics–the fourth is often the most misunderstood by aspiring students of resistance theory and history. As the oft-cited cliche so accurately states, “Amateurs study tactics. Professionals study logistics.” When Napolean famously stated that “An army travels on its stomach,” he wasn’t talking specifically about the quality of the food in the French military, but about the importance of ensuring that the logistics train managed to keep pace with the fighting force, in order to keep the men re-supplied and fed.
For the inexperienced, the amount of material logistics support necessary to support even a single twelve-man SF ODA over the course of a six-month long deployment can be mind-numbingly massive (plane loads, not duffel bags full). The idea that a resistance cell will grab their individual rucksacks, LBEs, and weapons, and run off to the woods to fight it out in some Red Dawn, live-off-the-land scenario is a fantasy of hubris at its best. At its worst, it’s just fucking stupid.
Similarly naive however, is the typical survivalist/prepper idea that, in a totalitarian regime, ruled by the force of ninja-clad stormtroopers who kick in doors at 0300, stomp puppies to death, and jerk citizens from their beds by the hair, a stockpile of food and supplies in the pantry and basement will be adequate or secure.
The key to successful logistics support if a resistance movement is the establishment, by both individual tactical cells as well as dedicated auxiliary logistics networks, of widespread, secure, and well-equipped caches of critical supplies (for the record, it’s pronounced “cash,” “cashes,” and “cashed,” not “cashay,” “cashayes,” and “cashayed!”). Caching is the process of hiding equipment or other necessary logistics materials in secure storage locations with the express intent to later recover those materials for future use (hiding them without the intent of later recovery is referred to as “losing shit.”) In a resistance movement, cached materials may provide numerous benefits to resistance forces. They may meet the emergency needs of personnel for items that can no longer be procured on the open or black markets, due to regime interference or lack of supply, or they may provide necessary travel documents and funds for the initiation of escape-and-evasion corridors by compromised personnel. Most critically perhaps, caching provides a realistic supply solution for long-term operations conducted over wide areas, far from secure bases of operations. In the specific words of the doctrinal literature on caching for UW, “caching can also provide for anticipated needs of war time operations in areas likely to be overrun by the enemy.”
Cache Planning Considerations
Selection of the specific contents of any particular cache requires a thorough analysis, careful estimation, and more than a little scientific, wild-ass guessing (technically termed “SWAG”), regarding the needs of particular resistance elements for particular operations. Fortunately, we still have the benefit that procurement of most of the likely candidate items for future re-supply caches currently pose no significant difficulties. In fact, as has been repeatedly belabored in this blog previously, the relative ease of procurement before hostilities become any more heated is the major benefit in favor of caching logistics materials now (fundamentally, it goes back to a previously asked question. How serious are you? Is it real, or are you playing “Gus the Guerrilla” so you can dress up in multi-cam and shoot guns?)
Planners, whether members of an individual tactical cell, or a dedicated auxiliary logistics cell, must determine the purpose and contents of specific caches, since these basic factors influence the location of the cache and the necessary methods of concealment. A cache containing liquid assets, such as silver or similarly small, readily concealable items may be established in relatively accessible places, since the recovery agent of the cache can simply conceal the contents on his person with ease. A cache of rifles and ammunition for a raiding party however, will require establishment in a less accessible, more remote location, since hiding the weapons from casual observation will require more effort than simply shoving them in a pocket (honestly, one of the few benefits I can see of owning AKMs, other than the fact that there are hundreds of millions, of not billions of 7.62x39mm ammunition floating around this country, is the convenience of a being able to conceal a folding stock AKM under a jacket like a Carhartt barn jacket).
Further, certain items, such as medical items like antibiotics, painkillers, IV saline bags, and other consumables do possess limited shelf-life and may require periodic rotation or other specific storage considerations. This may require easy access for the planners to service these caches, as needed. Ultimately, resistance planners must balance the logistical objectives of the cache with the actual possibilities when selecting items and locations for a cache. Realistic options for items included in re-supply caches may include, but certainly not be limited to: money, weapons and ammunition, explosives components, medical supplies, tools, food and water (water purification methods may be more appropriate in many environmental areas), batteries (overlooked far too often by amateur guerrillas. Realistically in modern conflict, even guerrilla warfare, combatant elements will go through batteries like shit through a goose), clothing, and spare/replacement load-bearing equipment (I utilize ALICE load-outs for cached load-bearing equipment, since it’s cheap and will suffice, even if it’s not as ideal as my current or future load-outs. If I’m to the point of relying on LBE cached months or years before, I’m probably not going to be too particular about how Gucci it is. If it’s gear to outfit new resistance recruits, they don’t get to be picky).
When planning a resistance supply cache, planners absolutely must remember that “the enemy gets a vote.” The successful recovery of a combat re-supply cache will ultimately depend on how well the planners anticipated the various obstacles to successful recovery, which will be created, intentionally or not, by the enemy if he occupies the area of the cache. Hiding a weapons cache in a small meadow surrounded by brushy woods because it is near the junction of several major roads may seem ideal, since it’s hidden and yet readily accessible. Unfortunately, those same considerations may lead the regime to decide to plant an encampment of security forces troops there. It might be difficult to recover a buried barrel of M4s when there are a bunch of guys in blue helmets with funny accents eating supper over the top of it. Further, future non-conflict related obstacles may arise (Anyone remember the incident last year when an arms cache was found buried under the right-of-way for a highway being constructed? I personally know of a guy in the northern Rockies who has several cases of dynamite cached. Unfortunately, it is now buried about eighteen feet below a road-side DOT weigh station).
In addition to regime security forces activities, actions of the local civilian populace may interfere with the security and/or recovery of caches. Planners must project how the local populace will react to the pressures of occupation/war-time living. One likely reaction is that many people, even those unaligned with the resistance, will resort to caching their personal and family valuables to prevent theft or confiscation by either criminals or the regime (but then, I repeat myself, right?). In such an event, ideal cache locations may become too well-traveled for the security of recovery teams, as well as gaining greater scrutiny by security force intelligence units looking for such cached materials.
Often overlooked in theoretical discussions of supply caches is the actual task of transporting the materials to be cached to the location. The most secure packaging of cached items is performed in secure areas, rather than in the field or at the cache location. While it may be simpler to transport a pre-packaged supply of cache items to the cache site from a safe house, than to transport the goods and the packaging material, it will still not be a simple task (consider the weight and space needs for a cache of six M4s, plus a basic load of 210-330 rounds each, or for food supplies, even in dry staple items like rice and wheat, for a two-week supply for a four- or six-man element).
Finally, anyone who is involved directly in the placement of the cache, from planning the location, to actually placing the cache in its determined location will know where the cache is located and is thus subject to compromising that cache location if captured and interrogated (as we will discuss in a forthcoming article, if you are captured and interrogated, you WILL talk. Everyone talks. It doesn’t matter how tough you think you are, a skilled interrogator can break your will to resist. Unfortunately, it’s even easier if the interrogator is from the same cultural background and speaks your language than it is if he’s a foreign invader). The same considerations apply to recovery personnel. While a cache site that only one person knows the location and contents of is of little use to the resistance, and the members of a logistics cell will need to share the information data on various caches, there must be serious consideration given to the operational security requirements of doing so. Among these is limiting the access to information to the actual emplacement personnel and planning cell until the need for the contents of any particular cell is required, and spreading the planning and emplacement duties for various caches to various independent cells within a network.
The specific methods used to cache materials for future use are as varied as the people who cache those items. The most obvious (and probably the most common) method, of burying goods, may be of limited value in some operational environments (it would be harder to bury a cache of arms for a platoon-sized element of resistance fighters, with adequate ammunition, in a large urban enclave, than to hide them in attics or basements. Burying items in a swamp is far less efficient than underwater cache methods). This wide variety of possibilities open to cache planners means there is little value in laying out general rules, or even too many specific concepts for caching. Nevertheless, one rule remains inviolate when developing a network of caches for resistance supply: Planners must always think in terms of suitability. The method most suitable for each cache, considering its specific purpose, the actual and projected situations in the particular location, and the impact of possible regime courses of action.
Concealment of the cache means utilizing permanent man-made or natural features to hide or disguise the cache. Focusing on superb concealment of caches offers several benefits for planners and installers. Employment and recovery of the cache can both be accomplished with minimum labor, in a minimal amount of time. Items concealed in buildings or caves are protected from the elements and extreme weather, thus requiring less elaborate packaging (a cache of medical supplies concealed in the walls of an otherwise abandoned barn or out-building may need little more than to be placed in a plastic garbage sack before being concealed). A concealed cache may be more readily accessed from time to time, in order to replace perishable items that may be nearing or past their expiration dates. The potential risk of accidental discovery of concealed caches however, means that this method is most suitable for extremely secure sites safe from search by regime security forces (concealing a stockpile of old Mosin-Nagants in the basement of the president of the local gun club would be pretty fucking pointless, no?), or situations where rapid access to the cached items is of high enough priority that it outweighs the chances that the cache will inadvertently be discovered. Concealment may range from securing a small pouch of “junk” silver coins behind a heating vent in the wall, to building a false wall in a basement to hide a cache of workshop-manufactured mortars and ammunition.
While burial is not always the best option for cache establishment, there is a reason that, when people think of caches, they almost invariably consider it first. Suitable burial sites can be located damned near anywhere, and if the cache is properly established, it will be next to impossible to find, without the utilization of very expensive, highly-technological equipment, and ample amounts of time. While the security of a well-placed buried cache is without compare, unlike simple concealment, burying a cache is an extremely labor-intensive process, requires severe and thorough packaging of the cache to protect it from the burial process and the exposure it faces from dirt, moisture, burrowing fauna, etc.
Burial of caches almost invariably requires the use of specialized containers and/or special wrapping to protect the contents from the environment. Emplacement and recovery of a buried cache often takes so long that it can only be accomplished during the night, to preclude discovery, unless the cache site is placed in such a ridiculously remote location as to completely preclude any effective usefulness whatsoever. It can be extremely difficult, even for the initial emplacement element, to successfully locate and recover a buried cache after any length of time.
One method of cache emplacement that is often overlooked (for good reason) is the submersion method. If the cache is properly prepared; and the cache site is genuinely secure; and the recovery team can actually locate it; and the tides or currents don’t move the cache in the intervening time between emplacement and recovery, the submersion method may work. However, submersion sites that are suitable for secure concealment of a cache of any size are exceedingly rare, even in swamp/jungle environments. Further, the container for a submerged cache must be of such high quality that it almost requires the use of specially-manufactured containers to ensure adequate water-proofing and protection from other external pressures. Field expedients are seldom successful.
Selection of Cache Sites
The most thorough, careful study and hypotheses regarding future operational conditions cannot guarantee that a cache will be readily accessible when it is needed. It is crucial to remember the now-overused maxim, “Two is one; one is none.” Establish as many re-supply caches, in as many widely spaced locations as you can afford to establish, including duplicate caches of critical items such as weapons, ammunition, and foodstuffs.
Site selection criteria should center on three basic questions of absolute importance to the resistance element: a) Can the site be located by someone who has never been there, through simple, easily-understood instructions? A site may be absolutely ideal, but if your hillbilly Cousin Billy-Bob from East Toadfuck, Texas cannot find it using simple verbal instructions, it’s going to be useless. It must have multiple (at least two, preferably three or more, for compass triangulation) distant landmarks, and at least one suitably near landmark that is not likely to be moved between emplacement and recovery (don’t use a fucking tree as a landmark. I always assumed it went without saying, but I’ve seen cache recovery instructions that included “use the old dead tree as the near landmark. Take a magnetic bearing of ___ and walk fifteen meters.” Seriously? Because, you know, old dead trees don’t get blown the fuck over and rot away?) b)Are there a minimum of at least two access routes to get to and away from the cache site? Do both the primary and secondary approach routes offer concealed movement corridors so that both the emplacement and recovery parties can access the site without being seen by anyone who normally transits the area (I’m a big believer in at least tertiary access routes as well)? c) Can the cache in question be emplaced and recovered at this site, anytime of the year (A cache located in the Teton Mountains on the Idaho/Wyoming line might be pretty tough to recover if it were needed in February or March, since it would be under five or six feet of snow…assuming you could even find it, since many landmarks would be buried under snow as well)? Snow or frozen ground can make recovery impossible, since it is difficult or impossible to dig in, and snow means it is impossible to hide the presence of tracks leading to the cache site.
The first step in developing a cache site is the utilization of a map survey. By carefully scrutinizing the map, planners can decipher whether a specific area must be ruled out for cache emplacement, due to the nearness of human activity and facilities. A good topographical map can be used to determine all the positive features of a given area for a potential site, including the topography, proximity of roads, trails, and buildings, natural concealment such as vegetated terrain and/or rocky outcroppings, and adequate drainage. A map can also provide the indispensable reference points that will be necessary for development of a recovery plan for the cache, such as the geographical coordinates of nearby peaks and ridges, stream confluences, and deserted man-made structures and features.
Once several promising possible cache sites have been discerned through the map survey, someone in the caching element must conduct a personal surveillance of the potential sites, in order to determine that the on-the-ground reality matches the theory of the map. The survey member will need to carry adequate maps, a method of measuring distance, a compass, and a notebook to record specific coordinates and directions for potential emplacement sites (I hope it goes without saying that you should not record GPS way-points for cache locations). Since this individual will seldom be able to complete a field survey without being observed by members of the local civilian populace, even his neighbors, a solid cover story for his actions of critical. The observer’s story must offer a quick, concise, but logical reason for his being where he is (the local couch-potato who everyone knows sits in his mommy’s basement playing XBox all day claiming he’s always secretly been an avid outdoorsman and is simply out for a jaunt in the woods, isn’t going to fool anyone. It’s likely to get the local constabulary called on you for suspicious behavior).
When a planner or member of a dedicated logistics auxiliary network has located and determined to emplace a re-supply cache in a given location, he will need to include easily discernible key reference points in the cache report to help the follow-on elements to locate it.
The final reference point; the key to unlock the ultimate lock on locating the useful cache; is referred to as the FRP, and within the instructions, the FRP must meet four basic requirements. It must 1) be readily identifiable and at least one element of the FRP must be useful as a precise reference point (i.e. the northeastern-most corner of the abandoned church, or the last headstone on the southern corner of the cemetery, etc). 2) it must be something that will not be moved or disappear as long as the cache may be in place. 3) It must be near enough to the cache location to pinpoint the exact location of the cache by using precise linear directions and measurements from the FRP to the cache location (a 186-degree magnetic azimuth from the corner of the church is far more precise than a 186-degree magnetic azimuth from the front door of the church…). 4) The FRP must be related to any en route reference points by a simple route description proceeding from the intermediate reference points to the FRP (follow the old logging road from the intersection with County Road 99 south for two kilometers until you see the abandoned cemetery on the left side of the road). The route descriptions and reference points should be minimized to the absolutely essential details while being readily identifiable but still secluded enough to be functional for the role. Some commonly used reference points operators have used in the past for reference points include, but are certainly not limited to: small, infrequently used bridges or dams, geological boundary markers, mileage markers and culverts along infrequently used roads, monuments, churches, and other cultural reference markers with respected, but not commonly voiced local significance to ensure that they will not be “paved over” in the interest of development in the immediate area. When all else fails, it IS possible to use specific geographic coordinates for references, assuming that both parties involved, emplacement team and recovery element, will have GPS and the ability to utilize it for the task without compromise (far from certain in the coming struggles).
Using the Final Reference Point
Recovery instructions MUST include precise details to explain the EXACT location of a cache. These instructions should describe the location of the cache in relation to the FRP. For concealed caches, it is generally sufficient to precisely describe and locate the FRP, with the cache concealed inside the FRP. For the far more common buried cache however, there are four basic methods.
The simplest method is for the emplacement team to simply bury the cache directly next to the FRP. Pinpointing the cache location is then simply a matter of describing the precise reference point on the FRP. A second method is sighting the cache by projection. This is useful if the FRP has a flat side long enough to allow for precise aiming along the flat side of the FRP to the cache. The cache is simply buried a precise distance away from the FRP along the sighted line. The critical key here is to remember that the slightest deviation error in sighting the line will be magnified as the distance increases, so the cache should still be placed as close to the FRP as practical.
The third method of using the FRP is the use of two or more FRPs within a close proximity (ideally within a couple of meters at most). This is the most difficult method of precisely referencing the cache location and should thus be a last-ditch method (I’ve used this method on numerous occasions. It HAS always worked, but never well. I once solo backpacked across the southern half of Utah, from Cedar City to Moab, without following roads. At one point, crossing a small two-lane blacktop, I decided my pack was overloaded with extraneous shit, so I decided to cache a large portion of it. Since I was in the middle of fucking nowhere, I didn’t even bother to bury the cache. Instead, I wrapped all the material in a large trash bag, then placed it in a USGI waterproof bag, and tied the cache in the forks of a juniper tree. I used a mileage marker on the roadside as my intermediate reference point, and two nearby mountain peaks as my FRP to shoot magnetic azimuths from to intersect the exact location of the cache tree. I dutifully recorded all of it in my ever-present notebook/journal, and proceeded with the rest of my trip. Three weeks later, at the end of the overall four week trip, I got my shit back in order, and the following weekend, jumped in the truck and drove to the mileage marker. I easily identified the two peaks, shot azimuths, and walked to the cache tree….which wasn’t fucking there! I shot another azimuth, realized I was a degree or two off on one of my bearings, so I fixed it and adjusted. Still no cache tree…I started a search pattern, walking in increasing spirals, looking for the tree. Twenty minutes later, I found the tree, recovered the cache, and got back in the truck, and left. While I’m a HUGE fan of using azimuth bearings to locate the cache, this is ample evidence of the difficulties of using intersection/resection of multiple FRPs to locate a cache. If I had needed to locate the cache in a hurry, under cover of darkness, with my life and that of my comrades on the line, we’d have all been fucked.)
The final method of locating a buried cache reliably from the FRP is sighting with a magnetic azimuth from your compass (if you don’t know what the fuck a magnetic azimuth is, quit reading, right now, and Google your local orienteering club. Go join them and learn how to use a fucking map and compass!). It is utilized by simply taking a bearing with your compass from the precise reference point of the FRP to the cache location (this is generally my favorite method of locating caches. Every time I’ve ever used it–a lot–over the years, I’ve had no trouble whatsoever with locating the cache later). The only potential drawback is the level of ability and precision of the emplacement team and the recovery team to accurately read a compass and shoot an azimuth. Like sighting by projecting, any error will be magnified by distance. In general, either method should locate the cache within fifty meters of the precise reference point on the FRP.
While the mythical standard of measuring distances for caches in paces (walk ten paces from the big rock in the meadow) sounds simple and effective, if a moment of thought is put into it, the resistance element will realize what an incredibly fucking stupid idea it actually is. What are the chances that the emplacement operative will have the same length of pace as the recovery operative? Slim to none. Even if they turn out to be the same person, any number of issues could change the individual’s stride length from the time of emplacement to the time of recovery. Instead, use the normal, standard of measurement for linear distance in your area (for most of us, that’s yards. I use meters a lot, because of the military, but I still use yards when describing distances for most Americans.)
The “ideal” cache concealment site seldom is, simply because it IS “ideal.” Do not for one moment think that Sam the Stormtrooper will not check likely concealment locations for cached contraband when the door-kicking starts. Even in the event of a warrantless “sneak-and-peak” entry, Ned the Ninja is going to look for cached goodies. Do not, do not, DO NOT cache critical items in your home! Instead, seek out good concealment cache sites in the area, and consider the habits and customs of your neighbors and other local civilian populace when developing your cache resupply program.
Seek out abandoned buildings that are unlikely to be destroyed (or moved into by refugees!) public buildings (assuming you can figure out a way to smuggle your cache contents in), infrequently used facilities like stadiums, or other public venues, culverts, abandoned mines and quarries, and sewers/septic tanks.
The concealment location must be equally accessible to both parties. While it might seem feasible for the logistics cell to emplace a concealed cache in the attic at Aunt Myrtle’s, since she’s a nice old lady (if a touch daffy), and a vocal supporter of the regime, if she’s not related to the recovery team as well, it might be difficult for them to come up with a legitimate reason to show up and demand to grab some shit out of her attic!
Further, in case the cache IS discovered by regime security forces, it must be in a location that will not compromise individual network members. If Aunt Myrtle finds the cache of 10,000 rounds of 5.56 M855 in her attic, you better bet your ass she’s going to call the local constabulary. They’re going to start looking for Nephew Neil the gun-nut in a hurry. Besides, if Aunt Myrtle passes on or ends up in a nursing home while Cousin Connie sells the house, getting in to recover the ammunition is going to be a bitch.
There are six critical considerations when planning a buried cache, along with the standard concerns about suitability and accessibility. Drainage considerations include both the elevation of the cache site and the surrounding ground, and the type of soil in the area. Clay or swamp muck is going to be far more difficult to work with than loam soil or an old garden spot. If the cache is located near a river or stream, the emplacement team must ensure that it is above the flood-plain to ensure that the cache doesn’t end up washing away.
Local vegetation is a far more critical concern than it would first appear. Deciduous forests, while a perfect choice at first glance, can be a bitch, since the roots of the trees make digging extremely time-consuming. Coniferous trees on the other hand have far less extensive root systems, typically indicate well-drained soil, and have the added benefit of doing a pretty good job of masking thermal signatures of human beings (oops…did I just type that?). This of course, ties into the third consideration of natural concealment on the location. Not only do you need to hide the personnel who are placing or recovering the cache, but you have to do something to conceal the burial site as well. For those who operate in deciduous forest country (God bless the spruce, pine, and juniper trees of the Inter-Mountain West!), consider the impact of seasonal variations in foliage and the resultant changes in natural concealment.
For those of us who do reside in high elevations and cold-weather country, it is critical to consider the impact of normal snowfall, depth of ground freeze, and the usual freeze and thaw dates. Since it will be almost impossible to mask the disturbance to snow cover in winter conditions, cache locations should take this into account by emplacement in areas that mask the snow fall and drift to some degree, or where the disturbance to the snow cover will not seem out-of-place.
Finally, consideration must take into account the possibility of underground obstacles such as large rocks or sewer, subway (in urban environments), or water main lines that can interfere with the ability to dig a burial site for the cache.
Somewhere in the mountains