Escape and Evasion Operations, Part One: Planning Considerations
(I would like to apologize to all readers for my extended absence from the blog. HH6, TMO, and myself spent the last month on the road, conducting training classes, and slipping in a visit to family along the way. In 20 days, I conducted two training SUT classes, including night-live fire iterations of battle drills in one of those, and drove over 8000 miles. Upon our return home to our new operational area, we just signed a contract to purchase 40 acres in the mountains, and are preparing to build a range facility, a house, and livestock pens–probably in that order. Because the new place doesn’t have grid-power, and our alternative power system will require some time for me to make the money to install, my posting on the blog will be limited to when I can get to town and find Wi-Fi. Bear with me folks, I’m not giving up the fight, I just have to develop my family’s security at the same time. Thanks for hanging in there! –J.M.)
(To begin, for readers who are still on active-duty, I recognize that the doctrinal term for escape-and-evasion/recovery has been changed to “personnel recovery.” I grew up with E&E and have no job requirement to change my terminology, so it will remain E&E. –J.M.)
Escape-and-evasion operations are a traditional task of Special Forces in the UW paradigm. It is also a historically critical resistance operation. Much of the following section of this discussion will revolve around the doctrinal theory behind E&E operations, with much more specific details to follow in sequel articles.
Escape-and-evasion operations consist of five essential tasks that must be completed simultaneously and/or in sequence. These tasks consist of Report, Locate, Support, Recover, Repatriate.
Reporting the loss of a missing operator is critical to initiate recovery activities. Whether it is the isolated individual/evader who initially reports his separation, or an individual/element that witnessed his separation, the timely, accurate reporting of who went missing, where, and under what circumstances will be critical to the effectiveness of E&E networks utilization. While the DoD utilizes specific formats for reporting missing personnel, for an irregular network, this may take the form of a simple encrypted phone call or email detailing which evasion plan the evader is initiating, where he was separated at, and what near and far recognition signals he will utilize and/or respond to.
Although most of us will necessarily believe ourselves limited to unassisted escape-and-evasion, the development NOW, of solid networks, and the educated development of E&E networks, can facilitate the future ability to assist evaders by locating them within their planned evasion corridors, and assisting their escape and eventual repatriation to friendly force controlled-areas. Effective location operations are predicated on accurate, timely execution of reporting. Efforts to locate evading personnel must begin with their last known location. While DoD operations utilize electronic detection, visual systems, and ground sensor systems, Big Green can afford to use these expensive, highly developed technical methods because they possess technical superiority in the battlespace. If your local organization intends to develop it’s ability to function as a recovery element, you will need the ability to locate a guy who is actively trying to avoid being located, within a specified evasion corridor, even if you miss a planned link-up. This will require advanced skills in man-tracking, fieldcraft, and other elements of physical ground searches, as well as normal small-unit tactical expertise.
Support operations in E&E are defined as all planned efforts to mentally, physically, and emotionally In t support evading personnel until recovery can be affected. Support systems must be established, validated, and disseminated to personnel that may be isolated in that specific operational area, so they know what resources are available to them. For resistance personnel, these efforts may range from knowledge of the location of specific safehouses and caches, to the contact instructions for specified auxiliary personnel who may be able to provide transportation and/or guidance to either caches, safehouses, or other resistance personnel. It may even be as simple as resistance personnel developing a way to broadcast messages of support for evading personnel to maintain morale. The knowledge that, in the event they are isolated, there WILL be support for their recovery, will go a long way towards building individual operators confidence in executing hazardous operations.
Recovery is the return of evading personnel to friendly force control, with or without assistance. This can ONLY be accomplished through effective, realistic planning, operations, and individual actions on the part of the evaders, recovery personnel, and the operational planners. These skills can ONLY be developed through training beforehand. That means you should be developing your networks and even “running” evasion/recovery training exercises now.
Repatriation is the return of the evader to their previous life, or an acceptable alternative. This effort covers medical treatment and rehabilitation in safe areas, debriefings of lessons learned and intelligence gathered, psychological support, and more (I KNOW there will be readers who will throw the whole “we’re guerrillas, we can’t be worried about silly, sissy shit like that! We’re just going to live in the woods forever.” Those readers are wrong, and borderline retarded).
The success or failure of recovery operations in E&E are predicated on several critical considerations. These include the following:
Availability of Resources
When operational planning occurs, someone MUST consider the implications of individuals being isolated and forced to escape-and-evade. These recovery planners must consider what assets will be available to assist the recovery of those isolated personnel (even if NO assets will be available) and develop courses of action (CoA) that utilize those assets to recover the evaders.
Planners must KNOW the capabilities and limitations of their assets to effect recovery operations, which is one vital reason for the necessity of performing training recovery operations NOW. This level of in-depth knowledge is critical to ensure successful recovery, because then the planner can quickly and effectively develop the required task organization, as well as develop alternate CoAs in response to rapidly changing recovery scenarios.
Task organization of available recovery personnel assets will depend on the specific METT-TC situation (another reason for realistic, extensive training operations now, in order to learn what can go wrong, and how). These may include concentration of enemy weapons and troops, the enemy’s ability to integrate command, control, and communications assets with their ground force elements, the accuracy and timeliness of friendly force intelligence data (theoretically, if you have solid, well-trained assets on the ground, and accurate data on where the evader was isolated, as well as what his evasion plan is, it’s possible for UW elements to recover the evader before the enemy even knows there’s a potential prisoner running around.
In order to effectively task organize the assets available, planners MUST fulfill certain intelligence requirements, whenever ACCURATE information is available. These may include:
Location and Physical Condition of the Evader
Accurate information on both the location and the physical condition of the evader is absolutely essential in order to effectively task-organize recovery assets, before the the recovery mission can be launched. With this information, planners can more effectively determine how many personnel will be needed to help recover the evader, as well as special equipment that may be necessary (obviously, a healthy, unwounded evader who is still armed will not require the same assistance as a guy who had his leg half torn off, is limping around with a tourniquet keeping him from bleeding out, hasn’t eaten in three weeks of confinement, and had to break the only rifle he could steal by using it to beat an enemy guard to death in order to effect his escape). Knowledge of where the evader was isolated, as well as what his planned evasion corridors are, is critically important, since it provides the ground search force a starting point to begin looking for the evader.
The following excerpt is a quote from the current SF doctrine:
“UAR (unconventional assisted recovery…in other words, not regular military CSAR elements. –J.M.) assets are normally in place well before hostilities although their reaction time to a PR event can be slowed by communications and security considerations. To permit interface with available recovery forces, evasion planners must ensure that all potential evaders have access to appropriate contact and communications procedures. Thorough prior planning permits operational personnel to predict when recovery assets are available to them….”
While initial development of networks must, necessarily take place face-to-face, to ensure security and trustworthiness, the follow-on development of escape-and-evasion operational planning is an obvious application of such software as TOR and open-source encryption methods to resistance elements. Develop your networks now, so you have time to develop effective evasion corridors and plans, and practice executing them(quit being a pussy, get out from your mom’s basement, off the fucking internet, and develop real-world networks that will allow you to develop trust in relationships with like-minded people, and then start developing contingency plans for what you or they will do if shit gets ugly, and you need to bug-out. Even if they don’t have the resources to provide you a “bug-out location,” they may serve as an en route layover/safe house. Quit being a little mouse in the corner, afraid that everyone you meet that seems to be politically awake is some sort of bad guy secret agent).
Special Operations assets for the DoD must consider the political implications of recovery operations, since often, operations may take place in locations where the presence of U.S. forces is denied, disavowed, or otherwise politically sensitive, and the sudden influx of military CSAR elements would tip the scale against U.S. interests. For the irregular force, there are similar movement considerations that must be considered. Depending on their freedom to move and operate within their operational area, recovery forces may not be able to actively search for isolated individuals. Evaders may be forced to move on their own, to established rally points as part of their evasion plan, in order to effect a link-up with recovery force personnel.
While every member of every organization that goes in harm’s way, has the right to expect that every effort will be made to effect their rescue and recovery, due consideration must be made to risk assessment. The benefits of recovery must be weighed against the risks of a failed attempt. Recovery operations that unduly risk exposing additional personnel to isolation, prevent the effective execution of more critical operations, or divert mission-essential critical assets away from ongoing operations, must be considered thoroughly before execution. Can the evader execute an unassisted recovery?
Methods of Unconventional Recovery
Unassisted Recovery is what most people think of when considering E&E in the irregular paradigm. These are the independent efforts of isolated evaders by conducting successful evasion back to control of friendly forces. This is ideally only a contingency if recovery force assets cannot gain access to the evader. Success in unassisted recovery will depend on the evader’s will and ability, physical conditioning (for all of you readers that bemoan my constant harping on PT, do you really think if you can’t do a slow-as-fuck 15:00 mile with a rucksack on, on a prepared surface such as a road, that you will be able to escape-and-evade, cross-country, for miles, in the dark, while being pursued?), fieldcraft ability, and previous SERE training. Evaders will probably be required to move over extremely long-distances, across unfamiliar terrain, under the cover of darkness, suffering from extreme periods of hunger, thirst, and exposure to the elements. The primary concern of evaders under such conditions should be solely to reach a location where friendly recovery forces can reach them and effect the recovery. Pre-positioned caches of evasion and survival supplies along anticipated evasion corridors will go a long way towards improving the evader’s chances of survival (you are preparing caches in your operational area already, right?). Because extended unassisted recovery is always a possibility, every evasion plan must always consider it.
Unconventional Assisted Recovery
(In the interest of operational security for personnel operating OCONUS, I am changing some of the doctrinal information herein. This in no way will detract from the usefulness of this information. I am simply omitting organization-specific information and changing some doctrinal terms, or using operational terms in different contexts. –J.M.)
UAR is assisted recovery conducted by dedicated elements trained in the employment of specific tactics, techniques, and procedures for recovery of isolated personnel. UAR may be clandestine or covert, and requires deliberate, pre-conflict planning, training, and development of support assets. This allows the UW element to reduce risk by developing and vetting assets and credible capabilities. These capabilities are especially advantageous in areas where enemy ground and/or air superiority presents an unmeetable threat to more conventional CSAR operations.
For the irregular, resistance element, the critical elements of UAR planning include the following:
- general reliance on a robust infrastructure developed by trained UAR forces.
- pre-operational planning and deployment of forces.
- specialized training, equipment, and deployment of forces.
- operational techniques specific to their recovery-centric mission profile.
- dependence on extremely detailed operational intelligence and operations security.
- potential to operate independent from friendly support.
- longer planning timelines to develop, train, and equip.
- limited opportunity and resources.
UAR for the resistance irregular force specifically consists of the following five tasks:
- Contact. Contact is achieved through pre-planned, specific actions taken by evaders and recovery elements to facilitate link-up between the two elements, in enemy-controlled areas, in order to effect a return of the evader to friendly controlled areas.
- Authenticate. Authentication consists of specific methods, such as answering pre-planned questions, with specific answers that only the evader would know the answer to.
- Support. As with any recovery effort, support consists of all efforts to provide safety and security to evaders, and provide them with shelter, food, clothing, and evasion equipment.
- Move. Movement may entail transportation of evaders from the contact point to, or between, one or multiple elements of the resistance infrastructure, such as safe houses and hand-over sites, and ultimately, to a final exfiltration site to friendly-force controlled areas.
- Exfiltrate to friendly control. The final transfer of evaders from local recovery personnel and auxiliary network personnel, to personnel in the evader’s home operational area or a new friendly-force controlled operational area.
(Follow-up articles in this series will focus more specifically on the critical individual and collective tasks for escape-and-evasion operations for irregular, UW elements and organizations. –J.M.)
Somewhere in the mountains