The SOF Imperatives for Preparedness
(I was working on the revisions for “The Book” today, and as I re-read and made notes to this section, I realized it would make a pretty good, relevant article topic in itself. I spent half an hour or so editing it into article format, rather than the rough-draft book excerpt it was, and here ya go…–J.M.)
U.S. military doctrine recognizes 12 “Special Operations Imperatives” that are critical to mission-planning and execution for operational success. Although developed for Special Operations Forces (SOF), these imperatives apply to any organization engaged in UW, whether a paramilitary resistance or a group of families concerned with preparing to defend against the onslaught of Cannibalistic San Franciscans.
- Understand the Operational Environment. Too often, the untutored in UW consider the concept that guerrillas must “know their area” as simply knowing the physical terrain of their immediate operational area. The reality is, understanding the operational environment involves both internal and external factors. Understanding the external factors is critical to maximizing the effective use of critical limited resources in order to accomplish the tactical, operational, and strategic goals. The internal factors are necessary in order to guide the actions of the resistance in a fluid and unstructured environment.
Internal factors obviously include knowing, and more importantly understanding, the METT-TC factors of their operational environment, as in any military operation. Leaders and planners must also understand the motivations and causes of the resistance, the claims to legitimacy, lest they illegitimize the movement themselves, through improper or inappropriate decision-making, and the demographics of both the resistance and the local civilian populace. Leaders and planners must know the strengths, weaknesses, vulnerabilities, and actual power centers of friendly, enemy, and unaligned organizations and social networks, as well as the goals of each organization, and the relationships that exist between different organizations.
For the ‘generalist prepper,” these considerations still apply. What are your ultimate goals? Simple survival, or are you seeking a certain quality of life within that goal of survival? How does the anticipated conflict impact that quality of life goal? What do you know, or what can you learn, about the other non-governmental organizations and alliances in your area, and how do you anticipate that those will impact your plans? Is there a militia group in your area? What will the Sheriff’s Department personnel do in a grid-down? What about other “prepper” or survivalist groups in the area? What about criminal gangs or organizations?
Ultimately, as with any conflict, the civilian populace is the critical factor at play in the battle space. Resistance leaders and planners must understand the demography, culture, beliefs and taboos, customs, history, goals, and expectations of the civilian populace. Most critically, they must understand the dynamics of these factors, and their inter-relationships, among the different aspects of society within their operational environment. They must be aware of who can influence and control whom, how that influence can be achieved and exercised, and the limitations of that influence.
What can you do to ensure the support of your neighbors who are not preppers? Is there someone in your group or community that has an inordinate impact and influence on the local community? How can you leverage that to ensure voluntary compliance of the neighbors with your goals and aims? What are the likely actions of your neighbors in your community, absence any influence? Will they stay home and starve? Will they step up and go to raising food? Will they go hunting for food wherever they can mass enough force to take it?
External factors must include an understanding of the role outside influences play on the resistance. These can range from the influence of foreign government and non-government organizations, the impact the national and international press, and the goals and motivations of each and every external player in the conflict, as well as the inter-relationship dynamics at play between those organizations.
Leaders and planners must be able to understand, visualize, and act on unforeseen circumstances and events. They must possess a thorough and clear comprehension of the actual goals of the resistance, and their organization within the resistance.
- Recognize Political Implications. Clausewitz famously stated that “War is a continuation of politics by other means.” Nowhere within the spectrum of armed conflict is this more true than in UW. Due to the impact that the opinions and beliefs of the local civilian populace has on the ability of irregular forces to operate effectively, UW is ultimately nothing but politics. Every act, from informal conversations with locals to the planning and execution of military actions, has a political impact. Machismo-laden hyperbole has no place in the development and prosecution of a resistance. Resistance leaders and planners must consider both the short- and long-term implications of their acts on the political institutions and allegiances within the operational environment.
What impact is your planning and execution of your survival planning going to have on your relations with neighbors? It’s a cool idea to string concertina wire around your property, and throw up guard towers and anti-tank ditches, but how is that going to impact your relationships with your neighbors?
What about the fact that, post-breakdown, you obviously have food and security, while your neighbors are worried about whether their kids are going to be eaten before they starve, or end up kidnapped and sold into servitude? How will you address the political implications of your preparedness in light of the lack of preparedness in the general population? You can’t shoot everyone, and hiding only works until somebody stumbles across your hiding place. You’d better have a realistic, workable plan for dealing with the politics.
- Facilitate InterAgency Activities. As a result of its inherent political nature, military operations represent only one small part of the effort, and these are generally not the most important part. Resistance leaders and planners, especially within the guerrilla force, must recognize the vitality of both the underground and the auxiliary to their success. UW is an interagency effort. Throughout the operational planning process, leaders and planners must strive for unity of effort and recognize the importance and difficult, of ensuring that all elements are seeking not only the same operational and strategic objectives, but are not getting in the way of each other in doing so.
Can you develop relationships now between your group and other groups in the area that will facilitate post-disaster coordination? Have you started developing contacts within your community amongst those that don’t have the ability, physical or mental, to provide active security, to engage in barter for goods in return for security? If you know you can’t realistically provide for the community security through active patrolling tasks, have you started developing that capability in others? Have you made attempts to communicate with your local militia group or other prepper groups to let them know that you have assets to support their efforts to provide community security?
- Engage the Threat Discriminately. The UW leadership must know when, where, and how to apply the focused force of assets based on short- and long-term operational and strategic objectives. This involves three concepts that must be considered constantly.
The first concerns the selection and distribution of resources, both personnel and materials. The selection of personnel for operations must not be made on the basis of “faces filling spaces.” Personnel need to be capable, qualified, trained, and necessary. Minimizing the number of people and the amount of equipment necessary to achieve an objective, while maximizing the chances of achieving that objective, is the desired outcome. This means that training should be realistic, effective, and continuously on-going, to ensure that there are always personnel available that are capable, qualified, and trained. Your 90-year old granny, who suffers from narcolepsy is probably not the person to throw into a LP/OP for security. At the same time, if you’re 60 years old, with bad knees and back, and are 50lbs overweight, besides cutting out the excuses and getting yourself into better shape, you’re probably not the guy that should be conducting the security patrol. Figure out what valuable skills you have to use instead. The second concept in play is the limitations of resources in the UW environment, especially for the resistance. Even today, in the absence of active violent resistance, with relative freedom-of-movement still possible, financial and time resources can be extremely limited. Those resources must be used to maximum advantage. This includes not wasting time and effort on ineffective or inappropriate training tasks, while leveraging the available training opportunities to be multi-functional and cover as much ground as possible. Focus on developing training that takes advantage of the resources you have available to you now, but that require little, if any modification, as more advanced or greater resources become available. The third concept for consideration under this imperative deals with tactical considerations. Tactical operations must be carefully targeted to ensure success, through leveraging the tactical strengths of the resistance, while avoiding alienating the civilian populace through the indiscriminate application of force. It can also relate to the second concept above, by focusing training tasks and standards on the achievement of discriminate marksmanship and tactics. You know, things like, “don’t kill the wrong people.”
- Consider Long Term Effects. Unconventional Warfare has also been termed “the Long War.” UW efforts are inherently long-term efforts. Tactical-level victories are useless if they do not support the long-term operational and strategic goals, even if those goals are non-military in nature. Each problem the resistance faces must be viewed and studied through the lens of the broader political, military, and sociological/psychological prism.
Accept the realistic political constraints to avoid strategic failure in your problem-solving, while achieving short-term tactical successes that are pointless. Never sacrifice the long-term out of a misguided desire for short-term “feel good” tactical successes. Planning and execution of operations must remain always consistent with the movement’s strategic goals at all times.
At the same time you’re planning short-term operations to achieve long-term goals, accept the reality that shit ain’t going to get better next week. Prepare yourself mentally and physically for the long haul. A year’s worth of food storage is great…until it’s a year and a half later, or ten years later. Plan for the long term. If it takes less time, well, then you get bonus points.
- Maintain Legitimacy and Credibility. Due to the significant moral and political implications inherent to an UW effort, legitimacy in the eyes of the civilian populace is the single most important factor in developing and maintaining support. Without this support, the resistance will lack the ability to function on even the most limited basis, without risking compromise from disgruntled members of the community. Legitimacy can most readily be destroyed if the resistance is seen to either not act in accordance with its stated purpose and beliefs, and through an inability to provide the services the civilian populace demands of it, in lieu of those same services from the regime.
Never, ever, ever, under any circumstances, compromise the morals values you hold dear, even at the cost of your life. If you compromise your values, you’re giving up the life you claim to want to keep. Maintain your moral discipline.
- Anticipate and Control Psychological Effects. Any operation conducted, by any organization within the UW battle space, will have significant psychological impacts. Whether combat operations or civic actions, these can be conducted specifically to produce desired psychological effects, or simply result in the effects. A tactical victory over regime forces may be completely overshadowed by the negative psychological impact of blowing up a school bus of children in the process. The tactical victory of assassinating a key local security forces leadership personality can be destroyed if you murder his wife and kid in the process. The recognition of the fact that perception is more important than reality is absolutely critical to the resistance force. Leaders and planners must make certain that operations and operational objectives are understood by all parties impacted by the operation. Loss of control of the perceptions of the civilian populace will allow the regime to control those perceptions, and that will quickly destroy the gains of even the best-planned and executed you missions. We’ve spent twenty years in the preparedness movement and the militia movement, allowing the media to control the civilian population’s perceptions of what the militia is. Instead of continuing to let the media portray (sometimes accurately, unfortunately), the preparedness culture as a bunch of fat-ass rednecks with GEDs, we need to be making a more concerted effort to not only portray ourselves as contributing members of society, in a positive light, but an active PSYOP/IO campaign to get that message out to the general population.
- Apply Capabilities Indirectly. Doctrinally, the primary role of Special Forces in UW is to advise, train, and aid resistance forces. The resistance leadership must assume primary authority and responsibility for the success or failure of this combined effort. This indirect control of the resistance reinforces the legitimacy and credibility of the resistance movement, rather than allowing them to be seen as “puppets” of the “Great Satan.”
For the resistance itself, it is imperative that local defense groups be allowed the autonomy to provide for their own defense, as much as possible. Well-trained, organized, and disciplined resistance cadre should serve more as an advisory element, leading the training of local defense groups. These cadres should not view themselves as special-purpose assault forces, intending to conduct direct-action missions against regime targets in outside operational areas, unless absolutely necessary, and even then, only in direct support of locally-conducted main effort operations. Let people fight their own fights. Instead of trying to use your group or militia unit to provide all the security for an entire county or state, look at them as force multipliers. Don’t settle for “good enough to get the job done, if the threat we face isn’t too dangerous” training standards. Set your standards high enough that, when necessary, you can TEACH the skills to others, who can form their own community defense groups, with your people as leaders and advisors. Don’t just watch YouTube videos, or just take a class. Take the information you’ve learned, sit down and write a class on it, then teach it to someone. Teaching skills serves multiple purposes. Number one, it helps you learn how to teach. Do you know how to teach adults with different learning styles? Do some research into adult education theory and science. Number two, it forces you to gain a more in-depth understanding of the subject matter. As a young Ranger, I had a pretty solid grasp on the fundamentals of individual and small-unit combat skills. As a junior NCO in the Regiment, I learned more, as I was responsible for teaching my subordinates. As a Special Forces NCO, whose job was to teach people these skills, who had never even seen them displayed, I gained a far greater understanding. Teach and you will learn.
- Develop Multiple Options. Resistance leaders and planners must remain aware, throughout the planning and execution, of the possibility of adverse contingencies and follow-on missions as a direct result of intelligence information gleaned from their mission. Maintain operational and tactical flexibility by visualizing and developing a broad range of options and conceptual plans. Partisans should take advantage of the broad range of non-military expertise inherent within their organizations to think outside of the box, allowing them to shift from one option to another, before or during mission execution. Whether you are planing a security patrol, a relief or rescue convoy, a food-gathering expedition, or a bug-out plan, always consider and develop a PACE plan. Primary, Alternate, Contingencies, and Emergency versions of the plan will provide you multiple options if things go haywire with your plan.
- Ensure Long-Term Sustainment. Leaders and planners must make every effort to avoid training their forces in tactics, techniques, and procedures that the unit(s) are incapable of sustaining. Whether due to a lack of material resources, human terrain factor limitations, or physical incapacity to execute, TTPs must be able to be modified to negate the threat that is actually faced, with the assets actually available, rather than focusing on strict doctrinal answers that demand inflexible application of resources unavailable to the resistance elements. Training must focus on TTPs and equipment that are durable, consistent, and sustainable by the resistance movement elements, within their operational environment.
I get asked questions about this a lot, in regards to both ammunition expenditure and medical care protocols. The medical care protocols of TC3 are all about keeping the casualty alive until you can get him to extended/advanced care. Having a doctor, nurse, or veterinarian in your network is pretty fucking essential to long-term sustainment, now isn’t it? Keeping your people alive and contributing members of the network is pretty fucking essential to long-term sustainment, now isn’t it? So, if you think TC3 is irrelevant to long-term sustainment, because “we’re not going to have medicine and doctors,” then you’re a fucking idiot and are going to die of something like Clostridium difficile, because you don’t know what the fuck you’re doing and have overdosed yourself on your stockpiled veterinary antibiotics.
If you’re worried about “wasting ammunition” and die because you didn’t provide adequate suppressive fire to keep the enemy more worried about NOT getting shot than he was in shooting you, then you’re not really looking at the long-term very well, now are you? If you fail to fire enough to protect your Ranger buddy, and he dies, you’ve not really considered long-term sustainment, since now you have to provide for his family too (unless his wife is really hot, and you’re planning on practicing polygamy…Then, maybe you WERE looking at the long-term…You’re still a buddy fucker though.)
- Provide Sufficient Intelligence. Solid intelligence preparation of the battlefield (IPB) is the foundation of all UW success. Successful operations require detailed intelligence information on all aspects of the operational environment, from terrain considerations to the internal and external dynamics of the key players in the battle space. These incorporate overt, clandestine, and covert collection efforts, and the collation and analysis of available information resources for operational planning. These range from the collection of information on enemy activities, capabilities, and thinking, to terrain analysis information, to the use of CARVER format target analysis and selection. Effective guerrilla and underground operations demand accurate, timely, and accessible intelligence. Resistance personnel must develop expert intelligence activity skills for collection, analysis, and dissemination for mission applications. The use of sound target analysis, utilizing the CARVER matrix, provides options to operational planners, ensures that operations can meet the objectives, and reduces undue risk in operations. Intelligence activities may assess areas of interest to the resistance movement, ranging from political and security force personalities to the military capabilities of friendly and enemy forces, to the effects of terrain within the operational area on the planning process. Leaders and planners must establish sensible priorities of effort when identifying intelligence requirements, while protecting their own information through adequate OPSEC training and discipline. Effective OPSEC requires a disciplined, alert organization that can accurately assess the threat of penetration by enemy agents, educate the resistance at the personal and organizational level of the threat, and take timely effort to detect, penetrate, and neutralize the enemy’s penetration efforts. While it is imperative the UW actors recognize the threat implicit to force protection, it is equally important to recognize that not all, or even most, threats will come from the identified enemy. The non-military threats posed by civil sector players, ranging from criminal activities and unaligned civil unrest, to hazardous materials spillage and disease epidemics must be addressed as part of the counter-intelligence and force protection effort. Force protection of your family and group isn’t just about looking out for Cannibalistic San Franciscans or Belgian Smurfs. It’s just as important that you develop intelligence on likely non-military threats to their safety and security. It’s just not as “cool.”
- Balance Security and Synchronization. Resistance cell members in one location may be uniquely situated to provide a significant positive impact on operations conducted by other cells. While UW operations are often compartmentalized for security concerns, too often that compartmentalization can exclude key personnel that may have significant important information to impart that will impact the planning process. It is absolutely imperative that resistance leaders find a way to mitigate the balance. Inadequate security procedures may compromise a mission, but excessive security paranoia, leading to inadequate face-to-face time with other key leaders will result in mission failure due to a lack of synchronization of efforts.
If you’re avoiding gatherings like the Oathkeepers NW Patriots and Preppers Rally in North Idaho, because it’s not “OPSEC” enough for you, you’re fucking yourself in the end. Your next door neighbor that’s a cool dude, but you’re not comfortable discussing preparedness with him in detail, due to OPSEC? He might just be more prepared and better trained than you are. Be judicious in how you approach the topic in conversation with new people, but find that balance point in your life, so you can make new like-minded contacts.
I hear from readers all the time who are leery of attending classes and getting involved in their local politics for “security reasons.” That’s retarded. Ending up in a grid-down police state because you were too chickenshit to figure out the balance point is not conducive to survival. It creates more opportunities for you to end up dead.