Last year, NCScout penned an excellent article over at his blog about using the frontiersmen of the past as a model for the modern day survivalist. I thought it was a great article and I encourage you to check it out, as well as all his other excellent articles. I’ve had similar ideas myself, and I’d like to add my own thoughts as well.
The idea really started to take hold when I was considering the logistics and skills required for conducting patrols, particularly long range “over the horizon” patrolling. The kind of patrolling that a group would conduct to detect and deter threats as early as possible in order to keep them well away from whatever it is they want to secure.
This is different from more localized security, for instance to secure a homestead or town. Localized security is a different job, requiring a different approach than that of a long range patrol. Both can be very draining to those conducting them, but one major difference is the lack of support and skills required to conduct the long range patrol.
Even in a modern military, support for these types of long range patrols is limited, often times depending on reliable communications in case of emergencies and always depending on the skill of the patrol members themselves.
So, this brings me to a question: Does the level of support available and the training and skills of the “troops” involved dictate the missions they are capable of conducting? I would certainly say so. With this question in mind, one could start to figure out where his capability is and isn’t, and then correcting any deficiencies.
I would also posit that if the support isn’t available, the troops better have the skills and knowledge to compensate. “Improvise, Adapt and Overcome” is a phrase that comes to mind.
Imagine a company of mountain men or the Lewis and Clark expedition setting out with a bunch of greenhorns and making it up as they went. Probably not a recipe for success. There’s a reason why you only hear about the good ones, the rest were scalped and forgotten about!
Now is the time to start defining what a security patrol looks like in your area. I live in a very rural area, so dismounted and mounted long range security and reconnaissance patrols are most definitely a possibility if we want to detect and deter threats before they are in our front yards. One thing I learned in Iraq was that if you don’t regularly patrol an area, you don’t own it. But don’t be predictable either. Be more like that mother in law that always seems to drop in at the worst times.
The terrain out here is a cross between sagebrush prairie, rough badlands and pine forests, crisscrossed by a few rivers and streams edged with Cottonwoods. Most of the time you can see much farther than anyone can shoot. It’s not uncommon for me to be the only sign of humans clear to the horizon. It will be a tall order to secure an area the size of a county.
The size of the area and the duration that it can be actively patrolled is directly tied to how long the patrol can sustain itself, either with supplies it has brought with it or acquired during the patrol. This could be through external resupply, caches, or gathering resources off the land itself.
There’s also the issue of a lack of fire support. Without fire support or QRF to call on, a security element is very much on their own. Therefore proper prior training in the skills required to avoid contact and deal with said contact are crucial. People can’t rely on “rising to the occasion” to somehow accomplish things they haven’t done before.
It’s for this reason I don’t envision any truly long range foot patrols being done by a security force of pre-collapse civilians unless they’ve trained for it ahead of time. So in other words, no post-collapse LRRP teams unless they were training as a LRRP team pre-collapse. No bug out to the woods to play lone sniper, either.
I believe it takes a certain kind of people to leave the wire and go do bad things to bad people. When I was in Iraq I heard more than a few people express relief that they didn’t have to leave the wire, including some Marine Infantry “leaders”. I fully believe that this same issue will arise once things go TU, you’ll hear a lot of “That’s not in my job description” BS. Better to identify who packs the proper hardware now then to wait and find out that Walter Mitty the gun guy don’t know his grid square from his back azimuth.
Personally, once the initial fear wore off and I came to terms with the fact that a man with an RPG was waiting to kill me and I had to find him before he found me, it was actually kind of fun and interesting.
Now, hunting people who are hunting you at the same time isn’t always fun, exciting or cool though. It’s can be scary as hell, and serious business, with even more serious consequences. No would be bad guys bent on rape, pillage, and plunder are going to give you any chances if they can help it, and you’re going to need and want every advantage you can find to beat them. There’s only one rule, beat the other guy by any means possible. This includes utilizing teamwork, you know, with other people. No Lone Ranger stuff here. If you’re going to be a bear, be a pack of lions.
A model that might work better than the lone survivor, once again borrowing from our ancestors, is that of a large team. The longhunters, mountain men and cavalry all operated remotely in groups large enough to defend themselves from attack. Jim Bridger couldn’t call in CAS if the locals got testy, and you won’t be able to either.
My platoon operated a lot like this at times when I was in Iraq. I was fortunate enough to be in one of the most experienced platoons, in one of the most experienced companies, in the most deployed (at that time) Marine infantry battalion in Iraq. We deployed with two Corporals in the entire squad, the rest of us being Lance Corporals or below. Yet every team leader, myself excluded, had multiple combat tours to Iraq. I, as well as our company leadership, learned a lot from them.
For this reason, and the fact that we made a good name for ourselves in the training leading up to our deployment, our platoon was made the Mobile Assault Platoon (MAP). Once deployed, our three squads took weekly turns being on QRF, mounted patrols in humvee’s and conducting urban foot patrols. This gave me the opportunity to see vast parts of Iraq as we played “Hunt the smugglers” on the Syrian border.
We spent a lot of time patrolling an otherwise unpatrolled region in South West Iraq, well outside our Battalions AO. This region was so remote, the locals at the time didn’t even recognize the national borders, choosing rather to come and go as they pleased based on tribal bonds rather than borders dictated by rulers far away. I’m beginning to see their point. One particular group of nomads we met didn’t even know there was a war on, and was very confused by the fact that “Saddam’s Army” was no more.
This region was also so remote that none of our vehicle mounted VHF comms would reach higher headquarters either. This meant if we got into trouble we had to rely on getting satellite comms up and running to call for help. We sure could have used some lessons from NCScout back then.
But we were smart enough to mount an extra spare tire on every vehicle, as well as extra fuel, chow, water, and ammunition. You haven’t “overlanded” until you’ve done it in an armored Hummer with a MK-19 on top! We covered a lot of interesting ground, most of the time I expected to get attacked by Tusken Raiders, since the terrain looked exactly like Tatooine.
We were also smart enough to realize that our standard squad size should probably be added to for these long range patrols, also bringing along an additional rifle squad in an armored 7-ton as well as a commo humvee from the comms guys. I wish I would have known what I do now about comms. It would have been interesting to see if they had any HF capability.
It’s this modern day example that reminds me of the examples from the past. During our long range mounted patrols, it was very common to split the group, with the armed Hummers providing security while the rifle squad dismounted to search an area or cluster of buildings. The rifle squad as well as the extra Marines that weren’t needed to drive the Hummers’ or operate the mounted guns would also push out to conduct LP/OP’s while the group was halted.
It’s in this manner that I could see a post-collapse security team conducting patrols. By utilizing the terrain to hide the main force and vehicles, small reconnaissance elements could push out to scout the surrounding areas while having the main force as a pack train and QRF if needed. The scout team communicating back to the main element via VHF/UHF if necessary, and the main element utilizing vehicle mounted HF to relay information back to whoever needs it.
At a minimum, a dozen men would be utilized. The dozen might be broken down as follows into two 4×4 extended cab pickups: 2x four man fireteams, 1x three man scout team, 1x squad leader. Each fireteam would be assigned a vehicle, providing a driver and vehicle commander, and the other two shooters in the back for security. The squad leader and scout team would jump in wherever makes the most sense for them, probably in the backs as well to provide more firepower if needed, and share in the fun in the Sun of riding around in back.
Once within a few miles of the objective, the scout team could push out to conduct the recon, relieved of needing to carry many pounds of extra gear since the vehicles got them closer. They can also rely on the vehicle and men for QRF should they need it.
Everyone in the squad would be capable of fulfilling all the roles necessary, with the best men for the jobs assigned as needed. They would all be capable riflemen with a solid grasp on small unit tactics and the skills and knowledge to live off the land, so at a minimum they can survive to get back.
That’s not to say this idea doesn’t have some serious issues to consider as well. I’ll try to come up with a few on my own and try to answer them, but I’d be curious to hear readers thoughts as well.
What if there’s no vehicles/fuel? Use horses.
Doesn’t utilizing vehicles open up the security team to IED’s and the risk of wanting to always operate from vehicles? There’s always a risk of IED’s, even on foot. As far as the tendency to rely too much on vehicles, I think that is more of a problem with units who have APC’s and the like. Light skinned vehicles are just bullet magnets and I for one would get as far away as possible as often as possible.
Won’t vehicles create a larger signature? Yes, but they also cover more ground, and can typically out maneuver dismounted people in open ground much better.
While it may not seem as cool as the lone sniper going out, unless you actually have those types of people to rely on, I think this is a functional, although imperfect, model supported by past and present history that can be replicated by those willing to go out and get the training now.