Squad Organization

One of my biggest goals for the classes that I teach and the articles that I write is to get patriotic Americans in the mindset of working with others in a team. A key element of this is learning how to task-organize a group into an effective squad, which is something I cover in the Team Leader Class. In this article I will discuss considerations for organizing a squad of volunteers, list some common billets for specialized roles and duties, and present my proposed “Jäger Squad” model for the modern American Minuteman.

Cognitive Load Theory (How Many Men can a Squad Leader Control?)

Our brains are like computers. A computer has a limited amount of processing power and can only handle so many tasks at once. If you overburden a computer with too many tasks, it will slow down considerably and do none of the tasks efficiently (or at all).

Our brains work the same way, and working with a limited amount of processing power that is sometimes referred to as “cognitive load capacity”. A squad leader must keep track of where his men are and what they’re doing. On top of this, he must also maintain situational awareness of what the enemy is doing and where adjacent friendly units are, not to mention taking cover and occasionally using his own weapon. The squad leader can get overburdened if he has to keep track of too many subordinates at once, reducing his effectiveness and endangering the squad.

The Marine Rifle Squad

So, how many is too many? The traditional Marine Corps’ solution can be summed up as “The Rule of Threes.” This is to say that each Marine has three subordinates to worry about on top of his personal survival and commands from his superiors. Any more than three tends to overburden a leader. Granted, some exceptional individuals with unusual cognitive load capacities can handle 4 or more subordinates, but they are just that; exceptions. This rule is the foundation of the most basic unit in the US Military; the Fire Team, consisting of three Marines and a Team Leader.

Moving up to the squad level, a Marine Rifle squad consists of three fire teams and a squad leader for a total of 13 Marines. The squad leader is not overburdened by his 12 subordinates because he only has to interact with his 3 team leaders, trusting them to manage their individual Marines. This same principle is applied to the platoon commander who has 3 squads underneath him, and so on up the chain of command.

The Marine Rifle Squad model is the result of several decades of fine tuning throughout the early 20th century until it was finalized in 1944. It has remained mostly unchanged until the last few years with the addition of an assistant squad leader and a drone operator/EW specialist, but the basic principle remains of the squad leader in charge of 3 fire teams.

One final note here before we move on. Rifle squads (and higher echelon units) often operate with attached elements such as machine gun teams or anti-tank missilemen. The squad leader is able to handle the addition of 1 or 2 attached teams through his extensive training and experience, which tends to increase his cognitive load capacity. Fire team leaders do not have this level of experience, and almost never get attachments beyond the three Marines in their team.

Specialty Designations within a Squad

One thing that is necessary for any successful organization, warfighting or not, is task organization. Within a squad, there are certain special duties that must be assigned to certain individuals. Here is a list of some commonly assigned roles, or “billets.” I will leave out billets that do not apply to the common American (such as machine gunners and grenadiers). Note that a couple of these billets are mission-specific, and thus not always present.

  • Leadership
    • Squad Leader (SL): As his name implies, responsible for the overall conduct of the squad. He is responsible for maintaining control of his squad by managing his team leaders.
    • Assistant Squad Leader (ASL): Assists the SL in his duties. If this billet is present, the ASL takes care of internal administrative work so that the SL can focus externally on the tactical situation as a whole. This billet may be occasionally assigned to a team leader.
    • Team Leader (TL): Responsible for his fire team, leading by example and coordinating with the SL and other TLs.
  • Weapons Specialists
    • Rifleman: Armed with a carbine and fighting load. Is often assigned a secondary billet depending on the mission.
    • Automatic Rifleman (AR): Equipped with a modified carbine and bipod that enable him to rapidly suppress and destroy the enemy using well-placed, accurate burst fire.
    • Anti-Materiel Rifleman (AMR): Equipped with a .50 caliber rifle and armor-piercing ammunition to engage hard targets such as fortifications and armored vehicles.
    • Designated Marksman (DM): Equipped with an accurized rifle to target high value targets such as enemy leadership and radio operators. He uses his magnified optics to feed the SL’s situational awareness, and can be assigned priority targets as necessary.
    • Air Guard: Tasked with watching/listening for hostile aircraft, including drones. If possible, he is equipped with directional jamming equipment to bring down or drive off hostile SUAS. If the enemy is known to use kamikaze drones, he may also be armed with a shotgun as a last ditch defensive measure.
  • Administrative Roles
    • Radio Operator (RO): Responsible for operating the squad’s longer-range radio equipment and communicating with higher headquarters.
    • Combat Lifesaver/medic (CLS): carries additional medical supplies and is trained to stabilize casualties in the field for CASEVAC. This billet should be exclusive and NOT stacked with any other jobs. Doc is not an automatic rifleman. Doc is Doc.
  • Force Multipliers
    • Drone Pilot: Pilots a small quadcopter drone to increase the SL’s situational awareness and conduct aerial reconnaissance. If the drone is able to drop ordnance, it can even be used as a form of close air support.
    • Electronic Warfare (EW) Specialist: Equipped with Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) equipment to detect potentially hostile radio transmissions and exploit them through monitoring, direction finding, or jamming. This specialist may also perform the duties of the Air Guard.

Considerations for the Modern Minuteman

I am a big fan of the Marine Corps rifle squad model. It worked well for me having three fire teams to control, and provides greater opportunity for maneuver and more firepower than the Army’s 9-man squad of two fire teams. I’m not knocking the Army too hard, their squad model is designed to work in the context of platoon-sized operations, often with armored support. The Marine Corps is more of a light infantry force and frequently conducts independent squad operations, so it makes sense that our squads are set up the way that they are.

One thing to remember is that, in the military, squads often work with attached teams of specialists from a weapons platoon/company. Minutemen don’t have that kind of resource to draw from, and will need to have those specialists organic to their squad.

My Proposed Solution: “The Jäger Squad”

Above is my proposed squad structure for Minuteman groups operating as light infantry. It is almost identical to the Marine Rifle squad, but with the addition of a few specialist billets in the second fire team. I did this because, as a squad leader, I most often designated my 2nd team as my support element, and worked in closer proximity to that team while designating my 1st and 3rd teams as security and assault elements respectively.

As squad leader, I want to be closer to key weapon systems and intelligence tools so that I can control them directly when necessary. The Electronic Warfare/CUAS specialist has listening tools for detecting enemy radio transmissions, including hostile UAS. As squad leader, I want to be in direct communication with him because the information he has is critical to my decision making, and is too specific to pass with hand/arm signals.

The other change is that I replaced the 2nd Team’s automatic rifleman with a designated marksman. Whereas the Marine Corps only attaches DMs to squads when requested, I prefer to have the added capability that a DM provides at all times. I can use him to neutralize small/distant targets, or I can employ him as a Guardian Angel. Alternatively, if the enemy is known to use armored vehicles, I would replace the DM with an AMR to give me light anti-armor. In a pinch, he can still function as a DM by switching from AP ammo to match grade FMJs.

The last change is the addition of a squad combat lifesaver (CLS)/medic. This billet replaces one of the riflemen in either 1st or 3rd team. The CLS carries additional lifesaving medical supplies in a backpack that can help keep casualties alive until a CASEVAC can be arranged to take them to a higher echelon of care.

I kept the third team generic for a reason. I am not naïve enough to think that every Minuteman group will be able to find 13 like-minded individuals to take on a patrol. And that is fine, you can work your way up there in time. I recommend that newer groups of 5 or more split into only two teams until they gain the confidence and manpower to add a third team.

Remember, this is a guideline, a “wish list” if you will, of what I see as a best case scenario. If you don’t have access to the specialized weapons, equipment, or training required for some of the billets listed above, make whatever adjustments you need to make best use of what you have.

Closing

Today we briefly overviewed cognitive load theory as it pertains to command and control, looked at common billets for individuals in a small unit, and closed with a prospective model for squad organization. Hopefully this gave you food for thought for how to organize your group.

Again, I caution you against simply copying mine or anybody else’s model for squad organization. Everybody has different resources, mission sets, and unique considerations for their area. If you use my “Jäger Squad” model, use it as a base that you mold to fit your specific needs and abilities.

On Rifle Slings

One of the most important accessories to have for a rifle is a good sling. It saves your arms from getting fatigued carrying the rifle, frees your hands for other tasks, and helps you maintain readiness by keeping your rifle handy. Today I’ll list the three types of rifle slings with their pros and cons, and list some tips for using a two-point sling in the field.

Types of Slings

There are three basic types of rifle slings: single-point, two-point, and three-point. The “points” refer to points of contact on the rifle.

  • Single point: single point slings attach to one point towards the rear of the rifle normally just behind the pistol grip. These slings provide the greatest freedom of movement while still retaining the rifle. However, this comes at the cost of being able to use the sling to stabilize a firing position, and the slung rifle dangles at your side (or in the front hitting you in the family jewels). These slings are best suited to work in confined spaces, such as in/around vehicles or urban terrain.
  • Two-point: these slings attach to the front and rear of the rifle. Two-point slings have the advantage of being used to stabilize firing positions, as well as retaining the rifle without swinging around wildly. The downside is that you sacrifice a little bit of mobility. However, this can be overcome with some techniques that I will describe below. These slings are best suited to rural light infantry style operations.
  • Three-point: These slings attach the front and rear of the rifle like the two-point slings do. However, they can also quickly convert to a single-point sling by unclipping a buckle in the middle. They were intended to do the job of either a two-point or single point sling, but in my experience they do neither very well. I was briefly issued one of these and I hated it. It always turned into a jumbled mess of buckles and straps whenever I tried to put it on, especially in the dark.

I am of the opinion that a good two-point sling is the way to go for the vast majority of intended uses for a rifle. The best ones have some kind of slider that allows you to quickly adjust the tension of the sling, which is incredibly useful. I was issued a Blue Force Gear Vickers Sling in the Marine Corps, and I loved it so much that I use it on all of my rifles to this day. In the next section I will share some tips and tricks for using a two-point sling.

Strong Side, Weak Side, and Necklace carry

The two-point sling is designed to be used with one arm through it so that the rifle is angled downwards at an angle. The difference between strong side and weak side carry is which arm you put through the sling.

Strong side carry is the most common, with the sling going over the shooting shoulder and underneath the shooters off-hand. This method of carry provides maximum retention, holding the rifle snug against the chest. It is, however, not very maneuverable unless you significantly loosen the sling.

Weak side carry is just the reverse, with the shooters firing hand placed through the sling and the sling over the shooters off-hand. This method of carry is a good middle ground, providing decent maneuverability and good retention. When the rifle is not in use, it held either against the shooter’s chest or against the shooter’s strong side pointed down.

Another advantage of weak side carry is that you can quickly transition the rifle to your back, freeing your hands for other tasks.

The third way to wear a two-point sling is called “necklacing” the sling. “Necklace” the rifle by removing your arm from the sling and letting it hang around your neck. This allows you to still retain the rifle while gaining all the mobility you need. All it takes is to “swim” your arm in and out of the sling to make this transition instantly.

With the sling necklaced, you can maneuver your rifle all around your body, transition shoulders freely, and get into and out of firing positions with ease. Additionally, if you need to drop your rifle to do something like throw a smoke grenade, it is still retained on your body instead of lying in the dirt.

Wearing a Backpack with a Slung Rifle

If you put a backpack on while wearing a two-point sling normally, the sling will become trapped under your shoulder straps and you will be unable to raise the rifle into a firing position. To prevent this, always necklace your sling before putting a backpack on or taking it off. See the steps below:

(From left to right) Step 1: necklace the rifle. Step 2: put on the backpack. Step 3: “swim” into the sling by placing your arm inside of it. Step 4: Resume the strong side carry.

This enables you to maneuver your rifle freely with your pack on. When removing the backpack, you will again need to necklace your sling before removing the straps.

How to Stow your Sling on your Rifle

If you’re inside of a vehicle, you probably won’t want to have your rifle slung at all if you have a two-point sling. However, if your sling is dangling off of your rifle, it can get caught on a lot of things in your vehicle when you try to dismount. This means that you should have some way of storing the sling on the rifle to avoid needing to remove it entirely.

One way to do this is to use some kind of elastic band on your buttstock. I use boot bands, but any kind of elastic material will work. Hairbands are pretty good for this as well.

Another method that I like is to wrap your sling around your buttstock and pistol grip as shown below, then tensioning the sling until it’s snug. I learned this technique from John Lovell of Warrior Poet Society fame.

The Sling as a Shooting Aid

Two-point slings can also be used to stabilize a firing position. This is accomplished using the strong side carry and tensioning the sling until it is snug. This essentially provides another point of contact between your body and the rifle, making a more stable firing platform.

Step 1: assume firing position. Step 2 (left): tighten the sling with your support hand until it is snug. Step 3 (right): replace support hand and resume the firing position.

This technique can be applied in any firing position from standing to prone, although it is most useful in unsupported positions where there is no barricade to brace the rifle against. Although you would not take the time to do this in most gunfights, it is still a valid technique that can help you make those longer range hits when you have time to be more deliberate with your shots.

Summary

There are many different reasons that someone would choose one type of sling over another, most of which are situation dependent. In my experience and for the type of work I intend my rifles for, a two-point sling happens to be the best choice.

All of the above tips for two-point slings come from my own personal experience, although I cannot claim credit for inventing any of them. At some point in time someone showed them to me, and I hope that I have helped someone else by passing the knowledge along.

Support Weapons Class AAR

This past weekend was the first Support Weapons Class, held in North Carolina. It was a small class, but it was worth it to smooth out the rough edges of the class. Here’s a brief summary of events, along with some pictures I took along the way.

Day 1 focused on weapons handling and firing techniques of the automatic rifle and the .50 cal AMRs. The morning was spent on the automatic rifleman, covering his weapon, firing techniques, and priority targets. Students received an introduction to the tactics employed by a support by fire element and practiced shooter/spotter dialogue to get each other on target firing bursts.

After lunch, we resumed with a focus on .50 caliber Anti-Materiel Rifles (AMRs). Students learned what .50 BMG is capable of and how to use it against certain types of armored vehicles. Next I taught how to estimate distance to a target vehicle using milrad and MOA reticles. Students then practiced this using their rifle scopes, aiming at miniature vehicle silhouettes.

We finished the afternoon with a class on drawing range cards for use in a static position. Students then drew their own range cards and repeated the shooter/spotter dialogue drill from earlier, noting that they were much quicker at acquiring targets using the card that they made. We then broke for supper.

After dark, we returned to the range for a night shoot. I had students aiming at white strobe lights in front of targets on a hillside, replicating the muzzle flash of an enemy shooter. Students couldn’t see the targets, but aimed at the “muzzle flashes”, firing bursts from their autorifles. We also covered different spotting techniques at night, and how a team leader with night vision can get shooters without night vision to hit a target that they cannot see. This was a very fun and successful exercise for everyone.

Pictures taken using a FLIR Breach

Day 2 was spent in classes on the tactics involved with using a support by fire element and how they can be used to support a maneuver element. Students learned tactical control measures, geometries of fires planning, and methods of communicating between support and maneuver elements. The class was wrapped up with a live fire and maneuver where students put all of the skills they learned during the class together to accomplish a raid on an enemy motor pool. The following pictures are stills from a video I took of the final live fire and maneuver exercise.

All told, this class was a success. I’ll be smoothing out some of the rough edges of the class for the next time I run it. The next support weapons class is in North Carolina on December 16-17. Contact me to register, I look forward to training with you!

Trash Management in the Field

In our disposable society we throw away so much stuff that we have become numb to it. When I was stationed in Okinawa, Japan, I was surprised to learn that there are no public trash cans in Japan (there was a terror attack some years ago and they decided to get rid of assault trash cans lol). I had no idea how much trash I generated just walking around in town until I found myself forced to carry it with me.

A patrol is much the same, but with higher stakes. There are no trash cans in the woods, and you can’t leave your garbage around without giving the enemy a Hansel-and-Gretel trail of garbage to follow. This means that you need to pack out your trash and carry it with you until you return to base. In this article I will share with you some tricks that I’ve learned about managing trash in the field.

Why can’t I just bury my trash?

You may be asking this question in your head as you read, and I get it. The temptation to leave your trash behind can be pretty strong (especially if it’s sticky). However, digging a hole in the ground creates spoor, which can be spotted by a skilled tracker. Even if you happen to be skilled enough to camouflage the hole, animals will smell any food trash you have buried and dig it up, exposing it for an enemy patrol to find later.

Regardless of whether or not you can get away with it, you should exercise self-discipline and never leave trash behind on a patrol, buried or not. Laziness can quickly become a habit, and will get you or your friends killed eventually. Don’t let that happen.

Minimize the Trash that you Generate

Analyzing what goes into your ruck can help you mitigate the amount of trash that you generate on a patrol. Simply put, If you don’t carry it out, you don’t need to carry it back with you.

Anything new that you pack must have as much of the packaging removed as possible. For example, AA batteries are kept in a ziploc bag anyway to waterproof them, so you should remove them from their box. This also frees up a small amount of space in your pack

The biggest source of trash on a patrol is food. Food tends to have a lot of extra packaging, so this is an easy place to offload future trash before you even begin the patrol. For example, if you bring a box of pop-tarts, throw away the box and just pack the pop-tarts in their individual wrappers. In the Marines, we would “field strip” our MREs by doing just this, removing all the unnecessary garbage and then taping them back shut.

Carry Heavy Duty Trash Bags

You don’t want your garbage to be floating around in your pack between your sleeping bag and spare socks. You need a way to keep your trash segregated inside your pack to keep it organized, and thick black trash bags are one way to do this. Two are preferred, in case one tears.

If you want to get fancy, you can buy a dedicated waterproofing bag for your garbage. These will be thicker and more resistant to tears, but you will need to pay for them.

Stow Trash within Trash

There is a possibility that your trash bags may tear or rupture in your pack. If you have a lot of sloppy food garbage, this can get very messy. To insure yourself against this possibility, you can compartmentalize your trash within your trash bags.

When you sit down for a meal, look at everything that you will open. Identify what trash will be messy and find a less messy piece of trash to put it in. If, for example, I will have a Gatorade packet and a packet of crackers for a snack, I can quickly tell that the Gatorade packet will be sticky when I am done eating it. I would then plan to fold the Gatorade packet and tuck it into the empty cracker pouch. This puts another barrier between the sticky residue and the inside of my pack.

A trick that I discovered is to meal plan for the patrol with each meal contained in a 1-gallon Ziploc bag. When I am done with the meal, everything goes back into the Ziploc bag, which I then squeeze the air out of and reseal. Then the whole thing goes into the black trash bag.

When I would use MREs, I would put all of my garbage back into the main pouch and close it with duct tape.

Summary

Congratulations, you made it through an entire article about garbage. Hopefully you learned a thing or two about how to manage your trash in the field. If you’ve been reading my other articles about living out of your pack, you should be noticing a trend; organization is the key to success. You cannot say “screw it” and lazily toss things into your pack. Everything needs a plan, even your garbage.

My Water Procurement Kit

As I mentioned in my article on how to pack a ruck, water is one of the 4 basic needs for survival in the field. However, water is heavy, and if you are going to be in the field for several days it is not desirable to carry all of the water that you will drink. Don’t get me wrong, it’s certainly possible, but if you’re carrying 50 pounds of water in addition to 40 or so pounds of your other gear, you will get fatigued very quickly. For this reason it is important to have the tools and skills necessary to disinfect water in the field. There are many ways to do this, and this video is an excellent primer on a few of these methods. Today, I will show you what I have in my water procurement kit and how I use it in the field.

Contents

My kit consists of a clean cotton rag, 1-liter nalgene, Sawyer Mini filter, Steripen Ultra UV Purifier, and a makeshift funnel that I made using some duct tape.

  • Clean cotton rag: I use this to strain the water that I put into my nalgene. It doesn’t stop microscopic particles, but it will catch bigger stuff like bits of dirt and sand. This extends the life of my filter a little bit.
  • 1-liter Nalgene: Used to collect water. I use my nalgene instead of canteens for this because 1) the neck is bigger, taking less time to fill, and 2) it is transparent, and I can see how clear the water is (or isn’t) to determine if I need to filter it. I also use the nalgene to store all of the rest of the items in my water kit.
  • Sawyer Mini filter: I’m aware that there are larger, better filters out there. I still prefer the Sawyer mini because it is small and compact, and also because it is reusable almost indefinitely. One thing I strive for with my kit is a minimized logistics footprint. If a filter takes disposable cartridges, that is one more thing that I need to pack or stock up on to keep it working. With the Sawyer, I can backwash the filter to clean it once it starts to get clogged. Since it is good for 100,000 gallons of water (more than I will drink in my lifetime), this means that it has virtually zero logistical requirements unless I break it. And while I have the included water pouch pictured here, I can also use normal disposable water bottles that have the same thread pitch. It’s also only $20, so there’s that.
  • Steripen Ultra: This is an ultraviolet (UV) purifier. It works by emitting UV light for a set amount of time to kill virtually all bacteria, protozoa, and viruses, which cannot be caught by a filter. I love this purifier because, again, it is logistically simple. It has an internal battery that can be recharged via an included USB cable. It has enough battery power to last me a week or two in the field without needing a charge. And if I will be in the field longer than that, I will have solar panels with me that I can use to recharge it along with my other batteries. In my opinion this is superior to iodine tablets because they are consumable items, and it’s far more discrete than boiling because I don’t need to build a fire or carry a stove.
  • Funnel: I made this funnel out of duct tape, I use it to pour water into my canteens. I use a duct tape funnel instead of a store-bought one because I can fold it flat for compact storage.

My Water Procurement Process

Bodies of water are exposed areas, tactically speaking. Because people tend to live close to bodies of water there is a serious risk of compromise near them. For this reason, you don’t want to hang out near your water source longer than is necessary. Additionally, the more people filling up water, the higher the chance of compromise. Patrols larger than a fire team should send a 2-4 man watering party (at least 1 on security while the others fill the containers) to fill everyone’s canteens, then bring them back to be purified in the patrol base.

I have two 2-qt canteens designated as my “dirty” containers. I hand these off to the watering party to fill in the stream/swamp/lake. They are marked with black tape to keep them distinguished from my “clean” canteens.

Note the black tape around the neck. Never drink out of your “dirty” canteens, and never collect dirty water in your “clean” canteens.

Back in the patrol base, I get to work. I pour dirty water into the Sawyer Mini’s water pouch until it is full, straining it through the cotton rag. Then I screw the Sawyer Mini onto the pouch and squeeze the water through the filter into the Nalgene. I repeat this process until the Nalgene is filled to the 1L line. I now have 1 liter of filtered water.

The next step is to purify the water. I turn on my Steripen Ultra, insert it into the nalgene, and stir it around. The Steripen detects the water and automatically starts a 90 second countdown timer. When the time is up a smiley face appears on the display to let me know the water is now safe to drink.

Finally, I use the funnel to pour the clean water into my “clean” canteens. I repeat the process until all the water has been filtered, purified, and poured into my canteens and camelback. I stow the components back into the Nalgene and replace it into my buttpack. The “dirty” canteens get compressed and shoved back into my ruck.

Summary

This has been an overview of my water procurement kit. Bear in mind that this is simply one solution to a problem that has many possible answers. Consider also that this system works for my specific area (coastal NC forests and swamps), and that different areas may require different methods of water procurement. Do your own research and your own experiments to find what works for you and your operating environment. Feel free to share your solutions in the comments below!

Because this is such an important part of sustaining yourself in the field, I will have you filter/purify your own water during the Jäger Course. We will be covering a couple different methods using common off-the-shelf options, and you will put in enough reps that you become confident.

To quote Camelbak’s slogan; “Hydrate or die!”

How to Make a Skivvy Roll

This is a little fieldcraft trick that the Marine Corps taught me. When you go to the field for several days at a time, it is rarely necessary to pack a full change of clothes. You really only need to change out the base layers of clothing that are in direct contact with your skin in areas where you sweat a lot; namely your socks, underwear, and t-shirt.

In this article I will show you how to pack these items into a single “skivvy roll” that helps keep your pack organized in the field. You will find this quite useful during the Jäger Course.

First, gather the components; one t-shirt, one set of underwear (I use silkies, they’re great for preventing chafing), and one pair of socks. Lay out the T-shirt flat with the sleeves extended.

Next fold the t-shirt in thirds vertically, pulling first one sleeve to the opposite side, then the other.

Now lay out your underwear and fold it in half vertically. Place it on top of the t-shirt as shown below.

Next lay your socks across the top of the folded shirt as shown below. Make sure that the openings are facing outboard.

Now start rolling the whole thing up from the bottom. When you get to the top you should have the open ends of the socks sticking out.

Finally, take one of the open ends of the socks and turn it inside-out on itself, covering the roll as shown. Then do the same with the other sock. The end result is a torpedo-shaped roll.

There you have it. The advantage of skivvy rolls is that they keep your pack organized, and you can quickly assess how many changes of undergarments you have remaining. It also helps when you get changed in the dark; rather than poking around your bag with a flashlight looking for each item, you can simply reach in and grab one roll, getting changed without needing to use any artificial light.

The only question remaining is how many skivvy rolls should you pack? That answer depends on how comfortable you want to be. If you really wanted to, you could change undergarments every day for maximum comfort (and if you have poor quality undergarments, this may be necessary to prevent chafing). However, I recommend planning to change once every 2-3 days. This drastically reduces the amount of clothes you need to pack, which translates to less weight you need to carry. And let me tell you, changing just these three items after three days of patrolling makes you feel like a new man.

I take this a step further and only bring one skivvy roll plus one extra pair of socks, regardless of if I’m out for 3 days or 2 weeks. I do this by sanitizing the set that I’m not wearing. When the set that I’m wearing gets nasty, I switch out and repeat the cycle, cleaning the other set. This can keep me going for quite a while with minimal weight. The goal is not to make me smell nice, but rather to keep me clean enough that I don’t chafe, rash, or blister due to prolonged exposure to moist clothes. The extra pair of socks is in case my socks get wet because I needed to ford a river or hike in the rain.

Remember to waterproof your skivvy rolls, along with everything else in your pack. I’ll be writing an article on field sanitation in the near future. Use this little trick to help you prepare for the upcoming Jäger Course in May.

How to Pack a Rucksack

A light infantryman’s pack is his life. One of the biggest focuses of the upcoming Jäger Course is living for a week out of your rucksack, carrying everything you need to survive and conduct operations during that time. This is not meant to break you by carrying a lot of weight. On the contrary, I want you to pack as light as possible while still carrying the essentials for life in the field.

If you are not an experienced backpacker or have never trained to do patrol base (PB) operations, this may be a bit intimidating. In this article I will cover what you need in your ruck, how to pack it, and other considerations for living out of your pack in the field.

What do You Need to Pack?

There are a TON of videos, articles, and podcasts about “bugout bags”, “patrol bags”, etc., detailing long lists of items that they insist you must buy. Sadly, many of the items in those videos are unnecessary crap with the goal of either trying to sell you a product or validate someone’s purchase by telling you how awesome it is. I’m not going to do that. What I will do is tell you what you should be considering when you load your ruck.

We as humans have 4 basic needs for survival: water, food, shelter, and sanitation. Let’s look at each one of these and consider how we can meet these needs with our packs.

  • Water; You cannot live without water for very long, and when you are in the field hiking, digging, and fighting, you will need more fluids to replace what you sweat out. So you need to carry water, but water is bulky and heavy. 1 gallon of water weighs 8.3 pounds. Assuming you drink a gallon a day (which you will definitely do in the field), a week in the field would require you to carry 6 gallons of water weighing about 50 pounds! That’s a lot of weight and bulk to carry for just water, so this is not realistic in many scenarios. What you should carry is 1-2 days of supply (DOS) of water and have the ability to disinfect water in the field. Make sure that you have a way to carry some water on your kit for when you have to cache your pack.
    One more thing. At least some of your water should be in hard containers like canteens. Camelbacks are nice until they pop (which they often do), so make sure that you have water bottles as a backup for if your bladder pops.
  • Food; You need calories to provide the energy to patrol, fight, and stay awake on watch. Expect to eat about 2500 calories per day. Whatever you take for food, try as much as possible to take rations that do not need to be heated. Open fires in a tactical scenario are usually a very bad idea. Also consider how much trash your food packaging generates, as you will need to carry it all out of the field with you.
  • Shelter; You need shelter from (depending on your environment) precipitation, wind, direct sunlight, and cold. Whatever you use for a shelter (preferably a lightweight tarp instead of a tent) should be at the top of or strapped to the outside of your pack so you can set it up quickly.
    • Precipitation: Getting wet is not only bad for your morale, it encourages all sorts of bad things like chafing and trench foot. Plus, wet gear is heavier. Have at least a poncho for rain gear. Gore-tex clothing works, but can make you overheat and sweat more in summer. In your patrol base, your shelter needs to keep rain/snow off of you and your gear.
    • Wind: In cold weather, wind amplifies the effect of the cold on your body. Ensure that your shelter is windproof (if it’s waterproof then it will be windproof also) and low enough to the ground to protect you. Wearable shells like gore-tex protect you from wind as well.
    • Direct sunlight: In hot weather you need to be shaded from the sun to stay cool, and if you are in a desert environment where there is no natural shade like trees, you will need to make your own. Direct sunlight will at the least make you uncomfortable, and at the worst make you become a heat casualty.
    • Cold: In winter, you may be comfortable on the move, but once you halt and your heart rate slows down, your extremities will start to get cold quickly. If the temperature dips below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, you need to pack extra layers for when you are static at night. Layers that go over your uniform are ideal because you can shed them easily once you start moving and warm up again.
  • Sanitation: If you get an infection, stomach bug, or severe chafing on a patrol, you become a liability to your team. For this reason, you need to pack a small hygiene kit to take care of yourself. At a minimum, you will need hand sanitizer, baby wipes/microfiber cloth for “field showers”, a small toothbrush with toothpaste, and a small roll of toilet paper. You will not stay fully clean in the field, but with these items you can prevent the vast majority of illnesses and ailments that would make you combat ineffective.

These are the bare necessities for living in the field. Bear in mind that you are in the field to accomplish a mission, and you will need to carry any equipment necessary for that mission (radio batteries, ammunition, smoke grenades, etc.), so you should have extra space in your pack for these items.

One final note before we move on; you need to balance comfort with weight. The more “comfort items” you pack, the heavier your pack will be. That said, comfort is not entirely bad in the field; the more comfortable you are the higher your morale is, and the more alert you are. It is up to you to balance comfort with weight. I, personally, am a little bit of a masochist, and sacrifice a lot of comfort at the halt for a lighter pack and comfort on the move. You will need to find your own balance. Your total load (including kit) should weigh no more than 1/3 of your body weight, but a good goal is 45 pounds dry (no water).

Packing your Ruck

Once you’ve determined what to pack, the next step is loading it all into your ruck. Where you pack your equipment is almost as important as what you pack. You need to consider weight distribution, accessibility, and consistency.

Weight distribution is important so you don’t become overly fatigued while hiking. Although it may seem counterintuitive, the heavier items should be closer to your back and higher. This puts the bulk of the weight straight down on the waist belt, not on your shoulders. You want the weight on your hips because your waist doesn’t fatigue like your shoulders do.

Once you have finished packing your bag, cinch down any straps on the sides of the pack to keep your gear from shifting around. This helps hold everything closer to your back and is more comfortable while hiking.

The next thing you want to consider is accessibility of the items in your pack. Items that are used frequently (tarp, rain gear, hygiene kit) should be in outer pouches or closer to the top of the pack. Items that get used less often (sleeping bag, extra clothes) should be deeper in the pack.

The last consideration for where your gear goes is consistency. You should be able to get anything out of your ruck, in the dark, without using a flashlight. To do this you should pack your ruck the same way every time so you can remember where everything is. Organization is key.

Other Considerations

Waterproof anything in your ruck that shouldn’t get wet (clothes, sleeping bag, etc.) by putting it in some kind of waterproof bag. I don’t care how “water resistant” your pack may be, water finds its way anywhere if you let it. I always pack my ruck with the assumption that everything in there will be fully submerged in water at some point. This is not unrealistic, you never know when you will need to ford a river.

I strongly recommend using several small waterproof bags instead of one large waterproof bag. This will help you organize the contents of your ruck. For example, I put my skivvy rolls in one bag, my sleeping gear in another, and my warming layers in another. That way when I want something I can just grab its’ waterproof sack instead of digging through a mess of gear in one large bag.

A bonus to waterproofing the contents of your pack like this is that you can use your pack as a flotation device if you need to cross a deep body of water. Do this by removing the pack, holding it in front of you in the water, and resting your rifle on the top as you push it in front of you.

A bonus to waterproofing the contents of your pack like this is that you can use your pack as a flotation device if you need to cross a deep body of water. Do this by removing the pack, holding it in front of you in the water, and resting your rifle on the top as you push it in front of you.

Contents of the main pouch of my pack. Note the three waterproof sacks.

Some people have the tendency to pull a lot of stuff out of their rucks in the field and leave it spread out on the ground. We called this “exploded packs”, and it is a very bad habit. If your patrol base is suddenly attacked, you may need to just grab your pack and run, leaving behind a lot of goodies for the enemy. When you need to pull something out of your ruck, only pull out that one thing and immediately repack and close the pouch that you opened.

Make sure that you have a way to stow your trash. You shouldn’t leave garbage in the field for the enemy to find, so you must plan to carry it out with you. Do so in a neat way that doesn’t mess up the other stuff in your ruck.

Summary

By now you should have enough information to start putting together your pack. Review the four basic survival needs and ensure that you have something to take care of each one. When you begin to load your ruck, make sure you use proper weight distribution to reduce fatigue while hiking. Ensure that everything is waterproofed, and that it is organized. Remember to keep it as light as possible.

Once you have your ruck set up, test it! Start with a 3-5 mile hike, adjusting straps as necessary and noting how the weight distribution feels. Then do an overnight camping trip where you hike a few miles, eat supper, sleep outside under your shelter, eat breakfast and hike back. This is great activity to do with the other members of your team, by the way.

For the curious, my current pack setup can be found here. If you would like to sign up for the upcoming Jäger Course, shoot me an email or use my contact form. I look forward to training with you!

The Minuteman’s Guide to Countering Armored Vehicles

Since the first tanks and armored cars appeared on the battlefields of WWI Europe, infantrymen have been forced to find ways to deal with them. The modern minuteman is no different, and any prolonged civil conflict in the United States is bound to see armored vehicles used in one form or another. I’m not even talking about fighting a professional military, partisan groups and gangs/cartels have ways of getting or making armored vehicles for use in a prolonged period of conflict/disorder. Some examples are below;

  • In 2020 alone, there were at least two police MRAPs and one National Guard humvee stolen in California during the rioting. The humvee and one MRAP have since been recovered.
  • Mexican Cartels such as the CJNG frequently weld makeshift armored plating onto trucks and install turrets onto them. They call these vehicles “monstruos”, meaning “monsters.”
  • Private ownership of military surplus armored vehicles is perfectly legal as long as the weapons are disabled or removed. For about the same price as a new car you can own an OT-64 SKOT (Polish wheeled amphibious APC). For much less you can buy a surplus humvee. There are many such vehicles in the hands of private citizens for collecting, war re-enacting, etc.

I predict that in a prolonged civil conflict, WROL scenario, etc, it will only take a few weeks before people with access to these vehicles start to roll them out for whatever purpose. For this reason and the hypothetical Chinese invasion, any serious minuteman should be thinking about how to deal with armored vehicles. In this article I will cover the types of armored vehicles, the threat they pose, and how you can fight them or mitigate their effectiveness.

Analyzing the Threat

A “monstruo” improvised armored car owned by the CJNG cartel.

Physical Characteristics and Types of Armored Vehicles

There are two physical capabilities of armored vehicles: protecting and transporting personnel, and housing weapons as a mobile firing platform. Every type of armored vehicle does one or both of these tasks. Below is a list of the general types of armored vehicles along with key charactistics;

Russian T-80 Main Battle Tank
  • Tanks: The most formidable armored vehicles with the heaviest weapons, thickest armor, and most sophisticated sensors and optics. Their weakness is limited situational awareness and field of view when the crew is inside, making them vulnerable to enemy infantry that can get close. For this reason, tanks are most effective when used with dismounted infantry to protect them.
An American M113 Armored Personnel Carrier during the Vietnam War
  • Armored Personnel Carriers (APCs): As their name implies, APCs are designed to transport squads of infantry quickly across the battlefield, protected by their armored hulls. Their armor is designed to withstand small arms fire, but not much more than that. APCs often have a turret of some kind mounted on them, but not always. They can be tracked or wheeled.
Russian BMD-2 Infantry Fighting Vehicle
  • Infantry Fighting Vehicles (IFVs): Similar to APCs, but with the purpose of providing fire support to infantry as opposed to simply transporting them. Officially, the distinction is the size of the weapons mounted, and an IFV is technically classified as an APC that has a weapon larger than 20mm. Again, their armor is designed to withstand small arms fire, but not much more.
An up-armored M1114 HMMWV “humvee” armored car
  • Armored Cars: These are smaller armored vehicles that can serve the purpose of an APC or IFV. They are protected against small arms fire and may or may not have a turret. A sub-category of armored cars is Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles (MRAPS), which have a v-shaped hull to protect personnel inside from mines or improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

Psychological Effect of Armored Vehicles

Armored vehicles are as much psychological weapons as they are practical weapons. The presence of an armored vehicle on the battlefield has both a positive effect on the morale of the troops it is supporting, and a powerful negative effect on the troops it is opposing.

Troops with armored vehicles in support benefit from a heightened sense of confidence and invincibility. Even if the vehicle’s presence provides little actual support in the battle, the mere fact that it is there is sometimes enough to galvanize troops into more aggressive action, especially if they see it advancing. It’s that instinctive predatory feeling of “we have something you can’t kill, and we’re coming for you.”

The psychological effect of opposing armored vehicles is even greater on the other side of the battle. Combat is stressful enough when you are fighting mere men that you can kill with the rifle in your hand. However, once troops see a great armored beast appear that their rifles cannot kill, they tend to experience a sudden rush of fear and dread. This effect alone has often been enough to make poorly trained troops turn and flee, whether or not the vehicle is actually a threat to them.

However, this negative psychological effect can be mitigated if those troops are trained and equipped to deal with armored vehicles. You are much less likely to turn and run if you know that someone on your team has an anti-armor weapon that can deal with the threat. A lot can be accomplished by simple mental preparation, ensuring that troops know the capabilities, limitations, and weaknesses of what they may be called upon to face. Once you have learned that armored vehicles are not invincible wonder weapons, you are better able to maintain your discipline when they appear.

Countering Armored Vehicles

Note that this article is about countering armored vehicles, not destroying them. You do not have the ability to outright destroy most types of armored vehicles until you grab some AT-4 rockets from the National Guard Armory. That said, there are ways to render them useless or less useable to the enemy by using either terrain or weapons to your advantage.

Terrain can be used to your advantage if you remember that armored vehicles cannot drive everywhere. The added weight of the armor makes them prone to getting stuck in mud and deep snow, especially wheeled vehicles like MRAPS. Excluding tanks, trees more than a foot wide will stop armored vehicles from driving through them. This means that, in many areas, most armored vehicles are confined to roads.

A tank towing two stuck MRAPS out of a farmer’s field. Note that tracked vehicles can go places where wheeled vehicles cannot.

You can use this to your advantage by identifying vehicle “choke points” and blocking them off with sizeable obstacles like fallen trees. The Finns did this during the Winter War when the Soviet tanks could not leave the roads, isolating the Soviets into small pockets (called “motti”) of troops that the Finns could destroy one at a time.

You can also dig anti-tank ditches to keep all but the biggest armored vehicles from maneuvering on you. Joe Dolio’s book Tactical Wisdom Volume 3 (TW-03) describes several methods of emplacing anti-vehicle obstacles in a defensive position. Use these to funnel armored vehicles into where you want them to go.

Other obstacles can be used to slow down light armored vehicles. Three strands of concertina wire across a road can make tracked vehicles throw a track, immobilizing them. Most of the time they won’t drive through, they’ll just halt and attempt to clear the obstacle first. You can use this to ambush them when they dismount, or you can just use this to simply delay the vehicles for a little while (for example, delaying an enemy QRF while your buddies finish up a raid).

Bottom line, a light infantry force can have the upper hand against a mechanized force if they can funnel the armored vehicles into a single point where they can be blocked, attacked, or delayed. Use terrain to isolate small groups of enemy and fight them one group at a time, not all at once in the open.

Fighting Armored Vehicles with Weapons

First and foremost, the most effective anti-armor weapon available legally to the minuteman is an Anti-Materiel Rifle (AMR). AMRs are as old as tanks themselves, with the Germans employing them during WWI. More recently, the YPG Kurds have been making their own AMRs to counter ISIS’s use of armored SVBIEDs. And closer to home, cartels in Mexico have been using Barrett .50 BMG rifles to fight police and military MRAPs.

The best choice for the American minuteman is .50 BMG. It’s commonly available, and the biggest caliber you can get without paying extortion money to the ATF for having a “destructive device.” One huge advantage of .50 BMG is that it’s a machine gun caliber, which means that surplus armor-piercing ammunition is cheap and available. It’s not quite as good as a rocket, but it is effective if you know where to aim. I teach how to use AMRs in my Support Weapons Class.

The Serbu BFG-50. At $2500, it’s the best affordable option for the American minuteman as an anti-armor weapon.

Serbu has done a lot to make .50 BMG rifles that are affordable. For $1600 you can get the RN-50, a single-shot rifle that takes 14 seconds to reload. For $2500 you can get the BFG-50, a single-shot bolt action (the best choice in my opinion). And with armor-piercing incendiary (API) ammo cheaper than regular ball ammo, there’s no reason for every serious minuteman group not to have this capability.

In the absence of specialized weapons like AMRs, normal rifles can still be used to counter armored vehicles by targeting specific components of the vehicle. Points on the vehicle that are vulnerable to small-arms fire are listed below:

  • Bulletproof glass windows. Even if you can’t penetrate it, enough hits will make it impossible to see through. Do this to the driver’s side windshield and you’ve essentially stopped the vehicle from moving without dismounting a ground guide.
  • Turrets. If the vehicle has a manned turret, shooting the gunner will neutralize the threat from what is likely the heaviest weapon that you are facing. If the turret is remotely operated from inside the vehicle, you can still shoot the cameras and wires used to aim it.
  • Tires. Hitting these may or may not affect the mobility of the vehicle. Military vehicles often have run-flats, meaning that popping the tires won’t do much for you. Improvised vehicles like the cartel “monstruos,” however, do not normally have run-flats.
  • Engine compartment. This part of the vehicle is not always protected by armor. Hits here with small-arms fire can cause enough damage to cause the vehicle to be sent away for repairs. However, it won’t do much for you in the moment. Even .50 BMG hits to the engine block don’t always stop the engine from running.
  • Gaps in the armor. Sometimes it gets hot in those vehicles and someone will want to let in some air. You can exploit this by shooting through the crack in an opened bulletproof window or through an open door.
  • Communications equipment. Exposed antennas are not at all resistant to bullets, and can be destroyed easily if you can manage to hit them.

There are two ways to get these effects on the target with normal weapons; precision rifle fire and concentrated fire from several shooters.

  • Precision rifle fire can hit all of these components reliably, and can slowly pick apart the vehicle from a distance. Precision rifle fire from 2 or more shooters can do this very quickly. However, this can be very difficult to do if the vehicle is moving.
  • Concentrated massed fires from a team of shooters can be used to target specific components of armored vehicles through specialized fire commands from the team leader. Individually each rifleman might not be able to hit the small target from distance, but 4-6 shooters firing quickly all at once will send such a hail of bullets at a small target that one or more of them will hit the target.

    A sample ADDRAC (fire command) for this technique is shown below;
    • “SQUAD! DIRECT FRONT, MRAP, 150M! (team echoes the alert) TEAM 1 FOCUS WINDSHIELD! TEAM 2 FOCUS TURRET! FIRE!
    • In this example, the squad leader identified the target to his squad with the direction and distance. He then assigned one team to pepper the windshield, blinding the driver, and another team to focus on the turret to take its gun out of action.

Finally, as a last ditch option, we have throwable items. I say that this is a last resort because I prefer not to get within throwing range of a manned, hostile armored vehicle, especially since they will normally be protected by dismounted infantry. That said, sometimes you have no choice or the enemy makes a mistake and you find yourself in that position.

Molotov cocktails are a simple, improvised anti-armor weapon that has been used ever since they were invented by the Finns in the Winter War. They are most effective when the burning fluid can get inside the vehicle through vents and air intake pipes, so where you hit the vehicle is important. Aiming for the turret, manned or unmanned, is also a good idea.

Many modern armored vehicles are mostly closed on top, so throwing a molotov cocktail on the roof may simply burn harmlessly. In this case, it may be better to throw it underneath a static vehicle so that the rising heat can 1) destroy as many undercarriage components as possible, and 2) heat the crew compartment to the point where they must bail or cook. Forbes put out a piece on molotov cocktails for the Ukrainian people, which goes more in-depth about their use.

A Ukrainian guide on how to use molotov cocktails against a Russian BTR-82

Summary

Hopefully by the end of this article you have a better understanding of what armored vehicles can do and what you can do to counter them. This has been a very basic overview of what can be done, and I hope that it piques your curiosity enough to prompt further study in each subtopic I presented.

Again, if you want to learn how to use .50 BMG rifles to fight armored vehicles, I have a class for that. I teach the next Support Weapons Class in NC on November 19-20. Weapons and ammunition are provided for the course, all you need to do is register and show up. I look forward to training with you!

The Rifleman’s Creed; Warrior Ethos

Many people know of the Rifleman’s Creed from the movie “Full Metal Jacket”, in the scene where the recruits had to recite it from their bunks in boot camp. Written in 1942 by Marine General William H. Rupertus, the creed represents a key element of the unique warrior culture that permeates the Marine Corps. We call this “Warrior Ethos.”

“Ethosthe distinguishing character, sentiment, moral nature, or guiding beliefs of a person, group, or institution.”
– Merriam-Webster Dictionary

General Rupertus wrote the Rifleman’s Creed at the start of WWII because he needed his Marines to understand “that the only weapon which stands between them and Death is the rifle…” He wanted his Marines to view their rifles not merely as a tool of war, but as a close companion in combat.

To a large extent, he succeeded. The creed that he wrote became a cornerstone of Marine Corps culture and soon it became a requirement for recruits in boot camp to memorize the creed. Marines began to develop an almost familial bond with their rifles which they now understood was indeed the one thing that would carry them through battle. This encouraged Marines to strive for higher standards of proficiency and discipline with their rifles.

Unfortunately, in recent years the Corps has pushed the Rifleman’s Creed to the wayside. It is no longer required for recruits in boot camp to memorize it, and in fact it is discouraged. When I was in boot camp, I was the “knowledge recruit”, responsible for assisting the rest of my platoon in memorizing the knowledge in our recruit books. I saw the Rifleman’s Creed in the back of the book, and decided to start having the platoon memorize it with me. After a few days of this, my drill instructors told me to stop and instead have the platoon focus on memorizing things like the first female Marine and the first black Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps. Decades of warrior ethos cast aside for politically correct bullshit that wouldn’t mean a damn thing to these recruits when they became Marines! I memorized the creed on my own anyway, the only recruit in my company to do so.

The Rifleman’s Creed (original)

This is my rifle. There are many like it, but this one is mine.

My rifle is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it as I must master my life.

My rifle, without me, is useless. Without my rifle, I am useless. I must fire my rifle true. I must shoot straighter than my enemy who is trying to kill me. I must shoot him before he shoots me. I will …

My rifle and myself know that what counts in this war is not the rounds we fire, the noise of our burst, nor the smoke we make. We know that it is the hits that count. We will hit….

My rifle is human, even as I, because it is my life. Thus, I will learn it as a brother. I will learn its weaknesses, its strength, its parts, its accessories, its sights and its barrel. I will ever guard it against the ravages of weather and damage as I will ever guard my legs, my arms, my eyes and my heart against damage. I will keep my rifle clean and ready. We will become part of each other. We will ….

Before God, I swear this creed. My rifle and myself are the defenders of my country. We are the masters of our enemy. We are the saviors of my life.

So be it, until victory is America’s and there is no enemy, but peace!!

Breaking Down the Creed

The Rifleman’s Creed is powerful because it identifies the attributes a rifleman should strive for on the physical, mental, and spiritual levels. Let’s look at what the creed says about each of these.

Physical Attributes of a Rifleman

Physical attributes are the most readily apparent ones, so we’ll start here. First the creed identifies the most important attribute of a rifleman; marksmanship. Phrases such as “I will shoot straighter than my enemy” and “it is the hits that count” drive this point home. The rifle will do its job if you do yours. A rifleman who cannot hit his target is not a rifleman, he is dead.

The second physical attribute is that the rifleman maintains his weapon, “guard[ing] it against the ravages of weather and damage“. Every weapon needs some level of maintenance to keep running. If you take care of your rifle, it will take care of you.

Mental Traits of a Rifleman

Although physical attributes are the most apparent, they are merely the outward expression of mental traits. The most important one is discipline. “I must master [my rifle] as I must master my life.Self discipline is the single most important skill of a warrior, upon which all other skills and traits must rest. Without the mental discipline to maintain your rifle even when you are tired and hungry, it will not remain “clean and ready“. You cannot “fire [your] rifle true” if you do not have the discipline enough to keep it within arms reach for when you need it.

The other mental attribute is knowledge. Knowing your rifle’s “weaknesses, its strength, its parts, its accessories, its sights and its barrel” will enable you to make full use of it’s capabilities to protect your life.

Humanizing the Rifle

This is where the creed truly stands out. By anthropomorphizing the rifle, the creed describes a close, almost spiritual bond between rifleman and rifle.

At first the rifleman refers to his rifle as his “best friend.” This is an understandable place to start since the rifle and the rifleman work together towards the same goal. The iconic third line begins; “My rifle, without me, is useless. Without my rifle, I am useless.” The rifleman and his rifle must be inseparable, for they need each other to survive.

This relationship deepens to the level of “as a brother” as the rifleman describes how he will learn as much as he can about his rifle. As comrades in arms working towards the same goal, the bond between the two strengthens deeper than simple friendship. The rifleman would never abandon his rifle on the battlefield just as he would never abandon a fellow Marine.

Finally, the rifleman goes so far as to say that he and his rifle “become part of each other.” This is where the meld between man and weapon is complete. The rifleman must become so skilled with his rifle that he no longer carries it, it becomes an extension of his body. This is the apex of proficiency that every rifleman should strive for.

The rifleman summarizes by citing the end goal of this relationship. “My rifle and myself are the defenders of my country. We are the masters of our enemy. We are the saviors of my life.

The Creed and You

It should be clear at this point just how invaluable the Rifleman’s Creed is to the nurturing of a warrior’s spirit, even if you are not of the profession of arms as I have been. If you read it through, and I mean really read it and take it to heart, you can begin to adopt the attitude necessary to drive you down the path to tactical proficiency. You will recognize that being skilled with your rifle is not only a virtue, it is a duty. A duty to yourself and those you seek to protect. And knowing this, you will be motivated to train just a little bit harder, and become a little bit more dangerous every day. That is the power of warrior ethos.

So be it, until victory is America’s and there is no enemy, but peace!!

Guardian Angel; The Covert Overwatch Position

The concept of a “guardian angel” was taught to me by the Marine Corps very early in my career, and I had the opportunity to observe its use in many different contexts. While the idea of an overwatch position is not a uniquely Marine concept, I believe that the Corps’ take on the subject merits its own article. In this article I will lay out what a Guardian Angel is, when it should be used, and lay out some guidelines for practical application of this tactic.

Guardian Angel defined

The Marine Corps defines a Guardian Angel as a covert overwatch position, unseen by the enemy, as a force protection tool. Some characteristics of a Guardian Angel are listed below:

  • The Guardian Angel is employed to protect an exposed element. The protected element can be combatant or noncombatant, offensive or defensive, static or mobile.
  • He may be armed or unarmed.
  • If unarmed, he must be in a position to provide early warning to the protected element.
  • If armed, he must be positioned such that he can engage a hostile force without endangering the protected element (normally from an elevated position).
  • He must be hidden from the enemy and adopt an ambush mentality.
  • Multiple Guardian Angels may be used at once, preferably in separate locations for maximum coverage.

Why Covert Overwatch?

The most important aspect of a Guardian Angel is that he must be hidden. This is because an enemy determined to attack you will not be deterred by an overwatch position, he will only plan to evade or neutralize it. It is far preferable for your overwatch to surprise the enemy and foil their plans once they are already committed to their actions. Even better if they are equipped with a suppressor and can remain hidden even while firing. Seeing yet unseen, extending an invisible hand of protection over a vulnerable element. A true physical manifestation of a Guardian Angel.

When to use a Guardian Angel

Ideally, our entire force would be concealed from the enemy. Unfortunately, there are certain situations where this is not possible or even desirable. When we are forced to expose part or all of our force, a Guardian Angel can provide early warning and direct support in the form of precision rifle fire. The presence of one hidden rifleman firing well-aimed shots can turn the tide of a gunfight in a hurry if he is positioned correctly.

The following are some examples of situations where a Guardian Angel would be valuable for force protection:

  • Defensive operations (homestead, base, critical infrastructure)
  • Manning vehicle checkpoints
  • Meetings with people outside your group
  • On patrol when you must bound across an open danger area
  • Any gathering of civilians when there is a threat of an outside attack
A meeting between group representatives is a perfect example of when you must be partially exposed, and may desire a Guardian Angel to keep a watchful eye over you.

How to emplace a Guardian Angel

Location is key when employing a Guardian Angel. I will summarize the considerations using the military acronym OCOKA for terrain analysis.

  • Observation; The Guardian Angel must be positioned so that he can observe both the protected element and potential avenues of approach for hostiles. He should also be positioned so that friendlies are not in his line of fire. Elevated positions are ideal for this.
  • Cover and Concealment; The position must provide at a minimum sufficient concealment to hide the Guardian Angel from enemy observation. Ideally, it would also provide cover from incoming fire and hide the muzzle flash of the shooter.
    • Alternatively, if your Guardian Angel is unarmed providing early warning only, concealment could simply mean blending in with the local populace grey man style.
  • Obstacles affecting movement; If possible, the Guardian Angel position should have obstacles in place to prevent his being maneuvered upon if he is detected. That said, emplacing overt obstacles around him (such as barbed wire) risks compromising his location. Thus, it is best to use natural obstacles (such as ditches, fences, and bodies of water) that are already in place.
  • Key terrain; The Guardian Angel should avoid key terrain that is too obviously dominant of the surrounding terrain because this is where the enemy will look for him. Examples include church steeples and roofs of buildings.
  • Avenues of approach; The Guardian Angel should be mindful of all avenues of approach to his position. In case his position is compromised, at least one escape route should be planned. In buildings, he should be no higher than the second floor in order to avoid being trapped upstairs. Worst case scenario, you can drop down from a second story window without breaking anything if you know how to land.

It is also critical that the Guardian Angel have communications with the protected element. If the protected element is a civil gathering/meeting of non-combatants, he must have communications with a security force on the ground with the protected element.

Church towers, despite what you see in movies, make terrible sniper hides. It’s the first place you look for a sniper and there’s only one way out if you need to escape.

Summary

As you can see, the Guardian Angel is a simple concept that can be incredibly effective when properly employed. One final note I want to leave here is to know the capabilities of the man that you will use as a Guardian Angel. If the furthest he is confident shooting is 200m, it would be foolish to place him 400m away from the protected element. If the Guardian Angel is a constantly manned post (such as in a defensive perimeter), bear in mind that you will be rotating men through the position, and that you must consider the skill levels of each one. Know your people and ensure that they are trained.

Stay dangerous, gentlemen.