Tactical Movement in a Post-TEOTWAWKI World

Saturday, Nov 27, 2010

One of the most inevitable situations that you will find yourself in a WTSHTF situation is moving across a landscape of some kind. In the Army we always move with a “battle buddy” and of course a weapon. As I suggest both, this is not always the case. Having someone to help you and watch your back is great, especially if they are military trained. In a WTSHTF scenario, a weapon (with ammo) is priceless. What else is priceless is the knowledge of how to keep yourself alive. We will explore each avenue and its risks.

The first part of no-foot movement is being prepared for movement beforehand. Things such as food, water, weapons, ammo and rest. Rest may seem not so important but when going the distance it’s best to be well rested. They give us a rest day the day before a physical training (PT) test in the Army, this is no different. Your life may depend on having a “full tank”. My sergeants may deprive me of sleep from time to time but allow us to be fully rested before a long movement. You should not even attempt a movement without the things listed above, especially water. Never scrimp on water. Dehydration is your worst enemy. When dehydrated you become lethargic and not at peak readiness. Remember that if you are thirsty, you are already dehydrated.

Food with a high calorie count and a good amount of protein is also a must. When in long distance movement you burn plenty of calories, especially if carrying a load on your back. In basic training they were easily marching us six miles a day in full battle rattle with IBA and a 40 pound loaded rucksack. Even eating calorie-packed MREs with thousands of calories I was losing weight rapidly. When on long movements you are asking a lot of your body, you must give it what it needs. Which are food, water and rest. Each adult per day will need a minimum of two quarts on a long haul. This is water you must take with you, not get from a stream you might find along the way. Also remember that parasites live in water sources. So filter it or boil it first before drinking. When planning for your movement remember to pack light. Unless you plan on a permanent move from place to place you’ll want to take just what you’ll need.

When preparing for movement you must also be prepared for Mother Nature. If the weather turns nasty you better have some wet weather gear for the downpour. Depending on your location weather can change rapidly. What was mild weather can turn freezing cold in a matter of a few hours. Items such as polypros or even long underwear can mean the difference between life and death by pneumonia. Trust me pneumonia is not fun even with good medical treatment. Imagine life after WTSHTF where antibiotics are not so easy to find. Save yourself some trouble and pack for preparedness sake. Along with your polypros you will need overnight shelter on multi-day trips. Do not assume you will just “rough it” under the stars. Unless you have a watertight Gore-Tex sleeping bag I suggest a pup tent, preferably something that doesn’t stick out like pink or orange. Olive drab green tents are readily available and priceless in a situation where keeping your head down is best. When having your little camp out make sure that an armed member of your group is always on watch. The best time to attack is when your prey is asleep. It is up to you whether you want to make alarms such as tin cans hung in a group attached to a tripwire made of 550 cord. But always have a guard on watch. If you group is quite large I would suggest two. Yes, battle buddies again. Keep your camp quiet and fire free. You can see a fire miles away. Keep flashlight usage to an absolute minimum.

So you need to move across some terrain alone? Don’t move alone. I need to affirm that into you. Battle buddies are best. Well according to this scenario, you have no choice but to go all Lone Ranger, no Tonto here. Moving alone is the easiest and quite dangerous. The bright side is you only have to worry about your actions and sounds produced by those actions. The bad side is it’s just you. If it goes bad it could go really bad. So while moving alone you need form an objective, then stick to it. Do not deviate from your objective. Doing so may end your journey badly. While moving watch your feet and their placement closely, but you must keep situational awareness high. Keep your weapon at the “near ready” position. Near ready position means keep it slung in front of you with the buttstock lightly pressed to the area between your shoulder and pectoral muscle. You then keep your weapon slightly elevated making it easier to put someone in your sights quickly. Keep your footsteps light and refrain from running or moving quickly. Taking your time will allow you to scan your environment for problems. Don’t forget there will be people in the WTSHTF time that are scum and won’t think twice about killing you all by yourself out there and then taking what they want. Be very careful.

Like I said moving with a battle buddy is preferable, but a small group can be a good thing. You may make more noise and be more easily seen but you may look like too big or dangerous to attack.  In moving from one location to another it is usually best to take the shortest route. Taking the shortest route can result in a very bad situation. If you have to make your journey longer, even over rougher terrain, it will be worth it. In the Army we never take the path of least resistance because the bad guys prey on the weak and easy targets. Try to go around questionable areas if able. When in movement your group will need a person at “point” to be the first to see any danger. The point man should have a reliable weapon with a scope or at least a pair of binoculars.  You will also need a person in the rear to watch for people stalking your group. Everyone after the point man should be staggered with 3 to 5 meter intervals. If it’s just you and a battle buddy keep 10 to 15 feet between you. Why, you may ask? Some people will shoot first and rob your dead body later. It is better to space yourselves out to reduce the risk of more causalities.

If you have an unusually large group, try to stagger yourselves in two lines with the same spacing, a column formation. Keeping your intervals is very important. I’m not sure how many times I’ve been corrected by my sergeants to “maintain proper intervals”. Keeping your intervals will space out your enemies’ targets and allows the unengaged rear part of your formation to swing around, move forward in a line and engage the enemy. Now I’m sure not everyone in your group will be as armed as a US soldier on a patrol in a hostile area. That means you need to space out the people with weapons into the group. Now I know you’d want to put all of the firepower in the front but please resist this urge. The spacing should be 40/20/40. Which means 40% of your firepower in front, 40% in the rear and 20% in the middle. Don’t have that much weaponry? Just make it 50/50 then.  Make sure that you have a good marksman in the front with a weapon that carries some distance, with accuracy.

When moving in a group and trying to evade detection, I do not recommend either Wedge or V formations as they are tactical formations used to cover a wider area to lay down fire. As survival may hinge on evading detection I suggest Line formation for groups of 3 to 4, and Column formation for 5 or more.

As the US Army does during movement through hostile terrain, Noise, Trash and Light discipline needs to be maintained. Noise discipline is basically staying quiet. No unnecessary talking, radio communication or other noises that rouse interest to your party. Again, watch your foot noise. Have the choice between dry brush and leaves or a rocky area it’s a no brainer which will cause less noise.

Trash discipline is important if you will be in movement for a long period and don’t want anyone to know that you’ve been there. Trash left behind will tell them how many people are in your party and other intel. Such intel can give ages and experience. For example: if the coffee from your MRE is not used this will tell them that the previous owner was probably a younger person, as younger people don’t consume field ration coffee. You can either take your trash with you or bury it well. Burning is not suggested as that would be breaking light and odor discipline.

Light discipline is very important at night. While I do suggest movement at night, light should only be used sparingly and under concealment. While in a hostile environment no fires. It may be tempting to start a fire, especially in a colder location. A fire will blind you from movement as your eyes will not be adjusted to the darkness. They have the perfect opportunity to sneak up on you and take what they want by force. If you want heat I suggest heating packs or heating pouches from an MRE. Be careful with the MRE heater, they can really burn you.

When you have a small group it is plausible to sleep during the day in shifts, in trees if available. During the Vietnam war, Army and Marine recon units, would sometimes sleep in the trees and move at night. These brave men, hopelessly outnumbered, would watch as massive numbers of NVA would walk under them. If you have to walk a long distance this might be optimal while in a wooded location. In an urban location you can bed down for the day taking shelter in a semi-truck trailer, rail cars or anything out of the way from people you’d rather not meet. When moving in a group it is massively important that you not split up. If engaged larger numbers will always help you. Onesies twosies are easier to be picked off. In a WTSHTF world people will do anything, lures and bait are not unheard of. The Taliban in Afghanistan use them all the time to get coalition forces where they want them. People use ingenious methods to attract prey, and never forget that’s what you are to them. A child all alone in a strange place may seem to be a horrible thing, but she could just be a lure to bring you in. As horrible as it seems you may have to ignore such things to keep your group alive. Following these simple steps will make the different between getting to where you are going and winding up murdered, stripped of valuables and left to the wild for predation.

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