Since the War in Afghanistan and Iraq began, we have seen a multitude of different “insurgent” tactics come to light, the most notable (and deadly) ones being the use of the IED and VBIED (Vehicle Born IED’s) in ambushes, booby-traps and suicide attacks. But as far as actual ground tactics the enemy uses, there has been very little input from soldiers in the field. This is most likely because the typical insurgent has no “tactics” to speak of and if they do, they are typically sloppily executed. This does not always mean however that insurgents in both theaters of combat have not been successful in their attacks, as I am sure many veterans can attest.
One of the cornerstones of Insurgent or Guerilla Warfare is the ability of the fighter to not be easily identified and be able to “blend” in with the populace. This can be seen very clearly in the fight against the Taliban. A tactic the insurgents have developed to exploit this advantage is the “hide and glide” where weapons are cached in certain “convenient” areas and when coalition troops pass by, the insurgents then proceed to open fire on the troops (either by a one man sniper attack or a semi-coordinated ambush) the insurgents then re-hide the weapon and blend in with the locals. As a Counter-measure, very often U.S. Patrols will single out, search and if needed, detain “fighting age” males (typically ages 16-45) when entering populated areas because of this. This may seem like a trivial way to fight a war and insignificant in the big scheme of things, but if the insurgents can inflict at least one casualty a day, that is one more soldier or “infidel” not fighting them.
We have to understand that Guerilla warfare depends mostly on the insurgents ability to be able to constantly “harass” the enemy and to wear them down mentally. Since its inception, this breed of war has always been about attrition rather than outright victories on the conventional battlefield. As in Vietnam, the enemy knows that the more soldiers who come home in coffins, the less popular the war will be at home, and in doing so, will create political pressure to end the war.
The CO therefore can learn two primary skill-set’s from this example:
Weapons Caching has 3 primary benefits:
- To keep weapons, ammo and supplies hidden and out of enemy hands
- To keep weapons from having to be carried on the person. Very often, CID (counter-insurgency doctrine) will dictate multiple security checkpoints that require full body searches. This is done to restrict freedom of movement and the transport of arms.
- To offer a tactical advantage in combat operations, specifically ambushes, as we have already shown.
There are a variety of ways to “cache” weapons, the most fundamental of course is hiding several weapons intact in several different unorthodox locations. As mentioned above, this is the obvious solution to counter-insurgency doctrine that seeks to LIMIT the freedom of movement of insurgents, thereby limiting them from transporting arms on their person or in large shipments.The other method is to hide weapons is in pieces at several different locations. In other words, the barrel in one place, the receiver in another, etc. The IRA and the PLO operated in this fashion for many years. This may appear goofy at first glance and very impractical, but we have to remember that during these conflicts, the penalty for just possessing a firearm was death, so great care had to be taken to ensure the weapon could be hid well.
Another layer of protection groups like the IRA practiced was “compartmentalizing” each task of an operation so only a unified team could complete the task assigned. A typical team consisted of the driver, shooter, surveillance man and the quartermaster. The driver knew the destination, the shooter, the target, the surveillance man, all pertinent intel such as the layout of the ambush site, escape routes, police/military patrol schedules, The target’s habits and routines, etc. Finally, the “quartermaster” was in charge of dismantling, packing and hiding the firearm parts accordingly. He and he alone knew where the gun parts were hidden.
Becoming The “Gray Man”
Not drawing attention to oneself through his actions or his clothing is often considered by many in the “survivalist” world to be one of the key skills to extending life in a hostile world. Besides giving the CO the edge in terms of tactical surprise, when we consider how this meshes with the “Hide and Glide” this is definitely a skill-set the CO needs to have in his tool box.
One of the key ways to “blend” with the crowd and not create any STIMULUS (ie to draw attention to oneself and your actions) is for the CO to SANITIZE their wardrobe.
- Avoid “tacti-cool” clothing that screams GUN NUT!
- Avoiding any logo type clothing which may instigate a conversation (NRA, Sports Teams)
- Avoid camouflage or military type clothing, including unit insignias
- Avoid wearing combat boots
- Avoid any jewelry that is distinctly military (dog tags, class rings)
I am not going to get mired down in what type of clothing the CO should wear, but suffice to say that everyday, age appropriate, conservative type clothing is best. To qualify this point, I can remember one time coming back home from a hunting trip and me and 3 other friends got stopped for speeding. I was driving, it was late and everybody including myself were still in our hunting camo. After taking my license and insurance, the officer immediately asked “Do you have any guns in the vehicle?” Now this is not to say after the typical “drug interdiction” questioning officers ask (we were on a major interstate late at night) such as “Where you coming from?” and “Where are you going?” the officer after deducing we were hunters, would not have asked about guns, but camouflage is a big red flag the CO can avoid if he wants to go “gray”.
Conducting some preliminary recon and scouting of the area to know what specific types of people and clothing will be around is a good ideal. For example, is there any construction going on near the AO? If so, men with hard hats and safety vest may be a common sight in the area, and common is good. For you history and conspiracy buffs, you will remember the Kennedy Assassination, and how it was theorized that several teams of shooters were placed at key point along the parade route. One of these teams was placed directly behind the “grassy knoll” area where there was a rail yard. Eyewitnesses remember a group of “railroad workers” by the fence where the fatal head shot came from. Coincidence? The jury is still out on that one.
The other concern is not having any incriminating evidence on you (or your vehicle) in the event you are stopped and searched by authorities. Most people would think since you do not have the gun, you would be in the clear, but this is false. When one thinks of evidence of a crime, one automatically things of HARD, PHYSICAL evidence, such as a weapon, ammunition cartridge casings or any equipment that could have been used to commit the said crime (such as a burglary suspect having a lock-picking kit, gloves, etc.). It goes without saying that properly disposing of these things are necessary and have to be done properly, but in the era of forensics and DNA you have to be smarter and go deeper to cover your tracks.
The IRA and the PIRA (Provisional IRA) prosecuted most of their attacks against British Military and Law Enforcement through Static and Mobile Sniper Hides. As the British got more aware to these tactics, the shooters had to get more and more creative in how they covered their tracks, in the book Fry the Brain (pp. 9-19) John West goes into great detail how a PIRA sniper detachment executed a “Hide and Glide” operation and the forensic precautions they took to avoid being caught. The following were the items listed in the “cleaner” bag the detachment had.
- Cheap plastic raincoat or nomex suit to provide outer barrier
- Leather gloves over Latex gloves
- Nylon Balaclava followed by a female nylon stocking on top to seal against gunpowder contamination
- Alcohol wipes to clean forehead, face, neck and hands of gunpowder residue
- Q-Tips moistened with alcohol to clean ears and nostrils of gunpowder residue
It should be mentioned that great care should be taken for these items to not be discovered prior to of after the event has taken place (burn them!). Just like a cop finding burglary tools during a traffic stop, it kind of shows your intent!
In next week’s installment we will discuss the actual planning and execution of the Insurgent Ambush and show some practical applications for the CO.
Until then, Stay Frosty, Stay Armed and Stay Dangerous!