Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Saddling Up

So, a friend of mine posited the question, what would you have to do if you had to saddle up again; by which he meant you had to make a deployment, irregular or regular. What would you take with you, if you had a choice.

Assume two scenarios:

One: just you, any choice of weapons legally available to you within the means of a normal man (lt's say middle class to upper middle class) dedicating his entire financial worth to this project.

Two: You, and 3-7 other guys (for 4-8 total), presume limited availability of military hardware; such as security contracting companies have access to. Anything that's on the commercial market is fair game.

Presume you have time to train and condition, with the hardware you acquire, together as a team, before you have to deploy.

Those specific parameters are mine, not his; I chose them as seemingly reasonable for an excercise of this type.

He also posits a mission: After you have trained up, while awaiting deployment, your wife and daughter are trapped in central Mexico by a local "revolucion". They are in sometime communication, and are not being held by revolucionaries; but they will not be able to exit the area without armed escort, and possible direct force.

There have been border skirmishes between U.S. and Mexican troops and/or irregulars; and no governmental agency is willing or able to get them out (you could transpose this same situation to other AO).

Who and what do you do it with?

I'm game for this; could be fun eh.

Ok, first scenario, just me.

Primary weapon: Smith EBR M14 conversion, sage system, night force and an acog on QD mounts, plus BUIS, and an M6 (the big one, not the little one) on the rail with a QD. IR laser on the rail. A conversion sling (2 point, 3 point, 4 point switchable with QDs), and an LWS suppressor on a QD.

Sidearm: HK USP tactical, gemtech or LWS suppressor, M6 combo light with the IR laser.

10 spare M-14 mags (1 in the rifle), loaded up with 180gr Sierra Match King, and pouches. 4 spare mags for the USP (plus one in the pistol), 230gr .45 +p+/super hornady XTP loaded to just barely subsonic, with pouches.

Pop for a PVS7 (about 5 grand last I checked), or PVS14, a Dragon Skin, and a Blackhawk LBE setup, with a back frame (to lash the backup to, among other things), ass pack, and assault ruck with a 2 gallon hydration bladder.

Gerber multipro with toolkit, swamp rat camp tramp, a good set of dikes, a multi driver tool. a decent field spares kit with 2 of every pin, clip and spring, and a good cleaning kit with a couple punches.

20m braided spectrashield sheathed line, and 50m 550 cord, anchors, descenders, ‘biners. 50 zip ties of assorted sizes, 10 bungies of assorted size, 2 medium rolls hun-tape, 1 roll heat shrink electrical tape. 12 assorted cyalumes, pen pop flares, mini flares, two micro strobes, and 4 small personal lights. 2 full spare sets of batteries for everything. Baby wipes, simple green wipes (there are alcohol wipes and betadine wipes in the EFS kit), a bicycle inner tube, superglue, extra heavy duty aluminum foil, some microfiber cloth, baggies bags, rubbers or heavy duty baloons, clear nail polish, q-tips, some pencils WITH erasers, needles and thread (other than in the med gear), spool of fine safety wire, Lighter fluid (the ronsonol kind) or another flammable solvent, a half dozen disposable cigarette lighters, and a zippo

I can think of about a million little things that you’d absolutely kill for when you need’em, and you need’em more often than you’d think.

I’ll leave out the details of nav, comm, med gear, and food; suffice it to say I won’t go anywhere without an EFS kit, a double stuffed trauma pack plus SAM splints, my serious meds kit, a solid GPS, 2 short range comms and a long range comm plus spares (the choice varies depending on mission requirements, and support), and 5 days of minimally decent high calorie field food, plus about 15 energy bars, and 20 packets of gatorade.

Total load out, about 100 lbs including the weight of the food, water, LBE, sack, pack, and armor; most of which I had at one time, and had no problem with for short hauls (meaning less than 10 miles. You can generally handle about 1/3 your body weight for extended periods of time, and a lot of that weight is in consumables). Of course I’ll need a year to get back to where I can do it again, and I’ll need two solid knee braces, and a solid collapsible walking staff (cold steel and others make good weaponised examples).

Then give me a good 4x4 ATV, with a backrest pack setup, and front and rear rack setups; loaded up with ammo (say another 10 mags for the M-14), a shotgun as below, fuel, water, and spares... oh and a field genset, storage battery, a winch, a compressor, and another longer range com with a longwire setup. Seal the tires up with green slime. Give me a field bivvy with a breakup net over it for me and the quad. I may need to worry about transporting the rescuees back, so maybe throw in a trailer.

Another option would be a disguised 4x4. Stick all your Mil gear in with old tools, regular camping gear, etc.. and strap various items to undercarriage or under bodywork.

If I can pick out 3-7 other guys, things change completely. I’ve based this on hardware I own or can easily acquire, legally, within the next few months. If I have access to military hardware things change substantially, but not completely.

I’m thinking of a 500 mile infil-exfil corridor here, from between brownsville and mission (holes a mile wide down there) and northern Ouaxaca; we’d never be able to do it on foot.

One guy with an ATV could cover that in a few days, but four or six guys in an obvious off roader or two (especially if we could mix a woman or two into the op) would be better.

If it were stable enough for regular border traffic to continue, I’d want to smuggle the gear in and cache it overnight, then cross at a regular crossing with the proper tourist permits etc…

You’d be surprised at how much crap you can conceal and disguise on a couple of off road rigs; especially if you take lots of bribing cash.

Second situation, you have backup. Now, I said if I had otherguys things changed completely, and I meant it. Let’s explore that here.

First step, training. I need guys who do not quit, ever, no matter what. A man is never defeated until he concedes defeat to himself. I know some folks who’ll do.

Assume 4 man team total (the most likely scenario actually, and the easiest to insert and support) including myself. Everybody crosstrains on comms, and medical; with two specialists in both (I’m well qualified in either, but I could use an update on both). Everybody crosstrains on demo, with two specialists. Everybody crosstrains in basic vehicle maintenance. Everybody crosstrains on basic spanish (or the language of choice for the AO), with two specialists. Everybody crosstrains on navigation. I want two fixed wing pilots (I’m one), and two rotorheads if I can get them.

Physical conditioning. Runs are great for young guys, but don’t do much for knock knees like me. I can walk all day if I have to (it hurts, but I can do it). I can walk for four hours with my 50lb little girl on my back, but I can’t run for five minutes even when I get my fat ass back down to fighting weight, or my knees will collapse. That means hiking, in mixed terrain and hot weather, with field loads, in good boots. Minimum 5 miles per day, up to 20 miles per day. Bicycling, and circuit training for strength and endurance. Good supplemental regimen in place.

Gear loadout is a bit different. Still presuming no access to non-civvy gear, I change the mix up some. Everybody gets substantially the same personal gear I mentioned, but the doubled items get cut down to one per person, and some of the single items get cut down to two for the whole team. For example I’d mix it up with One heavy med kit, one medium kit (and two personal kits of course) the guys not carrying the big meds haul extra ammo, food, and water; along with 5ks each of commercial plastic explosives, and detonators; and some civvy flashbangs.

With 4 guys, I change out the weapons a bit. First thing, we all get the same primary weapon, but in different configurations. 7.62X39 ARs, with an AK magwell and a piston upper (I just don’t like the AK). Two configured as entry guns, two as DM rifles. Yes, the round is marginal for DM use, but I want to be able to “field resupply” if possible.

Second, two shotguns as secondary weapons: SBS mossy 590 with the Knoxx CopStock folder, a breacher standoff, side saddle, surefire forend (cut to clear), a ghost ring setup, and an IR laser. Fold the stock and lash it to the pack frame. 20 reduced recoil 00 buck shells, 10 hornady SST slugs, and 5 breachers, plus pouches..

Third, we change the pistols to 9mm, again for field resupply. I think I’d stay with the USP, but switch to the 9mm version; and an extended threaded barrel. Otherwise a Sig P226, same type of barrel.

Why the emphasis on field resupply with 4 when I went all out on power with 1? Because with one guy operating alone, I’m doing every single possible thing I can do to avoid ever having to use ANY of my ammo; and I may be able to get away with it. With 4 guys, the liklihood of getting into an extended firefight of some kind is much higher, as is the lilihood of needing to provide suppressive fire etc…

Also, everyone still gets two short range comms, but there are only two long range comms in the personal packs total.

We organize as mutually supporting pairs; one entry gun with one DM gun; and those pairs never have both pilots, both medics, both linguists etc.. if possible. We designate a commander, an XO, one primary RTO, and one primary medic, with their alternates.

If we get six guys, the equation changes a bit more. I still like the weapons mix, but with six, I really need some heavier weapons. At that point I have to have an LMG of some kind (with an SMG, or assault carbine as a secondary weapon), and one of the guys should have a long boltie in something heavy, maybe a .338. Also, with six or more, I need at least two ‘naders, and some personal frags, and some flashbangs. The infrastructure load out is spread out more, but we still maintain double coverage on all items and specialties. Instead of six atvs we go to two custom jeeps, or land rover defenders.

Organizationally, we remaing in mutually supporting pairs, with a pair designated to remain as ready reserve consisting of the tactical commander, and a designated medic, who is also a reserve radio operator. We also designate an XO, an alternate medic, and an alternate RTO as with 4.

Eight is the maximum I’d want for something like this, and again we’d spread the infrastructure load out, but instead of double coverage on critical items, we go to triple coverage. At this point I want an MMG/GPMG for each vehicle. Also, we can change calibers back to standard if so desired because we can carry enough weight of metal with us that I’m not as worried about field resupply.

Some organizational notes on 8 people: At this level we organize into two fireteams of two mutually supporting pairs each team. Also, at this point we designate an S2, S3, and S4, and their assistants; as well as a designated medic, two alternates, the tactical commander and XO (the XO is probably the S3), and a dedicated RTO and two alternates.

Funny enough, all of this is still civvy legal in the US, but expensive as all hell. Honestly, if I had to do this without legal access to military hardware here in the U.S. I’d train up and gear up with everything but the mil weapons, then head down to the CZ and pick up what I need there.

Now, reader Ross posits a different scenario. It's Tuesday, you get notice of the problem today; you have til Friday to infil and make the grab, and say the rest of the weekend to exfil until the excrement is throroughly splattered by the rotating ventilation device.

Scenario three:

You have no budget but what is in your bank account (presume appx $5000), and no resources excepting what you have, or can scrounge from friends in that time.

Ok, that's a pretty good scenario.

One problem in applying it to me: If it ever came down to life or death, I have friends who can get me almost anything I need from the list above within a couple days. Of course I'm still fat and out of shape, and don't have time to train or build a team... but I've still got some of those friends I mention, and not only would they be willing to go with me, but I couldn't stop them if I wanted to.

But, let's presume for sake of argument we are talking about J. Random Gun Nut.

Now, assuming no budget but what you have in the bank, and no friends to acquire from or use for your team, THATs a more serious limitation; but you can get everything but the night vision and the ATV pretty easily and quickly, even with just the cash in your bank account.

I cut the load by about 50%, and pick up a used but reliable beater 4x4 or something similar. My primary weapon becomes an AK variant, with an ultimak, a folder, and an eotech; and I pick up the cheapest gen 3 viewer I can find. I stick everything in like regular camping and off roading gear and come in on a regular tourist permit as described above. If I can't get the toursit permit because of the hostilities, it's still pretty much trivially easy to get into mexico (I've done it on ATVs and dirtbikes a bunch of times).

If I can get three to five solid guys to go with me (and I know I can), and they can use their budget as well, I can still do the two 4x4 gig; and there are a couple of women I know who I'd want to ring along. They're both great backup, and great cover.

Now, heres a curveball for you; presume you have access to a boat in brownsville, that is large enough to take you across to the central mexican coast, with 4 ATV's. Have one guy offshore, running comms for you, and coming in for extraction; how does that change the equation?

UPDATE: Clarified the original mission, training, equipment parameters etc... and added the section about an "instant" mission.