After Action Report — CWG Swift Fox 19 FTX, 12 - 14 April 2019, Wyandotte OK
About once a year, in addition to a few other training events, CWG puts on an Open Enrollment FTX. This used to be actually posted in the training events (with mod approval). But yes, we mostly use airsoft as our simulation system.
Now, I have probably as many trigger pulls on blanks (and most of those with MILES on the end of the gun), a handful on UTM, some paintball, and a decent bit of saying "bang bang!" So please don't think it's just some airsoft game. We use airsoft for cost, availability, broader simulation options (grenade launchers, hand grenades...) and safety. And since shooting is not the primary function of the exercise, it's hard to justify overhead safety, cost, and student expense on it. So, airsoft made some people here question the value of it, so instead of arguing with everyone — despite continued official support — I withdrew the posting. That's why you probably have never heard of it.
Anyway, it is an FTX. Fully field time the whole time. Three days, two nights. Not you alone, but as a team with a CoC and objectives. And like any FTX, it is supposed to be sort of the culmination of your other training. In that regard I am posting this in the same manner as I put up my AAR for the Run-n-Gun; it is a test of tactics, equipment, and myself. Since I am often using stuff that we're talking about elsewhere (e.g. two of us rocked the DG-16 and there are some notes) and in the past have made perfectly good posts and articles regarding specific stuff like GITD tapes or ad hoc team briefing, this seems as a whole useful and relevant. If it helps, almost all participants are current or former military; a couple wore most/all of their work uniform, LBE, and PC for this. A few participants I know to be active LF.net members but they can skyline themselves if they wish.
If you disagree that this post has value... ignore it. Or argue I am a poseur in the responses. That's fine. Or, just scroll to the end to see the more interesting equipment-mostly fixes listed, and skip the narrative of action.
Note that while I also helped organize the event, because of the way the FTX works — with no dedicated exercise admin, instructors, etc — I also fully participated as the team leader. This is written from that POV.
For this event, I led a 4 man team performing a "Long Range Recon" for the entire planned 51 hours (3 days, 2 nights). There is no vehicle support, no reserves or attachments, and no mid-course resupply (we can go to a resupply point or aid station near the IP, or to the truck at EXFIL to get water, and other supplies if needed, but it's a long walk with steep hills, either way). All movement was planned to be with rucks on.
We had to zigzag across the entire area, which appears to be very small but is criss-crossed with roads and is very hilly so movement was expected to be slow to avoid detection and not be too tired to perform our mission.
A larger, vehicle-borne force is based in the AO somewhere. Our mission is to determine the strength, composition and disposition of the enemy force, and especially to locate their base of operations. We are supposedly aided in doing this by hitting a series of pre-determined points where activity has been seen or could be expected.
NOTE: Our maps for training usually, and here, have 100 m grids not 1000 m grids. Same MGRS coordinates as always, but less silly to use in the small, dense AO. Don't be confused and think we went 10 as far.
My summary of the planned route (taken from a longer, denser OPORD) and shown on the map above is as follows:
1. 1 SAW-TOOTH, 514709. IP — Supply
2. 2 CYPRESS, 51077085, ROAD INTERSECTIONS IN VALLEY S
3. WALNUT, 509707, ROAD AT CROSSING
4. CHINA, 50857057, AIRFIELD AND ROAD APPROACHES TO LUCALA
a. Radio in
5. DOG-WOOD, INTERSECTION IN 508701, Look at AIRPORT
6. ROUGH-LEAF, TRAIL ALONG THE SPUR IN 502699, VALLEY BEYOND AND 19 ROAD
7. LACE-BARK, 508699, look at LUCALA
a. Camp for night in deep valley around here
8. HACK-BERRY, 508697, Look at 15/22/27 ROAD, FORTIFICATIONS, BRIDGE.
a. Radio in
9. COFFEE, WEST SIDE OF THE HILL IN 511697
10. PINYON, VALLEY IN 513696 — Cross open area to get here!
11. RED-BUD, NEAR THE PONDS IN 515698
a. Camp for night behind ponds, in deepest woods
12. 2 SOAP-BERRY, INTSERSECTION IN 512690
a. Radio in
13. SHUMARD, 508693, ENTERING THE ABANDONED TOWN OF CALABAR
14. EXFIL — PINE, 498691
There was minor admin collusion; I and the enemy team leader could get on the other's net and call in as though an adjacent unit, then exchange coded info to check in. We used this occasionally for safety information, but also to check in at pre-planned points so that actions could be avoided or specifically happen; if we indeed hid successfully, it was arranged that mid-morning of TD3 the enemy would flood the area we were in to incite a fight, in order to more fully test out all our tactics and gear. For our part especially, this was interesting and new as we could not drop rucks as we're always previously taught, but fought from them to keep moving.
To better understand my ruck setup at least, you may enjoy reviewing this video I posted of it a week or so before the EX:
For our purposes, being just one person typing on their own vs a proper AAR with the whole team, I am just going to make this a narrative of the action.
This is the actual route taken, as recorded by my movement. It does not count scouting done by other elements. The dashed line is where I briefly forgot to turn on tracking the morning of TD3, but we know the route precisely there so it's fine. White dots are the two overnight stops.
And this is elevation, with a few gaps again cleaned up to make it contiguous and on the same scale. It is normalized to each "day" without being to the same actual horizontal scale of time OR mileage. TD 1 was in reality the longest, TD2 pretty long even with stops, and TD 3 only a half day. Also... pretty sure the steep climb on the last half of TD 3 is me riding in a vehicle to return to the AA so ignore every thing from there on (this movement is for sure NOT on the tracking map above).
Total distance traveled with rucks was only about 10 km (several more km on leaders recons, scouting ahead, etc.). In my youth I carried more weight, for much longer distances (sometimes over 20 miles a day) but not going straight up hills, through brambles and very slowly to avoid enemy detection, without listening halts sometimes every 30 m, and certainly not carrying a gun at the ready. And, my best days at that were over 30 years ago. Mad props to those who put down the serious mileage under these sorts of conditions. Way harder than I expected even having done a hell of a lot of hiking, and a decent bit of this sort of EX work and training.
I was tired but however... not especially sore. A few equipment-induced niggles (explained in the FIX section), and the sling practically cut my head off, but otherwise I am pretty solid and not broken by this. E.g. did great at the gym two days after getting back home.
I cannot speak entirely for others, but I was around 15-20 years older than the rest of my team and didn't seem to suck much worse than them, so there's that!
Friday — TD 1
Admin stuff having nothing to do with the team (so not in this public AAR) meant we were at peril of kicking off very late, only got our initial ammo issue and clearance to depart at about the scheduled 0900 departure. So, I assumed everything was good (I did no pre-deployment inspection, thought someone else had) and said we can do ammo loading in the field. We left around 0910, and were driven out by truck some distance away by a "National Police" driver in a Dodge pickup truck. Dropped our ready bags (backup gear, spare ammo and uniforms...) at the supply point, briefed on the aid station and safety contingencies, then continued to the IP.
I let us get dropped about 300 m short of the actual IP at POINT 1 SAW-TOOTH, 514709 since it would be hard for the truck to turn around, and is a flat, relatively wide valley with an old trail or goat-track. We loaded up, assured everyone's rucks fit and then used the flat, relatively safe hike to shake out things. Most went fine. As we moved the next few hundred yards, I opened orders and briefed on the mission specifics at listening halts, covered the movement plan, and actions on contact (fire, throw smoke and grenades, run away, gather at the last ERP).
We had not much trouble navigating across the high ground to POINT 2 CYPRESS, 51077085 but it was very brushy so hard to observe as was planned. Around here we admitted finally my radio was for shit, and after some planning made a decision to send two members (with rucks cached here) back to the supply point to get a new radio. To avoid loosing too much time, the other two (one of them me) would move past POINT 3 WALNUT, 509707and wait for them at or near POINT 4 CHINA, 50857057. The theory is, since we've moved through there, we can (if nothing happens) let them move through it somewhat less carefully so it's quicker and easier.
We had no real issues moving, the other team never came up on the radio but contingencies worked and we linked up at the last planned time anyway.
We continued along the valley to the south, and I began to be concerned there were simply too many objectives for day 1, especially with an unknown campsite to find. So, we continued down the valley to about (IIRC) the 700 northing, cached our packs in a bad but acceptable backup bivouac site, and sent one team to go to POINT 5 DOG-WOOD (near 508701) and POINT 7 LACE-BARK, 508699, to establish brief OPs, and the other team (including me) would hike a long ways to POINT 6 ROUGH-LEAF, to look into the valley.
We brought water and traded day sights for night vision, but it transpired that the movements were speedier than planned and we re-connected well before dark. My team found no enemy, and it was as on the hillside very dense so hard to observe as planned. The other team saw enemy vehicles, but the terrain was poor to observe so they hid and saw the tops of heads and cabs instead, but evaded detection so generally good results.
During our movement, we found a better campsite, near that loop of jeep trail between ROUGH LEAF and LACE-BARK. Despite being right on top of many roads, there were dense low trees across the area, and our only real fear was drones (which were not used ATT, so we escaped well there). One individual had no bivy and a partly bright colored sleep system so I was worried about drone observation, and it might have given us away had that come up.
We used mini lightsticks to mark the campsite, and I checked: despite being a christmas tree inside the campsite, it was invisible 10 m away. Enough that I went too far for a midnight pee and almost got lost!
Saturday — TD 2
Roads came up in the morning, and enemy vehicles drove right by our camp several times (possibly the same vehicle driving across all the roads, but audible only so who knows). Worried about, again, drone use, we packed carefully (to avoid exposing anything for more than a moment) as well as to keep an ear out, got our camo and hats on as quickly as we could, and moved out carefully.
Movement was steep getting back on track, as we've really learned by mid day TD1 that there are too many trails, and too many odd shaped hills; contouring and other attempted cleverness just leaves you turned around, taking long routes, and/or exposed to enemy. So, we started much more vigorously going pretty much straight where we need to go, up and down steep hills. It was hard at any individual moment, but cut down on total distance and kept us out of sight during this more road-dense, dangerous area. Most changes from straight azimuth were to get concealment, or go around the few truly impassable cliffs or brambles.
But otherwise, movement was really excessively easy today, and by 1000 we realized that we'd be done with our objectives by mid-day, so especially with rain planned, and to assure TD3 was not rushed, we decided to move forward and camp further on.
Movement to POINT 8 HACK-BERRY, 508697 was very open and worrisome, and we began to find some bunkers and abandoned buildings we had to clear. Radios or radio procedure failed again a few times so it was difficult to coordinate actions. At least once I had to go get the other team to explain where to move to next.
We had a snack at HACK-BERRY, and then crossed the roads to the east. Luckily no enemy appeared as it was much more open than expected, so our linear-danger-area crossing was almost 100 m of movement. To the east of this was a series of very deep valleys, and to avoid the out-of-bounds area we kept having to displace to the north.
As we took another rucks-off break in a patch of woods due north of Kasai, between the 28 and 30 roads, around POINT 9, COFFEE IN 511697. I became aware that one team member was Amber on water. Others were getting low as well, so I made an admin safety decision to let a two man element take all the empty canteens and sneak into a water spigot at the north end of town, without weapons or anything. We were not observed, and it went fine but: carry more water.
The crossing of the hard road 30 went poorly. No, no enemy found us, but the descent to it was steep and thorny so we got a bit tangled and were hanging out there far too long. We also crossed at a low point by some fences and difficult/impassable terrain, so had to move along the road a dozen yards, then climb back UP fairly open woods to get out of sight. This was harrowing and tiring.
Beyond this, after another rest, we reached the vicinity of POINT 10, PINYON, VALLEY IN 513696 without incident. The entire huge field was mowed, which meant we had to stick to the woodline, and the area around POINT 11, RED-BUD was rather awful. The ponds near 515698 were bright green, with some items dumped (e.g. tires), and the entire area was low so would be a flood danger.
Further recon showed that it was basically impossible to carry out the planned movement, in no small measure due to the mowed field; we could and did use the camber of the field a bit but crossing it low or crawling was impossible. So after I sent two forward to explore alternatives to the south and west, we moved out past the warehouse in 515 694, and then across the slightly treed fenceline to the reach of woods to the west. Around here rain started, but we'd all put on Gore Tex earlier as temps had dropped and wind picked up, plus: planning. So we had minimal pause to deal with the rain and change plan. I did not know it until later, but one team member had a water-resistant UK smock, not a waterproof garment, so was getting wet this whole time.
The terrain continued to be open, so the plan was to use microterrain and move from cover to cover — there were numerous stands of trees, abandoned vehicles, haybales, CONEX, etc. south-west across the "heliport" (helicopters do land there regularly and some of the structures mentioned support that, but it's highly exaggerated on the map. Not a helicopter base, no pavement, etc.) till we get to the trees, then make camp for the night, especially as the rain is picking up.
However, as we cross, I observe to our right an enemy vehicle as previously described to me from the TD 1 recon to point DOG-WOOD, parked against a building at the 17 road turn in 516 692. The enemy markings are even visible (yea to Leica glass, as this was subdued marks on a camouflaged vehicle through brush and rain at near 200 m!), so I have everyone hide where they can, and eventually we figure out we can use that cover to move directly away, ending up against the fenceline at the corner near SOAP BERRY.
We get back behind a brush pile, and set a shelter. I find now that the second small shelter we have is no such thing at all, just a poncho which is now loaned to the not-waterproof member of the team so he gets no wetter.
We wait there, observing periodically, repair and organize gear, I break out the alcohol burner and make some hot food for me and hot liquids for another. After a while, it becomes clear that this is a monsoon, so everyone is getting a bit wet and cold. The team member who went a while without a waterproof top also has jungle boots, and has cold feet. With no obvious ability to move to a place we can make a fire without being detected, and snow in the forecast, I decide to take him out of the event overnight. Another team member moves him and his gear 300 m north to the assembly area (the off-limits zone) where there is a heated building and we plan to retrieve him in the morning.
An hour or so after this, I do a reconnoiter and find that the fenceline to the west has a deeper treeline than expected, so we can move across it with some safety — also the enemy has not gone outside much and the rain obscures well as distance increases. We move along there to around 510 easting and attempt to put up a larger shelter. The shelter is just a Harbor Freight (or similar) tarp and begins having issues, and one of our team members is exhibiting some real signs of cold and wants to go to the warm area also. Loosing 50% and some team gear, I call it and move the entire team to the warm area overnight.
We coordinate with the enemy commander/admin and they are indeed in for the night due to rain, cold, and tiredness — they have bivouacked in a building, but a leaky, unheated one and their vehicles are mostly open-topped — so we won't miss anything or ruin the EX.
Sunday — TD 3
Day dawns (and stays) bright, clear, dry and breezy. Despite WX reports insisting that rain or even snow would last until mid-day, it was very nice and anyone residually damp was able to recover well. If we had spend the night in the woods, we would have had an opportunity to dry off and be pretty happy.
We contacted the enemy commander/admin to coordinate, and re-entered the EX around 0700. Due to the storm they had also been fairly hunkered down and were just now getting up to speed. We had to sneak a lot, which got everyone back into the EX mindset, but the enemy did not detect us even without being told to not look over there.
We moved deeply into the hilly wooded area along the southern edge of the AO, due south of the east edge of the town of Calabar (point SHUMARD), and had to clear a number of abandoned buildings and fortifications along the way. This was good training work, as we got to essentially practice doing it in pairs, with rucks on, and get used to not actually touching anything, moving quietly among the rubble, and keeping the other team in sight as we moved to each objective, with structures in the way.
We set a "bivouac" for about an hour of rest, listening, and breakfast, while we also planned the movement to the next objective so we would be less likely to be seen in what we could find now was a relatively more open area with dangerous visibility from enemy vehicle routes some distance off.
I used Dragon Fuel again to make hot breakfast and warm some liquid for coffee for others.
We then radioed in again to assure timing was lined up, and began moving towards POINT 13. SHUMARD, 508693. This was some bad bushwhacking. In an attempt to use terrain again to keep out of sight, I took us into a valley where we had to get through many thorn bushes for far too long. We heard vehicle noises, and made several stops so it took close to half an hour to move 120 m.
Navigation worked perfectly however and we ended up right where we wanted, near the intersection of 18 and 183 roads. Though the woods did get dense and once up on level ground we rather stumbled into being visible to the town. Radios failed again, as did hand signals, so I ended up rather stomping over to keep everyone from rolling into town not as a team.
The plan at this moment was to continue into town, then split with with two two-man teams moving from east to west, one near the 17 road, and one around 50 m south, parallel. We would not set an ERP but in the event of contact would move to each other and then move away as a full team.
Instead, halfway through me reiterating this plan, enemy vehicles rolled up on us, and we had to hide right where we were in a fairly open area (e.g. one dropped into a water-filled ditch), with a UAZ passing around 0935 without detecting despite passing no more than 10 ft from our forward elements, and then a Toyota passing appx 10 minutes later which did see us. A brief firefight occurred, where we broke contact as planned (much gunfire, smoke, grenades as available). We took one casualty, and since it was the medic we could not do anything about it, so left him behind. He had no sensitive items.
My MG failed because airsoft, and since it sorta fell apart, I gave up and abandoned it there. That in retrospect seems like a bad idea, but it is what I did.
All enemy in the Toyota appear to have been killed so we had some leeway, but other enemy vehicles began audibly moving to us, and shortly, drones were employed. We moved — partly on roads to get distance quickly — NW into the draw extending W from the town.
At this point, I decided we had not completed the mission so made everyone — to their strenuous objections — move back east to go to the town. We successfully entered town, found and inspected a large (2 story tall) unmapped fuel tank, took notes and photos, and left.
We moved back down the draw to the west, and appeared to have left their search grid behind, with vehicle noises and distant drones to the east still. We took a break to shed warmth layers in an area of dense cover (to avoid any drones or scouts on hills above) near the 505 easting. A few hundred yards further on, we climbed out of the shallowing valley heading NW to avoid ambushes at the end of what must by then be a rather obvious escape route. We began a road crossing, with one member of the team on the other side behind cover just south of the pond at the 17 and 19 road intersection when an enemy patrol came over the rise from the north.
The enemy stopped two vehicles with a number of troops right between our two groups, which were offset so it was an accidentally near-perfect ambush. I had previously taken a spare "40 mm grenade launcher" so I had a weapon other than my handgun, but it failed to fire because fucking airsoft, and I was shot several times by enemy from one of the vehicles. My remaining team members used rifle fire to kill most/all of the remaining enemy and disable their vehicles, then moved to the EXFIL point on their own.
POINT 14. EXFIL — PINE, 498691
ENDEX appx 1200 h.
Issues / Fixes
Again, since this was not a real team AAR process, this is simply a list of Improve/Sustain items, improperly mashing together the issues and fixes. Don't you go do this with your AARs! Do it right.
I also have a long list of things CWG is going to do to improve our setup, check-in, and other organization and administrative processes. But this is just the list of items that are directly relevant to me, and my patrol.
(If you want to do an AAR like this for yourself, to share or not, I must say my method this time worked great: As I unpacked, I took notes on everything, equipment and process, that came to mind for each item.)
Sustain — Drone defeat — In the past many have relatively freaked out about the ability of drones to see us, and how they are going to change the whole nature of warfare. However we've learned pretty quickly how to defeat them, and despite our movement and terrain meaning that the enemy stuck drones directly over us, with no overhead cover, they never, ever detected us.
However, most of the time we were defeating the drones we were trying to move, or actively running away and had to stop doing that until it went away.
So, we've also determined that, especially with larger forces (more drones, more maneuver elements to exploit) that they could be used like mobile mechanical obstacles; even if not detecting you, the defeat methods cause you to freeze, or to move around the observed area, so could be used to pin forces until found by ground forces, or redirect them into ambushes, minefields, and so on. See your FMs for how to use mechanical obstacles.
This is day sights and maybe digital night vision. TICs presumably change everything.
Sustain — Brief, brief, brief — Every time we stopped, every time we came to a risky place, we stopped and briefed. I do mean "we." I didn't just state what I wanted to do next, but we made sure to catch up, discuss what anyone had seen, heard, or if they needed to take a break or fix something.
But then, yes, I'd brief the next objective, the movement plan, reiterate actions on contact, and contingencies.
And really, not the next objective, but the next two or three. This was important for a lot of reasons. The terrain is so loopy and often open, it often gave everyone an opportunity to look onto (or hide from) the next probable enemy location, or even just to look at the approach so we had a better idea how to climb it or cross safely.
For the briefing generally, occasionally a team member wouldn't pay full attention and do the wrong thing but the rest of the team would catch them, because they all knew, not just the team leader.
Likewise, contingencies really mattered. Several times things didn't go as planned when we did a road crossing, or split the team and we had to fall back two or three levels in the plan. I was bad at remembering to set ERPs, but did it enough the rest of the team would remind me, or set them also.
Near the end, when I was killed, and it was a road crossing splitting the team, even though I had the map and orders, they had been briefed enough on plans and objectives they could complete the mission successfully from memory and their notes.
Sustain — Consistency — We only had a few tactics we used, over and over. So even though this is an ad hoc team, by the end of TD2 we were doing things like road crossings really well, hardly without talking about it. Note that for a badly outnumbered force the last action went pretty damned well because we'd discussed that it so many times and done so many road crossings without enemy, we were ready.
When changes were needed, I kept the same principle: for example, we had a plan to move into a sort of abandoned town area, as two parallel two man teams. Instead of a single ERP we run to on contact, for reasons of terrain and threat unknowns we decided the team with no contact would set in place on action by the other, acting as "the ERP" and once the contact team fell back to link up we'd all depart that direction (or make new plans as the situation dictated). Different, but in principle the team to make contact has the same immediate actions.
Sustain — Stop a lot — Sure, we moved slowly, but we could and were not discovered because we stopped all the time. Often, rucks off. Often, after only 100 m of movement. If it's up a steep hill after running across a road, and there's a good hide, take more time to rest before the next bit. Similarly, we took listening halts when there was enemy activity or other high risks as often as every 20 meters!
Sustain — Have contingencies, every time — Radios fail, the enemy gets a say. One plan is never enough. Have contingencies. We set ERPs, discussed alternatives when that wasn't likely to work, had meeting points and time hacks when we sent another team away or ahead to scout, and more.
For the radio retrieval this was critical. We got to the end of the contingencies before we re-connected. But the first two plans sure did fail us.
Improve — Be ready to change your mind — When we got trapped in the corner on TD2, then it was raining so much we had to hide under the shelter, the plan I made was to wait for dark to sneak out. But then everyone started getting cold and wet and it was 3 hours till EENT so I decided that we'd risk a day movement. It worked, and there were good, defensible reasons to try it (wx visibility, no enemy activity for 2 hours, looking again, better concealment to the move) but primarily I was happy I didn't get stuck, then or other times, in sticking to the first plan but was ready to re-evaluate and find a better solution.
IMPROVE because it took me too long to do this. I should not have spent two hours in the insufficient shelter before deciding that was dumb.
And even for our ad hoc team, I was The Leader so people didn't challenge my plans too much. You need to recognize that cultural issues can make that hard, and unless you challenge yourself or implement format CRM (et al) processes to get everyone's affirmative input, things can get lost in a spiral of confirmation bias.
Sustain — Safety first — It's a training event. The weather halt was the right choice, and no one briefed afterwards (enemy, training field owner, etc) seems to have thought it was even an option to stay out there.
Even if a real-world operation, we considered finding a shelter to break into, and might have been able to find an old school bus or chicken coop given a little more walking around; it wouldn't have been as good as the heated building, but better than a tarp alone. It would be risky, but keeping everyone healthy and operationally ready is critical.
Sustain — Composite Navigation — Basically what should always happen, but we really nailed it this time. Used map, compass, terrain association, pace count, GPS, and even an LRF. Never got lost. Most GPS was having the one team member with a wrist mounted unit say when we got to a phase line, then we'd turn to a new azimuth. Easy, and follows the old methods of distributing tasks to everyone very well.
I mostly used the wrist compass, since we had backup methods. Only pulled the MC1 to sight on a handful of things, mostly for intel gathering purposes (plotting locations) instead of navigation. The LRF combined nicely with this so I could avoid guessing or triangulating and just take an azimuth and distance, then move. Did that for the enemy vehicle sighting.
Only issue was one team member (don't ask why) used to the combloc style of map reading, did northing/easting so one time thought my coordinates were gibberish for a few minutes.
Improve — Pre-Deployment Checklist / PCI — We've slacked off on this, and people don't pay attention anyway so the first we see of most gear is in the field.
Normally, this works out. But for Ardea, with this weather, we got to the ends of our gear limits. Half the team probably would have been fine, but the other half had gear deficiencies, and team equipment (shelters) were not as good or prevalent as they needed to be. So, we got cold and wet and that wasn't going to work.
Sustain — Footwear / socks — Danner TFX, smartwool I think. Totally comfy and dry (the T3 pants really helped here also I think) even though 100% of the rest of the team complained of their feet hurting, and most/all had wet feet.
Sustain — ICS fly — Really handy in the sudden rain, very waterproof, etc. Good size for up to 3, 4 is pushing it so think about that in future.
Tried later to put up a large tarp and it was a lot to handle, seemed about to be damaged by pulling out at grommets. One mini shelter per two people seems like the right speed and separate conversations reveal this to be known. Hmm... almost like the old shelter-half concept was onto something!
Improve — Cords for tying up fly in rain — Change to prepack cord lengths... add in more clips, and tie on the aluminum toggles so most can be wrapped around stakes/branches with zero tying. Cuts off critical time when wet, snowy, freezing, windy.
Improve — Gloves/Mittens — Wore out the OR Aerators (email out to OR for warranty no less), soaked through others. I suspect that despite the weight I just need to use the Canadian gloves as they have been pretty good, are purportedly Gore Tex, try them the next time it is pouring and see how it goes.
If not, THEN I'll be looking to buy something else.
Improve — Radios should glow — I stuck a glowstick to the ground for overnight but add GITD tape to front and back would be better.
Improve — Radio Pouch — Want to make one which is why I didn't get on the group buy for them. Just have no radios in stock... sometime, get one from Brett.
Pack mounting worked great, so assume that in future. Consider other things to make that easier like... front opening as option to remove more easily?
Sustain — Food and snack — Carried zero mil issue rations, just consumer heat-and-eat, one Bullet Meal (a compressed meal bar of meat and beans and stuff from... europe somewhere), consumer oatmeal, and a made up couscous and stuff meal as a backup. Oh, and plenty of appropriate engery snacks in proper sizes. Worked great. Plenty of energy, no crashes, very little package waste etc. Everyone eating MREs was jealous of my food choices, ease of opening, lack of surprises, etc.
Sustain — Water — I had the heaviest pack, but plenty was water and... I packed right. One of the team went black on day 2, and we had to administratively resupply him, topped off others. Without that, everyone else would have gone black dawn of day 3. Except me. I had a slight surplus at ENDEX, and that's even using some for cooking, heating, which if I was worried about I could have harvested since it is boiled for a long time and yes, I still carried tablets.
This is also an IMPROVE for the Pre-Deployment side. Everyone take as much water as me.
Sustain — Meal heating — OneSource bags again freaked everyone out. A larger MRE heater that works basically. So good that I heated others' food in mine since it has spare heat. Never have had one fail to heat, and they have all the advantages of size, weight, no smoke, safety, etc. that MRE heaters have. Suggested! But...
Improve — Meal Heating - Purchasing — I'll be damned if I can buy another set of the OneSource bags. Company was always sketchy and seems to have maybe disappeared? Luckily, some others exist, but may have to try to find some of them.
Improve — Water heating— Triox is sometimes disappointing, sometimes hard to find, transport, etc. so I tried the Dragon Fuel tabs. Some oddities, not least that they left a rather horrible residue which did dissolve in water, but took a dishwasher to clean out fully. Not very good for the field. So... working on that.
Sustain — Sleeping pad, quilt — Brilliant, not at all cold. Works so well I have no need to do my oiginal plan of getting a better one sometime. But do need to remember to replace every few years, inspect for loft, etc.
Improve — Bivy — Currently using the USMC one and the size/weight works well, top opening only meshes with the sleeping blanket system but... it's smaller than the rest of my system, so I can stretch into the bivy and have no loft in the blanket and get a cold spot. LW camping bivy I own is so crunchy it's hard to not wake myself up in it. So, need to search out a new bivy sometime. Steven
Sustain — T3 pants — Kneepads, skidding down hills, warm/cool, waterproof for an hour in driving rain, etc.
About as thorn proof as I can hope for. I ended up with a dozen horrible cancer patient blisters between kneepads and boots, but never had to stop to pull thorns out of my pants as with most others.
Improve — T3 pants — Keepers thick, bite on day 3 of ruck belt over them. Need to look into mods. I worry just removing them will ruin the adjusters.
Sustain — French jacket —As with the pants, great fabric, hides well, good temp control, good thorn control (maybe better as no throrny welts on upper body) and generally a useful shape. Too bad it's some weird commercial clone that is sorta Felin, sorta UCP, so I'll never find it again. Thinking of getting a T4 jacket as another on the patrol had one, seemed delighted with it.
Sustain — Holster/UBL — The Wilderness belt, UBL, and ALS holster worked flawlessly. No undue interference with the ruck, no discomfort. At night or in the one shelter when huddled up, the QLS was lovely as I just popped the pistol off. When the MG went down, I quickly drew and fired the pistol, with no problem despite days of rain, mud, dust, etc.
Sustain — Sleepwear — Got a real good sleep shirt and these lovely off-white German army Dryfire long johns that are both just a little too loose for convenient wear hiking around, but compress to nothing and are also super warm, give me another 10° of comfort, at least, so are gonna be part of my permanent sleep system. Thinking I'll bag them, attach to the actual sleep system so I never forget to pack them in future.
Improve — Power Management — The phone worked great for tracking and position finding, but needs power and doesn't take AAs. My plan was a small battery (about 1 full charge of the phone) and a solar panel. On TD1 this worked fine, but on TD 2 it was SO overcast the solar wouldn't charge the entire day, and I nearly ran out of power. I guess... need to carry 2-3 days of power in battery? Not sure.
Improve — Solar Panel Attachment — Securely attached, but not convenient to get things in and out of the pack. For all day hikes, sure, but our pace was different, so we stopped a lot, needed equipment, changed layers, etc. Took too much to detach, flop over. Need different method.
Sustain — Always bring cough drops
Improve — Pack organization — The way I had my DG16 organized was comfortable, un-rattly and... really hard to get to things in the field. I need an external pocket for small doodads. Ideally, some big flat zippered pouch so I can get to my GridIt and use that as I am used to. This weekend, things were rather spread out, or some were hard to get to so I kinda had to take apart the pack to get to things too much. Not awful, just not optimal.
Improve — Pack comfort/fit/security — CLOSE, and in the field we poked at it and got it better, but the DG16 has some issues of fit for me still. And also, one waist belt strap let go. Not broken, put it right back, nice that all attachments are tool-less, but also annoying it can come apart. Now adding to my mental checklist not just is nothing tangled, but is everything attached, before donning.
Improve — New Camelbak valves etc — As before, never seen a leak from a CB or Source bladder but I did have a number of drips and oddities from some, mostly before I left home so I used a different bladder. But when I thought about it, I realized that it's just me being old: some of this hardware is over 10 years old, has over 100 days in the field (maybe much more) so... who is surprised they start getting worn out. Just adding to the list to buy replacements.
Improve — Better MG sling — I have a rash on my neck. My arms hurt (and nothing else) from this weekend because an MG on a ruck sucks. What is the hot shit for padded MG slings these days? BFG?
Optionally: simply do not carry an MG on this sort of work.
Sustain — Pack cover — Sustain, but only as improved in the field. New UL pack cover fully fell off several times. Cord lock useless, so ended up knotting it. Worked then, will leave like that. It also is waterproof enough, so very happy with it. If you want one, ask and I'll suggest the eBay store because they simply do not answer email.
Sustain — Warlord — Got one of these, mated to a TT X harness (took some sewing). It's old school, but about as good a solution as I deserve for this sort of work. Likely will keep for admin purposes, but may use as heavy recon/commander as well.
A few silly bits, but primary issue is that you cannot really get into it from anything like prone. So not good for plotting or note taking when in really sneaky OPs, etc. I have no notes of the TD3 actions because we were hiding too much for me to unzip it.
Real good on the move, sitting in campsites, etc. though.
And, excellent with a ruck as it's a chest only item so no interference wrapping around the sides. May have to reconsider some things about my rigs for rucking again...
Sustain — Stuffing sleep system — I have stuffed most things for years, but somehow never tried to stuff a self-inflating pad before. It worked great. Much better than how silly I looked in the video trying to get everything in and out of that pocket.
Improve — Better MG Batteries — Ugh, airsoft. It's so airsofty. Batteries ran dry halfway through. Need to have someone help me learn more about it and replace the batteries with something better.
Improve — Better MG Generally — Ugh, airsoft. It's so airsofty. Some bits fell off it. Twice. It's all repairable, even in the field, but SO AIRSOFT. Need to wire tie it or something so things don't fall off in the field.
Improve — Better Smoke — Almost ordered some Patriot smokes today but it's $36 HAZMAT FEE! Which is fine for cases but the cost of another grenade when buying a handful. It's a lot of money. Need to set up a group buy or something maybe when the CM-20 (mini smokes) show up.
Anyway, the ones I had were plastic and put out good smoke but it took a hot minute to get the pin out and during this I broke off the plastic spoon!
Improve — Better Grenades — Safe simulation systems means one step better than papier mache. So, after a few days in the rain, and going prone and stuff, several would not fire or simply fell apart in the pouch. Several of us therefore never threw one. Are there less cardboardy ones? TBD.