A Practical Guide to the Recon Patrol, by TMC
from The Survival Blog.com
Okay, the stuff has hit the fan, you have made it to your retreat, and you
are geared up, stocked up and ready to survive. Inner security has been established,
with LP/OPs located at likely avenues of approach. You at some point will start
to wonder what else is out there, how far away it is, and what it means for
your group. You might want to start implementing the recon patrol. While I
could write what may very well be a small manual on the subject, I will just
put out the basics that will point you in the right direction to successfully
run a patrol. As most retreats will not be in the desert, I am using the normal
type terrain expected in a well selected retreat. Your mileage may vary. I
will also not go into detail on certain subjects that can easily be researched.
If I did, I would surely exceed any limit on how large a document on the subject
should be. Rather I will concentrate on things learned in the field,
not in any manual.
What exactly is a recon patrol?
Field reconnaissance is the gathering of information of your surroundings in
a stealthy manner. You will use this information to determine the safety of
and it will most likely be a determining factor for your daily operations planning.
Information gathered can give you an idea of opposing force (OPFOR) strength,
intentions, direction they are traveling and the likelihood of them coming
in contact with
your base element.
While much of the doctrine is the same a standard patrol, the recon patrol
is a bit different than a regular patrol. The recon patrol is to gather information
on your surroundings without making contact with other elements. That being
said, I have on occasion been ordered to use harassing techniques to slow down
or try to change the course of an element, which I will touch upon later.
The size of a recon patrol is going to be smaller than the standard squad patrol.
You are trying to be invisible and the more boots you have on the ground the
more noise you will make. In my experience, a four person team is the size
limit which I would recommend. Three is the optimal number, and two being the
least that should
go out. This is in comparison with the standard squad patrol size of nine (if
you are lucky enough to have that many in your squad. [Even active duty military
units are often short of manpower versus their authorized strength under their
table of organization.]).
Travel light, flee the fight. Unless you come across a solo element, you will
most likely be outnumbered and if compromised you will need to hastily retreat.
The preferred engagement ratio is 3:1, so bear that in mind.
Take light carbines such as the M4 or Mini-14. I choose the AK-47 for myself
as I believe it has a lot to offer for this type of mission. Should you get
compromised, you will need to lay down a furious wall of fire to make the enemy
think they just encountered a platoon or a least squad sized element so semi-auto
is in my opinion a bare minimum. Larger weapons such as the M1
Garand or long
barreled assault rifles will slow you down as they are heavy and cumbersome,
what you have you will have to make do. Even though I sometimes carried a sidearm,
it would be better just to take a couple of extra mags for your primary. This
is much better added value weight. You should pack two reloads for your combat
load just in case you keep getting paralleled by OPFOR and have time to refresh
The “light” part seems to be getting to be a stretch
with this type prep, which is why I stress lighter ammo such as 5.56 or 7.62x39.
The 7.62 NATO ammo gets pretty heavy with this type of packing and does not
add much value in a reconnaissance mission. If you do have a mule in your team
one) and he has skills with a sniper rifle, you may want to consider taking
in an appropriate style carrier as a target of opportunity may come up that
may be just way too good to pass up. This does violate the "no contact" premise
of the recon patrol, but proper escape route planning can be implemented to
help with this scenario. Just a thought and should only be done by experienced
Optics such as binoculars or [spotting] scope are pretty much necessities.
The further that you can stand off and observe your objective the better off
with some type of "flash kill" device are recommended. Also make these quality
optics that you are comfortable using. I don’t mean you have to buy a
$1,000 pair of Steiners. For under $40 at WalMart you can get Bushnell’s
10x42 hunting binoculars that are clear as a bell and very rugged. You can
use a sheer sniper veil over them as a kill flash. Rifle scopes are okay, but
that you expose yourself a little more than with binoculars. Generally, you
also have a better field of view with binoculars. In my opinion binoculars
are a better choice.
You need to travel light, so try to keep this to a minimum. A recon patrol
should be fairly short, a day or two probably at most. If it is going to be
extended,then pack 2-1/2 times the food you think you will need. Utilizing
light foods like jerky that you can carry a lot of will go a long way. I learned
that one the hard way. When a two day patrol turns into six days that extra
little bit of "Pogey bait" is worth it and can be rationed. Also learn what
in your surroundings as this can help sustain your mission without being a
burden on your supplies. Take foods that need little or no preparation. Jerky,
trail mix, MREs
and foods of that nature are recommended.
Try to avoid foods that are particularly aromatic, such as curry, onion, garlic,
etc. I can’t tell you how many times I have found an OPFOR element’s
area of operations (AO) just by smell. While in Korea, I could find Korean
[troop] elements by their body odor due to their diet of kimchi sometimes up
to 400 meters away,
on the wind and how long they had been out. This odor discipline also includes
No smoking! Obviously colognes and other “smelly goods” have no
place on a recon patrol.
Radios should be carried but utilized only when absolutely necessary. Chances
are your patrol might take you out of radio communication reception distance
especially if you don’t have high power equipment. This is risky, but
sometimes necessary. You need to know the operating limitations of your comms
and operate accordingly. Designate times and places to transmit from if you
cannot [continuous] maintain radio contact during the patrol.
Camoflage should go without saying. The type will obviously be determinate on your
terrain and season. Burlap with proper color spray paint is a great way to
make cheap [outline] breakup for weapons. It can be manipulated to just about
terrain out there.
You can use [burlap strips] to throw off scent-detecting animals such
by using fox urine or other types of masking scents. A very useful item indeed.
Helmets and body armor are optional, but I do not recommend them on a recon
patrol. The body armor is heavy and can impede your quick getaway. It merits
factors in the safety of soldiers, but in this mission you need to be able
to flat out run if compromised. The ballistic helmet is also heavy, but its
main downfall is the fact that it masks your environment. It can impair your
vision and it mostly covers your ears and keeps you from hearing sounds that
may be the enemy. A boonie cap is the first choice, patrol cap is second for
Plan the Route
Route planning is essential. Pick a route that will minimize danger area crossings
and contact with high traffic areas. Do not use roads, rivers, trails or any
other obvious routes of travel. You may skirt these areas to view them. Never
plan a straight route. Use various patterns of travel such as zigzagging or
button hooking. This keeps the enemy off guard as to where you came from. Also,
should you think you are being trailed, do a wide 360 until you come back on
your own tracks. If you encounter more tracks than yours, then you are being
followed. React according to your [contact] SOPs.
Learn to use a compass and map. While GPS systems
can be useful tools, they are not always reliable and in a Grid
may not even function.
Know this: the US Department of Defense owns all the GPS satellites and merely
provides data to GPS companies like Garmin so their GPS devices will work.
choose to, they can encrypt them at will and leave your commercial GPS worthless.
Learning how to use a compass and map can be a fun experience for everyone.
It can give kids and adults alike a great sense of accomplishment and help
get you or keep you in shape. Map and compass skills can trump a GPS any day,
and on many occasions I have been right on the mark while the guy using the
GPS has been wandering around waiting for the satellites to give him a decent
grid. Rely on basic navigation skills. Technology is a crutch for the weak.
Make sure to plan out the time you are leaving, time to be on the objective,
time you will transmit information if necessary, and time you expect to be
back. Plan for contingencies, such as what to do if you make contact, where
to meet if you get separated, and what frequencies to be on at what time of
the day. Most of these will be dictated by your groups prior established SOPs.
Preparing for the Patrol
If you follow proper procedure when you leave the base of ops you will conduct
"stop, look, listen, and smell" (SLLS).
This is to get you oriented to your environment. However, I have found that
a short 10 minute halt like this is
not nearly as effective as having the recon team acclimate [to the natural
environment] over a day or so without
distractions such as television, radio, or any other man-made devices that
are not essential to ops. In a grid down situation this will most likely not
sense of smell, hearing, and vision get better the longer you are out. If possible,
do this and you will be much more inclined to pick up on enemy positions and
movement long before they pick you up.
Make sure all equipment gets inspected, including weapons and optics. Make
sure all equipment is quiet and free of protruding gear or things that will
snag on foliage. This includes weapons that have a multitude of “Mall
Ninja” gear hanging off of them. While it may be value added in a MOUT situation,
it is just more junk to hang up on vegetation and obstacles. Have each patrol
member jump up and down and run in place with their gear on to
identify anything noisy and use 100 m.p.h. [olive drab duck] tape or 550
[parachute] cord to lash
it down. Make sure food and water are easily accessible as you may be eating
Check for proper and complete camouflage. Get ready to roll, get your mind
On the Patrol
Use your wits. Be aware of your environment, and anything that may not be right.
Learn to use nature to warn you of potential danger. Have you ever been close
to a squirrel’s nest in the woods? He will let you know you are too close
by making a lot of noise. This type of natural warning device can serve you
as well as hinder you. Be mindful of nature and learn to move in the woods
as part of your surroundings rather than against it. This takes time, is a
learned behavior, but can be done by just about anyone. Avoid sandy terrain
where you will leave an obvious trail. Use rocks and other terrain to move
while minimizing [leaving] sign and making noise. Be mindful of how loud your
footsteps are. That is a common mistake I see soldiers make all the time. They
listen to how much noise they are making. Learn to roll your feet. This can
be practiced around the house while doing chores. Just learn to walk quietly.
On the Objective
If you are doing an area recon, which is a specific area you want to check
out, make sure you spend the time you need on the objective to properly gather
intelligence. Walk a zigzag pattern to cover as much terrain as possible.
If you are doing a point recon, which is a recon of a specific target such
as a house or a point on a road, lay your team in collect as much info as you
can. Include info you would normally not consider important as later on down
the road you may find it useful. Remember, you can never collect too much intel,
but you can collect not enough. You can sort through what is important later
on when you have time to analyze the intel.
While glassing your objective, make sure only one member of each buddy team
is using binoculars, while the other keeps an eye out for anyone who may be
using a clandestine approach to your location. Use a notebook to write down
When the allotted time on the objective is complete, always leave the objective
in a different direction [than from which you approached]. Pick up any trash
or tell tale sign of you being there. Brush over where you were laying, cover
made. Try to leave no sign at all that you were ever there. Maintain noise
discipline on the way back just like you did on the way in. You are in just
as much danger going home as you were going out. Don’t get complacent.
Well, there you have it. You can research the patrol by using military manuals
and implement what I have written here for a successful mission. This will
give you a heads up on what’s out there and give you an advantage over
any element that may be inbound on your location. Knowledge is power, and if
you have solid intel on your enemy and surroundings, then you have
the tactical advantage. I hope this is of use to you.