Defense: Terrain Modification Part II – Planning For Cover

In the last entry I pointed out some issues that were discovered during out terrain review and tackled the first task that was at hand – clearing fields of observation and fire.  Referring back to that entry you’ll see that I contrasted the effort taken to increase our fields of fire and observation while reducing our deadspace with the fact that the measures implemented had another effect.  It effectively reduced the threats cover and concealment and increased their field of observation.  During the course of this case study I intend to frequently contrast how measures taken will affect both our position and the threats capabilities.  In this entry we’re going to look at some forms of Cover (the first part of the the C in OCOKA) and develop not only our concept of how we can employ cover to continue building our defensive plan but weigh some of the advantages and disadvantages of different types of cover.

First up is a review of what cover is and isn’t.

Cover is routes and locations we can use to provide protection from threat fire.  For  our purposes cover is going to be mass (think thickness) and defilade (below terrain level) as those two types of cover are the simplest.  Cover may or may not obscure you from enemy observation (that’s concealment which is the next entry).  Key concept: Cover doesn’t always = concealment doesn’t always = cover.

There’s a maxim I want to keep in mind while planning all of this:  When and wherever possible I want to maximize the use of concealment for positions that provide cover.  Being able to fire from a protected position that is difficult to spot is a good thing as is being able to shield oneself from fire while remaining unobserved.

When we think of traditional cover normally the first thing that pops into mind is a foxhole or bunker.  There’s a wide variety of Defensive Fighting Positions (DFPs)   that can be employed and not any one is going to be the best all around solution.  And the methodology of where to put those positions is going to be solely dependent on your terrain evaluation and defensive plan.  I will state this – you need to individually evaluate EVERY defensive position using the defensive methodology I addressed in the concepts entry  to estimate its initial effectiveness.  Just going out and digging positions most of the time results in a haphazard defensive posture.  From my experience when left to their own devices people will find the easiest soil to dig in which probably won’t yield the best results for the labor involved.

Before you go hog crazy digging everywhere keep the following points in mind and ask yourself these questions:

  • Is this position sited to provide the best capability of defense in depth, mutual support, and interlocking fires in relation to the anticipated threat axis of attack and other defensive positions?
  • Will this position be fast or easy to get into and out of?
  • Will the threat be able to use this position against my Final Defensive Position (FDP) if he gains it?
  • Will this position help my egress if I make the decision to bug out?

If the answers to those questions are no then put the shovel down Homer.  You’re probably wasting your time and possibly creating more issues than you’re solving.

A defensive position I’m an advocate of is the “hasty defensive position”.  This is also known as a “scrape” or “skirmishers trench”.  I’m rather partial to this one for our purpose because not only can it be developed without a huge effort but it minimally impacts the capabilities of the ranch to remain operational.  Since my immediate terrain is relatively flat this position is going to be one of my mainstays.  A scrape is nothing more than a hole dug that is approximately 18 inches in depth and 24 inches in width and the length of your body.  Normally the dirt that you removed is piled in front and sides of the position to increase cover towards the direction you believe you will take fire from.  The picture below illustrates a hasty scrape.

This type of position offers cover from threat fire and get us into partial defilade (below the level of the ground) however it has a few disadvantages.  It can be difficult to fight out of when it comes to reloading or moving out of to shift positions.  It can also be difficult to gain or retain situational awareness in the fight because folks tend to become “forward oriented” and develop tunnel vision due to their prone posture. When rear or side cover is not in close proximity the shooter will often tend to become fixed in that position.  That in itself is a danger because once the threat has fixed your position you need to assume that it’s going to maneuver and attempt to catch you in a cross or flanking fire.   If you have numerical superiority (which I am presuming we won’t) then this type of position becomes more tenable.  When I was a young troop my Platoon Sergeant had a drill we would conduct where on cue the entire platoon had to dig into hasty positions in under ten minutes.  We called it “e-tool madness”.  I asked him once why a hasty and his response was “It’s better than no position at all”.  It was true then and it’s true today.

Am I an advocate for constructing fully blown bagged in deliberate prepared fighting positions with 18 inches of overhead cover around the perimeter?  Not really unless it can absolutely be done without providing the threat cover as it advances to your position.  When you start piling up material to build frontal cover it does two things.  It gives you protection from threat fires HOWEVER it also gives the threat something to gain cover behind in an assault on your position.  There are alternatives and I’m going to address one of those.  If you construct a “prepared hasty fighting position” that provides little to no cover to the rear and is in defilade deep enough to provide frontal cover without a significant parapet (dirt or other material piled in front of and around the hole) while still being able to be fired INTO from your FDP then you can effectively construct cover that will be of little use to the threat.  I am a proponent for a “modified prepared hasty defensive position”.  Notice the difference in this example diagram:

Notice in a typical hasty position the threat has 18 inches of frontal cover facing the FDP.  And if he gets into the position he gains 18 inches of frontal defilade.  In the modified hasty position he is limited to 4 inches of frontal cover creating by embedding a sandsack  1 to 2 inches deep in front of the position (try hiding behind 4 inches of cover) and if he gets into the position in order to fire he’ll have to go shallow in it thereby more than likely exposing himself to our fires.   Additionally this helps our egress out of the hole towards our FDP.  It’s easier to sprint up a slight incline than it is to leap and run out of a hole.  You have to be creative in your development of cover.  At this point I’m not going to go into how to develop cover inside and immediately around the FDP (the house and outbuildings).  That is an effort well deserving of its own entry.  As you move closer to your FDP your positions should become a little more complex.  Again the same rules apply – do not create cover for the threat to use against you.  Again I want to develop positions that can be fired into from the FDP with little to no frontal or flank cover that can be used by the threat in its advance.  These positions can be a little deeper due to their proximity to the FDP (angles of fire downward tend get steeper as you get closer).

So where do we put our positions?  This is where I’m going to diverge a bit from stated methodology.  Naturally you’ll want to create positions to counter the most likely threat axis of attack however you also need to cite them to provide 360 degrees of coverage for your FDP and to provide cover for your egress from said position.  I also want to place them in areas where I may require hasty cover if I am out from the main defensive position (i.e. cutting hay on the backside of the pasture).   For those positions I need to site them where they will be reachable AND not cutoff by any current or planned obstacles (i.e. wire fences or water).  If you have to take as hasty position away from your FDP you want as little as possible between you and your FDP. So looking at our map we can do some estimating of where good locations would be and what orientation they should have.  I’ve nugged out a few here and give explanations for why they are there and their orientation.  The positions and their orientation are annotated as the green bordered arrows and once again the fencelines and gates/openings are lines and rectangles.

That’s a lot of positions for one ranch, right?  Yeah it is.  And truth be told I don’t want to be any further away from one than I have to – hell the closer the better.  Now when I located these positions I wanted to minimize impact on my ranching while still allowing for a defense in depth, interlocking fires, and mutual support while being able to sight into them from the FDP as much as possible.  So what I’ve done is attempted to locate them along fencelines and near gates wherever possible.  This lessens the impact on the cattle and my ability to hay the fields while still giving me more than adequate coverage.  Yeah there are some out in the field that is going to be a pain in the backside to mow around but that’s part of the tradeoff.  In some instances (i.e. the pond in the south sector) I was able to locate it in an area that isn’t really agriculturally significant.

What about routes?  If you can develop routes that go into your FDP that can be covered by fire from that position then that’s excellent.  Note I stated covered with fire.  If you can’t cover a route with fire then you must assume that the threat can also use that route to infil your FDP.   Keep this in mind because later on I am going to cover bugout plans and we’re going to address infil and exfil routes in depth.  For now I’d like to focus on being able to move from one of those hasty positions towards my FDP along routes that provide some measure of cover from threat fire and can be covered from the FDP during my movement.  Now it isn’t always feasible to assume we can get a direct line from any given position but it should be within close enough proximity that you can gain it with a short sprint.  Looking at the position map I developed above notice how the positions are sited to give me a short sprint from one to another while moving closer to my FDP?   Routes can be something as simple as a network of positions in conjunction with a ditch.  The key concept here is to limit your exposure to threat fire while maximizing your capability to move with supporting fire.  Here’s an example:

What I’ve done in this instance is use a very shallow draw (the faint line to the right of the lower arrow) as a route from one position to another.  Then if I have to I can cut a shallow gulley from that location to the next one along the fence, etc.  So should we cut WWI style trenches to be able to move around?  That’s up to you.  Personally I won’t.  I’ve got to be able to keep producing hay and moving cattle around the ranch to sustain the family and a trench would defeat that requirement.  However you can develop shallow ditches that will provide some cover and not impede movement.  Keep in mind you need to be able to fire INTO these ditches.  And when I state ditch I mean the kind you see alongside the road which are 12 to 18 inches in depth with gradual shoulders and not some 36 inch plus deep monster like counties use to control runoff.  Oriented running towards our FDP this will provide little cover for a threat and with some supporting fire aid our movement toward the FDP. Here’s an example of what I mean:

Now when it comes to concealing positions nothing is better than nature.  Let the grass grow up and turf them.  If you keep it cut at a decent length it’ll protect the position from erosion and help camouflage it as a position in the first place.  I really wouldn’t worry too much about sector stakes unless you have forward positions and then you need to mark their location on the front and sides of the position.  Something as simple as a wooden stake driven into the ground with only a couple of inches exposed and lined up with those positions will help prevent you from firing into them if they are occupied.  Anyhow once you’ve developed positions and routes you’ll need to map them.  This is where something along the lines of a range card is a good idea.  I’m not saying leave a range card in each hole – it wouldn’t last through the weather.  But by having a range card at the FDP it helps us estimate the range to any given location thereby probably increasing the accuracy of our fires and giving us a handy reference tool to work with.  I’m going to hold off on that for the time being because once we get everything situated we’ll be developing a sector sketch.

Hopefully these examples have gotten your gears turning when it comes to building prepared positions.  If you want to go full bore with bunkers and the terrain makes it feasible then by all means do so.  But don’t for a minute think that a lone bunker out in the middle of a pasture is going to be all you need and don’t forget to take into account how something that provides you cover can cover the threat as well.  Do your research, study your terrain, and apply the principles I’ve covered thus far.  Next up we’ll get into concealment and look at some ways and means to reduce our visibility to the threat.  Until then here’s some additional reading that is good research:

The Air Force has published a Consolidated Manual on Fighting Positions.  It’s a pretty good reference to have on hand.

The Army also addresses fighting positions and cover in FM 5-103 the survivability manual as well as FM 3-21.75  The Warrior Ethos and Soldier Combat Skills.

Additionally this is an excerpt from FM 5-103 that states the material thickness required to stop certain projectiles.  The figure given for sand is double the normal 6 inches due to the factor of the Army calculating a five round burst into the material.  IMHO you need at least 6 inches however as always cover=mass so the more the better.

FM5-103 Material Reference Sheet Excerpt

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Defense: Terrain Modification Part I

Surgery went well and it’s time to get back in the saddle.  So far we have conducted a terrain analysis of our immediate AO and using the acronym OCOKA (Observation and fields of fire, Cover and concealment, Obstacles, Key terrain, Avenues of approach) and found ourselves needing to do some in-depth addressing of issues we identified during the study.

The first issue we’re going to address is Observation and fields of fire (the first O in OCOKA).  If you refer back to the “More Concepts To Take Into Consideration” entry you’ll see our fields of fire and observation sucked – big time.   To save you a click here’s the determination we made with the gray areas being deadspace (which we previously referred to as simply blind spots).

Those gray areas are areas which we can neither see nor fire into from the house which is going to be our final defensive position.  So some serious work is in order to fix this as best we can.  The best way to clear a field of fire in relation to a fixed fortified position is to completely clear it – leaving no depressions or vegetation that would provide cover and concealment for the threat to use thereby creating killzones (areas devoid of cover and concealment which a threat must cross to get to a certain position).   So what/how far do we clear?  At this point I’m going to assume two basic realistic constraints and one guide in planning this that can be applied either before or after TSHTF:

  • Your neighbors aren’t going to let you clear on their land unless things have gotten to an extreme.
  • The ranch needs to continue to be a working ranch to provide sustenance for the family.
  • Any tree that does not provide sustenance in some manner on our land within 550 meters of the house is coming down.

IMHO I want to clear anything that will provide cover or concealment on my land out past the range that normal carbine fire would be accurate.  In this instance referring to our zone map that would be out to Zone D which is out to 550 meters from the house.  Looking at my analysis once again I’m going to identify the areas that need attention to fix this and go into measures to remedy those issues.

Looking at the picture above I have removed both the A, B, E, and F zones for clarity however left C and D to keep a perspective on range and our effort.  I have also annotated the issue areas by number.  The numbers represent the areas we need to address.  Those areas and fixes are:

1.  We need to clear that woodline to our immediate West.  It provides the threat with the capability to deliver rifle fire from cover and concealment from well within the effective range of a carbine and has to go.  But loosing that timber isn’t necessarily going to be a bad thing.  If we contract and sell that timber now to a logging company we can get a few grand out of the deal and save ourselves some labor.  Money made, work done, cash in our pocket – always a good deal.  So by contracting that entire areas annotated by #1 we come out ahead.  If you wait until TSHTF then it may be too late and you’d have to do it yourself – a huge job that I wouldn’t want to try to undertake while having to stay frosty watching for a threat.  One thing to remember when doing this:  You’re going to get left with a lot of brush and stumps and the ground is probably going to be torn to hell.  If you specify in the contract that no stumps shall remain higher than say 3 to 4 inches you’ll deny the threat any significant cover behind a stump and impede any vehicle crossing that area.  A 4 inch stump will beat the hell out of most pickups and slow their advance across that area to a crawl.  After it’s been cleared some work with the tractor and it’s blade and bucket can cut any humps and small hills down and fill depressions but it might also be a good idea and invest some of that cash you made on having a dozer come in and do that work if you don’t have one yourself.  A controlled burn will help get rid of some of that brush as well.  Anyhow once I have it cleared I would pursue one additional effort in this area.  I would lay my hands on some goat fencing and fence the entire area in and put some meat goats in there.  Not only would they provide an additional source of food but they will help to keep that area picked clean of concealment.  To provide them some shelter you can throw a small pole shed up in the southwest corner and it shouldn’t negate your efforts to this point.

2.  My storage area for my round haybales has to be relocated.  It provides cover and concealment  entirely too close to the house.  So what I would do is relocate them to the open area in the very southwest below immediately the treeline.  It would require some additional fencing (you have to keep cattle away from them our they’ll tear the hell out of them)  but it gets them out of the way.

3.  That junkpile out by the fence has to go.  I might be able to turn a few bucks for scrap after salvaging anything I could off of it but that’s hard cover inside of 400 meters for the threat as it sits.  So either sell it for scrap or drag it out of the way (maybe down by where I’m placing the haybales at).

4.  Those trees down by the southern edge of D need to go.  Once again cover and concealment too close.

5.  That treeline along the fencerow has to go as well.  It’s cover and concealment along a line that is within a hundred meters of the barn.  A logging company more than likely isn’t going to want to touch it because of the fenceline but if they do great – get it done in conjunction with A.  If not it’s time to get the chainsaw out and fix that.  Once again any stumps should be less than 4 inches in height.

6.  The area immediately around the house is where we’re going to get a lion’s share of the work done.  Every tree is going down, any unnecessary buildings are coming down, etc.  That barn to the immediate west (the one with half a roof) is definitely coming down.  When I tear it down I’m going to leave the tallest supporting pole in place and if it has electricity to it I’m going to leave that in place as well.  That will provide me with a ready made mount for lights on later.

At this point you might be wondering why I want stumps no taller than 4 inches.  Well it’s a lot of work to actually completely get rid of a stump although with the amount of clearing we’re going to do a stump grinder would really be a good asset to have.  But if you don’t grind, dig, blast, or remove them in some other way you want to get them to no greater than 4 inches in height.  A 4 inch pine stump is hell to hide behind but yet is still feasibly tall enough to get a good cut in with a chainsaw.  And if you’ve ever hit a 4 inch stump in a vehicle it’s a pretty solid object capable of tearing up the suspension on a truck.  Not a great obstacle but still functional (more on obstacles later).

So we get it in gear and once we have finished the land looks a little like this.  As always excuse the artwork – I’m not an artist.

I’ve added the fences and gates (lines and rectangles) back in on this view.  Notice how that area that we originally assumed to be the most likely threat axis of attack is now wide open?   We’ve got a lot better field of observation and fire not only to our west but generally all around.  All of the trees (including the ones along the road) within Zone D have been cleared out.  Given the nature of the terrain IMHO the most likely enemy axis of attack would now focus from the north however the trails leading to those trail to our north are observable.  Could this position be better?  Absolutely – it should be further away from that road but it is what it is and what we have to work with.  IMHO the money gained by contracting that cutting to the logging company would be best spent buying that land to the immediate north and after that the  parcel that runs along the road to our east.  But for now we’ll assume those aren’t for sale within our means.   One thing to note is we have increased not only our but the treats visibility of our immediate AO as well.  When you start getting into building defensive positions there’s always a pro and con approach.  In this instance it’s a pro because yes I did increase the area the threat can observe however I forced his range to fire and maneuver from cover out to the extreme edge of his probable range.  Be cognizant of these trade offs and evaluate them accordingly.

At this point I want to address some tools you’ll need along the way.  You might have some or most of these but they’re definitely things you want to stock up on.  First up is a good chainsaw with all of the odds and ends to keep it running.  A chainsaw is one of those tools that is indispensable in my eyes.  I remember as a kid my grandfather actually using his to cut all of the lumber to build a pole shed on the backside of his land.  They’re that handy.  The other thing you’re going to want is a tractor with as many different attachments as you can get.  A blade is good for leveling ground and doing very light dozer work (very light indeed).  A front loader with a box is another thing that makes moving dirt and sand a lot quicker.  A PTO auger is a must in my eyes and it’s going to make emplacing some of our vehicular obstacles an easier task later on.  A good plow and a disk are also going to make some of the things I address later on easier work.  Backhoe attachments are kind of pricey but also a good investment.  Truth be told I always keep my eyes out for used attachment in good condition.  There’s not a lot around my ranch that I can’t do with my tractor anymore – they’re just that handy.  But be realistic about a tractors use.  It won’t do the same level of work as fast or well  as a dedicated dozer, backhoe, or ditching machine.

Next up we’ll look at some methods of cover and concealment including starting to build our defense in depth.  And although this position is less than ideal at this point it’s getting better.  Will it ever be perfect?  No position ever is – that’s the trouble with real terrain vs. textbook terrain.  But it is becoming defensible which is our goal.

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Defense: More Concepts To Take Into Consideration

Rainy weather is giving me a little slack time so I’m back at it today – and please excuse me for crappy art I’m not an artist.  In the last entry we examined the immediate zones (A through C) and dissected their strengths and weaknesses.  I originally wanted to start covering some of the measures we’re going to take in that zone but feel that it’s important to cover some basic methodologies before I get into that.  During this entry  we’re going to take a few pieces of military defensive theory and apply it with some minor changes.  First up the acronym OCOKA is going to help us better evaluate the defensibility of our immediate Area of Operations (AO) and give us something to focus on when it comes to improving and modifying our position.  OCOKA is normally used in the evaluation of determining defensive positions but since our defensive position is pretty much already set for us we don’t have that luxury.  Nonetheless OCOKA can be useful for our purposes.  Before we go any further I’m going to define OCOKA and give some examples of how and what it applies to in our immediate AO.  OCOKA is:

Observation and Field of Fire – The potential offered to observe enemy maneuver and the fields of fire (areas) we have in terms of the range and other characteristics of our weapons (Basically how far/where we can see and what locations we can place at least harassing fire on to hamper threat maneuver).  When evaluating both observation and fields of fire it’s important to consider cover and concealment from the threats perspective.

Cover and Concealment – Routes and locations we can use to provide protection (Cover) from threat direct and indirect fire as well as hiding our presence (Concealment) from threat observation (Basically where are we protected from being hit and where are we protected from being seen).  REMEMBER: Concealment doesn’t always equal cover.

Obstacles – The natural and man-made features and measures designed that disrupt, turn, fix, block, or canalize a threat force and protect friendly forces from threat assault either directly or to the flanks (sides).  When I address obstacles I’m going to look at two main types – dismounted and mounted.  Dismounted obstacles are designed to accomplish the stated tasks against a threat moving on foot or light vehicle (i.e. ATV).  Mounted obstacles are designed to accomplish those measures against vehicles.

Key Terrain – Hills, plateaus, or other terrain features which could provide an advantage to the element occupying that position.  For our purpose this also includes locations in our immediate AO that provide defensible positions.

Avenues of Approach – The most likely expected routes of threat approach to a particular location. This includes High Speed Avenues of Approach by vehicle (see the last blog entry) and likely routes a threat on foot would take to reach our position.

Now normally when an Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield (IPB) is conducted by the military OCOKA is used to determine key terrain.  It’s also used down to the troop level in locating fighting positions (foxholes) and positioning key weapons.  With some restrictions we’re going to use it for the same thing.  I stated above that our final defensive position (the house) is already on the ground.  This doesn’t mean you can’t defend from other locations – quite the opposite.  As I go along and develop this case study we’re also going to go into implementing other defensive principles like Defense in Depth.  More on those below.

Anyhow the first element of our defensive position we’re going to look at is Observation and Fields of Fire.  To develop a good picture of our capabilities to observe and place fire we need to actually develop an area sketch to determine two things.  The first being Deadspace (simply put: blind spots you can neither observe nor place fire on) and the second being what locations we can deliver unobstructed fire on and what locations we are restricted to harassing fire (shots that due to clutter or concealment  aren’t precisely aimed but rather intended to frustrate threats maneuver and  precision fire).  Determining your capability to observe is going to require you to actually get into each firing position to determine what you can visibly see from it.  At the same time you should be noting possible cover and concealment that the threat could use.  While doing this it’s a good idea to sketch out your deadspace (see above) to address later on.  So I’ve done that and ended up with this:

Everything in gray are positions and locations that I can neither observe nor deliver precision fire on from my final defensive position.  When we begin to develop our actual physical passive defenses that deadspace is going to be a key element of what we work on.  Now contrast this to the threats field of view that we determined earlier:

The threat has a larger possible visual observation area than we do.  Why?  Simply stated the threat has the capability to remain concealed from a lot of these positions while observing (and thereby placing possible precision rifle fire on) our positions.   The key thing I want you to take away from this portion is that your ability to interdict a threat is directly related to your ability to observe said threat.  By understanding how lethal fields of fire are developed in conjunction with your ability to observe a threat your lethality improves almost exponentially.

The next item I’m going to cover is Cover and Concealment.  These concepts are worthy in themselves of an entire blog entry and I may cover them later but for now you need to be able to distinguish between the two.  Cover is anything that protects you from either direct or indirect fire.  Cover = mass and mass stops projectiles.  Mass doesn’t always mean you are out of the enemies observation.  As an example if you are inside the house and the walls are strong enough to withstand threat direct fire you are under cover.  But if the threat knows you’re in the house then he has fixed your position.  Sure you have some concealment (the threat doesn’t know your exact location in the house) however the threat knows you are in the house.  That leads into concealment.  In the traditional sense concealment is measures taken to prevent threat observation of you and your activities.  Types of concealment are camo nets, working inside buildings to avoid observation, etc.  Basically keeping the threats eyes off of you and your activities.  Concealment is normally NOT cover in that most of the time it won’t stop threat projectiles.  Concealment can also cover measures designed to deny spectral imaging (think IR camera on a UAV, night observation devices, etc.)  The most basic way to implement concealment is to reduce your signature.  By reducing your signature you give the threat less activity to look at.  Basic examples of implement signature reduction including things like working on and parking vehicles inside of buildings, allowing exterior fields to lay fallow giving them the appearance of being unattended, allowing grass to grow on top of a defensive position, etc.  Make you immediate AO look unused or unoccupied.  There’s a small chance the threat may bypass it if they think it holds nothing of value or has already been picked clean.   When I get into passive defense measures I’m going to address both cover and concealment in further detail as they relate to some of the things we’ll implement in this case study.

The next portion is Obstacles.  A few critical things about obstacles up front:

  • Obstacles are measures that will probably only slow the threat down and not stop them entirely.
  • Any obstacle that will slow the threat down during its attack is also probably going to slow you down if you have to bug out.
  • The most effective obstacles are those we can observe and place precision fire on.  Unobserved obstacles should be kept in mind as “tentative slowing measures” only.

Observed obstacles have one characteristic that makes them a huge asset:  They can help you attrit the threat by being inside his OODA loop while he is dealing with said obstacle.  Given that characteristic if the threat believes you can place precision fire on an obstacle that has little to no cover or concealment nearby it will most likely avoid that obstacle altogether unless it’s incredibly desperate or it has the ability to provide supporting fire to force your head down while it deals with that obstacle. Obstacles typically come in two flavors – natural and manmade.  A natural obstacle could be something as simple as a wide and deep pond, a cliff, a dense patch of thorny cactus, etc.  Manmade obstacles include wire, dropped logs into roadways, cut ditches etc.  Another thing to consider when looking at and implementing obstacles is as I stated above they may provide cover or concealment for the threat.  For example if you drop a couple of logs across your driveway you might keep vehicles out but at the same time you are also providing cover for the threat on foot (and you may hamper your ability to GTFO dodge in a timely manner).  Obstacles are a double edged sword and need to be implemented with the most thorough planning you can muster.  Make sure you include planned and future obstacles in your wargaming as well.

Key Terrain for our purposes is going to consist of a few different types of things.  Given our Defensive Priorities we’re going to assume first off that any planned routes we’re going to take if we decide to shag out is going to be not just key but critical terrain.  Then we’re going to look at areas that are crucial to our ability to defend our immediate AO.  This will probably include things like woodlines and buildings.  When it comes to thinking about buildings as key terrain you need to be highly critical.  Ask yourself “can I defend from this structure?” and “Is this structure likely to be used as cover by the threat?”.   Depending on the answers to those questions and a little bit of wargaming will help you determine the criticality of a building in relation to your defensive plan and your prorities.  Also something to consider about terrain (especially pastures) is if that piece of terrain is going to allow you to dominate your immediate AO.  An open pasture is a pretty good killing zone but if you lose the capability to observe and place fire on it due to the threat maneuvering and gaining access into your “A Zone” then it’s become a critical piece of dirt.  That’s the importance of determining key terrain.

I covered Avenues of Approach in the last entry but I’ll touch on them briefly here.  I break avenues of approach into two categories:  High speed and dismounted – similar in category to obstacles but in this instance it’s the likely routes that a given threat will approach.  Avenues of Approach also includes the main direction that we anticipate a threat attacking from (which I’ll refer to as the Axis of Attack).  It’s critical to  remember that it’s pretty common knowledge that successful single axis attacks are rare in history.  Flanking is as old as time itself and whatever you do don’t develop tunnel vision in thinking or reacting to an axis of attack.  Expect things like smaller elements moving to your sides to flank your position, smaller elements conducting diversionary attacks (especially if they don’t appear to be firing and maneuvering), and feints (attacks that seem to be coming at you but all of a sudden slacken off – and are normally followed by a much larger attack shortly after when the threat will presume you are less vigilant while conducting activities such as caring for wounded, putting out fires, etc – which we call reconstitution).

I’m going to take a second here to address two characteristics of defense.  Those characteristics being Active and Passive Defense.  I’m going to define them and I’d like for you to keep the differences in mind as this case study progresses.

Active Defense is any measures we take to actively interdict and engage a threat.  Normally active defensive measure include your selection of certain types of weapons for certain targets along with how you employ those weapons.  Active defensive measure can also include spectral measures (i.e. jamming, blinding through the use of light/lasers).

Passive Defense are measures that are “passive” meaning that they are emplaced and don’t require active engagement to function.  Examples of passive defense are obstacles, early warning devices, hardening of structures, concealment measures, developing redundancy, dispersion techniques, OPSEC, and any measures you take to frustrate threat observation, fire, and maneuver.

When it comes to developing a defensive plan there are a few techniques and methodologies that we need to keep in mind as well.    The basic principle of Defense in Depth is a must.  Defense in Depth is a combination of defensive measures (both active and passive) working in conjunction to keep the threat engaged and frustrated during an attack.   With defense in depth the threat should come under ever increasing heavier fires as it nears its objective (i.e. your position).  The basic premise behind defense in depth is to attrit an enemy so severely that prior to reaching his objective he is either destroyed or forced to break off his attack because of losses.  Being able to engage an obstacle from multiple  hardened position to the rear while the threat is trying to deal with that obstacle is a basic example of defense in depth.  A basic diagram depicting defense in depth is below.  Notice that as the threat advances along its axis it will come under ever increasing fires and that we don’t have just a single string of positions.  The positions are sited so that as the threat advances the number of positions that can and will engage it increases.

The next concept is mutual support.  Mutual support is the ability to cover another positions deadspace thereby preventing the threat from moving or engaging in and from that deadspace.   I’ve illustrated it in the diagram below.  In this instance position A may not be able to see and thereby not engage the threat due to the deadspace created by the tree.  However position B’s field of fire (the black lines) can engage to cover the threats advance towards A.

Interlocking fires (also called overlapping fires) is positioning weapons so their engagement envelopes overlap. Positions that allow for overlapping fires normally also give you the capability to catch the threat in a “crossfire”.   In this instance both A and Bs fields of fire (the black lines) converge and both can engage the threat simultaneously.  This creates a huge problem for the threat as it is now faced with the problem of having to possibly focus on engaging one position with massed fires at the risk of being torn up by the other position or using a spread of fewer weapons against both positions which may not give them fire superiority against either one or both positions.

Early Engagement is your ability to engage the threat outside of their ability to engage your point defense (i.e. the house).  This can be achieved either through the use of longer range weapons, siting fighting positions further out in your defense, and the use of “non monitored interdiction devices” (ya like that one? ).  The premise behind early engagement is that you’ll begin to engage the threat well before it begins its attack.  Ambushes are a form of early engagement.  Some folks also call early engagement “proactive defense”.

Another useful concept is employing a mix of weapons if you have a variety.  It’s sound judgment to site a semi-auto rifle in a mutually supporting position with overlapping fire to cover a guy with a bolt action versus placing all of your bolt action rifles in one area. The same thing goes with massing firepower.  Massing firepower is quite often an on the spot judgment call that is made when you believe that the main effort of the threat has been identified and you want to bring as much firepower to bear on it  as you can by relocating weapons.  Whatever you do if you decide to mass weapons make sure your other avenues of approach still have coverage.  It’s not a good idea to bring every weapon to bear if it requires you to leave that eastern approach completely unmonitored.  The key to using mass effectively is observation and communication.  By leaving someone to observe that eastern approach if they see another threat element massing to attack from that direction and can pass that info along to you in a timely manner you’ll probably have a better chance to redistribute your firepower to counter that effort.

Finally I am going to cover both weighted and balanced coverage.  These are pretty simple concepts in that a balanced coverage allows a balanced distribution of  fire from your position.  A weighted coverage takes into accounts things like avenues of approach, probable axis of attacks, effective fields of fire and observation, and any other defensive measures.  The most effective defenses  usually use weighted coverage in siting key weapons (i.e. that .338 Lapua magnum would be more effective covering a road than a woodline 50 meters away).

For further reading I suggest you take a look at the Army Field Manual 7-8 The Infantry Platoon and Squad particularly Chapter 2 Section V.  Next up we’re going to dig finally into Zone C .  I also suggest taking the time to read the Defense of Duffers Drift.  Wikipedia has done a pretty good job at synopsizing it but as for the Original Text it can be found at Project Gutenberg.

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Defense: Homestead Case Study – Back to Terrain Pt.2

In the last entry I oriented you to our notional homestead and we dissected a threat based zone system along with identifying what/how the threat could move and observe in our immediate Area of Operations (AO).  The zone system is going to come into play heavily during our defense planning and during this entry we’re going to dissect those zones a bit.  Still no countermeasures yet but it’s coming soon, trust me.   For right now we have to get a seriously in depth grasp on the makeup of our terrain.

Below I have zoomed in a bit and show our immediate zone system map.  Remember Zone A is out to 50 meters, Zone B is out to 150 meters, and zone C is out to 400 meters.  These are the zones that will garner my immediate attention.  Why these zones?  From 400 meters in is what I call “carbine country”.  Simply put that is the range that common rifles firing intermediate caliber cartridges( ARs, AKs, etc) are accurate at with nominal training by the shooter (and yeah I know an AR can hit yada yadas yada – I’m referring to what the average shooter is capable of not some guy that has thousands of bucks invested in a rifle and training).  From Zone C in is our “fighting zone” and more than likely the extent of our rifles range as well.  As usual the stars depict currently inhabited homesteads.  The green lines represent existing fence lines.

Next I’m going to throw back up our zone map with some threat display on it.

The threat field of view capability for our homestead is the outline in red.  The solid arrows running down the roads represent what is referred to as “High Speed Avenues of Approach” which are roads that can be used by a threat to insert into our immediate AO by at least a 2 wheel drive truck.  The smaller single lined arrows represent possible avenues of attack by the threat and the large double arrows represent what I believe to be the most likely avenue of attack.  Notice I’ve gauged the threat as being most likely to attack from the north, west, and southwest.  This is due to a couple of reasons.  First with the occupied homesteads to the northeast and east it’s less likely they would attempt to penetrate through those without engaging or being engaged although it’s always a possibility (don’t ever write anything off).  Secondly the area to the west is quite a bit less densely populated which means the threat would have less a chance of encountering another homestead or activity that would alert to their presence.  Additionally that area gives the threat the closest avenue of approach without being observed.  In fact the threat would be able to marshal just outside of our normal viewing range and split up vehicles to hit from the northwest and north almost simultaneously after dropping dismounts to hit from the woodline due west and southwest.  Due to the composition of the land and lack of vehicular ingress routes an attack from the south is still possible however I believe it as less likely.

Now we’ll look at the zones themselves.  I’m going to point out a few strengths and weaknesses that we’ll begin to address in the coming entries but for right now I want you to be aware of what’s there.  The first Zone we’ll look at is Zone A which is roughly 50 meters out from the house.

Zone A  includes the house itself in the center which is our primary dwelling and is also going to be our final defensive position.  The area marked #1 is our immediate north and contains the driveway and no fencing.  Against a high speed insertion this is an open door.  #2 is our pond.  This is a strength in the zone in that no vehicle is likely to cross it and if it’s deep and muddy enough it will be pretty impassible by dismounts.  It’s good in that it prevents the threat from gaining easy access to the household from the northeast to the southeast.  #3 is the currently active barn and shop.  These are pretty essential buildings with a few trees around them.  They block our field of view to the southeast and that is going to be critical later on.  #4 is an old inactive barn that has half of its roof already torn off.  It’s currently  just being used for storage and it partially blocks our view to the west.  Remember as I stated in the last entry that the threat penetrating Zone A is a critical decision point – stay and fight or shag out.  Shotguns, pistols, and hand thrown explosives and flammables are a big threat in this zone.

Next up is Zone B.  Zone B goes from 50 meters out to 200 meters.  This is the immediate fight zone in that we don’t want any threat penetrating to Zone A.  Zone B is the beginning of where our planning will hit some challenges as it’s not entirely on our property.  And unless you have one helluva relationship with that property owner you may just have to suck up some of its shortfalls.

Working from north #1 represents an area where the threat is capable of a high speed insertion into Zone A.  In this Zone that area is a major issue that we absolutely cannot afford to miss addressing later on.   #2 is our pond, still an asset as it blocks easy ingress.  #3 is an open area leading to the barns that has small dirt mound in it.  Those dirt mounds represent cover for an attacking force trying to make its way to the cover of the barns.  #4 is a treeline of fast growing pine that runs along a fenceline.  This is a pretty big issue as well.  It blocks our field of view further into the zone and gives the threat cover to fire and maneuver from.  #5 is the western woodline.  A threat could literally approach from this area and using the cover of that old barn move to well within Zone A.  In Zone B the threat to the immediate house comes more from rifle fire than smaller and shorter range weapons.

Next up is Zone C.  Zone C goes from 200 meters out to 400.  Remember I stated from 400 meters in is carbine country.  If the threat is armed with normal tactical weapons (i.e. ARs, AKs, etc.) then this range is where the threat is going to be able to start pouring it on from.

Notice that we have another homestead at #1.  This is a strength in that not only could they possibly provide supporting fire from cover at that location but it is also a possible fallback position if we need to shag.  That homestead also has a pretty good field of fire along that high speed ingress route as well.  Definitely a strength in that zone.  #2 is an issue.  That is the hayfield which normally contains huge rolls of hay stored from the end of cutting season through the winter.  It’s a source of cover and ingress from the wooded area parallel to the eastern high speed avenue of approach.   #3 is a small clump of trees that could provide excellent cover for a couple of shooter.  #3 is also another source of cover which in this instance is a couple of old junk vehicles.    #5 is once again that western woodline which provides cover and the ability to maneuver within observation and rifle range. And #6 is the northern area which as in Zone B gives a threat a high speed avenue of approach.

Is this the only way to do this?  Absolutely not.  You could expand Zone A to include the barn and shop  (which makes perfect sense if they are critical to your survival). Zone B could be done away with completely.  What I intend is for you to get an appreciate for the way your terrain is composed and from what ranges and locations a threat could target you while effectively firing and maneuvering.

Before we go further into the process I need to address one critical point.  If push comes to shove and the fight is at your front door by having breached Zone A then IMHO it’s critical decision time.  Are you going to stand and fight (possibly in a burning house) or are you going to Escape and Evade (E&E) to another homestead or Rally Point (RP)?  Before you get overzealous with setting up defensive measures remember that the whole point of surviving is to live.  Keep that in mind along with the old adage that anything that keeps the threat out is going to probably keep you in.  Maintaining the ability to egress under pressure (which is going to increase as soon as you slacken fire and begin to bug out) while canalizing an attacking force requires a fine balance in defensive design.  There’s not always to be a clear and concise answer or solution.  Be creative but keep those things in mind.

In the next entry I’m going to look at Zones A through C in relation to basic defense taking into consideration what we’ve identified so far.  I’ll also begin to tackle Zone C with some terrain modification and passive defensive measures.  I’ll be working from the outside in which some folks will find bassackawrd.  The logic behind that is Zone C is going to provide some funding for a few upgrades and preps later in the process.

Stay frosty.

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Defense: Homestead Case Study – Back to Terrain Pt.1

I know a lot of you have been waiting for this and I’ve gotten a lot of emails asking when I was going to get into the nuts and bolts of building a homestead defense plan.  This is going to be the first entry in the series and for this one we’re going to go back to terrain for a while so we can get an appreciation of exactly what we’re defending.  I’m not going to go into mitigating measures in this entry.  We’ll talk about things like homemade Hescos,  rocket screens, etc later on.

Ladies and gents I present the notional “Rancho Lizard”.  Not a huge homestead by any means but still big enough to be pretty much self sustaining.  It is located almost smack dab in the middle of our tribal AO and below I have depicted the property boundaries as shown by the lines and currently occupied homesteads are depicted by a star.  Ours is the one inside of the property lines of course.

I’m not going down in the weeds yet – we’ll cover more about the actual composition of the immediate homestead over the next few entries.  What I want you to gain an appreciation for is the makeup of the land.  Our little slice of heaven is pretty much surrounded on three sides by dense pine forests and thickets which can be difficult to navigate even on foot.  And although there are some open area on the east aside for the most part it’s pretty tough crap to walk through.  The proximity of those other homesteads in this case is an asset as long as they stay occupied by friendlies or tribe members.  Simply put they are sort of a “speedbump” to get to you.  They also may require you to respond to attacks on their locations.  This is why ya gotta know the ground.

The first thing we have to do is get out and walk and gain a real appreciation for our location.  Yeah this means getting the boots on and getting off of your rump and grabbing some form of map and putting some miles on the LPCs.  What I’ve done is basically walk all the way around the property until I couldn’t see the immediate homestead (the house proper).  Then I noted that location on the map.    When I hit the treeline I walk into the woods and look back frequently until I find the furthest location that I absolutely cannot see the homestead.  Then I note that location on the map.  Continue doing so until you have gone all the way around your homestead.  And while you’re doing this it’s also a good idea to look for locations that could be used for cover including downed trees, culverts, small hills, and others.  We’re going to note this so we can do some terrain modification later.

What you are doing is trying to gain an appreciation for the threat’s perspective in relation to your defensive position (in this case our homestead).    So I went all the way around and marked my visual perimeter and this time I got lucky (or unlucky as I’ll address later in the blog) and didn’t find anything more than a culvert besides trees that would make for hasty cover.   My visual perimeter from a threat perspective now looks like this:

The red area contains every possible position that the threat could possibly observe (and subsequently place fire on) the homestead from.  I can’t stress enough the aspect of getting out and looking at your position from the threat perspective.  While doing so think about things like “how accurate would rifle fire be from here?” and “If someone was going to move closer to the house/barn/whatever where would they have to rush to?”  Those questions along with the answers you come up with for them will help you later on gain not only an appreciation for where the threat could be but where it may move next – allowing you to exploit his OODA loop (remember that?).  And sure we’ve got some challenges ahead of us later on – a LOT of challenges.  But for now let’s continue focusing on the threat.

One critical thing to look for during this process is any high ground that can place observation on your homestead even if it would be out of rifle range.  If there’s a hilltop five hundred yards away that can cover your front door you need to know about it.  Five hundred yards isn’t an unlikely shot for a good marksman.  I like to use the old saying here – “If you can see it, you can hit it.  If the threat can see it so can he“.  And if a command and control element needs a vantage point to control a fight they very well may choose one of those locations.

The next thing I’m going to look at it what I currently have in the way of established defenses.  As it stands it’s currently nothing more than five strand barbwire fence on 6 foot steel posts sunk into the ground 2 feet.  In reality it’s not going to stop a whole lot except cows but it gives us a place to start.  So I diagram my existing fences (the lines) along with existing gates (green rectangles).   Man we really have got some work to do.

Reaction times are always going to be a challenge when defending the homestead.  Maybe you might get lucky with a radio call letting you know something’s coming but you always want to assume the worst case scenario.  In this instance it would be a high speed insertion of threat forces via vehicle.  That kind of attack literally would only give us seconds to react.  So what I want to do is take a look at where the threat could enter my defensive area by vehicle.  In this case I’m going to ignore fences because any four wheel drive pickup is going to crash through our existing fences like they’re not there.  Sure the truck may take some damage but it’s not going to stop it cold and it’d be foolish to think so.  What I did this time is mark all the areas off that a high speed insertion would least likely come from.  In other words SlowGo/NoGo terrain for wheeled vehicles.  In this case the red areas represent where you’re not going to drive a vehicle due to impassibility either because of trees, water, or other natural obstacles.  Clear areas are navigable by at least a two wheel drive truck.

By doing this we have identified the most likely or only possible routes of high speed ingress to our immediate defensive position.  This helps in two way.  First it allows to use realistically allocate resources capable of stopping vehicles later on.  Secondly it also allows us to cue in on the possible avenues of approach if we get word that a possible threat is moving into our AO at high speed.

What about dismounted ingress?  Frankly in this case there is NO direction or route which is impassible to someone on foot (well except maybe the pond).  Especially if that someone is determined.  ATVs?  For that you really need to examine your terrain and think about how fast and what routes someone could take to get to any given position along your visual perimeter.  I lump them into the dismounted category in my case but due to the composition of the woods in my AO an ATV isn’t going to go blasting off of a trail.  The tress are too dense (less than 3 feet apart in most instances) and the thickets are too tall and too dense.

Moving on the next step in the process I’m going to take is to diagram my area into zones.  Why?  I use these zones for two purposes.  The first is to determine what kind of weapons would be effective at what ranges (and thereby locations) in the AO.  I also use the zones to gauge the immediacy of the threat.  Why?   Simply because unless you plan to die in place defending the house there’s a point you have to make a decision to shag the hell outta there.  That’s a subject that’s comprehensive in itself and will be covered later.  But for now I want you to keep one plain basic truth in mind and don’t forget it at any time when planning your defense:


Establishing defensive positions is like a double edged sword.  The more effective your obstacles against the enemy the more effective they’ll be on you as well.  Keep that in mind.  Anyhow back to the theme here – I have established Zones A through F around the house (which is my intended defensive position).  I also have it overlaid onto the visual perimeter.  That’ll come in handy as I’ll explain later on.

ZONE A is roughly a 50 meter perimeter around the house.  The significance of fifty meters is that any firearm will be effective within that range, hand thrown explosives (i.e. Molotovs) can be thrown within that range and strike the house, and if the fight gets into that area it’s decision time.  Haul ass or stand?

ZONE B is roughly out to 100 meters from Zone A.  At 150 meters pistols and shotguns are less effective and it’ll take either a pro quarterback or a projecting device to get thrown explosive on target.

ZONE C is out to another 200 meters out from B.  That’s 400 meters from the house.  At that range unless the shooter is a trained marksman most carbine fire isn’t going to be highly effective.  Sure it’ll still hit and be lethal but at that range our primary concerns are going to be scoped rifles and trained shooters.  If for some ungodly reason the threat has Rocket Propelled Grenades (RPGs) they become a threat in this range band.

Zones A through C later on are going to get a lot of focus but for now just relate them to weapons effectiveness.

ZONE D is another 150 meters out.  550 meters from the house – that’s half a kilometer. Rifle fire accuracy in most instances (and don’t give me the shit about someone armed with “X” rifle I know all about that crap) is going to drop significantly.  It still poses a threat but without some serious training and experience most shooters aren’t going to get many hits.

ZONE E is all the way out to one Kilometer.  Heavier weapons (.50s and such) can deliver fairly accurate fire but with very few exceptions rifle fire is going to be inaccurate as hell and mostly harassing.  Still possibly lethal if out of some unlucky chance you get hit but not the immediate threat.  This is the range that the threat is primarily going to start trying to maneuver tactically preparing for engagement.

ZONE F is out past 1 kilometer.  The threats here are primarily going to be conducting observation, marshaling, conducting initial maneuver, or if equipped possibly starting to place harassing fire on the target.  There are other threat weapons that work at longer ranges – mortars being an example.  But frankly if you’re getting hit with mortar fire it might be a good time to either shag or take the fight to the threat.

So what we basically have here is a type of Range Card only threat oriented.  However the same laws of physics apply to us so we know what weapons we have will be effective against a given threat at what range.  Another benefit of going through this “reverse range card” is that you’ll be able to determine if you’re taking accurate fire from a certain type of weapon where it could possibly come from.  As an example: If I’m returning fire from the house and I’m catching accurate rifle fire chances are the threat is inside of Zone C or closer.  Looking at the visual perimeter that narrows down the possible threat locations quite a bit.

In the next entry we’re going to zoom in a bit and look a little closer at the immediate homestead and start thinking about some mitigating measures we can take to counter certain types of threats.

For those that are not so metrically inclined:

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Defense: Applying Logical Processes In Planning and Execution of Homestead Defense

Before I start getting neck deep into physical and procedural measures we can take to defend the old homestead I feel that a brief overview of tactical thinking is probably in order.  At this point we are primarily concerned with defensive theory so I’m going to introduce you to a few things that will help you understand and use basic processes a little easier.  Note I’m not a fan of the Military Decision Making Process (MDMP).  It’s not simple nor probably realistic for our purposes.  Due to those facts I’m going to present some easier tools to work with.

The first concept I refer to is known as the “OODA Loop“.  It’s a brilliant little model developed in the late 50s by an Air Force Colonel named Boyd to depict combat processes.  It’s very simplicity is it’s brilliance.  The simplified OODA loop we’re going to use consists of four logical stages that occur in almost any action.  Those four stages are:

Observe: The time frame in which a person or group collects information about its opposition or environment or becomes alerted to a threat or issue.

Orient:  The part of the process in which you develop concepts or courses of action by measuring your assets or capabilities against the perceived actions or composition of the threat.

Decide: The point in the process where you make the decision to commit to a course of action.

Act:  The physical action of carrying out the decision you made in the Decide phase.

Pretty simple, eh?  Those definitions are actually way oversimplified but will work for now.  The OODA Loop is called a loop because it is a process that continues until either you or the threat are neutralized.  As I stated the beauty of this model is that it can apply to almost any combat process.  And understanding how it works will give you an edge.  How?  Well if your threat is in the Decide or Act phase and you change the environment on him his action may be faulty if it relied on conditions he brought through the Observe phase.  The key is to disrupt his decision loop by getting inside of it  thereby removing the advantage he has.  A simple example:

A threat has been observing your homestead (his Observe phase) with the intent to hit you.  He notices you seem to always park a vehicle between a woodline and the house about 50′ from the house. In his decision phase he decides he’s going to send two guys around to move out of the woodline under cover from that vehicle.  But the night before you decide to put that vehicle in the barn thereby denying him cover.  You have impacted his Action phase by forcing him to alter his plan or execute it with additional risk.

That’s just a simple example and there are dozens out there.  My key point is this: by disrupting the threats OODA loop in any possible way you reduce his effectiveness and disrupt his actions.   In relation to defense that creates a point in which you could take the advantage away from an attacker and exploit it to remain inside his decision loop while you hammer him.  And an attacker that is forced to go into hasty defense will quite often do something really stupid.  You ideally want to have as fast a transition as possible from the Orient to the Act phase.  Faster than the threat and it becomes advantage you.

So how do we apply this concept to planning defense of the rural homestead?  We take it and apply it to any action or measure we employ.  By doing something as simple as avoiding any routine we can make it more difficult for the threat to fully develop information during his Observe phase.  That could include  where you park vehicles at night, the time of day you swap any guards, and even the part of your pasture where you put the herd to bed.  I’m not going to get too deep at this point on how the OODA loop actually carries into the active fight because we aren’t at that point yet.  But stash this away for later because I will reference it again.

So I want to apply the OODA loop to my defensive planning process.  With a little brainstorming and using information I’ve gathered along the way my initial defense planning cycle will take into account these types of information during the Observe cycle:

Basically during the observe phase you want to get an as current and clear picture of your situation as possible.  Next we move into the Orient phase.  During the Orient phase you measure your total resources against the threat composition and capabilities and once you have completed that then using the information from your terrain evaluation you begin to tentatively plan defensive measures by allocating your resources and capabilities against possible attacks through wargaming by asking yourself questions like “which locations am I most likely to get hit from” and “what can I do to either neutralize or disrupt an attack from that location”.  Don’t just settle for “They’ll probably come out of the north woodline” but wargame everything – multiple simultaneous small teams attacking, setting fire to a building in the process, etc.  Basically the worst possible scenario you can come up with.  At this point it’s a good idea to evaluate any wargaming outcomes and probably even apply the AAR format (below) to your wargaming.  Once you have completed the Orient phase you’ll probably come up short on resources for defense.  This leads into the Decision phase.

During the Decision phase you have to make a conscious decision on which measure you’re going to implement.  Unless you’re stacked deep in materials, capabilities, and time you’re probably going to have to sacrifice one part for another.  Prioritization (remember that?) is part of this decision process.

So we’ve decided on what measure we’re going to take.  Now get offa yer ass and get hot on them in the Act phase.  During the initial course of defensive planning this is where you initially employ all of those measures and capabilities.   And once they are in place we’ve completed our first trip around the loop.  But it IS a loop and that means a continuous process.  This is where you go into a evaluate /sustain/improve/cycle in conjunction with the loop.  IMHO you should evaluate the effectiveness of your defenses daily.  Run yourself through the loop and while doing so during the orient phase take into account known/assumed changes in the elements I listed above.  During the sustainment Orient phase critically evaluate your defenses during and after wargaming and developed any possible changes you may want to make and prioritize those changes.  If you need to make changes then once again during the decision phase prioritize those measures and decide which ones to implement during the Act phase.

Now comes another instance where you have to change things up.  If you get hit and survive then you need to instantly start running through the loop again but this time as part of the Observe cycle we really need to conduct an After Action Review (AAR) before we go any further.  Most of us .mil types have sat through good and bad AARs and are familiar with the process.  I’ll simplify it a bit here but the concept is still the same.  During the AAR process you want to identify what you plan was and strengths and weaknesses of and in its execution.  To do this you identify the following kinds of information (and having everyone from the family sit in and participate is a solid idea – you’ll get a broader view of what went on):

  • What was my purpose? (in this instance likely defending the homestead)
  • What happened and was I successful?
  • What measures worked and why did they work?
  • What measures failed and why did they fail?
  • What losses did I take and why did I take those losses?
  • What measures if any could be improved?
  • What measures do I want to retain?

These basic questions if answered honestly will help you to refine your defensive plan but more importantly will help you identify what weaknesses you have.  By using some simple but sound tactical thinking in planning and executing our defenses they will evolve to become more effective.

Some further reading for those so inclined:

The OODA Loop: A good evaluation of Boyds processes written as a thesis by an AF Captain 

The AAR Process:  US Army TC 25-50: A Leaders Guide to AARs    

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SA: Timing is Everything

Via WRSA comes THIS excellent piece from Selco @ SHTF School.

Relevance?  Remember those urban areas are where it’s most likely to start.

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Defense: Setting Your Priorities


In the last entry I explored a few ways to save a buck while building up your supplies of defensive materials – that good old Class IV.  Now when it comes to defense planning and prepping there’s a million things to do and always the need for more material.  And even if you did nothing else but plan and prepare there’s still not going to be enough time in the world to get everything done.  Continuing with defense planning in this entry I’m going to explore one way of determining which things and what measures should come before others.

Why prioritize?  Prioritizing your effort and resources is just plain common sense.  It will normally allow  you to get the best bang for your buck if you are faced with either limited time or resources.  By establishing defensive priorities we can focus our efforts which hopefully will lead to the best compromise of defense vs. time vs. logistics (logistics in this case being what we have on hand in the way of material and capabilities). Prioritizing isn’t a one stop process either.  It’s part of a cyclic process that is continuously reviewed based on several factors as a whole in the defensive planning process which will be the subject of the next blog entry.

To begin the prioritization process you have to list things you want to defend and figure out why you want to defend them.  A good question here to ask yourself is “What things must I absolutely have to survive?”.  Once you come up with those items that becomes your basic prioritization list.  Here’s an example listed in my prioritized order:

Lives – The lives of me, my family, and my tribe.

Resources incl. food, stock, water, and other commodities

Home – Our dwelling where we will most likely consolidate to face an attack.

Land – pastures, fields, gardens, etc.

Outbuildings – Barn, garage or shop, storage, etc.

So how did I come about this particular order?  I applied the acronym CVRT to measure it.  CVRT is:

Criticality:  The degree to which a listed item is essential to survival.  The determination of criticality should be based on the impact of the loss or damage to the listed item to your  survival.

Vulnerability:  The degree to which a listed item is susceptible to reconnaissance, attack, or how much damage probably would occur if attacked.  This also includes the listed items ability to relocate in the event of an attack. This also includes your dependency on others and their resources as well.

Recuperability:  The degree to which an item on the list can be repaired or replaced in the event of damage in terms of time, equipment, and available manpower.

Threat:  The known or assumed probability of a listed item being targeted for reconnaissance or attack in conjunction with with known or assumed threat capabilities and TTPs.

When I measure the threat I include all information (at a minimum the 5 Ws) from my   intelligence gathering efforts and what possible threat hazards could an item face including both short and long range reconnaissance, projectile (small arms) damage, explosives including rocket or projected explosives, fire, and any biological and environmental capabilities (things like poisoning wells, etc.).

So how did my list end up in that order?  I’ll explain:

Lives: Pretty much always going to be #1.  You have to live to survive.

Resources:  You have to be able to sustain yourself.  I.e. You need food and water.

Home – We need a place to live.  It’s critical not only to security but shelter is necessary.

Land – We need these to support our commodities.

Outbuildings – We need these to support our other resources and commodities. Not as critical as the land but still very desired.

Notice I used the phrase “very desired”?  That isn’t an absolute requirement for survival however the presence of any resource or item on the list that makes survival not only easier but more efficient should be weighed as well.  You list may not look like this one once you sit down and do some brainwork.  Not a problem – my intent here is for you to use the information provided and develop your own.

When you evaluate your list try asking yourself as many questions as possible in those areas.  Even hypothetical ones.  And be realistic.  Questions like “Am I physically able to run a mile to displace if we’re overrun?” or “Is the threat likely to poison our wells and water supply?” or “How quickly would a fire spread across the pasture to my barn, home, etc?”.  Simple questions like that will help you gain some real insight into just how valuable and vulnerable things on your list are.

During this process you’re going to encounter something I call “Priority Drift”.  That’s when one item is dependent on another – i.e. your cows (a resource) might be wholly dependent on your land if you don’t have another source of food for them.  The way I handle that is by making a note that I need to take even greater measures to defend that item (in this case the land).

So at this point we’ve identified our priorities and we know what we need to defend and where we need to focus our efforts.  But before we do that we need to flesh out defensive measures and weight them against our resources on hand. Once you begin to brain through this no doubt you’ll figure out a few places you fall short.  These go into your “defensive shortfalls”.  Also include in that how much you rely on others to help or assist in the defense or recuperability of an item.  Ideally you want to be totally self sufficient in defense but that may not be possible.  This gets factored into the plan as an overall vulnerability. Add in that dependency I mentioned above and you’ll get a better picture of your overall vulnerability.

This process can also be applied at the tribe level.  Maybe you have a bridge that splits the tribal AO and has to be defended.  Or a location that you use as an ad hoc aid station or clinic.  Apply the same process and you’ll get a picture of your tribal priorities as well.

Prioritization isn’t rocket science and it benefits from asking as many questions as possible and using every shred of information you have.  Use some basic common sense measures and work through this and I’m pretty sure you’ll find it is a sound process.  As a process it is part of the overall cyclic defensive planning process for rural areas which we’ll get into in the next blog entry.

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Defense: (Almost) Free Stuff – Or How I’m A Cheap Bastage


I’m a cheap bastage.  I’ll put that out there right up front.  Don’t get me wrong – I’ll spend good money for a good product.  But if I can get what I need through something like some good old fashioned honest manual labor I’ll do so in a heartbeat.  Why is this relevant?  Keep reading.  As always this is not all inclusive but rather once again intended to get those creative gears grinding.

I’m going to go ahead and start covering some basic defensive TTPs (Tactics, techniques, and Procedures) in the blog and logically we are going to need a few, well more than a few, odds and ends during the process.  What kind of stuff?  Things like sandbags, wire, plywood, etc.  Good old basic Class IV stuff.  And man is that shit expensive.  Go and price a roll of barb wire.  You’ll go broke trying to stack all of the material needed.  That is unless you span the purchases out over a long period or wait until the very last minute when SHTF to run the plastic into the ground and then chances are there’s going to be a lot of empty shelves.  I’m not going to go into any uses yet, but rather how we can get that material stacked up and save a buck.

I’ll tell ya what – I love Barbwire.  And not the crappy Pam Anderson movie.  Barbwire is a good barrier to slow folks down and even stop a wheeled vehicle when used properly .  Most of us Rural tribe types already probably have a barbwire fence running around our property or splitting our fields.  That alone ain’t enough wire IMHO.  But if you price a roll of it it’s going to run probably about $50 a roll new.   And I want a LOT of it.  Being a cheap bastage how did I get that much and not spend a dime out of my own pocket?  Some good old fashioned down home ingenuity led me to run an ad in the local rag and put a couple of postcards up in the Co-op for “Free Fence and Outbuilding Removal” with the requirement I keep the material I tear down.  Now rural folks will understand that pulling out a five strand barbwire fence off of a ten acre side of pasture is a pretty labor intensive.  And when something comes along advertised as free folks will jump on it – especially the elderly if they don’t have the resources to do it themselves.  Within three days I had four gigs lined up – I would pull the fence out along with #1 son as long as I got to keep the wire and metal posts.  Over the next three Saturdays I spent pretty much from daylight to dark pulling fences out, stacking posts, rolling wire up, loading it on my trailer, and hauling it to the house.   But before I went out to start tearing fences down I rigged up a couple of tools.  The first thing I did was grab an old bumperjack from the junkyard for $5 and drill a hole in the hook.  Attached to that hole I put a Clevis so I could just slide it over the post and cinch it up, jack a few times and the posts generally would pop right up out of the ground.  I wish I could say I came up with the idea but I remember my granddaddy and a couple of his buddies doing that way back in the day.  Another tool I made (well not really a tool) was a bunch of homemade wire spools out of scrap lumber. I originally wanted cable spools but seems they’ve gotten scarce and when you find them folks want a premium for them – go figure.  So I made two “X”s out of 2x4s that were 2 feet long.  I drilled a hole large enough to run a piece of rebar through the center of them and then attached them to each other via some more 2x4s.  I then welded up a couple of pieces of angle iron to the side of my trailer and capped those with a short section of pipe.  Put the reel in place, slide the rebar through , and I had #1 son roll the reel whilst I tension and align the wire.  Just remember – the larger the reel the more it’s going to weigh when you get it done.   But it’s so much damn easier to handle when rolled up.  An added plus is I got probably the best damn Dutch apple pie I’ve ever had from a grateful old couple.  community service – everybody wins.

Another thing I’m kind of fond of is sandbags.  Sand is a helluva bullet stopper and it’s a given that 24 inches of dry sand will stop most direct hits from small arms – trust me on this one I’ve seen them at work.  But those little nylon suckers aren’t cheap either.  I did some calling around and couldn’t find any locally (we don’t live in a flood plain) and the ones I did find within a reasonable drive cost $50 for a bundle of 100.  Dammmmmn I ain’t paying that much. So being the cheap bastage I am (remember the solutions I favor are cheap, reliable, and simple) I did a little test with a nylon feedsack  half full of sand – and I ended up having to use a black plastic trashbag as a liner to contain the sand in the sack.  I folded the empty half over sand applied some good old duct tape to keep its form manageable and wala – bigass sandbag one each.  You can also use those nifty giant 50 lb. rice bags as well.  So I hit my neighbors up and asked if they would hold onto their old bags for me with the explanation of “I’m going to fill them with sand and build an embankment to expand my pond” and they were more than happy to.  Just realize these things are not as durable or manageable as a USGI sandbag.  But from what I’ve seen putting bullets into them they are as effective.

Wood is kind of a different matter altogether.  I had to do some waiting but I eventually did get some calls from elderly folks that were willing to let me keep the material if I would tear down a shed, barn, or whatever.  I did a couple of those gigs and from my observation it takes a lot of time to do, not all the material you will salvage is going to be useable, and it’s usually pretty damn snakey and you run the risk of getting stuck with a rusty nail (tetanus shot anyone?).    Where I did hit a good payoff was that the sheets of tin I didn’t keep that were salvaged from the roofs brought a decent price at our local auction so I was able to stick some money in the bank and give #1 son half of it for his efforts.  You should be able to get some decent sheets of plywood out of your efforts along with a ton of 2x4s, 4x4s, and maybe even some larger lumber.  Just watch out for those damn nails and snakes.

Another thing that will come in handy is 55 gallon drums.  I’m not talking those plastic food safe or water kind (if you get those free or cheap jump on them without hesitation) but steel ones that bulk oil and such comes in.  Try hitting up your local mom and pop oil shops for them and lot of times they’ll be more than happy to let you have them to keep from dealing with the HAZMAT disposal headache unless they are doing a trade in deal with their supplier.  If that’s the case try asking what the supplier gives them in trade price for the barrel and it may only be a few bucks in which case try topping the price they are getting and maybe they’ll let them go.  Still worth the investment.

One area I am still looking for finding a cheap source of is fill dirt and sand.  No luck on that yet (decent dirt is in demand around here) but when I expand my pond I imagine I’m going to have quite a bit of dirt left over. Just gotta keep looking for that sand.

Other things to look for are railroad rail, railroad crossties, any kind of metal scrap like piping, angle iron, etc.  Hopefully with some imagination and a little good old fashioned labor you should be able to build up a decent stock of material while saving some cash.  Plus to make the fuzzy rabbit huggin’ hippie libtards happy you can claim you’re “going green”.  At least until I fire up the chainsaw.

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OPSEC: It Begins With You

I’ve been hammering OPSEC during the Blog so far and these next few entries aren’t going to be any different.  I believe OPSEC is the key to many things – but first and foremost it’s a basic key element of security and Rural Security is what this blogs all about.  Plus it’s just than damn important.

So for SnG let’s define OPSEC again in simple terms:  OPSEC is the process by which you keep  information about you and yours from those that don’t have a clear need to know from finding out.  Why not just the threat?  I’ll illustrate that in this entry.

If you read the entry about OPSEC and EEFI then you should have a basic understanding of what EEFI is.  That EEFI has different levels as I illustrated.  Inter-family (within the family only knowledge) Inter-Tribal (ditto at the Tribal level), and possibly even among your Tribe and other entities.  For this entry I’m going to focus on the lowest common element the Family.

Ya know I have an observation here and I may be wrong but I don’t think I am.  People like to brag and show their toys off.  Kinda basic human nature to prove “I’m better than you” at some core psychological level.  But whatever.  I’ll avoid the whole Freudian stchik for now.     So what do I mean showing their toys off?  How many preppers have you seen post pics of their preps?  Firearms out the wazzoo, ammo stacked in safes and closets, pantries with bulging shelves, bug out vehicles that look like something out of Mad Max.  I see it all the time.  On one hand it’s good that this kind of stuff is out there – some folks will see that as an example and if it’s a good one then bravo.  On the other hand it’s pretty fricking dangerous.  Let’s say you post on some forums or some kind of social media and post pics of your guns, lists of your preps and loadouts and then go shooting with a couple of local guys on that forum or have a BBQ, or let your relatives see it, whatever.  They now know what you have and probably your real name.  Take that name and if they know what city you live in they can get your address – it’s pretty damn elementary.  Folks please don’t post this kind of info without taking some serious safeguards.   Better yet don’t post it at all.  OPSEC.

One of the great things about living in a rural setting is in most cases no one can see you unload those sacks of rice or that case of ammo.  But the folks that do see it are the clerk and your friends at the store you bought it at.  Think about that and consider it might be a good idea to hit the Sams up in another city instead of the Wally world in your town for the 50 lb. sack or two dozen of rice.  I use a general rule of thumb – I don’t shop for any preps in my closest town.  Same thing with firearms –  I don’t buy anything no matter how good the deal from anyone that lives close by (most of the face to face deals I do involve at least an hour or two drive).  try thinking twice about that guy that’s coming over to buy that Mav88 from you.  Maybe it’s more prudent to do that deal at his house or a neutral location.  But what about his OPSEC?  Screw his OPSEC you’re worried about yours.  If he’s keen then he’ll avoid doing that deal at his house as well.

Another thing you need to realize is that some resources are finite.  Things like medical supplies, fuel, equipment, batteries, etc are going to be hard to replace until you develop or implement a way to make them, find an alternative means, or do without.

What about family and friends?  I use Ruleset #1:  Friend is an association that is dictated by the current state of affairs in our environment.  Family is only slightly better.  Neighbor is a geographic term that may or may not be associated with either.  Huh?  Here, let me explain.  Say you are really proud of your preps – you’ve invested hundreds if not thousands of bucks in guns, ammo, food, etc.  You show it off to your Cousin, friend, or neighbor Dave.  Dave doesn’t prep and thinks that uncle sugar will bail his ass out in a pinch if SHTF.  Dave may believe and agree with you something is looming on the horizon but be damned if he’s going to let prepping cut into his beer money.  So all hell breaks loose and four days later  no .Gov help has arrived and Dave shows up at your doorstep with his starving kids begging for some food because he knows “You’ve got a huge stash”.  He also wants to borrow a rifle and some ammo and needs some fuel for his truck.

Decision point time:  Do you let him have what he needs or turn him away and tell him he’s SOL?  He could be family after all and those kids look hungry enough that they’d probably eat the backside out of a skunk raw.  Here’s where you need to have a cool head and even lie if necessary.  IMHO you have three options at this point.  So let’s do some Course of Action (CoA) thinking here.

COA 1 is we give Dave what he needs.  Upside:  He’s gone.  Downside:  He’ll probably be back and may have a big mouth.

COA2:  Give him a little and tell him you didn’t really have that much as you’ve been using it all along. Upside: he’s gone.  Downside: He’ll be back, he’ll probably be pissed at you, and he may have a big mouth.

COA3:  Tell him you tried to give him advice to prep to start with and tell him to pound sand.  Upside:  He’ll leave.  Downside:  He’ll probably be really pissed (maybe even to the point of violence), and he’ll surely have a big mouth when it comes to that “stingy bastard or bitch” and “All the food and stuff they’re hoarding”.

So COA 1 or 2 will ultimately result in a return visit by Dave and that process will go on and on until you haven’t got anything left to give him.  At which point he’ll either get belligerent or probably forget he ever knew you when you need help.   COA 3 will return a similar result expect probably go directly to the ending.

Here’s where I’m going to go back into some human nature.  As people get even more hungry they will become even more desperate.  Things like watching your kids starve will make you desperate.  And desperation makes men (and women) take desperate measures.  I’ll bet you money right now that if Dave was watching his kids cry because they are hungry and his wife is giving him hell to get out and find them some food and he knew you had a stash within a day or two any positive relationship you would have with Dave (including familial) will go out the window.  If he gets desperate enough he will eventually develop the mindset “Screw you and your family”  and try to take what he needs by force.

Now we have to deal with another possibility common to all the COAs.  Dave might have a big mouth.  And let’s say Dave’s neighbors are at his place and notice he has food and question him about it.  Is he going to keep his big mouth shut and protect you?  Possibly in the face of violence?  I ain’t willing to bet on it cousins or not.  So maybe he tells his neighbors and they skip his place and come knocking on your door.  Our leech web has just gotten larger and probably a bit more dangerous.

Bad situation, eh?  So what’s the best way to handle it?  Honestly by not getting into it in the first place.  Keep your preps to yourself and tell your family to do likewise.  Go ahead and advise your cousin/friend/neighbor Dave.  But for God’s sake and the security of your family don’t show it to them, don’t tell them what or how much you have, or where it’s located if it’s cached.  You’ve got to focus on you and yours survival first.  This is why I advocate having some kind of Tribal council to handle issues like this.  Keep the knowledge of needs within a tightly controlled group and fill those needs as anonymously as possible preferably spread amongst the tribe with a plan to avoid it happening in the future.  After all you don’t want a continuous bailout case in the tribe.

So what if you prep for others?  That’s a noble thing.  I really don’t do it.  Sure I have extra but it’s going to take some damn serious need to get me to help and then I ain’t going to just hand it out like candy.  If you do prep for others then please take the time to think out any possible scenario that would require you handing out those preps.

Folks this is a mentality that the entire tribe should adopt.  If you have a relationship with a friend/neighbor/relative that provides for you and them to mutually support each other and you feel it can continue without any issues then by all means do so.  But that relationship should be kept quiet.  Remember, this is a tribe and not a commune.  If a family in the tribe isn’t self sufficient then the council should look at ways they can get them to self sufficiency.  But a constant stream of handouts is to be avoided.

The “keep it in the family” secret is paramount to your family’s survival.  Think about that next time you go to post pics, blab about your huge food stash, talk about how much fuel you have on hand, or whatever.  You have to realize that some sources are going to be finite – especially things like medical supplies.   And if you hand those resources out like pez then you may not have them when you need them.

Another topic you need to keep in the family is any defensive measures you’ve taken to harden your homestead.  I’m not going to get in the weeds about that as there’s an entire series about it but things like where you emplace wire, your bug out route when the Goths breach your doorstep, exterior emergency lighting, alarms, etc.  all need to be kept at your level.  Now this is assuming you haven’t gone and put something on someone elses land – frankly I’m against that without some careful planning and coordination but it might be so.  That probably needs to be shared with whomever is going to be on that plot (that’s an example of Tribal OPSEC).

As I’ve stated before:


A little forethought with the mentality “How can this endanger me, my family, or my tribe?” before you put info out there can go a long way amigos.

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