Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Army Weirdoness

Some things in the Army are so weird you’ll never forget them...

I grew nostalgic last night after I finished clearing my house. My wife thought she heard something- again. This is a multiple week occurrence. I swear, she does it on purpose. However, it reminded me of clearing glass houses while out on a field problem. I do sometimes miss those days. I have written about things that piss me off. Now I am going to switch it up on write a few things which I miss from my military days.

Crossing the Road: When I am out walking and cross the road I like to pick up the pace and jog across because, well, I am not an asshole. A quick aside, anyone who takes their time slowly meandering across the road and holding up traffic is a fucking prick. Seriously, pick up the pace a bit fatty, you might actually shed a few pounds. Then go do some Body by Waterman. Anyway, whenever I shuffle across the street I think of that shuffle we did when we tried to run with all of our gear on. You know the one where you want to move quick, but have about 100 pounds of gear on. So instead of running, you kind of shuffle from point A to point B; it is a kind of fast walk with all of your gear flopping up and down. If you have no idea what I am talking about, you obviously have not completed many operations or field problems in full kit. Your knees are, no doubt, in better shape than mine.

While we are on the subject of roads, does anyone else think of the term linear danger area when encountering a trail in the woods? Every single time I come across a trail I want to do a slashing motion across my chest and start figuring out if I am going to scroll the road or set in near and far security teams. I never did think that scrolling the road was particularly effective. I think people just like to say it is because it is a ranger’s staple. It even has the ranger term- scroll- right in the word. Must be badass, right? Anyway, I am reminded of these tactics as I am walking around my city and come across a road. This is not some weirdo flashback, I know that I am not in a war zone when this happens. It is simply a fun reminder of my old profession. I do know that I am not the only one to think this…

Tactical Whisper Yell: Sometimes I hear my kids “whispering” while failing miserably and instead managing to be loud as fuck. I appreciate the sentiment, but they are absolutely failing at being quiet and/or sneaky. It reminds me of it being zero-dark-thirty, deep in the Alaskan or Tennessean woods- or in the remote mountains of Afghanistan or inner cities of Baghdad. Either way and no matter the unit, it is always the same. There is some miscommunication and someone wants to get another's attention. Unfortunately, that person, usually a private, is not paying attention so it turns into an escalation of hand and arm signals and then verbal commands. The hand and arm signals become more frantic as the private is intrigued by whatever butterfly or daydream has captured his attention. Then it happens, the tactical whisper yell, “PSSST, hey dipshit. Get the fuck up and pay the fuck attention. We are moving again….” This will be said loud enough for everybody to hear, but soft enough for the squad leader to know you are still tactical as fuck. After all, it isn’t your fault that Private Wondernuts was so engrossed with butterfly fucking that he was almost left behind...in Iraq. You know, where they will only cut off your fucking head and put it on the internet for the world to see… For whatever reason, these are the moments I miss…

Trash on the side of the Road: Wait, this is supposed to be a funny one. I’ll save this one for another article.

PVC Pipe: Piss tubes!! Sticking out of the ground at your local combat outpost. It is the drive through of pissing. It is the convenience I miss most about these...and all the meat gazing. They did their job, keeping your piss area separate from the rest of the FOB in order to keep contamination at bay. Because of this, PVC pipe will be forever linked to piss tubes. Now, everyone should remember how they are supposed to be lined up. It is pretty standard, usually facing a wall and in rows. Not at FOB Andar in Ghazni Province, Afghanistan. Nope. Anyone who has been there might remember that the tubes there formed a triangle….facing in...so you got to look at your friend’s penis because you weren’t already close enough. Why anyone would do this, I have no idea, but it was truly the definition of a circle jerk. It had to have been intentional, and if it was, whoever did this is the fucking man. Oh, I always wondered why they put that mesh over it until I witnessed a man trying to take a shit into one. Not a Haj, mind you, but an American soldier. I didn’t even say anything. Just walked on by even as he was on his tiptoes, trying to get himself high enough and bend over to shit at the same time. Absolutely amazing. Infantrymen will truly overcome all obstacles, even ones they do not have to.

Flies: HOLY SHIT, the flies in Iraq. Okay, I really don’t miss these, but remember those little bitches? They were bad in Afghanistan, but never did they reach the raw numbers they had in the cities of Iraq. They would fucking swarm everything! Did you ever consider that all of them had just been walking all over the porter shitter before you entered and sat down. You disturbed them from their feast of human MRE shit! Now they will swarm and engulf you in a literal shitstorm. God, that was awful. I also know that I am not the only person who worried one would fly up my butt as I took a poo. I wonder if that ever happened to anyone? Did they go to the medics to get it out or did they just pretend that it didn’t happen? I feel bad if you were sexually assaulted by a pervert Iraqi fly, but someone has to ask the tough questions.

Speaking about sexual assault, remember those flyers in the bathrooms at the big FOBs like Striker or BIAP? That had the tear off tabs that had an emergency number to call if you were sexually assaulted. Wasn’t it always a bit unnerving when there was about half the tabs pulled? Especially if you were in there late at night with no one else? Seriously, how big a problem was there because it would appear that it was a huge fucking problem. Striker Five much, anyone? How many Camp Striker people remember Striker Five? We will just leave that topic right there.

Finally, while I am on the topic of bathrooms and showers, (it is weird the direction this one took, isn’t it?) did you ever go searching for a shower on the bigger FOBs and find one that had no one in it? It was like finding heaven. You could spread out all of your stuff and take off your towel early. Perhaps you even shaved naked. The entire time, you would look around in amazement, wondering how no one knew this was here. The other showers you had been in were filled with dudes who, apparently, loved to be naked and close to other naked guys. Then, one of two things would happen. Either a few women would come in or when you left the showers you would notice the female only sign. If it was the latter, then you only felt like a pervert for a few minutes. If it was the former, now you had a decision-you could either wait them out or exit immediately, apologize, and pray there is no SHARP response. Although you know in the back of your mind you remembered a porn that started this way…

Thank you for reading and remember to share so your family and civilian friends will understand that you aren’t the only weirdo veteran out there. By the way, let me know if you have a better caption for my cherry ass in the above picture.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

War and Anger

One of side effects of PTSD that frustrated me as a combat veteran is the rage that is always bubbling just below the surface. Like the improvised explosive devices that we dealt with in Iraq and Afghanistan on a daily basis, I feel like I am ready to explode at any moment. It is not a rage in which I am going to kill someone. No, that old myth that veterans cannot have weapons because we might lose all control is tiresome. Nonetheless, it is a rage that is always there, even when I am enjoying myself and having a “good” day. If something does not go according to plan, my response is to become extremely angry. It is as if a switch goes off inside my brain. This has had heartbreaking consequences for my family as they are around me most. They have to witness, up close and personal, how I transform from a fun loving husband/father to an angry asshole who yells for no apparent reason. Hopefully, they will never have to learn why we act like we do, and by this I mean they will never have to experience what we experienced. I will say that it is important to explain what is going on. Explain it in an age appropriate manner so that they understand they are not the problem. That is extremely important.

We get this way because we know too many truths. We remember joking in our vehicles with each other, discussing who was hotter (Megan Fox or Jennifer Lawrence) when the vehicle in front of us disappeared in a cloud of smoke, our teeth rattling from the percussion of a 200 pound IED. Immediately, we would become gravely serious as we get out of the relative safety of our vehicles. With bits of Earth, vehicle, and sometimes our brothers still raining down all around us we ran to help in any way we can. We always fear what we would find in that short sprint to the destroyed vehicle. Are my brothers, at least, alive? Will anyone be torn apart? Who was in that vehicle? Was it my best friend? Did I check their medical pouches for tourniquets lately? Am I doing the right thing right now? Did I miss that wire? In half a second, these questions and a dozen more race through your mind. When you get to the scene, sometimes you are lucky and see a bunch of concussed guys with blown eardrums. Even though their brains are rattled, they are otherwise alright. This Is the best case scenario. Other times you may be confronted by a scene too horrible to put into words because you don’t want to describe what your buddy’s chest cavity looks like. Regardless, these are the images that will haunt you at every moment of the day. It is why you turn to anger in a split second when one of your children are not listening. If a soldier did not listen it means they or  others could be injured or end up dead. You know truths of the real world as it was since Cain killed Abel. You know that one wrong move, even with innocent intentions, can result in carnage on a level that is incomprehensible to most.

So you harness all of that emotion and turn it to pure anger for numerous reasons. One, it is really the only socially acceptable emotion that you can display in professions like the infantry. Another is that it is an emotion that you can use with success. Crying in front of your men does not exactly instill confidence. Neither does showing fear. While both of these are perfectly normal emotions, good luck leading men as a crying, sobbing NCO. Humor is another way that we hide our emotions. In the infantry you will see both anger and humor- dark humor mostly. Laughing about a man you just killed whose body exploded and was on fire five feet in the air is not exactly normal. Neither is stacking bodies of dead Afghans who were killed by an Apache. One was so young he had not yet grown hair underneath his arms. His head was shot clean off, and you could see down the jagged hole straight to his heart. I’ll always remember seeing the tufts of black hair from the torn and burnt bottom of the scalp, slightly upturned as if reaching for the rest of his head. We never found it. At the time, I laughed as I dragged his limp, lifeless body and threw it on the pile of others. Now, it is all I think about it when I see my sons, both around his age. The curse of the infantrymen, what you bottled during these times because you had no other choice to, will rise to the surface eventually. For me, it has gotten worse over the years.  

PTSD takes many forms. It is different for some, but it will mainly appear as anger. That is the emotion we become used to. All the close calls you laughed about will resurface. Remember cringing ever so slightly, yet smiling still as the mortars came in? WHUMP! WHUMP! WHUMP! Closer they came and all you could do was huddle next to your bed and hope that they do not get lucky. You will never feel so powerless as you do during your first mortar attack. All of this will later manifest itself as something else. That something else is a version of your old combat self. Kids or spouse did not put the toilet paper exactly in the spot they should have? Guy bumped into you at the bar by accident? Someone cut you off driving to work? Your boss said something you took as a snide remark? All of these will be reasons, or triggers, that make you become unreasonably angry. You feel it coming and there is little you think you can do to control it. It is that switch I mentioned earlier. You start yelling and screaming. You punch something, breaking it or your hand. Sometimes you’ll use alcohol as a crutch because it calms you down. In reality, it will make your anger harder to control. You may feel calmer, or you may simply not remember exactly how nasty you were to your wife the night before. You wake up the next morning and know it was a bad night by the way your wife looks at you. You ask yourself, why don’t they understand? Don’t they get that you are just trying to help them? Later, after you calm down, you feel bad because you overreacted. It is a vicious cycle. At the time, you could sense that to be the case, but that was a different you. It was another version of you from a different time and place. Though this old version has raised from the dead, you still feel as you once did when you were angry, frustrated, and terrified that you were pinned down and your friend was shot. During these times, you have no control of your emotions. Your body is in flight or fight mode, just as it was in that firefight, and you have no way of getting out of it.

The good news is that you can learn to redirect your emotions into something other than anger. I am still working on it with varying degrees of success. I have discussed shooting in recent blogs. Did you know that regular exercise really cuts down on anger. There is nothing like a good workout to get the anger out. Try Body by Waterman, but really put your energy into it like you used to when you wanted to prove yourself to your leadership. It will, in least, get you a nice dopamine high, as well as get you thinking clearly. I highly recommend buying a punching bag and learning some basic boxing techniques. What is interesting is you’ll notice you are fighting yourself when you go round after round with the heavy bag. You’ll feel great after. If you are working or out in a place where you are unable to start doing air squats then simply walk away. Remember that veterans are protected and have rights. If you feel you are being discriminated against, contact your H.R. department right away. You can do it because you almost died for your country. Never be afraid to tell people the truth. Vets are always so humble and that is great, but be proud of your accomplishments. Know what you identify as and let the world know. Knowing who you are will help reduce many PTSD symptoms. Most importantly, call a friend who you served with and talk to them. Tell them why you are angry. Ask if it is something that they struggle with as well. Most likely, you’ll both laugh at each other when you realize how trivial it really is, especially as you both remember when things were really tough.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Rogers Standing Orders: Revised for Aghanistan and Iraq

Major Robert Rogers Standing Orders, updated for the modern day infantry and the lessons learned in Iraq and Afghanistan.

1. Don’t forget nothing.
New: Don’t forget your PT belt.
2. Have your musket clean as a whistle, hatchet scoured, sixty rounds powder and ball, and be ready to march at a minute’s warning.
New: Have you rifle cleaned and locked away so it is safe. Keep ammo separate and in the crates still, can’t be too safe...Be ready for a formation and safety brief at a minute’s warning.
3. When you are on the march, act the way you would if you were sneaking up on a deer. See the enemy first.
New: When you are on the march, walk as fast as you possibly can because war is about fifteen minute miles and less, damn it!! Good luck seeing the enemy first with that training.
4. Tell the truth about what you see and what you do. There is an army depending on us for correct information. You can lie all you please when you tell other folks about the rangers, but don’t never lie to a ranger or officer.
New: Tell the truth about what you see and what you do unless you really fucked up. Then lie your ass off unless you get caught, especially to officers and rangers. 
5. Don’t never take a chance you don’t have to.
New: Don’t never take a chance you don’t have to. Or even if you have to. No fucks given. Especially if you are an E4 and short-timing.
6. When we’re on march we march single file, far enough apart so no one shot can go through two men.
New: When we’re on the march we march single file because it is just so much easier to do at night. Keep close enough to see the guy in front of you, who cares if you are close enough one round can go through two men. Do the weird tactical whisper shout thing if a break in contact occurs. This is loud as fuck still, but shows everyone how tactical you are.
7. If we strike swamps, or soft ground, we spread out abreast, so it’s hard to track us.
New: If we strike swamps, or soft ground, we stay in a file because it is just fucking easier, ok? Plus the new guy will get lost if we spread out. Who the fuck got us in these swamps, anyway? I bet it was that new LT. Fucking butterbar...
8. When we march, we keep moving till dark, so as to give the enemy the least possible chance at us.
New: When we march, we keep moving until Haj falls out and deserts. The we have to go round them up which gives the enemy the most possible chance at us.
9. When we camp, half the party stays awake while the other half sleeps.
New: When we camp, half the party pretends to stay awake while the other half can’t sleep. Then everyone will fall asleep. The Platoon Sergeant will snore the loudest.
10. If we take prisoners, we keep ‘em separate till we have time to examine them, so they can’t cook up a story between ‘em.
New: If we take prisoners, we let them go because, “No Ali Baba, mista”, apparently. Fucking Haj...
11. Don’t ever march home the same way. Take a different route so you won’t be ambushed.
New: Don’t ever march home the same way. Unless it is the quickest route and the chow hall is closing.
12. No matter whether we travel in big parties or little ones, each party has to keep a scout 20 yards ahead, 20 yards on each flank, and 20 yards in the rear, so the main body can’t be surprised and wiped out.
New: No matter whether we travel in big parties or little ones, each party will get lost if they let recon platoon lead them anywhere. If your LT gets you lost, scout 20 yards ahead. 20 yards on each flank, and 20 yards in the rear in a cloverleaf pattern to try to find the land nav point.
13. Every night you’ll be told where to meet if surrounded by a superior force.
New: Every night you’ll be told where to meet if Command Sergeant Major shows up to the Combat Outpost. Keep your hands out of your pockets and hide your baseball hats. Stay there until he is done bitching about God knows what….
14. Don’t sit down to eat without posting sentries.
New: Don’t sit down to eat without having the entire platoon cluster together. Bullshit very loudly. Make sure someone packed Rip-it's in their truck.
15. Don’t sleep beyond dawn. Dawn’s when the French and Indians attack.
New: Sleep whenever, you just better be awake up for your guard shift. Haj definitely will not attack at dawn or if it is cold, though they might toss some mortars your way. Laziest. Fighters. Ever.
16. Don’t cross a river at a regular ford.
New: Don’t cross a river at a regular ford. Have the entire platoon cluster in a giant fuck as everyone tries to jump over the irrigation canal with 100 pounds of gear on. Laugh as everyone fails. Cringe as you consider what might happen if you become engaged at that moment.
17. If somebody’s trailing you, make a circle, come back onto your own tracks, and ambush the folks that aim to ambush you.
New: If somebody is trailing you, stop and say, shaku maku? Ask if they have any chai and foot bread.
18. Don’t stand up when the enemy’s coming against you. Kneel down, lie down, hide behind a tree.
New: Don’t just stand there when the enemy’s coming against you. Shout “contact” for some reason and start shooting without giving any fire commands to your team, whatsoever. When you are low on ammo because it took fifteen minutes to even locate the enemy, blame the privates for losing discipline.
19. Let the enemy come till he’s almost close enough to touch. Then let him have it and jump out and finish him up with your hatchet.

New: Let the enemy come till he’s almost close enough to touch. Then let him hear those rules of engagement: Shout, Show, Shove, Shoot, Shoot!!! Pray he is not a suicide bomber.

Read the history behind Robert Rogers real orders here.

Robert Rogers Real Standing Orders

Remembering real men and their value in PC current year...

The Ranger Handbook is an excellent source for infantrymen. It is filled with tactics that are just as relevant today as the day they were written. From information about operation’s orders to ambushes and raids, it is an easy pocket guide on how to be successful in the field. What most people do not know is that the Nineteen Standing Orders that are in it are fictitious. Learning Robert Rogers real orders is vital to understanding the man, his innovative tactics, and the time he lived in. This will help you be able to apply it on the battlefield today.
The orders are taken from The Northwest Passage, a book written by Kenneth Roberts and published in 1937. The book, a historical fiction, is an excellent story that follows a man, Langdon Towne, as he is expelled from Harvard and joins Robert Rogers’ Rangers. Ultimately, he participates in the pivotal raid on the Abenaki village of St. Francis- a major turning point for the British during the war. The book is well researched. It is an excellent account of a true leader and his determination to accomplish the mission while leading from the front. His real orders, 28 Rules of Ranging, was a guide for young officers who led the Rangers on many missions across the swampy, isolated, and always dangerous frontier.

The French and Indian War was the North American arm of a larger global conflict called The Seven Years’ War. The Seven Years’ War was an eighteenth-century World War that was fought between European nations and their respective colonies. In North America, the Northern New England and upper Midwest frontier served as a natural buffer between the British colonies to the South and French colonies to the North. French fur trappers, allied with Native tribes local to the region, were venturing further South while English settlers kept pushing North. Native American raids on English settlements, backed by the French, began to increase in number.  The French and English had already been warring for centuries. With the breakout of the Seven Years’ War, conflict in North America was inevitable. It is here the nations would find themselves engaged in a conflict which would change the face of warfare in the colonies and was a turning point for the future of the continent.

Robert Rogers was a man made for fighting in the thick, rough terrain of Northern New England and New York. Born in Methuen, Massachusetts and raised on the New Hampshire frontier, he stood over six feet tall; a full six or seven inches taller than the average man at the time. An impressive and intimidating man, he earned his British commission in 1756 by raising his first company; he recruited the men himself while only in his early twenties. A call for rough men who could trek across the wilds had emanated from the British command. Rogers not only answered the call but recruited from the frontier settlements that dotted the countryside. He knew these men, had explored the woods with them, and would now lead them against the Native American and French forces that had been raiding British communities and encroaching on British lands. Their intimate knowledge of the woods, and their toughness and constitution, would indeed be tested as they pushed the limits of human endurance in combat.

Artist rendition of Robert Rogers.
There are no paintings or sculptures of him so we
do not actually know what he looked like.
     Although he knew the frontier, or desert as they used to call it, intimately, Rogers was a much more educated and articulate man than those Nineteen Standing Orders portrayed him as. Orders such as, “Don’t forget nothing”, are great in fictional literature to evoke mental images of a hard and tough, though illiterate, woodsman. It is, however, far from reality. In truth, Robert Rogers was an ambitious, daring, and articulate young officer who always placed his men before himself. On more than a few occasions, he put himself in extreme danger to make sure his men were cared for, though he was nearly dead from exhaustion. His actions while leading the Rangers earned him a degree of celebrity in both the colonies and in England. After his service in the French and Indian War and Pontiac's Rebellion, he traveled to London where he published two books and a play. The books, The Journal of Major Robert Rogers and A Concise Account of North America, became popular and are still read today. The play, Ponteach, or, The Savages of America: a tragedy was initially well received but never as successful as either of his books became.

The tale of Robert Rogers ends sadly. Many service members will recognize the obvious signs of PTSD. Shortly after his books were published, his luck ran out. His enemies from the wars, a couple of jealous British bureaucrats, still held a grudge against him due to his wartime success. They conspired against Rogers, which landed him in jail multiple times. His debt from the war, not entirely his fault, caught up to him and he struggled to provide for himself. With the breakout of hostilities in the British colonies that would become the Revolutionary War, Rogers exploits were forgotten. He met with George Washington himself, but Washington distrusted where the old Rangers loyalties were. Many rangers he trained and fought with during the French and Indian War maintained that if Washington had allowed him to display his principles he would have fought for the American cause. It is rather ironic that the quintessential American ranger never fought for the United States. Nonetheless, the men he trained made a huge difference in the Revolutionary War. Veteran Rangers, such as Daniel Morgan, Israel Putnam, and John Stark would play key roles in the Continental Army. Robert Rogers would fight for the British in New York and Canada briefly, though his alcoholism never allowed him to regain his former glory. By the end of the war, he was a mere shell of his former self and found himself exiled to England. He lived there the remainder of his life, divorced, drunk, alone, and in debt. Toward the end he wished to return to his woods in New England, but he never would. He died in London in the year 1795. He was sixty-three years old. Sadly, like the wartime glory of his youth he never found again, his gravesite in London has been forgotten and lost over time.

Today’s Rangers are no less tougher or deadly than their predecessors. To earn the title of Ranger, prospects go through some of the most demanding and grueling tests in the world- mentally, physically, and emotionally. I have the utmost respect for these warriors; the country truly needs more men like them. With that being said, it is important to know the truth of Robert Rogers, the man who founded the tip of the United States military spear. Perhaps we can learn how feared the man truly was through his enemy's own words. The Abenaki Indians, a ruthless and feared New England tribe that fought with the French called him, Wobomagonda, or "White Devil". His legacy lives on in the real standing orders, Rules of Ranging (I have not corrected the spelling to make the experience of reading from his own pen as authentic as possible).

From The Journal of Major Robert Rogers, his real Rules of Ranging:

  1. All Rangers are to be subject to the rules and articles of war; to appear at roll-call every evening, on their own parade, equipped, each with a Firelock, sixty rounds of powder and ball, and a hatchet, at which time an officer from each company is to inspect the same, to see they are in order, so as to be ready on any emergency to march at a minute's warning; and before they are dismissed, the necessary guards are to be draughted, and scouts for the next day appointed.
  2. Whenever you are ordered out to the enemies forts or frontiers for discoveries, if your number be small, march in a single file, keeping at such a distance from each other as to prevent one shot from killing two men, sending one man, or more, forward, and the like on each side, at the distance of twenty yards from the main body, if the ground you march over will admit of it, to give the signal to the officer of the approach of an enemy, and of their number,
  3. If you march over marshes or soft ground, change your position, and march abreast of each other to prevent the enemy from tracking you (as they would do if you marched in a single file) till you get over such ground, and then resume your former order, and march till it is quite dark before you encamp, which do, if possible, on a piece of ground which that may afford your sentries the advantage of seeing or hearing the enemy some considerable distance, keeping one half of your whole party awake alternately through the night.
  4. Some time before you come to the place you would reconnoitre, make a stand, and send one or two men in whom you can confide, to look out the best ground for making your observations.
  5. If you have the good fortune to take any prisoners, keep them separate, till they are examined, and in your return take a different route from that in which you went out, that you may the better discover any party in your rear, and have an opportunity, if their strength be superior to yours, to alter your course, or disperse, as circumstances may require.
  6. If you march in a large body of three or four hundred, with a design to attack the enemy, divide your party into three columns, each headed by a proper officer, and let those columns march in single files, the columns to the right and left keeping at twenty yards distance or more from that of the center, if the ground will admit, and let proper guards be kept in the front and rear, and suitable flanking parties at a due distance as before directed, with orders to halt on all eminences, to take a view of the surrounding ground, to prevent your being ambuscaded, and to notify the approach or retreat of the enemy, that proper dispositions may be made for attacking, defending, And if the enemy approach in your front on level ground, form a front of your three columns or main body with the advanced guard, keeping out your flanking parties, as if you were marching under the command of trusty officers, to prevent the enemy from pressing hard on either of your wings, or surrounding you, which is the usual method of the savages, if their number will admit of it, and be careful likewise to support and strengthen your rear-guard.
  7. If you are obliged to receive the enemy's fire, fall, or squat down, till it is over; then rise and discharge at them. If their main body is equal to yours, extend yourselves occasionally; but if superior, be careful to support and strengthen your flanking parties, to make them equal to theirs, that if possible you may repulse them to their main body, in which case push upon them with the greatest resolution with equal force in each flank and in the center, observing to keep at a due distance from each other, and advance from tree to tree, with one half of the party before the other ten or twelve yards. If the enemy push upon you, let your front fire and fall down, and then let your rear advance thro' them and do the like, by which time those who before were in front will be ready to discharge again, and repeat the same alternately, as occasion shall require; by this means you will keep up such a constant fire, that the enemy will not be able easily to break your order, or gain your ground.
  8. If you oblige the enemy to retreat, be careful, in your pursuit of them, to keep out your flanking parties, and prevent them from gaining eminences, or rising grounds, in which case they would perhaps be able to rally and repulse you in their turn.
  9. If you are obliged to retreat, let the front of your whole party fire and fall back, till the rear hath done the same, making for the best ground you can; by this means you will oblige the enemy to pursue you, if they do it at all, in the face of a constant fire.
  10. If the enemy is so superior that you are in danger of being surrounded by them, let the whole body disperse, and every one take a different road to the place of rendezvous appointed for that evening, which must every morning be altered and fixed for the evening ensuing, in order to bring the whole party, or as many of them as possible, together, after any separation that may happen in the day; but if you should happen to be actually surrounded, form yourselves into a square, or if in the woods, a circle is best, and, if possible, make a stand till the darkness of the night favours your escape.
  11. If your rear is attacked, the main body and flankers must face about to the right or left, as occasion shall require, and form themselves to oppose the enemy, as before directed; and the same method must be observed, if attacked in either of your flanks, by which means you will always make a rear of one of your flank-guards.
  12. If you determine to rally after a retreat, in order to make a fresh stand against the enemy, by all means endeavour to do it on the most rising ground you come at, which will give you greatly the advantage in point of situation, and enable you to repulse superior numbers.
  13. In general, when pushed upon by the enemy, reserve your fire till they approach very near, which will then put them into the greatest surprise and consternation, and give you an opportunity of rushing upon them with your hatchets and cutlasses to the better advantage.
  14. When you encamp at night, fix your sentries in such a manner as not to be relieved from the main body till morning, profound secrecy and silence being often of the last importance in these cases. Each sentry therefore should consist of six men, two of whom must be constantly alert, and when relieved by their fellows, it should be done without noise; and in case those on duty see or hear any thing, which alarms them, they are not to speak, but one of them is silently to retreat, and acquaint the commanding officer thereof, that proper dispositions may be made; and all occasional sentries should be fixed in like manner.
  15. At the first dawn of day, awake your whole detachment; that being the time when the savages choose to fall upon their enemies, you should by all means be in readiness to receive them.
  16. If the enemy should be discovered by your detachments in the morning, and their numbers are superior to yours, and a victory doubtful, you should not attack them till the evening, as then they will not know your numbers, and if you are repulsed, your retreat will be favoured by the darkness of the night.
  17. Before you leave your encampment, send out small parties to scout round it, to see if there be any appearance or track of an enemy that might have been near you during the night.
  18. When you stop for refreshment, choose some spring or rivulet if you can, and dispose your party so as not to be surprised, posting proper guards and sentries at a due distance, and let a small party waylay the path you came in, lest the enemy should be pursuing.
  19. If, in your return, you have to cross rivers, avoid the usual fords as much as possible, lest the enemy should have discovered, and be there expecting you.
  20. If you have to pass by lakes, keep at some distance from the edge of the water, lest, in case of an ambuscade or an attack from the enemy, when in that situation, your retreat should be cut off.
  21. If the enemy pursue your rear, take a circle till you come to your own tracks, and there form an ambush to receive them, and give them the first fire.
  22. When you return from a scout, and come near our forts, avoid the usual roads, and avenues thereto, lest the enemy should have headed you, and lay in ambush to receive you, when almost exhausted with fatigues.
  23. When you pursue any party that has been near our forts or encampments, follow not directly in their tracks, lest they should be discovered by their rear guards, who, at such a time, would be most alert; but endeavour, by a different route, to head and meet them in some narrow pass, or lay in ambush to receive them when and where they least expect it.
  24. If you are to embark in canoes, battoes, or otherwise, by water, choose the evening for the time of your embarkation, as you will then have the whole night before you, to pass undiscovered by any parties of the enemy, on hills, or other places, which command a prospect of the lake or river you are upon.
  25. In paddling or rowing, give orders that the boat or canoe next the sternmost, wait for her, and the third for the second, and the fourth for the third, and so on, to prevent separation, and that you may be ready to assist each other on any emergency.
  26. Appoint one man in each boat to look out for fires, on the adjacent shores, from the numbers and size of which you may form some judgment of the number that kindled them, and whether you are able to attack them or not.
  27. If you find the enemy encamped near the banks of a river or lake, which you imagine they will attempt to cross for their security upon being attacked, leave a detachment of your party on the opposite shore to receive them, while, with the remainder, you surprise them, having them between you and the lake or river.
  28. If you cannot satisfy yourself as to the enemy's number and strength, from their fire, conceal your boats at some distance, and ascertain their number by a reconnoitering party, when they embark, or march, in the morning, marking the course they steer, when you may pursue, ambush, and attack them, or let them pass, as prudence shall direct you. In general, however, that you may not be discovered by the enemy upon the lakes and rivers at a great distance, it is safest to lay by, with your boats and party concealed all day, without noise or shew; and to pursue your intended route by night; and whether you go by land or water, give out parole and countersigns, in order to know one another in the dark, and likewise appoint a station every man to repair to, in case of any accident that may separate you.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Shooting Skills

Just like working out, you need to practice your marksmanship or it will perish...

The year was 2000. I was 17 and had just signed up to join the Army. I enlisted out of the communist state, I mean Commonwealth, of Massachusetts. I thought I knew everything and had the attitude to prove it. As my Drill Sergeant let me know, many times, I did not- not at all, not even a little bit. Shooting, it turned out, was one of my weakest abilities. As I stated earlier, I grew up in Massachusetts where they did not (and still do not) believe in the second amendment, which is the right to bear arms for any history tards out there. Anyway, I never got to shoot growing up because of the laws in this ungodly state. Due to that, when it came time to qualify (not koalafy) in basic, I shot like shit. I scored a twenty-three out of a possible forty. I couldn’t understand how to apply all fundamentals at once in order to hit the target. I was lining up the sights and praying! It took me three years before I was able to consistently qualify as expert on the range and another three before I was ready for sniper school. When I finally did graduate US Army Sniper School, I had learned enough about shooting to receive the Top Gun award, also known as best shooter in the class. After giving that process some thought, there has to be a more efficient way to understand shooting than by years of trial and error. This is my attempt at explaining fundamentals in a way that makes sense without you having to go through my years of trial and error. This is not the only way to explain the fundamentals, and it can be discussed more in depth, but who wants to pore over books of dry shooting techniques? Here are some of the points I find most important.

First, it is important to know that there is no sniper secret to shooting. It is simply the proper application of four fundamentals within the context of the phases of firing. Once you can apply all the fundamentals consistently and correctly, you’ll hit your target every time. With practice, you’ll be able to achieve point of aim/point of impact. This is simply the round impacting on the spot you aimed on the target. I am going to try to make this as painless as possible without any extra sniper jargon, but I feel I will be editing a few extra times. With that being said, let us dive into a few sayings which will help you on the range.

Consistency = Accuracy: Applying your fundamentals the same way every time you shoot will allow you to predict the placement of your round on the target. Even consistently applied bad habits and poor fundamentals will allow you to be accurate. Just know that poor habits may limit your accuracy at the further distance ranges.

Aim small, miss small: This simply means not to aim at the target as a whole. Rather, pick a smaller point of aim on the target. For example, instead of aiming at the chest, aim at a button, or the corner of a pocket, on the enemy's chest. The logic is that if you miss this smaller target, you will still hit your larger one.

Every bullet tells a story: It is up to you, the shooter, to be able to interpret that story. Whether impacted on paper, steel, or watched trace through a scope,the bullet is trying to tell you what fundamental might have been off. Whether you jerked the trigger or had improper cheek stock weld, you have to be attuned to your own abilities enough to speak the same language as your round. Interpretation and application during drills are the only way to get better.   

  1. Body position: Without getting into pistol/rifle/machine gun body positions because we could be here all day, lets us focus on the similarities for all positions. The ultimate goal is a sturdy position that reduces angles, which a recoiling weapon will exploit. You will want as much skeletal structure, or bone support, as possible to support yourself and your weapon. This will reduce any shaking that is brought on through muscle fatigue. Basically, try not to use muscles to support yourself. You want to be as in line with your weapon as possible. Like I stated earlier, weirdo angles will cause your round to be unpredictable at long-distance ranges. You want the bullet to go straight forward and the  weapon to recoil straight back as much as possible. Reducing all possible angles and supporting your weapon with your skeletal structure is correct practice. That being said, do not force unnatural positions which will cause you to shake; that is just plain stupid. Duh...    
  2. Sight Picture: First, always make sure that you are using your sights properly. I only say this because, at one time, I did not, and it showed during basic training. I do not remember if I was taught wrong or simply lacked the focus during the block of instruction. Probably the latter. One thing is clear though, and that is when I finally started to shoot better consistently, I was able to see where I went wrong. In the end, it was a simple fix. I was lining up the front sight way too low in the rear sight. Additionally, because I did not know where to place my front sight, I was never truly consistent, breaking my consistency = accuracy proverb. If you are using a scope, keep a good cheek/stock weld by placing your cheek in the same position on the stock every time. Watch out for scope shadow because that will throw the round off target as well. Google it for more information. As snipers, we usually place some sort of cheek pad with wrap to keep our head placement consistent. We would also use it to bring our heads to proper height so there was no strain. Finally, and this one is most important, if you are using an optic on your weapon, make sure that it is far enough forward or backward so that you are not fighting the weapon as you aim. That will surely cause a miss, and it took me a bit to figure that one out.    
  3. Breath Control: For now, we will focus on one target- not time sensitive. The key for this one is to learn your natural respiratory pause, or the short pause after you breathe out and before you breathe in. While not that big a deal at the shorter distances, when you start pushing out that range, you’ll notice observable improvements. This is part of the consistency equals accuracy adage I will keep jamming down your throat. Finally, do not hold your breath longer than eight seconds. If you hold your breath longer than that, you will start to shake due to oxygen deprivation in addition to your vision being blurred and reduced.    
  4. Trigger Control: This is the hardest fundamental to master. It is also something you can work on while sitting on your couch not really paying attention. (Make sure the weapon is clear, duh). The key is to learn exactly when the trigger breaks on your weapon. The old saying that you should be surprised when you fire a round is false. With practice, you will know exactly how much pressure you should apply for the trigger to break. Dry fires, Dry fires, dry fires...and then some more. As long as you are not practicing with a rimfire, you’ll be fine doing thousands of dry-fires. I try to do 100 per day before or after my workout. Quick tip, when you are resetting the trigger to do another dry fire, practice as though you are correcting malfunction. This will gain some muscle memory needed for that drill while dry-firing. On the range, I will always start with at minimum twenty-five before I start to shoot. It is not a safety thing; it is reacquainting yourself with the weapon you are going to fire so you know when the trigger breaks. To be clear, dry fire, learn that trigger pull so that you are not surprised at all when the round fires. Finally, just like with body position, you’ll want to reduce angles here. When you squeeze the trigger, practice with your finger at 90 degrees instead of a simple curled finger. This will prevent you from accidentally pushing the weapon, which will push the barrel slightly, throwing your round off.    

4A: Follow Through: This is a vital, yet not often taught, part of your fundamentals. It is important enough that I want to give this one its own category, even though it is part of trigger control, so we will call it 4A. To be able to achieve point of aim/point of impact at the maximum effective range of a weapons system, proper follow through is imperative. Proper follow through is achieved by the act of continuing to pull the trigger back until the weapon has completed its cycle of function and comes to a complete rest. Practice during dry fires so that it becomes second nature.

4B: Trigger Reset: Similar to the importance of follow through, trigger reset is just as important. We will call it 4B. Now that you have fired a round using proper fundamentals does not mean you get to throw your finger off the trigger in a mini celebration simply because you are proud of yourself. Once the weapon has come to a rest, slowly release the trigger until you feel the metallic click of the trigger rest. It feels the same as when you release the trigger after a functions check. Now you are ready to begin your fundamentals for the next round.

Remember to start slow and the increase in speed over time. Consider the saying that slow is smooth and smooth is fast. Shooting is something I do as much as possible because it places me square in the present and away from all worries. In that moment, as I apply even pressure on the trigger, waiting for it to break, I care only about a few things in life- my eye, the rear sight, the front sight, the target, my point of aim, and applying the rest of my fundamentals. The more in the moment one is, the less they tend to worry about the petty nonsense that seems to only hold us back. Plus it keeps you alive, always moving and thinking, and listening to the feedback the round is telling you. Being on the move allows your brain to remain active, which helps you solve problems. Aristotle used to give classes while walking, and Steve Jobs held meetings similarly.

Finally, it is important to remember that your shooting abilities will rust and begin to perish the more you ignore them. You must be ready for the fight when it does come to you; it inevitably will. The utopian bubble that the United States has been immersed in will eventually pop. It already appears to started in Europe. How is this any less than an invasion of a sovereign nation? The answer is that it is not. If history is any indicator, which it always is, it will only continue as long as the people allow it to continue. Once they lose faith in their government institutions, because the government fails to properly protect its citizens, the people will defend themselves. The sad part is that it is the people who believe in open borders who will have blood on their hands. Instead of merging into one unidentifiable culture in which every one is happy, the groups will keep dividing, form tribes, and war against each other. It is evident throughout world history with famous examples being the Reconquista in Spain and, more recently, the European conquering of the Americas. In the end, remember to stay in shape, shoot often, start a family, and form real relationships with like-minded individuals in your community. It is the only true way to get American strong again.

This was meant to be a brief lesson. There are certainly much more and better techniques. These are simply the keys which I always remind myself. Let me know if any of these tips will help you at the range. A friend of mine, when asked how he was able to shoot so well, responded by always saying, "I try to aim for the middle". If you have any more questions, simply ask...