Archive for January, 2013

Would UK, USA, share intel with independent Scottish spy agencies?

January 30, 2013

United Kingdom and Ireland
Scotland plans to set up its own security and intelligence agencies if its people vote in favor of independence from the United Kingdom in 2014, according to policy planners. But critics contend that it might be some time before Scotland’s spy organizations are trusted by their sister intelligence agencies in Britain and the United States. The Scottish National Party (SNP) which won an absolute majority in the Scottish Parliament in the 2011 election, has put forward a plan for a referendum proposing Scotland’s full independence from the UK, to be held in late 2014. On Monday, the Scottish Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs met in Edinburgh to conduct an official inquiry into the possible foreign policy implications of an independent Scotland. Nicola Sturgeon, the SNP’s Deputy Leader and Deputy First Minister of Scotland, told the Committee that an independent Scotland would have to build a domestic intelligence agency to combat security threats such as terrorism, organized crime and cyber attacks. She said the agency would serve the interests of the Scottish people and the Scottish government, but would maintain “very close intelligence sharing with the rest of the UK”. According to Sturgeon, given that Scotland shares “an island with the rest of the UK”, a Scottish domestic security service would inevitably find itself “sharing intelligence and sharing our response to some of these threats”. She also suggested that an independent nation of Scotland would have the option to establish an “external security service” modeled on Britain’s MI6, also known as the Secret Intelligence Service. But Committee members opposed to independence directed heavy criticism against the minister’s plans, arguing that the financial cost of replicating existing UK intelligence and security structures would be colossal. They also warned Sturgeon that Scottish intelligence agencies would have to prove that they were reliable and safe before they struck intelligence-sharing arrangements with British and American organizations. Conservative parliamentarian David Lidington, a member of the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, who currently serves as the British government’s Minister of State for Europe, appeared particularly disparaging of Sturgeon’s expressed plans. He told Parliament that, even if an independent Scotland were able to bear the “enormous financial costs” of setting up its own intelligence and security structure, it would have to spend years training its intelligence officers and building the material and operational infrastructure required. Only when it did so would it be able to convince organizations such as MI6 and the US Central Intelligence Agency to enter into intelligence-sharing arrangements with it. Sturgeon told the Foreign Affairs Committee that the SNP-controlled Scottish government was working on a “substantial piece of work” into the subject of independent Scottish intelligence and security agencies, which would be published in the months before the 2014 referendum.

Israel intelligence confirms ‘major blast’ at Iran nuclear plant

January 29, 2013

Fordo nuclear facility, Iran
Intelligence officials in Israel have confirmed reports of a “major explosion” that is believed to have severely damaged an Iranian nuclear enrichment facility, but refused comment on rumors that Israeli jets were seen flying nearby around the time of the blast. The blast was initially reported late on Sunday by Reza Kahlili, an Iranian former agent of the United States Central Intelligence Agency inside Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps. Citing Hamidreza Zakeri, a former officer in Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and National Security, Kahlili said that the explosion severely damaged the nuclear enrichment plant in Fordo, centrally located in Iran’s Qom Province. According to Zakeri, the blast was strongly felt across a three-mile radius around Fordo and “destroyed much of the installation” itself. The former government official added that around 240 plant workers had been trapped underground by the powerful explosion. Following the blast, according to Zakeri, Iranian troops quickly cordoned off the plant and prevented anyone from getting closer than 15 miles from Fordo. A few hours after Kahlili’s report, Seyyed Shamseddin Barbroudi, Deputy Head of the Iranian Atomic Energy Agency told Iranian media that there had been “no explosion in Fordo Nuclear Facility”. His denial was echoed by Alaeddin Boroujerdi, member of the Iranian Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Policy and National Security. He told the Islamic Republic News Agency that rumors of an explosion at Fordo were “Western-made propaganda” aimed at destabilizing Iran.  On Monday morning, however, the London-based Times newspaper said its “sources in Tel Aviv” had confirmed the blast took place in Fordo. The Israeli sources, who spoke to the British newspaper on condition of anonymity, said Israel was “still in the preliminary stages of understanding what happened and how significant it is”. They also claimed they did not know whether the blast was a result of “sabotage or accident”. Significantly, they refused to confirm or deny reports that Israeli military jets were seen flying near Fordo around the time of the explosion. Although refusing to comment on the details of the case, some Israeli politicians appear to be welcoming news of the blast. Israel’s Minister for Home Front Defense, Avi Dichter, told The Times of Israel that “any explosion in Iran that does not hurt people but hurts its assets is welcome”.

Will former US government informant face terror charges in India?

January 26, 2013

David Headley
A former United States government informant, who helped an Islamist militant group plan the 2008 Mumbai attacks in India, has been sentenced to 35 years in prison. David Coleman Headley, a former US Drug Enforcement Administration informant, was arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 2009 for helping to plot an attack by Islamist radicals on a Danish newspaper. It eventually became apparent that Headley had been a member of Pakistani militant group Lashkar e-Taiba and had also helped plan the 2008 attacks in the Indian city of Mumbai. The terrorist plot involved at least a dozen attacks on tourist and other civilian targets in India’s largest city, conducted by small cells of highly trained LeT members who had arrived from Pakistan by boat. The coordinated attacks, which began on November 26 and ended three days later, killed 164 and wounded over 300 people. According to the FBI, Headley, who was born to a Pakistani father and an American mother, took advantage of his Western manners and physique to travel to Mumbai posing as an American tourist, in order to help map out the LeT operation. On Thursday, a court in Chicago sentenced Headley to 35 years in prison. Prior to his sentencing, Headley had pleaded guilty to all 12 counts brought against him by US prosecutors and is said to be cooperating with authorities —which is reportedly why he was spared the death penalty. However, the question in the minds of many terrorism observers is, will Headley be extradited to India to face charges there for what is often referred to as ‘India’s 9/11’? The answer is not so simple. IntelNews readers may recall that, in 2009, US officials denied Indian investigators access to Headley. Intelligence commentators were surprised by the US move at the time in light the close security ties between Washington and New Delhi. It now appears that part of Headley’s deal with US government prosecutors is that he will cooperate in return for not being extradited to India. Although the US has said it intends to honor the agreement, the Indian government has vowed to continue to press for Headleys’ extradition. Legal scholars claim that Headley could be extradited to India only if he were to violate the terms of his plea agreement with US authorities. At that point, the Pakistani-American would be subject to existing extradition treaties between the US and India. Until then, however, he is to remain firmly on US soil. Meanwhile, the consistent refusal of US officials to allow Indian interrogators access to Headley has sparked countless rumors in India —admittedly a country that is especially fond of conspiracy theories. One such theory is that Headley may be a former agent of the Central Intelligence Agency and that the Americans are shielding their secrets by rejecting Indian requests to meet with him.

Public transport and how to be prepared for terrorist attack

January 26, 2013

Do not go to the scene of a terrorist attack to watch

Terrorists like to set off secondary targets to kill as many police and rescue personnel as possible.

On a bus or train

Be alert for unidentified packages or someone hurriedly getting off and leaving a package. If this happens try to throw the package out a window if you can’t get off .

The underground (aka Subways)

If there is an explosion and there is no cover fall face down with your feet facing the coming explosion. Pull your elbows into your sides to protect vital organs and cover your ears. This will change you from a five or six foot tall standing target into a tiny six inch box on the ground. The blast may miss you entirely or flying shrapnel may hit the soles of your shoes. At worst you can you lose your feet – but you will survive.

Keep low to breathe the best air possible. Smoke inhalation is the number one cause of death after an explosion. If you are on a tube system that has been attacked try walking down the tracks until you find an emergency ladder leading up to the street.

If you are on a tube train or a bus that has been attacked first assess your own injuries then, if possible, help those around you.

Survive a plane take-over

January 26, 2013

Look at who is boarding your plane

Watch for Red Flags – someone wearing an expensive suit but a military watch, extremely nervous passengers, people with neither carry-on bags nor luggage, someone wearing military boots with normal clothes, strange behaviour. Tell someone in charge it could save your life.

Try to stay calm

Don’t be unnerved by scare tactics. Control your breathing and heart rate. Try to stay calm.
The terrorists herd everyone to the back of the airplane. because they are afraid of passengers rushing and overpowering them. Do not go to the back of the plane.  You must take back the aircraft.

Assess the threat, assume leadership, designate help and take action

How many hijackers and how many weapons? Where are they located on the aircraft? You are all leaders. What do people do when a leader gets up? They follow. Tell someone to help you. “You two guys grab him while we get the other one!” You must take back the aircraft at all costs.

What about hostages?

Would you risk the life of an airline stewardess? How about your wife or child? Could you rush the terrorists if they have your eight-year old boy and they say that if anyone moves they will cut his throat?
You must because if you do nothing he is going to die anyway.  In a hijacking the passengers are divided up into hostages and victims. Terrorists kill hostages to scare you and control you. So if you have a loved one who is taken hostage their best chance of survival is you fighting back.

Prepare in advance

Look for ordinary items that can be used as weapons. Prepare in advance. Always bring along a hardcover book, a newspaper, keys and a pen and ask for a blanket and two unopened soda cans. Keep a fairly heavy bag under your seat. These ordinary items are weapons that can save your life. When the terrorist comes down the aisle as soon as he passes you throw your blanket over his face so he cannot see…..

Then knee him in the spine, pull him down and strangle him with the blanket until you get another passenger to help you restrain him.

Wrap the blanket around your forearm and you can block knife slashes. Hold the blanket out and catch the arm of the terrorist as he slashes at you. Then hold the knife arm wrapped up while other passengers take the terrorist down.

A hard cover book can block any stabbing attack. A heavy book can smash a hijackers nose, collar bone Adam’s Apple or back of his head.

Always ask a stewardess for two unopened cans of soda. A full soda can thrown at someone’s temple can kill him. They can smash a terrorist’s nose, knee cap or head. If everyone throws a full soda can at a terrorist he can be stoned to death. A full soda can wrapped inside a blanket can be swung as a deadly mace.

A newspaper folded once or twice and stuck inside your shirt is body armour strong enough to stop most knife stabs. A rolled newspaper becomes extremely hard and can be used to smash the nose or stop the heart by hitting the arteries on the side of the neck.

Stab a pen into the terrorist’s eye, hand, throat, anywhere. Stick him and stick him until he is the victim.

Keys can be stabbed through a terrorist’s ear into his ear drum, gouge out his eyes, or even cut his throat.

A leather belt wrapped around your arm can stop knife cuts or the belt can be swung as a flail. Smash the buckle into a terrorist’s face. Belts can quickly strangle terrorists and can also tie them up when they are disarmed and unconscious.

Women can take off their high-heeled shoes and punch them at the terrorists who will be knocked out.

A heavy bag kept under your seat can be used to block knife slashes, smash a terrorist or can be thrown into the aisle to trip him.

An undercover Air Marshall may attempt to take back the airplane. If that happens keep your head down or you could be accidentally shot and killed.

Be prepared to recover and shoot the Air Marshall’s gun if he is injured or killed, otherwise the terrorists have another weapon.

When firing a gun the most important thing is aiming. Do this quick exercise: hold your index finger up to a spot on the wall. Close one eye and then the other. Looking with one eye your finger will appear to jump while with the other eye it will stay on target. The eye that does not jump is the one you should aim with. Keep your eye on the front sight and align that with your target.

Ultimately, the only way to survive a hijacking situation may be to fight back. By remaining calm, keeping a cool head, being a little creative and very brave, you can save your life and the lives of others.

If you can get to a cockpit radio channel 121.5 is an emergency channel always by airports and US military airfields and you use it to declare an emergency and get an escort to a runway and receive instruction on how to land if the pilots are dead or too injured to fly the plane without assistance.

Survive a hotel siege

January 26, 2013

Avoid big hotels

Terrorists tend not to waste time on small  targets; they’re trying to maximize the body count and hit targets of maximum symbolic value at the same time. If you must stay in one….

Order room service when possible

This minimizes your exposure to restaurants located off the lobby.  Obviously, the lobby is the most dangerous place in a hotel; it is akin to the security lines at American airports, which are prime targets for suicide bombers precisely because they’re entirely insecure.

Make two plans the moment you arrive

Figure out how you’re going to escape, and figure out, alternatively, how you’re going to survive a siege. If escape isn’t an option – say, you believe that men are roaming the floors with automatic weapons – try to figure out what you’re going to use to fortify your room. Always travel with a flashlight, utility knife, matches, and a few energy bars. Know where your shoes are, as well as your passport and money,  Also, identify a lamp or other piece of furniture that could be used as a weapon of last resort.

Russia evacuating its citizens from Syria: A political turning point?

January 24, 2013

Busses carrying Russians arrive in Lebanon
In a move that surprised observers, the government of Russia began on Tuesday to evacuate its citizens from Syria. Late on Tuesday afternoon, four chartered busses carrying nearly a hundred Russians, mostly women and children, arrived at the Jdaidet Yabous border crossing, which links Syria with Lebanon. As soon as they stepped on Lebanese soil in Masnaa, which is located five miles west of Jdaidet Yabous, the evacuees were met by an official from the Russian embassy in Beirut, who had been waiting for them for several hours. Russian officials dismissed rumors that this is the beginning of a mass evacuation of Russian citizens from Syria. But international observers described this development as “the strongest indication yet” that Moscow is acknowledging the eventual collapse of the regime in Damascus. Russia has persisted in its role as the strongest international backer of the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad since 2011, when the Syrian uprising against his government began. But many view the Kremlin’s move to evacuate some of its citizens as “a turning point in its view of the civil war” in the Middle Eastern country. According to reports by the Associated Press, the Russians onboard the buses, which had been chartered by the Russian government, appeared to have been briefed to avoid contact with the press at the border crossing. Many covered the bus windows closest to them with curtains so as not to be photographed by journalists, and most refused to speak with press crews. The few who spoke publicly said without exception that they were simply traveling to Russia “to visit relatives”. The evacuees were taken to Beirut, where they have been scheduled to board two airplanes chartered by the Russian government, headed for Moscow. If this is indeed the beginning of a mass evacuation of Russian citizens from Syria, then many more chartered buses should be expected to cross into Lebanon at the Masnaa border station in the months to come. Tens of thousands of Russians are believed to live in Syria. The Associated Press spoke to Russian military analyst Alexander Golts, who said that a successful evacuation of thousands of Russians from Syria would require the presence of Russian troops on the ground and would probably involve evacuation routes by air, sea and land. So far, however, Russian diplomats insist that no evacuation is in the works. An official from the Russian embassy in Beirut told Agence France Presse on Tuesday that the four busses were chartered to transport the nearly 100 Russian citizens after they expressed “their personal desire to leave Syria”.

How to Develop Mental Toughness

January 23, 2013

“The more you sweat in times of peace, the less you’ll bleed in times of war.”

There are a lot of things that we as preppers need to prepare for.

We focus on building our food and water storage, having multiple backups of our energy and heating needs, look to learn skills that were common in the “old days” and focus on building our security measures to protect what we’ve worked so hard to build up.

If there’s one thing though that we rarely hear about in the prepper circles that I feel is equally as important, it’s building up our mental toughness.

The unfortunate thing is that most of our nation (and many preppers I know of) greatly disregard this aspect of preparation. They become soft, live lifestyles with no discipline and prefer to take the path of least resistance.

Believe me, I get it, it’s part of our nature to do so.

However, if we want to have the mental fortitude to be able to survive when times get tough, we need break those patterns and take a different road — in many cases a harder road.

After all, we may not be able to hide behind our preps, hoping that we’ll be living on easy street when things go south.

In a survival situation, or a long-term SHTF type situation, mental toughness is what will bring you across to the other side, and although it may be an overlooked attribute to develop, it may just be one of the most important.

How to Develop Mental Toughness

First off, it helps to know exactly what mental toughness is.

The definition that I like is that it’s the ability to will oneself through less-than-ideal situations and conditions. This could be battling cancer, going through military training or simply waking up early to go workout.

Mental toughness is typically not something you’re born with (I don’t know of too many babies who just “tough it out” when it comes to not getting fed)…

…mental toughness is something that is developed.

So how do we develop it?

Well, it all comes down to regularly operating outside of your comfort zone.

Take this illustration for example…

The center circle represents you, and the inner area is your present level of comfort. No extra amount of effort is required to stay there. This is your safe haven, your bad habits, those day-to-day ruts, your place of predictability and familiarity…your level of comfort.

Beyond this circle lies your area of discomfort. This is the area in which you know you COULD operate if required to, but, it’s uncomfortable and most people choose not to.

However, when you purposely choose to step just outside of your comfort zone something interesting happens…

With time, this larger area will become your new comfort zone and what was previously difficult now becomes easier — giving you a broader and new perspective on what your limitations are. Then, the whole cycle repeats itself.

When this is done on a regular basis, not only does your capability increase but so does your mental toughness.

So what are some things that you can do to build mental toughness?

Well, the key is to seek out daily opportunities to get into the zone of discomfort. One of the easiest ways to do this is to take a look at the various activities you do on a daily basis and start by tweaking some of them such that they take you just out of your comfort zone.

Here are some examples that should spur some ideas of your own:

  • If you have a flight of stairs in your home, any time you walk down them, go on all fours (great shoulder and chest workout). Or when going up, hop up each step.
  • Do a number of pushups or pullups (install a pull-up bar in the doorway) before entering or leaving certain rooms of the house.
  • Go without food or water for 24 hours
  • When on errands, park your car further out so you have to walk farther.
  • When showering, finish the last portion of it with a blast of cold water.
  • When watching TV, do pushups/situps during the commercial breaks.
  • Try to do as many activities as possible with your non-dominant hand.
  • If your on the shy side, go out of your way to talk to 3 new people a day and learn something about each of them, or…
  • …try singing at the top of your lungs when someone is pulled up next to you at a stop light.
  • Wake up an hour earlier than you’re used to.
  • When getting your mail in the middle of winter, go out in some shorts and a t-shirt.
  • On those nights when you’re exhausted and just want to go to bed, force yourself to clean or do the dishes for 10 minutes.

While they may seem inconsequential, these little out-of-your-comfort-zone activities (when done often) are a great tonic and will build up your mental toughness.

As you may have noticed in some of the examples, building your mental toughness goes hand in hand with building your physical toughness. Both of these are crucial when it comes to survival.


You may have heard the saying, “The more you sweat in times of peace, the less you bleed in times of war” (or any of the other variants of this saying). What this means is that now’s the time to prepare (to sweat) for tough times ahead.

Those times are coming…will you be prepared?

It doesn’t matter where you are in terms of your level of fitness, how tough or weak or how old you think you are, you can make the choice to go beyond your present level of comfort — ideally on a day-to-day basis.

As a side note, I would recommend keeping a mental toughness journal. Basically, record on a daily basis those things you did to take yourself out of your comfort zone. As you do so, you’ll be able to look back and see the progress you’ve made and what used to be uncomfortable and difficult become comfortable and easy.

Each time you make a choice to go beyond your comfort zone, you build up a reserve of mental toughness. Each time you choose the easier path you diminish that capacity. As you build mental toughness, you will be able to call upon that reserve during tough times — and overcome.


If you’d like to learn more about this topic, there’s a fantastic book written by SEAL veteran Cade Courtley called, SEAL Survival Guide: A Navy SEAL’s Secrets to Surviving Any Disaster that served as the inspiration for this article.

The Ribz Front Pack Review (and how it applies to preppers)

January 21, 2013

A few weeks ago (at the suggestion of one of my readers) I picked up a fairly new product being marketed to outdoorsmen called a “Ribz Front Pack”. For those new to front packs, they are basically the opposite of a backpack in that you wear it up front.

After playing around with it for a little while now I thought I’d share with you guys some of my thoughts and opinions and most of all, how it’s beneficial to you as a prepper.

Review of the Ribz Front Pack

On first impression, the Ribz front pack reminds me of a cross between some of the old military “H-Harnesses” and the newer Load-Bearing Vests (LBVs) and chest harnesses — albeit much more lightweight and less heavy-duty.

It’s designed to be carried in front of your body when out on the trail to give you easy access to crucial gear when you need it at a moments notice.

The two ways to wear it are by itself (as displayed in the following picture) or with a backpack.

When wearing in tandem with a backpack, the theory is that because the Ribz front pack puts weight forward of your body, it will counterbalance a heavy load on your back.

It’s hard to see in the next picture but I have to say I did feel significantly more balanced with it on while hiking than with it off. Here I’m wearing a 45 lb. bug-out bag with only around 6 lbs of gear in the Ribz pack. Despite the weight difference, it still felt a lot more balanced.

There’s quite a lot of space in these packs. The smaller version can pack a little over 500 cubic inches (250 in each pouch) of gear and the larger one — pictured in this article — over 700 cubic inches (350 in each pouch).

Each of the pouches has an outside pocket that is accessed through a zipper. The pouches themselves also contain a main area that makes up most of the space and two elastic nets sewn into the inner wall of that area. These nets can stretch to accommodate some good-sized gear.

Just to give you an indication at how much 700 cubic inches is, here’s a picture of just one the pouches with a standard 14oz can of food being held in one of the elastic nets. Plenty of room to spare.

Overall, I really like the Ribz front pack — especially when worn in conjunction with a backpack. Also, the fact that it sits over the ribs (probably why it’s named “Ribz”) makes lack of maneuverability not an issue.

So how would this piece of gear apply to us preppers? Here are my thoughts…

Personal Application of the Ribz Wear Product

If you’ve read my survival kit article then you’d know that I am a big fan of having my survival kits segmented into 3 distinct tiers.

In a nutshell, the three-tiered kit approach is as follows:

  • Tier 1: Commonly referred to as your EDC (Every-Day-Carry) kit, this kit includes all those items that you would need to survive that can fit directly on your person (ie. in your pockets, on your belt, in your wallet, on your keychain etc).Basically if you had to ditch everything, and run with only the clothes on your back, what would remain would be your “Tier-1″ kit. This is what I have with me all the time and carry every day.
  • Tier 2: Your Tier-2 kit is what is commonly called The Get Home Bag. This kit is a compact and easy-to-carry kit that would fit in a small backpack, fanny-pack, purse or similar “bag” containing core survival items that could sustain you for around 24 hours or more — the theory being that it gives you just enough time to get home, hence the name “Get-Home Bag”.I try to carry this with me at all times as well, but there are times when this is not possible.
  • Tier 3: Finally, the Tier-3 kit is what we all know as our Bug-Out Bag, Go-Bag, 72-Hour Kit and so on. It’s a larger pack or bag that contains enough gear and supplies to sustain you for 3 days or more with the intent of taking you from a ground zero location to a safer spot.My Tier-3 kit sits at home, waiting for a time I hope never comes.

In a bug-out or extreme-survival scenario, my ideal is to have all three kits. Not just with me, but on me.

You might ask, wouldn’t the Tier-3 Kit be enough?

Well, packing everything in a Bug-Out Bag can still be a liability if you ever needed to ditch that big bag for whatever reason.

Since all your gear — essentially your lifeline — is tied to that bag, ditching it while bugging out would be a huge problem if that’s all you had. Having redundancy across multiple “tiers” will give you insurance should you need to leave your main bag behind.

All my kits (Tier 1, 2 and 3) are built upon the same foundation. The gear may be different, due to size and weight constraints, but in the end they all have the same six categories:

Personal Health and Security

Included in this category are all those things I would need to provide healing, health, safety and protection to myself and others. It includes items like first-aid and trauma kits, medicine, firearms, pepper spray and so on.


These are items that provide protection from the elements. This could be a tent, blankets, sleeping bag, emergency Mylar blankets, extra clothing and so on


All those things that I would need to procure, carry, purify and filter water. Things like portable water filters, purification tablets, water containers, water bladders and other related items would be part of this group.

Heat and Energy

Items in this category help provide heat, light and energy as well as assist in making fires. Here you could find matches, lighters, firesteel, tinder, flashlights and lanterns, extra batteries, portable solar chargers and more.


This category includes actual food as well as items to procure and get food. MREs, snares/traps, dehydrated foods, canned goods and other things would be what you’d find here.


This final category includes all those other things that make survival easier. It could be a GPS or compass for navigation, an emergency radio, an axe, a knife, a saw and more.

With the three-tiered approach to your kits, I like to have as much redundancy as possible. In other words, I try to include (as best as possible) items from each of these categories across all three tiers. Sometimes, this will lead to duplication, but I’d prefer that to the alternative.

An example of this in my set up is, I have a Katadyn water filter in my Tier-3 kit (my Bug-Out Bag), a Seychelle water-filter straw in my Tier-2 kit and I always carry a couple of water-purification tablets with me as part of my Tier-1 or EDC kit.

So where does the Ribz front pack fit into all of this?

Well, up to this point, I really didn’t have a good solution for a Tier-2 kit. I thought of a fanny pack but that was uncomfortable when hiking and I can’t stand having a lot of weight at the belt line.

This front pack really helps to make carrying my second tier a whole lot easier. Best of all, the Ribz front pack allows you to have essential gear up front so that if you had to access some key items while on the go, you wouldn’t have to stop, take off your backpack and dig through it to get your needed gear. In addition, you now have an insurance policy if you had to (heaven forbid) drop your main pack and jet out of there.

As an added bonus, I really like the non-tactical look of it. If you were to wear it by itself when on the trail, it doesn’t draw too much attention.

If you’re interested in purchasing a RIBZ or learning more (I don’t receive any commissions for sales of these) go to

Tactics 101: The Tactical Road March

January 21, 2013


“An army is exposed to more danger on marches than in battles.  In an engagement the men are properly armed, they see their enemies before them and are prepared to fight.  But on a march the soldier is less on his guard, has not his arms always ready and is thrown into disorder by a sudden attack or ambuscade.  A general, therefore, cannot be too careful and diligent in taking necessary precautions to prevent a surprise on the march.”

Flavius Vegetius Renatus
Military Instructions of the Romans AD 378

In our last article, we focused on the raid.  In our discussion, we addressed several areas.  These included us reliving an old war story, looking at some of the more famous raids in history, and discussing the planning, preparation, and execution of a raid.  A raid can have huge ramifications at all levels of war and certainly, politically.  As we highlighted, raids can pay-off handsomely or they can fail miserably.  There is not a lot of middle ground!  A well-executed raid starts with meticulous planning and painstaking preparation.  Anything less can dramatically impact mission accomplishment.

During combat operations, there is no such thing as an administrative road march.  Whenever a unit is maneuvering from point a to point b; it must be planned, prepared, and executed tactically.  There is no greater example of this than the operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.  You cannot take shortcuts in your planning and preparation and units must be trained on the what-ifs that can occur during a road march.

This month’s article will focus on the planning, preparation, and execution of a mounted (vehicle) road march.  We will cover the following: 1) Definition of a tactical road march.  2) The Language of the Road March.  3) Planning the Tactical Road March.  4)  Preparing for the Tactical Road March.  5)  Executing the Tactical Road March.

We will dissect this topic focused on how heavy forces conduct tactical road marches.  In later articles, we will address how light units conduct tactical road marches.  LET’S MOVE OUT!

Let’s begin with a definition of a tactical road march which we can work with.

A tactical road march enables a unit to rapidly maneuver its forces (in a combat area) from one point to another in order to position it for future combat operations.  A successful tactical road march will set the conditions for success in the offense or defense.  A tactical road march which stresses and severely challenges a unit will certainly have the reverse effect.

Talking the Language of the Road March
Before we begin discussing the specifics of the planning, prep, and execution of the tactical road march; we must all speak the same language.  Below we will address some of key language that will be utilized throughout this article. To begin with, we will start with the building blocks of developing the road march:

March Column
Tactical Road Marches are normally conducted in a column formation.  This does mean hi diddle diddle up the middle with ducks in a row.  There are various techniques available with are dictated by the tactical situation.  Below we address the three types of column formations you can select from.

Open – When conducting a tactical road march during daylight hours, a unit will normally utilize an open column.  However, because of tremendous advancements in night vision equipment; nighttime is almost the same as daylight for some.  In either case, good vision enables a unit to use much more dispersion between vehicles.  This dispersion translates to between 50 and 200 between vehicles in an open column.   Consequently, this column can extend for long distances.

Closed – When visibility is a concern because of light, weather, or technology; a unit will normally utilize a closed column.  In a closed column, the distance between vehicles is far closer.  This will translate to less than 50 meters.  A closed column is a very tight formation.

Infiltration – When a commander has security concerns or may want to deceive his opponent; he can utilize infiltration.  In infiltration, he will maneuver small groups of vehicles at various time periods to get from A to B.

March Serial
Within a column, you will normally break down the unit into serials.  Depending on the size of the unit conducting the road march; a march column can have numerous serials. The reason for serials is pretty basic – it aids in the command and control of the road march and assists in the transition to future operations for the unit.  As an example, let’s use a heavy division conducting a tactical road march.  The division itself would maneuver in the march column.  Within the march column, the division could break down into battalion-size serials.  Each of these serials would be commanded by the unit’s battalion commander.

March Unit
Within a serial, you will normally break down into march units.  Using our above example, the battalion size serials would break down into company size march units.  The size of heavy company (normally around 20-25 vehicles) is the perfect size for a march unit.  This enables the company commander and his chain of command to command and control their maneuver.

In summary, the building blocks look like this:  COLUMN >SERIAL>UNIT

Besides determining the columns, serials, and march units; the other key organization decision a unit will make is organizing itself into a quartering party, a main body, and a trail party. Each of these has a distinct role in the execution of the road march.  Below we will address each of these critical parts.

Reconnaissance – As in any operation, it all starts with recon.  Depending on the size of the unit, the recon units will more than likely be the initial element sent forward.  The objectives of recon are pretty straightforward. Provide information on the terrain and the enemy that is associated with the tactical road march.

Quartering Party – One of the keys to success in conducting a tactical road march is the actions of the quartering party.  Normally, trailing right behind the recon element are the quartering parties of the unit.  Again, depending on the size of the unit, each unit will be able to send a vehicle or possibly two.  Thus, in a battalion tactical road march; each company would be allowed to send at least one vehicle on the quartering party.

The purpose of the quartering party is simple – enable the main body to occupy their ultimate assembly area as smoothly and as efficiently as possible.  In order to aid in this, the quartering party will execute a variety of tasks.  These could include the following:  1) Recon of the route 2) Recon of the assembly area.  This recon involves checking the area for obstacles and potentially chemical weapons.  Additionally, they will determine where their unit’s vehicles will physically occupy the assembly area.  3) Conducting security in the assembly area until the main body arrives.  4) Serve as guides to assist the main body in occupying the assembly area.

Main Body –  As the name suggests, the preponderance of a unit’s vehicles will make up the main body.  All of the other elements of the road march should be focused on setting the conditions for a smooth execution by the main body.

Trail Party – The final element of the tactical road march is the trail party.  Obviously, this is the last element in the tactical road march.  The task of the trail party is to police up the road march route.  This mainly involves taking care of disabled vehicles that have broken down during the road march.  Consequently, the trail party is composed primarily of maintenance vehicles and personnel.  It is critical that the trail party recovers vehicles as quickly as possible.  This allows maintenance personnel to get to vehicles quicker and conduct repairs.  Time lost here impacts directly on combat power when it is needed later on.

Below is a good graphic which portrays a typical organization for a tactical road march:

Within the tactical road march, there is likely going to be times when the unit is going to stop.  Obviously, the longer the distance you will maneuver; the more likely there will be halts.  When we talk halts, there are two types of halts – scheduled and unscheduled.  Let’s discuss each below:

Scheduled – In order to set the conditions for a smooth transition into the next operation; it is wise to plan for scheduled halts along the route.  Scheduled halts are planned for several reasons.  These include maintenance checks and quick operator’s maintenance if needed, refuel vehicles if required, change out drivers if it is a long duration march, or to tidy up the column, serial, or march unit (this could be enabling vehicle/vehicles to catch up or vehicle/vehicles to pass others).  Every good unit will have an established procedure as to when to conduct a scheduled halt.  For example, it is a good rule of thumb to conduct a 10-15 minute halt after the first hour of maneuver.  Following that, every two hours should have another 10-15 minute halt.  If a refuel is necessary, this will probably require a longer halt (depending on the capabilities and training of the unit).  A Refuel on the Move (ROM) is a far harder mission than some would think.  We will discuss this operation in a later article.

Unscheduled – As a name suggests, there will inevitably be occurrences in a tactical road march when it is necessary to conduct an unscheduled halt.  There are many reasons why an unscheduled halt may be required.  First, there may be obstacles that are in the route.  This could be natural obstacles caused by nature (fallen trees, washed out roads, etc…) or man-made obstacles (Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), conventional mines, wire, ditches, etc…).  Second, may be an attack or ambush by the enemy.  This could be attacks from direct fire, indirect fire, or even air attack. Obviously, this is unscheduled, but it should be a contingency that is planned for.  Third, could be from a change in the tactical situation.  Perhaps, the unit has a change of mission and must await orders for where they must maneuver to.  Whatever the reason for the halt, there are some key actions that must take place.  We will address these in our execution discussion later in the article.

Start Point – In a tactical road march, this is the location on the ground where vehicles come under control of a particular march commander.  For instance, if a vehicle was part of a march serial it would come under the control of the serial commander at the start point.  This is especially critical when you may have vehicles from various units making up a serial.  These vehicles would all come under control of the serial commander.

Release Point – In a tactical road march, this is the location on the ground where vehicles revert back to the control of their normal organization.  The release point is normally located prior to vehicles entering the assembly area.  In our above example, those vehicles from the various units who were under the control of the serial commander; would revert back to their own organizations at the release point.

Light Line – We must admit we seen some tactical road marches that were lit up brighter than Las Vegas.  In this case, it is the enemy that has hit the jackpot.  Anyway, in some cases the tactical situation may allow for lights on in a tactical road march.  However, the majority of time, a tactical road march conducted at night will require vehicles to drive without lights utilizing night vision technology.  Commanders will designate where this will take place – this is called the light line.

Traffic Control Point (TCP) – Within a road march route, there may locations where a commander may be concerned that the potential to “mess with success” is present.  This could be a confusing intersection or challenging terrain which could cause a unit to take a wrong turn and subsequently, severely affect the timeline of the tactical road march.  To assist in these wrong turns not occurring, a unit will place a TCP at these critical locations.  A TCP is usually manned by military police who will guide vehicles in the right direction.  They are good to report information to the commander as to how the road march is being conducted.  If military police is not an option, a unit’s scouts are another good choice.

Planning the Tactical Road March
As in any mission, the first step is conducting a comprehensive mission analysis which assists you in understanding yourself, the enemy, and the terrain and weather.  Unfortunately, many times complacency sets in and you whip up a quick plan, paying little attention to the above.  Sure, you may get away with it a few times; but sooner or later you will pay the price.  Below are a few items you will want to consider in your planning:

Understanding Yourself
•    What is your timeline for future operations?
•    Will you need to refuel vehicles during the march?
•    Do you possess air superiority or even air supremacy?
•    What is the follow-on mission after conducting the tactical road march?
•    What is current maintenance status?
•    Do you have the logistical assets available to support the tactical road march?

Understanding the Enemy
•    Does the enemy possess fixed wing air that can attack your columns?
•    What assets does the enemy possess to conduct ambushes on your forces?
•    Does the enemy have a history of conducting these types of ambushes?
•    Will the enemy emplace obstacles, mines, IEDs along the route?
•    What are the current locations of enemy forces?
•    What do you anticipate the enemy’s future operations to be?

Understanding the Terrain
•    Where does the terrain support potential ambush sites?
•    Where are the potential road march routes?
•    Where does the terrain support an assembly area at the other end of the march?
•    Where does the terrain support scheduled maintenance halts?
•    Where does the terrain support refueling operations?
•    Will weather affect the route and the conduct of the road march?

Graphics/Control measures

Of course, one of key outcomes of planning is producing the graphical control measures to conduct the road march.  Below we will depict some fairly typical road march graphics and add some discussion afterwards.

Let’s discuss some of the control measures you see in the above graphic:

AA Ramona – This is the initial location (assembly area) for the unit prior to executing the tactical road march

SP (Start Point) – As highlighted earlier, this is the location on the ground where the road march begins.  Individual units will report when they cross the SP.  This should be an identifiable piece of terrain on the ground.

LL (Light Line) – As units cross this terrain, lights off!

ROUTE IRON – This is the primary tactical road march route the unit will utilize.

ROUTE RUST – This is alternate route that the unit can use.  As always, you must plan for the what-ifs.  An alternate route assists you in dealing with these what-ifs.

TCPs – There are several locations on the route (s) that concern the commander.  Placing TCPs in those locations can alleviate potential chaos.

Bridge Classifications – There are two bridges emplaced on the route.  It is critical that units understand what types of vehicles can safely use the bridge and which ones cannot.  Bridge classifications provide this info.  On our graphic, you see two circles both with an A2 and numbers.  This provides the information as to what can cross and what can’t.  Bridge classifications are all about weight and height.  Too heavy is no go.  Too much length – likewise.  We will discuss this system in a later article.

UMCP – This is a unit maintenance collection point that will be established.  Broken down vehicles will be taken there and depending on the severity of their maintenance trouble will be fixed there.  If a vehicle has significant issues it will be likely taken to another area where more significant maintenance will be conducted.

RP – As discussed earlier, this is where vehicles go back to organic unit control and prepare to enter their end state assembly area.

Not shown on the graphic is that end state assembly area.

Preparing for a Tactical Road March
As in any mission, you must conduct a thorough preparation before execution.  There are several actions you can conduct during the time before execution which will assist in achieving success during the road march.  These include the following:

•    Clearly, the first thing you must do is inform.  As soon as you know you are conducting a tactical road march; you must tell your subordinates.  Provide them a warning order so they can get themselves prepared mentally and mechanically for the road march.  Maintenance conducted during preparation will pay off in folds during execution.
•    Get your task organizing completed as soon as possible.  Earlier we talked how serials may be comprised of vehicles from various units.  If that is the case, get them linked up as soon as possible.  Waiting until the last minute to conduct link up only ensures that link up will not happen.
•    Just as in any operation, rehearsals are a necessity.  If time is available, they can be as elaborate as when you are conducting an offense or defense.  You must rehearse the what-ifs that may (and probably) occur.  Quality rehearsals build confidence and more importantly save lives.
•    Pre-Combat Inspections (PCIs) are vital.  Inspections are just as important in conducting a tactical road march as they are in executing an assault.
•    Make sure your drivers get some rest.  A tactical road march can be extremely taxing on drivers.  Set them up for success and get them some sleep.

Executing the Tactical Road March
The execution of a tactical road march, as discussed earlier, is a challenging operation.  The keys to execution are several.  They include:
•    Communication – In any operation, effective communication is vital – a tactical road march is no different.  Communication ensures the commander has situational awareness to command and control the operation.
•    Speed Control – One of the quickest ways for a tactical road march to literally self-destruct is for a unit to not control road march speed.  We have seen road marches that quickly turn into an accordion – speed up/slow down/speed up/slow down.  It is exhausting for all those involved and a recipe for failure for future operations.  A unit must dictate speed and following distances between vehicles.  Leaders must be ruthless on this and units must possess the discipline to follow these orders.
•    Traffic Control – As we addressed earlier, a wrong turn somewhere by a vehicle or a group of vehicles will short-circuit a road march.  A unit must have a plan to manage traffic control.  The utilization of TCPs is a big step in the right direction!
•    Security – A column of vehicles is an inviting target for an enemy.  Consequently, security is paramount. This security is not only 360 degrees, but must pay particular to air threats (fixed and rotary wing).  Security begins with observation.  You must have systems in place to conduct this observation.  We will discuss security a little more in our next section.

Actions at the Halt
One of the most critical aspects in executing the tactical road march is what the unit does during halts (scheduled or unscheduled).  Let’s discuss the particulars in each type of halt

Actions at the Scheduled Halt
1)    You will normally begin by units/serials moving into a herringbone formation.  This greatly assists in conducting observation and beginning to conduct security. You must also ensure you have dispersion among vehicles.  Bunched up vehicles are lucrative targets for any enemy.  Below you will find a sketch of a small unit in a herringbone:

2)    The most important action you will conduct is obviously pulling security.  This includes manning weapon systems, 360 degree scanning, air guards scanning above, and if you believe you will be in position for a period of time you should send out some local patrols. Additionally, you should always put together a quick indirect fire plan.
3)    Once security is emplaced, you must get down to logistical business.  This can include things such as refueling, rearming, refitting, etc ….  Most importantly, vehicle operators should be pulling maintenance on their vehicles.

4)    A scheduled halt is a good time for a leaders huddle.  Company Commanders should get their subordinate leaders together and talk over future operations.
5)    Depending on the duration of a road march, units may need to execute a rest plan (specifically for vehicle drivers).  A scheduled halt is a perfect time to switch out vehicle drivers.  A tired driver is an unalert driver.  We all know what that leads to.

Actions at the Unscheduled Halt
As we touched on earlier, there are a myriad of reasons why you would conduct an unscheduled halt.  Let’s address how a unit may handle some of these below:

Attack by Enemy Air – Depending on the size of the unit, there should be some early warning of an attack by enemy air.  With early warning, the first thing to do is disperse vehicles as much as possible. Once vehicles are stopped, air guards are looking and vehicles are monitoring their radios for more info.  All weapon systems should be prepared to fire at the air.  This includes small arms, crew-served weapons, main guns, and of course, those systems designed for air defense.

Obstacles – The best way to decrease the effect of obstacles on the main body is to find obstacles early.  Early reconnaissance of the route by recon forces and quartering parties can greatly assist here.  If it is the main body that discovers the obstacle, they have two courses of action – bypass or breach.  Bypassing an obstacle can be difficult.  The terrain may not support a bypass.  If breaching is required; the breach is conducted and all forces must be focused on security.  Remember, good units will cover obstacles with fire (indirect or direct).  Emplaced obstacles also are the first step in an enemy ambush.

Enemy Direct Fire – When a tactical road march makes contact with the enemy, the actions are no different than in any other operation.  The four steps are the same for both:
1)    Deploy and Report
2)    Evaluate and Develop the Situation
3)    Determine a Course of Action
4)    Execute the Course of Action

Enemy Indirect Fire – A column of vehicles can be highly susceptible to indirect fire.  If a unit receives indirect fire, they button up the hatches and continue maneuver.  If the unit possesses counter-fire capability, this is obviously an efficient way to silence that fire.

Changes in Weather and Visibility – During the execution of a road march, a unit can experience dramatic changes in weather and visibility.  A dust/sand storm or going from day to night can cause a unit to make an unscheduled halt.  During this halt, a unit may provide more control measures to assist in command and control.  These can include more checkpoints or phaselines to control maneuver.  If conditions are so bad; the unit may be forced to halt for an extended time.

Disabled Vehicles – Vehicles are going to break down and can, in some cases, cause a tactical road march to stop in its tracks.  In disciplined/trained units, a disabled vehicle must be moved off the route by any means possible and reported up the maintenance chain.  As the vehicle is being moved, someone takes charge and guides the column through.

The Assembly Area

The final action of any tactical road march is to occupy the final assembly area.  A unit must have a plan to get a unit from the release point to occupation of the assembly area.  As discussed before, a good quartering party should be the key to success here.  Because this is such an important and often overlooked subject, we will address this in our next article.

A unit must plan and prepare for a tactical road march with the same sense of urgency as with any other mission it must accomplish.  We hope this article provided you a solid background on road march terminology and the planning, preparation, and execution of the road march.  In our experience, a unit that can conduct a tactical road march to standard will be highly effective in any mission they are given.  Always remember that the objective of the tactical road march is to maneuver a unit as quickly and as safely from start point to release point.  This sets the conditions for the unit to achieve success in any defensive or offensive mission they are assigned.

As we mentioned a few lines ago, we will dissect The Assembly Area in our next article.  We will include areas such as preparing the assembly area for occupation, maneuvering from the release point to the assembly area, occupying the assembly area, and maneuvering out of The Assembly Area (The Alpha Alpha).  See you next month!