Communications realities for dummies

Not everyone is a Commo guy. I got it. Not everyone with a rifle is an effective bullet chucker either. Remember this.

“You know what a Infantry Scout really is? A high speed radio dude with a rifle.” – A LRS TL, somewhere, someplace.

I’m not a commo guy. But I recognized it’s importance long ago learning what happens when they fail. So I taught myself and learned as much as I could. Why? Because no matter how good you think you are, you’re never good enough. No matter how bulletproof you think everything is, it ain’t. No matter how solid everything seems, NOTHING survives first contact. Learn and understand every avenue of approach, and be every bit as flexible as possible.

The first thing a young Infantry Joe is taught in the field is at the halt, take a knee. Then get in the prone for longer than 30 seconds. Start building a defensive position. Continuously improve. Never stop.

What does this have to do with communications? There seems to be a certain population in the III%/Survivalist/General Malcontent crowd that likes to think that getting a license is a waste of time. “Well, we can just buy this Baofeng and use it when the time is right…” Sounds like a plan. Except that you don’t know how. You don’t know what the difference is between VHF, UHF, 2M, 70CM, DTMF, CTCSS, etc, etc, etc. It’s going to fail miserably when you need it. And you’ll find Natural Selection selecting you…or better yet, selecting your loved ones and leaving you to carry that burden. So go ahead and be lazy.

Hard headed lazy people go ahead and tune out now.

License Free vs. Amateur Radio

Let’s get something out of the way right now for the slowest of the slow among us. CB has a couple of uses; but is all but useless for anything serious. CB is the 11M AM band, with some models working in an optional SSB mode. These are two different carrier modes, with SSB being much more efficient. It’s propagation characteristics(how the waves go through the air) are basically the same as the Amateur 10M band. It pushes 4W on AM and 12 SSB. Sure you can plug a linear amp up to it. You’re also breaking the law. And you’re also just wasting energy attempting to defeat the laws of physics. In a grid-down situation, energy is a precious commodity. Waste not, want not. In addition, it’s plugged up with morons blasting fart noises, foul language, or better yet, being used as a party line for illegals on every channel. I don’t get my jollies from hearing about Sandy the Lot Lizard or the latest gossip en espanol. On top of this, there’s zero established standard for making or confirming contacts. None. So you have little to know idea where your signal is actually going, or who is or ain’t hearing you. In addition, since you failed to learn anything about radio, you now fail to recognize certain signs that may or may not say you’re compromised(such as bad atmospheric noise conditions vs. Intentional Jamming)

MURS, FRS/GMRS, etc…they work OK. But they have an intended use, which differs due to frequency propagation(how the waves move through the air to get to the guy you’re talking to). Frequently purveyors of these modes harp on “how much range you get out of these radios”…which is silly. If you knew what you were doing you’d know how to sift the stuff from the marketing fluff and how to maximize your equipment. Marine VHF, where I live, is utilized by a couple of public service agencies. If you want to talk over them, go ahead. They will have a problem and someone will come looking for you.

Which brings me to my next point- Just because you have an Amateur Radio License does not in any way mean you cannot use License-Free communications. I have no idea why this mindset seems to exist. Probably due to the plethora of one dimensional thinkers. Blame Common Core. But they do serve a purpose, and the key is figuring out how to utilize it. It’s a tool.

If I could open up every avenue of approach, without cannalizing myself into a handful of channels, wouldn’t it likely behoove of me to do so? Maybe, just maybe. Let’s take a look at the 70CM band. 420-450mhz. That’s a big spread of space vs. GMRS, which is channelized between 462-467mhz. The likelyhood of interception in a larger space to work is smaller(I said smaller not impossible), and from an opsec perspective makes a little bit more sense.

Let’s look at channelization. MURS has 5 channels. If I’m working on MURS for Tactical purposes, the OPFOR can quickly figure this out through careful scanning of the VHF band, then narrow it down to a few frequencies, then zero in on the service itself, then scan just those channels. Using something like an AOR Mini or Icom R6, it can be done very, very quickly in the field by experienced SIGINT guys. I can and have done this with a Baofeng radio as well, and jammed an OPFOR frequency overseas. And now you, working off of established channels, are compromised. Yep, that quick. Because you’re sloppy, and you didn’t train now, because clutching that M4gery and adding rails and crap was more important. And because that Squad of Spetsnaz OPFOR heard every word and did a field expedient triangulation of where you are(also simple to do with a near field scanner, AKA “close call) they’re waiting in ambush just over the next bend. Good job your patrol is now dead, there, Stud. And the potential OPFOR is not likely to have the same standard of conduct for the dead that we were held to(they’re gonna do more than piss on your wretched corpse…and no one will care). And soon you’re gonna be food for the buzzards. And your wives are gonna be floatsam for somebody. Look up what happened to War Widows in Chechnya and it’ll give you an idea. Yep, sloppy hurts. Sloppy hurts bad. Because your OPFOR is that good. And they train for this very thing. How do I know? I trained for working in this manner in Afghanistan. And it worked very, very well. All because you were lazy, believed you could just set that radio in a corner with a 20lb bag of “survival crap” that you failed to learn how to use. Because that attitude exhibited by “preppers” is silly and ignorant.

Security through Obscurity. Security through Flexibility. Commit this to memory. Or don’t. I really don’t care, and I don’t give a crap about training refusals; you make your own bed. But don’t poison the well for others.

“But I’m not planning on manuevering in the SUT role” OK. Cool. Not everyone is built for that. Glad you realized this now before stepping off and potentially compromising your patrol for your own failures. You’re the support structure. As an experienced counterinsurgent, I learned that hunting the support structure is infinitely more important than the bullet chuckers. Because bullet chuckers are young, dumb, and fulla cum. If you’re old or broken, you’re more likely to be playing pivotal support role. You also should be smarter. So you being an effective communicator is even more important.

If I can keep an enemy guessing, and continue to throw him off my trail, working outside his means to intercept me, I’m doing my job. You have to learn how to do this, and it won’t come by reading some blog. Because all communications can be intercepted rather easily, if the right OPFOR is listening. That means studying now. That means getting on the air NOW. That means spend a weekend working QRP in the bush just to see what kind of contacts you can make. And if you don’t know what this means, learn. It ain’t that hard.

If this knuckle dragging bullet chucker can do it, so can you. There’s no excuse. Never stop learning. Never stop expanding your capabilities. Its about skills, not gear, and making the most of what you have.

And if you think I have a condescending tone, it’s because I do. I’m reinforcing a reality to a certain segment of the population who desperately needs a wake up. Time is short, and it’s coming whether you like it or not.

“Don’t know why y’all are so happy to go to war…they got somethin up north y’all ain’t gonna like.” -A very, very experienced 1SG on his 6th deployment before heading into Iraq.