Last-Ditch Communications Kit

Life rarely goes as planned. Plan accordingly.

Sometimes everything goes south. Sometimes just nothing works. SGT Murphy showed up just to tell you you suck. HF conditions are bad. Batteries go dead unexpectedly. Your Baofeng got wet in the river you just crossed and crapped the bed or maybe just melted on its own. Your patrol got ambushed in the process. QRF is back behind the FEBA eating cheetos.


Whoopsie daisy. You get the idea.

That’s why we have a PACE Plan. Primary, Alternate, Contingency, EMERGENCY.

Emergency, 100% of the time, every time, is the most dead-nuts reliable method possible, with the primary purpose of getting you rescued. When all else has failed, option E works. I’ll take a step back for a second and say that every layer of a communications plan utilizes PACE. If Band/Method X doesn’t work, use Band/Method Y. If 2M doesn’t work for LOS, use 70CM. And so on and so forth.

Emergency is normally non-electronic, with a couple of exceptions. A Last-Ditch commo kit might look like this:


Pictured up top is a big, bright orange and pink flag known as a VS-17 panel. From Left to Right is a Write-in-the-Rain pad; an infrared strobe, a few note cards/ permanent marker with an emergency 1:24K protractor and emergency signal flash card; a reflective colored US flag patch and Signal Flash mirror; a magnesium firestarter bar; and a watertight bag.

The VS17 needs no introduction to anyone who’s been in the Army. Some bush dwelling folks sew them in their covers as an emergency signalling method. It’s just a blaze orange piece of fabric that you can’t miss.


Pictured here is a close up of the write in the rain notebook I prefer. They tend to not turn into a big ball of nothing when soaked. This a special version with a lot of great reminders, for example IMC, pictured here. While we all know this stuff in a comfy setting, one finds out quickly how little they remember when they’re cold, tired, wet, starving, and terrified. Having it in front of you helps out.

The notecards are great for a variety of reasons, for making TRP diagrams, marking bodies, or just being something that’s bright white and stands out. Engineer tape(a 2in wide white cloth strip) works too. Carry a permanent marker; it writes anywhere on anything; be it mud, blood or beer.

Having an extra protractor is always a great idea, and another one is included in the notepad. On the white card is another couple great reminders, including IMC and standard air-ground rescue signals.

The infrared strobe is not always necessary- I included it because I carry it out of habit. If your team is equipped with NVGs, it can come in handy. If the OPFOR is, it can compromise. Observe and plan accordingly.

The Reflective US flag is a way to signal friendlies who may not be aware of your presence. The Signal Mirror is a low profile way to signal friendlies as well. The magnesium bar is for signal fires. Finally, you have a nice waterproof bag to carry it in.

As you might’ve guessed, this is an integral part of your Line 1 kit; on your body all the time in your operating environment.

When all else fails- PLAN E WILL WORK.

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