It seems as though folks have a tough time understanding differences between the two- and there’s quite a difference. From an experienced standpoint, it’s rather easy to spot amateurs conducting both. The internet is full of amateur hour; just in the past month we’ve been bombarded with “experts” chipping in their two unrequested pennies.
All things Tactical in nature are overt- or close to overt. It’s out in the open, visible, with the appropriate kit for the situation.
All things Tradecraft deal with underground movement- clandestine activity outside what’s visible. It is the antithesis of Tactical.
Think of it like this; Open Carry is tactical in nature, Concealed Carry is tradecraft. Get it?
Now that we understand the difference, it’s important to recognize certain differences in posture and technique. Prior to contact, these guys looked like everyone else on the street. Even with weapons drawn, they’re hard to distinguish from the crowd- unless you know what to look for. Teams in plainclothes usually have a way to identify each other, normally through a certain color or all wearing a nondescript piece of clothing; a certain watch, same shoes, hat, etc.
Tactical units are overt- in uniform of some type, in a proper and practiced formation, looking for a fight. Like this SWAT team pictured, you’d have to be blind not to spot them.
It’s important to recognize an important difference between the two pictures; one I refer to as “social barriers”. Out and about, you might bump into the guys in the top photo and be none the wiser; conversely there’s no mistaking the guys in the second pic, and you wouldn’t go near them much less talk to them.
Wearing a ton of kit, carrying a long rifle in the open, and walking in a formation are all barriers which isolate them from the people. This is not a “hearts and minds” crowd. Let’s take a step back for a second- knowing that each of the successful guerilla movements the West has faced all had something in common- fighters hard to distinguish from bystanders- which approach of the two pictures seem more plausible…top or bottom?
A Time and a Place
It takes a lot to keep folks in kit for long periods of time. On the individual level, it takes discipline. Vests get hot and heavy in a hurry. After a while guys will start cracking their backs and shifting weight on their feet. You intake more water from your body perspiring, and after the first several hours under duress your mind wanders to simply wanting to pull it off. If you’re already not a crossfit superstar, you’re going to run into problems after a few hours. And all of this is on top of the fact that it takes a rather large supply line to keep that team kitted up; while the camera is on them, there’s a large apparatus supporting them. Guerillas cannot expect such support other than what they procure on their own.
Your gear, being out in the open, increases your visibility. So without the imminent chance of contact, there’s little need for that much gear. In other words, it makes you a target for someone. You’ll find your outfit on someone’s ROE card. It might be smarter and more effective to have a low profile vest and kit, if a kit is even needed at all. It’s scenario dependent, but there’s a definite difference between being on the streets of Aleppo vs. the showdown in Malheur. This guy to the left here seems to not care either way. Come dressed for the right party.
A lot of the cool-guy photos from overseas feature guys in local dress; think on that one for a second. The goal is reducing visibility to become more effective. It’s really not any different than unmarked police cruisers. In addition, wearing a bunch of kit might and probably will intimidate the very folks you’re aiming to win over. Before anyone gets their panties in a wad over “soft” culture or whatever, understand that without the support of the populace your movement ceases to exist.
Less-visible Communications…”know when to hold ’em…”
As mentioned in “lower profile HT operations”, reducing your signature is extremely important. The less visible you are about your capabilities, the better off things will be. Sure, you can be intercepted, possibly jammed, etc, but make the OPFOR work for it. Telegraphing every move ensures a loss, everytime. Guaranteed. Using obscure means to communicate at the local level is one way, limiting who transmits and why is another, and looking for methods off the beaten path is yet a third layer in this cake.
At the tactical level, the bulk of your electronic signature will be in the form of Line of Sight traffic. Any way you can obscure this, you should be doing so, such as adding a few digital HTs to your equipment list, and making sure that those means of communication are standardized between everyone on that particular team.
At the Tradecraft level, lots of folks seem to have all of the answers- “just use a One Time Pad”…seems to be the common meme. Laughably, I even read one comment somewhere saying that everyone at Malhuer should “just use OTPs for all encryption!”
Yeah, right. Because let me stop the world in motion to decode this message from the ECP real quick. Not. Tactical communications are immediate in nature. As in, it’s happening right now, needing someone to react to it. Tradecraft communications are normally either instructions or a report of some kind- and normally are responded to by unconventional means(meaning…I don’t just call you back…). Some call them “do not respond” messages. And they are transmitted over long distances, directionally. These are what you will find encrypted through the use of a OTP. Get it?
All of this is meant to make you better- use it. OPFOR is serious about what they’re doing, and trying to go toe to toe on their playing field is suicide. As the Afghans used to tell me and many others, we have the watches but they have the time. It’s very true. Mull on that one, and start re-thinking the approach.