Guidelines for Integrating Inter-Team Communications Into Your Kit

32 BN Recce.jpgThe cornerstone of why you need communications in the field is unit coordination. Teams must have a way to relay what they see and update the situation to other partner teams in the field and to a command location. This is what’s known as Inter-Team Communications and should be thought of as your lifeline for the Small Unit. One of the topics briefly covered in the RTO Course is how to integrate squad-level commo gear into your kit. After training with several groups I’ve noticed that this normally is an afterthought, so it’s something that I address through demonstration of my own gear during the second day. While I don’t require anyone to bring anything to class other than a notebook, pen, comfy shoes and a good attitude, on the FTX there is a little bit of team movement and scratching the surface on Small Unit Tactics (SUT) that I cover elsewhere. There’s a lot of reasons I do this, but its mostly to prove to the student they’re effective with almost nothing.  Everything else is an enhancement to the skill they’re building. Basics never change, and proper adherence of the basics will get you through most situations. The point is not that its an SUT class- its that you’re using your training and gear in the intended environment and showing me that you can apply what you just learned. An RTO (Or RATELO for you Marines) is a critical element of the small unit and as a recent Scout class learned, can be the hardest job on the Team. Together we lay the foundation and provide a context, so that everything else becomes easy and you can add to it to suit your group’s needs. Among the takeaways through a hands on approach is how to integrate Inter-Team communications efficiently into your own personal Second Line or ‘Deuce’ gear (also known as ‘kit’). One of the biggest issues for those looking to conduct patrolling is how to effectively integrate basic communications equipment into their patrolling kits- there’s a right way and a less-right way, centered around making life just a tad easier while moving tactically.

Our primary course focus is creating reliable communications over an area, between Sticks in the Bush (recon slang for a team out on a patrol) and a Command Post, or Tactical Operations Center (TOC), with some of the most common and basic equipment out there. RECONconvergingroutes2Since for most Prepper Groups the range of operations is limited to a few miles or maybe over a county or two, our communications needs are primarily Line of Sight (LOS), meaning VHF and UHF. And considering that it’s tactically sound to have small teams operating in tandem, such as our converging routes reconnaissance method seen in the diagram, we need a way to keep in touch between both to prevent fratricide and coordinate efforts. This is the purpose of our Inter-Team Communications.

Our handheld radios, or HTs, accomplish this task simply and most of you already do this without much thought. Whatever your group uses is up to you- contrary to popular opinion I’m not here to tell you what to buy- but make sure whatever it is that it’s at least suited to the task (meaning you didn’t “buy them by the case!” only not use them, at least took it out of the box a couple times, know that it won’t break if its dropped, won’t quit if it gets a little wet, and it uses standardized accessories across all your teams) and has proven itself to work over the ranges you need it to function. In class we use everything from Baofengs to Yaesu and Icom, because I prefer to teach you how to best utilize what you likely already have and show you where to make improvements if need be. It is far better to learn to use what you have than to throw money at problems and still come up short.

VeeAntennaIn many cases this also means having a way to use  improvised external antennas to increase range or directionality of your transmissions. For example, in the Blue Ridge where I’ve trained a handful of groups, DTR and Direct Talk systems are proven unreliable at best over intermediate distances, so they’re used between members on a team (Intra-Squad rather than Inter-team) in close proximity- within the hundreds of feet between an Observation Post and a Hide Site. Other options are far more reliable over longer distances when communicating to a TOC or Command Post, especially in the lower UHF bands (400mHz) or VHF Hi Band (144-162mhz and 220mHz) where wire antennas are both very simple to build and relatively small (6-8in UHF & 19-22in VHF, or 13in in the case of 220). directional wireAs folks in the last open enrollment class realized in short order, conventional wisdom regarding VHF in thick vegetation and hills doesn’t always apply either- MURS wouldn’t make a short trip of a few hundred meters while GMRS worked just fine. So flexibility regarding communications which is instructed through the PACE plan, just like everything else in the small unit realm, rules the day. That is of course if you’re disciplined enough to actually plan an operation and do something other than tear off into the bush with a rifle.

So how do we integrate this into our patrolling kits? Handhelds work best when the radio is held upright, the antenna vertical, and the operator not sounding like they’re eating the mic; in other words, their mouth far enough away from the microphone to sound clear and not garbled. The problem you’ll run into is that hands-free operation is preferential, and that some options are a lot more field-worthy than others. In addition, most folks configure their gear to support their rifle and usually look at it as only that; proper Deuce Gear should sustain the individual for at least 24hrs. Bring in a patrol pack or ruck, and now you’ve got some potential integration issues that are only overcome by actually running it in the field.

Your radio, whether it’s intra- or inter-team, should be on your Deuce Gear and in a place where you can index it if need be. Since we all know that after moving around they tend to develop a mind of their own, such as unexpectedly changing frequency/channel, changing volume, and the best of all, getting switched off or dumping their memory accidentally, you’re gonna need to have it in a spot where you can pull it out and look at it to see what’s going on without my buddy’s help. In my experience, having the radio out of the way and in its own pouch works- and plugging it up to an external mic should be a no-brainer.

Some of the Options Out There That Work For Me

earmicThe Low-Profile Earpiece

These are popular with security details. To be blunt, I’m not a fan unless low profile is a necessity, and the only nice thing I can say about them is that they’re better than throat mics (don’t buy throat mics, seriously, you’ll regret it). Their only real use is when an absolute low profile is required. They irritate my ear, block my ability to hear ambient noise when I’m moving, and flat out suck compared to other options when a clandestine posture is not required. So for rural patrolling, don’t bother. But then again, they’re handy to have if you’re requiring that low profile and if they work for you, then they work for you.

IMG_1180The Plain Ol’ Speaker Mic

Speaker Mics, sometimes called collar mic by Public Safety personnel, is the most basic forms of hands-free operation. Clip the radio somewhere, clip the mic somewhere, and you’re good to go. And since they’re much smaller today than they used to be, you can clip it pretty much anywhere that makes sense.  The inexpensive Baofeng or Wouxon versions (seen here clipped to my custom UW Gear Swamp Fox Rig) are actually pretty good for the cost and I have no issue with using them. The only potential problem you may run into is that they can be loud, so keep an eye on the volume at each security halt during movement.

Two Bowman Headsets clearly seen here, along with a H-250 handmic.

The Bowman Headset aka the TASC

Old school to some, but still an excellent option for communications integration on the move. The “Tactical Assault Special Operations Communications” headset presents a great option for maintaining complete silence from your radio on the go while allowing you to both hear all transmissions and hear all of the ambient noise. The boom mic picks up the voice and the Push To Talk (PTT) button can be clipped in a convenient location. I’ve always loved these due to the fact that they’re extremely comfortable and work very, very well. They were mostly phased out in lieu of Peltor sets due to the inherent hearing protection, but I never really cared for the bulk of Peltors and the amplified noise within them. If you haven’t noticed by now, hearing ambient noise is very important to me in a tactical environment, and the TASC is a great way to preserve that sensory perception. These can be found with needed plugs for basically every radio on the market, and even the eBay clones have stood up to some serious field use on my part.

IMG_1181The H-250, nicknamed “The Dogbone”

The H-250 should conjure memories both good and bad in the minds of every vet. This was and remains the standard hand mic with every military radio, resembling an old phone. Whether you were whispering a SALUTE report into one or shouting at a Squad Leader to meet you at the TOC (you haven’t lived till you’ve been called out by your First Sergeant or Platoon Sergeant over the Company net), we all know them. Interestingly enough, I still favor them and keep a few laying around equipped with Kenwood-style plugs for commonality. They’re a hard act to beat for simplicity. On my non-firing side, whether standing or in the prone I can lay my ear to the speaker and listen to the traffic at a low volume and speak into the mic just as easily. And the camo duck tape keeps it in a nice spot so it doesn’t wander away.

Driving home the main point again, the purpose of each of these is to keep your hands as close to being free as possible while making necessary radio functions fast and simple. I don’t have to pull the radio in and out of a pouch and monkey around with it (unless its developed that mind of its own we talked about) and life becomes just that much more simple while on the move. That integration is very important and something you should be working through on your own kits in addition to placement of magazines and ancillary support gear you may have. But that’s a whole other topic for another time.


If you want to learn more about communications for preppers and survivalists for both the small unit and across a region off the grid, I suggest scheduling a slot for the RTO Course. Open Enrollment dates for the Summer and Fall of 2018 will be scheduled soon. I also am willing to travel for private groups. Feel free to email me at [email protected] for more details.

Reprinting and/or republishing of this article is highly encouraged however only under the conditions that credit is given to the author with a supplied link to this page.


37 thoughts on “Guidelines for Integrating Inter-Team Communications Into Your Kit

  1. Dom Giampietro

    NC Scout is Rock solid! I highly recommend these classes.

    I have not gone to any of his classes, nor do I know him personally…. and I have no dog in this fight. I’ve been reading this blog and AARs for a few years…

    About 20 of my 24 years in the Cold War army were served in combat arms units; out in the FEBA in mounted and dismounted reconnaissance missions and cutting edge missions in the Airborne, Air Assault and Light Infantry units. High speed vehicle marches and contingency missions (boarder opns) in foreign countries; 100+ jumps, E-1 to E-7.

    Not bragging, only offering a frame of reference for my favorable opinions of NC Scout and his training programs.

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  3. KG5CMS

    Have you considered authoring a book? I believe you would have several buyers eager to learn that cannot attend a class. Thanks for the info in this blog.

  4. Brian

    Vote here for Bowman headset functionality when things are serious. Sods law says speaker mikes/handsets always sound off at the least convenient moment announcing your presence to all and sundry. Worth mentioning use of simple PTT click codes even intelligent Rgr beep use (is that possible !) to acknowledge receipt of a TX or send a simple pre agreed command without having to speak into the mike?

    Earpiece use reservations noted but for low profile recce (HT hidden in jacket & innocently walking the dog..) where you don’t want look a complete Walt, worth considering the cheap brightly coloured earpieces instead of the black things much loved by night club bouncers. At a glance they look just like the Iphone earpieces that half the nation drifts around wearing in a semi trance so they don’t raise suspicion – you blend right in.

    1. The roger-beep is a good way to acknowledge something without saying anything. The only issue with that is that some of the lower-end radios get triggered by strong local signals and might create confusion.

      The other earpiece is a very good idea- you’d blend right in in an urban setting. I’ve also seen bluetooth style mics; but since I don’t have first-hand experience with either, I have yet to verify them.

  5. Good stuff NCScout.

    I have been debating moving from the hand mic on the shoulder strap of my LC-2 Suspenders to a MSA Sordin or Peltors noise canceling headphones – Why one may ask. In short combine hearing safety and comms all in one. Since I have lost 75% of the hearing in one ear and 50% in the other through the years, I am trying to be cautious. 😉

    My point being, the mic on my shoulder has worked well for the past ten years or so and I would highly recommend it to anybody thinking about expanding their kit to include comms.

    Side note: I am amazed at how many want-to-be ‘Ronin’s’ out there have not even looked into patrol or reporting back to the TOC, comms. Then there is even a smaller group that owns some HT’s or even HF radios but they are collecting dust on a shelf or in the original box they came in. Come on gals & guys, get out there and play/practice with your radios.

    Good stuff NCScout!

    1. We used Peltors for that very reason you noted. But for myself, I never cared for them. The amplified background noise that the peltors picked up on was unnatural to me, and I like hearing my own ambient noise for awareness. But that’s just me- for many, they’re an excellent option for the reasons you noted and work similar to the Bowman but covering two ears.

      And as for class…not just run those radios in the woods but learn some nasty little tricks to make that $30 bargain analog HT an fairly capable clandestine transmitter- with just a few bucks for parts and a little properly applied science. 🙂

    2. Panhandle Rancher

      Johnny Mac, I’ve used MSA Sordins with the comm jack for some time now. I highly recommend you throw in the silicone filled ear cups as they increase comfort as well as sound seal. Mine are adapted for use with the old Motorola SABER IIs with DES. Best, Panhandle Rancher

    3. Many of the shoulder mics have a headphone jack. I’ve used mine with a coiled audio patch cable to integrate the audio into my Howard Leight electronic ear pro for a while now. It’s a great solution that beats the heck out of the price of a pair of Peltors and is way more functional than a throat mic and an ear piece worn under ear pro. Don’t ask me how I know that…

  6. I agree with Brian’s comment, “Sods law says speaker mikes/handsets always sound off at the least convenient moment announcing your presence to all and sundry. LOL.

    Yes, balancing the volume level with the mic on my shoulder is a challenge. I missed out on a nice 8-point buck this year because someone hunting with my brother and I couldn’t keep off the damn radio we loaned him. We also use simple predesignated CW for specific things – One click of the mic = on stand/yes, two squawks = No/negative, three squawk means moving/pushing your way, et cetera.

    Anyway, to address NCScout’s comment, “little tricks to make that $30 bargain analog HT an fairly capable clandestine transmitter- with just a few bucks for parts and a little properly applied science.” here is an easy ten minute, less than 50¢ fix.

    Building a NVIS antenna today. I will write up my little results when done.

    1. 🙂

      Hence why I said checking the volume level at every halt. Keep in mind, the volume on that dogbone is not very high even at max, which is one of the reasons I like it.

      1. LodeRunner

        Count me another fan of the dogbone (H-250/U and H-350/U) handsets. Speaker audio is solid and clear without being too loud; the noise-canceling mic has to be close-talked, but this produces clear audio which is 95%+ voice with minimal background garbage even in a *loud* environment; and these handsets are low-profile and tough as nails.
        Where to get one?
        I can personally recommend Murphy’s Surplus, having done business with them numerous times in recent years. Mike Murphy and his folks are completely above board and have proven to be very knowledgeable about the gear they sell.

        Right now they have both H-350/U “dogbone” and Spec. Ops. headsets (NSN 5965-01-517-4269) at very reasonable prices. No, they are not ‘Plug-n-Play’ with your Yeasu/Kenwood/Icom/Etc. radio – you’ll have to replace the connector (or make an adapter) to suit your needs, but it’s well worth the effort.

        Lots of interesting items come their way – enough that their website is on my “check regularly” list.

  7. Josh

    Good article, as usual. A little off topic question, what would be your opinion on enlisting as an 11x into a guard unit to get some training for what may come? Would that be applicable to what you see coming or is it better to stay on the outside and take which classes you can? Definitely interested in a future handbook.

    1. I think its a great choice. See if you can get a spot in your Battalion’s Scout platoon and you’ll get a lot more school opportunities than you will down on the Line.

  8. Acknowledging that many things have changed over lo! these many decades, I am not of the opinion that universal commo is either necessary or desired at the small unit level, and is an absolute menace at Operational level.

    Only a handful of people need to talk to one another, and trigger pullers need not be among those handful of people.

    Understanding that doctrine (such as it is) is to smear people out as widely separated from each other as possible (10 yards might as well be a mile when you’re being shot at), I always insisted that my Joes “bunch up.” So that if one Joe couldn’t touch his “buddy” (I hate that term) he was too far away from him; and if a Team Leader couldn’t be heard by either pair in the din he was derelict.

    I’m not sniffing at small unit commo. I’m saying that it has gone way to far and had become dysfunctional.


    1. You’re exactly right, and a point I’ve (attempted) to make on this blog a time or two- ONLY LEADERS NEED A RADIO. I’m not a fan of intra-squad sets, as it’s far too high an electronic signature, even if the team *thinks* by using a DTR they can’t be tracked (they can).

      In my last Small Unit class, the group learned very quickly the value of Leader grabbing his Teammate and emplacing him where he needed to be. This has two effects- ACCOUNTABILITY (always) and the LEADER KNOWS HIS PEOPLE ARE WHERE THEY NEED TO BE.

      But that said, the doctrine I teach is very much along the same lines of what you’re saying. And a Terminated Vee with a skilled RTO can go quite a long way.

      1. LodeRunner

        Agree with you both – gear cannot replace discipline and experience.
        hand signals should be mastered before commo is issued, just as every element of the squad must master iron sights before “moving up to” an optic. Period.
        The RTO must be a solid infantryman FIRST.
        Just as the Sniper must be a solid infantryman FIRST.
        And the Medic. And the DEMO guy, etc., etc.
        Solid foundations make for solid operations.
        Anything less is a clusterf^c/ waiting to happen.

        This is exactly what our Founders intended, when they penned the words “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state…” — proper “regulation” being a combination of discipline, training, and experience. In that order.

  9. Scott Freah

    I have and am currently deploying a slim Jim 2 meter antenna on my Yaesu vx6 handheld radio. I cannot believe how much further this rollout antenna increases the range of my communications. These antennas can be found at .This antenna is designed to be deployed by tossing one end over a tree branch and sure increases the range of your handheld. For short range squad comms we use a little snubbed antennas so as to reduce our foot print down to 3/4 of a mile. At any rate it’s nice to have options. For those who live in the northwest USA there will be a Gun rights freedom rally on Sat. April 14th at 1200 hrs. at Depot park in downtown Kalispell Mt. This rally is a grassroots pushback sponsored by 3 high school boys in our area. A QST 2 meter radio announcement of this event can be heard on 146.860 in the Flathead valley through 4/13/18. Attendees are encouraged to be safely armed w either long guns,side arms or both. Also if possible bring pro speech and 2nd amendment signs that are of strong content as the press will be at this event and signs are encouraged.Event local comms will be on 2 meter freq.146.420 for handhelds so bring your hand helds. See you there!!! Freedoms are like muscles,if you do not use them they will atrophy,let’s get busy.



  10. Matt

    Do you have a preferred provider for headsets? I was looking around at the Bowman headsets but am not having much luck finding ones with Yaesu plugs/adapters (FT-60Rs and especially FT-270Rs).

    I’m also looking for to your upcoming handbook. Thanks for all the good information.


    1. Fleabay- seriously. There’s a mountain of them on there, and I’d suspect they all come from the same place. The few that I have are comparable quality to the real one I have in a junk box somewhere.

      1. Matt

        After a bit of further searching I found a company that sells cables with the waterproof FT-270 type plugs already on them, so I can make up some adapters for the eBay headsets. Thanks.


  11. Gryphon

    Excellent Info as Usual, BB, but let’s not Forget that Opfor has Jammers, and more Dangerously, Radio Direction-Finding Equipment…. The common, Commercial VHF or UHF Radios are easily Pinpointed to withing the Circular Error Probability/Normal Dispersion of a Art’y Battery firing One Shell per Gun.
    Also, Airborne RDF can ‘Dial You In’ for an Airstrike with Standoff Weapons.

    Give Consideration to Opplans that include Radio Silence situations, and Be Familiar with common Vehicle-Mounted RDF Systems. They are almost Always soft=skinned Vehicles, and Crewed by Fobbit-like MOS, not Infantry.

    1. Oh….I’m not forgetting 🙂

      It was a little outside the focus of the article and one which you, me, and SFC Barry have all underscored- the limiting of a patrol’s electronic footprint. And that’s not even for counter-battery purposes, but for simple counterintelligence and even simpler supply economics.

      In class I hammer home the use of directional antennas both through demonstration and building one with improvised resistors, along with setting up Commo Windows as part of the SOI. And there’s a lot of reasons for that, which you and I know and should be abundantly clear.

    2. True enough Gryphon which is why everybody should try out a “fox hut”.

      Build a simple VHF tape measure yagi type antenna. Just duckduckgi it.

      Then contact your local, amateur radio clubs (Again duckduckgo search) to find out when they are having their next fox hunt.

      You learn a whole bunch on how ‘over communication’ can get ya’ busted. 😉


  12. Scott Freah

    I stand corrected. No malice or afterthought intended. Will not happen again!!!! Front leaning rest position is in order Sgt. Thanks for squaring me away.

  13. Pingback: Brushbeater: Guidelines For Integrating Inter-Team Communications Into Your Kit | Western Rifle Shooters Association

  14. n2382

    I’ve not had much luck with DF on the DES Motorola Saber IIs. Of course comm traffic is very short and succinct, often just a mic click. It is strange that these fine radios now available surplus aren’t more common. I bought a dozen a few years ago with the DES modules and the key variable loader programming unit. With an adapter they work well with the headphone jack Sordins which I find much superior to Peltor. See:\

    In response to the comment against the use of amplified headsets, I respond that many of us lost much of our normal hearing due to firearms, airplane engines, and the like. For us, amplified headsets are a godsend. I remember creeping into a leopard blind with an older friend one evening. We had been careful to eliminate all manmade sources of extraneous sounds to the point of leaving our analogue and electronic wristwatches behind. As I cranked up the MSA Sordin, I could actually hear my buddies’ arthritic old joints creek and had to chuckle to myself as the acuteness of the leopard’s hearing is legend.

    Panhandle Rancher

    1. My comments regarding the amplified headsets are just my opinion- and in time I’m sure they’ll be necessary for me.

      As I drive home in class- if you’re doing it and it works, it ain’t wrong.

  15. Ncscout, I wish you would just write a post with your top 5 easily found new options for each equipment category. I know that may not work for everyone, but for someone like me I don’t have time and or money to try out what fits best for me, especially if someone else has already done the ground work. I know it can also be opinionated, but I really think it helps those of us who just don’t know. What is not always helpful is suggesting equipment that is hard to find because it’s long since discontinued and or is over priced for it’s age. But then again, used stuff from swaps and the like can still be very reliable even if well used. Anything helps, great article as always. 😀

    1. I gotcha. A post actually is in the works along those lines. One of the topics I cover very early in class is the fact that one analog VHF or UHF radio DOES THE EXACT SAME thing as any other. Build quality is another story, but I’d rather have a guy who spends a little and uses it a lot versus spending a lot and doesn’t have a clue. So with that said, there’s a lot of good options (and a few bad ones) for not a ton of money, there’s a few excellent options for a little more money, and there’s some that are just money down the drain (the new crop of Yaesu HTs come to mind).

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