I got these questions from a reader based on the last couple of posts and its questions many have but don’t quite understand. There’s a lot of different reasons people begin to focus on communications, but when you boil it down, its one of two real necessities: either networking your group over an area, or, supporting tactical needs. The two goals are different, and while there’s some overlap, its a different mission set with different techniques.
I’ve began reassessing communications needs because like you said in an article recently, I as a ham have been ignoring the benefits of using non-ham comms somewhat.
This is a really common attitude. A lot of folks forget the advantages of license free options once they get a ham license. The thing about amateur radio is the great pool of resources and nearly unlimited options you’ve got on the table. But not everyone in your group is going to get up to speed or even look into a hobby- it’s easier to defer to you, the subject matter expert, and do whatever you help them set up or suggest. Which normally means going license free.
I feel like there is a line between too little radio comms and too much though. I’ve always thought of it as a team leader and up sort of equipment, I.E. not every rifleman needs a radio. Even then, you still probably only need one radio that’s capable of communication outside the general area of the squad, in order to send reports etc. But on the flip side, in a MAG type setting, people need to be able to communicate with each other as well. So if you were to use FRS radios for your local non-tactical nets, wouldn’t that exclude them from use in a tactical situation? And then also GMRS as well, since it’s basically the same chunk of spectrum as FRS? And I don’t like the idea of relying on MURS with only 5 channels for tactical comms, although it would be simple. So other than CB, which is also channel based, I think I’m out of non-ham options, please correct me if I’m wrong though.
And this is getting into the heart of the question. There’s definitely a line between too much and two little, and it all revolves around the mission. If what we’re doing is networking a series of homesteads for a Mutual Aid Group (MAG), then use whatever gets the job done. Personally I like MURS for rural networking. GMRS is fine as well, as is CB, as is amateur radio. But keep in mind, these when used conventionally are for Survivalist-type community networking.
Moving in the tactical direction means making changes to what we do. It is a whole different set of needs- we’re not networking to make sure each homestead is ok, we’re either coordinating effective fire and maneuver or we’re relaying information to form an intelligence product. One of the problems with a lot of folks, especially guys like me with recent military experience overseas, is that we look to electronic enablers for security. We’ve become way over-reliant on forms of encryption and encoding. Neither of those actually mask your signal at the tactical level. A skilled adversary on the ground may not need to know what you’re saying, but will be alerted to the fact that you’re saying something, and close to them.
For that group moving on the ground, a radio’s purpose is for linking two elements. So for example, if you’ve got two teams, a maneuver and a support team, each one needs one radio. Keep it simple and don’t hose it up. Cut the power to as low as possible, use a short stubby antenna (both to keep your range as short as possible), and keep your transmissions as short as humanly possible, no matter if you’re using plain old analog, some sort of digital mode, or NSA Type 1 encryption.
Once you need to relay a report to your headquarters element or safe house (something we cover and conduct in-depth in the Advanced RTO Course), what you’ll end up doing is encoding your message and sending it in a short burst via a directional antenna such as a Yagi or Long wire with resistor. It’s the base of knowledge and technique based on training & experience that wins.
To be honest, there’s a big difference in my book between someone that is capable enough to help secure a town or area, a guard force, and someone capable enough to go out and be the over-the-horizon eyes and ears of that guard force. While I don’t want to adopt the tacticool attitude that I’ve seen grow in other schools of thought over the last few years, I can’t help but agree that there is a cut off point somewhere, and some people just aren’t going to be able to do certain things. What are your thoughts on personnel selection when it comes to security roles?
There is definitely a big difference, but you have who you have and not always who you want. You just have to recognize where each person’s strength is on the team and that also means being honest with them. Its a leadership challenge and not always a fun one, but everyone has that guy in their group or team that while they mean well, just wouldn’t be on anyone’s A list. And that’s ok. The other thing to take into account goes back to understanding the mission and your actual capability. Neither of those roles, in terms of a guerrilla or partisan force are exactly conventional, because the question I’d have is why the town needs securing in the first place. If that mission is organizing stay behinds to delay an incoming occupying force, that means precision fire on enemy targets of opportunity. If that role is staying out of the town and providing security via observation posts, your best bet is breaking off into Recce teams (3-6 men) and moving far enough for an early warning while communicating with a safe house in town. Then again if you’re networked with folks in those surrounding areas, you might not need to do that. And then that commo question comes up again; how are you networked with them? But one thing you probably shouldn’t do as a prospective guerrilla is run around thinking you have the numbers or equipment to fight conventionally in built up areas. The name of the game is not get killed being stupid, and acting like you’re occupying Sadr City is pretty damn stupid.
As I get older it only gets harder to do the things that were once easy. My wife is constantly telling me I’m not 19 anymore, but I think to stop pushing now is suicide. IF the name of the game was simply to have the latest and greatest mag pouches and weapons accessories, we’d be set, but I keep telling them none of that is going to matter 4 days into a patrol and you don’t know how to purify water..
This is true of everyone- you can’t stop, ever. Ever. Some guys are more busted up than others, but age will eventually kick everyone in the rear. Every single bit of knowledge, whether its land navigation, wilderness survival, medical aid, communications, tactics and firearms proficiency, is infinitely perishable. You have to do this stuff, and not just under ideal conditions. Pushing yourself when it sucks outside teaches us much.