Individual and Team Tactical Movement Concepts for Irregular Force Elements
Unlike conventional-force troops, for small-unit irregular war-fighters, the success of a mission, as well as personal survival, may often depend on the ability to close the distance to the target, engage, and withdraw, without being observed. To succeed, he must master the ability to move silently through various types of terrain.
The guerrilla must know the operational area and its terrain. If he will be operating in an area outside of his “home turf,” he needs to conduct thorough research, including map reconnaissances, interviews with people who have lived in the area, or recently moved through it, and review any available terrain analysis intelligence on the area. The guerrilla must determine what camouflage materials he needs to procure for use in the area, and may need to prep his equipment prior to moving into the area. All shiny equipment must be subdued and anything that may make noise must be silenced. Only mission-essential equipment should be carried, in order to lighten the load as much as possible. Not only does this make the guerrilla more agile, but it also increases his ability to move silently.
When selecting a movement route, the guerrilla avoids known or likely enemy positions and obstacles, open areas, and any area believed, or known, to be under enemy observation/surveillance (this applies to both terrestrial and airborne observation). The guerrilla should choose the most forbidding terrain that he can safely cross in the time he has allotted to accomplish his mission, in order to avoid unwanted or unnecessary contact with enemy forces, except of his own choosing. Because the guerrilla element cannot afford to be seen by anyone while moving to an objective, his movement should be slow and deliberate, and he will constantly and continuously observe his surroundings, in order to facilitate seeing before being seen. The guerrilla force's movement over any given distance will be considerably slower than a conventional-force unit's movement over the same terrain and distance, because stealth is the tool of the guerrilla.
When moving, the guerrilla should always consider the following “rules:”
- Assume that the area is under enemy observation. Move slowly; progress will be measured in feet and inches, not in kilometers or miles.
- Do not cause vegetation to move unnaturally by rubbing against it, leaning on it, pulling on it, or anything else that might create a noticeable visual target indicator.
- Plan every movement, and traverse every segment of the movement route only after visually reconnoitering it and determining the most secure route.
- Stop, look, and listen often. In Vietnam, SOG teams would stop every 10-20 yards and look and listen for minutes before moving on.
- Whenever possible, utilize environmental distractions to mask movement noise. These may include aircraft noise, wind gusts, thunderclaps, explosions, vehicle highway noise, or anything else that will conceal the element's movement, or distract the enemy's attention.
Movement at night is generally the same as movement during daylight hours. The primary distance is that at night, movement is slower, more deliberate, and more emphasis is placed in noise discipline since sound travels further at night (again, going back to Vietnam, John Plaster describes in his history of SOG operations, that teams would often move as slow as fifty feet per hour. I've done missions that involved moving twice that speed and it is excruciatingly slow...). The guerrilla will have to learn to rely more heavily on his other senses, rather than his vision. Whenever possible however, the guerrilla should opt to move under cover of darkness, even if he lacks NODs/NVGs. Additionally, fog, rain, high winds, blowing snow, or anything else that can hide the sound and sight of his passing will aid the guerrilla in clandestine infiltration and exfiltration of a target area.
Largely ignored in the conventional-force, except for snipers and scouts, stalking is the irregular-force fighter's art of moving undetected into a final assault position that will ensure a high degree of surprise and prevent the enemy from mounting an effective counterattack response to the guerrilla attack until it is too late. Stalking involves all aspects of field-craft and can only be learned by repetitive practice over various types of ground.