Thursday, May 31, 2018

Solo: or How To Ruin The Most Beloved Film Franchise In Four Movies Or Less

(As promised. And no spoilers. Other than it being a total disappointment.)

Solo isn't a bad movie. It's certainly not anything like the worst movie of this, or any, year.
What it also isn't is...good.

To be fair, I give it a B-/C+. It's just that given the budget, hype, time to develop it, and general expectations, it was so much less than anyone should have done, that it deserves the lower grade.

When you're deliberately writing the official backstory of the most-beloved character in one of the top three (if not Number One, outright) iconic franchises in cinematic history, you have one job: Don't Screw The Pooch.

Unfortunately, this pooch was screwed before they got as far as casting. And then the screenwriters showed up to make it a proper gangbang. Then the producers dropped by. Then the studio executives joined in. And nobody called the ASPCA, nor the UN High Commission on Crimes Against Humanity. More's the pity. If Harvey Weinstein goes to jail and these people walk, there's simply no justice in the world.

The be specific, the story is weak, the dialogue blows rather than sizzles, the actor looks like a young Jack Black, not a young Han Solo (whose cinematic essence is conveyed at no time in the film in question), and you wonder why, if this was the best they could do, anyone even bothered. This film should have been red-lighted, not green-lighted. Then given a breathalyzer test, and thrown in jail until it sobered up.

Then you remember the decades-long "F**K The Fans!" jihad originally begun by sour-grapes George Lucas all the way back to Return Of The Jedi, turned up to 11 in the atrocious prequels, and then not just fornicating the fans, but actually anally raping the entire franchise from top to bottom (you should excuse the unintentional pun) in the last three Disney-sponsored outings, and you can understand the fan backlash against possibly the least awful and obnoxious litterbox nugget of the four worthy-of-burial-in-Fluffy's-poopie-box films squeezed out by Disney thus far, and in all likelihood via a feline's alimentary processes.

They took a movie tentpole franchise that had literally millions of people from 6 to 60 waiting in lines hundreds of yards long and three times around the theater, and turned it into something that most people couldn't stay home enough from fast enough on the biggest opening weekend there is. The last captain that talented went down on the bridge of the Titanic.

This monumental and excremental effort belongs to Jar Jar Abrams, Kathleen Kennedy (who was only made an associate producer by Steven Spielberg back in the day because she was absolutely the World's Worst Personal Assistant, but he liked her too much to fire her outright, so instead he put her in the only job in Hollywood with zero apprenticeship or talent required to perform: producer), and the monumentally culturally tone-deaf PC droids currently running Disney films (right into the ground, and then jumping up and down on them until brains come out the corpse's earholes - so far).

Picture Jabba the Hut doing a bellyflop from the high diving board onto a baby Ewok in an empty swimming pool - over and over, all day long - and you've got the right metaphor for what they've done to this entire franchise.

If you've never seen another Star Wars movie, this one is fairly inoffensive.
If it was the only one that had ever been made, it would be the only one ever made.
But as the tenth outing from the pedigree of the original Star Wars, the only fitting way to describe a film this disappointingly doomed would be to remind people of when Warner Brothers cast George Clooney as Batman, multiplied by giving Kevin Costner full budget authority for a script requiring jet skis.

If you want an exquisite two-hour geek rant on the forensic details of all the details on how the franchise pooch was abused beyond canine endurance, take a peek at this week's Stratosphere Lounge with Bill Whittle. Once he got rolling on the topic, I realized I was watching a virtual film school masterclass on How Not To Write Screenplays, and I almost saluted. He nails everything you've probably hated about the films going back 20 years, in depth and detail. For sport, in the equivalent of hunting poodles with a bazooka.

If instead you want to burn up your money and two hours and fifteen minutes of your life on a moderately entertaining but ultimately wasted trip, go see Solo. For those hoping that this flick would finally re-capture and rekindle the magic gleefully and deliberately burned down with malice aforethought by the previously named suspects, the other best way to describe its consistently disappointing failure to launch is the scene in Dragnet, where Tom Hanks' Det. Streebeck explains the basics of old school interrogation procedure to arrestee Muzz.

If two hours and change of that is what you go to the movies for, this one won't disappoint you a bit. And with the Craigslist and Backpages personal ads long gone, it's probably the easiest way for people into that particular flavor of kink to find it. Just remember there's no safeword in the movie theater except running for the exit.

The only thing that even remotely cheers me up about these simply awful betrayals of the franchise is that, if Seth Green and Co. simply keep showing up to work, the next two or three Robot Chicken Claymation send-ups of Star Wars should be side-splittingly epic.

Basic Training - Magnetism

Deep inside the center of the earth, some 1800 miles down beneath the surface, is a 1500 mi. thick layer of liquid molten iron and nickel, which eddies and flows turbulently between the mantle and the solid central core. The flow of this material creates electrical currents which generate a magnetic field, which shields the planet from the solar wind, and without which the atmosphere would likely be rapidly stripped away, leaving the earth as barren and lifeless as Mars, the Moon, or parts of North Dakota. Coincidentally, that electrical field, having due to inescapable laws of physics a magnetic polarity, creates a field detectable upon the surface, that, while wandering slowly, is fairly constant over time (at least until periodic - in a geological timeframe - polarity reversals), and helpfully, that polarity is centered near enough on the actual rotational poles of the planet as to be directionally useful. It has been constant enough for several pivotal centuries to allow the brighter among humankind to note first its existence, its direction, and finally to deduce a fairly simple yet robust means for finding our way, by using a small piece of metal to align with the waves produced, point generally north, and thus develop the magnetic compass, useful for wayfinding since about the 11th century A.D. For reference, this was about the time a French-speaking lout named William from Normandy, no cheese-eating surrender monkey he, sailed to the south of Britanica, bringing with him horse cavalry unpossessed by the luckless army of King Harold, and thereby subjugated the Saxons of the kingdom, giving rise to modern England.

Neither William nor Harold possessed the magnetic compass, but the travels of Marco Polo to China retrieved the concept, the Renaissance spread it from Arabia to the Mediterranean and thence to all of Europe, soon remedying that lack even in far-off England, and the English soon sailed everywhere with one, eventually conquering and subjugating a great portion of the known world, until with their usual obtuseness and pedantry, they mismanaged most of their colonies in North America, leading inevitably to the colossally overweaning leviathan behemoth Deep State which we all loathe and despise in the present day.

So having covered the past up until now, let's talk about what the phenomenon of magnetism, and the invention of the magnetic compass means for you.

The slowly-wandering current-producing field of molten outer core I told you about creates a magnetic north pole. Its wanderings are intensively tracked and measured, getting more precise over time as both scientific curiosity, laboratory instrumentation, and the dependence of commerce and the vast wealth involved have cooperatively required such a keen interest in the otherwise unremarkable results of bubbling molten metal hundreds of miles beneath the frozen tundra and arctic seas of Canada.

Those measurements, coupled with the space-age ability to more precisely locate and compare the location of the magnetic north pole to the actual planetary North Pole have led to depictions of the variation to prevent someone from, for instance, crashing their ship into rocks, losing the cargo, and dumping millions of gallons of crude oil onto someone else's beach.

This rather important difference between magnetic north and actual north is called Magnetic Declination.

2015 map of magnetic declination worldwide.

This is all important to you, because it means your magnetic compass doesn't point at north on the map, and it doesn't point to the North Pole, ever, except occasionally along a very thin strip of the earth's surface, which also moves year by year.

Movement from 1590-1990 AD
Fortunately, it moves sloooooooooowly over time, and at a fairly constant rate, so you can apply a correction year to year, and get from compass to reality with second-grade math skills. Helpfully, for most of the inhabited surface of the planet, the correction necessary is seldom off from reality by more than 20 degrees or so, so the math is manageable.

So somewhere on your map, if it's not a touristy p.o.s. map, and definitely on both USGS and US/UK et al military maps, you'll find something in the margin like this:

Which shows you the difference between magnetic north (MN -where your compass is pointing), grid north (GN - which way the map is presenting the surface of a 3D sphere in a 2D representation), and true north (★-the actual direction in which the actual North Pole is rotating about dead-on beneath Polaris, the astronomically named "North Star").
I told you about that so we can get to the Compass next.

Basic Training - Your Pace Count

Welcome to the next section of Fieldcraft: Knowing Where You Are. You know how to get there, now it's time to focus on how to know where you are, and when you're where you're trying to get.

Step One: Get your hands on 100M (that's meters, not yards!) of heavy bank line, paracord, or other fairly heavy-duty string. Actually, a bit (say 10' or so) more than that would be good. We'll get to why in a minute.

Step Two: Get a couple of simple pointed-pin tent stakes at a local sporting goods store, or else two of the big 60d pole barn spikes (6-8" long mother big nails).

Step Three: In your longer than 100M cordage, tie a small bowline in one end. How small a bowline? Small enough to slide the nail or tent peg into it. Leave 2-3' on the short end before the bowline when it's cinched down.
How to tie a bowline?

Make a loop away from you with the little end. "The rabbit comes out of the hole,
goes around the tree, and goes back into the hole." Cinch it. That's it, you're done.
About the strongest never-slip knot their is, maintains most of the strength of the
rope, and totally bombproof. Oh, and it's pronounced "bow-lin", not "bow-line".
So you don't sound like an FNG when you say it. You're welcome.
Step Four: Once you've done that, from the bowline with nail in place, measure out 328' (which is roughly 100M, being an inch and change short of exactly, but close enough for our purposes).

Step Five: At the 100M mark, tie another small bowline, insert your peg/60d spike, and leave another 2-3' of free line beyond the second bowline.

Ball it up, and take it for a walk.
You now have your Official Distance Survey line, which you will take with you everywhere.

Glad you asked.

Take it out to a park, or some unimproved land, the county road, a dirt road, or whatever.
Stick one end of it into the ground.
Unroll it, walking in a straight line.
When you get to the other end, take up the slack, without straining to stretch it. A little bit is okay, it'll pick up that missing inch we left out of the line. We just don't want to pull it so hard we get another yard or two. We're not stringing a guitar here.

Walk at a normal pace from one nail to the other.
Don't lengthen or shorten your steps, just walk at a normal stride, and count steps, out loud if you have to.
Write the number of steps down. Return along the same line to your starting point. Write that number down.
Add the two numbers together.
Divide that number by 2.
You now have your personal 100M pace count. On this type of terrain.
Terrain: flat dirt road.
134 paces out.
136 paces back.
100M dirt road pace count: 134 + 136 = 270. 270 ÷ 2 = 135 paces.
Roll up your string and pegs/nails. Take them with you every chance you get. If there's some low hills, tie the line to a convenient tree about shoulder height. (That's what that 2-3' free end is for.) Walk it out, and repeat at the other end.

Repeat the pace count procedure: one trip uphill, counting your steps.
Then walk back down hill.
Do this round trip twice.
Take the two uphill numbers add them together, and divide by two.
That's your uphill pace count. Write it down as such.
Then take the downhill  counts, total them, and divide by two. That's your downhill pace count.
Uphill and downhill should be different.
(And yes, if the hill is super steep, you're covering 100M over the ground, but not 100M on an overhead grid. Be patient, we'll get to that.)

Got a place with slight up- and downhill terrain? Like 10 feet up, 10 feet down, repeat forever? (Both Quantico VA and Fort Knox KY were great for this, btw. Ask me how I know. And Fort Benning looked to be the same thing, when I visited there.)
Lay out your line, do the paces, do the math, and record it.

If you live in snow country, come winter, you know the drill.
What else?
Anything you can think of.
Beach/desert sands.
And on and on.
Write them all down on your Pace Card:

Put them all on a 3"x5" card. Laminate that sucker. Go heavy-duty. It should go in your gear: pack, canteen cover, whatever. Maybe even inside your headgear. Or dummy-cord it to an upper chest pocket, or bicep pocket. Put it inside a ziplock snack baggie. Now you'll always have it to refer to in case you forget.

Things to know:

And what about that steep hillside?
If, I repeat if, you have a good GPS that tells you the possible error, take it out, get it locked on, and hike in a straight line up and downhill as before, but this time, ignore the string except as a handrail, and watch the GPS display until it tells you you've covered 100M of distance. (If you don't have a GPS, don't worry. If you do, but don't know how to do this, you're not tall enough for this ride.) If you can grok covering 100M as determined by hyper-accurate space-age navigation, write the count down just like before. Times 2, divide, and average. Now, when you don't have the GPS, or the batteries are dead, or the trees block the signal, or it's gone any of 57 other varieties of tits-up, usually when you need it most, you still know how many of your steps equals 100M, which is the point of the game.

Again, write them on the card.

From time to time, say once a year, verify your old counts.
Lamination and 3"x5" cards are cheap; getting lost is expensive.

And BTW, you should repeat these - all of them - with a fully-loaded pack at some point.
(You knew that was coming by now, right??)

Now, when you're on patrol with your buddies, at all times, at least one person should be the designated pace count person. Which is why every swinging Richard in the team has to know their pace count.

So, how you gonna be looking at the ground, spotting the nearest cover, watching the distance, looking at your team leader, and keeping track of paces?

The patented Ranger Pace Counter widget:

Yes, you can buy them at the CoolGuy stores and websites, but for less than $10, you can make your own from the craft aisle at Wallymart, Michael's, HobbyLobby, or any craft store in North America, if you're able to put on your shoes and socks every day without doing it in that order.

However you get your hands on one, they are essentially a rosary and Grunt Abacus in one:
they tell you with precision exactly how far you've gone, so you know exactly how deep in the sh*t you are if something goes wrong. Genius!

When you're in the military, especially the ground combat forces of the Marines
and Army, they try to keep our tools fairly simple, and familiar-looking, as this
 picture should make plain. But hey, remember, it took NASA geniuses
with PhDs and supercomputers to crash a multi-million dollar Mars lander
into the friggin' planet at the speed of stupid because they forgot
to translate from meters to feet. Should have used a bead counter.
Note there are nine beads on one side on the Pace Counter widget, and four on the other. Every time you hit your 100M pace count, you slide one of the nine beads down. After the ninth bead, and you go 100M more, you slide one of the four beads down. Each of the 4 equals 1000M, or 1 km ("click").

You can thus slide beads with your off hand while you're carrying a weapon pointed outwards. Multitasking: not just for cubicle dweebs. Long before you get to 5 km, in fact, every time you halt, change direction etc., your team leader should get your pace count, and consult the map, and plot your team's reckoned position (and make comparisons with landmarks, if possible). Then when you start again, reset your abacus, and you can start counting a new count from your current position to the next spot.

This is why we counted meters, not yards: maps, esp. military, but also commercial, tend to be arranged in 1000M grids. If you're counting feet and yards thinking they're "almost" close enough, you'll pick up a 28' error every 100Y. After just 400Y, you're off on your actual position by over 100'. After 1000Y instead of 1000M, you're off by almost an entire football field.
Now imagine you were in a swamp or heavy forest. And you're in the military. And you call in artillery or air strikes because bad people are angry with you. The casualty radius for medium artillery, like 155mm shells, is 50M. Do you really want to be off your actual location by a football field at that point? What about when you're heading towards cliffs, at night? Or navigating along plotted mine fields? Enough said. Stick with meters, and save having to convert the map to reality forever.

How well does it work?

Back in the day, long before I was a wily and well-trained Marine, I was on a college backpacking trip through Joshua Tree* National Monument. (It's directly south of 29 Palms, and exactly as rocky, sand-covered, and rattlesnake-infested and so on, but we had the sense to do this in January, and get snowed and rained on, rather than do the Marine thing in the summer when it's 120°.) So during three of the ten days out there, our adult supervision, by design, left a bunch of 19- and 20-year olds to wander the wasteland from Point A, to Points B, C, and D, where they'd rejoin us. Along the way, the scavenger hunt was to find the caches of food and water that had been buried - as in really dug underground and covered up - for us prior to the group's excursion, which were marked on the map. The only marking above ground was a small cairn of two-three stones on top of each other, amidst literally square miles of wilderness. We saw four people over the course of the ten days, and that was when we passed over the paved road through the middle of the monument.
Joshua tree: Miles and miles of miles and miles.
But being fairly literate, I knew that a Roman mile, back in Caesar's day, was 2000 double paces of any of Marius' Mules, humping their gear throughout the far-flung Roman roads of SPQR. (Future Jeopardy trivia answer, right there.) So I counted off 1000 combined lefts-and-rights, and knew how many miles we were covering every day, which information I could pass along to the guy being group leader du jour, and de facto custodian of the map (and one of the compasses). With my tidbit, plus some nifty triangulation to nearby peaks, we could nail our location down, and managed to find all our food and water every night. Granted, it was a lot of flat open space, but that brings its own set of hardness, because you tend to underestimate how far away things are, and how far you've gone or need to go. Unless you happen to know exactly how far you've travelled in a straight line, and then plotted it on the map every mile.

Which is exactly what you'll be doing, whether it's in a featureless desert, or woodland forest where you can't see any landmarks to do resection. If you've been walking for 2500m on an azimuth of 245° from Point X, and you have a map and a pencil, you can plot where on a line on that bearing you are, to a reasonable certainty.

Now, you know how to do that too, assuming you can count.

*{Joshua Trees are relatives of the yucca plant, except their upstretched branches reminded nineteenth century pioneers of Joshua, with his arms upraised to heaven, hence the name they gave to these plants. Do I kick ass at useless trivia, or what?)

Basic Training - PT

You can work out anywhere. If those water jugs are full, that's about an
 85-90 pound bar. Using the cases of MREs as workout weights is
probably better than eating them anyways.

Hours 1 and 2

It's your second Tuesday, which means it's the UBD (Upper Body Development) circuit today. Your Daily Seven are still 11 reps (or one more than whatever you started at last week) apiece for warm-up.

Then it's all about the shoulders, upper back, and arms.
Pick out your exercises.
The first one should be pull-ups (if you have a bar for that), and pushups if you don't.
Max out on whichever.
Keep track mentally of how many you did.
Then jog in place or for a minute, then the next exercise until you can't, or for two minutes, run in place or on a course for a minute while you shake them out, then do another exercise.
As many times as you can in thirty minutes. If you picked 7 upper body exercises, you should finish at least one and possibly two complete circuits of exercise/run/exercise/run/etc. If you picked 5 exercises, you should make it through two-three complete cycles.
If you're working the entire two minutes and not burning out, shorten the recovery period to 30 seconds; today is for UBD, not cardio.

When the thirty minutes is up, repeat either the pull-ups or push-ups, max effort.
Compare the number you did the last time to the first time.

Then cool down, walk it off, shake everything out, and get cleaned up.
Classes start after breakfast.

Just Saying...


Full review later today.
But not right after I've eaten.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

For Stephen Green - A Little Bit Of Molon Labe Goodness

Dear Vodkapundit,

Memes To Order is happy to supply your requested content.
Thanks for shopping.

Basic Training - Camouflage, Concealment, and Cover

We didn't bring it up at the beginning of the fieldcraft module, because the object was to get you out and walking. But as you may have noticed, the fundamental rule of being in the field is this:

If you can be seen, you can be shot.
If you can be shot, you can be killed.

That consideration should be driving your every waking thought and move, from the time you leave the perimeter of your base of operations, until you return safely to it.

So you need to understand the three "C"s from the title.


Anything that keeps anyone else from seeing you or detecting your presence. And nowadays, as the tech percolates down to even sport hunters, you need to be thinking in terms of visible light, heat image, and near-infrared night vision.

You need to do everything you can to put things between you and any potential enemy, in order to prevent them from observing you. That may take the form of something like a poncho or cloth that blocks your heat image from in front or overhead. Remember, if it's stupid, but it works, it's not stupid. Go visit YouTube and see what hogs look like to hunters with thermal scopes, and remember that to an enemy with that technology, you're the hogs.


Cover is concealment, with a special difference: it not only blocks you from being seen, but far more importantly, other people can't shoot through it. For movie aficianados, the card table in the final shootout of The Shootist, and the airplane bulkhead wall in Magnum Force were both concealment, not cover, as incoming slugs quickly demonstrated. It's not a lesson with which to trifle.

What stops shrapnel, and most bullets not fired from cannon, is 2-3' of dirt, gravel, or solid rock. Six inches of reinforced concrete wall will stop most shrapnel and nearly all forms of 5.56 to 7.62 slugs; unless there's also a lot of other bullets flying in behind the first one.
Two to three feet of sandbags or heavy soil stops just about everything but artillery blasts.

Consequently, as you're on patrol, you should be looking for what's in the next foot or two, so you don't step in or on anything that you shouldn't.
And at what your team leader is or might be signaling.
Then at anything between you and the range limit of unfriendly fire, or as far in that sense as you can see and be seen.
And finally, noting the most solid cover within the next 2-3 steps.

Like a pilot cycling visually through the cockpit gauges, the patrol walk is those four items, over and over again. Footstep - cover - distance - team leader; footstep - cover - distance - team leader is the patrol dance reported by every survivor of infantry patrolling going back to time out of remembering. Anything near or far that JDLR - Just Doesn't Look Right - means you call a halt, or a freeze, or you dive for cover. Those slow to learn that drill are generally referred to in dispatches as "casualties".


Concealment or cover are what you find. Camouflage is something you can do to help yourself.

Ten things give you away, and you have to defeat each of them to be truly camouflaged.

1. Movement
2. Shape
3. Shadow
4. Shine
5. Contrast
6. Color
7. Noise
8. Smell
9. Tracks
10. Trash

1) The human eye is trained down to the lizard brain to spot movement above all else. Something motionless, or moving, but slowly, or within the "noise" of the background visuals, will escape all but detailed observation. Abrupt stops and starts will draw the eye at all distances, and rapidly. Grass, trees, and water all move in nature. But bushes don't shake all by themselves.

2) A shape that looks out of place is always a giveaway. There are seldom straight edges, sharp angles, or perfect circles in nature. And the human eye will pick out a human silhouette with a frightful rapidity.

3) At distance, everything becomes a blob. A dark blob always sticks out. A moving dark blob shaped like a human is the trifecta of fail, and will be rewarded with the prize for Most Attractive Target if spotted.

4) Other than water, there's little to nothing in nature that reflects light. Shiny is for hot rods, not patrollers. Paint it, tape it, smear mud on it, or otherwise hide it. This includes skin, which we'll cover at the end.

5) Contrast sticks out, by definition. You need to blend. And blending varies as you move from place to place. Try not to be colors that are So-Five-Minutes-Ago.

6) Color isn't just contrast. Nothing in nature is day-glo, except in places where everything is.

Bright green works in the Amazon rainforest. Not so much in the desert, or the snow.
Color should match and mimic what's already there.

7) Noise should go without saying. So to speak. So don't. That's why you learned hand-and-arm signals. Nothing talks, coughs, sneezes, burps, farts, jingles, rattles, or makes anything but the merest whisper. Or you're doing it wrong.

8) Smell sets dogs and bears off at hundreds of yards. People too, just not as far away. So avoid wearing, using, or eating anything that will send a pungent messenger out as surely as ringing a bell.

Clean is fine, but use unscented products. If anyone can smell your deodorant, aftershave, even your toothpaste, you're a camo fail. Tobacco in any form reeks to non-smokers, as do all the weed smokers, generally too stoned to notice they announce their habit from 50 feet away. Change "be seen" to "be smelled", in the Rule above, and you'll get the idea.

9) Tracks can't be helped, but they can be minimized by where and on what you step, they can be brushed out, and your trail can be minimized. Don't drag your feet, don't kick things over, walk on harder surfaces, and not soft ground. The joke in the SAS used to be that you could tell the hopeful selectee on the Brecon Beacons training course, because he was the guy walking backwards through patches of snow. Coyotes smuggling pollos in across the border have them all take squares of those gaudy Mexican blankets, double thick, and then take baling wire to wrap around the feet of everyone crossing. It sounds dumbass, but it works incredibly well on soft dirt and sand. And when the blankets wear through, they swap in another piece, because they're cheap. Once they're out of the zone where Border Patrol is looking for sign, the peel them off and dump them.
Expert trackers, especially those using dogs, can find nearly anyone findable, but there are ways of making it harder to impossible on novices. Avoid the easy routes, and minimize sign along the way.
Both dogs and trackers can be punished by picking the most obnoxious hard route possible. If you drag the tracker or the dogs through thorny brush or nasty ground, the entire tracking party and dog handler will pay. Remember that if you think you're being followed.

10) Trash shouldn't have to be mentioned. Pack it in, and pack it all out. Some hardcore recon groups even crap in bags and pack that out too. Or at least to a distant central spot, buried deep, away from their trail and object(s) of interest. You shouldn't leave anything behind, ever. Every trace of your presence is just forensic data for the guy who finds it. And if you're snooping and pooping out there looking for them, remember that there's always some guy you didn't see, doing the same thing looking for you.

A big part of this gets taken care of with the uniform you select. After the First World War, uniforms went from gaudy to drab for field use, for good reason, and there won't be any long-surviving Zouves in the Zombpocalypse.
You're fortunate in having a plethora of good camo to choose from now. MARPAT (both forest and desert versions), CADPAT, and the OCP the Army is moving to, after the abortion that was ACU (which only blended well with granny's sofa) are all excellent.
This is what you get for half-assed camo when the Army is too proud to admit that
the Marines did it better, nor will pay them for their invention. Sad. And deadly. 
I've sat right in front of someone in broad daylight motionless in plain sight at 20 yards while they, even with binoculars and looking intently, didn't see us, in our MARPAT green. We were taking pictures of him, he was calling his cartel boss to tell them "there is no one watching here". We were close enough to hear his side of the cell phone convo.  
MARPAT works.
(As the CMC has seen fit to make it very hard to obtain for force security reasons, I note that the civvy-version knock-offs are no less good.) Guys wearing it disappear within a couple of steps into the brush, while you're watching them with binoculars too.
Tiger stripe and woodland weren't bad either, and even solid tan or olive drab are better than nothing.

For patrols, exposed skin has to be camouflaged as well, which is where your tactical make-up comes into play. Wear gloves or do your hands too.
Everyone misses their ears, their lips, their chest below the neck and above their t-shirt, and the entire back of their heads and necks. This is where your buddy comes in. If you're going to camo up, don't half-ass it.
And don't make it cosplay, or clownplay. Break up the shape, blend with the color, and kill the shine. Don't forget the lids of your eyes. Anything that looks like eyes will be recognized as a face, followed by sending you a new orifice at a few thousand feet per second. Do it right, and camo everything. (Frankly, I'm surprised camouflage eyeball inserts to make the whites into a camo pattern or color too aren't already a big thing yet.)

If you're squeamish, there are veils and mesh head stockings that'll do a damned good job, and come off easier than camo stick.
And if you're a surplus hound commando, you should know that military-grade DEET insect repellant, mixed with the issue camo sticks, makes it easier to apply, and keeps you from getting bitten too.

Whatever you use, check it often, and like the sunscreen warnings "re-apply often".

Lead cancer from incoming will kill you much faster than skin cancer.


And with that, we conclude the first day's Fieldcraft lessons.
Only three more days' worth to go.

Color Me Shocked, Part ∞

h/t Kenny

FUDDVILLE, Ind. – Noblesville (IN) Mayor John Ditslear considers himself “a Second Amendment guy, but..."  
“I did approach the owner and I just told him that, ‘No one expected this but you’re hurting your business, in my opinion, strongly, and you’re hurting our city,’ and I asked them to maybe just think about it and take the tent down, and I was asked to leave."
Natzsofast, Guido. Fox59 was also honest enough to talk to the store owners, and in the tradition of the late Paul Harvey, give you "the rest of the story":
"The mayor of Noblesville literally lied about his visit to the shop. He was never asked to leave and he ended the conversation mid-stream and left without allowing us to plead our case. In other words, he told us his feelings about the situation and then left to join the protesters because the news media had arrived."
The first tip-off should have been electing a mayor whose nickname for life has to be "Ditz", but color me shocked: a politician lying about the facts to advance a self-serving agenda.
What a total steaming pile of Fucktard.

How sad. If only there were some way to register your disapproval with this kind of dishonest putz, for telling whoppers about a local business his very office taxes and licenses to operate, to help support the very town that pays Hizzoner's far-too-fat checks.
Mirabile dictuThe internet comes to the rescue with phone, fax, and e-mail!

And it also notes Mayor Pinnochio's fourth four-year term is up next year. Sounds to me like Nobleville needs some new leadership; this one's gone well past his freshness date.
Failing that, they could just change their name to Fuddville. A leader like this is anything but noble.

One is reminded of nothing so much as the mayor in the original version of Red Dawn, where the Cuban commie pig military commander remarks "The people here are indeed fortunate to have such a shepherd."

Thanks, Government. I think we've seen this playbook somewhere before...

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Basic Training - Reaction To Contact/Ambush/ Break Contact

During a patrol, a team may bump into another patrol. It may walk into a hasty or prepared ambush. Or it may encounter an unknown group, of unknown size, and unknown intentions.

You should learn the textbook techniques for hasty and deliberate ambushes. They may come in handy.

But The Book assumes a lot of things that won't be the case for you.

It assumes a de facto bi-polar state of conflict.
It assumes anything not friendly is enemy.
It assumes everyone on your side is intensively trained and drilled.
It assumes a larger friendly element nearby.
It assumes communications, a robust response by a Quick Reaction Force (QRF), it assumes ability to call in supporting fires, friendly close air support, and rapid medevac.

In sporty times, from disasters to societal meltdown, you will have precisely NONE of these things, in all likelihood.

There may be no conflict. Reflexively opening fire makes you the bandits.

There may be friendly, neutral, or uncommitted parties out there, some of whom may be amenable to some loose or sturdy alliance. Unless you greet them by shooting them up.

There may be multiple unfriendly forces.

They may, and probably WILL, outnumber you. In size, capabilities, possibly even in terms of training and cohesive tactics. Definitely so if they're TPTB. Try to remember, you're the guerrilla. If you aren't thinking like one, you can always die like one.

Your communications will vary (we'll get to that by and by); your QRF may be another gaggle of foot-borne guys, some time and distance away; your supporting fires will likely be nil; as will be anything like CAS or medevac. If you're lucky, somebody may be able to cobble up an ad hoc ambulance with a QRF to come and get you. Or, not.

For all these reasons, your default reaction to contact should be to hide, fade, regroup, and reconnoiter. Unless you're pinned to the wall with no other options, fighting should probably be the last thing on your mind. Returning fire should only be utilized in the context of TCCC, to get any wounded out, and then to break contact as expeditiously as possible.

Because if you allow yourself to become decisively engaged by a superior force, you will be mauled.

Don't believe me; let's let the US Army's Special Forces show you what happens when you think you're the biggest grizzly bear in the woods, and then meet the real grizzly, and you find out you're just the badger.

I won't belabor Monday morning quarterbacking.
The mistakes in this incident were legion, from the beginning to the end, in the short-time eternity of just one hour and fifteen minutes.

They behaved as if all the assumptions above were in force, when in fact virtually none of them were.

Like the LAPD in the North Hollywood bank shootout, the individual guys here were exceedingly brave. And exceedingly stupid. And they paid for bravery plus stupidity in the usual fashion: with their own blood.

In this case, it cost them all three of their vehicles and equipment, and 4 guys dead (out of 11); no word on other friendly or enemy casualties. In the grand scheme of things, what matters was, everything after getting shot at, and not electing to GTFO of Dodge ASAP to regroup on safe ground were tactical and strategic blunders. This A-team was eaten for lunch, and beaten like rented mules. If it can happen to them, it can happen to anybody.

Think about you and your group, and tell me what 36% casualties would mean for your friends, family, and neighbors in tough times.

This ain't the movies, you ain't John Wayne, and the cavalry, especially the Air Cavalry, isn't coming over the hill in the nick of time. Like they weren't for that A-team, thinking and acting like they were in Iraq amidst a war in 2004, instead of totally on their own in Niger in 2017.

If you get seen, you can be shot; if you get shot, you can be killed. The solution for that is to stay out of sight, and if you can't get out of sight, get out of range. Then, when you aren't trading lead, figure it out.

Or make out your will, and set your affairs in order.

Working things out while standing on the bullseye rarely works out well for you.
There may be times and places when you make a deliberate attack, with the odds as much in your favor as you can get them.

That will almost never be amidst contact, or in any ambush when you're the one on the "X".

Return what fire you need to, in order to recover your casualties, and/or to break contact.
That's pretty much the only drill you need to know, cold. At least once you're taking fire, you've established the other side's intentions.

The drill itself is simple: If you're on the side in contact, unload in the enemy's direction (bonus points if it's aimed fire, and not suppressive to-whom-it-may-concern fire), then withdraw through your teammates and away from the enemy. You're using return fire to slow them down so you can create distance, and move out of sight, and then out of range.

The way to learn this is hands-on, in meatspace, with people who can see you doing it, and correct errors on the spot. Every group and situation will be different, but the drill boils down to: put their heads down (and/or a couple of their guys) and go the other way, rapidly.

The rest is purely details.

Most times a patrol is to gain information, and once you're getting shot at, you've just learned where the limit of territory that is friendly ends, for you.

But until you know you've got that drill, and take the lesson of breaking contact rather than duking it out to heart, you're liable to be a lesson for others in how not to do this. If anyone even writes it down, at that point in history. And no one will likely be going back to recover your body, nor pin any medals on your coffins.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Basic Training - Danger Areas

During a patrol, your team, or a larger group that you're part of, may encounter areas of terrain that leave you open to being sighted, shot at, or both. Those areas are referred to as danger areas.

A danger area is any place on a route where the leader’s estimate process tells him that his unit might be exposed to enemy observation, fire, or both. Try to avoid danger areas. If a unit must cross a danger area, it does so with great caution and as quickly as possible.

a. Types of Danger Areas. The following are some examples of danger areas and crossing procedures.

(1) Open areas. Conceal the team on the near side and observe the area. Post security to give early warning. Send an element across to clear the far side. When cleared, cross the remainder of the unit at the shortest exposed distance and as quickly as possible.
(2) Roads and trails. Cross roads or trails at or near a bend, a narrow spot, or on low ground.
(3) Villages. Pass villages on the downwind side and well away from them. Avoid animals, especially dogs, which might reveal the presence of the team.
(4) Enemy positions. Pass on the downwind side (there may be dogs). Be alert for trip wires and warning devices.
(5) Minefields. Bypass minefields if at all possible–even if it requires changing the route by a great distance. Clear a path through minefields only if necessary.
(6) Streams. Select a narrow spot in the stream that offers concealment on both banks. Observe the far side carefully. Emplace near and far-side security for early warning. Clear the far side, then cross rapidly but quietly.
(7) Wire obstacles. Avoid wire obstacles (obstacles are usually covered with observation and fire).

b. Crossing of Danger Areas. When the unit crosses a danger area independently or as the lead element of a larger force, it must–
  • Designate near- and far-side rally points.
  • Secure the near side (right and left flanks, and rear security).
  • Reconnoiter and secure the far side.
  • Execute crossing the danger area.

(1) The unit leader decides how the unit will cross based on the time he has, the size of the unit, the size of the danger area, the fields of fire into the area, and the amount of security he can post. A small unit may cross all at once, in buddy teams, or one person at a time. A large unit normally crosses its elements one at a time. As each element crosses, it moves to an overwatch position or to the far-side rally point until told to continue movement.
(2) To maintain momentum, units in the middle of the larger group normally cross the danger area without conducting their own reconnaissance or establishing far-side security. The lead unit conducts reconnaissance and maintains far-side security for the whole force.

NOTE: The secured area must be large enough to allow the full deployment of the remainder of the unit.

c. Crossing of linear Danger Areas.

The larger unit crosses the danger area in the formation and location specified by the unit leader. On the far side of the danger area, all personnel and equipment are accounted for. The unit continues the patrol.
(Figure 2-27.)

(1) When the lead team signals “danger area” (relayed throughout the unit), the unit halts.
(2) The unit leader moves forward, confirms the danger area, and determines what technique the unit will use to cross. The assistant also moves forward to the leader.
(3) The leader informs all team leaders of the situation and the near-side and far-side rally points.
(4) The assistant directs positioning of the near-side security (usually conducted by the trail teams). These two security teams may follow him forward when the unit halts and a danger area signal is passed back.
(5) The unit leader reconnoiters the danger area and selects the crossing point that provides the best cover and concealment.
(6) Near-side security observes to the flanks and overwatches the crossing.
(7) When the near-side security is in place, the unit leader directs the far-side security team to cross the danger area.
(8) The far-side security team clears the far side.
(9) The far-side security team leader establishes an OP forward of the cleared area.
(10) The far-side security team signals to the team leader that the area is clear. The team leader relays the message to the unit leader.
(11) The unit leader selects the method the unit will use to cross the danger area.
(12) The unit quickly and quietly crosses the danger area.
(13) Once across the danger area, the main body begins moving slowly on the required azimuth.
(14) The near-side security element, controlled by the assistant, crosses the danger area where the main unit crossed. They may attempt to cover any tracks left by the platoon.
(15) The assistant ensures everyone crosses and sends up the report.
(16) The unit leader ensures accountability and resumes movement at normal speed.

NOTE: The same principles stated above are used when crossing a smaller unit across a danger area.

For a view of what that looks like for a small team, here's what's actually a pretty awesome look from some online simulation guys playing Arma, who've taken the time to learn and diagram real-world tactics so they can do better playing a computer game battlefield simulation. (And hey, guess what, it works in the game just like in real life, except in the game, you can opt for a God-view you never get in the real world. And in case you were wondering, Big Green uses exactly this kind of stuff to train everyone for everything these days, from grunts to fighter pilots to submarine crews, so it definitely has a lot of value and utility.)
Some folks so inclined might realize that they could bone up on this stuff exactly the same way, provided you don't mistake playing games for a complete substitute for actually gearing up with a ruck and doing it. But if you just want to rehearse the moves and train your brain, without thinking you're training your muscles, ROWYBS; it'll definitely make the real-world stuff come easier, so you don't waste real training time on stuff you could have learned online with your teammates, and had fun doing. (At least until you get smoked by some pre-teen gamer pro who knows his stuff better than you do.) 
And remember, come the day, there's no re-spawn in the real world.
You only get one chance not to screw this stuff up.

For larger danger areas, such as open spaces, going around them and staying under cover of the surrounding brush is usually the best means of avoiding them. A team or larger unit may hug the edge inside the treeline, or move 90° offset from their line of travel, move a set paced distance to move beyond the edge of the area to one side, pass the open area on their original direction of march, and turn 90° back, then resume travel in the original direction again.

If you encounter trouble during a patrol, the mission of the patrol, the size of your team vs. the opposing force (which you may not know, or even have any idea about), and your group's previously agreed upon course of action will probably determine what you do. Unlike a military patrol, you don't have supporting fires, heavy weapons, and may not have anyone as a quick reaction force to come help you out. Your goal is always to live to fight another day, unless you've assembled a unit large enough to tangle with someone else. If that's the case, game on and best wishes. If not, fading away without contact, or breaking contact rapidly, will be the wisest course of action.

Specifics of reaction to contact will be covered in the next instruction period.

The point of this one is to select the methods and tactics that will minimize your exposure, and avoid or at least decrease the likelihood of unintended contact or conflict for you and your team, at least until a time and place of your choosing.

Generally speaking, if someone announces their presence by shooting at you, it's because you're in a place they want you to be, at a time when they're prepared to take you on. That isn't someplace you ought to be, and one you should get out of as rapidly as possible. Avoiding it in the first place is thus always the best policy.

Your training needs to cover minimizing your risk in areas prone to such dangers.

Incredible Memorial Day Deal

I expect most of the people who drop by here know this already, but for that one guy (or even an entire clueless company like the morons at Goolag© today) who never gets The Word, the following.

We have a day in this country to honor all those who have served. Originally, it was called Armistice Day, to commemorate the end of The Great War in 1918. Once we had to start numbering the world wars, that commemoration fell out of favor, and so to honor everyone who fought in all the wars, we changed the name. As it's cleverly now known as Veteran's Day, the literate might have apprehended the fact that it's the day to pay tribute, mainly verbal (sadly, no chests of plunder from the conquests to the participants are in favor any more), to all military veterans.

Today started out as Decoration Day, which was a day to decorate the graves of those who had fallen. First, in the Civil War, then the Spanish American War was included, and then we started adding honorees wholesale after a couple of trips to Europe and sundry other locations, and it was morphed into Memorial Day. And slidden from the 30th into any convenient Monday, so that all the folks who never left home could have a three-day weekend, for their 9-to-5 daily sacrifice.

This is not the day to go about with a trite and cost-free "Thanks for your service" upon your lips to those you may encounter, however good-hearted and well-meaning your underlying sentiment.

Today is the day set aside to honor The Fallen.

The ones who actually died in the service of the country.
"They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them."
The ones who gave all of their tomorrows so that you could have your today.

So as you go through a weekend that, to listen to the blathering airwaves, is solely to celebrate sales on mattresses, underpants, beer, and garden tools, and such consumerist excess largely toasted with supertankers of beer, trainloads of hot dogs and hamburgers, and enough chips and dip to choke legions of horses, spare a thought to the guys who aren't here to enjoy it with you anymore, because they had other priorities.

They wouldn't begrudge you the moments, and in fact had they been asked, most would rather be there with you, or at any of the ones previous to today, all things being equal.

But they made choices, those choices had consequences, and when duty called, they didn't shirk it, because that's the kind of people they were.

Find the nearest military cemetery, or the nearest ordinary cemetery with military dead buried in it. Plant a few flags. Drop off some flowers.

Take a minute or three and think back. Ponder what it took for someone 17, 18, 19, or even 39, to leave home and family in 1861, 1917, 1942, 1950, 1965, or 2002, whether voluntarily or even as a draftee, in earlier years. Then to put up with some version of boot camp in some grubby little dump of a place, dropped into a strange world full of strange habits, while being scolded and screamed at, and with the reward for all that to have a good shot at ending up exactly where they are now: six feet under. And, knowing all that was in store, to do it anyways.

It won't cost you anything but time, a few bucks for gas and some small offerings, and a few brief thoughts for a lot of people you never met, and never will. Or, God help you, a family member you won't see again, or a relative, or a friend you once knew. Or even just total strangers who only share with you some prior expression of citizenship, of a form that has never been considered stylish, not even during the eras viewed with the most hazy nostalgia in our history. "No soldiers or dogs" goes back to pre-Revolutionary War times in this country, as is alive and kicking in the minds of literally millions to this very day, when they're honest. Give a brief thought to the dream we all share called "America". Then, go on about your business. Because a graveyard host helped make that possible.

It isn't going to do anything more for them than give them the respect they're due from those of us on this side of the grass.

But it might make you a better person, for the price of the bare effort to properly celebrate the day, however briefly.

And that's a Memorial Day bargain upon which you simply cannot improve.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Thought For The Day

Basic Training - Hand & Arm Signals

On a stroll in the big wide world with several of your closest friends, the way you assemble and go out on walkabout can be discussed before you enter unfriendly territory, and/or dictated by your group's SOPs, or arranged during planning.

But once you're out in the world, things change, and you'll inevitably need to make adjustments, in places where using radios, whistles, bugles, or shouting at your guys isn't a good idea. So you'll need to be able to send that information, understand what's being sent, and react appropriately. Provided you're all within sight, the simplest and best method to accomplish that task is by using hand-and-arm signals. The point of them is because they are rapid, simple, and quiet. They also work when it's not quiet, because shooting or things exploding, which is why they stand the test of time. Here are two examples and a short video of the meat and potatoes of what you need to know:


There are any number of variations, for moving cranes, landing helicopters, and a hundred joke versions, because everyone's a comedian. Including the guys who use them for a living:

The first three illustrations, and any common ones your group elects to standardize for yourselves, are the real deal. The main reason for using the ones in common use for our military would be familiarity among any of your people with prior military service, and anyone with the same in the future you might include. It's also easier not to re-invent the wheel every chance you get.

The only way to make them work is to learn them, and go do them, for real, out in the bushes. An empty football field, pasture, or any small bit of area will suffice, even the local park or wilderness area. Using them doesn't require weapons, and you can do it for a quiet half hour even during a group picnic (another team-building exercise you should be doing with your group, btw) at a nearby wilderness area, and likely as not, no one would miss you.

Learn it now, and practice it frequently. Sporty times are not the time to get familiar with this stuff.