Monday, May 21, 2018

Basic Training - Fieldcraft: Gear and Levels

1965 iteration. Ask me how I know. And still pretty damn
functional 50+ years later. Read on.                                   

Anybody who studies history, especially during or after military service, learns one immutable fact: there is nothing new under the sun.

The lists and layout of military gear from Caesar's legions to tomorrow have been, and will always be, remarkably similar, even as they differ in the particulars and details.

Don't take my word for it, the UK Telegraph did a remarkable piece covering British soldiers' kits from 1066 to 2016, spanning a paltry 950 years. They're similar because the basic unit of issue for all armies is one soldier, human type, bipedal. We all need the same things: water, food, shelter, clothing and armor for protection, and the tools to both survive afield and wage war on our perceived enemies. All that has changed across the span of millennia is the current technology available to us. And in some cases, it hasn't gotten all that far. There's no infantryman today who would be more poorly served by a Roman field spade from 40 B.C. than by a modern entrenching tool, and a canteen of water is still a canteen of water. And curiously, they have almost infallibly been right around 1 quart capacity in size.

But all that kit can be broken down into components, and summarized under the following categories.

0) Clothing: "So obvious it's before 'first-line' gear", i.e. underwear, shoes, boots, hat, and everthing in between, based on the climactic conditions where you are, and any needs for being anything from camouflaged to merely non-descript.

1) Survival load: "First-line gear", i.e. the stuff you should have on your person 24/7/365, even if your pants are around your ankles answering the call of nature.

2) Fighting load: "Second-line gear", i.e the things you need to move into battle and fight there.

3) Subsistence load: "Third-line gear", i.e. the things you carry on your back to feed, clothe, clean, and shelter yourself, and sleep in far from the creature comforts of normal civilization.

4) Administrative load: "Fourth-line gear", i.e. the things packed, on animals,vehicles, etc. that are nice to have, while not absolutely essential, or to extend the abilities of you beyond levels one through three.

5) Mission-specific load, the things you may need once, but not every day, nor all the time, in order do a given thing.

6) Everything else. Ranging from "this is cool" stuff to the "Gucci gear whore Hall Of Fame" to all the crap you own, and the place you keep it.

A cache (it's pronounced "cash" like "cash money", not "cashay", ever. People who say "cashay" are the same level of illiterate halfwit f**ktards as people who talk about "nucular weapons". You've been put on notice.) may (and should) contain gear from any of the above levels, so is not strictly assigned to any one of them.

What belongs in each of them, for you?

No, not these:

I mean, it depends on what you're doing, or envision having to do.
In short, you have to use your head, as well as your back, to select and carry the stuff required, because that changes, and will do so, all the time.

We'll cover First-line gear in a few days, when we get to Survival.
Second line gear can be summarized:

1) Primary weapon.
This may be a modern carbine or fighting rifle. It may be only your CCW piece. Depending on where you live, your CCW piece may be nothing more than OC spray, a bright flashlight, and a Swiss Army Knife/multitool. Think about it, and give due regard to where you may be and what you're doing; don't assume.

2) Carrying apparatus for everything else.
A sturdy belt and multiple pockets, all the way to a full MOLLE vest, etc.
It has to accommodate everything.

3) Water. And food.
The more the merrier. The lunch you're carrying (or, not) may be the only meal you get today.

4) First aid supplies.
May be just a TQ and an IBD. May even just be band aids, tape, a handkerchief, and some Tylenol/Motrin. Should always include any personal/Rx meds, like epi-pens, asthma inhalers, etc. (Duh!) That's for you to figure out. Just remember, in tough times, I'm probably only using what you brought, on you. So, how much are you worth, to yourself?

5) Resupply/logistics for #1, above.
Bullets, maybe. Cleaning kit, as appropriate. Maybe just another OC can, spare batteries for the bright blinding defense light, and a sharpener for your pocketknife/multitool. Work it out.

6) Any other handy weapons or tools you need all the time, at minimum.

If you want to get an idea of how much we're talking about, turn to page 74, i.e page 3-1, Table 3-2, of  FM 21-18 Foot Marches April 2017, and note that for the average soldier in the Army right now, the notional typical fighting load is nearly 70 pounds, and even without the protective vest and SAPI plates, it runs over 56 pounds, before they even put on a pack.
(See if you can cleverly deduce thereby why this is not a game for the weak, the infirm, the elderly, nor women of any kind. But I digress.)

We're going to stop here. If we've just weeded you out, because you can't hack the next steps, you have two choices: either suck it up, PT harder, and get rid of the 50 pound midsection you're already carrying, so you can carry a fighting load;
start reading up on John Mosby's (see column right) lessons on the Auxiliary and the Underground, because that's where you've just been de-selected to for any form of productive service.

Cooks and radio operators are every bit as vital in tough times as trigger-pullers, probably more so, frankly, and there's no shame in undertaking those functions. You should still be the fittest gorram cook or radio operator ever seen, unless you're physically incapable, or else you're still a fat douchebag for not even trying.

And you might still follow along, because to do even those jobs, it will help greatly for you to understand the needs of those doing what you cannot. Without you, they won't be doing much either.


Anonymous said...

"You should still be the fittest gorram cook or radio operator ever seen... " WORD.

The 1965 iteration is VERY familiar to me (green side out") though missing the blanket roll (also "green side out" presumably); though we used the M16A1 in Boot camp, we still used the single cloth mag pouches. I have since acquired the doubles for my M1A and like them. The Bundeswehr rubber pouches are kind of interesting and potentially "substitute standard".
Even now the Haversack makes some sense, though I accepted my first ALICE with a sense of awe and wonder. The prescribed load of the Haversack makes a little more sense now than it did then; mess kit, poncho, socks and hygiene (shaving) gear together with one ration. This was the required load for the old fitness test.
We soon learned that there were better modifications. Our Senior Drill Instructor had us roll our ponchos with blousing garters and attach them to our cartridge belts and taught us to strip the C's and carry the cans in spare socks.
Gear's interesting but as the saying goes "It ain't the arrow, it's the Indian".
Boat Guy

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your well reasoned explanation. I've never been in military service, nor been a LEO. My field experience is limited to the woods while deer / bird hunting in season or camping. Also - mid 50's age, had a heart valve replaced due to natural causes. Our location is along the southern border, where the threat of running into illegal aliens crossing our border to the U.S. interior is a very real threat - have in fact come across some of their camps when walking about.

The short explanation - ain't going to be able to carry the same load out a young 20something will be able to do.

My best option I think is as a scout. I can sneak around pretty quietly in the woods and have developed patience from many years sitting on a deer stand, waiting for one to show up. A bolt carbine is plenty good for my purpose (I think). I have more than occasionally walked in the woods in the dark - not scared of it at all.

Well reasoned - idiotic thoughts. What say you ?

Aesop said...

That's why I didn't specify the de facto military basic load out.
What works for Big Green may not work for you.
One size will not fit all.
But it's a good guideline for starters, for a lot of people with less idea what they can manage, or ought to consider bringing along.

The point is you have to be able to bring what you need, and run what you brung.
That may mean you need to carry more ammunition, or far less, and avoid shooting confrontations whatsoever unless there's no other choice.

But howsoever you define your fighting load, you absolutely have to be able to carry it, possibly all day long. You won't get a do-over if you screw that pooch, or fail to make realistic plans based on realistic expectations.

Anonymous said...

That makes sense. As in we won't have the luxury of vehicles bringing more ammo - food - medicines to us, what we leave from base camp is pretty much it until we get back. Water for us is THE big issue - very little natural water sources, we will need to be very creative finding water where we can and make it potable.

Anybody else wish they made a metal cup for the U.S. 2 Quart canteen ? I've looked in restaurant supply shops, but have not found one yet.

Anonymous said...

Have never seen a metal cup for USGI 2-qt; one reason we all have the old 1-qt cups in our gear several ways. The cup itself can be use to store some beverage-makings (tea bullion etc) and there is now a "stove" platform to be used with heat tabs that, turned upside down nests into the USGI 1qt cup.
An additional 1qt canteen with cup and stove hooked on to your ALICE pack (sustainment load) is a little over 2lbs (presuming 1 qt water), the cup and stove weigh very little.
Having (as noted above) grown up with the "cartridge belt" and 1qt canteens then moving into backpack bladders and other such I feel qualified to compare/contrast; the bladders distribute weight better and are easier to use on the move. The canteens will give you an indication of how much you have consumed/have left I prefer a mix of both. I have a Camelback "pack" with a steripen and other cticial items as part of my "fighting load" but have the aforementioned canteen/cup/stove on ALICE packs. Our get home/bailout bags have the cup/stove combination but not the canteen -these have Berkey "sport" bottles.
I'll end now; hope my observations are of some use.
Boat Guy

Aesop said...

I'm unaware of anyone ever making such a thing, nor can see why anyone would want one.

The cup for the 1Q canteen only holds about a pint.
If you wanted to boil a quart/Liter, Stanley makes a pot that will hold a Nalgene Water bottle inside, or a standard quart bottle of bottled water.
$14 and change, and two nested plastic cups, if you want that. And a lid.

If you're going to boil half a gallon of water, get a SS stew pot with lid, or even a 2Q tea kettle.

Solo sells a great SS 1.5L and 3L combo cooking kit, with lids for both, for $60.

With the added bonus that they're designed to cook in, more than drink from.
When you get to holding that much liquid, you don't want the profile that'd fit the 2Q canteen, because it would take forever to heat up: no bottom surface area.

A 2Q canteen cup would look like a mug for Paul Bunyan.
Just get a pot or kettle, and call it even.

Get a stuff sack, and put a scrub pad and an assortment of cooking spices inside, and you can turn MREs and dehydrated foods into a feast.

Assuming you want the weight penalty in your admin load anyways.
That's really stuff for car campers and day hikers.
Get or make* a lid to fit the issue canteen cup, and cook in that.

*(You buy the set of SS stove burner covers at WallyMart or Target for $10-15, take a set of tin snips, trace the outline with a sharpie and an upturned issue cup - because the Rothco etc. ones only fit their crappy cups, not the GI version. Cut the SS to fit. Drill some (say 3 to 8) 1/8" holes at one end for a vent and strainer. Maybe even take out a small bite at that end to make a full pour hole. Get a small D-ring with rivet strap, and rivet or bolt it to the top center. If you use a SS machine screw, trim most of the excess, heat up the nut and screw tip with a MAPP torch, and when softened, pound it flat to lock the nut and screw in place permanently.
If you're super artsy skilled, heat up the edge with the same MAPP torch, holding it with tongs, and pound it over an anvil or large hard rock with a hammer, to give it a nesting lip, or use some blacksmith pliers to bend an overhanging one because you cut the piece oversized enough to do that, and exactly fit the contour of your GI cup. Buff the sharp/jagged edges smooth on a grinder or with an abrasive wheel.

Yes, somebody should've made an exact fit for the GI-issue cup decades ago, and be stamping them out by the thousand for $10@ on Amazon because of 10M guys who served and still have a GI issue cup [and if you do it, I'll take half a dozen], but until they do, you make do with what you can make yourself.)