Monday, May 9, 2011

Armed Scouting: Part 1 of 4

There is a tendency when discussing modern tactics to look a the doctrine of modern armies:  particularly, the United States Military.  A lot of this training would certainly be useful in a time of breakdown in the social order.  But unless you were with an actual military unit that still had fuel, radio communications, heavy weapons support, etc, much of it is beside the point.  In particular, with reference to a civilian setting, you may come to some very dangerous conclusions.

Fortunately there are actual time periods that come pretty close to this scenario, and although no longer well known, it was written about widely at the time.  As I have noted before, since civilians generally have limited supplies of ammunition in any case, the lack of semi-automatic, or automatic weapons usually does not make a huge difference.  The lack of barbed wire entanglements does.

Today I am going to start with a manual written just prior to the U.S. entry into World War 1.  I suspect a lot of its advice was not terribly valuable on the trench lines as it was obviously based on much of the experience within the United States and its many small wars and frontier skirmishes.  Which is exactly the type of setting you might expect in a cultural breakdown.  Lots of pistols, and shotguns, and rifles, but very little in the way of machine guns and mortars.  Telecommunications would likely be very spotty.

The Author

As an infantry colonel, William Henry Waldron served as Chief of Staff, 80th Division, during the Meuse-Argonne offensive in World War 1.  For his service during this war he was awarded Army Distinguished Service Medal. 

He wrote a number of military manuals, and prior to the U.S. entry into World War 1, he wrote a manual on scouting and patrolling.  What I find useful about this guide is that it pre-radio, pre-artillary barage, pre-laser painting of targets, etc.  Although automotive vehicles obvioulsy existed, he is presuming that none would be on hand.
I am assuming an interest in a more open ended situation than a simple brush warfare setting.  Scouting can also be used to explore for resources, trail blazing for others, etc.  Much of the specific advise is verbatim from the manual.
The Scout
The basis for Waldron’s methods are the individual or very small group of scouts.  I think a lot of people today when they think of reconnaissance they think of the combat patrol working its way down the jungle path: the nervous point man searching for tell tale signs in the gloom.  But even today, there is a lot of small group scouting.  To some degree you two man sniper team can act as a small recon team.
The individual scout came out of frontier experience in the Indian wars.  One or two people could often sneak into an area and spy it out where a larger group would be discovered.
As Waldron notes (p11), “To carry out your work successfully as a scout, you will have to undergo continual risks and privations, and your training should be such that the chance of surviving these necessary dangers may be increased, remembering that the best scout is he who attains his mission while exposing himself to as little possible danger.  Romance demands hair-breadth escapes and perilous surmounted, but the commanding officer in the field wants information and will take much more interest in a dry narrative of facts about the enemy than in the most thrilling details of an unfruitful endeavor”.  When he was writing in 1916 there was still a lot of romance associated with the Indian scout.
He goes into a lot of detail about the ideal scout, but I will pass over much of this because when you are scouting for yourself, or a very small groups of people, you probably won’t have much choice about who is doing the scouting.  In a lot of cases it will be you: ready or not.
Some of the elements of an ideal scout:
  1. Physically fit
  2. Intelligent and trustworthy
  3. Be able to ride a horse or bicycle, and able to swim: the swimming is obvious, but the horse and bicycle are used to bring back information quickly.
  4. Able to read and write- the ability to analyses documents is important.  In some areas knowledge of other languages will also be very useful.
  5. Map reading
  6. Personal hygiene and first aid
  7. The art of concealment
  8. Art of tracking

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