Tactical Mobility – how it may affect you

July 20/21 Training Weekend
July 2, 2013
July/August Training Weekend Update
July 8, 2013
In the military sphere, one of the problems that any kind of air deployed dismounted force faces is a lack of tactical mobility. Such forces, deployed by parachute or even dropped off after an amphibious landing, have great strategic mobility but once on the ground they are limited by how far and fast they can march. This also has far reaching logistical implications. The use of helicopters has mitigated this somewhat due to the ability to pick up and redeploy those forces from one location to another, as well as conduct resupply and casualty evacuation.
A prime example of this was the Allied ‘Operation Market Garden’ in 1944 which was later made into a film called ‘A Bridge Too Far’. The operation called for Allied troops to jump into and secure several bridges in order to allow ground forces to make a lighting assault towards the Rhine and Germany and thus hopefully end the war rapidly. British Paratroopers were to jump in and secure the farthest bridge, at Arnhem. The operation on the Arnhem bridge was primarily conducted by parachute but gliders were involved, mainly to land heavier equipment, supplies and mobility assets such as Jeeps. 
Following an intelligence assessment on air defenses the drop zone was chosen some ten miles away from the bridge. This was a huge mistake, among many made for that operation. Airborne forces need to land on or next to the objective to be successful. After utilizing great strategic mobility to fly from England, the paratroopers found themselves on the ground with minimal tactical mobility, having to move ten miles on their feet, and facing a Wehrmacht armored force that intelligence estimates had said was not present. To cut a long story short, the majority of the force did not make it to the bridge and were forced into a defensive perimeter in the village of Oosterbeek. A Battalion did make it to the bridge and secured it at one end. To be successful seizing a bridge, you must capture it at both ends.
The plan called for the paratroopers to hold out for 48 hours until the ground forces were able to link up. The American paratroopers had seized the bridges leading towards Arnhem, not without mishap and with at least one being blown by the enemy. The ground  forces never made it to Arnhem. The Paras held the bridge for 48 hours before being practically wiped out by Wehrmacht armored forces. The perimeter at Oosterbeek held out for some five days before they withdrew across the river. Only about 3000 of the 10,000 Brit paras made it out.
That ten mile march later became the cornerstone as one of the selection tests for British Airborne forces; ‘The 10-miler’. This is a ‘tab’ of 10 miles with rucksack and rifle over hilly terrain in 1 hour 50 minutes. A ‘tab’ or ‘tabbing’ is the Brit word for ‘rucking’ or ruck marching, which comes from ‘Tactical Advance to Battle (TAB).’ This is less of a tactical activity when done as a selection or training event, and is more about a squadded speed march/run/shuffle over the distance. 10 mile tabs, sometimes switched up with ‘heavy carries’ of support weapons and equipment, were routinely conducted in Para battalions on Friday mornings before dispersing for the weekend.
Part of the technology for airborne and special operations missions has always concentrated on how to land asserts that will increase tactical mobility. Heavy dropping in light 105mm artillery means you need to ‘heavy drop’ in vehicles to tow them and carry the ammunition. If you look at the famous story of ‘Bravo Two Zero’, the SAS patrol in the first Gulf War, you will see that they chose to go into their observation post in the desert by helicopter, and get dropped off on foot. This was frowned upon and most other patrol activity was being conducted as ‘mobility’ patrols in vehicles. In the desert, you need vehicles to get about and carry sufficient resupply. This was shown and pioneered by the LRDG (long range desert group) when compared to early SAS activity in the North African desert in WWII. When compromised, the Bravo Two Zero team had to E&E on foot.
So much has been looked at, including use of ATVs and similar, to increase range and mobility and load carrying ability of infantry and in particular dismounted troops. This does not mean you should discount the use of marching to get from A to B, you just have to be aware of the tactical mobility handicap that you will have – but you will gain advantages in areas such as stealth and routes available. In fact, since the 1970s there has been an annual competition among units of the Royal Signals in the British Army. It is known as ‘The Lanyard Trophy’ and it originated in the 1970s during the cold war in an Airborne Signals unit. I know this because it was my father that started it all off. 
The idea behind the Lanyard Trophy was to have a ruck march competition over hilly terrain with 40lb rucksacks, over a route of 40 miles. It would be done as teams. The genesis of the idea came from the situation in cold war Germany and the anticipated armored battles; when considering the movement of tracked armored formations in Germany in the cold war, it was something different from simply getting on the autobahn and driving 40 miles. Units had to be mustered, laagered, fueled, move through checkpoints and choke points and all that. The point of the competition was initially to prove that dismounted units could compete with such speeds of movement in the whole, rather than as specific speeds of infantry marching versus APCs/Tanks driving at max speed on a road.
So how does this apply to you? I can’t tell you exactly what situation you will find yourself in following a collapse. You may have to bug out from one area to another, maybe some time after the crisis when supplies run out at your retreat or marauders make your suburban hide-out untenable. You may have to patrol an area around your retreat. You may be engaged in patrol operations defending an area from dangerous marauders, you could be fighting a domestic or foreign invader, all the way up to being an active resistance member as the country fights for survival and liberty.
If you want to increase your tactical mobility beyond walking, then you may want to consider various means of transport. Various factors apply to all of these means and I will list some below. Some means of transport you may want to consider are: 
4×4 ATVs
Motorbikes/dirt bikes
Horse riding
Horse and cart
Mules – for equipment carriage (a small wars resistance force favorite!)
When you consider a means of transport, you will want to think about how it will affect you tactically and thus whether it is a sensible option or not. You can think in terms of the following factors, which are related to each other and sometimes mutually exclusive:
So let’s look at some transport factors:
Routes and freedom of maneuver/constraints: any kind of vehicle will limit routes available. This may have an impact on the utility and safety of such a means, and will be related to the kind of terrain you are operating in. In a desert environment there may be little restriction in where you can drive in an SUV, but in other areas you will be strictly limited to roads, even if you are using dirt roads. You have to consider whether you want to be out on the roads in vehicles, depending on the tactical environment, and if so how many vehicles and what tactical posture to maintain, along with drills to mitigate contact situations.
Recovery methods: tied in with routes is the type of transport you use and how easily it will get stuck. If you are moving heavy gear via mule, then you can go anywhere you can walk. If you are using off-road SUV style vehicles you will be limited and you will need to be able to extract those vehicles if they get stuck. You will need to consider off-road tires, vehicle mounted winches, the use of multiple vehicles, high-lift jacks, shovels and all the assorted accouterments of off-road driving.
Terrain and Weather: closely tied together with terrain is weather, which may make certain types of transport suitable or not. What may be good in the summer is not good in the winter. What impact will snow and ice have? What about a heavy summer thunderstorm soaking dry ground turning it into instant mud. 
Fuel/feed: how are you going to continue to fuel that vehicle or feed that animal while on the trail? This also has implications for range and how much fuel you have or can carry. Are you just out riding round your property on patrol, looking for sign of hostiles or movement, using a horse or an ATV, or are you going on multiple day missions?
Range/speed: how far and how fast can you travel, which ties in to routes available and has tactical implications.
Noise: if using an ATV to patrol, then it has noise implications. Are you going to move a certain distance on the four-wheeler, then stop short in a draw and move forward on foot?
Numbers: do you have enough transport to move your team, and if so what are the tactical implications and formations for movement? What are your reaction to contact drills and is it practical for you to react in those vehicles?
Tactical posture: are you able to carry your weapons in any sort of ready position and react if on that vehicle? What about bikes and motorbikes/ATVs? You will have to sling weapons and bring them up if contacted. How will that work and what will your drills be? What is the situation and threat- are you going to try and look innocuous on the road but have weapons ready, or are we in a ‘Mad Max’ world where it does not matter, and you have ‘guns up’?
Load carrying: what are you using the vehicles for? Foraging? Going on a mission? Patrolling? Can you carry what you need in the vehicles? Do you need trailers, even for ATVs? Do you want to be able to carry stretchers on the back for casualty extraction? ATVs are excellent infantry support vehicles that can carry ammunition forwards and casualties back.
For the tactics of vehicle convoys I have covered this in detail in ‘Contact!’ One of my observations with vehicles is the use of them tactically in contact situations. This is where the combination of firepower/ protection/ mobility becomes important. Note how military vehicles, starting with the humble Humvee, have become massively up-armored and turreted since 9/11? One of the lessons learned is that unarmored vehicles do not do well in a contact, and having a machine-gun mounted on top has limited utility unless you can use the ground to protect the vehicle and crew. This is called going ‘hull down’ as used by tanks when they get behind ground so only their turret is visible to the enemy.
If you have unarmored vehicles, then you are best off utilizing the vehicles to increase your range and speed and load carrying ability. If you are going to fight, or deploy weapon systems from the vehicles, then best move into cover, stop short of the objective, dismount the personnel/weapons and move them up to a fire position. Alternatively move into a ‘hull down’ position. Against an enemy  with inaccurate fire, such as AK weapons in Africa or the Middle East, unarmored vehicles with unprotected crews do have a certain survivability in combat. Against accurate rifle fire sitting in a vehicle in a firefight is not clever. If you insist on doing it, then other than use of ground, range is also you best friend; if you can get out of effective range yet still have weapons systems with the range to reach out and touch the enemy.
Do you want to up-armor your vehicles, in any sort of crude way to protect the occupants? Create a steel box inside, perhaps to protect kids when you are forced to do a vehicle movement through potentially hostile territory, and you have to travel by road?
Of course, you may not just be using vehicles for tactical missions. You may be using them for the chores of survival. But if that is the case, them make sure you combine the tactical with the chore. I was discussing this recently with a class, and talking about how there is a drinking water spring in the Gap west of Romney WV where a lot of people fill up water. Many others have wells but have not considered that they will not work when the electric goes off. So, as an example, let’s say that you don’t have a well and have to go down to the Gap, which is where Route 50 runs west of Romney through a steep wooded defile, and get water (yes yes, you may be better prepared than that, but it’s an example….):
There could be all sorts of threats, just like there is at a waterhole in a nature show! Given that Route 50 is a main route, there could be checkpoints on it in a martial law situation. There could be predators at the spring, or even as per Sarajevo (Bosnia) snipers in the woods waiting take people out when they fill up water. You have to take vehicles down there, whether ATV or SUV (or horse and cart…), in order to carry the water. You may not have a team, you may just have a couple of you. How to do it?
This is where you need to tactically plan the mission according to your available intelligence from the local area and the situation you are experiencing. Consider how you are going to do it? Night time, daytime? If nighttime, go with lights out? Take out the bulbs on your brake lights and your internal cab lights…etc. Recon in advance if possible. 
Here is a suggestion on a possible way to do this, depending on the circumstances, based on two people doing the mission. Let’s also assume that you have invested in at least one set of NVGs (PVS 14) along with a DBAL laser for your rifle, and you have also invested in a handheld FLIR. If you haven’t, you may be best sticking to daylight where you will not be disadvantaged by lack of observation against those who may have this equipment.
First, depending on the distance, send out your night vision equipped scout with plenty of advance. Either he goes out on foot, or is dropped off by vehicle and the vehicle waits in cover for him to get into position. The scout uses his night observation equipment to move into a position of overwatch, looking over the spring and the surrounding hillsides. He scans with the FLIR to pick up heat sources. Remember that with an NVG, if you can hide by day, you can hide by night, which is why the FLIR is so good for observing to pick out heat sources. Once he decides that the place is safe, he uses a prearranged short signal on the cheap VHF/UHF radio, of the type sold in hunting stores, to signal the water vehicle. He gets a double click acknowledgment. The darkened vehicle drives up, fills the water containers, and then moves out, covered all the while by the scout in his position of overwatch.
In any of this, the exact plans depends on the factors of: Mission, Enemy, Terrain & Weather, Troops  (resources) Available, Time available and Civil Considerations (METT-TC). The important point is that if you decide that you  have a valid reason for the use of a means of transport, you should plan it tactically to ensure that you stack the odds in your favor. The example of what not to do is load the water jugs in the car, with the kids and roll down blithely to the spring on Route 50, straight into ….whatever it might be. Have a tactical plan, keep your assets safe, and make sure you have planned and rehearsed ‘actions on’ drills.
When you are dealing with vehicles or other means of transport, you have to factor in different ‘actions on’ (immediate action drills) than you would for a dismounted move.  They are all still based on the same principles of security and fire & movement, simply adapted to the fact that you have vehicles, or mules, or whatever. If you are using vehicles, then you need to adapt your movement, your halts, and have security drills for vehicle centric activities such as changing a flat tire or refueling from your jerry cans. Yep: defensive position, circle the wagons (or box), its all been done before! I’m no cowboy, but if you are riding horses, then have a plan for if one loses a shoe, busts a saddle girth, or whatever horses do to force a halt.
Live Hard, Die Free.


  1. Ten miles in one hour fifty minutes with load?

    I can do it in three hours fifteen today. There was a time maybe.

    If time hacks are part of the mission, it’s gonna be real important to take into consideration that some of us ain’t as young as we used to be. Remember, guys like me are supposed to be kicking back now and enjoying life. Humping load over distance was never part of the plan. 😉

    • Max Velocity says:

      That is the standard for the ’10-miler’ – it’s a standard for a special operations unit and initially that test takes place as part of ‘test week’ with a total of ten test events. It is 10 miles with 35 lbs and rifle in 1 hour 50. It’s not easy and it is not designed to be. It is done as a mix of a speed walk, rifle swinging, legs at full extension and a run. Run downhill and parts of the flat, ‘tab’ uphill.
      When tabbing as a squad like that, the formation takes on a life of its own with the ‘concertina’ effect, elongating and shortening as the formation opens up and closes again. The danger is that some will continue to run, or shuffle, when they are at the ‘quick march’ and should be tabbing, because they cannot keep up with the walking pace. Gaps form and then the guys at the back have to run to catch up. It is much harder at the back than at the front of such a formation.
      On P Company, when doing any of the ‘tabs’ then the officers go at the back where it is harder and they are supposed to encourage and physically pull enlisted guys back into the formation to help them keep up.
      The British Army standard is the ‘CFT – combat fitness test which is (or was) 8 miles with 55lbs and rifle in I think 2 hours.
      One of the other traditional standard Para tests was the ‘2 miler’ which is again done with 35lb pack and rifle to simulate a rapid reinforcement of a unit under fire. This is a run deliberately from a cold start and must be completed at a minimum in under 18 minutes. I remember doing it in 14 minutes.
      After the Falklands war two additional events were added to P Company – the 18 miler and I think it is a 12 miler, which are done over much hillier terrain at a slightly slower pace. However, at the 16 mile point of the 18 miler a halt is called and it goes into a 2 miler for the final two miles, to simulate having neared the objective and having to run to relieve another unit under fire.
      No-one expects this kind of standard from any of us standard guys. You don’t have to ruck at that pace and when rucking operationally you will be patrolling slower anyway because you have to be concerned for security – you are patrolling and not ‘tabbing.’
      This comes a back to the concertina effect and gaining experience. I remember as a very inexperienced platoon leader leading a ‘battalion snake’ though the night on a training area. At a halt the Battalion Commander came strolling up with his Tac group to gently inform me that the support weapons guys at the back were having to run to keep up. Ooops. Remember that a long formation will have to navigate choke points and will extend and close, up, potentially making those at the back have to run to close gaps. So if leading a dismounted move in any number make sure you keep a steady pace at the front and put in halts to allow those at the back to close up.

    • Anonymous says:

      USMC back in the day early to mid 80s the battalion hump was standard, and woe to the men in the back it was basically a brutal run and catch up while the LTC and his SGM took a stroll. If any of you fine folk for some reason do not think hydrating is important, you have not seen a man do the funky chicken on the side of the path as his brains cook off. Reading this, Max makes a great point those humps we went thru were poorly planned and executed if tactical considerations were to be met, but more than likely they met the standards of beat the dog in the cage that makes the USMC the tender caring angels of mercy known the world over.

      And we had poor issue boots as well, and I mean horrible almost to WWII Italian Army bad. I now use some RATs and an upgrade from HSGI the Alipad for my ALICE, what a world of difference. Since I pronate fairly bad my running days are long over so conditioning hikes are my outdoorsy aerobic/leg strength exercise which also hardens up the feet.

      Thanks Max for the article, and if I could mention one thing that someone might have some use for is the game cart for hauling out deer or other game. They could be used Ho Chi Minh trail style for loads. RobRoy

    • Anonymous says:


      Funny you mention carts. We have a pair of Sherpa carts that I am setting up like a Pulk to keep my hands free. The Pulk is generally a cross country skiing winter sled with solid crossed 5′ long arms that attach the Pulk to a hip belt. This allows you to continue XC skiing allowing poling while sledding substantial loads.

      The Sherpa cart is designed to carry 120# over any terrain, but can carry 200# over gentler terrain. A weak point are the pneumatic tires. I am searching for foam filled tires.

      For a look at Sherpa carts:



      These Sherpa carts are unproven at this time and are a work in progress. Critical detail is the development of a quick release of the poles from the hip belt.


    • Semper Fi, 0321 says:

      A week ago I hiked out from a camp at 9,000′ elev., 8 miles in 2 hrs, 20 min. uphill and down hill, no load and I’m 59 next week. Yesterday did another 8 miler, also around 9-10,000′ elev, with a 20 lb pack.
      Not quite up to what I did 40 yrs ago in Recon, but I dare any of you to come hike with me at these elevations, they absolutely kick ass from lack of oxygen. Sea level is definitely a better place to hump and run than here, but even the young guys have a hard time keeping up, which is a good thing for me!

  2. Anonymous says:

    Yeh Alan, But since when did we have any say in “the plan”? What I have done to compensate for my age, and all that go’s with that, is to keep my “carry” as small as I can. I max out on ammo- food- water- med’s. I minimize the “snivel gear”. EVERYTHING else stays in “the trains”. A suggestion for us “old guys” we should be the ones prepping as a logistic train. We need to train the “kids” to fight. We can keep ’em watered, fed, and ammoed, and we can still act as a reserve force.

    • I’m with ya brah. Ammo, food, water, meds. That’s pretty much it for me. I’m in south Florida! No need for cold weather gear, sleeping bags, rain gear, etc. I can run 5 miles with 40lbs in 75 minutes on a good day and march the aforementioned 10 miles in 3 hours 15 minutes with 70lbs on another good day. I figure that’s roughly it for being north of 61. 🙂

  3. APX says:

    Thanks for another excellent article Max.
    I think the most informative and enjoyable chapters on Contact! were the ones about tactical uses of vehicles and immediate action drills for mounted ops.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Max the primary reason the British Paras got their asses kicked in Market Garden was the piss poor planning by the US and British General staff. They dropped in the middle of two re-fitted and re-trained Waffen SS armored divisions. In the AO of a German ARMY GROUP rest area, under the direct command of a Field Marshal. The whole route had ONE ROAD! That was under direct fire it’s whole length. Contrary to movies and popular fiction. AT NO POINT was ANY of the operation a success. The Germans not only wiped out the 6th AB but badly mauled the 101st AB and the 82nd AB . They were dew to be sent back to the states in Dec. of ’44 because of heavy losses(to refit for Japan) and were only kept in the ETO because of the Bulge.—Ray— P.S the 82nd and 101st were sent back into combat without refit or replacements 4 weeks after being pulled out of Holland. (Nov. 16 1944) The Bulge started Dec. 16 1944

  5. Anonymous says:

    Interesting that you mention vehical ops, Ive been doing some searching and pondering recently as to a SHTF Armored transport/IFV. I found that some people are buying used school buses (especially the short ones) and modifiying them for off-road capability. I figure that one could lower the profile by cutting down the cabin a bit, and then armor the exterior with primarily high grade aluminum (which is half the weight of steel and usually half the cost). I’m not an engineer but I rekon that it wouldnt take much to create a wheeled vehicle good enough to stop all manner of small arms fire. Add a turret with modern caliber hand-crank style gatling, plus room for at least a squad’s worth of personnel, then one can just ride out the apocalypse in uber-badass style. : )

  6. Ryan says:

    Max, My favorite part of Market Garden was that they needed to take all 7 bridges (in tact) for the operation to work. Interestingly before the war taking Arnem via that same route was their equivalent of the Maneuver Captains Career Course final; it basically cannot be done.

  7. Would you say that, if moving on foot, endurance trumps speed?

    • Max Velocity says:

      I think it is a balance. Endurance is more important than speed, but you can’t just move like a snail. It’s a little like the ‘Gunny Highway’ school of running (Heartbreak Ridge), where his platoon of young bucks keep overtaking him at a sprint, and he just keeps on going at his steady pace, outrunning the young ‘uns.

  8. Anonymous says:

    I am from Woodbrige area and recently purchased property just outside Romney off of RT50, where is the GAP located? I would also like to post when you get a well put in also have a pump built in as a backup encase you lose electricity.(IE the old fashion way of getting well water) As for a vehicle the military is testing the ZERO motorcycle. It is electric and makes almost no sound. I would think that this would be a great option for patrolling and with the dual power pack it has a range of 41 to 70 miles depending on driving speed and conditions. Any way my two cents or no sense!

    • Max Velocity says:

      The Gap, officially the Mechanicsburg gap, is just west of Romney on Rte 50. Cross the bridge on the south branch Potomac and head into the obvious gap in the prominent ridge line.

  9. Max, I just came across the Chinese Wheelbarrow via John Robb of Resilient Communities. Might be a viable option for some.