Considerations: Extremely Dense Terrain

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    • #75320
      Joe (G.W.N.S.)
      Moderator

        He are some photos from some hiking trails around Florida, these photos are a fairly accurate representation of much of my AO.

        You can lose sight of someone not trying to hide in standard clothing in as little as 10 feet.

        Most of these photos are right on hiking trails, but you get the idea looking at the sides just how dense it can be.

        As you move around it gets more open as you approach homes, ranches, and farms. There are also large parcels of Pulp Wood for logging.

        I even remember when the CQB (oh no! :-( ) wasn’t just used as it is today and included this type of terrain.

        Consider what changes for SUT in this terrain?

      • #75321
        Corvette
        Participant

          Awesome!
          I image that warm water dripping foliage degrades IR from above also…

        • #75322
          Corvette
          Participant

            Just off-the-cuff

            – Tighter formations
            – Slower march
            – Maybe consider laquer covered ammo due to its great resistance to moisture degradation
            – multiple changes of socks ( more than normal)
            – Carry silver infused towel

          • #75323
            Joe (G.W.N.S.)
            Moderator

              – multiple changes of socks ( more than normal)
              – Carry silver infused towel

              Absolutely!

              In First Sergeant’s excellent thread “Observations and some advice” there are many comments that apply.

              I mentioned X-Static (X-STATIC is made by permanently bonding 99.9% pure metallic silver to the surface of the fiber.) for sock liners, briefs, boxers, and t-shirts.

              Gortex is a poor choice for boots in my AO (can be a great choice elsewhere), far too many boot submerging water crossings.

              – Slower march

              It can be brutal both on pace and physical exertion.

              Land Nav is much different from most areas, mostly Dead reckoning and don’t even think of using your normal pace count.

            • #75324
              Joe (G.W.N.S.)
              Moderator

                …warm water dripping foliage degrades IR from above also…

                The heat and humidity in hotter months will greatly reduce IR detection. The afternoon thunderstorms also give windows that prevent aerial assets from operating without risk of loss and so limit detection to make it almost useless.

                Thunderstorms also provide noise masking to cover movement and help keep undergrowth quiet for quite some time.

              • #75325
                Robert
                Participant

                  Looks like the Ocala trail there in a couple pics. I’ve logged some miles in that area over the last 30 years.

                  Very few palms or palmettos up our way, but terrain in S. GA very similar with a few small hills mixed in.

                  Nav- I never really learned any “terrain association” because their wasn’t much normally around to associate with. Best you might find is coming up to a road that turns on one way with an interchange in the other direction and use that sort of thing. Pace count goes out the window like you said but it was always good to know “about” how much time it normally took to go “X” distance in “X” time.

                  Becoming and staying acclimatized is super important in this sort of environment. If your not used to being out in 100 degree heat, you will have mega problems I don’t care how good the PT you do in a 70 degree gym is. Watched many a “gym bunny” type stagger and fall out in the heat.

                  Ticks. Never seen more ticks and chigger than on the Ocala trail. Juniper to Hopkins Prairie must be tick manufacturing HQ of the world… Chiggers truly suck and your life will suck for many days after getting into them.

                  It’s a “wetter” type environment, but don’t count on always having water nearby. I used to hike it with some guys from the net. Several knuckleheads would carry just a quart or so in along with EMPTY bladders, then filter water near camp. I remember one time their was no water in their standard water hole- had to go another couple miles up the trail so they could get water- bad ju ju. Carry as much as you can, even in this environment it may be miles before you see more.

                  “Back in the day” when we were teenagers and didn’t have jack for money, many of us used the cheap white nylon hammocks hung under a military poncho over a piece of 550 and tied out on the corners. In the warmer months you want that air flow, so don’t lower your poncho/basha type set up any lower than necessary tactically. The mosquitos will find you either way but I always seemed to do better with the airspace.

                  Finally, it DOES get cold in this environment in the winter. I remember one night near Crystal River it got to 19 (91-92’ish?) I was the idiot playing tough guy that didn’t want to carry a bulky sleeping bag. I about died that night with just a space blanket and poncho, literally slept so close to the fire buddies woke me up once and said “Rob, wake up your on fire!!” Jacknuts wouldn’t help me get more firewood though LOL.

                  Got hypothermia another time when it was in the 40’s but we got wet. Back then we didn’t have crap for gear- you were the man if you had an Alice pack and poncho, LOL. We learned a lot though, I’m too old for that stuff now.

                • #75326
                  SeanT
                  Keymaster

                    No tips from me but those palmettos are brutal to be in. Definitely need gloves if you are bushwhacking. A machete too.

                  • #75327
                    Andrew
                    Participant

                      Learning to walk off trail in that sort of environment takes some getting used too. You do not just bull through it. You twist and turn with the vegetation. Snakes, copperhead and moccasins are a big concern. Besides chiggers and ticks, be aware of spider webs in your path. Wasp nests are anther thing to avoid. None of that is too bad in daylight, but night movements are really difficult and even worse in overcast weather or new moon.

                    • #75328
                      Joe (G.W.N.S.)
                      Moderator

                        Looks like the Ocala trail there in a couple pics. I’ve logged some miles in that area over the last 30 years.

                        Yea it’s a fun area to hike.

                        but it was always good to know “about” how much time it normally took to go “X” distance in “X” time.

                        I am constantly using my GPS as a tool to adjust average times for different terrain and as a way to compare my accuracy at navigation without.

                        Becoming and staying acclimatized is super important in this sort of environment. If your not used to being out in 100 degree heat, you will have mega problems I don’t care how good the PT you do in a 70 degree gym is. Watched many a “gym bunny” type stagger and fall out in the heat.

                        Can’t agree more! This is a major factor when considering body armor, I think everyone should own it, but I really think it’ll be a specialty mission specific item for me and seasonally dependent.

                        Ticks. Never seen more ticks and chigger than on the Ocala trail. Juniper to Hopkins Prairie must be tick manufacturing HQ of the world… Chiggers truly suck and your life will suck for many days after getting into them.

                        Definitely something to discover what works best for you and constant screening for, getting them removed before they have a chance to really dig in.

                        Carry as much as you can, even in this environment it may be miles before you see more.

                        Agreed, it is foolish to not keep supply topped off as much as possible and carry a full load.

                        It does get surprisingly cold here at times and being on the other end of the acclimation curve doesn’t help.

                        Got hypothermia another time when it was in the 40’s but we got wet.

                        Glad you brought this up, many don’t think it through and is a real hazard even in much warmer weather, particularly when wading in the swamps.

                        …those palmettos are brutal to be in…

                        They can make a great alarm, by crawling in deep as an overnight area.

                        Learning to walk off trail in that sort of environment takes some getting used too. You do not just bull through it. You twist and turn with the vegetation.

                        Exactly, I find it takes a few days to get fully up to speed as it’s a perishable skill. I always hate it when I’ve gone awhile without being in it and it feels and sounds like a bull crashing through. In reality it’s not that bad, but when you have high expectations it’s hard.

                        …be aware of spider webs in your path.

                        It’s funny the looks you get when newbies see 4 or 5 banana spiders crawling across your rifle.

                        Snakes, copperhead and moccasins are a big concern.

                        You have to think about where and how you are moving, seems to be less Eastern Diamondbacks lately, but plenty of Moccasins and Coral Snakes (which aren’t really a problem, but when your crawling around?).

                        Another thing is Gators; all things considered not a huge problem, but in many of the real off the path swamp areas you’ll find the bigger ones 8 to 10 foot plus and they can be a issue if not respected. Night movement can be hindered greatly when on foot in the water. Most fatalities although rare involve the big ones, and even a little one like 5 footers and smaller can cause a major infection if they get you.

                        …night movements are really difficult and even worse in overcast weather or new moon.

                        Even with night vision it’s difficult. Something many forget is how important it is to get out in your AO at night often, if you want to be comfortable at night it’s the only one way to get there is in it and it’s another of the perishable skills.

                        As seen by the above there are many things to consider before even getting to the SUT part.

                        Hopefully some of the cadre will chime in on SUT considerations.

                      • #75329
                        Brian from Georgia
                        Participant

                          You know the woods are thick when it requires a 5 yard zero!

                        • #75330
                          DiznNC
                          Participant

                            What Brian said. I cut my teeth in triple canopy jungle. Everything already posted is good stuff. The main thing to consider is range. You will most likely have close range encounters. As in both point men 10m apart. That’s why some teams used a shotgun on point. It’s “instinctive” shooting time. Consider how this will affect your T,T,P’s.

                            When you trained at the VTC, your targets popped up at approx. 50m out. Think about what changes at 10m out. The point man is literally in a point-blank duel. Your RTR better be right on! As a small 4-man team, your SOP should be to break contact in any unplanned contact, IMHO. So with that in mind, you need to get out of there FAST, put some distance between you and the other guys. You might want to consider a peel, just because the veg is so thick, so you might want just one gun covering while the rest are moving away. The good news is that you will probably disappear from sight very quickly, so you have concealment, if not cover. Consider pushing slightly right or left, to get out of the line of fire (down your original backtrail). Keep it a little tighter because it’s easier to get separated. When you rally, consider a 360, also in a little tighter. When you move out, button-hook your back trail to make sure you’re not being followed. Get out of that area as quickly as is prudent. “Sprint and drift”. Meaning you might take a chance at faster movement to get some distance, then settle into a security halt to see if you hear the crashing of someone following. Weighing the risks. Distance vs stealth. This is just some of our old SOP. FWIW.

                            What got me, was in really thick shit, it would rain for twenty minutes before the water worked it’s way through the canopy to you. But it then it continued to sprinkle you way after it stopped. Being wet is just a way of life. Consider how that changes your clothing and equipment.

                            Night can be totally black. I mean the “I can’t see my hand in front of my face” variety. All that fancy NV gear? Just about useless without illum. But, FLIR, oh yeah. Lots of hot and steamy shit out there. Consider how the heat and humidity could affect this gear.

                            Weapons maintenance. We kept our riles coated in CLP, inside and out. Now I would use Slip2000, but you get the drift. This has to be constant. Carefully break the seal to your chamber to bolt in the morning before stand-to. Moisture causes hydrostatic lock. Sounds goofy but the old jungle hands swore by it. Tape your muzzle end. This keeps all the crap out of your rifle. Leave little slits towards the rear for ventilation.

                          • #75331
                            Joe (G.W.N.S.)
                            Moderator

                              I cut my teeth in triple canopy jungle.

                              Yea; in the tradition of always training for the last big War, all of my initial training was for a jungle type environment. Still had a lot of Vietnam Vets that were some of my first instructors.

                              Think about what changes at 10m out. The point man is literally in a point-blank duel.

                              The speed of engagement increases greatly. It will take serious training as a team to get properly prepared for such close ranges.

                              The possible use of a shotgun seems prudent. I think a shotgun has great versatility for general survival purposes, but I think it’s a niche or specialty weapon for fighting. I believe a rifle/carbine is a better choice for most applications, but could be the right choice on point for much of my area.

                            • #75332
                              DiznNC
                              Participant

                                Movement. Ranger file, closer interval. In really thick shit you may have move the vines n shit off the guy’s ruck in front of you. Lots of security halts. You may hear them (even smell them) way before you see them.

                                Speaking of smell, a good tracker can find a man by his spoor. Which includes smell. Do not use perfumed soap, shampoo, shaving crème, or toothpaste. Do not wash cammies n stuff in regular detergent; use the hunter’s scent-free (and without brighteners). And don’t forget about dogs.

                                Again, if tracker threat is high, don’t leave any trash. Pack everything back out. This includes your waste. Baggies. Tripled. I’ve seen trackers using scat (your poop) to tell what kind of person/diet(outsider), and how long ago they passed.

                                Land Nav. As Robert said. Usually pure DR. Use a small wrist compass to back up main. Pace count and Ranger beads. Use off-sets, handrails, and limiting features. Consider climbing trees for a Nav check if possible. Have back up navigator and pace man. In 4-man team, point and TL do nav, “radio man”, and ATL do pace.

                                Scan is constant. Use “wall of green” method. Look out as far as you can see and back in (kinda in an “S” pattern), then push it out again in another few steps. Look IN BETWEEN all the bush, not directly at it. Look for stuff out of place. Look for foot placement, scan sector, tie in with buddies. Repeat.

                                Individual movement. Is slow but steady. In really thick bush, attempt to slide, or worm through it, not plow over it. Sometimes going low, under it works the best. Place your foot, feel for anything, slowly roll your weight onto it. Keep your knees slightly bent. Head on a swivel.

                              • #75333
                                Joe (G.W.N.S.)
                                Moderator

                                  Excellent info Diz.

                                  In really thick shit you may have move the vines n shit off the guy’s ruck in front of you.

                                  This is a very important point; emphasis on teamwork, working together as a single entity there should never be a situation where a branch swings back to hit the person behind you.

                                  Lots of security halts.

                                  Should be obvious, but can become less frequent as fatigue sets in. It takes discipline to keep things in check when miserable.

                                  Speaking of smell, a good tracker can find a man by his spoor. Which includes smell. Do not use perfumed soap, shampoo, shaving crème, or toothpaste.

                                  This doesn’t mean neglecting hygiene which of course is another stench to give your presence away.

                                  Do not wash cammies n stuff in regular detergent; use the hunter’s scent-free (and without brighteners).

                                  For anyone new to this, brighteners can make things glow when viewed with night vision.

                                  And don’t forget about dogs.

                                  The good news is traditional tracking dogs movement can be somewhat loud in dense terrain and many handlers are not in as good of shape as their K9 partners. There have been several good articles and threads regarding dealing with K9’s.

                                  Scan is constant. Use “wall of green” method. Look out as far as you can see and back in (kinda in an “S” pattern), then push it out again in another few steps. Look IN BETWEEN all the bush, not directly at it. Look for stuff out of place. Look for foot placement, scan sector, tie in with buddies. Repeat.

                                  This is a perishable skill that takes much practice, consider Kim’s games to increase your recall. Again fatigue plays a big factor.

                                  Individual movement. Is slow but steady. In really thick bush, attempt to slide, or worm through it, not plow over it. Sometimes going low, under it works the best. Place your foot, feel for anything, slowly roll your weight onto it. Keep your knees slightly bent. Head on a swivel.

                                  Again as mentioned earlier this is a perishable skill set, practice regularly. This practice will really kick your butt, physically intensive. Consider your equipment arrangement to reduce areas prone to snagging.

                                • #75334
                                  Joe (G.W.N.S.)
                                  Moderator

                                    Do not forget the hasty ambush to check if you are being followed (covered in Contact!)

                                  • #75335
                                    DiznNC
                                    Participant

                                      Yeah Max covers all the tricks there very well. Especially after an open or danger area, where you may have been spotted.

                                    • #75336
                                      Robert
                                      Participant

                                        Sometimes also when scanning, just raising or lowering your platform for a quick bit helps considerably.

                                        I’ve set up many a jungle lanes and ran through more than a few of them- all had stationary camoflaged targets. The guys that walked through like they were “back on the block” missed the majority of them. The people that had hunted usually did the best. Everyone that did well moved cautiously, changed levels and angles of view to spot targets.

                                        That’s one thing people don’t do a lot of when “practicing” patrolling is to put a handful of hidden targets out. Now you probably aren’t going to have the team shoot at them/react to fire, etc. to them right off the bat. They are there so PEOPLE START ACTUALLY LOOKING FOR THEM.

                                        Most people get into the habit of thinking- “Patrolling = hiking in camo” and that’s a bad habit to get into. So their eyes are usually looking down or at nothing, they move like they are doing time trials on a hiking race, and in general pay no attention to the trail.

                                        Now with the targets out, people WILL start to scan and try look for the “enemy”, and isn’t that the main reason for patrolling? Seems so basic but it’s so overlooked.

                                        Later if so inclined, you can go out to the patrol route ahead of time, and leave tracking spoor, drop various things near the trail, lay some trip wires, etc. Then after some time they are looking for targets (the enemy) so they are scanning, they are more mindful of the surroundings (tripwires, spoor, etc.)

                                      • #75337
                                        Andrew
                                        Participant

                                          Excellent Robert. The scanning is necessary in ALL terrain. Before you posted I was going to beat my favorite drum, (or dead horse) again on learning how to cut sign. Tracking anything begins with finding indicators that your quarry has been in the area. It includes following tracks, but is not just track following. If you aren’t actively looking for sign you might actually going in the same path/direction your ambushers, up around the bend used.

                                          Signcutting and tracking are also very perishable skills.

                                        • #75338
                                          Joe (G.W.N.S.)
                                          Moderator

                                            That’s one thing people don’t do a lot of when “practicing” patrolling is to put a handful of hidden targets out. Now you probably aren’t going to have the team shoot at them/react to fire, etc. to them right off the bat. They are there so PEOPLE START ACTUALLY LOOKING FOR THEM.

                                            It’s difficult to do beyond going through the motions if you have no expectation of actually seeing something. Seeding the area with targets and sometimes booby-traps to keep focus is a sound idea.

                                            It includes following tracks, but is not just track following. If you aren’t actively looking for sign you might actually going in the same path/direction your ambushers, up around the bend used.

                                            Another thing that seems really basic, but I’ve seen neglected is knowing what undisturbed ground looks like. If your not familiar with the norm, how can your find things out of place?

                                            Not sure if I am expressing that very well.

                                            Another practice is photo tag, the goal is to take picture of unsuspecting team without their knowledge or reaction, a duel of track and counter track. :-)

                                          • #75339
                                            Joe (G.W.N.S.)
                                            Moderator

                                              Yearly reminder for your consideration.

                                              Some great information above! :yes:

                                            • #75340
                                              DiznNC
                                              Participant

                                                Yeah again it’s all terrain and situation. Guys from mountain states are like WTF?

                                                One thing that was brought up is practice. In this kind of terrain, learning to slow your ass way down is hard but necessary. Learning to flow through the terrain versus bulling through it. Learning to keep focus when really fucking tired.

                                                I like Robert’s idea of putting some targets out there to spice things up. If you have the proper area, you can even include some live fire training. Doing a live fire break contact drill after hours of mind-numbing patrol is totally different from a formal class where time is at a premium for shooting skills. See what you really look like “on the day”.

                                                We have done this in our area. It’s interesting to shift gears from low and slow to breaking contact. After hours in the bush there is a little brain-lag in there that must be trained out.

                                              • #75341
                                                RRS
                                                Participant

                                                  Speaking of dense terrain and patrolling after reading what Max has wrote about patrolling and others here have chimed in with their expertise and experience it has really made the current book I am reading all that more interesting. The book is about a Force Recon Marine officer “Killer Kane” was his team’s code name and he describes the patrols in dark mountainous jungle. I think nothing of walking 1000 meters but in the book sometimes just moving 100m was an hours long chore, but took them out of danger. As for shotguns his team would put the second man in line with a M-79 with fleshette rounds.

                                                • #75342
                                                  DiznNC
                                                  Participant

                                                    Yeah and other teams put something full auto-even belt fed in the point’s “slack”. Depends on your SOP. As the point man falls back, he needs some serious covering fire. That’s why I like something more sustained.

                                                    With really dense terrain, you can get away with just one man firing down the direction of contact, then peels off as the next man takes up the slack. Puts a lot of distance quickly between you and the contact. But also keeps up a steady stream of fire to discourage following you.

                                                  • #75343
                                                    Jamison
                                                    Participant

                                                      I remember reading some TTP’s from some LRRP guys in Vietnam somewhere, I’ll see if I can find them.

                                                      The things that I remember most about it, was they would do a lot of cloverleaf drills/button hook to clear their back trails to ensure that they weren’t being followed. They’d take time during their patrol to check back trail and identify a good spot to lay up. They would do a lot of 90 degree stuff of of their line of march. Never on the trails. If they had to use a trail, they’d hand rail it. Never on ridges either. Always stick to the middle of the hill/mountain that you’re moving across.

                                                      Remember the easy way is always mined. And if it looks too good, it’s probably an ambush.

                                                      I spend a lot of time up in the national forests in the mountains in Washington. I really like it up there, there’s a mix of old growth forest with once or twice logged areas. Some of the most interesting areas up there to try to move through is when there’s 18″ of pine needles on the ground that have sat there like that for years. Try to move through that crap without leaving huge sign. That and try moving through there with any speed. It’s like snowshoeing through fresh powder. You can’t see what’s underneath the crud, just micro-terrain features. I walk across a lot of downed logs for that reason, it can be an easy way to get through dense terrain, but the enemy has probably thought of that too.

                                                      Never underestimate a good hide that is under a crap ton of bushes or debris. I used to play a lot of paintball out in the woods. Backing yourself into a grass pile in the prone, or a bunch of bushes and laying there can be some powerful concealment. Most people don’t look down on that level to see if there’s anything in this little person shaped hole in the brush, you can gather things kind of back into shape after you’ve backed into this too.

                                                      I watched a video a few weeks ago about the history of LRRP, where they had originally a 6 man team, and then when they merged with Ranger they were bumped up to an 8 man team. It had been determined early on that 6 men were an ideal number, not so few as to have troubles for watch/equipment portage, but not so many that it was that much more difficult to conceal an entire team. My take away from that is always look at your manpower and determine if you need that many people, or if you need to split your group up. I guess having two teams moving at the same time along the same general axis might be more beneficial than one large team. The more people you have the more noise that you make.

                                                    • #75344
                                                      wheelsee
                                                      Participant

                                                        If they had to use a trail, they’d hand rail it. Never on ridges either. Always stick to the middle of the hill/mountain that you’re moving across.

                                                        Remember the easy way is always mined. And if it looks too good, it’s probably an ambush.

                                                        My brother’s recruiting Sgt had been in VN with the 5th Group, demolitions. He told us the story of him staying behind to blow hootches, then took the “easy path” along a creek to catch up with his team. He never made it – was captured by VC and spent the next 6 months as a POW. He was able to escape and found shortly afterwards by ROK Marines. He said he normally weighed 210-220….he weighed ~130 when he was found……hard lesson….he said he knew he shouldn’t have but he wanted to hurry up and catch up with his team……

                                                      • #75345
                                                        Max
                                                        Keymaster

                                                          I’m not a fan of the use of center peel or ‘Australian’ (single file) peel for contact front. Notice that at the VTC your contact front drills are usually initiated at close range, to simulate a close contact, but of course the vegetation is not nearly as thick. Learning / safety environment.

                                                          The break contact drills we teach at MVT were developed for the jungle and then spread out for wider use. As you deploy buddy pair left and buddy pair right it is in effect a peel into an ‘on line’ to the front, and gets you off the immediate trail / line of march. Unless you cannot at all move through the bush, the drill works, even if you have to bush bash your way back on each bound. If the bush is that fucking thick, you will be out fof contact pretty darn sparky anyway, unless they are following you up. This is where, if you have accountability of all your guys, you can conduct a break (which is now taught but was not previously) and GTFO, either to a rally point, to a hasty ambush (or combine both as we teach) or simply ‘run like a raped ape’ as was once posted on this forum before the pay wall went up!

                                                          If you don’t have accountability of all your guys, or the point guy went down, then you have another dilemma, that was posted about in another thread recently.

                                                        • #75346
                                                          Joe (G.W.N.S.)
                                                          Moderator

                                                            If you don’t have accountability of all your guys, or the point guy went down, then you have another dilemma, that was posted about in another thread recently.

                                                            Here’s the Thread Max was referring to.

                                                            Vietnam: Contact Front, Point Man Down

                                                          • #75347
                                                            Joe (G.W.N.S.)
                                                            Moderator

                                                              Overdue for a bump! ;-)

                                                            • #118610
                                                              Joe (G.W.N.S.)
                                                              Moderator

                                                                Timely bump. B-)

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