Follow up on Rucks and Living in the Field (Plus comment on doctrine)

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        Posted by Max Velocity in Uncategorized on April 17, 2013

        Aside from the discovery that myself and the rest of the British Infantry may very well have poisoned ourselves with the standard practice of heating up issue boil in the bag rations and then making hot drinks out of the water used for heating, there are a couple of aspects that I would like to develop from my recent post on ‘Gear, Rucks & Living in the Field’.

        (HERE is a link from the BBC on the BritMil Rat Pack, for those that are interested)

        Last night I pulled out my trusty ‘ALICE Pack, Large’ and dusted it off. As with all these things, it’s a matter of opinion. I really like it. It is reminiscent of the old style frame ‘SAS/PARA Bergans’ that we used to use before the Brit Army went to an internal frame version designed off the civilian hiking versions. If you are looking for a practical budget ruck then you can’t go wrong with an ALICE pack. The smaller versions can be used as stand-alone patrol pack but the large version is really where it is at – and it can also be used as a patrol pack as required.

        I was recently rucking with the new UCP pattern US Army issue ruck. It has a large capacity but overall its an abomination. I threw 36 lbs in my ALICE pack and this morning I went for a three mile ruck run. Loved, it, really comfortable, the pack sitting nicely on my back. BTW, for a well fitting pack like that, I don’t use the waist strap. Its personal preference, but also see my comments in the previous post about having a full battle belt with rear pouches and harness/suspenders that your ruck will sit on top of.
        The great thing about the ALICE Pack is that is can be used as a large patrol pack or a full ruck. It has the pouches on the outside that are really useful, and points to attach other pouches as you like. You can even strap a Camelback down the side for when you are rucking. You can go to various websites and order custom made ALICE packs based on the same frame but improved and with extra pouches sewn on – but then the budget will increase.
        Some are turned of by the ALICE because it seems old and is associated with the Vietnam Era. Well, newsflash, if you are talking Resistance light infantry style operations out in the woods, then that is the tactical era that you are going back to. The ALICE is also still a favorite over the modern issue for many troops including many Army Rangers.
        Because the straps on the ALICE pack go from the frame, over the lid and all the way down the pack, it is ideal for my suggested use with a separate smaller collapsible patrol pack. You can close the lid on the ALICE and then put the patrol pack on top of the lid under the straps and tighten down. Alternatively, just tighten the straps down over the lid and use additional straps or bungees to hold the patrol pack on top.

        Hygiene in the field:
        There was a comment on my POST over at WRSA where one of the comments on my post was turned into a post of its own containing some old school wisdom. It reminded me that I barely touched on personal hygiene while in the field. Here are some comments on that:
        There is a difference between subsisting long term in the field in some sort of constructed base or FOB and conducting light infantry operations in the woods. To do the former, you will consider all sorts of improvements to sanitation, hygiene, cooking , shelter and such. The point of the ‘living in the field’ article is to look at a small light infantry team conducting operations based out of their rucks from patrol bases or similar They are self-sufficient from their rucks for however long with the caveat that they will have to consider resupply of some sort before they run out of supplies.
        I have mentioned basics such as changing socks and clothing, and wet/dry routines. You will not be able to wash or clean any of your gear in the field so it is unavoidable that you will be smelly and dirty. That is not a sanitation problem it is just what infantrymen do. You may dry and change your socks out, but they will still stink once you have run through all your spares. You can still bring in wet wipes or other such products and ‘hit the hot spots’ before putting that smelly clothing back on, and you should do so. As part of the routine for changing your socks and powdering your feet also consider dusting your groin area after using a towel to dry off any sweat and after using any wet wipes that you may have. It will help keep you clean and prevent fungus and chapped thighs that may start to infect you if you live out there for a while.
        Make sure you have a basic first aid kit with some antiseptic /antibiotic cream in case of any small cuts and grazes. You should treat them and cover them as appropriate – particularly if you are in a jungle/swamp style environment then any cuts have the potential to become infected and can knock you out of the fight. Be careful with this.
        Now that you have accepted that you will sweat and stink of BO, and have kept that in mind for when you meet any civilians as part of your operations, consider the following:
        Hand sanitizer: carry it with you and use it after going potty and before doing any eating or food preparation.
        For No.2′s: you will dig short term latrines at your patrol base, using an e-tool, that will be a small pit. The latrine should be under the protection of a sentry. It is usual to dig two – one just outside or on the perimeter under the watchful gaze of the sentry position for daytime use. Another central to the patrol base for night use. Its just a hole, and once you have done your business just drop some soil over it to reduce smell and flies. Its only a short term thing that will be filled in when you move on.
        For No. 1′s: you should also use the same latrine pits. You could designate a tree if you wanted, but what you don’t want is everyone pissing haphazardly around the patrol base, which they will do if left unsupervised.
        No. 3′s: No!
        You pack out what you pack in. This includes all food packaging. If you have food tins, then open them at both ends and crush them. If you had to for some reason, you could always bury trash, but you are leaving evidence behind. Have a trash bag in your ruck. Whatever you do, don’t leave the site of the patrol base littered with empty food containers and ration bags.
        Ensure you have sufficient bug-repellent and also sun screen if appropriate You don’t want to become a casualty due to bug bites or sunburn. You can prevent sunburn by the wearing of appropriate clothing and wide brim patrol hats. As part of your hygiene routine of ‘hitting the hot spots’ you should also incorporate a tick check because you don’t want to let any ticks stay on you and thus contract Lyme disease, which will really mess you up if you are fighting a Resistance campaign. Blousing your pants and putting bug repellent around the tops of your boots will help with this. Some soldiers use flea/tick collars and I can’t comment if this is actually safe or not but its widely used in the Army – someone will tell me that is also a dangerous thing to do!
        So really hygiene in the field when out on patrol operations is a case of basic sanitation for bodily functions and keeping as clean as you can while restricted to whatever dirty sweaty clothing you have with you on your body and in your ruck. Don’t worry about this. Don’t try and pack in multiple sets of clothing; have a few undergarments like socks, underwear and t-shirts to change, but your pants/shirts will just get dirty and you can live with it.
        And a post-script on military doctrine:
        In my manuals such as ‘Contact! A Tactical Manual for Post Collapse Survival’ I have tried hard to translate my various training and operational experience into something that will be useful to readers. I have deliberately not trotted out US Military doctrine as an answer to what readers need to know tactically. Personally I think that the ‘Big Army’ is a bureaucratic nightmare and much of what passes for doctrine is just not that helpful. Endless ‘tasks and standards’ so that when I have been asked to utilize my experiences and run training I have had to massage the training schedule to ensure that I can train what is needed, not what is mandated by the endless and numerous ‘tasks and standards’.
        I don’t really believe that trotting out military style doctrine is what is needed here. Translating training and experiences into usable information and training for guys who will be on the ground doing it is. Churning out the Ranger Handbook or FM blah blah is not what is needed. It will also be over complicated and will not make sense to whoever you are trying to train.
        I laughed once when a reviewer on Contact! tried to make out that it was somehow too basic a Manual, as if there were really some super-secret squirrel techniques out there that I had not revealed LOL. There are different ways and means of accomplishing tasks but the basics and principles are the same, and being good at the basics and applying the principles is what is needed. That will win and keep you alive.
        So to really oversimplify – what do you need to know? Some quick principles to consider in order to achieve your mission and survive: security, use of cover and concealment, administration and logistics, the principle of fire and movement and best use of ground.
        Please don’t be seduced by the over complication of trotting out military FMs. You need to learn, but you need to learn the right stuff that works. Get the basics and understand the principles of why you do stuff. Then you will be able to apply that to situations you face in order to come up with the best plans and devise the best tactics to achieve your mission.
        That’s all for now.

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