Last week Mike V. posted a gentle reminder that your Load Bearing Equipment is too heavy, and that you needed to re-weigh it and cut the fat. One point he made while captioning a picture of the M1956 web gear was this:
Lose the E-Tool, it only slows a maneuver warfare militiaman down. If you REALLY think you’ll need to dig in, permit no more than one E-Tool per two-man buddy team.
I agree in part, and disagree in part. The principle is correct, but the utility of a shovel when constructing fighting positions should not be disregarded.
Consider this little lesson from a group unaffiliated with the 2-5 Marines (lots of interesting reading material, bookmark that one if you haven’t run across it before). The basic idea: carry 7 sandbags and a shovel. Fill the bags when you need to construct your defensive position. Arrange 3 bags in a triangle pointed towards you, then stack 2 bags on each side at an angle so that the sides of the bags are on a line that delineates your sector of fire.
Seven sandbags should not weigh down your gear, unless you forgot to empty them (in which case I can’t help you). But what about that shovel? Every folding shovel I’ve seen weighs several pounds, and no one wants to carry around one that heavy. The solution can be found in your neighborhood backpacking store – a simple, small plastic shovel that weighs (usually) less than 8 ounces and doesn’t even need its own carrying case. Yes, it is usually made of plastic, and yes, it is not usable as a club or as durable as the standard folding shovel, but it will get the job of filling sandbags done. There’s one available on Amazon as I write this for $2.98, plus shipping.
But why carry shovel and sandbags in the first place? They are flat-out perfect for setting up a defensive position, but useless for offensive operations (unless you have a heavy machine gunner somewhere that you’ve decided to make stationary). Anyone who has been under hostile fire knows they’re worth their weight in gold when the lead starts flying. Fortunately you don’t need to have that experience to learn their use. Next time you go to the range, fill and shoot some bags with various calibers and at various ranges. This will give you an idea of what they can and cannot do to protect you, and what it takes to defeat them.
That’s just my $1.98, for those tracking recent developments and propagating likely enemy vectors.
Note the light load of this warrior: rifle, bandoleer, magazine bag, boonie hat. Nothing else – no water, no rucksack, not even a watch. You know that if he is caught, it won’t be because he was slowed down by too much extra crap. Compare that with photographs from the current ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan – the Soldiers and Marines are loaded with rifles, a dozen magazines, Camelbaks, armor plates and carriers for same, elbow pads, knee pads, first aid kits, radios, and God only knows what else. All that crap weighs a lot, and it makes a difference.
If a militia warrior trains and equips for guerrilla warfare, he must adhere to a spartan load. Guerrilla warfare requires speed and surprise. Surprise can be had if one knows the enemy’s activities beforehand, which requires intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR in the current parlance). Speed cannot be had if you’re carrying around all the stuff you should have left at base camp.
For most surprise engagements, a rifle with a magazine bag will do just fine. Tomorrow I’ll show you what I call a “speed bag”, which grabs the Minuteman concept (a forerunner of the modern guerrilla) and puts it in some modern equipment.
In the meantime, as a practical exercise, consider what you would carry into combat if you had thirty seconds to get out the door of your house with your rifle and an effective combat load to do battle with an enemy. Write it all down and collect it. Lay it out in front of you and figure out a way to carry it in one simple bag.