Sunday, October 14, 2012

I Was Tactical Once, And Young

The wall art on the squad leaders' room. Motivation for a wholesome life, and a good way to start an article.
I know I'm a tactical hipster. And I know I'm a crustier curmudgeon every day. So when I saw a humorous comment on Vuurwapenblog that turned into an article, it spawned in me a desire to share my views on tactical-ness.

After my first gunfight in 2004, I started devouring articles on tactical-ness, and most of it turned out to be tacticool bullshit. From 2005 to 2009, I jumped on the "pack everything ever into your chest rig" bandwagon. I did that because I have two friends who served in Iraq during the heaviest fighting, and both were mechanized infantry, and therefore could afford to have stupidly heavy vests because they weren't walking all that far. And Iraq is flat. Afghanistan is a totally different story, and I would have to re-learn that in 2010.

During this last tour, I was assigned as a team leader (eventually a squad leader) and a designated marksman. So I had all manner of stupid shit to carry, and my Captain and 1SG decided that designated marksmen would carry their M4 and full battle load AND an M14 and full loadout for that as well. We (there were 9 of us) bucked up and carried our loadout of woe through training, and thoroughly modified our kit once we hit country in fall of 2010.

My Kit of Woe. Most of it was gone a week later.
We hadn't been at our outpost long when the M14 gunners were ordered to the nearby special operations firebase to re-zero for altitude and generally train for a day with some proper badasses. The bearded men saw our grossly overgrown kits and asked me (since I was the only NCO in the bunch) why we were dressed as oxen. I said it was ordered by our company leadership, and that I would rather have just my M4 and 10 or 12 magazines. Very gently, the bearded man with an FN SCAR-17 and Nightforce scope called me an idiot. 

He went on to explain that team members carried a maximum of four magazines on their chest rig, and maybe four or five more in a 3-day pack. Further, he explained that when you run up and down mountains all day, you don't want a lot of extra weight. Also, when you move as a small detachment, you don't want to stand and fight unless you absolutely have to. So a huge amount of ammunition wasn't necessary. 

I went back to my outpost and started stripping things off my vest. The bayonet, radio pouch, IFAK, and NVGs stayed, but all the M14 mags went away, and the M14 went into a footlocker until I turned it back in on the way home. I went from 12 magazines to 8, and my only "extras" were IR chemlights, and a dry-erase card with a 9-line medevac on one side and the updated call for Close Air Support on the other side. I had begun my descent into minimalism and tactical hipster-ism.

Fast forward four months and my squad had been in a complex ambush every day for a week, and on the last one, I went up and down three mountains. The only reason I still had gas in the tank for the third mountain was that all I took up was my bare-bones kit. I had water and ammo. That was it. Almost everyone who packed like they were walking to China went down with a knee or ankle injury, or very nearly fell to their death. Mobility is key, and you aren't mobile with 650rds of ammo, a drop-leg holster, and rail after rail of useless rifle accessory.

Yours truly bringing up the rear. That bag weighed 125lbs and all it contained was ammunition, water, and two MREs. Why add more stupid shit?

This is a long-winded way of saying I agree with Andrew Tuohy that things like drop-leg holsters can be a sign of the uninitiated. In mountain warfare, less can be a lot more. The simpler your kit, the less time it takes to put on, the faster you'll be ready to go when the QRF horn sounds. If you don't have space for your secondary weapon on your kit, then remove something from your kit.


James said...

Your SOP loadout: jesus motorboating christ.

My thigh rig has continually gotten closer to my belt, like a geriatric man's pants inching towards his nipples.

Someday, I'll get one of these. For now, it makes more sense to use the thigh rig since I can adjust it to sit maybe 2" lower than a DOH and I can swap them out with the quick release to play zombies with different guns, and since I don't try to get into vehicles with it on given that I'm a professional printer repairman.

The Flatland Gun Nut said...

I have nothing in particular against any piece of kit. I think location of gear says more about "n00bs" than types of kit. My favorite is junk pouches or medkits so close to mag pouches that one or both pouches are un-openable.

I'm glad I'll never have to haul that much shit ever again. I'm thinking of buying an old H-harness and mangling two double taco pouches onto it and two canteens for my zombie apocalypse rig.

James said...

Curious, why canteen vs camelbak? (other than obvious answer of expense.)

Sucks wearing a camelbak and a pack at the same time, but I figure I can toss my camelbak into a pack and wear the pack.

My unit never issued them, so I ended up buying one and then another after the first started leaking - then I managed to fix the first one so I have two of the damn things. Probably not a bad thing to have a spare of, though.

The Flatland Gun Nut said...

Canteens are more durable, easier to maintain (mold doesn't grow in them as readily, and can be removed with harsh chemicals without causing a leak). Also, you can easily make funnels and such to catch dew or rain and capture it in the canteen vs. camelbak.

Anonymous said...

Glad to see you are still around, AR-24 fiasco and all that #8^)

Jumping Jeebus On A Pogostick, those ass clowns never learn...

They tried to saddle us with a bunch of useless kit when I was in Central America in the 80s. Dropped 20 pounds of body weight in about two weeks. Issue didn't last 72 hours. We just started checking it back in.

I would have run afoul of your bearded friend: 1 mag in the weapon, 10 more along for the ride.

I was Navy a long time ago, so, the lingo isn't same... your zombie rig sounds like what I carried: Web belt & suspenders w/ 2 buttpacks hanging off, 2 canteens, and pouches of various of sizes. The only thing in the pouches that wasn't ammo was a Tommy Cooker, medical, and a LRRP ration.

Be Well,

Mike Nomad

James said...

Yeah, but this is Iowa. We have creeks. Water purifier beats waiting for rain/dew.

That being said I do like having a canteen cup if not the cantene, and you've got me thinking of one of these now.

I just have bad memories of drinking out of canteens and good experiences with (actual camelbak brand, not mil-issue knockoff) camelbaks.

If it's made by Nalgene how bad can it be?

The Flatland Gun Nut said...

Mike- a friend of mine who is a mechanical engineering student bought my AR24 a while back. I hope he can make it run.
In the last picture in the article, we were going to be inserted by helicopter on a mountain to provide overwatch for the bearded men. I carried 12 magazines, plus two 7.62 belts (my section carried a total of 2000rds up the mountain to feed our M240B) and a SAW drum. I carried a shitload of ammo if the mission called for it. Otherwise, I had my 8 mags. Extra ammo is sure nice to have.

James- you can purify water in the canteens AND there's no tube for mold to grow in, then require disassembly and flushing. With a canteen you put a half teaspoon of bleach in with warm water and shake, then rinse. Much easier than Camelbak, imho.