The Remote Control Ambush

Yesterday’s post on remote control warfare reminded me of a nifty little trick my platoon pulled during training while I was in Hawaii. It’s a blend of (then) state of the art technology, and redneck engineering.

Remember these?


WD-1 field telephone wire on a DR-8 spool with RL-39B reeling kit.


Claymore mine M57 electrical firing device.


First, the redneck engineering. One mission we practiced almost constantly in Hawaii was the ambush. Most especially, the night ambush. An ambush is a sudden planned attack on a moving or temporarily halted enemy force. And for most missions, the plan was to initiate the ambush with Claymore mines.


But while we had plenty of inert Claymores to practice setting up and aiming, they were pretty useless for force on force training, as they had no “signature” to cue the OpFor that they’d been whomped by a Claymore.

One bright fellow figured out that he could take apart a flash cube into four individual bulbs, and connect a length of WD-1 wire to the electrical posts on the bulb. He could then splice the wire to a surplus bit of Claymore firing wire to plug into the M57. One press of the clacker, and the bulb would flash. On a dark night, there was no doubt in anyone’s mind that a “Claymore” had gone off. Prepping these improvised training aids became a routine part of planning to go to the local training areas.

I spent about half my tour in Hawaii as the Platoon Leader’s Radio Telephone Operator, or RTO. In addition to carrying the PRC-77, I was also de facto responsible for all the other communications and electronics in the platoon, with the exception of night vision equipment. That included the TA-312 telephone, four TA-1 field telephones, four RL-39s with spools and wire, eight PRC-68 walkie talkies and a few other items.

We had one other bit of equipment that we rarely used, because it was rather bulky, and was seen as unreliable, and not terribly useful.

That was the TSR-2(V) Platoon Early Warning System, or PEWS. PEWS was a set of 10 seismic/acoustic sensors that would transmit the presence of people or vehicles in their vicinity via either radio or field wire back to a hand held monitor.



As you see, PEWS was somewhat bulky.  It was also quite finicky. Each remote sensor had two aluminum spikes that screwed into the bottom. Those were what detected moving personnel or vehicles. Each detector theoretically had a detection range of 50 meters for personnel, but in practice, it was closer to 10-15 meters. And great care had to be used in selecting exactly where the remote was emplaced. Ideally it would be firm ground near an area that the enemy would most likely pass through.  And while the detectors had an advertised radio range of 1500 meters, experience showed it was more realistically about 500 meters, provided great care was taken that no terrain blocked the line of sight back to the receiver.

The idea was that the PEWS would be used by light infantry platoons as, well, early warning devices while they were established in patrol bases. But the care and training needed to get even modest results from the system meant they weren’t used often. That and they were an additional 13 pounds of equipment to be hauled around by the platoon, and the risk of losing one of the (expensive) detectors meant most platoons left them at home.


My Platoon Leader at the time insisted we bring ours. And since as his RTO I was in charge of the PEWS, I set about training myself to really understand how to set up and use the PEWS. And between the LT and I, and our really, really sharp platoon Sergeant, we came up with a plan.

Our next trip to the woods was, like so many others, focused on practicing the ambush. We’d crawl through the steps of the ambush during the morning, then walk through them in the afternoon, and then at night, one of our company’s other platoons would provide a squad to serve as the OpFor, and walk through our ambush. Typical infantry training.

The PL and PSG had the bright idea that rather than using the PEWS to guard the patrol base, we would  emplace detectors along the likely routes leading into the kill zone. Knowing the enemy was a couple hundred meters away would give plenty of advance warning, and help ensure the success of the ambush.

It actually worked pretty well.

Then one of the squad leaders had the bright idea. If he had to dispatch a fire team to emplace the detectors, why not have them emplace one or two of the flashbulb “Claymores” at the site as well, and simply roll out the wire on the way back to the ambush site?

Two detectors would be emplaced on each likely avenue of approach. The first gave a “heads up” that someone was coming. The second was to announce the enemy was in the remote kill zone. The receiver would give an indication of which detector was sensing movement. All that had to be done was plug in the proper “Claymore” and wait for the second detector to signal.

The first time we tried it, sure enough, a sensor about 300 meters away pinged, and I pointed it out to the PL. He plugged the wire into the clacker. And sure enough, about a minute later, the second sensor pinged, and LT O squeezed the clacker. A bright flash in the distance assailed our night adjusted eyes, and almost instantly, the disgusted cry of “Dammit!” came floating back to our ears.

Eventually the OpFor squad managed to get themselves squared away, and continue in to the real kill zone and get themselves slaughtered by a conventional ambush. 

Afterwards, they couldn’t figure out how we had managed to set off the “Claymore” without a trip wire. We pulled that trick a couple more times before sharing the tactic with the rest of the company.

We didn’t always use the PEWS, but it was there and ready if we needed it.



SECNAV Mabus rejects your reality and substitutes his own.

As you undoubtedly knew would happened when you read this post yesterday, SECNAV Mabus has begun sweeping the results of the Marine Corps integrated combined arms test under the rug, with the added bonus of accusing the reports authors of bad faith.

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus on Friday criticized a Marine Corps study that showed that female Marines in a mixed unit did not perform as well as men in several key areas. 

“They started out with a fairly largely component of the men thinking this is not a good idea, and women will not be able to do this,” he said in an interview with NPR.

“When you start out with that mindset, you’re almost presupposing the outcome,” he said. 

Just down from there we find this:

Mabus argued that other studies, including one by the Center for Naval Analysis, say there are ways to mitigate gaps in performance “so you have the same combat effectiveness, the same lethality, which is crucial.” 

You probably can mitigate the gap in performance. What you cannot do is eliminate it. So you do, in actuality, have a gap. That means you don’t have the same combat effectiveness. You don’t have the same lethality.

“Part of the study said women tend not to be able to carry as heavy a load for as long, but there were women who went through the study who could,” he said.

“And part of the study said we’re afraid because women get injured more frequently that over time, women will break down more, that you’ll begin to lose your combat effectiveness over time.

“That was not shown in the study, that was an extrapolation based on injury rates,” he said. 

No kidding. Here’s something you may not realize. Sports type injuries are incredibly common in the combat arms. Torn ACL, rotator cuff injuries, sprains, strains, torn muscles. And the longer a unit is deployed, the more common these injuries become, as the physical conditioning of troops is effected by poor diet, lack of sleep, lack of regular physical fitness training, and simply the accumulation of wear and tear by operating at an incredibly punishing level of physicality.

Now, even outside the strains of combat, just in training, even in non-combat units, women have a much greater rate of sports type injuries than men. It is entirely reasonable to extrapolate that experience already acknowledged across the force, if not much talked about, and compare that with the increased injury rate seen in the integrated test force, and reach the conclusion that injury rates will be worse.

And here’s the thing about these injuries. They take a troop out of the fight just as surely as if they were wounded. They have to be evacuated. They have to be treated. They have to be given physical therapy and convalescence. And that means the unit, always short on manpower, is down further, for the length of that convalescence, if indeed the injured troop will ever be fit for duty again. Very quickly, a unit might find itself with so many injured that it simply cannot accomplish its missions.

And let us not overlook the fact that many of these injuries will form the basis of claims for service connected disability from the Veterans Administration after the troop has left the service. Knowing that women will suffer higher rates of injury, it stands to reason that it will also impose a higher cost in disability for the entire life of the injured. Why, when the VA is already struggling, would we knowingly increase the burden on the already shaky foundations of veterans healthcare?

I’ve seen countless blatherings about how adding women to combat arms is the only fair thing to do. What I’ve never seen once yet is an explanation showing that integrating the combat arms will increase their performance.

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Have some Close Quarters Battle

Those aren’t blanks. They’re using Simunition.

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Udari Range CALFEX 2012

Elements of 1/15IN, part of the 3rd ID were deployed to Kuwait in 2012. In addition to showing the flag, they took advantage of the large Udari range complex to hold a Combined Arms Live Fire Exercise (CALFEX) simulating a breaching operation. Breaching operations always make good CALFEX’s both because they’re a high payoff mission, which are very complex and very hard to train to do well, and because they naturally involve almost all the assets organically available to the ground forces.


Filed under 120mm, ARMY TRAINING

Breach Drill- Old School Style.

SGT Metra talks about returning to core competencies.

The Bangalore Torpedo is simply a tube  filled with high explosives. Its prime use it in breaching wire obstacles. It is over a century old, but still quite effective.

You’ll see the soldier throw a grappling hook onto the wire obstacle. That’s to allow him to yank the line to ensure there aren’t any booby traps (or more technically, anti-tamper devices). The the various sections of Bangalore torpedo are linked and slid under the wire. And then, pull the time fuze, and boom. Part of the delay at the obstacle is for an important safety reason. BTs are only single fuzed, with one well for a blasting cap. But safety demands that they be dual fuzed. A couple decades ago, at Fort Carson, if memory serves, a Bangalore torpedo misfired. The engineer squad waited the appropriate amount of time, and then went forward to diagnose the misfire. And sure enough, it exploded while they were working on it, killing and injuring several soldiers. And so today, in training at least, BTs are dual fuzed- the actual fuze well, generally by a time fuze blasting cap, and a secondary, safety fuzing, by wrapping det cord at the base of a torpedo, and initiating the det cord via an electrical blasting cap. That’s what you see the squad rolling out from the reel.

While competency in the basics of weapons like the BT are important, it should be noted that in general use, the BT has been superseded by the MCLIC and APOBS, which perform the same function, with less exposure to the Engineer soldiers.

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Filed under ARMY TRAINING, Splodey

More on Exercise Swift Response 15.

Our man on the scene sent some pics and words.

The US Army is conducting the largest multinational airborne exercise in recent history, Exercise Swift Response 15, in which a multinational Task Force formed and led by the First  (Devil) Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division is conducting a Joint Forcible Entry (JFE) into the notional country of Atropia at the Hohenfels Training Area’s Joint Multinational Readiness Center.  The Task Force includes airborne infantry battalions from the United States (Task Force Geronimo), Italy (Task Force Folgare) and Germany (Task Force Cerberus) and attached platoons and companies from Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, the UK, and Poland.  The jump today by portions of TF Devil was preceded by elements of Task Force Bayonet, from the 173rd Airborne Brigade and the remainder of TF Devil jumping into Romania and Bulgaria.  Elements of Task Force Ranger have used the previous nights to destroy simulated air defense threats to open a corridor to allow the JFE to occur within a permissive environment.  For the next several days, TF Devil will fight Violent Atropian Separatists (disloyal members of the armed forces of the friendly nation of Atropia) as well as elements of the Shahid Brigade, which is a transnational terrorist organization.  In the course of their mission, they will be also be tasked to conduct two Noncombat Evacuation Operations (NEO) in conjunction with the state department.


Pretty complex. The Army sees a future war where they’re simultaneously fighting organized military elements, and insurgent terrorist organizations. They have to both conduct maneuver warfare, and provide stability in wide areas. To say  that it requires a good deal of mental agility to be able to conduct both is and understatement. To do both simultaneously is a great challenge.

Let’s add to that the fact that airborne operations bear inherent risk. Of about 900 troops dropped yesterday, thirty-seven were injured. Most injuries were of a very minor nature, with the troops expected to return to duty within a day or two. Interestingly, about 2/3 of the injuries were to our allied airborne partners. Why the smaller allied units had more injuries, we don’t know.

What we do know is, that’s very much in line with the historical norm for injuries in airborne operations. Kind of makes me glad I was a leg.




About Armed Civilians at Recruiting Centers

In the wake of the Chattanooga shooting, we’re seeing several places where well meaning civilians have taken upon themselves the duty of standing guard over recruiting stations.

While we admire the intent, the fact is, it will have some unintended consequences. US Army Recruiting Command has issued guidance to the field regarding this.  Via TAH.

Subject: USAREC Policy – Armed citizens at recruiting centers ATO’s,

Situation: The USAREC COC has received reports from two Brigade ATOs, social media and TV coverage that law abiding armed citizens are standing outside of our recruiting centers in an attempt to safeguard our recruiters.


1) Recruiters will not acknowledge the presence or interact with these civilians. If questioned by these alleged concerned citizens; be polite, professional, and terminate the conversation immediately and report the incident to local law enforcement and complete USAREC Form 958 IAW USAREC 190-4 (SIR)

2) Do not automatically assume these concerned citizens are there to help.
Immediately report IAW USAREC 190-4 (Suspicious Behavior)

3) Immediately report any civilians loitering near the Station/Center to local police if the recruiter feels threatened. Ensure your recruiters’ clearly articulate to local police the civilian may be armed and in possession of a conceal/carry permit. Ensure recruiters include any information provided by local police in their SIR reporting the incident.

4) Ensure all station commanders implement FPCON Charlie 6 (Lock and secure entry points) addressed in previous email.

5) I’m sure the citizens mean well, but we cannot assume this in every case and we do not want to advocate this behavior.

*** The timely and accurate submission of 958s (SIR) is imperative to track these incidents and elicit support from TRADOC, ARNORTH and NORTHCOM.

As with Jonn, I agree that this is a mostly reasonable policy. The Army cannot endorse the actions of the citizens. Nor can they simply assume they mean well. Furthermore, should some untoward action occur, say, these citizens mistakenly take another American for a threat and engage them unlawfully, it is imperative that it be known that the Army had nothing to do with it.

Unfortunately, FPCON Charlie 6 (Force Protection Condition) basically shuts down the recruiting station. And therein lies a problem, as the sine qua non of recruiting is engaging with the public.

While informing local law enforcement, and filing SIRs makes sense, it also increases the odds of an unhappy encounter between these citizens and LEOs.

I think as a first step, USAREC might have directed station commanders to share this guidance with those citizens who are attempting to both provide a service and made a statement. One presumes that senior NCOs have enough judgment to discern the likelihood that a party of armed citizens outside have no ill intent, and sharing this guidance would cause them to reconsider if their actions were truly in the recruiter’s best interests. And if they choose to continue their vigil, well, provided they are within the bounds of the law, that is their right.


Filed under ARMY TRAINING, recruiting