Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Praxis: Crawling

From The Trainer:

Crawling – The Essential Stealth Movement

Introduction: Civilian Indigenous Personnel in the United States have an aversion to crawling on their stomachs or hands and knees. Cultural indoctrination has had a terrible toll on true stealthy movement. The movies and television shows demonstrate actors with scripted martial expertise in equipment choices and skills running silently with no gear jingle or rattle, humping chest rigs full of 30 round magazines, drop leg holsters, and many, many pouches rigged on their load bearing vests in the front. Granted, during urban close quarters operations, or “MOUT” (Military Operations on Urbanized Terrain), this may have some merit, but when preparing for any eventuality, one must set his equipment up and learn to be stealthy in all of those eventualities.

Equipment Configuration: To do that, one’s gear must be set up so that when crawling on the ground, the abdomen and lower chest area are as clear of pouches or other items prone to catching on “wait-a-minute” protrusions from the ground surface, whether man-made or natural.

Ask anyone who’s spent time in the field crawling around sneaking by someone looking for them or hiding from someone and forced to crawl and they’ll most likely back this statement up: Anything on your LBV, LBE, belt, legs, or in front of you will cause you pain in your abdomen and groin. Canteens on loose belts have a nasty habit of becoming repositioned right in front of your groin, which raises your buttocks up and your crawl becomes more of an “inch worm” type movement. Leg pouches and holsters, if not properly adjusted (very snugly) will move around, come undone, and leave their contents on your back trail. Ammunition pouches directly in the front of your vest or harness and web belt will let you know immediately how soft your abdomen is and that you won’t be crawling silently for long.

The bottom line for configuring your equipment is this: Keep as much of your abdomen and lower chest as clear as possible when setting your vest or harness up. Adjust your web belt, harness or vest to fit snugly (but not tightly) so that it doesn’t move much when you crawl, but at the same time, does not restrict your freedom of movement, especially in your arms (crawling will have you reaching out as far as you can with your arms in some cases).

Speed: Crawling is not a fast movement. Crawling is a slow movement. Sometimes, the speed with which you will crawl, by necessity, will not be visible with the human eye. You may be moving fractions of an inch at a time.

When someone says they crawled “fast”, they don’t mean they sprinted; they just mean they crawled a distance in less than a few hours. Remember the purpose for crawling: stealth

Stealth is key because stealth allows a man to avoid detection, all other factors being equal.

Example: A man is crawling in a depression in the ground, doesn’t have his gear adjusted properly, is moving too quickly, but is not visible by a sentry or prepared position. He can be heard however, which attracts the attention of the opposing force manning the sentry or prepared position. The attention will bring investigation of some sort, whether human, reconnaissance by fire, or an explosive. The sentry could even watch the end of the depression if visible and just shoot the crawler as he emerged. So much for stealth, right?

Take the same scenario, get the gear adjusted correctly, slow the man down, and he will most likely get by unnoticed.

Technique: Technique is everything and is usually dictated by the immediate need of the man employing the technique.

Note: never, ever, EVER dictate to one of your men which technique to employ in crawling! Why? He’s the one doing it. He’s the one that can see the danger better than you can! Remember, in Maneuver Warfare, we do not exercise centralized control of our people down to how they move! Personal initiative, experience, and judgment are paramount to success. The only exception is in training, when teaching the various techniques to new people or as part of a purposely exhaustive type of training designed to test stamina.

There are three primary crawls taught to the ‘average’ armed civilian indigenous person: The low crawl, high crawl, and ‘monkey’ crawl (hands & knees level). Each of these techniques are slow, even when compared to slow walking. Field manuals galore provide the graphic to demonstrate, but the best thing is to have one of your folks who knows how to do it demonstrate it.

Practice: This is important, because believe it or not, not everyone really knows how to crawl! That being the case, have everyone practice the basic techniques in drills (a corollary technique needing practice is getting down on the ground without busting one’s ass or making a huge amount of noise and still having ones’ rifle able to be brought into action.…) at various speeds without a break (or much of one) to ensure the heart rate is brought up and fatigue sets in. Then, have the men demonstrate and watch each other perform and see how quiet the man crawling can be. Don’t give time limits or require major distances. 25 meters is more than enough for this training. Something you, the leader, might consider is doing the exercise with your men as well. Nothing says leadership like getting down in the mud with the troops and sweating when they sweat! After all is said and done, have the men critique each other, pointing out strengths and weaknesses of each person.

Continuous Skill Enhancement: Once everyone has the basics of crawling down, then you can have some fun and blend this skill in with camouflaged movement in your field problems. Make it a challenge so that it’s interesting and your people will get better at field craft, will look forward to attending, and gain more confidence.

This is by no means the ‘end all, be all’ outline for the skills above, but it should get you thinking, and beyond that, improving your training regimen.

Time is short.


Crustyrusty said...

Amen. Low crawling with ammo pouches cutting off your femoral arteries is not fun. I always wondered how someone would maneuver with those funky tac vests with everything on their torsos. I never got around to getting one when I was in, just plain ol' LBE. 2 ammo pouches, canteen, handcuffs and butt pack.

Mr. E said...

Ditto. In my unit we also used the LBE, with all metal replaced with paracord, and never buckled it in the front, so it could hang out of the way on the sides and back while crawling.

We carried minimal gear - three mag pouches, canteen, and a buttpack in the back for the pogie bait and what-not. Compass on a cord in BDU shirt pocket, and Swiss Army knife in pants pocket on para cord, along with matches, water purification tabs, and such.

And for warmth and shelter we carried only a poncho liner and poncho, and used a field jacket liner under our BDUs and if it was really cold, polypro underwear, wool cap and gloves.

Travel light, freeze at night, but ready to fight.

Mr. E said...

Hmmmm, I'll have to play with the concept of having the belt tight, but with ammo pouches and such still out of the way, not up front.

Having the web belt buckled didn't seem to work well when I was in, but maybe I did not practice enough crawling to see the benefits, as opposed to the unbuckled LBE way we did it. Never too old to learn new tricks!

The Trainer said...

Mr. E,

As long as you adjust your pouches so you have about 12 to 14 inches of clear space in your front and no large pouches on lower than your sternum, having the belt snug (but not tight) will be much more comfortable when snaking along the ground...also, doing it that way negates the issue of jangle/rattle when you get up to move on your feet.

As to "travel light, freeze at night, ready to fight", we were in the same school process...however, we've found that for 3 season ops, a poncho & poncho liner just isn't enough to keep you agile, mobile, and tac-ti-cile. We use 3 day packs with quick release straps, much in line with the size of the early "small" ALICE that was issued to ARVN troops. As we have absolutely no re-supply to count on, we require our folks to carry enough to get them through a 96 hour operation, which would mean a good amount of survival equipment, some food, and even a half toothbrush with some salt/baking soda.

Not saying this is the "only way", just a way we've found to work.

Enjoyed your comments! Thank you for your service, Sir.

Qi Ji Guang said...

In a modern day situation, you also need an invisibility cloak of sort- to escape the thermal imagers and infrared devices that are no doubt out there in the night.

A space blanket can be integrated into a hooded cloak and that can give you an extra level of protection in a night that is not dark anymore: to mechanical eyes.

Crustyrusty said...

I was an AF cop, so our load at work was different from when we were in the field. Field load was 2 ammo pouches, canteen, compass, flashlight, ranger beads, and whatever fit in the "butt pack o' life."

LBE was adjusted and taped down with green duct tape; no noise.

Anonymous said...

Along with the camo veil and space blanket, don't forget the overlooked e-tool. Damn it if you like, but don't forget it. It is second line gear, and does not go with the rucksack. Since it won't fit your pocket it goes somewhere else in between. Web gear for low-speed operators, anyone? Can this concept drive a wedge into the assault vest craze? This is a big subject, often discussed elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

We (late 80s 82nd airborne) were fond of the older LBE belts with the brass buckle instead of the plastic clip.

Adjust belt tight, then add a hunk of 550(paracord) to allow a loose fit as well, so you can swap easily. The brass hook-and-eye buckle worked great for this.

If you knew it was a long crawl, you'd actually unhook your belt completely and then hook it behind you, so the whole belt bunched up on top of your buttocks. It slid to the side sometimes, but it stayed out from under you.

We had a stupid amount of stuff on our belts compared to guys I saw in leg units. But then we had too much in our packs too, as our mission was to operate unsupported for 72hours with only what we could carry in on our backs.

I had 2 ammo pouches (full of tools and parts for my M60), 2 canteens, buttpack, 9mm holster, bayonet, firstaid pouch, Etool, gasmask, gloves, etc etc. Riflemen had 4-6 ammo pouches, but then they didn't have 6 100rnd boxes of 7.62linked hung around them.