The Difference Between A Garden Hose And A Fire Hose-A Commo Class AAR


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The majority of my 14 years was spend using conventional commo like this.

A long time ago in what seems like a galaxy far, far away, I was in a unit whose mission requirements dictated that everyone down to the lowest ranking “Joe” knew how to make improvise antennas for use primarily with our PRC 74 or 77 radios which was then slaved to a DMDG (Digital Message Device Group).

We (the “Joes”) sat through a number of classes concerning radio use. Considering the unit’s mission required that we be well out of range for regular mil commo, EVERYONE had to know how to make the antenna required for effective commo.

At that time, the classes consisted of a “Fire Hose” dump of info that would have been difficult for most to digest, let alone have a basic understanding of. Like many things I learned in the military, The initial “Dump” of info was through the “Fire Hose” technique.

We learned how to go through the motions to accomplish the task, and we memorized what needed memorized, but the understanding of the reasons for doing it that way, or in this case, the theory of the “Why” and “How” an improvised antenna worked was lost to many of us.

My good friend NC Scout and I have a lot in common, from some very similar background In certain types of units, to our philosophy as Survivalists. He was tellin’ me on the phone one night what his class consisted of, and we hadn’t gotten together for a while, so I said, “What the Hell” (after clearin’ it through the “First Sergeant” of course) and decided to go check out his class a few weekends ago.

NC Scout Commo Class01

My prep for the class over the next couple days consisted of going back and finding my old notes from those classes 27 years ago (which I had transcribed into a “Write in the Rain” notebook a number of years back), and square away my radio and field gear. I reviewed my notes over the next couple days, packed up my vehicle and left, the Friday afternoon before the class, on my 5 hour drive to NC Scouts teaching site.

Something that I’ve noticed (it’s pretty obvious to most who are observant) while putting on classes for Mason Dixon Tactical, is that classes such as we put on are as much a networking event, as a learning event. Upon my arrival, I met a number of guys that I knew of, but had not met. I got to know them over the next couple days and am glad to say they are now part of my “Network”.

As an aside, I’ve found a number of times over the last decade or so, you can neither count on, trust, nor believe many that you will meet through the internet. Two “Well knowns”  in particular come to mind that were given a high level of trust based on the Mil background they told me. One proved to be a snake and a liar, the other, a thief and a liar (go figure). What’s the saying….. “Caveat Emptor”?

So Saturday morning, after a kick ass breakfast, we got to the classroom work. NC Scout started with different radios, their positives, and for some, their negatives. Along with that, he discussed power supplies in the field. Next up was creating an SOI (Signals Operating Instructions) for our group. This is an important step. Since everyone there was involved in doing this, they now have experience in doing it for their own groups. NC Scout didn’t just tell us how to do it, he had the class actually make an SOI. Along with the SOI instruction, the class received a block of instruction in putting together an OpOrd (Operations Order), and where the SOI is included in that OpOrd.

Next up were report formats, and the “when”, “where” and “why” of their uses. Certain reports (“CRACK” in this instance), he modified the format slightly to fit the Prepper/Survivalist needs. After report formats we went on to using the radio, and how to speak on a radio (‘You, this is Me”) to be understood and verify that your message was received correctly.

We then covered the uses of radios with HF, VHF, and UHF frequency coverage, along with the advantages and disadvantages of each type. Unless you realize what you have, and how best to utilize it’s potential, your ability to relay info will only work if there is some luck involved. NC Scout covered the radio freqs, and the “How” and “Why” of there ability or inability to work in certain environments.

The next part of the class was where I received the most “real world” info. Everything else we had covered in the class was either familiar to me, I had a pretty good working knowledge of, or I had used it a lot (SOI and OpOrd for instance). Antenna theory was something that I was force-fed as a “Joe” and “learned” it (remember my “Fire hose” analogy), but I didn’t understand it. I now understand it, and am not only able to implement it, but feel comfortable with using the info.

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Using the “Cobra Head” we attached wires and insulators to create a “Jungle Antenna”.

NC Scout covered Di-Pole and Jungle Antennas in the class. We learned the theory behind their use, The history (including the Japanese and German answers to the same problem) and the reason they worked so well in their niche. Then we built (he had supplies for everyone to build one) a Jungle Antenna for use with a specific freq for OUR radios, using the formula we were give in the class. Imagine that, they worked……

NC Scout was able to make things we knew of such as the “Old School” TV antennas we had on our houses years ago, relevant to what we were doing in class (They are “Yagi” antennas, which was the Japanese answer to the “Jungle Antenna” question). He also made relevant why an antenna such as that has so many  forward cross pieces (we learned the are called “Directors”) by advising of the “Gain” achieved with the different number of “Directors”.

We learned about digital radios, and some really cool advantages of the different ones available. BLOS (Beyond Line of Sight) was covered, as well as NVIS (Near Vertical Incident Skywave), and the radio categories and freqs used with the previously discussed antennas and also the advantages (range and security), of their use, and the “How” and “Why” they work so well.

Some of Saturday and most of Sunday was spent in the field practicing radio use. Saturday afternoon was spent actually transmitting messages from one group to another using the different formats (SALUTE, SALT, ANGUS, CYRIL, CRACK, BORIS, UNDER) the class had been taught, along with using radio security measures with those reports.

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Most of Sunday the students spent in teams (that were flip flopped occasionally) in the field sending back reconnaissance (to the Tactical Operations Center) info gleaned from actual sightings of OpFor in the field. They put up the “Jungle Antennas that were built in class, and utilized the different reports they had been taught for various scenarios. From what I saw, the students became pretty comfortable with doing what was needed for relaying the info.

From my perspective, the AAR would go something like this:


What was the mission/task?

Teach basic radio/antenna theory, the types of radios and antennas available, their use, and conduct practical exercises.

Items needed for the class?

A notebook and a pencil or pen, a radio was not required. This was not a HAM only class, and was relevant to anyone wanting to learn the basics of the above mentioned “”Mission/Task” for the Prepper or Survivalist.

Was the mission/task accomplished?


What should be sustained?

The method of delivery, the area the class was taught, and the info put out was excellent, and needs to be maintained. The time was used efficiently. The classroom was sufficient (dry with tables to work on) for what was needed. The supplies given to us for building an antenna were a bonus. We were fed some awesome home cooked meals (Breakfast, Lunch, Supper/ Breakfast, Lunch) and I was stuffed in a good way after every one. The class took the theory taught in it and put it into practical application, and everyone (even the two young girls who came with their parents) got to participate. The chance to network with those of like mind and make new friendships can not be understated as a “Sustain”.

What should be improved?

Nothing, given the time constraints of a two day class. If we had more time, maybe more field time, but referring back to “It was only a two day class”, yeah, that’s not an option.


To NC Scout I want to convey a “Well Done Brother!”. To put it mildly to those reading this, I wish he had been the guy with the “Fire hose” 27 years ago teaching the antenna class to us “Joes” in the detachment. You made some things learned, all those years ago, not only understandable for this “Non Commo” guy, but I now feel comfortable with the improvised side of radio/antenna use.

To those I met in the class I want to convey that you guys made it a quite enjoyable time, and I plan on keeping in touch with a number of you. I know I said this in the class, but it stands to be reiterated that you guys are very lucky to have a guy like NC Scout putting out this info in such an easily digestible manner.

Great class taught by an outstanding instructor, Good people with the same goals and mindset, what could be better?

Ruckin' with the FAL

By no means am I a “commo guy”, but I always carry a radio in the woods. Now I know I can carry a conveniently compact antenna with me and get info out over a lot longer range than the standard antenna would have let me in the past. 


“Parata Vivere”-Live Prepared.



P.A.C.E. Yourself

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I have received a number of emails over the years askin’ how I plan for SHTF events. My answer for any type of planning is usually to use the “P.A.C.E.” concept as your guide, and it will give you multiple options and directions to go in your planning that you might not have otherwise. I have talked about this elsewhere, but I think it might be a good idea to go into some detail on how to prioritize and figure out your P.A.C.E. planning.

“P.A.C.E.” stands for “Primary”, “Alternate”, “Contingency”, “Emergency”. This model can be used for everything from planned food storage use, to your emergency response in a “Bug In-Bug To-Bug Out” scenario. With your food planning, it might involve things like the “Primary” category of foods being used after an “Event” are what is in your pantry that you have put up from your garden or livestock production. “Alternate” might be store bought canned goods that have also been put up, but that might have a higher shelf life, and are more easily moved if need be.

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“Contingency” could be the freeze dried food and grains you’ve put away in buckets and that have a long storage life. They are bulky, require equipment for preparation, and are not as easily moved if you have to travel by “Shanks mare”. These items are what you might want to store at another location that you might be “Bugging To”. “Emergency” would be food like freeze dried retort pouches, MRE’s, or items like beef or deer jerky and trail mix. These items are easily packed and stored, they are easily carried on your back or in/on a cart if need be, and are easily prepared for consumption in the field.


In preparing the “Bug In-Bug To-Bug Out” P.A.C.E. plan, you might start it as follows. “Primary” is to “Bug In” at your residence. This is where you have the majority of you preps, and it is hopefully a prepared strong point for your defense. This choice has advantages no other option in the BI-BT-BO P.A.C.E. plan has. You are generally not as vulnerable in a fixed position like you would be on the road, whether you are in a vehicle or on foot. This option assumes you have identified key points in the site for hardening, and also that vulnerable locations have been hardened and secured to slow down or stop an advance in that given area.

Knowing how to prep and defend a fixed position is a key to survival in this choice. Learning how to identify key avenues of approach by the enemy, your best defensive observation and firing points, best area (most secure and least observable by bad guys) to retreat from the residence if necessary, and where a good rally point, upon evac of the residence is, are all basic Infantry skills needed for survival. I say they are “Infantry” skills and not “Fighting” skills because sometimes, the Infantry does not fight, they must haul ass out of an area to keep from being overwhelmed.

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Moving by vehicle with or without a trailer gives you more options than being on foot.

“Alternate” could be a plan to “Bug To” a friend or family member’s domicile by vehicle. This option has some risks, especially if you take too long to implement the plan, but compared to a move by foot, this is a breeze in certain key aspects. Downsides might be that you are confined to roads, and they are their own version of a “fatal funnel”. An upside is the ability to carry a lot of your preps with you to the “Bug To” residence.

Once again, some key “Infantry/Dragoon/Cavalry” (Dragoons were mounted Infantry who would ride to the fight, then dismount to “Do the deed”. Cavalry generally fought from their mounts) skills needed here are the ability to use the vehicle in the fight, whether it’s as a battering ram (not advisable for a non armored vehicle unless absolutely necessary and you know what you’re doing), fighting from the vehicle with weapons (short weapons come in very handy here), and the ability to quickly dismount to continue and/or finish the fight. The movie “Heat” comes to mind when I think of this situation.

“Contingency” planning for “BI-BT-BO” scenarios might involve the “Bug To” to your family or friend’s residence or property by foot. At the “Contingency” level, you don’t have the option to leave by vehicle. An advantage of the “Contingency”, compared to the “Emergency” level ,that we’ll talk about shortly, is that you can pre-position a lot of your supplies at the planned destination. This option makes it easier on what you have to carry for the trip to that location, because you don’t have to carry what you need for serious long term survival. You only need to carry the basics for the time you think it will take to walk there.

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Fighting gear and basic survival supplies for the environment is what is needed for the “Contingency” part of this scenario. You are “Bugging To” a location that has supplies already there for you.

This option has certain implied Infantry tasks inherent in it’s planning. Planning for this type of “Mission” is a basic Infantry/Mountain Man task. Being able to fight and move (maneuver) on foot as a buddy team or Fire Team (FT has 4 shooters involved, and having that many actual, not bystanding, participants is probably a pipe dream in a SHTF reality), is a basic Infantry task. Living in the field is a basic Infantry/Mountain Man task.

Now to the “Emergency” level of  “BI-BT-BO” planning. This is your least desired choice and will be not only the most daunting, but the most risky. In this scenario, you don’t have any of the above choices, or an above choice was implemented but turned into the “Emergency” option (Example: You started heading to your family’s farm. When you got there it had been over run by bad guys who now occupy it. Your vehicle was damaged and put out of commission during your escape from that situation, but at least you got away and down the road a bit).


In the “Emergency” option, you plan on carrying what you need on your back or in/on something like a game cart for a long term “mission”. How much can you carry for an extended period through rough terrain perhaps? Do you have a physical fitness plan that you do regularly? Is it practical for what you might envision is in the future?

Many of us are not the proverbial “Spring Chicken”, and just can’t do what we used to be able to do. I know what I can carry because I go out and carry it. I carry from 120-150 lbs. (rarely 150) because it is PT. I do not plan on carrying that much in an Evac, (although there are some I’ve read who can’t wrap their head around the fact that I carry more in training than I plan to in the real situation, whether it’s my Load bearing gear, or my ruck weight). I average 15-20 min miles (usually closer to 20) with that 120 lbs. of weight. Wanna know what the hard part is? It’s not walking at break neck speed (15 min miles with 120 is “Breakneck speed”, at least for me), it’s walking as slow as you need to to “see” before you are “seen”.

My Friend Bergmann talks about one type of plan you can use for this type of Evac.

My “Emergency” plan involves carrying or pulling a lot of gear (about 100 lbs. give or take, is what my load bearing gear and my “Evac” ruck weigh in total) over hilly terrain to a location I don’t feel comfortable caching much more than “disposables” right now. Food and associated expendables (ammo) are at the top of the caching priorities list for that area. Couple this with certain amenities like TP, and gear repair items. You can make certain parts of the “Emergency” survival plan not only more survivable, but more comfortable (“Comfort” is purely subjective. Things we did in the Infantry are not considered comfortable by the vast majority of the population, but for us, we made do and sometimes really enjoyed it).

Bergmann illustrates in this video what you can put in a small cache, and what to put it into.

Along with the Infantry tasks we discussed earlier in the “Contingency” level of planning, there are other considerations at the “Emergency” level. The load you carry is heavier, and the ability to fight and move (maneuver) is severely hampered by that weight. The first option is to plan on using the old school “LRS” (Long Range Surveillance) team approach (back when the 4 -6 man teams only carried M16A1’s or CAR’s and no SAW’s were present). This is the Hide and Observe method. Practicing going to ground quickly is an art form, especially if you’re carrying a heavy load. Another option is to be so well camouflaged that you simply are not seen if you stay still.


Can you hump a ruck through the woods. Better figure it out now and plan on a contingency if you can’t.

If you plan to fire and move (maneuver) by assaulting through the objective or having to break contact at high speed, understand that you will probably lose the load you have in your pack (you will have to drop it) unless you fight and win. A couple of options to use if you do have to fight are higher cap mags (more than the average mag cap of your rifle whether box or drum mag), and smoke or gas grenades. (throw smoke up wind of the attackers while you try to keep their heads down with rifle fire, then throw the gas when their vision of you is obscured by the smoke which has drift between the two groups. If they attack, they will come right through your gas grenade stream)

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Gaining fire superiority due to your ability to fire for a longer period (extended mag cap) coupled with smoke and gas grenades being deployed can give the single Survivalist or small group of Survivalists a huge advantage in a break contact scenario. The use of the gas also sets the bad guys up to be “Hasty Ambushed” by you (if you’re by yourself, just be smart and break contact) or your group since you stepped off at a right angle from you original engagement/firing point and the gas choked bad guys came to where you were, not where you are now and can’t see a thing.


Have you trained to fire and move in terrain like this. This is much better terrain for breaking contact and getting away, than assaulting the objective/bad guys.

What should your pack contain for the “Emergency” option? As many non disposable items as you can carry. It starts with a solid pack. Tools for defense, construction of shelters, food procurement, and water carriage and treatment are at the top of the list. Clothing that is durable and long lasting (lots of quality socks). Items to keep all of the important gear dry. FIRST AID items, whether for trauma or even more important basic first aid and hygiene (antibiotic ointment, hand sanitizer, ace bandages, band aids, etc. These are all good items to cache ahead of time). Quality sleeping gear. I carry two weeks worth of freeze dried food, but the food in the caches and what can be harvested will supplement this. The list can go on forever, but you get the point. Anything less than what we’ve talked about will convert you from a Survivor to a Refugee in weeks.

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CRKT Chogan tomahawk and an MSR 10 liter Dromedary Bag Water Reservoir are two tools I’d want in my ruck for an extended “outing”.

Keep in mind, the options from “P” to “E” are cascading from the best case in a worst case scenario, to “In the suck” in a worst case scenario. No one wants to plan on being in the situation that required implementing any of this plan. Things happen and either you have war gamed a plan for the bad things that come about, or you leave it up to “Chance” as to whether you will survive it with your life and sanity intact. By the way, “Chance” has a brother named “Murphy”, and he is an SOB to those that prepare and unforgiving to those that don’t.

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Items and gear for treating traumatic injuries

Although we talked about different Infantry tasks you should try to learn and practice, don’t think for a minute you are Infantry. That kind of a mindset will get you killed in a survival situation. Regardless of what some moron told you about your high end ability to “wack” regular Army Infantry (that’s who you’re plannin’ on fighting?) after you take a few of tactical classes. The facts are that it just ain’t so, and it’s a dishonest disservice to those of you who want to learn to fight from a realistic perspective. The objective of the Infantry is to accomplish a task set forth by their higher command with the least amount of casualties possible. Mission accomplishment overrides the desire for a low casualty count many times.

The Survivalist’s mission is to keep themselves, and those they are responsible for, alive. Anything that gets in the way of that is the enemy, whether it is a group of gang bangin’ troglodytes dressed like SEAL wannabes, or a serious flu pandemic. Don’t get wrapped up in the anti individual survival terminology used by some “experts” because you think they are “In the know”. They “Aren’t” and they “Don’t”.  You can survive on your own. Yes, you are at a greater disadvantage without someone in support (I hope you at least have a Buddy), but as I’ve said many times, we practice and train for what is “possible”, not what is “probable”. If you have to use the “Emergency” plan of your P.A.C.E., figure out now what you will need to make moving that gear over various terrain possible, then, practice doing it.


Have you practiced breaking contact during a live fire exercise? The noise alone is reason to practice your communication with your Buddy.

Hopefully you won’t be on your own, but only a “Walter Mitty” fool or a charlatan believes you will have a heavy squad or platoon of actual “shooters” when the SHTF. If they do have ’em, those same “shooters” will probably be on the prowl when necessary things start to run out, and we’ll end up callin’ them “Brigands”.


"Parata Vivere"-Live Prepared.


Preparedness And The Free Training Available For The Truly Motivated

A young aspiring Paratrooper getting ready for another jump during Airborne School

I have taken a lot of training over the years, and I have never regretted any of it. That training has consisted of “Hands On”, physical training (whether as a formal school, or an “In-house” unit class), “Death by Power Point” instruction in formal classes, “Old School” correspondence courses in the Mil, or the more recent version of that, which is doing it on line for the Mil or LE.

Whether it was the training I received as an Enlisted Soldier, as a Non Commissioned Officer in a leadership role in the Infantry, my LE career, or info gleaned from courses I actively searched out and took on my own. The training was always what I considered a “Tool” in the “Preparedness Tool Box” and could come in handy one day.

Students learning to fire and maneuver in an MDT “Bushbastard” class.

There are many out there today who try to convince others that they are serious, when it comes to their “motivation” in the area they say is their niche/calling. For instance, the “Militia” crowd has done their very best to try and make many of us believe they will be there when needed, whether it’s a natural disaster, an invasion, or a protest.

Practicing some wilderness survival skills.

The facts we actually see are that many of them are a “Soup sandwich without the bread”, and not only do they not have any true organization, but they don’t even understand their authority (or in this case, the lack thereof), and what the original guidelines were concerning the militia.


Regardless of whether their intent is to just look like the “Navy Seal they always wanted to be”, but couldn’t cuz….SEAL!, or if they are truly serious about being there to help in their neighborhood’s time of need, it really doesn’t matter. Perception is reality, and the perception is that most of these guys (who put themselves in the public eye) are a joke, and define the term “Wannabe” to the fullest extent possible.

Do you guys want to change that perception just a bit? OK, here’s a tip, stop trying to dress like you’re a commando when you are in public. As an example: Although a tomahawk is an effective survival and fighting tool for a Soldier or a Woodsman, going to a protest while carrying it on your gear right behind your “Modular Food Storage Unit” IS DUMBER THAN AN IN-BRED, METHHEAD SNORTIN’ DRAINO LACED, COMET!

Want another tip? Do everything you can do to come across professionally (Not as “A Professional”. In this context, you are not “A Professional”. If you were, you’d be in the Military or Law Enforcement). This post is about learning one facet of what you can do to gain some knowledgeable in the right direction. Why? So you can be on the same “sheet of music” as those you might be helping out, and you can then all speak the same “language”. You can’t do squat if you can’t communicate.


The area with the free courses falls under the “Independent Study section shown in the yellow box.

This leads me to the point of this post. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has a website called The Emergency Management Institute. On it, there are a number of courses you can take for free that will help you not only understand how the organizational structure works, but if you may be involved with LE or Fed, (no, I don’t believe you when you tell me you worked with LE or Feds at the Presidential Rally or a Civil War Parade, they didn’t need or want you “helpin’ out” because you’re an unknown, untrained liability) at least, you will have an understanding of how they are organized and function in an organized function or an emergency.

I found out about the free courses years ago, and although I have been required over the years to take a number of them for my employers, the majority I’ve done were on my own because “Free Knowledge”….., and why wouldn’t you take advantage of it?

Whether you are a member of a Neighborhood Protection Team tasked with the security of your group in your locality, or you’re just a Survivalist who likes to know all he can about how the Local, State, and Federal authorities will respond to different types of emergencies in your area. It would behoove you to take at least some of these courses to be aware of what is going on around you.

The red block shows a short list of what is available for free and shows up when you scroll across the “Independent Study” icon.


IS-100bIntroduction to Incident Command System, ICS-100

IS-700bAn Introduction to the National Incident Management System

These first two are the ones I recommend you take first to give you a base line for the rest of the courses you take. There are presently 194 courses available. A few require credentials from the Feds to take, but most do not. You will have to register with FEMA to take the on line tests if you want a certificate of completion, but you do not have to register to take the class.

In the last few days, the ability to take the tests for the classes has been down and this advisory has been on the site concerning the tests.

IS-101cPreparing for Federal Disaster Operations: FEMA

IS-200b, ICS for Single Resources and Initial Action Incidents

IS-230dFundamentals of Emergency Management

IS-251Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS) for Alerting Authorities

IS-288aThe Role of Voluntary Organizations in Emergency Management

IS-293Mission Assignment Overview

IS-303Radiological Accident Assessment Concepts

IS-315CERT Supplemental Training: The Incident Command System

IS-405Overview of Mass Care/Emergency Assistance

IS-660Introduction to Public-Private Partnerships

IS-662Improving Preparedness and Resilience through Public-Private Partnerships

IS-775EOC Management and Operations

IS-907Active Shooter: What You Can Do

IS-909, Community Preparedness: Implementing Simple Activities for Everyone

These are just a few I’d recommend you take to have a solid grasp of the “Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How” of Federal emergency operations. For you guys who say you are “militia” and are willing to put in the effort, prove it. Show us that you’re not just playin’ soldier, and tryin’ to look like an extra in an interpretive dance of Modern Warfare 3, and for God’s sake, stay off of social media.

Just like the other forms and types of training depicted in this post, the computer is an awesome tool that, for now, can be utilized to learn many things you wouldn’t have easy access to other wise. USE IT!

Put in the time. Learn what is going on, and become organized and professional (for you militia guys, that usually means a polo shirt and cargo pants with a concealed pistol, not a plate carrier, your AR “pistol”, and a “Operator Cut” helmet). Stay in your “lane” (that means YOUR State if you’re “Militia”), and do the HARD THING (in this case it means study, not expending rounds). Knowledge is power, and survival requires many forms of “power”.


"Parata Vivere"- Live Prepared.