Originally posted 23 Sep 13.
While employing the concepts, principles, and techniques in Parts I and II, you must also concentrate on employing your hearing and sense of smell when maximizing your ability to discern shapes, movements, and so forth at night. When you add hearing and sense of smell to effective night vision employment, you will find that you’re better equipped to operate during the hours of darkness by relying on 3 senses versus one.
Sound – Sound carries much farther at night than it does in the daylight hours. Footsteps, material rubbing against foliage, sneezes, sniffs, whispers, weapons being chambered, safety levers being put on and taken off, poorly packed ruck sacks rattling (though muffled), careless walking, and many others, can give your enemy (and you) away long before they get to your position. Silence truly is golden. You will find when you want to listen that the sound of your breathing can interfere with your successful listening to a faint sound. Employing the oriental method of directional listening (opening the mouth wide while cupping the ears) can help you by amplifying the sound you are trying to pin point (sounds corny, I know, but it does work, and was used extensively by the Japanese in WWII as well as other oriental military organizations). The absence of sound can also be a warning to you. “Nothin’s wrong except….nothin’s wrong….” Small critters and bugs many times stop their natural night sounds when humans are moving in close proximity to their perches, roosts, and nests. That’s why you might not hear anything as you take up a position, but within a relatively short amount of time, you begin to hear crickets, birds, squirrels, and such. It’s not because they’re used to you. It’s because you’re not moving and making noises they find abnormal.
Smell – Many times you’ll be dependent upon the prevailing wind, but at the same time, you can get a sense of how close your enemy is by the smell. Couple your sense of smell with your hearing and your night vision techniques to provide the best radar system your body can muster.
You can do the following exercises on your own and see the differences proper preparation and good technique makes in your ability to see, hear, and smell at night.
Preparation – Sit in a completely darkened room for 45 minutes to an hour (or with as little light as possible) starting at dusk or full dark. No smoking, no light of any kind (flashlights, matches, etc) other than luminous dials on watches (if possible, cover the watch face). Relax. Use the bathroom prior to starting your darkness assimilation so there’s no break in the time you give your eyes to develop maximum visual purple.
Exercise – On the first night, without preparation, go from your normal lighted conditions outside after dark and note what you can and cannot see (reference known as well as unknown objects). The next night, after proper preparation, come out of the room to the outdoors and note any differences in how well you can see and how clear things seem to be. Compare this later to your previous night’s observations. If you have a training or ‘battle’ buddy, either one of you stay in place while the other walks a good distance away (variable as to your imagination for this exercise). Demonstrate minimal light and noise discipline – have the in place person attempt to spot the other class members as they walk and whisper with and without light sources (cigarette coals, etc). Change places and repeat, after allowing everyone’s night vision to maximize again.
Using False Horizons – To perform this exercise, you must have a dirt road, evenly colored street (asphalt or cement), a stream, or river to use as a false horizon. Get in a low position so that you can see the false horizon as a solid ‘line’ in your vision. Have your other person as quietly as possible attempt to get close to you while crossing the ‘false horizon’. You may see that even extremely silent people can be spotted against the false horizon by an alert sentry/person.
Ideal Evaluation – Take half the group (4 people is a great starting number) as far away from the other half as the situation will reasonably allow (several hundred yards/meters is ideal) and have them remain silent. Upon a given signal, the half of the group that left spread outs and makes various sounds such as “digging in” (if possible). They should dig quietly as possible without talking much. The half of the group that stayed in place is required to listen and attempt to fix the diggers position and move in without being discovered. After completion, critique and switch roles and locations.
We’ve covered a lot of ground about how to use your eyes, ears, and nose. What we’ve done may not be what you envisioned as “the fundamentals of night operations”, but without this foundation, all tactics are for naught. You must be able to see what you are doing if you are to stay alive in a SHTF situation. You must be able to know how sound travels and how it can get you killed or alert you to the presence of an enemy, and you must know how to augment your sight and sound with the ability to detect scents that could be a warning that your enemy is extremely close by
Specifically, we covered:<
- The limitations of the human eye, how your eyes work in daylight and at night, the time it takes to develop “visual purple” and the fraction of a second it takes to destroy it.
- How your general health will impact your ability to see and hear at night and what high levels of nicotine, alcohol and caffeine will do to impair your ability to see and hear at night.
- Methods with which to prepare yourself for night operations, different eye exercises you can do for your own comfort and stamina, how to see an object (that is, never look directly at it), why objects disappear (employing cones rather than rods to see) at night.
- What a “false horizon” consists of and how to use it and how regular binoculars can increase your ability to see detail at night as well as first generation NVDs.
- We also talked about considerations you have to make before you choose to, or not to, use eye protection at night and some of the pro’s and con’s.
- We talked about the importance of combining your sense of hearing and smell to augment your night vision.
Lastly, we gave you the skeleton of an effective exercise so you could practice moving quietly on a position you discovered by listening for a known sound.
Remember, these exercises and skill evaluations are only limited by your imagination and the area you have to train in.
Have fun with it!
We’d like to hear how these go if you try them out, so don’t be shy about feedback.