Originally posted on 13 April 2013
Everybody can crawl, right? Sure. For about 3 feet. Until that ‘uber-chest rig’ or the self-carry beer supply (aka: out of shape abdomen) gets in the way, or the human attempting to crawl out of a bad situation doesn’t know how to use the terrain to his or her advantage (read extending life expectancy). The truth of the matter (and why we beat the “Dead Horse of Fitness”) is that crawling is a very energy demanding exercise, especially when one is wearing, say, a plate carrier, a harness/LBV complete with various pouches and ‘x’ number of rifle magazines.
Add to the above our cultural indoctrination has taken a terrible toll on the desire to possess the skill to move stealthily and invisibly. The movies and television shows demonstrate actors with scripted expertise in determining 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 across their chest and abdomen.
Granted, during urban close quarters operations, or special forces soldiers (all branches), this may have some merit, but when you’re the ‘regular guy’ preparing for any eventuality, one must set his equipment up so that he can, in fact, crawl if necessary, and learn to be stealthy in all of those eventualities.
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 that’s not properly adjusted or snugged down will cause you pain in your abdomen and groin. Canteens (for those who still use them) 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 or having two anchor straps) will move around, come undone, and leave their contents on your back trail. Drop leg holsters are famous for turning just enough to have the hammer and ejection port area of your pistol become jammed up with dirt and/or mud. 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 necessarily a fast movement, thought it can be, depending on what you’ve gotten yourself into. Crawling typically 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 primary purpose for crawling: stealth; the secondary purpose for crawling is to get lower than enemy rounds cracking just over your head. And in that situation, stealth is not an issue, so speed becomes paramount. Ask those who know how they know….
Stealth is essential because stealth allows a man to avoid detection, all other factors being equal.
Example: A man is crawling in a depression in the ground trying to bypass an opposing force position, doesn’t have his gear adjusted properly, is moving too quickly, but is not visible by the people in the position. They can hear him, though, which attracts their attention. The attention brings investigation of the noise, 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.
Side Note: Never, ever, EVER dictate to another man 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 basic Maneuver Warfare concepts & principles: 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 crawling techniques 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 shored up by serious expertise at various sites around the net provide the graphics 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 you train with 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 the trainer might consider is doing the exercise with the trainees as well. Nothing says leadership like getting down in the mud with the rest of your friends and sweating when they sweat! After all is said and done, have the folks critique each other, pointing out strengths and weaknesses of each person in such a way that pride is not hurt. Remember, as 99.99% of all CIDG groups are volunteer, you want to ensure you don’t try to make people quit. Keep stringent standards, don’t coddle, but don’t denigrate, either.
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.
UPDATE: In this piece, RITR underscores the importance of PT, crawling, and equipment, among other essentials.