Originally posted December, 2013.
So, you ask, just what is a “Patrol Base” (PB)? A fair question if you’ve never had the opportunity to learn patrolling in the military or through a school that teaches basic small unit tactics (SUT). All patrol base is just a position that your NPT will occupy when you cannot move or need to stop for an extended period of time, say more than 12 hours. Normally, it’s not established inside the perimeter of a NPA protected by other NPT members, though it could be (say, for example, you had cause to go to a neighboring NPA to pick up supplies or escort someone to or from), because any time you’re outside of your own NPA, even if you’re in an area of like-minded people, it’s prudent to settle in using the methods described below.
If you’ve been reading this or other blogs for awhile, you already know moving through an area where contact with a MZB group is not an easy thing to do, especially if you have family or friends in tow that might not be in the best physical shape possible, as in the case of moving them to a safe NPA. It’s going to be hard going. Especially when you contemplate moving in unfriendly weather conditions (cold, snow, rain, heat, etc). So, it stands to reason that you may have to find a place to “hole up” for a bit to rest and recuperate while minimizing as much as possible, the chance of discovery.
Now that you have a general understanding of what a PB is, let’s get into some specifics: The first thing you should understand is that you should plan to have one or more patrol base locations pre-designated as an integral part of your “Get Out Of Dodge” (GOOD) strategy. The amount of time a patrol base may be occupied depends on the need for secrecy. It should not, however, be occupied for more than 36 to 48 hours at the outside except in an emergency. Remember, a patrol base is occupied only as long as necessary for its purpose. Here’s something else to keep in mind: Do not, under any circumstances, use the same patrol base more than once if, for example, you are returning from a long security patrol and decide to rest before you get back to your NPA. Doing so is only asking for trouble!
Here are a few examples of when you might establish a PB when Getting Out Of Dodge or performing a long duration security patrol around your protected area:
If you have a need to:
- stop all movement to avoid detection
- hide your group so that a during a long, detailed reconnaissance your objective area can be made
- eat, clean weapons and equipment, and rest
- plan to overcome unanticipated or surprise encounters and issue instructions on how to do it
- reorganize after you’ve moved through an unfriendly area
- establish a base from which several consecutive or concurrent missions can be launched
So, now that we’ve gone over what a PB is used for, how do we select one? Quite simply, a PB site is usually picked from a map or aerial reconnaissance photo (if available to you) during your planning. Remember though, any patrol base site you picked by map or aerial photo is tentative. You have to confirm its suitability, and then, once you arrive, you must secure it before you occupy it. That means real-world reconnaissance when you get within close proximity of your selected site. After all, how will you know someone else hasn’t picked the same spot and arrived before you, and if so, is going to be willing to share the PB, or is “friendly” at all? Best advice if you do find it’s occupied or there are other parties you don’t know in close proximity: Don’t make contact; abandon that choice and move to another that you’ve included as a contingency location.
Here’s yet another acronym that contains essential criteria for patrol base selection based: C O O L A N T
C – Cover (stops bullets) and concealment (hides your group).
O – Off natural lines of drift (a path that would naturally be followed by people due to the ease of traversing the topography).
O – Out of sight, sound, and small arms effective range of any objective you may be preparing to observe or engage.
L – Large enough to accommodate the entire team without crowding.
A – Affords viable defense for a short period.
N – Near a source of water.
T – Tough terrain that impedes any maneuver/movement against your team.
In addition, you need to avoid the following:
- Known or suspected MZB positions.
- Built up areas.
- Ridges and hilltops, except as necessary for maintaining communications with the NPADOC.
- Small valleys.
- Roads and trails.
So, now you know that your plans to establish a patrol base must include selection of an alternate site for each PB you plan to establish along your route. Besides discovering your primary location is already occupied, you may use the alternate site if the initial site is unsuitable or if your group is required unexpectedly to evacuate your initial PB for some reason. If you can, it’s usually best to reconnoiter the alternate site and keep it under watch until occupied or until you move on and no longer need it. There’s also another advantage of having an alternate site: If you run into trouble and have to break contact, you can’t go back to your previously occupied PB because you may have been followed and a nasty surprise could be waiting for you. You can, however, go to your alternate site, especially if you’ve reconnoitered and know it’s unoccupied.
Ok, now we’re ready to occupy our PB! Remember, before moving into a PB, the area is reconned and secured by having someone is covering the area approaches by field of fire capability (not actual shooting!). Once secured, move your group to the selected site, enters into it quietly as possible and quickly establishes a perimeter defense (suggest using Reinforced Triangle). To do this properly, you’ll have to have had training for your people and rehearsals on what to do and not do.
Here’s the “text book” example of how to occupy a PB:
The Initial Approach: Stop at around 200 meters from the tentative PB site. Put your team/group into small 360 degree security posture. Security is posted. The PL and at least one other person move forward to reconnoiter the site. The drawing below is from military manuals, and they presume you have at least 9 to 13 people, depending. For our purposes, disregard the positions described unless you have enough people to assign them duties as radio operator, team leaders, and security teams.
Reconnaissance: If you mentally ‘see’ the PB site as a triangle, it’s easier to designate the point of entry into the PB as 6 o’clock. You move to and designate the center of the base as your “Command Post” or CP. Then, if there are only a couple of you, you must recon the areas assigned to them for suitability and then return to the CP to discuss or modify your plan. If there are only four of you, the PB will be small and you will have a member at 10, 2 and 6 O’Clock with you occupying the center. During your training and rehearsals, you should have diagrammed what the sectors are and their size in your GOOD plan that you’ve talked over with your family, team, or group. After the reconnaissance, you end the other person back to bring the rest of the group into the PB. If you want, you can leave your second person in the CP and go get your group yourself. Depending on the circumstances, it just might be the better move because of fear and anxiety being experienced by your group members, and you leading them in might assuage their anxiety. Either way, someone stays in the CP while the group is brought in. Remember, we’re talking a relatively small NPT/group here: 6 to 9; 12 at the absolute most. Larger teams/groups have added, ‘must do’s’
Occupation: Your group should enter the base in single file and execute a 90 degree turn at the entry point and move to the CP (center of the PB). You or your #2 who’s been trained like you, should any remove signs of your group’s entry into the area for obvious reasons. You need to check the perimeter by meeting each person in the group that you’ve assigned a position and talk with them to make sure they understand the rules regarding noise and movement. Reassurance is essential at this point. If you’ve trained and rehearsed, these conversations will be very short. If you’re moving around with a “buddy”, it’s best to move clockwise around the perimeter because this is the way you should have planned it and your people will expect you to follow what you’ve trained and rehearsed. Something to remember on this: Your group may be 3 people, it may be comprised of several families. Remember that you fit the PB size to the groups size. If you have only 3 people, you could, if you needed to, put each person facing out at 10 O’clock, 2 O’clock, and 6 O’clock with their feet touching while laying on their stomachs! It doesn’t have to be huge, but it can be as big as you need it to be, depending on the terrain you have to work with. Remember, these illustrations are for large patrols, sometimes platoon strength (36-44 people) or more.
Once you’re in your PB, take some time and do a reconnaissance forward of the perimeter so you know the avenues of approach and the terrain vulnerabilities. It doesn’t have to be far, maybe as close as 30 or 40 meters. Just make sure you let everyone in your group know you’re going out (again, when you do your GOOD plan, you can cover this and remind them again when you “hit the road”). . When you come back, come back through the 6 O’clock position, remove your signs of entry, and as appropriate, brief everyone on signs of “unfriendly” activity, suitable OP locations, possible rally points, and withdrawal routes should the situation become critical.
Remember, you don’t leave anything to chance! For emergencies, you should have determined designated withdrawal routes and a rally point outside the PB (could be your alternate PB site) for use in case your group is forced to move unexpectedly. When you put your sentry or sentries out, make sure you establish some sort of communications between you and they! The communications link between you and they will provide them a measure of comfort as well as give you a few minutes warning should you get hit with a not-so-nice surprise.
Let’s move on to things you need to do in your PB. The first thing is to set up security. It is your first priority! Only one point of entry and exit is used. This point is camouflaged and guarded/covered at all times! Only necessary movement should be permitted, both inside and outside the patrol base. Any noisy work, such as cutting branches, is done only at set times. Such work is done as soon as possible after occupation but never at night or in the quiet periods of early morning and late evening. Noisy work should be done when other noise (sounds of aircraft, train whistles, heavy vehicle traffic, etc) will cover it. Now, it stands to reason that if you are in very cold weather, or have a situation that someone needs medical treatment or has to get out of the elements (illness, etc), that you address that situation next. Depending on your location and circumstances, building a fire may or may not be prudent. You’ll have to make that decision when you’re in the situation. One suggestion to be able to provide warmth without a fire is to have each person carry several packs of ‘hot hands’ and ‘toe warmers’ that are air activated. The ‘hot hands’ are great for putting under the armpits for someone showing symptoms of hypothermia. During your planning, do some ‘wargaming’ and get creative on how you can provide necessary things without giving your position away.
Twice a day, starting before and ending after dawn and dusk, for as long as you’re in your PB (circumstance dependent), a “stand-to” (everyone is awake and those who have one have their weapon ready and watches outside the perimeter, listening for movement or other indicators that you’ve been discovered by the ‘bad people’) is held to insure that every person adjusts to the changing light and noise conditions, and is dressed, equipped, and ready for action, because if you do have a problem, chances are you won’t have very much time at all to prepare! Remember, a good “stand to” starts before first light in the morning and continue until after light. It should start before dark in the evening and last until dark. Vary your starting and ending times to prevent establishing a pattern, but the stand-to must last long enough to accomplish its purpose. You can start the “stand to” with a hand signal, a whisper to the person next to you; anything that is quiet, but gets the attention of your group. One at a time is fine, too, as long as the word goes around in a reasonably short period of time.
Defense: So what happens if you have to defend your PB? Well, you do want to do some planning, but remember that a PB is usually only defended when evacuation is not possible. Complete fighting positions are not built. Hasty ones are improvised. Look at the micro-terrain in selection. Depressions in the ground supplemented by dead-fall will work, etc. Camouflage and concealment are not only encouraged, but the best passive-defense measure you can employ! The idea is to not have any contact, but be able to make the cost for taking your PB high if necessary, or to provide time to abandon as necessary.
You should have a rudimentary fire plan – that is, an assignment of where to shoot (fields of fire) for those who have weapons. You can also deploy early warning devices such as a trip-wire tied to a small can with some pebbles in it. Use your imagination, just make sure the devices you come up with are easily set up and taken down, provide some sort of audible alert, and cover obvious avenues of approach. Something else: when you get to your PB and have occupied, analyze where you are and what’s around you. If you think there’s a good chance your PB can be discovered and the discoverer’s might want to do you harm, it’s best to go reconnoiter your alternate PB and, if it’s better, abandon the current PB and move to the second. Remember, this is your life and those of your group we’re talking about here!
If, for some reason, you’re forced to leave your PB, have your group leave in the smallest elements possible: by one’s or two’s; three’s at the absolute most! The smaller the element, the harder it is to detect! Then, you should have given everyone information on how to get to either a Rally Point Enroute (RPE) or your alternate PB. Everyone needs to know where to go to!
Communications: Well, there’s an old military axiom on communications: “If you ain’t got comm….you ain’t got jaaaaackkkk!” It’s pretty much true. Today, FRS/GMRS radios are in everyone’s financial reach, and you should have at least one for each adult member of your group along with a throat mic if possible. VHF/UHF is better, but get that Ham Technician license now, and some good Handy Talkies. A great group that provides information and helps wherever they can is AmRRON.
There’s no getting around the fact that radios are a good means of communication, but they must be closely controlled because the vulnerability of having your transmissions not only monitored, but your location pin-pointed through “Radio Direction Finding” (DF’d for short). You can use tug or pull lines for signaling within the PB. They are quiet and reduce radio traffic. Just make sure during training you develop some sort of protocol for what the tugs mean and then rehearse!
- Weapons maintenance: If you are in nasty weather, or have been, and your weapons need cleaning or other maintenance, do not do it all at the same time! Only one weapon down at a time, please, and no detailed disassembly! Wipe it down, patch the barrel, check your mags, and be done with it!
- Sanitation and Personal Hygiene: In daylight, catholes outside the perimeter are used. The user must be guarded. That means two people move super quiet every time someone has to void or eliminate. At night, catholes must be inside the perimeter. Everyone should wash and brush their teeth on a regular basis. Trash is buried in a concealed site or is carried with the patrol—it is never burned!
- Eating: Take turns eating. No more than half of the group should eat at a time so that the other half are alert and ready to fight if needs be.
- Water: If someone is sent to get water, someone must also be sent to protect them. No more than two trips to the source should be made in a 24-hour period at the absolute most, and make sure all signs of being at the source are removed!
- Rest: Rest and sleep are permitted in special periods only after all work has been done. As in eating, take turns resting. Security must be maintained.
- Planning: You, as the leader, should use the time spent in your PB to continue to plan and prepare for the continued movement to your destination. Remember, leave nothing to chance!
When it’s time to leave: Before you abandon the PB, the most important thing you can do is to make sure all signs of your group’s presence are removed or concealed so that your group’s presence remains secret for as long as possible and prevents pursuit until such time as it no longer is feasible to gain contact with your group.
And that’s about it. I’m not going to kid you, I know it sounds like a lot of things to do, but it will be worth every second you spend in planning and practicing (yes, you should have your group practice this) when you get from your humble abode (that you’ve had to abandon because “the day” arrived) to your “safe area” or a friend’s house out of the affected area or wherever it is you’re going.