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4th Marine Recon Troops 

“Recon Tips of the Trade” was developed by SFOD-B 52, 5th SFG(A), with assistance of the MACV Recondo school. From Mountain Guerilla.


Part One: General Tips of the Trade

1) While conducting operations, minimize fatigue. A tired shooter is a careless shooter. Sleep deprivation is a well-known and common training tool in special operations, specifically because it creates extreme stress in individuals. Contrary to popular opinion, you can become accustomed to sleep deprivation, but not inured to it. On operations, it will be necessary at times, to set aside sleep in the interest of mission essential tasks and operational necessity, but this should be minimized. Considering the considerable disadvantage individual groups will face in dealing with large numbers of potentially well-equipped hostile forces, maintaining the mental equilibrium of individual shooters and leaders should be a critical element of planning and logistics. Don’t skimp on sleep gear and dry clothes in an attempt to “be hard.” There’s a fine line between hard and stupid.

2) Always, always, ALWAYS possess and display confidence in front of your people. If you are confident, they will feed off that confidence. False bravado is not the same thing as confidence. Confidence in the tactical arena only comes through realistic, effective training. You can’t fake it. Train.

3) Never lose your temper in the field. Not with your own personnel, not with the enemy, and certainly not with life. A temper tantrum, or rage, will have a deleterious effect on your judgment and lead to rash decisions. Plan for contingencies, and keep them in mind when shit seems to be going wrong. Don’t be afraid to take solid advice from subordinates. It does NOT make you less competent.

4) Team work is the crucial element in tactical success. It only comes through constant practice and training. You MUST practice your collective training tasks and battle drills as an element. “Chalk talks” and walk-through rehearsals have their place, but should never replace realistic field-training (including live-fire iterations!).

5) All other considerations aside, a good PT program will lead to less health issues arising in the field. A healthy, athletic body, under combat stress WILL end up sick. An unhealthy, unathletic body, under combat stress will not have a fully functioning immune system to help resist those illnesses. Historically, illness and disease has killed and otherwise made combat-ineffective, legions more warfighters than enemy fire has.

6) Hydration is critical, but do not overlook the replacement of electrolytes in the system. Today, under normal circumstances, the average American diet contains FAR more than enough salt and electrolytes, without supplementation. Field rations, under austere, combat conditions will require supplementation.

7) Wear loose-fitting, comfortable clothing, suitable to the environment, for field operations. This does not necessarily mean the latest cool-guy ACUs in multi-cam. It does mean clothing specific to outdoor athletic activities (I’ve gone to the field in Levi’s. I don’t recommend it), whether mil-spec or outdoor sports such as mountaineering or backpacking. Tight-fitting clothes will restrict movement, and more often than not, tear at inopportune times, in inopportune places.

8) Develop a system of pre-mission checklists to facilitate your pre-combat inspections, in order to ensure that no patrol member is forgetting anything. Whether built around a team SOP, or specifically developed for a given operation, this will help alleviate showing up at a breach point on a structure and going, “Who the fuck left the breaching shotgun at home?”

9) If you need to criticize a member of your team/element/unit/crew, use tact and common courtesy when doing so. Take the man aside and do it in private (especially if he has ANY leadership authority), in order to allow him to save face and thus react positively to the criticism.

10) Regardless of what type of radio communications devices you utilize (FRS/GMRS/Marine Band/HAM/etc), pre-set frequencies so that you can change channels in the dark, on the run.