Assemble On Us

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Rally Point LLC
Clearing Checkpoints
Written March 15, 2005
Last Revision:  June 12, 2013

I wrote this in 2005 and Tony Scotti was kind enough to post it on his Security Driver website.  Rally Nation sent an email a few days ago asking about the article, so I thought I would dust it off and post it here.

On March 4, 2005, Italian Intelligence Officer Nicola Calipari was mistakenly killed by the US military as his vehicle approached their checkpoint.  Two days later, at least three checkpoints were hit with small arms fire, and at another, a group of up to 20 insurgents riding in five cars attacked with a combination of rocket-propelled grenades and small-arms fire before speeding away. 

Checkpoints in Iraq are dangerous places. For civilian PSD teams the dangers are twofold. First, the constant threat of attack by insurgents is amplified by being in close proximity to an inviting military target. Second, a PSD motorcade, especially one that utilizes a low-profile configuration, runs the risk of being mistaken for insurgents and receiving fire from the military manning the checkpoint. 

As PSD teams and the military continue to work in close proximity to one another in Iraq, there will always be the risk of a blue on blue shooting. The odds of such an encounter increase dramatically at checkpoints. As a PSD team leader in Iraq, I drove through hundreds of military and Iraqi Police checkpoints. My team favored the low-profile motorcade (LPM). On our first advance from our safe house in Baghdad to the site prior to bringing in the clients from Jordan, our motorcade was brought to an abrupt halt on MSR Tampa after several warning shots were fired into the road in front of us by a Bradley fighting vehicle sitting on an overpass. Fortunately no one was hurt, and after establishing who we were and what we were doing on the highway, we continued on our way. The Specialist that we talked to, who seemed nearly as upset about the incident as we were, explained why they had shot the road in front of us. 
“We’re used to seeing you security boys in them big SUVs.” 

While we still encountered the occasional problem, we quickly developed a set of techniques that we used to lessen the risk involved when passing through a checkpoint. These techniques worked well for us in the environment in which we operated. I hope that some of you may find them useful for you as well. 

I use the terms high-profile motorcade (HPM) and LPM as very general terms to differentiate between two distinct and separate modes of transportation. The HPM is easy to spot. Depending on who the principal is, the motorcade might have military or police escorts. Police officers on motorcades may move ahead of the main body, blocking intersections. Depending on available resources, helicopter escorts may be utilized.
The HPM relies heavily on a show of force, heavy weapons, and armor to defeat potential threats. In contrast, the LPM relies more on stealth and its ability to blend into the environment. 

The LPM does not use obvious military, police, or security vehicles. On the surface, the motorcade’s vehicles look like every other car on the road. They are a blend of different makes and models. One of the primary advantages of using the LPM in a high-risk environment like Iraq, where many attacks are against targets of opportunity, is that by the time your adversary realizes what you are, you are already moving out of the kill zone. 

The LPM has its disadvantages, one of the biggest being when it travels on a military-controlled highway like MSR Tampa, or approaching a checkpoint. In these instances, the disguise is now working against the security agents, as they don’t really want to look like the other Iraqi (and potentially threatening) vehicles. When operating in a LPM, the real trick is to understand when to blend in, when to stand out, and how to achieve both goals. 

The majority of US military checkpoints that a motorcade encounters are at known locations. The soldiers manning the checkpoints often are assigned to that checkpoint for extended periods of times, and the longer they are there, the more comfortable they become in their jobs. They are generally less likely to open fire on a vehicle without justifiable cause. If they have the time, their attempts to stop a vehicle will escalate from hand and arm signals to warning shots fired in front of the car. If that fails to bring the vehicle to a stop, shots are fired into the engine compartment to disable the car. Only as a last resort, when they feel their lives to be in IMMINENT DANGER will the majority of US troops escalate to deadly force and fire shots into the passenger compartment. 

Having said that, the motorcade commander should approach each checkpoint EXTREMELY CAREFULLY, no matter how many times they have driven through that particular checkpoint. Remember, complacency kills. The checkpoint may have come under fire earlier in the day, causing the soldiers to be more anxious and therefore more likely to fire, or they may have intelligence indicating they are the target of a possible attack, causing them to operate at a heightened alert level. 

The soldiers you have encountered there every day for the past month may have been rotated off the checkpoint earlier that morning. Their replacements may be new to the environment, new to combat, not as well trained or disciplined, and may be more apt to open fire. 

Operating south of Baghdad, a good portion of one of our primary routes took us down Iraqi Highway One, which at the time was under US Military control, and had been designated as MSR Tampa. The first checkpoint we had to clear was located on the overpass at our onramp. The base of the onramp was a good 400 meters from the bunkers of the checkpoint. The onramp was clearly marked in both English and Arabic, warning people that the highway was available for coalition use only. The signs also stated that deadly force was authorized to prevent unauthorized or unknown persons from entering the highway. 

Rather than risk driving up the onramp in our low-profile vehicles unannounced and possibly drawing fire, as happened on one occasion, we would stop at the overpass, make verbal contact with the soldiers, identify ourselves, and once we had received permission to proceed, make our way to the onramp. 

Often the soldiers would tell us that they would radio ahead to the next checkpoint and inform them that we were on our way. This offer was extended to us as a professional courtesy, and could be helpful at the next checkpoint, but we never assumed (well once, but it didn’t go very well, and we never did it again), that they were able to do it. The radio may not have been working, or the Private who was listening to the radio may have forgotten to get word to the Specialist who will be soon pointing a large machine gun at you. Never take anything for granted. Always assume that the people with the large weapons have no idea who you are or that you have a right to be there. 

Approach every checkpoint slowly and under control. I carried a small pair of binoculars in the lead car to aid in seeing what was happening at the checkpoint as we approached. What is the posture of the men at the checkpoint? Do they appear relaxed? Are you establishing eye contact with them? Do they see the approaching motorcade? Are they pointing guns at you and waving at you to stop your vehicles? Look closely at each checkpoint well before you get there, as much information can be gained by both sides if you approach them carefully. 

Our LPM carried laminated American flags in each car. When we were traveling on un-secure roads, the flags remained tucked away in the sun visor. When we were traveling on “secure” roads (military controlled roads with access limited to coalition forces), the flags would be displayed in the front windshields of each car. We also carried large VS17 panels (bright orange colored cloth used by the military for marking drop zones) that we displayed on the dashboards. As we approached checkpoints, the flags would be moved to prominent positions, such as outside the window, where they could be plainly seen. 

Most permanent checkpoints have a well displayed sign indicating where you are to stop. This point is generally a good distance from the main bunkers of the checkpoint. Once you have stopped, final directions are given by the soldiers via hand and arm signals. Be patient, as you may have one soldier waving you forward and another soldier telling you to stop. Always error on the side of caution, and stay put until you are satisfied that moving your vehicles forward will not make the man with the 50 caliber machine gun in front of you nervous. Occasionally, they may indicate that one member of the detail is to step out of the vehicle and approach on foot. If this is the case, make sure that you leave your rifle in the vehicle. Open your door slowly, step well away from the car with your hands out away from your body. I would normally do a slow 360 degree turn to let them get a good look at me. Often, the moment you step out of the car, you can clearly be identified as a Westerner, and the soldiers will indicate for you to return to your car and move towards them. 

Communications between the lead vehicle and other cars of the motorcade are vital. Everyone needs to know when to stop and when to move forward. If you are getting out of the vehicle to approach the checkpoint on foot, let the team know. Communications within the vehicles are important as well. A checkpoint is not a place to let down your guard and get too comfortable. Even after you have identified yourselves to the military’s satisfaction, there may be a delay clearing the checkpoint as you wait for the vehicles in front to move through. One checkpoint on MSR Tampa has been established where insurgents destroyed the bridge last spring. The military has placed a temporary bridge over the canal, but one bridge services both north and south bound traffic, so delays of up to a half hour or more are common, as the massive re-supply convoys move in and out of Baghdad. 

Sitting still at a checkpoint makes you a good target, so maintain a comfortable orange on your alert level scale. Make sure that you have a plan on what you will do if the checkpoint comes under attack while you are in it. 

Reports in the newspaper indicate that Calipari’s vehicle was approaching the checkpoint at night. If at all possible, clear the checkpoints during daylight hours, so that the soldiers can clearly see you and you can clearly see their directions. If you must pass through a checkpoint during hours of darkness or limited visibility, ensure that you slow down even more than usual. Turning on the hazard lights of the lead vehicle, dimming your headlights, turning on the interior dome light of the lead vehicle, and using a flashlight to illuminate your marking panels and flags makes it easier for the guys at the checkpoints to see who and what you are. 

When you pass through the checkpoints, remember to be a professional. Even if you have had a bad day, which just got worse because a soldier is pointing his weapon at you, remember that they are having a rough day too. Verbally abusing the soldiers who are just doing their jobs does no good and not only reflects badly on you as an individual, but the close protection industry as a whole. Our soldiers are doing a tough job in a tough environment, and they are trying to keep themselves and their buddies alive while they do it. 

Author: Assemble on Us
Posted: June 12, 2013, 12:45 pm

Survival Lessons of the Rattlesnake
Charlie Sellens
Last Reviewed April 9, 2013

The following story is, unfortunately, true.

Growing up on a Kansas wheat farm was, looking back on it, not a bad way to get a start in life.  It really didn’t matter that my town friends got to spend the summer playing baseball, swimming in the municipal pool, and getting tasty ice cream treats at the Dairy Queen while my brother Jason and I worked the farm.  Without even knowing it, I was learning valuable survival, tactical, and life skills that continue to serve me well to this very day.

We learned to appreciate the rewards of a day of mind-numbing boredom called work.  We also learned to be self reliant.  The isolation of the vast, wind-swept prairie, which is an old Native American word that means middle of nowhere, teaches one to use their imagination, like imagining running away to California.  The farm and surrounding flatlands also offered nearly limitless opportunities for exploration and adventure.  Mostly we explored ways to escape the farm so we could have adventures.

Our time on the farm was marked by long periods of boredom punctuated by moments of extreme excitement and terror, which we called rattlesnake killing.  I don’t recall ever outfitting ourselves with supplies and setting out on an organized rattlesnake safari, but I do remember trying to organize an expedition once. One of my earliest efforts to organize, equip, and lead a patrol didn’t get very far when Jason refused to carry around month’s worth of food, water, and comic books in the 110 degree heat.  This was not the last time that one of my grand schemes came to an abrupt end because of his refusal to carry out my orders.  

For those readers who were spared the agony of growing up on a farm in Kansas, and may be ignorant in the ways of rattlesnake killing, I thought a few brief descriptions of the roles, responsibilities, and equipment would be helpful.  Of course, one of the most important ingredients of any good rattlesnake killing is to find a rattlesnake.

RATTLESNAKE:  (Crotalus viridis)  The Prairie rattlesnake generally has a chunky body, wide head, and rattles made of keratin at the end of its tail that is usually, but not always, sounded as a warning.  They range in length from 18 inches to seven feet.  They have two hollow fangs that fold back against the roof of their mouth when not in use.  Venom is stored in glands attached to the fangs, and injected into its prey or possibly some idiot kid trying to smash it with a stick or something.  I have heard newbies describe rattlesnakes as being as big around as a firehose, with heads as wide as a dinner plate, and fangs the size of railroad spikes that can inject venom into concrete.  This type of gibberish is to be dismissed as the ramblings of a tenderfoot who has not faced the rattlesnake with the cool, calm, steady nerve that Jason and I displayed.   

WEAPON:  Since rattlesnake killing was not an organized type of deal, but rather a spontaneous fight to the death, there was no specific weapon of choice.  Improvisation was a necessary trait for any rattlesnake killer worth his salt.  Large sticks were my personal preference, but in a pinch, almost anything could be used.  I remember on one occasion, in what seems now to be a poor display of sportsmanship, defending myself with a 1979 Ford Thunderbird.  Certainly an adequate weapon, even though it had a tendency to pull to the left a bit.  

But I digress.  If given a choice, I always liked a stick long enough to avoid overextending my reach and falling onto the snake.  Fifteen feet or so would be about right, but most of the time I had to make do with a much shorter stick, as Kansas has a shortage of long tree branches just lying around.  The stick should also be sturdy enough to withstand repeated impacts with the ground or Jason’s head, as I tended to get a little wild during my rattlesnake killing, and self-control really wasn’t my thing.  Usually when I was fighting a rattlesnake there was a lot of hissing, venom flying, and rattling going on.  The snake would generally do those things too.
DOG:  A good snake dog was a real asset in a close quarter battle with a rattlesnake.  A good snake dog circles the snake, barking and racing in with teeth barred to distract the snake, allowing the snake fighter to flail away furiously.  Not to brag, but I sometimes scored as many as two direct hits on the snake for every 134 flails.  

But I digress.  Anyway, that’s what a good snake dog is handy for.  Our dog, however, had once been bitten in the face by a rattlesnake, and her head swelled to the size of a basketball.  She came out of it alright, but she was never really keen on fighting rattlesnakes after that.  Her main contribution was to maintain a healthy distance from the snake, about the length of a football field or so, and bark like she was getting ready to mount a charge.  To this day, Jason believes that it was not actually a snakebite that caused her head to swell.  He thinks that I whacked her in the head during a flail.  In any case, her barking helped to fuel the fury we unleashed on the snake.  After being cooped up on the farm for months at a time, we had a lot of fury to unleash.

DAD:  Our dad pretty much served in the same capacity as the dog.  When present, he circled the combatants at a healthy distance, probably not so much because of the snake, but because he feared that having killed the snake, we might still be looking for another outlet for our fury.  By keeping a healthy distance away, he always had a good head start in case he had to make a run for it.  As a side benefit, he was also in a good position to take one of us to the hospital if the snake killing didn’t go according to plan.  This was actually a really good idea, as all my flailing would have made killing a garden hose a dangerous proposition.

But I digress.  As it turned out, neither the dog nor dad, however useful they may have been, were essential to killing a rattlesnake.  Neither were present during what would turn out to be our most memorable snake killing.  Jason and I were out picking up bales of mowed grass one fine August day, when we encountered the largest rattlesnake I ever saw in person.  
If you have never had the pleasure, and by pleasure I mean back-breaking, hot, sweaty work, of picking up bales, allow me to give you an idea of how it works.  These weren’t the large, round bales that are pretty much the standard now.  Those are so large that you need hydraulic lifts on a tractor or pickup truck to pick them up and move them.  Our bales were smaller, but almost as heavy, and you picked them up by hand, stacked them on the back of a trailer, and then moved them to the barn or wherever you were storing them.

Rattlesnakes generally don’t like to move around in the heat of the day, preferring to hunt at night when it’s cooler, so they like to find a nice, dark spot to spend the day, snoozing and waiting for their chance to grab a bite to eat a little later.  One of the spots they like to rest is underneath a bale, which means that there is a technique to picking a bale up.  If you simply reach down and pick the bale straight up, you risk exposing your legs to the snake’s fangs, which in case you have forgotten are connected to large sacks of venom.  Not good.  

The trick is to lean over and grab the twine on the far side of the bale, then pull the bale towards you, keeping it between your legs and the possibility of getting bitten by a rattlesnake.  That’s an important little trick to remember.  Of the thousands of bales I checked and moved, there was never a rattlesnake underneath.  Except once.  On this one occasion, when I pulled the bale towards, me, leaned over and checked underneath, not really expecting to see anything, I came face to face with a very large, very upset Prairie rattlesnake.  

He squinted at me with cold, black eyes.  His forked tongue flicked out to test the wind for the smell of my fear.  His rattles made a dry, scrapping sound, like a six-shooter clearing leather on a dusty street in Dodge City.  I’m pretty sure he sneered at me with barely disguised contempt.  With a calm that showed the ice water in my veins I dropped the bale and spoke softly to Jason.  “Brother,” I said, slow and easy, in my best gunfighter voice, “There’s a rattlesnake under this bale.”

What Jason would later claim he heard was a high-pitched sort of squeal that sounded something like “RRRRATTTTLLLLLEEEESSSSNAKKKKKEEEE!”  In my defense, the two or three miles that now separated us would have made it difficult for him to understand exactly what I said and how I said it.  Jason has always been quick on the uptake, able to grasp subtle clues in a given situation, so from our tactically sound position in the next county we came up with our battle plan.

We were in the middle of a large grass field.  There were no flailing sticks to be found but there was a large toolbox in the back of the pickup, full of impact throwing weapons like wrenches, pliers, and hammers.  We started our assault on the snake, throwing every tool we had with great determination and zeal.  Unfortunately, we did not throw them with great aim.  We had thrown everything we had, and had not inflicted any real damage to the snake.

The situation was now grim.  The snake was in possession of every weapon on the battlefield.  It had enough tools around it to build a tank.  We briefly considered the idea of abandoning the field of battle and leaving the snake the tools, spoils of war.  “Where are all my tools?” My dad would ask.  “Tools, what tools?” I would say, looking mystified.  

We eyed the snake warily.  It glared at us evilly. Rattlesnakes really have only one look, the evil glare.  Any good tactical commander understands the importance of remaining flexible and the ability to improvise, so we adapted to the current tactical situation and started looking for other possible weapons.

A reconnaissance of the area turned up an old discarded role of barbed wire, left behind who knows how many years before when someone had taken down a fence, leaving the wire propped against a stone post.  Holding the wire in front of me like a shield, I advanced cautiously on the snake, and then, screaming my battle cry, I charged.

My snake battles were like being in a pirate fight, without as many rules.  Having come alongside a crippled ship and pulled her close with their grappling hooks, the pirates would swarm aboard.  In the sprawling, bloody chaos that followed, no quarter was expected and none given.  Hack, slash, and slay.  The bloodlust upon them, it was easy to confuse friend with foe.  I continued to shout and flail with my barbed weapon, beating the ground and occasionally the snake.  Jason circled, waiting for an opportunity to administer the death blow, or a tourniquet should I happen to impale myself with barbed wire. 

The snake continued to coil and strike.  Coil and strike.  And then, as if by some act of magic, the snake simply disappeared.  It took a moment to realize that the snake was not a mutant teleporter, but that the barbs of the wire and caught the snake and as I had  jerked the wire back to flail again, the snake had been launched into the air.  Which meant that at that moment, there was a rattlesnake as big around as a firehose, with a head as wide as a dinner plate, and fangs the size of railroad spikes that could inject venom into concrete whizzing around somewhere over our heads.

A concept that has gained much popularity in recent years in tactical circles is Colonel John Boyd’s OODA loop.  The OODA loop is not a breakfast cereal, as one might imagine.  It is a decision making process, based on Observation, Orientation, Decision, and Action, that, if applied properly, allows you to outthink your opponent and gain a tactical advantage.

In the case of a just wounded enough to be incredibly upset rattlesnake twirling through the air somewhere overhead, the OODA loop process would look something like this.  Observation:  I observe that the snake is no longer on the ground in front of me.  Orientation:  The snake has now gained the tactical advantage of the high ground overhead.  Decision:  I need to create space and distance between myself and the threat.  Action:  Communicate with teammates and run like hell.

“Brother,” I remember yelling, “Run.”  Jason would later claim what he heard was, “WHHHHAAAAAGUURRGGLEE”  Years after this incident, I spent quite a bit of time in Iraq, working as a team leader for a Protective Services Detail (PSD).  On occasion, our compound was the target of insurgent mortar fire.  I don’t know how that feels for other folks, but for me, there was always this weird clinching and fluttering of the stomach muscles, and a hunching, tightening of the shoulders as my head tucked down between them, waiting to see where the next round would impact.

Whenever that would happen, it always reminded me of that day in a Kansas pasture.  On that day, I added another technique to my bag of snake fighting tricks.  I called it the run and madly wave your arms over your head while shrugging your head down between your shoulders so far that you are looking out a buttonhole in your shirt technique.  A highly specialized technique for sure, and one that you might only need once in a lifetime, but still good to know.  I still practice it from time to time.

As with any tactical situation, luck generally plays a role, and luck was with us that day.  The snake didn’t land on our heads, and when it did return to earth, it was far enough away from the pile of tools that we were able to retrieve them and continue our aerial bombardment.  Jason finally dispatched the snake with a well placed crescent wrench.

After the din and chaos of battle has faded away, the silence that replaces it can be almost deafening.  We gazed at the carnage, each of us lost in our own private thoughts.  Quietly we began to gather the tools.  My mouth was dry, and I remember being tired.  Very tired.  I also remember thinking that maybe, just maybe, a 1979 Ford Thunderbird wasn’t so unsporting after all.


Author: Assemble on Us
Posted: April 9, 2013, 2:19 pm

Edinburgh Risk and Security Management
Route Irish Ambush Case Study
Charles Sellens
Last Reviewed:  February 7, 2013

Charlie at the Baghdad International Airport in a Low-Profile BMW
April, 2004
This blog and our three Assemble on Us videos, available on YouTube at:

are my attempt to reconstruct, diagram, explain, and learn from the linear ambush initiated against a Private Security Detail (PSD) working for Edinburgh Risk and Security Management (ERSM) and operating on Route Irish in Baghdad, Iraq, on April 20, 2005 in what is known as a low-profile motorcade.  

I have never worked for ERSM, and I was not in a car in that kill zone.  Three of the eight men who were, died in the ambush, and of the remaining five, only one (the driver of the lead vehicle) wrote an After Action Report (AAR) that is widely available through open sources.  Also available for study is the official ERSM AAR.  I have used these two sources, along with video footage of the ambush taken from a camera mounted on the dashboard of the third and final vehicle in the motorcade as the basis of my case study.  These AARs and video footage, along with several other documents related to the incident may be found at:

You can find the recently released extended version of the ambush video, with much of the audio transcribed, at:

I have also used my personal knowledge and expertise in using low-profile PSD motorcades in and around Baghdad.  From March of 2004 to February of 2005, I was a member of and team leader for a PSD team that utilized low-profile tactics and vehicles during  travel.  My team and I wrote our low-profile motorcade Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), and I led hundreds of low-profile motorcades throughout southern Iraq and along Route Irish.

There have been many criticisms and accusations as a result of the attack.  There has been finger-pointing, attempts to shift blame, talk of cowards, and lawsuits.  Everyone has their own opinion about what took place in that kill zone, but at the end of the day what really matters to me is that three guys died there, and if we don’t do everything we can to learn from what happened, we are doing them, our teammates, and ourselves a huge disservice.

April 19, 2005
Team Briefing I
The Green Zone, Baghdad, Iraq

On the evening of April 19, 2005, eight members of Operation Apollo (an operation designed to support the Independent Election Commission of Iraq) were assigned the task of driving from the Green Zone to the Baghdad International Airport (BIAP) the following day to pick up several colleagues returning from leave.  The journey would take them along a major  highway approximately 12 kilometers long designated by the military as Route Irish.  This highway served as the only direct road from the Green Zone to the BIAP, and at that time there was no more dangerous stretch of road in the entire world.  Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Devices (VBIEDs), Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), and small arms attacks were almost daily occurrences along the road.   

The eight men conducted a team briefing on the night of April 19th.  During the briefing, the team discussed ways to mitigate the threat of  VBIEDs and IEDs along Route Irish.  The company’s official AAR mentions the team was in the process of applying new SOPs and operational methods to mitigate the threat, but my research has not turned up any copies of these SOPs for study.

The team was also concerned with the possibility of blue on blue incidents.  Blue on blue is a term used to describe friendly forces mistakenly shooting at one other.  Given that the team was operating in low-profile vehicles, whose purpose was to blend in with the surrounding local traffic, worries about possible blue on blue shootings were valid concerns.  The team “...stressed the need to be prepared to identify themselves as required so as to avoid blue on blue.” (ERSM AAR)  

No further mention is made of how the team would go about identifying themselves to coalition forces.  There is also no mention of the team discussing possible reactions in the event of a small arms ambush.  The team reviewed video footage of Route Irish taken during previous motorcade operations, to identify choke points (an area the motorcade is forced to travel through) danger areas, (areas along the route that pose a particular risk), and likely ambush sites.

Using video cameras to record the routes was a good idea.  In addition to the reasons listed above, the footage can also be used as a navigation training tool.  My team used a lot of dirt roads in the middle of the desert, often driving along the sides of canals and through farmers‘ fields in order to avoid detection and lessen the chances of encountering an IED or ambush.  None of these “roads” were marked, and learning the routes was a matter of trial and error.  Once a new route had been established, the video footage was used to refresh our memories before a trip and to train new personnel.  If we got hit in the middle of nowhere on the new guy’s first mission, at least he would have some idea of where he was and how to get to a safe haven.

This was one of the "roads" my team used to move around an area south of Baghdad affectionately known as
The Triangle of Death.

 April 20, 2005
Team Briefing II
The Green Zone, Baghdad, Iraq

According to both AARs, the entire team met again on the morning of April 20, from 1100-1130 to conduct one final briefing before departing for the airport.  The format of the brief was basically the same as the night before.  In addition to studying video footage of Route Irish, the drivers were verbally briefed on the route, actions on approaching danger areas and coalition forces, and call signs.

In his AAR, the driver of vehicle one makes the comment that, “We had our typical set of orders covering the aspects of the trip.  We have heard them so many times we can all most likely recite them while asleep.”  What he probably meant by this was that they considered themselves well-prepared and aware of the dangers.  They had driven this route before, knew what to expect, and had been properly briefed.

However, based on his choice of words, it is also possible that they had made the trip so many times without incident that they were beginning to treat it as routine.  This is a common problem that all established protective details must guard against.  The detail performs its job day after day, and no life or death situation happens.  It is human nature to relax after time, and the attitude may become, since nothing has gone wrong in the past six months, nothing is likely to go wrong today.  Training, rehearsals, and planning are the keys to preventing this sort of attitude.  A long-standing detail that neglects its training may in fact be slower to react then a brand-new team.  
  April 20, 2005
1130-1210 (Approximately)
Final Inspection, Departure, and Drive
The Green Zone/Route Irish, Baghdad, Iraq

At approximately 1130, the team left the Green Zone for the BIAP.  The motorcade consisted of three low-profile vehicles.  Vehicle one was a soft-skin (no armor) BMW sedan with manual transmission carrying three contractors.  The front seat passenger is listed as being the vehicle commander, and the rear gunner is listed as being the team medic.  Vehicle two was, according to the ERSM AAR, a B6 armored Mercedes sedan and contained two men, one of whom (the passenger) is listed as the mission’s second in command.  Vehicle three was a soft skin BMW sedan, carrying three men.  The front seat passenger of vehicle three is listed as the mission commander.

According to the driver of vehicle one, most of the detail carried Bushmaster M-4 or AR-15 rifles and Glock 19 handguns.  The rear gunner of vehicle one is also listed as carrying an M-249 Squad Automatic Weapon (SAW), as his primary weapon.  Drivers of vehicles two and three are listed as also carrying MP-5s, as is the mission commander.  The rear gunner of vehicle three was noted as having an RPK (larger version of the AK-47), and an M-249 SAW.  

These weapons are fairly typical of what a detail would be carrying in a low-profile motorcade.  The types of weapons used would largely depend on the security company's resources.  Our team used locally procured AK-47s, RPKs, and PKM belt-fed machine guns.   No mention is made of the amount of ammunition the team was carrying, but a typical personal ammunition load for one of my team's motorcades would have been a minimum of eight rifle magazines and three pistol magazines carried on the body, and extra magazines positioned inside the vehicle for quick access.  The idea being that if you were engaged in car to car contact with insurgents, or were using the vehicles to break contact, you first used the magazines inside the vehicle.  If you were forced to bail out, you still had numerous full magazines attached to you to continue the fight.  Theoretically.

AK-47 Magazines Laying on Dashboard of Low-Profile BMW

Charlie at the Range, Al Mussayib, Iraq
December, 2004
Driver one's AAR also states they were wearing a variety of local clothing and scarves over their tactical equipment in a further effort to blend into their environment.  Different teams had different SOPs regarding dressing in local clothing.  We experimented with it, and decided it wasn’t for us.    

 The motorcade left the protected Green Zone through checkpoint 12 and proceeded onto Route Irish.  The video camera in car three is on, and from this point on we can see, from one angle, with bits of dashboard decorations blocking part of the view, the events that take place next.  The camera also captures the audio from the interior of car three.  It's garbled in places and difficult to understand, but most of it comes through clear enough to give us some insight into what the occupants of three, specifically the motorcade commander, were thinking and doing inside the vehicle.   

As the motorcade works its way out of the Green Zone and onto the road, the mission commander, seated in the right front seat of the third car, can be heard issuing commands and danger area warnings to the motorcade.  This should also be a standard part of any high-risk motorcade, identifying potential threats and areas of concern and relaying the information to the rest of the motorcade.  In particular he is warning the motorcade about approaching overpasses and pedestrian bridges.  Insurgents armed with explosives and weapons liked to use these structures for quick attacks on motorcades passing underneath.  

There is a major disadvantage in the way that the ERSM motorcade was set up to issue these warnings however.  Several times during the drive, the motorcade commander can be heard announcing an approaching bridge after the lead vehicle has already passed underneath it.  In my opinion, a better method is to have the right front seat passenger of the lead vehicle announce approaching danger areas.  They are in a much better position to see what is happening in front of them than someone who is hundreds of meters further back.  Different teams have different SOPs, but as the motorcade commander and lead navigator, I always rode right front seat of the lead vehicle so that I had the clearest view of what was going on in front of us.    

The full length video shows the military responding to the IED incident that eventually causes the road to be closed. Humvees are seen moving onto the highway in front of the fast-moving motorcade, nearly causing a major collision between the first two motorcade cars and the military’s vehicles.  The drivers of one and two do a nice job of threshold breaking to a stop to avoid a collision.  Shortly after this, the motorcade commander fires a few warning shots from his rifle to “back off” (taken from the audio) a vehicle that was getting too close to the motorcade for his liking.  

It is at that moment that the low-profile motorcades’ biggest tactical advantage, camouflage, has been negated.  In order for a low-profile motorcade to offer maximum concealment, it must allow itself, as much as possible, to blend into and become part of the surrounding traffic.  There are of course times when the camouflage fails and someone notices the presence of the motorcade, but the motorcade should not intentionally do anything to draw attention to itself.  In my opinion, any motorcade should also avoid unnecessarily agitating the local population.

Imagine for a moment that the situation was reversed, and armed groups of Iraqi contractors were driving down our highways, firing warning shots or disabling our vehicles by shooting into the engine compartment.  My guess is that you probably wouldn’t think too much of the notion.  You might even be tempted to shoot back, or call some friends with guns and have them come and shoot back.  

Several times during the drive, the lead vehicle also makes several semi-aggressive moves to clear traffic lanes or block vehicles momentarily from entering onto the highway, allowing the other motorcade vehicles to maintain their intervals and spacing, without any civilian traffic become mixed into the motorcade.  While these moves are tactically sound for a high-profile motorcade, I don’t believe they should be overtly used while operating in a low-profile configuration.  

As the motorcade is attempting to blend into traffic, there are times when non-motorcade vehicles may merge between motorcade vehicles.  As long as lines of sight and radio communications are maintained, this is not anything to get too concerned with.  If the motorcade feels the need to tighten back up, reassembling is a simple as passing a few cars or gently screening the unwanted cars out.

By the time the motorcade reaches the last overpass before arriving at the main entrance and checkpoint to the BIAP, the military has established its roadblock and closed the highway to deal with the aftermath of the IED explosion.  Located adjacent to BIAPs' entrance checkpoint was Camp Victory, a large military installation.  The team estimated that the road block was 300-400 meters to their front, which would have put it very close to the checkpoint.  In his AAR, the driver of vehicle one notes that, “There was also 2-3 Humvees with at least one of them pointing a .50 caliber heavy machine gun, which I knew would go through an armored car, in our direction to make sure no vehicles got close.  Since we had made a conscious decision to drive cars that looked like the locals and dress like the locals I hesitated to get closer than 200-300 yards.”

This picture was taken on MSR Tampa, but it is basically what the motorcade would have seen on the highway in front of them.

This was a justifiable concern on the part of the motorcade.  Since the whole concept is to look like civilian traffic, one of the constant dangers of traveling low-profile is having the military or another PSD team mistake you for a group of insurgents and shoot at you.  Again, the official ERSM AAR mentions the team discussing preparations to identify themselves in order to avoid a blue on blue shooting, but no mention is made of how they were prepared to do that, so I can only speak to the preparations that my team made.

Each vehicle carried a small laminated American flag tucked away under the right front passenger seat sun visor.  In my lead vehicle, I also had a large American flag and orange VS-17 marking panel for identification at distance if needed.  When we were traveling among the civilian population, these markers stayed hidden, but when we were approaching checkpoints or traveling on strictly controlled military highways, like MSR (Main Supply Route) Tampa, the small laminated flags would be propped up in the windshield of each car.  These markers, plus a slow and cautious approach to any checkpoint or roadblock, kept us from having any blue on blue incidents. 

Laminated Flag under Sun Visor

Laminated flag displayed in low-profile motorcade moving through the Green Zone.

The video shows that for approximately the next half an hour, and 40 minutes or so after firing the first warning shots and alerting the surrounding traffic to their presence, the motorcade, with the exception of a few minor adjustments as they pull further up the road to increase distance between themselves and the rest of the stopped traffic, remains virtually static.  The rear vehicle continues to periodically fire warning shots.  Concerned with maintaining separation from the rest of traffic, yet hesitant to approach the military roadblock, the motorcade lingers in no-mans land.
At this point, they have several options.  They could put out any identification markers they had and slowly approach the roadblock.  Hands could have been put outside the windows to show friendly intent, and if needed, the passenger of the lead vehicle could have dismounted with arms raised to let the military see a friendly Western contractor wanting to get through and not some sneaky insurgent trying to blow them up.

They could have turned around and headed back to try again at a later time.  Their teammates at the airport would have been stuck there for awhile, but as travel in Iraq was chaotic at the best of times, this would not have been an uncommon occurrence.  The incoming personnel were perfectly safe at the airport until they were picked up, or they may have been able to hitch a ride into the Green Zone with another PSD team.

Their last option, and the one they chose, was to remain in place.  In fact, they remained static for so long that the driver of vehicle one, his “calf beginning to ache”, put the manual transmission vehicle in neutral and set the emergency break.  Anyone who has set in a traffic jam for an extended period depressing the clutch of a manual transmission can probably relate to the discomfort, and understand the idea of putting the car into neutral and moving the foot.  The trick is remembering that you have done so when it’s time to go.  The driver of vehicle one didn’t remember, and according to his AAR, he “...would end up regretting that decision.”   

As an experiment, the last time I drove across town, I put the car into park each time I came to a stop at a red light.  Out of the seven or eight lights that I had to wait at, I forgot that I had put the gear selector into park twice, remembering that I had done so only after pushing on the accelerator and hearing the engine rev.  

Even if the driver does remember that the transmission is not in gear, it still takes more time to depress the clutch, release the emergency break, shift into gear, and accelerate.  When your car is being destroyed around you by incoming automatic weapon fire, you don’t want to take any more time in your response than you absolutely have to.  The security driver has one overriding responsibility, the operation of the vehicle.  If the driver’s leg was cramping, shifting into neutral momentarily, lifting the foot off the clutch, shaking out the cramp, reapplying the clutch and immediately shifting the car back into drive, never letting the right hand off of the gear shift would be a better way to solve the problem.

At some point just before the ambush is initiated, the driver’s AAR states that the two men with him in vehicle one “..saw a large white SUV with black tinted windows rolling slowly down the frontage road [this frontage road was approximately 75-100 meters to their right] heading the same direction we were pointing.  They apparently drove a short distance and whipped into an intersection, did a u-turn, and stopped momentarily pointing their vehicle in our direction.” 

His AAR goes on to state that the rear gunner of his vehicle did not consider the SUV to be a threat, and apparently no one else in the motorcade did either because no mention of it is made over the radio.  This is fairly surprising to me, as an SUV traveling on its own on a side road just off the most dangerous strip of highway in the world should have set off alarm bells.

At that time, no one was driving SUVs in Iraq except PSD teams and certain military motorcades.  SUVs were extremely rare in the country before the invasion, so only a handful of Iraqis in the entire country owned them, and no Iraqi in their right mind would venture out too far from home in one for fear of being mistaken for a PSD vehicle and ambushed.  During the time I spent in Iraq, reports of SUVs stolen by insurgents and used in subsequent attacks were common.  In the summer of 2004, an entire shipment of SUVs being brought into the country was hijacked and disappeared.

No sane PSD would be driving around in a lone SUV either.  There is safety in numbers, and at a minimum there should have been at least three SUVs traveling together.  It is my belief that this SUV had been hidden somewhere close by.  Alerted to the presence of the motorcade, the insurgents quickly moved into position, triggered their ambush, and scurried back to their hiding spot before being mistaken for a PSD team and ambushed themselves.  

  April 20, 2005
Approximately 1210
Route Irish, Baghdad, Iraq

The driver of vehicle one states that when he heard the initial burst of gunfire, he believed it is was another of vehicle three’s warning bursts.  It was only when he felt rounds begin to impact his vehicle and heard them passing through the interior of the car did he realize they were under attack.

At that moment he tried to use the other big tactical advantage of low-profile motorcades, available speed.  He hit the accelerator, and the engine raced, but the car didn’t, because it was in neutral with the emergency break set.  Under the enormous stress of the attack,  he forgot that he himself had put the car in that condition, and believing that it had been disabled by gunfire, opened his door and bailed out.

 Using a whiteboard, dry-erase markers, and magnetic cars I do my best to explain the actions that took place next on our Assemble on Us YouTube program, so I will not give a detailed account here.  If you haven’t seen it yet, or would like to refresh your memory, you can check it out at:

From this point on there are numerous inconsistencies between the two existing AARs and the video footage.  So many in fact, that this case study would be twice as long if I tried to explain them all.   Instead I will focus on only a few of the more obvious inconsistencies and important lessons to be learned from the attack.  

The official AAR states that the insurgents were located in the SUV and that as many as two PKM belt-fed machine guns were used to strafe the motorcade.  It also states that at the moment of attack the motorcade was spread out over 300 meters and concluded that only a “very proficient enemy operator” could have achieved such accurate and devastating fire.  I spent over two years as a member of an Army Ranger machine gun team, first as an assistant gunner and then as a gunner.  I received the Army Achievement and Commendation Medals for my ability to perforate things at great distances with hundreds of rounds of 7.62, and there is no doubt in my mind that the gunner or gunners in this ambush were proficient.  In their initial volley, they hit all three vehicles, killed one driver almost instantly, and wounded three other men, two critically.    

PKM Belt-fed Machine Gun (Left)
There is also little doubt in my mind that a less proficient gunner would also have stood a fair chance of success, as the vehicles are bunched much more closely together than the official AAR indicates.  My best guess, based on the video footage, is that the three cars are no more than 20 or 30 meters apart from each other, giving them a much bigger target profile and making them easier to hit.

The key to firing a machine gun with that type of accuracy from the initial burst is the set-up of the weapon.  Firing a belt-fed machine gun is not the same as firing a rifle.  The machine gun is much heavier, longer, and more awkward to maneuver, especially within the confines of an SUV.  The gunner would want to be in the most stable firing platform possible, ideally laying prone behind the weapon with the bipod legs extended.  From this configuration, either a side door or the rear hatch of the SUV would need to be open so the gunner could fire the weapon.  At a minimum, the gunner would stick the weapon out a window and rest it on the door frame, using this as the pivot point to swivel the weapon side to side.  

However the insurgents deployed them, setting this up would have required some movement and activity on their part, which raises the question of why no one in the motorcade noticed this.  In his AAR, driver one discusses briefly the sectors of responsibility that each man in the motorcade is responsible for.  He finds fault with one contractor, the mission commander seated in the right front seat of vehicle three, for failing to watch his assigned sector and notice the threat.  

When traveling in a security motorcade, every member of the team has an assigned sector of responsibility.  The picture below shows a rough sketch of what the motorcade looked like when the ambush was initiated, and the sectors of responsibility that each man would have had at that time.  An important concept of sectors of responsibility is that they overlap, so that there are no gaps in coverage, or blind spots.  You can see that based on the positions of the vehicles, Right Front 1, Rear Gunner 1, Right Front 2, and Right Front 3 all had the SUV either directly in or right next to their sectors .  The diagram is not to scale, and I had to estimate the location of the SUV, but it is my professional opinion that the presence of an SUV deploying belt-fed machine guns no more than 100 meters to their direct right, across an open field, in daylight, should have been noticed.

Sectors of Responsibility while Static.

 The official AAR also states that when the firing started, the team attempted to drive out of the kill zone, but due to a combination of driver error (vehicle one) and mechanical failure (vehicles two and three), they were unable to do so.  While driver error was certainly the cause of vehicle one’s failure to move, mechanical failure doesn’t seem to be a factor in the cases of two and three.  

The viewer can clearly see vehicle two move on two separate occasions during the ambush.  It was badly damaged, and it was leaking fluids heavily, but it was still operable.  In his AAR, driver one reports that vehicles one and three were able to complete the drive to Camp Victory, while vehicle two, now completely drained of fluids, was unable to complete the trip and was abandoned on the side of the road. 

With his driver slumped lifeless behind the steering wheel, and rounds still impacting the vehicle, the mission commander dismounted vehicle three and took a position of cover behind it.  Another option available to him at that point would have been to take control of the vehicle from the passenger seat and attempt to drive it out of the kill zone.

It is important to note here that the driver of vehicle three, who was killed almost instantly, was still behind the wheel when the ambush was over and the team was consolidating its forces. Driver one states that when they moved the body, the driver’s foot was lifted from the break pedal and the vehicle began to move, nearly hitting the wounded contractor laying next to it.  The vehicle was in drive and capable of moving, only the pressure from the dead driver's foot kept it from doing so. 

Driving from the right front seat is a technique that must be trained on when operating in a motorcade.  If there is no center console between the passenger and driver, it is relatively simple to do.  The passenger simply slides towards the driver, knocks the driver’s hands and feet away from the controls, and uses his left foot to work the pedals.

If there is a center console, the passenger may still be able to straddle it like a saddle.  If not, the passenger may be able to reach over and work the pedals with the left hand while steering with the right.  I once had the honor of teaching an evasive driving course to a platoon of Force Recon Marines, and they showed me a neat trick they had developed to get around the huge center consoles of most military vehicles.  In their system, a passenger in the back seat of the vehicle used a prepositioned pole to work the pedals, while the front seat passenger steered.  There is always a way to perform this maneuver, but like anything else, it needs to be thought out ahead of time, practiced, and trained on so that under stress it can be performed smoothly and with little wasted effort.

There have been many criticisms and even charges of cowardice leveled against the driver of vehicle one for pulling back from his vehicle, crossing the road and taking up a position in the ditch.  Certainly he made a tactical error by putting the car in neutral, and then he compounded it by forgetting he had done so and bailing out of the car, but once the occupants were out, pulling back to a more defensible position makes sense tactically.

Stopped motorcade vehicles are commonly known as “bullet sponges” or “bullet magnets”.  The number one priority after exiting a vehicle under fire is normally to move away from that vehicle as quickly as the tactical situation allows, especially if it is a soft-skinned vehicle.  They don’t provide much in the way of cover, and the threat is fixated on the vehicle, so moving away from it makes good sense.

Vehicle Bail-out and Extraction Training
Al Mussayib, Iraq
September, 2004

The problem here though, was that driver of vehicle one is the only one who pulled back while the rest of the team remains behind the vehicles.  His AAR states that, “I felt Mark [rear gunner of vehicle one] coming out of the rear door so I began the next phase of our SOP which is getting away from the car...because people tend to shoot at cars and rifles easily penetrate them".  Again, here is where prior training, planning, and preparation pays off.  I don’t know how much time this team had together in training, but from my own experience I know that it takes a tremendous amount of time and effort to become proficient at any immediate action drill.  Each man in the team must know the plan and be well rehearsed in it, so that they require minimal guidance and communication from the motorcade commander to execute it.

According to the reports, the motorcade commander was unable to provide this much needed guidance and instruction during the ambush as he was busy during much of the attack rendering aid to the two gravely wounded occupants of his vehicle.  Concern for the welfare of your friends and teammates is admirable, but the cold hard reality is that at this point in the fight, treatment of casualties should not be the priority of anyone on the team except the casualty himself, and especially not the team leader.

The Tactical Combat Casualty Care (TCCC) Basic Management Plan for Care Under Fire recommends the following steps for rendering medical aid while still actively engaged in the fight.
  1. Return fire and take cover.
  2. Direct or expect the casualty to remain engaged as a combatant if appropriate.
  3. Direct casualty to move to cover and apply self-aid if able.
  4. Try to keep the casualty from sustaining additional wounds.
  5. Airway management is generally best deferred until the Tactical Field Care phase.
  6. Stop any life-threatening external hemorrhage if tactically feasible (italics are mine).
Finally, in the lessons learned section of the ERSM AAR, the company notes, among other things, that if “...enemy forces initiate fire it is imperative that the team under fire first establish fire superiority prior to breaking contact.  You can not maneuver until you have established an aggressive base of fire.”  I want to point out that these statements are only true some of the time, based on the tactical situation.  At other times, like when you are behind the wheel of a high-powered German automobile with a virtually empty three lane highway directly in front of and behind your motorcade, establishing fire superiority by laying down an aggressive base of fire is not priority one.  A rapid and continuous application of gas and steering inputs should be priority one for the drivers, while the rest of the team attempts to cover the evacuation with return fire.
  After contact is broken and the insurgents have moved out of the area, the team begins its consolidation phase.  The AARs contain much more detail about their actions at this point, but basically they establish contact with the military and another PSD team that was driving by, and get their wounded, dead, and equipment into vehicles and move out to Camp Victory.  During his efforts to render aid to his wounded rear gunner, the motorcade commander knocks over the video camera, so all the viewer hears from that point on is audio.

Although it has slowed down over the years, there has been much debate and heated accusations about the actions taken by the team in the kill zone.  While certainly there were mistakes made, the survivors of the initial burst of insurgent fire were able to dismount their vehicles and return fire.  They suffered no more serious injuries after the initial burst, so credit should be given to them for that.  Once the ambush had been initiated, the situation would have been loud, chaotic, terrifying, and rapidly changing.  There is a tremendous amount of information to process in an extremely short period of time.  Proper training, rehearsals, and mindset are the keys to performing an immediate action drill under fire smoothly and deliberately.

Even if a team is well-prepared, rehearsed, and trains everyday, things can and will still go terribly wrong.  As the Prussian military strategist and German Field Marshal Helmuth von Moltke noted, “No operation extends with any certainty beyond the first encounter with the main body of the enemy.”  Over the years, this quote has been condensed down to “No plan survives contact with the enemy”.  In other words, Murphy and his law will also be a large part of the fight.  SOPs and immediate action drills must be kept simple and easy to execute.  They must also provide for a high degree of flexibility and improvisation.

Finally, the best way by far to survive an ambush is to avoid it altogether.  If you ever find yourself in a similar situation, leave immediately.  If your sixth sense is tingling, listen to it.  If you choose to ride in a low-profile configuration, commit totally to the concept of camouflage and stick to it as long as you can.  If your camouflage fails and you are engaged, break contact immediately.  Keep the cars moving for as long as you can.  If you are forced to bail out, consolidate and move away from the cars as quickly as you can.  

We welcome any feedback or additional information you may have regarding not only this ambush, but any attacks, ambushes, or other tactics you may wish to discuss.  I can be reached at:

Good luck and stay safe.  Peace.


This case study is dedicated to the three men who died in the ambush. 

Steph Surette--Vehicle One Commander
Chris Ahmelmen--Vehicle Three Driver 
Jay Hunt--Vehicle Three Rear Gunner

Author: Assemble on Us
Posted: February 1, 2013, 3:45 pm

We have gotten quite a few questions recently regarding the fields of Corporate Executive Protection (EP) and High-Risk Private Security Details (PSD).  I will be attempting to answer some of those questions here over the next few weeks.

There are a lot of similarities between the two fields, but there are many differences as well, and the person that can provide quality services in both greatly expands their earning capability.  Some Independent Contractors (ICs) perform well in a more structured, suit and tie corporate environment, with (hopefully) better logistical support, but struggle in austere environments.

Others are quite at home riding in the back of an up-armored SUV covered in dust and holding a large automatic weapon.  At lot of these hard-chargers, however, lack the patience and subtlety that a corporate environment requires.  There is nothing wrong with specializing in one or the other, but as I said, if you can perform well in both environments, you drastically increase your earning potential as an IC.
I have been fortunate to work as a Detail Leader in both environments, and each has their ups and downs, pluses and minuses, annoyances and perks.  Basic training requirements for each field are about the same, with specialized training requirements needed for each environment.  In order to be considered for work, applicants must normally show that they have completed training at one or more Executive Protection Training Schools, as well as specialized training in evasive driving, firearms, unarmed self-defense, OC spray, batons, etc.

Backgrounds in military and law enforcement are always valuable, although not necessary.  Understand, however, that if you don’t have a background in one of these fields, finding work will not be impossible, but it will be more difficult, as you will be competing against people that do.  A college education in any area of study is a big plus, and if your degree is in some form of security or criminal justice, that certainly helps too.

At the end of the day, the mission of each job is the same.  Protect your client from death, harm, kidnapping, or embarrassment.  Many of the concepts of protection are the same, regardless of the environment they are performed in.  Threat assessments, intelligence gathering, advances, concentric rings of security, pattern avoidance, route surveys and analysis, are all important and need to be addressed, no matter the surroundings.
Dealing with stress, internal and external pressures, jet-lag, managing client relations, and remaining alert despite mind-dumbing boredom are also a big part of both fields.  

Generally, PSD work requires living overseas for extended periods in austere environments.  An IC may be required to spend anywhere from three to six months, and possibly longer, overseas.  I worked in Iraq from 2004 to 2005 as an IC, and we were on three month rotations.  After three months in, the IC goes on leave for three or four weeks, usually without pay, but not always, and then has the option to return overseas, depending on the contract and individual performance.

Providing corporate EP generally means that the IC is home more, although depending on the type of detail you are on, travel, both domestic and international, can be a big part of the job.  Again, depending on the type of detail you are working on, much of your time will be spent in a suit and tie, or at the least business casual.  Some details, especially those for Non Government Organizations (NGOs) require the IC to be able to move back and forth between the two quickly.  I have had days in Africa where we would be in a suit in the morning, change into field attire for an afternoon helicopter ride to a cattle village, then back to suits for a visit to the Presidential palace. 

Another reason that an IC may choose to specialize in one field or the other is personal preference.  I will certainly perform in a corporate environment, but if I have a choice I prefer the austere environments.  Maybe it’s from growing up on a farm, but I always think that when I’m done working for the day and I have been outside, getting dirty and seeing the sights, that I have truly put in a full-days work.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so here are two of me working in the Corporate EP and High-Risk PSD roles.  See if you can guess which is which.  The link on the bottom takes you to news footage shot in Beijing, China, where I have to remove a protestor from a press conference.

Iraqi Ministry of Electricity Compound
Baghdad, Iraq, January, 2005

This picture was taken in August of 2010, but I honestly can't remember where.
Jet-lag is super fun.
Author: Assemble on Us
Posted: January 14, 2013, 8:06 pm

Color Code Alert Levels

The color code alertness levels are designed to help overcome a person's initial fight, flight or freeze reaction to danger.  The system is comprised of between four and five colors, depending on which version you read.  I prefer the four color version for simplicity.  Why do it in five colors when I can get it done in four?


White is the lowest level on the scale.  Unfortunately, a lot of people spend a good deal of their lives in condition white.  In white, a person is not paying close attention to what is going on around them, and may miss many of the details of daily life.  Wandering around in condition white is a good way to wind up dead or horribly maimed.  At best you'll miss some pretty interesting stuff.   Condition white is for chilling out inside your home, secure behind your alarm system and moat. 
Condition Chill

                                                             CONDITION YELLOW

Condition yellow is a relaxed state of alertness.   In condition yellow, a person is relaxed and calm, but is aware of his surroundings. He notices details, but is not concentrating so hard that he tires quickly and is no longer effective.  Condition yellow is easy to maintain for an extended periods of time, like years, without tiring.  Whenever we are outside the secure perimeters of our homes, we should be in yellow.

Condition Cool

                                                              CONDITION ORANGE
Condition orange represents the third level.  A person goes from yellow to orange when she notices something out of place, threatening, or unusual.  A person in orange is paying close attention to what is causing the concern.  She is actively scanning her environment, searching for additional clues and information concerning the situation.  If the cause for concern turns out to be nothing, it is easy to return to yellow, and just as easy to escalate to condition red if needed.   

Condition I See You

                                                                    CONDITION RED

Condition red is a coiled spring, waiting to release its energy.  The situation has escalated, and all her energy, concentration, and focus are directly on the possible threat.  She is mentally and physically prepared to respond to an attack, should it develop.  She is scanning her sectors.  If no attack develops, she drops down into orange, and downgrades to yellow as she away from the danger area.  

Condition Crazy Eyes

Author: Assemble on Us
Posted: November 29, 2012, 11:48 am

The Crisis and Coping Periods

 An individual or group’s ability to properly deal with stress and severe hardship will mean the difference between life and death in a major survival situation.  Understanding the scope of the situation and accepting it as reality is called the crisis period, and along with the coping period are two of the most important mental stages that each survivor must go through.  

Many people will be unable to come to grips with the new reality and will not advance beyond the crisis period.  A lot of people will remain in denial for so long that by the time they decide to face reality, it will be too late.  Some will never come to grips with the situation, and will wither and die in a sate of denial.  A collapse of society is going to cause shock in a way that none of us are going to be fully prepared for.  This is a normal reaction to such a catastrophic event.  Each survivor will recover from the shock in their own way, but they will recover.  People who aren’t able to recover from the shock of the event won’t be among the survivors, they’ll be among the dead.

Accepting the reality of a situation does not mean giving in, abandoning hope, quitting, or losing the will to survive.  It simply means that you accept the current situation, regardless of how bad it may be, as the new normal, and you are prepared to confront that reality head-on.  Once the survivor does that, they have entered into the coping period.

  The coping period begins when the survivor embraces the new reality and prepares, mentally and physically, to triumph over adversity and hardship, to win and to live.  During the coping period, the survivor takes stock of the situation, identifies assets,  prioritizes tasks, plans, and works towards achieving the goal of survival.  In a traditional survival situation the coping period begins once the survivor confronts the situation and endures and ends when some form of rescue is achieved.  In a post-collapse survival situation, the coping period may well last for the rest of your life.  Whether the rest of your life lasts a few days for for years to come will depend largely on how well you are able to cope with the stress of a post-collapse world.

Author: Assemble on Us
Posted: November 27, 2012, 4:08 pm


Pain is usually the body’s way of letting you know that you have done something stupid.  Pain sucks, but pain, like lack of comfort, is not life threatening.  Pain’s primary purpose is to warn you that you need to protect and rest the injured bodily part.  Under normal circumstances, this would be good advice, but in survival mode, the pain message may have to be ignored so that the survivor can concentrate on more immediate needs, like suppressing hostile fire so you can pull back to a more defensible position.

Modern medical practice includes a heavy reliance on pain-killing medications.  In a survival situation, access to morphine or even aspirin will be limited, so the survivor must find alternative methods of dealing with pain.  Pain can be managed by:  understanding the source and nature of the pain, understanding that pain is not life-threatening, and focusing on mission critical tasks like camp security, food procurement, or water sanitation.  Pain may also be managed by treating wounds and injuries, so it's important to know the basics of wound management and emergency medicine.  


Stress, hunger, anxiety, depression, dehydration, and over-exertion will all contribute to the survivor’s fatigue.  Fatigue reduces physical and mental efficiency, and since working and thinking are important after a disaster, steps must be taken to avoid and remedy the effects of fatigue.

Group leadership must ensure that there is a proper rest plan in place.  Resting allows survivors to recover from fatigue and avoid future fatigue.  If the tactical situation permits, survivors should be allowed as much recovery time as they need in order to fully regain their strength.  Individuals will need different amounts of time to recover, based on age, fitness level, exertion levels, and health.  In any group, there will be people who try and do less than their share.  It will be important for group dynamics and harmony to closely monitor everyone’s workload and rest periods.  Favoritism when assigning a work detail or laziness on the part of an individual can fracture a group.

Instead of working until you are exhausted and then trying to recover, it is much better to take short rest breaks throughout the day.  For instance, if a work party is sent out to gather firewood, members of the work party can take turn providing a security overwatch for the group.  Standing guard allows the individual to take a break from the physical activity of hauling wood, while still providing a vital function for the group.  Short rests are valuable because they:
  1.          Give the individual a chance to partially recover from the effects of fatigue.
  2.         Lower energy use.
  3.         Increase efficiency.
  4.         Relieve boredom.
  5.         Increase morale and motivation.
The old adage, “Work smarter, not harder.” certainly applies in a survival situation.  Survivors must find the right pace for the energy being expended.  Trial and error and experience will show the survivor the right balance of pace and effort.  Slower, rhythmical movements expend less effort while accomplishing just a much as fast, jerky movements.  Remember to be economical in everything you do.


A healthy amount of fear is a good thing.  Fear, whether conscious (that guy has a gun and seems intent on shooting me with it) or subconscious, (I can’t explain why, but I have a really bad feeling about this) can be a great motivator.  Fear, when harnessed and channeled correctly, allows the survivor to remain sharp and alert, focused intently on the task at hand.  On the other hand, fear, if uncontrolled, can lead to a complete breakdown of the individual and if left unchecked, may spread to the group, causing a panic.  

The ability to control fear and use it to your advantage will be a critical component of long-term survival, because there are going to be a variety of things to be frightened of.  The survivor should come to terms with fear by trying to understand it better.  By admitting that fear exists and is a large part of the new normal, the survivor is in a better position to harness and make use of that fear instead of letting the fear control and paralyze.

In the post-collapse world, the survivor will need to be aware of the tendency (either in themselves or others) to completely blow danger signals out of proportion, turning a moderately dangerous situation into a full-blown, code red disaster of biblical proportions.  Conversely, some people may have a hard time recognizing real danger signals and will downplay or ignore the signals.  Either situation can have disastrous consequences for the survivor.  If the individual or group does not learn to understand, evaluate, and determine a best course of action based on the reality of fear instead of the fantasy, they will not be among the survivors for long.  You guessed it, they’ll be dead.  
Previous training and experience are two of the best ways to control fear.  Other methods of controlling fear include preparation, being informed, prioritizing and accomplishing tasks, setting and achieving goals, understanding your group dynamics, self-discipline, and effective leadership.
Author: Assemble on Us
Posted: November 26, 2012, 2:16 pm

After a major societal collapse, transportation will grind to a halt.  Population superclusters that rely heavily on imported food to survive will be the first to feel the effects as people transition from thriving to surviving.  People will struggle with self-imposed food rationing as they experience the first hunger pains.  Even people who have stocked their survival larders ahead of time will burn through their supplies faster than they need to.  In a survival situation, you are going to be hungry.  Accept that reality now, and it will save you a lot of aggravation, heartache, and sorrow later on.

Understand that a lack of food is a serious concern.  Group dynamics, strategic alliances, and personal friendships are placed under enormous strain when people are hungry.  Early in the post-collapse world will be an especially traumatic time, as people are transitioning from thriving to surviving.  When they feel the first hunger pangs, they will panic, and a panicked group is a group you want to avoid.  About ten days into Ranger School, long before any of us really started to feel the physical effects of hunger, I saw a group of Army officers and senior enlisted personnel, men who had a lot of experience and training, nearly come to blows over a few pancakes and a couple of pieces of bacon.  Imagine what will happen when people without prior training, who have not planned for an emergency of this scope, and who have lead soft, comfortable lives where they have never known real hunger, begin to compete over the remaining resources.

During World War II, a group of 36 conscientious objectors volunteered for a nearly year-long study into the effects of long-term semi-starvation.  The experiment took place at the University of Minnesota, and so became known as The Minnesota Starvation Experiment.  During the six-month long semi-starvation period, the volunteers’ calorie intake was restricted to approximately 1,500 per day.  In addition, each volunteer was given work tasks to accomplish and was required to walk 22 miles per week.  Each volunteer lost approximately 25 percent of their pre-experiment weight.  Among other lessons learned, the study showed the behavioral changes that a survivor would undergo.  Those changes include:
  1. The dominance of the hunger drive over other drives.
  2. Chronic feelings of tiredness and weakness.
  3. A lack of spontaneous activity.
  4. An increasing inability to perform physical tasks.
  5. Increased vulnerability to cold temperatures.
  6. A dulling of all emotional responses (love, hate, anger, fear, shame, etc.)
  7. Apathy.
  8. Limited patience and self-control.
  9. Loss of a sense of humor.
  10. Moodiness, depression, and an attitude of resignation.
Insects are an excellent source of protein.
Obviously, the best way to avoid to effects of hunger is to have food stockpiled ahead of time and have the skills and equipment necessary to supplement that food through barter and trade, hunting and trapping, fishing, gathering, and gardening.   Understand that a problem survivors must overcome is food aversion, a reluctance to eat strange or unfamiliar foods.  Food aversion may also occur when the survivor’s diet is severely limited.  American POW’s in Vietnam reported that some of their fellow POWs eventually died after they could no longer eat the rice and scraps of fish they were fed on a daily basis for years at a time.

The survivor’s will to survive includes putting aside social and individual prejudices and eating food that many people would find repulsive.  Insects, worms, grubs, and roadkill are are viable sources of food available to the survivor. The survivor must recognize food for what it is, the body’s fuel source, and top off the tank whenever possible.  Survivors are more likely to try strange food when they are alone.  Survivors in a group tend to be more reluctant, as group pressure and conformity behavior (adjusting individual behavior to fit into a group) discourages people from trying new things.

Author: Assemble on Us
Posted: November 25, 2012, 12:43 pm
The decision to evacuate your home or "bug-out" is not one that should be lightly made.  The decision to bug-out should be based on many factors, not the least of which is the tactical situation at the time.  If the day should ever come when you need to evacuate your home, be it from the results of a natural disaster or a complete societal collapse, there are a number of things you will need to address before you leave your home.

You will be limited on the amount of gear you can take with you, even if you are bugging-out in a vehicle.  If you are forced to evacuate on foot, the selection of gear and how to pack it becomes even more critical.

I put together this basic bug-out kit with supplies and equipment I had on hand, and used a golf bag trolley to carry a good deal of the stuff.  Carried bug-out bags are a must, but there is a limit on how much weight you can carry, and how far you can carry it.  I have done more than my share of long road marches carrying a lot of weight, and believe me, it hurts.  A lot.

You are much better off trying to push or pull the majority of your supplies.  You will be able to transport more, and the cost to your body won't be nearly as high.  A wheelbarrow, wagon, cart, or dolly would also work as a means of transport.  I will be going into more detail on what I have in this kit, how to select gear and why you will need it, and how to build and pack your transport in future blogs and on our YouTube channel, so check back in for more information.

Author: Assemble on Us
Posted: November 23, 2012, 5:35 pm

The Tactical Gardener
Backyard Ponds

Backyard ponds make a wonderful addition for your yard.  These stressful times require  ways to relax and unwind, and a backyard pond has a nice Zen-like quality to it, perfect for unwinding at the end of a hectic day.  Feeding the goldfish, koi, or whatever aquatic critters you have, and listening to the sound of water falling across stones can have a real soothing effect on mind and spirit.

For those people who live in an urban environment like I do, backyard ponds could also have real benefit in a post-collapse long-term survival situation.  Turning your pond into an aquatic survival larder would be relatively easy, requiring only that you replace your ornamental fish with something more useful, like catfish.

There are many varieties of catfish, and the nice thing about them is that they will eat practically anything.  Bugs, allege, rotting vegetation, minnows, worms, carrion, etc.  They also eat each other, but if you can keep them fed with all the other stuff, more than likely that wouldn’t be too much of a problem.

Another benefit to a backyard pond is that they attract other forms of wildlife.  I have seen numerous species of birds, squirrels, raccoons, opossums, deer, snakes, and fox drinking from the pond, especially in the winter time when their natural water sources may be frozen solid.  The pond also has a growing population of frogs, which would make an ideal protein source, and they are extremely easy to catch with a net.  Traps and snares set up around the pond would give you an excellent chance of adding meat to your diet.

Pond Construction Basics
If you don’t already have a backyard pond, they are relatively simple to build, depending on the size and scope of your plan.  I started with a pre-formed 200 gallon shell, which was fine, but it had some drawbacks.  It wasn’t deep enough to fully protect the fish from birds and other predators, and it’s small size limited the amount of fish it would support.

Last year I replaced the old pond with a new 800 gallon one, using a flexible liner instead of a pre-formed shell.  I hand dug the hole, using a good spade, five gallon bucket, wheelbarrow, and about two weeks of work, a few hours each night and a couple of good weekend days.  Oh, and use a good weight lifting belt or other back support, so you don’t blow your back out.  Remember, lift with your legs, not your back.

Aquatic Plants
I dug the hole to different depths, so the fish have a variety of places to hang out.  There are two shelves on the sides, at a depth of about two feet.  Cattails, ranked in the top ten survival plants by a lot of experts, could be grown in buckets sitting on the shelves.  Cattails and other varieties of edible aquatic plants can be grown in the marshy areas around the pond.  I built a bog at one end of the pond where I now grow ornamental plants, but it could easily be converted to grow some of the plants listed in this link.

Underlayment and Liner
Once the hole is dug, make sure you have smoothed out any rough spots, and removed any protruding rocks or tree roots.  Put old pieces of carpeting or thick cardboard down at the bottom of the hole as an underlayment, to protect the flexible liner.  You can buy underlayment made for this purpose, but the improvised stuff works just as well and it’s cheaper.  If you haven’t bought the liner yet, now is the time to figure out how much you’ll need.  It would suck if you put your liner in the hole and found out it was too small.  To calculate how much liner you will need, follow this simple formula.

Liner Width=  Pond width + 2x depth + 2-foot overlap

Liner Length=  Pond length + 2x depth + 2-foot overlap

Pumps and Calculating Pond Volume
You’ll need a pump that can move the entire volume of your pond in about an hour, to make sure that the fish have enough oxygen.  If the grid goes down and there is no power, you’ll have to agitate the water by hand to make sure the toxic gasses created from fish poo and rotting vegetation have a chance to release, as well as providing oxygen to the fish.

I figured out the volume of my pond by timing how long it took to fill up a five gallon bucket from my garden hose.  I did this four or five times, and it was within a few seconds each time, so I was pretty sure it was accurate.  Once you know how long it takes to fill up your bucket, you simply time how long it takes to fill your pond from start to finish.  It took about one minute to fill the bucket, so I multiplied the number of minutes it took to fill the pond by five (gallons in a minute) and presto, 800 gallon pond.

Another important consideration will be filtration.  Again, with no electricity, you’ll have to clean excess debris from the bottom of the pond by hand, but catfish would eat a lot of it for you.  Covering the pond full time with a net would also help keep unwanted debris from getting into the pond, as well as protect the fish from predators. 

In the meantime, you will want to put in a filter.  Store bought ones for a pond my size can run around $200 for a solid one, which seemed a bit much to me.  I made the one shown below out of an old bucket and salvaged parts from my original smaller pump.  I took my $200 savings and bought pork n' beans and bullets.

Remember, in a true survival situation, you could also improvise a pond out of an existing swimming pool or hot tub.  Bathtubs, large waterproof containers, and trash cans could also be used for smaller ponds.

Hope this helps.  If you need any advice or suggestions for your Zen/survival pond, let me know, I’ll be glad to help out.

Zen/Survival Pond

Pump in filter bucket with allege strainers.

Completed filter.

Cute frog/food source.

Author: Assemble on Us
Posted: November 19, 2012, 4:42 pm

Terrorist Attack Methodology

In order to avoid an attack, it is important to understand the basics of terrorist attack methodology. A study by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, working in conjunction with the Rand Corporation, found that the vast majority of traditional terrorist attacks follow a seven-step formula.  

Seven Steps of Attack

The seven steps are:

Initial target selection/initial surveillance
Surveillance phase
Final target selection/continued surveillance
Planning/rehearsal phase/continued surveillance
Deployment/final surveillance
The attack phase
Escape/exploitation phase

During the initial target selection phase, the terrorist group may examine several potential targets.  The terrorist’s ultimate goal is to bring attention to their cause.  In the majority of terrorist attacks, the final target is chosen because of a perceived weakness in the security procedures of the close protection detail.  The terrorists want to be successful in their attack in order to fully exploit the deed.  If they have a choice between two targets, one of which is heavily guarded by a proactive, alert and professional security team, and one which is guarded by a security team that has fallen into a routine, travels the same routes on a daily basis, and otherwise presents a security posture that invites attack, the terrorists will almost without fail attack the softer target.

Although surveillance is a continuing process throughout the preparation, the second phase consists entirely of the surveillance effort.  It is during this phase that the terrorist group gathers information about all of its possible targets before choosing the final target in phase three.

During phase three, the final target selection is made based on the intelligence gathered during the initial two phases.  Final target selection is based on a number of factors.  During their surveillance, did the terrorist notice patterns and trends in the posture of the security team?  Has the detail become complacent in their behavior?  Do they travel the same routes at the same time every day?  Are the agents actively engaged in detecting surveillance?  The answers to these questions play a large part in the target selection process.

During phase four, the terrorists will use the information gathered during the surveillance effort to formulate their attack plans.  The terrorists have a tremendous advantage in this respect.  They possess two very valuable pieces of information:  the time and place the attack will take place.  The terrorists will choose their attack site carefully, based on several criteria.  The attack site will be a piece of terrain the motorcade travels through with predictable regularity.  It will provide natural barricades to help prevent the motorcade from escaping, while at the same time allowing the terrorists ease of escape.  It will have good fields of fire, provide good cover and concealment, and allow the terrorists to blend into the environment while waiting for the target to arrive.  The terrorists will carefully plan their attack and practice it repeatedly, often conducting “dry runs” on the actual motorcade before launching the ambush.  During this phase, surveillance operatives continue to gather information and intelligence on the target.

In phase five, the terrorists deploy at the attack site on the day of the planned attack.  They will normally position themselves ten to fifteen minutes prior to the estimated time of arrival of the motorcade.  They will have developed some disguise or ruse that will make their presence in the area seem natural, and avoid drawing unwanted attention to themselves.

The sixth phase—attack, is the culmination of all of their effort and planning.  Target surveillance is conducted right up until the time of the attack, with the final phase of the surveillance effort being target identification.  The surveillance and attack teams are normally kept separate for operational reasons.  The attack team will rely on the surveillance team to provide the final confirmation of the target’s identification before initiating the ambush.  To complete a successful attack, the terrorists rely on a combination of surprise, superior firepower, aggression, and violence of action.

The seventh and final phase is the escape from the attack site and exploitation of the act through the media.  If the attack is designed as a kidnapping, means of securing the victim and holding him or her throughout the negotiation process must be accounted for. 
Author: Assemble on Us
Posted: November 18, 2012, 12:42 pm

Route Survey and Analysis

A properly conducted route survey and analysis is a crucial element in any close protection detail’s security posture.  The term route survey and analysis refers to the procedure of first planning a route to be used, then actually driving the route, looking for and noting danger areas, chokepoints, safe havens, construction sites, etc.  

Map Study
The first step in the route survey process is for the team to procure quality maps of the area to be driven.  Primary and alternate routes should be tentatively planned, and the location of hospitals, police and fire stations marked.  There are several good internet based map companies that can generate various routes based on such criteria as highway or street preferences, fewest stops, shortest time or shortest distance.  Satellite imagery of a proposed route may also be obtained from the internet.   

Driving the Route
The next step is to physically drive the routes.  Depending on the time available, the routes should be driven on several different occasions, at different times of the day.  This will familiarize the drivers with the routes, lessening the chance that they will become disoriented during the movement of the principal, as well as gaining a better understanding of traffic patterns.  The detail will confirm the locations of hospitals, police and fire stations, and any other suitable locations for a safe haven where the detail could take refuge in the event of a major problem.

Danger Areas and Attack Sites
The detail is also examining the routes for likely attack sites, danger areas, and chokepoints.  By identifying those sites most likely to be utilized by terrorists during an attack, the EP detail can plan their routes to avoid this area entirely.  If avoidance is not possible, and it is often not, as nearly every route will contain some location that would make a favorable attack site, the detail can spend time analyzing the site.  It is important for the detail to think like a terrorist.  By careful analysis of a potential attack site, the detail can already have a plan of action formulated.  In the event that an attack does ever take place, the agents have already spent time visualizing their response.  This mental preparation can save valuable time during an attack.  Examples of danger areas where attacks might occur include intersections, blind curves, one-way streets, narrow streets and alleys, construction zones, and bridges.

Another area of concern for the protective detail is chokepoints.  Chokepoints are defined as those areas that a security detail must travel through, as no other route option exists.  A chokepoint may be as short as the principal’s driveway, the one-way street leading to the office, or the only bridge that crosses a river between the principal’s office and home.  A chokepoint may also be as long as the only highway between the office and home.  The principal may insist, despite the detail’s objections to the contrary, on traveling a particular route to and from work.  If the detail is forced to use one particular route, the entire route becomes a chokepoint.

The primary danger of traveling through a chokepoint is that terrorists, through careful surveillance, know that the motorcade will travel through a specific area during the movement.  Two of the main concepts the protective detail must utilize during their movements is to remain time and place unpredictable.  Pattern avoidance by the security detail makes it that much more difficult for the terrorists to plan their attack.
Author: Assemble on Us
Posted: November 17, 2012, 1:09 pm
Evasive Driving Training

In addition to our firearms training, Rally Point LLC and Max Velocity Tactical offer a comprehensive, custom evasive driving program.  Contact us today for pricing and scheduling information.

Max Velocity Tactical: Video: Rally Point LLC Tactical Firearms Training
Author: Assemble on Us
Posted: November 16, 2012, 12:50 pm

Close protection details and the executives they protect are most vulnerable to attack while they are traveling.  Studies indicate that about 85 % of all terrorist attacks, assassinations, and kidnappings take place in and around vehicles.  There are several reasons why the threat levels increase so dramatically when the details get into their cars.  

Physical locations can be protected by an array of security measures, including fences, gates, locks, armed security personnel, lights, and CCTV.  Once the executive is secured inside a building, his chances of being attacked are greatly reduced.

While the principal is in transit, the close protection detail is traveling through an environment that is largely beyond their control.  Available security measures and resources are limited.  Additionally, and perhaps most importantly, attackers who are unable to gain access to a secure facility have more freedom to conduct surveillance, plan, rehearse, and conduct an attack on public roads.

A comprehensive transportation security plan relies on both proactive and reactive skills in order to lessen the risk involved in moving the principal from one location to another.  Just as the physical barriers of a secure facility create concentric rings of protection around the principal, the transportation security plan relies on multiple proactive strategies to mitigate the risk. 

The proactive strategies for attack avoidance include:  understanding terrorist methodology, proper motorcade management, intelligence gathering, surveillance detection, pattern avoidance, and route surveys and analysis.

Should the proactive measures fail, the close protection detail must also be well trained in a variety of reactive countermeasures.  These include:  barricade breaching, the PIT, break contact drills, emergency turns, and backing.
Author: Assemble on Us
Posted: November 15, 2012, 11:05 pm

The Will to Survive

  There are countless examples of suitably equipped, trained, and experienced people who died in a survival situation when they should have lived.  There are also numerous examples of people who did everything wrong, by all rights should have died numerous times over, and yet somehow managed to find a way to survive and live.  In many cases, the difference between living and dying is a matter of having the will to survive. 

The will to survive is a combination of many things.  It is a positive mental outlook and a refusal to give up, no matter how bad things get.  It is an inner drive to live and survive.  It is the ability to accept the reality of the situation while not being overwhelmed by it.  The will to survive is the ability to identify priorities, set and achieve goals, organize yourself and others, and the ability to quickly recover when things don’t go according to plan.

The will to survive means having a sense of humor.  When things get bad, and you’re dealing with life and death decisions on a daily if not hourly basis, you will be physically and mentally stressed to the freak out point.  Laughter is an excellent way to relieve stress and tension.  To make fun of a situation is to gain a little mental control over both the situation and yourself, and self-control will be highly needed when societies’ control measures break down and people are left to their own devices.

Above all else, the will to survive is the desire to live, despite hardship, physical and emotional obstacles, pain, suffering, fear, and uncertainty.  

Author: Assemble on Us
Posted: November 15, 2012, 10:00 pm

Winter Storms

Winter is almost here, so it’s time to make sure that you have the basics for winter survival in your home and car, and more importantly, it’s time to make sure that you understand something about winter storms and how to survive them.

The Schoolchildren’s Blizzard of 1888

On January 12, 1888, arctic air hurled down from Canada and smashed across the Plains from Montana to Texas.  It had been unseasonably warm the day before, and temperatures rapidly dropped by more than 40 degrees in many areas.  Some locations reported drops of almost 100 degrees in less than 24 hours.  

The blizzard also brought heavy snows and sustained high winds.  Visibility was reduced to zero.  The blizzard hit just as teachers, many of them newly arrived from back East, were letting their students out for the day.  Unfamiliar with the power of these storms, many of the teachers let their students leave for home, with tragic consequences.  In total, 235 people died in the Schoolchildren’s Blizzard, many of them school kids on their way home and the parents who went out to search for them.

Although there were many tragic deaths, there were also numerous examples of how to survive a winter storm.  One teacher who understood what was happening kept his 17 students at the school overnight, where they rode out the storm in safety, burning stockpiled firewood to keep warm.  The parents waited until the next morning when the storm died back to travel to the school and pick up the children.  These people were all experienced plainsmen, who understood that to be caught out in the open in a blizzard is a really good way to die in a hurry.  

Blizzard Survival Tips

 The wind and cold can drop your core body temperature to levels of dead quickly, so if you are caught outside in a winter storm, go to shelter immediately.  Remember, shelter is a relative term.  If you can’t get inside a building with a nice fire and hot chocolate, improvise and improve your situation the best you can.  Trees make an excellent windbreak.  If the snow is deep, dig down into it and get in the hole.  A snow cave can make an excellent shelter to ride out the storm in.

  If you are stuck in your car, stay in it until the storm passes.  If you still have fuel, run the car occasionally to aid a little heat.  While running the engine, bring your windows down a couple of inches to allow fresh air in, so you don’t kill yourself from carbon monoxide poisoning.  Keeping the tailpipe clear of snow if you are able is a really good preventative measure to keep carbon monoxide levels from reaching dead.

Those are a few tips and suggestions for winter storm survival.  We’re really interested in what Rally Nation has to say on the subject, so please jump in with your winter storm survival tips and preparedness ideas.   

Author: Assemble on Us
Posted: November 15, 2012, 1:22 pm

We are launching our evasive driving series with this collection of Iraq PSD Low-profile motorcade and evasive driving training footage.  The Iraq stuff was shot in 2004-2005 in and around Baghdad in what was then known as the Triangle of Death.  That name wasn't ironic either, like when you call a really big guy Tiny or a dog with three legs Lucky.  That place totally blew.

Two out of our first three motorcades, run in early 04 in SUV type vehicles, were ambushed.  We switched to the low-profile but high-powered BMWs, and Mercedes, and used station wagons as gun trucks.  We relied on stealth and camouflage to move around whenever possible, and speed when stealth wasn't working out too good.  It had it's disadvantages, like anything else, but after we got the hang of how to do it correctly, I would not have ridden any other way.

Camouflage is key.  If you're going to look like the natives, you have to act like the natives.  Aggressive blocking or other overt security moves are going to draw attention, so you have to be relaxed and accept the normal traffic flow around you more than you would if you were running a hardened, overt motorcade.

The training showcases a group of Force Recon Marines training to deploy to Iraq for a PSD mission.  They are learning some of the techniques and tactics that may be needed to drive in that type of environment.  Barricade breaching, the PIT, emergency turns, tactical backing, etc. are all valuable skills to possess.  Seek qualified instruction before attempting any of the emergency maneuvers shown in the video.

Author: Assemble on Us
Posted: November 15, 2012, 3:56 am
We were very fortunate that Hurricane Sandy passed by us to the northeast, and our area was spared any real effects from the storm.  We never lost power, and so I was able to watch the coverage of the aftermath of the storm as it unfolded.

One of the things that really struck me was how many of the displaced people were making their way through flooded streets with no shoes on.  Many evacuees were wading through flooded streets barefoot, carrying the only pair of shoes that had with them.  I assume that the thought process was to keep the shoes dry so they could put them back on when they got where they were going.  That's only a guess.  I didn't have a chance to ask them personally, and none of the reporters asked the question.

None of the shoeless crowd had any type of bug-out bag, luggage, or even a grocery sack with essentials in it.  I never personally saw it on the news, but I read several reports of people foraging for food out of dumpsters.  So, just so I understand, a lot of people's planning process for dealing with this natural disaster included wandering out into flooded streets shoeless, with no essential supplies, and foraging for food out of the trash, waiting around for the relief agencies to come help them out.  That's terrific.

Seriously people, you don't have to spend $300,000 on a fortified retreat to be a prepper.  Taking a few basic precautions, having a week's worth of food and water stored at your home, stockpiling a few basic tools, weapons, and equipment will make you more prepared for an emergency that a large portion of the population.

If you do have to evacuate your home, try wearing a solid pair of shoes when you're wading around the flooded streets.  Who knows what kind of debris is under the water?  Stepping on a jagged piece of concrete with no shoes on and lacerating your foot is a sure way to invite infection.  When FEMA or the Red Cross is waiting around the corner in a Zodiac boat to float you to safety, you can get away with this sort of nonsense, but when there is no outside help coming, and you are in a long-term survival situation, an infected foot will can get you killed.

Taking the time to put a toothbrush, personal hygiene kit, wallet, medication, extra glasses, a blanket, change of cloths, and extra shoes into a pillow case and taking your little bug-out bag with you will really pay off when you get to the shelter.  If you want to get really high-speed, you can stock up on a little beef jerky and pork and beans, and then you can forgo eating out of the trash, unless that's really what you're in to.

Here's a link to a video that we made talking about the importance of having a few alternate sources of light available when the grid goes down.  We made it Halloween night, after the trick or treaters had all come and gone, so I'm dressed up like a Zombie, but the information is still relevant.  For a lot of us, the concept of having a few flashlights, extra batteries, bulbs, and candles on hand will seem pretty basic, but for the shoeless clueless crowd, this might seem like advanced stuff.  Hope you enjoy.

Author: Assemble on Us
Posted: November 12, 2012, 2:03 pm
4 Tips on How to Identify Food Grade Buckets - wikiHow

One of the benefits of writing a book is that you learn a great deal as you do the research. Food storage is a survival topic that I am still learning about.  Found this interesting article this morning about how to tell the difference between a regular bucket and a food grade bucket.

The danger of using a regular bucket for long-term food storage is that chemicals used in the manufacturing process may leach out into your food, which doesn't sound good.

If you are improvising after the zombie apocalypse, I don't suppose it will make too big of difference, as you'll be going through the food fast enough that chemicals won't have much of a chance to get into the food.  That's just a guess, based on no scientific data.
Author: Assemble on Us
Posted: November 6, 2012, 1:13 pm
"In 1756, Major Robert Rogers, of New Hampshire, recruited nine companies of American colonists to fight for the British during the French and Indian War.  Ranger techniques and methods of operation inherently characterized the American fronterismen.  Major Rogers was the first to capitalize on them and incorporate them into the fighting doctrine of a permanently organized fighting force."  The Ranger Handbook, pg. i.

While equipment has changed, Rogers' standing orders are still as relevant today as they were in 1756.

1.  Don't forget nothing.

2.  Have your musket clean as a whistle, hatchet scoured, sixty rounds powder and ball, and be ready to march at a minute's warning.

3.  When you're on the march, act the way you would if you was sneaking up on a deer.  See the enemy first.

4.  Tell the truth about what you see and what you do.  There is an army depending on us for correct information.  You can lie all you please when you tell other folks about the Rangers, but don't never lie to a Ranger or officer.

5.  Don't never take a chance you don't have to.

6.  When we're on the march we march single file, far enough apart so one shot can't go through two men.

7.  If we strike swamps, or soft ground, we spread out abreast so it's hard to track us.

8.  When we march, we keep moving until dark, so as to give the enemy the least possible chance at us.

9.  When we camp, half the party stays awake while the other half sleeps.

10.  If we take prisoners, we keep 'em separate till we have had time to examine them, so they can't cook up a story between 'em.

11.  Don't ever march home the same way.  Take a different route so you won't be ambushed.

12.  No matter whether we travel in big parties or little ones, each party has to keep a scout 20 yards ahead, 20 yards on each flank, and 20 yards in the rear so the main party can't be surprised and wiped out.

13.  Every night you'll be told where to meet if surrounded by a superior force.

14.  Don't sit down to eat without posting sentries.

15.  Don't sleep beyond dawn.  Dawn's when the French and Indians attack.

16.  Don't cross a river by a regular ford.

17.  If somebody's trailing you, make a circle, come back onto your own tracks, and ambush the folks that aim to ambush you.

18.  Don't stand up when the enemy's coming against you.  Kneel down, lie down, hide behind a tree.

19.  Le the enemy come till he's almost close enough to touch, then let him have it and jump out and finish him up with your hatchet.
Author: Assemble on Us
Posted: November 4, 2012, 5:01 pm
I found this video on YouTube a few days ago, and I thought it was so revealing and noteworthy that it became the first video I added to my playlist on my YouTube channel.

Take comfort in knowing that during a Zombie Apocalypse or any other post collapse survival situation, these people and millions like them will be running around the streets armed.  A big reason that a large percentage of the population will be wiped out within the first couple of months is that these people will run around shooting each other and themselves, and unfortunately, people who are prepared and squared away.

Stay off the streets whenever possible during the first couple of months after the collapse.  It will be a chaotic, uncertain, scary time, and that's just because of the people who will panic and riot or riot and then panic.  But I digress.

Muzzle management and trigger finger discipline are the two cardinal rules of firearms safety.  If you do nothing else right but those two things, the chances of someone being injured or killed negligently goes way, way down.  A lot of the examples in this video might be sort of funny if they weren't so sad, scary, and tragic.

Seek qualified firearms instruction if you don't know what you are doing.  A little common sense never hurt either.  Seriously, if you give a toddler a gun to play with and you get shot in the stomach, that one's on you dude.  What did you expect?  Genius.  Get it together people.

Author: Assemble on Us
Posted: November 4, 2012, 12:22 pm
Hello everyone.  My wife and I watched Julie and Julia or some such thing a few weeks ago, and she convinced me that a blog would be a really good way to help spread the word about Rally Point LLC and Assemble on Us.  The blog is in the early stages (I've been working on it for a total of about 20 minutes) so please be patient as we continue to refine and develop our blog presence.
Author: Assemble on Us
Posted: November 3, 2012, 6:25 pm

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