Evasion Skills Considerations for the Evader, Part One – Forward Observer Shop

Evasion Skills Considerations for the Evader, Part One

This is Part One of a two-part series of Escape & Evasion training.  Part Two will be published next Monday.

Successful personnel recovery (PR), or to use the older, more familiar term, escape-and-evasion (E&E), requires effective training as well as extensive planning and preparation.  Adequate time and attention should be spent on the fundamental, specific tasks requirements of the evader himself, in order to provide the greatest possibility of successful evasion of hostile pursuit and search. Whether you working against an oppressive regime or are simply planning on “bugging out” for SHTF, the same skills are absolute requirements for success and survival.

To begin, it’s crucial to preface this discussion with the recognition that this article will focus predominantly on the rural/wilderness evader, rather than on urban-based evasion. There is a simple reason for this: while urban evasion is obviously crucial, in the long-term urban evasion is unsustainable without heavy previous investment in the development of human terrain and physical infrastructure in evasion networks. The individual tradecraft skills of the evader, while still crucial, are ultimately less critical than ready access to a well-developed system of local guides, safe houses, and network contacts capable of producing or procuring effective cover identity documents. Further, in the short-term, while some of the specific details of tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) differ for urban-based evasion, the fundamental principles that underlie those TTPs remain the same in an urban environment as they are in a rural/wilderness evasion. Without the developed resistance infrastructure of a functioning underground in place, your only hope for successful urban evasion of pursuit is to get out of the city and to a new, safer location.

E&E training in the US military and paramilitary cultures has traditionally focused in large part (although certainly not entirely) on what are fundamentally very elementary bushcraft skills such as fire-building, shelter construction, and building traps and snares for food procurement. Whiles these are not useless skills for either survival or simply being a well-rounded human being, if you as a “prepper” lack these skills, then you are woefully behind the power curve in your preparations.  E&E training needs to focus less on bushcraft and more on fieldcraft. That fieldcraft is the individual application of fundamental, basic light infantry skills.

  • Planning: First of all, of course, is the ancient law, the 7Ps: Proper Prior Planning Prevents Piss-Poor Performance. While it is often overlooked completely, or at best, given lip service during the planning of conventional force operations, the development of a solid, well-thought out Evasion Plan-of-Action (EPA) is absolutely crucial to irregular force planning in order to maximize the chance of survival for your most valuable assets–your people. Whether you are planning an ambush, a security patrol, or a bug-out to escape the city in a time of unrest, you need to have a well-developed EPA.

  • Land Navigation: The ability to determine your location, the location of your destination, and then to move successfully from Point A to Point B is of obvious importance to evasion. An inability to effectively navigate will result in evaders stumbling around lost and confused, until they end up either stumbling into pursuers on accident or get tired, cold, and scared enough that they voluntarily search out their pursuers because “anything is better than being lost in the big, dark, scary woods!” Critical land navigation tasks include:

  1. Map Reading: You need to be able to look at a topographical map and read it like a book. Do you know what the different signs and symbols on the map represent? Yes, they are located on the map key. Do you know where that is located on the map? You need to be able to determine what the contour intervals are on the map you have. Is it 40 feet or 20 feet or something different? Can you recognize and identify terrain features such as cliffs, ridges, fingers, draws, and valleys on a topographical map based on the representation of contour line relationships? Can you measure distance on a map, using straight line or road distances? Do you know how to account for the margin of error when measuring distances on the map? Can you orient the map to the ground by associating the features represented on the map with the terrain you see around you?

  2. Compass Work: Compasses are easy, right? The needle always points North. Right? Do you know the difference between True North and Magnetic North? Do you know what an agonic line is and how that affects your compass readings where you are? Did you know that magnetic declination changes, so the topo map you have, that was photographed and produced in 1983 has the wrong magnetic declination? Can you adjust for declination in order to orient your map correctly, to help you start figuring out where you are? Terrain association works really well… unless there’s no terrain features readily visible. Worse, trying to terrain associate a map in the dark of night can be a little bit troublesome. Can you use your compass and map to determine a magnetic azimuth to follow for moving from Point A to Point B?

  3. Here’s the rub with map-and-compass work: If you’ve never had any training in the use of these two tools, from someone who has not only training but lots of real-world field experience using a map-and-compass extensively to bush whack off trail, I can guarantee with 100% certainty of being right that you have no clue what you’re doing with these tools. Reading a book just doesn’t cut it. Sure, Kjellstrom’s Be An Expert With Map and Compass will help you understand the theory of what you’re learning in meat space but until you get out there and actually learn to do it properly, you don’t know what you’re doing.

 Part Two will be published next Monday.

John Mosby is a former U.S. Army Special Operations soldier. He lives somewhere in the mountains.

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