SOCO Sends: Recon – Another Essential Element In Conducting Operations

Posted: June 17, 2014 in SWIG

From over the transom:

First off, a little background.  I enlisted in the Army when I was 18 as an 11B (Infantryman) and have now served 6 years.  During that time I’ve spent two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan, on the line. (Rapid deployments, 6 months or less)  I was assigned to a sniper team and graduated from Sniper School recently and have been a recon sniper team leader for 18 months now.  

I had originally titled this brief article, “Recon, another essential element in conducting combat operations.”  After some thought, I decided to remove “combat” from the title because reconnaissance goes well beyond combat operations and it is critical to understand this.  Every day, everywhere, every minute you are conducting some type of recon whether you realize it or not.

It’s time to begin learning and, more importantly, understanding the information you are gathering and how to use it.

Let’s start with the definition of reconnaissance:

Reconnaissance – military observation of a region to locate an enemy or ascertain strategic features.

The definition itself is broad, and rightly so.  Learning to do effective recon takes patience, discipline, focus, and outside the box thinking.  In many of the non-military readers’ cases, do not assume that this means you will always be crawling around in a ghillie suit looking to recon a hill top in the middle of a forest.  Keep an open mind and understand that events like identifying the people who to go door to door and arrest your loved ones for being a domestic threat also routinely go to the Starbucks on the corner of 5th and King street at 7:30 A.M every Tuesday and Thursday to order a triple white chocolate mocha is also recon.

Remember ESS:  Every Soldier a Sensor.

Now traditionally, recon elements are reserved for those with a lot of prior line experience -”line” being on the frontline fighting conducting patrols and raids. Since they’ve hit various types of targets before, and have run numerous patrols, they understand exactly the kind of info that needs to be gathered in order to maximize planning effectiveness. Unfortunately, some of you reading this may not have prior military experience, or know anyone with a lot of combat training from former military, so where do we begin?  With the fundamentals, of course.  Remember to adapt and apply these to your situation.

7 fundamentals of reconnaissance:
• Ensure continuous reconnaissance.
• Do not keep reconnaissance assets in reserve.
• Orient on the reconnaissance objective.
• Report information rapidly and accurately.
• Retain freedom of maneuver.
• Gain and maintain enemy contact.
• Develop the situation rapidly


Ensuring Continuous Reconnaissance

Planning for missions, whether a patrol, raid, building rapport, or locating soft targets (Sub task: Pick fights you can win.), is an ongoing process. Having eyes on target at all times is crucial to gathering timely and accurate information to give the absolute best mission planning, on the go updates, and/or fragmentation orders (FRAGO). For US forces it has often been the use of UAV surveillance to keep 24hr watch on potential targets.

As a resistance member, you won’t have access to those kinds of assets (At least not initially. And if anyone knows how to hack a UAV to take control of it, then more power to you.  It can be done, some college students pulled it off.)  This will be the most difficult of the 7 to maintain effectively. When a recon team is sent out to an OP (observation point), they may maintain that OP for 3 hours or 3 days.  For this reason, not only do your recon folks need to be experienced, they need to be disciplined. Developing TTP’s and rotations for how you manage your OP will be a critical task in ensuring continuous recon which will be covered on a later date.

Do not keep reconnaissance assets in reserve

Why would you want to limit your capabilities to observe your target?  The answer is, you wouldn’t.  Understanding your limitations here is key.  If the best piece of observation equipment you have is a 10x set of binos, then you will train and tailor your recon planning to your maximum asset capability and utilize EVERYTHING you can starting with the 10x binos and going down in observation effectiveness.  For example:  A low end recon load out could consist of a pair of 10x binos, a fixed 4x optic on a rifle, a digital camera with limited clarity at a high zoom, and your eyeballs. On a quick side note, do not underestimate the power of the naked eye.  It is capable of picking up on incredible amounts of detail when trained. Redundancy allows you to cover potential battlefield intel you may have missed.  So when observing a target, have more than one pair of eyes on target at once.  Your team is the asset.

Orient on the reconnaissance objective

This is very basic and self explanatory so don’t over think it.  Position yourself and your team in such a manner that you are directed towards the objective target or area that you are conducting all around reconnaissance on while maintaing 360 security.

Report information rapidly and accurately

This assumes you have communication capability via secure, or low power, radio.  (I do not recommend the use of cell phones.  If you don’t think they are able to track and listen in on your conversations, then ask any veteran of OIF and/or OEF.  We did that all the time, and it worked very well.) If you are at this operational level, begin training a competent Radio Telephone Operator (RATELO).  He is one of your more valuable assets in a recon element.  Reporting rapidly and accurately comes down to understanding the info given to you, then translating it in the shortest and clearest way possible without missing any critical details, then making sure those receiving the information understand it.  Radio etiquette plays a huge role in this and will be covered later.

Because of this, you need a recon team leader and a RATELO who are well versed in translating info to each other.  If you do not have secure radio capabilities, DA Form 7639-R will be your new best friend.  This is the sniper observation log.  Your RATELO will now be in charge of writing down EVERYTHING, I say again, EVERYTHING that happens. An insignificant detail could translate to something greater later on, such as developing an understanding for patterns of life in a certain area.  The observer must be able to communicate what he sees in an easy and quick manner so that your RATELO is able to effectively write down what you tell him.

For those of you auxiliary who happen to spot that oath breaking door kicker, you may not have the luxury of stealth or the capability to immediately report.  Taking a picture or video with your phone could be risky.  If someone (or he) spots you and doesn’t like what you’re doing, you could compromise yourself and by compromising yourself you could be compromising the folks you’re trying to support.  So what’s a resister to do?  Use your brain: literally.  Begin training your memory to better retain large amounts of detail from minimal observation time so you can take what you remembered and write it down later when you’re secure.

The military uses Kim’s games to do this. The name “Kim’s game” comes from Rudyard Kipling’s book “Kim,” the story of an Irish orphan who grew up in India. As a young man, he was trained for government intelligence work. The training involved showing Kim a tray of stones and gems for one minute. After covering the tray, they would ask Kim how many stones he saw and what kind of stones they were.  I will go over how the military plays it in a later article.  For now, here is a short video on how the original version worked (and worked very well):

Retain freedom of maneuver

This one is also very basic.  As a recon element you will be lightly armed. Your strengths are stealth and the ability to maneuver.  If you are observing a mobile element, or a stationary element that sends out active patrols, you must maintain awareness of those factors at all times so as to not get cut off from escape routes. You do not want to try and fight you way out with a single recon team.  The odds are stacked against you in a firefight.

Gain and maintain enemy contact

Contact does NOT, I say again, NOT mean engaging the enemy in a firefight.  As previously noted, you will probably lose.  Gaining and maintaining contact means getting eyes on your objective and KEEPING eyes on your objective.  This serves two purposes:

1) You will be able to record and report every detail possible.

2) You will not lose track of your target and allow them to maneuver on you or friendly forces.

Develop the situation rapidly

There may be times when a target objective is crawling with activity.  It’s up to your observers to quickly and accurately determine what is going on and come to a reasonable conclusion as to what the situation at hand is. If you have the opportunity, I highly recommend going through the Advanced Situational Awareness Training (ASAT) course.  This course teaches you how to read basic human behavior and patterns of life and by observing their actions, develop the situation at hand much quicker and more accurately.  This link will provide some more info on a basic section of ASAT training and is excellent info.

Take these fundamentals and begin applying them to your training and everyday life.  When conducting a recon operation of any sort, constantly review these seven fundamentals and ask yourself if you’re following them.  No single one is more important than the other. They all need to be accomplished together to achieve effective and secure reconnaissance.

I want to emphasize making sure they’re secure:

Your info does no good to us if it goes into the wrong hands.


Source:  [Western Rifle Shooters Association]


  1. danmorgan76 says:

    Reblogged this on danmorgan76.


  2. tfAt says:

    After reading that psychotic wack job arctic specter and his “kick in American doors and feed them some kool-aid” rant, along with his “hero bs”, this was a serious upgrade in information exchange. Thanks to the author. I just hope he doesn’t go sideways like that lunatic I previously mentioned. FreeFor needs all the pros we can get – hey SOCO put one in specters grape if you ever run into him.


  3. Reblogged this on Arctic Specter and commented:
    I see there’s another one of my brethren out there conducting some good training. Some key points on this write-up to take away.


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