The purpose of a convoy is simply to get from point A to point B in a safe manner. Thats where the simplicity ends. The process of planning, loading and moving a convoy is fairly straight forward; it is what happens once you get out of the gate that makes things complicated.
This review will cover the planning and execution of a convoy. Additionally we will cover the responsibilities of each member and vehicle in the convoy as well as contingency planning.
For the purpose of this paper we will take the convoy from a civilian stand point. Since there are not armored vehicles available to the civilian community we will refer to heavy trucks and industrial vehicles as hardened and normal civilian trucks as soft.
A convoy comprises 2 or more vehicles. The heavier the better since they can be used to push thru obstacles and improvised road blocks. Larger industrial trucks such as heavy haulers or cargo trucks provide several advantages. Height to give a better field of vision/fire and a higher ground clearance are obvious benefits. But the added weight and heavier construction make excellent battering rams or pushers. The hardened vehicles form the front and rear vehicles.
The middle of the convoy is comprised of the soft skinned or light weight vehicles. They are considerable more vulnerable than the others. This is where cargo and the bulk of passengers will be found.
One last addition that may prove extremely useful to a civilian convoy in a scout. A motorcycle can move quickly thru crowded streets or even off road if need be. Being able to scout ahead and report unusual activity, road blocks, congestion, or potential ambush sites could make a huge tactical difference. They can also be used to move forward or to the rear to guide in relief or aid.
A perfect convoy would have three dedicated people in each vehicle. The driver, co-driver and gunner. These are the minimums that should be considered for each vehicle. If you do not have enough people to staff each vehicle in this manner you should seriously consider weather the vehicle in question is mission critical (such as the cargo truck that is going to haul the supplies or van to carry the passengers). In some cases such as cargo trucks you may not be able to fit three people into the cab of the truck so that they are still capable of effective performance of their job. Remember that these are dire times and that you will need to think outside the box. Can you cut a hole in the top of the cargo box near the cab and put the gunner up there?
So what does each person and vehicle do in a convoy? Each person and vehicle have VERY specific jobs to perform. We will cover them in detail, by vehicle.
1. Driver This persons biggest responsibility is TO DRIVE! You are not to pass ammo to the gunner. You are not to work the radio or look at the map while in motion. You are not to engage the enemy unless they are trying to get your door open. Just drive. If you can perform other tasks while driving, like drinking or eating then go ahead. But you dont get out of the vehicle except to use the bathroom, and only for the minimum amount of time necessary. If you are in the blocking force, you stay behind the wheel. Most drivers carry a sidearm or short shotgun for defense within arms reach if not on them. Their battle rifle is in the vehicle with them usually behind the seat with their bugout bag. If possible smoke or other hand held incendiary/AP devices are also within reach, BUT, remember that what ever you throw out the window will go off next to someone else in the back of your convoy.
2. Co-driver Your job is to read the map, watch what the locals and vehicles are doing around you, fetch items for the driver and gunner. At any time you are ready to provide first aid to them if they become wounded and then relieve the driver or gunner if needed. You also relay information to the rest of the convoy about road and traffic conditions, or threats that lie ahead. It may seem that you have the easiest job, but you need to think on your feet and will be constantly in action.
3. Gunner You shoot anything that poses a threat to the convoy. You generally have the highest point of view and can relay information to the co-driver, but it is also the most exposed. You convey the intent of the convoy to the people and cars around you thru hand signals and the barrel of your weapon. It is your job to dispense incendiary and AP devices, and to signal their use to the other vehicles. You are the other person that never gets out of position. If you need to leave the vehicle for some reason the co-driver or a passenger will replace you. It is very important to maintain your dedicate field of fire even while under attack unless instructed other wise by the convoy commander.
1. Lead vehicle This is the vanguard of the convoy. They set the pace, determine direction and provide a blocking force in case the convoy has to breakdown. It is critical that the driver pays attention to what is going on in front AND behind him. Constant communications between drivers is crucial. Radio is best but a signal of light flashes or horn honks can be worked out to convey basic signals to the other vehicles.
2. Number 2 This is where the convoy commander rides. Since the lead vehicle is often destroyed in an ambush the commander has a better chance of survivability and can better exercise command and control from this position. The person responsibly for operating the radio back to the FOB also rides here. This is the one vehicle that is generally full of mission essential personnel.
3. Cargo vehicles This is where the passengers and equipment are carried. Here it is not uncommon to find the gunner pulling double duty as co-driver. It is important to load these vehicles as full as possible to help reduce the length and vulnerability of the convoy, so excess personnel need to be relocated to the other vehicles.
4. Rear Guard This vehicle provides the blocking force from anyone trying to get past the convoy while stopped, you keep people from passing the convoy while moving, or if this is not possible you alert the rest of the convoy what type and number of vehicles are passing. The gunner looks for anything unusual in those vehicles and reports that up the chain as well.
These are the basic DOs and DONTs of convoy operations.
Do keep you route and destination secret as much as possible.
Do remain flexible and have secondary routes planned out.
Do make sure your vehicles are fully ready and capable to complete the mission. If there is a doubt get another vehicle.
Do make sure your communications between vehicles and back to the FOB are up and functional.
Do make sure you have the tools required to push or pull a broken down or damaged vehicle to a safe area.
Do make sure that each person has gone thru a pre-mission check before getting into a vehicle.
Do make sure that each vehicle has its own supply of food, water and ammo for the crew and a supply of vital fluids in ADDITION to extra fuel.
Do carefully plan your load, and contingencies for having to cross load people and equipment into other vehicles from damaged ones. You may have to leave items behind in a damaged or destroyed vehicle and destroy both to keep them from falling into others hands. Make sure you know what is in each vehicle to make the cross load process quick and safe.
Do make sure that all gear stowed on the outside AND inside of the vehicle is tied down. If you get hit with an IED or other vehicle you do not want gear and fuel flying around causing further injury.
Dont talk about the mission, destination or FOB when stopped for rest or service with anyone outside the convoy. If additional help or resources are needed from an outside source the convoy commander will make that call and address the situation.
Dont sacrifice convoy integrity for any reason. In other words the convoy stays together at all times. Nobody gets left behind, and other than a scout nobody separates from the convoy for any reason under normal circumstances.
Dont let any other vehicles to get into the convoy while moving. Who knows what they are carrying or what their intentions are.
Dont let anyone pass the convoy while stopped without notifying and getting approval from he convoy commander. He will decide who can pass and what their route is around the convoy.
Keep in mind that this is a mix of Military SOP and civilian feasibility. Further details will be determined by local terrain and political climate. There are a few other recommendations that you may consider for your use.
Try to maintain an official and authoritative appearance. It only takes a second for people to think you are someone important and to get out of your way for your route to open up. Also, bad guys are much less likely to try to jump you as they know authorities are armed. If the vehicle looks like it could be a state or federal truck (dark windows, lots of antennas, NO BUMPER STICKERS and no rotting and damaged panels) they may be even less likely to try to hit it as you may be some special unit. How far you want to take the official appearance is up to you. I would not readily endorse using red and blue flashing lights or phony decals to try to trick your way thru a situation.
Dont be afraid to make structurally sound but creative modifications to your vehicles. Brush guards (real ones made from heavy steel, not these Pep Boys crap), winches, high powered lights, gun shields or armoring can all be added or made modular so improve your chances of completing the mission then going back to normal transportation. You dont have to look like something out of Mad Max right off (see above), but as things deteriorate socially it may become necessary to make heavier modifications as time goes on.
Trailers can be made to carry equipment AND people. In this kind of environment the basic traffic laws are going to be suggestions and getting people and vital equipment/supplies to your FOB will be much more important than breaking a traffic law.
If belt fed or high powered weapons ever became available mounting one on a trailer or the back of a truck can be a great deterrent to bad guys.