The objective of this exercise was to utilize NMS skill level 2 Command & Organization and Mobilization and Alert Readiness skills and techniques as explained, covered and agreed upon in previous group meetings.
There was supposed to be a total of 13+ scheduled participants in this exercise, 9 teammates and 4+ "non combatants". For the purposes of this posts names have been changed to numbers 1-9 for teammates and NC1-4 for non combatants.
This scenario utilized 3 different Rally Point locations and a residency, the rally points will be numbered RP1-3
For privacy reasons times have been altered
AAR from a participants perspective for 8/--/05:
What was supposed to happen:
The country was at war and being invaded. Teammates #1 and #2 were supposed meet up at RP1 and then proceed to RP2. #3 and #4 were to meet up with. #5 and #6 at RP2 and wait on #1 & 2 to arrive. #7 is going to be alerted to get to the RP3 as a forward recon and if possible secure the area. From RP2 , #1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 will consolidate into two more capable vehicles(SUVs). The two SUVs will then proceed as a convoy to the obscurely "dangerous" E-town zone to help #8, #9 and their families evacuate their location and the E-town danger zone, then as a convoy and proceed to the RP3 location.
3:5x pm #3 & #4 alert message received, it was vague and uninformative, and didn't require us to further alert or maintain commo with anyone else. We gathered our gear and departed for RP2 at an unrecorded time.
3:5x #3 & 4 arrived at RP2, everything seemed eerily calm there for an evacuation to have been underway. We were barely briefed of the plan (what was supposed to happen). We were notified of #1 & 2's pending arrival and that we needed to help #8 & 9 evacuate, and that we were all going to go to RP3. We were also notified NC4 had been bitten by a spider and needed to go to the hospital and that #7 would not be able to make it to this exercise. We didn't ask any questions about the situation. We didn't establish a chain of command or any tasks that needed to be performed. We simulated sitting around and BSing while we waited for 1 & 2 to arrive. Radio as well as telephone contact was maintained with #1 as he met up with #2 and departed for RP2. No known continual communications were made with #8 or 9 during this time (other than the initial alert call).
4:2x #1 & 2 arrive at RP2, in separate vehicles. There did not seem to be any formal briefing of the situation, they were given about the same info we were. We did not help brief them in any way. A short planning session on rescue method at #8 & 9's location was held.
The plan was for one vehicle to position itself on the NW side of the location (up the hill) and the second vehicle to position itself on the SW side of the location (bottom of the driveway), with both vehicles facing the same direction (the route out) as well as keeping the drivers side towards the rescue'ee residency. The front passengers in each vehicle would cover their respective direction and the drivers would assist in covering but remain very close to the drivers door to be able to go quickly. The rear passengers would run to the residency and assist 8, 9 and the NC's in quickly getting out. The purpose of this rescue was never given nor worked into the scenario in anyway.
Simulated firearms were distributed and the group then split up into two teams of three. #1, 2 and 3 in one vehicle, and 4, 5 and 6 in the other.
4:3x Convoy departs RP2. When we hit E-town city limits #1 made contact with #8 at 4:4x , instructed him to be ready we were almost there. Communications were maintained between vehicles via FRS radios.
4:4x Convoy arrives at #8 & 9's location. Rescue plan is conducted, for the most part, according to plan. Both vehicles "cover man" was covering the same direction (the most likely point of danger approaching) instead of their respective direction. I didn't pay attention to the plan very well, I don't think anyone else did either. Most of the time was taken for getting NC1 & NC2 to submit to the urgency of the exercise. I asked if #8 or 9 needed any help carrying stuff to vehicles, he said he was instructed to not bring anything. We loaded everyone but 8 and 9 in the SUVs. NC1 and NC2 with 1,2 and 3 and NC3, with 4,5 and 6. Number 8 and 9 loaded into a pickup truck.
4:4x Convoy departs for RP3 with the SUV containing 4, 5, 6 and NC3. in the lead. #8 and 9 in the middle in the pickup and the SUV containing 1, 2, 3, NC1 and NC2 in the rear. Communications were maintained between vehicles via FRS, and 2m radios.
4:5x Lead vehicle asks 2nd vehicle for directions. 2nd vehicle determines that the convoy has missed a turn, but advises that there is a backway in. 2nd vehicle begins acting as navigator for the convoy via FRS radio. Distance between vehicles varied apporx. between 30-70 yards.
5:0x Convoy leaves blacktop. The "backway" was very backway. Slow going was done in some areas due to road conditions. 40 minutes was added to trip due to the mistake.
5:3x Convoy arrives at the RP3 location. It is determined that we would take the "correct" (ie. quickest route) on return from the RP3 to the rescue/assist location. A basic BS session was then conducted.
6:0x Convoy departs the RP3 location. Taking a short cut that saves 5mins and steers clear of P-ville.
6:1x Convoy arrives at #8, 9 and the NC's initial evacuation location.
Determine what was right or wrong with what happened:
The alert message was vague didn't include any description of nature of emergency and didn't include necessary equipment or urgency instructions.
Need to record departure time when vehicle actually starts moving.
A scenario with more detail (but not too detailed) needs to be made for the situation.
When making an alert call make sure to include and receive Necessary Alert Information Make sure to use Rally Point names and not actual name of location.
There was a lot of lag time between us arriving at RP2 and #1 & 2's arrival there.
When faced with someone who possibly knows more about an alert situation ask as many questions as possible. Try to know as much about what's going on as the initiator of the alert.
Assist in any way possible better readying the team for departure.
When time permits determine and/or evaluate a chain of task responsibility given the situation at hand.
2meter radios are major asset as are cellular phones, they allowed constant communication ability.
When conducting a rescue like this, try to stay in contact with the rescue'ee party as much as possible, constantly getting updated and giving updates.
Better determine the need for team members to sub-rally at different points. #1 and 2 arrived at RP2 in separate vehicles, hence there really wasn't a need for them to rally at RP1.
For training situations better evaluate the need of simulation firearms
When a team member(s) arrive at an RP try to brief them on the situation as much as possible. Try to pass to them all necessary info and knowledge of situation you have.
When everyone's going over action plans, pay better attention. If you need to be somewhere or doing something make sure you know it and know when to do it. The NW side cover man was watching the wrong direction. Just because the vehicle is pointed in that direction doesn't mean its the direction you need to cover.
Before a convoy departs lead vehicle driver or commander or navigator needs to brief other drivers (and as much of the team as possible) on convoy routes.
FRS radios are not a very good alternative to 2m but are WAY better than nothing.
Try your best to never separate mother and child.
MAKE SURE ALL DRIVERS IN CONVOY ARE NOTIFIED OF DESTINATION AND ROUTES! We probably would not of missed the turn had this been mentioned before or during our departure
Have maps out while convoying, all vehicles should have a set of maps in it. Had our maps been out we probably could of better determined if we really should have gone "the back way in".
Make sure the person most knowledgeable of the AO is somewhere in the lead vehicle, we didn't do this and it lead to missing a turn, lots of radio communications and 40 extra minutes added to the trip.
We didn't really use Command and Organizational skills. We must know each others strengths and weaknesses and be able to recognize when someone else is more capable in a given area.
We were lacking contact lists and maps with RPs on them
Determine how the task should be done differently next time:
Before any exercise is initiated we would MAKE SURE all pertinent information, material, handouts, etc regarding the specific skill or task we are attempting to exercise, has been disseminated, discussed AND understood by everyone involved.
A contact list and RP map would have been provided to each person several days/weeks before the exercise ever took place.
Ideally communications would have been better from the get go. With everyone or at least every sub team capable of cellular, 2m and FRS communications.
Better time of all aspects of the evacuation and rally would be kept, not just times of physical actions (arrivals, departures) but also of decisions, observations (commander recognized, "we are lost"). secrenizing watches before such an event is a good idea, not just for recording times but for tactical reasons as well.
A slightly more complex scenario than "we are at war" would have been drawn up. This can determine a lot of factors in the evacuation and its nature. The level of detail to the scenario can also (hopefully) get people more "into" the situation, it puts them in the thinking mindset and not the "just going along" frame of mind.
A slightly more detailed scenario would have also allowed for more potential alert related information to be given out over the phone/radio and allowed people to better determine any possible needed equipment.
We would have included #7's missing of the exercise into the scenario better. We still should of attempted contact with him throughout the exercise if at all possible, improvising to make it fit the scenario better. When spontaneous stuff happens try to use it, modify the scenario to include the unplanned happening. Stuff is not gonna go as planned in real life, be prepared.
Inclusion of a "Necessary Alert Components" list of sorts, to the back of the contact list is something I will bring up for consideration, to be used as a reminder of the pertinent information to exchange during an alert/RP call.
Upon arrival at the RP, team members would be quickly briefed on what's going on, what the other teammates situation is and what is the plan so far.
I would ask more questions relating to the scenario, alert and mission. I would have offered more help in maintaining communications with other members still enroute or in the rescue area or could have helped in getting the personnel already there up to speed on the latest news or planning routes or getting supplies loaded into vehicles or setting up a security perimeter.... SOMETHING! theres gotta be something that needs to be done, that time we spent BSing while waiting at RP2 we could of spent doing something productive to the mission (or exercise).
Communications with the rescue'ee party would of been constantly maintained . Better communications means, as well as other teammates help in maintaining commo would have better allowed for us to keep contact with 8 & 9 and kept both sides updated of the ongoing situation, plans, routes, necessities, etc.
We would have simplified the rally method, not too may sub rallys. Cutting out 1 and 2 rallying together before heading to RP2 would have saved a few minutes.
We would not have used simulation firearms. Covering an area can just as easily be simulated by standing/crouching there as can be done with wooden cut outs of guns. It alot less likely to draw attention.
Action plans regarding what the team is gonna do when we get to the rescue point would NOT be drawn up beforehand, we don't have a crystal ball to know to draw up plans beforehand. Quickly adapting and drawing up an action plan could be an important aspect of an evacuation scenario like this one. Teammates would have paid more attention and knew more about it if they were forced to come up with the plan in a few minutes we had of waiting.
Before a convoy leaves the lead vehicle driver and/or navigator would get with all the other driver/navigators and would have quickly shown on a map the route that was going to be taken and maybe (if time allows) an alternate route.
Distances between vehicles in the convoy would have been maintained closer. Lead driver would have to think like their driving a semi-truck when dealing with other traffic.
Comms would be quickly checked before departing, now is the time to know your on the wrong channel.
Upon arrival at the rescue location at little more urgency would of been adhered to making for a more realistic feeling scenario.
Everyone would actually take their respective "bug out" gear and anything that they thought might help given the scenario. Loading and unloading equipment can cost time, having gear ready is a crucial part of mobilization and alert readiness.
Given this scenario the lead vehicle should not have contained any "non-combatants". A way of pre-determining the positioning of "non-combatants" given various situations should be decided. In one scenario non combatants can be a good forward recon, in others they can be a liability. We need to know when to have them run point and when to secure them away in the middle of the convoy.
All of our vehicles would have been outfitted with map packs containing complete set of street (road atlas, gazetteer), topo (usgs, software program) maps and maybe even satellite/ariel photos of our AO.
Determining how long it takes to get to and from different points in the AO can be very beneficial. We agreed that we will be adding 'generalized' travel times (of course travel can vary due to traffic and conditions) from point to point on our future vehicle and/or RP map packs.
#8 would have been made lead vehicle/navigator for the last leg of the evacuation, since it was obvious he knew more about that area than the rest of us. At this point I'm not quite sure how we would have realized this before it happened. Although the addition of maps and a pre-departure route briefing might have negated the need for this. Although it still a good idea to put your most AO knowledgeable person on point.
All in all, this was a VERY simple plan, that did not go as expected. We all knew where the RP's were and had been there several times but did not notice the missed turn, everyone assumed the lead vehicle was going in the right direction and gave it no thought.
We weren't nearly as prepared for just grabbing and going as we thought, vehicles need to be kept loaded with maps (w/travel times marked along roadways under typical conditions) and navigating equipment. A great map I have found is a Delamore Gazetteer and atlas, its a 1:50,000 (or so I don't know off hand) topographical map of an entire state with road names, its a great asset for finding those little backroads that aren't in your typical road atlas, but it doesn't cover city areas very well. I got mine at china-mart for 15-20 bucks.
Other things we could have done, was kept vehicle loaded with some type of BOB (bug out bag), that doesn't necessarily have to contain weapons. You could keep your vehicle full of everything but your battle gear if your concerned about traveling around with it. Meaning you only have to haul your battle gear to the car or you "only" have to drop by and get your battle gear when the alert is received.
Most of the team was lacking in communications with telephone being the primary means of communicating. 2meter ham is just the way to go for radio comms, we are now looking at getting a local area radio net going. Cellular can be a big help too, if for nothing more than initial alert call. Pre-paid ones can be bought cheap and put in any name. Pagers could be another option.
Some would call this exercise a failure, I will reserve my opinion for now. If we didn't learn what changes need to be made and don't put these changes to use next time, then I think it would be safe to call this a failure.