Preparing for a Recon Mission
This will cover some of the more practical items that would be needed for most recon missions. Not all items are required by all members of the team. Many items there needs to only be one of for effectively completing the mission. However, two is better, but don't overdo it.
Binoculars are preferred for observation over that of a riﬂe mounted scope. Conducting reconnaissance or typically involves long term static positions making notes, sketches and reports. During this time binos are quicker, lighter and easier to use than a scope. It is easier to start with smaller binos like that a bird watcher, golfer or recreational user would have. 8x would be the way to go. 10x starts to offer noticeable shaking that can distract and increase the difﬁculty of the user. When using smaller lighter binos this will be more noticeable. 8x offers a fair compromise of weight and magniﬁcation.
Often recon will result in one to three common ways of recording information. First there is standard note taking. Whether you prefer pen or pencil I tend to stick with pencil. There is nothing wrong with a pen. It is better to carry both, which I do. A paper product to keep your notes of a size appropriate to the notes you may be taking. small pocket notebook work just ﬁne or even something around a 5x7. I would avoid larger as it is typically not needed and carries more weight. Rite n the rain products are what i prefer. They are durable, water proof and the ink/pencil do not smudge. Anything will do. Additionally are sketch materials. Your note taking materials may be satisfactory for this. I don't think you need an art kit, crayons, multiple markers to do this. I tend to keep a sharpie and grease pencil with me all the time. The sharpie has multiple uses, including writing on skin or clothes if needed for a myriad of reasons. The grease pencil also is useful on maps whether or not you have map markers.
Map(s) of the area make the recon more effective. With navigation skills you can not only plan your routes more efﬁciently but you can also document locations of objectives more accurately. Laminated maps are preferred so that grease pencils and map markers can be used. Map markers are simply alcohol markers. If you choose to obtain those you will want permanent markers. there is a whit marker that just contains alcohol to use as an eraser. They are effective but not necessarily needed all the time. I do cary those as well. The grease pencil is usually called a china marking pencil or china marker. Berol and Saﬁna are two brands I have. Brands do not matter, that is just what I have. They come in many colors. The material is a type of wax or something similar. They are wrapped with perforated paper strips and a small white thread near the writing tip. As they are used the thread is pulled slightly towards the rear of the pencil tearing the paper for however many strips you need. The torn strips are then unwound to expose more wax. Along with the map a compass and protractor is also needed. At least the compass. If you have a 1:50,000 map and a military compass the protractor is not needed at all, but it is easier to use.
There are several signaling devices to consider. The one I would suggest would be a VS-17 panel or strips from it. There are similar panels. This provides a highly visible ﬂuorescent pink and orange surface that the human eye can be drawn to and it provides great contrast in almost every environment. Chemlights can also be useful. Infrared (IR) chemlights are great when you have assets with night vision capabilities. Colored lights work well to. Tying one to the end of engineer taper, 550 or other cordage allows for you to whirl the light creating a visible circle that cab be seen from several miles in low ilum conditions. While any color will work I suggest green or blue. They are easier to see and red tends to indicate casualties.
Communications. While visual signals need to be acquired and mastered a radio will be important. It is not necessary for all members to have a radio. This is for many reasons; everyone likes to talk, especially if bored, to much ampliﬁed noise, creates an aversion to using signaling techniques, creates a higher probability to being located. If team members are within visual range it is preferred to use hand an arm signals. If you think there is a need for big arm movements to be sen then that is to far away to signal. Here in the states in a permissive environment, essentially what we have everyday right now, even if training I would suggest the team has at least one personal locator beacon for emergency services search and rescue. If there is an injury requiring evacuation that beacon will bring aircraft to your location to extract the individual.
GPS is not required, does have beneﬁts and several handicaps. It is more ideal to master map skills and reading terrain that to rely on GPS. There will be a time when technology does not work or is unavailable, then you will have to rely on your skills. Pushing buttons is not a skill. Range ﬁnders are not required but can add a beneﬁt in some situations. If you really wanted to go that route spend the money to be able to observe 2000+ meters/yards, a good range ﬁnder does both. 1000 yards may sound like a lot until you get into open terrain.
It is ideal that all members of the patrol have one additional pair of socks, a water source at least 70oz in size, up to 2000 calories of food source high in carbs, no wearing of cologne aftershave or deodorant, blowout kit at a minimum, one green chemlight, one red chemlight, a compass, note taking material, eye pro, ear pro, gloves, knife or multipurpose tool. There are many items to be considered but I would consider these deﬁnite.
Depending on the patrol length and purpose ammunition needs to be considered. Most recon situations I have been in had a requirement to break contact and evade. This typically put our members at 5 mags per with the squad leader carrying 10, which was just my SOP. There were of course other demo and ﬁrepower advantages a military unit has that civilians don't such as, smoke, ﬂash bangs, grenades, crew served weapons, grenade launchers, demolitions etc. Ammo is heavy but very important, just keep that in mind. Always have backup iron sights if using optics.
Body armor is not worn buy all recon teams all the time in all situations. When I was in units that a simple plate carrier could be used than more than likely would be. However that is not always the case. I have done several dismounted long range long term missions without plates. Additional backpacks or rucks with a bunch of gear is rarely needed, to heavy, slows you down, probably will have to be dropped if breaking contact and we tend to over pack. Speed is your security when necessary. Stealth is your security always.
While there are many factors involved in such an operation and numerous equipment considerations to tailor to your mission this is a good starting point. If this is something a team would like to practice during an FTX in the future let me know. I will setup a small operation, provide an objective an mission parameters, walk you through the planning process and serve as a higher headquarters for debrieﬁng upon your return. This will likely involve at least the following: map recon prior to departure, planning process, PCC/PCI, patrol report, Communication procedures, surveillance, SPOT/SALUTE report, break contact, sketches and note taking.