Fieldcraft is, to put it simply, the art of living and moving in the field. Although the ACO is generally focused on different activities, fieldcraft does play a part in most Squadron's training programmes.
An average squadron might run 'exercises' which vary widely. Many involve two teams being pitted against each other. Exercises vary and each places emphasis on different aspects of fieldcraft. Some might need you and your team to move slowly and quietly, sneaking upon an 'enemy' installation, perhaps. Others need speed as well as stealth, and you will have to decide how much of one to trade off against another. An acknowledged advantage of fieldcraft exercises is that it forces people to use their initiative much more often. You could find yourself in a decision-making position as a relatively junior member of the squadron.
Fieldcraft is often used by squadrons as a method of assessing cadets' leadership qualities - what would happen, for instance if the 1 and 2i/cs (first and second in commands) of your team went down? Would you take control? Do you have the skills and abilities?
A popular exercise, often used by squadrons is the 'E & E' (Escape and Evasion) exercise. This involves splitting the cadets into two or more groups, and telling one group to catch the other. Often spectacular displays of skill (and others of incompetence) can be seen in this type of exercise - imagine yourself crawling slowly past on one side of a small rise, with the enemy chatting to each other only metres away. Imagine a team of cadets, in the charge of a responsible NCO dividing up into a search pattern to sweep a pre-planned stretch of woods for a hiding enemy! Great fun can be had by all on these types of exercise.
Other exercises used by squadrons are 'Objective' exercises. This might involve searching for an object and returning it to base, while other teams search for other objects, or it might pit you against your friends looking for the same object. Whatever the structure, a well planned objective exercise can be exciting and fun.
Casevac (Casualty Evacuation) exercises can also be an interesting challenge. This is something a bit different - the main objective is humanitarian rather than offensive - this could give the more enthusiastic cadets something to think about! Basically, cadets must enter an hostile area and evacuate injured allies. The degree of difficulty can be varied through addition of enemies, and perhaps a time limit. This is a good exercise to test all skill sets at once.
Finally - remember that exercises do NOT have to be "NiteExs" done at at night! In fact - more skill can be required to operate during the day. Once enough people are trained, rather than running a short exercise on a parade night, you could consider using these for your training, and perhaps running a weekend ex - these can be fun and much more testing of individual and team performance.
Planning an exercise is a time consuming process. Many eventualities must be taken into account and safety must at all times be the most important consideration. Ideally, you should be spending several weeks compiling your exercise. Once you have finished, write it down, and take it to your Squadron Training Officer.
The location of the exercise is very important. Is it big enough? Is it too big? You want a size that will give people plenty of space to move around, but you don't want to spend an evening with no one finding each other. You must also consider supervision, and how many staff or senior cadets you need to supervise the exercise.
Plan your teams so that each has an equal cross section of skills. Ideally, a team should be led by a Senior NCO or experienced JNCO. There should be some younger cadets in there, because it is important that they learn. Avoid the creation of 'super' teams. Do not make teams larger than seven or smaller than four. This will mean that a) Every member of the team is vital, and b) Communication is easier. Smaller teams are not advised, as people could get lost or hurt with no one to raise the alarm.
Does all of your squadron have all the required equipment? Boots are a good idea - if a cadet cannot get hold of issue boots, suggest they purchase some, or some hiking boots. If it's a cold night, a jumper under smocks/jackets is a good idea. Do not let cadets run around the woods fully equipped with webbing, kevlar helmet etc - this will just tire them out before the ex is completed. Kevlar helmets are rarely appropriate for such exercises and if ill fitting can cause problems; you are better off opting for a wooly cap.
Make sure you have enough staff on hand to handle any difficulties. Also advise them of any plans (including surprises) that you have made. Details of recommended staffing ratios are available within the ACP's and Risk Assessments.
The word above should always be foremost in your mind. Safety should always be of the greatest importance in any exercise - always have a prearranged 'ENDEX' signal - and if in doubt, use it! Also remember to give start and end times to ALL the cadets, plus RV and ERV points (Rendévous, and Emergency Rendévous). Make sure all exercise details are included in the Exercise Action & Safety Plan.
• Uniform & Camouflage
Uniform used for fieldcraft is usually called DPM (Disruptive Pattern Material). Other names you may hear used are 'Greens' or 'Cabbage'. A short recommended kit list is shown below.
These are all the things you need - extras can always be picked up later on. Some Squadrons may be able to provide you with DPM kit but you should have no problem finding this equipment at your local military surplus store or on-line. Do ask at your Squadron first though as they will be able to advise about what is required and suggest sources.
- DPM Trousers
- DPM Smock (Jacket)
- Green / DPM Shirt or Dark T-shirt
- Black Hi-leg Boots
- Wooly Hat and Gloves
The idea of DPM uniform is very different to that of the 'blue uniform' described elsewhere. This kit can withstand months of constant use and mistreatment - it is designed to get wet, muddy and be used 'in action'. It is excellent camouflage - on a dark night, all you need to do to avoid being spotted is stand still. Kit choice and preparation can be an important part of the fieldcraft training syllabus.
Everyone has heard of camo cream. It comes in tubes or compacts that you rub onto your face, and as soon as you do, you become invisible! This is, of course - not at all true. Be careful when applying cam as it contains insect repellent which can sting if it gets near your eyes and although washable does end up on everything you touch! There are some natural alternatives in the form of mud or wearing a balaclava. Your advised not to use burnt cork as there are some burn risks if not done properly.
Make sure that you are not too liberal or too sparse when applying 'cam' - you should rub it over the nose and cheekbones. Parts of your face which are in shadow should not be covered. Remember the goal is disruption - that means variation. Check out the Fieldcraft ACP for more details about this.
The cream should be applied with the objective to disrupt. After applying a base areas that stand out should be covered with 'tiger' stripes - whereas areas of the face already in shadow should be left as they are. Remember your forehead, behind the ears and neckline. There is no need to go for the Arnie Schwarzenegger "Predator" full face paint. This is one area where European and US tactics differ.
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