By: Lee Miracle
On Saturday, Jan 20, and Sunday, Jan 21, we deployed to Camp Stasa in Shiawassee County for more winter training. Several members from Wayne County, Oakland County, and St. Claire County were present, as was the truly dedicated Mike Wilks from Macomb County, who brought his snowmobile. For the second time in three months, a news crew was on hand. Therefore, we anticipate another "Liberal Hack Job." We have developed the philosophy that any press is good press, and as long as you show the country that we are still out here training, it's fine with us...as long as you spell the web address correctly. Seriously, we know that a lot of you out there dislike the press, and we do, too. Since, however, we have nothing to hide, why not let them come??
Well, winter was still going on, and some of the vehicles didn't want to make the drive to the back, so Mike Wilks shuttled people back and forth with his snowmobile, for which many folks are very very grateful. Some of the four-wheel drive people, including yours truly, made it back with only very minor difficulty (until I got stuck trying to pull someone else out...).
Anyway, we donned our winter camo, and started out on what turned into a two-mile tactical walk, complete with hand and arm signals. This meant that anyone who wished to qualify for Level 1 would have to do the walk again later, in the snow, as the hand and arm signals tended to slow the movement down.
A word about the hand and arm signals: It is important to keep an eye on the guy in front of you, and also, as far up as you can see. In small units, this means watching the team leader or point man as best as you can, so hand and arm signals can have a faster effect. This by no means implies that you should not keep an eye on your surroundings, but be aware of any hand and arm signals. This is something we should practice more.
The winter camo worked well, but it did the job a lot better when it was worn under your gear instead of over it. Under the gear allows your LBE (kit, web belt, etc..) to break up the white poncho or whatever else you have on. Also, if your gear is worn under your poncho, the poncho tends to blow and billow up, which is not very tactical. During the tactical movement, one lunatic was wearing only a t-shirt under his winter poncho. This is frightening to think about…
During the march, there was lots of bounding movement, and this is good to practice. Always remember, if you are the rear element, you AUTOMATICALLY COVER THE REAR.
We then had another individual attempt to qualify for Level 1. Since he was using an SKS, and the sun was just about directly in our face at this time, the prospects looked dim. Well, we were wrong about that. Adam qualified easily with his SKS, despite horrible light conditions.
We also had some folks trying out one of those 8mm Turkish Mausers; they seem to be decent shooting rifles. There was also some more skiing. If you know me, then you know that Lee + skis = entertainment. This time, the snow had partially thawed and re-froze, so there was a much better surface. I still hate those skis, though. I just haven't given up. Actually, we had three skiers out there, plus a snowmobile. Damn near a whole Alpine Unit…
As it got dark, we set out on patrol, looking for some of the Oakland guys who were practicing probing us. Couldn't find them at all, though at night, the winter camo worked very well. After a patrol or two, and checking on everyone's ability to survive what was promising to be a very cold night, we had not seen any of the Oakland guys. Hadn't heard them either. Until I launched a couple of flares.
These were the surplus, East German flares that you can still find at gun shows. They worked really well. In fact, they worked better than we were aware of… Someone from the Oakland element was in the field when the flares went up. He thought that we had seen him from the flares, and was pretty sure he had been spotted when Mike rode up on him with the snowmobile. Truthfully, we were all watching the flare, and the gentleman in the field wasn't really seen until Mike had happened upon him. Still, the value of good flares like that cannot be overstated (it would help if someone actually bothered to look around, instead of watching the flare go up, but we can work on that.)
It got down to around 12 degrees overnight, but nobody froze to death. There might have been some grumbling, but everyone was ok. Sunday morning saw quite a few militia joggers trying to get a bit of warmth and circulation going. Lee + running = entertainment. After a cold night, everyone gets asked if they are okay, how did they sleep, etc. Importantly, we determine what works and what doesn't. We will talk more about this in upcoming meetings and newsletters. Ask the guys who stay out overnight how they stayed warm...
The biggest problem in the morning was that most of our water was now of the solid variety. Things we will try to solve this next time out will be the Camelback thing that you wear on your back, which will help keep water from freezing, and maybe some kind of small flask-thing which can be worn close to the body; the little hand warmer packets might also keep water from freezing, if you can fit one your canteen pouch.
I got to ride the snowmobile, which I had never done before. Thanks, Mike.
We also did a four-pin shoot in the snow. One of the reporters, actually, the camera operator, Dodge Billingsly, also did the shoot with a 9mm carbine (which might end up being his weapon of choice for some reason...) We try to get all the media types to shoot when they come out. Nick did the shoot in only four shots, with a rifle he had never fired before.
The cold temperature caused the shots to really tear up the pins pretty badly, especially the 30-06 (ahem…Tom...) The reporters were Bruce Kennedy, from BNN, and the camera was operated by Dodge Billingsly.
Dodge also has a website,www.combatfilms.com, and has filmed the fighting in Chechnya. He graciously donated a copy of his documentary about the Chechens, called Immortal Fortress. It is highly recommended viewing.
The base camp (Griffin's Den) was kept warm and under control, and served as a brief break from the cold at intervals throughout the weekend. It was here that we thawed out some of our water containers, and had some pretty good chats with the reporter guys. We are still anticipating the standard Liberal Hack Job, but hey, they stayed out in the cold with us…
This was one of our better training events, in that we got lots of things accomplished, qualified a new Level 1 person, and re-qualified an old one, and learned more about what works, and what doesn't. More importantly, we learned that we can handle just about any weather that Michigan throws at us...
Come and see…
Note: Congrats again to Adam for qualifying as Level One, especially under terrible light conditions, and to Denis for re-qualifying. (Denis was one of the "original five" that developed and tested Level 1 back in 1997.)