Two Letters Re: Temporary and Permanent Obstacles for Retreat Security

Here in Iraq the Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Device (VBIED) threat is very serious. Obviously at home we won’t be able to set up the complex entry points seen on a US Forward Operating Base (FOB). However a lesson can be taken from the Iraq Outposts. At the Combat Outpost (COP) where I am stationed (Joint US/Iraqi Army); the entry is well defended. Using HESCO barriers to create the lane, the ‘gate’ is simply a 2 1/2 truck with armor plate welded on one side. This truck is parked across the entry way. This can be quickly moved and is decent blast protection. The traffic lane has jersey barriers set up to create a series of switch backs, to force the vehicle to slow down. At the end is a small bunker and tower that allows one to place fire on anything that may try to run past the truck when it opens up to let vehicles in. At night concertina wire is stretched across, slowing done vehicles even more.
At home one could store HESCO barriers, concertina wire and sandbags to create something very similar to force any vehicles into a kill zone. HESCO barriers are easy to store when unfilled and a small tractor with front-end loader can fill them quickly. To create a ‘gate’ one could simply take a heavy duty pickup (any junker that can go forward and reverse will work) and weld steel plate on one side. Using angle iron (to make vehicle-stopping caltrops) and wire you can create the switchbacks to slow vehicles.
HESCO [type]barriers would also be useful for blocking off vehicle access to open areas; as they can be easily wired together. Regards, – Tim McB. in Iraq


Dear Mr. Rawles,
The subject of vehicle barriers, as recently mentioned on your web site, is one that I have given some thought to.
In terms of defensive measures, the [WWII] British Home Guard had some surprisingly effective measures that would work quite well today. Also, since the Home Guard operated on a shoestring budget and had a minimum of materials, their clever approaches are quite relevant to today’s preparedness minded individual.
The two vehicle barriers that I thought would still be useful today are these:
The Hedgehog – Extremely simple and low key. The modern version of this is seen at embassies all around the world (and in surprising numbers around lower Manhattan).
Simply, “sockets” are placed in the roadway. These are nothing more than simple holes about 3-4 feet deep lined with pipe of sufficient diameter to admit the entrance of a piece of steel beam/pipe. When not in use, the sockets are covered and the steel beam/pipe is stacked on the side of the road as if it were construction material. When needed, 2 or 3 fellows go out, uncover the sockets and drop in the beam/pipe. Hedgehog being set-up for use.
The other simple but effective measure would be the permanent type roadblock also used by the Home Guard.

A simple concrete column that has openings in it to allow for the installation of steel pipe or sections of rail track.
When not in use, these two different types of barriers present a very low profile. The Hedgehog simply looks like tiny manholes in a road surface and the permanent type roadblock looks like a large gatepost.
As with any barrier, both have to be placed in such a way vehicles can not go around it easily and that vehicles and personnel approaching it may be brought under direct observation/fire. One of these barriers properly placed at one end of a long straight approach could allow multiple vehicles the line up single column while the lead vehicle deals with the obstacle; this turns your approach/driveway/road into a marvelous enfilade.
There are several good books and web sites on the different types of vehicle defenses the British had set up during WWII. While some are not practical at individual level, either because they require too many resources or they present too obvious a message, many are surprisingly low key, low maintenance, durable (they’re still standing) and simple. One of the greatest features of the British Home Guard vehicle barriers as compared to many others is that they allowed for everyday use of the roads, but could be instantly put into action with very little external resources. No electric, no hydraulics, no computers; just 3 or 4 Tommies with strong backs to shoulder the rails and it was done.
As with any defense, layers are best. That reinforced steel gate at the entrance to ones property is fine. That same gate with a second one 25 yards back flanked by “culverts” (anti-vehicle ditches) is even better. Redundancy and layers. – RMV

JWR Replies: The Bollard type hedgehog approach works well, but like any other obstacle,to be effective it must be covered by fire. To stop attackers from pulling up removable bollards, a short length of chain attached to the inset pipe can be secured with a padlock. One inexpensive source of material for Bollards is used railroad track.