Letter Re: FTX Games for Developing Recon and Perimeter Security Skills


Thought I’d pass on some field training exercise (FTX) grunt games that we used to use for training. It’s an excellent way to evaluate your rural home or retreat security, and develop reconnaissance skills.

I don’t know if the military still encourages this kind of training, but during the Cold War, there was a game we used to play to try and keep sharp. If I remember right, both my army reserve unit and later, my regular army mechanized infantry units both practiced this. It costs about nothing, but hones critical skills.

The premise is simple:

To send a team out to gather as much information on the opposing team as possible, and report back without being caught. To make things a little more interesting, each aggressor team member would have a deck of cards, and place them on items of value that they could have stolen or destroyed inside the defenders camp. And if one of the aggressors were caught, they were usually held inside the camp, and made to do something embarrassing (singing a nursery rhyme, clucking like a chicken, or whatever the officer or NCO felt like at that time).

The defensive team would, of course, try and create a defense where no one could sneak through, send out patrols to try and spot/capture recon-patrols, and set traps within their parameter to secure valuable/sensitive items.


When training within the platoon, one group (usually a team to squad size – 4 to 13 people) are marked as the aggressor, the remaining play the defensive role. Sometimes this would even be one company against another company where both had aggressor and defensive components.

This was never official, and usually the losers had to pay for some beer when it was over, but you would be surprised how effective it was.

Training Goals:

Learn where your training is weakest – both in personal training and the tactical abilities of your team/platoon/company.
The best way to learn where your parameter is weakest is to try and get around it.
The best way to learn how to defend against small recon size patrols or individuals is to defend against them.
Not knowing the exact location of the defenders was critical. We would get a general location of where they might be, but beyond that we had to track down the defenders by search grids, and their lack of noise and light discipline.
Most of this was done at night. We had night vision, but the technology is not as effective as you might think in woodland terrain. Plus when the goggles are cranked up to full power, they send out a light beam that gives you away when the opposing team has the goggles too.

Sometimes the NCO on patrol would declare himself “injured”, and he would alternate putting E4s in charge during the remaining mission. It always caused a little confusion, but dealing with confusion was part of the exercise.

To avoid the ‘I saw you’ excuses, we would plan out the recon, mark times at different points, and if possible leave cards where you could have stolen or destroyed materials. In addition, there was on occasion a hidden case of beer. If you could get it out of the defensive parameter without being caught it was yours, if you could identify where it was you split it with whoever else spotted it. We mixed up the rewards all of the time, but you get the point.

One last note: we often did this over the course of a planned field exercise, and in-between normal training. If you only do this for one night, then the opposing force will be ready and have most of their people awake as possible. If they don’t know if you are coming tonight, tomorrow night, or early next week, then they have to use a normal schedule for security. It also meant that if we were to infiltrate when they were the most tiered from their daily training, we would be infiltrating under the same conditions, and with the added strain of the patrol. – Robert B.