One of the greatest areas of risk for many of the regular readers of SurvivalBlog will come about while taking our exfiltration routes from current locations to safe areas/hidey holes following a TEOTWAWKI situation. While this topic has come about to some extent in previous postings, (and covered to great extent in the novel, “Patriots”.) I feel that a greater discussion is called for in regard to the seriousness of this event for group travel preparations. The following information is based upon a year-long stint in Afghanistan throughout which my three-man team conducted daily un-armored convoy patrol/recon operations while attached to 3rd and 20th Groups, Special Forces. (And an additional year spent in Kosovo traveling in hostile areas in a single un-armored vehicle on a daily basis also helped point out poor planning/procedure.)
Before the Merde Hits the Ventilator
Convoy, by definition, is a group of two or more vehicles traveling to a particular location with some form of communication, plan and agenda. An ideal goal would be to have like-minded people going to the same area prior to your bug-out in order to practice these vehicle operations before your life depends on the outcome. Of course, along with the previous goal would be the necessary requirement for a successful convoy like having full fuel tanks, spare fuel to reach your destination, communication with all vehicles, load-out plans for the equipment and personnel in each vehicle, and an early enough start out of your particular danger zone so as to avoid the large mass of confused humanity sure to follow.
Possible Dangers/Speed Bumps on the Way Home
One cannot plan for every single incident or situation capable of arising in this type of endeavor, but a few generalized scenarios will be considered as the basis for this discussion. The type of catastrophe from which we will be fleeing will obviously have the greatest impact on the scenarios encountered. Pandemics will have both the federal government attempting to quarantine regions and the local populations’ attempts at clearing the infection zone hindering our movement. Natural disasters will see FEMA trucks (and others) en route into the affected area thereby helping to impede the outgoing traffic (read traffic jams of epic proportions). Federal government assertions of power and/or invitations to United Nations involvement will simplify some things with the majority of the local populace unwilling/unable to flee, but roadblocks and armed encounters will be almost a certainty. Lastly, any type of EMP event might declare the majority of this article null and void. (I’ve seen very few bicycle convoys.)
Assembling all of the vehicles and group members in a particular area prior to moving out will help ensure evenly loaded vehicles, i.e. qualified drivers, shooters and inter-vehicle communications personnel. The best set-up we found in the ‘stan was four people per vehicle with a fast-moving convoy containing a minimum of three but not much more than six vehicles. All members should be armed although a youth can operate the radio and a non-combatant can drive (although they must have a cool head and fast reflexes.) Riflemen (or women) in the front passenger seat and the rear driver-side seat will provide the best vehicle coverage, with the optimum being another rifleman in the truck bed/hatchback if possible. Military Humvees work pretty good for these operations but an even more efficient system involved our renting out a Toyota Hi-Lux four-door pickup (basically the same as a crew cab Tacoma), pulling off all four doors for the best fields of fire and easy egress for reacting to fire, loading sand bags in the bed along with a rifleman for rear security, and packing our necessary/additional gear around the surplus room (thereby retaining our shooters’ personal space for better combat movement).
The lead vehicle should be both capable of providing sufficient fire to the direct front of the convoy or of small enough size and capable speed as to leave any particular trouble area at a moments notice. A pickup truck with one or more riflemen in the bed shooting over the roof is one possibility although a jeep set up to resemble the one in “Patriots” is another viable option. I would probably opt for a single motorcycle with good communications (CB 2-ways or FRS handhelds) and rotating the “recon element” task between adult members of the group with the realization that sustaining one or a few casualties is better than the entire convoy. The lead vehicle should be far enough ahead of the main element that no engine noise can be heard or other elements seen by possible ambushes ahead (roughly a half mile although no communications will mean that following elements only have gun shots to warn of danger ahead).
The second most important element in convoy operations will be the “rear guard” tailing the main convoy body once again with either the ability to fire at rear targets or catch up to the rest of the group for fire support (possibly a motorcycle). The Special Forces type of rig described in the preceding paragraph would be a fine choice with one or more riflemen in the truck bed behind sand bags providing vehicle cover for all members. This rear vehicle should remain roughly a quarter to half mile behind the main convoy body although the loss of communications could necessitate that it be within sight of the second to last vehicle.
Finally, the main convoy will be configured so as to give the best security to all non-combatants in the group, usually keeping women and children in support vehicles with the gear, thereby freeing up at least one reaction-type vehicle with shooters to respond to the front or rear of the convoy as required.
Any type of conflict occurring within the movement of this convoy will be dealt with in one of three ways: the lead element deciding that running the roadblock/ambush is necessary (little incoming fire/only way out of area), backtracking to find another route (bridge out/serious armed forces roadblock), or stopping the convoy to fight it out to a conclusion (well planned and initiated ambush with all vehicles in kill zone). To those of us with previous combat overseas but now without the options of air support, reinforcements or medevac, the first two options would be given the utmost priority if possible. Naturally this is taking into account the luxuries of having like-minded people around all heading in the same general direction with vehicles, weaponry and skill as to make this endeavor work. Personally, come TEOTWAWKI, I will be looking at a roughly 600 mile trip from southern Wyoming north to my families’ eastern Montana cattle ranch in a one or two vehicle convoy with my wife, an old Army buddy (and his family), and a single friend of mine who recently attended an RWVA Appleseed shoot with me in Guerney, Wyoming