Noise, Light, and Litter Discipline, by Survival Ranger

If I can find your MRE trash, I can find your patrol base!”  A quote that has stayed with me, haunted me, and perplexed me throughout my military career. Who would have thought that simple traces of life could serve such a double edged purpose? The very fact that we could locate (almost better than a GPS fix on a position) an enemy encampment, an over-watch position, or cache by sight sound or smell is an amazing concept. But the fact that careless lapses in security on any of the above could compromise our own is a very harrowing one.

Noise discipline –The practice of minimizing ones noise signature to a degree that it does not compromise mission essential actions is very important. This could range from a night raid on an enemy stronghold, to an urban reconnaissance of the local supermarket overrun with post-SHTF warlords, to retrieving water or utilizing the latrine at 3am in your secure perimeter. At night, as sight is diminished, the body attunes itself more towards the gathering of sound and touch. Simple noises that were previously background in the daylight are suddenly brought to the very real and close foreground at night. Am I saying to remain totally silent at all times? Of course not. That is both unrealistic, and not something that anyone would enjoy, accompanied by a jabber-jaw! I am simply stating that in times of necessity, such as a TEOTWAWKI scenario, noise discipline can mean the difference in being an advantageous target for a bunch of looters, or having a perfectly laid ambush in wait for them! Simple ways of improving your noise discipline are as follows:
1.) Ensure that you utilize most of your noise-producing equipment during the day–such as Farm Equipment, Firearms (for hunting), Vehicles, etc.
2.) For tactical gear, ensure that it is soundproofed as much as possible. This can be as simple as wrapping some ACE bandage material around metal carabineers, Filling water sources completely full (so as not to “slosh”), Wearing soft material that doesn’t make a “swish” sound when walking, and packing tactical pouches and pockets well. Keeping them free of rattling objects like loose batteries, loose ammunition, etc.
3.) In refugee, or bug out situations, keeping children “pacified” or otherwise restrained from talking or crying or yelling. (The movie “Tears of the Sun” shows a a good example of that.)

Light Discipline – The practice of minimizing or completely reducing ones light signature so as to mitigate all possible detection during hours of darkness. Light discipline seems like a no brainer, until you see a group of people trying to fumble their way around a forest in the dark! Even the smallest red lens flashlight can give away your position during hours of limited visibility. But how do we mitigate this?

  1. Around the house: Ensure you have a way to keep all light from escaping the residence. You don’t want a band of looters to come prey on a lit up house at night! Easy ways to do this are heavy blankets, aluminum foil, or if all else fails, paint em! But you will want to be able to let light in during the day, so only do the latter as a last resort.
  2. Tactical patrols and movements. Obviously if you have the money, Night Vision gear is amazing, but if you don’t have it, never fear. If you have to stop and conduct a map check, be smart about it. Throw a poncho or other blanket over your head, and use as minimal light as possible. If someone is injured, use only as much light as necessary to treat the person, or stabilize them till you can move them to a more secure area. As with Noise, and Litter, there is a time and a place to weigh your options and decide when to forgo discipline for the sake of speed, or safety.
  3. Muzzle Flashes… Some people or animals won’t have the benefit of night vision. Therefore if you are shooting, the flame produced by the burning gas in your firearm is sure to be what they will set their sights on! Using a flash hider can reduce your muzzle signature to a tolerable level.

Litter Discipline – The practice of cautiously monitoring, and properly disposing of your waste. This can range from a candy bar wrapper, to entrails of a gutted deer, to footprints, or even human waste. In the tracking community this is called “spoor”. (An Afrikaans word, from the Dutch word for tracking.) This is classified as generally anything that is unnaturally occurring in the given natural environment. Examples would be footprints or broken limbs in a vegetated area. Water drop trails on concrete, Gum wrappers on a nature trail, etc. Simply put, this can give away your position, trail, or if the tracker is very keen, your exact rate of travel, and last time at that given location. Some ways to mitigate carelessness with litter are:

  1. Simply pick up after yourself. Pocket your trash, fix what you have disturbed in nature, be it a broken limb, or a tire rut that your 4×4 put there. Some Long Range Reconnaissance and Surveillance (LRRS) units have been known to go so far as to carry out their own excrement by utilizing MRE bags. There is an insane level of litter discipline you can go to, but once again it is all dictated by your speed / security / mission.
  2. Tend to any injuries. Blood trails are surefire ways to be tracked by both man and beast alike. Besides the fact that loss of blood is a killer for many reasons, you don’t want to be eaten by a mountain lion while you are prostrate and vulnerable from shock!
  3. Be cautious when conducting movements or rest operations. If you dug a hole, fill it in, only disturb what needs to be disturbed, and continue on with your path. Clean holes made by tent pegs, or sticks. Disperse ashes from a camp fire, etc.

There really is no end to noise, light, and litter discipline. You can take it as short or as extensive as you want, but keep in mind the consequences of each of your actions. Hopefully you will never need to use any of this knowledge, but for a fun time, try to practice one thing a night for a week, and see just how challenging some of these things can be! Take the family camping, and instruct the kids to only disturb what is necessary and fix everything when you leave. When the sun goes down, there is no more light. During the day, try using hand and arm signals to talk. It’s a great bonding trip, and is an invaluable lesson to all. You will also have a much better appreciation for nature, and the secrets it hides when it is tended to, and the ones it reveals when it is not! Stay safe, and practice practice, practice!