Occupying An Assembly Area
Well, my decision to stay put in the next crisis brings me to the title of this article. The word “occupy” is very powerful, and that’s why the U.S. Army has been using this term for as long as there has been a U.S. Army. For example, when a platoon is establishing a defensive posture, it’s called “occupying an assembly area.” This is just a fancy way of saying “this is mine, and if you want it, come and take it!”. Did you know that you always have a 3:1 advantage by staying put and defending what you have? I don’t have a bug-out bag, because I don’t have anywhere better to go than my own castle.
Your neighborhood is your “assembly area,” and you “occupy” it by controlling it. This is where you assemble what you’ve got, in order to plan and prepare for any number of potential future actions or moves. You know the entry and exit routes like the back of your hand. You know the high points and the low points. You know the names of your neighbors, and you have an idea about what they’re good at (and not so good at). You know where the high-speed approach routes are and the best places to erect obstacles. You know where that river leads, and you know the boundaries of those woods. In a SHTF emergency, there is no longer such a thing as my house, the city park, your front yard, or the convenience store parking lot. It is all yours (the organized community’s) now, and you need to own it, control it, use it, defend it, and occupy all of it.
In the Army, the key to performing the task of occupying an assembly area correctly (for example, so that the platoon isn’t wiped out immediately by an ambush) is establishing a Priority of Work. The Priority of Work principle is a never-ending process that will successfully guide your community from preparation to execution. Notice how I said “your community”? That’s because you’re not doing this alone. To put it in context, let’s think about the worst case scenario: a total society collapse with many others wanting what you have.
Priorities of Work is not a laundry list of tasks to be completed; to be effective, Priorities of Work must consist of a task, a given time, and a measurable performance standard. (Ref: US Army Ranger Handbook)
- Security It’s always the #1 priority, but there are no other pre-defined priorities. This is the only one that is always true. Remember that different weapons (shotguns, rifles, handguns, knives, bows, and others) have different ranges and purposes in different situations.
- Alternate position/withdrawal plan Occupation is the best laid plan of mice and men, but if all else fails where will you go? How will you get there? This could also include transportation, such as a bicycle in your trunk to assure your trip when your vehicle can no longer travel any further.
- Clear fields of view/fire You need to see what is coming. “Short range heads up.”
- Prepare fighting positions (dig foxholes, prepare basements and/or other safe areas) An area you can shoot from without being hit, to shelter in place, use as a safe room, or for other purposes.
- Communication This might include a weather radio, Ham radio, police scanner, CB radio, walkie-talkies, mirrors, whistles, smoke signals, et cetera. “Long range heads up.”
- Coordination Working with adjacent units (other neighborhoods).
- Emplace obstacles Erect roadblocks to slow high-speed attackers down.
- Cover, camouflage, and concealment This is all about protection and deception. It might be that you strew clothes and furniture on the front lawns of some of the outlying homes to make it look like your neighborhood has already been hit by raiders.
- Weapons and equipment maintenance Tools, tool sharpeners, extra parts, gun oil, et cetera.
- Water resupply Bleach, buckets, water filters, wood for boiling, solar distillation, et cetera.
- Resupply of ammunition and food This is everything from fishing poles to chickens to rabbits to reusable rat traps to small cages to edible weeds to beetles and more.
- Sanitation and personal hygiene Medications, first aid, feminine hygiene supplies, toothpaste, toilet paper, and more.
When it’s time to occupy your neighborhood, then using the Priority of Work will synergize your community’s efforts. Security will dictate that Joe gives up his deer rifle to Bill who’s taking an overwatch shift in Betty’s attic because that’s the highest ground on the block. The withdrawal plan may dictate the use of Jim’s 40 gallons of gasoline in his garage for Bob’s tractor trailer to quickly relocate the group’s prepositioned important supplies to an alternate site. The need for a clear field of view may dictate the demolition of Susan’s house, and she may end up sleeping with all of the group’s children in the warm and secure basement of Jennifer’s house. Once you get through the Priority of Work, you start the process all over again and improve them. Using the collective resources of the group by priority (and in a never-ending process of continual improvement) will help ensure the tribe’s survival.
Strangers are always presumed to be attackers, no matter what “official” or sorry stories they come up with. The survival of the tribe depends on it. The enemy will employ deception at every opportunity to exploit weaknesses and discover a way in. War is hell. Welcome to your survival situation.
Thinking You Are Janet Napolitano’s Feared Lone Wolf?
For those of you who think you are tough enough to make it on your own, you are probably calling me some sort of hippie at this point. I am calling for sharing resources with the next-door neighbors who you have never even cared enough to meet. You don’t care about that old lady living alone or that weird guy across the street? You don’t want to be burdened with that dead weight, right? They didn’t bother to prepare, and you’re good. All you need to do is either hit the road to get to your pre-stocked Garden of Eden, or outlast them, and take whatever’s left when the buzzards start circling their house. Either way, you couldn’t be more wrong.
Remember that I said you had a 3:1 advantage in a defensive position? What this also means is that you need a 3:1 ratio of attackers to defenders to at least have a 50:50 chance of success in a raid (attacking someone else who is on the defense). This ratio has been proven so many times throughout history that you can count on it as a given. Whether you are attacking or defending, you can’t do it alone, because centuries of statistics don’t support it.
Furthermore, if you plan to just “bug out” to your lost-in-the-woods hideout, you better be able to get there before society breaks down, because when it does, you’re going to be considered an attacker coming by my neighborhood along the way. We’ll be ambushing you on the road, and we’ll have a fortified defense by following the Priority of Work. Most likely, you’ll just die of dehydration while you’re stuck in a traffic jam on the side of the highway. If you do manage to get there by some miracle, chances are that you’ll have to fight your way in. According to the 3:1 ratio, you’d better arrive in force, because there are six waiting for you, and they really like your place. You’ll need 18 attackers to be equal in force.
Yes, you can be a loner and just hang out in your well-stocked house and not help anyone around you, but once again, you’re going to make a real nice target. The sooner someone takes you out, the more supplies they can acquire before you consume them. They might employ the element of surprise and attack you with overwhelming firepower when you least expect it.
On the other hand, our group has families to feed. We’ll have no patience for your lazy, dead weight taking up valuable space and resources on just yourself.
Know when to hold them. Know when to fold them. Know when to walk away, and know when to run!
My suggestion is hold them for as long as possible. Don’t give in to fear. If you have to walk away, take your gun, ammo, gasoline, water, and stuffed animal for the kids. If you need to run, also take a copy of this:
STANDING ORDERS ROGERS RANGERS (from U.S. Army Ranger Handbook)
- Don’t forget nothing.
- Have your musket clean as a whistle, hatchet scoured, sixty rounds powder and ball, and be ready to march at a minute’s warning.
- When you’re on the march, act the way you would if you was sneaking up on a deer. See the enemy first.
- Tell the truth about what you see and what you do. There is an army depending on us for correct information. You can lie all you please when you tell other folks about the Rangers, but don’t never lie to a Ranger or officer.
- Don’t never take a chance you don’t have to.
- When we’re on the march we march single file, far enough apart so one shot can’t go through two men.
- If we strike swamps, or soft ground, we spread out abreast, so it’s hard to track us.
- When we march, we keep moving till dark, so as to give the enemy the least possible chance at us.
- When we camp, half the party stays awake while the other half sleeps.
- If we take prisoners, we keep ’em separate till we have had time to examine them, so they can’t cook up a story between ’em.
- Don’t ever march home the same way. Take a different route so you won’t be ambushed.
- No matter whether we travel in big parties or little ones, each party has to keep a scout 20 yards ahead, 20 yards on each flank, and 20 yards in the rear so the main body can’t be surprised and wiped out.
- Every night you’ll be told where to meet if surrounded by a superior force.
- Don’t sit down to eat without posting sentries.
- Don’t sleep beyond dawn. Dawn’s when the French and Indians attack.
- Don’t cross a river by a regular ford.
- If somebody’s trailing you, make a circle, come back onto your own tracks, and ambush the folks that aim to ambush you.
- Don’t stand up when the enemy’s coming against you. Kneel down, lie down, hide behind a tree.
- Let the enemy come till he’s almost close enough to touch, then let him have it and jump out and finish him up with your hatchet.
~Major Robert Rogers, 1759