The Leader’s Recon: Planning the Homesteader’s Defensive Battle Space, by Tim R.

Today, I did a leader’s recon (reconnaissance) of my small homestead.  While I was in the infantry, I would plan my future ground defense by walking the terrain with my small unit infantry leaders.  Today, I did the same, minus the team leaders.  Twenty years in the infantry, and now several years retired, and now I look at how I am going to protect my family and defend my rural homestead.  I feel that the day may be coming soon.  President Obama stated that our nation’s deficit does not concern him.  This nation is on a mad printing spree, conjuring up money out of thin air to pay for our debts.  Any student of history knows that you cannot print your way to prosperity.  This will not end well.  Social upheaval is inevitable when you rapidly devalue your currency.  To prepare for this coming storm means analyzing and planning your home defenses, now, not during the storm.

Americans have been given some dubious advice by the gaffe prone Vice-President Joe Biden.  He advised armed citizens to confront burglars with a double barreled shotgun and to scare them away by firing two blasts up in the air outside their house.  The hardened and desperate marauder will not be deterred by noise.  Biden also advised us to shoot through the door to discourage home invaders.  Failing to properly identify your target as friend or foe can lead to tragedy.  By the time marauders are at the doorstep, it is too late, and you have quickly ran out of battle-space. 

During a prolonged and severe nationwide crisis, we will most likely see a total breakdown of society, with little or no law enforcement.  Local law enforcement will likely collapse, as they will choose to stay home and protect their own families (What are they going to be paid with anyway?  Worthless paper money?).  You are on your own.  You will have to be your own 911.  And I hope that you will be armed with something more substantial then a double-barrel shotgun.  Waiting for the bad guys to breach the front door at night or standing on your front porch, shotgun in hand, is not going to work.  You will need to deter, deceive, detect, deny, delay, and defend what you have, not through the front door, but within your neighborhood/homestead/farm in a coordinated, robust defense-in-depth.

We need to prepare for a total breakdown of society, called a Without Rule Of Law (WROL).  Marauders and the unprepared will not be dissuaded by harmless noise making shotgun blasts in the air.  They will be desperate, hungry, cunning, and they want what you have.  During the initial parts of the crisis, the clueless, careless, and unprepared will quickly be killed off.  It will be the homeowner who thinks he can scare off several armed thugs with his Joe Biden approved shotgun from his front porch.  Or it will be the lone wolf looter who helps himself to what is in the homesteader’s kitchen in broad daylight.  Once they have been winnowed out, only the cunning and ruthless will be left on both sides.  We will need to have a strong, well planned defense to protect our family and homestead.  The following article has recommendations on what to do before and after WROL.  One caveat:  Some of the defensive and deadly force measures discussed here should only be used AFTER the collapse of law enforcement.  Until then, common sense and local laws apply!
Back to my leader’s recon.  I would start by conducting an Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield or IPB
Enemy:  I would analyze the enemy or potential enemy by using local media and the neighborhood grapevine.  I would classify them and ask who will I be dealing with?  Refugees, opportunistic individuals, or organized gangs?  Size?  What is their typical COA (Course Of Action, in other words, how are they conducting their attacks on homesteads)?  What are they after (food or retributive change)?  Locations?  Equipment/Weapons?  Mobility?  When was they last seen?  What are their strengths?  Weaknesses?
Terrain:  Next, I drew a simple bird’s eye map of the homestead.  I drew the house, outbuildings, tree-lines, driveways, trails, creeks, and any other prominent terrain features.  One shortcut I use is Google Earth.  It allows you to view and print satellite imagery anywhere in the world.  Center in on your area, zoom in, and print it up. 
Analyze the terrain from a defensive point of view, and an offensive (the enemies) point of view.  Walk around and look for observation and fields of fire, cover and concealment, manmade and natural obstacles, key or decisive terrain, and avenues of approach.  The acronym for planning battle-space is OCOKA, which stands for:

  • Observation and Fields of Fire:  For my homestead, observation would be a second story window, open terrain, or a concealed position across the road to observe and provide an early warning.  Fields of fire are cleared open or semi-open areas that allow us see into and to engage the enemy with aimed rifle fire.  
  • Cover and Concealment:  Cover protects a person from direct rifle fire, concealment just conceals from said rifle fire.  Good cover is filled sandbags, tires filled with dirt, armor plating, large boulders, stone fences, or a dry ravine.  Concealment conceals, but it does not stop bullets.  It could leafy foliage, typical housing construction, or inside the standard family car.  Most rifle bullets will pass clean though a typical vinyl siding, plywood and gypsum board housing construction.  Note areas that you cannot see into, such as a ravine, heavy vegetation, houses, or behind a stone fence.  This is called dead space, and could be exploited by the enemy to move in closer to your defensive positions.  Outline, then hatch-mark the dead space areas on your map.
  • Obstacles (Manmade and natural):  For my area, it is sturdy gates, barbed wire fences and spike strips.  It could also be a swamp, brier-patch, forest, wide creeks, trenches, and logs across the road.  Anything to slow or have the enemy move away from your area, or move to an area where you can see him and engage with rifle fire.  Draw your obstacles on your map. 
  • Key or Decisive Terrain:  This is terrain that offers a tactical advantage to the attacker or defender.  For my area it is our house and outbuildings.  Lose the house to marauders; lose the food, water, and shelter.  Other key terrain may be a bridge, a hill, or water tower that looks down into your area or a ravine that comes right up to your defensive area.  Circle these areas on your map.
  • Avenues of Approach (Slow and high-speed):  Trails, open areas (slow), and roads (high-speed).  For us, it is the driveway and road.  Control both, and it will be easier for us to assess someone as hostile, friendly, or unknown.  Fail to control both, and they can quickly roll right up on top of us before we can alert everyone and mount a robust defense.  Again, draw this on your map. 

For defensive planning, use the 6 Ds.  They are:  Deter, Deceive, Detect, Delay, Deny, and Defend.

  • Deter:  “The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting” (Sun Tzu).  Some of the things we can do right now is to make our area as unwelcome as possible to criminals.  Set up motion sensor spot lights.  Use posted signs around the homestead to inform all that they are under camera surveillance, post beware of dog signs, electrical fencing, or that you have an alarm system.  You can buy weatherproof signs and window stickers on eBay.  During WROL, we plan on posting several hand-made signs up and down our country roads.  They will read: “Rule .357 In Effect”, “You Loot – We Shoot”, “Residents Only,” and “Armed Neighborhood Watch In Effect.”  The best battle that you can fight is the one you don’t have to fight.  If you can convince the enemy to turn around and move on, then you can avoid the deadly confrontations. 
  • Deceive:  “All warfare is based on deception” and “Appear weak when you are strong and strong when you are weak” (Sun Tzu).  Use camouflage as part of your deception plan.  If they can’t see it, they can’t attack it.  If they don’t know about it, they can’t come up with a countermeasure.  Example:  What may look like a pile of brush may be a fighting position (fox hole).  Being low key and inconspicuous (going gray) should also be part of your plan.  If your neighbors don’t have electricity, neither should you (at least outwardly).  That means blackout curtains, and limiting generator noises.  If your neighbors have been looted, throw some of your unused furniture out on the lawn.  Don’t be eager to outwardly display all of your defensive measures.  Wait for the right moment, then utilize as needed for the maximum shock effect.  This will cause the enemy to re-think his plans and react to you. 
  • Detect:  Set up a communication plan with your neighbors.  If they see marauders in the area, have them alert you.  Plan for a well hidden LP/OP (Listening Post/Observation Post) just outside your perimeter along a likely avenue of approach.  Consider a home video surveillance system.  You can connect them to your laptop PC system to view and record events.  Some surveillance systems will give you an alarm if motion is detected.  Dakota Alert is another great wireless system that lets you know if there are intruders in your area.  This equipment all works as long as you have electricity and/or batteries.  Have a backup for your backup.  Binoculars and alert, barking dogs is one of several solutions.  Closer to home, you cannot clear all of the dense brush and undergrowth in a forest, but you can strategically clear lanes that allow you to look deep inside the forest. 
  • Delay/Deny:  Delay and Deny go hand in hand.  Denying the enemy access to an area also slows him down.  That gives you time to detect the enemy and go to full alert within your perimeter.  Logs or homemade spike strips across the driveway will force vehicles to slow and stop.  Fences and gates will delay the enemy.  Crisscrossing wire at random heights in open areas slows an attacker.  Consider spike and nail strips, broken glass, or barbed wire in dead space areas to deny the enemy the chance to use it.  Set up your defense in layers.  If he breaches one obstacle, make him have to contend with several more.  Use your man-made and natural obstacles to deter the enemy so that he gives up and goes elsewhere, or channelizes him into the battlefield of your choice, called a Kill Zone. 
  • Defend:  And finally, during WROL, and when all else fails, it is time to put well aimed rifle fire on those who would do you harm.  If you have shaped your battlefield with obstacles and have a planned defense, this will be at the place and time of your choosing. 

Scout areas for possible homestead 360º perimeter fighting positions.  Place your homestead in the center and then plan your circular defense.  Plan your fighting positions to cover likely avenues of approach.  Do not plan a linear defense, because a thinking enemy will just circle around and attack you from your unguarded rear flank (remember the Maginot Line?).
When planning ground level fighting positions (fox holes) and before you dig, the trick is to lie down on the ground and look at the terrain.  Why?  Because the terrain looks a lot different when you have dug down into the ground and just your head is poking up!  Look for areas that will offer cover and concealment to an enemy trying to attack your position.  Now looking downrange, each fighting position should have a left and right lateral limit.  This is the extreme left and right a rifleman can engage a target without firing on a friendly fighting position.  Stakes or sandbags can help limit the rifle traversing at night by creating a physical stop for the rifleman.  Create fields of fire that overlap with other nearby friendly position’s fields of fire, so there are no gaps or blind spots that the enemy can exploit.  Each fighting position should mutually support each other by rifle fire.  That means the enemy cannot assault/attack one fighting position without drawing fire from nearby friendly fighting position (s).  

When planning the homestead defense, keep saying to yourself “Think Ambush.”  An ambush is a deadly attack on an unsuspecting enemy at close range from a concealed and covered defensive position.  The enemy has little time to react to your attack, because they never saw it coming.  They never realized that you saw them first, and that you were able to quietly alert your homestead.  They never saw the cleverly camouflaged fighting positions, they never suspected the obstacles were there to not only stop them, but to steer them into a lethal Kill Zone, with no escape. 
The last step in planning is to approach the proposed fighting position(s) from the enemy’s side during the day and at night.  Try to think how the enemy will approach, view, and plan an attack on the defensive positions. 

When it comes time to dig my fighting positions, one of the first things I will do is cut down some of the many small fir trees that we have around the homestead.  I will then lay the cut trees on their side in front of the locations I plan on digging my fighting position.  This will camouflage the fighting position.  I will also scatter cut trees around the property to draw attention away from the real positions.  Have a plan to remove anything in front of the fighting position that might provide cover or concealment for the enemy.  You will not be able to clear an entire forest to deny cover and concealment, but make the effort to selectively clear fields of observation/fire without making it too obvious.

Using your IPB and OCOKA, draw a range card map.  It is a simple bird’s eye view of the defensive area and allows you to visualize your defenses.  Place the homestead in the center.  Now draw the location for each proposed fighting position, including their left and right lateral limits.  On your range card, each fighting position should look like a V, with the fighting position at the base.  Each leg of the V should have the distance to the closest dead space.  Include distances to tree-lines, avenues of approach or any other areas that the enemy may attack you from.  
My leader’s recon also included an obstacle plan.  One of the obstacles includes a four strand barbed wire fence.  For some, it may be too early to start constructing defensive obstacles, like a razor wire gate (the neighbors will talk!).  But we need to start planning now.  Know where you are going to place everything, how long will it take to construct it, and start purchasing the necessary materials, like barbed wire and fence posts.  Plan and construct obstacles to channelize or force the enemy into an open area where you can destroy him in a Kill Zone.  ALL obstacles should be covered by rifle fire.  If you cannot maintain visual and rifle fire on an obstacle, the enemy will go around it, or try to breach it. 

Have defensive plans for the enemy’s COA.  There should be at least two enemy COAs: Most likely and most dangerous.  Have a rehearsed plan for each enemy COA.  For me, the enemy’s most likely COA when attacking my homestead is hey-diddle-diddle, right up the middle.  Right up the driveway.  Right into the closed gate, barbed wire fences, camouflaged fighting positions with alert defenders.  Most dangerous is hitting us from our lightly defended flank, coming in from the tree-line (dead space) that is dangerously close to our homestead.  We won’t see them until they are right on top of us.  We will counteract with aggressive and random patrolling outside the defensive perimeter, a communication/warning plan with my neighbors, alert barking dogs, Dakota Alerts, and trip wires. 
While you are planning your defensive positions, don’t stop there.  Consider:

  • A communication plan.  Primary: Radios – Alternate: Voice, Runner – No Comm: Hand & Arm Signals, Flashlight.
  • Continuously improving your defenses and obstacles. 
  • Making sure the camouflage matches the terrain. 
  • How would weather affect your defenses and defenders?  Rain, snow, heat, darkness?
  • Create and camouflage alternate positions that cover the same sector of fire. 
  • War-game and conduct rehearsals/drills (ensure all weapons are unloaded!).  Evaluate your defenders.   
  • Keep asking “What If??”  What if I was attacked from this direction?  What if the enemy used fire bombs or wire cutters? 
  • Discuss and implement clear rules of engagement (When to use or not to use deadly force).  Ask what is a “hostile act” during WROL?
  • Discuss and implement the use of force continuum.  Not every hostile act requires a deadly force reaction. 
  • Implement visual control measures.  Map and label all prominent terrain features.  Create check points.  Everyone should know the homestead cardinal directions (north, south, etc….).  Example:  “I have three armed unknowns, walking, vicinity check point 12 (Bear Creek Bridge) heading south”
  • If you have reports of nearby marauders, have a stand-to (100% alert, everyone armed and awake) at dusk and at dawn.  This is the ideal time to get attacked. 
  • Develop IA (Immediate Action) drills.  It is a rehearsed and automatic response to a likely enemy COA.  Example:  Visibly armed person(s) attempt to breach the gate/fencing; we will go to full alert and conduct X, Y, and Z.
  • Color code defensive postures and SOPs.  Example:  Threat Condition Red; 100% Alert, all positions manned, all adults/teens armed with a rifle, wearing load bearing vests, bug out bags at the ready.

My action plan is this:  At some point in the near future there will be a trigger event, like a bank holiday or food riots that will compel me to grab a shovel to start digging and building my up defensive positions.  Having planned my battle-space and laid in defensive building supplies, all I have to do is implement my plan.  When I have word of the approaching storm, this is one less thing to worry about. 

So prepare for the coming storm.  Walk the homestead, conduct a leader’s recon, and plan your defensive battle-space.  TODAY.