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U.S. Special Forces Alpine Warfare Guide

U.S. Special Forces Alpine Warfare Guide

Fighting in Extreme Alpine Winter Conditions... Scouting, Camouflage, Erasing Tracks, Fighting in the Snow, Choosing a Camp Location, Baiting an Enemy into a Killzone, Retreat, Taking High Ground. Ready to battle for your life high on a mountain pass?
by , Copyright © SecretsofSurvival.com

How to Survive Like the U.S. Special Forces

PART 1 -
Special Forces Survival Training and Mountain Warfare
Why Are the U.S. Special Forces so Skilled at Mountain Survival? What Can We Learn from Them?

PART 2 -
Special Forces Advanced Mountain Operations School
Finding Food, Water, Edible Plants, Insects, Wildlife, Fire Making, and Making Shelter

PART 3 -
Special Forces Alpine Warfare Survival Training
Scouting, Camouflage, Erasing Tracks, Fighting in the Snow, Choosing a Camp Location, Baiting an Enemy into a Killzone, Retreat, Taking High Ground


Part 3

Alpine Warfare and Survival

Let's re-cap what we've covered so far. We know that making an insulated shelter is key to staying warm and dry. We know that if we can find food and water and can figure out an ongoing way to provide food and water to our camp we can live indefinitely in the mountains. Finally, if we can adapt with the changing seasons we can survive in harsh, snowy conditions -- just as the Eskimos and other cultures have survived in cold, snowy conditions for many centuries.

Last, for this to be anywhere close to what is taught in U.S. Special Forces Advanced Mountain Operations School, we're going to need to discuss alpine warfare -- because at some point there may be an enemy and he may be armed and you and your camp may be outnumbered. How do you win this battle without losing any of your guys?

Scouting

In a time of lawlessness or war, a system for scouting is something every camp is going to want to have in place. Not only scouts but also posted guards in rotating watches.

Having scouts means you can police a perimeter around the area that you're traveling and where you have set up camp. Send out your scouts in teams -- if you have enough people. Sending out scouts in teams means less danger to the team than if a scout is sent out just as a single person.

The people you choose as scouts need to be capable (or quickly become capable) of cross-country travel -- meaning being able to travel easily off trail and being adept at not getting lost and able to find their way back. Tree markings are one way to remind each other the direction back to camp.

Scouts will be on the look out for intruders and enemy troop movements.

Scouts are your early warning system that a much larger armed group is on its way in the direction of your location. Scouts can sound an alert that enables your main group time to get ready, even to set up an ambush.

You may be in the same location for several weeks without an incident when suddenly a scout may find a dangerous group or armed troops are heading into the area. Without scouts policing the area that armed group would have come across your camp and either wiped you all out or taken your group prisoner.

Protecting Your Scouts

Anytime your scouts can use the terrain to conceal their movement and at the same time carefully read the terrain they reduce the risk of losing their lives to a sniper up ahead or to an ambush -- or simply a man-made trap.

People traps would typically be set in areas that people would be thought to move, just as traps for animals would be set where animals would be thought to go -- such as game trails. Native Americans may have traveled the land using game trails but that may not be the best thing to do if there are other people in the land potentially setting traps (people traps).

Body Armor in Warfare

If we're going to use the Special Forces as inspiration for our preparation and training in mountain survival and alpine warfare -- let's not forget about a modern day tool used in numerous missions by the Special Forces -- I'm talking about body armor. The idea for body armor descends from warrior cultures in earlier history. Today's body armor is light-weight and can often be worn inconspicuosly under clothing -- perhaps a lot like what is worn by diplomats, drug cartels, and even the U.S. Secret Service.

Today, body armor is available to consumers like you and I sold by self-defense companies. Unless you've got God's anointing to protect you from the forces of evil as seen in Biblical time periods, I suggest that body armor be something you consider. Stop a knife, stop an arrow, stop a bullet -- it may save you from severe injury or death in a conflict.

Spotting and Avoiding People Traps

If your scouts do use game trails they will want to do so with extra-caution, constantly on the look out for traps. Understanding the different forms that traps can be set (and concealed by brush) is essential. The key to avoiding traps -- even your own camp's traps -- is to know how they can be camouflaged.

It would be a shame for one your scouts to be killed or simply maimed by a trap your camp had built nearby, or even many miles away. I'm not talking about a small trap for snaring a squirrel or rabbit. I'm talking about the kind of trap that an elk or bear might fall into and be pierced by five or more spears waiting for him at the bottom.

Having Scouts Travel in Pairs

Having your scouts travel in pairs of two (or even threes) means that the lead scout has back up should he encounter danger -- whether it's a wild animal or just other people. A pair of scouts should travel a short distance away from one another, but within sight of each other -- just in case of an ambush or trap. Regarding an ambush, if the scouts are close to one another when the gunshots come it's easier to shoot both. If they're spaced apart it reduces the chances of both scouts being shot. If the first one goes down to gunfire the second scout can beeline for the nearest cover and look for an escape path offering the most protection from gunfire. Meaning if gunfire is coming your way don't run down the open trail -- you're an easier target that way. Instead run through the trees -- if there's a path of escape through the trees -- let the trees offer some protection from bullets as they're fired at you.

Scout Signals

Your scouts will travel as quietly as possible, communicating with complete stealth -- never talking at times, whispering quietly at others. Sometimes talking with simple hand signals. In the Special Forces, and many years before the U.S. ever had it's first army, Native Americans (like the Apache, Sioux, and Cheyenne tribes) were masters of communicating with stealth, often using, whistles and calls that sound like native wildlife. This kind of system of signaling can be used to communicate far distances. For this to work you have to know the sounds of native wildlife in that area, and then you have to be able to mimic theses sounds with near-perfection, or enemy ears are likely to realize that the whistles and calls they hear are people and not animals -- when that happens your cover is blown.

Battle and Taking the High Ground

Throughout history the advantage in battle has often gone to the army that can take the high-ground. Your group should be trained (which means you train yourselves daily based on where you've set up camp), to retreat to high ground, should an opposing force be on it's way. From high ground you have a number of military advantages -- you can see further than your enemy; if enemies take cover and poke their heads up, you have easier targets to hit than they may have aiming uphill at you. You also have the ability to throw rocks, shoot arrows, and even throw spears with greater range. One other reason for taking the high ground is that opposing soldiers will tire if they have to run up hill -- your forces will stay fresh, not tired.

So, in the minutes leading up the battle, if area scouts / posted guards spot intruders and send out signals (bird whistles, calls, etc) your camp should spring into action -- everyone grabs a weapon -- children and women and any elderly are evacuated to a second location. Women who are capable may be used in the same way that Native American women were sometimes used in battle -- to bring ammunition (for them it was typically arrows) to the men as they run out of ammo.

When your scouts sound out the initial warning signals of an intrusion your camp may turn into a ghost town -- if for example it sits at the base of a hill and your guys have taken to the hillside, where their weapons are now trained on the camp and the opposing force that is now just around the corner. The camp can become a killzone -- that's a military term used to describe an open area where any targets are at greatest risk of being shot by gunfire.

If the opposing force is trained, they'll be wary of any killzone. They may see your camp, notice that it's empty, notice the hillside around it, and decide to drop back -- better safe than sorry. That lesson is also for you. You should also know what a killzone looks like so that you don't walk into an enemy ambush one day, and instead learn to simply detour around it, or have your scouts thoroughly survey the area to ensure safe passage before hand.

What if the intruders march right into camp? If you've been careful and quiet moving everyone out of camp and setting up positions on the high ground where your people are concealed -- they may have no idea you're up there.

There's always the chance that they already know about your camp. There's a chance that their scouts have already been watching you, have counted how many men, women, and children you have, and prepared their own ambush. That is the risk in any war. That your enemy is two steps ahead of you. Remember that. Don't be fooled into thinking that this initial group of people or soldiers with weapons is by itself. That group may be a distraction as a second, third and possibly fourth group are closing in on the area also, but from the rear and sides of your camp. A classic military maneuver.

Flanking

When an enemy closes in from the rear it's called flanking, which has been used successfully many times in history to defeat an opposing group or army. In this case let's say that it's you that's being flanked. If your scout teams have been doing their job though they would have seen the enemy or intruders closing in a long time before, giving the entire camp time to evacuate and take positions if you felt you could defend your camp rather than simply flee the area.

Choosing Camp Location

Where you set up camp isn't only going to be about having fresh water present or nearby areas for hunting and fishing and even growing food. It will also be about what kind of protection you have from any dangerous people that are in the land, or enemy soldiers. The more remote you are from any roads and the more rivers or canyons that there are to cross, the harder you make it to reach your camp and the less likely it becomes that anyone is going to come after you.

Look for advantages that the terrain offers. Are there any ravines that can be crossed only by rope or log bridge? Be able to push that log or cut that rope bridge down if an enemy is spotted in the valley below and you know it's on its way up the trail. If they don't have a bridge to cross because you've destroyed it, you can buy yourselves a great deal of time to make an escape, if one is called for.

What about narrow trails along a cliff edge? If your team can drop rocks from up above you can knock people right off the trail and down a cliff that might be two thousand feet or more up from the valley floor. Ouch.

Don't Be Flanked

If you can choose an area that would be impossible to flank you or be attacked from the sides then you increase the odds that your group is going to survive, should a battle take place in the near future. You may have chosen a camp at the base of a mountain pass (without an avalanche risk in the winter months) where you have a path of escape should you have to evacuate. That escape path might take you up and over the pass just a couple miles distant. With nothing but mountain range behind you the odds are very good that no dangerous forces are going to come from that direction -- not unless you've set up camp on a major trail that is well marked on maps.

Know Your Enemy

The enemy can use different tactics to reach your camp. They can use distractions such as by setting fires (ninjas in Japan many centuries ago were said to use this tactic) or simply just by sending a small group of people to an area and opening fire from one direction. Their hope is to draw your attention to an area so that you have less people and less attention focused on another area -- with training in alpine warfare you would know to be ready for this. But if you're not a soldier, just a survivalist with an understanding of basic terms of warfare, you can still defend yourself. This is one of those scenarios to practice repeatedly with your camp. Training in self-defense is essentially just as important as finding food and water. The more you train, and the better training techniques you use, and the more you familiarize yourself with military strategy, the better chances you have if you ever face conflict.

Camouflage

The forest and mountains offer many types of camouflage. You can look like part of the hillside, part of the brush, part of a tree -- in an urban environment you can even look like a heap of garbage or in an extreme situation like bodies among dead bodies.

When it comes to camouflage, you don't just have to camouflage your scouts. You can camouflage your entire camp. You can set up brush in the vicinity of your camp that blocks fields of view from any people (such as enemy scouts) that may be traveling through the area. It's not fool proof but it can reduce the odds of your camp being seen from a vast distance, such as a distant ridge or plain. You'll move brush from the forest to these view points, so that all that is seen is brush placed in natural ways that it doesn't look unnatural.

All trails leading to camp can also be camouflaged -- you can set up camp in a way where there are no signs that you've been in the area leading to camp. Keep your activities focused to the mountains behind you, rather than down on lower elevations -- or if you do have to drop down to a lower elevation send out guys that are careful about erasing their tracks.

Hiding Boot Marks

A good scout is trained to look for tracks -- like an animal tracker or hunter who's following animal foot prints in the mud, sand, and dirt. A scout will notice small details that point to activity -- it could be a food wrapper that's been dropped on the ground, un-finished food that's been dropped, a cigarette butt or match, it could be a tree branch that's been broken, or grass that's been walked on and pushed down. Avoid breaking tree limbs or branches when passing through brush.

Then of course there's the hallmark of human activity -- foot prints and even the treads left from boots. Your scouts should choose paths that offer the least chance of leaving marks that you're in the area. Stay out of the mud. Stay off soft dirt. In certain areas covertly break off pine boughs with needles and tie these to the bottom of your boot -- can you walk on the soft soil with minimal or no sign of a boot mark? The pine boughs or even a sweatshirt tied to the bottom of your shoes can help prevent leaving boot marks -- when you have no other way to avoid leaving tracks, such as when you're on a trail around a pond or lake where soft soil or mud will leave tracks and there's no other way around.

Fighting in the Snow

In World War II Switzerland was ready for the Nazis -- they were so prepared for a Nazi invasion that the Nazis never invaded. Hitler decided it was a battle he didn't want to fight. One thing the Swiss had was an advantage -- much of their military force was trained in alpine warfare and that included entire battalions being trained to live and fight from the mountains on skis.

If you're going to live in the mountains for any duration of time, cross-country skiing (and a knowledge of the snow) is a proven way to travel, and also a proven way to conduct alpine warfare dating back to the 13th century and more notably in the 1800s when Norwegian ski troops were used against the Swiss in the Napoleonic wars (1807-1814). Wikipedia records: "Ski troops played a key role in the successes of the Finnish war effort against the Soviet Union during the Winter War in 1939. Forested, rural terrain with no roads was used by Finnish ski troops with great success against the advancing mechanized Soviet troops. Most notably, in Battle of Suomussalmi, two Soviet mechanized divisions (45,000 men) were annihilated by three Finnish regiments (11,000 men)."

Skis will enable your camp to extend its hunting and fishing range in the winter months when the snow is on the ground. Skis also enable an easier way to transport goods and even deer, elk and other large game that's been taken down. Sleds can be built that are towed behind skiers and these sleds used for hauling. Life in the snow can be dangerous -- the constant threat of an avalanche for example means that a knowledge of avalanche risk is key, as well as an understanding of glaciers, because these can also take the lives of people un-trained, who don't understand the forces at work in glacial ice, the temperatures, the snow and where and how it falls, etc. See: How to Survive an Avalanche

Skis or the Splitboard?

The splitboard was described in detail in a recent article posted to our site. See: 50 Critical Items to Survive Disaster

The splitboard is a new invention -- it is a snowboard that can be split down the middle and worn as skis. It can also be used as snowshoes, and very efficient at climbing in the snow, because of a specialized "skin" on the bottom that prevents the skis from sliding backwards. At the top of the mountain the skis can be clipped back together to form a snowboard. Down the mountain you go. Typically snowboarders who want to snowboard mountains inaccessible by chairlift use the splitboard. Because of its efficiency at climbing in the snow, and because of its ability to be used as skis, I recommend that anyone who is serious about alpine survival consider this invention -- especially if all they've ever done is snowboard. Downhill skiing is tough, and it can be dangerous. Snowboarding down hill offers a bit more control (of course that depends on opinion, doesn't it?).

Life in the Snow

If you've taken to life in the mountains, you have to be ready to live through harsh winters. The more committed you are to life in the mountains, and harsh winters, the easier it can be for you. The reason is this: If your group is committed to making this work -- your group is more likely to put in the hard work that will be needed to build good shelters that are insulated, as well as laying out camp in a way that offers community (social time), and finally a camp that is well-stocked with both plenty of firewood for the coming winter as well as food that's been dried, salted, or smoked so that it can be stored for the upcoming winter and eaten during the winter months.

The fact is food that is properly dried, salted, or smoked can last several years if stored correctly. Thus knowing primitive methods of food storage is essential to alpine survival for any lengthy period of time. You can still hunt, though you'll likely have to descend to lower elevations as much of the bigger game will have gone down as the winter came to find food and new places to bed down.

What you have for cold weather gloves, hats, jackets, boots, and clothing will also make a difference between a pleasant life in the snow vs. a life that is cold and miserable at times. If you're lucky enough to have found a large cave and set up camp there, you have a natural shelter -- and if you're really lucky and have hot springs nearby -- well -- you just might be in for a pleasant winter.

Sharing Your Resources

Unless of course another group decides they want access to the hot springs as well. Be ready to share the rich resource God has given you -- if they're friendly, of course. If they arrive at your camp as refugees, see these refugees as people who can become valuable members of your group by providing them with food, sustenance, care and respect -- and ultimately patiently train each to become a member of your camp. Consider the gratitude most are likely to have and the loyalty to the camp's survival that is likely to result.

However, if people show up at your camp -- unfriendlies -- who are a threat to life and property -- if these are obviously dangerous people -- and if your scouts are doing their job -- you would have learned this a long time before.

Ready for an Encounter

Fighting from skis on the high ground you could let them know that they're not welcome in these mountains -- just maybe your training and show of force will be enough to deter any bandits from making an attempt on your camp.

Often a show of force will deter the bandits in the world -- the crooks -- the murderers -- especially if they see that you mean business and especially if there's enough of you and you look like you have military training.

Helping the Weak

Do open your doors to the weak though, to children, to women, to the elderly -- it's the right thing to do and trust me God is watching from above -- but be ready to face off with the scum of the earth -- the people who only want to steal, and maim, rape, and murder.

Be on the look out for a foreign army. Should the day come that Americans have to flee to the mountains -- it won't be long before other nations make a move on the land that was once called the United States of America.

***

You've just completed part 3 of this series. Click on the link below to go to part 1 or 2.


How to Survive Like the U.S. Special Forces

PART 1 -
Special Forces Survival Training and Mountain Warfare
Why Are the U.S. Special Forces so Skilled at Mountain Survival? What Can We Learn from Them?

PART 2 -
Special Forces Advanced Mountain Operations School
Finding Food, Water, Edible Plants, Insects, Wildlife, Fire Making, and Making Shelter

PART 3 -
Special Forces Alpine Warfare Survival Training
Scouting, Camouflage, Erasing Tracks, Fighting in the Snow, Choosing a Camp Location, Baiting an Enemy into a Killzone, Retreat, Taking High Ground

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