3 Pillars of the Parachute Regiment - Fieldcraft

Snows

Well-known member
Joined
Jan 2, 2021
Messages
147
Reaction score
483
I remember this clearly from training, and I definitely heard it used by others in Bn. But joining here made me look through my best book from recruits, and I can't find it anywhere. Anyone who has more recently been in, are these still used?

3 Pillars of the Parachute Regiment
Fitness
Fieldcraft
Marksmanship

As far as advice on the forum goes: lots of fitness advice, and marksmanship isn't something you can really practice in the UK. So that leaves fieldcraft.

What advice do trained blokes have for potential recruits to get a headstart in fieldcraft? Obviously with more people living in urban environments these days, the traditional green skills are less familiar and often pretty hard for people to pick up just during training. Advance competence in fieldcraft is as much of an advantage in depot as fitness.

My top suggestion to get started: go walking at night with no light, preferably in the country if possible.

Much of your most difficult nav and fieldcraft is going to be done at night. Moving, navigating, just seeing accurately at night is a real skill that comes with experience. With that experience you will physically see things differently to someone who is inexperienced, particularly when tired - this is to do with how your brain translates incomplete images in darkness. Inexperienced blokes tend to hallucinate or see things that aren't there: this leads them to get lost, become confused, and move loudly.

Being comfortable moving around at night, particularly in difficult, dark areas like woods, is a big advantage that will show you as a bloke with squared away fieldcraft. The only way to do this is to practice, even if you feel a bit stupid going for night walks just because. When you end up being consistently picked by your peers to be lead scout, it will pay massive dividends - there's a good chance that guy wins top recruit.

Tips:
- Learn to see by defocusing your eyes. Night vision works using the parts of your retina on the edges, not the parts directly pointed at something. Look off to the side to see a thing more clearly at night, and move your focus around it to build up a picture.
- Learn to connect familiar objects by day with how they look at night. This builds up a database of images in your mind that allows you to see things accurately at night, which limits hallucinations. The pale faces of your enemy sneaking up on you in the dark are probably actually sheep, and your mate in helmet cam hasn't been taking a piss for 30 minutes, that's a tree (both real examples)
- Learn to estimate sizes to identify what objects are. The man in a light top hanging around that tree in your target area 300m away is either 3ft tall, or, more likely, another sheep (also real example).
- Practice counting pace while you move, it's the key skill to knowing how far you have traveled in the dark.
- Practice walking with your weight on your back foot, and placing your front foot carefully. This is quieter, and when you inevitably put a foot wrong, means you are less likely to fall noisily forward, rather than more quietly back (a.k.a. the 'patrol collapse').
- Learn to fall over quietly and safely (to the side, up the incline, on the weight you are carrying rather than fighting it). Ditches get everyone sooner or later, the scheming, tricksy bastards.
- Observe how sound travels further at night, and identify the kind of sounds you make that are obvious indications of a person moving. Equally, observe what covers sound (running water, for example) and how to use it to move quietly.
- Observe how animals react to your presence, and how to reduce or react to startling them, or avoid routing through where they are likely to be.
 

Mackers

Para Reg
Joined
Nov 24, 2020
Messages
119
Reaction score
257
Yep I passed out in 2017 and the three pillars are still taught and you’ll see posters in the corridors about it.
 

Big_Shep

4 PARA
Joined
Nov 30, 2020
Messages
86
Reaction score
217
Great points and I can attest that ditches get the best of us.
Work on your balance would be my tip. It is essential to silent movement and this is often easier to maintain if the knees are slightly bent and the arms are carried low. From this position it is easy to drop to cover if necessary.

With regards to estimating sizes it’s important to practice looking at things at different ranges. I’m rusty but maybe @Snows can help but I was taught that the amount of visible detail of an adult male for example at various ranges gives a good indication of the distance they are away.
Something like this ; At 100 metres - clear in all detail. Able to make out clear features.
At 200 metres - clear in all detail, colour of skin and any equipment is identifiable. I.e rifle
At 300 metres - clear body outline, face colour good remaining detail becoming blurred.
At 400 metres - body outline clear, remaining detail blurred.
At 500 metres - body begins to taper, head becomes indistinct.
At 600 metres - body now blurry and non shaped, no head apparent.

It’s something you can all practice and start getting used to
 

Blisters

Well-known member
Joined
Dec 11, 2020
Messages
26
Reaction score
65
With distances they teach or at least used to teach the bracketing technique. Bit wishy washy but it’s just learning to call averages. If you estimate the maximum feasible distance to the target and then the minimum possible distance. The actual distance should be set midway between the two.
 

Snows

Well-known member
Joined
Jan 2, 2021
Messages
147
Reaction score
483
Great point, rangefinding often screws with guys heads.

Reality is that most rangefinding you do is quick and simple, and doesn't need to be that accurate. Appearance method (@Big_Shep describes above), bracketing (@Blisters), halving (estimating half the distance to target and multiplying it by 2), and reference (length of X of a familiar length, like 3 x football fields) can all be used as an individual. To be honest I find section average (ask the section, sum together, divide by number in section - or, quicker, just take the median / middle value) is remarkably accurate and often best.

Individually, even for more deliberate accurate rangefinding, 9/10 times you use your optics (weapon sights). Almost all modern optics have mildot or reticule measurements, and since the sight is usually at least 4x magnification, you can be accurate out to 4x the range of visual estimation. ACOG is great for this, you rarely need to use anything else. All you need to do is read the manual of your optics to understand which bit to use, or talk to your SAA instructor. Even the SUSAT has the base width of the triangle which you can use to judge the distance of a known object.

For more advanced, deliberate stuff (recce, snipers, gun groups, mortars), there are methods of accurately calculating distance from 500-5000m which theoretically work without aides like optics, but in practice are pretty inaccurate if you try. Everyone uses optics. Basic principle is called subtension, which just means that relative sizes stay the same, and trigonometry means you can use two known sizes (one local to the target, one close to you) to calculate the distance to an object. The known close size is something like (theoretically) the width of your thumb when held out at the full extent of your arm, or (practically) the mildot measurements in your optics sight picture. The known local size is something like a doorway (approx. 1m), car ( 2-door approx 2.5m, 4-door approx 4m), or lampost (approx 5m high in UK residential area), objects which have limited ranges of size. From this you create range tables which compare your local and close sizes, and have a distance for each: e.g. a doorway measuring 1 mildot is 400m away. You create the tables on something like an 800m or sniper's range, putting objects of the correct local size on the point, and then moving out to the different ranges and recording the close sizes at each distance. You can also do it by using Google Earth or a car mileometer if you have a suitable open area. This both gives you an easy reference table rather than making calculations (and mistakes) on the hoof. You also need to know and adjust for the common traps of visual estimation like differences in height, angle and profile.

Subtension is pretty accurate, and having the tables on you makes it reasonably quick, but requires preparation and, of course, experience. Also, I just tried my old visual only (no optics) tables on the area around me and compared to Google Earth, and they are wildly inaccurate past 1000m. Of course, having a 4x magnification optic makes that accurate out to 4km, which is pretty useful for a basic rifle scope. I don't think it's worth posting the method here, because it's a lot of time for not much utility in recruit training. However, this method here is pretty simple, works without optics at small ranges, and uses the same principle:

Put your thumb out at arm's length, close one eye, put it at the base of object (doorway, window, lampost) of known width Y, open eye and close other eye. Your thumb will appear to jump X distance. Calculate distance by:

Distance = X x Y x 10

Beyond 5000m, you're in the realm of forward observers, JTACs and artillery, who will all assure you that they are trained to calculate exact ranges in their heads using just a stick and a piece of string, but funnily enough always seem to use their MAGIC LASER BOX FULL OF SPELLS AND PIXIE DUST.
 

Collieryboy

Well-known member
Joined
Nov 25, 2020
Messages
76
Reaction score
152
Great point, rangefinding often screws with guys heads.

Reality is that most rangefinding you do is quick and simple, and doesn't need to be that accurate. Appearance method (@Big_Shep describes above), bracketing (@Blisters), halving (estimating half the distance to target and multiplying it by 2), and reference (length of X of a familiar length, like 3 x football fields) can all be used as an individual. To be honest I find section average (ask the section, sum together, divide by number in section - or, quicker, just take the median / middle value) is remarkably accurate and often best.

Individually, even for more deliberate accurate rangefinding, 9/10 times you use your optics (weapon sights). Almost all modern optics have mildot or reticule measurements, and since the sight is usually at least 4x magnification, you can be accurate out to 4x the range of visual estimation. ACOG is great for this, you rarely need to use anything else. All you need to do is read the manual of your optics to understand which bit to use, or talk to your SAA instructor. Even the SUSAT has the base width of the triangle which you can use to judge the distance of a known object.

For more advanced, deliberate stuff (recce, snipers, gun groups, mortars), there are methods of accurately calculating distance from 500-5000m which theoretically work without aides like optics, but in practice are pretty inaccurate if you try. Everyone uses optics. Basic principle is called subtension, which just means that relative sizes stay the same, and trigonometry means you can use two known sizes (one local to the target, one close to you) to calculate the distance to an object. The known close size is something like (theoretically) the width of your thumb when held out at the full extent of your arm, or (practically) the mildot measurements in your optics sight picture. The known local size is something like a doorway (approx. 1m), car ( 2-door approx 2.5m, 4-door approx 4m), or lampost (approx 5m high in UK residential area), objects which have limited ranges of size. From this you create range tables which compare your local and close sizes, and have a distance for each: e.g. a doorway measuring 1 mildot is 400m away. You create the tables on something like an 800m or sniper's range, putting objects of the correct local size on the point, and then moving out to the different ranges and recording the close sizes at each distance. You can also do it by using Google Earth or a car mileometer if you have a suitable open area. This both gives you an easy reference table rather than making calculations (and mistakes) on the hoof. You also need to know and adjust for the common traps of visual estimation like differences in height, angle and profile.

Subtension is pretty accurate, and having the tables on you makes it reasonably quick, but requires preparation and, of course, experience. Also, I just tried my old visual only (no optics) tables on the area around me and compared to Google Earth, and they are wildly inaccurate past 1000m. Of course, having a 4x magnification optic makes that accurate out to 4km, which is pretty useful for a basic rifle scope. I don't think it's worth posting the method here, because it's a lot of time for not much utility in recruit training. However, this method here is pretty simple, works without optics at small ranges, and uses the same principle:

Put your thumb out at arm's length, close one eye, put it at the base of object (doorway, window, lampost) of known width Y, open eye and close other eye. Your thumb will appear to jump X distance. Calculate distance by:

Distance = X x Y x 10

Beyond 5000m, you're in the realm of forward observers, JTACs and artillery, who will all assure you that they are trained to calculate exact ranges in their heads using just a stick and a piece of string, but funnily enough always seem to use their MAGIC LASER BOX FULL OF SPELLS AND PIXIE DUST.
Really enjoyed reading that. Not exactly related but eratosthenes estimated the circumference of the earth to about 1.6% using nothing but simple algebra/trig and shadows formed by a stick.
 

Tony_m

Para Reg
Joined
Nov 22, 2020
Messages
162
Reaction score
297
You’ll be taught this and will drill this during your tac ex’s but in the spirit of encouraging switched on drills always fucking remember that a good enemy will always be alert at night. Don’t think with your soft civvie head and assume every man Jack is sleeping at night. It is important therefore that you know how to move at night without being detected. You’ll be taught that when tactically manoeuvring during dark hours you should: Move Silently - Stop — Scan — Listen. Get into this habit. Repeat until it sticks Silent - Stop — Scan — Listen. Silent - Stop — Scan — Listen. It’s slow but vital. The second you hear a sound you should: Stop or get down onto your belt buckle if possible and turn your ears in the direction of the sound. They say opening your mouth a little will assist in picking up of a sound.
Remember lads sound travels further at night and even the smallest sound could carry to a potential enemy. If you hear a sound get as low to the ground.
Get used identification of decent cover at night. Next time you are out in the dark look about and see if you can clock the thickest cover and try using shadows to avoid being silhouetted. You’ll probably learn the hard way in Depot but remember lads if you are caught in an unexpected light you have to assume that it is the enemy and that the illuminated area is covered by their fire. How you react to light at night will be determined by the ground and your NCOs will cover this in more detail. Needless to say you’ll want to get the fuck out of dodge and out of that light quickly. This thread is mega and is introducing you lot to a different type of thinking.
 

Bucky

Member
Joined
Dec 2, 2020
Messages
16
Reaction score
10
@Snows
Instead of using left right up and down would you say it’s a better habit to start using north, west, east and west? Really enjoyed this topic
 

Snows

Well-known member
Joined
Jan 2, 2021
Messages
147
Reaction score
483
@Snows
Instead of using left right up and down would you say it’s a better habit to start using north, west, east and west? Really enjoyed this topic

Well, those aren't the same thing to start. NSWE are a horizontal plane of the world, while up and down are vertical plane, and left and right can be either.

But theoretically you could describe things as NSWE. Two problems however. First, LRUD are instinctive quick ways to communicate direction that everyone understands (well, sort of - you'll quickly find out in drill that lots of adults still confuse left and right). Even were you quick enough to know instinctively which direction is NSWE, few to no others will - so it's bad communication. Second, I'm skeptical anyone can reliably understand NSWE as a direction in all conditions. It's certainly possible if you are somewhere you know well, but that is basically learning over time which direction is NSWE and orientating yourself based on that knowledge. But if you are somewhere new, or you are somewhere disorientating (blank landscape, fog, forest, obscured sun, etc) then NSWE become difficult or impossible to understand instinctively without an aid like a compass or reference point. Your average tribesman might be able to tell you NSWE instantly, but that just means they know their land very well - it doesn't mean they could do that if you plunked them down blindfolded in a new place.

They are used for different things, and being able to accurately communicate is the most important factor. That means you're basically stuck with what everyone else does!
 

Tolley

Member
Joined
Jan 5, 2021
Messages
7
Reaction score
11
I’ll admit I’ve had it on ex where someone will say “You face west and you face east” and found it confusing. Baring in mind this was R Sigs playing inf
 

Snows

Well-known member
Joined
Jan 2, 2021
Messages
147
Reaction score
483
Something simple occurred to me earlier on this: get used to checking all your pocket zips and clips on your clothing and bags are closed, every time you use them or stop / pause. Not fieldcraft exactly, more admin, but having it down as an automatic habit will save you (and probably your platoon) a whole load of pain in the field when you end up searching for someone else's bit of kit in the long grass, rather than yours. Also get used to tucking away, taping up or otherwise securing every dangling strap you encounter for the rest of your life.

I see all sorts of people wandering around with open pockets and unclipped bags. I judge them. So will your DS.
 

Chelonian

Well-known member
Joined
Nov 23, 2020
Messages
144
Reaction score
412
I see all sorts of people wandering around with open pockets and unclipped bags. I judge them. So will your DS.
Yep. Almost fifty years on and I'm still paranoid about this. Whenever I see it I think "Wanker".
It drives my small tribe of youngsters nuts. 🙂
 

Snows

Well-known member
Joined
Jan 2, 2021
Messages
147
Reaction score
483
Another tiny tip.

As part of your sleeping bag routine, organise your kit so your torso warm kit (softie, fleece, whatever) is within hand's reach from your sleeping bag (ideally in a pouch of your bergan). When you have to get up (stag, morning), sit up in the sleeping bag and put the warm kit on right there. Then get out of the bag and sort the rest of your life out.

It sounds like a tiny thing, but in the bag your body radiates heat and adjusts to that temperature. You lose a huge amount of body heat getting out of your sleeping bag near-naked in cold weather, which plunges your core temperature. Putting on the warm kit will retain all your body heat from sleeping and keep your core temp stable. In real cold (anything below zero), that is a serious admin point. Also, everyone else will endure 5 minutes of being shivering baggage due to lowered core temperatures, while you will be fine. When you have to relieve someone on stag or have only 45 minutes or less to admin yourself in a morning, that 5 minutes is valuable time. It's also a major morale boost not hating the world every time you have to get up.

Any fool can be cold and wet...
 

TBK95

Member
Joined
Mar 9, 2021
Messages
13
Reaction score
7
Really interesting read. Any tips on how best to “administrate” yourself in the field? I’m assuming no access to hot water?
 

Snows

Well-known member
Joined
Jan 2, 2021
Messages
147
Reaction score
483
Really interesting read. Any tips on how best to “administrate” yourself in the field? I’m assuming no access to hot water?
Your instructors will get into this in detail with the kit you have, there isn't any particular magic to it. Also, different DS have different approaches...all my DS were 3 PARA, so my general approach has been that "cleanliness" doesn't really matter too much, functioning does. I assure you, it's possible to survive and function well for weeks without a proper wash, toothbrush or any of it, so long as you look after key areas.

I'd say the following things are important, in that they account for the majority of medical / admin issues in the field. I'm leaving out weapon maintenance, which is otherwise top of the list:
  1. Being wet or dry. Being constantly wet will bring down anyone one way or another, in any environment. Dry feet, socks, boots (because socks, because feet), and underwear should be priorities. Get, at a minimum, the Underarmour type long lycra boxers, which you can wear for weeks with no ill effect and are basically insta-dry. For some things full length Skinz lycra are good. Never, ever wear cotton underwear - it will rip up your inner thighs when wet, that's where 'going commando' came from. Have appropriate socks, take extra pairs of extras, and change / dry / rotate them always, as your DS will teach you. I'd also recommend this stuff (https://www.amazon.co.uk/Stride-Out-Foot-Oil/dp/B00J5IQD8Q/) rather than foot powder, but it's not a necessity (no, I'm not the seller). Dry out your feet at least once a day. Do your wet and dry drills, horrible though they always are.
  2. Minor abrasions or skin punctures. Major, major issue because it's so common. Large numbers of guys go down with various kinds of skin infections, usually because they've got tiny spike or needle punctures. 95% of problems are in their hands or knees. Wear gloves, all the time. First thing I do before going to a new place / op is identify the appropriate gloves and get lots of pairs of them, because they wear out fast: in training you may be restricted to issued gloves, so wait until you get to depot until you buy anything. If you don't get issued kneepads in training, do this: take your field trousers, take the shoulder padding from your issued UBACs style shirts, sew or get the tailor to insert pockets to fit that padding on the inside of the knees, then put that padding in when in the field (depending on your DS, this may need to be covert..but technically, you are wearing issued clothing). Your elbows tend to take a lot less punishment than your knees, you don't necessarily need more than the thick field shirt for them, but knee padding of some kind is a lifesaver. It will be one of the best admin steps you ever take.
  3. Regulating temperature. The new kit has vents and zips all over the place to adjust your clothing to the environment and temperature. Use them! A lot of recruits get problems like prickly heat which quickly makes life miserable and can turn into a medical issue: problems like these are helped by regulating your temperature, letting air circulate and your skin breathe. Sometimes a protective layer helps - breathable skinz and underamour type lycra can help with this in some conditions, but again there is new issued clothing that you might be required to stick with in training, so don't buy in advance. Simplest way is regularly changing / opening your clothing. Sweating into your clothing gets and keeps it wet, which means issue 1 above: you can't avoid it, you can minimise it. This also helps deal with heat / cold injuries.
  4. Treat small problems while they are small. Recruits often fail to treat or try and grizz out minor issues like blisters, which then get infected and become a medical issue. Every day you should be checking these things and sorting them out while they are small, rather than hoping they will improve. Build a decent medkit with enough things like plasters, steristrips, antiseptic wipes, Compeed for a week, then: use it! You can now buy these online at a reasonable price (and get some of the harder to obtain items), and then get a stash of plasters, compeed, wipes etc to refill it with as you use them.
  5. Always have hand moisturizer. I'd recommend Climb On hand balm bars, which is solid (so doesn't leak) and designed for climbers (so strong as fuck). This may sound like a strange recommendation for a Para Reg site, so let me put it the way the large Sgt Major with a handlebar moustache did when I was a recruit: you cunts all need to fucking moisturize, yesterday.
  6. Leave no trace. A general point. Assign a pocket in your trousers for rubbish, fag butts, plastic wrappers, anything that you have brought out into the field with you. Pick up your, or sometimes, your muckers shit (but in return, be sure to give them shit about it if you have to do it for them).
For the rest of it, you might not look, smell or feel great, and I certainly wouldn't want to touch you, but it's not going to do you any harm, and you'll be in good fighting condition. IMO, that's the aim of field admin. Your skin is reasonably well evolved to deal with the outside world on its own, if you let it: you just need to let it work without suffocating it with wet clothing 24 hours a day, and fix any breaks in the skin asap. There is a higher level of admin where you worry about how you smell, where you shit and piss, but it's not required at depot level. However, your DS might have differing opinions about this, and their opinion is going to matter much more than mine, so do what they say.

Ultimately, if you are in good mental and physical condition, and don't go down, they are unlikely to get overly excited even if you don't look sparkly clean on the surface (note: eating utensils are a different matter - as with issue 2 above, keep things that go inside you clean). The ones they will pick up on are those who cannot function due to a failure to admin themselves.
 
Last edited:
Top