The following is an experience shared from Mike, a former Green Beret who spent most of his career conducting clandestine operations. He is the founder of Nomad International and is a subject matter expert in personal and industrial security, advanced tradecraft, Special Warfare, crisis management, critical analysis and thought leadership.
“In the years following 9/11, while the US and the world were transfixed with hunting down those responsible for the attacks, our nation also remained committed to bringing war criminals to justice.
Important to this mission was the search for Persons Indicted for War Crimes (PIFWC) in the Balkans. Bosnian streets once filled with uniformed peacekeepers were replaced with clandestine operators dedicated to apprehending indicted war criminals. I was fortunate to be an integral member on one of those teams.
Six months prior to our infil into country, we conducted intensive training in urban and rural settings throughout western Europe. Trained in the latest technological advances of Tagging, Tracking, and Locating, we were also introduced to the fundamentals of tradecraft and streetcraft by our highly knowledgeable instructors. They were the best in the business and predominantly served in the British SAS and UK police departments, experienced in dealing with global threats to include the IRA.
Upon arrival to Bosnia, we rotated with the outgoing and extremely capable SEAL team. Our Operational Detachment split into smaller cells and disbursed to separate areas of the country.
On one specific mission, we were tasked with building a pattern of life on a suspected Person Indicted for War Crimes (PIFWC) bed down location and needed to maintain eyes on the building for 48 hours. A rural hide site was not feasible, so I developed a remote recording platform built into the hatchback of an otherwise nondescript vehicle.
My team and I conducted extensive tests to ensure we had the right camera, lens, filter, separate power source and multi-day recording capability. This innovative, mobile Observation Post (OP) was remarkable in that we weren’t required to stay in the vehicle to switch out batteries or video tapes. In the meantime, we parked a temporary vehicle in the exact spot we planned to place the OP to ensure we could swap it out when the time came to do so.
When the day came to emplace the mobile OP, I drove it out to the site. I was the senior 18E on the team at the time and wanted to be confident the system functioned according to plan. Once satisfied, I walked away from the OP and was picked up a few blocks away.
A few days later I retrieved the vehicle and noticed the camera was still recording. So far, so good! Everything seemed to have gone as planned and we were filled with anticipation as I uploaded the footage to play it back for the entire team.
Eyes glued to the screen; we watched the video. As the recorded minutes passed and we waited anxiously to see our Person of Interest…snow began to settle on the hatchback window. Snow. More snow. Within the course of an hour, we couldn’t see anything but snow-covered glass.
All that work for nothing.
Yet rather than be upset, we all started laughing hysterically.
This mission served as a reminder that despite our success with creating innovative tech solutions, we failed to incorporate some of the basics into the equation—in this case, light and weather data.
Our team ultimately recovered from this snafu and incorporated a heating element which ensured no snow accumulated in the line of site for the camera. Experience is often the best teacher and going forward we always referred to our planning guides and double-checked light, weather, and other environmental factors prior to any operation.
Success in clandestine operations, as in life, oftentimes boils down to just mastering the basics.” – Mike
In addition to any prior area study or PMESII-PT analysis; you should also conduct ongoing research, active observance of current events & news (upcoming parade, road closures), monitoring of radio traffic (police/fire/EMS), social media scanning (for planned protests) and of course weather checks.
This article was originally written by the Grayman Briefing. Stay in the know, sign up for Intel and Situational Awareness alerts pushed to your phone on emerging threats and preparedness warnings. Click HERE to subscribe to the Grayman Briefing.
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