A major thing that trips people up at Ranger and Sapper School is the incredible detail students are required to go into when they conduct patrols. From giving a painfully thorough GOTWA / 5 Point Contingency Plan to preparing men, weapons, and equipment (MWE) to unreasonable standards, if you aren’t prepared for this when you show up it can feel overwhelming.
At Ranger/Sapper School, you will “Prep MWE” before you leave the objective rally point (ORP) and make your final movement to the objective (OBJ). It is your last chance to make sure everything is ready before you go to complete your mission. It’s important to have a process that you can follow every time so that you don’t skip steps and miss something. Similar to conducting magazine changes, by running through this process the same way you will build muscle memory.
Before any of this can happen though the Squad Leader (SL) must issue tasks, conditions, and standards for preparing men, weapons, and equipment to their Team Leaders (TL). Then the TL goes to their soldiers and passes this order. At this point, the squad prepares men, weapons, and equipment for the OBJ. No man leaves the ORP and moves to the OBJ until he is fully prepared for conducting the actions on the OBJ. Priority for preparation goes to any recon elements (mission dependent). After the TL preps his men, he moves to the SL’s position. The TL and the SL prep and inspect each other. Men who are preparing or undergoing inspections pull 3-5 meters off the line and maintain noise and light discipline. After men are prepared and inspected, the SL spot checks the men.
During inspection or spot checks, the TL and SL start with the head and work down. Each man camouflages their helmet by placing foliage inside their camo band. This helps break up the outline of the helmet. However, the foliage should not extend higher than six inches from the top of the helmet. Men must camouflage all exposed skin, including the neck and ears. Unless the man wears gloves, he camouflages his hands as well. Any man who wears gloves must keep them on the entire time.
Each man must conceal all metal parts on his FLC. A soldier does this by using a camo stick or black tape to cover anything shiny. Men must also ensure their equipment on their FLC does not make noise. If the magazines make noise when a soldier shakes the ammo pouch, the soldier puts tape on them or places MRE cardboard or pieces of foliage between them to help silence them. The TL and SL check the magazines inside the ammo pouch and ensure they are full (I will explain how to do this later). Each man must top off his hydration pack and check his 1-quart canteens to ensure they’re full. If a man’s canteen is not full, the man fills it up from his 2-quart on his rucksack. Each man must have two full one quart canteens and his hydration pack with him for actions on the objective. Then, each man ensures that he has fresh foliage placed in his FLC to break up the outline of the body.
ACUs must be serviceable. If they are not, soldiers repair them using their sewing kit or tape. If they cannot repair their ACUs, he uses a camouflage stick to cover any exposed skin. Boots must be serviceable.
When preparing weapons, ensure the weapon is on safe and properly tied off from the front sight to the non-firing shoulder of the FIGHTING LOAD CARRIER (FLC). Also, ensure that the tie down does not hinder the operation of the weapon.
M4: Check all parts and ensure they are tied down in accordance with unit SOP. If there are any shiny parts on the weapon use a camouflage stick, black tape or black marker to subdue them. Check the hand guards to ensure they don’t rattle. If they do, tape them to help silence them. Remember when taping be sure the tape does not interfere with the aiming or function of the weapon. Next check the magazine to see that it is full and the chamber to see if there is a round present. To do this, silently press the magazine release-button, and remove the magazine from the weapon. With your index finger, press down on the rounds. If the magazine is full your finger should not push down past the first joint of your finger. If the magazine is not full replace it with a full one or load additional rounds into it. To check the chamber, place your hand under the magazine well and let your fingers cover the ejection port cover. This does two things, first it will keep the cover from slapping the side of the weapon, and second, it will keep the round from falling on the ground in the event that you pull the charging handle too far to the rear. Next, with your other hand, pull the charging handle to the rear just far enough to observe a round in the chamber. Then, slowly ease the charging handle back forward and silently tap the forward assist ensuring that the round is fully seated in the chamber. Also, while you are checking to see if there is a round in the chamber you should also check to make sure that the weapon is properly lubricated. Place the magazine back into the weapon and insure it is seated properly by pushing the forward assist three times. Then make sure the weapon is still safe.
M320: Check all parts and ensure they are tied down in accordance with unit SOP. The M4 portion of the M320 will be prepared in the same manner that I have just previously described; in addition, you will also inspect the breech tube. To check the breach tube, place your hand over the left side of the tube. This will prevent the tube from swinging open loudly and potentially ejecting the 40mm round. Next, with your other hand, press up on the barrel release latch and slowly control the opening of the barrel, ensuring that the 40mm round does not fall out. Pull the round out and make sure you have the proper round loaded. Also inspect the inside of the tube to ensure there are no cracks or obstructions. Quietly slide the round back into the chamber and lock the tube back into position while making sure the weapon is on safe.
M249 SAW: Check all parts and ensure they are tied down in accordance with unit SOP. Check the M249 SAW for shiny areas and correct the deficiencies using a camouflage stick, black tape or black marker. If there are any pieces rattling you can tape it down or, in the case of a heat shield, remove it and place it in your rucksack to ensure it is tied down. Next ensure the bolt is locked to the rear and the weapon is on “SAFE”. Then place your left hand on the belt of ammo to control the rounds, raise the feed tray cover and remove the rounds from the feed tray. Then raise the feed tray and inspect the inside of the chamber and receiver for any brass, links or debris. Also ensure that the feeder paws in the feed tray cover are moving freely. Make sure the M249 is properly lubricated as well. Check the rounds to make sure that they are clean and free from dirt, rust or debris. Ensure that a full drum is loaded onto the weapon and that the rounds have been seated properly to the rear of the feed tray. Once this is done, then tilt the weapon to the right and slowly close the feed tray cover until the feed tray cover locks into place; again check that the weapon is on safe. The additional SAW drums should be in bandoleers or in the SAW pouches. Ensure that the lead team automatic rifleman takes his full combat load onto the OBJ.
M240B MG: Check the M240B for any shiny objects or loose parts and correct the deficiencies the same way as with the M249 SAW. Check all parts and ensure they are tied down in accordance with unit SOP. Place your left hand on the belt of ammo to control the rounds, raise the feed tray cover and remove the rounds from the feed tray. Raise the feed tray and inspect the inside of the chamber and receiver for any brass, links or debris. Also ensure that the feeder paws in the feed tray cover are moving freely. Make sure the M240B is properly lubricated as well. Ensure that the rounds are properly seated to the rear of the feed tray, and that a 100 round starter belt is loaded. Once this is done tilt the weapon to the right, slowly close the feed tray cover until the feed tray cover locks into place. Again check that the weapon is on “SAFE”. In addition to the 100 round starter belt, the AG will also have 500 rounds linked together for use in the ORP.
AT-4: will be inspected for serviceability prior to leaving the ORP. Inspect the fiberglass tube, sights, transport safety pin and firing mechanism for damage. Leave the sight covers open slightly for rapid deployment in the event it has to be used.
M18A1 Claymore mines: will be inspected for serviceability and accountability. Check all parts and ensure they are tied down in accordance with unit SOP. Also ensure the claymore wire is properly wound up around the spool.
Special Equipment: A good technique is to use the acronym RTBNS, which stands for Radios, Tripod, Binos, NVGs, and Special equipment. A way to remember this acronym is “Ranger Training Battalion’s Never Soft”
Radios: For both the PRC-119 and other FM radios, the RTO needs to ensure that each radio has an extra battery and the radio and antenna are tied down properly. Prior to leaving the ORP, each soldier carrying a radio adjusts the volume knob and conducts a radio check so the squad knows that all radios are working and are on the right frequency. The RTO keeps the PRC-119.
Tripod: The assistant gunner fully extends the tripod with the T & E and pintle assembly already attached to the tripod and tied down.
Binos: Inspect the binos for serviceability then place the lanyard around the neck and ensure it is tied off to the non-firing shoulder of the FIGHTING LOAD CARRIER (FLC). You will also check the objective lens to make sure that they are taped in such a manner as to reduce the chance of glare that could give away your position. Make sure there is not too much tape and that it will still allow enough light to enter the objective lens to work properly.
NVGs: Each soldier attaches the PVS-14s to their helmet mounts and adjusts them. Then, each man places their hand over the objective lens (in order not to burn out the reticule) and turns the NVG on to ensure there is a green glow and that the device works. Each man should rotate the “ON” switch to IR and see the IR indicator light illuminate. Then place the NVG lanyard around their necks and tie them down to the non-firing shoulder of the FLC. Tie downs must not hamper the focusing of the NVGs. Then, each man places the NVGs around their neck utilizing the neck cord and places the NVGs inside of their ACU top. The M240B MG team should mount the PEQ-15/A on the M240B. The team ties the PEQ-15/A to the mount, ensures that it is serviceable, and confirms the team has an extra set of batteries for the PEQ-15A. Every man with NVGs has a set of extra batteries.
Special equipment: For a recon, the only special equipment is note taking materials. The SL, lead team TL, and lead team automatic rifleman have note taking materials so they can make a military sketch of the PIR on the OBJ. This note taking material needs to be weather-proofed so that rain cannot destroy the information. Special equipment for the trail TL includes a range card and note taking material. The range card is used to depict the sector of fire for the MG; the note taking material is used to create a copy of the range card and to create the squad sector sketch. The trail TL must be sure to note the locations of all weapons on his perimeter in the sector sketch (AT-4, Claymore mine, M320, etc). For an ambush, the different special teams should ensure they have the required equipment. EPW/Search: Ensure that you have enough gags, flex-cuffs, and blindfolds to secure at a minimum of 4 men each. Also you will have a flashlight or headlamp, in the event your NVGs become inoperable. Aid/Litter: Aid and litter teams will have a SKEDCO or Pole-less litter along with a CLS Bag and be familiar where the different items of equipment in the CLS bag are stored. Demo: Demo team will ensure that the charge and initiation system are carried, tied down in separate demo bags. You will not connect them with the British junction until the SL tells the Demo Team to do so on the OBJ, when we are preparing to withdraw.
This was a summary of how to properly prep M.W.E. at Ranger/Sapper School.
For more classes on squad tactics for Ranger/Sapper School visit our blog.