Central War Gaming Blog

Central War Gaming Blog

 

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Sleeping in Comfort and Safety at Swift Fox 20

It's not always nice weather in Oklahoma in April. And, is awfully unpredictable, with pretty solid temperature changes just moving downhill a few hundred yards.

We want to make sure you are safe, comfortable, and effective through the entire time Swift Fox 20 (sign up today!) is running, so as for all our events we have some requirements around sleep systems to help you get there:

Sleep System

You must bring a complete sleep system, consisting of a sleeping bag suitable for use in below-freezing conditions, and a waterproof cover such as a bivy sack to keep it dry.
The bivy cover must be a military camouflage color or pattern, but does not need to match the uniform color.

There are a couple things going on here, so let's review in detail what a tactical, all weather sleep system consists of:

Sleeping Bag

A sleeping bag keeps you warm in the cold, but like many things, they have limits that are tradeoffs. More weight and bulk will give you lower temps. Of course, money can also be traded for lower temperature ratings with less weight and bulk.

Warmth is a direct result of "loft" or the amount of air trapped in the bag. If it's not puffy, it's not warm. This all degrades over time, and I for one have been very cold because the lovely sleeping bag I have used hard for 10 years simply wore out. Surplus gear can be the same; don't assume it works, but check, and plan for the original rating being at least 10° off.

Some of the warmth can be recovered with cleaning, but that's a complex topic, so read up carefully and follow directions scrupulously or you can end up ruining a sleeping bag.

You also don't have to carry a sleeping bag at all. I for one now run a blanket, or quilt. For the military a woobie is a common name for these. The theory is that half of a sleeping bag is laid on, so can't keep you warm; don't carry the bottom half, just the top. Same warmth with less weight (and cost!) or much more warmth for the same size/weight.

If you roll around a lot, these may not be for you, and they have to integrate into the rest of your system, but are worth knowing about, and we officially don't care what you use as long as you have an effective warmth layer.

Ground Pad

You can't heat the earth, so maybe the most important thing in your system is a good insulating pad. There are a huge variety of these, inflated, rolling, or folding, with many options. Make sure it is comfortable, and insulates you well. The thinnest and cheapest ones won't work so well. Some even carry a second pad for very cold weather, ground insulation is so important.

This might be a good time to talk about color. One of the more common cheap pads is the bright roll up ones. They are hard to hide, in camp or when rolled up on your ruck. You will likely have to camp out where the enemy can see you, and don't forget there are drones; you need to stay camouflaged from every angle, at pretty much all times.

So think if maybe you want to invest in something smaller, lighter, more effective, and also not bright colored.

My foam pad is a very good, lightweight consumer camping one, so is bright red. But it lives permanently inside a camouflaged bivy, so you can't see it, ever. That's a fine plan to keep camouflaged also.

Cover

You really, really need to be able to not get wet when it rains or snows. Getting wet and then going to sleep is a sure fire way to be uncomfortable, and takes you a few steps closer to risking death. We don't like hypothermia, at all. 

Sleep systems are also less effective — or entirely ineffective, depending on the filling — when even a tiny bit damp. You have to keep yourself, and your sleeping bag dry. 

The classic, easiest, and probably best way is the bivy sack. It's just a tube a bit larger than your sleeping bag you put that, and maybe the ground pad, into. The bivy is waterproof, but usually Goretex or has vent panels, so you don't fill it with moisture as you breathe and sweat. They are usually sturdy enough to be laid directly on the ground, which is good for our purposes. 

If you want, though, it's also possible to simply use a tarp or other waterproof sheet. Lay it down, lay your sleep system on one half, and then flop the rest over you. As long as you sleep calmly, it's not too windy, etc. you will stay in place, and the gap in the tarp will let moisture out even if you are as closed up as  you can be. 

But back to color: your bivy really, really needs to be a muted or camouflage color or pattern. 

More 

Sleep comfort, in the cold, is all about layers. You can add more layers easily. The bivy is one, even without moisture. You can also get sleeping bag liners, which also keep it clean if you are jumping in with all your clothes on.

Or you can bring sleep clothing. If there's time and space, this helps a lot. You put on fresh, dry and looser fitting warmth layers, then get in the sleeping bag.

And always wear a hat to bed.

You also may find yourself needing to sit, rest, or nap without being able to deploy your whole sleep system. OPs, guard posts, ambushes, halts in patrols, and so on may make you very cold as you are static. Popular recommendations are to carry a small or cut-down sleeping pad to sit (or kneel) on, and a woobie to wrap yourself in.

These can be used as add-ons for when sleeping as well. Aside from my full sleep system I have a folding german sleeping mat and a Jungle Blanket (a woobie) which I carry as much as I can for quick comfort and warmth. But when it's really cold, I also use the folding mat under my sleep system, and will lay the blanket over the top of  the bivy. It works.

Shelters

You can also add additional layers to the system by bringing a shelter. Tents can be hard to move when entirely on foot, but if you expect your unit to have some fixed bases, then you can leave one in the Ready Bag. At least Kitoy and the GDL will have fixed bases — unless they get attacked and displaced! — so should bring tents if they wish.

Tarps and other small shelters are also useful. Tipis are popular now, and there are many other combo ponco/shelter systems that work well. I pretty much always carry the fly from the Army ICS tent, with some poles and stakes to allow it to be a free-standing 3 sided shelter. I have slept under this in deep snow, keeping my head and gear dry and out of  the wind, while the bivy sticks out and gets snowed on.


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Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Food at Swift Fox 20

One of the things we have decided not to provide to participants at CWG events like the upcoming Swift Fox 20 in April is meals. For a number of reasons, not least individual preferences, you will have to provide your own.

However, this is another area where our event format may test your plans. You can do a day, or maybe a bit more, off willpower and candy bars, but at the end of a 2-3 day event like Swift Fox 20, you will be ineffective at best if you don't eat, and eat well.

Rations

Most people default to purchasing ration packs, with the US MRE (Meal, Ready to Eat) being the most common, basically because we are in the US and they are available.

The MRE is... exactly what it says it is. A Meal, Ready to Eat. They can be eaten cold, no cooking required, though they are better when warm or hot.

They are also meals. The US issues three a day to troops in the field, when needed. Most other armies issue 24-hour ration packs, or one per day which have about the same amount of food, just packed differently, and often organized a bit more like breakfast/lunch/dinner. MREs just sort of are what they are, with most meals being dinner-oriented.

These are all rations. They are intended to be used for the short term, not to live off for weeks or months, so when you go crazy hermit, don't try to live off MREs.

All ration packs are packed for surviving transport and distribution, but are large, boxy, full of packaging and often full of stuff you do not want or need. Break them down once issued, to fit and to remove the drink mixes, hot sauce, or whatever you do not need. Don't get rid of actual food items, as you need those to survive.

Break down is usually done as a group; keep the MRE case or some other box, and toss all the stuff you don't like or want in there. Others on the team may want your spares, so you end up trading.

Complete Nutrition

Eat it all. Do not eat the main course of an MRE, and toss the tortillas or rice. Don't just subsist on tubes of pimento "cheese." Good nutrition is about a balance of attributes; one food will not just give you a different energy type (quick vs long-term), but will help aid in the other foods working better for you. Ration packs like MREs are designed by nutritionists with this in mind, so even if you think you hate one component of the meal, pretend your mom is here and eat it anyway.

If putting together your own meals, from either grocery store or camping items that travel and reconstitute well, plan the meal out so you get complete nutrition as well. Don't try to subsist on meal replacement shakes or bars, or only eat carbs or meat.

Snacks in ration packs are less important to the overall meal plan nutrition, so use your own intelligence to decide when to use them. Don't eat an energy bar as dessert, but save it for when away from the base, to eat on the go when you need it. Don't save the Skittles to eat when you won't have another meal for hours, as you may have a sugar crash.

When supplementing either your own meal or adding to the MRE for more snacks away from base, buy smartly. Nut packs and other more balanced, low-sugar items will be better than candy bars in general.

Eat Enough, But Not Too Much 

At Swift Fox you will likely have a much higher pace of activity than you do normally. Walking around, especially with load and hills, and the stress even for a "game" event will result in higher caloric needs.

Be sure to actually stop and eat your meals, at approximately meal times. Team leaders especially need to keep this in mind, and not always say "yes" to all orders, or to push the team for one more hill or one more objective. If you give everyone time to rest, rehydrate, and eat, you can get more out of them for longer.

Also think carefully about when you are active. Breakfast is so called because you break the fasting you did overnight. Fine, when sleeping. But most of you will have to pull a middle-of-the-night guard shift, or may even spend much of the night time moving — and attacking — enemy forces. Don't assume you can last the 10-12 hours between meals when active, and plan on at least nutritions snacks, shift your meal schedule to match up to your sleep/activity schedule, or plan for a fourth meal.

Many people think MREs are bit large for a meal, and three a day is too much food. I am one, and usually use more like two a day. Do be sure to sit down, and eat 3-4 times a day, to snack in between, but do not force yourself to eat the entire MRE every 8 hours if it doesn't feel like you need it.

Trust your body, when it tells you that you are full, or hungry. And don't keep it to yourself; if you are starting to lag because of food, tell your team. There may be time for a rest, or someone else will offer you a snack to keep going until you can get to your real meal.

Eat (or Drink) Something Hot

Hot food, or at least hot liquids like soups, teas, and coffee, warm you up, make it easier to digest in some cases, and have enormous morale effects. Go out of your way to eat at least one hot meal a day, and to drink warm liquids for morning, or when out on cold evening watches or patrols.

MRE heaters are... pretty awful. They often do not heat very well, but if that is all you have, don't use it as an excuse to not heat. Warm food is more disappointing than hot, but much, much better than cold. Many civilian "MREs", for shipping safety purposes, do not include the heater, so read closely and plan accordingly.

There are replacment MRE heaters available, and other types of much more effective flameless heaters, which is the term of art so you can search — or we can have a separate discussion if you are interested. Triox, Esbit, Dragonfuel (and others) are fuel gels or tablets that burn independent of other fuel sources, and do not even need a stove as long as you are careful to not burn the forest down; the floor of a forest or meadow is made up of organic matter so DO be careful when using even small fuel sources on what you think is dirt.

Bring a cup suitable for heating liquids, something metal that can be exposed to direct flames like heater tablets or stoves. Don't try to heat rations over direct flame as the bags will melt or catch on fire. They are heated with flameless heaters, or by immersing the bag in boiling water.

Stoves generally make noise, and cannot be hidden from view so easily, so flameless heaters, and heat tablets are good to carry regardless, as they can be hidden (dig a little hole in the dirt and your Triox or Esbit pellet is almost invisible when on fire). If you plan to eat a meal while out on patrol, in the middle of a cold night, plan for heating it tactically.

While everyone should bring at least some heat source, you don't all necessarily have to break it out in the morning. Talk amongst yourselves, and very often one person will be happy to share the fuel of their stove for everyone to have coffee in the morning. This can at least speed things up, and if packing out as a group for a patrol, can reduce the load on the whole team if you plan ahead.

Buy Rations from CWG

While we do not always offer it, this year CWG has a limited number of current-issue, current-date, new in case US military issue MREs. Especially if you are traveling, you can just order from us and we'll bring them, and issue them to you on check in.

Buy MREs now

Sign up for Swift Fox 20, April 17-19 2020



Tuesday, February 25, 2020

What CWG Brings and Provides for Swift Fox

We talk a lot about how you should prepare for CWG events like operation Swift Fox coming up in April, but now let's remind you what we provide as well, so you don't over-pack, and don't worry about stuff too much.

Pellets

We provide all the airsoft pellets for you, to assure that you use darker pellets and have to aim, and otherwise as part of the logistics and operational planning nature of the event. No need to bring any for rifles or machine guns. Ask us if brining other types of weapons. They even come in cans marked for your country of origin!

Water

We will have potable water in 5 gallon jugs, and some smaller, easier-to-dispense containers, funnels and so on, at the Aid Stations, supply points and — if static — likely your campsite. Do fill your bladders and bottles before you go, but no need to carry spare or be stingy and get dehydrated, we can provide water.

Radios

Actual military radios will be issued for the Ardean and Kitoy sides. You can bring your own headsets if you want, and they have a 5/6 pin military connector, but no junky consumer radios that will break under rain and gunfire.

Maps

Every maneuver element, usually a fire team, will get a proper, accurate, and authentic-looking topo map of the region for planning, and navigation. Paper isn't too waterproof, so if you will be a team leader, bring a map case.

Grenades

We'll have to do a count, but I think we still have a case of spare pea grenades and will give out one to each player until we run out. When you see the enemy, use them! And, that's our gift to you; unless flying back or you otherwise can't have them, no need to turn in, this is yours.

Smoke

We may also issue out some orange maritime signal smokes and fireworks (needs a lighter) smokes you can use to obscure the battlefield when attacking, or defending. Don't have a full count, but should have some.

Vehicle Kill Smoke

When your vehicle it hit, and the card says it is dead, you light a smoke grenade so everyone knows. We give you these, black and white depending on damage.

Lightsticks

Partly because the region is often under fire hazard so we cannot use pyrotechnic flares, we have a large inventory of Cyalume lightsticks. For mission specific purposes we may provide IR or visible (in multiple colors) 8-12 hour sticks, but will provide everyone one or two of the Ultra Bright 5 and 30 minute sticks, to provide safe battlefield illumination. Carry them with you and use liberally. NOTE that opening a lightstick wrapper makes it go bad within months, so keep them sealed until you need it, then you can take it home and use it later if you don't.

More Lightsticks

We also will issue out some mini lightsticks of various sizes you can use for marking trails, and campsites, to avoid getting lost or tripping over tent cords. They are super useful, and some of our minis are expired (so you need a handful to break to find a good one) so feel free to bring your own as well.

Medic Supplies

The medic supplies used to treat wounds per the rules are provided so no worries about using up too many splints or slings. Also, the medic books, to say what injury happened from a hit.

Real Medic Supplies

We also will have some kit bags to handle most any real world injury, and where that's located will be part of your safety brief. Several attendees are real world medical personnel and they will also be identified, and take charge if there's a need. No CWG event has had an injury demanding evacuation yet though!

Orders

Other paper products are provided including printed orders, and often intelligence briefings or other documents.

Fuel

If you bring a vehicle, you'll be coordinating with us a lot, and one way is to make sure no one has to run back to town to refuel because they spent too much time bopping around the field. We can provide spare fuel, and make sure it's all stored so no one confuses diesel with gas!

Naptime
If killed, the aid stations have shelter, water as we mentioned, and sleeping bags and pads. You can rest and recover from your death even if it is cold and wet.

Directions
We'll provide directions to the field, maps, suggested hotels and so on, and even plant signs on the side of the road to help you find it!


And more fun stuff! We will bring our own personal machine guns, grenade launchers, night vision and thermal, and more to enhance the overall experience and give you a chance to see and use some of this equipment.
  

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