Central War Gaming Blog

Central War Gaming Blog


Friday, October 16, 2020

A Guide to the After Action Review Process

I think we all know in principle at least that some sort of post-activity accountability is good, so improvements can be made to the next project, or the next phase.

Far too often, we skip this, or have vague chats about it. But we at CWG prefer the term and the process of the After Action Report. After an activity, you sit down and talk about it.

After Action Reviews are collaborative, inclusive assessments performed after any major activity or event. Ideally, everyone is involved. For exercises, have both sides attend both AARs, or do them both sequentially in one meeting. Tell everyone what the process is before you start. Show them this document, and make them stick to it. The moderator must interrupt people if they don’t follow the process. And the process is:

Get everyone in a room. Be ready to write things down where they can be seen, get a good moderator (preferably not from the team) and in turn discuss the:
  • Plan
  • Performance
  • Issues
  • Fixes
One person talks, everyone else listens, everything gets written down. Ideally, few computers are open and all the participants just listen. 


Communicated by the most senior actual battlefield leader:
  • What did you intend to happen?
Do not talk about what actually happened. Usually, you do not even describe changes in the plan at first. From the original plan, describe one or more of the following:
  • End state, what did you expect it to look like when done
  • Operational guidelines
  • Plans and coordination
  • Timelines, schedules
Brief, but complete, it should not take more than about 5 minutes. If it can be done in 30 seconds, all the better. It doesn't have to be done from memory, so the orders documents can be referred to, but don't just read an OPORD out loud.

Try not to project anything or use PowerPoint, but communicate by speaking of the issues instead. 

It can be good to have higher level goals discussed as well, so feel free to refer to the orders received or even to invite the next higher level command to the review process, if available. 

Write down all of this. Any method you like is good, from typing, to whiteboard to post-its.


For this step, the leadership cannot talk. Instead, everyone else talks. Usually, "everyone" is just the next level or two of command on down, vs every soldier involved, but still get them to answer:
  • What really happened?
Try to go around the table, and get everyone to provide input in turn. Make sure everyone is engaged. None of that false engagement by asking “does anyone else have something to say.” Instead go one by one around the table, or down the TOO.

Even if a respondant they say “it was said” then ask which one they would have said so that can be emphasized. It assures they feel engaged, and increases accuracy. They might have misheard, added their interpretation, or have a slightly different point to make.

Analyze these results: Compare to the Plan step. Looking for deltas here, and considering it like this helps make it more brief. Improvements over the Plan are fine. Cover all changes from the plan.

Again, go step by step. Do not say why anything happened. Just what happened.


This time, everyone can talk, although the most senior leadership should go last to assure they do not influence all other answers.  

Many AARs open this up and everyone raises hands and gets called on, but I think that’s risky. So again, everyone in turn should be called on to answer:
  • Why did those things happen?
"These things" are the performance phase items. Why did the things that are written down from the previous phase happen. New things that happened either should be ignored, or you have to stop and write them down on the what-happened list first.

If leaders seem to be taking over, or anyone steps on someone else, it is the moderator’s job to stop it. Everyone can help keep on target. 

Going around the table again is probably the best way, but if everyone is getting tired of this at least make sure there is minimal back-and-forth discussion, to avoid arguments or the original point being lost in the discussion. One person talks, and the point is put up, and that’s it. 

If the person bringing up the issue says they are not sure why; then go to raising hands, and one person responds at a time. Keep this under control. 

Some other notes:

  • You can consolidate items in the Performance step to single issues.
  • Try not to bring up Issues that are not gaps in Performance.
  • Discuss positive changes from plan or expectation, not just problems.
  • Participants might disagree. Some discussion is acceptable but if they are not going to agree, just write down both and move to the next phase. 


Again, everyone talks. Same methods as above ideally to be sure everyone is engaged equally. If everyone is playing nicely, this may go towards raising hands, but I do find that people who don’t actively volunteer still have ideas and we need to drag it out of them.

Instead of talking, sometimes having everyone write their ideas on Post-its to share is a fine idea. This also works well if the team is very large so it would take too long to get all ideas out there. 

The core question is:

  • What could be done differently to Improve this issue OR,
  • What should be done the same, to Sustain this success in the future?

How to do this?

Try to address each Issue in the above list. Try not to discuss Fixes for things not already discussed.

Classify each item as “Improve” or “Sustain.” Either it was a problem to fix, or a benefit to keep. 

Note that many Sustain items are small. That doesn't mean they aren’t beneficial. Try to notice all that was done well, even if small, and accidental. 

Everything must be actionable, at least for permanent organizations (ad hoc game/exercise environments can skip this). Even Sustains. Assign a person (not a team, an individual). That individual must be there, and agree to it. Even if they can’t fix, they can find the person who can fix it, and it’s still their responsibility.

Fixes should still not be personal. Even if the problem was a person, don’t use this to simply point fingers. Instead provide training, provide more communications, move them to a place or role they fit better, things like that. Everything must be actionable, and their boss more likely gets the actions, not them.

Remember in general this should not be a griping session, but sticking to the process means that issues can be brought up that might have otherwise been perceived as an attack.

You are not allowed to say “Joe wouldn’t let us do x” because you have to say “We failed to perform activity x” and then some time later, you can explain why, and very often someone else will. Many times, in my experience, the person responsible will even do it for you. “Oh, I stopped that because…” You learn there are reasons, and it’s not all incompetence and personal bias.

These often become effectively team building exercises as you learn about everyone else, and how their role really works in practice.

Sunday, August 9, 2020

Swift Fox 20 Moves Online

When we postponed our normal spring event, Operation Swift Fox 20, it was for the direct safety of players, staff and the general public due to proximity and travel. 

We had hoped that by October everything would be well in hand, so rescheduled to the fall. However, aside from continued high rates of infection in much of the US, with concordant restrictions, the situation has put much strain on everyone financially, and personally. 

CWG has chosen to cancel all in-person events for at least the remainder of 2020, and will not resume them until it is safe and reasonable for everyone to do so. 

But, we're not shutting down entirely. 

This year, CWG will instead host an online event on the same weekend, pitting larger scale forces, with more capabilities, over a longer timeframe. This event will like all of them be about how you command, plan, manage, and think. We'll simply no longer also be physically testing your ability to hike, sneak, see, and shoot. 

It's also much, much cheaper. 

Only $20 to attend, and no travel costs or new equipment needs. 

Swift Fox 20 will have the same overall scenario, pitting small units of the fictional Ardean and Kitoy against each other to gain control of the disputed, depopulated, mountainous Central Grafston Highlands. However, we'll be doing it as a tabletop exercise.  

Of course, there won't be a real tabletop, and it will all be online. But the principles are the same. You will play the role of a small unit — as small as a Squad — and will perform a mission, find and fight the enemy, and communicate with your chain of command over a voice link to simulate tactical radio.

Everyone will be sent a digital map file you may use online or print out if you have access to large format printing. For an extra fee we can also mail a paper map with the event registration.

Some players will be put in charge of higher level units, such as Platoons and Companies. You will have to communicate as though in the field to pass information, and orders. Since it's voice, you better have a notebook around to write it all down as well. 

Without the tabletop, you won't simply move the counters across the board, but will have to talk via an instant messenger link to the game administrators. 

Interested? Sign up today, or just visit the event details page to find more details.


Tuesday, March 17, 2020


With increasing recommendations and restrictions on gatherings and travel as a result of the global pandemic, CWG must respect our mantra of Safety First, and will regretfully postpone SWIFT FOX 20.
We do not yet have a new date for the event, but will share it here as soon as we do. Expect fall, to avoid the heat of summer on the plains.
All existing Swift Fox 20 payments will be held and apply to the postponed event OR to Swift Fox 21, if it turns out you cannot make the new date.
In addition, and unlike our usual policy, for Swift Fox 20 you may request a refund at ANY time. That means you can wait until you know the new time, or even until the event approaches in a few months to decide.
To request a refund, simply respond to your reservation confirmation email asking for it.
If you lost that, message us here or email to sales@centralwar.com, and pay attention to responses as we may need to ask for addition info.

Thursday, March 5, 2020

HIT! Medic and respawn rules at Swift Fox 23

Here at CWG we agonized for a long time about how to represent and handle casualties. We wanted to be accurate, without too terribly much burden on the individual participant. You will be using what we've developed and been using with only minor tweaks for years, at Swift Fox 23.

What we ended up with was nothing much for the casualty to do, and a Combat Medic role, often filled by people who are combat medics, or EMTs, in their actual life.

The casualty just calls HIT, lays down, and indicates they are a casualty with a red rag. Lay there until 5 minutes have passed — everyone is required to have a watch — and it is safe and not disruptive to the fighting, to walk off to the aid station. 

If a medic arrives before 5 minutes are up, they will open their aid bag and retrieve, first, a casualty card. These are randomized, and indicate where you were hit, and what the effect was. Some effects are reduced or removed if you were wearing armor.

Treatment is anything from a bandaid (you think you were killed, but the medic confirms "it's just a scratch") to bandages, slings, and splints that remove the ability to use various parts of your body.

Casualty Care in the GDL

At Swift Fox 22 we had the insurgent force go out with the same rules but... no medics at all. Hits were kills. In the end we've decided that they are just as much about operational level work as other factions, so will also be getting a medic this year. 

Aid Stations

When killed, or to remove treatment like a split, your recovery or respawn will take place at an Aid Station. This is sited to be as unlikely to be attacked as we can, and may even be in a specifically out-of-bounds area.

Aid Stations are well marked, with a large red cross, and usually have signs along the road when you get anywhere nearby, to direct you to it.

They are not hidden because they are notionally Aid Stations. Reasonably large, loud, manned facilities with gensets, and ambulances going in and out. That includes notional defending troops. Anyone attacking an aid station will stop immediately, as soon as they realize it, or when someone stomps out of the aid station to yell at them. They will then will declare themselves casualties as the defending troops are assumed to have killed them all. 

I'll say that again: attacking an aid station results in 100% casualties being inflicted on the entire unit attacking it. Go to your aid station, and respawn. 

Don't attack the aid stations, and use this risk of everyone being killed as a good example of why you need to get positive ID on anything before you attack it. 

At the Aid Station

There are instructions on the table in the aid station. You keep your eye pro on, note the time, then just rest. We even have some sleep pads, and water, and this is why your supply point is near the Aid Station, so you can go to your  Ready Bag.

Consider keeping a spare woobie, water, and snacks in that bag. You can also reload ammo and so on. We shouldn't encourage this, as it's game play impacting, but is minor, we can't stop you, and it's boring being dead so helps pass the time. 

Read More

Read these other entries for more details on casualty handling, especially if you will be a Medic:
Rules: Hit, Medic, and Respawn

Some blog posts, in date order. Note that we did revisions, so older ones may use odd terms like call the Aid Station a Casualty Collection Point. The changes to today's method are explained in later blog posts.
The Combat Medic at CWG Events

Combat Medic Skills: Treatment of Wounds at CWG Events

Changes: Casualties

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Shelters for Swift Fox 22

The last Swift Fox we ran really reminded me of the need for good shelters at our events, and for carrying and using them.

The weather can change fast at events like Swift Fox 22 (sign up today!), and it doesn't take much wetness or cold, or especially both combined, to be very uncomfortable very fast. 

Or even, be outright dangerous. A shelter isn't required, but in addition to your sleep system can be a real difference between comfort and danger. Consider the weather, talk to your team, and think of what else you should bring to be comfortable the whole weekend, either individually, as buddy teams, or for the whole group together. 


First off, the field we're using for Swift Fox events has a lot of structures of one sort or another. Much more another, though. The ones on the playing area are often quite derelict, often deliberately so. They are mostly foam blocks with shotcrete to look like bombed-villages. They can provide some protection, but more from observation or gunfire. There are a few shelters with overhead protection, but these are often  rather obvious, so not necessarily the most tactically prudent choice. When my teams are doing are patrolling, we sure check out all good structures to make sure no enemy presence, now or in the past. 
Some of the roofless structures at DDAP, as viewed from another one across the river at Swift Fox 19. Good for hiding, but no protection from the rain or snow.

If you decide conditions mean you should camp out in a structure, you will likely need a tarp or tent as well, so between the various other downsides of structures, don't assume any are around to save you.

One side this year will be based in a relatively secure structure, with a door.

But even there, we won't all be squished into the building to sleep, but using it as an operations center. It is also likely that it leaks and drips, and maybe we'll loose a fight and have to relocate anyway. So you'll need to plan for shelter in the event you are sleeping in the woods, in the rain.


Ultra Lightweight (UL) gear has been all the rage for my entire outdoors career. With high tech fabrics, some of it is sturdy enough to use for military purposes, or of course to bring out to rough and tumble events like Swift Fox. Pyramids are a common way to get to a tent, like this:
Read more about these sorts of shelters over here, among other places.

One pole (often not provided, and it should be a hiking stick) and sides. That's it. These pack down as small as a cargo pocket and weigh nothing. They are not all bright colors, so can be suitable, and are nice if you own one as a backup, to always have shelter, because they are so light. But, expensive.

Most tents that apply to this small and light event, these days, are instead free-standing tents with floors. Put the poles in and they pop up, have a completed shape. Pick them up and move them around a bit to their final position. You can't dig into the dirt, and can't cook inside them, but fire in any sort of shelter smaller than standing height gives me the willies, so that's fine with me.

A woodland camouflaged LEWS at Swift Fox 18

That also means they can blow away. Really, not kidding, seen it too many times to count. Stake your tents, or at least make sure they always have sufficient stuff inside. Always. A lot of the blowing-away I have seen is right after everyone takes their stuff out in the morning.

If you need the tent for shelter, you are likely to need the rain fly. Those are usually provided as an extra thing over the top, and for maximum efficiency, should definitely be staked, to bring the sides out, and to add vestibules, or little covered porches to store your gear in. 

Rain flies are despite their name NOT just for rain. They are the attic of your tent, and provide a critical insulating layer, allowing you to "cold camp" or survive based on your body heat without a stove, down to way below freezing. 


A simple rectangular tarp can be put to many uses. As a ground sheet, to wrap yourself in, as a lean to, or with a center ridgeline cord, as a roof with the footprint of a tent. You can pick and choose based on terrain and conditions in ways you can't so easily with a tent, and can deploy them very quickly.

There are even ways to use them with poles, if you wish to pack those, but you will need stakes, or lots of trees to tie to.

The Australians love their hoochie, and there's much discussion of that and ways to rig tarps over here.

Another one that those who like ponchos do is to use it as a shelter. They even make aftermarket ponchos that are more suitable as shelters.

Whichever you do, plan ahead most of all by bringing enough cords to use it in these several ways. I have pre-set cords on the corners of my ICS fly and the tarp I often pack, and also extra cord to use as a center ridgeline, if that is needed.

I'd also bring stakes, and some way to secure the system, ideally some mechanical toggles, so you aren't relying on tying a dozen knots as your hands start to freeze up. Be careful about bungees and plastic cord ends; you may have a lot of load on this, and they can fail, as they have for me.

Remember also that these are not warm. They protect from rain, falling snow and so on, and to a limited degree from wind, but are one layer so you are relying on your sleep system for warmth. 


Lots of military issued shelters are modular, and provide several options. The USGI shelter half is one common example, providing a (heavy, canvas) tarp, a ground sheet, a lean too, or when two are attached to each other, a small tent suitable for two. Combine 4 and you have a thing called a Von Ruck, with room in the middle for a fire, room around the edges for 4 to sleep, or 8+ to sit and work, eat, or generally huddle up.

One I always pack is the ICS or Improved Combat Shelter. Or actually, sometimes I do. More often, I carry just the fly, as either with no, one, or two poles it can be a (not free standing) lean to. Combined with the bivy, this sort of setup provides a lot of protection from bad weather, for you and your gear. These sorts of shelters can be much better than a tarp/basha/hoochie because they go all the way to the ground, so block wind. Position the opening against a woodline or brush pile or so on, and you can be pretty comfortable. 
This is old. I have a Woodland fly now and it's much sneakier like that.

You also don't need to pick only one. You may find it useful to bring either a modular system so you can flexibly choose what to deploy, or multiple systems, such as a tarp and a small tipi or tent.

Whether yourself or in coordination with your team, if you choose to bring a shelter, talk to everyone else. It may be that only one large tarp is needed, and a tent could be stored at the supply point, for use only if you have a base camp and the time and circumstances to set it up.

Camouflage, Concealment

Tarps and tents are not foolproof ways to hide; unlike buildings they are not lightproof for example, but they are better than nothing by a wide margin, even by themselves, as long as you bring something that's a suitable color, and try to hide it.

Camouflage patterns on tents and tarps can be extremely effective. As long as you site them well they can look like a bush or rock from even quite close range.

This exact one, poorly sited on top of a hill because it was dark, was found the next morning by the enemy, but only by accident. They were just using the mossy rock on top of the hill as a waypoint, didn't realize it was a tent until some 10 yards away!

Sealed Tents, Buildings, Vehicles

One great thing tents provide is that they are sealed off areas. You can take your goggles off!

Now this is important to get right. It only applies to sealed tents. Tarps, lean toos, von-ruck sheleters? No. No way. Zipped up doors are sealed tents.

I'll consider a tipi or shelter half as tent the same, as long as you do pretty well getting the sides down to the ground. Stake them well for safety as well as warmth.

Don't leave eyepro off when the door is open. And think about why it's safe: no pellets. Don't bring guns inside the tent. This is a pretty typical thing anyway in bad weather; you may cover the gun, but leave it outside so there's no temperature change to condense on the gun and mess it up. And, also, for the same safety reasons; tents are small and you don't need to accidentally shoot someone.

And for anyone attacking into a place with vehicles with the doors closed and rolled up, buildings with closed doors, or tents with zipped- or snapped-up entrances: Leave Them Alone.

You can attack the campsite, but DO NOT open doors, stick muzzles under tent edges, etc. Actually, tents are pretty thin so avoid shooting at the tent walls themselves too much.

Call out safety kills or just declare "everyone in that tent is dead" after firing some bursts at the ground. No one hiding behind a few mils of nylon should give you any argument.

Try This Yourself

Why not see how your system works, by signing up for Swift Fox 22 today?
22 - 24 April 2022
Force-on-Force FTX, Airsoft
D-Day Adventure Park Oklahoma

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Sleeping in Comfort and Safety at Swift Fox 22

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 23 (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 by your body, squished so it has no loft and therefore can't keep you warm; you just don't carry the bottom half, only 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 with body heat, so the most important thing in your system is not the bag or blanket but 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 are brightly colored 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. Or, cover it up. 

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.

I also keep a second foam folding pad, partly for the below rest padding, work pad, muddy conditions but also because the ground pad is so important that I sleep on them both when it is very cold. It helps a lot. 


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. No, it doesn't have to match the uniform, just anything that will blend in will do fine. 

Keeping Warm

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. Then take them of and change to fresh (or yesterday's freshly aired-out) hiking around clothing when you wake up. 

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.


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.

Sign Up for Swift Fox Today

Swift Fox 23 is coming up in just over a month! Sign up today to get your spot!

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Food at Swift Fox 22

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.


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. 

We have MREs for sale this year

We normally do not provide meals, even for extra money, but this year we have a sealed case of 12 USGI surplus XXX expiration MREs, complete with heaters and all.  
No shipping, pay for them now or on site if any are spare, and we'll give it to you at check in. This is all "milsim" so no choice, the one you are handed is the one you get :)

Buy MREs now  

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 much, much 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 in a shack to write your manifesto, don't try to live off MREs.

All rations are packed for surviving transport and distribution, but are therefore large, boxy, full of packaging and often full of stuff you do not want or need. Some disagree with this principle, but in most armies, most troops "strip" or "break them down" once issued, meaning removing it from the package to fit better and to remove the drink mixes, hot sauce, or whatever you do not need or want. Don't ever get rid of actual food items, as you need those to survive. 

Break down is usually done as a group; keep the MRE cardboard case or some other box, and toss all the stuff you don't like or want in there in a central location. You never throw anything away, but leave it in the box as others on the team may want your spares, so you end up trading. Dump your stuff, and take what you like, need, or are missing out of it that others have discarded. 

For US MREs, also note that the brown over bag is supposed to pull apart; try that instead of cutting it open. If you manage to do that, you can keep using it to store the stuff you keep, or which you haven't eaten yet, as it will sorta go back together also. It's not sealed well enough to be wet trash storage, but it's got some usage. 

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, always.

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 overnight like normal people. 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 nutritious 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 of those, and usually use more like two a day with maybe a few of my own snacks just in case. 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. Also pay attention to your activity level; if you are in an OP, or a camp, or otherwise largely static all day you don't need a 5,000 calorie active warfighter sort of intake. 

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.

When You Are Hungry, Drink

This is a longstanding trick, used to make you fat and poor. The food court in the mall is there because walking around makes you thirsty. But you can easily be persuaded to eat when you just need a drink. 

Aside from the usual cries we have that you drink more, drink on the go, drink at every listening halt, when you are hungry first drink and see how that goes. 

Also, drink with meals! Way too many people don't drink with their normal civilized life meals, but it is important for digestion and more important in the field. Aside from your increased activity and using any chance to get more water into you, rations tend to be dense and low-moisture. Dry food in your stomach takes a lot longer to digest and risks not being as fully processed so you get less out of it. You need water with your meal, more than at home. 

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, even if it is hot outside, 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.

Freeze Dried Meals

Another common alternative is the "Mountain House." That's actually just one brand, but there are many others, of freeze-dried camping foods. Freeze drying removes all the water, so the meals are very very light. Of course, you must add water, and heat them. Usually, you must add boiling water, stir, and let sit. So think of the total system weight, the time and equipment required to do that. 

Freeze dried meals are generally one course meals, and often rather large. Read the label carefully, as they often are designed for splitting with another, or with a larger group. That's a lot to eat in one sitting, but if you will be coordinating food with a battle buddy, or fire team, that may work well. You can all have ready to eat rations but also plan to cook one freeze dried meal a day together, for example. 

Freeze dried meals, properly prepared, are often much tastier than military rations because they are individually bought by consumers. Bad food would not be bought again, so they try hard to make it tasty and so on. It is not ready to eat, even in an emergency; you must add hot water. These are also single — and usually single component, soup or stew like — meals, so you'll need some source of snacks as well. 

Make Your Own Rations

Some of us supplement ration packs or even make our own. The principles of MRE — fully cooked, sealed bags of food — is pretty common now and easy to find at the grocery store. Me, I like the ethnic sections. Tasty Bite has a variety of Indian dishes, which go down well, heat well and are edible if the heater is indifferent. 

For breakfast, things like oatmeal packets work well, and are easy to heat. I like squeezeable packs of pureed fruits. Yes, I mean baby food. Actually, others have found they work well like I do, so they aren't all in the baby department, but they also offer them with more ingredients as more complete nutrition so can be pretty good breakfast or snack items. They also have screw tops so can be closed up and eaten a little later (but remember, they become perishable once open!) and also don't leak when you are done with them, so can simply be stuffed in a pocket, so aren't dirty trash. 

Many people like coffee so you are pretty likely to be able to boil water as a team in the morning, borrow some water for the oatmeal. Soups are the same, and always good to have around for when it's cold especially. 

It can be good to save the hot meals for breakfast and dinner, both to reduce the logistics load and the time it takes to eat. Tuna can be had in various sizes of foil flat packs, making them easy to eat (with a fork or spork), carry, and dispose of vs the old cans. Peanut butter can be had or repacked into squeeze tubes, then applied to crackers or bread if that's more your speed. 

Snacks should be focused on the least-processed foods you can. Start with nuts, dried fruits, granola and trail mixes (but go light on the candy and chocolate!), and even fresh fruits. Fruits have their own package so are easy to bring along. Oranges are not as prone to damage (bruising) as apples and bananas and the smaller offshoot clementines (cuties, etc) are an even more convenient size to stick in spare pouches and pockets. If you like veggies, same thing there. Carrot sticks for example, travel pretty well if you repack in small quantites. 

For the next step up in caloric needs for hard work, think of individually packaged jerky, or meat and cheese sticks. 

Only bring granola and snack bars for convenience like using them on the move; making granola a bar shape adds other stuff and the binders are often sugary or otherwise not good for you. Do NOT use this as an excuse to buy sugary or otherwise bad for you snacks. Candies, cookies, chips and the like must be used sparingly or not at all. Also be careful to read labels for energy bars and drinks. Many now have enormous amounts of single elements like caffeine or protein, that aren't what you need in a snack. 

Meal replacement bars can be useful in the field, but as meal replacements. I keep one in my LBE along with smaller (fewer calories, natural or balanced) snacks for when I am going to miss a meal, or there's lots of activity like hours and hours of sneaking around at night with no chance to sit and eat. 

Also think hard about packaging. Make sure it's not too bright, not too loud (a lot of bags are very noisy), and the packaging/food combo will survive being stuffed in your ruck, and abused all weekend. 

Lots of non-perishables are in cans, but that can be hard to open, and bulky to keep around when you are done with them, so think about that while purchasing. For an example of a not too great nutritional balance (needs a lot more starches) here's a video of some Ukrainian volunteers going over what they were given as rations. 

They are clearly just ready-to-eat things pulled off store shelves for them. Could be worse, and they do have their own issues of what is available but it could be better. 

If you like cans, meals in a can also exist. It's hard to suggest things like noodles and meatballs sold in the US as they are full of sugar and other additives, but you can sometimes find things like this Polish... I am not sure what it is called, but sort of a compressed stew of vegetables, potatoes, other vegetables, and meats. 

Crack it open to heat directly, which is a nice benefit of cans; unlike foil and plastic bagged food you must put in another container, or can only hat with boiling, cans can be heated directly on an open flame, as with this little titanium stove fired with Dragon Fuel and wood. 

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


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!


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.


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.

Well, unless the GDL. Then you may — as long as it doesn't jam or conflict with other radios in use — use anything you want, even just your mobile phones.


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.


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.


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.


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. We'll sell you more if you want a few for later as well.

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!


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


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!


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.


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!

All kinds of fun! 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.

Sign Up Today

Swift Fox 22 registration is open! Sign up today to get your spot!

Operation Swift Fox 23
21 - 23 April 2023
Force-on-Force FTX, Airsoft
D-Day Adventure Park Oklahoma

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