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Conduct Site Exploitation

If you come from a conventional military background you may be surprised with some of the TTPs we have and the context that we present our information in. Understand that SE/SSE/TSE has a different objective for the guerrilla force; where a conventional forces aim is to deny materiel to their opposition and exploit newfound intelligence, a guerrilla force (without the supply chains of a conventional military) must exploit both the seized materiel and intelligence.


Additionally, we will not discuss Tactical Questioning, or Interrogation. While human intelligence is a vital component of SE, it is a skill that is only useful when trained regularly and too complex of a topic to be covered in this essay.


Site Exploitation (SE) is a conventional military skill that must be adapted and integrated into any societal collapse or SHTF strategy. SE refers to the procedures taken to ensure documents (digital and physical), materiel, and personnel are where possible, exploited, integrated, or controlled. To achieve the best results we must approach SE with the questions:


What are the risks and rewards of conducting this search?


Who is connected to this site?


What other locations are connected to this site?


What materiel should I procure/destroy?


Now, let's temper expectations. Unless you are conducting SE on a recently overturned enemy position you will likely find nothing, further to this, if you are fighting any unconventional force, the chance that they leave a cache un-booby trapped is very low. You must weigh the rewards against the risks, and when it comes to SE, the rewards are very rare. However, in situations without rule of law or fighting against an occupying regime, properly exploiting the enemy may result in seizing massive capabilities or denying vital supplies to the enemy.


Know Your Enemy


Unfortunately, we don't know who you will be fighting, but we can make some assumptions. Whoever you are fighting you must quickly establish their TTPs surrounding supply and logistics.


If you are fighting an unconventional force, look for similarities between their equipment. What equipment do they have? If they use explosives, are they improvised or factory produced? Do they all use the same rifles, ammunition, vehicles, armor, or food? You must look for any sign of supplied equipment as this may lead you to the source. Attempt to identify their vehicles and log any vehicles capable of significant load carriage.


If you’re fighting a conventional military - think Nazi occupied France - they probably won't be establishing caches in abandoned buildings, however, they may have easier to target supply routes. While conventional forces shouldn’t be booby trapping their equipment, they will most likely target artillery onto compromised positions, giving you less time to conduct thorough exploitation.


Study your enemy and when opportunity comes, exploit, exploit, exploit.


Tools and Equipment


We will break down our recommended equipment into the categories: Clearance and Search. A clearance item will aid in checking a site for traps, and a search item will aid in the searching process.


Clearance:

  • 40+ feet of rope/cord.

  • A moderate sized hook that can be attached to the rope.

  • A large surface area weight (jerry can, throwing/casting net).

  • Chalk or other marking method.


Search:

  • Endoscope/snake camera.

  • Handcuffs/flex cuffs.

  • Blindfolds/hoods.

  • Headlamps.

  • Gloves.

  • Cameras.

  • Large and medium Ziplock bags.

  • Permanent markers.


These items and their use cases are discussed in their relevant sections.


Booby Traps


‘Booby Traps are explosive or non-explosive devices, deliberately placed to cause casualties when an apparently harmless object is disturbed or a normally safe act is performed.’

USMC Improvised Explosive Device Guide


Sacrificing personnel for equipment will never be a fair trade. Identifying and countering booby traps is a difficult skill to develop, and if you intend on conducting any form of operation against an unconventional force you must develop this skill quickly. We will cover this topic to a much more advanced level in the future.


In any unoccupied structure we must assume that every object, floorboard, piece of furniture, doorway, or window is a trigger for a booby trap. We can immediately remove this layer of risk if the building/vehicle is occupied, or if we can find the ‘key holder’ for the room/s and they are willing to accompany and aid us in the search [1]. We can also remove this layer of risk once we have completed our ‘Sweeping’ TTPs:


Sweeping TTPs are conducted to verify that entrances, floors, furniture, and power circuits are clear of traps. Generally sweeping TTPs will utilize a ‘remote pull’ approach, a long length of rope that can be attached to doors and furniture which can be tugged on from a distance. This is a valuable tool however it fails to work for inward opening doors, and most types of windows; unfortunately there is no non-destructive way to clear these obstacles, conventional teams will use explosives in order to remotely breach suspected booby trapped entrances like these. If you don't have access to these methods you must consider whether the material/intelligence inside of that building is worth a breacher's life. Once we have achieved an entrance, the world becomes our oyster. Ideally, before we begin this process you will have found the ‘power box’ or breaker control board to the property being searched, if you can, switch all the breakers off. This will allow us to trigger any ‘leeching’ traps [2] later in this process. Our first priority is to deem the floor clear of pressure based traps, this can be done with half-filled water jerry cans attached to rope. Throw the jerry can to an objective within the room and drag it towards the entrance, making note of the path it takes across the floor this ‘safe’ area can be marked with chalk. Some teams have altered this method by using casting or throwing nets (weighted fishing nets that can be thrown and dragged across a floor, or grab onto objects to bring them towards the entrance). Find a method that works for your team. If we were able to find and switch off the building's breakers then our second priority should be to switch on all lights and devices within the structure, evacuate the building and then turn the breakers back on. This will achieve three things, first, it will trigger any ‘leeching’ booby trap, second, it will trigger any exposed trap that is activated via light exposure, and third, it will provide light for the rest of our search.


It is at this stage that we can employ our more focussed trap search TTPs:


We will continue to remotely pull any doors/cupboards that we want access to, we will also remotely pull or ‘drop’ any furniture we want to interact with (‘dropping’ is the process of throwing heavy items on or at an object to trigger movement/pressure triggered traps). In this stage we must be aware of ‘honey pots’, and we must label every high value item as a risk. If you have located a cache or room that holds materiel the enemy knows you are searching for, expect it to be booby trapped and conduct your remote pull and drop TTPs as required. Booby trap indicators:

  • Valuable supplies and items.

  • Ill-fitted and loose floorboards, tiles, and doorframes.

  • Construction indicators (sawdust, screws, and tools).

  • Signs of recent work (new paint, fittings, caps, and skirting).

  • Altered ground (disturbed soil and road, including potholes and fresh asphalt).

  • Markings (graffiti, ribbons, tape, or piled rocks).

  • Channelling or diverting obstacles.

  • Wires, cord, strings, and tape.

Booby trap marking:

  • Mark clear areas and suspected trap areas with unique symbols.

  • Upon location of a booby trap, mark from a distance (booby traps may have two or more activation methods).



These are very entry level TTPs but they must be conducted with unfailing dedication. Again, this is a complex topic that will be covered (with a more serious approach) at a later date.


Searching


Targeting our searches is our first step. Knowing where items are hidden is an impossible task, but as you become familiar with your enemy you will begin to identify patterns. The following statistics come from the US Centre of Army Lessons Learned, the information was sourced primarily from the MEAO with some operations domestically and within South America.

Other key hotspots included:


Kitchen

  • Walls and ventilation systems.

  • Within stored food and left-overs.

  • Within kitchen appliances.


All-Structure

  • Behind False walls and panels.

  • Behind electronic fixtures e.g. light switches, light bulb housings, and outlets.

  • Behind skirting boards.

  • Within HVAC vents.

  • Within upholstered furniture.

  • Within electronics and appliances e.g. washing machines, TVs, and vacuum bags.


Vehicles

  • Under and inside seats.

  • Inside AC vents.

  • Within the door panels.

  • Inside front and rear bumpers.

  • Inside side mirrors.


Now, let's get to the TTPs.


Secure the Site Site exploitation is a very overt manoeuvre, if searching in an urban location you must have security set around the structure with the highest firepower concentration on access roads to the building. Ideally you will have an early warning element (or drone) observing main routes that may be used to reach the structure. It is also in this stage that you will conduct the necessary level of booby trap clearance. Priority of Efforts Walk through the site and order the rooms/locations in a priority of search, ideally you will allocate a three or more man team. Two men to search, one man to map. The two searchers will begin on the highest priority location while the map maker will sketch the layout of the site. This map is vital as it will advise us of any hidden rooms (if searching a building) or it will allow us to understand their defensive TTPs (if searching through an overturned defensive position). Indoor Searches The two man search team should start at the entrance to a room with the first man moving left and the second man moving right. Moving along the walls the two men should only search from waist height to the floor paying close attention to the walls, skirting boards, and the floor. Once the two men have met on the other side of the room they should cross over and work back to the entrance, this time searching from waist height to the ceiling.

After the two men have returned to the entrance they should move onto searching furniture and key areas within the room. This should be done by selecting half of the room, moving all the furniture and fittings to the opposite wall and conducting a thorough search of the floor, removing all carpets and coverings that may conceal trap doors. Repeat this search on the remaining half of the room. Conduct your search of large furniture while you are moving it. Other TTPs may not conduct the ‘crossover’ when the two searchers meet on the opposite side. We have found that this method gives the searchers the most situational awareness, especially in complex structures. If you have multiple two man search teams attempt to keep a buffer room between the teams to reduce casualties should an IED be triggered. Outdoor Searches Many caches are established within the immediate vicinity of an occupied structure and generally by distinct landmarks e.g. the foot of a tree, rock formation, or dead-ground. Spend time to identify potential landmarks and use an organized method to search their surroundings. A common method is to search in a spiral formation around a landmark slowly moving further away from the center point. Other methods are the grid and strip searches which divide an area into systematic grids/strips. When conducting these outdoor searches look for tell-tale signs of a disguised or buried cache e.g. disturbed foliage, overturned soil, and improvised or clear markings and signs.


If you and your team are yet to incorporate some type of site exploitation into your training then please consider if it is a valuable skill for your situation. For us, it is vitally important and so we have spent a considerable amount of time refining our processes. Only half of our team had prior experience with TSE and through trial and error we have found a system that is able to handle the situations we have applied it in, we encourage you to do the same for yourself. If the techniques we have presented do not work for you, please let us know why.



[1]

We should first clarify that ‘aid and accompany a search’ refers to the key-holder being willing to conduct our search for us, e.g. opening doors, moving furniture and objects, and entering rooms first. Do not force the key-holder to conduct an action, if they are asked to open a door and they refuse then you must assume that door/room is booby trapped. This is also very culture and religion dependent, if the key-holder belongs to a religion/culture that incentivizes death then their actions must be put under extreme scrutiny, and vitally, keep your distance when they are conducting your requests.


[2]

A leeching trap is a circuit that can be attached to an electrical conduit. These traps are activated when power flows through the circuit, e.g. turning lights or electrical devices on. It is not uncommon for these traps to have delayed fuses, it was proved necessary to give a five or more minute waiting period after triggering these traps during the GWOT.


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