In this latest article covering team tactics for prepping will be exploring multi-vehicle response drills. As we learned in the previous entry, vehicles place highly on our list of transportation priorities and are often an essential piece of equipment in our disaster preparations.
Though some of us might rely only upon a single vehicle either out of necessity or design, the reality is that groups of preppers will require more than one vehicle to transport all team members, dependents and the associated cargo.
Adding even one more vehicle to the affair can greatly increase the complexity of planning and executing movement, responding to threats and will further emphasize the importance of communications and carefully rehearsed responses.
Disaster awaits the incompetent and the unwary, and having one or more vehicles in a convoy respond a different manner then what is prescribed could lead to the group being separated, isolated and waylaid one by one.
To successfully and safely carry out multi-vehicle movement with your team you’ll have to step your game up. I’ll tell you what you need to know in this article.
As a reminder, if you have not read the previous articles in this series you might consider doing that before reading this one so the various terms and concepts will make sense.
Table of Contents
Vehicle Roles in a Convoy
At its simplest you can run a convoy of vehicles as nothing more than a “conga line” of individual entities, all heading to the same place.
But just as we learned in the entry on team movement procedures while traveling on foot you will be more vulnerable and less efficient than you would be with better coordination, planning and teamwork.
Just like an on-foot formation, even a very simple one, the vehicles themselves will have particular roles that they are responsible for as a member of the convoy.
Also, it is imperative that all team members crewing the vehicles that make up the convoy understand what is expected of them as part of a crew, but also what is expected of their vehicle and the other vehicles in order to ensure everyone is task-focused.
Trust that their fellow teammates will be accomplishing their own tasks is imperative! If you are worried about what your buddies are doing you are worrying enough about what you are doing!
The most common and important vehicle roles are defined below.
Point / Lead
This at its simplest is just the vehicle at the head of the convoy but it is nonetheless a very important role.
The point vehicle will be responsible for responding to any potential threats that are sighted, obstacles in the way or changing conditions in order to allow the rest of the convoy to react smoothly and without interruption.
The point vehicle will typically maintain standard designated spacing, but in larger convoys or uncertain conditions it might push ahead some distance to act as a scout for early warning purposes.
Keep in mind that seasoned ambushers will ignore a lead vehicle to target more important or more vulnerable vehicles trailing it.
Short for “limousine”, a role given to a vehicle that is carrying “VIP’s” in the form of passengers or dependents. In smaller convoys, when it makes sense, any vehicle that is carrying a preponderance of dependents might be assigned the role of limo.
This is one vehicle that should be protected at all costs and all available vehicles in a convoy should respond to help protect it when it is in trouble.
In convoys that lack dependents or that have them evenly spread throughout the convoy no vehicle will necessarily be assigned this role. The limo may or may not contain the CC. See next section.
The support vehicle is either at the rear of the convoy or immediately behind the limo, if designated.
The role of the support vehicle is to respond immediately to the limo or another vehicle when it is disabled or in trouble, getting it back on the road, providing close protection to the occupants or extracting the occupants if it is completely immobilized.
It functions in a similar role to the CAT, but is nonetheless distinct.
CAT is short for counter-assault team/truck, another vehicle that typically brings up the rear of a convoy.
Technically, the last vehicle in the convoy has “CAT duty” but a proper CAT should be heavily crewed by the best shooters with the best weapons as the CAT has an extremely important and aggressive role.
In case of an ambush or attack that sees the convoy still rolling the CAT vehicle will direct all available firepower toward the source of the threat in an effort to suppress or distract the attackers from their purpose.
In case a member of the convoy is disabled in the kill zone The CAT’s VL will make the decision to either halt or close on the threat and will then direct his crew to either bring all available guns to bear or dismount and begin counter attacking the bad guys on foot.
This decision is highly dependent on the terrain and available cover around the ambush point.
Within these vehicles crew members will have the same responsibilities in a given position discussed in previous articles in this series, so make sure you brush up on them.
However, crew members might have additional, specific responsibilities based on the vehicles role. For instance, one crew member might be assigned to control and extraction of passengers from the limo should it become disabled.
Now that different vehicular roles are understood let’s explore a couple of concepts specific to multi-vehicle operations.
Multi Vehicle Specific Considerations
Once again, if you have not reviewed the previous entries in this series the following might not make complete sense, so here they are:
- Single Vehicle Response Drills
- Vehicle-borne Movement and Procedures
- Patrol Basing – Team Tactics for Preppers Series
The “convoy leader” or “convoy chief” is responsible for the conduction of the convoy’s movement. He is the one making sure all of the vehicles are accounted for and is communicating various cues and alerts to the convoy at large. The CC may be positioned in any vehicle depending on the requirements of the team.
Generally the CC will have the best overall familiarity, skill and experience with conducting multi-vehicle operations. A contingency plan must be put in place in case the CC is incapacitated or killed.
Variations in Standard Responses
Probably the most fundamental element of understanding multi-vehicle movement as part of a team is learning how default responses to trouble will change compared to doing so with only a single vehicle.
Consider the typical drive-through response to an ambush. If a single vehicle starts getting lit up with gunfire it is almost universal that the best response is to smash the accelerator and get out of the zone as quickly as possible.
This will probably still work okay with two vehicles, even. But how about three or more?
If the lead vehicle starts taking fire and dashing through the ambush point, should the following vehicles move into a known dangerous area and risk gunfire to stay together?
Should they reverse out, or detour and try to drive around the ambush point before linking up with a vehicle that escaped? The setting of multiple rally points to account for just such an occurrence is paramount.
These are the kinds of changes that must be thought of, carefully analyzed and then drilled until they are second nature.
Basic Pointers for Multi-Vehicle Operations
Communications are crucial
All vehicles should have a method to communicate with every other vehicle in the convoy, even if it is something as primitive as walkie-talkies. You don’t want to be relying on hand signals or trying to tap out Morse code with your brakes or headlights!
Being forced to pull over in order to get everyone on the same sheet of music for the next phase of the movement is not a winning strategy and impossible when under threat.
Crew Responsibilities Don’t Change…
Despite moving in a convoy with multiple vehicles, each having multiple crew members and potentially passengers, the responsibilities of those individual crewman do not change.
Don’t even think about adding multiple vehicles to the mix until everyone on the team who will be serving as a crew member thoroughly understands how they fit into the operation of the vehicle and what their responsibilities are.
…Until They Do
But in certain circumstances the responsibilities of an individual crew member might change if they have become the targets of the attack and another vehicle in the convoy is responding to them either as a support vehicle or as part of the CAT.
This might occur as a result of the targeted vehicle’s crew becoming injured or incapacitated, or having their own passengers or dependents to deal with. We will go into more detail about this in the sections below.
Spacing is Everything
Maintaining proper spacing in context is a critical element in multi vehicle operations. The generic advice you will typically hear about this is that each vehicle should maintain as much space between the next vehicle in line as possible.
While this is definitely a good idea if you need to provide plenty of reaction space to stop or maneuver when required, or to not present a juicy target for massed gunfire or an IED, there are times you will want to close ranks.
This might be prudent in any area with a considerable amount of additional traffic that you don’t want coming between you and your fellow vehicles, in dense terrain or when visibility is low.
In the next section we will look at several variations of the vehicle disabled drill utilizing a CAT vehicle as well as a support vehicle.
Multi Vehicle Response Drills
One quick note before we get into the nitty-gritty of utilizing the support vehicle and CAT vehicle. These are not necessarily either-or responses…
If you have a vehicle get disabled in a kill zone you might very well utilize a CAT vehicle to engage the bad guys while your support vehicle, if you have one, moves in to assist with the injured crew and especially any dependents riding as passengers.
This is to, hopefully, get them out of the kill zone absolutely as quickly as possible.
Before you say, we would never do it that way, consider what you might do if the passengers in the disabled vehicle were very, very precious, like children, for instance.
If you are running with a limited number of vehicles it is possible that the trailing vehicle could serve as a support vehicle or a CAT vehicle interchangeably depending on the situation.
What you generally should not do is try to do both approaches at once. A solution done by halves is usually worth even less than that.
A trailing vehicle that is pulling double-duty should either commit to dashing in as a support vehicle when the targeted vehicle is in trouble or work as a counter assault team in order to give the targeted vehicle’s crew breathing room to take care of business and solve problems.
This all assumes that the crew in this trailing, multi-purpose vehicle are adequately trained and drilled for both occurrences, but I trust you see my point. Commit to one solution or the other unless you have multiple vehicles with assigned roles.
Vehicle Disabled, CAT Responding
The CAT vehicle has a highly specialized, dangerous and crucial role. More than any other vehicle in the convoy it is the CAT vehicle which is responsible for mitigating harm that might come to fellow team members and passengers.
Broadly speaking, the CAT will respond to any hostile activity with maximum violence as quickly as possible, either through carefully aimed gunfire while still inside the vehicle or by dismounting and closing on the bad guys positions to give them a bigger problem to worry about instead of shooting teammates who are now sitting ducks.
In order to fulfill this obligation the crew members of the CAT vehicle should be among the very best shooters that your team has to offer and also equipped with the best weapons for facilitating their role.
If your group has access to only a limited amount of automatic weapons, chances are they should be assigned to the CAT vehicle. If your group has limited access to magazine-fed semi-automatic weapons, they should be assigned to the CAT vehicle.
This is the vehicle and crew that is going to pull everyone else out of the fire if things go totally, horribly wrong.
When the call goes out over the radio that a vehicle has been targeted by hostile action and, worse, becomes disabled in or near the kill zone it is up to the CAT vehicle to respond as quickly as humanly possible. This is typically done in one of two ways:
Close and Destroy/Suppress
If the enemy is positioned in such a way that the crew members of the CAT vehicle cannot lay guns or effectively engage them with a meaningful volume of fire while mounted the CAT vehicle should maneuver as close as possible to the enemy position (cover, terrain and other tactical considerations allowing).
From there the crew members, including the driver, will dismount and begin to maneuver on the bad guys until such time they can bring guns to bear on the threat to destroy them outright or flush them from their positions.
It is for this reason crew members of the CAT should be highly skilled shooters but also fluent with small unit tactics and coordinated with each other when conducting an on-foot firefight.
Even if the crew members of the CAT are unable to wipe out or severely degrade the bad guys having some hard-charging dudes with guns closing in makes it hard for them to focus on doing something else (like shooting your friends) and this should relieve pressure from the targeted vehicle and its beleaguered crew.
Ideally, this will allow them to affect self rescue and self extraction from the kill zone. If not, it buys time for the support vehicle, if it’s in play, to provide assistance.
Ultimately it might be up to the crew of the CAT vehicle to carry the day by destroying or driving off the bad guys.
Stop and Shoot
This is the preferred method by which the crew of the CAT vehicle can suppress bad guys and provide protection to other vehicles in the convoy, especially a targeted vehicle that has not yet become disabled.
As soon as the call goes out that contact has been made and a vehicle in the convoy is receiving fire, the CAT vehicle should ascertain the origin of the fire and prepare to engage.
As soon as the position of the threat has been verified and a line of fire exists the CAT vehicle should stop as quickly as possible before all crew members that have a safe line of fire to the threat begin firing at the maximum suppressive rate so long as accuracy can be maintained.
Remember that merely shooting and wide misses are not suppressive. Hits are really, really suppressive and barring that a near miss that strikes cover the foe is using will have effect most of the time.
If, at any time, the CAT vehicle is too far away or does not have a line of fire to the threat it must rapidly maneuver until it does and then stop to begin shooting at the first opportunity.
Additional considerations for CAT employment:
- Marksmanship skills are critical for any CAT crew members. Consider the spacing between vehicles that might be implemented. Let’s say you keep 100 yards between each vehicle in the convoy. If the threat appears 50 yards ahead of the target vehicle and a CAT vehicle stops instantly when the fire begins they will be shooting over 150 yards. Though a trivial shot to a skilled rifleman in calm, sunny conditions it is significantly more difficult when done from within the confines of a vehicle under a considerable amount of stress. If the CAT vehicle is outside of the crew’s effective range they must get closer, costing time, placing the CAT vehicle and its crew at greater risk and also forcing the target vehicle in the convoy to endure more punishment.
- The CAT vehicle crew must be well drilled in basic infantry skills especially if forced to dismount and do their job. They might be one of the last vehicles in a dangerous area and forced to conduct a fighting withdrawal and order to self extract after the targeted vehicle and potentially a support vehicle get out of dodge. It is an easy thing to “outrun your headlights”, and gets stuck in too far with no way out. This should be avoided at all costs.
- The driver of the CAT vehicle should also bring his guns to bear when stopped, and should dismount to fight alongside his teammates when closing. This is the one and only exception to the “driver only drives” rule discussed in previous entries when underway.
Vehicle Disabled, Support Truck Responding
The support vehicle has an important but unenviable job. When a member of the convoy becomes completely disabled inside a kill zone and cannot affect self extraction in any way it is the support vehicle that must dash in to provide, well, support.
This is accomplished by both physically shielding the disabled vehicle with their own and also disembarking crew members to provide assistance to the beleaguered crew of the targeted vehicle.
The stakes get even higher if the disabled vehicle is the limo full of important passengers or precious dependents. The crew of the support vehicle must be well versed in taking charge of the situation and assessing what needs to be done.
If crew members of the targeted vehicle are still ambulatory the crew members of the support vehicle should take over providing cover fire and fighting off the bad guys while their fellows hustle themselves and their passengers to the support vehicle for extraction.
In the event that one or more crew members from the target vehicle are incapacitated or killed it is up to the crew members of the support vehicle to recover both them and passengers on their own. This is far easier said than done both physically and tactically when under fire.
In any case, as soon as it is ascertained a vehicle in the convoy has gone down and can no longer move inside the kill zone it is up to the support truck to race up to it as quickly as possible.
The support truck should move at the highest possible rate of speed within the kill zone while still allowing a short, hard stop in position to physically shield the disabled vehicle with its own.
Speed is its best protection against gunfire and exposure time should be minimized however possible, even if the gains are minuscule.
Once the support vehicle is halted all crew members except the driver should dismount and attempt to assist the crew members and passengers of the targeted vehicle.
Depending on the circumstances the driver may use his weapons to provide additional suppressive fire from within the vehicle. The driver should keep the support vehicle ready to move at all times.
Additional considerations are below:
- Physical fitness is extremely important for all crew members per our previous discussion on the topic, but it is extraordinarily important for crew members of the support vehicle. More than any other crew, it is these guys and gals who might have to haul dead or incapacitated team members out of their vehicle or out of their position, and back to the support vehicle before loading them inside. They might potentially have to do this while still providing suppressive fire.
- The support vehicle should be placed in park, if an automatic, or kept in gear with the clutch depressed if a manual. The activity typical of the dismounted support vehicle crew will very likely mean that any movement of the support vehicle could be disastrous to their objectives or even injurious.
- The interior of the support vehicle might get very, very intimate indeed if it is forced to take on additional team members and passengers. At no time can additional bodies living or dead be allowed to interfere with the placement of crew members to such a degree that they can no longer fight from within the confines of the vehicle. Support vehicle crew members might have to literally sit on top of additional passengers in order to maintain posture.
- Considering the support vehicle is going to be deliberately placing itself into the kill zone which waylaid one of its fellow vehicles this is another situation where smoke grenades or some other visual obscurant could be worth its weight in gold.
Travel and Rest Considerations for Multi Vehicle Operations
Considerations for travel and rest arrangements when moving in a multi vehicle convoy are largely identical to those when traveling in a single vehicle.
The biggest differences are the requirement to secure and hopefully hide multiple vehicles when stopped. Not always easy, there are generally two choices.
One involves parking the vehicles close together either in a circular formation or a box formation with their noses facing out (circle) or in the same direction (box) in order to facilitate rapid departure. The other involves scattering the vehicles wherever they can be best concealed.
As always, you do not want to rest or camp near or inside your vehicles. They are simply too vulnerable to attack. Ideally vehicles will be kept inside a cordon provided by team members who are on sentry duty while the remainder of the group rests.
If this is impossible at least one team member and preferably two should be detached to watch over any vehicles that are outside the cordon.
Multi vehicle operations add a considerable degree of complexity and intricacy to any travel plans but remain the most common and viable way to move a large number of people and a great amount of material quickly and efficiently over long distances.
Considering that multiple vehicles traveling in a convoy will significantly raise your profile you would be wise to learn how to respond quickly and efficiently to an attack, and do so in a coordinated fashion.
The techniques and procedures presented in this article will get you started and hopefully on your way to mastering multi-vehicle team tactics.
Tom Marlowe practically grew up with a gun in his hand, and has held all kinds of jobs in the gun industry: range safety, sales, instruction and consulting, Tom has the experience to help civilian shooters figure out what will work best for them.