I’ve never been exceptionally good at one particular thing. I have often considered myself a jack of all trades and master of none. I know enough about many different things and I apply that knowledge of what I do know in a combination that somehow allows me to succeed. I don’t think I’m the best out there, in fact, I know there are people out there that are more capable, knowledgeable, stronger, and more skilled than myself. People who can write better blogs, people who can plan better attacks, people who can ruck more pounds. There are even those who can drink more beer than me. Over the years though, comparable to my military peers, the one thing I have learned that I can actually do slightly better than most is be sneaky.
Instantly, someone stopped reading that and thought to themselves that “sneaky” carries a negative connotation. If this is your train of thought then you are probably pre-programmed to be a sheep, watching for the sneaky wolf to come pick at the flock and dwindle your numbers one by one until you are the last, lone sheep standing scared in the field. People fear sneaky because it often winds up putting blatantly in your face the fact that you don’t know everything going on around you. No one likes to get cheated. No one likes when people go behind their back. Egos drive people to want to be in control of their lives. When there is an aspect that someone covertly interrupts, their tarnished ego places a negative label on the situation and learning stops on the spot. Pushing past this, being sneaky can actually be used for good. Depending on which side of the coin you are on of course. If you have a mind for it you can save lives through being sneaky. Training a reconnaissance team to be sneaky is a major part of making them effective. You can’t hit what you can’t find. The same goes for snipers. Theres a reason sniper movement is deliberate and they wear materials that make them blend into their surroundings. Its all tied to being sneaky, but in a good way.
Obviously, that is simply the warfighter side of things. Being sneaky has gone beyond that at times as well. Sneaking into the chow hall trailers during our national training center rotation to secure gatorades that the cooks had bogarted for themselves. That vastly improved morale and and took care of the well being of the other members of my platoon.
How you perceive a sneaky person is all on your outlook on the situation. Does this person’s abilities help or hinder me? Well, sometimes you might just be on the wrong side of the street. Sometimes you might be hungry and slight of hand gets you an apple. Sometimes, you might come up short an apple. Its a grey area, but a necessary grey area to be successful in my job.
It all culminates to being able to get my team within 40 meters of a platoon sized element, observe while they discuss their entire plan, and then walk away like we were never there in the first place. Some of you will doubt that you would ever be able to move in a manner to be able to accomplish this. Over 30 sets of eyes just waiting to spot you. With thermal imaging systems, night vision goggles and a full compliment of military systems and armament. I say rubbish.
You have to first understand where people’s focus is at. Are they alert and actively scanning? Are they sleepy and dozing off? Are they hungry, thirsty, horny, hot, cold, afraid, bored? What are they concentrating on in the moment they are at. Future? Past? Its somewhat predictable if you know what to look for. Its between 1100 and 1300, its about 80 degrees out, and you’re observing a squad come back into their tent area wearing full combat gear and throwing their stuff down roughly. Is it a good time to move yourself forward? Yes. Why? Because this hot and tired squad is going to be focused on two things during this time frame, food and rest. Possibly even doing an after action review if they just came back from a mission. Where are your eyes during eating, resting, or briefing? Food and whats going into your mouth, possibly the other guys around you if you are cutting up. Closed or not focused if resting. And if theres an aar you’re either focusing on the leader or looking at the ground around your feet half listening and half not focusing on anything. Using the focus of others to your advantage almost sounds like a magic trick, but it can be the simplest of thinks to take advantage of.
Dont forget that as they are coming back, they are making noise. Use their noise to mask your own noise as well. Those engaged in a conversation will listen to the conversation, not a twig snap off in the woods somewhere.
Broad daylight seems like a terrible idea because you can be seen much better. That works to your advantage as well if you play shadows right. No one expects that someone is sneaking up during the day because everyone gets trained to be watchful during the night. But hell, you cant see them at night either, so whats the point? You just end up tripping on a bunch of tanglefoot and snapping twigs until everyone has this big mexican stand off with nvg’s wondering if they actually see a person if they’re just that tired. Not to take away from night movements, however, they are effective, but there are flaws. Be aware. Properly moving at night can lead to missing guidons as well, but thats another story…
Also avoid making noise. Avoid noise altogether if you can, but especially if its unnecessary. Yelling because you hurt yourself or you’re falling is natural. Its been ingrained into us since the dawn of man and we were hunters and gatherers to communicate such things to help the community know that we need something. You will eventually run your crouch into some thorns; resist screaming and you’re already on the way to being much sneakier than you were.
Sneaking can be taught and it has a multitude of usefullness. Practice can be done any time and anywhere. Walking through the office, find someone with their back exposed and see how close you can get and how long you can stay there before you get noticed. Simple things like a rolled step (placing your heel then slowly rolling along the outside edge of your foot up to your toes) will help you immensely in learning how to quietly walk without drawing attention. Learn when to move quick and when to go slow, as movement draws the eye. Don’t move parallel move towards (consider the difference being someone waving at you from side to side or waving straight at you with how much movement you see).
These basic principles can be applied to increase how well you sneak around. What you apply sneaking around to, is morally up to you. I would like to hope you hone this skill for a decent purpose; one that will help others instead of for selfish gain. At the end of the day, we only have each other to rely upon and you may be doing yourself a disservice. Above all else, remember, you’re always under observation.