The Foundation-Squaring Away Communications Needs in 2017

I’ve received a number of emails over the last several weeks requesting info on various issues, recommended gear, etc…and while I certainly don’t mind answering the plethora of questions (it’s part of the reason I run this blog) much of the info has been previously addressed.  Due to the size and scope of the information contained, I know it can be cumbersome to find answers when you don’t even know what questions to ask, especially if you’re brand new to the signals and communications game.

So in the interest of the greater good, I’m compiling a list of previous posts to get you going. All I ask in return is that you use it, keep an open mind, and at a minimum try some of this stuff at home. Nearly everything I’ve written over the past year-plus in regards to commo covers field implementation and improvisation, sourced from identified needs as a LRSD member and RTO (if you don’t know what this is, google ‘special reconnaissance unit’ ) which at least in my worldview, has transitioned to the Survivalist networking paradigm quite well.

CA over at WRSA said among his New Year Resolutions is making all of those new AR15 owners shooters- Let’s up that ante and make all of those new Baofeng owners efficient communicators in addition to shooters. How do we do this? Follow this list.

Improvised Field Antennas

The Jungle Antenna: The first antenna you should build. Dirt cheap, simple, effective. Great for community networking and a perfect way to get your feet wet into constructing your own gear.

Moxon Antennas: The second antenna you should build is a directional antenna in a similar vein as the yagi- but just a tad bit simpler and more compact. While that Arrow yagi is nice, building a few Moxons for field use not only provides a good learning opportunity but also doesn’t cost $80.

DIY Dipoles for Any Band: The dipole is, hands down, the easiest antenna to build. In fact, the Jungle Antenna above is a dipole, stretched vertically, with two extra ‘cold’ radials added to form the bottom pyramid. It’s versatility is a large force multiplier, and understanding how to build one and how they radiate will lay the basic groundwork for all the other skills.

The Best DIY Resource Online, for any Band: Check this resource out. Once the basics are understood, there’s very few things you can’t build versus buy. if you’re of limited resources (or just a cheapskate like me) you seriously need to consider homebrewing.

Understanding Capabilities

QRP- Low Power in the Field:  Whether it’s a Multi-Day or simple security Patrol, Clandestine Communication across non-permissive environments, or just Survivalist power conservation, QRP is your bread n’ butter. Read and Do.

Commo Basics for Small Units: The requirements are listed and described here; there’s lots of carry-over between Survivalist needs and say, Militia needs, but the two are different. The planning process however is the same.

Maximizing Your HT: I can tell you all day that the Baofeng is a waste of money, and even show you why, but you’ll still buy them. Y’all just can’t help it. Well, might as well figure out how to make the best use of it.

Deployable Communications Concerns: That’s deployable, not deplorable, but meant to be deployed by deplorables. Building on the rather painful lessons to watch from the events of nearly a year ago, having the ability to rapidly create your own infrastructure is critical. No one is going to do it for you, and failure to build an effective package in the event you wanna take on ‘the man’ is going to all but seal your fate.

Operating Skills

The Signals Operating Index (SOI):  Before you key a mike, before you think about stepping off on that patrol, before you do anything at all, you plan. If you don’t, I promise, you’re gonna fail. We worked very hard on creating a competent SOI regularly before every mission. MSG Morgan’s (a retired Special Forces Communications Sergeant) instructions are top notch, simple to follow and on-point.

Intelligence vs. Information:  These two are not the same, yet all too often I’m served to some moron passing ‘intelligence’ my way which is little more than click-bait disinfo. Most often I delete and block those people- sounding like idiot street marxists (aka SJWs) they’re just as useless in the real world as the drivel they pass on. Written amid the “jade helm is martial law and the end-times sky is falling” moron hysteria, the lessons resonate just as true today as they did then.

SALUTE and SALT Reports: The bread and butter of field intelligence reporting, these two formats should not just be committed to memory but should be practiced on a regular basis. Failure to competently follow this format should result in that person’s expulsion from your unit or group. I know, that sounds awfully harsh, but it’s a Army-wide Skill Level 1 Task (every soldier has to demonstrate they can do it in Basic Training) so the reality is that this is so simple that if it can’t be followed competently, that person is too stupid or ill-disciplined to be reliable.

Planning Your Footprint: Your equipment doesn’t just magically work wonders and communicate over impossible distances; conversely we must know the exact capability of our equipment and where our signals are going in order to mitigate possible interception and interference (or at a minimum, gain an idea of how far away that OPFOR possibly is). Again, as with the SOI, failing to plan equates failure.

Report Formats: Building on our SALUTE/SALT format, these reports are used from covert or clandestine communications among special mission units. While a bit more complicated than the aforementioned SALUTE report (which is an Army entry-level task) these formats have been perfected by SOF troops since Vietnam.  Set formats are critical to efficient communications. End of story.

The Base Radio Station:  We’ve talked about how to communicate; who are you communicating with? How might that place or group be organized? What sort of requirements do they have, aside from a giant coffee maker?

Commo Windows: A couple posts back, dealing with our little math problem that only a few attempted to work through (but plenty felt the need to argue over), the issue of commo windows was at the real heart of the human problem, and constructing these in that context revolved around the time of day that particular HF band would be most effective for the intended task, which needed to be mathematically figured out. What the hell am I talking about, exactly? Read up.

Bulletproof Local Communications: Just about the simplest formula I can come up with for indestructible, damn-near-100%-reliable networking. The same basic needs can be met with MURS or CB if you’re not into the whole licensing thing, but the equipment needs and implementation (HT on the move, mobile in the truck or base, groundplane antenna up high) are pretty much identical. Secret Squirrel Cool-Guy Freq-Hop Digi-NSA-snoop-proof? Nope, just the opposite. But it works when all that complicated shit fails. And when done right (the human part of the equation) you can be just as sneaky, in plain sight.

Running Your Radio Semi-Covertly:  Another of the painful lessons of Malheur was telegraphing your equipment capabilities, allowing them to be not only easily compromised but rendering them all but useless. Professionals do it quite a bit different- and sure as hell don’t use the antenna of their set to point at people like some half-assed community organizer.

Scanning, Monitoring, Signals Collection

SIGINT for the Small Unit: Identifying what you need to cover before telling you what equipment you should buy. I know, pretty much the opposite of the consumerist-nature of the Prepper movement. Nonetheless, this just might kinda-sorta be the identification of the requirements and then how to do it on the cheap.

Creating a Signals Collection Section from Scratch: A re-iteration which builds on the previous post, consider this post a rudimentary crash-course in the functions and layout of a SOT-A or LLVI team. You should know what those two teams do, and if your group is composed of only shooter-ish types, you’re far behind the power curve. At a minimum you should use this post and the preceding to broaden your knowledge base.

Open Sources Primer on Equipment:  The Russians are coming! The Chinese are coming! Jade Helm Sky-Warriors in metal avatars are coming! DOOM! Wouldn’t it be nice to be rational for once, and realize there’s actually very few ‘secret’ technologies out there, if you put two and two together? I compiled a list of places to look, along with identifying frequency sets of foreign ground-use communications equipment. Those might just be important, should you wish to bring the pain all Red Dawn style.

SIGINT Software for SDRs:  This is fairly self-explanatory, with only four words in the post. But the programs contained in the two links are very valuable. Download them, learn them, use them. Also, have a computer with a Linux distro.

An SDR Signals ID Primer: Written and contributed by a signals collection pro, this post should be read multiple times over as a valuable introduction to exactly what you’re looking at and for using SDR.

REDZ SIGINT Jeep: A whitehat hacker did (and built) some neat stuff. Detailed is what he did and possibly how to use it.

SIGINT and the Guerrilla Radio: The granddaddy of this blog, this article predated the whole ‘brushbeater’ experiment by a bit, originally appearing in Sparks31’s Signal-3. Based on my experience of scanning analog traffic on the ground in Afghanistan, the article contains useful tips for both listening and transmitting, going beyond the technical skills of each and focusing on the human factor as well. Interestingly, it must have ruffled a few feathers, because a handful of trolls (and one who grossly over estimated himself) came out of the woodwork in force. Oh well…this ain’t a free speech zone nor is it a forum. Their presence is an indicator I’m doing something right.

Signals Intelligence Resources: The primer page that outlines the basic equipment requirements from simple and inexpensive to progressively more complex. Contained is the model I follow, based upon my real world experience. Your mileage may vary, but if you feel you know better than I, you don’t need my advice and I’ll offer a full refund in exactly the amount you paid for this information.

Summarization

Hopefully this compiled list of posts deep down in the list is found helpful in identifying and resolving your communications needs. While bewildering (I know it’s a lot of info to swallow), take it in chunks, read and then re-read, all the while comparing it to the capabilities you currently have and see if those needs can be filled. It’s not so much about the equipment itself, but about the skills and necessary capabilities. This is a concept foreign to many in contemporary society, but a critical one nonetheless. HF was left off the list- purposefully omitted, as the focus here is on building a basic station and gaining the essential ground-level skills. The foundation starts here, and there are no more excuses. And in case you were wondering in the post-election fog, you are not safe. Not even close. This nation is in just as much danger currently as it was on the afternoon of 9/11-01, perhaps more so (I believe we are in much more danger) and it is not the time to go to sleep. The street marxists have one logical move left having lost all other legitimate means. The governing entity would likely default to an increase in the consolidation of power (look at the friction in Chicago between the Mayor and President-elect; what’s being said is an indicator of the future response, although still better than option H). We cannot afford to lose sight of the very real enemies out there. Equally we cannot afford the same follies and missteps of the past. Take every step you can to be ready, including securing means of communications off the grid from social conventions.

There are no more excuses.

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29 thoughts on “The Foundation-Squaring Away Communications Needs in 2017

  1. everlastingphelps

    On the vein of semi-covert and bulletproof LOS — I would really like to see some more input from real world experience with field phones. Seems like they have been a ubiquitous part of the martial world for a literal century for a reason.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great and timely post.

    Over the holidays I helped a friend who bought a few Baofengs “to throw in the bug out bag”. I spent a few hours teaching him how to use CHIRP, explaining some limitations of the radios and finally build an improvised roll up jpole from some garage scraps.

    Once I got him actually operating, and playing with a variety of radios, he began to realize many things.

    In the few days since, he’s purchased a General Class study guide, which he claims is my fault after showing him how effectively “garbage” wire antennas can be on HF.

    Keep these posts coming please.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Survivor

    Thank you for the motivation, was working my way through the AARL Technician book last year and stalled. Need to fix this in 2017. Appreciate your work, and kick in the right place.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Idaho Bill

    Thanks for all the help!! Been going through back posts and hard copying. Ordered wrong adapters for the dipole. Oh well, the start of my inventory of parts. I plan on using fence insulators from TSC for the ends. On line courses to study for my ticket. Will be on air soon!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. john

    Scout,
    Thanks for this great summary post! I found your blog about a year ago when I got interested in amateur radio. Your commo posts are a wealth of practical knowledge. Very helpful for me as a novice communicator.

    I spent a while in the Army, but not as a commo guy. In fact, we were fond of saying: There’s only two kinds of commo, perfect, and new SIGO. Now I realize just how hard it is to maintain reliable basic radio communications. Voice is a challenge. Digital modes add a degree of difficulty.

    You rightly point out that antenna are literally the critical component in every commo systems. I’m spending my time and effort experimenting with them, and reading everything I can to learn about mono band and multiband setups.

    Thanks for getting me started on the journey, and keeping me motivated with your posts.

    john in south korea

    Liked by 2 people

    1. John- it’s great to hear from you and thanks for reading!

      I was an 11B…but a joke among LRS guys is that we were just high speed radio dudes 🙂

      If you have any questions at all, never hesitate to shoot an email. God Bless and 73!

      Like

  6. Brad in TX

    “There are no more excuses”
    Indeed.
    Great info for newbies or the experienced ham alike, test your equipment and expand your skills now while it’s easy.
    73s
    Brad

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Pingback: Brushbeater: The Foundation – Squaring Away Communications Needs in 2017 | Western Rifle Shooters Association

  8. Topbander

    While back you had a post about low power communications and time of day. So tell me about how hard it is to DF a spread-spectrum signal. Seems as though with all the computer based equipment you rely on being around after an EMP, there must be a way to use spread spectrum to get important information passed. SS has been around for years, EMP proof it and use it.

    Like

    1. It’s easy once the algorithm is broken, which is not hard.

      As for the EMP stuff, secure your running spares of go-to kit.

      And what is this ‘computer-based’ stuff I’m so reliant on? I’m awaiting your ‘response’.

      Like

      1. Topbander

        I guess the computer based equipment I’m thinking of is anything that requires a integrated circuit or number of them. Anything other than a hand key or voice audio integrated into a protected transceiver. On the spread spectrum, once the algorithm is broken you can receive the content of the signal but not where it is coming from. Am I correct?

        Like

      2. No you’re not correct.

        The emanating signal comes from the same source, and will have the same direction regardless of what frequency it’s on at that moment in time.

        Onto the ‘computer’/integrated circuit comment, it’s so damn irrelevant (and easily mitigated with common sense) that bringing it up is the kinda tin foil shit that gets folks gone.

        Roger?

        Like

  9. Idaho Bill

    So important to test your equipment/skills. Just got in from field testing an antenna. Snow on the ground 30 degrees out. How many times have we heard/ read about setting up field antennas “just use a sling shot and 550 cord to put it up in a tree limb”. Easier said than done. Besides radio skills I need to work on my sling shot skills. Good thing this was just practice. BTW J-pole antenna getting me out just a little farther. Expanding our radio perimeter.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Pingback: Comms Updating in 2017 | norsedefense

  11. GreyGhost

    Thank YOU. Many have gotten complacent post-election including myself to a degree. This also serves a “get off your ass” and get busy post. Budgets are tight, and very good friends few and far between. Time to get busy….

    Liked by 1 person

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