Monday, March 24, 2014

Know Your Enemy: Part 2

As a follow on to last weeks post, I have been browsing the internet looking for more information about the situation in Ukraine. This led me on a couple directions. First I'll cover some observations of Russian "Spetznaz" units, then onto some photos from Ukraine.


Spetznaz, specifically what is known to be Alpha group. Alfa/Alpha is stated to be the Russian equivalent of both US Army's CAG, US Navy's SEALs and FBI HRT.

Interesting observations over the last year or two have shown that Spetznaz units have been copying what high end US units do for equipment. This might be done by watching videos and looking at photos of US guys, or it could be some hands on observations in conflict zones. Even though the Soviet Bear is still a threat to the US, we also face a common threat, Al Queda and similar groups. I'm sure lessons learned in fighting the Chechens were passed from the Russians to the West at some point, officially or not.

It was interesting to see photos and video that Larry Vickers collected during his trip to Russia in 2013. He met with some FSB Alfa members and documented the trip for his show, TacTV. The show footage is available on the TacTV site. Also posted both on his Facebook page and his Training coordinator - Alias Training - site were the following photos.

Larry Vickers in the middle, Alfa members on the right. 
Note the HSGI Tacos, Multicam Gear and Crye Precision styled uniforms. Overall a very American SOF appearance. 

Russian AK-105
Note the Magpul products, Aimpoint T-1, PEQ-15, Surefire Raid and use of BUIS.

Glock 17's:
Noe the "Hackathorn" style sights, Skateboard tape for one handed racking of slide, Crimson Trace Laser Grip, Surefire X300's and most noticeable, the IFF tape on the slide. 

 Also located on line after searching around where some photos of purported Spetznaz members from "FSB Grad" with some very Multicam looking uniforms in the Crye Style. Also of note was the Ops Core rails on the American style helmets. Seen on at least one was a fighting setup AR-15 as well. 

Ukraine/Crimea situation:
As mentioned in part 1, Spetznaz types were seen all over in the invasion/non-invasion of Crimea. Most of the non flagged Russian soldiers wore the latest in Russian uniform's and gear but these guys were seen in the midst of the assaults over the past week to seize Ukranian bases in Crimea. 

Multi terrain styled uniforms and non standard gear:

So what can we learn from studying the enemy? What they are doing is studying the west. Remember that no matter your profession, the enemy is studying you. Wether its the Russians, local Gang Banger with a hit on you, a street mugger, etc, they are studying you. Some would even argue that those of us who run blogs, post on forums, etc are aiding the enemy, but the fact is the enemy will get the info no matter what. Do you want the good guys to get the info as well? Keep OPSEC in mind and don't disclose things that must be truly kept hush hush.

Be observant of suspicious behavior no matter where you work, live or patrol. The US is a open target and full of soft targets of critical infrastructure. Drug Cartels from south of the border are the number one threat and most likely to either launch an attack on the US, or allow a AQ affiliated group in. These attacks will most likely be initiated by the same type of tactics as seen by the Russian units in Georgia, Crimea and elsewhere.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Phokus Research Group SONS Trauma Kits

I received a Phokus Research Group Law Enforcement Trauma Kit in a Facebook Giveaway in Oct of 2013. Since then I was given two other versions of their trauma kits to T&E and do a review on. With that said, here is my review.

First a link to Phokus’s website with a very good breakdown of the contents of the kits:

Phokus has also released the following videos showing deployment:

Low Vis

SONS vs Standard

The biggest thing that one will notice as an issue with use of one of the SONS kits, is team standardization. If your whole team is not running them and trains to roll the team mate onto their back and remove the kit from the plate pocket, vs looking for an IFAK on their kit that is not their. This is a problem, but only if you allow it a problem.

The packing list of these kits follows the well established and proven TCCC protocols. Phokus follows the recommendation to have your TQ not be in the IFAK, but separate where it is rapidly accessible.

Most impressive to me, was the packaging materials used to seal the kits. It is packaged inside of what Phokus calls “Heavy-duty Medical grade vinyl.” I’ve only been carrying the LETK in the Plate Carrier I use for Active Assailant/High Risk incidents since receiving it in Oct, but so far it does not show signs of wear.  I had a friend and fellow LEO use the Standard Mil kit in his plate carrier for the last few months as well, with no signs of wear.

The Low Vis kit has been carried in my cargo pocket on duty or in many types of pants pockets off duty (Vertx, Carhartt, etc) or in backpacks. It gets pulled out at least once a day, if not more and swapped back and forth. This should cause extreme wear, but did not which surprised me.

I could take photos of the kits after wear for this long, but it would be pointless as they just have some dust on them  from the dry dusty area I live and work in.

Training wise is the only place I see a big downside to the SONS style of kits over a normal kit. This is an issue that is easily overcome by team standardization and training with the kits.

One thing to be aware of, is that your armor carrier needs to be easy to open for easy access. A top loading armor carrier (Paraclete RAV, Eagle CIRAS, etc.) is not ideal in comparison to a bottom opening carrier (Crye JPC, Blue Force Gear LMAC, Mayflower line, etc).

LETK - Law Enforcement Trauma Kit

Next to 10x12 plate:

Placed over 10x12 Plate:

Reverse side over 10x12 plate:

Deployment Trauma Kit and Lo-Vis Trauma Kit:


Kit lain over plate pocket on a Medium Crye JPC:

Kit inserted behind plate:

Kit fully inserted with tab out:

Back of plate without SONS, but with Plate and Plate Backer:

Back of plate with SONS and Plate:

Low-Vis Deployment Kit:

Low-Vis next to Pocket DARK:

Low-Vis, Pocket DARK and PMAG 30:

Low-Vis, Pocket Dark and PMAG thickness:

Low-Vis and PMAG thickness on end:

Low-Vis and Pocket Dark next to pocket of 5.11 PDU Uniform Pants:

Pocket DARK over PDU Pocket:

Low-Vis over PDU Pocket:

Pocket DARK thickness in PDU Pocket:

Low-Vis thickness in PDU Pocket:

Cold War 2014: AKA Know your Enemy

Russians and the Cold War in 2014:

“Soviet Union suffers the worst wheat harvest in 55 years.” Red Dawn

Due to the Russians testing the waters in Georgia in 2008, Ukraine/Crimea in 2014, and a weak US president who is gutting the military, clueless about all the threats the US needs to be prepared for, advisors that are generally clueless and amateur’s all while having a foreign policy of weakness and submission, neither of which works, I decided to work on this post. I’m not going to get much more into the political side of this, but will try to focus on what we as westerner’s can learn. Yes, it is a little bit out of my normal “lane,” if not completely. I will try to tie it into a useful aspect for all readers though.

First a quick summary to ensure you follow my line of reasoning for this post.

1979, Kabul Afghanistan.
Invasion started with a covert assault by Spetsnaz units removing government in power and placing a Pro-Soviet government in place.
On December 27, 1979, 700 Soviet troops dressed in Afghan uniforms, including KGB and GRU special forces officers from the Alpha Group and Zenith Group, occupied major governmental, military and media buildings in Kabul, including their primary target – the Tajbeg Presidential Palace.

That operation began at 19:00 hr., when the KGB-led Soviet Zenith Group destroyed Kabul's communications hub, paralyzing Afghan military command. At 19:15, the assault on Tajbeg Palace began; as planned, president Hafizullah Amin was killed. Simultaneously, other objectives were occupied (e.g., the Ministry of Interior at 19:15). The operation was fully complete by the morning of December 28, 1979.
The Soviet military command at Termez, Uzbek SSR, announced on Radio Kabul that Afghanistan had been liberated from Amin's rule. According to the Soviet Politburo they were complying with the 1978Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Good Neighborliness and Amin had been "executed by a tribunal for his crimes" by the Afghan Revolutionary Central Committee. That committee then elected as head of government former Deputy Prime Minister Babrak Karmal, who had been demoted to the relatively insignificant post of ambassador to Czechoslovakia following the Khalq takeover, and that it had requested Soviet military assistance.[67]
Soviet ground forces, under the command of Marshal Sergei Sokolov, entered Afghanistan from the north on December 27. In the morning, the 103rd Guards 'Vitebsk' Airborne Division landed at the airport at Bagram and the deployment of Soviet troops in Afghanistan was underway. The force that entered Afghanistan, in addition to the 103rd Guards Airborne Division, was under command of the 40th Army and consisted of the 108th and 5th Guards Motor Rifle Divisions, the 860th Separate Motor Rifle Regiment, the 56th Separate Airborne Assault Brigade, the 36th Mixed Air Corps. Later on the 201st and 58th Motor Rifle Divisions also entered the country, along with other smaller units.[68] In all, the initial Soviet force was around 1,800 tanks, 80,000 soldiers and 2,000 AFVs. In the second week alone, Soviet aircraft had made a total of 4,000 flights into Kabul.[69] With the arrival of the two later divisions, the total Soviet force rose to over 100,000 personnel.”

Georgia 2008:
Georgia is a US ally, who had forces deployed in Iraq during this time helping US forces. Russia invaded the area of South Ossetia, which had a population that wanted to be free from Georgia and part of Russia. The invasion did not get a military response from NATO or the west, even considering Georgian troops had to be flown home from Iraq to defend their own country. Many pictures of this were circulated online of the recently purchased Bushmaster AR-15 style rifles being burned by Russians after capture.

“The 1991–92 South Ossetia War between ethnic Georgians and Ossetians had left slightly more than a half of South Ossetia under de facto control of a Russian-backed, internationally unrecognised government.[51][52] Most ethnic Georgian parts of South Ossetia remained under the control of Georgia (Akhalgori district, and most villages surrounding Tskhinvali), with Georgian, North Ossetian and Russian Joint peacekeeping force present in the territories. A similar situation existed in Abkhazia after the War in Abkhazia (1992–93). Increasing tensionsescalated during the summer months of 2008. On 5 August, a Russian spokesman said Russia would defend Russian citizens in South Ossetia if they were attacked.[53]
During the night of 7 to 8 August 2008, Georgia launched a large-scale military offensive against South Ossetia, in an attempt to reclaim the territory.[54] Georgia claimed that it was responding to attacks on its peacekeepers and villages in South Ossetia, and that Russia was moving non-peacekeeping units into the country. However an OSCE monitoring group in Tskhinvali did not record outgoing artillery fire from the South Ossetian side in the hours before the start of Georgian bombardment.[10][55] Two British OSCE observers reported hearing only occasional small-arms fire, but no shelling. According to Der Spiegel, NATO officials attested that minor skirmishes had taken place, but nothing that amounted to a provocation.[56] The Georgian attack caused casualties among Russian peacekeepers, who resisted the assault along with Ossetian militia. Georgia successfully captured most of Tskhinvali within hours. Russia reacted by deploying units of the Russian 58th Army and Russian Airborne Troops into South Ossetia one day later, and launched airstrikes against Georgian forces in South Ossetia and military and logistical targets in Georgia proper. Russia claimed these actions were a necessary humanitarian intervention and peace enforcement.[56][57][58]
Russian and Ossetian forces battled Georgian forces throughout South Ossetia for four days, the heaviest fighting taking place in Tskhinvali. On 9 August, Russian naval forces allegedly blockaded a part of the Georgian coast and landed marines on the Abkhaz coast.[59] The Georgian Navy attempted to intervene, but was defeated in a naval skirmish. Russian andAbkhaz forces opened a second front by attacking the Kodori Gorge, held by Georgia.[60]Georgian forces put up only minimal resistance, and Russian forces subsequently raided military bases in western Georgia. After five days of heavy fighting in South Ossetia, the Georgian forces retreated, enabling the Russians to enter uncontested Georgia and temporarily occupy the cities of Poti, Gori, Senaki, and Zugdidi.[61]

Ukraine 2014:  (Part 11 of the VICE series on this so far)

Ongoing, so nothing to solid. Both sides are publishing a biased account of their side of the story. The following  is based on review of both sides media and visual evidence.
“The 2014 Ukrainian revolution[21][22] began with civil unrest in Kiev, Ukraine, as part of Ukraine's ongoing Euromaidan protest movement against the government.[23] The conflict escalated rapidly, leading to the downfall of the government of President Viktor Yanukovych and the setting up of a new government to replace it within a few days.[21] Yanukovych fled to Russia,[24] and is wanted in Ukraine for the killing of protesters.[25] The conflict continued with the 2014 Crimean crisis when Russian forces seized control of the Crimea region.[26]
Internationally, the status of the transition as a "revolution" is currently ambiguous. [27] Russia and Yanukovych denounce it as a coup d’état.[28]

“Beginning on 27 February 2014, unidentified pro-Russian troops seized control of the majority of the Crimean peninsula in the southeastern area of Ukraine.[29] The region has fallen into a crisisas a result of the uncertain outcome of the 2014 Ukrainian revolution, and Russia's apparent seizure of this strategic peninsula.
The Crimean Peninsula is Russia's strategic link to the Mediterranean Sea, Black Sea, and the Balkans.[30] The Russian government maintains that its involvement in Crimea seeks to protect ethnic Russians in the region against Ukrainian authorities.[a][32][33] Russia does not recognize the newly installed interim government in Ukraine, instead considering now-ousted-President Viktor Yanukovych Ukraine's legitimate leader.[b] Russia states that Yanukovych asked Russia to intervene in Ukraine militarily to maintain peace and order.[33][34] Russia claims that its armed forces are not involved in the present stand-off, and also asserts that use of force for the purposes of humanitarian intervention in Ukraine, has not yet occurred.[35]
The Ukrainian response so far has been muted as its leaders seek diplomatic solutions,[citation needed] with military reaction on their part limited to a mobilization of Ukraine's armed forces and reserves. Russia, however, has vowed that its troops will stay until the political situation has been "normalised".[36] Internally, Crimea is scheduled to hold a referendum on 16 March 2014 on whether Crimea shall join the Russian Federation or remain part of Ukraine.[37]Both options imply Russian control of the peninsula. [38] The events have caused alarm among the Crimean Tatar ethnic group, whose members were deported en masse to Central Asia in 1944 under orders from Joseph Stalin, claiming a huge death toll.[39][40]

What was first noticed by the world media, was unmarked uniformed soldiers with equipment matching that of the Russian military were taking over key strongpoints, just like the Russians had done in Afghanistan. Also found were plain clothes teams taking over key strongpoints. Universal in all the teams initially shown were some sort of IFF indicator, especially in the plain clothes teams. Assisting the suspected Russian forces were former pro Russian Ukranian government troops known as Berkut.
“In the meantime, on the morning of 27 February, Berkut units from Crimea and other regions of Ukraine (dissolved by the decree of 25 February) seized checkpoints on the Isthmus of Perekopand Chonhar peninsula.[59][60] According to Ukrainian MP Hennadiy Moskal, former Chief of Crimean police, they had armoured personnel carriers, grenade launchers, assault rifles, machine guns and other weapons.[59] Since then they control all land traffic between Crimea and continental Ukraine.[59]
Also on the early morning of 27 February, men in military uniform in Simferopol, the capital city of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, seized the Crimean parliamentary building and the Council of Ministers building and replaced the Ukrainian flag with the Russian flag.[1] They ousted the prime minister appointed by the President of Ukraine and installed pro-Russian politician, Sergey Aksyonov, as Crimea's prime minister.[61] Aksyonov's Russian Unity party took just 4 percent of the votes in the 2010 elections.[citation needed] Aksyonov illegitimately declared himself in charge of local military and law enforcement.[62] On 1 March, the acting president of Ukraine, Oleksandr Turchynov, decreed the Crimean legislature's appointment of Aksyonov as unconstitutional, as the position of prime minister is appointed by the president of Ukraine, and not elected by parliament.[citation needed] The Crimean legislature has declared its intention to hold a referendum on greater autonomy from Kiev on 25 May 2014, a move which Hatidzhe Mamutova, the head of the League of Crimean-Tatar Women, called illegal.[63]

By March 2, Ukrainian military bases in Crimea were under the control of these unidentified soldiers.[86] Soldiers infiltrated the radio-technical company at the Maganome Cape near Feodosiya;[92][93][not in citation given] the 55th Anti-Air Defense in Yevpatoriya had been seized.[92] Soldiers without identification, blocked the 36th Ukrainian Coastal Defense unit (Ukrainian Navy) in Perevalne (between Simferopol and Alushta) and demanded that the besiegedUkrainian Marines surrender,[94] and 400 Russian special operations troops arrived by the Russian Black Sea FleetBDK "Azov".[95][unreliable source?] Russian Special Operation soldiers attempted to disarm the 191st Training unit of Ukrainian Navy in Sevastopol;[96][unreliable source?][97] there also was an attempt by another 30 soldiers of Russia to take over the 39th Training unit of Ukrainian Navy (Sevastopol).[98][99] The State Border Guard Service of Ukraineacknowledged seizure of its headquarters of the Azov-Black Sea regional administration and the Simferopol border detachment by the armed soldiers.[100][101] The Crimea Front took over the building of Trade Unions in Simferopol and under the flag of Russia announced that they protect the Constitution of Ukraine;[102][not in citation given] Soldiers without identification blocked the Ukrainian military installation А-0669 in Kerch.[103]

What can we learn? Study the enemy. Its always smart to know your enemy and remember that they are training. The Russians are chess players and are usually plenty of steps ahead of an amateur, even more so of the likes we have in the White House.

Seen below is surveillance camera footage of the Russian teams in uniforms taking down what is believed to be a hotel. Notice the teams use of arm bands for IFF. Notice the assault packs and cans containing possible bombs/IED/mission essential items. Notice how rear security is established and maintained with support elements with RPK type weapons.

The Russian teams were not identifying themselves as Russian during the initial invasion, but as “Anti-Fascits Self Defense Groups.” Interestingly, they had Russian equipment, uniforms and weapons. When speaking to these Russians, reports indicated they would not identify themselves, but did speak with Russian accents. At some point, it became official that the units were Russian.


Uniforms: Many of the Russians are wearing a new pattern of camo, either with old green uniforms or complete. This pattern was identified as the
Russian army's officially adopted pattern, commonly referred to as "Digital Flora". It's standard issue for the army, VDV, and Marines.

Seen are various types of weaponry in the photos and video coming from the region. Ranging from stock AK-47’s, SOPMOD stylized AK variants, tricked out machine guns all the way to specialized weapons like the VSS Vintorez.

It would seem that the Russians didn’t plan to not be identified as the military being used to take over Crimea as they used vehicles that were in long term Russian service. The license plates had been removed prior to the invasion on some vehicle (smart), but the impression of the plates remained on the vehicles. Smart observers identified the plates as being registered to the Russian military. Other places in the Crimean region they didn’t remove the plates at all, just the flags from uniforms.

Especially of note are the plain clothed assault team pictured here:

Unidentified armed men moving near the Crimean parliament building. Shots have been heard in the capital of Simferopol, French news report a firefight between alleged Russian soldiers who have occupied several places in Simferopol and Sevastopol since several days and the unidentified men pictured above.
Note the GM-94 grenade launcher carried by atleast two of the gunmen. The GM-94 is in use by various Speznas, FSB and MVD units of the Russian Federation. I can´t find any info on wether they´ve been exported outside of Russia, so make of that what you want. 

French news report:

Last but most important, is the following video from TacTV’s trip to Russia where they interviewed and filmed som of the Alpha Group Spetznaz in training. The three drills shown will shock a western firearms trained individual, unless they foolishly subscribe to the Puzikas Shoothouse tactics or Tactical Response Downrange Camera Man line of training - ;)

One should remember that the Eastern world does not value human life like the Western world does. The Eastern world also doesn’t care what the laws of warfare are nor what the media’s opinion is. An enemy like that is the worst to fight – ask any veteran of OEF/OIF.