The above photo is a representation of what a modern day wilderness scout might carry if he upgraded from the 18th-century tools of the trade, while still keeping the old school heritage alive.
Sometime around 1757, during the French and Indian War in North America, Major Robert Rogers wrote a set of guidelines for his Rangers to follow when out scouting enemy territory. These “Rules of Ranging,” as they came to be known, were a set of common-sense combat tactics that he learned through personal experience. They served to keep him and his men alive during the war.
His rules are still alive and well today, and in use by our present-day American warriors who operate in small groups behind enemy lines, gathering information in much the same way as was done in the 18th century. The author, Gerry Barker, is one of those warriors and has written this excellent book outlining the methods and tactics used by scouts and spies when in enemy territory.
From the author:
” I wrote this in 1998 to support the Sam Brady Conferences. It is a practical look at the mechanics of scouting in hostile territory based largely on sources from the 18th century. I tried to use my experience running recon in Vietnam and other peacetime military assignments to make the 18th-century sources more understandable. I believe scouting is a timeless art. Moving silently, avoiding being seen, maintaining all-around security, and defending yourself in a tight situation miles from friendly support do not hinge on weaponry or technological improvements. Frankly, a soldier carrying 60 pounds of light weight, high-tech equipment is less secure than a Stockbridge scout with next to nothing. So, this is 80 pages of lessons learned. I sincerely hope it helps someone.”
What gives Gerry Barker the expertise to write this book?
Twenty-one years of service in the U.S. Special Forces is a good beginning. Of those years, seven were spent living among and working with the Montagnard hill tribesmen in the central highlands of Vietnam. His assignment was to gather information about enemy activity and movement and to relay that information to Army Intelligence in Saigon. It was during these years that he was able to observe firsthand how these “primitive” hill tribesmen moved silently through the jungle without getting caught. Sergeant Barker lived by the Rules of Ranging, making them an integral part of his daily life. The very fact that he is alive today is the best endorsement these rules could ever have.
This book is a compilation of the Rules of Ranging, along with an abundance of tactics that Sergeant Barker learned and employed through his years serving our country in foreign lands. And while he didn’t initially intend for this to be a field manual, that is exactly how it reads and can be used. His style of writing is clear, concise, and easy to follow. This is not a book you read once and put on the shelf; this is a book that you will continue to refer back to and should be included in the gear you take on your own excursions into the field.
Who should read the book?
This book, in my opinion, should be required—or at least recommended—reading for any military SOF units operating behind enemy lines. This is also a valuable tool for hunters. My personal copy has a lot of highlighted text and notes inside, and it stays in my pack next to my SERE reference guide.
One quotation from the book that really resonated with me was the following:
“To become a competent scout, you must divorce yourself from all thought of comfort and safety and think fear. Think alone. And think silent.”
You might also enjoy this YouTube documentary on Roger’s Rangers.
“Some Thoughts on Scouts and Spies” can be purchased at Amazon.com.