The Art of Reconnaissance: How to Improve your Viewpoint
ReadyNutrition Guys and Gals, this article will cover some basic techniques for observation, as well as some information on how the eyes and mind work. Why? To fine tune your skills and give you an edge, as well as promote information for your further studies. You can use this information when you are in a fixed position and watching…whether on sentry duty, or for reconnaissance. These are not tips that are only for snipers or long-range shooters: they’re for the average guy and gal. Let’s get started.
Gain a Better Viewpoint With These Recon Basics
Our eyes are the eyes of a predator: pointed forward, with the greatest focus in our field of vision being directly in front of us. We see the following in order: movement, color, and the silhouette. Movement is the greatest factor, and this is wired into our systems to detect threats against us. Two eyes provide us with depth perception: the ability to gauge distance and determine where an object is in relation to us and to other objects.
One of the challenges for you is to develop your peripheral vision. Take something such as a door inside of your house, and focus on it. Maintaining the focus of your eyes on that door, allow the “softened edges,” or the unclear areas at the edges of your focus to come into view without moving your eyes. Keeping your eyes riveted to that focal point, allow the whole eyes to see everything “on the sides of that focus,” and all of this without moving the eyes.
The “unclear area” is your periphery. By unclear, I mean that you can see it, but the edges are not as sharp, and the detail is not as defined as the central focus. Your practice is twofold. First, practice trying to identify things on the sides of your focus without moving your eyes. Next, see the limits that your eyes take in objects. This is very important.
You can focus on a spot on the horizon, but if you keep that focus, guess what? You will not miss an object moving into your field of vision is you train yourself well to see in the periphery. This is because the movement will “register” in your eyes and on your brain, and then you can shift your focus onto it to see it more clearly and identify it. Color, as mentioned above, means several things. Color change is especially important: suddenly, a mound of snow lifts up and a bright yellow “thing” emerges…yes, a man in a ski jacket. You will be able to detect changes in the color of the general surroundings, and with training to use the periphery of your vision can perfect it to be a valuable tool.
Silhouette is a little trickier: this involves seeing and identifying something by the outline. Vehicles are usually easy, but personnel (especially if they’ve camouflaged themselves) are more difficult. “Sneaky Pete’s” tend to break up their outline with foliage, artificial netting/wraps, and other niceties. This is another reason that you want to know the distances you are observing, say, over an open area. If you have nothing in front of you, the “speck” on the horizon…you want to know beforehand that the 1” speck is really a 6’ tall man at that distance.
Keep your eyes moving periodically, to shift your point of forward focus. Left to right or right to left…as long as you keep it regular. As we learned in Jumpmaster school in the service, don’t look for “deficiencies.” Formulate images and impressions of the “normal” area you must observe. Allow any variants (the “deficiencies,” as we had in school) to jump out at you. If you have a perfect sight picture, you’re going to notice the Yeti emerging from the trees. It is out of the norm. His motion, his looks, and (yes!) his silhouette.
One of the biggest challenges you’ll face when observing is the change in light levels, especially dark to dawn, and dusk to dark. Dawn and dusk are traditionally great times for an attack. This is because the light is just appearing in the former, and disappearing in the latter. The rods and cones of your eyes cannot clearly help you determine what your eyes are seeing in accordance with the light provided. The challenge is from a lighted area into one of shadow. Very tough to see what is going on. Another problem is the time you spend on watch. Everyone should have a “short shift” of about 2 to 4 hours, but realistically this never happens.
Eyestrain and fatigue turn the eyes into acorns with drooling and head-tipping sure to follow. When watching over the snow-covered ground, be sure to wear 100% UV protectant sunglasses. You can have long-term retinal damage when your eyes are exposed to reflected sunlight for a long period of time. Protect your eyes, and train them to see what you are observing for. Practice makes perfect, and in the end, you will perfect these techniques to improve your effectiveness in the areas we discussed. Keep fighting that good fight! JJ out!
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Jeremiah Johnson is the Nom de plume of a retired Green Beret of the United States Army Special Forces (Airborne). Mr. Johnson was a Special Forces Medic, EMT and ACLS-certified, with comprehensive training in wilderness survival, rescue, and patient-extraction. He is a Certified Master Herbalist and a graduate of the Global College of Natural Medicine of Santa Ana, CA. A graduate of the U.S. Army’s survival course of SERE school (Survival Evasion Resistance Escape), Mr. Johnson also successfully completed the Montana Master Food Preserver Course for home-canning, smoking, and dehydrating foods.
Mr. Johnson dries and tinctures a wide variety of medicinal herbs taken by wild crafting and cultivation, in addition to preserving and canning his own food. An expert in land navigation, survival, mountaineering, and parachuting as trained by the United States Army, Mr. Johnson is an ardent advocate for preparedness, self-sufficiency, and long-term disaster sustainability for families. He and his wife survived Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. Cross-trained as a Special Forces Engineer, he is an expert in supply, logistics, transport, and long-term storage of perishable materials, having incorporated many of these techniques plus some unique innovations in his own homestead.
Mr. Johnson brings practical, tested experience firmly rooted in formal education to his writings and to our team. He and his wife live in a cabin in the mountains of Western Montana with their three cats.
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