Skill – Observation Post

I frequently mention that skills are far more important than gear, and that all the Uber-tactical cool-guy gear in the world can’t help you if you don’t know how to use it.  In keeping with that, I am launching a series on some practical skills for people and groups into preparedness.

Whenever preparedness groups or mutual aid groups (we don’t use the M word here, it attracts the Feds) get together to train, they spend an inordinate amount of time on what are really OFFENSIVE SKILLS.  Things like ambushes, room & building clearing, etc.  The reason is because these things are FUN.  The defensive skills aren’t as cool, but they are twice as vital.

Let’s be honest, if a true “Without Rule of Law” situation happens, you aren’t going to go on the offensive.   You’re going to focus on keeping what you have and protecting your home, neighborhood, or compound from intruders.

The first skill to master in that endeavor is how to establish and run an observation post.

I know, decidedly not very “cool-guy” at all.  No, it isn’t.  But it’s absolutely vital if you are TRULY interested in non-aggression and self-protection.

On a side note, of all the action movies ever made, really only a few are about defensive operations.  13 Hours is a great example of a defensive operation.

Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith;

Be courageous; be strong.

1 Corinthians 16:13

The first thing to understand is that an observation post is OUTSIDE your defensive perimeter.  That requires a little courage from whoever mans it.

An OP is a forward position where a team of at least 2 can watch over territory that anyone is likely to approach from.  The position should be concealed and have a way to communicate back to the perimeter (radio normally).

Three things area critical in positioning your OP:

1. It should provide maximum observation of the area you want to watch.

2. It should offer cover & concealment to anyone inside it.

3. It should have concealed routes away from it.

Don’t put the OP on top of hill, but just below it.  In an urban setting, the same thing applies; since the rooftop is an obvious spot, place it on the floor just below the roof line.

An OP should be far enough outside your perimeter to be of use to you, but close enough that you could send help to it, or that the OP people could quickly and quietly escape back to the perimeter.

There should be a covered and concealed route from the OP back to your perimeter for people to enter the OP undetected, and to escape undetected.

In an urban setting, an OP can be a bit more creative than in rural areas.  In the city, two guys sitting on a porch is a normal sight, yet it can be an OP.  In the country, 2 guys hanging out on a hill is unusual.

Be on guard! Be alert!

You do not know when the time will come.

Mark 13:33

I bet you didn’t know that the Ultimate Tactical Handbook discussed being on duty in an OP, did you?  It does, repeatedly.  Some form of “be alert”, “be ready”, and “be on guard” appears throughout the Bible.  Here’s one more before we discuss duty in the OP.

Therefore keep watch,

Because you do not the day or the hour.

Matthew 25:13

These are both excellent advice, and guidance for those on duty inside an observation post.  Every OP should be staffed by at least two people.

One person should watch, while the other takes notes.  They should switch duties every 30 minutes, to prevent eye fatigue.  Your OP, in addition to the radio, should have paper for notes (I use Rite In The Rain products) and optics.

As far as optics, a good pair of binoculars is a minimum, but for true detail work, you should have a spotting scope mounted on a tripod.  A tripod is necessary, because at higher zoom levels, the slightest movement will be amplified.

So then, let us not be like the others,

Who are asleep,

But let us be awake and sober.

1 Thessalonians 5:6

Notice when I mentioned the split duties, I didn’t mention sleep?  No one should sleep in an OP.  Send out a relief every 2-4 hours so that people can be back inside the perimeter for sleep.  

Sleeping should never be allowed in the OP.  

If you aren’t going to man an observation post 24 hours a day, you should at least man it from dusk to dawn.

Having said that, it only needs to be manned in times of heightened alert.  For example, you receive information via your intelligence network that 2 days ago, a large group of refugees left the city heading your way.  Another example would be a string of raids or burglaries at other locations near yours.

The OP should be set up as soon as possible, since you don’t know when you’ll need it on short or no notice.  Get it set up now, and then all you have to do is maintenance, like refreshing the camouflage.

The OP, while it should be built as a fighting position (coming soon in another article), should not be used as a fighting position, unless absolutely necessary. 

Let’s say you detect a group approaching your bug out location from the OP and immediately launch an ambush from the OP and drive the attackers off.  Guess where they are hitting first the next time?  Your OP, and now that they know exactly where it is, they can avoid it on their next approach.

When reporting observations, you should use the SALUTE format to help you remember what’s needed (see graphic).  In most situations for preparedness, you can just use SALT from it (Size/Activity/Location/Time).

Train on setting up an OP.  It’s not as fun as room clearing, but the skills learned can keep you from having to clear rooms inside your own compound, which is the entire point of preparedness, not actual combat.

In the coming days we’ll discuss security patrolling, entry control/vehicle checkpoints, and fighting positions, along with other defensive skills that often get over-looked in training.


Published by JD

I am the author of the Tactical Wisdom Series. I am a personal protection specialist and a veteran of the US Marine Corps. I conduct preparedness and self-defense training.

2 thoughts on “Skill – Observation Post

  1. Given the proliferation of cheap video cameras and optics, what are your thoughts regarding basically running the OP via remote automation, with video footage/intel being streamed back to one’s base via either radio, or a cable? This would allow the OP to remain better camouflaged, especially since personnel would not be coming and going from it. It could also be lower risk for personnel, who could then monitor the OP from inside the security of the main base.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s a good idea, but you still have to WATCH IT. If you use something like wifi cameras, make sure you change the default password. When I hunt, I place a wifi camera on a tree looking behind my blind and watch it on my phone, while watching forward. This would work even in a grid down situation, as long as you could charge your devices somehow.


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