Recognizing Your Team

The Russo-Ukrainian War (Slavic Civil War) has brought to the forefront a vital issue. If everyone is driving the same vehicles, using the same weapon platforms, and wearing the same uniforms, how do you identify your own side? As a side note, countless militias are fighting on both sides of that conflict, too, with some unusual uniforms.

In the case of the Russo-Ukrainian War, both sides are using armbands of various rbight colors. The problem with that is that once I know what color you’re using, all I have to do to penetrate your lines is buy some duct tape. I know, misleading ID is a war crime, but so is almost everything going on on both sides. Also, the bright colors negate your camouflage and fieldcraft skills by making you easier to see.

The Ultimate Tactical Handbook says we must have friends, so we need to be able to identify them:

Though one may be overpowered,
    two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

Ecclesiastes 4:12

In the 1600-1800s, different armies wore different colored jackets for rapid ID. Eventually, irregular American units, like Roger’s Rangers, stopped doing that and tried to blend in. The British Rifle Regiments began switching to their famous “Green Jackets” for the same reason, camouflage (no, the Rifles weren’t made up just for the Sharpe movies).

The question I was posed on Twitter the other day was that with everyone wearing some variant of MultiCam, how do you identify your own team? Mistake number one is wearing what everyone else wears. There is no “universal” camouflage that works everywhere, no matter what your favorite tacti-cool YouTube guy says (even if he wears flannel shirts). You have to find a camouflage pattern that blends in with the local area. Camouflage might not even be what you opt for. In the contractor world, sometimes it was wearing a shirt in the color of the day.

Step one, if your team will use camouflage while patrolling, is selecting the same pattern, but not the same as everyone else. For example, French CCE (Camouflage-Central Europe) is very similar to M81 woodland but has much more tan and brown. IF your team all wore the French CCE F2 field jacket that Kruschiki sells, then you could differentiate your guys from everyone else quickly through optics. As odd as it sounds, after I recommended that jacket, NC Scout and I were astounded by the number of guys who showed up at a course in it. A common pattern is a quick go/no-go check through optics.

My local guys all wear British DPM because NO ONE else around here does and our lovely Attorney General has threatened to charge anyone wearing a uniform SIMILAR to the US government. A backup option is All-Terrain Tiger. Find something unique that works and put it in place. Avoid things that literally everyone else is using (MutliCam and MCB).

The “Patch of the Day” is a good way to identify your team as well. Each day, designate which patch out of several that your people will wear. This info is only spread each morning by word of mouth, never over the radio. This helps in case, God forbid, one of your people is killed or captured and the opposition takes their patch to try and slip in. They wouldn’t have the right one for that day. Switch it up on like a 10-day rotation so that someone can’t guess a weekly pattern. Everyone will need to get the same set of different patches as soon as possible NOW. You can buy 2 patches right on this website (hint-hint).

A variation on this I’ve seen in military contracting is the “shirt of the day”. While everyone is in plain clothes, everyone wears the same color shirt for quick ID in case of an incident. Most notably, the Washington DC Police Electronic Surveillance Unit did the same while blending into and TOTALLY NOT ENTRAPPING the crowd on January 6th. The shirt color changes daily and again is spread by word of mouth.

ANTIFA has used arm bands to identify their security and medical teams as well. Let me point out that putting a red cross on your helmet or arm doesn’t grant you immunity from prosecution.

When sending out patrols, you need to establish near and far recognition signals. These are things that a team does when entering your lines to prevent friendly fire incidents. They could use an IR light flash pattern, wave a VS-17 signal panel, pop a smoke grenade, or whatever, as long as it is planned in advance or a standard “lost comms” plan that everyone knows. Having radio communications between elements also helps with far recognition. An example is calling on the radio to report that you are going to give the signal, so that you know someone is watching. Then, that person would radio that they have seen the signal.

I personally don’t recommend the brightly colored armbands that you are seeing in Ukraine. They are engaged in large scale battles, and you won’t be. Your best defense is remaining hidden by full camouflage, and bright armbands defeat that. Know your people and know where they are (or should be) at all times. The Patch of the Day or far recognition signals should help whenever there is any doubt.

Remember our ultimate goal – SURVIVAL. We’re not here to function as a quasi-military force, we are here for local security, protecting our families and supplies/food production sites. Even if you are out there for “other reasons”, suing fieldcraft and remaining unseen enables you to choose the time, place, and manner of engagement, if any.

Just as you have radio authentication methods and procedures, having some type of way to identify your people from afar is vital to running a safe and secure local security operation.

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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.

6 thoughts on “Recognizing Your Team

  1. For the first time, I now understand the significance of the patches in “civilian” life.

    That probably provides the best solution for my particular situation…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. A variant to the “shirt of the day” is, if you use them, to swap scarf/shemagh/sniper veil colors. This can add a further change up to the patch swap regimen. It can also be seen more clearly, from more angles, and from further away than only wearing a patch. Strips of dark brown, dark green, black, and (seasonally) dark red or white duct tape on a sleeve might also be useful in your area.

    Is there a reason people always mention a VS-17 panel instead of brightly colored bandannas? Bandannas are more easily sourced, cheaper, with more colors available. I believe bandannas are lighter weight for the size, too. One could sew or glue bandannas together if you want a bigger sheet, and you can combine colors to have a more unique panel. Pieces of a t-shirt could be made to work like a bandanna, too.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I’ve only seen VS 17 in a store and during a vehicle inventory. Low-light visibility is a great feature.


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