Editor’s note: This article is adapted from a training held last May 13-14 at the Shxwowhamel First Nation.
by Sakej Ward
Individual Operational Readiness
Do you have an impact on the “battlefield” or are you a liability? Do you possess a wide range of activist’s conflict skills? Are your skills up to speed? Not all activists are created equal.
The come-as-you are activist, the person who shows up at crisis events with intent to engage in obsolete, ineffectual, passive tactics that requires so very little skill and equipment (gear) is an amateur who treats the struggle for justice more as a social gathering (a crisis pow wow with endless opportunities to get selfies) than a war.
On the “Battlefield” good intentions, thoughts and prayers are not enough.
The opposition (the colonial government and its industries of destruction) are deadly serious about counter-activism operations. They see it as a war to protect their vast power and privilege. They see it and treat it like a war. They go to great lengths to plan, prepare, mobilize, equip, deploy and release their dogs of war upon the people.
The gap of capability (including skills and gear) between the activists and the government is immense but it doesn’t have to be. Activists can reduce this capability-gap by training in their particular skill sets and acquiring, modifying and training on the proper highly-specialized gear to get those tasks done in a highly efficient manner.
Skills and gear empower the strategy.
The come-as-you are activist, showing up with little to no skills to conduct critical actions and little to no mission essential gear to pull them off need to take their engagement in “battle” much more serious. They need take more responsibility for their commitment to justice if they want to be of real help.
Your commitment to justice is measured by your willingness to put in the necessary time, effort, resources and sacrifices to make yourself a better weapon of justice.
Activists need to become “Become the Weapon” by becoming Operational Ready in order to be of real help at crisis situations.
Operational Ready consist of two main factors; skills to complete your mission and the gear to fulfill it.
To be operation-ready for a crisis situation, activists need to determine skills needed to conduct their type of actions. Most activists have no advanced thinking about what kind of assistance he/she will provide or what type of skills their assistance may require.
Developing skills sets starts with creating a training plan. Establishing a training plan begins with an analysis of doctrine, operations (campaigns), missions (actions), tasks and skills.
Activists should start by determining their doctrine (how they fight). The activist’s doctrine may be passive legal, it can be civil disobedience, or the doctrine may be direct.
Next determine the type of operations (campaigns) that are common to those doctrines. It is important to make as complete of a list of common operations (campaigns). These can be operations that are normally conducted by the activist or operations the activist feels his/her doctrine would call for. It would also be wise to realistically anticipate trends towards upcoming new types of conflicts and operations the activists may engage in the near future.
Identifying operations (campaigns) aren’t just about identifying the issue in contention. It’s about identifying the objectives used to successfully complete those operations. For example, an activist participating in Indigenous justice may engage in a Murder and Missing Indigenous Women Campaign (operation). The objective of the operation (campaign) might be to raise awareness of the issue or to bring those responsible to justice. Identifying the objective may generate some ideas on new or unused tactics for specific operations.
After all the operations (campaigns) have been identified the list needs to be broken down further by determining a full range of missions (actions) in those operations (campaigns).
So, an operation (campaign) to save a forest, for activists with a doctrine of civil disobedience, may include missions (actions) like setting up a blockade on a logging road or chaining themselves to a tree while activists with a doctrine of Direct Action may include missions (actions) like taking out a piece of heavy equipment or taking down a bridge on a logging road. The operation is the same but the doctrine creates a different set of mission profiles.
Once a full range of operations and the missions utilized in those operations are identified, then determine the tasks that are necessary to complete those missions (actions). A blockade mission (action) would require tasks like shutting down traffic on a road, barrier construction, interacting with people, interacting with police, interacting with media, guard duty, tactical observation, tactical communications, etc. Some of these skill sets are team skills (stopping a vehicle) and some are individual skills (rolling out barbed wire). Separate the two skills sets (team and individual) involved in those actions. Training plans should be a sequential development of skill sets from individual skills up to team based skills.
In addition to identifying individual skills of these skill sets, determine the standards for those skills. Standards are the level of quality expected for the skill sets. Being able to execute a skill in a poor manner like making several mistakes, taking a very long time to execute it, only can execute the skill with help from references (people, books, videos, etc), can’t do it in the dark or under pressure all ensure failure when it comes time to execute these skills in a crisis situation. Skills need to be practiced to certain level; a standard that reflects the conditions of the actions you will be in. For instance – assigning a standard to applying a first aid pressure dressing should include executing it properly (without mistake), in a designated time, possibly with improvised items, in the dark, in field conditions while under stress. Every skill needs to have a standard assigned to it as a way of establishing the level of training and as a testable condition.
Assemble all the skills and arrange them in blocks of training (like first aid, tactical communications, self defense, etc.). Determine the required sequence of instructing these skills. Some skills require knowing a prior skill first, for example – in order to send a radio message activists would first need to know how to put a specific radio into operation. Assign a timeline to instruct, practice and test each skill. This timeline influences the development of your training schedule.
Finalize the training plan by identifying instructors for each of the skill sets, training areas, training facilities, reference materials, training budgets, and training aids.
- Identify common gear needed that best fits all the tasks. This is the kind of gear that will be used in most or all crisis situation such as backpack, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, wet weather gear, warm gear, multi-tool, Individual first aid kit, survival kit, etc.
- Identify mission specific gear. This is gear that is specific to the identified missions. It can be barrier construction tools, observation tools, breaching tools, safety equipment, etc.
- Select gear for those actions. Determine the best gear for the task based on a few factors;
- Cost – We would all love to have the newest, most high tech tactical gear around but cost becomes the barrier to this. Select gear based on a priority list of critical and mission-essential gear first.
- Availability – You may want it but it isn’t available, for whatever reason, to you. Determine good substitutions.
- Quality – much of the gear should be excellent quality because your life or liberty may depend on it. Some gear isn’t as crucial like a rain jacket. Does it need to be the best rain jacket from a high-end store or does it just have to get the job done? There is also good quality used gear for sale, as long as you know what to look out for. Set standards for what you need in your gear before buying.
- Durability – The gear will be used under the worst conditions so don’t expect cheap dollar store gear to hold up under field conditions. Should be simple but rugged.
- Multi-purpose – finding gear that can be used for more than one task increases its value.
- SAWC – Size And Weight Consideration. Sometimes good gear is large, bulky, and heavy and impedes mobility. Look for gear that is as compact, light but still functional for the tasks.
- Camouflage pattern – Bright shiny items attract the eye and can give you away. Determine the best camouflage pattern for the area of operation.
- Waterproof – it will rain in the field so gear needs to be water proof.
- Shockproof – it will be dropped, kicked, sat on, thrown across the room in frustration (or at a threat) but it still needs to function after its abuse.
- Simplicity – the more high tech or the more moving parts invites breakdown. Try to select gear that is simple and robust.
- Best achieves the mission – the main purpose of the gear is to assist in successful completion of missions (actions). That should stay in the forefront of the activist’s mind. When choosing between two possible pieces of gear, determine which best assist in achieving the mission.
- Ergonomic – the gear should be both efficient and comfortable. This extends the time frame for use in work. An uncomfortable or inefficient piece of gear will wear down the activist earlier, making work harder.
The best gear isn’t always the most expensive, coolest looking (tacti-cool), widest advertised or what some other person or group is using. If there are any questions on gear determination or gear selection consult an experienced freedom fighter that is a subject-matter-expert in the use of gear as well as the procurement of gear for specific kinds of operations and missions.
Once a training plan is developed and the gear is obtained the activist needs to train to standard on the skills and with the gear obtained in order to properly fit, modify, personalize and familiarize with that gear.
When all the gear procurement and initial training is complete a series of culmination exercise (based on all the different operations and likely missions for each) should be conducted. It provides an opportunity for testing to standard and evaluating all the common and mission-essential tasks to determine if the activists are operational ready.
“Welcome to my War”