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Posted 07-18-2010 at 03:06 PM by stagg
Updated 07-23-2010 at 11:02 AM by stagg
I would like to start a little discussion on battlefield runners. I might call it a white paper if I have more schoolin'... besides that much writing isn't going to fit into this blog.
Anyway, I have gotten a smidgen of experience using runners in airsoft games, military simulations, and FTXs. (Usually Platoon to company strength.) And also enjoyed helping for several years at the D-day paintball game(s) in Oklahoma, assisting the Allied HQ (and now Axis High Command) run their battalion-plus sized headquarters. Nothing to write home about, but enough I hope, to start a useful discussion on a much needed aspect in the local airsoft community. Runners.

So what is a battlefield runner, and more importantly what does one do on the airsoft field?
To answer that question I would like to introduce some terms, and admit to something up front. First and foremost let me admit that there is no US military Doctrine on the use of runners on the battlefield! Shocking perhaps, but also understandable. Our military is highly technical. Runners and couriers are not. That’s why they work. And why I had better introduce my fancy words, it make me look smarter.

**PS. I would be happy to be proven wrong! If there is info on runners let me know.**

Remember there is no official version of these so I am making it up to a degree.
I’m going to break these tasks down into three sets, but feel free to mix them up if needed.
Runners: Usually carry a verbal message, on foot.

Couriers: Usually carry a written (paper) message, most often on foot but should use whatever means necessary to transport the documents.
Dispatch Riders: Are mounted messengers. They can be either type from above.

I differentiate these only for a more detailed discussion. You can mix these terms up, and most people will get the gist of it anyway.

Ok so what is a runner etc. The fancy version: they are an extension of the commander, projecting his presence beyond the range of his voice, vision, and transmission(s).
In usable terms, you ask? A runner, is the most secure way to send information between Commander and subordinate, short of face to face interaction.
Lets break this down into Pros, and Cons for a Runner.

Pro: Runners are more secure than radio waves, and even wire lines. They basically leave nothing for the enemy to find other than a dead body.
There is no paper to intercept if he is captured of killed, so you are pretty much safe no matter what. Even with a really good memory, there is not enough information to spill, even if he breaks under torture. A decent runner can even forget bits of information and the enemy will never know. Sounds pretty good. Right?

Now for the Cons
Runners are slower that radio waves. Blinding flash of the obvious! In fact they are the slowest form of communication. They can also get lost, forget part of the message, or mix it up. On top of that we have to hope that they make it at all. Especially if the enemy is present along the runners route.

What if we need to send complex info?
Ok, so what if I write it down? That way the stupid soldier can’t forget part of it. I’ll just make him eat it if capture is immanent. So we'll write it down and we give it to the same fellow, and then change his title. Couriers can transmit large amounts of information, along with maps, or other important documents or objects.

They have similar Pros and Cons to the runners.
Pros: Can transmit large amounts of information including pictures and maps. You can be as verbose as you want.
-Couriers can carry the most information.
This is a great way to make big changes in the plan.
Rather than using the radio for an hour trying to talk around the players with 'hot' throat mikes.
Couriers are more secure than radio. They are similar to wire lines, since both can be intercepted (or tapped) without anybody really knowing for certain if the message got caught.

Cons: Like the runner, they are the slowest way to send messages.
Unlike a verbal message, a written message can be captured, and used for blackmail later.
Couriers are also possibly more obvious. A single guy running around may not be suspicious at an airsoft game, while a courier carrying a bag, map case, or other “object” may get whacked by a curious enemy just in case.

Dispatch riders in our discussion are the same as the above, and could be either a runner or courier. The difference is they are riding something, duh! Throughout history they have been riding horses, and changing the outcome of battles! In the modern day they are in everything from ATVs to helicopters.
As “runners” (Verbal) they have historically been used like a quick nudge from Commanders.
As couriers, they have been carrying (or losing) documents that literally changed history. Their speed made them indispensable before the telegraph, telephone, or radio. They could go around the corner, and over the hill where visual signals failed, and they could do it faster than a man on foot. Sounds like the best thing right?

Pros: -Fast.
- If he’s in a helicopter Very Fast
Plus whatever pros they get from being a runner, or courier.

Cons: They make big targets!
Its hard to ignore a guy riding a horse, driving a jeep, or flying overhead in a helicopter. Mounted messengers are bullet magnets. Even more so in airsoft, where vehicles are rare and relatively noisy.

OK so we know what a messenger is, now what do we do with one? And when? This is where it basically relies on your gut, which is fine, since runners are a common sense solution to an age old problem.
Regardless of its longevity, no tactics for runners have been set down on paper. So its up to the runner to get through… the commander to send timely messages… and the subordinate to be waiting (impatiently perhaps) for a the message.
But here are a few tips that I have learned the hard way, along with a systematic way to create a successful runner environment. It is build on top of the Chain of Command that should be in place at organized airsoft games.

Sound tidbits (none of this is rocket science, but it is on paper)
-Pick a “healthy” runner, who can recover quickly enough to return a message.
-Don’t load him down with big weapons, ammo, or other stuff. He will not need it… if he does, then send a helper to carry that crap. Ie. An escort.
-Speed is not always the best thing. Otherwise every runner would be mounted if he could afford it. Low profile can be handy.
-Getting caught means the message doesn’t get through. (obviously) But the real problem is lost time. Runners are often late. Their trip time should be calculated 1.5 times a long as you think. Double that number for a round trip.
-Subordinate leaders MUST be on the look out for runners, and make themselves available. These guys just ran through hellfire to bring you information... make it worth their time.
- Runners are common sense! and with a little good sense you can accomplish much.

The system I have used, works well enough so I will share it. However I made it up, so feel free to do the same. When it comes to runners “if it works it ain’t stupid.”
Here is my simple system, but it relies on a set Chain of Command (CoC)

First and most importantly, the commander has to set aside time to get everyone on the same page. This is vital, or people and time will be wasted later when time matters most. Besides wasted or bored players usually kill a game, so get this right or don’t bother.

Now to use the time that you actually control:
First tell everyone you can get your hands on, that you (the Commander) are using runners, but especially tell the leaders of your Platoons, squads, fire-teams, whatever.
The leaders need to know that runners will be looking for them. So when somebody hollers for you, it is probably really important.

Better yet, set up a near recognition signal. Something that will get both people’s attention. Something that says the equivalent of “hot soup coming through.” That way the message gets there without wasting more time. Remember a radio message is a few minutes long, it is going to take a lot longer for the runner to make that trip. So don’t waste anymore time!
Some examples that have used.
-Whistles can work well in open battles, but not for patrols quietly out in the woods. So think about your missions, and your options. Anything from a wave of the hand, to fancy electronic gadgets can work.
My personal favorite is waving your hat above your head. It is simple, and hard for the enemy to recognize as a signal. I usually make the runners pin white paper/cloth inside their camouflage hats, otherwise its just green on a green background.
Lots of signals could work, use your head.

After you get done briefing the Leaders, go to the rank and file troopers. They need to be on the look out for runners, because they could be bringing vital information, or mission changes.
If you did set a ‘near recognition signal’ particular to runners (Highly recommended) then everybody needs to know what it is!
It only takes a minute to do it, although I would do it once early in the briefing, and then again right before the game starts. Helps it sink in, and catches people who might have been napping.

I'm about at my word limit.........
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  1. Old
    Zero's Avatar
    Could have continued in a post...
    Posted 07-18-2010 at 05:37 PM by Zero Zero is offline
  2. Old
    stagg's Avatar
    I was hoping that the feature was more blog like... in that articles could flow together.

    I could start another blog about the blog setup here, but I don't like blogs.... a sentiment that has only been reinforced.

    Now the rest of you just click the "next" button.
    Posted 07-19-2010 at 02:19 PM by stagg stagg is offline

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