Sunday, July 11, 2010

Shadow living - Part 6 - How to move during operations

You've finally gotten all the gear you need. Confident in your clothing and your equipment, you jump into the shadows. How do you actually get to your objective though? You can't expect to simply walk up to it. You need to learn the procedures for getting up close, unseen, and getting away without being caught.


Fences present a major problem to operatives in the shadows. They are often loud to cross, can snag equipment, and potentially harm you. They can also provide a few advantages however. Here are a few common types of fencing you will encounter, how to cross them, and what advantages they have.

Barbed Wire Fence

Perhaps the most annoying of all the fence types, barbed wire grabs onto clothes and gets it caught up. Any torn cloth left behind counts as evidence. They can also cut you open if you're really careless, leaving behind evidence. They are also loud in most places, squeaking and sagging when you try to climb across them. They are mostly found in rural settings.

The first method of crossing, and most obvious, is climbing. The first thing you need to look for is a rock jack. These are firmly secured to the ground, to the fence, and are quiet and easy to cross. If you cannot find one, you should next look for a wooden post secured into the ground and to the fence. These don't make a lot of noise either, and are simple to cross. If you still cannot find one, you then have to look for a steel post. Crossing here is loud, but secured. Should you find only loose wire crossable, you may be able to "step" over the wire by bending it down and crossing. If not, find another way to cross. If all else fails, toss something over the fence to block the barbs and flip over it. When climbing, take as much time as you can so that you don't snag your pants.

The second method of crossing is to crawl underneath of it. You may be able to bend the wires and crawl, or you may need to snip some wire. Snip the wire that holds the barbed wire to a steel pole so that the barbed wire is easier to bend around. Be careful that you don't stand so that a tight wire will whip across you. You could also try digging a hole and crawling under.

The third method is to simply jump over it. Find a suitable spot and just dive over it. Make sure you know you can pull it off though, no sense in racking yourself on barbed wire...

The fourth and final method is to just cut it. Only do so if you absolutely must cross the fence and no other method is open.

As far as advantages go, if you can cross these with swiftness, they are invaluable in warding off pursuers. Rock jacks can be laid behind to avoid people passing by from seeing you. Also, if you lay parallel against the fence on the ground, you're much less likely to be seen by passing vehicles.

Chicken Wire Fence

Chicken wire; the stuff with the rectangular or hexagonal holes in it, too small to put your feet into. This makes climbing difficult, and the fencing is usually loud to boot. Thankfully, you can't get snagged.

First method of crossing is to climb. This can be tough if the fence is taller than you since you can't hook your feet onto anything. The only way is to find a good pole and cross there. Don't grab the top and pull yourself up unless you know it's safe, as you may create a ton of noise.

The second method of cross is to crawl under it. Since you can't flex chicken wire that well, you'll probably need to snip some wire or dig a hole. Don't be as worried about snipping since doing so doesn't bring the whole section down like barbed wire.

The third method is to just cut a section through the fence and bypass. Least recommended, for obvious reasons.

Chicken wire offers the same advantages barbed wire does, except that they rarely have rock jacks.

Wooden Plank Fence

Wooden fences, while easy to bypass, are still troublesome. This is because it is hard to know what is on the other side. If you have to, do a pull-up on the fence and barely peek over before crossing the fence.

The first method of crossing is, once again, climbing. These are dead simple, just pull yourself up, swing your legs around, and land on the other side. If you need to be quiet, you can lean your body against the fence top and slowly roll over the other side. Just don't rack yourself. You can climb over anywhere thanks to the durability.

The second method of crossing is to go under the fence. You'll have to dig, since you can't bend wood. This is time consuming, consider whether or not it is worth it.

Wooden fences are also good to hide behind and recon from. You can also lay parallel on the ground next to them to make yourself harder to see to people who pass by.

Cyclone Fence

Cyclone, or chain link fencing, is extremely annoying to cross, because it is noisy as hell. Even further precautions must be taken when crossing a fence topped with barbed wire. What's more, there is nowhere to place your feet.

Method one of crossing is climbing. You must try to find a pole you can put all your weight on while you cross. If you cannot find a pole that lets you do this, then you'll have to cross right next to a pole. If you have more people around, have them hold the horizontal bar so it doesn't sag and squeak. You'll make a little noise, but not terribly bad. If the fence is taller than you are, then you'll have to pull yourself up the fence first, then toss yourself over. If the fence is extremely high, and you must climb, then you'll need to climb the wire using your hands. Also, if it is topped by barbed wire, you can either block the barbs with cloth, or cut the wire.

The second method is to crawl under it. Snip an/or dig. Be mindful that cyclone fences bend easily.

The third method is to jump the fence. Only applies is the fence is short enough to jump effectively.

The fourth method is a simple chop job - just cut through the fence.

Same advantages as a chicken wire fence.

Electric Fence

These are simple to bypass. Method one is to simply to drop metal on the wire that touches the post, shorting the electricity out. Method two is to find a way to shut the fence off. The switch should be easy to find. No real advantages here, unless you can find a way to use the wiring as a weapon and it's really needed as such.

Brick Fence

Brick fences are the best to have around. They make no noise whatsoever, and are simple to climb. You'll find these around schools and other public places.

Method one of crossing in to climb. Just pull yourself up and roll over it. If it's too high to jump and grab, you can get a running step off of the fence and reach up to the top.

Method two is to dig under the fence, like you would a wooden fence. Note that this will take up a lot of time, especially since there is probably a concrete base.

Same advantages as a wooden fence. You may also be able to get out of the line of sight by laying flat on top of the fence in a pinch.

Picket Fence

Easy to bypass, but offer little in the way of cover.

First crossing method is to climb over it.

Second crossing method is to dig under it and crawl.

Third method is to jump over it. Careful over pointy boards which may grab you.

Picket fences can also be broken though with ease sometimes, but there usually isn't a good reason too, if at all. To use them for hiding, lay flat against the ground next to them, parallel.

Assorted Objects and Terrain

There is virtually nothing you can find during an operation that can't be turned to your advantage in some way, no matter how little.


Trees won't generally be something that's in your way, but they can assist you in various ways. For example, a tree could offer a better way to cross a fence, recon an area, or get access to a rooftop. What a tree does not offer though, is an escape route. Never climb a tree is an attempt to escape pursuit. Climbing trees is usually simple. Just grab the first solid limb and start climbing up it. If you need to jump higher, try running at the tree and jumping off of it at waist height as you would a brick fence. You may also use a rope, then use it for decent. The general rule is that if you can climb the tree with nothing, than you can simply jump down from it. Hang from the bottom limb then drop to the ground, using a break fall if necessary.

Trees are good for hiding if you are not being pursued. You can climb up above, where people are unlikely to look, or you can hug the opposite side of the trunk. Also, sitting with your back to the trunk is perfect for long term hiding. Don't use during pursuit however, as you may get trapped.


Ditches are perfect for eliminating your profile. For recon, lay in them on your side. When hiding, lay face down. If the ditch is deep enough, you may be able to sit in it and keep a low enough profile. You may also be able to lay prone perpendicular to it and still have a low profile yet good view.


Dumpsters are great to hide in and behind. You can also hide in the shadows created where they meet walls.


Treat them like tree trunks.


Snow presents numerous problems as well as advantages. For one, it is easy to bury yourself in it to hide. You can also throw it to draw attention elsewhere, and snow makes it easier to see on nights with no moon. On the other hand, snow leaves tracks everywhere which anyone can see, is often loud to cross, and slows you down. It is best to avoid snow altogether, even when there are small patches on the ground.

A unique use for snow, when most has melted, is the snow plowed off of roads. They provide good cover prior to crossing the road.

Tall Grass

While tall grass may seem elementary, don't discount it. In this context, tall grass refers to any grass or weeds which are around two feet high. It's common just about everywhere, and has saved my ass personally on numerous occasions. If a car is coming, jump into some tall grass. If a person is walking towards you, crawl behind some. If there is a spotlight shining towards you, get behind tall grass. Tall grass is very useful.


Boulders make great cover, because they are big, dark, and uniform in shape. You can either hide behind them, hug them on the ground, or even lay on top of them sometimes to avoid being seen.


Even a little slope can help conceal you from a direction. Just lay near the top so you can barely see. If someone is looking around, you'll be very hard to spot.

Irrigation Pipes

Pipes that connect to each other that are used to water fields. Probably used at your local football fields. These offer some profile reduction by lying next to them, parallel.

Rivers and Streams

Water can offer some refuge. Instead of hiding in the water, use the noise created to cover up your own noises.


Hide yourself near them by jumping behind them or laying on the ground next to them.

Street Light

A nightmare in urban operations, these light up all main areas of town. There is no way to just shut them off short of destroying the town's power grid or destroying the light bulb. If you decide to destroy the bulb, a pellet gun is the only reasonable choice. Some lights are protected with a thick guard to stop this, so a high powered air rifle may be necessary. You can also hide on the side opposite of the light to hide decently well.


Sometimes an entire building is in your way, or perhaps getting onto the roof is the best way into another house, or maybe you need to get roof access. Regardless, there are good ways and bad ways to climb onto a building.

First lets deal with one story houses. Generally, were dealing with trailers and maybe some smaller houses. Sometimes you can jump up, grab the roof, then climb onto the top. This usually isn't a possibility though, as the overhang makes it too difficult. Several things to look for: trees, oil tanks, gas tanks, vehicles parked nearby, window sills, anything that will get you close. If all else fails, you may be able to find and use a ladder. Ropes are an option if you have one.

Second story houses and buildings are a bit tougher. If you can find a one-story section, start there. If not, you'll have to find something to climb. Look for the same things as a one-story section, then look for any gutters, pipes, or ladders attached to the building.

Anything larger and you'll have to hope for either an attached ladder, something to hook a rope to, or something else you could climb.

Hiding near a house is simple, you can hide near gas tanks, on or under porches, sit by the corner of a porch, behind grass, where ever.

Larger buildings must be climbed via pipe, wiring, a rope, etc. These cannot just be jumped off of obviously, so you need to make sure you always have a way back down.


Vehicles are easy to get around of course, but they are good for hiding behind, under, against, or in. Remember that most dome lights turn on should the door by unlocked. You can also utilize the noise created by them to cover up your own noise. Also, you want to make sure you don't do anything stupid, like hide from someone while exposing yourself to someone else. If you can't hide from everyone, don't bother.


That's right, even people can help your cause. If they are playing music or talking loud, it will not only cover up your noises, but will distract them away from anything else. You may also find some targets of opportunity. The reason they are hazards should be fairly obvious.

Hiding in Nothing

The shadows won't always offer you a place to run and hide. While the things listed above are universal, what if you find yourself in a football field, or a large open pasture a good distance away from any ditches? You need to hide right where you are. Do not take off for cover unless sighted. Rule 8 applies here.

The best thing to do most of the time, is to just lay on the ground, face down, head towards anyone approaching. You can look if you'd like by peering through the cracks in your hands. Otherwise, by mindful of the glare from your eyes. This has worked wonders for me.

You may also choose to imitate something close by, but not good for cover such as a tree, a cow, or a large rock. To turn into a tree, just hold your arms out crookedly, lean your head against a shoulder, and keep your legs together. To turn into an animal, get on your hands and knees and sit still. To turn into a rock, drop to your knees and hug your legs. Remember that you aren't trying to look as much like the object you are mimicing as you are trying to not look human. You would be surprised how well this works in the right situation.

Hiding in Light

Hiding in light means being in the right position in relevance to a source of light so that you can see others well, but they cannot see you. A good example is a person holding a spotlight into another person's face. The guy with the spotlight can see just fine, but the other one cannot see past the light. By doing do, the first person is actually using the light to hide. As an operative, the chance to hide behind light won't come often, and there are usually better alternatives. Sometimes however, you won't have a choice.

To hide in the light, you must hide in the shadows next to it. For example, if you stand between two windows that are lit brightly, a person outside would have a tough time seeing you from about 35 yards. Any closer and he may begin to see a human figure.

You can use this if confronted too, by shining your flashlight in the person's face. They won't be able to get a good look at you. You'll have a good chance to knock them down and escape, or just try to out run them. Don't try to depend on this as your main idea though, doing so only when all other options have been exhausted, as this is a last resort tactic.

In dealing with bright lights that go in several directions, place yourself between the light and anyone nearby. That makes the light hit your back, creating only a hard to see silhouette instead of lighting your front up making you easy to identify. The same thing applies with the moon - put yourself between it and anyone nearby. Be careful, however, that you do not cast shadows past corners, which may betray you.

Another way that light works to your advantage is when there is glass. When a person is inside of their house and they have the lights on, looking outside of their windows becomes very difficult. Unless they are pressed up against the glass, they will have a difficult time seeing past ten yards, if at all, as the glass and darkness outside work together to form a mirror.

Learning how to use light to your advantage is difficult, but it is an essential skill. When you learn to use it, you will become more confident and skilled at choosing hiding places.

Hiding in Darkness

When solid cover is not immediately available, and you cannot use light to your advantage, you must hide in darkness. Use the shadows and corners around you to conceal your outline.

Hide in areas behind where light is cast, or around them. Such areas are corners, underneath picnic tables, beside trees, and behind lamp posts. These shadows usually conceal you just enough to hide you if you remain still. The science behind the practice here is that it is harder to look into a dark place when you are in a light place and have been used to the lights for a long time.

If someone has been in the darkness for awhile, you can "create" darkness for them by attracting their attention to a bright source of light by tossing rocks. This will ruin their night vision, enabling you to use the shadows once again.

Hiding in a Room

If you are inside of a building, are in danger of being caught, and have no escape immediately available, you must hide somewhere. This is a very dangerous situation to be in, having many variables, so you must hide in the places least likely to be looked upon.


If you can cram into a ground level cabinet, you may do so. If somebody is getting up, they may look in top cabinets to get a cup. If someone is coming home late from something, they may also look in top cabinets for the same thing. The bottom ones, especially the one under the sink, are the least likely to be disturbed.


A common hiding place in the movies is the shower. If you hide in a tub with a curtain, hide behind the curtain and remain still and silent. You may move the curtain slightly, but try to make it look as much as it did when you entered. If the shower is a dark tinted shower, you have little to worry about, just stand inside, maybe crouched a little. If the shower is distorted clear glass, there are problems. You have to lay down and try to conform to the wall so that nothing appears to be inside.

Of course, none of this matters if someone decides to take a shower. You alone must decide whether the shower is a safe place. If you somehow know the person takes their showers before bed, do not hide here.


Another common hiding place is underneath of a bed. The problem here is that if someone is already in bed, or is going to bed, you must be assured that they are sound asleep before you can exit. You also cannot disturb the bed, because doing so may wake anyone in it up. Risky, so only do so if you know it's safe. Also, if you are spotted underneath of a bed, good luck trying to escape.


The leg room underneath of office desks can also make decent hiding places. If you hide here, make sure it appears as though nothing is underneath from in front of it. Don't worry about the back, because if you are seen here, there isn't anything you can do to hide anyways.


You may also choose to hide beside doors. Do so in a manner that makes the door cover you when opened. Your best bet is to sit down, and hope the person does not look there when they come through the door. If they do spot you, which is probable, at least you can toss them aside while they are surprised and make a quick escape.


If the house has two stories, hiding upstairs is a safe precaution. That is because most utilities are downstairs. Try to find an extra room that isn't used much, and enter.


Another classic, you may wish to hide in a closet, using the clothing to hide you. While you can hide easily enough, the problem here is that many closets are loud upon opening, making an exit difficult without alerting anyone.

When hiding in a room, make sure you do not trap yourself, having a way out, and make sure you can conceal your identity if you are sighted. Looking upon the hiding places above, it should be obvious that getting trapped in a room and having to hide is a situation you should do your best to avoid.

Hiding in the Background

Even if the opposition has good lighting and a good view, you can still fool them by making yourself as small as possible. You do this by being far away. Even if a police officer has his spotlight on you at 100 yards, if you are curled up into a ball he may very well pass right over you. Similarly, if you are in dense grass and the light is spotted at you, he will only see the grass, not you, because you become part of the background. Becoming the background is important sometimes, and ties in with hiding in nothing.

How to Travel

Different land and objects dictate a different way to travel. Here is a guide for when to use each kind of traveling, and how to do it.

Upright Walk

Walk upright when you have low risk of being seen, such as in fields, near your house, or inside a building when the area has been secured.

Bent Knee Walk

Walk with your knees bent to keep a low profile. Walk on your toes to distort your foot print, and walk silently. This may seem like overkill, but there's no good reason not to. Remember Rules 2 and 4. When crossing gravel and other loud terrain, slowly place your feet forward, on the ground, then lean forward, placing your weight onto that leg. This will help muffle the sound a little.


Rarely needed, only use when you are in safe areas and need to gain a little extra time on your watch. You may also opt to jog if you are crossing an area of high traffic, such as a main road.


Only sprint when you are being chased or are in danger of being seen by a vehicle. Otherwise, the noise and the movement will draw all sorts of attention to you.

Crawl - Hands and Knees

Crawl on your hands and knees when you need to keep a low profile, yet retain decent speed. Be aware that doing this will often leave marks on soft ground

Crawl - Elbows and Legs

Gives you a lower profile, but slows you down. To do this, lay down in the prone position, and push yourself forward using your elbows and your feet.

Crawl - Prone

Lowest and slowest. Lay flat on the ground and slowly inch forward using your legs and forearms. Necessary only when traveling under objects or behind grass.

Bent Ankle Walk

When crossing snow, you need to try to fool any potential investigators as much as possible. To do so, one idea is to bend your feet inwards and walk on the outsides of your ankles. Doing so leaves only lines in the snow as opposed to actual prints. Also good for loose dirt. Remember that a footprint draws attention, but a few lines will not, so try not to create a trail while doing this.

No matter how you walk, you should always try to follow some basic rules, such as what type of ground you walk on. Try to stay on grass, asphalt, and other ground that is quiet. Silence is of the highest importance, with softness coming next. Soft ground retains prints. Stay out of gravel, snow, and loose dirt whenever possible. Also keep an eye out for twigs, dry leaves, and dog shit. Annoying, for obvious reasons.

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