Airsoft – The Roles: Reconnaissance. You’re sitting in the depths of the shadows, everything is quiet around you. In front of you is No Man’s Land. You have no information, no communication, no eyes forward. Nothing. The rest of your unit sits about 15 meters behind you in a loose 360 degree hasty defense. “Recon Up.” With those two little words you have just won this little skirmish.
What is Airsoft Recon?
“RECON UP.” Something we often don’t hear on the field in airsoft. Not many Operations / Skirmishes have the means to utilize properly trained recon units. But your question is; What is “recon?”, and what type of training should they have? Reconnaissance units are tasked with providing the commander of a larger force of Marines with information about his operational area.
Their missions usually focus on specific information requirements which, due to their changing or unique nature, cannot be obtained by means other than putting a man on the ground to observe and report. Throughout combat history there have always been those who have gone before the main body, to locate and collect information on the enemy’s position, strength, weapons or armaments, uniform, and supply statuses. They earned the names of Pioneer, Scout, or Ranger. Later called Frogmen, and then Recon.
No matter the branch of service they all have recon units. Typically operating in small four to six man teams. But how does the recon unit conduct its mission?
Recon Operators Training
Recon operators in the real steel world have a variety of different roles and responsibilities, which can be translated to airsoft. The biggest thing for recon airsoft operators is how and when they are used. Recon operators are trained as basic rifleman with experience in weapons specific to a squad or fire team. What sets a recon member apart from a basic squad member? Mentality and training. Most airsoft operators already have good grasp on utilizing their weapon system, target acquisition, noise discipline, and movement; the basics of field craft. But this still doesn’t answer what recon is supposed to do! Well, it’s simple. Watch and report. Recon are the intelligence gatherers for any infantry unit. They go in advance of any unit, moving with stealth and silence, reporting enemy movement and location.
How do they do that? A simple way is a S.A.L.U.T.E. report. Size, Area, Location, Unit, Time, Equipment. Broken down, it’s pretty simple.
Size – What’s the size of the unit faced?
Location – What’s your location, what’s the location of the enemy unit, and what is its relative location to any friendly units?
Unit – Can you identify the enemy unit; does it have any unit designators visible? If so, what unit is it?
Time – Time unit was located or seen relative to your position.
Equipment – What equipment is the unit carrying, what transportation is it using; uniform pattern, weapons, field gear, communications, gear, etc?
With this report you can send a complete picture back to your commander to the rear, and give them an excellent picture of what they are facing. Recon airsoft operators should carry a set of small bino’s and land navigation gear. Recon operators should have excellent understanding of land navigation, being specifically capable in terrain association methods.
Observation skills play a huge part of a recon operators tools. Being able to distinguish between camo types, hidden areas, trip wires, camouflaged objectives, hard points, and soft points will allow the recon operator a greater understanding and ability to increase the attack and survivability of the following friendly units. One thing to remember about being a recon operator is that your mission is to locate, watch, report and break away.
Contact is last resort and only hit and run. Most recon units are not armed nor carry enough ammo for a sustained combat action against any force larger then a fire team. They move with minimal gear to remain light and quiet. Most recon units move light and quiet, carrying what standard gear is available, and depending on the mission objective.
Standard Load-Out for most Recon Units are as follows:
Armor: Interceptor with Impact Plate. And Kevlar helmet for sustained combat / MOUT
Field Gear: MOLLE web system. Each mission will dictate the specific uniform or gear needed. Most field recon operators move in the field with web gear, soft cover, and weapons. Specifically, if they are trying to locate enemy positions. Recon operators are also able to carry Light Machine Gun systems. Typically the M249 SAW or M240. Regardless of being armed in such a manner, recon operators stick strictly to their rules of engagement.
They are not an attack force. Though capable of holding their own in most situations they are not often noted for openly engaging any force larger then a fire team outside of an ambush situation.
Duties and Responsibilities
The Recon Operator team is a small flexible force capable of moving in and out of enemy lines typically undetected. Recon Operators are trained to observe silently from a multitude of positions. To locate enemy emplacements, movements, location and possible movement towards friendly positions. Often recon operators can and will be given missions to acquire an enemy combatant, often called a prisoner snatch.
Airsoft recon operators should follow all rules referring to this on their field of play before conducting such an action, as well as clear this with the Game Host prior to play. In conjunction with prisoner snatches, they are also utilized to acquire intelligence material, and conduct POW rescues. Recon can be utilized in an excellent ambush capabilities. Often being able to set up highly effective ambush situations against larger enemy forces well in advance of friendly lines. Also, recon can be utilized to disrupt enemy lines of communication and supply by conducting lighting guerilla strikes against positions, while also causing high morale drops in enemy forces.
How should Airsoft Recon Operators be Utilized?
First off, let them do what they know how to do. If you have a recon group capable of moving silently forward of your lines and gathering intel, let them do it. A good recon team can operate with little to no guidance and gather the best intelligence available. The biggest thing is utilize them and let them do what they need to do. If you have the ability to utilize recon in airsoft, send it in front of your units as well as to the flanks. Even to the rear. They should be capable of making contact with enemy units with out drawing attention to themselves allowing you to have the information you and your team needs to survive.
If you’re in need of advance information or finding a location, send out a recon team with specific instructions to locate that position. Often times a small four man recon team will be able to find the information easier then a recon force of your whole team. Utilizing recon teams in an airsoft skirmish or operation not only adds a huge amount of realistic ability to the mil-sim situation, but also shows you’re a capable and competent commander. It allows those airsoft operators who are able to act recon, something to do other then just act as an infantry line operator. Over all, if you are a recon airsoft operator, practice your field craft and observation skills.
If you’re a field commander, use your recon teams! And use them properly. They will add a huge advantage to any skirmish or operation you attend, and increase your team’s survivability by 100%.
Rule of thumb with using Recon: If you have the time, use them. If you don’t, send them forward as you move your team forward. They are your eyes and ears. Don’t go in blind.
Keep it low and quiet and I’ll see you on the field.
Written by Lex
Airsoft Milsim Tactical Training Podcast
Many thanks to the Club deportivo airsoft Coyote Drive Chihuahua for the photo.