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Forward Observer The ICS System and FREEFOR: Part 2

Discussion in '3 Percent' started by melbo, Mar 7, 2015.

  1. melbo

    melbo Hunter Gatherer Administrator Founding Member

    << This is Part 2 of an article series. To read Part 1, go HERE. >>


    So now that we know what the Incident Command System (ICS) is and what it does, how do we make it work? Well, that’s the tough part for FREEFOR (US Freedom Forces).

    As we saw in the past article, the ICS system requires that groups tailor their training, organization and resources to align with the system. Groups adopting the system are signed off by federal agencies as being in compliance with NIMS (National Incident Management System) and the ICS. FREEFOR does not have a “daddy” to sign off on its efforts nor does it want one. So how do we get various groups to adopt the system? It’s actually rather simple. We just ask. I am a firm believer in lead by example. If it can be demonstrated that the system works and that adopting it is an advantage, then I believe groups will do it.

    In order to be a part of the response to an incident your group will be required to demonstrate its ability to function within the FREEFOR ICS system, period. If you group cannot or will not demonstrate this then they will be shut out of the response. Your group will be functioning on its own and will be on the outside looking in. This may seem like a tall order but the reality is that success has a way of convincing people. Let’s set up a fictional scenario and I will demonstrate what I mean.

    Old Man Dundy has a ranch in Oklahoma. His problem is that he has been at what amounts to a cold war with a group of Federal agencies attempting to seize control of a vast portion of his ranch in the name of protecting the gray speckled titmouse. That cold war has now turned hot. Old Man Dundy has exhausted all of his administrative appeals within the agencies and they are now moving to establish control of his property. While his lawyers begin to execute a holding action in the court system he has gone public with his plight and asked for assistance. This is where FREEFOR responds.

    Steve is a trained FREEFOR IC (Incident Commander) in Oklahoma. He puts in a call to his command staff and asks them if they are capable of responding to Old Man Dundy. All are in agreement that this is a key incident and that FREEFOR should respond. Steve has his Operations Section Chief begin to reach out to various Citizen Protection Groups, MAG’s and Constitutional Militias within the state. All of the contacted groups advise that they can respond if the incident escalates. Now that Steve has some assurance that he can field a team, he reaches out to Old Man Dundy and his family.

    Advising Old Man Dundy that he will arrive on site and bring a professional team with him to provide security, leadership and a very precise controlled public relations effort, Steve convinces Old Man Dundy that he is the man for the job. Steve puts together a quick mobilization order and contacts his team to move. Within 12 hours the command staff and a small armed security element have converged onsite at the Dundy ranch. The movement was done at night in two vehicle convoys that converged from different routes. This staff is very close to Steve and all are trusted to fill the roles that they are assigned. They represent the 6 basic elements of the ICS command staff and if the incident grows they will augment their sections with appropriate team members. In addition to the command staff, a security team of 5 men and a public relations officer accompany the group.

    Very quickly the teams go to work establishing a command post. The Logistics section chief sets up communications equipment, then sets about getting everyone quartered and establishing a meal plan. The team typically brings with it supplies to provide 72 hours of food water and power.

    The Intel section chief begins to gather information from open sources and pours over the facts of the case with the family. The maps of the ranch are printed and posted into the area set aside for the Planning and Intel section. Weather reports are pulled for the next week and as much information is pulled in on the agencies that is available.

    The Planning section chief checks the information produced by Intel and working with the IC develops a very preliminary IAP (Incident Action Plan) for the following 12 hour operational period.

    Steve and his PIO (Public Information Officer) sit with the Dundy family. They talk extensively about the case and the various legal options the family has and is pursuing, They, along with the family, determine that the best course of action is to hold off the government seizure by bringing as much public attention to the incident as possible and to stage daily small protests and larger weekend protests at the location of the agency command post. The ranch itself will be patrolled by armed security teams and access to it will be strictly limited to vetted persons only. Each day the PIO will conduct a media briefing at 12 noon and provide an update as the incident gains attention. The PIO will also release videos and blog posts prepared by the PIO and their staff that show the family in the most compassionate terms. The family will be shielded directly from the media and all media interviews will be conducted by the PIO or the family lawyer.

    The Operations section and Finance section begin to work on putting this plan into action. The ranch is large and will require many teams to provide full time security patrols. The Operations section chief puts out a call directly to his trusted groups to provide teams. They are asked to muster within the next 12 hour operational period. They will self-supply for 72 hours. Based off of the projected numbers the Finance and Logistic section produce a list of critical supplies and a cost assessment. They request that the PIO in her initial statements ask that donations to the effort consist of specific supplies and or cash / prepaid check cards.

    The following morning the, PIO goes public with the statement that the family will resist the efforts of the government agencies by force if necessary. She announces the location of the agency command post and that daily protests are planned. The following Saturday a large armed protest will be planned as well. Protestors are asked to stay off the ranch and within the confines of the protest site. Within hours the first armed militias show up at the ranch asking to be let in. If these groups have worked with Steve and his crew in the past or have been requested to arrive they are allowed in. If not they are directed to the protest site.

    The Operations Section Chief goes to the protest site directly and questions the arriving groups and individuals. Anyone who can demonstrate that they have the required FREEFOR certifications is assigned a role and allowed into the ranch. They are put into the personnel lists for supply purposes. They will be supplied water and after 72 hours they will be supplied food as it’s available from the donated supplies. They are given access to field sanitation and hygiene services. They are given access to communications systems to update their families. Anyone who decides that they are no longer willing to participate is removed from the supply rolls and is no longer given access to this support, and then they are escorted off the property. As you can see the ability to provide logistical support is critical and pays dividends well beyond the obvious. Having access to a logistical train has a way of deflating egos. It could even be established that to participate a team would need to supply not only themselves for 72 hours but bring in an additional 72 hours supply of another key component.

    The responding militia teams are group together by the Operations Section Chief. Working with each of the team leaders they establish a patrol schedule and duty roster. Individuals who respond and are accepted into the Ops section are assigned duties based on their qualifications. They may be assigned to complete teams as medics or communications operators. They may be asked to work the command post in a staff position. It is also possible that they will be grouped together as a team and assigned a fixed position to man – this frees up the well drilled teams to work foot patrols. This is all at the discretion of the Operations Section Chief and his staff.


    So that is the opening phase of a fictional deployment. It looks good on paper but we know it will face hurdles and challenges. There are elements of this process that were glossed over in the above example. I did not address HOW to do the tasks and functions of the various positions. I did not address how to handle a team hell bent on disrupting the situation. Those are things that people will need to deal with on a situational basis. The ICS system is not a solution for all problems. The proposed benefit is that it provides a framework to work with. A team that knows its role that can arrive on site quickly to provide command and control should be of obvious value. The key factor to make it work is not the guidelines it provides, the key factor is that the people working under it buy into the organization and its benefits. There are some things that can be done to make that buy-in happen. It goes back to the common aspects that groups adopt to align with the ICS. Common terminology, common skill-sets and common training /exercises.

    How does FREEFOR migrate to a common terminology? I think this is the simplest task to accomplish. Most of us are willing to adopt military procedures and formatting. The publishing of radio SOI’s like the AMMRON document goes a good way in making this common terminology stick. Adopting the terms used in ICS are another part of the pie. There may be some areas that will need to be addressed as the FREEFOR trained teams begin to exercise.

    So how does FREEFOR determine skills and abilities? Well this has been done for years by various technical vendors and associations through certifications. I don’t see any reason to reinvent the wheel. All levels of training for the various roles and responsibilities can be established with a certification system. You would begin at a novice level and advance to senior level. Then you would be rated as a Skill Evaluator. As an SE you would be allowed to certify others in that specific skill. The certifications will need to be something unique and difficult to forge. This is where we get into the paranoia of FREEFOR.

    No one wants to be on a list or in some database that would connect actual identity with information but what is needed is something that amounts to a FREEFOR DD214. I believe that something could be established using encrypted public keys. For example, a database contains a small amount of information that details all of the training that an individual has attended and completed. That information, rather than being tied to a name is tied to a public encryption key. At an incident the individual would produce their private key and decode the training log. The key could be on a thumb drive or something similar. There is always the risk that someone will produce copied information or false records but I think there is no way to prevent this from occurring with 100% effectiveness.

    That takes care of the records portion but how do we assure that the skills are trained effectively and to a specific level? The key here is to establish the essential task lists and to require continued recertification. Getting through the training one time is not enough. I would also require that the recertification could not be from the same Skill Evaluator. Having to continue to build skills and ingrain them into memory sharpens the ability of the team member to perform their duties.

    The best way to ingrain skills is to train and exercise. Coming together to exercise in a common environment puts people face to face where trust develops. Working with another individual or team on multiple exercises will assure you that when the time comes for an actual incident that team or individual will know how to perform. Having regional and state level exercises and training days allows anyone wishing to respond the opportunity to build and demonstrate skills. This can’t be done by people wishing to make money. I am all for the business aspects of any endeavor but when it comes to these things too many are already looking for an excuse to NOT respond. Putting a price tag on an exercise or training day is a sure fire way to run off the people who most need the training.

    So let’s recap here. The Incident Command System is a perfect tool to utilize as a framework for incident response. It is a command and control system that is built to bring together diverse teams at a lower level and provides them with a common element that unifies them at an operational level. The ICS system is not perfect, nor is it the complete answer, but it is an out of the box method that when accepted and adopted by groups will accelerate the ability of that group to work with others in their area. Groups that accept the common terminology, common skillsets and participate in common training and exercise will see the benefit of the ICS system.

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