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Blackline Isn't for Everyone

[Note - This blog post was migrated from our previous website. Originally posted September 16, 2016]

This post comes from a participant at our first event.


Writing an AAR from an observers position never captures the full experience. To do that, we present an impressively detailed AAR from the point of view of CROWN 01 // GRANITE 2-1.

1800 09 SEPT 2016 - ARRIVAL

The operatives of team SENTINEL arrived at the safe house at staggered times to avoid attracting attention. Their mission was to begin with the expected arrival of an enemy BLACKBIRD agent into the country via the airport. The agent would be allowed to enter without scrutiny in order to not alert his suspicions and allow his movements to be followed for intelligence purposes. Initial surveillance of the enemy agent was conducted by another agency that kept the team updated via SENTINEL 6.

Figure 1 – SENTINEL safehouse briefing room

Once all members of the team had assembled, initial planning began. An orientation briefing was held by SENTINEL 6, weapons checked, equipment was prepared and routine established. SENTINEL was housed on site in the safe house in a large room adjacent to the briefing room.

Figure 2 – SENTINEL safehouse accommodations

0730h 10 SEPT 2016 – MOUSETRAP

The enemy agent "ALPHA" eluded an initial surveillance team. Five operatives from the safe house were tasked with reacquiring the agent to gain intelligence on any meetings or communications he made. SIGINT and previous movements of ALPHA suggested he would be present in the nearby town of Picton. SENTINEL provided a general mission outline to the team but the operatives were expected to plan the mission as a collaborative effort, relying on their experience and combined knowledge.

Late in the morning, the operatives moved into the town to begin surveillance operations. CROWN was a foot mobile two man team, one with DSLR and telephoto lens; JAMESON was a foot mobile two man team; and DANIELS was a vehicle borne one man element, equipped with DSLR and telephoto lens.

The team infiltrated the area and began a grid search for ALPHA while gauging the atmospherics and attempting to blend with the local population. The team was conscious of the potential for other enemy agents (callsigns BRAVO) and made efforts to conduct counter-surveillance. The population was close knit and generally suspicious of outsiders; therefore for the sake of the mission, extreme caution was exercised. The operatives would go into town unarmed in order to avoid being identified due to their weapons; ALPHA had arrived in the AO unarmed via the airport and the team had no reason to provoke a confrontation.

DANIELS took up a static position as overwatch on a park suspected as a possible meeting site for ALPHA and BRAVO agents. CROWN and JAMESON separated the town into predetermined sectors and conducted foot searches.

SIGNIT provided direction finding intelligence that ALPHA was suspected to be in the SW corner of the area. JAMESON 01 had gone static to keep overwatch on a major intersection and quickly identified ALPHA crossing Main Street northbound into a coffee shop. All units coordinated and converged on the area to keep eyes on ALPHA and be prepared to continue mobile surveillance. JAMESON 02 took ALPHA under surveillance, reported on his movements and confirmed that he was sitting alone inside.

CROWN 01 spotted ALPHA coming out of the coffee shop headed eastwards. ALPHA's movements could not be predicted and he was seen entering a department store. CROWN 01 and JAMESON 01 conducted walkthroughs of the store to confirm ALPHA's presence but left to avoid arousing suspicion. ALPHA was very aware and conducting counter surveillance. CROWN 02 was able to get photographs of ALPHA as he exited the store.

Figure 3 – ALPHA observed leaving department store

ALPHA continued an irregular eastwards path through town and was eventually lost in a maze of parking lots and alleys. CROWN 02 witnessed ALPHA leave an alley wearing different clothing than he had been wearing minutes prior. It was obvious that ALPHA was skilled in surveillance tradecraft and SENTINEL believed that ALPHA was preparing to meet with or communicate with BRAVO(s) directly or using a dead drop.

Figure 4 – ALPHA after clothing change

CROWN 01 regained sight of ALPHA who moved southwest and was eventually observed by CROWN 02 in the park. ALPHA was acting suspicious and dropped a coffee cup which he recovered and continued out of the area. CROWN 02 investigated the area and recorded what appeared to be possible code left by ALPHA. Elements took up positions to observe the suspected dead drop. Unfortunately ALPHA managed to elude further surveillance.

During this time the team began concerned with identity of BRAVO agents. Multiple suspected BRAVOs were identified. CROWN 01 observed and identified a possible BRAVO 02, the middle aged female had red hair, an orange tank top and resembled a known associate of ALPHA. Furthermore, BRAVO 02 was carrying a shopping bag from the same department store ALPHA had visited 30 minutes before. BRAVO 02 entered a store on Main Street. CROWN 01 positioned himself on Main Street at an intersection adjacent to the park and store in order to observe the area and use reflections in order to avoid being detected.

While waiting to observe BRAVO 02's actions, CROWN 01 observed and identified BRAVO 03 walk by heading east towards the store which BRAVO 02 had entered. BRAVO 03 was a known associate of ALPHA. CROWN 01 crossed to the opposite side of the street from BRAVO 03 and maintained visual contact. The agent headed eastwards but continued past the store and did not make contact with BRAVO 02. Eventually BRAVO 03 headed southwest towards the park.

Figure 5 – BRAVO 03 enroute to park

CROWN 02 and DANIELS were still stationed around the park. BRAVO 03 entered the park and passed through the area of the suspected dead drop without stopping. The team realized that they had been fooled by ALPHA conducting a false dead drop drill to disguise the real one. CROWN 02 was able to gain valuable Intel by capturing images of the vehicle which picked up BRAVO 03 and left the AO.

All elements linked up within their respective teams and moved to their extraction points. The teams returned to the safe house at staggered intervals and ensured that they were not being followed. All SENTINEL elements met in the briefing room for a full debrief. The team stood down and everyone made sure they got food, water and prepared for further developments.

1600h 10 SEPT 2016 – WATCHTOWER

At approximately 1600, the team converged on the briefing room. SENTINEL 6 was ready with orders for the next phase of the operation.

The enemy vehicle which extracted BRAVO 03 had been tracked to a suspected BLACKBIRD safe house. The safe house was an old ranch, 17 KM north of Picton with about 200 acres of rural land surrounding a collection of trailers (CALCITE) which had been converted into accommodations.

Figure 6 – Aerial photography of AO for OP WATCHTOWER

SIGINT reported that transmissions had been recorded, emanating from the location. The signals were believed to be from a satellite communications device code named PINE. The mission objectives were to confirm the existence and location of the device, photograph any BLACKBIRD personnel in the vicinity (CEDAR XX) and plan for an assault on the compound.

A SENTINEL team of 4 was assigned the mission under the call sign GRANITE. GRANITE was split up into two elements: point element (GRANITE 2) consisting of ATL and imagery specialist, and the command element (GRANITE 1) consisting of TL and rifleman.

GRANITE would move together as a team upon insertion and move to an Objective Rally Point short of CALCITE. At the ORP, the team would split into sub elements with GRANITE 1 moving east in order to observe the target with long range optics while GRANITE 2 would use dense cover west of the target to move in for a close target recce. GRANITE conducted weapons and comms check, and prepared their kit for a woodland recce and possible assault.

Figure 7 – Element GRANITE prior to insertion

GRANITE would move covertly to the area in a typical unmarked civilian van so as not to arouse suspicion to possible BLACKBIRD surveillance of the area. The insertion point was an access gate into the property about 600m west of the objective.

At 1700, GRANITE boarded the van and moved towards the objective. The move to the insertion point took 20 minutes. GRANITE inserted when SENTINEL 6 deemed the area to be free of observation. Upon leaving the vehicle, GRANITE took cover among the low scrubs and cedar trees which made up much of the foliage on the flat terrain. GRANITE observed the area, made final gear checks and ensured there was no ambush waiting at the insertion point. GRANITE 2 took point and began a slow and cautious move westwards towards the target zone. GRANITE 1 observed human tracks which were suspected to be from enemy patrols. Listening halts and map checks were conducted to make sure the right course was taken. After about 40 minutes, GRANITE reached the ORP.