Camouflage is anything you use to keep yourself, your equipment and position
from looking like what they are. Personal camouflage has certain simple rules
that will defeat the most obvious sensor on the battlefield; the human eye.
Shape. Your helmet, load bearing web equipment, rifle and other gear have a
clear, often square shape, and there are no squares in nature. Break up straight
lines with strips of burlap, camo cloth or netting in shades of brown and green.
Elastic bands can be sewn to your uniform or equipment straps to facilitate
adding camo strips or vegetation. Camo materials should not be attached to your
rifle in areas where they may slip and interfere with your firm grip or the
mechanical operation of the weapon. It is better to cover the weapon with paint
or camouflage tape.
Shine. Most modern military equipment uses plastic or subdued painted metal
fasteners and buckles. If the paint has worn off or you are using commercial
equipment with shiny buckles, these need to be covered with paint or tape. Other
shiny surfaces that can reflect light include binoculars, compasses, watch
crystals, plastic map covers and eyeglasses. Little can be done about eyeglasses
other than using headgear with a low brim or mosquito netting, but other shiny
equipment should be stowed away when not needed and used with caution. Shine
also includes skin, even at night when it will reflect moonlight and flares.
Silhouette. Similar in many respects to shape, silhouette includes the
outline of the human form and the equipment it is carrying. The shape of the
head and shoulders of a man are unmistakable and a bare helmet attracts
attention. The use of local vegetation as garnishing helps break up your
silhouette. Thick handfuls of grass tucked into your shoulder straps are
especially useful in breaking up the distinctive "head and shoulders" shape of
the human figure and vegetation added to a helmet breaks the smooth curve of the
top and the line of the brim. Take care not to overdo adding local vegetation.
You shouldn't need a machete to hack a path through your camouflage to get at
your ammo pouch or other necessary equipment. Also, a large bush or tree is sure
to attract attention when it starts to move. Silhouette also includes field
craft. However well camouflaged you may be, it is little help if you "sky line"
yourself by walking along the top of a hill or ridge line, or if you stand
against a background of one solid color.
Smell. Even the most urbanized man will develop a good sense of smell after a
few days in the open. He will be able to detect engine smells, cooking, body
odors and washing. Some smells are hard to minimize. Soaps should be scent-free
and activities such as cooking should be confined to daylight hours when other
smells are stronger and the air warmer. Rubbish from cooking should be carried
away from your operational area and buried only as a second choice. Buried
objects are often dug up by animals and can give a good indication of the
strength and composition of your patrol or unit as well as its morale. The
discipline of refuse removal is important.
Sound. You can make a lot of noise while out on patrol. Your boots can
squeak. Your cleaning kit or magazines can rattle in your ammo pouches. Heavy
pack frames can creak. Fittings on your weapon can rattle. Radios can have
background noise. Coughing and talking can carry for long distances, especially
at night. You must become familiar with a silent routine in which hand signals
replace the spoken word and conversations are conducted in a whisper. Proper
stowage of your gear, taping of slings and other noisy equipment and a final
shakedown before a patrol moves out will reduce noise. If digging a position,
place sentries far enough out that they will spot an enemy before he hears the
sound of digging.
Color. Though most modern combat uniforms are in a disruptive pattern
camouflage, there may be times when this is less helpful. The trouble with camo
clothing is that in the wrong environment, like cities, it stands out and says
"Hey, look at me!" If fighting in built-up areas, a pattern of greys, browns and
dull reds would be more useful than the typical woodland BDU pattern. Natural
vegetation used to garnish helmets and equipment will fade and change color.
Leaves will dry and curl up exposing pale under surfaces. You may have put dark
green ferns and leaves into your helmet band while in the woods and then find
yourself moving through an area of pale open grassland. Check and change your
camouflage regularly. The most obvious color that needs camouflaging is that of
human skin, and for that you need G.I. camo stick or, preferably, a commercial
camo cream. G.I. camo sticks are issued in loam and light green for use in areas
with green vegetation. A sand and light green stick is used in areas lacking
green vegetation. A loam and white stick is for use in snow covered terrain. If
camo sticks or creme are not available use burnt cork, bark or charcoal for the
dark color and mud for the light color. Dark colors are used to reduce the
highlights formed by the nose, cheek bones, chin, ears and forehead. Lighter
colors are used in areas of shadow under the eyes, nose and chin. When applying
camo to your face it is useful to work with a buddy and help each other. G.I.
camo sticks are rough on the skin and difficult to apply. A few drops of baby
oil, skin lotion or insect repellent rubbed on the skin first will make it much
easier to apply. Skin camo needs to be periodically touched-up as you move and
sweat. A simple pattern for the face is to apply a light color first to the
entire face and then add dark diagonal stripes. The diagonals cut though and
break up the horizontal and vertical lines of the eyes nose and mouth.
Good camouflage is almost as important as good marksmanship. A well
camouflaged man who is a poor shot will probably survive longer than the poorly
concealed expert sniper.