Find a Security Clearance Job!



Simple Marking Devices for Urban Operations
by Arthur A. Durante, Deputy Chief of Doctrine, U.S. Army Infantry School

Units have long identified the need to mark specific buildings and rooms during urban operations. Sometimes rooms need to be marked as having been cleared, or buildings need to be marked as containing friendly forces. The U.S. Army Infantry School is currently testing a remote marking device that can be used to mark doors from as far away as across a wide street.

In the past, units have tried several different field expedient marking devices, some with more success than others. Chalk has been the most common. It is light and easily obtained, but not as visible as other markings. Some other techniques have been to use spray paint and paint ball guns.

  • Canned spray paint is easily obtained. It comes in a wide assortment of colors, including flourescent shades that are highly visible in daylight. It is not removable once used. However, spray cans of paint are bulky and hard to carry with other combat equipment. Paint is not visible during darkness nor does it show up well through thermal sights.

  • Commercial paint ball guns have been purchased by some units and issued to small unit leaders. Some models can be carried in standard military holsters. They can mark a building or a door from about 30 meters. However, the ammunition and propellant gas is not easily obtainable. The ammunition is fragile and often jams the gun if it gets wet. The available colors are not very bright and just like spray paint, cannot be seen at night or through thermal sights.

Units in Germany have developed a simple, effective, easy to make, lightweight device, dubbed a "Wolf Tail," to mark buildings, doorways, and windows. One unit has changed its tactical standing operating procedures (TSOP) to require that each infantryman carry one of these devices in his BDU cargo pocket. Wolf Tails, when used in accordance with a simple signaling plan understood by all members of the unit, can aid in command and control, reduce the chances of fratricide, and speed up casualty collection during urban combat.

The Wolf Tail marking device is simple to make and versatile. Rolled up, it makes a small, easily accessible package that can be carried in the cargo pocket of BDUs. It can be recovered easily and used again if the situation changes. All its components can be obtained easily through unit supply. It combines a variety of visual signals (colored strapping and one or more chemlites of varying colors) with a distinctive heat signature that is easily identified through a thermal weapon sight. An infrared chemlite can be used either as a substitute for the colored chemlite(s) or in addition to the chemlite.

Constructing the Wolf Tail marking device requires the following material:

  • A 2-foot length of nylon strap (the type used for cargo tie-down)
  • Approximately five feet of 550 cord
  • A small weight such as a bolt or similar object
  • Duct tape
  • Chemlites (colored and/or IR)
  • Two 9-volt batteries

Assemble the items by tying or taping the cord to the small weight. Attach the other end of the cord to the nylon strapping, securing it with duct tape. Attach the 9-volt batteries in pairs to the lower end of the strapping with several wraps of duct tape, making sure that the negative terminals are opposite the positive, but not actually touching. Use more duct tape to attach the chemlites, approximately two inches above the batteries, to the strapping (see Figure 1).

When you want to mark your position, push the batteries together firmly until the male and female plugs lock. This shorts out the battery, causing it to heat up rapidly. The hot battery is easily identified through the thermal sights of tanks or BFVs. The batteries will remain visible for about 45 minutes. Activating the chemlites provides an easily identified light source visible to the naked eye. You can use infrared chemlites if you want them to be seen through night-vision devices.

Figure 1

Use the cord and the small weight to hold the Wolf Tail in position by tying or draping it out a window or hanging it on a door, wherever it is best seen by other friendly troops. Squads or platoons can vary the numbers and colors of chemlites, or use multiple battery sets to identify precisely what unit is in which building. Medics and combat lifesavers can carry a standardized variation that can be used to clearly identify a building containing wounded personnel needing evacuation.

btn_tabl.gif 1.21 K
btn_prev.gif 1.18 KAppendix E: Task Summary Sheet
btn_next.gif 1.18 KAppendix G: The Battle for Grozny and the Battle for Shugart-Gordon: Similarities and Differences

Join the mailing list