For a covert operator, placing multiple “caches” within the area of operation can mean the difference between escape and evasion or capture, torture and death.
So, what does a covert op mean by the term “cache”? Think of a cache as a small grouping of the most important items you may need to help you evade and survive in a worst-case scenario.
It is essentially equipment and gear, such as weapons, a trauma kit, a signaling mirror or beacon as well as any documents and monetary instruments, including cash, and jewelry or other items that you can barter for transportation, for more gear and even for your freedom.
For me a cache often consisted of a handgun, magazines and ammo, a small compass, a knife, paracord, a small trauma kit, a tactical flashlight, burner cell phones, restraints, documents in the event I had to cross borders, my urban carry kit for escape and evasion, local currency, disguise elements, some gloves, a change of clothing and a couple of nice watches that I could barter with.
Whether you are living in the United States, traveling, working abroad or living abroad, a cache gives you options and supplies for anything from civil unrest to spousal abuse, from natural disasters to violent criminals, to enemies foreign or domestic, including terrorists.
Additionally, you may be concerned the government is going to take away your inalienable rights such as the Second Amendment. In that case, you would want to prepare by caching some of your guns in a place where you could access them.
And what if you are in a high-risk profession such as intelligence; Special Ops, mercenary work or law enforcement? Then having a cache in one or more locations makes excellent pre-positioning sense in the event you need assistance in ex-filtration or evacuation.
For people who work for corporations with offices in high-risk countries, it’s smart to have a cache so if bad things happen you have a better chance to get away from trouble or even get out of the country.
How to store your cache
A cache can be stored in any number of ways, including PVC pipes, gear bags, metal cans or metallic bins. How you will store and conceal your cache will depend on where you hide it, what kind of environment you hide it in, and how long you plan to hide it.
|Your cache should include a good tactical flashlight.|
For example, on a number of occasions, we buried our cache in heavy-duty three-mil plastic under the ground in the jungle. It is important to note that you cannot cache your gear and equipment without properly addressing the elements that can get to them and break them down.
The elements I am referring to are things like water and moisture contamination, rust, and foraging animals or humans, especially if you intend to leave the cache unwatched for any length of time.
What I recommend is clear plastic such as three-mil-thick Mylar bags, which are often used for food storage. Let’s say you want to cache something that was made of metal or steel for an extended period and that you wanted it to remain intact and functional, then you might want to add silica gel to absorb moisture as you wrap it up tightly in plastic.
For us in the jungles, we did not have many of the things available in a more urban environment so we used uncooked rice to cache weapons, which works fantastically to absorb moisture.
If you are considering a cache for “just-in-case” reasons and you are living in the United States, then you could secure a storage facility with 24-hour access and simply store your gear in it.
Things to consider are whether that storage unit should be nearby or in a town that is on the route you would take as you exit the area in an emergency.
Also, think about having multiple storage locations. This concept of a storage site is predicated on the fact that you would need the storage long-term and thus would pre-pay for the unit in cash.
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What about outside the borders of the United States?
Many of the same principles still apply when executing outside the United States.
For example, when we operated in urban settings in other countries, we either cached in a safe house or multiple safe houses or we had “paid” assets who held our cache, whether it was in an asset’s home, storage shed, or buried on or near the asset’s property, etc.
The point is we had multiple caches so that we had a backup for our contingency plan in the event an ex-filtration went very wrong or I was snatched up by an enemy and escaped.
Let’s consider a worst-case scenario for when you are traveling abroad. First, delete that “it won’t happen to me” mentality right now! We are planning for the worst, so if the worst does happen you will at least have some preparation.
Consider the following: Your company sends you abroad to scout out a new location or to give a presentation. Or you want to go elephant trekking in Thailand. And the unthinkable happens … you are kidnapped!
You manage to escape the initial grab, but the kidnappers are chasing you and you must evade capture. The enemy has resources. It’s likely they have done this before and thus know how to find you, especially because you are in their backyard.
You were smart, though and you planned to run. In multiple locations, you cached documents, local currency, pre-paid cell phones, clothing and any weapons you were able to obtain locally. Multiple locations provide backups in case anyone finds one or more caches.
|A knife can be both a weapon and a tool, so pack a good one.|
The question is, did you hide your caches in a way that the people hunting you won’t find them? What I mean by that is: Experienced people hunt in patterns. These patterns normally correspond to how they would set up security to deter, detect or disrupt and neutralize threats, and that is in layers or concentric rings.
Even a novice who searches for you in an urban environment could accidentally stumble upon your cache if it were not well concealed. But when you’re facing more seasoned hunters, they will most likely approach the search in concentric rings. And you had better have had the forethought to hide that cache outside the boundaries of that patterned search. This means that you must always plan to hide your cache outside of the typical search grid.
And if you’re using your cache to evade an enemy, you might want to sanitize all your gear of fingerprints, especially knives, firearms and ammunition.
Where can you hide your cache?
Some people write recommendations online about “where to and where not to cache.” And if you listen to them, it’s likely the people who would look for you have also seen these posts. That by itself should tell you not to do what those “online experts” tell you because their advice would lead anyone directly to your cache.
When you’re deciding where to put your cache, the first thing you should consider is whether you’re hiding it for the long term or just temporarily, say to aid you in an escape and evasion situation.
Some examples of potential places to hide your cache include:
Buried under the ground.
Trees (Either in them or under them. But you must be cautious because windstorms can uproot a tree or blow your cache away.)
The places or properties of either assets or friends.
(This is always risky because buildings can be torn down or destroyed.)
The ceilings of rooms within accessible buildings.
Within concealed spaces. These places can already exist as nooks and crannies in buildings or they can be specially built, such as a space behind a med icine cabinet or a false wall.
Within a hollowed-out item, such as a book
Places of worship.
Non-functioning or decoy pipes in homes or buildings.
Employ good OPSEC when identifying cache locations
When you recon various locations to hide your cache, make sure you are employing good Operational Security (OPSEC) tradecraft so that you are not being watched or followed.
Use surveillance-detection routes while going to any location. For this reason, it is not a good idea to hide your cache during your initial recon of a location.
|You can trade pricey watches for goods and services while on the run.|
Employing good tradecraft, make sure you went in “clean.” And if you feel that this would be a good location, then find an observation point, or “perch” if you will, that affords a view from a distance of that location.
Once you have a solid baseline for that area and the specific location and once you have determined that there is no surveillance on you or that spot, then you can go through the process once again with the objective of leaving your cache.
Critical cache essentials:
- Always document your cache locations.
- Mark or map the way with something that does not change or move. You can use a sign that would blend into the surroundings. For example, in an urban area, mark a stone with a small scratch. In a rural locale, reposition a rock. (Of course after you move the rock, make sure you cover the bared ground so it appears “natural” to the eye.)
- It is essential that the cache be located in an area that you can access without being captured or caught.
- The cache must be easily found, without an exhaustive search (Such a search, itself, could draw unwanted attention, depending upon the area of operations)
- Make sure that you are not being followed and no one observes where you put your cache.
- Protect your cache from the elements.
- Your cache must not give unauthorized persons any idea of who you are, where they can find you or who else might recover it. In other words, make sure everything is sanitized and sterile.
- Do not hide your cache near embassies for search reasons.
- Lastly, figure out why you are building and hiding a cache in the first place. This way, you have mentally prepared for all the potential scenarios that you could face. This helps you design a plan that is congruent with the potential threats.
What to do after you hide your cache?
After you hide your cache, you will need to sanitize your cache area.
For example, after we buried our cache in our jungle location, we would cover that area to match the ground around it and then sterilize our footprints to and from it.
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You should do the same thing whether the location is rural or urban. As you come and go, try to cover the area with whatever looks natural and normal.
Do not leave any candy wrappers, gum or anything behind that could potentially leave DNA or that could offer any evidence about your identity and when you might recover the cache.
Booby traps and decoys
In hostile territory when there is the potential to be facing a dangerous enemy, you could consider booby-trapping the immediate area to deter or dissuade the threat.
Also, decoys can certainly be positioned in an attempt to keep the enemy away from your actual cache. For example, a fake cash could lead searchers away from the real one. Just make the fake cache as believable as you can for the situation (taking into consideration “what” and “why” you are hiding the cache). All this should be thought out in advance.
As I said, the fake cache must be credible so it curtails any other efforts to search for your real cache. The decoy could also have a subtle but false clue about, for example, where you’re heading. Depending upon “who” is hunting you, the trick could provide at least a short period of relief for you to get a head start on them.
Short-term caches for escape and evasion
When planning for situations such as escape and evasion, you will most likely need to stay mobile and have multiple cache locations.
These locations must be readily accessible and identifiable because speed will often be critical when you need to recover the cache. Consider the directions you would be moving, and plan your caches along those routes – but certainly not in a linear fashion, that would be too easy to detect.
Be cautious when employing “cut-outs,” or people to hold your cache, whom you have not known for any length of time. These people could, either willingly or through coercion, identify you and/or set you up to be ambushed.
For escape and evasion, you will want to cache only what is necessary, such as local currency, weapons, disguises, clothing and your urban carry kit.
If you are on the move with your cache and the items are in a bag, make sure that bag blends into the local environment so you don’t draw unwanted attention to yourself.
On another note, I no longer will be doing this weekly column for Money and Markets. Instead, you can find me at: www.drjeffcantor.com, where I will continue my weekly security and tactical articles along with cool video tips on all sorts of related topics. A big thank you to all my friends at Weissinc.com for their unwavering support over the past year. And thank you all for your support and comments over the past year. I hope to see all of you at my new website!
Stay alert, check your six, put your back against the wall and stay safe!