They say that the US Army has a manual for everything. Though that is usually a derrogatory statement, for the most part it is quite true (yes, even the rumor that the Army has a manual for the proper approved method of having sex with your spouse).
However, the Army does put out some of the best manuals in the world, and inspired many others.
What follows is a short list of very excellent and important books based on US Army field manuals that outline the basic and intermediate tactics of a field soldier. Some of these books are written with the civillian reader in mind, and some are direct from the DoD, and may contain lingo and concepts that may be a little harder to grasp for the inexperienced operator.
Light Infantry Tactics for Small Teams: I found this book recently at the Kitsap Regional Library, and picked it up. It is an excellently written manual of basic infantry tactics, leadership procedures, and battle drills. Written by vets for a civillian reader, it is very easy to read, and explains concepts as they are introduced, and provides plenty of graphics for ease of understanding (something that DoD publications frequently fall short on). This book starts small and progresses along a logical path to more complicated drills for teams numbering from 2-40. Most of the tactics are straight out of US Army infantry training, and a definite US bias is detectable in the recommended makeup of squads and teams, leadership concepts, and radio lingo. Additionaly, the book also covers the basics of radio communications and land navigation/map reading. The leadership section covers the basics of troop leading procedures, warning and operations order writing, pre combat inspections, and contingency plans, presented in concise and step by step formats that are much easier to grasp than those in the Ranger Handbook (see below).
Overall, I highly recommend this book for any civillian airsofter that wants to get a better grasp of teamwork and military tactics, as well as leaders of military simulation units that need a quick and effective way to learn the basics of planning and organization.
Combat Leaders’ Field Guide: A nearly direct translation from DoD literature, this book condenses material from several publications into a small digest that most any unit leader can find useful. Though the format can be somewhat hard to navigate, and I feel the book is organized in an illogical manner, it does contain a wealth of information worth digging for. Most of the material covered is the same as I got in US Army Primary Leadership Development Course (the first rung of Army NCO schools), and is effectively everything a basic infantry Sergeant needs to know about field leadership (the parts about soldier development and career counseling would bore an accountant to suicide).
The language and concepts are somewhat more proprietary, and might require some translation for an unindoctrinated civillian. The book assumes you already know many basic Army acronyms, and grasp general concepts of leadership and tactics.
US Army Ranger Handbook: This here is the real deal, the exact same as the manual we all had to carry through Ranger School, and always had on our person in Ranger Battallion. This manual is referenced nearly as often as Musashi’s Book of Five Rings, or Sun Tzu’s Art of War. And for good reason too. This is one of the most densely packed sources of information in the basics of leadership and field operations ever produced. Within its pages you will find everything from how to build a field expedient booby trap with your MRE spoon, to a complete step by step guide to writing an operations order for an entire division strike force.
Additional useful nuggets include: How to handle enemy prisoners of war, how to behave and survive capture by the enemy yourself, how to treat a variety of common battlefield injuries (and how to properly move them to a medevac unit so that the medics know what is wrong with them, where they came from, and what treatments have already been administered), how to employ claymores and other battlefield demolitions including booby traps, how to conduct an ambush and raid, how to assume command when a leader is taken out of the fight, and how to read a map and orient yourself to the terrain.
Please note that this is a full military manual, and is issued to experienced soldiers attending the US Army’s premier field leadership course. It is assumed that the reader is fully indoctrinated in military lingo and concepts, and does not lead you progressively or even logically along a learing path. Think of it like a church hymnal. The pastor tells you which page to turn to, and that the lesson of the day regardless of what comes before or after it in the book. Therefore, it is recommended that unless you are a properly indoctrinated individual that you pick up the previously noted manuals and get a good solid grasp on the basics before you crack this book. Don’t bother trying to read it cover to cover, but read each and every section thoroughly and commit as much as possible to memory. And, the most important thing you can learn from this manual is the Ranger Creed, a guideline for the duties and expectations of every Ranger, which has become the basis for the Army’s current Army Values campaign.
US Army Special Forces Handbook (AKA the Little Black Book): Like the soldiers this manual is designed to educate, this manual is the best of the best, and the dirtiest of the dirty. In terms of unconventional warfare, special forces organization and tactical know how, this is the top of the heap. However, don’t expect any copy you can pick up off Amazon or Barnes and Noble to be complete or up to date. Even non-SF members of SOCOM can’t get their hands on the complete current version, and this manual is constantly updated and changed to match the fast pace of SF evolution. However, even an abridged and outdated copy has more useful information than most people can comprehend or commit to memory. Because so many variations are in circulation, I can’t even write an effective synopsis of what you will find inside. But, know that the information you do find will be well worth the cover price, bribe, or risk in obtaining it.
On the other hand, unless you really know your stuff, half this manual will go right over your head. This is definitely the advanced version, and will require quite a bit of studying to work your way up to.
Hopefully you have the motivation to go out and get yourself some good reaidng material now, just be careful to avoid the 99% hinky bullshit put out by people like Richard Marcinko, Steven Lonnsdale, and pretty much anything from Paladin Press. Most of these won’t teach you jack, and are just published to boost the egos and pocketbooks of the authors. If you have any doubts as to the validity of the material in a book you have, talk to someone in the know, and get the straight skinny.
My scope of reading material is necessarily limited to the military and more specifically US Army, I encourage others who are more experienced in the doctrines of other branches of the military, law enforcement, federal agencies, and private sector to contribute their selected reading lists as well. After all, we deserve the best of each and every member’s experience to improve our abilities to work and think like a team.