Hand and Arm Signals in a Tactical Environment

About every other TV show and movie, we see the “I am watching you” hand signal. In fact, it has become so overused it has become rather juvenile in our current culture. While it may be overused in Hollywood, hand and arm signals are of paramount importance in the field and have a number of advantages.

One of the greatest advantages of using hand and arm signals is its independence from a sound. Hand and arm signals properly employed do not give your position and numbers away. During an engagement hand and arm signals cannot be drowned out by louder sounds, and are effective in directing small groups.

Hand and arm signals can also be used for greater speed and reliability. There are no batteries to check and replace, no intricate electronic components that can fail. The use of hand and arm signals in many instances is instinctual. There are few if any societies on earth who do not understand the hand signal for stop. Some non-verbal gestures may take practice until they become intuitive, but once learned they can in many instances communicate more information in less time that verbal orders.

Of course, there are some drawbacks to hand and arm signals. They are not best employed in no-light or lowlight time and places of operations. Team members must be well trained to acknowledge and pass on the command by repeating the gesture back. The proper use of hand and arm signals systems can give a small group a huge tactical advantage. The flipside of this is the very serious potential for things to go wrong if the use of hand and arm signals has not been well practiced, and thoroughly understood by all team members.

Today’s use of hand and arm signals needs to convey more information and do so quicker than ever before. Its use in a tactical environment is necessary and becoming widespread. Knowledge and use of hand and arm signals are now being used in the popular media, street gangs, organized crime and by other “bad actors”.

Today law enforcement and the military are under a microscope like never before. Thanks to a technological revolution communication are quicker and easier than ever before. We are now seeing law enforcement and military operating in urban areas more than ever before. Because of this group and team leaders should evaluate their use of hand and arm signals, which signals and gestures are worthwhile and which could be done away with.

Consideration should be given to operational security. How many actors in your area know or may know what your visual signal means. The last thing any team leader wants to happen is for somebody possibly an even third party, informing the world at large how you are deploying your team, and what your intentions are in real time. Not so long ago this sort of scenario was more the stuff of Hollywood and pulp fiction than a valid concern. Thanks to cell phones, not only do people commonly have the ability to capture photo and video, but they can stream it within seconds.

The training and use of visual signals for use in a tactical environment are absolutely essential. The constant evaluation of utility and security are of equal importance.

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

Robert Schwenk

Robert Schwenk

Robert Schwenk began a law enforcement career by joining the U.S.Army's Military police corps in 1982.Over the course of his career, Schwenk graduated from four separate police academies, two investigative courses and numerous certificate and training programs.Schwenk served as an armed officer, with arrest powers with five separate law enforcement agencies. In 2009 Schwenk retired from federal service due to a medical disability.Schwenk currently has interests writing, consulting, investigating and internet services and security.
Robert Schwenk

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