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Camouflage and concealment – hiding in plain sight

Our North-West Team Instructor, Sgt Bowen, shares how camouflage and concealment encourages creative freedom and helps to stimulate the imagination, as we follow the progress of pupils from Palace Fields Primary School.

Blending In

Hide and seek was a game I used to play with my siblings for hours, it was great fun! Finding a spot to hide in and trying so hard to stay completely still was always a challenge. The more I tried, the more likely I was to give away my position, usually through giggling, not really having the self-discipline to control myself. I used to think I was really good at this game but soon realised my parents were the BETTER game players – in leaving me hiding under the stairs or in the wardrobe they gained a quick tea break and 10 mins of peace and quiet.

Today, in a camouflage and concealment session, we were out in the open woodlands of Wigg Island. The mini-troopers didn’t have access to the typical objects found at home to hide behind, instead they had to use the natural setting, open fields and trees left bare by winter. Our first goal was to teach them how not to be seen.

As a group, we looked around us and discussed how we could use nature to help us blend in, we talked about our surroundings and the natural concealment they might provide; how could we blend in, considering SHAPE, SHINE, SILHOUETTE, SOUND and SHADOW? How might we change the shape of our bodies? How do we move during the day and how should we change this at night?

Then the mini-troopers took a few moments to THINK of ideas and ways they could camouflage themselves using what they could see, considering what they have on them that would need to be covered; clothes, faces, heads and not forgetting their feet. With no restrictions on creativity, I asked them to talk about their ideas, building their communication and verbal presenting skills. During this discussion time, ideas were fleshed out, it was almost like story-telling. We identified problems and worked on solutions, using their creative and innovation skills.

Having shared our thoughts, we now put them into practice. In a teambuilding exercise, the mini-troopers were paired off, to camouflage themselves and each other. Observing from the side, we watched, fascinated, as their creativity came to life as they applied mud to their faces, placed fallen leaves onto their bodies, and twigs and bushes all over their clothing. We watched as your children literally disappeared in front of us.

working in teams

Everyone now “cammed” up, time for the test – one team had to hide, the others had to spot. If found, the mini-trooper had to stand up. At the end of the exercise, we discussed what might have given their locations away and worked on suggesting ways to make the camouflage more effective in the future.

CG said “Staying so still was really hard for me, it was cold but I knew if I moved, I might be seen”.

BP said “I wrapped myself around a tree and Sgt walked right past me, didn’t even see me, I really did blend in.”

Moving and communicating without making a sound

Now we had practiced camouflage, it was time to consider how to communicate and move without being seen or heard. Everybody worked on signals such as STOP, ON ME, GET DOWN, MOVE FORWARD; as the weeks progress we will be adding more hand signals for them to learn. In support of this, we have given hand-outs to each mini-trooper. Ask your child to demonstrate the signals they have been taught, perhaps even have a go yourself.

Oh, and if you see your child moving around on the floor, crawling and perhaps rolling, don’t worry – they haven’t just attacked the cookie jar, they may be practicing their movement. What you may be witnessing is your child trying out the ghost walk, monkey run or a leopard crawl. These are all ways to move in the field without being heard or seen – why not join in? Part of what they learned today was that moving slow and staying low are excellent ways to remain unseen.

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Preparing for the future

Today we explained that on Week 9 of the course we will be going out on a 24-hour residential and that the skills they are currently learning will all come together at that point. The mini-troopers will be tested in a series of activities put together by us which will include making their own living quarters, cooking their own food and participating in night exercises. I will be explaining more of this nearer the time.

Personally speaking, today has been another great day. It’s always fun to see what ideas the youngsters can come up with when taking part in camouflage and concealment. The creative freedom lets them explore their minds, giving us an insight into the workings of their imagination. It’s fascinating to watch as they bring it all to life.

The school teacher accompanying the mini-troopers said “JA and MA can be easily distracted in class, seeing them so focused was very impressive. SN has a fear of touching/feeling materials and items, so to see her get stuck into the stalk, getting in and amongst the dirt and pushing herself has really impressed me.” 

Next week, I will be talking to you about controlled aggression, as we move to Sports and Games Week.

If you would like more information on how our programmes support young people, please call us now or click here


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Posted: 25, January, 2016
by Sgt Bowen

Sgt Bowen is a Team Instructor in our North West Team. Formerly a Corporal in the Army Recruitment Team, after she had served for over ten years in the British Army Royal Corps of Transport where she was deployed to Germany, Northern Ireland, Kosovo, Iraq and the Falkland Islands. She is passionate about making a positive difference to the lives of the young people she works with.

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"Outdoor learning is giving them back their childhood wonder and curiosity at new things, allowing them to experience the marvel of discovery and the learning that comes from taking risks"

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