Scouting is likely one of the most under-rated jobs during a large water fight yet can play such a pivotal role in turning the tide of soakage from one side to the other. However, before we dive deeper into scouting, we should look first at the roles of the scout.
The primary purpose of scouting is to gather information on the opposition (i.e. location, armament, battle-ready status, etc) without being spotted and returning this information to those who need it. What many forget is that scouting ahead is useful for both the larger-scale operation as well as for the lone sniper who's looking for the best place to soak with impunity. Let us look more in detail at the scout's role.
The scout must be trained in being able to quickly identify key information in a scene quickly in order to assess any given situation. When presented with a scene, the scout should be able to extract information such as number of people, types of water blasters being used, presence of refill bottles and/or other munitions, general direction and mood of the group, etc. while not getting too bogged down with detail or passing along useless or erronous information.
To become a better scout, a good way of practicing one's sense of speed and accuracy of information gathering would be to look at still images of battle pictures and write out all the important aspects of a given image (For sample images if one doesn't have any, take a look at the V5 pictures in the War Journal section) in a short amount of time (time limit: 1 minute) with key information written before detailed information. Granted, still images and live scenes are different, but this exercise will help those train their eyes into looking at key elements of a scene.
Key information should be gathered quickly and, if time allows, more details can be given. In most cases, number of hostiles, general armament, location, and group disposition are some of the more vital information to pass along to one's teammates. Actual person identification, blaster recognition, water levels, refill capacity, etc. are not as vital to determine at first unless previously decided by one's leader that a particular specific is key.
Without Being Spotted:
Much simpler to say than it is to do, but remaining invisible to the opposition when scouting is vital to a scouting mission. If spotted during the approach, observation, or during departure, the opponents can opt either to respond and attack the scout or may opt to change their initial plans, making the scouting observations nearly useless. The following are some tips for improving one's chances for seeing without being seen or heard:
To do this effectively, one needs to be both comfortable stepping softly, avoiding surfaces that make noise when stepped upon, not wearing noise-producing clothing (i.e. avoid nylon jackets, jeans that rub, squeaky shoes), avoiding noise-producing items (i.e. silence tethered-caps in larger soakers, avoid carrying crackly plastic bottles, etc), and maintain controlled breathing.
There are three main ways to reduce one's profile. Firstly, avoid open areas with little cover. Preferred areas of travel will have at least some objects which one can hide behind or use to distort one's profile. The human eye is trained to look for human-like figures. If one's visual profile can be distorted, eyes are less likely to be able to see. Secondly, maintain a low profile. Standing or walking upright are typically not as effective as lower, crouched approaches. Thirdly, avoid solid/bright coloured clothing and equipment. Bright reds, yellows, and oranges are easier to spot than darker, cooler greens, greys, and browns. Of course, one needs to try and match one's clothing to the general environment: darks greens and browns for wilderness while beige and greys work better for urban.
The further one can be away from the enemy, the less likely one will be seen. The idea here is, if possible, to use reconnaisance aids such as a pair of binoculars or a small pocket telescope so that one can get a closer look at what is going on without the need to get closer. However, if using these devices on a sunny day, ensure that no direct sunlight is reflecting off the lenses as this can lead to light pulses that the enemy may observe. One tip to minimize the chance of light reflection is to have a dark sheet of cardboard or construction paper as a visor over the top of the lens to prevent any chance of direct sunlight.
Once the appropriate information has been gathered, it must be relayed to those who need it. Of course, if one is simply scouting for oneself, this part is moot. However, if one's team is relying on this information, read on.
The simplest and fastest way to transmit information is through use of wireless communication devices (i.e. walkie talkies) if available. However, when speaking, one needs to keep one's voice volume low so that the enemy will not hear yet loud enough for the receiver to hear what is being said. Cupping one's hand oven one's mouth and the device's microphone can help lessen the amount of sound leakage, but one should not cover the receiver too tightly as this can lead to sound distortion. A more high-tech way of transmitting messages silently and wirelessly is through text-messaging services. Text messaging can be very effective since it does not require any speaking to be done, but composing text messages can take time depending on the device, both sides require messaging devices, and usually one does not wish to carry more expensive electronics during a water fight unless it can be properly protected from getting wet.
The more traditional method of reporting information is by returning to base/camp-site or wherever the group is located and passing the information verbally when face-to-face with one's allies. However, as it takes time between when the information was gathered and when the information can be relayed, it is adviseable that scouting runs not go farther than 5 or 10 minutes travel. This ensures that the information relayed is relatively recent. Otherwise, if it takes too long for information to be passed along, too many things may have changed from what was initially observed.
The scout should, if possible, wear comfortable, light clothing that match the terrain as much as possible so that the scout can blend more readily into the background. Running shoes are recommendable to light and fast entry and exit from areas. Hiking boots may also be used depending upon the terrain, but boots tend to be heavier and may result in more noise generated.
Clothing, itself, should be soft and silent. Avoid clothing made from nylon and/or articles of clothing that tend to rub together loudly or restrict movement. At the same time, clothing worn should not be too loose as to potential catch on the surroundings and get ripped or damaged. Clothing should also be non-reflective. The last thing one wants as a scout is to shine like a beacon if it is sunny on the day of the water war. In general, darker, matte-finished clothing works best.
The scout's role is to find out information and relay it back to his/her teammates quickly. As such, the scout should only be lightly armed as speed and stealth is far more critical and enemy engagement should be avoided. If spotted by the enemy, the scouting mission is basically deemed a failure and the light armament the scout carries is meant only if the need to protect oneself arises. Otherwise, the best scouts never need to draw their blasters and instead rely on stealth and cunning to get in, get the information, and get out without being seen.
The actual preferred choice of armament to be used by a scout really depends on the person. However, for sake of generalizing, a scout should only typically carry one blaster (back-up blasters only add to bulk and should not be needed on scouting runs). While any blaster can theoretically be used, blasters larger than a CPS1200 should be avoided unless one can carry them without any significant movement penalty.
Moving Out :
Typically, the scout is sent on a specific mission by his/her Team captain. At other times, scouts work based on their on intuition, going to areas the Team will go prior to any other Team member in order to determine whether an area is safe to travel. In either case, the scout must make his/her own choice about how to procede to accomplish the desired goal.
Since one key element to scouting is remaining invisible to the other side, the route taken is not always the most direct. Instead, the scout must look about their surroundings, planning each phase of movement based on the amount of cover the terrain allows. There are times that the terrain does not offer much cover, thus must be crossed quickly to reach the next covered point. The scout must rely on their own sense of observation (both looking and listening) to determine whether it is safe to advance to the next point or whether it would be best to remain stationary until the coast is clear. The greatest ally to a scout is patience. The scout must be willing to spend time observing and waiting in order to successful traverse potentially hostile territory without being spotted, ending up in an encounter, or being forced to flee.