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Elf on the Shelf; Santa's ISR Specialists

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Alex
December 1, 2022
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For those who aren't already aware, Santa Claus, his reindeer, and certain elves have a special place in the reconnaissance community. If anybody can specialize in snooping and pooping, it's certainly an elderly man in a giant red sleigh pulled by nine reindeer who's never been caught by enemy radar. But what role do elves play in this intelligence gathering organization?

Since their adoption into service in 2005, certain elves who passed the ‘On a Shelf' indoc have become invaluable tactical site survey specialists. Able to move incredible distances for their size within homes, these elves have made a name for themselves for being ghosts, seen or unseen.

While most keep to an observation only role, some have branched out into limited direct action capabilities. From fast roping in Arctic environments to clearing urban settings, these so-called “Ghost on a Post” troops are the very definition of swift and silent. It's hard to determine whether or not they are deadly, as most of their missions are deemed classified, and even their earliest adventures will remain so for several more years. 

When not conducting these intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance operations, these quiet red warriors are fulfilling instructor roles, teaching future generations all the techniques, tactics and procedures required to become silent professionals themselves.

If you ever find yourself in a position to conduct room entry techniques or small unit tactics, there are a few tips and tricks to remember:

They are SMALL. Remember that your skill set needs to be adapted to their shortened stature. When popping corners, the high / low technique is perfectly suited for their height. During room entry, each of them can cross the threshold with a larger human simultaneously.

They are STEALTHY. When direct partnership is not logistically sound, these silent professionals are excellent on overwatch. They also excel in advanced scouting positions, able to conceal themselves in the most common and obscure pieces of home décor.

They are ADORABLE. Much like a sailor in their cracker jacks, the elf on the shelf has an adorable, non-threatening appearance. This acts as almost natural, built-in camouflage. No need for grease paint, the average person when seeing that red jumper and matching hat become face blind to the dangerous reality they represent. This can assuredly be used to your advantage, either to keep them from being noticed, or as a valuable distraction before an ambush.

Remember always that while Saint Nick only runs missions on the 24 of December each year, these living eagle eyes are present in the battle space weeks, sometimes months in advance. Maintain your situational awareness because THEY certainly will. And if all else fails, leave out a shot of whiskey next to those milk and cookies on Christmas Eve, as a ‘thank you’ for having our back over the holiday season.

About the Author: Alexander Pfeffer is a Marine infantry veteran who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan. After separating, he spent several years at high threat postings while working as a contractor, and is now an instructor for tactics and fire safety.
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