By: Mark Williams
First of all, I discourage the use of the term "Bug out" and anything associated with the idea of it, i,e: Prepping, family preparedness, Go-bag... or any other name that many mainstream personalities have dubbed for this style of life and as some call it, 'piece of mind'. I think it encourages a false sense of security and almost always results in complacency. I'd rather just hear it called "Trying to survive"
I know this may not come as a shocker for many who know me, but for those who don't, let me preface. I genuinely continue to self educate and live my life as a pragmatic man and more importantly someone who is dictated by decision and not fate. I think that says something about my philosophy behind the lifestyle of "prepping". Just for the record, I will be using that term as an all inclusive definition for the remainder of this article.
I understand this article may raise an eyebrow and it may even infuriate you. I also understand you may not get the answer you want out of this article. Please remember, many of you have asked for me to speak on the subject of prepping, and I am giving you my extremely transparent idea of survival. The problem is, my idea does not fall in line with the mainstream TV shows, Youtube and magazines devoted to that lifestyle of prepping.
The picture shown above was by far one of the worst days I had in my military career. That ruck was on my back for 20 of the 36 hour mission we ran that weekend. During that entire mission not a shot was fired. In fact, the main reason for that long range patrol was to recon a possible insurgent route and safe house used to harbor and deploy IED facilitators. This info was pushed to my team from a Battalion intelligence source. Unfortunately, most intelligence cycles are only accurate about 60% of the time. Needless to say, we learned what the other 40% is like.
To be honest, I don't remember spending the 12 hours at the observation post (OP) we established. What I do remember was the 16 miles we had to patrol back from our CH-53 drop point. Sixteen miles in a piece of terrain highly saturated with IED's. I remember an ignorant Sergeant named Mark Williams wearing a grossly over prepared sustainment ruck with way more gear, comm. and ammo than needed. I remember the 120lb pack as we climbed up some rough approaches with coral reef like stone. I remember the 110 degree weather which was not normal for that time of year. That climate made foot movement for more than 1 hour at a time absolutely unattainable. Most of all, I remember returning to base (RTB) and washing the feeling of regret and pain off my back as I laid in a natural river running through Patrol Base Hand for 2 hours until the sun went down.
Through pain and experience I have learned to trust myself and my abilities more. I have also learned that I cannot take on self preservation by myself. I need to be a man and accept certain limitations and short comings. I have also learned to do a bit more research and planning instead of just doing what I think is right. Can this idea be translated to prepping? Absolutely!
As a firearms and defensive instructor I often get asked questions about prepping. And because some consider me somewhat of an expert, (which I am not), I usually answer most questions without disrespecting the person seeking information. Not disrespecting them intentionally or because of ignorance, but because of two reasons. A.) Said customer already has an answer he is looking for and is just seeking confirmation or B.) Said customer is already highly invested in a current prepping plan that said named customer is looking to reconcile. That being said, lets discuss the mainstream ideas.
Being fair, their are generally two schools of thought one can argue in regards to theory of survival past a kinetic incident i.e: natural disaster, major conflict or unforeseen incident. Those two ideas are sustainment and mobility. Sustainment, is where most people fall into this game. Those who call themselves "preppers". Sustainment preppers usually have several key focus areas that need to be completed in order to make it work. These include:
1.) A safe place/fortification
3.) An Emergency action plan
4.) Defensive planning/operations
5.) Sustaining life support
By just reading the above 5 subjects, sustainment prepping can be overwhelming and I guess it should be. It is expensive and tedious. I often watch our favorite TV shows highlighting this lifestyle. While I watch my television, I hold my beer a little tighter because of how upset I get. At least it's entertaining. I'll get back to this later.
The other style of survival is based on mobility. This involves the idea of rapid relocation to either the above place or to a generally safe location. This is where the gear and objects in "go bags/ bug out bags" all come in to play. I think I would fall in line more with this type of idea myself, but I think you will see later it's still much more dynamic than this. Mobility preppers usually have less expenses but almost always have a much more tedious preparedness schedule constantly moving gear and updating lists, etc.
This usually features:
1.) One or more gear bags with life sustaining equipment
3.) Defensive tools
4.) An emergency action plan
5.) Logistics to relocate to a sustainable life support location.
Both of these prepping ideals usually involve an "End of the world scenario". In the military we refer to these ideas as the "What ifs". Unfortunately there is no answer to all of the what ifs and that is the issue behind prepping and the basis of my argument. For instance, what if my Afghan hike turned into a 24 hour sustained fire fight. Would the 210 rounds of ammo I was carrying be enough? The what if's can be daunting and there is never an answer to those questions. However, "What if?" is not always a bad question to ask. Sometimes, with a little pragmatic antic, it can be a valuable training piece.
In my 9 years as an Infantryman, Firearms Instructor and Career Fire Fighter, I have seen some of the most violent places in the world. I have seen the people who populate them and I have also met that fire with equal fire. The variable that we can never prepare for is the Human condition. The human condition is the scariest monster on the face of the planet and unfortunately it will almost never work for you, or your family.
The issue is, any natural disaster or kinetic (emergency/gun fight/violent encounter) event that perpetuates a life of survival cannot be predicted. Because of this, we cannot just predict our survival plan and put all of our eggs in one basket. Like all of our survival gear in one bag (so to speak). We have to be adaptable to any incident with any readily available tools for any given terrain and climate. We also have to adapt to the culture and location those tools and terrain may put us in.
I think this would be a great place to explain what I have in my kit in which I hope to survive on: Here is my list of 10 things I check off each morning.
2.) Training on equipment
3.) Communication skills
4.) Education of culture
1.) A CCW with 17 rounds
2.) A Flash Light
3.) A Knife
5.) Small food supply
6.) First Aid
Were you expecting those 10 items? With all honesty, that is my bug-out kit. Why? It's what I have on me 100% of the time.
Some military inspired antics:
1.)"What if" your state experiences a severe natural disaster while you're at work. On your drive home, your vehicle runs out of gas, it's 20 degrees and by the time you walk home, you realize your entire life, your home and your gear, has been lost. Demolished. Gone.
2.)"What if" a situation arises requiring you to leave your home, you get in your car, attempt to drive to your "safe" location and half way there, an army unit puts up 5 fingers and a palm. "Turn around!"
3.)"What if" you lose power, and on the 11th day every grocery store and resupply point within 30 miles is out of water and food. Your 10 day supply is gone.
4.) "What if" the family you swore to protect and help survive dies in a kinetic event?
5.) "What if" 4 military age males enter your house seeking safety and food. The 4 guys have much bigger guns then you and you know they will kill you and your family for your rations?
6.)"What if" I spent my life prepping but because it is against federal law, I cannot ascertain the life saving drugs I need for my wife who has a rare disease. All we have left a 10 day supply and FEMA/STATE/CITY has not secured a means for you to get those drugs?
You see, that was 6 possible events. Do you have a "prep" system for each of those scenarios? Are you ready to react currently for all of those situations. Chances are, you are not. We need to understand, The worlds events are so dynamic, there is absolutely no way to be prepared for any of them.
When you realize that the basement that is full of goods and supplies may not be attainable or, your 40 year old body with a bad back may not be able to support a 60 lb 3 day pack on the move...you may realize its not so easy to just ask the question, or in my case answer the question: "Mark what is your suggestion for a bug out bag?"...
Here are my 6 core fundamentals I abide by as a person who lives to survive:
1.) Understand yourself, your family and your abilities and limitations. - Understand when an event comes around that forces you to survive, you have no one you can truly trust but your family and self. Ask yourself some questions: Is my daughter good at sewing? Does my son have an uncanny ability to speak with respect and integrity? Can my wife deal with the idea of seeing husband? Can I deal with the idea of losing one or more of my children? Where can I use my strengths and how will my family bring out the best in me?
2.) Know thy neighbor, appreciate and condone your culture. - This isn't just the neighbor you live next to or the culture you WANT to live in. It is everyone who you might interact with and the cultures who you may not agree with. Co-workers, fellow travelers, police/fire, political figures, people of different ethnicity and yes - the people on your block. Based on your daily life and the people you interact with, how will they react in the event of a natural disaster? Who is friend, who is foe? Who can help me and WHO CAN I HELP? Do my neighbors have potential assets I don't? Do my neighbors present potential conflict? Does the ethnic family that lives across the street from me present as a nice, welcoming, generous family? If you open up a bit to our diverse culture and your neighbors, you may be doing more good than harm (Even if the world doesn't come to an end).
3.) Train on tactics and technique and get in shape - Bluntly said, learn how to use the tools you have and try to lose a few pounds or walk a little further and faster. It doesn't hurt to visit a driving school, attend a community college class on sociology 101, Take a legit firearms class. Attend a T-CCC (T Triple C) or first aid class. Learn! and never stop educating. While your at it - join a fitness club, or walk a few extra miles a week. The pay off will be huge. (Hint) this is usually the last place most people ever spend money on and is one of the most important.
4.) - Have a plan. - By now I hope I have at least lifted an eye brow. If you take away just one thing from this article - Diversify your survival plan. No one plan is enough. No one mindset is enough. You need to be just as dynamic as the places you travel and the people you know. It is not wrong to write your plans down, share them with your family and actually ask for input. You would be surprised how in-tune your teenagers are to current culture and may shed some light on topics you have never thought of. Develop plans, develop more plans and most importantly...make sure those you care about know them.
5.) Have the right gear - Unfortunately the human condition usually sends this item to the top of the list. But it is not as important as you think. Be a man and understand this is the least of your worries. All of the best gear in the world means nothing if you don't know how to use it or if it cannot be reached. Identify the things you can control the majority of the time like: What I carry on my person every day, what is available around me, what I can acquire with relative ease and safety, etc. Once you can identify those items, work back and figure out how to fill the voids.
I won't deny, having a 3 - 5 day supply of food and water at home with a defensive tool is wise, but we cannot let that idea infect our heads to much. By the way - Go buy a case of Vodka and a couple cartons of cigarettes. They will be worth more then any rare earth metal of stone. I promise you this.
6.) Learn the human condition - The man sitting next to you on the bus every day will probably not have an issue with putting a bullet in your head to secure a glass of water when he has not had a drink of water in our Colorado summer climate for 5 days. Your co-workers may choose to hide under their desk during a severe weather incident when YOU know the only chance of survival is to fight on and egress from your office building. You may need to be a man and fight on, you may need to defend yourself by taking someone else's life, you may need to inspire others by being different.
Understand the world is a violent and gross place to live. Enter Katrina. The earth quake of Sumatra, Indonesia. The Irish potato famine and most recently, the winter storms of 13'-14'. Most people will be fully ready or in the right place when things get real bad. Unfortunately for us and in today's culture, things get real bad when their is no internet, cable or grocery store.
Be a man and understand you are not perfect, your plan is never perfect and we need to continually change. Being monotonous has never led to prosperity. Not in politics, not in war and not in survival. Understand yourself, know thy neighbor, train, have a plan, get the right gear and learn how humans work. Once you can begin to master those principles you may be a little more flexible, adaptable and prepared.
Below you will find some photos of thing I suggest to diversify. Keep in mind, ounces equal pounds and pounds equal pain. Apply this everywhere. All of the items below can modified or changed to allow for storing or carrying in a small space like a car, home or tent, and in my case, on person... Food for thought.
I need to preface this one:
The above photo is a military style back pack. This style back-pack sends a powerful message when out and about on the street. It doesn't take a person like me or you to understand a dude with a tactical - looking
backpack either has terrible taste in fashion or is carrying a gun, works in the military/police/first responder community or has some training which sends an immediate message to anyone looking for these things. Imagine a big spot light on you when your trying to fit in. I see it all the time on our streets. If your going to the range or live that life, its perfect but in a survival situation, go with a bag or ruck that is a little less obvious and blends in everywhere. Mystery Ranch, Eberlestock, 5.11
and Kelty make excellent bags which are military grade and wont compromise yourself when you need to blend in.
Red: Mystery Ranch Swift
Black/Grey: 5.11 COVRT 18 Backpack
Mark is the Chief trainer at TTGC and T3. With over 8 years in the security industry as a US Marine, Professional Instructor and constant student, Mark has a passion for assisting others with Training and Equipment. We hope to hear from you here on the T3 blog and look forward to some good conversations.
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3575 Stagecoach Rd. Longmont, Colorado 80504