Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Military vs Civilian

My first serious survival training came as a gift of the U.S. Army Special Forces. Fort Bragg was the venue, and the training staff did their best to kill us, both body and spirit — but that was their job. The first priority was to weed the garden by getting anyone who had any degree of "quit" in them to do just that. Psychological warfare, coupled with physical endurance tests were the tools of the day. And there is a very good reason for all of it. They were tasked with developing warriors, and the survival training was married to a concept known as E&E, which stands for escape and evasion. In a military operation, survival is not only a matter of getting food and water and shelter and fire — it's a matter of evading capture and/or torture and/or death at the hands of an enemy. When you're in E&E mode, you stay really quiet and invisible.

Contrast that with what is supposed to happen when civilians are in a survival situation. The last thing you want to be when you're stranded or lost is quiet and invisible. Nobody is out there trying to put a 7.62mm round through your brains, so you don't have to sneak around and avoid capture. In fact, you do the very opposite; in a clearing you lay out colorful items that can be seen from a great distance; you make noise; you flash a signal mirror; you start a smokey fire, you jump up and down and wave your arms; you do everything possible to be noticed.

That's one difference between military and civilian survival.

Another difference is that in a military operation, if you get subtracted from your team, the rest of them will come looking for you. "No man left behind," isn't just a trite saying. If you go missing, a lot of energy will be expended trying to get you back. They know where you were when you disappeared, what you were doing there, and when you were supposed to come back. Every breath of life is planned and regulated in a military operation, so if you find yourself in an unplanned AWOL situation, they'll come after you.

In a civilian setting, you might go missing for quite a while before anybody notices. It all depends on how you organize your lifestyle. If you're a single person who's kind of flaky, it might be a long time before anyone notices that you're not around anymore. And even if they do, they might not have a clue where you went or when you're planning on coming back. Civilian life is like that — you can come and go as you please and you generally don't have to ask for permission. You can wander through life, take side roads, pause to enjoy the scenery, get lost, fall down a mountainside, get swept off the rocks by a rogue wave, and hardly anybody will notice … for a while. Eventually, you'll be missed. But unless you've taken steps to make sure you're missed, folks won't know where to go to find you.

In civilian life, you must be proactive to get a search started when you get into trouble. You do that by filing a "flight plan" of sorts — letting trusted friends and loved-ones know exactly where you're going, when you plan on getting back, the purpose of your outing, the color of your gear, etc. By doing that simple thing, if you turn up overdue, those trusted friends can notify authorities that you're missing. Not only that but they can tell searchers where you went, what you are doing there (which might give them a clue about where to look — if you're fishing, they'll look near water, etc.), and all that stuff. The important thing to remember is that, if you decide to change your plans mid-stream, you must notify the people to whom you have give your flight plan. Otherwise, if a search is started, it will happen in the wrong place.

So that's another difference between military and civilian survival.

I'll just mention two more factors — equipment and training. The military is equipped with the best gear available. It's rugged, and purpose built. As for the training, military personnel get the good stuff. It's drilled into them. They go into the field to be tested. Civilians, on the other hand, are left to themselves to figure out what kind of equipment (if any) they want to carry. Often, they buy the cheapest thing they can find. And then they stuff it in a pack and never practice how to use it; hoping that if they ever get into trouble they can figure it out then.  As for training, most never bother to get any, figuring nothing bad is ever going to happen to them anyway. And if something does go wrong, they expect the government to come along and save them. I don't mean to sound too hard on civilians; I'm just being honest.

So, what's the point of all this? I'm not saying that you have to join some elite unit of the military in order to get good survival training. You can, if you want. But at least do something to get some training. There are schools and courses and workshops. Look up the ones in your area and go sign up. As for equipment, I don't necessarily recommend that you buy military spec gear. Again, you can if you want, but there is a lot of good equipment available on the civilian market. Some of it is even used by the military. My rule is this: If your life is going to depend on a piece of equipment, buy the best you can afford. More important than equipment, though, is knowing what to do with it. A trained individual without any equipment at all can survive better than a well-equipped ignoramus.

Here's my motto (actually, these are the final words in my book): "To be safe and confident in the outdoors, fill your head with the best information, fill your hands with skill, and fill your life with experience."

No comments:

Post a Comment