Showing posts with label military. Show all posts
Showing posts with label military. Show all posts

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Food During Out of Town Moves and Fringe Benefits of Stocking Supplies

Someone asked about what I do with stored food during moves. The fridge/ freezer stuff is easy it gets eaten, given away or tossed. The long term shelf stable stuff like 5 gallon buckets are easy, it sucks but you move them. That might not work for an international move but the effort and cost to buy then sell a ton or two of food multiple times is unpleasant. The mid range pantry stuff (rice, canned goods, boxed stuff, etc) is a bit more complicated. I try to eat up as much as I can and move as much of the rest as I can.

Military movers will take unopened shelf stable stuff (CONUS). I wouldn't suggest taking anything fragile (glass jars, etc) but cans and buckets are fine.

[Do note that if you are pushing the limit this sort of food is heavy and busting your weight allowance is expensive. I would not be moving a dozen cases of canned food and a ton of rice n beans if we were anywhere close to the limit. For lower enlisted folks weight allowances are pretty low so this probably be a good plan. The amount of food I will move is probably a third or half a lower enlisted guys total weight allowance. One of the many places where the military is not fair.]

Right now I am in the eating it up phase. However since I had food for 4 and there is 1 of me it isn't going great. I'll probably end up taking some stuff to good will or giving it away. Losing a few hundred bucks of food every couple years is a cost of being a survivalist in the military. One of the many places where that is a hassle. Such is life.

Also moving my ammo stash sucks.  Get a bit of .308/7.62x51, decent stash of 5.56 and 9mm, a bunch of 7.62x39 and 12 gauge and it adds up fast. Ammo I have to haul myself which is a hassle.

I am open to input here but as I've done this a couple times so odds are high my plan is about solidified.

I am also trying to work through some other stores such as gasoline before the trip.

A fringe benefit of this stuff is for the last 2 weeks my grocery bill has been very low. Until I leave I will only be buying milk and fresh fruit/ veggies at the store so the bill will be even lower. Also started using up the gasoline. So my bills for fuel and food are going to be very low for awhile. A happy accident as finances are in a state of flux.

I also realized this could be a fringe benefit of preparedness. If you have a months food and gas stashed that means you could live off stores and put cash to stuff you definitely have to pay for like say rent and utilities. In a personal SHTF this would let you stretch existing cash reserves to keep things going longer. Of course you would be depleting stores which would either need to be replaced or your preparedness level would drop. Options are a good thing.

So stocking up on food, fuel, etc all has a variety of benefits. You should do that.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Open Lines Friday 7 NOV PT 2: Preparedness Challenges in the Military

Open Lines Friday is sure making for some interesting blog fodder. Think it is a feature worth trying out with an eye towards becoming a regular thing. I'll play with frequency over time to see how many questions you are all interested in hearing my opinion on. A higher the numbers of questions/ comments/ links will push for it to be be more common, maybe even weekly, while less interest will make me lean towards less often. So if you like this feature chime in with questions next time it comes up and throw links to the posts up on your blogs/ sites/ forums.

Today's question is:

"Hi Ryan...been a regular follower of your blog for the past few years now. Great work, love your opinion/perspective. I'm glad you posed this topic. I'm a military officer of about 6 years now, and the issue I face with preparedness is PCS-ing every 3-4 years. I haven't been able to find a good blog or posting about the difficulties of a mandatory military move every couple of years. I would love to see a post or series about the constraints of having to relocate vice being permanently located at your retreat. What has your experience been with this as a member of the military?"

"Pineslayer replied: Jamison Vincent, think storage lockers, off base, if stateside. A bike that can set up quickly to haul 'stuff' shouldn't gather much attention. Maybe donate food stores when relocating. Any vehicle gives you an edge. Good luck and thank you. "

Ryan here: 
 I haven't specifically hit on this topic though some posts sort of danced around it. Some time ago Commander Zero asked about Preparedness and the Military but it does not specifically apply here.  Some time back I did a post on moving with guns and ammo which does cover part of the question so is worth touching on.I also did a post on Military Families when SHTF that one might want to read.

It is worth noting that while on average I do believe military members move more often, and further, than most other folks the issue of moving is not specifically a military problem. For example in recent years Alexander Wolfe of TEOTWAWKI Blog has moved almost as often as I do.

Specific problems are going to be capitalized. After talking the problems I will touch on potential strategies for mitigation.

PHYSICALLY MOVING: Survivalism inherently leads to the accumulation of gear, tools, and guns as well as bulk/ heavy items like bulk ammo and food.  It doesn't take many cases of 62 grain M855 5.56 ammo (on sale for $359/1k at Lucky Gunner) to get heavy in a hurry. However at least ammo is fairly compact. Using the rough Pastor Joe Fox formula of a 5 gallon bucket full of food being enough for 1 person for 1 month even a 1 year supply for 2 people is a significant weight and bulk consideration. Moving all your stuff sucks and there is no way around it. However in my experience this is overall the least problematic of the issues we are going to discuss. This is because while it is a significant hassle it is over after you get to the other end and unpacked.

On the plus side you mentioned being an Officer so at least your weight allowance should be pretty decent. Get smart on what movers are required to transport so they don't bamboozle you. They have to move commercially packed food which is significant for a survivalist. On the other hand for ammo, fuel, etc you've got to haul it on your own. While you do not control how often or when you move from post to post you do control how often you move within a specific area so get there and figure out a good place to live then stay there. Movers will hold your stuff for (IIRC) up to 90 days then deliver it. That should give you time to learn the area a bit so you don't want to move ten minutes away in a few months.

INFRASTRUCTURE IMPROVEMENTS/ COST AMORTIZATION: Folks who stay in one place can build a nice garden with raised beds and call it good. Every few years they might need some more soil but their setup is there and ready to go. Ditto fences, chicken coops, rainwater catchment, etc all. Additionally since they do not need to redo these costs over time those areas cost per output (cents per egg, dollar a bushel of produce, etc) go down. If you move frequently a lot of efforts will need to be duplicated and there are costs associated with that.

I really don't have many answers for this. Honestly I'm struggling with the problems myself.

SYSTEM REINVENTION. It is not too hard to have four different awesome routes all planned out for each of your three potential bug out locations for a person who is settled in one area with a solid network of friends and family (we'll hit that next). However redoing all of that work every couple years (say 1ish for a PCS school and 3-4 for a duty station) would be downright difficult. Around the time you put up the last alternate cache in your last location it would be time to move. That is to say nothing of the expense involved in redoing these efforts every couple years. This could also be said about gardening, bartering, getting into the gun crowd, etc at your new location. Basically you have to hit reset on a bunch of stuff every couple years.

Putting effort into systems that can be moved easily is the best idea I have to offer. No huge answers here. In many ways our efforts are far less developed than they would be if we hadn't moved several times in the last few years. My system of caches and potential locations would be far better developed if I was able to put money and effort in knowing it would solve problems over the long term instead of just for a couple years. Honestly the best way forward I can see is setting up a fixed location near home and shifting some efforts to that location.

SOCIAL NETWORKS: Since I do not live near home I am not working on relationships or contingency/ MAG stuff there. Also contacts I develop in a location are potentially nice to have for the future but only really good for that location. It is a potential advantage that I am developing contacts, albeit shallow ones, in different places.

The best mitigation here is that I am currently part of the biggest baddest gang in the world, the US Army.

Anyway this post is a bit shy on solutions and for that I am sorry.  My intent is not just to admire the problem. Hopefully I have at least partially helped frame out the problem and offered some solutions to think about.

I'm open to other peoples thoughts, especially if they have struggled with survivalism while living the military life.


Monday, July 21, 2014

RE: Military Vehicles on Roads.

Got a comment to yesterdays post that seemed worth addressing here. My replies are in italics

 Yogi Berra was famous for his highly intellectual quotes, one of which was "You can see a lot just by looking around."I'm all for looking around. Anonymous is right on

How many convoy serials have you bloggers commanded?

I am in Officer in the US Army. Enough to know what I am talking about. 

DOD Regulations require convoy serials to be marked clearly with signs "Convoy ahead" and other safety related equipment to conform to State and Federal Transportation regulations. (not just wide load banners with no escort.)

Every time I have done a convoy we have the stupid Convoy signs.  As to other safety gear we have all sorts of stuff but  I am not sure what you are talking about or how it relates to the conversation we are having.

Military Vehicles in CONUS must have their unit stenciled on the front and rear bumpers for easy ID with convoy serials written in chalk that is why they are referred to as chalks when they are assembled for deployment. Mainly so the MPs can write them a ticket for speeding.

Typically I have seen unit info spray painted with stencils on vehicles but 1) the exact locations vary and 2) While customary I would be interested in seeing the exact, current, regulation that specifically says that is required. 

The video was poor quality but it is clear to this old guardsman that it was not a Guard unit heading for AT or crew eval and qual.

Don't know where you are going here at all. 

It appears to be an RA road trip but it isn't headed for the border with Mexico.

What?Don't know where this is going man.

The key question is are the really knowledgeable people always vigilant?

 This is an interesting point. If you saw a bunch of vehicles loaded up with ammo boxes and live rounds fed into their crew served weapons in blocking positions on dominant terrain at key intersections one could justifiably go to condition red. On the other hand some guys driving by from here to there is almost surely nothing.

I don't have a tinfoil hat but may get one if this S#@* keeps up.

What S*&T? What specifically is the US Military doing that is giving you concern? If you were worried about the general state of our government or some federal law enforcement agency that might be a different discussion. 

I'm curious though as to where they came from and where they went? The truckers would know.
My 8 year old grandson would have asked them where they were headed at the Rest Stop when they had to take a pee and then quizzed them about how their equipment stacks up against Bradleys, BTRs, BMPs and Barretts.

Soldiers, much to their leaders disappointment have almost 0 awareness of operational security. Honestly if you ask and are not a complete dick they will probably tell you exactly where they came from, where they are going and what they are doing. 

Are these strikers part of the Ready Brigades brought back from Iraq and deployed through out the U.S.A.?

I am an Officer on active duty in the US Army and would bet a goodly sum that I currently hold a higher security clearance than you do. I genuinely do not know WTF you are talking about with this. 

Is one of these Brigades assigned to Ft Knox or Blue Grass AD?

I dunno? You talked about Mexico earlier. This is all over the place man. 

Were they on a deployment exercise or just out for a Sunday drive perhaps?

 It is possible the individuals we are talking about were doing a short local test drive but otherwise they were headed somewhere for a purpose. They definitely were not just driving around for the sake of it, especially on a weekend.

Where were they going to play?

 Probably a local place with more ranges to train on.

Garand & Lawson say in their great book "The End of Civility" that "There is no such thing as a false alarm."

I have not read that book though it does seem interesting. They seem like fine people but I am honestly not sure what to make of the quote. Seems to me like false alarms happen all the time.

Its good quick reaction drill practice. Never forget that friends.

Having a plan is always a fine thing.

Note: Sorry if I came across too harshly here. I have my fair share of integrity and have not embellished my bona fides in any way. Given that everything cool these days is SOF I would be a lot better off here in terms of this little business to stretch the truth and infer or imply having qualifications, tabs or experience I do not have. Honestly like many folks I am smart enough at something I understand to talk a little bit more than my actual ability level in a way that only a few folks might catch.

Also I try not to talk about things I am not reasonably well informed on. 

Suppose that while I am not all in your face waving a flag and yelling about my accomplishmments  I do have a healthy dose of pride in what I have done, am doing and likely will do.  As such, especially given my aforementioned honestly at the expense of my own best interest, I probably do not handle folks questioning my background or knowledge of this type stuff very well.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Military Vehicles on Roads. A Nonevent with Common Explanations

About every few months somebody in the survivalist (though more lately 'patriot' community) sees a few military vehicles on the road then takes a picture. They talk about how it is a clear sign that the Federal Gubmint is coming to put them in FEMA Death Camps or the UN is invading or at the very least it is a clear breach of Posse Comitatus and or conditioning in preparation for one of the aforementioned operations in the future.

Let's take a deep breath and remove our tin foil hats. Also we might want to remove our body armor and loosen any pistol belts. A drink of water is not a bad idea either.

This is a classic Ocams Razor scenario. There are reasons military vehicles might be moving around on the open roadway that are far more likely than any of the above mentioned scenarios.

The simplest explanation is that a group of service members and or their vehicles need to get from point A to point B. Despite what you heard on midnight SW radio or some forums we do not have magical underground tunnels with roads inside. If we need to get 40 people and their vehicles to a place to train, turn in vehicles for upgrades, maintenance, etc we usually just drive there like anybody else.

At all but the biggest bases we may need to go to other areas for training. Example: while Fort Lewis is a huge base the amount and type of ranges there are limited. If we want to shoot larger weapons or conduct bigger scenarios we have to go to Yakima Training Center in central Washington. Yakima is a huge largely open training area. Think of it like the equivalent of a gravel pit where you can shoot however you want for the Army. In many other areas there are similar needs to go to a different area to train.

Sometimes loading vehicles onto trains and sending the soldiers in buses is an option, other times it does not make sense or the option is entirely unavailable. Maybe there is not a rail line right by where we need to go or the timelines do not work. Maybe due to obscure government budgeting stuff we can buy fuel and spare parts but not pay for buses.

In particular during the summer months reserve and national guard units will conduct their 2 week annual training. These groups are often located in small enclaves all over the place. This is especially true of the guard which might have 1 platoon in a town, a company in the next town, etc. All of these groups will need to gather into larger groups and travel to some sort of base to conduct their normal annual training which is typically split between knocking out various requirements (weapons qual, various mandatory tasks, etc) and some sort of scenario based exercise or war game. These things happen every year. The guard in particular tend to do 1 big scheduled event very year at the Brigade or even state level. If you looked carefully through the local news it would probably not be too hard to learn that the XX Brigade which is the XX State's guard unit is conducting their AT at Fort Whatever from 1-15 August.

These groups stop at various points along their routes for the same boring reasons you stop on a long drive. Mostly soldiers need to pee, get another giant monster and more chew or maybe pick up some snacks.

Look is you see armed soldiers (or marines) setting up check points [not to be confused with directing traffic if a vehicle breaks down, etc] or machine gunning people it is time to worry. Actually at that point it is probably too late but you get the idea. 

The comments section here could be interesting. By all means chime in with your opinion.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Post Field Time Thoughts

1) The do-er does what the checker checks. The checker checks what the inspector inspects.

2) The more capable a group is (or appears to be but pro's can tell the difference) the less they actually have to fight. To put it into a nonmilitary context let us look at Tiny. Tiny is a 6'1" 330 pound mason (stone and cement not the group) with a 23" neck and arms like medium sized trees. After work he likes to have a couple beers at the bar near his home in a working class area. Tiny could faint at the sight of blood and have a glass jaw but WHO would never know? After all what person in their right mind picks a fight with a 300+ pound man named Tiny?

3) For the entirety of this recent experience the only knife I used was a Mora. I think it was the companion model. It worked out great, till it rained. Unlike hobby outdoorsmen I didn't have the choice to stay home or hide in a tent reading a book. While mora's are priced to be functionally disposable in a long term (even a deployment) scenario you might not be able to get a new knife when needed so that is problematic. I'm half convinced military knives need to be coated, stainless steel or otherwise somewhat rust resistant. More on the mora later.

4) I am firmly convinced that baring new superior technology I will never go into the field without a Petzl headlamp. Those things are so rugged and useful.

5) I need to buy another metal spork.

6. Food is a crutch.

7. Coffee and I are past the point of fun. It is a need more than anything. Sure if I had to I could quit, though it would suck for about 2 weeks, but it is easier to add more of it to the stash.

8.When facing IDF target the spotter, that is generally the easiest way to do it. Computer programs that give line of sight analysis can help a lot in terms of where to look.

9. Stand to, which is 100% (or very close) of personnel pulling security from roughly a half hour before dawn to a half hour after, and the same for sunset, still has some applicability in today's world.

10. Always bring baby wipes. Chapstick and foot powder are probably good ideas too.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Reader Questions- Pulse on the Army

Riverrider asks "What was that silly survey we had to fill out....command environment or something? was wondering what changes you are seeing in your .mil environment/attitude. when i left morale was falling fast and good troops were bugging out to the civ market. what's the attitude toward the regime in your unit? that kind of thing, if you feel okay talking about it. otherwise, charlie mike."
This is a tough one as it invariably requires sweeping generalizations. 
-Many, if not most soldiers tend to be conservative. They feel the same frustrations with our current administration that other conservatives feel but it is amplified since their lives and livelihoods are far more directly affected by said administration.
-Aside from the R vs D vs everyone discussion many soldiers are very worried about the national debt. Hearing a 20 year old kid passionately say we have to stop borrowing money isn't something that happened a couple years back.
-The polar swing from 'can't get enough people' to significant reductions in force have a lot of folks really worried. The concern that any mistake or failure will mean the end of a career is permiating through our force. This trickles down from the E6 who is worried about not making the next rocker in a highly competitive enviornment to the E4 who has to make E5 to be able to reenlist. A competitive but collaborative enviornment is quickly becoming 'hang everybody out to dry so they can't potentially do something that could make you look bad'.
-Some older guys who lived through the Clinton are getting out before they otherwise might. One guy said he wasn't going to be the one who kicked all those folks out.
-We are transitioning from a wartime force to a garrison force which entails a lot of silliness. Some deployment dodging air thief types like that as it means their crisply folded hat matters more than their actual abilities. Other folks can't stand the stupidity of it.
-If the pension system is changed radically expect a lot of mid career officers and NCO's to get out. To make matters worse that flight will include many of the best and brightest.
-Gays being allowed to openly serve has been a seemless non event. Other than seeing a young lesbian couple at the PX once if I hadn't read about it I would not have noticed the change at all. 
[Note that I'm an Officer on active duty in the Army and have deployed multiple times, during which I have served with gay's. It is coming from this perspective that I don't really care about the opinions of your cousins brothers uncles friend who is a Marine's opinion, opinions of folks who have never served or those of any political commentator types. For those who've been out of service for 30 years I respect your input on that experience but am skeptical on how much it carries over to today.
-Anybody who has read a little bit of history knows our goals, which honestly I cannot clearly define, are probably optomistic.
-Some new folks who've never deployed really want to go before Afghanistan winds down. This is understandable, I'm sure guys who joined the Army in 1945 felt the same way.
-Veterans (of war's not dudes who hung out on a boat or in Germany/ CONUS for a tour) are universally ambivalent about the prospect of deploying there at all or again. The fundamental issues with Afghanistan are abundantly clear to all who've been there.
-Nobody wants to be Afghanistan's equivalent of a getting killed in Nam in 1972.
-I think this reduction in force and decrease in funding (with readiness corresponding) will go a lot like the last one. The measures put in place will work at projected numbers while the economy sucks. However when the economy gets better the lack of training/ readiness/ cutthroat mentality/ low morale will lead to a flood of folks out of the force. 
As to a question Riverrider didn't ask that is inevitable here. No I do not see US military forces being used against civilians. Honestly for a variety of reasons I do not see that happening. Folks would be well advised to stop worrying about soldiers and pay a lot more attention to their local PD/ sheriff's who just got an MRAP and a bunch of M4's.

Hope that answers the questions.
Well that's about all I can think of.

Figured I'd mention that PMC 5.56 of the 62 grain M855 variety is running $410 at Lucky Gunner. I'd say that is a solid buy. Honestly I don't see it getting much cheaper and anyway the mid cycle elections might stir up anti gun junk. Going to look at the budget and see if I can get it done myself.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

RE: Building Rapport with the Local Civilian Populace, a Primer for Militia Groups by John Mosby

It seems that John Mosby has taken a trip from the hinter boonies to town and dropped an article titled Building Rapport with the Local Civilian Populace, a Primer for Militia Groups that I plan to discus today. Obviously you should read Johns post because it worthwhile and entertaining. Also what I am going to write will not make much sense otherwise.

The reasons a militia needs to build rapport with the local population should be obvious. Groups that are not integrated in the community can be marginalized then, sometimes under color of law, victimized. SWAT raids with loose fire control are made against fringe groups in addition to various criminals. If your militia supports the local Sheriffs Auxillary/ Search and Rescue/ whatever and they know you are good folks who obey the law (or at least the important ones) the odds your group will be treated how you want are much better. You might even get a heads up if something is brewing. You do not hear about the head of the local Lions Club President or a Sunday School leader from First Baptist getting SWATed very often.

Also groups need to build rapport to garner good will and assistance. A local doctor who is also a member of the local Eagles club that  knows your group from the park restoration might develop into someone willing to teach a couple things, help you get some legal to have but hard to find medical stuff or even be willing to provide discrete medical care. The gas store owner whose kid was found by militia folks  supporting the local search and rescue might fudge some numbers to get the militia fuel to operate if there is rationing going on.

If your militia supports the local Sheriffs Auxillary/ Search and Rescue/ whatever and they know you are good folks who obey the law (or at least the important ones) the odds your group will be treated how you want are much better. You might even get a heads up if something is brewing.

Local folks who would be great militia candidates might who are turned off by a (moderately accurate) impression that militias are a bunch of fat old white racists could see that your group are not those things. These prospective members might see a bunch of reasonably fit people with decent heads on their shoulders worried about the things they are and doing something. This could be a way to help get the kind of recruits a militia really wants.

You get the importance of building rapport. Now onto my ideas about the subject. In no particular order here we go:

- Everyone has certain talents and getting along with people, making friends and bringing in potential sympathizers/ auxillary members/ members are talents. The folks who are best at this task should have (as a primary or additional duty) that task. Waitresses, salesmen, and folks with a gift for gab who are smart enough to say the right things and not say the wrong things are what you need here. Some folks are awesome tactical leaders but should not be put out in front as the face of your group. A dude with an eye patch and a big scar that cannot regulate his profanity is not going to be a good recruiter. Neither is anybody with the personality of a wet blanket. It doesn't matter if they are the lowliest rifleman or a key leader you need the right person for the job.

- Dressing appropriately for the social/ cultural group and event matters. Between decent free image design software and a whole bunch of internet companies you can get shirts screen printed for surprisingly reasonable prices.  A bunch of folks wearing polo shirts with a tasteful symbol and slacks or cargo pants looks a whole lot more appealing than old BDUs. For a volunteer function t shirts and cargo pants or clean newish jeans would be a good option.

[I am talking appropriate and tasteful stuff so no daggers, skulls, guns, snakes, blood or any other stupid Joey junk. Motivational t shirts are cool but some are best kept at home or out training.]

- For information and ideas on building community relations militias would be well advised to look at groups that have successfully integrated into communities. The Boy Scouts of America and various fraternal organizations like the Kowanas, Lions, Eagles, etc all come to mind. These groups have a few characteristics worth discussing.

A) They come from the community. Bob from the hardware store, Jim from the repair shop, Suzie from the local greasy spoon, Tom the propane delivery guy, etc. It is easy to marginalize those wacko's with the compound out in the woods. However convincing folks that Jim who fixes their cars and Tom who makes sure to get propane to folks who need it when the weather is terrible are evil psychos is a lot harder.

B) They are organized and can mass efforts for good causes. Think of the impression you would make on the community if every time a significant event happened the local militia showed up to help. The old ladies who run the community garden would love if 20 volunteers showed up to get things started. The folks at the gun range would love if some folks helped rebuild the sheds and beefed up the facilities. The search and rescue would love 10 teams of 2 with their own 4 wheel drive vehicles and radios that know the local back roads and trails.

C) They fund raise for good causes. Passing the hat is an easy answer. If everybody who can afford it tosses a few bucks in it adds up. Even if your folks don't have much money to donate to causes they can still help. Have a pancake breakfast to benefit a family whose house burned down. Do a raffle for a kid with cancer whose family doesn't have medical insurance. Do an auction to fund the youth shooting group. You get the idea.

The big point of B and C is to be an asset to the community. If your group act decently and help the community folks will start to like, or at least tolerate, the presence. This will of course lead to an increase in your networking, fund raising and recruiting.

Anyway those are my thoughts on that.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

RE: Advice on Military/ Banking/ Finances

Saw this post over at FerFal's place. After thinking on it for awhile I decided to do a post here instead of commenting over at his place. Nothing wrong with FerFal's ideas but let's just say I have probably thought about this scenario a bit more.

The basics of survivalism/ preparedness obviously apply. Have food to eat, water to drink and the means to purify more, medicine for when you are sick and arms and ammunition to protect your family. That statement is a mouthful we do not need to get bogged down as the specifics of each of those are another series of posts.

These folks have some cash in an IRA. I definitely wouldn't mess with what is already there. Maybe depending on what they are contributing in comparison to other savings they could slow IRA deposits but that is getting into the weeds. Remember folks, we do not know what is going to happen. Maybe my grand kids will be living on a hard scrabble little farm in the woods shooting small game with home made bows and defending their lives with ammo I have stored. Then again it is probably a lot more likely that things will keep on ticking and in 40 years when I'm bouncing grand kids on my knee it will be nice to have some money.

As FerFal suggested keeping a good portion of your liquid emergency fund in cash is prudent. I wouldn't keep it all at home as accidents can happen when you are away. However keeping at least 2-3 months essential cash expenses (food, fuel, medicine, etc) worth of money makes sense. You could make a good argument for keeping more beyond that up to say half of your liquid savings in cash.

The benefits of owning some precious metals were mentioned and are pretty obvious. They are a good hedge against inflation and currency failures. Don't go crazy here. Buy an ounce or two of silver when you can (or save it and make bigger orders to cut down shipping costs and take advantage of better deals) and over time it will add up.  If you have a bit more money buy some small (1/10th and 1/4 ounce ish) gold.

The topic of off shore accounts came up. Let's move forward assuming this money isn't best spent elsewhere and we want to keep it in some sort of currency. I wouldn't worry about off shore accounts unless you have serious money to stash. If you have a few grand I would put some in the gun safe and maybe hide the rest in a well thought out cache. The hassle wouldn't be worth it and the potential benefit's are iffy. Anywhere they will take a card cash will work, the opposite is not true. Now if you had fifty thousand dollars maybe it's worthwhile to take a trip to the Cayman Islands or someplace.

As FerFal noted the military and security folks like police are going to get paid unless things fall apart entirely and go totally Mad Max. I am going to get the exact amount of dollars and cents on the first and fifteenth. That does not however carry any guarantee that the money I receive will be able to purchase a given amount of goods and services.

Inflation is coming, heck it is here now. I fear that the best case is for it go get worse, like 10-20% real inflation for a few years. If things get crazy it might be worse than that. I don't see Zimbabwe/ 1920's Germany hyperinflation happening but 30-50% inflation would be ruinous. 

The one big thing I would add to FerFal's post is to decrease your standard of living now. Be balanced and don't do anything radical overnight. Try to pay off some debts and maybe eliminate bills by canceling various nonessential services. If you can start doing things for yourself [Guys buy a shaver and cut your hair at home. If I can do it you can. Gal's put a lot more stock in their hair so unless somebody is good at cutting it then get it done at a good but sanely priced place. That's just my .02 cents.] to eliminate bills. Buy stuff on sale and take advantage of coupons. The point here is to decrease your basic household expenses. Again be balanced with this and do it over a period of time so it is less uncomfortable.

Reallocating money you are used to spending on whatever is very hard. I know because have done it. Cutting twenty bucks from the grocery budget means you don't get Digorno pizza on Wednesday, the Mrs doesn't get the soda she likes  and you both have to drink less beer (or whatever). The point is that it sucks. Sorry, wish there was a better answer. Being smart and doing it over time helps. Also seeing the benefits of what else you can do with that money helps considerably. The savings account may grow as could cash and precious metals on hand as well as preps put away.

For military folks or anybody else with a fairly predictable salary schedule there is another option to use in conjunction with decreasing expenses. When you get a raise make some intentional choices with this money. Instead of letting it slip into your budget with a few small lifestyle increases save that money, put it into precious metals or preps or whatever else makes sense. Do that a few times and you will have a nice gap between what comes in and what you actually need.

This gap building we are has a couple benefits. First it lets you go into overtime paying down debts, putting away cash and precious metals, storing preps or whatever your goals are. Doing these things helps improve your situation even further. It is a positive feedback loop.

Second and more on topic this is your inflation protection. Living on 50-60% of what you make means there is some room to absorb inflation. Of course you would want to change your standard of living to still save, etc but you would have time to figure that out in an orderly manner. Not a fun option but I fear it is very realistic.

Think about it like this. If Fate left a message saying that your income would drop by 30% on a given date you would start doing things to get ready for it. If that date was in 6 months or a year you could pay off that credit card and ease out of $5 coffee every day, mani/pedi's or whatever, and other luxuries. Might even trade in a car for an older model, eliminating another payment. You would darn sure save some money. Now if that date was a week away all it would do is be depressing. By getting in front of this problem you have the luxury of time to make things as pleasant as they can be.

Anyway those are my thoughts on the matter.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Book Review: Contact by Max Velocity

Today we will be reviewing Contact: A Tactical Manual for Post Collapse Survival by Max Velocity. Max has a background in both the British and American armies and has deployed multiple times. Certainly he seems to know what he's talking about. The basic premise of this book is just what the title says a tactical manual for post collapse survival. In this regard I would say it is an overall success.

The Good: If I had to give someone a single book to train them to fight and survive this would be a really good candidate. I appreciate that this book sticks to it's purpose not trying to be another everything in one book type survival manual and also hit on food storage, lighting, sanitation, etc all. The guy knows his strengths and sticks to them instead of getting over his head in different subjects. I sure appreciated that.

The basic concept of distilling military manuals and tactics into plain and simple language for a militia or survivalist audience is not particularly new. Max does it better than most and all in one place. The resulting book is a solid resource. Most folks would get bogged down in FM 7-8 and lost with acronym's and considerations for non applicable threats like attack aviation or technology typical civilians do not posses.

I particularly liked the chapter on vehicle movement which is available more or less in it's entirety at WRSA. It is definitely worth taking a hard look at potentially with some action to follow. Many chapters have interesting little pieces based on likely survivalist scenarios that relates them to military tactics. Seriously good stuff.

The Bad: The book gets a bit excessive in terms of 'translating' terms and acronyms into plain English. At times it seemed this was being done just for the sake of itself without really relating them to anything survivalists would need to do. Probably 7-10% of the book could be removed by cutting this unnecessary  stuff out.

Additionally while the book stays out of having the obligatory food storage, sanitation, communication and maintenance chapters that are almost totally generic it slips into firearms training, medical and some other areas. The piece on shooting which is 2-3 pages without pictures or diagrams (we will revisit this) is awkward and not helpful. The piece on casualties aka medical is a confusing mix of explaining US Army trauma care, partial lists of components for various kits and brief description of how to treat various injuries that is particularly painful. I am not entirely sure what the answer is. Maybe more space could have been put to these areas if other parts (like explaining needless acronyms) were omitted. Maybe fewer such areas could be covered at more length. 

The Ugly: This book is sorely in need of pictures. The parts on mounted and dismounted movement were explained with some basic sketches. The usual dot people and vehicles moving with arrow type stuff. The rest of the book would have really benefited from pictures.

Overall Assessment: If you want a book that breaks down a lot of useful Army type stuff into civilian this is a good option. In fact it is the best I have seen to date. I can't think of a better single book for a survivalist without a military background to use to train and plan from. That being said it probably isn't for everybody. Folks with a solid combat arms background probably don't need this book for their own purposes. They would be better off referring directly to applicable FM's or TM's. For twenty bucks one could have a good hard copy reference that translates basic military tactics into civilian which could come in handy some day.

Anyway if this book interests you it can be purchased here.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

I Can Haz PMAGs

TACOM, a command which I am unsure what it actually does or why it exists, has backed down clarified its position on the use of PMAGs.   “Maintenance Information Messages [from TACOM] are permissive. They are not an order. They are not a directive. All content and direction in those messages are optional for the recipient.” Read the rest here.

For whatever my meandering life experience is worth to you I use and strongly recommend PMAGs. I  I am pretty cheap yet I buy PMAGS instead of using issued mags. That pretty much says where I stand on that. It is worth noting that the new tan (it looks orange to me) follower mags seem like a big improvement over the previous issued mags.

So You Wanna Be a G?

The topic of armed paramilitary groups has always been a subset (or maybe they are separate with some overlap but let's not overthink it) of the survivalist movement. In the 70's and 80's folks talked about fighting off Soviet invaders Red Dawn style. After the fall of the Soviet Union the concern shifted to some sort of UN invasion. The latest concern seems to be more domestic in nature. Since I do what I do for a living there are a lot of things I do not talk about. To paraphrase Glen Beck "I believe everything that I say, but I don't say everything that I believe." This topic partly falls into that arena. It directly leads to some areas I choose not to talk about. Also it doesn't especially interest me. Maybe somewhat because of what I do for a living the kinds of skills and attributes needed to conduct small unit unconventional operations are largely already present.

For no particular reason I can think of this topic interests me today. Maybe it is the fact that a capable survivalist and a potential guerilla are both grounded in the same basic skills, I don't know. In any case I got to thinking about the sort of skills and capabilities and logistics one needs to develop in order to be a reasonably viable potential guerilla.

#1 Physical Fitness. I should not have to explain why this is really important. There is no way you are going to be able to fight anybody unless you are in some resemblance of decent physical shape. One of the funniest moments I can recall on this part of the web was when a man who could only be described as morbidly obese talked about how he plans to overwhelm (whoever it was) with "hit and run tactics". His fat ass couldn't hit and run the 2 blocks from his usual super sized ultra McFatty lunch at McDonalds to Baskin and Robbins for a post lunch milkshake; let alone outrun a bunch of 18-25 year old's who run multiple times a week, if not daily. Physical fitness or a lack theirof goes a long way towards establishing legitimacy as a potential or actual guerilla/ partisan or lack theirof. There is a sort of running joke that a militia is a bunch of fat guys sitting around calling each other Colonel. If I was a slightly different person with a very different life looking to join some sort of group and I got there to see they made group buys of extra extra fat multicam uniforms/ body armor/ chest rigs I would do a quick 180 and move on.

Aside from being a foundation for everything a tactical athlete such as soldier or guerilla does the reason I put physical fitness as number #1 is that it takes a long time to develop. There are no shortcuts. Physical fitness is truly a slow cooker concept requiring consistent, if not perfect, effort over months and even years. If you spend a week and a half or so at a premier tactical school you can become pretty good with a pistol and a rifle and probably learn some basic tactics. In a day you could buy a good pistol and rifle, as well as a .22, a shotgun, a "precision rifle", body armor, night vision, a chest rig, a ruck and camping gear, cases of ammo and boxes of mags as well as a years worth of food for your family. It would be a heck of a bill that very few people can afford but it could strictly speaking be done. Physical fitness does not work that way. There is no rush turkey fried/ pressure cooker way to significantly speed it up. When you realize that you need physical fitness there is unfortunately no way you can develop it in a manner timely enough to be useful.

That means you have to start yesterday. If you are too heavy then stop eating junk and have some discipline with portions. Start walking until you can work in some short jogs. Jog a telephone pole/ 100 steps/ a block then walk one. After a bit jog 2 and walk 1. Eventually cut out the walking from all but the longest runs. Take that backpack you bought and fill it with stuff then walk around. Do body weight exercises and lift stuff. In a slow and progressive manner add reps and sets to the body weight stuff and a few pounds at a time to the lifts.

#2 Build basic skills. Learn to shoot. Learn first aid and CPR. Learn some basic camping skills like starting fires, cooking over fires or backpacking stoves, building a shelter, land navigation etc all.

#3 Acquire basic weapons and equipment. We could talk about this one for a dozen blog posts but let's not get bogged down. Buy a fighting rifle and pistol. Get a setup to carry mags and ancillary stuff. At least one .22 is very useful and if you can afford it a shotgun and some sort of scoped precision type rifle are nice to have. Obviously you need plenty of ammo, mags and some prone to fail spare parts. Get sufficient wet and cold weather clothing, gloves, boots and headgear to operate in your region during the worst it has to offer. Get basic camping gear like a backpack/ rucksack, a sleeping bag, some sort of shelter like a bivy or tent, a water filter and all the little stuff in between.

#4 Acquire food, fuel, batteries and other logistical necessities. It is highly unlikely that you will be able to play Guerilla all day long then run out for a pepperoni pizza and a 6 pack of tall boys. If you are worried about running to the hills to play Red Dawn then it would be prudent to have a bunch of food, medical supplies, batteries and some fuel set aside to meet those needs. Also the kind of times when fairly normal folks are shooting at some sort of organized group are chaotic enough that even if you are not a G normal commerce will likely be disrupted.

Once you have this stuff it is prudent to put some consideration into where and how it will be stored. Unlike somebody with a more survivalist outlook your plan is probably not to stay at home (or your alternate location). If things are bad enough that you are playing G a basement full of food, while a great thing to have, may not cut it. Particularly if you have to leave in a hurry be it in a car or on foot having all your stuff in one place is problematic. Having some stuff at your home, more at some sort of bug out location/ basecamp and the rest in a couple caches around the area you plan to operate in is a much better answer.

#5 Build better skills. This was almost part of #2. The reason it is not is that while it is absolutely true that people are more important than stuff without some basic stuff it is pretty hard to do much of anything. I am pretty confident about the outcome of a gunfight between my boringly average self and just about anybody if I have a gun and they do not. If a guerilla war went on long enough there would be some extra stuff floating around but for awhile (and much more so without a convenient outside benefactor) things would be aweful tight. I would not say that a man without a rifle (and all the support stuff he needs) is exactly useless but he is a lot less useful than another shooter. In Afghanistan early on the Muj had to turn away volunteers who did not have weapons because they couldn't arm them. Now is the time to look at filling holes in your skillset's. Anyway.....

Getting some sort of professional firearms training from a fighting oriented school is an aweful good idea if you can possibly afford it. Medical skills are pretty darn important too. The new TC3 training and it's associated spinoffs are very worthwhile quality training.

#6 Find some friends. The whole lone wolf/ Rambo/ Chuck Norris/ Arnold one man army of death and destruction thing makes for a great action movie but that doesn't translate to real life. You need friends who are like minded and can work with you toward some sort of common goals. A sniper needs or at least can really use a spotter and local security. It is pretty hard to ambush a group by yourself, at most you can probably harrass them. Everybody needs somebody to pull security while they sleep and watch their 6 o'clock or help them should they get injured.

#7 Train with your new friends. People without an understanding of basic individual and team movement tactics as well as squad and platoon sized operations likely greatly outnumber those with an understanding of these things in most groups. If you somehow happen to have folks with meaningful experiences in these areas you all need to get onto the same page. Some of the most tragic accidents in military history come from ad hoc groups of otherwise trained individuals working together. If Bob zigs when Jim think he is going to zag or Tom is halfway down the wall when Rob thinks he should be at the corner people get shot. Training together will get everybody onto the same page, work out the kinks and build group cohesion.

#8 Develop plans. Based on your area, the local players and whatever sort of worst case scenario you guys see happening you can start to plan. Like any fight eventually it takes on a life of it's own but right away having a plan is priceless. Also the process of developing a plan leads you to see all sorts of interesting stuff like specific training or equipment or other preparations that should be made. Obviously doing things like making explosives or breaking federal firearms laws would be pretty foolish. However you can do all sorts of other stuff. Walk the terrain in your area to confirm or deny what map recon tells you. If you wonder how long it takes to move from Anderson butte to the ridgeline above Highway 25 then pack a lunch and go find out. If you wonder whether Deer Creek can be crossed on foot during the spring runoff go find out.

#9 Take advantage of your group's purchasing power. Make group buys to save money. I suspect if you call a school and ask them what kind of discount you get for filling the whole class they will work with you. Depending on your group dynamics consider the purchase of expensive or specialized equipment that is not practical for an individual but make sense for a group. Take advantage of the economics of scale which can be achieved. Renting a piece of specialized equipment you will only need for a short time is much more affordable if several folks can use it during the minimum time.

#10 Develop those around you. Some discretion is essential here but the more prepared that your extended family, friends and buddies are the better. Also a few may go whole hog into it and become assets. Also this is a great place to find and develop useful folks who could fill a more auxillary type role.

Note: One and two should be done successively as in one after another. You need to get started in physical fitness today (though you can pursue other things while developing your fitness) and work on basic skills until that requirement has been satisfied. They are really the basis for everything else. Three and four should probably be worked together. Six could really be done whenever but obviously has to be done before seven. The rest are somewhat more flexible, just use common sense.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Reader Questions: Military Families when SHTF

I’m 64 and doing well on prepping. New home in Idaho is almost ready and will be able to sustain myself/wife, son # 1 family (3 people) and son #2 (3 people).
Son #1 lives in Seattle and is 1.5 tanks of gas away. He always has extra gas so, with any warning, he can make it to my place fine.
Son # 2 is a CPT at Ft. Carson, Colorado and is 3+ tanks of gas away.
Having served in the Army, I know that during extreme times, Son #2 will be required to stay with his unit and he will comply. Even with some warning about a SHTF event, sending his wife and small child alone to Idaho is not realistic if the gas supply en-route could be in any way compromised. Sending me down to pick her up, needing 7 tanks of gas for the round trip is not realistic either.
Other than bugging in, or getting lucky with lots of warning so your family can drive to safety, how do military families deal with this?
I’m not sure if your readers would be interested in your answer, but feel free to publish this letter.

TOR here:
Well Ron, You bring up an interesting question. I see it breaking into 2 distinct pieces; bugging out and the military component. Addressing them separately and then touching on how one affects the other makes the most sense to me.

I am generally pretty skeptical about plans that require really long drives. Obviously closer is better but if it is a serious social/ population/ setting change you need 5 (or sometimes even 50) miles  will not cut it. I would be mildly concerned about a plan that required driving 250 miles and pretty concerned about one that required driving 500. Admittedly those numbers are somewhat arbitrary though they could be broken down to 1 and 2 tanks of gas. In any case.

It should go without saying that you should be ready to leave quickly if circumstances permit, have ample (2x what it normally takes seems prudent if arbibtary) fuel on hand and multiple routes planned.

In addition to sheer physical difference we have to do some route analysis. I could talk about military acronym's here as they are often how I organize my thinking but I don't really feel like it. So let's just keep it simple. Population centers and choke points are bad. Wide empty roads through the middle of nowhere with lots of bypass routes are good.

For example in the case of Son #1 since I am more familiar with that area. His chances of success increase considerably if he gets out of Seattle, which is a nightmare with all of it's bridges, exponentially when he gets over the Cascades and are looking pretty good (if he goes that way which is likely) after crossing the Columbia river.

Son #2 obviously has a pretty long drive. Without a lot of personal knowledge of that area or doing any research I would say the drive could be better and could be worse. On the plus side the population density is pretty low but on the downside there may be some real terrain issues with choke points, particularly in winter. 

I hesitate to use the word luck but there are certainly risk factors inherant of such plans. While carrying enough 5 gallon cans to make the drive is possible it is a long way and I would at least look at setting up a cache or two along the way. Also keep PLENTY of cash on hand, who cares if gas is $50 a gallon if you can drive the whole way. Assuming sufficient fuel is  available from storage/cache/purchase, the weather is not an issue and that things are not totally crazy with every municipality setting up road blocks and gangs of roving criminals ambushing cars this sort of plan stands a fair to reasonable chance of success.

As to the military and how it relates to this whole thing. There are a couple posts in my head which address larger issues so this will be relatively narrow in scope.

Whether he would be ordered to stay on duty would depend on a lot of factors. If he should decide to comply with these orders or to desert is another question with it's own set of factors. For the sake of this discussion let us briefly hit the high points of each options.

He stays on duty. This is the most realistic answer for most situations. This may mean staying local or it is quite likely that he may leave to be part of some sort of military response. This means that his family can either stay in the area bugging in at home or on post or bug out without him.

He deserts. If things get totally absolutely crazy nobody is going to come looking for him any way. He comes home with the family. Then agan if things get that bad it might not be the time for a 1,500 mile family road trip. Staying with a huge cohesive group of well armed and trained individuals might not be a terrible way to go anyway.

As a middle ground he might be able to wrangle a period of leave or a pass to run the folks up to you and then come back. If his boss likes him and the area is quiet it might work and is certainly worth asking about. Should he happen to infer that one way or another he is driving the fam up to Idaho they may like the option where he comes back afterword.

In any case getting out of Dodge before things go nuts is seriously advisable. Waiting long enough makes a decision by default. The fam can always go up for a "vacation" if some of your warning signs start getting met. At least they would be secure and he could reassess and decide what to do for himself down the road.

As to the military's particular challenges as it relates to this discussion. We move all over the place. If I wasn't in the Army we would live in the quiet and empty part of the PNW which would make a lot of things much simpler. To further complicate things we move often which necessitates changing or reinventing plans every few years. This is just a hassle and complicates the time and expense of things. Let us say that Son #2 was a home depot manager or whatever in Colorado for the long term or essentially permenantly. Son #2's emergency plan is to come to your place. He plans some routes and buys a couple of conveniently located but discrete pieces of junk land along the way. With some time and energy you could probably do it for a couple grand. He stashes a bunch of fuel, some fluids, water, food and ammo at them. While the long bug out problem is not fixed it is greatly simplified because you do not need to haul everything for the trip or (a long shot) buy it enroute. See where I am going? Doing that once wouldn't be a big deal but every 2-3 years it might get a bit crazy.

At some point, a point I think Son #2 is approaching but not quite at, you have got to be realistic that getting home is not a plan with a reasonable, let alone good, chance of success. Getting from FT Drum, New York to Arizona is not likely. Getting from FT Lewis, Washington to South Carolina is not likely. In this sort of situation I would put time and energy into developing plans that are in ones current region. While that isn't a fun answer it is probably reality.

Anyway those are my thoughts on that. I hope it helps or at least drums up some useful conversation.


Thursday, March 15, 2012

Question of the Day- The Military and Preparedness

Commander Zero asked about my thought on...

The relationship, coinciding interests, practical applications, and relativity of military experiences in regards to preparedness. Or, put another way, what in the military is or has been applicable to preparedness.

Also, do you ever broach the subject with your comrades and if so what is their opinion?

TOR replies: To answer this question we have to look at what servicemembers do.
Let us say as a baseline a soldier is trained to shoot and maintain rifles and maybe handguns as well as basic individual stuff like pulling guard, searching prisoners and basic defensive and movement tactics. They have some exposure to first aid, map reading, land navigation, NBC (nuclear, biological, chemical) type (yes I know there is a new acronym, I think it is stupid and am keeping the old one as protest) events as well as a variety of other skills. Theoretically every soldier should be familiar with all skill level 1 common tasks in addition to whatever skills are required for their individual job.
An Infantryman should be very competent at all skill level 1 tasks and able to effectively use every weapon in the US Army up to (and depending on the kind of unit they are in including) mortars and have a solid understanding of Battle Drills and movement techniques.
Note that I used the phrases theoretically and should. Some folks are solid above and beyond their skill and experience level and others not so much. Sometimes this is individual and other times groups or units show trends. In particular I can say that land nav is pretty weak in lower enlisted and support type folks.

[Before continuing this I feel that it is worthwhile to give a bit of a disclaimer. I can speak about being a soldier, an Infantryman and an Officer in the US Army and make some reasonable generalizations about the Army and the Navy's Army aka the Marines. The Navy, Coast Guard and Air Force are very different and while they all do great things a lot of what I am going to talk about does not apply to the vast majority of their service members. Also of course experiences vary among branches and occupational specialties. If I offend you it is not intentional.]
Most folks get some of these type skills to some varying degree in whatever branch or job they are in. Aside from what we could call basic soldier skills folks in support type jobs can learn other applicable skills. Medics, combat engineers, plumbers, electricians and diesel mechanics learn skills that are are clearly useful. Some folks are in such a position that their military experience, however valuable to our nation it may be, relates very little to survivalism. There are however some characteristics that military folks even an X Ray tech on a carrier or a an administrative type in the Air Force who hasn't touched a rifle since basic training still seem to have.

The ability to deal with stress is a big one. For a lot of reasons military folks deal with ton of stress. Being able to think clearly and make sound decisions under stress is something military folks tend to be good at.

Physical fitness. The military in general (and far more so SOF and Infantry types) is a pretty fitness oriented culture. You see some very fit people in the most random support jobs.

Planning. Beyond dealing with stress this is likely the biggest general contribution of military service for most people. There are surely some more general traits but I can't think of them right now.

As to the applicability of military service to preparedness. Survivalism and its better dressed more polished cousin preparedness could be broken down into a variety of different skill sets (each with logistical requirements but they don't really apply to this) which support the endstate of being able to survive and thrive in an uncertain and difficult future.

 One could, totally off the top of my head, break these down into: tactical, wilderness and primative living, food production and storage, physical fitness, medical, mechanical and building skills, communication and energy production.

It may be more useful to look at applicability by those skill sets:
In terms of tactical stuff Infantryman, other combat arms guys (and or course SOF) learn some pretty darn applicable things. While not a perfect stopping point these skills put them well beyond most folks. Other folks skills may be somewhat watered down and just give some basic firearms training or entirely absent.

When it comes to wilderness and primative living folks who spend a lot of time outside living out of rucksacks and in tents learn things. Typically these would be combat arms guys and those who go walk around with us.

Few folks learn much of anything to do with food production and storage. Cooks learn to cook but that isn't really a weak area for most folks anyway.

In terms of medical stuff obviously medical folks like doctors, nurses and medics know a lot. Soldiers typically have a better level of first aid and particularly trauma training than average folks who take a first aid class or two. The more current versions of Combat Lifesaver and various other courses are pretty good and are often pushed down to the lowest level. This is one of the areas where we have really gotten our act together in the last few years.

As to mechanical and building type skills folks whose job is in those areas like mechanics, electricians and carpenters or whatever obviously learn stuff. The rest of us not so much.

For communication lots of folks get what could be described as radio communication 99 and commo guys, forward observers and JTACs get more useful experiences.

Other than electricians and generator mechanics nobody gets much in terms of alternative energy applicable stuff.

Also, do you ever broach the subject with your comrades and if so what is their opinion?
Not really and even then not directly. However when you get to know folks you pick up on things (and they pick up things about you). Somebody who has a solid gun collection and keeps a good amount of ancillary stuff put away that is also fiscally modest as well as conservative/ liberty leaning probably has some stuff going on. With these folks I will offer a piece of advice in context. Example, somebody is talking about the rough price of magazines for their handgun, I might suggest that they should not pay more than $XX and that it is worthwhile to check out a website that has what they need like CDNN.
As I don't mention this sort of stuff with folks who are not at least partially in the club and still keep the cards pretty close to my chest I don't know how a lot of folks might handle it. I can offer my totally anecdotal observations. I would say there are some survivalists, more "preppers", a LOT of gun nuts and the balance made up of pretty normal folks within the military.
Also there is an interesting coincidence. While survivalists as a group are not necessarily a high percentage of military members I would say that a very high percentage of survivalists have some military background. This is not suprising as middle and lower middle class conservatives from the rural/ small town West and South tend to be a significant percentage of survivalists and this group is well represented in the military.

Anway again if I offended anyone it was not intentional. If you have anything to add please comment. Lets not get into a service vs service thing and if you try to say that some random admin or logistics type job is super ninja JSOC rambotastic I might make fun of you.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Quote of the Day

“This is a very important lesson. You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end—which you can never afford to lose—with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.”

-Vice Admiral James Bond Stockdale
I believe this was a quote of the day some time back but I stumbled into it again and thought it worthy of the repost. Think about it.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Quote of the Day

“Please check for me. Not that I don’t trust the system, but I don’t trust the system.”

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Back To The Stan

They say all good things must come to an end and at least that is true with leave. R and R was great. I got to spend a lot of time (minus a trip or two to the store all of it) with Wifey and Walker. Walker is a totally different kid and a complete riot. I caught up with my family and saw almost all of the friends in that area.
We got to take a scenic drive and stay in a great place for several days which was awesome. I ate and drank everything I wanted to so no complaints on that front. I accomplished my modest preparedness goal which was good also.

Now it is back to work. On the bright side I took leave late in the deployment so at least the end is somewhere in sight. I am eager to get back to the track and weight pile but other than that the only thing I am looking forward to is leaving this country and getting back to my family.

As Wifey noted having two stay at home parents is really the way to go. However the economics of that are to say the least difficult as we do not want to stay at home parents in a tent in a national forest. Our hopes in that department rest on winning multi millions in the lottery and since I do not buy lottery tickets and Wifey rarely does (less than $20 a year) the odds of that one are slim. Oh well I guess you can always dream.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Equipment Soldiers Use

I was asked about this and figured it would be a slam dunk easy post. Everybody likes gear and writing about what I know is just too easy. Wrong, the thing is that when you are so used to something it is just what it is, as opposed to significant or noteworthy. If asked a very specific question about gear I can talk for a long time but looking at our whole organization is difficult because it is what I am used to. In any case I will do my best.
Slings- Almost everyone uses some form of a two point sling. Those who do not go with the generic issue two point typically purchase an adjustable two point sling. There are so many makers and models to choose from that you rarely see the same one twice. No clearly defined trends except two point adjustable. Once in a blue moon (less than 10%) are one points with a few of the two to one type floating around. Some folks who carry M16’s still use the three point but that is mostly because they are issued.

Holsters- The Blackhawk Serpa series is heavily represented and has a distinct majority, I would estimate almost 2/3rds. The rest is split between Fobbit’s with shoulder holsters, various other kydex type holsters, assorted leather and nylon jobs. Some quality products from name brand companies and some generic poorly made junk.

Knives- Almost everyone carries some form of a one hand opening type folder of some make or model on their person. Most are midsized 3-4 inch blades and made by major manufacturers such as Gerber, Spyderco, SOG, Benchmade, etc all. Whatever happens to be selling in the PX/ Clothing and Sales had a slight lead but in terms of knives we are totally all over the place. Of the remainder a few carry piece of junk one hand opening folders, a few carry big (5in+) sheath knives and there is a totally random tiny minority like me and my medium/small belt knife. You see a few more sheath knives attached to body armor or kit but not too many. However I would wager almost every soldier has a decent sized knife (often a KaBar) in a duffel bag or a tuff box.

Multi Tools- Everybody has one (if just because they are issued) and they are usually Gerber’s because that is what sells at the PX and is issued. Some live on belts, others on kit and most in rooms or rucksacks.

Boots- Not as many Danners as a few years back. Maybe it is that we are spending more time in hot climates or maybe that the Army is finally issuing some decent kit to us so folks don’t need to go out and buy that. Lots of light boots with soft soles are worn by Infantry and SOF guys. I wear Altima ExoSpeeds though I have heard the new Nike’s are nice and some folks like Rockies or Oackley boots.

Socks- Some folks wear various commercial hiking type socks but more just use the issue ones.

Bags- The Army really got it right with the new small framed molle ruck. It is an awesome 72 hour type bag. This saves young soldiers a $150+ purchase that was almost a requirement to function and I am happy for that. You still see the odd Blackhawk or Camelback or Tactical Tailor type 72 hour bag carried by someone who has been around more than a couple years though.

Belts- People either wear the standard issue tan belt or go out and purchase a riggers belt from somebody or another. All the ones that are not Chinese junk are functionally equivalent as far as I can tell. For those carrying a holster a stiff riggers belt is very helpful.

Cold Weather Gear- Thankfully again this is an area where the Army has gotten their act together. Soldiers do not need to go out and spend hundreds of dollars any more for the cold weather stuff they need. We are issued lots of fleece, gore tex and thermal clothing to stay as comfortable as possible.

Water carrying- Most folks have a camelback, generally issued but you see an aftermarket pouch (typically the better more molle compatible one) occasionally.

As a disclaimer I should note that products sold in our clothing and sales/ PX get a huge boost in purchases and thus use. Young soldiers often do their shopping within walking distance and because of our busy work hours (and laziness) many folks just get what is convenient. This accounts at least in part for the trend towards Serpa holsters and a Gerber multi tools.

To be honest I can’t really think of anything else but if you have a specific question I can probably go into a lot more detail.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Deployments and Survival Scenarios

I was asked about mentally dealing with deployments recently. That is a pretty broad question so I will do my best to cover it. Also I hope that through comparison and examples some insight can be gained to dealing with various survival scenarios an average citizen might find themselves in.

For background I am currently deployed to Afghanistan and have previously deployed to Iraq. Also every deployment is different.  Some deployments are very kinetic (read lots of fighting and violence) and others are not, most are somewhere in the middle. Even for those involved in little to no violence the whole deployment thing is a pretty weird phenomenon of totalitarian control, social depravation, strange geography and weather. Whatever experiences people have pass through the filter of their personality (a sum of their background, skills, experiences, religion, etc) and there is an output. The end result is that people are affected in profoundly different ways, even by the same experiences.

In my experience if actual war was a video game nobody would buy it. The ratio of time spent doing monotonous tasks or boring repetitive duties (guard shifts, patrols, etc) vastly outweighs the time spent engaging or being engaged in combat. I would say this is true pretty much everywhere; it is just a question of what the ratio is. I believe this was true in previous wars though it manifested itself in a different way. In the current operating environment there are no front lines but contact is sporadic. A base or organization will keep doing the same thing and occasionally take contact. What people don’t see from the headlines is that for most people, in most places the average day is pretty quiet. When you hear some BN Commander on the news or in an article saying they are taking contact every day what doesn’t get mentioned is that all it means is that one of their numerous patrols got shot at, IED’ed or whatever. You can safely figure on at least 3 line companies and an HHC per BN. In each of the line companies there are probably 3 platoons and an HQ section. That is a lot of different pieces of a large organization. In short PVT Snuffy is not getting in a gunfight every single day. Now previous wars (specifically pre ‘Nam) had more clear cut front lines with more activity but units rotated in and out. The end result was probably somewhat comparable or at least within the same range.
Somebody once described war as long periods of complete boredom with random short periods of terror. I think that is half accurate. In my personal experience things happen so fast that you don’t have time to get scared. All the BS aside our training is pretty darn good and we know the right thing to do. We react to a given event quickly and with little thought. You are just acting and reacting until it is over. Later on the ‘what if’s’ and ‘if not for’s’ can haunt you if you let them. Dealing with the aftermath is far more difficult than the actual events. Like we talked about earlier, different people handle things differently and some profoundly worse than others. I don’t see a lot of reason to stress or worry. I do everything I can to be ready and to make the best decisions possible and if something happens, well that is that. I’m not fatalistic or anything like that but I don’t find much usefulness in stressing things I can’t control. You can the baddest dude alive and if you are in the shower and a rocket lands on it your race is run.

Now we will go onto the topic of staying sane over here. Finding ways to fill your time and mentally escape in a healthy way is essential. Lots of folks work out, pumping iron, running or whatever suits them. Some play lots of video games or read. A few take collect classes if their schedule and internet connectivity allow. Most have a laptop and an external hard drive full of TV and movies.

I find that human beings are far more adaptable than we give ourselves credit for. We can get used to just about anything. As for staying sane personally I work out a lot, watch tv and movies, talk to wifey as much as I can and do some reading.  As with most things in life having a healthy perspective helps a lot.
Relationships are a hard one. There are all sorts of stressors that mercilessly seek out dysfunctional relationships. Shallow marriages and relationships typically based solely on sex fall apart. Women cheat at home and men find ‘love’ over social networking sights. Deployments do a good job of weeding out the dysfunctional  (of which there are many but that is a whole nother post) military marriages. To be fair the added stress and distance also destroys some that would have probably been fine otherwise.
Adapting your expectations down is important. Everything here pretty much sucks but the least sucky things are by default pretty nice. I think finding the happiness in little things here is so important. A good cup of coffee or a hot shower, maybe a nice sunset or view now and then. Some of the best times are when you actually forget that you are here. The other day I was eating some chex mix and watching the Soprano’s on my computer and it could have easily been a random Weds night at home. Today I was in a great spontaneous political/ current affairs conversation with a group of guys. I looked at my watch and 3 hours had gone by. I couple have easily been in a restaurant or a quiet bar on a lazy afternoon. If you can’t find some things that make you at least relatively happy you are in serious trouble because there will definitely be plenty of things that stress you out.

There are of course endless negative things people can do here. The usual spectrum of derelict/ criminal behavior is present. Some folks turn to drugs or alcohol (also huffing canned air is a random and dangerous trend) to escape. Some folks stop caring or let their emotions get the best of them and get into all sorts of trouble. Folks get complacent and start doing stupid things. Others get into all sort of dysfunctional situations trying to get some kind of emotional closeness or just strait up looking to get laid. Some folks for whatever reason just can’t seem to deal with it.

How does this all relate to survival scenarios?  I think they relate pretty directly. I think there will be a variety of different situations for individuals but most won’t be the absolute worst or a piece of cake. I think different people in the same relative situation will deal with it very differently. That is just the start. Also I think survival scenarios are going to have the same, if not a lower ratio of boring to violent events, very low. Especially in common events such as natural disasters, storms and power outages where you won’t all of a sudden start a huge garden or need to cut a winter’s worth of firewood boredom is a big factor. This is where a stash of cards, board games and books, to include light easy reading type stuff is so important.

There will be a lot of boring routine work and every day challenges for every significant event. One thing about deployments is that there is a definite (if floating) light at the end of the tunnel. I know that at roughly next winter we will redeploy and I will go back to a better place. Most survival situations, except the really dark ones, will have that same benefit.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Conspiracy Busters Military Patrols

Like a lot of folks I read the Drudge Report. When I saw a link to "Military Patrols in Columbus, GA" I had to check it out. I am sure some conspiracy hounds are sure this is the start of a military occupation of some kind. However that just does not mesh with reality. I can speak from a bit of experience as I have lived in Columbus, GA and also done Courtesy Patrol albeit in a different location. The way CP (as it is so affectionately called) actually works is as follows. Senior NCO's and sometimes junior Officers walk around busy bar/ club areas and try to keep soldiers from doing stupid stuff and getting into trouble. Typically it consists of getting soldiers who have had too much (even by a Charlie Sheen definition, like puking, falling over and passing out) to drink home and breaking up dangerous situations. With the totalitarian nature of the military and our laws orders to "get in the van" are in fact lawful. Nobody gets into any trouble for that sort of stuff, just a safe ride back to the Barracks or on post housing. Breaking up fights is pretty common and keeping bouncers from stomping some dumb poorly behaved soldier is not unheard of. Really it is just us looking out for our own. Other than making a phone call (which anybody can do) these folks have no authority and will not bother civilians and yes we can tell the difference. Hint, the group of skinny bald 21-23 year old guys wearing t shirts and dog tags are in the military. If anything CP is a stabilizing influence that can remind soldiers that they will be held accountable for ridiculously stupid actions (breaking stuff and hurting people, etc).

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Importance of Saving No Matter What

One thing about the military is that we get paid regularly. It doesn't get much more predictable. Though for reasons I cannot understand it always varies by a dollar or two we know 99.5% of what we will get paid and exactly when. Unfortunately this makes a lot of military families (we also have some weird excentricites but that is another discussion)
Given the whole mess about the budget there is talk that the government might shut down and we would not get paid. I believe this has actually happened twice, during the Revolutionary War and the Clinton era. Most likely they will do a series of short extensions and then figure it out however we might have a gap in pay.
Wifey is active, or at least a lurker, on a couple of those military wife type boards. There were women talking about how if this happened they could not feed their families, not dramatically but literally. Also I am not talking about after weeks or months of no paychecks but immediately. If that check didn't hit on the 1st and the 15th like clockwork they would be screwed. The point of this is that even the most secure jobs and income streams can have disruptions.
Also a bunch of Navy families got evacuated from Japan and the immediate surrounding area. These folks left, with little notice and I imagine very limited baggage. They got put on a plane and landed somewhere to stay for awhile. Maybe they will get some sort of lodging but there will certainly be expenses associated with living out of some sort of temporary lodging. Wives will need hygiene and beauty items, kids will need toys and kid stuff, over a long enough timeline everybody will need some more clothes and without access to a full kitchen it costs a lot more to eat. The point of this is that all sorts of emergencies may happen that, while they have nothing to do with your income stream, will go beyond it's ability to absorb.
Basically no matter what your situation is, or how secure your income stream you need to save.
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