Finding The “Positive”

Yesterday’s load

While on one of my weekend “walks” (ruck walk) yesterday I was reminded of the importance of finding the positive in everything you do, and how much that mindset can make a difference in your ability, physically, to get where you are going. Yesterday was a “light” day, so all I carried was 60 lbs. of load bearing gear, my “Shorty .30”, and a light ruck instead of my usual 60 to 80 pounder, so it should have been easier, right?

Wrong! For whatever reason, my initial step off was just miserable. I was having trouble getting my pace and breathing rhythm in sync, My gear was rubbing in all the wrong places, and it just seamed like things were not workin’ out the way they normally do (but I did take the last two weekends off, due to “Life”, so…..). Like I said, it should have been an “easy” day, due to a lack of weight, so WHAT GIVES!?

After a half a klick, I decided to stop, take a water break, and reassess what the deal was. I found a good elevated (observation, right?), flat rock to take a break on, take my gear off, and take a drink. While sitting there, I took in my surrounding, noting how beautiful a spot it was, while trying to figure out what was my “deal”.

After about 5 minutes, I heard something walkin’ through the woods. As I sat there, here comes two huge gobblers walkin’ right towards me. Keep in mind, I had camo on, so these guys got within about 15 feet of me before they turned West and started down the mountain, apparently, never seeing me.

About 5 minutes after they walked off, I got up, took a last drink of water, put my gear on, while making sure it was all where it was supposed to be, and has been on that rig for over ten years, and I started walkin’. The rest of my walk went great. I got my rhythm (pace and breathing) back, and was able to enjoy the rest of my day.

So right now you’re saying, “OK JC, what does a couple turkeys have to do with your mindset and comfort level on your ruckwalk?”. Well, there’s a couple reasons. First, anyone who knows me, knows I’m a hunter, and have been since I was a little kid. Seeing those turkeys and having them get that close means I was following certain implied rules in the woods that will make or break your success as a hunter and probably your survival in certain scenarios.

Second, I’m a huge fan of nature, and seeing those turkeys up close and personal like that is very rare for even good hunters, so it was a treat for me to be able to experience it. I’ve only ever been that close to a wild turkey one other time, and it was about 20 years ago, and even if you use the patience I spoke about in this post, it is a rare opportunity for me.

Last night, while thinkin’ about what happened during the day, I realized that what made the big difference in my ruck walk was having something happen that changed my mindset/enjoyment in what I was doing. Look, anyone who has ever rucked knows it sucks no matter how in shape or motivated you are. Anyone who says carrying 100 lbs. or more of gear doesn’t suck is a liar, or hasn’t done it.

Physical fitness makes it suck less. A good mindset behind the motivations for why you do this physically hard task, makes it suck less. Having the confidence created by your preparedness in all aspects of the Survivalist lifestyle makes it suck less. Anyone who desires a life of living like a hermit in the woods during a bugout, needs to go into the Infantry and experience at least one field problem for about a month. Hell, that’s with beau coup support takin’ care of you. You do that, and you’ll see what we mean by “Being in the suck”.

My friend Bergmann has done two videos that I think are relevant in that they give a small glimpse into what it might be like in that type of a situation. This first one is pretty grim.

The second one here is even more so.

Some of the things we do as Survivalists are hard, and they suck, but as the sayin’ goes, what is your life and more importantly, that of your family, worth? When you’re doing the hard stuff, find the small thing in what you are doing that makes it just a little more “enjoyable” (or less terrible if you’re an unrepentant pessimist), even if the rest of it sucks.

In other words, “Stop and smell the roses”. Ruckin’ is one of my forms of PT, and PT in and of itself has it’s own rewards in more than just the preparedness tasks of the Survivalist. Among other things, it can prolong your life, and make other, less than smart, health choices a little less harsh on you and your body.

Grunt

 

If nothing else, be glad you’re not the aforementioned grunt, living at the behest of a Light Infantry, Non Commissioned Officer’s orders. The downside of not being a grunt anymore is that I now have to sometimes reach deeper than I did as an Enlisted Infantryman then as an Infantry NCO to pull the motivation out to continue. I no longer have others to motivate me, and I can’t say, “I will not allow my peers/subordinates to see me slack off or stop.”. It’s all you, and that requires a little bit more.

Not a Grunt

TANGENT ON:

Although I teach what most will call “Small Unit Tactics” to civilians, it is with the caveat that what I am teaching them at the Squad (9-12), Fire Team (4-6), and Buddy Team (2) (all 3 are about the numbers of the group, that is all) level is a noisy “means” to a positive, and hopefully survivable “ends”, and I reinforce that they are not the “Light Infantrymen” some trainers will try to paint them as, and they should be glad they are not.

If you want to be an Infantrymen and call yourself such, go into the U.S. Army or the Marine Corps and live with the limitations placed on you there. As civilian Survivalists, the only limitations we have, is due to the physical, time, or monetary restraints placed on us. The Infantryman has many more.

My friend NC Scout spoke of our civilian advantages in this post, using the Mountain Men of old as an example. When we say “I will teach you SOME Light Infantry skills”. It is not the same as sayin’ “I will teach you to BE a Light Infantryman”. Anyone claiming the later (or anything else he shouldn’t even be mentioning due to national security/safety concerns) to civilians is a charlatan only interested in the money behind that/those “Tacticool” selling point. The closest that you will get to learning and living the Infantry life as a civilian that I have seen, is at One Shepherd, and that takes years to accomplish, but fortunately isn’t too costly.

TANGENT OFF:

The bottom line and point of this post is, “Find the positive things in every situation you are in that sucks.” Some of us naturally do this because we are optimists, others need to develop this attribute if for no other reason than their sanity. Trust me, it will go a long way down the road, for your mental and physical health, if the worst case scenario happens.

My destination yesterday.

JCD

"Parata Vivere"-Live Prepared.

Trust But Verify

Do all your compasses point in the same direction?

All too often, we will trust things we get or have because they come from “Official Sources”. How many pieces of gear did you buy, or do you have because “It’s official issue” to our military? Have you verified the bearings that are shown on one compass with another? What about maps? What is the source for your maps, and is it a “Subcontractor” for the original source?

While conducting a LandNav class back in April, I found out that the map we were using for the area I had chosen to conduct the class, had a glaring deficiency in it’s markings. As in all beginner LandNav classes I’ve taught (first time in this area), I use major, easily seen terrain features (roads, powerlines, pipelines, etc.) to help with keep students from getting lost. This class was no exception, and I used one of the well used roads in that area as the extreme Western “handrail”, and a gas pipeline “right of way” as the Northern “handrail”.

Map marked pipeline with black dashes. Actual pipeline in red. the blue lines are MGRS 1,000 meter grid squares. Notice how even the azimuth angle is wrong.

This gives students a safety net in case the get lost in the “area of operation” (AO), and they know if they follow their compass due West (270 degrees), or due North (360 degrees), the will come to one of these “handrail” guides which can then lead them back to the start point, which was where the pipeline and the road intersect. Problem is, the map was wrong. The map in question had the pipeline marked 550 meters North of where it actually was, and it didn’t even follow the correct azimuth, East to West.

550 meters is over half a kilometer. 550 meters IS A LOT! During the class, it was figured out that it was off using other major trail marked reference points, pace counts and multiple GPS’s (they are not always right either, so be careful trusting them), and people were able to adjust fire and continue with the class. Two weeks after I taught the class, I called My Topo, and made them aware of the issue. Their response was they would check it out, but that their info came straight from USGS.

I sent them a copy of the map, with the pipeline marked where it actually is as a reference. How did I verify it’s location? I used resection with my compass and map together with my pace count, as well as my GPS using the MGRS coordinates and elevation features. I mapped out a path I made in the area, and plotted it on the map using the above listed information.

Why am I telling you this? If you have an area you going to be using, especially if it’s a place you’ll be going to after a SHTF event as a safe haven, you need to verify that the map is correct as much as possible. As an example, during Vietnam, SF and LRRP Team Leaders would do an aerial recon of most of the areas they were going to be operating in, to confirm things the map and the S2 (Intel) were telling them were correct.  Just like we always tell you that you need to test your gear out thoroughly before you need it, you need to verify what the map is telling you is correct for your “AO”. Checking these things is not an exercise in futility, LandNav skills are something you should be practicing anyway, right?

In this instance, what if you were using that pipeline as a handrail (you can move quicker that way) to lead you out of your town to an area you think will be safe, or to an area where you were supposed to link up with friends? If you had used that one in particular, the terrain you were seeing would not have matched up with what the map was telling you it was supposed to be, and you could end up in the wrong, maybe a “non permissive” area. Worse yet, what if you had been moving a night (a good idea if things are bad)? Identifying that the terrain around you doesn’t match the map is a lot harder at night.

“Trusting but Verifying” is never a bad idea wihether it’s your acquaintances, your gear, or your information (in this case, your maps). LandNav is just one more of the Mountain man, Pathfinder, Scout and Infantryman’s skill sets that, as Survivalists, we need to be able to do well. This starts with correct information on your map, and you’ll never know for sure unless you check it (remember the LRRP/SF guys above). A Survivalist is a “Jack of All Trades”, a master of some (hopefully the life protecting and the life saving arts). We are not Infantrymen, we have to be much more than that.

Figured while I was out checkin’ the map, I’d do some ruckin’ and kill two birds with one stone. You do LandNav with all your gear…right?

JCD
"Parata Vivere"- Live Prepared.

 

Prioritizing Realistic “Engagement” Training

Here’s the scene: OIF in Northern Iraq. Vehicle stopped by a “message” from an OH58 (smoke rocket impact in front of the vehicle). because it appeared they were trying to set off a cell phone initiated IED on the American vehicle patrol (Duke system was indicating signal in the area). Six Iraqi’s exit the vehicle (a Toyota sedan), and are being searched. One man searching personnel, One man pulling near security. One man supervising the search. All the Iraqi men have been asked for ID’s (which they produced), all the men had been asked if they had weapons, to which they all said “No.”.

Is this guy a threat?

In the midst of the “Search” guy doing his thing, “Security” yells “He’s got a gun!” (directed towards a man who hadn’t been searched yet), at which time “In Charge” guy (approximately 5 feet from the armed person in question) throw his rifle to his shoulder (from low ready) while flipping off the safety, and in the midst of taking up the slack in the trigger, notices two things. One, he can’t see the guy’s right hand (no weapon pointed at anyone…yet), and two, the guy looks scared shitless. In that moment, “In Charge” makes a decision to flip the safety back on, and hit the Iraqi in the sternum with the muzzle of his rifle knocking him to the ground, at which point he then secures the Iraqi “bad guy”, and disarms him of his Glock 19. Was the guy who took action wrong for not shooting someone who gave indications of being a threat? Maybe. What would you have done?

I hear a lot of talk about speed draws, buzzer to shot times with a rifle in fractions of a second. and split times that would make Jerry Mikulek look like an arthritic geriatric. The accuracy crowd is just as bad, claiming the need for sub MOA groups, or you’re not at “Operator” level (should we care about that?). Here’s a question. In the Accuracy, Speed, and Target ID tripod, what is the most important leg? Training to be accurate is great and necessary, simply due to the fact that “minute of angle’ training in good conditions, will translate to “minute of bad guy” performance under bad conditions. Training to be fast, especially with a handgun, is also important (up close and personal requires speed more than accuracy), and being able to run your gun fast, whether a rifle or pistol, will again translate to acceptable “second nature” performance when shit has gone airborne.

So tell me, what are you doing for your “target discrimination” training? Are you like most groups or trainers I’ve seen, who throw a “Don’t shoot” target in at the end of a course of fire, just to see if you’re paying attention, and to say, “Look, we make you think, right?”. What are you training for? Is it for a “Battle Royale with Gov forces? (I know, I know, you’re all “Grunts” right?) Is it to be an extra in the next “Mad Max” sequel gone “reality”? Is it for hard times in CONUS where the majority of the people out there will be innocents just trying to get through another day? Most people I talk to are Survivalists, and are concerned and preparing for situations that are similar to “One Second After”, what happened in Argentina in 2001,  or what Selco talks about here. If this is what your training is geared towards, shouldn’t your weapons training reflect what you will probably run into?

Most would agree that especially in the initial phases of any of these scenarios, 90-95% (hopefully 99%) of the people you will deal with on a daily basis are not bad guys. Obviously, this is not necessarily true in certain urban enclaves, but for the most part, although you should be cautious when approaching anyone except those already known to you, the large majority are not a threat. When training for the reality you feel you’re going to face, why would you only use one “Don’t shoot” target, in a group of ten. When more than likely, you will only have one or two “Shoot” targets (out of 10 or more) in reality. Muscle memory is a bitch, and if you primary training concern is accuracy and speed, and you only give a cursory overview to the importance of IDing the target, you will shoot an innocent before you’ve even thought to actually ID them, just because a certain “threat trigger” (like ” He’s got a GUN”) was initiated.

How fast can you ID a real threat? What are the signs? Because they’re armed? So are you. Because they seem jumpy? So are you, right? What would you do if you were out on a “Presence Patrol” of your area, and another patrol was coming up the trail towards you? Would you automatically throw up your weapon and demand they drop theirs? Have you thought that scenario through? Pointing your weapon at someone is an implied threat, correct? What other courses of action do you have? How’s about getting behind cover and communicating to those you’ve seen, asking who they are. and why they’re there.

One type of scenario I use in my classes during patrols is the “don’t shoot” guy. An armed guy (one of the MDT OpFor) runs across the trail in front of the patrol. Usually the patrol lights him up (blanks), so at that point we take an admin break, and conduct a “hotwash” AAR (quick on the spot after action review). I ask “Why did you shoot that guy?”. “Well…. he was armed.” is the normal response. To that I say “So are you.” Upon reflection, the students realize “Holy Cow, he’s right.”

I teach students to always be looking for the next available cover while on patrol, and that way, if they have a situation like this (THIS IS NOT THE SAME AS “REACT TO AMBUSH”!) they seek cover, and loudly communicate with those they feel could be a threat. Who knows, you might meet some kindred spirits in that situation. So back to the question “How fast can you ID a real threat?” I guarantee that your ability to ID a threat (unless they are shooting at you) is slower than the speed and accuracy response you can acquire with good training. So when you think about it, what good does that “light” speed, and “laser” accuracy do for you in a real world SHTF scenario? It is great as long as you keep it in perspective, and don’t forget the most important part of training should be target identification. Fast and accurate is still important, but not useful until after you’ve identified that it is a threat.

Things to look for: 1) Train yourself to always look at the hands. Their face can’t hurt you (well, most can’t LOL), but the hands are what holds the weapons that will kill you. 2) If you can’t see the hands, or a hand, look at their facial expression. It’s not hard to tell if someone is scared shitless (not that that means they aren’t a threat) by their facial expression, but usually, it is an indicator that if you appear less threatening (not pointing your weapon at them), it might deescalate the situation (regardless, on a patrol, you should take cover). 3) If they are holding a long gun, what position is it in? “Low ready”, “High Port Arms”, pointed at you? If it’s Low Ready, or High Port Arms, and stays that way, they haven’t become a threat yet (that’s how you should be carrying your weapon, right?), but if it’s pointed at you, it could be a threat, or it might not, and as said earlier, take cover.

What’s the point of this post? The point is that you should realistically evaluate your training scenarios, and make them reflect as closely as possible the situations you are preparing for and think are most likely. Making 8 out of 10 targets, “Don’t shoot” targets, might not be as fun as “getting your gun off” to ten to one “shoot” targets, but it’s not supposed to be fun, it’s supposed to be important. Training is about being prepared for “When” you have to use it, not “If” you’ll have to use it (that’s the proper mindset). “Train Hard, Train Right, Train realistically.” Anything else is just playing “Modern Warfare 3” in a fantasy camp.

By the way, the earlier story about the Soldiers and the Iraqi with the Glock. He was an undercover Iraqi cop, and was trying to catch guys who were setting off IED’s on American troops, and had gotten into their ring and was preparing to stop them when the .mil stop happened. He didn’t want to be ID’ed as a cop, and that’s why he didn’t tell the patrol Leader (Me) when asked. Think about that one after you already had said to yourself “I’d have shot that guy!”

JCD

"Parata Vivere"- Live Prepared.