Letter Re: Advice for a Preparedness-Minded ROTC Cadet

I appreciate your advice. Here is my situation: I attend college full time in a post-industrial [Eastern United States] city that has had a 50% population decline in 30 years. Most people here are on welfare, and the largest employers are prisons. I am in a bit of a predicament because I only make about $6,000 per year, so I cannot really afford to spend much on supplies. My goal if things go downhill is to do a ruck march (assuming EMP, otherwise I would drive) with my ROTC-issued [TA-50] equipment to my family’s summer home in farm country on a lake. The home is located about 40 miles from where I go to school. Going home is not feasible as I live in Massachusetts which would take a full tank of gas, and is entirely highway and there are several choke points, including driving through Albany, Springfield, Worcester, and into the high-density suburbs.
At school, one of my best friends is also into survivalism and he also has experience. We share the same goals and are both Baptist. Additionally, we are both known on campus as people who have everything, tools, water, food, etc. which means that if there was a situation, we would likely be inundated with requests from others to help us. We keep a small, verbal list of people we would accept, and keep it to five people.
What would you recommend I do in this situation? If you need more information, please do not hesitate to ask. Thanks, – Sam

JWR Replies: I recommend that you form a survival retreat group. That is exactly what I did 25 years ago, when I was an Army ROTC cadet. Stock your retreat as best as you can, given your limited budget. Prioritize your purchasing. Water purification and food storage should be at the top of your list. Set group standards for communications gear and guns. For short range tactical coordination, I recommend the modestly priced MURS transceivers, since they use a little-used band. This is particularly important in the signal-dense northeastern United States, where using CB frequencies would be almost impossible WTSHTF. For advice on firearms selection, see my Survival Guns web page, and my novel “Patriots: Surviving the Coming Collapse”.

Be very selective about who you bring into your group. Unlike building a group based on an extended family, you can be choosy. Be dispassionate in choosing new group members. Evaluate each candidate on their stability, motivation, and their mix of skills. Friendship is a great thing, but the guy or gal who is presently your dormitory buddy may not be your best choice for a survival group member. Look at their weight, health, and physical fitness. Consider their religious background. Are they moral and trustworthy? Are they intelligent and adaptable? Do they have valuable skills? Are they hard working or will they just be “talkers” or “strap hangers”? Avoid people with extremist views or anyone that suggests making any preparations that are illegal. Ask yourself the key question: Am I willing to trust my life to this individual? If any candidates don’t pass muster, then keep looking.

In the long term, try to develop a retreat that is in a less densely populated region. When you graduate, direct your job search–assuming that you will be a reserve officer–to a region that is suitable for self-sufficient retreats. (For details, see my Retreat Areas web page and my book Rawles on Retreats and Relocation.) Odds are the group that you form in college will have a considerably different composition five or six years from now, once your friends change locales to pursue careers. In fact, depending on where you end up, you may be teamed with an entirely different group of people.

If you are destined to go on active duty, then tailor your “dream sheet” of preferred duty assignments (after OBC) to posts that are in the western U.S. (You didn’t mention if you had been branch selected yet. That could make a big difference in the locale of your eventual posting.) I suggest that you consider posts like Umatilla Army Depot, Fort Carson, Rocky Mountain Arsenal, Tooele Army Depot, Dugway Proving Ground, Fort Lewis (possibly permanent party at Yakima Training Center), Fort Greely, Fort Wainwright, or perhaps Sierra Army Depot. Army PERSCOM branch managers are often willing to accommodate requests from junior officers that state a preference for posts that their peers would consider “backwater” assignments. (Let everyone else ask for a posting in Germany, Fort Meade, or Fort Devens.) Your branch manager may exclaim to his co-workers: “Holy cow! This lieutenant asked to be assigned to Umatilla Army Depot!”