Letter Re: An Army Officer’s Observations

Mr Rawles,
I found your web site a few months ago and have been pouring through it ever since. This past week, I finished reading the SurvivalBlog archives through the end of 2007. Just six months of archives left 🙂 I also just finished reading your excellent novel, “Patriots”

As a fundamentalist Christian who was homeschooled, I truly appreciate your willingness to unabashedly share your faith and your conservative family values through your web site and writings.

I am also a West Point graduate who became an Armor officer in 2000, so I really enjoy and relate to your anecdotes and descriptions (and military jargon & acronyms) of your personal Military Intelligence experience, as well as the fictional experiences of “Doug Carlton”. Your descriptions of M1A1 tanks, Fort Knox, Advanced Camp (Camp Buckner for me), et cetera. are all spot on. Your description of tankers, down to the details about being chronically horrible on security, was exactly correct. I well remember getting a CS [tear gas] canister thrown into our perimeter at [National Training Center] NTC by the [Observer Controller] OC because we were all asleep. We received a briefing on the vulnerabilities of Abrams tanks at the Armor Captain’s Career Course and, in light of that, I found your discussion of the matter in “Patriots” very interesting. As a note of interest, since the Iraq War, the training in the Armor CCC seems to place renewed importance on urban warfare and especially on combined operations with Infantry. In fact, I believe Armor and Infantry CCCs have combined now to form a single “Maneuver Captain’s Career Course”.

After my platoon leader time, I worked in the Fort Knox Garrison S3 shop as a planner for two years at Fort Knox’s Emergency Operations Center, working on their contingency operations plans for everything from earthquakes to terrorists attacks. I took advantage of my time there in taking a lot of FEMA online courses, getting my amateur radio license, and taking a lot of civilian and military training in [Search and Rescue] SAR. That being the case, I absolutely loved the Fort Knox aspects of the plot in “Patriots” and wish to heck that I had your book during my time there to pass around to the other guys. My time there was also the point in my life when I realized that a lot can go wrong in this world and I’d better have a plan to prepare for it.

Wanting some change, I later became a Civil Affairs officer with deployments to Iraq and West Africa. Civil Affairs just became it’s own branch in 2006 as the Army recognizes that “civilians on the battlefield” play an enormous role in low intensity conflicts like Iraq. The civilian dimension, both as potential OPFOR and BLUFOR, is being studied and analyzed in depth in today’s Army, as it should be. However, it is terrifying to contemplate a “Patriots” type of scenario where that scrutiny, analysis, and subsequent operations would be turned towards our own populace. Double ditto for all things related to the new branch of Psychological Operations

After reading survivalblog, I’ve been re-examining my military experiences, especially my time in Iraq and West Africa from the survivalist viewpoint. I don’t want to make this e-mail into a book, so I’ll only mention a few things for now: In many of the Medical Civic Action Programs (MEDCAP) that we conducted in Africa, one of the hugely popular items was adaptive eyewear. Essentially, they are adjustable glasses where the user can modify the power of each lens to his or her needs. It works through fluid-filled lenses. You can checkout their web site at http://www.adaptive-eyecare.com/index.htm . I’m not affiliated with them, by the way, but I have handed out a lot of these things. They look like the Army BCGs, so they aren’t pretty but they are effective. I went to a village last year where they told me their number one medical need was eye care. Actually, it appeared as though a large percent of the elderly people had cataracts which we couldn’t fix obviously, but the adjustable glasses were a hot item for many others. I thought about it when I read some of the previous posts about eye care and about barter items. How many people would have lost or broken their glasses after a few years of TEOTWAWKI? Or their prescription changes? Glasses might be a popular barter item, but who wants to stock every prescription imaginable? These glasses can be adjusted from +6 to -6 Diopters.

The only catch is… I think this company mostly sells their glasses in bulk to NGO-type organizations for use in third world countries, so I have no idea if they are available to the normal person here in these united States. However, now that you know they’re out there, you might keep a watch out for something like it. This is an example of something that is probably not currently marketable in a developed country because of lack of need. However, that could quickly change if TSHTF. I think I heard that the glasses were about $10 or $12 each, but they were trying to bring the costs down. Also, I’m no eye doctor, but I surmised that one of the reasons for the surprisingly high number of cataract and eye problems in these places is that they go through their whole life living outdoors without sunglasses or eye protection. Granted, we were in or near the Sahara Desert, where conditions are unusually harsh, but the lesson I took away is that sunglasses and eye protection are essential, especially if spending a lot of time in harsh-sun environments or anywhere there isn’t an eye doctor.

On another note of interest, probably the number one ailment by far we saw were bowel problems, probably related to unsanitary conditions and unpurified water. There were also always a sizable number of people who had dental problems who were hugely grateful when our dentist pulled their problem teeth. As you’ve mentioned before, having a dental kit and knowing how to pull teeth doesn’t sound too exciting now but if the time came when you needed it, you sure would be thankful that you could. Our dentist made it look so easy, pulling people’s teeth while they sat on an Army cot or the back of a pickup, that I asked him to pull my wisdom teeth. He wouldn’t do it, though, saying that there’s a big difference in pulling out a malnourished person’s tooth and pulling out a McDonald’s fed American’s teeth. Plus, he didn’t want the liability in case of complications. My wisdom teeth weren’t a problem for me, but I went ahead and got them pulled when I got back from the deployment. I figured it was better to get that out of the way now rather than wait until TEOTWAWKI when I’d be sitting on the back of a pickup while some goon is putting a pair of pliers in my mouth.

One huge “mistake” that we made was our method of handing out some giveaways during our MEDCAPs. Be careful of your how you hand out charity! We gave out bolts of cloth (the cloth had pro-American prints on them) to the women of one village and within a few hours, we had near-riot conditions. Several people were injured and nearly suffocated and/or trampled, the local police grew, shall we say, heavy-handed, and we shut down all operations. Your advice of giving out charity from a distance and using an intermediary like the church is exactly correct. Another lesson is that bolts of cloth are another really popular item for people who have to make their own clothes.

Thank you for all you do. My 10 Cent Challenge contribution will be forthcoming. God bless you and your family. Respectfully, – The Kansan