The Watchmen, by Derek C.

When was the last time you pulled an all-nighter? I’m not talking about coming home at 2am on New Years. I’m talking about staying awake and alert, for an entire evening, before sundown to after sun up. Has it been a few years, or maybe never? With all this excitement about “bugging out” and prepping, there’s a lot of talk about security and self defense, but I have yet to read an in depth article about the practical application of watches. Kind of boring maybe, but in a TEOTWAWKI, scenario keeping a watch is essential, so let’s dissect it in detail. First, the watchman.

The watchman is the first line of defense for the entire community, be it a small family or a Rawlesian 20+ acre Ranch in the Redoubt. One must be ready to respond to any threat or emergency immediately on contact. This is not a chore, it is a duty. The difference is that you can listen to your MP3s while you do the dishes, but you should not even be whistling while on watch. Consider this, while you were whistling Dixie, you didn’t notice the obvious rustling in the bushes an hour ago; that was a scouting party from a group of camp raiding, cannibals down the road. Now a full assault is minutes away and you will be completely off guard, and so will everyone else in your camp. Had your tune not obstructed your hearing you could have sounded the alarm and either moved camp, or mobilized the rest of the fighters and been ready. Most of you reading this don’t have to be convinced that this scenario sounds funny, but is not outside the realm of reality for a society who allows stampede deaths on Black Friday for sales on pairs of socks, and this is all pre-starving feral masses! This is a serious position, and must be treated as life or death because it is! You must be responsible for getting proper rest in between watches, personal hygiene, and relaxing during your down time. You are responsible for keeping your mind clear and ready; all of these elements can affect your ability to keep the camp safe, so again, take it seriously!

Every watchman needs equipment. You can have 1 designated set that every watchman uses, and they should all be accountable for it, i.e. a checklist inside a bag that everyone reviews before assuming the watch. Especially when resources are scarce. Here’s a short list to consider:

– Weapon: Lethal or non-lethal, or preferably one of each. A pistol is good, and a rifle is excellent. A large can of 18% pepper spray can dissuade animals or disperse a gathering crowd, but even a big sharp stick is better than nothing.

– Foul weather gear: A poncho, wool cap (there’s a reason it’s called a watch cap), gloves, etc. Keep it simple.

– Communications devise: To stay in contact with other watches or base camp. At random hourly intervals every watch should check in. Random is the key; you don’t want to give away your system to an enemy. This could lead to predicted watch paths and holes in security. Just remember you never know who might be listening. This devise could be a radio, but another kind of signal devise can work also, i.e. a bird call or whistle where a known code is used, 1blast all secure, 2 blasts need assistance, 3 blasts wake up the camp the hordes are descending upon us!

– A good flashlight, notebook and pen, First Aid Kit, and a multi-tool. This is just a basic kit, but a well equipped watch is a ready watch. Every watch needs to consider their own needs beyond the basics i.e. an extra jacket or sunscreen.

Now for watch rotation, the concept is simple, take a 24 hr day and divide it into parts. Assign each part to a qualified body and execute! This gets more complicated in practice. An average man cannot be an EFFECTIVE watch for longer than 6-8 hrs maximum, and less than that at night. You can’t afford to run your watches so hard that they become ineffective; and fairness is a crucial element in these acronym scenarios. So, let’s take a 3 family bugged out scenario, with 4 able watchmen between them, and create a watch bill.

We have John, Jacob, Hiemmer, and Schmidt. John is the unofficial leader of the pack, and Jacob is his son. Hiemmer and Schmidt are best friends from college, and unimportantly Hiemmer is the only female watchman. It’s Monday and John says he’ll take the first watch, so here’s what it looks like:

6am-12pm John

12pm-6pm Jacob

6pm-12am Hiemmer

12am-6am Schmidt

Easy enough right? Since John’s the leader, he should never have to pull an all-nighter, and since Jacob is the youngest he can’t be expected to stay up during the night, it’s too big a responsibility! See how this doesn’t quite even out? John gets to be with his family every night while the buddies battle to stay awake. This erodes unit cohesion over time, and a short time at that. So let’s try it again, this time with shorter evening watches to ensure watch effectiveness and every able watch considered equal or otherwise unsuitable.

6am-12pm John

12pm-6pm Jacob

6pm-10pm Hiemmer

10pm-2am Schmidt

2am-6am John

6am-12pm Jacob

12pm-6pm Hiemmer

6pm-10pm Schmidt

10pm-2am John

2am-6am Jacob

And so on. Now you see the thought process and what a real rotation looks like. This would be a sweet set up really, imagine having less or more watchmen though and you can see how tough or easy this could become! Draft one up for practice; use 2-4 hr night watches and 6- 8 hr day watches to figure out how they all mesh. Now let’s delve into the worst case scenario, 1 man and his little family, as we move onto our last discussion: the craft of the all-nighter.

An all-nighter will test you, whether you have or haven’t planned it. Yet how often do we get to prepare for a full on nuclear fallout family bug out? Probably 1 out of 100, but that’s why we prep, practice, and stay sharp. Yet this isn’t something I hear a lot practicing, and it is, just like everything else, a perishable skill. So I’m proposing we correct this, next weekend or within the month, take the opportunity to plan and practice an all-nighter. I’m not saying a full on bug out, not initially anyway (you’re doing that 2-3x a year anyway right?), but just stay up, all night into morning. Watch the sun come up and an hour or so later, get in bed. Let’s try to do it 2-3x a year, and maybe somewhere down the line we’ll combine the bug out and the all-nighter. This is a more realistic scenario anyway, I can’t imagine gathering my family and bug out pals, fighting our way out of the cities, making it to our bug out locale and then we all sleep like babies. Have a plan, have a watch bill, and practice. There are a few things you can do to help you through the night, here’s a few I’ve learned over my time in the military, law enforcement and security contracting:

– Drink water: H20 will curb your sleepiness more than you think. I’ve drunk coffee for hours and head bobbed the entire time. I’m not suggesting that you shouldn’t drink caffeine, because you definitely can (should?), but staying hydrated will keep you more alert than dehydration. Also, if you have to urinate often  your even more awake (note that each situation is different and frequent urination might not be your friend.  In this case ensure you are properly hydrated but not overly so). 

– Stay uncomfortable: Think of it as setting yourself up for success. If you put on a nice thick coat, hat, and prop your feet up you might as well be in bed and you WILL fall asleep. Is it fun being cold, or standing rather than leaning, or doing push-ups? Not exactly, but that’s the point. Don’t let yourself relax, remember, this is life or death for the whole camp. Stay alert by wearing a thinner jacket, or taking your hat off when you feel sleepy, doing a few push-ups or jumping jacks. Stay moving and keep the mind alert!

– Scenario role play: Use your weary thoughts in a productive way to picture a dire scenario. What was that in the shadows? It was a raider scout, and he’s collecting information about your camp. Stealthily defend your people from the evil cannibals! Seems silly, but so does dry firing and reloading your pistol, and if you aren’t dry firing your pistol bi-weekly I kind of hope you don’t carry it. It and you become a liability rather than an asset, and the same goes for the watchman. Do this and time will pass more quickly, and this is a good thing in the all-nighter.

– Make it fun but not too fun: For the practice all-nighter stand small watches and break them up with something fun you like to do. Play an instrument, or a video game. Do something to keep your mind active then go back to “watch mode”. Even watch during the acronym can be fun, kind of like how the most important game of the season is fun. Always remember to de-stress after watch, clear minds are more capable.

The watchmen have a crucial task ahead of them, but with proper planning and willingness, families in the acronym world will sleep well knowing someone’s got their eyes looking out. (This article was written entirely from midnight to 7:30 am, and later edited for excessive crazy babble.)