Planning to Bug Out With a Military Mindset, Part 1, by C.W.D.

I will be writing a series of articles for SurvivalBlog that focus on prepping aspects, but with a military mindset. I will say first and foremost that I am not the definitive expert on these subjects, though I do have a wealth of experience that I would like to share. First, I am an Infantryman by trade. I have served in Iraq during the surge and also Afghanistan. I have been a Rifle Team Leader and Squad Leader in combat. . Additionally, I spent 3 years as the opposing force applying guerilla tactics against units who were deploying overseas to combat. I have seen when good doctrine and tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs) work perfectly and also when they have not. One of the defining characteristics of war is chaos. TTPs are the counterweight to this chaos. From the moment combat begins, plans often become obsolete, communications fail, Soldiers become casualties, and units fragment. The result can be devastating. I have served in Light Infantry and Airborne Infantry Units. So my views and opinions will be with that mentality. There are other types of Infantry Units that choose to skin the cat differently. It doesn’t make them wrong just a different flavor of soda.

The first topic I will write about is some factors to plan for when bugging out. From reading these and other forums a lot of people seem to have the same plan to one degree or another; through on a bug out bag and start walking. Sadly, most of those people will find themselves dead. So I will discuss several military doctrines and TTPs that will aid them in this endeavor. Any bug out must be planned out thoroughly and elaborately, this doesn’t mean that your plan must be elaborate, but that you must cover all the angles. There are six planning or assessment factors that can save your life. In the Infantry world everything we do is based on the acronym METT-TC and without knowing it all of us use this tool hundreds of times a day, just not in this deliberate thought process. METT-TC stands for Mission, Enemy, Terrain, Troops, Time, and Civilians. Some or all of these play key factors in operations and planning. You must begin to think of your bug out as an operation, not just a stroll from one place to another. I will elaborate and explain each factor:

Mission, this is what I am planning or currently doing or my desired end state.  This will dictate a large majority of your initial actions based off of what your mission is. It is critical that all members of your party understand the mission to the lowest level and also what each member’s piece of the mission is. The reason for this is should something happen to a member of your party someone else will have to fill in on that role and they must know what that role is. A term we use in the military is two down, one up. This means I will know the job one echelon above me and two below me. It is also a good idea to know the job to the left and right of you. This mean that when you look to the left and right of you, you should know the job of the person you see and that they should know the same. As stated above, my mission will dictate most of my principle actions if I am bugging out. For instance, if I am bugging out it is implied that I want to try to remain hidden until I can get out of built up or urban areas as much as possible. For example, its hit the fan and I need to get to from point A (an unsafe location) to point (my bug in location or link up point with family or friends). So if I come across a group of people I will shy away from them and try to stay out of eyesight, smell, and hearing distance of them.

Enemy, this should be considered everyone that you come across. In a bug out situation there are the haves and the have not’s. You have and should consider that they do not and want what you have. The general rule of thumb is that for every one enemy I encounter, I want to have three friendly personnel. So if I come across two people I would want to have five other people with me. This will give me the odds that I want so that it will deter them from trying anything and if it should become hostile I can either disarm them or have enough fire power that I can put on them so that they cannot shoot back at me without being killed. This ratio of 3:1 can change based off several factors. Such as: weapon systems, improvements made to their fighting position and finally, the training and expertise of both your group and theirs.

Terrain is one of the most important factors, so much so that it gets it own acronym of factors that you should plan according to. That acronym is OAKOC. This stands for obstacles, avenues of approach, key and decisive terrain, observation and fields of fire, cover and concealment.

  • Obstacles- These will limit your mobility with regards to your mission. These obstacles can be natural or main made.  These may include ravines, gaps, or ditches over 3-meters wide; tree stumps and large rocks over 18-inches high; forests with trees 8 inches or greater in diameter and with less than 4 meters between trees; and manmade obstacles such as towns or cities.
  • Avenues of approach- An avenue of approach is a route leading to an objective or key terrain. Put plainly, it’s a path that might lead people to you or you to people. You should also consider how large of a group can travel on these and also if it is accessible to vehicles. These may also be lines of drift which are paths that are natural or formed by animals. These should be avoided because if you were to come across someone if would most likely be on one of these.
  • Key and decisive terrain- Are terrain that affords a marked advantage to the combatant who seizes, retains, or controls it. Simply put it is terrain that I can use to ones advantage such as a hill top to look at others below them, or it can even be a bridge that I can use to control who gets to cross a river. Or if they should want to use it to attack them as others cross. They will be channelized on the bridge and limited in the space that they can maneuver. The bridge then becomes key terrain because it gives them an advantage over their opposition.
  • Observation and fields of fire- You should analyze areas surrounding key terrain, objectives, avenues of approach, and obstacles to determine if they provide clear observation and fields of fire for both friendly and enemy forces. This means that I should be concerned with being able to see the other people from my key terrain, avenues of approach and more specifically not only that I can see them but can I shoot at them from that location if need be.
  • Cover and Concealment- Cover is protection from being shot at, this can be sand bags or trees over 8” in diameter. Concrete blocks such as ones used in building can be used but only if they are filled with cement. A standard concrete block will do little to nothing to stop a bullet. Concealment is protection from observation but not from bullets.  Such as foliage, camouflage patterns, terrain. Cover can be concealment but concealment cannot be cover.

Troops are the next planning or assessment factor. This is solely concerned with the troops that you have with you and questions like: What kind of training for they have? How physically fit are they? How confident are you in their ability to complete a task? And do you even have enough of them to complete your task? This is all about knowing your men or women in your group and being able to honestly consider their capabilities. Just going to a range and shooting at a target 25 meters away does not mean that they will be able to shoot, move and communicate or that they have the proficiency to defend against hungry and crazed people who want to take what you have.

Time is the amount of time you have to accomplish your task, in bugging out this may be one of the most critical factors. Have you bugged out in time? Also it is used in planning considerations such as how long it will take you to bug out to your location. How much food and water should you bring? What time of the day will you travel? Night time travel will greatly slow down the time it takes for you to negotiate more difficult terrain.

 Civilians will be a harder factor to assess for, this because there will be so many. Especially, in an urban environment. Needless to say since there could possibly be so many of them it would be in your best interest to stay away from them and consider them hostile until you can determine otherwise.

This was just a brief overview of one aspect to military planning. It only brushes the surface but I hope that it will give you a different perspective to your bugging out plans.  You must be methodical and calculated in your plans. Know where to assume some risk and where to control it.

Part 2 of this article will be on principles to use when planning your actual bug out movement. After that I plan to discuss more tactically-based topics that I have learned from combat and training.