- SurvivalBlog.com - https://survivalblog.com -

Survivalism, Prepping, and OPSEC: An Alternative View, by Todd

The topic of OPSEC (operations security) comes up all the time on SurvivalBlog, and I wholeheartedly agree that it is an important topic for all of us. But I believe it is an important topic with potentially more than one right answer, depending on your particular situation and mindset.

Standard OPSEC Based On Secrecy

The standard answer to OPSEC on SurvivalBlog (and just about everywhere else) is based on secrecy and the general concept of keeping your preps, your location, your networks, and sometimes even your survivalist mentality all to yourself, or at the very least known to as few other people as possible. This is very similar to the conventional OPSEC practiced in the military, where it almost always makes good tactical sense to employ a “need to know” philosophy. After all, if an adversary knows your exact location and your defenses, he can use that information to shape his attack and increase his chances of success.

Less Strategic Sense To Keep Things Completely Secret

But just like in some examples in the military, it can actually make less strategic or “big picture” sense to keep such things completely secret. For example, an adversary or an ally can both be significantly influenced by knowing about one’s strong military and its capabilities, or by being informed of decisions and actions that have been or will be taken. Along those lines, in my personal life, I’ve gone with another OPSEC route for several reasons.

Survivalism That’s About Preserving Values

Survivalism, for me, is not just about personal survival, about simply preserving my own life as long as absolutely possible under any and all circumstances. Instead, it’s about preserving the virtues, ideas, concepts, and values I cherish. It’s about “carrying the fire” in the face of threats to it. When looked at from that perspective, in my particular situation, it makes the most sense, in the long run and in the big picture, to not keep my preps, actions, and mentality an absolute secret and to not practice conventional military-style OPSEC. Let me explain, and of course and as always, your own mileage may vary…

We’re All Going to Die

We are all going to die. Read that again. We are all going to die in the end, and nothing we do or prepare for or invest in or build or learn will change that, nothing. That may seem silly to bother to point out here, but a lot of people don’t actually accept that irrefutable concept until late in their life, if at all. The very term “survivalist” seems to run contrary to the absolute reality that none of us will actually end up surviving, if we look at the earthly end game we will all share. From my way of thinking, maybe we should refer to ourselves are “preservists” instead. I say that in jest, of course, but I think most of you will understand my point.

Beyond Survivalism, Risks Are Taken To Preserve Ideas and Values

To help understand this, think about this concept in terms of not just the microcosm of survivalism but also in the people and jobs we see around us every day. Would we have any soldiers if personal survival was the highest goal one could have? Especially in these times of multiple deployments to combat zones, most soldiers don’t still volunteer to do what they do in order to increase the chances of their personal survival; they should certainly have decided otherwise and chosen another job, if so! Instead, many do it to serve, preserve, and safeguard the ideas and values they believe in.

I should know; I am a soldier and have been for over 25 years, including over four years’ worth of deployments. A similar thing could maybe even be said for some of the more dangerous, service-based jobs, like firefighters or peace officers. If personal safety and survival trumped all else, recruiting for any of those jobs would certainly be a lot harder!

OPSEC Prepping– An Unobtainable Myth Today

Further, I personally think 90% or more of OPSEC-based prepping is an unobtainable myth today, unfortunately. Keeping your mentality and your preps to yourself might indeed be enough to keep it out of the minds of the Golden Horde or common thieves, but our travels, our purchases, even our web-browsing history are no secret from lots of people and agencies, many of whom are not of a similar or favorable mindset. That’s enough said, I would think.

Why I Chose the Minority View on OPSEC

Let’s get back to my own situation and why I choose the contrary, admittedly-minority view on OPSEC. I am married, but my wife and I don’t have children of our own to care for. I work at a military college, where I get to instruct hundreds of young people every year in all sorts of topics. Integrity, self-reliance, personal responsibility, leadership, broad personal skillsets, among others— all of these attributes represent not only a good part of what we try to teach here but also mesh very well with what traits one of the “good guy” survivalists should personally have.

Most of what we teach here is (sadly) brand new to most recent high school graduates, and many of the concepts central to the survivalist mindset are completely unheard of as well. Or, as is increasingly common, today’s young people’s only previous exposure to the concept of survivalism has been gained from Hollywood or the mainstream media– one we all know is hardly ever accurate or flattering. After working with some of our cadets on their military or marksmanship training, or as their tac officer, counselor, or other advisor, I will sometimes bring them into the loop on my survival mentality, sometimes even including specifics of my own preps. And just like when someone gains a new skill for the first time, I can often see the lightbulb go on in their head.

Not Done Randomly With Just Anyone

This is certainly not done randomly or haphazardly, or broadly to just anyone with whom I work or have contact. I certainly do not believe in or endorse putting traceable pictures or maps online, for example! But once I get to know someone personally, to me the possibility of sharing a mentality and creating another one of “us”, especially when it’s a young man or woman of character, supersedes the obvious and conventional OPSEC risk to me and my preps. The result of all this has been that in the last decade or more I’ve personally created scores of new, young preppers, who have then gone on to jobs and communities throughout the United States, both in the military and civilian sectors. There’s more than a few “good guys” out there who got their first exposure to and guidance in the things we talk about on SurvivalBlog from me.

Military Examples of OPSEC

Let’s go back to my earlier military example. If traditional OPSEC kept our military defenses and abilities secret from an enemy, I think we would all agree that secrecy might cause a subsequent attack to have a lesser chance of being successful. But if we instead told him about the robustness of our defense or the firmness of our resolve, one result of that disclosure could be to deter his attack in the first place. To many of us, the Cold War serves as a prime example of these two broad and complementary strategies. Maybe the traditional stealth-prepper can be thought of as the (formerly) secret hideaway at the Greenbrier Hotel or the always-hiding nuclear submarines, while the non-traditional, more open prepper is the unified front of a visibly strong and growing NATO, who conducts training exercises in plain sight.

A second result of non-OPSEC prepping could very easily be the recruiting of additional allies to bolster our own defense, watch our back, spread our values, et cetera in our own lives. Given what we see today, I don’t think non-OPSEC prepping can really accomplish the first result, but it most certainly does contribute towards the second. I need only look around my own community to know that for certain.

A Final Thought

One final thought to share. Hanging in my office is a black and white photograph from 1955 Berlin. You can see it yourself [1].

In it, a woman has escaped from East Berlin and made it over the white line that separated East from West at that time. She is collapsed on the ground, unable to run any farther. She is pursued by at least seven East German Volkspolizei, some of which are armed with automatic rifles. Facing off against them, stopping the Volkspolizei at the border line and protecting the woman are three West German policemen, armed only with sidearms. It’s a powerful picture of courage and of putting yourself on the line, literally. I look at it every day, and it reminds of me of the concept that service to and the protection of things we believe in trumps all else, even against bad odds or when it puts our lives at increased risk.

Has the exposure of my survivalist mentality put my own preps and even life at potentially increased risk if the things we prepare for do actually come to pass in my lifetime? Yes, I cannot argue it hasn’t. But in my circumstances, it has been worth it, and it’s an investment in the long-term survival of the ideas, concepts, and values I treasure much more than anything else, including my own life.

SurvivalBlog Writing Contest

This has been another entry for Round 74 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest [2]. The nearly $11,000 worth of prizes for this round include:

First Prize:

  1. A $3000 gift certificate towards a Sol-Ark Solar Generator from Veteran owned Portable Solar LLC. The only EMP Hardened Solar Generator System available to the public.
  2. A Gunsite Academy Three Day Course Certificate. This can be used for any one, two, or three day course (a $1,095 value),
  3. A course certificate from onPoint Tactical for the prize winner’s choice of three-day civilian courses [3], excluding those restricted for military or government teams. Three day onPoint courses normally cost $795,
  4. DRD Tactical is providing a 5.56 NATO QD Billet upper [4]. These have hammer forged, chrome-lined barrels and a hard case, to go with your own AR lower. It will allow any standard AR-type rifle to have a quick change barrel. This can be assembled in less than one minute without the use of any tools. It also provides a compact carry capability in a hard case or in 3-day pack (an $1,100 value),
  5. Two cases of Mountain House freeze-dried assorted entrees [5] in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources (a $350 value),
  6. A $250 gift certificate good for any product [6] from Sunflower Ammo,
  7. Two cases of Meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of CampingSurvival.com (a $180 value), and
  8. American Gunsmithing Institute (AGI) is providing a $300 certificate good towards any of their DVD training courses [7].

Second Prize:

  1. A Model 175 Series Solar Generator provided by Quantum Harvest LLC (a $439 value),
  2. A Glock form factor SIRT laser training pistol and a SIRT AR-15/M4 [8] Laser Training Bolt, courtesy of Next Level Training, which have a combined retail value of $589,
  3. A gift certificate for any two or three-day class from Max Velocity Tactical (a $600 value),
  4. A transferable certificate for a two-day Ultimate Bug Out Course from Florida Firearms Training (a $400 value),
  5. A Trekker IV™ Four-Person Emergency Kit from Emergency Essentials (a $250 value),
  6. A $200 gift certificate good towards any books published by PrepperPress.com,
  7. RepackBox is providing a $300 gift certificate to their site.

Third Prize:

  1. A Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of [9] Directive 21 (a $275 value),
  2. A large handmade clothes drying rack, a washboard, and a Homesteading for Beginners DVD, all courtesy of The Homestead Store, with a combined value of $206,
  3. Expanded sets of both washable feminine pads and liners, donated by Naturally Cozy (a $185 retail value),
  4. Two Super Survival Pack seed collections [10], a $150 value, courtesy of Seed for Security, LLC,
  5. Mayflower Trading is donating a $200 gift certificate for homesteading appliances, and
  6. Two 1,000-foot spools of full mil-spec U.S.-made 750 paracord [11] (in-stock colors only) from www.TOUGHGRID.com (a $240 value).

Round 74 ends on January 31st, so get busy writing and e-mail [12] us your entry. Remember that there is a 1,500-word minimum, and that articles on practical “how to” skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

Comments Disabled (Open | Close)

Comments Disabled To "Survivalism, Prepping, and OPSEC: An Alternative View, by Todd"

#1 Comment By Joe On December 13, 2017 @ 10:03 am

Good article My opsec is similar to yours and probably many survival blog readers. My job takes me house to house every day working with people. Ive found a lot of preppers out there. There not as prepared as they should be or as good at opsec Im not either we are all trying to do our best Thanks for pointing that out

#2 Comment By Retired Scout On December 13, 2017 @ 10:39 am

I also am retired military. I also am teaching youngsters at this time (private school, not a military academy). I also have reached the conclusion that to not preach a self-reliant doctrine to select people of character is suicide tactically to my own house, but also is not carrying the message of the Proverbs ant vs. the grasshopper. Yes, it risks my own safety to a degree, but I would rather endure this risk than that of total isolation where EVERYONE else is an enemy. The second, course of secrecy also lets down my commander, Jesus Christ. All part of that defending the Constitution and being a sheepdog. If it was safe, they would call it bowling. Good to see someone else has recognized this issue and chosen the harder right.

I am not the only one I know with this mindset either – another retired military man recently shared with me a comment from his contractor building his house. “All you military guys want ICF houses for when the bad times come.” This buddy is a convert to becoming self-reliant through the exact process this article describes. He was enlisted, warrant, and officer over 25 years. Reasonable, logical discussion and the front page news won him over. Everyone that has a family/friends enclave where they are self-reliant will offer the chance to solve problems, not be problems for the nation.

#3 Comment By Just Another Guy On December 13, 2017 @ 1:36 pm

I have never spoken out about a post here but this one deserves special consideration in the ranking because it is not just about saving your own skin but about something bigger beyond self-interest and personal survival, but about the kind of world we want to have after. As the man says, like it or not we are all going to die anyway… we should leave the world a better place for our having been here or as he says, at least carry the torch a bit further and hand it off to the next runner… not just bury it in a hole in the ground somewhere.

#4 Comment By Daniel R Miles On December 13, 2017 @ 2:43 pm

Very good article , my prepping/OPSEC approach is a wee bit different in Canada. I work with alot of different people and have noticed , that there seems to be a lack of urgency or any kind of a mandate with the idea that Operational Security should be one of the top priorities .It might be that this generation ( 20yrs younger than me ) does not feel any sort disaster-type scenario would directly affect them . Education to me is paramount and even the little bit of info that I can pass on to the younger generation , to me is the right choice ….whether they accept it or not then becomes their choice

#5 Comment By Ozarks Tom On December 13, 2017 @ 3:06 pm

Unless you’re buying everything locally with cash, I don’t believe thorough OPSEC is possible. As an example, our mail carrier saw me outside one day, and started a conversation with “I know you’re a prepper, I deliver your mail.” Luckily, she was looking for property in our area for a BOL, but it made me think of the UPS and FedEx drivers who deliver cases of dried foods and bulk ammo.

People talk, and although the people you might talk to are honest and trustworthy, you can’t control who they might make an offhand remark to about your preps.

#6 Comment By benjammin On December 13, 2017 @ 3:39 pm

My experience lends more toward a Sun Tzu philosophy of survival. In this case the imperatives being to represent a certain set of characteristics to your opponents, whether real or fabricated, while retaining a highly functional level of knowledge about your side (you and your allies) and as much as possible about your opponent. How you use that knowledge to prepare yourself beforehand will determine success or failure. If you haven’t envisioned your success (in the most realistic terms possible) before the event, through intel, planning, and prep, then you will have already lost before the event even starts.

Opsec is part of a bigger strategy. Like the chessboard, the masters will attempt to convey information to their opponent that will lead them to a more predictable set of actions while simultaneously ascertaining their opponent’s motives and their own most likely responses. Thus, the masters’ success or failure lies in how well they prepare for the match, long before the first piece is moved.

Also, you can’t win at poker if you have too many tells, and can’t bluff worth a damn. That too is Opsec.

Look up Sun Tzu quotes.

#7 Comment By ForwardPreppers On December 13, 2017 @ 4:00 pm

I totally agree with your view. We have had some differing opinions with a partner about this very subject.
Some people are just going to figure out that you are a prepper based on your actions even if you don’t directly give it away.
Our view is to share with folks when the opportunity arises. We still never let folks know exactly what we have but there’s no hiding the solar panels on our carport, big garden, chicken house or the fact we sold our life in the city and moved to the middle of nowhere!

Thanks for sharing!

#8 Comment By OneGuy On December 13, 2017 @ 4:18 pm

I believe that OPSEC is more than keeping secrets. It is deception and misdirection and understanding human nature. It is said that a New York cab driver never uses his signal to change lanes because if you put on your signal the other drivers will move to block you. When I’m following a driver who constantly checks his rear view mirror and seems to be driving just to irritate me. Instead of tailgating him and staring him down I drop back and drive as though I do not even notice him. My theory is he is the kind of person who searches for a reason to be angered by others and if I don’t fill that vacuum he will find someone else. Of course when the opportunity presents itself to pass I do it eagerly and all the more successfully simply because he is no longer paying attention to me. I don’t generally make eye contact with people in stores or on the street. Even when a stranger greets me or asks a question I generally reply with the shortest response while continuing to move in the direction I was headed. (I know, I’m not friendly and it drives my wife crazy.) Being noticed and or giving up verbal or non-verbal information about yourself is the first misstep in keeping your private life private. Avoiding awkward questions by first avoiding introductory questions is a useful habit.

#9 Comment By LT. Mike On December 13, 2017 @ 4:28 pm

In my command, I make it mandatory for every soldier to take the course on the Constitution found at [13]
Participation is required before I let them loose on other military training. It takes us 12 months, one lesson at each drill, to complete the course. Then we start over again. I have never had a soldier refuse, and I always see them ask questions in depth about the lessons learned. I tell them, and my up line chain of command, that I make this course mandatory because we ask those soldiers to take an oath to defend and protect that document with their lives. Why then should they not clearly understand the document they are willing to die for?
This is for every soldier, those with prior service as well as the new guy who hasn’t yet been to basic. I wish it was mandatory at every grade school, high school,and every college and university in this nation. May I suggest that readers of this blog do the same?

If the day ever comes where I am ordered to cease hosting this course, it’s the day I leave the military and form a new unit dedicated to the Godly principles and ideals contained in the founding documents of our nation.
How’s that for OPSEC? Enough hiding behind the bushes; a lamps light cannot be hidden under a basket.

#10 Comment By Doc Holiday On December 13, 2017 @ 4:37 pm

Great job Todd. I believe that you and I have reached similar conclusions about a number of issues regarding OPSEC. I now talk freely about some aspects of my preparedness mindset to at least give people cause to think about where the world is at this point in time and maybe extrapolate where we could be heading. It has had a positive effect on numerous friends,family and others from my sphere of influence. You have it absolutely right about the need to preserve correct principles and virtues, while attempting to keep self and others alive to carry on with the work. Alive and well in H’burg.

#11 Comment By JimW On December 13, 2017 @ 5:38 pm

When the moving company moved us out of California to where I am now (technically not in the redoubt but close and way better than California) the movers were a Dad and his veteran son. Unpacking a loading press, IBA, pressure canner and stuff like this the son asked if I was going to put up a personal shooting range. I knew he knew, but it didn’t give me a reason to plan on murdering him. It was just one of “us” recognized or spotted another one of us. Like the authors students he will normally be far from here, and if something went sideways with him nearby he would probably seek some shelter or safe haven here. But that’s not a bad thing.

On the other hand; I like the concept in JWR’s fictional book though about the people with the food anonymizing themselves through a giving partnership with their church. I forget the title but it’s the one that follows the couple with the bronco and the mustang. Its a believable application of opsec if we experience hunger in our time.

#12 Comment By ShepherdFarmerGeek On December 13, 2017 @ 7:46 pm

Bravo! There are some things more important than just protecting our own interests.

(Benjamin) I would love to see someone fully explore the application of Sun Tsu’s principles to prepping, or at least give us all a good start on thinking it through.

#13 Comment By NMsourdough On December 13, 2017 @ 9:32 pm

I am glad you posted your article as I do believe that following a cookie-cutter process is not good for everyone, especially in OPSEC. Even in what someone should have is more of an individual choice than a group choice, unless you are coordinating with a group.
The main thing is that many are preparing for whatever they think is coming down the pike. Getting together all the basics is always a good thing, just in case. The just in case can be anything from a natural disaster to a man-made one. So, long as you have something set aside to help you get through it, all the better.
I share information in general, though not always much in the way of specifics.
I work with over 200 military retirees (mainly AF, but also Army, Navy, and Marines)so there is talk about these sorts of things on a fairly regular basis. Some talk openly about what they have and where they have it, but it is with people they served with for 20+ years, and are now working together as government contractors. I share with them too more of an extent but still maintain plenty under wraps, as I did not serve with any of them and have known them for a shorter span of time. It is good to share some information as there is always something new to learn or find out about.
Just like much of anything else, it really is up to the individual to determine what they are going to do, and how they will do it.

#14 Comment By Stephen AD On December 13, 2017 @ 10:19 pm

OPSEC. They cannot read your mind but they can infer & deduce your thoughts and actions by the way you telegraph a message verbally or with non verbal cues. If you look like a duck and quack like a duck YOU ARE A DUCK. Careful what you say daily.

#15 Comment By Joe On December 13, 2017 @ 11:08 pm

Wow. This article and the responses today have been excellent. I was the first to post a comment today. So its been great to see many of your viewpoints today. Like I said in my first response I go house to house all day long in my job. All my clients are seniors and so am I. Its interesting how many of them are preppers and they don’t even know what that word means. They just see the world around them “going down the tubes” . So even though they are ill and elderly they have that will to survive. So… they prep. So I tell them a little of what Ive been doing to prepare and we have a another way of bonding besides theyre health care Most of them haven’t got long to live They know it… but they still prep. I love my job! God bless and keep prepping until youre gone

#16 Comment By Tim On December 14, 2017 @ 1:16 am

Good article. For too long the good men of this nation have operated in a fear-based methodology. One does not win wars by hiding and watching the enemy at work. Make no mistake, there is a war under way in America. Secrets are good if they keep the enemy from knowing you, as long as your friends remain in the loop. But misdirection that has the enemy thinking they know you, not only makes them overconfident, but when done right, inhibits their ability and desire to ferret out more info about you.

#17 Comment By patrulje68 On December 14, 2017 @ 4:03 am

Sowing the seeds of values and a self reliant mindset is a noble and commendable undertaking. However, I think you are inflating OPSEC to something that is referred to as Information Operations (IO). IO (according to US doctrine) is composed of OPSEC, Electronic Warfare (EW), Computer Network Operations (CNO), Military Deception (MILDEC) and Psychological Operations (PSYOP). Civil Military Operations (CMO) and Public Affairs (PA) are related activities. OPSEC is a continual process of identifying vulnerabilities, the risks of their exposure and either concealing or mitigating those vulnerabilities. As such it is basically defensive in nature. IO is broader it covers defensive and offensive actions. Your desire to inform and influence others is a classic mission of IO. Themes and messages are carefully tailored to a very specific select audience in order to further objectives. The concepts behind each of the above functions and related activities of IO has relevance to preppers. Be it concealing how much food you have stored (OPSEC) to anonymizing your internet browsing (CNO) to helping your neighbor improve the yield of his vegetable garden (CMO). [Doctrine Nazi mode off]

#18 Comment By Mark On December 14, 2017 @ 4:53 am

Much to be gleaned here.

#19 Comment By Capt Nemo On December 14, 2017 @ 5:13 am

Just picked up Art of War at Costco for $14.99.

#20 Comment By SurvivallExpert On December 16, 2017 @ 2:03 am

Great picture of 3 men and a woman of Courage. It appears that only 1 of the 3 officers has his weapon drawn and the others have their arms connected to form a barrier to the East Germans. It’s amazing how powerful the idea “this white paint can not be crossed”, is.