Disclaimer: In this article, situations are discussed regarding loaning firearms to friends or relatives for mutual aid and defense of our families and properties. Clearly, one should not allow a mentally ill criminal type touch your guns, but my family doesn’t associate with those types of people anyway. That said, you are responsible for knowing the oppressive laws and unrealistic regulations in your own area – before handing a firearm to anyone. It may indeed be a felony to even let someone else touch or handle a firearm without expressed government approval. I am not a lawyer (because I have a soul), so this is a recommendation, not legal advice.
Many of our fellow patriots have contributed articles regarding Bug-In versus Bug-Out or Group Effort versus Lone Wolf approaches to surviving TEOTWAWKI. As avid readers of this blog and as practitioners of the finer arts of survivalism and preparedness, all serious folks should have made their educated decisions and plans for what works for them. What I have discovered over the many years I have been seriously planning and prepping is this: the most serious plans often do not stand up to reality, but the absence of a plan will guarantee failure. My own experience and lessons learned during my personal survivalist odyssey spans five decades living between the Pacific Northwest, the high deserts in California, the Hawaiian Islands, the Rocky Mountains, and every type of town from cozy hamlet to stinking metropolis. My hope, fellow readers, is that my learned behaviors and successes will enable you to avoid some pitfalls I experienced and will set you up for success in the dark times I believe are coming soon. Key takeaways are in italics for quick reference.
My family’s journey in preparedness has led to encounters and experiences with nearly every scenario one may face. We suffered the isolation and uncertainty of resupply while living in Hawaii for five years; with every tsunami/typhoon/wildfire/labor strike event that happened, we found our preparedness mindset gave us the peace of mind to thrive while others panicked. The Hawaiian Islands produce very few resources of value to the families who lack large tracts of farmable property. Nearly everything is brought in by shipping, and shipping is controlled by labor unions. Whenever the major shipping lines announced a new strike for whatever reason, the supplies to the islands were cut off. It is amazing how quickly the one Wal-Mart, one Costco, and four or five supermarkets on the island of Maui can be depleted of their wares. One week of no cargo ships was terribly inconvenient; two weeks was downright uncomfortable, and three weeks was devastating to many families who did not have the means to augment their needs through self-sufficient techniques.
Yes, the islands are surrounded by fertile fishing grounds, but without access to a boat, fish harvests are limited to reef fish- small and often toxic little critters that cannot be depended upon for sustenance. We also experienced the challenges of living in a mid to large sized metro area in the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains. Though we were safe from any tsunami threat, we still had wildfire/mudslide/tornado/labor strikes to face. What became certain was that similar challenges exist wherever one resides when packed into populated areas that depend upon other’s labor to provide sustenance.
In any of those environments, during a protracted disaster event, there was always potential for criminal elements or struggling populations of displaced refugees to want to take one’s stuff. The question always lingered among our local survivalist/preparedness community: How does one protect what is theirs from those who want to take it by force? Our solid tribe of survivalists, veterans, patriots, and other survival-minded folks discovered much through trial and error, drills, exercises, and much research into survival psychology. The bottom line is that it takes a concerted group effort of mutual assistance and support to realistically survive a protracted event. We all concluded that the Lone Wolf individuals would likely struggle and turn to “any means necessary” to provide for their existence. Those we associate with tend to believe that respect for the laws of G-d, some fashion of civility, and a shared desire to thrive in the face of adversity will be the guiding principles of surviving a big event.
Forming a Mutual Assistance Group
When a family acknowledges that they cannot do everything alone, they have solved a large part of forming a plan to survive. Finding like-minded people may seem simple: whether connections through one’s house of worship, workplace, neighborhood associations (not Home Owner’s Associations – those are a recipe for disaster!), we tend to find people we enjoy being around and we gravitate toward people who seem to share our values. That is fine for general social connections and the occasional dinner party or game night, but just because people are fun to be around doesn’t mean you should trust them with knowledge of your preparedness measures. Operational Security (OPSEC) is not just a term to make you sound cool; it is a lifestyle rooted in a healthy paranoia backed by observable truths. When it comes to the lives and livelihood of your family, a healthy paranoia is a positive thing. It is a nuanced application of assuming everyone wants to take your stuff and hurt you, balanced with reasonable and achievable countermeasures to protect you and yours. Trust your gut and especially trust the opinion of your spouse – they are probably right!
Selecting the members of a tribe or Mutual Assistance Group (MAG) to which we are willing to pledge to risk ‘our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor’ is no small task, but neither was it so for our Founding Fathers. It is a spiritual, moral, financial, and potentially life-dependent relationship that must occur as a matter of small growth and concurrence from husbands, wives, and other adult decision-makers from all parties. I would go so far as to trust the judgment of any younglings who will be around – kids are amazing B.S. detectors! Then, as the group dynamics start to work out the twists and turns of trust, you will discover personality traits that define everyone. Leaders, followers, advisors, nurturers, protectors, healers, thinkers, and sadly even malingerers will be revealed, and choices must be made regarding who to keep and who to politely ask to leave. At that point, everything will be decided by a loose consensus, or maybe by a truly democratic process, as it should be. Few things I have experienced in the survivalist community are more destructive than a dictator or tyrant who thinks that they run the entire show. Even if they own all the land all the guns, and all the livestock, they should be mindful to democratize the group decisions or rethink their consideration of forming a coalition of patriots. There are going to be some decisions that transcend democracy, but those should be discussed at the outset and acknowledged as a matter of ‘membership’ within the tribe.
I recall the destructive power of ego and the sinfulness that manifests within such a self-imposed Great Leader of a group. We had one such member who chose his own callsign: “Six” (which is what we would call company commander or battalion commander in the field) and demanded that everyone acknowledge he was the leader and approver of all activities. First off- nobody chooses their own callsign. Your callsign chooses you. That is how people get nicknames like Booger, Sleepy, or Princess. It just happens that way! Anyway, this individual purchased a small piece of rural property and started moving all his belongings and much of the group’s shared resources out to his new land. There was a group of probationary/prospective members who were in the process of being vetted. This “Great Leader” told the prospects that they must move all his stuff for him as a test of loyalty and a condition of membership. Furthermore, he often dropped comments (concealed in a joke) that if any TEOTWAWKI incident happened, all the unmarried females of childbearing age would become as chattel and required to, well, you get the point. I severed ties with that twisted person as quickly as I could and lost my shared resources and a few former friends in the aftermath. That is how destructive a power-hungry, semi-wealthy person can become in short order. Run. Fast.
Fortunately, our core MAG survived that incident largely because we consisted of mostly veterans with a variety of service roles and affiliations from every branch of service including the Coast Guard. Marines naturally gravitated toward Marines, soldiers to soldiers, combat arms to combat arms, etc., but we all shared desirable traits and commitment to thriving in the coming uncertain times. We had mostly combat veterans and professional warriors, along with their families, and other veterans who were fortunate to serve in peacetime and not experience the terrors of war. We did have a couple of early members who claimed some sort of super-duper triple top secret special operations history that could never be proven because only the President and the Pope were read-on to their awesomeness, but those folks were quickly weeded out, since a real warrior can easily spot a fraud.
What set our MAG apart was that we had not only some really cool veterans of obscure wars and actions, but we also had several active-duty service members including a half dozen or so active Green Berets (Green Beanies) who were among the most humble and respectful people I have been honored to know. One thing about Army Special Forces soldiers that many folks may not understand is that they are not necessarily just physically fit super-soldiers with the best weapons who can outshoot and outmaneuver anyone else on the planet. One of the primary peacetime and wartime missions of Green Berets is to teach and train others, often in austere conditions and with limited resources. They are exceptional teachers and can rapidly bring a complete neophyte to passable proficiency with nearly any widget or technique, and in several languages! We were all fortunate to benefit from those true warriors, and we ate it up. The skills, training, and knowledge those folks passed on were beyond anything a “few fat guys in the forest” playing weekend militia could ever dream of coming up with. I still consider many of those SF guys my closest friends and remain in close contact with them to this day. So, when I consider vetting a group of patriots to be close to my family, my bar is set ridiculously high.
Only when you have fully vetted your potential cohort should you begin incrementally opening up your home, larder, and arms room for their perusal. Even for my most highly trusted Brothers in Arms with whom I literally bled in battle, I would never share safe combos or anything like that. If we came to a point of having a joint-use facility or storage, it would be wholly independent of my personal preps. Pooling large expenditure items and equipment may be practical and fiscally responsible for the good of the order. If one from the group offers to provide safe storage and general security of shared resources, make sure you visit the site before committing.
Sadly, a few years ago my family had to move away from our Rocky Mountain survivalist tribe/MAG and we are now living among the unwashed heathens of the Pacific Northwest. The laws of these states are creating a siege-like environment for critical thinkers who value the laws of G-d over the laws of man. We have yet to form the bonds and trust required to create a local MAG and have had to adjust our processes accordingly. We have rebuilt our survival essentials and believe we are set for up to one year for our family at home. Without having a predefined MAG, we are faced with a difficult question: How does one plan for mutual aid and to protect our hard-earned survival materiel in the absence of a structured survivalist group?
Taking in Strays
An area that has been touched upon by many writers, but not fully explored to my satisfaction, is how a family or tribe should decide when to allow guests or travelers to join their survival location. Whether it is a homestead, suburban dwelling, or a remote bug-out location, space limitations will be one of the biggest factors in the decision. As mentioned, I am a firm believer that the lone wolf approach will not be successful for G-d fearing, moral people who are unwilling to cross over to criminality. Like most of you, I tend to socialize and share my life with like-minded people who share my faith, my values, and my respect for Constitutionally sound laws. Spread across the country I have former battle buddies from three different wars, newer friends who I have bonded with and pledged mutual support, and of course there is my own extended family to consider. Even so, I will not let just anyone show up at my homestead expecting a handout or a free ride. That begs the question: Who gets to stay?
Practically speaking, the prospective member should have something to offer that will benefit the tribe’s survival. Cooks, teachers, medical practitioners, hunters, gardeners, mechanics, cobblers, textile producers… the list could easily grow beyond a page. Those critical skillsets are essential for a long-term success in a group dynamic. In my own planning and vetting of potential guests I always consider one primary factor for inclusion: security. Every person over the age of twelve admitted to my homestead will be expected to perform several routine security tasks or perhaps one or more advanced task. Whether that be watch-standing; monitoring video, alarms, and radios; patrolling; or conducting resupply runs; everyone will pull some sort of security function if they wish to remain in my homestead. Every person we can add to a security function will enhance the capabilities of the entire group by allowing more reasonable watch schedules and better rest breaks for the watch standers. A family of five adults/teens cannot realistically provide 24/7 security for more than a few days but add four or six more capable souls to the mix and it certainly becomes more manageable. Be realistic about your capabilities to outfit, feed, and support your guests. A leader must recognize when their tribe starts to seriously tax the supply chain and resources. Essentials will become scarce in short order unless folks bring supplies to contribute, so absent a self-sufficient ranch in the hinterlands of the American Redoubt, the headcount does matter.
Now that we have accepted qualified newcomers to our humble abode, and reconciled with the fact that they may have arrived ill-equipped and under-prepared, how do we solve that problem? We are fortunate to have enough blankets, sleeping bags, appropriate outer clothing, personal hygiene items, and other necessities to outfit a family or two when they show up with nothing but shoes on their feet and empty stomachs. We pride ourselves in not being ‘hoarders’ but we are also practical enough to realize the value of storing gently used articles and sufficient essential food items to help our brethren and sistren in need. That stipulated, it will quickly be time to put the visitors to work.
(To be concluded tomorrow, in Part 2.)