I have recently retired from the military and have began to dig deeper into the survivalist arena. I have always been interested in this area for quite some time but have not really dedicated the amount of time that I want due to job requirements, life events etc. I have been reading all the blogs, videos and write ups about prepping, survival and there are a lot of good information out there. So I decided to use my 26 years of military experience (4 yeas Infantry, 6 years Long Range Surveillance and 16 years Special Forces) and apply pertinent concepts toward the Survivalist Mindset. In this paper I will discuss some planning considerations for establishing a Survival Plan of Action (SPA) and the survivalist mind set. Your skills and abilities are tools in the tool box (your mind). Hopefully this discussion will aid you into adding more tools to your tool box.
Throughout the Internet and online blogs you have seen a plethora of acronyms dealing with prepping, survival, and the end of the world. Some are The Schumer Hits The Fan (TSHTF), The End Of The World As We Know It (TEOTWAWKI), BOB – Bug Out Bag, Get Out Of Dodge (G.O.O.D.), But we don’t have an overall acronym for all the planning, resource identification, rehearsing, etc that encompasses the entirety of what we do to accomplish all of this great information and techniques. This is where the SPA comes into play. It is the Survival Plan of Action (SPA). This document should include information that outlines your groups plan to Get Home, Bug Out, Bug In, Get Out of Dodge, etc. You can add to this document by adding Annexes to augment the information like Food Storage Inventories, Vehicle Inventories, or Bug Out Site Inventories.
I am currently working on a format to help with creating your SPA. It will include the base document, annexes, appendices and tabs, which will be all inclusive to every scenario. Now if one decides to establish a SPA he must take the utmost care in securing it in a safe and secure location that only a select few will know or have access. One technique is to have a hard copy sealed in an envelope in a safe. If you have a digital copy or use a computer to write one, use a laptop that is never connected to the internet preferably with a removable hard drive. If you store a back up on a thumb drive with all your personal information place this in your envelope also.
One of the first things you should do is conduct a comprehensive area study of your operational area (home site, get home route, bug out site, etc) especially if you have recently moved or plan on relocating to a more suitable area. Some of you may be saying “I have lived here all my life” then this area study should be real easy. You will be surprised with information that you find or might never have considered. This area study should be a living document (continue to update and add information) and your base resource document for planning.
Why is it good to have one? Several reasons; if you plan on establishing a group survival area, the new members of your group can read the document to become familiar with the area. If you have distant family members relocating to the area with you, you can send them the document so they can become familiar with the area. These documents should be a great addition to your survival SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures).
This document is all open source and contains the following basic information (not all inclusive): Natural environment, Demographics/Cultural features, and Lines of Communications/Information Systems. Since this is a living document you will periodically update it and add additional information. If you need to add new categories or scenario plans, just add an annex, appendix or tab to your overall SPA.
When you are researching the natural environment include all geographical data. Consider your operational area and dimensions; state, county and municipal boundaries; terrain, general direction of mountain ranges, areas that provide good concealment/cover, the general degree of slope, large open fields suitable to land small aircraft, hazards toward movement, natural routes over land, natural resources for survival, historic land use, suitable locations for hole up sites or base camps, typical climate overview, temperature tables, snow/rainfall, wind/visibility, sun/moon table, general drainage pattern, river flow and current, location of lakes/ponds, potable water resources, coastal tides/currents, beaches, and areas that are good for subsistence. Remember to include seasonal changes to all these categories.
In the demographics and cultural section be sure to include area population estimates, location of towns, ethnic composition, language, social conditions, religious factors, medical/health information, economic conditions, political factors, type of currency, typical dress, customs, local government information, travel restrictions, local degree of self sufficiency, agricultural information, local industrial information, and commerce/trade information.
When it comes to lines of communication/information systems we are referring to how do people commute and communicate in the area. Include location/direction of interstates, state highways, county roads, forest service roads, jeep trails, hiking trails; major active and inactive rail ways, navigable waterways, location of large and small ports, harbors, marinas; location of gas stations, petroleum storage; location and type of power plants, sub stations, transmission lines; location of radio broadcasting stations, telephone companies, satellite companies and newspaper offices.
When writing your SPA, you will get pertinent information from this section. Like urban and rural key terrain (places to avoid or to occupy) , avenues of approach (places for travel routes and places for avoid ambushes, choke points, bridges, river crossings), the best times to move in total darkness (no illumination), time of year with the best or worse weather (seasonal effects of weather on terrain and visibility), river and stream data (depth, width, flow rate and direction of flow, potable water), coastal data (tides, beach type, coves) towns with dense or sparse populations, subsistence data (cultivated, natural wildlife),government offices (urban key terrain), military bases, governmental control measures (check points, curfews, population control measures), health data and hospitals, areas with friendly or favorable ethnic/social/religious factors, agriculture and domestic food supply, natural resources, percentage of self sufficiency, manufacturing plants, local dress to assist with “blending in”, economic trends over a period of time.
Your area study is basically a plethora of information that you update over time. It will give you all the information that you will need to plan all your scenarios. Use it to assist you planning your Get Home Plan (GHP), Bug Out Plan (BOP), or your Link Up Plan (LUP).
When planning your scenarios there are a few acronyms to discuss. METT-TC, OCOKA, PACE and PRSCC. These acronyms will assist you in planning multiple scenarios and establishing SOP’s. A few of these will be used throughout your planning and during your scenarios to assist you in your decision making process. IN the following discussion I will focus on a Get Home Scenario.
METT-TC is used primarily during your initial planning phase. M stands for mission (what is your mission? Get Home) you should state who is doing the mission, where are they going, what is to be accomplished and when is it going to happen. E stands for enemy situation (basically this is any hostile group) you want to detail their size, location, operational area and equipment to include weapons. T stands for Terrain and Weather (specific to your mission not your entire area of operations) for weather you want to discuss the effects on you and the hostile forces. When covering terrain you will use OCOKA, which I will cover later in this section. T stands for Troops available (personnel that you have or need to accomplish the mission). The second T stands for time available to accomplish the mission. Do you have one day or a week? C stands for civilian considerations. You can put in this section the potential for mass refugees or displaced persons congesting up the main roadways, possible direction of mass evacuations from built up areas in your mission area. So by using METT-TC you are taking information from your area study and experience to narrow down information for your specific mission.
The next is OCOKA. This one is used for detailing the terrain section in METT-TC. O is for observation and fields of fire. You need to determine locations along your route that provide the best observation of and from road ways, towns, bridges. rivers etc. C is for cover and concealment. Cover is something that will protect you from small arms fire and concealment only conceals your location. Identify locations that aid you in your movement home by vehicle and foot. Which route offers the best concealment and what locations along your route provide good cover. The second O is for obstacles. you want to identify any obstructions along your route, destroyed bridges, natural terrain that hinders vehicular movement like a swamp or large bodies of water. K is for key terrain. Identify locations or areas (natural or manmade) that the seizure, retention, or control of affords a marked advantage to either friend or foe. A is for avenues of approach. Identify all road ways, trails, power line paths, railroad tracks between you and your home. Don’t forget to consider aerial and subterranean routes.
The third one is PACE. When constructing your plan you do not want to have only one route, one location, one vehicle or one weapon. You need flexibility and depth just like a NFL teams roster. This one is very simple. P is for primary, A is for alternate, C is for contingency, E is for emergency. Keep in mind that in some cases you will not use all of the PACE, mostly you will only use the P and A. It is up to you and your resources how deep you are able to go. Bottom line, you should always have at least an alternate plan, route, weapon or location. So using a PACE for all your scenarios or missions is essential to good planning. Personally, I always have a primary weapon and an alternate weapon.
The last one is the PRSCC or the Five Principles of Patrolling. . It is used heavily by any combat force that conducts patrolling, P is for planning. In the previous paragraphs I have discussed planning extensively, so I will not dwell on this one. R is for reconnaissance. Reconnaissance should always be part of your planning. It should be implemented at the beginning and continued throughout your mission. You can accomplish this through maps, imagery and actually traveling the route (best choice) . By actually traveling the route you will identify any known obstacles, alternate routes and potential hole up sites, to include the time needed to accomplish. S is for security. Security is a constant throughout your planning and scenario. Keeping your documents locked up and your situational awareness while moving applies. Whether traveling alone or in a group always stop, look, listen and smell (SLLS) first when setting up your camp. After this you should always have a conduct a short recon around your area to identify key terrain or avenues of approach that can assist you or effect you, to include water resupply. If everything is safe then you can ensure your weapons are ready to go and then eat. Once you have eaten and water is filled, then you can implement a rest plan. If you are in a group, not everyone cleans their weapons or eats at the same time. Always have someone on guard during the rest plan. C is for control. Control is any method, terrain or device that will help you control your team, movement or mission. Such as check points, phase lines, limit of advance, contact points, decision points, No later than times (NLT), no earlier than times (NET) and boundaries (left limit or right limit). The last C is for common sense. Common sense is not so common. So always do a common sense check with all decisions. Identify the your action, the reaction to it (from enemy) and what your counter reaction would be if it happened.
Having the correct mindset is the most important aspect to survival. With the proper mindset, you can achieve anything. So you can say survival is mainly a mental game. You should always keep your situational awareness, stay healthy, have the proper equipment and the right skills to survive.
Situation awareness (SA) is very important during all your activities, not just when a survival situation hits. Some would say stay alert, stay alive. Maintaining your SA will prevent you from becoming a victim. If I am on a trip or in an area unfamiliar to me, I apply the 51% rule. I look around me and see what the majority of the people are wearing, their actions and mannerisms, their type of vehicle, or other habits of the environment. Kind of like, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” By doing this, you will blend in with your surroundings and not stand out. Just blending in will help you not be a victim or a target. You can prepare yourself by researching the area you will be traveling. The next time you go somewhere and park in the parking lot. Look around and see how many vehicles are backed into a parking space versus parking “normal” in a space. You will begin to take notice of these vehicles every time you go out.
Staying healthy and in good shape is the second thing to consider. If you are overweight and out of shape you can become injured easier. This is probably the hardest thing to accomplish for some people. Lifestyles and life events can affect you. Always begin slow and never over do it. If you over do it and are unable to function the next day, it will discourage you from continuing. Set yourself small, realistic goals and give yourself plenty of time to achieve them. Get your whole family involved with a new diet and exercise routine. This will aid you in your goal of getting in shape, not to mention the benefits for your entire family. I am not saying you need to be a professional athlete but just stay healthy with a good diet and exercise routine.
The third thing you need is the proper equipment, basic foundation and skill sets. You need to look at your budget and realize how much you have to acquire the right tools of the trade. Just do not buy an item because it is a “name brand” or the “most expensive.” These terms do not always equate to good, versatile and solid tools. Research and test (if possible) these item before you purchase them. Establish your survival fundamentals or foundation. By this I mean your navigation, water procurement, food procurement, shelter making and fire making skills.
You need to learn the basic ways to accomplish each of these tasks. The ability to achieve each of these with a minimalist type of kit. A GPS is great to aid your navigation but when the batteries go out or you smash the screen it is a paper weight. So understanding how to navigate by the sun, stars and/or compass and map is critical. Learn how to start a fire without a lighter or match. Learn how to make a shelter out of natural materials, learn how to trap food, improvise a weapon to assist your hunt. Learn how to acquire water through various means. Once you have mastered the basics, then move on to more advanced techniques.
Do not go out and buy the entire Wal-Mart camping section, place it in your pack or vehicle and call it good. Because it is not learning the basics, it is a waste of time and money. There are a lot of videos, blogs and so called “experts” out there on the internet. Use your 5th principle of patrolling (common sense) when looking at these sites. You will realize that they are unqualified individuals that have no experience or training. That being said, there are a lot of great videos, blogs and web sites from people who have those skill sets and the experience. Good luck in all your endeavors. Remember to learn the basic fundamentals, acquire the right tools and sharpen your skill sets. You have the tool box, all you need to do is to add the right tools. De Oppresso Liber.