Almost everyone who reads this column knows that most Americans are woefully unprepared to face a post-poop hits the fan, WOTROL, grid down world. Equally sad and dangerous is the fact that most in the prepping community fall into one of the following categories:
- Someone who thinks about prepping and sees the need but hasn’t really gotten started,
- Someone who buys a lot of “stuff” but doesn’t really know what to do with it, or
- Someone who has “stuff” and reads a lot of books and columns on prepping but still hasn’t tried to live it.
I suppose that even the best prepared among us has gone through these steps but at some point you has realized that “having” and even “knowing how” are trumped by actually “doing”. Although no one can be totally prepared for whatever lies ahead, I have been able to make some pretty good progress over the last decade or so and would like to share my experience in hopes that it will help or inspire others.
First I must give credit where it is due. My late father was a great teacher and example. He had served with the Marines in Korea during the early 50’s and was decorated for bravery under fire. Growing up under him was fairly simple. You were expected to do what was right and not whine about hardship, period. He was kind and loving, but he would not compromise on expectations. Also, he was a gun collector, and for a time he held a federal firearms dealer’s license. I started shooting at four years old with lots of exposure to World War II-era rifles and uncompromising emphasis on safety. I also seemed to have had an endless supply of surplus ‘web gear’ for hiking and camping. The smell of musty canvas still triggers warm memories.
The other component of my solid prepper base was my participation in high school sports. I was not a gifted athlete. In fact, I started out in freshmen football undersized, slow, and without the hands of a receiver. So, by default, those factors made me a second string lineman. I found that the only meaningful thing that I could do to improve was work on strength and endurance. Through weight training and running, I was able to become an acceptable participant in football, wrestling, and track; the significance and relevance of this will soon be apparent.
Fast forward a couple of decades. It was during the Carter years that I became convinced that there was no way for our society to bail out of the growing debt and foreign entanglement without some serious turmoil. (I honestly never thought that we could make it this far.) My biggest challenge was financing. I had a growing family, a mid-level engineering job, and no hope of moving to a retreat in the western Rockies. Back then, it was hard to even lay aside money for a few extra groceries. Instead, I concentrated on acquiring skills, any skills that might better my chances of protecting and providing for my family. Gardening, burning wood as our primary heat source, and keeping venison in the freezer became second nature. Also key was the fact that I never lost sight of the lesson regarding personal fitness. Working out was a priority, even when it had to be balanced with the kid’s activities and a job that included a fair amount of travel. There were many times when running was done by moonlight or I had to settle for pushups in a motel room, but anything was better than nothing. If the motel had a fitness room, that was so much the better. Over time, there were coworkers who had martial arts experience. We worked out together. All three of my sons wrestled in high school, and assisting dads were welcomed at practice. For ten years, that was a source of fitness and skills improvement, while at the same time I was helping kids develop.
Meanwhile at work, I never missed a chance to pick up training that the company provided. Everything from First Aid and CPR to Personal Finance and Electrical Troubleshooting were eagerly taken. I had worked up to a level where my income was pretty comfortable, and then the bottom fell out. First the dotcom bubble burst, and then 911 hit. The sector I was working in was severely impacted, and I was downsized out after 22 years with the same company. Since then, I’ve worked for five different employers. Of those, two have gone out of business completely, and one has withdrawn all operations from my state. My income has gone from over $70,000 per year to my current job that pays a little under $13/hour. Yes, from my perspective, we are in a depression. Manufacturing jobs are all but gone in our part of the country. Public sector jobs are seen as the “good ones”. Few seem to question how we can continue to fund public sector spending when the private sector is so depressed.
However, it isn’t all negative. During the three times I’ve been on unemployment, I’ve had the chance to expand out into new areas. I became an NRA-certified instructor for Basic Pistol and Basic Shotgun. I worked on my self-defense skills and became a certified anti-rape instructor. I now teach, part time, for a local self-defense business, and that has opened the door for me to take multiple classes in Tactical Rifle, Shotgun and Pistol, and further unarmed training. More importantly, teaching these skills is the best way to master these skills. They go on trial every time you demonstrate a technique and every time you pull a trigger. If you want to get really good at something, teach it to others.
Another life-changer for me was when I joined our local ambulance corpse. After a short time as a driver, they then paid for me to get my EMT certification. With that has come a great deal of experience in dealing with both illnesses and traumatic injuries. Not only am I growing in my knowledge of how to handle medical emergencies, I have been tested under pressure. I know that I can deal with life-threatening injuries, because I’ve done it. I’ve looked at death, performed CPR for well over half an hour on a patient who didn’t make it, and I walked away knowing that we all performed to the best of our ability and there was no lingering guilt or regrets. It isn’t combat, like what my dad experienced, but I think that it’s the next closest thing.
Finally, there are some other side benefits from the above experiences that should not be omitted. Both the defensive training and Emergency Medical Service (EMS) have made me familiar with other emergency workers, ie. firemen and police. I think that it is a good thing to be seen as one of the good guys. Training with various law enforcement personnel reminds them that civilians with guns can be a good thing. One becomes a familiar face. We become part of the same fraternity. This is true of the other relationships developed in everything written above. I still have contact with some of the guys I played sports with over 40 years ago. Same with the kids I helped coach become county and sectional wrestling champs. My shooting fraternity and my EMS family are almost as close as my church family. It is this network of people and skills that I hope and expect to draw together as times become more challenging. This essay was written in the first person because I truly wanted it to be personal and inspire those who need to get moving to start actually doing skill-based preparation for the hard times that are coming. Good luck and God bless.