[dropcap]Y[/dropcap]ou’ve got your stash of food and matches. You’ve stacked your ammo cans in the corner. You have guns and Fish-Mox and every kind of medical supply you can think of, with batteries and candles and flashlights and everything else. You’ve had your bug out bags forever and you’re an old hat at prepping. You’re ready for a full-on grid down situation…or are you? Let’s take a look at five capabilities and SHTF training areas you’re probably missing.
1. Physical Fitness
It’s a cold and uncomfortable fact that a lot of folks in the patriot movement are in horrible physical shape. We’ve all seen them. The idea that patriots should be training physically is often ignored. It’s painful, it’s a bit time-consuming, and it requires commitment greater than trolling websites looking for another “Come and Take It” T-shirt or Super Awesome Gear That No One Else Has. The truth is, however, that if you’re overweight or in less than optimal physical shape, your chances of survival go down significantly. You can have all the gear and even tactical training out there, but if you can’t hack it physically, you’re done.
People don’t like to hear this. John Mosby wrote that “It’s gotta be a man thing. Every guy I know thinks he’s in shape. It doesn’t matter if he weighs 245, with 27% bodyfat, and the only ‘athletic’ activity in his life is performing 12oz curls while watching NASCAR, motherf—– is convinced he’s an Olympic-caliber athlete.” While his choice of words may be crude, his sentiment is right on. Take a hard, honest look at yourself. Can you run a mile in a decent time while carrying your full bug out bag, rifle, and other gear? I can’t. I own that. It’s something I’m actively training and working to change.
Anytime the subject of physical fitness comes up, it offends people. You hear about the bum knees, the bad backs, the injuries that were hard-earned in better times when the person in question was, of course, a true and undisputed badass. Here’s the deal: It doesn’t matter what you did in the military, how amazing a high school or college athlete you were, or how many brightly colored martial arts belts you own. All that matters is what you can do right now. Today.
The good news is that tomorrow is a new day, and you can choose to change. You don’t have to buy a costly gym membership or a bunch of equipment. There are free apps all over the place that will walk you through a program using your own body weight and no equipment at all. If you don’t want to link any of it to your smartphone, you can follow any of a hundred plans found online or even in hard copy books. Mosby’s The Reluctant Partisan has an excellent physical fitness program in it. However you go about it, do something. Your life, and the lives of your family and/or group, will depend on it.
2. Communications Training
It became painfully obvious during our Sparks31 class a few weeks ago that communications training is far more important than most people are willing to admit. In SHTF, how will you know what’s going on around you? Perhaps even more importantly, what about right now? Even having a basic scanner setup and comms monitoring will give you much better insight into your local situation.
Thankfully, here again there are opportunities everywhere to train for free. There’s an app to help you study for the ham license test. There are entire websites devoted to newbies in the field, and the community is largely helpful and friendly. There’s no reason not to take a look at some of the beginning information. Chances are excellent that you already know someone who’s into comms. Talk to them. Attend a class. Start learning. We’ll be offering both beginner and highly advanced communications classes in the next few months.
3. Intelligence Training
Like it or not, intelligence drives the fight. That’s not a fancy saying, that’s truth. NC Renegade says it best:
Having the latest and greatest high-speed, low-drag tactical gear and training can be a good thing. Being in the best physical, mental and spiritual shape of your life is a good thing. Being a part of a group of like-minded folks that have been tempered by working through and overcoming the hard things together is great. Being at the pointy end of the sharpest and longest spear in the valley can be a result of those things.
However, experience has shown me that if you don’t have intelligence that is timely, relevant, accurate, specific and actionable, your spear will usually be pointed in the wrong direction at the wrong time.
You don’t have to be an expert in human intelligence, but you should know how to truly vet your people and get information out of sources (and unlike what at least two people have told me, “checking out their Facebook to see what they post about” is not considered vetting). You don’t have to turn your guest room into an S2 shop, or become an expert on all things intelligence. You should, however, understand the intelligence process. You should be able to formulate intelligence requirements and know how to fill those requirements. You should know how to detect deception in the reports you receive, and the information you’re given. You should be able to provide solid, actionable intelligence and be able to make decisions based on that intel.
Above all, you should know how your AO like the back of your hand—and not just how to avoid traffic during rush hour or where the best Italian food is. Where are the water lines and sources? Gas lines? Traffic bottlenecks? Alternate avenues of approach to your home? Gang activity? Areas of high crime? Gang turf boundaries? Types of crime near you? There are a hundred different things you need to know about the place that you live and work. This information is important now, and will be critical later.
There are resources to learn the basics. TOWR is planning some intel classes, and Sam Culper at Forward Observer offers excellent intel training for patriots. Don’t assume that you don’t need it, or that it’s not going to help you. It’s necessary. Remember: Intelligence drives the fight.
4. Computer Skills
Computer skills get passed over a lot of the time because people think that in a SHTF situation, there won’t be any use for computers. There’s more than one type of SHTF-causing situation, however. Not every possible outcome involves gutted buildings and no power or water. And what about right now? How much of your personal information is hanging out in the open, or is easily accessible to someone who’s inclined to look for it? How much of your group’s communications are being intercepted?
If you’re paying attention to the other items on this list, then you already see how a computer fits into the bigger picture. With a computer, you can monitor multiple social media streams for information that you need (and by information, I don’t mean the latest III% meme). You can access how-to manuals, online training, and information on any subject you can possibly think of.
Some of the best resources are found on the dark net, and aren’t accessible with a regular browser. This means that if the extent of your computer knowledge is sending game requests on Facebook, clicking like on memes, forwarding emails, and surfing gear sites, you’ve got a bit of learning to do. As always, the good news is that there are ways to learn. It’s not hard to get started; even something as small as learning to use the Tor Browser or a VPN is better than nothing. At this stage in the game, knowing basic encryption skills is a must as well. Good thing there are things like Cryptoparties, where you can learn how to do all of these things for free. (If you’re not in WA, check out this link to see if there’s a Cryptoparty happening near you, such as this one in Dallas that happens every month.)
5. A Family Plan
The last item on this list is perhaps the most important of all. No matter how much ammo you have stored, how well-versed you are in your AO, how good you are with a radio or anything else, if your family isn’t on board with your activities then you’re fighting an uphill battle.
This item can also seem like the most frustrating, and even the most out of your control. Regardless of whether they agree with prepping or not, or even if they’re patriots, you need a plan for what happens if IT happens. If your kids are in school, you need a plan for how to get them home. If you or your spouse is at work, you need a plan for how and where you’ll meet up. This would be a good time to practice your powers of influence. Answer the question “What in it for me?” Paint a picture for your unwilling family about why you need a plan. It doesn’t need to involve scenarios of zombies and golden hordes; you could start simple and phrase it in terms of a region-specific natural disaster, a fire, home intrusion, or even just a bad storm resulting in a loss of power for an extended period of time. Put it in terms they can understand and even relate to. Start small.
This list is certainly not meant to be all-inclusive or have all the answers, especially in the case of the unwilling family. It is, however, meant to at least get you thinking. What good does all your gear do if you don’t know where you’re needed or where the threats are? What good does it do if you can’t carry it further than half a block without being out of breath? What’s the point in being an outdoors survival expert if you can’t get out of your suburban neighborhood in a disaster and don’t know any alternate routes (and couldn’t physically pull it off anyway)?
We talk about courage as 3%’ers. Be courageous enough to take that hard look at yourself and your family. Where are your weak spots? What can you change? What do you need? There is no bad outcome if you are training. You will get better, more knowledgeable, more valuable to your group, and more able to help yourself and your family survive. You can only improve your situation and your odds.