Reality Check: “All the Gear, No Idea”
I’m fresh back from my latest training weekend. It was a good and enjoyable class, meeting good people as usual. A little more challenging for me with a wider ability gap among attendees than previously, making me work to tailor the lanes to individual abilities. Cookie-cutter training simply would not have worked. The additional target pits that I have put in, extending the ranges, allowed me to challenge returning students while giving new ones the right level of initial training.
That being said, there has been a recurring theme that has been ticking away in my mind over the last several months. I have been running my training school since May and of course most of the students are civilians. Some have military experience, a couple have been active duty or reserves. My training is adapted to the student body. However, it has also been an educational experience for me – I am no longer training recruits, professional SOF troops or experienced operators. This post is by no means directed at anyone in particular from either this weekend or any previously, but it is a general comment from observation; if you are easily offended just stop reading now:
There are a couple of themes that I have noticed, and taken all together they add up to the perfect storm that will get you killed. I touched on this in this previous post: ‘Gear Philosophy Update’ but today I intend to rip the band-aid right off:
The two themes adding up to your death are:
1) Lack of fitness and obesity
2) Too much gear
Fitness: On the fitness side, let’s be realistic. When you are doing tactical training, you are doing light infantry training. Let’s forget all that ‘groupie’ stuff about SOF/SF/elite forces and all that. SHTF, it does not matter, you are conducting light infantry operations. If you are intending to do that, you need to be fit enough to ‘shoot, move and communicate’. There is a basic level of gear (i.e. weight) that you need to be able to lug about in order to function as a light infantry fighter. You need to be able to move with that load without being too exhausted. The more exhausted you get, the sloppier you will get, the more shortcuts you will take.
“Keep Low, Move Fast” evolves into an exhausted flop down on your ass, sucking water out of your Camelbak, while failing to pull security.
If you are not as fit as you can be, then you are deluding yourself. No one really knows what SHTF will look like. You all have your preconceived notions, most of which will be wrong come the hour. One thing that can be said is that you need to be as generally prepared as possible. SHTF will be a huge dislocation of expectations. Most of the stuff that you have now, and that you think defines you as an American, such as your big truck, or whatever, will not be part of the picture post-SHTF. Once the collapse happens, the only thing that will define you as an American is your character and how you perform.
As the political philosopher John Hobbes said, in the ‘state of nature’ the life of man is “solitary, nasty, brutish and short.” Welcome to the collapse. Prepping is one thing, and if you prep well then you have a good chance of increasing your overall chances of survival. But you have to be prepared for massive dislocation of expectations. If your whole survival plan revolves around a fat family sitting tight at a ‘retreat property’ then when the bad guys come over the hill, or whatever, and that retreat is no longer secure, you may be hauling you fat ass over the hill, and trying to bug out and survive in the woods. When you are trying to haul ass with a ruck, maybe pushing/pulling kids, elderly relatives, or sick/wounded family members out on a jog stroller or deer cart, that is when being fat asses is really going to suck.
But of course, by then you won’t be walking far, because your pants will be around your ankles after you lost 100 lbs as you slowly starved to death as all that canned food started to run out, and the selfish fat relative broke into the store room and gave themselves diabetic shock that night after wolfing down as much of your carefully stored provisions as they could before passing out, to be found in the morning in a pool of their own shit and vomit.
The problem is that the whole meme of the modern American has evolved into a huge number of lard-asses, overfed ‘corn fed’ people who don’t actually realize the problem. They are not ‘big boned’ they are just fat. It’s classic boiling frog – people were not fat in the great depression, they were starving. Too much easy food nowadays.
Not one of my students!
A huge part of physical fitness is mental fitness. When you are doing light infantry work, a lot of what you do, in particular when you get down to doing fire and movement, comes down to anaerobic exercise where you are breathing out of your ass and the only thing that is going to get you through is iron determination and HEART. Well, have the heart to drag your ass away from the keyboard and start doing some effective fitness now.
I don’t mean ‘useless’ gym fitness, or ‘show muscles’. I mean real cardio and strength training. A good thing to add to that is manual labor. By which I mean actually digging holes and moving dirt with a pick and shovel. That takes heart and determination and will go a long way to prepare you for the rigors of a life of manual labor and infantry work which may well be your lot post-SHTF.
You need to test yourself and push your limits. Unless you have been out on extended operations with large amounts of physical exertion and reduced calorific intake, you won’t really know what I am taking about. Extended patrols over harsh terrain. Leaden legs as you set off again up another hill, feeling the tiredness to the core but still moving with a steely determination. Getting out your entrenching tool and digging in. Constantly wearing your gear, even your boots at night in your bag even though you will have swapped out socks and powdered your feet. Getting out of your bag on a freezing night to go out on patrol, or go on watch, or getting up and packing away all your gear prior to a dawn stand-to. That is when your mettle and professionalism will be tested, weighed and counted.
My tactical courses are not even that hard, and there is plenty of rest built in between iterations. However, even given that people find it hard, because fire and movement is hard work. I see a lot of heart on my ranges, but I also see a lot of resolutions to go away, lose weight and get fitter, and come back to do a better job. If you find it hard going up and down the ranges in your vest and tactical set-up, and that is with frequent rest back at the school house, then it’s time to lighten the load and up the fitness.
Gear: One of the big problems for preppers, in particular wealthy preppers, is a mindset where gear can solve all your problems. It all becomes about gear and gadgets. Now, I love a good bit of gear myself, and I agree that having it can seriously increase your chances of survival, but there is a limit. You have to be able to survive with minimal gear; to make things work without that latest gadget. It is about what you know and your determination rather than having the latest widget.
This gear-centric attitude, together with an often lack of effective fitness, leads to this perfect storm. Granted, a lot of wealthy preppers are older, and thus not as fit, and that is a challenge. However, this attitude is really a form of denial – it’s an “I can fix it with gear” attitude, when what is really needed is more PT and a good dose of aggression and determination to kill any fucker that comes near your family posing a threat.
The gear thing, tied in with the fitness thing, leads to people carrying far too much gear. As discussed in the previous linked post, it is all a balance between firepower, mobility and protection. If you get all that latest gear, load it onto a vest carrying full plates plus a full ammo load, and you can’t move, then you just failed. If you can’t move, then you just lost the mobility thing. You will tire easily, move too slowly under contact, get sloppy and lose the will to continue. If necessary strip weight, including plates, in order to be able to regain the ability to move. If you want to carry more gear, then you have to get fitter and stronger so you can move with the gear.
Not one of my students!
SHTF will be ongoing. You don’t know when the enemy will appear. To protect your base location you will need an ongoing and endless process of LP/OP, watches, ground domination patrols and the like. You will need to wear your gear most of the time, or at least a basic emergency load so you have your rifle and some magazines with you in case you are caught short while tending the tomatoes. You need to rig your gear so you have a squared away load that you are willing to actually wear and carry while walking around the hills and hollers of your property location, without becoming an exhausted whale in the woods. If you are struggling, and you will be struggling with limited calories as your body fights the loss of weight, you will start taking shortcuts. Your legs will be too tired to make it up that hill. It’ll be all right, yea? No bad guys will come up here will they? Welcome to denial and defeat.
The next factor is that of casualties and casualty evacuation. Moving a casualty is one of the hardest things you will do, particularly if you are trying to break contact. If you are a fat-ass, then you can’t move yourself and your gear with much efficiency. You also can’t move your team member when he is hit and becomes a casualty. If your team member is also a lard-ass, then it makes it even harder for you to move him, and he is definitely not going to be able to move you if you are hit. Best that is going to happen is one lard-ass using the other for cover, hoping all those plates and gear, plus the lard, will stop the bullets while he strips off that cool gear he’s been coveting. He’ll then try and get away , but he is too tired, fat and overburdened by gear to actually do an effective break contact drill. He can’t “keep low, move fast” so he is going to be shot down too. Well done those that ambushed you, because they just shot down a couple of fat guys and profited with all the gear you were carrying.
Oh, and by the way, if you are reading this and chuckling at all my references to fat guys, then think again. If you are one of those vanity steroid muscle guys, or a weak skinny guy without any cardio fitness, then you are screwed too. The vanity muscle guy will be exhausted post-SHTF as he finds can’t take in the calories to maintain all that protein muscle. The skinny weak guy will be unable to carry his gear.
What you need is a balance of cardiovascular fitness and a strength to weight ratio where you can move and lift your own body. Above all, endurance and determination, will to win.
If you can’t be bothered to go out right now and work on your weight and fitness, how well does that attitude bode for what you will do and how you will perform SHTF? I’m not talking about ‘6-pack’ abs here, that sort of thing is simply not important and actually speaks to a body fat ratio that is too low and will lead to faster starvation. Be healthy fit, not vanity fit.
You want a conspiracy theory? How about this: you are being made fat and unhealthy. You are being convinced that training by former LEO’s on square ranges, which works well if the enemy is standing there not firing back, is making you tactically competent. The result of this? Failure and death.
As far as tactical training goes, the procedure goes something like this: learning how to handle a rifle and the marksmanship principles; grouping and zeroing; application of fire; transition to field firing; field firing.
All up to transition to field firing, if taught correctly with a knowledgeable military trainer, can be achieved on the ‘square range’. It is important to develop good shooting competence, achieving good consistent groups, as you develop the fundamentals before moving to the ‘cool stuff’. For the transition to field firing and the field firing itself, which equates to realistic tactical training, then you need to train with a suitably qualified military trainer at a suitable facility. If you are worried about your level of PT right now, I can tell you that if you train with me I will tailor it so that you achieve the training, even though you may convince yourself to do more PT, lose some weight, and come back to train again.
You should also, if possible, train at a suitable facility which is set up to do live firing tactical movement. There is no substitute for actual live firing, particularly if used with electronic pop-up targets for realism and reaction.
Which reminds me: although the use of .22 LR is good in theory, and I will continue to allow it so students can save money on ammo, the Ruger 10/22 is outright BANNED on my ranges. I have seen nothing but trouble and malfunctions from students using that rifle, whether the cause is the rifle itself, the larger capacity after-market magazines or the ammunition. Go on, try me – show up with one: visualize me smashing the butt of the wooden rifle on a rock until it shatters, that’s how strongly I feel about that.
(Students from this last weekend will appreciate the reference).
Something like my CRCD class is not something you should do once and then consider yourself ‘good to go’ – these drills need practice, and each time you come back you will achieve a higher level of competence and awareness of the different layers of what is going on during the drills. My repeat students can attest to that.
Enjoy your training.
Live Hard, Die Free.