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Lessons from an Infantryman That Will Make You a Better Prepper

Being an Infantryman has taught me a lot about prepping, as well as life in general. There are moral lessons, as well as physical ones that are engrained into our heads. Basic Combat Training teaches only the basics that are required to being an Infantryman. The real test, however, is when you get to your actual unit.

Infantrymen aren’t “bullet sponges”, or “meat heads” like people like to refer us as (though sometimes both are true). A real Infantryman is someone who leads from the front, takes charge, and sets the example to those who need it the most. There’s a phrase coined by the Infantry, and it’s been around for over 100 years in our line of work, “Follow Me”.

This phrase is the cornerstone of our line of work, because we lead from the front. Whenever you need help, if there’s an Infantryman nearby, you can count on hearing those words. An example of this, is the thwarted terror attack in Paris, France in 2015. One of the men who led the counter-attack was a U.S. Army Infantryman. Whether you want to take these lessons to heart is your choice, but doing so may help lead you to better decision-making.

Before we’re Infantrymen, we’re soldiers. In the U.S. Army, there are 7 values that we try to incorporate into our everyday lives. Nobody’s perfect, but if you follow these 7 values, you’ll find that your decision-making is more simplified. When placed in a column, the first letter of each of these values spells out “LDRSHIP”. Leadership is an important quality that we’ll go over as well.

Loyalty

Loyalty is an excellent trait to have as a prepper, because if you stay true to your friends, they will stay true to you (most of the time). Never betray anyone, as this will cause you to have unnecessary enemies. When someone needs you, help them, for you might need their help one day as well.

Duty

You have a duty to your country, your family, and your friends. Having duty to your country doesn’t mean you have a duty to somebody, but as a nation. Never act selfish, help others before you help yourself. If there’s only enough food to fill your friend’s mouth, feed him before yourself. These acts of kindness will reflect on your character, and in turn will influence how others treat you.

Respect

This value goes down to the core of the “golden rule”, treat others how you wish to be treated. If you meet someone for the first time, shake their hand and treat them with respect, as well as dignity. Just because you hear rumors about someone, doesn’t mean they’re true. Give everyone the benefit of the doubt, and respect everyone as human beings. These people may save your life one day.

Selfless-Service

Like I said in “duty”, never act upon selfish temptations. If the opportunity presents itself to give your life for another human being, do it. Not to get too philosophical, but to give up your life for your fellow man is an extraordinary thing to do to show your humanity. I’m not saying if someone’s shooting at you, to just simply die because they want you to. What I’m saying is, if you see an innocent person bleeding-out in the middle of a firefight, help them. How can you expect people to act humanely, if you don’t do so in return?

Honor

This value may in fact be the most important one of them all. Honor is doing things for the right reasons, at the right times. Never do something for someone, and hold your good deed over their heads to receive something in return. If you help someone, do it out of your honor, and because you wish to show empathy to your fellow man (or woman).

Integrity

Always do the right thing, even when no one is looking. If you must ask yourself “is this the right thing to do?”, odds are it’s probably not. If someone leaves money or valuables behind accidentally, always return it to them. How can you expect someone to return your lost item, if you steal theirs? Never steal from anyone, and more importantly, never steal a dead man’s boots. That is some bad luck I wouldn’t mess with, this lesson dates to the U.S. Revolutionary war. If you steal a dead man’s boots, you more than likely will end up in his “shoes”, get it?

Personal Courage

Courage isn’t being fearless in the face of danger. It’s being terrified to move forward, but doing it anyway. As Infantrymen, when we get scared, most of us just think “Screw it. If I die, it’ll be a hell of a story.”. If ever in your life fear stands between you and success, you need to face that fear head-on. If you don’t, you’ll never be successful in life, and in a post-collapse environment you’ll probably die.

Leadership

Having leadership qualities as a prepper can greatly help you pre-collapse, as well as post-collapse. The more people that look up to you, the more help you’re likely to get. You should never be too proud to ask for help, it might save your life. Being a leader isn’t just issuing out orders to your subordinates, it’s more about mutual respect and guidance. Think about it, who did you look up to as a kid? Whoever they are, it’s probably not because they barked orders at you, they were your mentor. They guided you to become the person you are today, and that’s exactly what type of leader you should be.

Never be afraid to apologize for your mistakes, be humble in everything you do. If you’re wrong, admit to it. You would expect these things from people, so you should do the same to them (referring to respect). If you wrong somebody in any way, make it right. A leader never betrays his subordinates, and they always lead by example. If you want something done, give clear and concise guidance as to how you want it done, show them how to do it if they don’t know how.

When in a firefight, always lead from the front. Your subordinates are less-likely to die for you if you cower behind everyone barking orders. If you want your followers to be brave in difficult situations, you must also be brave. Never make anyone do anything that you wouldn’t do, this will make them lose faith in you. The most important aspect of leadership is respecting your subordinates, if you respect them, they’ll respect you.

Structure

Having a structured, organized life is very important (especially for a prepper). Organization is key, it helps keep you from losing essential items that you might need when SHTF. It also helps you stay on track when preparing for the worst-case scenario, getting sidetracked is very counter-productive. Buy a planner, or simply use a notebook to help keep important information stored.

Use caution, however, when putting sensitive information on paper. If it falls into the wrong hands, it could severely damage all the hard work you’ve put in. There’s a big grey-area when it comes to storing sensitive information. If you don’t write it down and try to remember it, you might forget. If you do write it down, it could fall into the wrong hands. That decision is yours, but my recommendation is to remember words, not numbers. It’s easier for our minds to remember a sentence than it is to remember a sequence of numbers.

Goals

When an Infantryman gets ready to be promoted to the rank of “sergeant”, they more than likely will go to an oral board. This is where he will go in front of a panel of higher-ranking Infantrymen and answer questions that relate to his job. One of the things he must prepare before he goes to the board, is his 3 short-term goals and 3 long-term goals. This is so the panel can see that the Infantryman has a plan for his future, which is very important for preppers too. Without a solid plan, you’re not a prepper.

Set 3 short-term goals for yourself and your family, this can be pre-collapse or post-collapse. An example of 3 short term goals are:

  • Dig fortified foxholes around my property, and set traps strategically.
  • Set up my BOB.
  • Find other friendly preppers and agree to team up in case SHTF.

After you’ve set your short-term goals, you should concentrate on your long-term ones. These goals need to be post-collapse, as long term goals usually are months or years ahead of time. An example of 3 long-term goals are:

  • Survive the first 3 months post-collapse.
  • Have a secondary food and water source in place after we run out of the first ones.
  • Pre-plan trips to densely-populated areas to resupply.

Goals need to be achievable, yet semi-difficult to accomplish. Making a long-term goal such as drinking water daily isn’t exactly a goal, it’s a necessity. Another purpose for goals, is to give you something to look forward to when life is difficult. Life after a catastrophic event can be very difficult, so it’s important to find a purpose to keep pushing forward.

Embracing the “Suck”

This term is used by Infantrymen to describe finding joy in even the smallest things. Life as an Infantryman is not easy, and neither will life post-collapse. When you’re in the woods in your foxhole when it’s raining, and water starts to pour into your foxhole, that can be frustrating. It’s during times like these that embracing the suck is most important. You can either be soaking-wet and angry, or soaking-wet and happy. Either way, you’ll still be soaking-wet.

When I’m on mile 10 of a 12-mile ruck march (ruck marching is when we carry large backpacks filled with gear on our backs, and full body armor with our weapons long distances), I like to pop a “Jolly Rancher” candy in my mouth. This helps me take my mind off the fact that I’m tired and miserable. Find something small that takes your mind off bad situations, and put it in your BOB. Make sure it’s lightweight however, because added weight can be a big nuisance.

Never put other people down, just because you’re sucking. Remember, if you’re sucking, so are they. Instead, be the person that brings their spirits up. Everyone likes a motivator in their group. If you’re that motivator, people will trust you more, and be more likely to help you when you need it most. If you have a short-temper, it’s imperative that you fix it before SHTF, otherwise life will be much worse than it needs to be.

Know Your Surroundings

Infantrymen are taught to always be aware of our surroundings, and to have attention to detail. This directly relates to preppers, regardless if it’s pre-collapse or post-collapse. Having a keen-eye for detail helps you remember important details that could potentially save your life. Never be complacent (too comfortable) wherever you are. If you pay attention to detail, you’ll notice that your surroundings are ever-changing, so you need to change your perspective on them.

Whenever you walk into a room, you should always look for two exit points in case SHTF. This way, if one exit point is blocked, you have a backup. If you’re going to sit down, never sit with your back to an entry point. You should be able to see whoever walks in, so if that person presents themselves as a threat, you can act accordingly. Tip – if you have the option to choose between a booth or a table in a restaurant, choose a table. You can push a chair back and remove yourself from the table faster than dealing with sliding out of a booth (you can also use a chair as a weapon).

Think of everyone as a threat, regardless of what they look like. In my article “How to Survive a Street Fight”, I reference Maj. Gen. James “Mad-Dog” Mattis when he said “Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet.”. If you look at photographs of prior domestic terrorists, not all of them are of Arab descent. You never know what someone’s intentions are at any given moment, so act as if everyone you see could potentially be a threat. This doesn’t mean be anti-social and judge everyone, it simply means make a mental note of everyone you see.

Know that there are weapons everywhere. A weapon isn’t just a blade or a gun, weapons can be found anywhere. For example, you could use the plate that you’re eating off of to kill somebody (with the right amount of force, in the right spot). Wherever you are, make a mental note of at least two (one main, and one backup) weapons that you could reach for at any given time.

Priorities

In the Infantry, we have priorities of work when we’re in a defensive position, and you should too. This keeps your defense organized, and gives it a concrete foundation for security. To have a successful defensive position, you must have priorities. The following list includes the priorities (in order) that you should follow for your defense.

  • Security / sectors of fire
  • Weapon maintenance
  • Sanitation
  • Sustainment (eating food, and drinking water)
  • Sleep

Security / Sectors of Fire

This should be your upmost priority, because without a secure defense, you will more than likely die. A sector of fire is the area in which you are responsible to look for threats, and engage them if necessary. Never skip security, even if it means missing a meal, or a few hours of sleep. You’ll sleep more soundly knowing that your area is safe.

Weapon Maintenance

Your weapon is no good if it constantly malfunctions, so make sure you clean it (and check for defects) whenever an opportunity presents itself. This is why working in a team post-collapse is very beneficial, you can perform other duties while your partner(s) pull security, and vice-versa. Make sure you pack at least some weapon lube, and a rag in your BOB. With these two items, you can keep most weapons in working condition until you can find other materials.

Sanitation

If you’re not healthy, you can’t fight. Sanitation is very important for staying healthy, especially in a post-collapse environment. Packing hand sanitizer in your BOB has many uses, one of them being sanitation without utilizing a lot of water. Baby wipes are a great way to clean your body when there is no shower available, and they’re lightweight. Make sure if you pack baby wipes, you get the non-scented ones, added scents can attract bugs (or enemies).

You don’t need to clean your entire body, either. If you’re conserving baby wipes, clean the main areas: pits, chest, toes, and groin area. If you keep these areas clean, you’re less likely to run into rash issues, as well as infections. Also, make sure you’ve packed enough pairs of socks so that you can change them out if they get wet. Wet feet are a recipe for many issues such as athlete’s foot. If you remember anything about sanitation, remember to regularly change your socks (at least once every 48 hours, less than that if they get wet).

Sustainment

You can go 3 days without water, and 3 weeks without food. These numbers aren’t the rule though, they’re merely the exception. Imagine how weak you would be if you went 3 weeks without food, especially in a post-collapse environment. Try to keep these numbers down to 1 day without water, and 1 week without food (if absolutely necessary).

If you have the means to do so, make sure you drink at the very least 8oz of water daily (more if you’re very active), and eat 1,500 calories daily. Doing this will provide your body with enough sustenance to keep you energized and moving forward.

Disclaimer: check with your doctor before doing this!

Sleep

Your body needs sleep, especially after your adrenaline has been working overtime. If you go without sleep long enough, your body will literally induce itself into a coma. In an “on the move” environment, allow yourself at least 3 hours of sleep every 24 hours. This will give your body enough rest to keep it running. For best results, give your body at least 6 hours. If you need to rotate shifts to keep security in your defensive position, one-hour shifts are recommended. This gives the person resting enough time to sleep, and at the same time isn’t too long of a shift for the person who’s awake.

Following these priorities of work in order, can help keep your experience in your defensive position more safe. If times get hard, remember to embrace the suck. Nobody is happy that they had to bug out, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find happiness in the smaller things. If you keep these priorities as your defensive position plan, it will help give you (or your prepping group) structure, which is very important.

SLLS, And How to Use It

SLLS is an acronym that stands for Stop, Look, Listen, and Smell (pronounced “Sills”). This technique is incredibly useful for when you’re in an unknown environment, or in the woods on your way to your bug out location. While there’s not enough information on SLLS to make it an article on its own, it’s still very important to know how to use this technique taught to Infantrymen.

Stop

When you’re on the move and you feel like something isn’t right, or when you want to scope out a new area. You can’t expect to truly hone into your senses, if you’re still on the move. If you’re in a group, use hand signals (there will be an article on that as well). Try not to make too much noise getting everyone to stop, otherwise if a threat is close by they’ll notice right away. Make your silhouette smaller by taking a knee, or even going prone.

Look

Look around your surrounding environment first. You should observe the area around you, then look up. Not all threats will be on the ground with you, so you should be aware of your vertical surroundings as well. After you’ve scanned the area around you, scan the area in the distance. Use binoculars (or a scope) if you can. You should be looking for anything that appears abnormal, including movement.

Listen

Remain silent when you use SLLS, any noise from you or your group can make listening to your environment difficult. Listen for any abnormal sounds such as twigs snapping, birds taking flight, animals rushing away. These signs point to a potential threat, and you should take more caution when more signs present themselves.

Smell

Take a moment and smell the air around you. If you can smell tobacco smoke, or cologne (deodorant too), these are definite signs that a potential threat is within 100m of you. Most scents dissipate after 100m, although there are some instances where they can travel longer. If you smell signs of another human, take caution. Remember, a post-collapse environment will spread mass panic, and panic makes people do the unspeakable.

Physical Training (PT)

How many warfighters do you see that are fat, lazy, and out of shape? Not many, so if you want to survive in a chaotic environment post-collapse, you need to start training now. This segment will go over the 4 major areas you should be training, and why. If getting in shape for prepping doesn’t motivate you enough, maybe looking great while you do it will.

Legs

Our legs are what allows us to move, so why would you neglect them in your PT routine? To train for prepping, all of your PT should be geared towards strength, and endurance. Make sure you train your calves, hamstrings, hip-flexors, quads, and glutes. You need to engage every muscle group when you train for endurance, as it trains your muscles to be under strain for long periods of time.

Core

You engage your core in the smallest of bodily functions (like getting out of bed), so you can imagine how much you’ll be using it when SHTF. Work on abdominal endurance exercises like planks, burpees, and flutter-kicks. These exercises help your core gain strength, as well as prepare them for extreme strenuous activity.

Upper-Body

You need to have upper-body strength post-collapse, there’s no question about it. If you don’t, you could be too weak to lift heavy items when it matters the most. You should strengthen your chest, biceps, triceps, shoulders, and your back (upper and lower). Never neglect a single muscle group, because for most lifts in a real-world environment, you will engage all of these muscles. Keep your workouts focused on strength and endurance.

Cardio

Most people dread working on cardio, and for a good reason… it sucks. However, you need to think of it this way, would you rather suck more in a gym, or when your life depends on it? If you start training cardio now, your body will thank you when you really kick it into overdrive when SHTF.

An excellent cardio endurance workout is sprints. Long-distance running is pointless, and time consuming. Not to mention you’re filling your body with too much lactic acid and you can tear a muscle. Sprints are a great way to keep your heart rate up, as well as strengthen your leg muscles.

Stretching is a very important aspect of physical training; neglecting stretching can make you more prone to injuries. I highly recommend buying a foam roller, they are inexpensive, and available at most retail stores like Walmart. Foam rollers come with instructions on how to use them, and it’s very simple and effective for stretching stubborn muscles that like to tighten up.

You should hold your stretches for at least 30 seconds, any less than that and you’re not really engaging your muscles in a good stretch. Never neglect stretching, you don’t want to pull a muscle or catch a cramp when you’re relying on your body the most.

Wrap-Up

As an Infantryman, there are many lessons that I’ve been taught (some easy, and some hard). The most important lesson of all, however, is that everything is “mental”. What this means is, no matter how hard something is, you can do it if you tell yourself you can. Your body only has one limit, your mind. If you stay organized, keep a routine, and take my advice into consideration, you’ll find that life as a prepper doesn’t have to be so hard.

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About Reaper

Reaper

I’m an active-duty infantryman with the U.S. Army, and I’ve served a combined-service of over 5 years. Throughout my career, I’ve learned various survival techniques, as well as self-defense techniques. I specialize in weapons, long-range reconnaissance, distance shooting, and long-term isolation survival. I’m a very conservative, very “to the point” kind of person.

7 comments

  1. The problem isn’t the military skills, training, and especially the mindset.
    The problem is everyone else.

    Civilian world is full of people without any of the above.
    Tomorrow will do, and ‘whatever’ abounds.
    For a ex-mil, that can be ‘mildly frustrating’.

    • Paul, I completely agree with you. It can be extremely frustrating, but all we can do is accept the people around us. We don’t have to like it, but we can’t change it. Thanks for your service bud, til Valhalla.

  2. Most of these points sound like good guidelines for everyday life as well as prepping. Thank you for a comprehensive article well written.

    • Linda,
      Thank you for your feedback. It’s always nice to hear that my readers enjoy my articles. If you have questions about anything, please feel free to ask.

  3. Good article and no debate here, for I was once an infantry man too. However, the military does not train you for one important thing, or several. After teotwawki, no one gets paid, no one gets a medal, no one can mark a date on a calendar and get their freedom flight back to the good ole US of A. There will come a time when the money will be gone, the flags will not be seen, and all that is for certain is the unknown never ends. Good luck to all of you. PS: Here in Texas, Harvey is gone, and people are back to normal, which is bitching and complaining about the most trivial, and no concern whatsoever about the future. thanks

  4. AND: Thank you for your service.

  5. Hang in there Reaper, you will make E-9 yet. I’m an old retired E-6 and your info is right on. I would ad only one thing and that is the development of the psychological needs. Some time it may come that you will have to take a life to keep yours. Do a lot of soul searching and preparation for that occurrence, especially if you are not military trained. It is essential.

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