10 Survival Military Skills that Will Help You Survive Disasters

Prepping is a rewarding lifestyle change that will help disaster proof you and your family. But it is still a lifestyle change, with all of the effort and hardship that such an undertaking entails.

soldier using signaling flare

Considering that most of us don’t have any sort of job or upbringing that would have us learning all the many survival skills required in order to consider yourself a well-rounded prepper, it is beneficial to look to other lifeways and other professions that do depend on such skills, and pattern our efforts after theirs.

As is oftentimes the case in the prepping world, there is one organization that preaches and trains preparation, survival, hardiness and readiness as the standard in all things and that is, of course, the military.

To varying degrees, all branches of the military will teach even the rawest recruit training to be a typist fundamental survival skills and the U.S. military, regarded as the best in the world, has it quite literally down to a science.

Because no matter what someone’s role is in the military they might find themselves in a life-or-death situation at a moment’s notice. Typists, doctors and cooks alike could be thrust into a dire situation, and have to get themselves out.

Lucky for us, we can use the template established by the military as an excellent guide for our own efforts. In today’s article we will share with you 10 skills you would learn in the military that can just as easily apply to helping you survive a disaster in your world.

Survival is Survival, No Matter Your Profession

Before you write off this idea as just another bout of “wannabeism” that is so prevalent in some corners of the prepper-sphere tap your brakes and consider what we are really talking about.

The business of survival is the same no matter who you are, where you are, and what kind of situation you are facing. It doesn’t matter what your job is, what kind of life you lead and what you think about the military or anything else.

Survival, human survival, is something that is so primal it might be called elemental. Humans need all kinds of different things to thrive but they only need a handful to truly survive. Everybody on earth needs air, shelter, water, food, and security from threats.

If you can truly provide and maintain all of those things, then the sky is the limit, but go without any of them for a specific period of time and it is lights out: you are shuffling off this mortal coil and into eternity.

Consider that aside from the presence of an enemy force on a battlefield the business of survival looks very much the same in a domestic disaster situation as it does on the aforementioned battlefield. As it turns out, depending on exactly what has gone wrong and what you are facing you too might be trying to dodge bullets coming your way!

Even if you have never served a day in the military I can promise you that the stress, panic and uncertainty you’ll be feeling in that moment will not be much removed from what a fighter in a war zone will be feeling.

For that reason, the skills you might have to employ will be virtually indistinguishable from their military counterparts, if you want to call them that.

Keep reading and we will share with you these 10 essential military survival skills that are just as vital at home, domestically, as they are on a foreign battlefield.

10 Military Skills that Will Help You Survive Disasters

1. How To Make Shelter

Next to air, actual air to breathe, shelter is the most important survival prerogative because in truly hostile conditions a human being has only hours to live.

Nobody understands this more intimately or better than members of the armed forces, especially those who have jobs that require them to rough it in the field on the regular.

As it turns out, there are some members of the military, even in the Air Force, that don’t get to enjoy the niceties of air conditioning and central heating.

Despite the hazards to life and limb, military operations and especially combat operations must go on even when the weather is blisteringly hot and bone chillingly cold. Rain, snow or sleet makes no difference, nor does blowing sand, dust and grit.

lean-to shelter made of wood and camouflaged with leaves
lean-to shelter made of wood and camouflaged with leaves

Life in the field also entails dealing with all sorts of hostile organisms, from microscopic germs to dangerous megafauna and everything in between. It is not enough to avoid these problems; they must be tackled head-on and the mission must continue.

It does not take much imagination to see how you’ll be dealing with precisely those same problems in the aftermath of many disasters, especially those that can destroy your home or render it unsafe to occupy.

You’ll need to rely on your wits, a thorough understanding of the environment and a keen understanding of your own biological requirements in order to withstand nature’s fury, just like our members of the armed forces.

2. Moving a Load on Foot

Beginning in basic training and lasting all the way through most members’ term of service, moving a heavy load using nothing but manpower, literally your own body and the bodies of your comrades, is an inescapable part of military life.

Certain jobs in the military in particular entail hauling incredibly heavy loads for long distances on foot. Infantry in particular have to haul their homes, weapons and various other parts of their fighting load on their backs.

The parallels are inescapable for preppers, as one of these central tenets of prepping is to be prepared to bug out (or evacuate) from a non-survivable situation on foot, if necessary.

The prime piece of equipment that will facilitate this is the bug out bag, or BOB, a large backpack or rucksack full of all the supplies needed to survive and sustain while moving to your fallback point, or bug-out location (BOL).

Hmm, two jobs that require you to haul a heavy backpack across a long distance in good order. Not so different, practically, are they?

Hauling a load on foot by way of a heavy backpack, commonly called rucking, is a skill like any other and also requires a considerable amount of conditioning for both your mind and body to pull off effectively.

Even if you are in very good shape already, attempting to haul a heavily loaded backpack across a long distance, even if it is across easy terrain, is liable to result in total exhaustion even if it does not result in injury.

You might say this is just another day on the job for members of the military, and you’ll need the same level of conditioning if you want to pull it off, too!

3. How to Always Be Prepared

In the military, readiness is quite literally a way of life, and this way of life will be fostered by unrelenting and remorseless discipline in all things, great and small.

Many members of the armed forces will wistfully regale you with a time during boot camp where they left a foot locker unlocked or left a tiny, almost imperceptible blemish on their uniforms that resulted in a righteous chewing out from instructors and a brutal physical punishment doled out to their entire squad or platoon.

It sounds sadistic to civilians, but with this as with all things in the military is done with a purpose.

Attention to detail, proper procedure, and religiously following maintenance protocols might spell the difference between mission failure and mission success, and it can also spell the difference between life and death.

Readiness, literally being ready, means there will be no surprise breakages, or loss to slow down the team when it is Go Time.

We could definitely do worse than trying to live up to this lofty standard in our own lives with our own preps.

Everything that you touch daily, or fail to touch, is wearing out or requires ongoing maintenance. This is especially true of our big ticket preps like vehicles, food supplies, firearms and more.

It is imperative that you follow best practices when performing inspections, maintenance and shakedowns in order to ensure that your equipment is up to the task of survival the same as you are.

4. Camouflage and Concealment

In war, being able to act without the enemy seeing you act or being able to remain in position without being noticed is an advantage that forces have sought in one way or another since time immemorial.

Naturally our modern militaries have come up with all kinds of ways to remain undetectable or invisible both to electronic sensors and to the human eye, whether or not they are assisted by optical enhancements. If you can be seen, you can be hurt or killed.

man hiding in the bush with bow and arrow completely hidden
man hiding in the bush with bow and arrow completely hidden

In the military, everything that can be camouflaged is camouflaged in one way or the other. Beyond merely painting or patterning equipment, vehicles and buildings in disruptive patterns military forces will also employ clever distractions, deceptions and other methodology to throw off a diligent or clever enemy.

This is all done in the interest of avoiding a fight that doesn’t need to happen or ensuring that when a fight does begin the bad guys will never see it coming.

It is scary to consider that you might need these same skills for the same reason when the SHTF.

History furnishes many examples of the more opportunistic predators in society descending upon the weak and the helpless to pad their own pantries or just for the sheer thrill of it by taking advantage of societal disruption and havoc.

It is not out of the question that you or your group might have to fend off roaming bands of bad guys using nothing but your own wits and skills. The ability to camouflage yourselves and your holdings might mean you don’t have to fight at all.

Besides, keeping your business your business is always a good idea.

5. How To Navigate

Knowing how to get from where you are to where you’re going, and knowing where you are at any point along the way is an essential skill for military operations and also for civilians trying to survive through or evacuate from a disaster.

In both cases, modern global positioning systems often make this task easy, if not trivial, but it is only members of the military that typically learn how to navigate the old fashioned way using nothing more than maps, compasses and pace counters.

These are skills that are quite literally as old as much of our recorded history, and one we would be wise to maintain them even today.

Though our modern technology is incredibly effective and surprisingly robust, it is far from foolproof, and many disasters will reap a terrible toll on the digital systems that will then make analog skill sets mandatory for getting things done.

Just like members of the armed forces, you should strive to learn how to read various kinds of maps, how to understand everything from a topographical map to a road atlas, and learn how to interpret various scales of maps for different reasons.

GPS, knife, map compass, and ruler over a topo map
GPS, knife, map compass, and ruler over a topo map

You should learn how to set a course and hold a heading using a compass, learn how to change course and even learn how to do all of this in order to execute a cross-country movement in the dark.

The landscape might look very different after a disaster, and you’ll be awfully glad you know how to read a map when that happens.

6. Martial Arts

Our modern militaries are famous, or infamous depending on who you ask, for their seemingly bottomless arrays of high-tech weaponry that are employed to kill our enemies in all kinds of ways, from the sublime to the borderline crazy.

That being said, we still teach and inculcate our fighters to utilize hand-to-hand techniques, techniques which form the very basis of all combat since time began.

Hand-to-hand skills are essential even on modern battlefields because of increasingly close-in, intimate settings where wars are fought.

The low intensity battles of today don’t look too different overseas compared to a unit police walking a beat in our cities at home. There might be no time to bring a weapon to bear, or using a weapon might create an even bigger problem where one previously did not exist.

It is definitely in our best interest to have an answer for physical encounters aside from shooting or stabbing the bad guy, and not all problems will be solved with gunfire. Beyond that you must be capable of defending yourself and those you love lacking any weapon at all.

You should learn how to box, how to kick and how to wrestle and apply holds correctly in order to subdue or knock out your foes so that you can escape.

7. Shooting

There is no two ways about it: the military is all about shooting our enemies before they can do the same to us, or at least “shooting” counting for some value of putting bullets into them or blowing them up with warheads.

However you want to codify it, skill at arms and particularly with ballistic weapons is an essential part of military service for many career tracks.

Any member of the military must be capable of showing basic competency with rifles, pistols and even other weapons like machine guns, while members who are specializing in combat arms occupations will learn to excel with all manner of small arms, heavy weapons and larger, crew-served ordnance.

Only by cultivating excellence in armed combat can they expect to prevail and survive on the battlefield.

As you are probably expecting, you might need to shoot in order to live in the aftermath of a disaster situation.

As it turns out there are some problems that can only be solved by the application of gunfire and if your foes are armed with a gun while you lack one you are at a distinct disadvantage.

But guns are extremely dangerous including to their wielder, without sufficient training and you must take it upon yourself to become proficient with a pistol, rifle or shotgun depending on what you have access to.

Aside from self-defense, skill with a firearm might mean the difference between procuring fresh and healthy meat for dinner and going hungry!

8. Signaling

Sometimes you don’t need to stay hidden and go unseen. Sometimes you need to do the exact opposite and gain somebody’s attention, be it a member of your party or a complete stranger.

Simply getting their attention might be enough but having the ability to convey information could be even better.

The military requires this exact same capability, and it is known as signaling. Signaling is nothing more than attracting attention and communicating information using some visual or auditory means.

signaling position using fingers and improvised mirror
signaling one’s position using fingers and improvised mirror

Signals can take all kinds of forms, be basic or complicated, and be electronic or analog. This could be something like a simple visual signal produced by a flashlight or lantern to something more esoteric like a flag or color code.

It could even take the form of hand signals for the ultimate and close range, discrete communication.

Signaling is a broad and fascinating topic all by itself, but it is an important one for preppers to learn just the same as members of the military because you won’t always have access to modern forms of electronic communication, or they might not be appropriate for your needs.

Take it upon yourself to teach various methods of signaling to members of your group so you’ll be prepared for all eventualities.

9. Planning

Planning is one of the most essential skills taught to members of the military at all levels. From day one they are trained that failing to plan is planning to fail, and that poor planning will often lead to botched operations, loss of equipment, and deaths.

It is for these reasons that the military will relentlessly drill all of its personnel, from the greenest private to the most experienced general on the critical importance of proper planning, and in redundant backup planning.

Planning is a skillset all on its own, and learning how to do it correctly and also how to correctly assess what is most important to achieving the objective takes plenty of practice all on its own.

Depending upon the situation, it might be bad to overlook or omit certain details in your plan, but it might be worse to spend too much time trying to plan everything down to the last detail. Sometimes a decent plan executed quickly is better than a perfect plan executed eventually.

If the military teaches us anything it is that we should be flexible in our planning, and adaptable in execution. Things will go wrong. Curveballs will get thrown your way.

Entire plans might go up in the blink of an eye. In that case there is nothing to do except adapt, overcome or pull out your Plan ‘B’… Or ‘C’ or ‘D’ and keep on moving!

Only one thing is certain: you must have a plan if you want to survive the worst disasters.

10. Medical Skills

In war, one of the only certainties is that people are going to get hurt and get killed. The people that get hurt don’t necessarily have to die, so long as timely and skilled medical intervention can be arranged.

Unlike our comparatively cushy lifestyles back here in the rest of the world, we won’t be able to dial up an ambulance or rush someone to the fully appointed emergency room when things go wrong.

Members of the military will often have to intervene medically in the blowing dust of a Mideast battlefield or the stinking muck of an Asian jungle.

What matters is that they know what to do at the instant in order to improve the situation until such time that a victim can be evacuated and moved to higher level care. It doesn’t matter how they got hurt.

It might have happened as a result of a bullet, a bayonet, or a booby trap, or even an accident. All that matters is that the patient gets stabilized and that the people on the scene at that moment know what to do.

For us and everyone else living through the aftermath of a major disaster we will be able to find injury and death in no short supply. People will be crushed, mangled, burned and worse in the aftermath. People will be dying from heat stroke or hypothermia.

First responders will be overwhelmed or absent entirely. The ones that remain will be completely overwhelmed. No one will be coming and it will be up to us to serve as our own first responders and as first responders for the people we care about.

You might think that these skills are beyond you but they are not, and they are not the province of the anointed few.

Anybody can learn medical skills, ranging from simple first-aid to legitimate trauma intervention and everything in between. It is crucial that you seek out these skills, get professional training and then practice until you cannot get them wrong.

Just like members of the armed forces who might be critically wounded in an active war zone when you need help you will need it in moments, not hours, and that means you’ll need to do it yourself.


If you are a prepper you needn’t have served a day of your life in the military to learn from the example that the military teaches when it comes to holistic, well-rounded and properly integrated survival skills.

There’s a vast body of information available to civilians developed by the military that can serve as an excellent basis for our own training and also as a template for our own personal readiness.

Take the time to review the skills presented above and then set out learning them in a logical way based on which ones are most important to your specific circumstances.

military skills pinterest

4 thoughts on “10 Survival Military Skills that Will Help You Survive Disasters”

  1. Land navigation (analog) is so important in the military, that when I was in my very first training day at Infantry Training Regiment (USMC), it was all land nav. No heavy duty rucking, building shelters, shooting, etc. Only land nav, map and compass work. We learned the basics and kept working on them from there. I never used GPS in the military as it was just barely coming into use before I retired 21-years later.

    1. As a paratroop vet, I’ve done the 10 things you listed, many times.
      I am wanting to organize a training/discussion presentation that will introduce “what must be known and done to organize a partisan movement. “This seminar will select the smartest and most knowledgeable attendees and facilitate their learning of all components of the series survival by home protection. I would like to start with a select group but for years I have not found the key for locating like-minded individuals.
      I want to organize the group as “preppers” and avoid running around in camo with weapons until the org is solid with leadership and dedication.

  2. 10 is a good start on this subject, but that is only counting on your fingers. So let’s go to the toes, in no particular order, let’s go, keeping in mind that a thousand books have been written on the details in each category ( Survival like War is a series of simple things, but in War
    as in Survival, the simplest things can be very difficult.
    11) small unit dynamics. You will probably find yourself in a survival group of ten or less people.
    12) small unit combat. Again, you will probably be working at the squad level.
    13) Basic and Advanced Bushcraft. Expect to be functioning at a 1700’s level of technology.
    14) Hunting and Gathering. Expect to be functioning on a caveman level of technology.
    15) Physical conditioning. Expect that most of your survival group will be unfit for survival much less combat.
    16) Intelligence Gathering. Know your A/O.(Area of Operation, for you newby’s)
    17) Managing Animal Resources. Develop your force multipliers. You will probably need to be able to dominate and control one square mile of territory and all of it’s resources, per person in your survival group to survive long term.
    18) Transportation. It will take about 100-120 pounds of gear and supplies to maintain each individual in the field for any length of time. You know what “Light Infantry” means. It means you have to carry everything. Been there, done that, find a way to roll it, not carry it or you won’t be going very far.
    19) Personal Hygiene. Most combat in-effectives become in-effectives due to failure to maintain personal field hygiene.
    20) Individual and Group Moral and
    Indoctrination. As my Dear Old Dead Daddy taught me: If you can train a dog, you can lead men. If you can coax a cat, you can lead women. You will have to learn to do both.
    Granted, that these issues overlap, and that each is as important as the others and that each must be fully developed or else the one you fail to focus on will be your undoing. And the undoing of your survival team.
    The Duke of Texas.

  3. left out an important skill to learn the military way >>> field sanitation ….

    the spread of disease like dysentery, typhoid and other communicables starts seconds after the taps go dry – people are used to only the flush and washing hands with an auto-faucet & hand dryer ….

    there won’t be a body of water without refugees taking access – and there’s plenty of preppers with no plan to stock water and only draw from their local pond …..

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *