The United States soldiers have been survival guinea pigs for over 200 years, meaning we might be able to learn a thing or two from their ways.
I’ve been an Infantryman for a number of years now, and I can tell you for a fact that my mindset has definitely changed from the way it was before I joined.
Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of grunts that have been in for over 10 years that have more combat experience than I’ll ever have, and my hat’s off to them. For those of you who haven’t had the honor of wearing that blue cord, let me spread some knowledge to you.
A lot of preppers are stubborn individuals, which is understandable because it comes with the hobby. However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t learn any more valuable information from fellow preppers.
I’ve had 40+ year old preppers tell me that they’ve learned a lot from my articles and advice, and vice-versa. The prepping community has the magnificent advantage of community outreach for advice. With this advantage at your disposal, it would be a shame if it went to waste.
With that said, here are some of the most valuable lessons I can teach you to start developing the military mindset that I have in my years in the U.S. Army.
You’re Not Special
No matter how much of a “good person” you are, you can still die just like the rest of us. I’ve known men that I will always know to be better men than me, who have died in some very gruesome ways.
No matter how big, small, smart, or dumb you are, you have the same chances of dying just like the rest of us. When it’s your time to go, it’s your time to go.
Never expect favors from anyone when SHTF. More than likely, people will be looking out for themselves. While you can always ask for a favor, never place yourself in a position where your life depends on the goodwill of another person.
When the chips are down, you should expect people to look out for themselves first. While there are special occasions where distinct individuals will go above and beyond looking out for themselves, I wouldn’t expect it to happen. This way, you won’t be disappointed.
There are no awards, nor rewards for a dire-survival environment. Your reward is survival, and that should be enough for you. If you do things in expectation that you’ll get a reward, you’ll surely be disappointed. Everything you do during your time of survival should be for one thing and one thing only: survival.
You’re Going to Get Dirty
The art of survival in a worst-case scenario disaster is a harsh life, not meant for the faint of heart. If you have an issue with being wet or getting dirty, you need to get over that quick. Your hair will be gross, you’ll have dry skin, you’ll have bad breath. Get over it, your concern is primarily survival
Conduct hygiene when you can, but don’t make it your priority over survival. There will be some days where you might not have a lot of time for hygiene, so when you get time you need to make the most of it.
Never hesitate to move through a certain area solely because you don’t want to rip your clothes, or get dirty. Hesitation is a very dangerous word when it comes to survival.
The second you hesitate to make a decision, could be the second you needed to save your life. Now, because you didn’t want to get dirty, you’re taking a permanent dirt nap anyway.
There will be times that you may need to bed down in a muddy area, swamp, thorn bushes, because of safety. Your primary concern before you sleep is safety, and security.
If you need to bed down in the wilderness while you’re on your way to your bug out location, you ideally will choose an area where you know someone won’t want to go through. If you pick a comfortable area to sleep in, you’re risking being stumbled upon by looters (or zombies). The more uncomfortable the area is, the better.
Violence is Violent
Confusing title, right? However, it makes more sense than you might think it does at first. Real-life violence is way more humbling than playing a video game. There’s a huge difference between bashing someone’s head in with a rock in real life, and doing it in a video game.
A lot of people in this world are talkers, they just talk about how they “could totally do it if they had to”. These same people tend to wince when they hear the sound of a human skull breaking while the person on the receiving end is groaning in pain.
There are a lot of factors you need to take into consideration when it comes to having to act violently. You will hear terrible, disturbing sounds that you’ll never forget for the rest of your life. On top of that, you’ll never forget the smell of a dead body once the corpse has voided its bowels (yes, it really happens sometimes).
If that wasn’t bad enough, feeling somebody’s intestines as you try to push them back into somebody’s torso is very different than seeing it in a war movie. Be prepared to encounter horrible things, should you have to resort to violence.
Close-quarters combat is very brutal. Once you’re in a struggle man-to-man (or other genders), all rules go out the window. If this is a struggle between life and death, with the loser ending up dead, there are no rules.
Everything is fair game ranging from grabbing testicles, eye-gouging, biting, tearing limbs, breaking bones, you name it. Every object is a weapon, so if you can get your hands on a hard object, use it to your advantage.
Never expect mercy from your adversary. The minute you give up, is the minute you will likely die. There are no “time-outs”, no mercy rules, and no tapping out when it comes to a real-life battle of survival.
Once you’ve both committed to taking each other’s lives, you must be the one to end the battle, or they will. Never take a life unnecessarily (remember?) though. If they give up, use your discretion to determine if they’re being genuine in their surrender, or if they’re exploiting your kindness in order to kill you.
I’m not saying that you should just keel over and die when things get hard, but rather you should accept the fact that you can die. Once the bug out process starts, you need to be able to flip that switch in your brain, letting you know that you can die (and it’s okay). If you don’t, you’ll spend unnecessary time fearing death.
Fear doesn’t make you strong, no matter what people try to tell you, courage does. Courage is defined by knowing damn well that you could die by doing something, but you do it anyway.
If you spend your time in constant fear, you’ll more than likely hesitate when it comes to making important split-second decisions. Fear is crippling, so you need to get out of that “fearful” mindset if you wish to survive. With all this being said, you still need to respect death. Don’t take unnecessary risks simply because “you don’t care”.
Remember, survival is still the goal. Respect different factors that can cause death, but don’t fear them.
Food is Meant for Fuel, Not for Taste
When it comes to eating, you need to spend less time worrying about how good your food tastes, and more time chowing down as much food as you can. Too many preppers get obsessed with what pre-packaged meals taste like home cooking.
What they forget to check, however, is the nutrition content. Calories, protein, carbs, healthy fats, and vitamins are more important than a pre-packaged lasagna that tastes like the way “mama cooks it”.
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pack some good-tasting food, but only use it to decompress stress when you have ample time to do so in a safe environment.
The reason you need to concentrate on shoving as much food down as fast as possible, is because you don’t know when the next time you’ll be able to eat is. In the world of survival, never count on having time for anything. Different threats can present themselves at any given moment, so you need to respect this important factor in order to sustain yourself efficiently.
In my article “Lessons from an Infantryman That Will Make You a Better Prepper”, I go over enjoying the little things. This is also true with food, because good tasting food is a luxury.
Enjoy the times where you have ample time to eat good tasting food. You never know when the next time you’ll have a meal like that is, so enjoy every bite.
You May Need to Make Tough Decisions
There are a lot of examples of tough choices that you as a prepper may be faced with if SHTF. Some of these controversial choices include:
- Cutting sling load, meaning cutting somebody loose who is holding the team back.
- Choosing between comfort, and survival.
- Choosing between happiness, and survival.
These are some of the difficult decisions that you may very well be faced with when SHTF. You need to be able to make split-second decisions without hesitation if needed.
You and your family’s survival can’t be compromised because you simply can’t make a tough decision. You need to remember that the mission comes first, and everything else can be hashed out after the fact.
You should never, ever leave a fallen comrade. However, if you’re still in a firefight, and you can’t get to them safely, you may need to finish the firefight before you can get to them. Sadly, they might die in the process, but it’s not worth risking more lives.
If You’re Out of Shape, You Won’t Make It
Okay, this is a blanket statement. Let me rephrase, if you’re fat, you have a higher chance of dying. You need to prepare physically for being on the move quite often.
If you can’t even jog up a flight of stairs without becoming winded, you’re going to have a great time bounding to a covered position during a firefight. Take some extra time out of the day to work out, effectively.
You can talk my ear off all day long by saying “you don’t know that for a fact” or how much of a badass you think you are. At the end of the day, you’ll just waste your breath. Facts don’t lie, and I won’t lie to you either.
If you wish to survive a legitimate bug out scenario, you need to be in shape. I hate cardio just as much as the next guy, but you need to do it.
There’s a reason why fat people don’t last long in the Infantry, they simply can’t hang. Yes, some fat bodies slip through the cracks in the system. These are the exception, not the rule.
You can’t expect to navigate through 12 miles of rugged terrain with 40+lbs on your back, plus ammunition, gear, and water, then be worth a damn in a firefight right after. Get off your ass and work out.
You can’t be weak-minded as a prepper, but that doesn’t mean you have to be an ass hole. There’s a major difference between cockiness and confidence, don’t get the two confused.
Violence is real, especially if SHTF. If you’re prepping solely for a hobby while you’re deep-down weak minded, this is not the hobby for you. If you talk more “game” than you can back up, you’re putting yourself and others at risk.
Too many writers are looking for “atta-boys” more than giving legitimate advice to their readers. If you’re looking for a writer to tell you a watered-down version of what a real post-disaster world will be like, you’re reading from the wrong writer.
My sole purpose is to help you survive, not to tell you what I think you want to hear. Instead, I strive in feeding you legitimate information that you need to hear to survive.
Never second guess yourself unless you have a damn good reason to. If you make a decision, remain confident in that decision. Changing your mind multiple times can waste valuable time when it comes to survival.
You can always adapt to a plan that falls apart, as long as you at least start the plan. If you keep starting over at square one, you’ll never get anywhere. You need to realize that being mentally strong as a prepper is just as important as having the cool gear.
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.