Prepping is first and foremost about being prepared. Prepared for curveballs, prepared for emergencies, prepared for disasters and even prepared for the real, nasty game-changer events like the collapse of polite society and even revolutionary action.
I have little doubt that most of our readers are already as personally prepared as they can be, or working very hard to attain that state. But if I have learned anything in all my many years of teaching and consulting it is that most preppers by design or omission plan on going things pretty much alone.
But luckily, most preppers understand the importance of working together as a team, group or tribe, whatever you want to call it, when the time comes to survive whatever trials you are facing.
So much of the time, the most work gets done in the most meaningful ways by groups that can bring the most manpower to bear.
A single individual is easily cut off, isolated and eliminated. A group, on the other hand, is formidable, durable and difficult to shift or eliminate. These are advantages that every prepper can make use of, and indeed you should.
But as is so often the case with more advantages comes more complications. No longer will you only have to worry about picking up and setting down your own two feet when operating as part of a team.
Now you have to worry about where you fit in within your group in a very literal way. You and your group must be capable of moving together, in unison and with a purpose.
If you’re going to be able to effectively navigate the world and provide a meaningful defensive posture, this article will help you do exactly that.
The Importance of Proper Movement as a Team
There is all the difference in the world between an unruly assemblage of people on the same mission with the same goals, and an organized team truly working together in unison to get things done efficiently and quickly.
Generally speaking, we are prepared to deal with the former, and want to be a part of the latter. But as time goes on the people we are preparing against grow more and more organized and benefit from experience in perpetrating their crimes over and over again. We must be prepared to meet them on equal footing.
Your backup, your team is only worth what they are worth, be they enthusiastic but untrained and undisciplined “helpers” or trained, skilled and able teammates. If you had to make a choice which kind of person would you select to “go down the river” with you?
Additionally, the chaos and uncertainty of emergency situations and especially making ready to defend yourself and your holdings against a massive, armed crowd means that everyone needs to be on the same sheet of music before things get loud. The tipping point is not the time to be playing “Who’s on first”.
The bottom line is quite simple: How a team, any team, moves together, moves in relation to each other and moves around each other depending on the situation and the greater context will largely determine how effective they are when it is time to do work.
What kind of work? The work could be anything I’m moving to a bug-out location as quietly and as quickly as you can while ensuring but no one in your party is left behind, or presenting the most formidable and the most flexible defense toward those who want to take the structure you are occupying.
Consider the following scenarios that you might encounter in everyday life as an emergency or as part of your continued existence in a post-SHTF or without-rule-of-law environment:
A loud and rowdy march of demonstrators is moving through your neighborhood. It is nerve-racking, but everyone is more or less behaving themselves when suddenly, near the tail end of the march, you hear shouting and then a scuffle break out.
Apparently, one of your neighbors and a handful of demonstrators had a dust-up, and it is obvious that trouble is brewing.
People rush inside their homes, bottles are hurled, trash cans are knocked over, vehicles are vandalized and set on fire, and it is quickly becoming obvious that the situation is going to get out of control.
You and your family members arm yourselves as your house is surrounded. There are too many rioters to keep track of. You hear banging on the doors and everyone is scared stiff. You are terrified that your house will be set on fire with all of you in it.
Do you stay inside? Go outside? When do you shoot and under what conditions? If you have to evacuate how will it be possible?
Riots in your part of the city have grown increasingly nasty and you are currently at your business in an old strip mall boarding up the windows, chaining the door and making ready for a long night on guard duty.
Thanks to your research and observations you have a reason to believe that the riders will definitely be up to no good in your part of town tonight. Lucky for you, you have a handful of friends who have armed themselves and are willing to help you make it through the night, hopefully without getting your business burned down.
Do you know where best to station them and how best to coordinate them in order to stay safe, while providing maximum deterrence against people approaching your business with ill intent? You don’t want anyone going off like a loose cannon, but you also need to make sure your guys can take care of business when it is appropriate.
Movement in and around your city has become increasingly perilous; political partisans, anarchists, and subversives have been setting up roadblocks and increasing frequency.
Everything from piles of bikes, to burning mounds of trash and even end-to-end vehicle roadblocks have all turned motorists in the sitting ducks, and created traffic snarls that are felt many miles back on the interstate.
You are shadowing your brother-in-law in your own vehicle as he is heading into town to pick up a big load of landscaping supplies. You noticed the mob of people on either side of the road a little ways down the highway, but seemingly out of nowhere a pair of vehicles pulls into the road, blocking all traffic.
The members of the mob start moving from car to car, smashing windows. You know you saw one get firebombed… Traffic is piling up behind you as you see the terrified face of your brother-in-law turn toward you through his rear windshield. You had better do something and do it fast.
Despite your best efforts to shelter-in-place, it is time to bug out, and the roads are already completely clogged with desperate motorists and more than a few abandoned vehicles.
The disaster that has befallen your part of the country has damaged much of the road infrastructure in addition, meaning you and yours probably need to hoof it on foot.
Just one problem; the only viable route is likely to take you through some places you normally would not go, and you are already getting plenty of reports of rampaging bands of looters and muggers preying on survivors.
Among your fellow group members you have some switched-on types that know how to handle themselves, but you are most concerned with moving on foot as quietly and as cleanly as possible while maintaining all around security. Now is not the time for lollygagging or figuring it out as you go.
All those situations I just described are not the stuff of fiction: they have happened before, and they can and inevitably will happen again in the future! Put another way, it isn’t the end of the world yet, but you can see it from here.
In the following sections I will be sharing with you several fundamental concepts that are integral to working and moving as a team, not just as a group, and not just as a pack of individuals all going to the same place or wanting to do the same thing.
These fundamentals, when practiced and implemented, turn a group into a team, allowing you to “punch” far harder than your numbers might suggest and accomplish more work in a shorter amount of time than a group of even double your number that lacks your cohesion.
Crucial Skills for Effective Team Movement
Everybody has to walk before they run, and if you ever had professional training in the military relating to combat operations or have ever walked a beat as a cop in a major metropolitan area much of this will probably be old hat to you.
For everybody else, pay attention and don’t sweat the more complicated stuff until you have all of the following down pat:
- Communications – Team members must be able to coordinate and relay information.
- Movement on Foot – Your team must be able to move effectively no matter the objective and situation, from cross country trekking to risky moves in contested cities.
- Movement in Vehicles – Vehicles will help you move goods and people quickly, but coordination and adherence to best procedure will be critical to make sure everyone makes it out of a scrape safely.
- Dealing With Obstacles – A real test of teamwork, obstacles and challenging terrain will put your team in precarious positions, forcing everyone to commit to dealing with the obstacle, or some members to deal with the obstacle while the rest cover the group.
- Movement Procedure – Does the team have a plan for regrouping when separated? Is there a default posture or response to mishaps and emergencies while moving in multiple vehicles? How about on foot? Having established procedures for a variety of situations can prevent a Chinese Fire Drill.
- Defensive Positioning – Knowing where to stand, and how far apart to stand from one another is important going into a fight, as is knowing how to safely and efficiently move around one another in close quarters while armed. Failing to do so makes you all easy targets.
These skills definitely pay the bills for the infantryman, the Special Forces soldier, the cop and even firefighters but they are not the provincial secret knowledge of those professions.
The concepts, skills and procedures they can make all the difference for you and yours in a team setting are certainly easy to understand and comparatively simple to practice and implement.
It is the practicing where most people and indeed most teams fail. Just like any other group activity, sports, construction or pushing a post in some far-off land, you have to sweat and bleed together to learn to work well together. If your so-called teammates are not willing to do that, you are wasting your time.
Remember, these are called fundamentals for a reason, since everything else that you do will be built upon this foundation. You might think this stuff is no fun to practice with your people, and it is definitely some fairly dry material in a classroom typesetting, but through long practice and religious rehearsal will competency be had.
The single, most important and, oftentimes, most difficult element of team operations to get right and implement is that of communications. If one part of the team cannot coordinate with all the other parts, that part of the team starts to fall apart.
Any other parts that are dependent upon the part that is out of communication will likewise also begin to fall apart. Just as every part of your body must be able to communicate and adjust based on the input and responses of the other organs and limbs that make up the whole, so too must every member of the team.
The most intuitive method for accomplishing this is talking, and that includes shouting. Unfortunately, using your voice is not going to get it done in any situation where noise levels are high, or you are separated by a distance or some other barrier that will prevent you from being understood clearly. You cannot simply shout to each other when operating multiple vehicles at speed, for instance.
Like it or not, the most reliable form of maintaining communication between members of your team is some form of electronics.
Cell phones may work fine during small-scale situations that don’t result in major network and infrastructure damage, but your best bet is always going to be some form of personal radio. Walkie-talkies are great, and installing sets in each vehicle your team will be using is also prudent.
Despite the availability, reliability and convenience of radios, you would also be wise to implement simple primitive signals that are known to every member of the team.
This could be simple visual signals using a flashlight, or even basic hand signals. Sometimes discretion is important, as is having a backup method of communication when your primary method fails.
Regardless of what communication methods you depend on, if it fails when you need it most, your team will be plunged into chaos.
Is there anything more fundamental to movement then simply getting where you need to go? What could be simpler? What could be easier? If you know where you are, and you know where you are going you can figure out a way to get there, one way or another. Right? Right! Maybe..?
Well, as it turns out when you have to coordinate the movement of a group of people to get everyone moving in the same direction at the same time.
This has to be done with scrupulous attention paid to spacing, orientation, and areas that they are responsible for observing it is quite a bit harder than taking off on a pleasure hike or hopping in your car to go grab some groceries.
Oh, and by the way, everybody is probably going to be armed, and might very well have reason to use those guns. No pressure. More on that later.
Understanding how to get a group from point A to point B safely and if necessary while presenting a maximally effective defensive posture could be essential for surviving a post-SHTF situation or mob action.
Consider also that you might be responsible for protecting people who have no reasonable hope of protecting themselves.
Things are further complicated when you consider all the variables attendant to both on foot movement in a variety of conditions and terrain as well as vehicular movement.
In a moment of crisis, it is altogether too easy for people to zig when they should have zagged and make a bad situation worse.
But if you want to have any hope of sticking and staying together when moving as a group you are going to need to practice and drill correct responses until they are second nature. That tipping point is not the time for “we’ll figure it out.”
Moving on foot is your basic and default mode of travel, and might be the only mode of travel available to you depending on the terrain you and your team are moving over or the situation you find yourself living in, one more fuel is unavailable, roads are simply too clogged or too dangerous to traverse or something else.
Moving efficiently in a group while on foot is all about using formations, to borrow a concept from the military.
The military uses formations all the time to get groups of people efficiently from place to place and also for tactical superiority, both when moving to contest objectives and when fearing attack from known and unknown aggressors.
The beautiful thing about using formations when moving on foot is that they let you change how you present yourselves for the rest of the world, and how you interact with the terrain, and do both to your advantage.
Most of the time, when you see a group of humans moving on foot together they adopt a formation known as the gaggle, or herd. No particular spacing, no particular movement discipline, just a clot of people tramping in the same direction, basically banging into each other, or maybe hanging out with a few up front in a few in the back.
If you have ever cared to watch footage of emergencies or threats occurring suddenly in packed pedestrian areas, you can see the resulting chaos erupt for groups of people who have adopted a gaggle formation.
They are basically climbing over or running over each other in an attempt to go somewhere, anywhere, other than where they are at the moment. Not a good look, and even worse for attaining a positive outcome when time is life.
Only by maintaining proper spacing in the correct relation to one another will you have the room to react when things jump off.
This does not just apply to gunfights: Leaving a little space between one another can help prevent you all from getting surrounded in a brawl, or making a single, huge, squishy target for all kinds of mishaps and accidents.
Even if you are moving through a sparsely populated natural environment, using formations correctly can help prevent you from blundering into a bad situation all at once, and can even help you keep less able members of your group protected and supported while moving.
Learning formations is pretty easy, and you can get a great jump on the subject by referring to a variety of military handbooks, executive protection manuals and other books that are self-defense related.
But one thing you cannot do is read the books and then fail to practice with the people you plan to face the apocalypse with, be they your family or your survival group. This stuff is not instinctual, and requires practice to properly implement, and considerable practice (all together) to apply at a high and nearly automatic level of competency.
Practicing team movement in vehicles, or as a convoy if you prefer to think of it that way, is just as essential as practicing team movement on foot.
Considering the central role that motor vehicles play in many preppers’ bug-out plans, knowing how to handle them when working as a team can make the difference between a bad accident or a nasty run-in at a roadblock and burning rubber to avoid danger.
This is not just a skill you’ll all need to successfully conduct a vehicle-borne bug-out: Supply runs, personnel pickups and other tasks that are best accomplished with an abundance of security will be best conducted with multiple vehicles.
Keep in mind that operating a vehicle that is fully laden with passengers quite literally has several of your eggs and in one big, obvious and fragile basket.
You are all an easier target for bad guys whenever the vehicle is stopped and any accident that affects the vehicle will likely affect all of the occupants.
You must beware of the “domino effect” that can occur during collisions, and also getting into dangerous situations as the vehicles following the lead car are trusting that the way forward is safe.
Everyone in your group, or at the very least the designated drivers of the crew, should be fluent in defensive and offensive driving skills for best results when operating multiple vehicles as a team.
But, for all the fun you’ll have learning how to perform j-turns, bootleggers and other fast and fancy evasive maneuvers these will rarely, if ever, trump good, old-fashioned situational awareness and quick reactions.
A driver that simply pays close attention to his surroundings, the other vehicles in the convoy and who always keeps a couple of exits in mind moment-to-moment will likely avoid trouble before getting into serious danger.
Even if you are confronted with a roadblock or other human threat rarely will any of these aforementioned maneuvers do better under the circumstances then simply getting the car in reverse and gaining distance as quickly as possible, or quickly jinking and taking an alternate route to put distance between you and the threat as fast as possible.
The trick is for every driver of every vehicle in the convoy to make the correct decision at the instant, but then also deconflict with the other vehicles that they are expecting to make similar maneuvers.
Much easier said than done, and practicing these maneuvers is nowhere near as easy, affordable or intuitive as working on team-based movement on foot.
If you can afford this training and practice (and think you can pull it off even at low speeds without totaling your cars and driving up everybody’s insurance rates!) definitely do so, but if you cannot, then wargaming various scenarios on foot or using mock-ups and models is still worthwhile.
Dealing With Obstacles
Dealing with obstacles as a team is a great test of your cohesion and will show how organized or disorganized your team is.
Your team might have to deal with a river crossing, a damaged bridge, an open and exposed patch of ground or a parking lot, moving through a crowded and potentially hostile environment or any other number of obstacles that will threaten both your cohesion and potentially your lives.
A team that is comfortable with each other, practiced and well-drilled will all come to the same conclusion about dealing with the obstacle. If you are in a safe place, most members can contribute directly to crossing-over moving the obstacle.
If security is a concern only part of the team will work on defeating the obstacle while the other part provides security and cover for their fellows. These ratios might change depending on the nature of the obstacle and the nature of any nearby or suspected threats.
The most important thing to remember when dealing with obstacles of any kind in a team setting is to not put the team, its members, in any undue risk. Approach the problem in the greater context.
Crossing a swollen and rapid river in the middle of nowhere probably does not need half the team on lookout when your best chance of success is linking arms and crossing as a “human octopus” for maximum safety; the river is the threat in that instance.
In an urban setting, a locked door or chained gate can be effectively attacked by a single team member with the right tools and know-how. In that situation the rest of the team should be on the lookout or in a defensive posture.
This is not a particularly hard fundamental to figure out and implement, but you do need to go through several scenarios with your team so that all of the members aren’t coming up with different solutions at the instant and acting accordingly- that’s the chaotic and classic Chinese Fire Drill response, and you don’t want that!
Remember, unity and cohesion are essential for an effective team.
The mark of skill is not how someone performs when conditions are ideal and everything is going well. The mark of skill is how they react and recover when things go wrong. This requires careful forethought, and a certain amount of experience.
For your purposes, you should establish standard procedures to be followed in various situations that might occur while you are moving with your team. On foot or in vehicles, you can count on things going wrong in emergencies and you need to be ready to react correctly and all together.
Much of this is pretty simple, but just because it is simple does not mean that it isn’t important. At its most basic this could be one or more rendez-vous points that team members can reconnect at within a certain timeframe should they become separated.
Included in this section is the general expectation of what a team member should do during an emergency. For instance, if a team member is separated should they stay where they are for certain period of time and wait for the team to reconnect with them, or move immediately to a rendezvous point, or even toward the destination on their own?
If you are moving in a multi-vehicle convoy I’m one of the vehicles breaks down we’re gets held up for some other reason, will the rest of the team and any other dependents traveling with them keep going or immediately turn back to assist?
If one disabled vehicle is getting completely lit up by gunfire, or swarmed by people trying to rip out the occupants is the team willing to put family members and other generally helpless dependents in the line of fire to assist?
On that note, will families be divided up among multiple cars or will be non-team members all be placed in a single-vehicle, a “limo” that contains the VIPs.
There is not necessarily a right or wrong answer as it’s all situational and all based upon both the emergency you are facing and your team’s composition. This might also change moment-to-moment or even day today depending on what is happening.
The important thing is that you rehearse, talk about and plan for these contingencies so they can be handled swiftly and with little delay when they invariably occur.
When it comes time to defend life and property, having a team of trained and capable people at your side is quite a comfort, and even a small group presents a considerably harder nut to crack for aggressors than a lone individual, no matter how well-trained and how motivated they are.
The calculus is simple: you can only be in one place at one time, you only have two eyes, two ears and two hands. Especially if you are facing down a mob, having extra manpower and, in particular, extra people to run guns could make all the difference.
But with more people involved in a defensive posture to say nothing of an actual fight you will have more complications and more opportunities for mishap.
Simply moving around other armed people while armed without flagging each other and negligently letting your muzzles cover people you are not willing to shoot is challenging and, once again, takes practice. You can ratchet that difficulty level up several more notches should an actual fight begin.
Conducting a gunfight as part of a team is not nearly as simple as most people think. Any real fight, to say nothing of a proper gun battle, is a chaotic and messy thing, and it is entirely possible that your teammates may deliberately or inadvertently move into your line of fire as they prosecute the fight.
Preventing tragedy is a matter of establishing and practicing standard procedures.
In defense of a fixed site, this means assigning a sector of responsibility to each team member so members do not inadvertently track their guns into a space occupied by another team member.
If movement is required to assist or react to an evolving situation muzzles must be actively moved in directions that will present the least possible risk of harm to team members and innocents. All of these problems grow more difficult when working in close quarters at speed, say within a structure under attack instead of outside on the perimeter or the roof.
This is another fundamental of team operations that you would be well-served to get professional training on, but lacking the resources or time for such training with your mates, you can learn an awful lot from various military field manuals (that you can later practice with essentially no cost once you have everyone together).
Ensure that when practicing the basics of working in a team while armed, there is zero chance of a negligent discharge. Dying always sucks but dying in a training accident sucks more than anything.
To this end, you can practice with airsoft guns, toy guns, or even wooden stick guns to completely ameliorate the risk of real harm while working in close proximity to each other until you have the basics down pat.
Only after long practice with no mistakes made with safe handling of any kind should the team move on to using live firearms, even empty ones. Only when total competency is attained by all team members in safe gunhandling should any close order live-fire drills be conducted.
Operating as part of a close-knit team that can function as a single unit towards achieving an objective is the only way to help tip the scales back in your favor when facing down a large mass of hostile people in any context.
Considering that mob threats are increasing even during times of relative peace and the likelihood that you will face rampaging hordes of muggers and looters in the aftermath of a SHTF situation it is well past time to put your team together, and start working on movement, communication, coordination and defense together.
Cohesion is not something that will happen overnight, but with the right information and some diligent practice you can gain a surprising amount of proficiency quickly, proficiency that might make all the difference when the chips are down.
Tom Marlowe practically grew up with a gun in his hand, and has held all kinds of jobs in the gun industry: range safety, sales, instruction and consulting, Tom has the experience to help civilian shooters figure out what will work best for them.