How big of a disadvantage do civilians have versus ex-military in a SHTF scenario?

Discussion in 'Preparedness & Survival' started by Joe Link, Jul 11, 2012.

  1. Joe Link

    Joe Link Administrator Staff Member Platinum Supporter Life Member

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    I'll tell anyone who asks, one of my biggest regrets is not having served in the US military. Been through MEPS twice, but I wanted the promises in writing :nuts:

    Anyhow, what I'd like to discuss is what sort of disadvantage civilians who haven't served are at in a survival or SHTF scenario, and what civilians can do to minimize and/or overcome them. Which skills do soldiers acquire that would help them the most? Is civilian training available that can truly match or exceed that of serving time in the military? How about actual time served in a war zone?
  2. PlayboyPenguin

    PlayboyPenguin Well-Known Member

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    I am ex-military and I will tell you right now that the experiences of raising livestock and tending a garden as a kid on the farm are far more valuable than anything I learned in the military. Plus, you can always learn fighting tactics. When you learn them in the military you have to relearn them in a manner adapted to individual fighting anyway.
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  3. theguncrank

    theguncrank Active Member

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    I would speculate that the military advantages are the size of the fighting force, and the technological and logistical support behind it. If the S truly HTF and stays that way, those advantages may no longer come in to play.
  4. jonn5335

    jonn5335 Gold Supporter Gold Supporter

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    I know a lot of current and retired military most of them I believe would have no advantage in a SHTF scenario although there are a few and I mean very few that were in war and gained fighting, gun handing, attitude and PTSD
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  5. tardylemon

    tardylemon Member

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    I would have to say a combat vet is going thrive in a long term SHTF scenario as opposed to civilians(most anyway) who havent been in a stressful situation like that. I am merely just speaking from some of my experiences in the army. living out of a back for a few weeks and not showering for long periods of time kinda works a number on you. As stated earlier though a soldier is gears towards combat, civilians currently in fields that involve food cultivation might have an upper hand in the long run. society in general is screwed though. Another plus side to being veteran for a SHTF scenario is I know what to pack to survive remote areas as i have experience being in remote areas with minimal contact from the others. I guess there are plus sides to both, but i side with vets being better due to my being one. Correct me if I am wrong or sound too jaded?
  6. Mark W.

    Mark W. Well-Known Member

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    Keep in Mind that the Vast majority of military has NO actual fighting experiance and even less have any real survival training.

    My Son is currently a ET2 FACSFAC, DET SCI, DET SCI and the only fighting training he has had was antiterrorist as it pertains to boarding or attacking a ship at the pier. He was part of the ships he's served on in Japan and the East Coast security team. But put him in a house to house fight and his airsoft and paint ball experiance is probably more valuable.

    Granted the 8 years my Daughter spent and a Corpsman and Nurse in the Navy including time in Iraq and various Naval hospitals that handled combat wounds will be invaluable. But even the 6 weeks training with the Marine for her Field Medical Badge would be very little help in stopping a zombie attack.

    Currently Navy Basic training has limited training in Pistol and Shotgun both shot indoors. No other training unless you go on to a special unit. Though my son did train and qualify with both a M14 and M16 for shipboard use against mines and other floating things. but then as I said he was part of the security detail aside from his normal Electronics tech chores.

    In the Air Force during basic training you currently qualify with the M9 pistol and the M16 rifle. but no combat training unless you go on to a special unit.

    Most of the military is support.
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  7. Dunerunner

    Dunerunner Well-Known Member

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    From another forum...

    I don't know the origin of this and I haven't validated wheter it is true or made up, but; a quick check indicates it is real. Anyway, this is a good read.

    I feel it is a must read.




    I am from Bosnia. You know, between 1992 and 1995 it was hell. For one year I lived, and survived, in a city with 6000 people, without water, electricity, gasoline, medical help, civil defense, distribution service, any kind of traditional service or centralized rule.

    Our city was blockaded by the army and for 1 year life in the city turned into total crap. We had no army, no police, we only had armed groups – those armed protected their homes and families.

    When it all started some of us were better prepared, but most of the neighbors families had enough food only for a few days. Some had pistols, a few had AK47s ( ) or shotguns.

    After a month or two gangs started operating, destroying everything. Hospitals, for example, turned into slaughterhouses. There was no more police. About 80% of the hospital staff were gone. I got lucky – my family at the time was fairly large (15 people in a large house, 6 pistols, 3 Aks), and we survived (most of us, at least).

    The Americans dropped MREs every 10 days, to help blockaded cities. This was never enough. Some – very few – had gardens. It took 3 months for the first rumors to spread of men dying from hunger and cold. We removed all the doors, the window frames from abandoned houses, ripped up the floors and burned the furniture for heat. Many died from diseases, especially from the water (two from my own family). We drank mostly rainwater, ate pigeons and even rats.

    Money soon became worthless. We returned to an exchange. For a tin can of tushonka you could have a woman (it is hard to speak of it, but it is true). Most of the women who sold themselves were desperate mothers.

    Arms, ammunition, candles, lighters, antibiotics, gasoline, batteries and food. We fought for these things like animals. In these situations it all changes. Men become monsters. It was disgusting.

    Strength was in numbers. A man living a lone getting killed and robbed would be just a matter of time, even if he was armed.

    Today me and my family are well-prepared, I am well-armed. I have experience.

    It does not matter what will happen – an earthquake, a war, a tsunami, aliens, terrorists, economic collapse, uprising. The important part is that something will happen.

    Here’s my experience: you can’t make it on your own. Don’t stay apart from your family, prepare together, choose reliable friends.

    1. How to move safely in a city

    The city was divided into communities along streets. Our street (15-20 homes) had patrols (5 armed men every week) to watch for gangs and for our enemies.

    All the exchanges occurred in the street. About five kilometers away was an entire street for trading, all well-organized, but going there was too dangerous because of the snipers. You could also get robbed by bandits. I only went there twice, when I needed something really rare (list of medicine, mainly antibiotics, of the French original of the texts).

    Nobody used automobiles in the city: the streets were blocked by wreckage and by abandoned cars. Gasolnie was very expensive. If one needed to go somewhere, that was done at night. Never travel alone or in groups that were too big – always 2-3 men. All armed, travel swift, in the shadows, cross streets through ruins, not along open streets.

    There were many gangs 10-15 men strong, some as large as 50 men. But where were also many normal men, like you and me, fathers and grandfathers, who killed and robbed. There were no “good” and “bad” men. Most were in the middle and ready for the worst.

    2. What about wood? Your home city is surrounded by woods, why did you burn doors and furniture?

    There were not that many woods around the city. It was very beautiful – restaurants, cinemas, schools, even an airport. Every tree in the city and in the city park was cut down for fuel in the first two months.

    Without electricity for cooking and heat – we burned anything that burned. Furniture, doors, flooring – that wood burns swiftly. We had no suburbs or suburban farms. The enemy was in the suburbs. We were surrounded. Even in the city you never knew who was the enemy at any given point.

    3. What knowledge was useful to you in that period?

    To imagine the situation a bit better you should know it was practically a return to the stone age.

    For example, I had a container of cooking gas. But I did not use it for heat – that would be too expensive! I attached a nozzle to it I made myself and used to fill lighters. Lighters were precious.

    If a man brought an empty lighter, I would fill it and he would give me a tin of food or a candle.

    I was a paramedic. In these conditions my knowledge was my wealth. Be curious and skilled. In these conditions the ability to fix things is more valuable than gold.

    Items and supplies will inevitably run out, but your skills will keep you fed.

    I wish to say this: learn to fix things, shoes, or people.

    My neighbor, for example, knew how to make kerosene for lamps. He never went hungry.

    4. If you had 3 months to prepare now, what would you do?

    3 months? Run away from the country? (joking)

    Today I know everything can collapse really fast. I have a stockpile of food, hygiene items, batteries… enough to last me for 6 months.
    3 месяца ? Бежал бы за границу ? (шутка)

    I live in a very secure flat, and own a home with a shelter in a village 5 kilometers away. Another six-month supply there too. That’s a small village, most people there are well-prepared. The war had taught them.

    I have four weapons, and 2000 rounds for each.

    I have a garden and have learned gardening. Also I have a good instinct – you know, when everyone around you keeps telling you it’ll all be fine, but I know – it will all collapse.

    I have strength to do what I need to protect my family. Because when it all collapses you must be ready to do “bad” things to keep your children alive and protect your family.

    Surviving on your own is practically impossible (that’s what I think). Even you’re armed and ready – if you’re alone, you’ll die. I have seen that happen many times.

    Families and groups, well-prepared, with skills and knowledge in various fields – that’s much better.

    5. What should you stockpile?

    That depends. If you plan to live by theft – all you need is weapons and ammo. Lots of ammo.

    If not – more food, hygiene items, batteries, accumulators, little trading items (knives, lighters, flints, soap). Also alcohol of a type that keeps well. The cheapest whiskey is a good trading item.

    Many people died from insufficient hygiene. You’ll need simple items in great amounts. For example, garbage bags. Lots of them. And toilet papers. Non-reusable dishes and cups – you’ll need lots of them. I know that because we didn’t have any at all.

    As for me, a supply of hygiene items is perhaps more important than food. You can shoot a pigeon, you can find a plant to eat. You can’t find or shoot any disinfectant.

    Disinfectant, detergents, bleach, soap, gloves, masks…

    First aid skills, washing wounds and burns. Perhaps you will find a doctor – and will not be able to pay him.

    Learn to use antibiotics. It’s good to have a stockpile of them.

    You should choose the simplest weapons. I carry a Glock .45, I like it, but it’s a rare gun here – so I have two TT pistols too (everyone has them and ammo is common).

    I don’t like Kalashnikovs, but again, same story – everyone has them, so do I.

    You must own small, unnoticeable items. For example: a generator is good, but 1000 Bic lighters are better. A generator will attract attention if there’s any trouble, but 1000 lighters are compact, cheap, and can always be traded.

    We usually collected rainwater into 4 large barrels and then boiled it. There was a small river but the water in it became very dirty very fast.

    It’s also important to have containers for water – barrels and buckets.

    Were gold and silver useful?

    Yes. I personally traded all the gold in the house for ammunition.

    Sometimes we got our hands on money – dollars and deutschmarks. We bought some things for them, but this was rare and prices were astronomical – for example a can of beans cost $30-40. The local money quickly became worthless. Everything we needed we traded for through barter.

    7. Was salt expensive?

    Yes, but coffee and cigarettes were even more expensive. I had lots of alcohol and traded it without problems. Alcohol consumption grew over 10 times as compared to peacetime. Perhaps today it’s more useful to keep a stock of cigarettes, lighters, and batteries. They take up less space.

    At this time I was not a survivalist. We had no time to prepare – several days before the bubblegum hit the fan, the politicians kept repeating over the TV that everything was going according to plan, there’s no reason to be concerned. When the sky fell on our heads, we took what we could.

    Was it difficult to purchase firearms? What did you trade for arms and ammunition?

    After the war we had guns in every house. The police confiscated lots of guns at the beginning of the war. But most of them we hid. Now I have one legal gun that I have a license for. Under the law that’s called a temporary collection. If there is unrest, the government will seize all the registered guns. Never forget that.

    You know, there are many people who have one legal gun – but also illegal guns if that one gets seized. If you have good trade goods you might be able to get a gun in a tough situation, but remember, the most difficult time is the first days, and perhaps you won’t have enough time to find a weapon to protect your family. To be disarmed in a time of chaos and panic is a bad idea.

    In my case – there was a man who needed a car battery for his radio, he had shotguns – I traded the accumulator for both of them. Sometimes I traded ammunition for food, and a few weeks later traded food for ammunition. Never did the trade at home, never in great amounts.

    Few people knew how much, and what, I keep at home.

    The most important thing is to keep as many things as possible in terms of space and money. Eventually you’ll understand what is more valuable.

    Correction: I’ll always value weapons and ammunition the most. Second? Maybe gas masks and filters.

    9. What about security?

    Our defenses were very primitive. Again, we weren’t ready, and we used what we could. The windows were shattered, and the roofs in a horrible state after the bombings. The windows were blocked – some with sandbags, others with rocks.

    I blocked the fence gate with wreckage and garbage, and used a ladder to get across the wall. When I came home, I asked someone inside to pass over the ladder. We had a fellow on our street that completely barricaded himself in his house. He broke a hole in the wall, creating a passage for himself into the ruins of the neighbor’s house. A sort of secret entrance.

    Maybe this would seem strange, but the most protected houses were looted and destroyed first. In my area of the city there were beautiful houses, with walls, dogs, alarms and barred windows. People attacked them first. Some held out, others didn’t – it all depended how many hands and guns they had inside…

    I think defense is very important – but it must be carried out unobtrusively. If you are in a city and SHTF comes, you need a simple, non-flashy place, with lots of guns and ammo.

    How much ammo? As much as possible.

    Make your house as unattractive as you can.

    Right now I own a steel door, but that’s just against the first wave of chaos. After that passes I will leave the city to rejoin a larger group of people, my friends andfamily.

    There were some situations during the war… there’s no need for details, but we always had superior firepower, and a brick wall, on our side.

    We also constantly kept someone watching the streets. Quality organization is paramount in case of gang attacks.

    Shooting was constantly heard in the city.

    Our perimeter was defended primitively – all the exits were barricaded and has little firing slits. Inside we had at least five family members ready for battle at any time, and one man in the street, hidden in a shelter.

    We stayed home through the day to avoid sniper fire.

    At first, the weak perish. Then the rest fight.

    During the day, the streets were practically empty due to sniper fire. Defenses were oriented towards short-range combat alone. Many died if they went out to gather information, for example. It’s important to remember we had no information, no radio, no TV – only rumors and nothing else.

    There was no organized army, every man fought. We had no choice. Everybody was armed, ready to defend themselves.

    You should not wear quality items in the city – someone will murder you and take them. Don’t even carry a “pretty” longarm, it will attract attention.

    Let me tell you something: if SHTF starts tomorrow I’ll be humble. I’ll look like everyone else. Desperate, fearful. Maybe I’ll even shout and cry a little bit.

    Pretty clothing is excluded altogether. I will not go out in my new tacticool outfit to shout: “I have come! You’re doomed, bad guys!” No, I’ll stay aside, well-armed, well-prepared, waiting and evaluating my possibilities, with my best friend or brother.

    Super-defenses, super-guns are meaningless. If people think they should steal your things, that you’re profitable – they will. It’s only a question of time and the amount of guns and hands.

    How was the situation with toilets?
    We used shovels and a patch of earth near the house. Does it seem dirty? It was. We washed with rainwater or in the river – but most of the time the latter was too dangerous. We had no toilet paper, and if we had any, I would have traded it away.

    It was a “dirty” business.

    Let me give you a piece of advice: you need guns and ammo first – and second, everything else. Literally EVERYTHING! All depends on the space and money you have.

    If you forget something there’ll always be someone to trade with for it – but if you forget weapons and ammo, there will be no access to trading for you.

    I don’t think big families are extra mouths. Big families means both more guns and strength – and from there, everyone prepares on his own.

    11. How did people treat the sick and the injured?

    Most injuries were from gunfire. Without a specialist and without equipment, if an injured man found a doctor somewhere, he had about a 30% chance of survival.

    It ain’t the movie. People died. Many died from infections of superficial wounds. I had antibiotics for 3-4 uses – for the family of course.

    People died foolishly quite often. Simple diarrhea will kill you in a few days without medicine, with limited amounts of water.

    There were many skin diseases and food poisonings… nothing to it.

    Many used local plants and pure alcohol – enough for the short-term, but useless in the long-term.

    Hygiene is very important… as well as having as much medicine as possible. Especially antibiotics.
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  8. billstaf

    billstaf Active Member

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    Combat vets will have some advantage (no matter what their age). Those who have been in armed combat before already know how they will react to the stresses associated with fighting and death. While that may not mean a lot during peacetime, it does indeed have a benefit during times of conflict, social unrest or warfare.

    Just being in the military and sitting behind a desk or punching a computer keyboard all day won't help much and really is not all that different from ordinary civilian life.

    Hopefully, we'll all never have to find out about this, but if we do, I know what I learned in my time in combat will be the first test of survival skills I use. Raising food, practicing medicine, husbanding resources can all be learned along the way, but basic conflict survival comes first.
  9. tardylemon

    tardylemon Member

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    Most the military is support true. I was an armor crewman attached to infantry, we did a lot of field training digging holes and sleeping in them. I also trained in combat lifesaver courses, the infantry battalion i was with trained as a light infantry unit so training involved a bunch of long distance marches with training in the middle. I hope Im not coming across as starting a pissing match thats the exact opposite but when I referred to combat vets i meant 'real' combat. sorry for the confusion. I also didnt want to pit on group against the other.
  10. Studio BK

    Studio BK Active Member

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    The guy's screen name is Selco. His story is the reason I began prepping. He now has his own website. shtfschool.com
  11. Dunerunner

    Dunerunner Well-Known Member

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    Found it...thanks for the link!! That site puts a reality spin on prepping!! :jawdrop:
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  12. mosinguy

    mosinguy Member

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    the only thing basic and ait teach you is weapons cleaning and basic shooting the marines have more training on shooting and hand to hand.... i know a bunch of combat vets that relly wouldnt be worth a tinkers damn in a true shtf scenario and then there are alot that would be....... the one thing to remember is there are really only 4 groups in the military who are trained for things like that and they are deployed more then they are ever at home generally over 200+ days a year in places much like bosnia sierra leon crotia and other places far worse....... there are places a civilian can go for training you just have to find them do your research some are better then others...... the above letter is exactly what was goin on over there when our troops hit and helped.... lots of people died there from not being prepared enough....... the gangs for a long bit had control even over our troops just because they had to be found and taken out they were fortified in and had a short lived upper hand..... the best advice i can give people is think, ahead know your area, know your neighbors... make friends with like minded people and set up a network with them..... have multiple plans and the means to carry them out....... start a small garden.... and most of all us your head.
  13. knuckle Head

    knuckle Head Well-Known Member

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    As lot have stated and especially selco quote, there are many things to consider, Haven grown on the edge of detroit I gt street smarts, havin served in the army I learned a lot of combat first aid and techniques, what to do and what to do, I also learned how to get things done by trading, stealing (from one unit to another) and how make thing works and figure things out on the fly.

    I think my military training has given me an advantage over the average as far as techniques, and being sneaky ****

    I have done a lot of back packing and have learned to go without a shower and to take a whores bath everyday in the field, Supplies and skills are key as stated, store what you can, leanr what you can and try to determine who will be an asset and who will be a liability and do not be afraid to cut a useless liability lose, better to do it than 3 months after they have burn up your stores.
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  14. Studio BK

    Studio BK Active Member

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    Yeah it scared the hell out of me! He says that one day the President or Prime Minister or whoever went on the news and said that everything was under control, the next day the military switched sides and started attacking the city! :wow:
  15. Rez

    Rez Member

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    I think the main advantage that military members have, especially combat vets, is reacting under the stress. They've been tested in that regard and know they can react properly should something happen. At the same time there are plenty of civilians who would react just fine under fire as well.

    If I were you I would simply try and gather skills from all walks of life. Obviously know how to shoot, know how to cook, know how to prep game, know how to preform basic medical procedures, heck know how to farm. It's all a matter of trying to learn a bit about everything.
  16. Boats

    Boats Active Member

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    I won't speak for anyone else, but I think my experience in the Navy, on a destroyer, and on all of the ship's various security details gives me the leg up on most civilians who never served at all. My experience directly led to a brief career in law enforcement before I thought the better of it.

    I am not a "combat vet" because that requires declared hostilities and I helped fight a "secret war" against Iran in the mid and late 80s. For not being a combat vet, I've nonetheless had a lot of 12.7mm thrown my way. I have also boarded over 100 vessels, essentially a repeated exercise of CQB clearing, but without the shooting. Trained by the Marines to do that, reinforced with cross training in small unit tactics with the 25th ID for all of 2.5 weeks.

    But, I don't think of my modest combat skills as the advantage except for know how to live in a state of awareness rather than the opposite. It's mostly iin other areas. For instance:

    I've stood hundreds of watches up to six hours long, at all hours, in all weather, observing and reporting accurately about everything unusual, all without falling asleep. Even this basic military skill is beyond most untrained civilians, who have very poor tolerances for boredom. You know if I am on watch you don't have to be watching me against failure and can relax a bit.

    Since living on a ship off and on for four years, I have never been caught without some kind of knife or multi tool 24/7/365 ever since.

    I know how to navigate comprehensively. Land or water, by landmarks and maps or by dead reckoning along a course shot with a compass. Most people cannot do that.

    I know how to both give and follow orders and how to be a team player in extremely pressurized situations—even with people I despise.

    I know how to set up, follow, and stick to a completely thorough routine maintenance and inventory schedule. I learned that "two is one and one is none."

    From Navy basic training and advanced damage control schooling I know what the various classes of fires are and how they are best fought with whatever is a hand and without looking it up on the Internet.

    Through the Navy's Surface Warfare Specialist qualifications shipboard, I can: operate a boiler, repair an evaporator and condenser, run and perform routine maintenance on diesel generators, bang out Morse code, set up and use basic OTA encryption/decryption ciphers and keys, do advanced first aid, operate multi spectrum communications devices, observe proper radio communications protocols, trace and repair both steam and water leaks, estimate the range or height of objects using only my hands and binoculars.

    Finally, I know what I don't know too. The military is broken into specializations, the Navy extremely so, because no one man can be an expert on everything.

    I would take a moment to note that many of the techniques used in the military are directly derived from civilian experience. The most prominent one I can think of is the modern model of scout/sniping. That was directly pulled into the British Army from English and Scottish civilian Game Wardens Who combatted poachers for the Crown, from there the tactics , gillie suits, etcetera, spread to every serious fighting force on the planet.

    So, it's not like all civilian experience is useless or anything.
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  17. Ownerus

    Ownerus Member

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    My experience (Marines almost 40 years ago) taught me mostly what I could take. Physically and more importantly mentally as well as some excellent rifle skills. I'm no tough guy by any means but I think what the military taught me about myself is a big advantage. It's stuff that can be learned elsewhere but usually isn't. Modern life insulates us pretty well from a lot of challenges.
  18. RVTECH

    RVTECH Well-Known Member

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    As a vet (twice over - two DD 214s) I can appreciate all the input. I was an AF LE first, then a AGR REMF in the Oregon National Guard. Nothing specifically SHTF oriented BUT I will admit to having lived in an RV after my divorce for a couple of years and operating a small construction business at the same time. While I really did not HAVE to live this way I had a pretty good situation on a private piece of property near the Deschutes River. As time went on I figured out ways of doing things and was for the most part off the grid. After a while I became kind of 'dug in' and it was actually a neat situation. I had few bills and was really realizing how detached I was from 'society' While I went out everyday and took care of business I came back to the 'Survival Camp' as it became known and did my thing. My point being as a vet I think some of the experiences helped but a couple years experience in an RV are worth more than many 'prepping'. Try it sometime if you think I am joking.
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  19. Mohawk13

    Mohawk13 Active Member

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    Civilians are at a disadvantage due to the fact that most think they are an Island. We in the Military Have learned teamwork along with self reliance. If You have ever been SPECOPS, You understand the team concept for survival under adverse conditions. This could be applied in a SHTF scenario. Most Civilians are vain enough to think they could make it on their own...
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  20. Ownerus

    Ownerus Member

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    Good point though I think it's not quite that simple. It's not so much that civilians think they can make it on their own (most anyway), it's just that we're not issued a team. The next guy in the barracks is self-selected (in the volunteer military anyway) to be on your team and there's a whole military enforcement apparatus to "encourage" that. Your next door neighbor on the block generally has neither so it's not hard to be without a team as a civilian even if you recognize the need for one.
    jimwsea and (deleted member) like this.