by The Bunker

So you have gotten yourself together 3-6 people you have known quite a while and feel that you can trust.

Now what?

First I would try to ascertain the level of interest in each of the individual members. Many will simply be "looking for something to do." These are not the kind of people that you want to share secrets with. When "something better" comes along these people will be gone. Look for people that are serious about what they are doing. But do give the other ones a chance to change their mindset and get serious. If you have known these people for a while you should know who is serious and who isn't. One easy way to see who is serious and who isn't is if they put their money where their mouth is. Someone who is serious about their survival, who has been a survivalist/militiaman for a while should have some sort of food storage program, even if it is simply items bought from your local grocery store. As an example, a serious survivor would have a few guns and a food storage program. Someone who may not be as serious may only have the guns and have no interest in starting a food storage program. I know, not all of us have the money for the pre-packaged survival foods, and that's fine you can make do with other things. But almost any of us can set aside five dollars a week to pick up a few extra things at the grocery store.

If the possibility of armed guerrilla warfare against an oppressive foreign occupier or hostile government is a possibility then your perspective members should have a strong political and spiritual will as well. Without this he may give up the fight during a tough situation. How many people left George Washington's ranks at Valley Forge?

Inventory the skills available in the group. Maybe you have someone who had Paramedic training in a prior military stint. Maybe Joe loves gardening and produces record amounts of produce in a small area. Frank runs his own sporting goods business, maybe he can buy group supplies at wholesale and save everyone money. Talk to your group members and find out about their education, hobbies, interests etc. Encourage each one to build upon the skills that are useful to a group. In the same token encourage those with skills that are not survival related such as an accountant, to learn other skills. Maybe that accountant has always been fascinated with the inner workings of radios and loves the thought of being able to communicate with people all over the world via amateur radio. Build on it!

A leader must be appointed. It doesn't however, need to be done right from the get go. Actually it is probably preferable not to appoint a leader right from the start. The group leader should be a knowledgeable person with time to devote to the group. He must be accepted by the majority of the group and must accept the position himself. In addition, the group leader should be a stable person. He should know how to motivate people- yet does so in a helpful manner- none of this "get up you filthy maggots and finish the hike!" Preferably, he should be free of any addictions- naturally you should preclude drug abusers and alcoholics from your group.

As far as training goes, these are my thoughts. Most training events will probably be held on a weekend to work around work schedules. A Saturday morning through Sunday afternoon schedule is best. Later, as training progress the group should occasionally have a bivouac late Friday night through Sunday afternoon. At least 4 training events should be scheduled every year, one in each different season. Better yet, one weekend every 1 or 2 months. One weekend every month is a good training schedule. Members should be required to make as many weekend bivouacs that they can. If a member misses more than six (if on a monthly schedule) in a year the member should be considered inactive and possibly dropped from the group. Likewise if the member misses 2 (if on a quarterly schedule) then he also should be dropped. So you have gotten yourself together 3-6 people you have known quite a while and feel that you can trust Now what?

It is my opinion that the first several training exercises should be as hard as possible. Maybe a 25-mile march is in order. Many would disagree with me on this. It is my belief that if the member will come to the rough weekends and go home with sore feet and shoulders they are better candidates for your group then the guy who only comes when the group does fun stuff By all means make every trip as fun and enjoyable as possible. Getting through several rough hikes together builds group camaraderie. My recommendation is that you do not berate or punish any group member. This is not the Army and you are not the drill instructor. If a group member lags behind in the hike give him positive reinforcement to move forward. Don't walk back and tell him he's a no good pile of dirt or something like that- he simply will not come out with your group again and suddenly you have a security problem! Encourage all group members to give it their best.

Group members will need to know how to rig up their gear properly. Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) needs to be drawn up so that everyone knows what to bring to each trip. "You never told me I had to bring my first aid kit every time we went." A standardized equipment list needs to be drawn up to include equipment to carry on person, field gear/load bearing equipment, rucksack/''existence or house load" and weapons. If at all possible weapons should be standardized throughout the group. At the very least everyone should use the same caliber of weapon. Having standardized weapons make ammunition and spare parts stockpiling much easier. You will know how to use your buddy's weapon because it is exactly the same as yours.

A standardized list of equipment every man should carry may consist of the following: field/fighting knife, first aid kit, compass, watch, fire-starter, BDU's, boots, hat, gloves, flashlight, field gear with a minimum of 6 magazines for the rifle, buttpack with 3-5 days worth of supplies, 2-3 canteens, canteen cup, water purification tabs, space blanket, poncho and liner, 550 cord, traumedic dressings, D ring, Swiss seat (if in an area where rappelling is a possibility), 100-200 rounds additional ammunition for your rifle, hygiene supplies, foot powder, spare socks, rucksack with 2 weeks worth of supplies, another 200 or so rounds of ammunition for your rifle, additional cleaning kit material, a larger and more comprehensive first aid kit, a couple of changes of socks and undershirt, another poncho, sleeping bag (if weather necessitates), spare batteries for flashlight, water purification device or more purification tabs, small fold up stove, extra magazine or two for the rifle and other mission specific gear- i.e., wire cutters, smoke grenades, gas mask, etc.

In addition to the personal equipment, the team should have at least two transceiver radios, a pair of binoculars, an entrenching tool, a machete and a hand axe. Of course these are all just minimums. More specific categories of equipment such as NBC protective gear will have to be brought up later.

After a prospective member gets accepted into the group he should have 6-12 months to acquire the basic gear and firearms. Each individual member should strive to build his own personal food storage program as well.

Training subjects could proceed into outdoor survival. The message to stress is that it is nice to have all this gear and by all means obtain it while it is still available but don't place all your confidence in it. Group members should learn to build a shelter and sleep out in that. Shelter building, primitive fire-starting, food gathering, finding direction without a compass, making snares and traps and purifying water should all become priorities. Something often missed is the skill needed to skin/clean animals. Everyone thinks it is easy as pie to clean a rabbit, and it is, after you have done it several times. Practice these skills as well. Find a rabbitery that is selling off surplus rabbits and buy several and practice cleaning and cooking them in the wild. After several training sessions on the above skills test yourself and the other group members. Set aside one weekend to have a "Survival Test." Set each individual off by himself and at least 1/2 mile away from any other group member. Don't let him know where the other group members are and let it be known that anyone that collaborates with other group members will fail the test. Bring the member to the area and let him pick out where he wants to establish his shelter. The individual should have only the following material: a field knife, a 5-foot piece of 550 cord, a magnesium fire-starter and a supply of water. You are giving him the supply of water because it's not fun to have a group member die during an exercise- it's bad for moral! You can also let him have a handgun with a magazine fun of ammunition if you so please.

Start the exercise Saturday morning and tell them it will end sometime in the next couple of days. If you let them have a firearm let them know it cannot be used for gathering game. Give them priorities that they have to accomplish during their weekend stay: build a waterproof shelter, build a fire, build a reflector for the fire, build a snare or trap, find at least 1 edible plant in the area and prepare it, find and purify water, determine direction (you should run them around in circles before dropping them off) and build a bow and arrow or hunting tool. Tell them that the test could end at any time and they will be graded on how much they have accomplished so don't dilly-daily. The Special Forces have a qualification test similar to this only that it lasts a week and they are also given a rabbit. There should be some way for each individual to signal you if they are hurt. Let the test run into late Sunday night. This will screw a lot of people up because they will expect it to end Sunday morning or afternoon so they can get home. Don't end it till an hour or so after dark to screw em' up!

The above test will tell you quite a bit about the confidence and capabilities of your members. Some will do quite well and then their will be others that operate great when they are with the group but can't tie their shoe laces when they are by themselves!

The next section of training should include basic first aid training and CPR instruction. Preferably this should occur before the group begins going to the field regularly unless you have a trained medical person with you. Lacking an individual to teach you these skills, go to the Red Cross. After the group has been through the instruction critique it as to what techniques would not be useful in a survival situation. Another important skill to practice is transportation of wounded in the field. Practice drags, fireman's carry, and making poncho stretchers. Don't just practice carrying the one guy that weighs 98 lbs.! Try carrying the big boys as well.

Shooting skills are next on the list. Many of your members will have (or think they have) some shooting skills. Ascertain the level of ability by setting rifle targets out at 100 meters. I know when I first did this it was quite an experience! Someone put targets up at about 25 yards and I said "Damn, what is that about 100 yards?" needless to say I got laughed at! Initial shooting practice should familiarize the individual to the person using it. Start out at 25 yards or so and let your members build up their confidence. Gradually move the targets back until all members can shoot reliably at 150-200 meters. After this move on to practicing magazine changes and shooting at several targets at varying ranges. For example: start out with 6 targets and varying ranges. Have the individual have two magazines with 6 rounds in each. Have him shoot two rounds into each target and time them. After all your members get confident doing this sort of drill have them run an "assault course." This is a series of targets at varying ranges. The individual can only shoot at one target from each position so he must move from position to position, ideally by running. Have him put at least 2 rounds into each target and change magazines at least once during the course. Time the course. Ideally the individual would be carrying his field gear as he runs the course.

Fieldcraft skills should be taught to all members as well. This includes map reading and land navigation, using cover and concealment, patrolling skills, camouflage techniques, camp security, etc. During your field exercises it is important that each member carries his equipment. Most individuals and groups when they go camping simply park their vehicle as close to their campsite as possible. This is what is called "tailgating" as in the tailgate of a truck. Try to avoid letting your group members get used to this sort of camping. A better method would be to hike at least 2 miles from your vehicles to where you are camping. This way Joe, who always seems to bring his kitchen sink with him camping, will lighten his load next time and only carry essentials. Members should be expected to carry everything they need for several days in the field on their back. Heed my words, don't let it start because new members will think that is the way things are done and get sloppy themselves.

Groups should decide from this point how far they want to go with the combat related training. I feel at least the basics should be known by all group members. Some groups may not feel the need for such training, good for them.

After the initial year or so of training together the group should begin setting qualifications for all members to pass. This helps the groups overall capabilities. After your first year or so of training discuss with your members all the qualifications they feel each member should have and how to go about testing them. A physical test is important, such as running a mile in under nine minutes. A shooting course can be setup to test weapons proficiency. An individual night land navigation course will test navigation skills and personal confidence. A 20-25 mile hike will test the individual's persistence. The survival test described in the above text will test outdoor skills and individual confidence and mental ability.

Group members should be encouraged to learn specialties. If a group does not have a regular medic a person should be designated (or volunteer) to learn medical skills. Other specialty skills include radio operator (HAM), gardener, armorer, etc.

Above all make your training exercises regular. Slacking off hurts both the individual and the group. Even if only two members can get together to train it should be done.