Guest Post: Why I Prepare by Benjammin

In 2005 my presence was requested in Iraq and I went over as a civilian contractor for the Army for a year.  Due to my upbringing, I had always been a bit of a survival type (boy scouts, hunting, fishing and camping in the Pacific Northwest).  I had also gone through SER training in the military a long time ago.  As a result, most all of my knowledge of survival is from a wilderness perspective, so going to a war zone in an urban environment was a new experience for me.

 

In the time I was there in Iraq, I learned quite a bit about what it takes to get by in a crisis situation in an environment much more structured and restrictive than I was familiar with.  We were not allowed to carry firearms as civilians, so we relied exclusively on security personnel, not only to protect us, but as a source of information and direction as to how to act, what to look out for, and so on.  It didn’t take long for me to figure out that I wanted these folks to appreciate my presence, so I had the wife regularly ship me whatever goodies I knew the security people craved.  Keeping them in beef jerky and candy meant they all knew me by my first name; and that was comforting.

 

I came to realize how thin the veil of security/safety in our own society really is.  These were some of the experiences that opened my eyes:

 

  • Making bunker runs at 2:00 am to the sound of mortars impacting nearby
  • Bullets spinning out on the floor of our quarters after penetrating the roof
  • Eating one MRE a day all week because we can’t get to the chow hall, and my latest goody shipment is late, and I didn’t save any of the last one
  • Not being able to leave the compound for days
  • Having to keep a gas mask within arms reach some days
  • Bathing in highly chlorinated, near scalding water from tanks sitting in the hot Iraqi summer sun
  • Drinking 2 gallons or more of water a day because you are wearing 40 lbs of black Cordura body armor and a Kevlar helmet
  • Seeing the look of death on the faces of your Iraqi co-workers because someone blew up at the checkpoint on their way into town, again
  • Witnessing people getting shot, blown up, etc
  • Friends who suddenly and permanently never show up to work ever again, no idea what happened to them
  • Getting shot at, dancing in the street to avoid bullets ricocheting along the sidewalk, or having bullets smack the window next to your head in a car waiting at a checkpoint, with nowhere to go
  • Having your most important/vital possessions in a bag by the door of your hooch, ready to grab and run for your life, and actually having to do it once in a while

 

And we civilians had it easier than the soldiers.  The soldiers we interfaced with (mostly kids younger than my own children) had it a lot worse, and faced far greater risks and hardships than I ever did.

 

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When I came home, I had an entirely different attitude about our lifestyle.  I also realized there are some things you can prepare for, some things you can control, and some things that you are just along for the ride.  More importantly, I am passing on this mindset to my children in the hopes that they don’t have to go through what I did, although it would be worth the experience for them if the risk wasn’t too egregious.

 

Now I keep my home, my work, and my vehicles well stocked with equipment, material and supplies that I’ve learned I will need in a crisis.  I keep in reasonable shape for a 50 year old so I can still run like hell to safety, if it is close enough (I need oxygen bad when I get there, though).  I practice self defense and situational awareness regularly, and I surround myself with people I can trust will have my back if things go sour, and endear myself to them.  I have plans for staying where I am or leaving, with redundancy.

 

I am certain that soldiering in the sandbox does much to educate those who serve about the realities of life and the way the world really works.  Going over there as a civilian was also enlightening and humbling.  I will admit that on more than one occasion I was formulating prayers faster than I could speak.  Faith is a powerful survival tool for just about any crisis situation.


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3 Comments

  1. Good post . Really makes you think . I dont know why but lately I have been thinking a lot about the same kinds of things .
    Thanks again.
    Robert W

  2. Same thing some of the Vietnam Vets said and did when they came home but everyone said they had just lost their minds. Been lots of other little things in between that were not portrayed as large operations as well, thats where I fall in. Yes it does change you and working in the intell/investigator fields also exposes you to things and allows you to see things around you even when you dont want to and that makes you change too. It’s the reason so many “in the field” or who have been are into prepardness. Watching bad stuff and relating it to you, your family and environment is horrifying at times and makes you hold an edge. Learning how easy it is to become unstable as a nation is also a rude awakening.

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