When it comes to adapting military procedure, equipment, and terminology to prepping it turns out that some folks usually get riled up.
Those who aren’t preppers in their daily lives usually accuse preppers of being posers, wannabes, and other derogatory terms.
Many of those preppers feel the need to intricately explain themselves and these choices to anyone who might raise an eyebrow at them.
And then you have people in the military who roll their eyes at the whole affair because they have lived that life and know how gravely inefficient and stupid much of military procedure really is.
The point is that there is a right and a wrong way to do everything and though there might be multiple right ways you can rest assured that there are plenty of wrong ways in accord.
This is one area in particular where we can sort of crib notes from the military. If there is one thing the military has pretty much mastered it is the minimization of risk through adherence to proper planning and other procedures.
Happily, the role and responsibilities of the basic infantryman are built on a foundation of five principles, known as the principles of patrolling.
The Five Principles of Patrolling
Without digging too far into the egotism that is wrapped up in the whole affair, I believe we can cut to the quick on this matter by agreeing to this statement unequivocally:
Engaging in any risky operation, whatever it might be, demands that careful attention be paid to proper procedure.
It could be utilizing heavy equipment on a construction site, conducting a patrol and a conflict zone, or getting you and your family to safety on foot in the aftermath of a major event.
The five principles of patrolling are not general orders per se, but they are eminently useful guidelines for shaping the decision-making process throughout every phase of a combat patrol.
Though a simple patrol might not sound like that big of a deal compared to a full-blown invasion, assault on a city, desperate defensive action, or some other high octane event, they certainly have the capability to turn high octane.
The variability that an infantryman might encounter on any given patrol means that he must remain flexible and adaptable at a moment’s notice, and these principles reflect that.
Considering that a prepper mired in the middle of a major SHTF event is going to be moving and shaking in response to constantly shifting obstacles and other challenges, this means that the five principles are perfect for similarly informing our own decisions.
The principles of patrolling are:
- Planning – Determining how objectives are going to be attained, and accounting for obstacles, curveballs, and likely changes that will be encountered while underway. Put another way, how are the objectives going to be achieved?
- Recon – The advanced gathering of intelligence that pertains to achieving the objective. This can take many forms, and often involves gathering information about weather, terrain, and likely threats.
- Security – Providing defense and active countermeasures against known and plausible threats.
- Control – Ensuring that all components necessary for conducting movement and other tasks critical to obtaining the objective remain functional.
- Common Sense – The X-factor principle. Common sense must be utilized at all phases of the patrol in order to fit the other principles to the reality of the situation at all times.
In the next section, we will learn how each of these principles applies to prepping.
Adapting the Principles of Patrolling to Prepping
The best part about the principles of patrolling is that they require precious little modification to work directly with the goals of most preppers.
We have given each principle its own section below and will detail how it will help guide your assessment of various threats and your responses to them.
With just a little practice, you’ll be applying the principles to everything you do as a prepper more or less constantly and that will result in an even greater state of readiness.
Planning is a fundamental and essential principle when it comes to infantry and prepping operations alike.
Planning is a tricky thing, though, because it can be as rudimentary or as intricate as you want it to be. Notice that I said as you want it to be.
Most folks are more likely to do the minimum amount of planning preferring instead to remain flexible while others are highly inclined to leave no tiny detail or variable on research in the course of crafting a perfect and fully realized plan.
Is there a correct method for planning? The famous American president and General Dwight D. Eisenhower once remarked that plans are useless but planning is indispensable.
This is because he, along with so many other commanders before and after him, knew that plans rarely survive contact with events. It never fails that things will go off in the wrong order or introduces variables that you never planned for.
A few of the essential factors that should be included in your planning process are:
- Type and duration of the threat
- Distance to evacuation point or bug out location
- Terrain and routes to evacuation point or bug out location
- Number of people in your group
- Health and wellness of people in your group
- Available resources and modes of transit
- External deadlines, Etc.
For this reason, a robust plan that is not too detailed so it remains easy to remember and remain adaptable in the face of changing circumstances is likely best.
Instead of breaking up a bug out plan into dozens of intricate components that members of your group will be hard-pressed to remember, much less implement in a meaningful way, it is probably better to set a handful of phases that can be conducted at their discretion according to the obstacles that they are facing at the time.
But just by going over, reviewing and rehearsing your plans, you’ll already be inoculating members of your group against disaster.
Planning is an indispensable part of the preparation, after all! That being said, there is an awful lot to learn about the topic and it is a skill that can be developed all its own.
Recon, short for reconnaissance, is another crucial factor for properly conducting your prepping tasks while minimizing risk.
Recon is concerned with advanced work, particularly the gathering of timely intelligence and any other relevant information regarding your plans and your goals.
Recon would strive to determine if the route you were going to take to your bug out location is clear, what the underlying terrain is like, be it passable, muddy, slippery or impassable and what the situation is like at your bug out location so that you do not perhaps jump from the frying pan into the fire.
Good reconnaissance means you won’t have to make informed guesses about what you’ll be dealing with; you’ll know!
Now, for our purposes reconnaissance can be conducted through a variety of methods, though in the traditional sense it involves dispatching an advanced member of your group, a scout that you trust to put eyes on anything that you want to verify.
Depending on the situation you are facing, this might not always be practical or even possible, and so you might gather intelligence through any number of means, including radio broadcasts, reports from other travelers and survivors, remote observation using optical devices, drone flights and anything else you can think of.
Good reconnaissance, conducted properly, may radically shape or alter the planning phase as new and verified information is accumulated. Acting in defiance of high-quality intelligence is a recipe for disaster! Don’t do it!
If you are worried about threats, be they from your fellow man, natural phenomenon, or other hazards, you’ll need to implement security if you want to minimize the chances that you’ll be negatively affected by them.
The principle of security is concerned with keeping the operation on track and safe from threats, particularly enemy action, but it could also come from any other source.
You’ll want to take pains to ensure that you and yours remain on guard and safe from anyone who might overtake you at any phase of your operation, and you also take care to avoid being harmed or derailed by other such hazards as weather, inclement conditions or dangers posed by natural or man-made threats, be they chemical or endemic.
Providing security is about much more than just having guns and other weapons handy.
It can mean providing equipment and other means to mitigate natural threats, and remaining supremely aware of everything that can threaten you at any given time.
A thorough understanding of your environment, your actions, and your people is mandatory for the proper implementation of security considerations.
For instance, protecting against inclement conditions: No matter how cold and/or how wet you become ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS maintain ONE piece of dry clothing (it could be a t-shirt, sweater, poly-pro top, etc) in your rucksack.
Again the reason is simple. When you are sucking, and I mean REALLY suckin’, knowing that you still have a dry piece of clothing is a HUGE morale booster and gives you hope that when it gets warmer or stops raining you can change into something more comfortable.
When everything you have is wet and you are cold it is infinitesimally easier to give up and quit!
The principle of control is the one that you invoke when you establish command authority, continuity of command, and ensure communication remains constant between all members of your group and in particular those who are critical to executing the plan that will help you achieve your objective.
This is another nuanced principle, but one that is likely already familiar to most preppers.
You probably already know that most groups cannot effectively be run by a committee, and instead must rely on a leader or a smaller council to make effective and timely decisions.
If you rely on a single leader, there must be a second in command nominated so that cohesion can be maintained in the event that the leader is made unreachable, incapacitated, or even killed.
More than this, keeping control over your operation means you must be able to communicate with all of the people that are a part of it.
If you are all together, this is easily enough done by talking, but over long distances, you’ll need to rely on some other form of communication.
This could be radio or cell phone comes, but it might be something as simple as a visual signal that is placed or activated in order to relay simple information to the group members over a longer distance.
Maybe someone blinking a flashlight or hanging a flag of a certain color from a tall place?
Establishing contingency plans according to the principle of control is absolutely critical for preventing the dreaded “Chinese fire drill” from breaking out in the event that things go wrong and communications or leadership breaks down.
5. Common Sense
The last principle of patrolling is another one that is inherently adaptable to prepping, and it is that of common sense. No tricks here, common sense is exactly what it suggests on the label.
Leadership and all members of the plan must reliably be able to apply their own common sense in order to solve problems while furthering progress towards obtaining the objective.
When a plan starts to break down or is rendered hopelessly out of date or useless in the face of changing conditions or circumstances or new information, it is common sense that will swoop in and save the day.
Common sense is also the grounding principle that ensures the plan conforms to reality, and that there is no expectation that the opposite will occur.
Common sense also maintains momentum and initiative. If unforeseen circumstances occur or a major curveball is thrown at the progress of the group, common sense dictates that it be overcome in the shortest way possible before continuing on towards the objective.
That is unless of course, that common sense dictates a halt be called for further review and analysis.
There are too many potential occurrences that could it make the difference between wasting time or even total failure to be listed here, but it is imperative that you impress upon everyone in your group, and hold yourself to the standard, that common sense be used at all times and in all things towards objective.
That reminds me of a story…
I grew up in the Army before the days of the CamelBak and other hydration systems.
We had high-tech devices called canteens (and no we did not carry muskets). Each soldier regularly carried 4 quarts of water.
You had a 2 qt canteen attached to your rucksack and two 1 qt canteens on your pistol belt. The rules for consumption were simple and commonsensical.
The first water to be consumed would be from the 2 qt on your rucksack, even though this was typically the least convenient when you were on the move.
The reason is simple. If you are separated from your pack you will still have 2 FULL canteens on your pistol belt- Common sense!
On some level these concepts are simple, but I hope it provokes some thought on how you prep and how to prioritize.
Letting the five principles of patrolling inform your decisions for how you go about prepping will ensure that you’ll be better equipped for dealing with any challenge.