Field Report – February 19, 2011
Field Report - February 19, 2011
WINTER SURVIVAL TRAINING – AAR
Since no one knows when the call to serve might come, it is critical that the minuteman or militia member be prepared to operate in all seasons. Important parts of the ability to sustain service to the community and state include being able to provide shelter and food in less than hospitable situations. The training reinforced skills which are necessary for survival, let alone effective service in harsh, winter conditions.
Prior to the actual training on Saturday, February 19, the members were asked to refrain from eating for two days. The fast tested the resolve of a lot of members and pushed everyone to recognize the difficulty of operating on an empty stomach. Originally, after the last meal on Thursday, the next meal would have been a small animal sometime Saturday night during the training. However, after a timely article posted on Arctic Patriot’s blog (www.arcticpatriot.blogspot.com) drawing an analogy of a cold furnace and an empty stomach, it was decided that some small snacks were going to be provided shortly after the 1330 start to the training. This was also done to ensure that members could stay focused during classroom training as well as be warmed up a little before going on the patrol. The blog article on keeping warm with food can be found here http://arcticpatriot.blogspot.com/2011/02/staying-warm-nuts-and-bolts-fueling.html and is well worth the read.
We had been warned that the training was going to be miserable and the weather the previous two weeks appeared to support that. It had been bitterly cold, dipping to single digits and the area had received 15-20 inches of snow. However, the preceding four days were as warm as 65 and all the snow was gone by Saturday. The day ended up being in the upper 40’s, low 50’s but a pretty good thunderstorm kept things interesting.
Members who were teaching classes that day began arriving 1100 to 1200 hrs and a security checkpoint was setup to greet the day’s attendees. When the training finally kicked off at 1330, 24 people were in attendance including three new people, two members from the 1st/7th, three members from the 3rd/2nd, and two instructors from Illinois.
After formation and an intelligence brief, we filed off to the classroom where multiple tables of gear and winter survival equipment were on display. The first instructor walked us all through the various kinds of things that are almost a necessity when serving in winter conditions.
Next we received a class on camp security and overall situational awareness followed by a class on water purification. Members were going to be tested on each of these skills later in the patrol.
Following those classes, members stepped outside to see another instructor’s examples of emergency shelters using basic equipment such as a poncho and emergency foil blankets. Members were taught how to use the paracord they should have in their 1st and 2nd line gear to rig up temporary shelters to keep them warm and dry.
Following that field trip, we sauntered back to the classroom for further instruction on wild edible foods. A cornucopia of wild plants had been gathered and was passed around to show members exactly what can be eaten when hungry and on the move. Various parts of each plant were discussed, showing which parts to eat and which to avoid.
After the edible plants class, members were briefed on personal hygiene in the field. Keeping oneself clean, warm, dry are critical to surviving outside or on a mission.
The thunderstorm mentioned above was about to roll in, so the hygiene class was shortened so that members could go back outside one more time. This time we were instructed on how to make snares and trap small game in the wild in an emergency situation. Members constructed their own snares with readily accessible material found in hobby stores. The simplicity of the snares was a surprise to some students. Luckily this class ended right as the rain came down hard. We made it back to the classroom right as it got very, very wet.
After one has caught some wild game, what do you do with it? We were next shown how to clean and prepare small game. A volunteer who had never cleaned and prepared an animal went through the process, getting hands on experience. The rest of the class watched with interest as the procedure was completed in less than five minutes.
This concluded the classroom instruction and it was time to put some of these skills into action on the night patrol. After a hasty warning order, members were given about 30 minutes to get their gear out, get prepped and ready to roll. With the large group, there were two squads organized and participants were assigned to positions in fire-teams which would maximize learning opportunities. Buddy teams were also assigned since we’d be operating in the dark.
The patrol specifically focused on filtering water at a specific rally point. Here, the various fire-teams and squads took turn utilizing their filters while others provided security. Buddy teams were rotated through until everyone had a chance to experiment with their system of cleaning water. It was crucial that water be obtained at this rally point because all canteens were emptied prior to beginning the patrol.
Once both squads had their fill of water, it was time to move onto the next rally point. Here the squads again took turns providing security while others prepared the wild game that was cleaned earlier in class. Wood was gathered, an improvised spit created and dinner was a-cookin’. While waiting on the meat, buddy teams took turns changing to dry clothes and socks. After about an hour of arriving at this rally point, patrol participants were treated to some succulent wild, cooked meat. Someone had thought to put some soup mix in water and pour over the meat and it made for some great eating.
Finally, the squads prepared for the return back to base. A call was made to let leadership know we’d be ahead of schedule. Upon arrival we were anxious to dive into the two pans of homemade stew and bread, our reward for some serious training.
What went right – TONS of information and knowledge soaked up. It was great to put some of the skills in action and think about how one performs hungry, cold, and under stress.
What went wrong – the focus of the day’s training was winter survival skills and that went great. At the expense of focusing on those skills, the warning order and patrol methods were scaled back. New members may have observed activities that don’t reflect proper procedure.