Saturday, April 28, 2018

Ground Rules

"We are the Pilgrims, Master. We shall go always a little further:
it may be beyond the last blue mountain barred with snow,
across that angry or that glimmering sea..."

For those who don't know, the image above is at Stirling Lines, at the SAS regimental barracks in Hereford. Those who die in battle with that regiment have their names inscribed upon the base; those who manage to avoid that honor have "beaten the clock".

If that's a something they can aspire to do, so should you. So pull up a chair.

Before beginning, there's some things to cover.

1. I don't know everything.
2. Neither do you.
3. Neither does the internet.

What I'm passing on isn't original, from me, or anything like. It's written down, and been handed down. Some of it dates back before you or I were born. Some of it dates back to before the U.S. of A. was born. Some of it dates back to Sun Tzu, Caesar's legions, Moses and Joshua, or for all we know, pre-history hominids doing hand-to-hand combat at the monolith in 2001. Whether it was penned yesterday, or 6000 years ago, I'll try to make it as up-to-date as possible, but you should also bear in mind that lessons that last 6000 years probably do so for good reason.
You may have heard something the way I did, or slightly different. My original military training was generic for both the Army in the early-to-late 1980s, and the Marines at the same time. (Which, being the Marines, probably means the same way they've taught it from 1775-present, on general principle. I'm pretty sure they still have cartons of Revolutionary War bayonets and Spanish-American War mess kits in boxes at Albany GA and Barstow CA, just in case the stuff might come in handy again someday. I was carrying an M-16A1, eating C-rats, and wearing an issue flak vest, all of absolute certain 'Nam-era vintage, well into the 1980s. Before they issued me a howitzer that was brand new before WWII. Yes, really.)

I had to validate the lessons as a civilian much later in life for five-plus years doing armed border security on the Mexican border. You've probably seen videos I shot or helped to shoot. It's not all military information, though most of it can be found there, as well as other places. The medical information is everything I can glean and distill from over 25 years of doing everything from basic first-aider, to EMT, to RN, in a riot, an earthquake, hundreds of everyday events from World Cup to Rose Parade/Bowl, 100 feature films and twice that number of TV shows, and two decades in over a dozen ERs, including the busiest one on the planet. The fieldcraft and survival information has taken me from 12K' peaks in the Yosemite to the Mojave and Sonoran deserts, on and through Pacific Islands both jungle and desert, through the hills and woods of Kentucky, Virginia, North Carolina, and Georgia, to brief visits to jungles in Honduras, and along the Korean DMZ from hot-as-hell to cold-as-hell.

They may do things different at OSUTs, MCRD, Ranger/SF/BUD/S, the Royal Army or Marines, now, and/or in the other forces of ours and 25 other nation's militaries, let alone in civilian life, than exactly what I pass along here. Mostly not, and I stay fairly current.

So just to be clear:
I don't give a shit.

It won't hurt my feelings, it doesn't threaten my dignity, amend what I know, or cancel any of it out.
I'll pass on what I know works, and explain why it works, if necessary. I'll give you hard-copy references whenever I can. Look them up, try things out, and see for yourself if necessary.
(If you don't check things out for yourself, you're quite possibly an idiot.) Due diligence is always your responsibility.
That doesn't make it the only right way, then, now, or ever. It doesn't mean there's not another way - or ten to twenty more - to skin that cat, or even a better way to do it.
But I won't walk you off a cliff or into a swamp. I'll check it as well as I can, and I won't deliberately mislead or misinform you about anything.

I was a big fan of the MagPul videos and the guys who made them a few years back, because their approach was simple, and transparently common-sense:
"We don't know everything. But here's what works for us, and why we do it the way we do.
Try it for yourself, and see if it works for you. But if you've got a better way for you, do what works best."

That doesn't mean there aren't any wrong ways to do something.
Quite the contrary is true.
Read a few historical accounts of battles and campaigns, or go to the Darwin Awards website.
There are, I can assure you, wrong ways to do everything. With suitably unhappy consequences to them all.

They cull the ignorant, the deliberately stupid, and the unlucky with equal indifference.
In war, in survival, and even in everyday life, everything you do - including nothing - may still get you killed.

Some days, that's just where the lightning strikes.
And other days, you were just an unlucky dumbass.
But remember, no one gets out of this life alive.

Your goal is to leverage things so that to the greatest extent possible, you're most likely to die quietly in your bed from the natural causes of old age, and not with a surprised dumbass look on your face from terminal stupid, or screaming in terror like the passengers in your back seat, when that day comes.

4. This ain't the movies. And you ain't John Wayne.

I've worked in movies, big-shit real-deal ones, for over twenty years. Prime-time TV shows by the dozens too. And even more low-budget dreck. I'm also a huge fan of the quintessential American art form. They teach vividly - by design - some great and enduring lessons.
They also pass on a whole lot of stupid, in a "doing-this-$#!^-will-get-you-killed" way, just as vividly.
Your job is to always know and/or remember which is which.
This is why cops and prosecutors (and probably crooks) laugh at police shows, doctors and nurses laugh at medical shows, and veterans laugh at military and war movies. And not at the parts that you laugh at.
But if I make reference to something in one, it isn't because they're reality; it's generally because they're a readily accessible common reference point of reality to a disparate crowd. You may not have read Steve Callahan's Adrift, nor be able to recite Jack London's To Build A Fire from memory, but you've probably seen Tom Hanks' Castaway or Liam Neeson in The Grey, well enough for them to be useful to make a point.
(And I can poach clips off the latter two from YouTube, and will, you can betcher@$$.)
Just remember, in real life, there's no one to yell "Cut", there are no do-overs or re-shoots, and dead is final, real, and frequently painful on the way out. You won't be doing the PR tour to promote the movie if you buy the farm in Scene 4.

5. Human Stupidity + Intractable Forces Of Nature = Melodrama.
6. Little problems are a certainty. Big problems may show up too.

Some genius replying on another blog just said once that he'd "move were there were no problems".
Problems solved, QED.

Let's think that over:
No blizzards.
No hurricanes.
No tornadoes.
No earthquakes.
No floods.
No wildfires.
No riots.
No violent crime, nor criminals to perpetrate it.
No wild animals or rabid predators (on any number of legs).
No wars.
No famines.
No droughts.
No plagues or pestilence.
No plundering hordes or rapacious government.
No human evil or insanity, nor any indifferent natural fury whatsoever.
Sh'yeah, right.
Great plan.
Soopergenius level unlocked.

And then you looked at a map, and realized that describes no place on Planet Earth, in recorded history, going back to at least since getting our collective asses kicked out of Eden, or learning to walk upright and eat meat (take your pick).

In short, never, and nowhere.

So, for all places in the actual world, functionally forever:

7. Shit happens.

Have a plan for that.
With options.
And options to your options.
(As the Gunny/Master Chief told some of you:
"Write that down. You will see this material again.")

8. Think systems, not items.
9. Stuff is good. Stuff + knowledge is better. Stuff + knowledge + experience is golden.

You can't buy your way to excellence.
You can't read your way to mastery.
But if you get high quality gear, read and retain the best information, and master it with practical hands-on application, until it becomes part of you, you can do just about anything.
More importantly, if you understand the theory, and can put theory into practice, you can make second-rate, half-assed, or even primitive cobbled-together caveman gear do things that get you largely to the same place as gold-plated gear would, most of the time, and you'll be miles ahead of someone with only the gold-plated gear, or only book-learning.

And miles could be the difference between comfort and pain, or even between life and death.

Don't get down on dumbasses with great toys or good books, though.
Some of them can be taught. The books can be passed around.
And worst case, the dumbasses become a re-supply point when they screw up, die, and the survivors split their gear.
Which brings us to this:

10. Life isn't fair.
11. Nothing is free.
12. Nothing worth having is easy.
13. Nature is an indifferent bitch.
14. Murphy was an optimist.
15. Luck happens when preparedness meets opportunity.
16. The cavalry isn't coming.
17. You're 9-1-1.
18. If you're expecting to get "raptured" out of trouble, because the Almighty is your personal genie, bear well in mind that God, by all available accounts, has a habit of walking you through the Red Sea, or using the belly of a whale, to get you where you're supposed to be. Not teleporting you to safety because you're delicate. And laggards tend to end up as a pillar of salt. Learn a lesson or two right there.

That's why, whether for just yourself, or for any others, you need to do things - generally hard things - if you want to succeed.

Old guys know stuff. Pay attention.

And why, circa 500 B.C., Sun Tzu could tell everyone afterwards:
"Duty is heavy as a mountain; death is light as a feather."

I aim to move mountains. Or go over, around, or through them.
If that's too hard for anyone, nobody signed a contract. You can puss out any time.

And remember, death is light as a feather.
Sometimes, it even flies in on one.

Your choice.


Anonymous said...

Thank you.


Unknown said...

Here to learn, and damn man you do make it fun.

Anonymous said...

Outstanding. Ans speaking of Hereford, the last thread of what used to be a great country died today with Alfie. Sadly, that God-forsaken island is even still the second best country in the world. So, Yeah... it's time to wake up, everyone.

"If Alfie Evans Was A Royal Baby Would They Still Be Killing Him In A London Hospital?"

billrla said...

"You can't buy your way to excellence.
You can't read your way to mastery.
But if you get high quality gear, read and retain the best information, and master it with practical hands-on application, until it becomes part of you, you can do just about anything."

A worthy creed, indeed. Get good stuff. Read a lot. Put it into practice. Every day.

MMinWA said...

Wow, that was awesome dude-I could have my gal making samplers for the next couple years with some of those adages-are you Batman too?

I feel what I've done will leave me bleeding out in my ransacked AO after that.

Anonymous said...

There is a probably true story of an Englishman who, after world war 1, decided to move to a tropical island so as to escape Europe and its wars. The island was Guadalcanal.

Anonymous said...

Hard words well said.
Boat Guy

Anonymous said...

hell yeah!