My friend JC Dodge has authored and commented on a few well-done pieces on a perrenial Prepper topic- The Bugout– and while each of those takes are well done in their own right, I thought I’d share my two cents for what it’s worth including my own real-life bugout.
Go take a look at the last few posts if you haven’t done so- there’s some well done linking to Ivar Bergmann’s Channel (with some gorgeous Alaska scenery) and to my very good friend Hawkeye of UW Gear.
I would consider myself “around” for a while; not in the blogging sense but to the notions of Survivalism. Like the post JC shared of himself, I was the kid packing the bag and running to the woods with my shotgun (and later, Remington 742, 30-06 Springfield, 1 ea., and then later still, .45-70) and being in my early 30s at this moment, I was pretty aware of the craziness of the 90s and the fears of UN takeover; in fact, I had a hardline Right Wing english teacher (talk about rare as hen’s teeth, huh?) who spared no expense to warn us about globalism. Public school just two decades ago ain’t what it is today even in my little town, but I digress.
Anyway, the first time I heard the term “bugout”, I was sitting in front of the TV watching the Simpsons of all things with my late grandfather, who was a decorated Infantryman in the Korean War. One of the characters said it, and my grandad kinda chuckled. He casually stated, “that’s when you know you gotta go.” What I didn’t know then, was that the term used to be pretty common slang for units getting overrun by the human-wave tactics of the Chinese and DPRK in northern Korea. Fast forward a few years, the term has become synonymous with the prepper movement and developing a cult-ish like following. The mythos of the bugout bag has always defied logic in my estimation, and yet, people love to talk about it like its the marquee of preparedness.
Where Ya Going?
Growing up, “bugging out” should the blue helments break out of New York never really crossed my mind (I was like 12, where, realistically, would I go?) but growing up on a large farm, woodcraft and what is known as bushcrafting was just an everyday thing. My $10 flea market knife that I wasn’t supposed to have was the thrill of the day and I, the King of the Forest like John Rambo, with it. The only place I had planned to go was the 130 year old cedar post buck barns on the farm.
Today I kinda still feel like that; why go on the run? Can you make the run? What can you carry over that distance? Have you made that run before? Rehearse, Rehearse, Rehearse. What happens when THAT plan fails? Do you regularly procure food in the woods on your own? No, but you think you can do it under stress? Yes? How do you know?
Fast forward a bit more; NC Scout finds himself on a LRS team in Afghanistan. The mission was relatively simple, what we call a “patterns of life mission” (where we watch a village to see who’s coming in or out, and in this case, how they react to certain stimuli) with a brief insertion of 5 miles of so, a nice comfy hilltop of not too many rocks, and Uncle Sugar’s finest MRE cuisine for the next several days. With water, ammo load, digging tools, communications load and STANO (surveillance, target acquisition and night observation) gear, everyone’s ruck was in the 80+ lb range, with the RTO being a bit more. There was to be three different hide sites in total; three teams for 360 degree observation and one in reserve with the Base Ratio Station in case we got in trouble along with a JTAC or two, because for some reason USAF birds prefer to talk to them.
The movement became longer than it should have been. What would have taken 3 hours or so with covered movement under darkness turned into a six hour trek. How did that happen? Thinking about a girl. It happens. We get to the hide site and take up our positions- we didn’t have enough darkness to dig in, so it’d have to be the lazy man’s favorite, the surface hide. We were gonna be lucky to make it to the end of this one without compromise (getting found).
Around noon a couple of herders were getting too close- I thought one had seen us, the other hadn’t, and I warned my buddy, SSG XXXX, that I think it was a soft compromise (when you’ve been found by those NOT hostile…ie, no shooting). About that time the guy looked up at us, and moved up the hill. We’ve been found, in the Taliban’s moneymaking heartland.
Any SOF trained guy, American or British (and probably most of the NATO nations, honestly) knows about Bravo Two Zero. It was an 8 man SAS mission in the Gulf War to locate Scuds in northern Iraq; long story short, their commo failed from the get-go (wonder why that’s a cornerstone of this blog?), they got to their hide site and got caught by a animal herding kid, and got chased across northern Iraq by the Revolutionary Guard ending with three dead, 4 captured, and one escaping. And when and where this is usually taught, you learn not to do what they did.
So here we were. 6 man team, young animal herder hostile village. It’s unethical to kill the guy just as it was for B2-0 to kill that kid; hell, it’s his backyard. By the look on his face when he made his way up the mountain he didn’t know who we were. But we can’t stay here, and he can’t go home. At least not yet. Time pack it up- somebody who loves Johnny Camel jockey here is going to come looking for him, despite how cooperative he may be. We packed up, we moved down the mountain. We bugged out to out pre-planned 2 hour RV ( a preplanned rendevouz site where a team remains for 2 hours, along with a 12 hour and 24 hour RV site to accompany the plan each moving towards friendly lines) withing our DAR (Designated Area of Recovery- area of operations that the team has pre-planned to move within in case of compromise) with Junior here, flexcuffed, in tow, along with his goats, because, it’d be pretty messed up that this guy was compliant and we shooed off his herd. Plus with him up front and a big dusty pack of animals, it’d look more normal to distant passer-bys. We got to the RV, our extraction team was en-route, and we gave the guy a Happy Meal (our nickname for the boxed Halal meals) and we all went home happy with our heads still attached.
The point is that ‘bugouts’ as most fantasize simply aren’t going to happen. Even the best of the best, as the SAS example demonstrates, shows that under duress even the best trained screw up, and those screw ups cost lives. The plan and alternate plan (the “P” and the “A” of PACE) are critical, along with astute land navigation skills. For civilians, this should be only taught either from military trained combat-types or those committed to Search and Rescue, such as CAP. You should plan where you’re going and have the ability to coordinate with those to come pick you up- because if you’re bugging out, the world is already sideways Francis and nothing is going to go according to a rigid plan. That bag full-a-stuff is not going to do you much good if you don’t have the skills to back them up.
But if you want an idea of some of the things you should carry in a last-ditch evasion signal kit, take a look at this old post (which contained most of the stuff I was carrying minus the blood chit) and this one for an idea of the basics of hard-use knives. That tattered old Ontario Airman pictured was on my hip as it usually was in Iraq and Afghanistan. They were all on my body, because the plan for ‘bugging out’ while being shot at always includes piling up your heavy rucks full of sensitive stuff…and blowing them up.