There are many misconceptions about CSS…

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We have a reputation as a “hard core”  training program, but most people will find we aren’t anything like a boot camp. When most people think of survival training, they imagine camping out and rubbing sticks together to make fire. We are all about helping young men and women survive the things that are actually killing young men and women: car accidents, school and workplace violence, medical emergencies, and accidental drownings top the list according to the CDC.


In teaching survival skills for the modern world, we often delve into graphic discussions of sensitive topics. One example is what exactly happens in a car accident:


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Some parents and leaders of cadets would cringe at the thought of their cadet viewing something so graphic. We cringe at the thought that cadets do not take the risk of texting and driving seriously.

CSS teaches risk management in a way that resonates with modern cadets and leads them to a mindset of safety that no mandatory computer-based instruction can.

2011 CSS Course Offerings

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In response to growing demand for Cadet Survival School courses, we would like to give you an update. We intend to run at least one of each (Basic, Intermediate, and Advanced) course in 2011, likely during the summer, and likely in Maryland. Our key cadre planners are overwhelmed at this point with military deployments, law enforcement response to the Tucson attack, a medical issue, and a recent childbirth. Planning is paused until further notice. Most planning will be executed in the month of February; we will post an update as soon as possible with dates, locations, and further details as we get them.

We know students and staff need to plan their summer early to deconflict with work, CAP, and school commitments and we are cognizant of the growing cost of travel. We are impacted by those same factors. Survival is all about priorities.

Respectfully,

CSS Staff

These boots were made for walking

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Considering that a disaster might have you traversing flooded terrain, a debris field full of twisted metal, or a long walk to safety, we should probably discuss footwear.

Obviously when you wake up in the morning, you probably aren’t thinking “Do these shoes go with a manmade disaster?” But you should consider having some shoes handy in the event of one.

I would like to include a shout out specific to my female colleagues in this article. Most women I know do not choose footwear for “aggressive tread” or “ankle support” more often I hear “makes my calves look skinny” or “strappy.” Wear whatever shoes you want, but at least keep a pair of running shoes at your desk at work and/or your car in case you need to actually walk somewhere.

A couple of things to consider in the footwear department:

Dress for egress
If you are flying on a plane (even an airliner) I suggest wearing shoes you can survive in. Are you going to get frostbite if your aircraft goes down in the mountains? Are you going to be able to walk through debris with them?
-NO sandals
-NO heels
-NO open toed shoes

Water, water everywhere…
If you live in a flood prone area, you might want to invest in water-resistant boots at minimum and maybe even waders.

A few boots worth taking a look at

Danner Ft. Lewis
When I went through SERE (and when I taught Evasion at USAFA), I thanked God everyday for W.L. Gore and Mr. Danner, whether it was wading through knee-deep snow or crossing a stream, my Danners have always impressed me, and almost every SERE Specialist I have met wears or recommends them. The tread is fairly standard (Vibram Lug Sole), the boot is all leather, you can get it with just the Gore-Tex lining or with more serious insulation for cold climates. Little known fact: Danners are indestructible, if World War III comes, the only things left will be twinkies, cockroaches, and Danners.

Oakley Assaulter
A PJ suggested these to me, they are glorified high-top tennis shoes, but they have great tread (pretty slippery on ice though), they are very very quiet, and most importantly they are very light weight. If you have to run in boots, these are the boots to run in. Not the best for rugged terrain, but outstanding for the urban venue. If you like these, but want something that looks more like a boot you could wear in uniform, the Adidas GSG-9 boot has been a favorite for a long time.

Raichle Hiking Boots
A dude in 10th SFG tipped me off about these. They are very expensive (I believe they are made by elves in Switzerland). But they are the best boots I have seen for no-kidding mountaineering. You can strap them into snow-shoes, you can traverse snow and ice, you can hike rugged and rocky terrain, and they have the best ankle support I have ever seen (maybe too good, they are a bit like wearing a ski boot around). As a plus, they add about 2 inches to your height.

The USAF SERE school at various times has specifically prohibited wearing Magnum Hi-Tecs because if the insole gets wet it expands and basically destroys the boot. I don’t know if Magnum has fixed that or if the school has changed its rule, but I trust their judgment on stuff like that.

As always, your gear should be tailored to your needs and it should be accessible should you find yourself in an ugly situation. The right footwear for your survival might be your favorite set of Nike or Reebok.

Socks…
Socks are a lot more important than you might think. The right socks and the right foot care can help you prevent immersion (trench) foot, blisters, and hypothermia. Here are my rules for socks:

-Change your socks early and often
-Pack more socks than you think you will need (even in your survival gear)
-Double up. I like wearing gym socks with thick thorlo boot socks over them, even in hot weather, doubling up can prevent a lot of common foot problems. That means you should size your boots with the assumption you will double your socks
-When you get a chance to clean up, specifically wash your feet and use anti-bacterial soap if you can
-Sleep barefoot if you can, give your feet a chance to dry out

Dress for egress
If you are flying on a plane (even an airliner) I suggest wearing shoes you can survive in. Are you going to get frostbite if your aircraft goes down in the mountains? Are you going to be able to walk through debris with them?
-NO sandals
-NO heels
-NO open toed shoes

Immediate Actions in a Crisis

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Immediate Actions in a Crisis
“Maintain Aircraft Control, Analyze The Situation And Take The Proper Action,
Land As Soon As Conditions Permit”-USAF Flight Manuals

Realize you are in a crisis in the first place
-It isn’t always as obvious as a plane crash
-What are some good examples of a crisis?

ACT TO SAVE LIFE AND LIMB
-Remove yourself and others from the threat (may have to eliminate the threat)
-Take charge, don’t wait for someone to tell you what to do
-Perform first aid as required
-Call 911 if possible

HUG A TREE
-Assess the situation
-Inventory your resources
-Determine immediate needs and priorities
-Drink water, you are probably in shock
-If you are lost, staying put will keep you from getting more lost
-STOP-THINK-THEN ACT

MAKE A PLAN
-Consider your options
-Stay put or move?
-Mostly decided by whether you think help is coming

Killer Logic “It Cant Happen Here”

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Killer Logic: “It can’t happen here”

I was sitting in O’Hare Airport this evening and I glanced at a few headlines:
“Stranded hiker found”
“Chemical Spill forces evacuation in Kentucky”
“Ice storms across several states kill 36”

Some see those headlines and see fate, or luck, or God at work in everyday triumphs and tragedies. I see survival situations. I have been called paranoid more than once, but I have never been called unprepared. There are dangers out of your control, we could have World War III tomorrow and get wiped out, you could get in a car accident, or get abducted by aliens, but the vast majority of dangers are within your control to at least mitigate. This brings me to an important point about survival: Survival and Safety are interrelated and interdependent. Taking a first aid kit with you on a hike is essentially like fastening your seatbelt when you drive. Yet, some who would never be caught without a seatbelt scoff at the guy who carries the first aid kit.

You will be safer if you understand and work to identify, reduce, and mitigate risks.

Saying “it can’t happen here” or “it won’t happen to me” is bad Operational Risk Management and it gets people hurt or killed everyday.

Picking and packing your survival gear makes more sense if you sit down and identify hazards.

I fly as a passenger on airliners a couple times a month. That has given me a lot of time to think about the hazards of airline travel and I like using airline travel to illustrate how I approach risk management.

Stuff that could go wrong
-I could get stuck somewhere I didn’t expect (high probability, low danger)
-My bags could get lost (high probability, low danger)
-The plane could have a non-catastrophic emergency (moderate probability, moderate danger)
-Someone on the aircraft could require first aid (moderate probability, moderate danger)
-The plane could have an emergency requiring emergency ground egress, short-term bad weather survival and first aid (low probability, high danger)
-The plane could be hijacked (low probability, very high danger)
-The plane could have a catastrophic emergency (very low probability, very high danger)

What can I do, and what resources do I have to mitigate those risks?
-I have a self defense background
-I have limited first aid training
-I can carry-on an overnight bag with toiletries
-I can carry a cell phone
-I can keep money available in case I need to get a hotel room
-Airliners have fairly robust first aid kits, so I probably don’t need to bring my own
-I can dress for egress
-I can carry non-weapons that I can use in a self defense role if necessary
-I can listen to the ATC radio (if available on that flight) to maintain situational awareness if something does happen

I don’t necessarily have a plan, because there are an awful lot of different risks, but I do carry a flashlight in case the cabin fills with smoke, I wear sturdy shoes and a jacket in case I have to egress, and I keep my seatbelt low and tight in case we hit unexpected turbulence or have an unusually hard landing. I consider that my low-risk survival posture – I am not expecting any trouble, but I am not completely powerless if trouble hits.

Fast forward to boarding the plane in O’Hare

So as we board the plane in O’Hare, a passenger already seated is swearing loudly into his cell phone, and being obscene and abusive to passengers who make eye contact with him. The flight attendant comes up and asks him to get control of himself and he swears at the flight attendant.

Well now my risk posture is changing. I see that I am the only able bodied male near this guy, I see that the flight attendant is trying to get a hold of security, I see other passengers getting uncomfortable… time for a new risk assessment.

What are the risks this guy poses?
-He is mad because the airlines have screwed him over and he just wants to vent. (high probability, low danger)
-He is looking to pick a fight (moderate probability, moderate danger)
-He is mentally disturbed and potentially psychotic (low probability, high danger)
-He intends to attack the other passengers or flight crew (low probability, high danger)
-He is a red herring distracting the flight crew from a no-kidding hijack plot (very low probability, very high danger)

What resources do I have to mitigate this risk?
-I have my self defense background and experience as a crisis counselor
-I have a cell phone I can call 911 with (assuming this escalates while we are on the ground)
-I have a flight attendant call button
-I have 50 other passengers who are already alert to this guy
-Since this is a relatively small domestic flight, there are probably no Air Marshals on board
-I have a flashlight and a pen I can strike him with if it gets really ugly

So what to do?
-Confront him and tell him to cool it?
-Let the flight attendant take care of it?
-Get off the plane since this guy is a risk?
-Beat him up?

Well I know that flight attendants have some training in handling difficult passengers so I stay alert, but let them handle it. He calms down a bit, but I tell a passing flight attendant “Just let me know if you need a hand”
The flight attendant thanked me, clearly relieved to see someone had his back and grateful that I wasn’t interfering or escalating the situation any.

The passenger eventually calmed down, we pushed back from the gate and had a quiet, uneventful flight. Was this a “survival situation?” Certainly not in the classical sense, no it wasn’t. He was just a jerk with a cell phone. He ended up being nothing, but if it did escalate, I was in a position to help “mitigate the risk” rather than having to leave my safety and the safety of others up to luck. I was in a position to help because I recognized him as a risk and mentally red flagged him for having the potential to become a survival situation.

The bottom line here is that survival is more than just packing a kit, throwing it in your closet/trunk and forgetting about it. It is an ongoing thought process of identifying and preparing for any hazards you might encounter. Survival is more than just the stuff you do when you eject from a fighter or if you get stranded on a ground team mission. Survival is about your ability to take control in an ugly situation and get yourself and others to safety.

Evacuations 2

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Many don’t understand the difference between “Mandatory” and optional evacuations. Some say the government can’t force you to leave your house. True… stupid, but true.

Mandatory evacuation doesn’t mean they are going to go door-to-door and make you leave (in most cases). What it does mean is that if you stay, you will have NO services. If you dial 911, no one will answer. Not that it would help, since there are no ambulances or police cars, which have either been evacuated, are sheltered, or are staging for the recovery. Don’t expect to have electricity (refrigeration, air conditioning, hot water and cooking in some cases, or even your Xbox), or clean water (floods and flooding tend to contaminate water supplies very quickly), or telephone (even cell phone in many cases). Oh, and if things get real ugly (Katrina), someone is going to have to put themselves at risk to come rescue your dumb fourth point of contact.

One good example of how this screws up the disaster response effort is in California where we have MAJOR wild fires about every two years (I have seen Malibu Canyon burn at least six times, and yet people still live there). Inevitably the fires come, the evacuation order comes, and you see idiots on their rooftops wetting down their brush-filled backyards and roofs with a garden hose. So many of them do this that the water system loses pressure and even affects the fire hydrants, making it harder for the firefighters to actually fight the fires.

As I said before, leave early. Don’t wait to be told because as soon as the order comes out, the roads will clog.

One last thing I want to have in a disaster:
INSURANCE
Whether it is a wildfire, or a flood, or a hurricane, or a tornado, or an alien invasion, I want to know someone is going to help me rebuild and replace whatever I couldn’t take with me in the evacuation. You can ask the Katrina survivors how helpful RED CROSS and FEMA are (both great, and both worked some miracles, but don’t expect either one to completely cover the damage).

The Survival Library

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The Survival Library

Once the crisis starts, it is too late to sit down and read about how to handle it. It is probably evident from this series that I consider my duty to “return with honor” a fundamental part of my job- and a big part of that duty is to stay “current” on tools, tactics, and techniques to help me survive, evade, resist, and escape.

Here are a few books that I recommend to anyone interested in building their awareness and preparation in Survival. I should caution that these books run the spectrum from Boy Scout type manuals on how to catch a fish, to combat manuals that discuss close quarters shooting and IED recognition, to hardcore “survivalist” type manuals written by people who think the UN is out to get them. Regardless of their intent, each book has some value in learning how to approach an emergency.

You will also notice that this list is heavy on individual survival stories rather than “survival manuals” that teach you 900 ways to build a tent. That is on purpose. Individual techniques and tricks are cool, but I am going to remember them and understand how to apply them better in the context of lessons learned from the people who tried them.

Aircraft Emergencies

The Black Box by Malcolm MacPherson (transcripts of aircraft emergencies)
Failure is Not an Option by Gene Kranz (NASA Mission Control)

Wilderness Survival
FM 21-76 US Army Survival Manual
FM 21-26 Map Reading and Navigation
USAF Aircrew Survival Manual
Scouting for Boys by Robert Baden-Powell
Emergency Survival Guide by Christopher Van Tilburg
Everybody’s Knife Bible by Don Paul
Everybody’s Outdoor Survival Guide by Don Paul
Great Livin’ in Grubby Times by Don Paul

Combat Survival
Five Years to Freedom by James Rowe (Vietnam US Army Special Forces POW)
Into the Mouth of the Cat by Malclom McConnell (USAF Capt Lance Sijan, Vietnam F-4 POW)
Tornado Down by Flight Lts John Peters and John Nichol (RAF Desert Storm POWs)
In the Company of Heroes by CWO Mike Durant (US Army SOF Detained in Somalia)
US Army Ranger Handbook
Tactics of the Crescent Moon by John Poole (Jihadist Tactics)
Militant Tricks by John Poole (Jihadist Tactics)
The Tiger’s Way by John Poole (Maoist Tactics)
Fight to Survive! by Mike Lee Kanarek and Randy Proto (Israeli Unarmed Combat- Krav Maga)

The most comprehensive series I have seen on all survival topics is a 28 volume set called
Combat & Survival: What it takes to fight and win
Written by mostly former UK SAS types- this is a little outdated but it is very much the real deal. This is out of print and it is getting harder and harder to find.

And of course:
The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead by Max Brooks

Read all of these books if you can, look for big themes and patterns.

CSS does not endorse any of the books specifically, we are just presenting information. Cadets should use their discretion for their reading materials.

Evacuation: Live to fight another day

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My big point on evacuation is that you need to have a plan before the disaster, and you need to evacuate AS EARLY AS YOU CAN. The longer you wait (for a predicted disaster like a hurricane) the uglier the evacuation will be.

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Making the decision to evacuate is a tough one… are you going to have to miss work? Where are you going to go? Can you afford the travel and lodging expenses? Is the disaster even going to hit?

Don’t wait until you are forced to evacuate. At some point the traffic and roads will be bad enough that you are safer sheltering in place… good thing you have that big old survival kit… too bad it is under 4 feet of water.

Things I would want in an evacuation:

A PLAN
I want to work out way in advance where I am going, what route I am taking, where I am staying, and what I am going to do with my pets.

A BED
Most Red Cross and Military evacuation sites will give you a cot at best. Pack a pillow, pack bedding or a sleeping bag, invest in a pad to go under the sleeping bag. Better yet, keep some money saved for contingencies so you can stay in a decent hotel if you have to or better still, have a plan to stay with a friend. I want to avoid shelters to the max extent possible -they are crowded, they aren’t as well equipped as I am, and they may not be completely out of the disaster area.

A GPS
The main roads will clog first, I want to be able to take the back roads and Mr. GPS will help me.

DISTANCE
I want to get as far from the disaster and the traffic as I can. If the hurricane is coming to Texas, I might just hop on an airliner and visit my parents in California for the weekend

CASH
When the power is out, the ATMs and Credit Card machines at stores are out too. Don’t be surprised if the power is out for an extended period of time.

DOCUMENTS
My passport, my will, my identification, my car title, copies of my medical and dental records, and my deed/lease agreement are all things I want to keep with me.

MEDS AND HYGEINE ITEMS
Ask your doctor if he/she can prescribe you an extra set of meds for emergency use (especially if you travel overseas). In Katrina, military shelters QUICKLY ran out of diapers and feminine hygiene products– depending on how big the disaster is, you may not be able to leave the shelter for a week or more and you may not even have running water.

FOOD/WATER for the Trip
When I was stationed at NAS Corpus Christi, the Navy predicted that the 2 hour drive to Lackland AFB in San Antonio would take 12-14 hours in an evacuation. That is a long time to sit in a car, and don’t expect to pull off to a McDonalds.

These Boots Were Made For Walking

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These boots were made for walking

Considering that a disaster might have you traversing flooded terrain, a debris field full of twisted metal, or a long walk to safety, we should probably discuss footwear.

Obviously when you wake up in the morning, you probably aren’t thinking “Do these shoes go with a manmade disaster?” But you should consider having some shoes handy in the event of one.

I would like to include a shout out specific to my female colleagues in this article. Most women I know do not choose footwear for “aggressive tread” or “ankle support” more often I hear “makes my calves look skinny” or “strappy.” Wear whatever shoes you want, but at least keep a pair of running shoes at your desk at work and/or your car in case you need to actually walk somewhere.

A couple of things to consider in the footwear department:

Dress for egress
If you are flying on a plane (even an airliner) I suggest wearing shoes you can survive in. Are you going to get frostbite if your aircraft goes down in the mountains? Are you going to be able to walk through debris with them?
-NO sandals
-NO heels
-NO open toed shoes

Water, water everywhere…
If you live in a flood prone area, you might want to invest in water-resistant boots at minimum and maybe even waders.

A few boots worth taking a look at

Danner Ft. Lewis
When I went through SERE (and when I taught Evasion at USAFA), I thanked God everyday for W.L. Gore and Mr. Danner, whether it was wading through knee-deep snow or crossing a stream, my Danners have always impressed me, and almost every SERE Specialist I have met wears or recommends them. The tread is fairly standard (Vibram Lug Sole), the boot is all leather, you can get it with just the Gore-Tex lining or with more serious insulation for cold climates. Little known fact: Danners are indestructible, if World War III comes, the only things left will be twinkies, cockroaches, and Danners.

Oakley Assaulter
A PJ suggested these to me, they are glorified high-top tennis shoes, but they have great tread (pretty slippery on ice though), they are very very quiet, and most importantly they are very light weight. If you have to run in boots, these are the boots to run in. Not the best for rugged terrain, but outstanding for the urban venue. If you like these, but want something that looks more like a boot you could wear in uniform, the Adidas GSG-9 boot has been a favorite for a long time.

Raichle Hiking Boots
A dude in 10th SFG tipped me off about these. They are very expensive (I believe they are made by elves in Switzerland). But they are the best boots I have seen for no-kidding mountaineering. You can strap them into snow-shoes, you can traverse snow and ice, you can hike rugged and rocky terrain, and they have the best ankle support I have ever seen (maybe too good, they are a bit like wearing a ski boot around). As a plus, they add about 2 inches to your height.

The USAF SERE school at various times has specifically prohibited wearing Magnum Hi-Tecs because if the insole gets wet it expands and basically destroys the boot. I don’t know if Magnum has fixed that or if the school has changed its rule, but I trust their judgment on stuff like that.

As always, your gear should be tailored to your needs and it should be accessible should you find yourself in an ugly situation. The right footwear for your survival might be your favorite set of Nike or Reebok.

Socks…
Socks are a lot more important than you might think. The right socks and the right foot care can help you prevent immersion (trench) foot, blisters, and hypothermia. Here are my rules for socks:

-Change your socks early and often
-Pack more socks than you think you will need (even in your survival gear)
-Double up. I like wearing gym socks with thick thorlo boot socks over them, even in hot weather, doubling up can prevent a lot of common foot problems. That means you should size your boots with the assumption you will double your socks
-When you get a chance to clean up, specifically wash your feet and use anti-bacterial soap if you can
-Sleep barefoot if you can, give your feet a chance to dry out

Combat Rescue Afghanistan CSAR Pararescue by Scott M

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