Tips for veterans prepping for the worst

David Sarti, a retired truck driver in Tennessee, patrols his farm with his dogs on the show "Doomsday Preppers". Credit National Geographic Channels/Sharp Entertainment

In this day and age, one can never be too prepared. From education to emergency supplies and even membership in militias or “adventure groups”, veterans often seem to be on top of the “prepping” game. Some foresee a natural disaster, others foresee oppression or (by cause and effect) insurrection. There are a million reasons to want to be well-stocked and well-armed.

Unfortunately, that is usually where a lot of veteran preppers fall short, much like their civilian counterparts. Be it the ravages of time or a stalled mentality, when tested in actual scenarios, many are weighed, measured and found wanting. All the “cool guy” equipment in the world is useless if you can’t properly field it or transport it.
Maybe you have three kids. You work all the time, you can’t shoot in the suburbs and ranges are hard to come by. Maybe you have a disability. We don’t always get to pick our situations. Regardless, there are several ways to make up for the lack of edge we may find ourselves having when push comes to shove.

1: Remember You Aren’t an Operator (So Why Are You Dressed Like One?)

Look, we all harken for the glory days. Remember when you were the tip of the spear, able to be furnished with the best of equipment and backed by a supply chain that spanned over entire continents by land, sea and air? Yeah. Those days are over.

Depending on the situation, you are more likely to resemble the people you fought against than the warfighter you were.

You’ll be half tempted to buy every multicam-flavored chest rig, pouch, helmet, electronic headset and thigh holster. You might consider loading a 7lb AR15 with three pounds of lights, stocks, optics and possibly a beer bottle opener. Hell, you might go buy some cliche III percenter patch while you’re out, too.

Even though all of this gear might serve a purpose, keep in mind that you no longer have the manpower, logistics train or even the blessing that Uncle Sam normally provided you. You’re on your own (or at least with a small group) and odds are you might end up at odds with the hand that originally fed you.

If a situation arises where you are either on the defense or even (gods forbid) the offense, you need gear that will fit the situation. Sure, there will be times when a good chest rig, 5:11 grandpa pants and the latest Peltor headset will come in handy. But most of the time, looking suspiciously like a combatant won’t work in your favor- it is often best to blend in as best you can.

Chest Rig

Unless you’re operating defensively, you can probably ditch the chest plates. Two slabs of steel or ceramic are not worth the mobility you’re going to lose when you have to run for your life just to get supplies. There will be times when running with seven magazines (or even a rifle for that matter) just isn’t discreet or practical. Looking “too military” can provide you with a bad day if you find yourself getting caught doing… whatever it is you’re doing.

Don’t get me wrong. You’re going to need different tools for different jobs. However, much as the III percenters guarding recruiting stations and open carriers slinging rifles in Starbucks have taught us, sometimes being loud and proud isn’t the way to go.

2: Stay in Shape (Or Get Back In Shape)

Ah, the “veteran venti”. Much like the “freshman fifteen”, there is a distinct possibility that you are in nowhere as good a shape as you were. Maybe you put on a few pounds, developed health problems or just sound like a ratchet when you wake up and move around. Hitting up the local MMA or Gold’s might not be an option or maybe you don’t have the time.
Either way, you’re going to find yourself unpleasantly surprised when a quarter mile with equipment suddenly has you gripping at your chest.

donuts secured

There are a multitude of ways to get back in shape without violating your profile. From good old fashioned calisthenics to yoga and a good diet, it is entirely possible to maintain your physical condition…just be realistic about it.

Odds are, you’re not 23 anymore. Things wear down, blow out and cease functioning entirely. You have to do the best you can with what you have. Until we reach technological advances bordering on the Ghost In The Shell universe, you are stuck with the body you were born with.

3: Have a Realistic Approach to Any Situation

When you think SHTF, a variety of scenarios could come to mind. Some see a nuclear holocaust, some see martial law, others a zombie apocalypse of dramatic AMC-inspired proportions. The cliche “fortress” concept of barricading yourself in your home or the “Imma go inna woods with my SKS” can both prove to be equally absurd if they don’t match the parameters of the situation you are facing.

You can’t always have things going according to plan and you’re going to have to make sacrifices (or at the very least, adapt). For example, I have a family member who is severely diabetic, requiring special medicine and impairing his chances of survival, even in the short term. I and my immediate circle have to come to terms with the fact that he might not make it (but train him regardless), as well as make provisions to keep him alive as long as possible.

While human beings can exhibit great compassion in ideal conditions, we as a species are always one disaster, famine, war or otherwise cataclysmic event from turning on one another for resources or survival. You have to come to terms with the facts that you won’t be able to save everyone, you won’t be able to live or interact the same way in your community.

4: Network, Network, Network

All the stockpiles and caches in the world are useless if you’re unable to replenish or defend them. There is a common misconception among preppers that leads them to believe that they will defend their homestead from everyone, taking care of themselves and theirs only. This is an awesome way to live if you want to be killed by your neighbors or forced to resort to eating Junior’s dog after the food runs dry.

As with any individual, each individual possesses things they are good at and not so good at. These people are relatively vulnerable on their own in some aspect, which leads them to band together and form a community. Communities often fare much better than lone individuals or small bands.

Whatever skills you possess, you should hone and market them accordingly. Not everyone can be the warrior caste (even if you were in your prime) or the head of the group. In the end, everyone is a rifleman of sorts but you should still look to expand your horizons.

5: Train, Learn, Train

Knowledge is the ultimate weapon. While you learned many things from your time on this earth, a lot of those skills may be fading without your knowledge.

One of the most common sights I see is where once-hardened veterans find themselves lacking when forced to put lead to paper or pelt. They were a 40/40 in marksmanship back in the military, but now they are lucky to land rounds on steel at 100 meters, especially under stress. Some cite that they are in a location where range time is hard to come by, others say it is just too expensive to train with live ammunition.

To remedy this situation, I suggest doing dry fire drills as well as getting airsoft replicas of whatever weapons you have.

45 cal

Allowing the capability to train within the home (often with simulated recoil) as well as providing the right weight and dimensions of the real thing, airsoft can provide you and yours with the ability to not only save actual ammunition but provide fairly realistic and hands-on training, be it marksmanship or force-on-force scenarios.

In addition, another good method of training is educating yourself on various skills. From first aid to agriculture, there is so much a person can learn. I recently learned how to make certain antibiotics and do dental surgery in the field (the latter required the former). The internet is your friend in such matters, but it is important to either write things down or get hard copies of the information. There will be no “Okay Google” if there is no Google.

All in all, there are many ways to better prepare yourself for such events. While there are some harsh realities to face, there is nothing that can’t be accomplished when we allow ourselves to adapt and overcome.

Have any survival tips? Leave them in the comments below!

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  • Andy Wolf

    Andy Wolf is an Appalachian native who spent much of his youth and young adulthood overseas in search of combat, riches, and adventure- accruing decades of experience in military, corporate, first responder, journalistic and advisory roles. He resides in North Carolina's Blue Ridge Mountains with his K9 companion, Kiki.

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