We all have our plans and our preps, but when was the last time you conducted a functional test, with all of your gear? Getting out and doing a functional test, like a I describe below, allows you to adjust things before there is a true emergency and it’s good training.
Here’s what the Ultimate Tactical Handbook says about training:
Practice these things, immerse yourself in them,
So that all may see your progress.
1 Timothy 4:15
You won’t know if you’re making progress or truly ready if you don’t test yourself.
I recently adjusted my belt set-up and web gear, as well what goes in my patrol pack. While I regularly ruck for training with the pack, I hadn’t worn both with a full load-out of gear and water.
I had some free time this morning and decided to do a functional test.
It’s important first to define rucking for real-world training, versus competitive rucking. Rucking began as military road marching; moving a large force by foot over a long distance quickly. People now do it for fitness, and they strive for time, which is NOT what should be after for post-SHTF training or WROL (Without Rule of Law) training.
Let me just say that in a SHTF/WROL situation if you are doing a road march, on a road, very fast, you’ve either had very poor planning or things have gone very, very wrong, and a forced march along a road is only going to make them worse.
When I ruck, I go for stealth. We’re not talking about creeping, we’re talking about moving at a good pace, while remaining as quiet and unnoticeable as possible.
The point of that is two-fold. First, you want to see people before they see you. In a WROL situation, people equal danger. I’d rather see others, take up a secure position, and watch them pass by, than to just blunder into them because I want to make good time.
The second point is that in a true WROL situation, hunting will be an on-going activity, that you do constantly, rather than a planned activity. If you’re moving slowly and quietly off-road, you multiply your chances of coming across the opportunity to score some lean protein. In fact, I encountered two deer today during my test.
To make it a true test, I put on full gear. That meant boots, web gear, assault/patrol pack, and a USMC Issue Goretex Parka with out the liner. The pack had gear and food for 72 hours, which is the bare minimum you should carry, regardless of how long you think you’ll be out. The men of Task Force Ranger left the wire with light supplies as far as food & water for a mission supposed to last an hour in Mogadishu in 1992. Most of them ended up in the field for nearly 48 hours. Take extra. I have two full USGI canteens on the web gear.
Again, I recommend at least a camouflage jacket if you’ll be in a rural setting. People argue about going gray man, but nothing is more gray than not being seen.
Imagine that the power has been out for 3 weeks and you’re walking away from the city. You’re in a wooded area and someone observes you. If you’re wearing jeans, and a plain jacket, but wearing a full backpack, the first thing the people who observe you think is, “That guy has food”. If I’m wearing camouflage, they may not see me, but if they do, and see me moving carefully in full kit, they’ll think “soldier” and “if I can see one, there’s probably a lot more”. Which is more conducive to your survival?
When I conduct training rucks in a public park with trails, I carry my metal tactical walking stick, but I carry it as if I’m carrying a rifle. Carrying an actual rifle in an urban trail park is a sure way to draw attention to yourself. I carry the walking stick in my hands to prevent me from training to use my hands to help me negotiate obstacles. By never taking my right hand from the stick, I’m training for how I would move in a true WROL situation. Train for real life.
Almost immediately, I realized the difference in weight with the water, but I was certainly manageable. But just moving in full gear wasn’t the only part of the test.
I hiked for a couple of miles, then came to a site that I intended to use for a temporary halt. To train and build the discipline into my memory, I visually cleared the area around my halt site, and found a covered and concealed spot off the trail to use.
Once I got into the covered and concealed spot, I took off the gear and went to work quietly. I first set up a canteen cup stove and started cooking a field lunch using trioxane tablets, rather than a fire (quick heating and low signature). While the food was cooking, I attached my roll-up antenna to my radio, tossed the antenna into a tree using paracord. While in the spot, I wrote some notes, and ate the lunch, simulating a tactical halt.
Once ready to move again, I secured the radio antenna, putting the regular one back on, and putting the radio back on the web gear. I sterilized the cooking area, cleaned the stove and my super-cool tactical spork using snow and wet-wipes, and bagged up the trash. In a true WROL situation, I would have buried the trash, but since this was a public trail system I packed it out.
I also covered the area that I had cleared for cooking with snow, to conceal the area, and I made sure that there was no sign of my rest halt before moving out. I then hiked my way back.
When I crossed a small road, I didn’t just cross it. I performed the crossing like I would in a real situation. I paused in a concealed position and watched for a few minutes, then crossed quickly. Once I cleared the immediate area on the far side of the crossing, I then found a covered and concealed spot and watched the road again, as well as the area I had come from.
In a WROL situation, bad people will be out. If a group of people were watching the road to ambush traffic, they may have seen me cross, and then begin to follow. By pausing and watching behind me for a few minutes, I make sure that no one emerges to follow me. By also watching the area I had just come from, I make sure that no one is following me.
If you develop these habits now, during training, you don’t have to try to remember them later.
Another skill to practice is that while I was off the trails, moving cross country, when I noticed someone walking on the trail below, I got behind a tree, and watched him pass, while remaining hidden. I moved in relation to the guy, keeping trees stacked between me and him, making sure that I could see him, but he couldn’t see me. In a WROL situation, I would have been protected from incoming fire, while being able to engage the target.
It’s important to note that I wore camouflage gloves, a camouflage hat, and a camouflage face mask for the exercise. Yes, the gloves and mask made me hot, but we are training for realism, not comfort.
The functional test showed that I need to adjust the location of a couple of items on my belt, so it served it’s purpose. I also could feel the extra weight in my legs, so the next few rucks will be in full gear again.
I also learned that at 36 degrees, wearing the Goretex parka, even without the liner, was way too much. I live in Michigan, and I pride myself on my cold tolerance. I generally don’t put on a light jacket until the temps are below 30, and I don’t put on a full winter coat until below 20. Because it had snowed, I wore the Goretex over a long sleeve shirt and I was drenched in sweat by the end. Lesson learned.
This is the exact purpose of the test; to determine what works, what doesn’t, and what adjustments need to be made. You also develop confidence by being out in nature, setting up a position, and making actual food in the wild.
Next up on my functional tests – putting on my “Get Home” pack and dressing in gray man gear, and making an escape & evasion ruck in an urban environment. After that – an overnight rucking trip.
Get out and conduct a functional test.