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Tuesday, July 6, 2010

How to Get to Your Retreat, by Tony Y.

You have spent large amounts of time and money getting prepared for the day that we all hoped would never come.  You have found a retreat, kept it stocked and have been prepared to leave when TEOTWAWKI strikes.  It’s now here, but have you prepared how to get to your retreat? One of the most critical tasks for survival in TEOTWAWKI is getting to your retreat in a safe and efficient manner. 

I was a US Army soldier who completed two year- long tours in Iraq working convoys.  I have written the following for civilians with no military or tactical experience to help them reach their retreat.  This is real basic information, so basic that much of it can often be overlooked. 

  You have prepared everything you could possibly think about for this day.  Have you prepared how to get to your retreat?   The closer your retreat is to your current location or home, the easier this will be on you.  It will be crucial knowing how to get to your retreat by memory and landmark identification.  During TEOTWAWKI, your cute GPS system may not be functioning.  This will also be the same with car assistance such as On Star.  Practice getting to your retreat without the aid of any type of electronic navigation system.  Know it by heart.  Know additional routes.  Knowing which one is quicker during certain parts of the day or which routes are under construction and are blocked off can mean the difference between life and death.  Have routes that take you out of the city or heavy urban environments and also routes that keep you off of main throughways including highways and freeways. 

There are several ways to do this.  Having a map of the area and along the routes to your retreat is ideal.  I would recommend having a military style map with grid patterns.  The reason behind this is if your retreat takes you out in the middle of nowhere, your vehicle becomes disabled and you need to walk it out, these maps are good for navigation on foot.  Having a city map of streets, parks etc are also going to be another way to get this done.  Knowing which street you are on or where you need to go is a must.  This will also help you with urban landmark association.  Both maps are good for their own reasons, having both will make you more aware of where you are.

Vehicle Preparation:
 Preparing your vehicle for this critical move is can be an overlooked task.  Having a proper vehicle to get you to your retreat also needs consideration.  We live in the land of Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs) and they should be considered for the task.  Driving to your retreat you may have to drive off road, in mud, ice or snow.  It would be one hell of a time to find out that your car could not do this.  Travel to your retreat during all seasons and weather conditions can give you a better idea of what to expect.  Having an SUV also provides a tougher vehicle to use to push through road obstacles or barriers.  Trucks are also a good source, but this is going to depend on who you are transporting and what type of equipment. 

Make sure that your vehicle receives its scheduled services.  Any problems that you have with your vehicle get it taken care of immediately.  Make sure simple things such as fluid levels, batteries and belt conditions are always full and in top condition.  Also check light bulbs and take care of your tires.  Your tires can make or break your trip.  Always get your tires rotated during services and replace them according to the manufacturer’s recommendation.  If you see any wear and tear in them or loss of air, do not even bother with tire sealant products.  They will just delay the inevitable. 

Necessary equipment that I would recommend:
  • Jumper cables-can make or break your journey
  • Spare tires - Plural.  Chances are that you will be driving through absolute chaos which will include debris in the roadway and subjection to gun fire.  Also consider a tire sealant product which is a very very distant second choice.
  • Extra Fuel- This is a no brainer.  Depending on how far your retreat is located.  This is where recon of the route will help you determine how much extra fuel is needed.
  • Vehicle Fluids- Water, Radiator fluid, oil.  Be prepared for these fluids leaking during your journey.
  • Vehicle spot light-This can be helpful if you need additional lighting to help you navigate. They are simple to use and can even plug into your cigarette lighter.
Know how to change your tires and what tools are required.  This will help you if you need to change your tire in a hurry with all of the TEOTWAWKI chaos around you.  If you have several people who are physically able to assist you in the event, assign everyone a task to reduce the time and effort.  Always leave someone in the driver seat in case you need to leave the scene and to ensure that no one takes your vehicle.  I would also recommend in taking some mechanical classes to help you understand how your vehicle works and to assist you in fixing or repairing your vehicle. 
Equipment:  Hopefully during this time, you are not packing your entire house.  I would highly recommend packing as little as possible.  When you do load your items, you need to consider securing, without them being able to move or shift around.  In the event you get into an accident, your items will shift and even fly around within your vehicle.  This can cause obvious injury but you can also lose them as they break through a window.  I would recommend bungee cables or even tow straps for large objects.  Just because you have a large item, does not mean that it will not move around. 

Roof racks are great and they save a lot of interior space.  However, during this journey, you should consider not advertising what you are transporting.  This will show everyone that you have those ten cases of MREs and water.  I would recommend if you are going to use roof racks or secure an item on the top of your vehicle put items you can afford to lose.  This is TEOTWAWKI, people will be in pure chaos and that will include ripping your items off of your vehicle.  As soldiers in Iraq can attest, the Iraqis would take anything off of your vehicle and get away with it.  This included climbing on truck ladders and getting boxes of water, MREs and even oil drip pans.  If it is not bolted down or inside of your vehicle, then consider it gone. 

Also keep in mind that if you are packing items in your trunk, make sure that you have easy access to spare tires and tools to assist you during a vehicle break down.  Having to unpack your car just to get to a spare tire and then repack your car when you are done is just dim-witted.  Prioritizing your items in what you absolutely need and what you don’t will help you in the event you need to bail from your vehicle and hike it out.  Keep your priority items easily accessible in the event you do need to bail.  This means don’t put them at the bottom of the pile!  Having a “Go bag” or “bail out” bag will expedite the process in the event that you need to leave.  Have all of your survival items in a back pack and grab it when you leave.

Convoy movement: 
If you have the luxury of traveling in a convoy here are some simple considerations.  Be advised that convoy movement is an entire book in itself.  This is real basic considerations for the non military type of person.  Your first vehicle is going to be the “leader” or “navigator.”  This person knows where they are going and will lead the rest of your group there.  It would be helpful and smart if everyone else knows where to go but the lead vehicle is the best at this job.  The lead vehicle should be tough and durable and will be used as a battering ram to whatever obstacles are encountered on the roadway.  Vehicle should have minimum amount of people inside. 

Vehicles that are in the middle of your convoy can be used as support vehicles if you feel comfortable.  If you have enough vehicles and expertise, you can have dedicated vehicles for specific tasks.  Such as a mechanic vehicle that is responsible for fixing or repairing other vehicles.  The use of medical vehicle can be very helpful.  A medical vehicle can be used to help people within your convoy or others that you may encounter. 
A weapon vehicle could also be considered.  Take this into consideration, if you are not familiar with guns or shooting, shooting from a moving vehicle is a completely different skill.  Bottom line, you will not hit anything.  Having a gun for personal protection in your vehicle is ideal, but shooting and driving is not.  If you have a vehicle dedicated to security they can be responsible for addressing possible threats while stopped or moving. 
Make sure there is constant communication with the other vehicles via radio.  You can also develop signals using your vehicle lights, turn signals and hazard lights.  Have a solid plan and make sure that everyone knows it. 

Driving behavior:
Depending on the situation is going to dictate how you drive.  However, you will always drive defensively.  If complete chaos is everywhere, then drive more aggressively.  Be aware of your surroundings and what people are doing.  This is not the time to stop and help everyone.  You need to be extremely cautious and protective of you and your vehicles.  You will see old guerilla type tactics being used during times of desperation.  The most common tactic will be to have you stop your vehicle.  This is used with children walking into the roadway to get you to stop.  Once you are distracted with the child, several armed subjects will attempt to rob you, or take your vehicle.  This can also be accomplished with obstacles in the roadway.  Another common insurgent tactic is to disable your vehicle and then attack while you are busy repairing your vehicle.  I do not believe that during this time you will have to worry about Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs).  They are used to destroy vehicles, and destroying your vehicle would be no benefit to anyone.  However, they can be used to keep people off of a certain roadway.

For those of you contemplating adding some sort of armor or fortifications to your vehicle there are things to consider.  First off, this can take an extremely long time. If you add slabs of metal or other material you still have to secure it in a manner that would not be dangerous if you got into an accident.  Adding more heavy material can create too much weight for your vehicle and dramatically slow you down and hinder the vehicle performance.  My recommendation would be individual body armor, or bullet resistant vests.  They are much lighter than your vehicle additions and can be worn outside of the vehicle.  During TEOTWAWKI defense during driving is going to be your driving.  Drive straight and fast and cautious. 

In conclusion, this is a straight forward approach to get you to your retreat.  This is geared more towards people with no military training or tactical experience.  The more people you have in your convoy the better coverage and expertise you can add to your team.  There are many things that you can add to this.  Just because it sounds good does not mean that it could work.  If you would like further information on convoy driving you should refer to the US Army Convoy Leader Training Handbook.

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