Monday, October 22, 2007

Keep Your Hatchet Scoured...

Most of you have seen it: the online picture of someone in all of their kit, standing in front of a bedroom door. The kit is of course, brand-spanking new. Pristine. Unused. Another variation on the theme is a photo of a knife. The owner is very proud that he owns this blade and is planning on surviving the apocalypse with this baby strapped to his side. And there is not a scratch or blemish on it. It is unused. Mint. Beautiful.

I really dislike those photos. Here is someone purporting to be ready to “take on all comers” with their Super Gear and it is obvious they have never used it. You can be assured it is top of the line, name-brand stuff. They KNOW it’s good because their Internet warrior buddies and all the magazines tell them it is. They don’t want to actually USE it because then it won’t be perfect when it’s go time.

By the same token, I really dislike observing poorly maintained gear. You know – the rusty knife, the mildewed tent, the gear that has been sitting around in a box for the past two months with caked on mud. Well-used is okay (in fact, it’s great); poorly maintained is a sin.

Long ago, back in the day, in a land far, far away we had this phrase: Maintenance is Training and Training is Maintenance. Basically, it meant that when you were spending time taking care of gear you were not wasting time –you were actually training. Training to maintain.

So often today we will schedule time for training – say we plan on departing Friday after work for a BoB campout and we will get home late Sunday night just in time to get some shut eye before getting back to the daily grind on Monday – but we fail to schedule time for maintenance. So our stuff just gets tossed into the garage or basement, or gear bay or whatever in some kind of sorry condition and not really dealt with until just before our next great adventure when we pull it all out to pack and then clean some of it up.

One problem with that approach is that your gear is not ready to immediately redeploy. Let’s look at a volunteer fire department. Most of their calls are medical calls and car wrecks. When the alarm goes off, these volunteers stop what they were doing, rush to the station, grab a fire truck and report to the scene. After the call is over, the truck is parked back in the bay and all the volunteer firefighters go back to what they were doing – mowing the lawn, sleeping, eating supper, whatever. Unless it was a fire.

When fighting a fire there is a lot of water (duh) and everything gets wet. Then everything gets muddy and sooty. Hose lines are all over the place and when the fire is finally out the real work is just beginning. The firemen have to clean the dirty, wet hoses, hang them up to dry, clean equipment and hang IT up to dry and repack hoses on trucks. All so that the department is ready to respond to another call should it come an hour later. This is not exciting work. There is no adrenalin rush – in fact much the opposite. There is that low that comes after the adrenalin rush of fighting a large fire. No one likes doing all this maintenance (invariably at three in the morning) but all realize the importance of it. Lives could depend on our gear.

Back to personal equipment. You have to use it to know what it and you are capable of. You have to maintain it to have it ready to go when you need it. Robert Rogers had a list of standing orders for his Rangers. One of them was “Keep your hatchet scoured and your musket clean as a whistle”. Do you think Rogers' Rangers all sported brand new hatchets and muskets? Of course not. They were well used. And well maintained.

Some of this maintenance is done in the field. Things like, well – scouring hatchets and cleaning muskets. Sure, it’s nice to have good light and all your cleaning solvents arrayed on your table with the little rubber pad and a rack to hold your weapon. But sometimes you have to do it sitting under a bush, in the rain, while your buddy pulls security. Some of this maintenance requires training. There are a lot of Rambos out there who don’t know how to sharpen their knives – let alone carry proper gear with them to do it in the field. Knives get dull when you use them. That’s why we constantly touch them up. A stitch in time saves nine - like in your pants. But first, one must learn how to do so.

I think one big reason for the photogenic warrior survivalists that populate the ‘net is that they don’t know HOW to maintain their gear and thus are afraid of using it and getting it into a state where it requires said maintenance. What they need to do is LEARN how to maintain their gear. As with everything else, we learn by doing.

There are three levels of maintenance. Field Maintenance is what we do while in the timber (or sand, or on the water, etc). It is that woman cleaning her rifle under the bush (ha! and you though only dudes did this stuff – wrong!), it is that scouring of hatchets and so on. Heck we even maintain our FEET in the field with fresh socks, foot powder and massages. Happiness is a warm, dry pair of socks – oh yes it is.

Deep Maintenance is what we do when we get back from the field – that is the detailed stripping down of the rifle for cleaning, replacing worn parts, washing things, re-waterproofing gear and so on. This requires a bit of time and a PLAN. The goal is to have your gear in as near perfect shape as possible before storing it.

Finally there is Routine Maintenance. You know, cleaning that rifle you haven’t shot for six months, treating the wooden handles on your rakes and hoes and shovels, making sure the moths have not invaded your sweater bin and so on.

It is best to have plan for maintenance. You list makers out there ought to love this one. You can have one spread sheet for when you are going to maintain all your different pieces of gear and other spread sheets for each bit of kit that list all the things to be checked, replaced, touched up, etc. Go get ‘em! I’ve said before - I ‘m not a list maker. I just know what has to be done. I think the list makers are probably more efficient and reliable than I am – if they follow up and actually DO what is on their lists. But I do get it done. You can do it any way you want - as long as you get it done.

This blog is about preparedness.
You are not prepared to use your gear if you have not really used it in the past; if you have not pushed it to it’s limits in the mud and the rain, and snow and the heat.
You are not prepared if your gear is jammed into the basement in some sorry poorly maintained state.

Training is Maintenance – Maintenance is Training.

Proverbs 27:17 Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.

See you out there.
If you have any comments I’d love to hear them.
If they really interest me, I may even post them.
You can reach me at

Prepared Americans for a Strong America

Monday, October 15, 2007

I'm Back!

Guys and Gals, I have not abandoned you. I have just been incredibly busy these last eight weeks or so. I have taken a few courses and classes and taught more. As an instructor I need to stay sharp, stay on top of the latest concepts and ideas out there and yes, have fun too. To that end, I recently took Gabe Suarez's Extreme Close Quarters Gunfighting. I am not exaggerating when I say I have had the privilege to receive some of the best handgun training in the world over the past 20 years or so. Until I took Gabe's course, I had a rucksack full of techniques that worked for me. Let's just say Gabe emptied my ruck on the sand and kicked a lot of my techniques to the woodline. I have changed the way I operate with a handgun. I unreservedly recommend Gabe as an instructor. He is a true Christian Warrior and at the top of his game.

I was also signed up for a SouthNarc class that I really wanted to attend but it was an on-again-off-again affair and I had competing requirements for that weekend so I pulled out. My bud took his wife to the course and it was evidently as good as ever. SouthNarc is another guy who is operating on the cutting edge of combatives and I will get to one of his courses eventually.

I've been upping my martial arts training as well - I currently have two private instructors and they do their best to smoke my brain and my body every week. I have also been trying to get some good long runs in before the snows come and I am relegated to the treadmill. I have been flirting with the idea of taking up ultra marathons again but I don't think I can dedicate the time I need to to make it work. Basically I'd need to give up four to six hours every Saturday for longer runs and I am really tight on time right now.

I have been instructing combatives during the week and am signed up to give a week long class to a group of warriors in the next week or so. In the past month I've conducted two women's self-defense courses and have been contracted by a high school to teach a one-day course there later this month.

The last three weekends, including all of last week I've been out in the timber teaching wilderness survival and SERE courses and I have another one-day course coming up in two weeks.

I am in the final third of a book I am writing and which I hope to have out next year sometime - my last student convinced me to get back on it and finish it. For that, he'll get a free copy!

That, plus my "normal" duties, should help explain why I've been away from the computer.

I resolve to do better.

Keep the mail coming - I don't publish it all, but I do read it all.

See you out there.
If you have any comments I’d love to hear them.
If they really interest me, I may even post them.
You can reach me at

Prepared Americans for a Strong America