Thursday, July 23, 2009

On Sherry, ALICE, and Personal Growth

This afternoon I was reminiscing about my family’s journey through the survivalist movement and I remembered Sherry. Thinking about her reminded me of how she helped my wife make some big personal strides. So, if you’re out there – Thanks, Sherry.

Back in the mid 1990’s my wife and I decided to “join the movement” in that we took the decision to get out there and start interacting with other survivalists who were, at that point, complete strangers to us. It was a big step for us. We had always been “into preparedness” but we kept our preparations to ourselves. This whole aspect is fodder for other blog entries but today I want to discuss weight and gear.

When we started hanging out with these folks and started joining teams and starting teams (we moved around a lot back then) there was a distinctly military flair to everything. Everyone, including the kids, wore woodland pattern BDUs; everyone wore boonie hats; everyone wore LCE/LBE (combat suspenders and gear – more later) and everyone carried ALICE packs. I’m telling you no matter where you were - from the Southeast to the Northwest - everyone was very similar. The only difference was the rifle – was the group carrying AKs or ARs?

Like many dutiful husbands, I strongly influenced my wife’s decision about what her BOB contained. It was a medium ALICE ruck and probably weighed about 50 or 60 pounds. We used to take hikes carrying our BOBs but we never wore our LBE or carried rifles unless it was a bona-fide training event. My wife was always got tired but gamely struggled to complete her hikes and she wasn’t real happy. Then she met Sherry.

We attended a gathering of over 100 people several states from our home and conducted classes, networked, ate, trained and made friends for life. There were folks there from all over the country and from outside the country. They were by and large the most normal people you’d ever want to meet…if you could overlook the BDUS and guns. One of the classes was on BOBs and what should go in them. Sherry was there and made some side comments that caught my wife’s attention. Sherry was something of a legend in the Survivalist community – she had been there and done that for years, she was around when several then famous groups got their start, and she “knew stuff”. Later that evening she and my wife had a long discussion around the campfire about BoBs for girls. (I’m sure they didn’t call it that but that’s what it was).

The weekend after we returned home as we were restocking our BoBs (very important) my wife made a big pile of stuff she was no longer going to carry. I told her all of that stuff she was discarding was vital for her survival and she replied no it was not. We went back and forth a bit and then she played her trump card – “this is what Sherry carries.” At that time Sherry knew more about this stuff than I did – and I realized that. So suddenly my wife was carrying a BoB that weighed about half of what it used to. ALICE went from overweight to downright svelt!

Most of the teams we were on conducted training every month or so. Every event we attended revolved around classes on a variety of topics. One thing we seemed to do a lot of back in the day was patrolling, moving and shooting, and general Infantry skills. Because, you know – we were going to have to fight off the Godless Communists some day. As I said above, folks wore LCE. This was way before combat vests got popular and everyone knew Alice but no one had ever heard of Mollie. Most folks wore a pistol belt with suspenders and on this rig suspended two canteens, two 3-magazine ammo pouches, a first aid kit (pouch with a dressing or two) a sheath knife, an FRS radio, and sometimes a buttpack, flashlight and so on. This was our “fighting load” our “line two gear” and so on. It was stuff we would need in a fight against an armed foe.

We would give classes on how to properly adjust and wear this gear, we’d hop up and down to make sure it didn’t make noise, tape off things that did make noise and then we would go for long walks in the woods or low crawl in the dirt or use Infantry movement techniques (kinda like flag drills in football) to rush objectives and then live fire and so on. Yeah, it was like that…

Anyway, one day my wife and I arrive at the team training location and everyone starts donning gear. We carried it in kit bags. Instead of putting on her battle harness, my wife donned the gear in the picture. I said something like, “Hon, come on – everyone is getting suited up in the SOP gear – you need to put yours on”.

“Nope – that stuff is too heavy.”

“But Hon, that stuff is vitally important for your survival in combat”

Then she told me, she had water, she had first aid, she had extra ammo and she had a knife and a flash light. No, she wasn’t carrying six extra mags – she decided she just couldn’t handle the weight. In case you can’t see the picture clearly (but it you click on it, it should expand) she had a Camelbak to which she taped a trauma dressing and she carried an extra magazine in a buttstock pouch (which she purchased on her own). She carried a folding Buck knife and a mini Maglight in her pocket as well. Okay, the mini Maglight is not in the pic, but you get the idea…

That was the day I realized my wife had “arrived” in a tactical gear sense – she was thinking on her own. Heck, she “discovered” tactical Camelbacks a decade before our military did!

Soon after that, she quit wearing BDUs and started wearing earth-toned “civilian” clothes. “NAFS” (it’s not a fashion show) she would tell me. I no longer had to dress up Survivalist Barbie and take her to the woods to play – she understood all by herself.

Today I see all manner of Gear Hounds out there in the “movement”. They buy all the latest stuff and deck themselves out at events. Special high speed camouflage, vests, pouches, holsters, optics, yada-yada ad-nauseum. They are for the most part doing what they think is best. Many are imitating our brave soldiers fighting Over There.

You know, when we first sent regular troops into the Afghanistan mountains after the bad Muj, we sent our boys up there on foot with well over 100 pounds of high-speed light weight (and some not-so-light) gear. Extra ammo, water, SAPI plates, helmets, batteries, radios, optics, cold weather gear, goggles, first aid (“blow out) kits, and on and on and on and on until they were in many cases just crushed under the weight of the approach march. A march thousands of feet above sea level. News flash - there is no oxygen up there – especially when one is not acclimated.

They were fighting dudes who wore man dresses and sandals, carried an AK and 2 or 3 extra magazines and a blanket. Sometimes a small canteen, sometimes a knife – but often not. They had stuff stashed all over those hills. They LIVED there – they could breath. It was very hard catching those dudes. These were (these are) men who have been fighting in those hills for hundreds of years – and they still are.

Hey – I know high speed gear is cool. I know we love to take pictures of ourselves wearing it and post them to the net (at least take them in the back yard and not in your living or bedroom please…). But I offer you this: Consider just what it is you are carrying and why exactly you are carrying it. Consider what your real physical condition is. And then consider lightening the load some more.

It worked for Sherry.
It worked for my wife.
It works for the locals running around the hills in Afghanistan.
It will probably work for you too.

Cast thy burden upon the LORD, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved. Psalms 55:22

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 Joe

You can also join us to discuss this and other issues at Viking Preparedness Forums

Prepared Americans for a Strong America


At 27/7/09 19:07, Blogger Mattexian said...

I think this is one of my favorite posts here, I keep coming back to it these last couple of days. Your wife was wise to recognize Sherry's wisdom, that we (as today's Minutemen) don't have to be kitted out to the extent that we need an oxen team to haul our individual gear. I've been reassessing my gear, for hiking/backpacking and "just in case", with an eye toward lightening it. It's more fun in the wilds if one isn't dog-tired from being a pack mule!

At 30/7/09 03:53, Blogger Mongo said...

Ayup.... rings of truth.

Some of the most serious folks I have met over the years... people who list their job as 'putting the holes in donuts'... dress simply in muted durable civvy clothes and carry a simple lap top briefcase with a very strong shoulder strap.

'Tis enough, if the knowledge is there.

At 25/1/12 20:43, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Per your suggestion, I read the article. I concur. While I believe it's completely acceptable to leverage the available technology and assets for use, I think most "patriots/minutemen/militiamen/etc" try to hard to look like they just finished the Q, or a SOT/SFAUC MTT.


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