When I was serving with 3rd Bn. 7th Marines, Lima Company as a grunt, getting "down and dirty" was normal for me. Having only my pack and essential gear showed me life was best lived simple! Sure, it was nice to get a hot shower here and there or sleep in a nice comfortable bed but I also knew it wasn't essential. I learned that simplicity in life was really what made me feel normal and frankly, happier. The more we went out into the field the more I started to analyze and change what things I carried with me. I started to adjust my gear to what was actually practical to bring, gear-wise as opposed to just the mandatory junk we had to carry..lol!
When I went to go train in Bridgeport, CA for Mountain Warfare Training, it was there that I really got to learn a lot about bushcraft and survival. Being stationed in Twentynine Palms, CA most of my enlistment, which was in the middle of the Mojave Desert, we mainly focused on desert survival and tactics so getting to go train up in the mountains was a nice change of pace and learning experience for me.
When I reflect upon those days and the training I received, a lot comes to mind about the reality of how you define survival. On one hand, I wished we had spent more time out there being able to do more and experience more. On the other hand, the real mission of military training is based on a collaborative and group affect where this just doesn’t transfer over real well into civilian life where you don’t have this massive support system and tons of people to be right there with you working together. As service members, we are dependent upon the government to supply, train, support and take care of all of us who are serving. Whereas, in civilian life, what you know and are able to do or carry out rests completely upon you alone and the resources you are able to get a hold of.
After being in the military, I feel there are a lot of crazy ideas that surround people’s ideas of survival or prepping. Some view it as some kind of preparation for a civil war trying to invade our homes and property or to take away our freedoms. While others have this fear that the government will enact Marshall Law and put people in concentration camps while removing whole groups of people. So they stock up on guns and create these bunkers and so on. And yes, I do think these ideas are completely crazy and unrealistic and fueled by foolish ideas and fear that plague people’s far-out imaginations.
So, when I think about how survival is defined through my own journey and thoughts, I think of it as simply doing the best that you can to survive by educating yourself and preparing for difficult things you might be forced to face. Also, when I think of survival skills, I frankly see them as the skills you need and should have in order to use in any kind of difficult circumstances you could find yourself in. You want to be able to protect your life and those around you such as your family and loved ones.
Mors Kochanski once said, "I have yet to find anyone, even myself, accurately define survival," which makes complete sense. How can we sincerely define it since the variables one could encounter are indeed immeasurable and innumerable? It could be you get caught in a huge winter storm with little resources, or go camping and someone gets injured in the process, it could be losing your home and becoming homeless, the possible variables are just endless but very real.
However, if we were to list the many possible dangers or challenges, one thing would become evident is that compiling a list of skills and gear would be needed in order to lay out how each problem should be solved or what actions should be carried out to help deal with those dangers.
Rethinking things in my own life was what began my own personal journey to earnestly seek these things out for myself. It also became a sincere desire to teach and pass down to my children the real skills they need and can use for the rest of their life and pass down to their children as well. I tell my kids all the time, ignorance is not bliss, it’s what affects your ability to know how to do something, and it’s the disadvantage of not knowing there is a solution that’s the problem.
Teaching my children the Bible has always been my first priority. Helping them learn to live morally and ethically with others has been my passion. But, the more I delved into those things the more I felt I was missing other parts I needed to have as well. As I began to sincerely see and ponder how those in the Bible lived, I began to see the skills they had and we don’t that I began to search out and learn these lost skills. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, King David, the list goes on, were truly the ultimate Bushcrafters! Unfortunately, I realized I had become much like everyone else out there who are a product of their own environment. A generation left to reclaim and learn the skills, we were not taught, nor given by our elders as we ought to have been.
As a whole, my own generation has not been learning nor preserving these skills as those of long ago generations once taught, passed down and lived by. But rather, we have been forced because of our previous generation’s failures to preserve this knowledge and pass down these things down to us to search out these answers for ourselves. And those who have sought out these things have had to toil severely to acquire this knowledge which we owe a sincere gratitude for that. It’s hard to see how the morals and values of each generation can be lifted up one minute then completely gone the next. I thank God for His moving the hearts of people who are out there who aren't following the social norms of life but are teaching people, what some may call primitive skills, and passing them down for others to hold onto and learn.
However, in all this there still lies huge gaps and disconnections in survival methodology. Because of these gaps I have been on a journey to learn and grow and hopefully, if possible, I can help in any way I can with what I have learned and hope to learn to bring about positive change.
Avi Ben Shalom: