Think Ahead – Be Prepared

It is better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it.

This is certainly a good rule to live by, and we preach daily preparedness constantly. But what happens when your life depends on just what you have on hand at that very moment? As native North Carolinians, the staff here at on the outside know all too well that our mild climate and temperate weather can turn nasty at the drop of a hat. Floods. Tornados. Hurricanes. And now, even an earthquake! One should expect the unexpected, and prepare for it accordingly.

Now, how to prepare? That, my friends, is up to you and the environment you are about to enter. Once you leave your doorstep each day, a myriad of things could happen to you, but most likely will not. Your job is to anticipate hardship and take the initiative, so that when things do happen, you can put your best foot forward to tackle the situation. Say, for instance, a flat tire. It happens to everyone. So what should you have? Your vehicle comes standard with the minimum of a spare tire, a jack and a tire iron, but it is also a good idea to have a flash light, a tire repair kit, a can of Fix-a-Flat, and some sort of high visibility marking like road flares or a safety vest at a minimum. Non-perishable food and a couple of bottles of water would also be a good idea to have on hand. Congratulations, you’ve just saved the day with a little preparation for the unknown. Too easy, right?

Now, apply that for your upcoming fishing trip. Anything could happen out on the water, and the odds can stack up quickly against you. The weather takes a turn for the worst before you are able to make it back to the marina. Your motor won’t start. Temperatures drop and your clothing is inadequate.You start taking on water. Catch my drift?

Before coming to Afghanistan, I tried to envision the worst possible scenario that could happen to me that would thrust me instantaneously into a survival situation. The worst event I could think of was an aircraft crash. Afghanistan is very mountainous in most places, and the majority of this mountainous landscape is extremely remote. I asked myself if I somehow survived the initial crash and was the lone survivor, how could I make it back alive? What challenges would I face? What if I couldn’t salvage anything from the wreck? What would I need to survive? Based on the answers I came up with to these questions, I constructed a survival kit that would hopefully provide me with the necessary tools to evade enemy forces and make it back to friendly lines, but is small enough to carry on a daily basis without being a nuisance.

Here’s what I packed:

  • Basic Language Booklets
    Afghanistan has several different languages and I don’t speak any of them, so it would be handy to be able to communicate with indigenous people if necessary. These also make good material for starting a fire.
  • High Visibility Fabric
    To signal passing aircraft.
  • 550 Cord
    Don’t go anywhere without it. Period.
  • Swiss Army Knife
    Combined with imagination, you’d be surprised what you can MacGyver your way out of with one of these.
  • Water Purification Tablets
    Self explanatory.
  • Lighter wrapped with Duct Tape
    A fire will be necessary to keep warm at higher elevations, but can only be used if hidden. Duct tape fixes everything. Why not bring some?
  • Infrared Strobe with 9V Battery
    Very useful when signaling aircraft or passing friendly troops at night.
  • Camo Face Paint
    This will be used to camouflage my exposed skin during evasion.
  • Signal Mirror
    To signal passing aircraft.
  • Pace Count Beads
    To help keep track of how far I’ve walked. A good rule of thumb is that 60 steps equals about 100 meters (count each time your left foot hits the ground).
  • Compass Lensatic
    It helps to know which direction I am travelling.
  • Tourniquet
    To stop the flow of blood on serious injuries to extremities.
  • Emergency Blanket
    These come in handy at night.
  • Infrared American Flag Patch
    This can be seen by aircraft and could be useful in identifying myself.
  • Food Source
    Calories will help you keep my strength up. It’s not much, but it is better than nothing.
  • Global Positioning System (GPS)
    I can save the crash site’s coordinates for future recovery efforts. With a map, I can easily find my location.

This kit is catered to an Escape and Evasion scenario in Afghanistan, but several of these items can be used in your own survival kit. What would you carry if you were in this situation?

A wise man once told me “Sh*t happens. It is how you deal with it that matters.” This is so true on so many levels. Keep that in mind when you are preparing your own survival kit. Things WILL happen. How will you react? Will you survive?