Survival for the Long Haul

Dear Black Bag Confidential Reader,

“Becoming a Navy SEAL is 100% physical and 100% mental.” 

This statement also applies to long-haul survival.

Some survival situations are going to require a much different approach than a mugging or a mall shooting. Much like what the residents of Puerto Rico are dealing with, sometimes the situation may require an effort over a period of weeks or months versus a few minutes or hours.

If you find yourself in a long-lasting survival scenario, all of the short-term rules still apply. However, you need to readjust your mindset and decision-making when confronted with a situation that includes a total loss of power, communications and drinkable water. This will require you to modify certain priorities while continuing to exercise mental and physical toughness to endure and survive.

You will have to place yourself physically — and even more so, mentally — into an efficient mode. Save your strength and resources, conserve your energy and shift into low gear. Stay positive, but say to yourself, “I may be in this for a long time.”

Just remember, your entire mission is survival — as long as that mission takes.

Change Your Mind

Long-haul survival is not only a mindset, but a mind shift.

To better illustrate this point, consider the difference between running one lap around a track and running to the next town. Or the difference between sitting down for Thanksgiving dinner and making that same plate of food last for 20 days — or feed 20 people.

Better yet, the example I like to use is that of a mountain goat (or for you off-roaders, four-wheel low gear). You need to think about gains in inches as you slowly crawl up that mountain — or closer to safety/rescue.

These inches become little victories. It’s one more breath, one more step, one more mile, one more day, one more sunrise. And the sum of these little victories is your survival.

I often think about what it must have taken for men like John McCain and the other POWs in the “Hanoi Hilton” in Vietnam. Enduring daily physical and mental torture for over seven years — the sum of that pain… Contemplate their situation and six days without food sounds like a walk in the park.

Like an Ant Eats an Elephant

Let’s say you are in a scenario that requires you to walk 100 miles to safety. Just reading that sentence will feel like an impossible task to most people.

So let’s make this task more mentally conceivable. At a very reasonable pace, you should be able to walk three–four miles in a couple hours. This will give you plenty of time in the remainder of the day to eat, drink and sleep.

If you walk this modest distance every day, you can complete this trek in about 30 days. This is a very realistic pace and a much more achievable scenario in which each day will bring you closer to your goal: survival.

Long-Haul Survival Checklist

Here are seven reminders that make up a mental inventory to help you stay positive and complete your goal in a long-haul survival situation:

✓ Stay busy

✓ Establish clear objectives

✓ Think in little victories

✓ Maintain group cohesion

✓ Assign individual responsibilities

✓ Worry about others’ needs

✓ The mission, the mission, the mission.

One of the advantages of being an officer in the SEALs was that I always had all eyes on me, which motivated me to remain at my best. I didn’t have time to think about how absolutely miserable I felt or how physically difficult the situation seemed.

I had decisions to make — and they had better be the right calls. If I showed any weakness (evidencing the effects of being cold, tired, nervous), it would trickle down the ranks and poison the men and the mission.

Follow these same rules and you will see how easily you, too, can take charge during a crisis.

Be a survivor, not a statistic…

Cade Courtley

Cade Courtley

P.S. No matter how mentally prepared you are, if you run out of water, you’re done. Be sure to have at least one quality survival water filter to provide drinkable water for you and your family in a long-term survival situation. Better yet, get two.

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