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Survival Group Selection: Would You Take Yourself?

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Editor’s Note: This post is another entry in the Prepper Writing Contest from GoodPrepper. If you have information for Preppers that you would like to share and possibly win a $300 Amazon Gift Card to purchase your own prepping supplies, enter today.


Survival groups whether you call them that, a Mutual Aid Group, “The Team”, or any other monikers have become ever more popular over the past few years. While I think this is a fantastic idea for those of us that see what is coming I also see a lot of online bragging in forums about how “prepared” their group is followed by 3 paragraphs detailing firearms purchases and maybe some references to a few members being ex-military. Tactical skills are great but I see two problems with the way most individuals and groups approach them.

First, people tend to focus nearly 100% of their time, money, and attention on the sexy gun stuff with nearly nothing left over for the other skills that make for a well-rounded survival group.

Second they tend to overestimate their tactical abilities. I once heard it said that buying a gun (or dozens of them) doesn’t make you a marksman any more than buying a piano makes you a pianist. Having been in the military doesn’t necessarily mean a person has much competency with firearms. Many units only get to the range twice a year and almost never with pistols. Add to that the vast majority of those in the military (all branches) aren’t trigger pullers but rather are in support functions sitting on the FOB or on a ship out at sea and you will see why having even someone with a deployment under their belt also doesn’t guarantee you have a gunfighter on your hands. I myself was in the army for 15 years to include a year in Afghanistan but recently I had to come to face the fact that I was a mediocre marksman and a poor gunfighter (2 different things) at best. Now after several years of spending thousands of dollars on quality training instead of buying more guns (I couldn’t properly fight with) I have improved by leaps and bounds and wish I had half these skills when I was deployed.

Are you as good as you think you are with a firearm? On a related side note how is your gear? Of course you won’t know the answer to this unless you have gone out and run it hard in a realistic class setting. I recently had a coworker that went out and bought the latest cool guy holster everyone on the internet told him the Israeli soldiers were using (so it must be good then, right?). He went to a class I recommended for him and 30 minutes into the class the holster broke into pieces. Had he not gone out and really run the thing he would have been potentially betting his life on a bad piece of kit.

I myself was in the army for 15 years to include a year in Afghanistan but recently I had to come to face the fact that I was a mediocre marksman and a poor gunfighter.

But back to the topic at hand, if many survival groups are mainly made up of people whose only skill set is “providing security” and for some reason you found yourself looking to join a group either now or after a collapse, would you take you? If you are honest with yourself the answer is probably “no”. The reason is, you’re just not worth the calories it takes to feed you when running gun battles might only be occurring 0.001% of the time in any given week or month depending on your location (if they are more than that you might want to relocate). So the next question is what other skills do you have or can you develop to be worth someone taking you in?

What skills do you bring to a survival group?

I personally see the following as the new member value hierarchy. This is based on the composition of prepper groups I have seen firsthand or read posted about. If your entire group is made up of a commune of expert farmers and ranchers then that skill set would obviously not be as high a priority. So in order of low to high for me:

Guy with a gun– Low value, even lower if they have the low skill-set and poor equipment many firearm owners do. (90+% of preppers)

Guerrilla Gardening

Gardener– Someone who regularly kept a backyard garden, this person might also have learned to can their excess. You definitely won’t have to shoot it out with the zombie mutant biker hordes every day but you do need to eat every day! (20% of preppers….most preppers meant to develop this skill but “never got around to it”, “didn’t have space”, or “insert other excuse here”).

Communications person– Someone who knows their stuff, not the guy that went out and bought the $30 Baofeng UV-5r and plans to learn how to use it later and doesn’t want to get licensed because “when the SHTF there won’t be no FCC around to stop me”. I’m talking about someone who has accumulated the extensive equipment required and trains on it regularly. This guy can run something like PSK31 digital mode transmission to still communicate around the world during even the most challenging propagation conditions. He might also be your power person because he has spent a lot of time researching batteries and solar setups to keep his rig running while out in the field for extended periods. This guy might even be higher up than I have listed, after all without him you might literally not know what is going on in the world beyond what you can see from your window. (Less than 5% of preppers)

Someone who knows their stuff, not the guy that went out and bought the $30 Baofeng UV-5r

Farmer/Rancher– This person devoted their livelihood to raising food – either vegetables or livestock of some combination of both. They understand how to produce on a large-scale and how to deal with procuring the inputs needed and dealing with the unused byproducts. (Less than 5% of preppers)

Medical professional– TRUE medical professional. While taking a CPR class and buying an Israeli bandage is nice this is not the same thing as being in the medical profession. Also while natural medicine has its place as off the shelf medicine becomes scarce you will want someone who has experience operating on people at an EMT level or above to address trauma and is expert at diagnosing larger issues such as whether an infections requires a gram positive or gram negative antibiotic to treat. (Less than 1% of preppers meet this category.)

In SHTF, you won’t be able to count on medical treatment being available.

I’ve surely missed some here like skill sets here like someone who is an expert in human waste sanitation, or a logistician that can track your supply usage or even something more exotic like a blacksmith. Part of this is because I don’t think these are full-time jobs unless you have a very large group and partly because the purpose of this article isn’t to feed you the right answers. What I want to get you thinking about is that if you step back and look at what your own group would need or imagine the needs of a group you are looking to join, would you take someone like yourself in?

You might not like the answer so pick something higher up the hierarchy and get to work! Much like anyone that tells you that they don’t have 20 minutes a day 3-4 days a week to exercise is lying so is anyone that says they don’t have the time or money to learn a new skill. You may not be able to become a doctor but in my case I decided I would become a ham radio operator. It seemed daunting, I didn’t grow up around this stuff and in the military I just called over the S-6 private to fix my radio in the MRAP whenever it wasn’t working. Turns out it is VERY EASY and inexpensive to get your license in amateur radio. Whole articles have been written about it but I will say it really only takes about 45 minutes of studying every night for 10 days to 2 weeks and then about $10 (or sometimes free) to sit the test and you’re on your way with a Technician class ticket. Now get to know the old guys at the ham club in your town that administered the test and you’ll be amazed at how generous they are with their time, they’ll even let you use their equipment for free! Plus who here doesn’t know how to use YouTube to learn almost any new skill….for free! I’ve since upgraded to General and then Extra class (the highest level). I have put together a highly portable mobile set up and I get out in the field to test my equipment and refresh my skills at least twice a month. That’s just one example of how you can build worth as a group member beyond being the “gun guy”.

Lastly if you decide you only care about guns and are “too cool” to learn anything else at least learn as much as you can not only in training and tactics but also maintenance and repair. Attend an armorer course and acquire the tools and spare parts to do the work. You still won’t be worth as much to me as a farmer but you won’t be a dime a dozen.

I realize this article might offend some but hopefully it gets you thinking and honest about your value especially if you are currently a “lone wolf” looking for a pack. People have covered how to find other preppers but I wanted to include some information on how to be as valuable as possible once you find them. Good luck and get learning!

23 Comments

  1. Proactive438

    December 17, 2016 at 7:29 pm

    Being well rounded is better then being single skilled in a SHTF situation.

    • ReppinThe12

      December 17, 2016 at 9:23 pm

      Jack of all trades, master of none.

    • Mike Harris

      June 17, 2017 at 3:40 pm

      I actually disagree with probably most people on this topic. When we talk about jack-of-all trades we should be more specific on what that actually means. I agree that having people that are crossed trained in different yields of preparedness applications is good however from my experience having a SME (subject matter experts) is paramount to success. This may just be the Military way of thinking in me but I feel it’s important to note. Cross training in my opinion is best served when working with a SME. My background is CSAR and in my team I’m the medical SME. Its great that all my guys are cross-trained in medical applications because they can help dividends but having an expert “SME” is really paramount for the success of the patient. Because the skills of the jack-of-all trade personnel is one that is rudimentary (meaning it can be taught in a short time). So yes in a scenario where you are by yourself I would say a jack-of-all trade is good, being a jack-of-all trade is overall helpful for sure. But if I was recruiting for a team I would personally want some SMEs because they will be able to bring the knowledge base up and teaching them rudimentary will be just that. Especially when it comes to certain applications and process like medical and engineering the basics are not enough. I hold many medical credentials from TCCC to ACLS to completion of numerous military medical courses even a graduate of the Army Flight medicine course (I’m not in the Army). But I am not a doctor and I would gladly take a trauma doctor or a plastic surgeon without any other skill sets. Some skill sets are just too important. So if you have no expertise in any high value skill yes get all the rudimentary skills possible. However if you had dedicated numerous years of your life to become a doctor, engineer, master builder etc. don’t fret if you aren’t the best gunslinger, communications guy, farmer/rancher, EMT out there. Chances are the majority of people looking for your particular skill set already have those bases covered and will mostly want you to do what your best at and that is producing a higher quality of life for all.

  2. Tea Party

    December 17, 2016 at 9:43 pm

    I live in an apartment and space is limited. Storing food etc is hard so looking for a group would be my best bet. What skill should I learn to master to help me when I find a group?

    • Huples

      December 18, 2016 at 1:20 am

      Hi TP,
      Do you have any local parks or schools? Consider burying 5 gallon buckets one at a time in those locations at 3am. Without food you are a dead person.
      Go to meet ups on forging, go to local prepper meets, Learn how to forage. Really learn it and practice it weekly.
      Then be a decent, kind, humble, and funny person.
      I fail this on all accounts 🙁

    • christopher

      December 18, 2016 at 6:57 am

      Storing food, one option, (of course it will take money) is to rent a storage shed to put some preps in. as far as skills, I would start with what interests you have the most.. as the article states, Amatuer radio is fairly easy and can learn alot online… most local ham clubs welcome new members in, and will be glad to teach for free. 10 dollar fee and your license last for 10 years.. there will be small charge for the test Like 10-15 dollars. i actually build my own antennas and have built a K2 HF radio. most of the farming type stuff you can take local community college course or find a farmer in area to help out. there are some community type farms where when you help you get a certain amount of the crops in return. .Youtube has tons of videos on canning food, dehydrating food, making a solar oven, apt balcony gardens….these days with the internet there is a wealth of knowledge at your finger tips.. take advantage of it…

      • BobW

        December 19, 2016 at 5:11 pm

        The idea of developing skills is a common one in the community, but a tough one for many folks. City dwellers may not have access to a shop/barn/garage to developing welding skills and similar manual skills. A person would have to get creative in those situations. The voc-tech, community college, or a trade school might be options for someone wanting to learn wood working, welding, automotive maintenance and the like.

        Radio is a good place to start. Low-ish cost of entry, and an identifiable skill.

        Contact the local volunteer firefighter or search-and-rescue organizations. Many rescue type organizations provide training, and you will be introduced to an entirely new group of individuals.

        • christopher

          December 20, 2016 at 9:49 am

          all good points,, people have to be self motivated to learn new things. when I was on a volunteer wilderness search rescue team for 8 years, we would always have prospective members that would come and try out for the team. the self motivators would usually make it. if you have that drive, you can find ways to do things. just this week, i made 5 (1) gallon of different beers this weekend and put together an attenuater kit for amateur radio.. sometimes you just have to jump in and see what happens! if you have friends that want to do it with you, the better..

          • BobW

            December 20, 2016 at 6:01 pm

            Agreed, Christopher. A year ago, I would have never thought to volunteer for SnR or Fire fighting. Life changes. Now, I see three-fold benefits. I’ll meet neighbors, learn new skills, and maybe even save someones life or home. Lots of wildfires out here.

    • Mac

      December 19, 2016 at 3:33 pm

      I think it helps to be creative. I bet you have more space than you think. Look at the tops of closets and under beds. use hanging shoe organizers on all of your doors. Also, consider storing buckets between couch/love seat and wall. Then cover with a sheet or blanket. you can also “make” furniture such as end table or night stands out of MRE boxes or storage foot lockers. You can also get 5 gallon water cans that stack for easier storage. be creative and look upwards around your space.

      • BobW

        December 19, 2016 at 5:03 pm

        Rebecca Ann has posted on how to store stuff around the place without looking like a storage locker. Check out the archives for some of those ideas.

    • BobW

      December 19, 2016 at 4:33 pm

      Tea Party, starting on growing your own food is easy. I haven’t tended a plant since I was 10 years old with grandpa, but started an herb garden in the window of the kitchen. They are cheap, and allow you to ‘learn with your forehead.’

      Another dumb one that has turned out pretty interesting, is when you buy a head of celery, cut if off near the bottom, and set the bottom in a glass or bowl of water. Keep it watered. Check it every day. When you see little roots coming out the bottom, take it and plant it in a pot with potting soil. Keep it watered. The celery core will regrow a new plant. Watch what happens with too much/too little light, regular water vs every other day, etc.. Just remember to place it in a window that gets several hours of direct sunlight.

      Once you’ve figured out how to keep them alive, read up on harvesting the herbs. Cooking fresh is healthy, and tastes better, but knowing how to refill those little, overpriced bottles of seasonings is worth the time.

    • jim_robert

      December 21, 2016 at 10:15 pm

      We don’t have a basement, so make sure you are using storage spaces such as under the bed, under sofas, etc. We use that heavily.

      I would think, relative to what skill to learn, choose what you are most naturally gifted at, perhaps broaden out into 3 – 4 areas, and find groups that focus in that area (e.g., ham operators club, get in a shooting club, find a gardening group, etc. ) Just some thoughts.

  3. Joseph Rivers

    December 18, 2016 at 5:16 am

    I know that I would be near useless if my group need to move around without a vehicle, but I also know that I’m good under pressure and that I’m good at dealing with desperate people. So, no, I wouldn’t choose myself in a bugout situation, but in a bug in, I definitely would.

  4. Jeremy

    December 18, 2016 at 7:39 am

    Excellent article, and well written! I agree with the ideas expressed here of “Jack of all trades, master of none,” as well as making sure that you have as many bases covered in your group/team as you can.

    That being said, another question to ask, I believe, would be “Would you LET yourself be chosen for a group? Would you be completely honest in your limitations/conditions?” In my case, I am epileptic. It is controlled now, and has been for years, but in a major collapse SHTF scenario in which I did not have access to my medication, I could rapidly become a liability to the group. For that reason, I don’t know that I would knowingly go with a group, and definitely not without making them VERY aware of my own limitations.

    To some, that may be a “Well, duh!” kind of no-brainer, but it also may not be.

  5. EgbertThrockmorton1

    December 18, 2016 at 1:50 pm

    I have a very type-A personality, and I’m betting most folks are not comfortable with me personally, just based on things so far. So, given that many groups want to make decisions by “committee”, I most likely wouldn’t fit their membership mold of what they want.
    However, I am an excellent weed terminator in the garden, and have constructed our planter boxes for next season already (stacked in garage), can keep the garden predators and foragers at bay…so far, I have some skill sets that are not firearms/security related.
    OseIn my past law enforcement career, I had situations where I had to triumph over evil, and I “won” events fortunately. Never have let me guard down, since then, and that, friends can be debilitating emotionally. It needs to be a lifestyle, not a tactical behavior.
    I can make a mean snow cave, and have spent nights in several I’ve made with the grandkids, and we practice winter survival (they think it’s just plain fun), when we winter camp.
    Give the gifts of preparedness, we have for some years now, and they are appreciated by our adult children, and the older grandkids, too.

  6. John D

    December 18, 2016 at 6:39 pm

    Before joining a group, ask some questions of your own. Don’t settle for a group that doesn’t contain members with a broad range of capabilities. Are they skilled builders? Can they grow food crops? Can they preserve food? Also, what about their mindset? Do they believe that anything you bring to the group is communal property, to be divided equally? Will they accept you as an equal, or treat you like an indentured servant?

    In my case, I’m a little too old for back-breaking work, but I bring useful equipment and knowledge. I can provide the solar electric equipment needed to power a freezer, making it easy to preserve food. My equipment can provide lighting and run power tools, communications equipment, and power a mobile computing device, loaded with survival information.
    Don’t settle for a group, just because they have stockpiles of food and weapons. What else do they have to offer?

  7. JD

    December 19, 2016 at 1:27 am

    I absolutely would pick me, and I am a gun guy. But I’m not the typical 300 pound donut pounder 90% of the gun industry is. I actually train with my weapons. With my pistol, it’s everyday. Most days dry firing and weekends live fire. The article does raise some valid points although did piss me off to a slight degree as well. Basically stating gun guys were at the bottom of the pack when it comes to skills. Well, if the shtf, in my not so humble opinion, the gun guy will arguably be the most important skill in the group. And again, im talking about someone like myself, not some out of shape loser that shoots pizza sized groups with his handgun and try’s to justify his crap shooting by saying handgun shoots all happen at close range.
    Anyway back to my point. In a true shtf scenario, if you have a place your group are living at, you will need 24 hrs security in a perimeter a ways off from the main structure. There will be groups of people that haven’t eaten for long periods. Armed, hungry people, that will kill you for a can of chunky soup. If you and your group are down to defending the main structure, you have seriously screwed up. So being able to do patrols will be critical.
    I can also teach every member how to shoot and operate as a cohesive unit. A group of 5 trained people that can operate together will decimate untrained, unorganized groups that are significantly larger. I can maintain and fix weapons. I can reload ammunition. I can develop SOP’s for dealing with intruders, etc. I can hunt, trap, fish. Oh yeah, I can also plant and maintain a garden. And I am first aid certified.
    Do I know every skill that could potentially be needed in a shtf situation? Of course not. But I do have my specialty, just as each member of the group should have a skill set they specialize in. That’s why survival has to be done in a group, no one knows it all. But the gun guy (who knows what he is doing) will not be of lower importance in the group, but of the utmost importance.

  8. Bill

    December 19, 2016 at 10:18 am

    Better to tuff it out on your own than to get entangled with a bunch of gun happy dudes. Most likely they will get you killed if they start a fire fight

    • BobW

      December 19, 2016 at 5:00 pm

      Tough balance, Bill. Groups should be organic, not the ‘mail order’ variety. I don’t see how one who considers themselves a legitimate prepper can willingly throw themselves, their families, and all their preps in with strangers. Even if its by commitment vice actual relocations.

      Prepping and finding a prepper group seem mutually exclusive functions. I do like the idea of going to survivalist meet ups, disaster seminars, and the like. This is networking. Meet some folks. Maybe even strike up a new friendship over some hobby that doesn’t explicitly attach itself to prepping. Specifically hunting down a prepper group to ‘interview’ seems like an 80/20 risk/reward scenario. They get to act secretive, while you need to sell yourself.

      Instead, grow the mutual support organically, as in friends, family (not in your home), neighbors, and co-workers. People you actually know, not random strangers you found on in an online catalog of groups. It doesn’t have to be a prepper group by definition. Developing a neighborly call tree for trouble. Be it a broke down car, aid with the cattle during a snow storm, kid pickups after school, matters not. Developing those relationships helps to actually get to know the neighbors that have lived next to you for years, but you struggle to remember his wife’s name. For me, its the relationships that matter more NOW than any specific prepping functions for LATER. When you really know how Bob next door thinks about things, and can/can’t trust him in a pinch, you know if he can be more than a good neighbor.

      I’m starting to wonder about whether a person needs a prepper group NOW. That mutual support group NOW provides the basis for a group of people throwing together if something disastrous actually happens. Having a group you know something about NOW provides benefits NOW, allows you and yours to get a feel for personalities, professions, skills, and talents without subjecting your home to direct risk by cold-calling a “Prepper group.”

  9. Silent Earth

    December 20, 2016 at 5:44 am

    I try to get to know people a bit before exploring whether I want to have them as part of a prepper group, I often but always start by trying to find people of similar political persuasion as myself (centre right capitalist) I try and weed out those who start every debate about prepping with guns or religion ( guns are just tools and a small part in my preps and religion should be kept to the individual). I try desperately to avoid those who go on about communes or other trendy left wing ideology and look for those who are self reliant but more than will to help out neighbouring preppers in need. I definately prefer level headed family types though I do have lots of time for older life experienced types with well practiced skills. Got no time for SJWs or Snowflakes

  10. Nathaniel March

    January 12, 2017 at 1:15 am

    Great article. There are so many different opinions on how best to prepare.
    This very question, how do you select someone for a survival or prepper group?, stimulated my imagination so much that I made a web series about it. I worked with a couple of other filmmakers. We threw together the religious and non-religious, anarchists and bureaucrats, the armed and the unarmed to find out what would happen. It’s fun to say the least.

  11. Anon22385

    May 12, 2017 at 1:26 pm

    Great food for thought.

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