Building Your Survival Team

The idea of the lone wolf survivalist really isn't all that good a one. Oh sure, if you're a true woodsman, who is an expert in all aspects of survival, you might be able to survive on your own; but so what? How are you going to keep society going on your own? For that matter, how are you going to keep the human race going on your own?

Most of us don't have every skill needed to survive in every situation on our own. Oh, we might have a pretty good collection of survival skills; but unless we study and practice survival skills full time, it's not likely that we have all the skills we need. It's even less likely that we have all the skills to go beyond mere survival and start rebuilding society.

There's another big problem with trying to survive on your own, that of resources. Back when the mountain men roamed this country, game was extremely plentiful. One could easily live off the land, hunting and gathering as needed, while doing other things as well.

Today, things aren't that easy. While there is still an abundance of game available in some areas, those areas are much more limited; especially if you live in the east. Our society has depended upon cultivated crops and domesticated animals literally for centuries. That's just plain more efficient. Cultivating crops and domesticating animals produce more food per acre.

Of course, even if you know everything you need to know, there's the problem of time. Last I checked, there were still only 24 hours in a day. You're not going to be able to change that. Extra hands would make it easier to get everything done, that you need to have done in order to survive, while adding very little extra work in the process.

Finally, there's the issue of defense; probably one of the biggest reasons to have a survival team. One of the common concerns after any disaster is the rise of looters and other criminals who want to take advantage of the situation. Should there be a severe shortage of resources, you can be sure that these people will find each other and band together to attack the weak and innocent. Can you defend yourself against them?

Unless your name is Rambo, your ability to defend yourself against a group of these criminals probably isn't as good as you think it is. Maybe you could defend yourself against two or three of them, but not ten or twelve. For that, you need some help on your side.

Who do You Need on Your Survival Team?

There are two things you need to think about, when it comes to selecting people for your survival team; one is skills and the other is the people's personality and character. Most people focus just on the skills, as if that is everything. Yes, you need those skills, but skills can be learned. On the other hand, if the people you choose don't have the personality and character for become an integral part of your team, you're going to have some serious problems. Those things can't just be learned.

Do you want team members who are selfish and self-centered? Those would work on promoting their own good, even to the point of hurting the team. How about people who are easily irritated, offended and angered? That should make for a nice, peaceful team, right? What about people who are squeamish about doing the things necessary for survival? While you might be able to work around that, it would increase the burden on everyone else in the team.

You're probably best off starting with your friends. There's a reason why those people are your friends, and I hope it's something more than you like the way they look. Friends, especially close friends, generally form relationships because of like interests and compatible personalities. Well, if you have that in a normal time, there's a good chance that you'll be much more likely to have it in difficult times as well.

Unless you are one who pretty much ignores politics, you might want to make sure that your political views are at least similar. While I can't imagine too many liberals being survivalists, there are some who are. But I have to ask if they are going to be an asset to the team, or just try to spread other team members' share of the wealth around to those who didn't prepare?

A good team should be able to work together naturally, with each member taking it upon themselves to not only take care of their area of responsibility, but also help out in other areas as they have time available. If they have to be pushed to do that, they will be a constant irritation to the rest of the team.

When you run out of friends to tap as team members, you're going to have to start looking at acquaintances or even people that you don't know. Check out their character and personality, giving it an honest evaluation, as compared to the rest of the team. Do they seem like they would fit in?

The next issue is whether or not they are like-minded about prepping and survival. There aren't too many of us around who are currently preppers, so you may have to raise up your own. Doing this can be risky, as some of those who aren't willing to pitch in and become a productive part of the team may very well show up at your doorstep when things go to pot, expecting you to take care of them.

There's no way that you can take care of everyone. As hard as it is, you will have to turn many people away. Failure to do so only condemns your own team to death, as once your supplies run out and you won't have anything to keep you going.

One final thing to look for in team members is a willingness to learn. If you're going to start out by looking at personality and character and not skills, then your team members are most likely going to have to learn some skills. If they don't, they won't really have anything to offer the team, other than their charming personality. That's not quite enough.

Skills You Need on Your Survival Team

Now that we've talked about personality and character, let's talk about skills. The personality and character will help the individual fit into the team, but it won't help keep you all alive. For that, you're going to have to have a mix of the right skills.

It's easy to generalize on this, saying that every team needs every one of the skills I'm about to mention, but that may not be true. Take midwifery, for example. While it might be a good idea to have a midwife on your team, that isn't an essential. If there is a trained midwife nearby which your team can utilize when needed, you really don't need your own.

Of course, utilizing people from outside your team is going to cost you something. But that's okay. Hopefully you'll be producing more than you need, so you'll have something that you can barter for these essential skills. You'll need to maintain good relations with that person or with their survival team, in order to utilize their skills when you need them.

So, what skills do you need?

  • Leadership - Every team needs a leader to set the direction and make the decisions for the team. This must be a person who will put the needs of the team before their own. A narcissistic or self-centered leader can destroy a team.
  • General Survival Skills - While every team member needs to learn survival skills, you should have one team member who is a true expert. They are the one who will train other team members, looking for new techniques to share and be the main resource that will tell everyone what to do if you have to bug out and live off the land.
  • Defense or Military - Since one of our main concerns is attack from others, each team needs a defensive coordinator; hopefully someone with military training and experience. Of course, not everyone who has been in the military knows how to fight. You're best off with an infantry soldier or someone who has been in one of the different Special Forces groups.
  • First-Aid or Medical - Injuries happen and medical services will probably be stretched thin. Having your own medic could save someone's life.
  • Midwifery - If the medic doesn't know how to deliver babies, it would be nice if one of the women does. As mentioned earlier, this might be a skill you can trade for, but having your own is the best.
  • Gardening - You're probably going to have to raise your own food, so you need at least one person who has a green thumb, preferably more. This doesn't mean that this person will do all the gardening for your group, but rather that they will be the one in charge of coordinating the efforts of the team in growing your own food.
  • Animal Husbandry - Gardening is great, but animal protein doesn't grow on a tomato plant. Being able to raise animals for protein will round out your diets nicely, giving you all a much needed addition.
  • Hunting - This may not be necessary for all teams, as some teams are not going to be living in areas where they can ever bother going hunting. However, if you do live in an area where animals abound, being able to hunt them down and turn them into meat is a valuable skill.
  • Water Harvesting & Purification - You're going to need a lot of water for your team. While this is a skill that everyone should know, one person should be in charge of it.
  • Scrounging - A good scrounger sees things and sees what can be done with them. As such, they can do a lot to add to your team's quality of life, especially in a long-term survival situation. If you have to rebuild society, you'll need this skill.
  • Bartering - Some people just know how to haggle, while others don't. if you are planning on bartering for anything you need, then make sure you have someone on board that knows how to get your money's worth.
  • Power Generation - Again, this is something that pretty much all preppers do; but you need one person who is an expert. This person would be the one who is looking for ways of expanding your power generation capability, as well as being able to repair any problems with your systems.
  • General Repair Skills - Things break. When resupply is gone, repair is going to be the only option.
  • Auto Mechanics - This may or may not be necessary, depending on the circumstances. If cars can't be used, you obviously won't need a mechanic. But if something happens like an EMP and there are dead cars sitting around all over the place, the only one who is going to have a chance on getting them running will be a good mechanic.
  • Engineering Technology - Like the mechanic fixing cars, this person would be working to make other technology available to your survival community. Be careful about your selection though, as many engineers are paper engineers. You need one that's hands-on.
  • Communications - Communicating within your team and with others may end up being very important. A ham operator who can make contact with the outside world and let you know what's going on can be useful.
  • Education - If your team members have kids, they will need someone to educate them. While everyone may take part in this process, it's best to have at least one experienced educator, who can act as the coordinator, making sure they learn what they need to.
  • Wise Counselor - Personality conflicts, marital strife and the stress of survival will all be daily issues. Somebody will need to act as a counselor; hopefully someone who has the experience to do so, even if they aren't technically educated as a counselor. Much of the best counseling comes from clergy, rather than "professionals."

This list may make it seem like you need a huge survival team, but you don't. Even though you need all those skills, you don't need one person for each of them. The same person can cover multiple areas, especially if they are already experienced in them, before joining the group. For example, all the technical repair skills could be covered by the same person, if they have the knowledge.

It would be good to apprentice the teens in the group, having them work with one of the specialists mentioned. That way, they will learn skills that will help the group, as well as becoming the backup for that particular area of need. Should something happen to the person responsible for that area, there would be someone to step in and take over, even if they are not fully trained.

A number of the areas mentioned in the list are going to take the efforts of the whole team to accomplish. Food is one of those areas. While there might be one person in charge of gardening and another in charge of animal husbandry, pretty much everyone in the survival team will work in those areas. There's just going to be too much to do, for one person to do it alone. Likewise, defense is going to require the efforts of the whole team, with the defensive coordinator acting as the military commander of the defenses.

No matter how much the person selected for the area knows, they should immediately set about learning everything they can. Some may agree to cover an area that they don't already know. That's okay, as long as they are willing to put in the necessary work to learn. The difficult part will be getting those who think they know to keep studying, so that they can learn more.

Preparing One's Area of Responsibility

Once a team member has been selected to be responsible for a particular area, they must become proactive in covering that area for the whole team. That most probably will mean taking an inventory of skills, equipment and supplies that other team members have in that area, so that the team's overall situation can be assessed.

Take power generation for example. Each family will probably have at least some power generation capability, if it's nothing more than a single solar panel. But what's important is finding out the team's total power generating capability; more than anything, finding out who has the most.

Now, I'm not going to recommend redistributing the wealth. Those who have a lot of power generating capability have made sacrifices to buy that. But as a team, the person who has that capability should be willing to use part of it for the team's benefit. Specifically, I'm talking about powering radios, charging cell phones and having a freezer to keep meat fresh that the hunter's kill.

Knowing what your team has in the way of resources is a good starting point in planning for how to use those resources the most effectively for the team's benefit. It is also useful in determining where the team is lacking, so that the team can work together to fill in those gaps.

Each specialist needs to develop a library of print resources for their area of responsibility. Not only will these resources help them fill in gaps in their knowledge, but it will help them in training their apprentice. Should something happen to the specialist, that library might be the only knowledge the team has about that area. So, it needs to be both deep and wide; starting from ground zero in knowledge and going as far as it can.

In addition, the specialist needs to make sure that they have the tools and supplies for that area of responsibility. That doesn't necessarily mean that they buy it all with their own money, although it makes sense that they would invest in it. But when it comes to some things, such as solar panels, everyone in the team will have to invest, as they are able.

Preparing the Team

One of the most difficult areas to come into agreement on is each team member's participation in preparing for a disaster. By this, I mean financial participation more than anything else, although time and effort are a part of it too.

Not everyone in the team is going to join with the same level of preparedness; nor are they all going to have the same income. So, it will be harder for some to invest in joint needs than it will for others. It's not fair to expect a low-income family to fork up as much money as an upper-middle class family can. At the same time, it's not fair to expect the upper-middle-class family to pay for others needs, just because they earn more. In other words, there is no fair answer. You'll have to come up with something that is mutually agreeable to the whole group.

You'll also have to reach an agreement on how much of family's resources are theirs personally and how much should be considered property of the group. Take food for example. One family has been stockpiling for a long time and has three years worth of food. By all rights, that's theirs. But what about the family who just started and only has 30 days worth of food? How are you going to deal with that discrepancy?

Settling these issues has to be part of the foundation of how your team is formed. If you can't solve these types of questions, then you can't form a team. Rather than working together, you'll end up with your worst enemies being in your own camp.

Speaking of camp, what are your plans going to be in the case of a disaster? Is everyone going to shelter in place? Are you all going to meet at the largest house and work out of there? Are you going to prepare a group survival camp, somewhere in the wilderness? Each of these options will require a different plan of action and different ways of dealing with your resources.

Besides dealing with these important questions, you need to develop your team as a team. That means learning how to work together, how to fight together to defend yourselves and how you're going to function when the SHTF.

Each specialist needs to work towards training the other team members in their area of expertise. That doesn't mean making them all experts, but making them all competent. In other words, everyone knows how to plant a garden, without wasting seeds. Everyone knows how to use the radios that the team has decided on, so that you can communicate with each other. Everyone knows how to chop wood and stack it for winter.

This joint training and experience will help build the team and identify any rocky areas that need to be worked out. If you are establishing a survival camp, then go to the camp together for weekends, as a combination work on the camp and have a campout weekend. The combination of working and playing together will do a lot towards team building.

Run some military exercises together as a team as well. The defense coordinator can create a scenario and run you through it, seeing how well you do. Use paint balls, airsoft or even water guns for your exercise. The point isn't to train with the weapons, as much as it is to train in how to fight as a team. Perhaps you can divide the team in half, one half fighting the other, losers have to do the dishes.

As you train and work together, you're going to encounter many of the areas in which the team is going to have problems. Personality clashes of all sorts will probably arise. That's okay. You want them to arise while you are training and preparing, so that you can deal with them then, instead of having to deal with them in the midst of a crisis. It's always easier to deal with one problem at a time, rather than having to deal with a bunch of them at once.

Expect those problems and be ready to work through them. Seek resolution, not just a band-aid. You've got to come up with a way to work and live together, in which everyone's needs are being met and everyone is able to get along with each other. Yes, there will always be issues, but the more of them you can solve ahead of time, the better.

Build your team together, forming them into a family; one in which each member knows without a shadow of a doubt, that the others have their back. In doing so, you will increase your chances of survival by an incredible amount. Survival as a team is truly better.

Dave Steen

About The Author: Dave is a 58 year old survivalist; father of three; with over 40 years of survival experience. He started young, learning survival the hard way, in the school of hard knocks. Now, after years of study, he's gray-haired and slightly overweight. That hasn't dimmed his interest in survival though. If anything, Dave has a greater commitment to survival than ever, so that he can protect his family. Click Here To Read More About Dave

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