One of the highlights of the Houston Unit of the Texas State Militia, is that outside of the regular all-unit trainings, fireteam leaders are encouraged to create events, trainings, and get-togethers. This improves the cohesion and brotherhood within each fireteam. These usually manifest as “cigar day” or going to the range. However, because these trainings are encouraged to be “off the beaten path” so-to-speak, the creative minds of the fireteam leaders often come up with odd trainings that could leave the outsider left scratching their heads. Such was the case last weekend with fireteam Delta.
Intro to SERE
Delta Fireteam held an intro to S.E.R.E. class this past weekend. S.E.R.E. stands for Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape, and is a series of classes intended to teach force members how to make sure they make it out of sticky situations alive. This particular intro class which was intended to prepare Delta for the rigors of upcoming classes by introducing certain “unfamiliar concepts” to the team. This included a few innocuous subjects such as locating a source of water, staying warm, and…. food. More on the food later.
Locating a Source of Water
Locating and procuring water is the first priority when getting stranded. The average human body begins shutting down after 3 days without water. Organs begin to fail, energy levels are almost entirely depleted, and the body is in severe pain. Since only death follows, finding water is shuold be step number one. However, one does not have to look very fair to find a source of water. Even in a desert, there is humidity in the air and this humidity can be harvested for up to a quart and a half of water per day in some places. This water can be harvested using a solar still, and this is exactly what Delta learned to build.
The idea behind a solar still is to create an enclosed heated environment where, through humidity and evaporation, water can be collected as it condenses onto a cooler surface. Even in extremely dry environments, the moisture in the soil, or from plant life can be collected this way. By digging down into the soil a few feet, placing a recepticle in the bottom and covering the hole with clear plastic, the evaporating moisture will collect on the clear plastic and drip into the recepticle. Better performance is achieved when in direct sunlight, but this is not necessary. Delta went out into the local woods and placed down a solar still. Even with the sun firmly ensconsed in the clouds, the still was still able to collect a mild amount of moisture in only 3 hours. But the weird part was coming.
Shelter and Heat
Staying warm is all about producing and conserving heat. Because in many environments even mild temperatures can be made dangerous by high winds lowering the windchill factor, blocking the wind is a primary goal. Creating a lean-to out of natural materials can help one stay conceiled and block the wind simultaneously. However, in a pinch one can simply dig a hole in the ground and lay in it while sleeping or staying concealed until a lean-to can be constructed. Fill the hole with leaves and brush to increase the surface area holding in your body heat. You can stuff your clothes with leaves and paper as well.
After constructing a lean-to, if an even more long-term solution is required, one can build a dakota fire hole. This is a below ground campfire of sorts that helps conceal the light and smoke emitted by a camp fire. Dig a hole 1 foot below the ground and then dig a second shaft diagonally away from the hole to the surface with a 6 inch opening. The second shaft is for oxygen air flow while the main vertical shaft is the source of heat and exhaust. Cover the top of the main shaft with branches and larger leaves that won’t fall in to help diffuse the smoke. You can now use this for vital heat and cooking if necessary. Delta studied its construction and prepared for the next class in which they would build one. However, the weird part of the class was upon them.
Lastly, food is critical to keep energy levels up and keep you alert and ready to act. While the human body can last 3 weeks without food, it is critical to capture or harvest food as soon as possible because even just 2 days without food and energy levels become depleted, you may develop a headache as your body enters ketosis and you may get sick to your stomach. All are good reasons to eat WHATEVER YOU CAN, WHENEVER YOU CAN. However, the kinds of food that will be available to you out in the wild, may not be exactly what you are looking for, as Delta found out.
Then things became a little uncomfortable…
Faced with simulated starvation, Delta was instructed to eat only foods that would be available in the area naturally. The first food found was crickets. Many of the team were nervous about eating the snack but one by one they muscled them down! Grimaces could be seen on the faces of the team but they had no idea what was coming.
Next up was handfuls and handfuls of meal worms. The worms, although smaller than the crickets, were particulary disgusting as they slid down the throats of Delta. The members were starting to get quesy. Just one more to go…
A snake was caught, skinned, and prepared for consumption. Instructed on how to cook snake and how to know when it is safe, Delta cooked, divided, and ate the snake. After eating crickets and handfuls of meal worms, the snake was a welcome sight. One member even went into his pack and pulled out some hotsauce packets to help with the taste. One member noted “If you have ever smelled a snake, that is exactly what it tasted like.”
End of the Intro
Houston Militia’s Delta Fireteam, confident now that they had conquered their fears of eating bugs, worms, and snakes, went for a debrief of a very odd training.
This training, although extremely relaxed and just an intro to concepts of SERE, was a lot of fun and got a lot of laughs. Fireteam trainings have a habit of building strong bonds between the members. Knife fighting classes, martial arts classes, range days, are usually extremely fun and informative trainings. This helps team members get to know one another, develope friendships, and learn to rely on each other. Besides, when you’ve eaten crickets together, how can you not feel you can rely on your teammate?
Thank you for your attention. TSM Out.