Survival Planning and Survival Kits
A survival plan is dependent on three separate but intertwined parts to be successful: planning, preparation, and practice.
Survival planning is nothing more than realizing something could happen that would put you in a survival situation and, with that in mind, taking steps to increase your chances of survival. It can happen to anyone, anywhere, anytime, so remember: failure to plan is a plan to fail. Plans are based on evasion and recovery (E&R) considerations and the availability of resupply or emergency bundles. You must take into consideration the mission duration and the distance to friendly lines; the environment, to include the terrain and weather and possible changes in the weather during a protracted mission; and the platform you will be operating with, such as an aircraft, a multipurpose vehicle, or perhaps just a rucksack. Planning also entails looking at those E&R routes and knowing by memory the major geographical features in case your map and compass are lost. You can use classified and unclassified sources such as the Internet, encyclopedias, and geographic magazines to assist you in planning.
Preparation means preparing yourself and your survival kit for those contingencies that you have in your plan. A plan without any preparation is just a piece of paper. It will not keep you alive. Prepare yourself by making sure your immunizations and dental work are up-to-date. Prepare your uniform by having the newest uniform for emergencies. It will have the most infrared-defeating capabilities possible. You can have signal devices and snare wire sewn into it ahead of time. Break in your boots and make sure that the boots have good soles and water-repellent properties. Study the area, climate, terrain, and indigenous methods of food and water procurement. You should continuously assess data, even after the plan is made, to update the plan as necessary and give you the greatest possible chance of survival. Another example of preparation is finding the emergency exits on an aircraft when you board it for a flight. Practice those things that you have planned with the items in your survival kit. Checking ensures that items work and that you know how to use them. Build a fire in the rain so you know that when it is critical to get warm, you can do it. Review the medical items in your kit and have instructions printed on their use so that even in times of stress, you will not make life-threatening errors.
3-1. Detailed prior planning is essential in potential survival situations. Including survival considerations in mission planning will enhance your chances of survival if an emergency occurs. For example, if your job requires that you work in a small, enclosed area that limits what you can carry on your person, plan where you can put your rucksack or your load-bearing equipment (LBE). Put it where it will not prevent you from getting out of the area quickly, yet where it is readily accessible.
3-2. One important aspect of prior planning is preventive medicine. Ensuring that you have no dental problems and that your immunizations are current will help you avoid potential dental or health problems. Some dental problems can progress to the point that you may not be able to eat enough to survive. Failure to keep your shots current may mean your body is not immune to diseases that are prevalent in the area.
3-3. Preparing and carrying a survival kit is as important as the considerations mentioned above. All Army aircraft have survival kits on board for the type of area over which they will fly. There are kits for over-water, hot climate, and cold climate survival. Each crewmember will also be wearing an aviator survival vest (Appendix A describes these survival kits). Know the location of these kits on the aircraft and what they contain in case of crash or ditching. There are also soldier kits for tropical and temperate survival. These kits are expensive and not always available to every soldier. However, if you know what these kits contain, and on what basis they are built, you will be able to plan and to prepare your own survival kit that may be better suited to you than an off-the-shelf one.
3-4. Even the smallest survival kit, if properly prepared, is invaluable when faced with a survival problem. However, before making your survival kit, consider your unit’s mission, the operational environment, and the equipment and vehicles assigned to your unit.
3-5. The environment is the key to the types of items you will need in your survival kit. How much equipment you put in your kit depends on how you will carry the kit. A kit carried on your body will have to be smaller than one carried in a vehicle. Always layer your survival kit—body, load-bearing vest or equipment, and platform (rucksack, vehicle, or aircraft). Keep the most important items on your body. For example, your map and compass should always be on your body, as should your basic life-sustaining items (knife, lighter). Carry less important items on your LBE. Place bulky items in the rucksack.
3-6. In preparing your survival kit, select items that are multipurpose, compact, lightweight, durable, and most importantly, functional. An item is not good if it looks great but doesn’t do what it was designed for. Items should complement each other from layer to layer. A signal mirror in your pocket can be backed up by pen flares in your LBE and a signal panel in your rucksack. A lighter in your uniform can be augmented by a magnesium bar in your LBE and additional dry tinder in your rucksack.
3-7. Your survival kit need not be elaborate. You need only functional items that will meet your needs and a case to hold the items. For the case, you might want to use a bandage box, soap dish, tobacco tin, first-aid case, ammunition pouch, or another suitable case. This case should be—
- Water-repellent or waterproof.
- Easy to carry or attach to your body.
- Suitable to accept various-sized components.
3-8. Your survival kit should be broken down into the following categories:
3-9. Each category should contain items that allow you to sustain your basic needs. For example, water—you should have items that allow you to scoop up, draw up, soak up, or suck up water; something to gather rainwater, condensation, or perspiration; something to transport water; and something to purify or filter water. Some examples of each category are as follows:
- Water—purification tablets, non-lubricated condoms for carrying water, bleach, povidone-iodine drops, cravats, sponges, small plastic or rubber tubing, collapsible canteens or water bags.
- Fire—lighter, metal match, waterproof matches, magnesium bar, candle, magnifying lens.
- Shelter—550 parachute cord, large knife, machete or hatchet, poncho, space blanket, hammock, mosquito net, wire saw.
- Food—knife, snare wire, fishhooks, fish and snare line, bouillon cubes or soup packets, high-energy food bars, granola bars, gill or yeti net, aluminum foil, freezer bags.
- Medical—oxytetracycline tablets (to treat diarrhea or infection), surgical blades or surgical preparation knife, butterfly sutures, lip balm, safety pins, sutures, antidiarrheal medication (imodium), antimalarial medication (doxycycline), broad-spectrum antibiotics (rocephin and zithromax) and broad spectrum topical ophthalmic (eye) antibiotic, antifungal, anti-inflammatory (ibuprofen), petrolatum gauze, and soap. Medical items may make up approximately 50 percent of your survival kit.
- Signal—signaling mirror, strobe, pen flares, whistle, U.S. flag, pilot scarf or other bright orange silk scarf, glint tape, flashlight, laser pointer, solar blanket.
- Miscellaneous—wrist compass, needle and thread, money, extra eyeglasses, knife sharpener, cork, camouflage stick, and survival manual.
3-10. Include a weapon only if the situation so dictates. Ambassadors and theater commanders may prohibit weapons even in extreme circumstances. Read and practice the survival techniques in this manual and apply these basic concepts to those you read about in other civilian publications. Consider your mission and the environment in which you will operate. Then prepare your survival kit with items that are durable, multipurpose, and lightweight. Imagination may be the largest part of your kit. It can replace many of the items in a kit. Combined with the will to live, it can mean the difference between surviving to return home with honor or not returning at all.