The Time Machine (YOYO, Part 2)

The Time Machine

By R. L. Seigneur, Major (Ret.)

The US military's medical care for combat related wounds/injuries is better than it's ever been. That's reassuring for American service men and women; as Forrest Gump might say, “Good, one less thing to worry about.”

Given a long term “YOYO” scenario, your access to modern medical care is highly questionable for any number of reasons; for example, a break down of infrastructure (e.g., electricity, communications, transportation). 

Every time I deployed overseas as a military member I learned something new. After a deployment to a country that had been part of the former Soviet Union, I came home with the scales removed from my eyes in terms of how we take our infrastructure for granted, and how fragile our US homeland infrastructure may be.

The infrastructure at this particular expeditionary air base was created almost entirely from military assets. Heat, electricity, hot showers, and communications all were produced with military equipment and by military personnel. Impressive, but when something went wrong, we lost communications, heat, electricity, and took cold showers. 

US homeland infrastructure was built, expanded, and improved over many, many years. It is not the kind of infrastructure you just throw up in a matter of days or weeks. It almost always works so we naturally take it for granted; however, you are doing yourself a big favor to understand that this normally reliable infrastructure is built, maintained and expanded based on business decisions, and those business decisions are based on assumptions of normality. You might say, “Normal is considered normal.” Now, imagine things aren't normal due to severe weather, civil unrest, WMD attack, nearly simultaneous low-tech, terrorist attacks on the infrastructure itself, and/or severe economic disruption. 

It should give you pause to imagine a scenario in which modern medical care is not a phone call away, and if operating in a contingency mode, its medical personnel are task saturated, and medical capacity is maxed out. Can you say triage? Just as our infrastructure is built for the demands of normalcy, our medical care facilities are built and staffed for the demands of normalcy. While they may have a surge capability, even this is limited.  

Given a long term “YOYO” scenario, and assuming modern medical care is unavailable for any reason, you will have been effectively transported back in time to the medical conditions of the civil war in which antibiotics were unavailable, pain medications were scarce, and crude amputations ruled the day. Therefore, one of your neighborhood-watch-committee's/clan's highest priorities will be to locate and recruit doctors, nurse practitioners, physician's assistants (PAs), and paramedics.

The Tiger's Claws

Assuming you may someday find yourself in a total, long term YOYO scenario (e.g., a complete breakdown in law and order) due to some catastrophic event such as a long term disruption of the power grid that creates civil unrest, you may find yourself in a position that requires you to think like an infantry soldier.    

From the smallish book The Defence of Duffer's Drift by E. D. Swinton I gleaned one important lesson I had not absorbed from my own infantry training. This book is considered a classic on small unit tactics. It has been used by German officers during the First World War (WWI) and West Point cadets between WWI and WWII. There are many lessons to be learned or reinforced in this enduring text set at the time of the Boer War (a guerrilla war), but one lesson impressed me more than all the others.

The one lesson that most impressed me was that infantryman did not always use the maximum effective range of the infantry rifle (approximately 480 meters by today's standards) to good effect when on defense. Maximum effective range can be defined as: The maximum distance at which a weapon may be expected to be accurate and achieve the desired effect. A potential (and deadly) mistake when establishing defensive positions, is to forget to use the infantry rifle's deadly reach, and position available defenders so close to that thing being defended, for example a bridge or tactically significant road junction, that the defending troops find themselves functioning more as bar bouncers than as tigers whose claws can kill at ranges of 400 meters or more. A better approach-assuming the terrain cooperates-is to move away from that thing being defended and use both terrain and maximum effective range to their best advantage in order to deny the enemy the avenues of approach needed to reach (then occupy/destroy) that thing being defended. 

Another way to rap your mind around this concept is to imagine yourself (with family and friends) in a “YOYO” situation where your family/band/clan desires to defend a cluster of farm/ranch buildings in a rural location-terrain permitting-“Would you attempt to defend from inside the cluster or from outside the cluster?” If you answered, “From outside the cluster,” you apparently understand the concept. 

Be forewarned that no matter how useful the tactic/concept appears, sometimes it fits and sometimes it doesn't. Being able to select the optimum concept/tactic in a particular situation is more an art than a science, and separates the truly gifted tactician from the average. 

Always Cheat Always Win

As far as I can determine, “Always Cheat Always Win” is a concept that demands that you think outside the box and never be foolish enough to fight a fair fight. “Fair fights” get a lot of young people killed. There were a lot of fair fights orchestrated by generals who knew too much and thought too little during the US Civil War and WWI. The outcome was a lot of dead soldiers on both sides and not enough results to justify the loss of life. The Germans concluded by the end of WWI that they needed to think outside the box. The ultimate result was used to kick off WWII: blitzkrieg or Lightning War.

Should you find yourself in a “YOYO” environment, thinking outside the box will be fundamental to your survivability. And by all means, don't fall under the influence of someone who knows too much and thinks too little. 

Improvised Weapons

Not all weapons go bang. Sharp sticks don't go bang. Rocks don't go bang. Neither do entrenching tools, utility knives, axes, hatchets, spades, the toe of your boot, or the heel of your hand.

Given a “YOYO” scenario, bare in mind that even if you or your opposition lack weapons that go bang, the highly motivated, innovative-type can still create a lot of mayhem with a bow & arrow, and a can of gasoline.

Poseurs in Camouflage

Know why al-Qaeda-types make good soldiers? Answer: Because they're willing to kill and willing to die. Know why a lot of American military members are nothing more than frauds in uniform? You guessed it. I can't begin to tell you how many American military members recoil in fear when you hand them a loaded firearm. I've seen military members close their eyes when firing their weapons during re-qualification at the range. I've had military members look at me with horror in there eyes when I directed them to man a checkpoint in the dark. And I've had American military members tell me that they were pursuing a military career for the pay and benefits, and all that kill-or-be-killed stuff was for some dimwit who didn't know better.

Given a “YOYO” scenario, expect the numbers of sheep to significantly outnumber the sheepdogs.  

Train Hard, Fight Easy

I believe during the Cold War era the Soviets best emphasized the dictate to “train hard, fight easy” but it was also a core belief of the Spartans. The better and more realistic the training, the better the performance is in a real fight. Today, close combat instructors will tell you without hesitation that how you train is how you fight, and how you fight is how you train.  

Given you want to be well prepared for a “YOYO” scenario, get out there beforehand and pursue the best training you can find. For example, take a good first-aid class and follow that with CPR. Even if you can shoot well, pursue the best training you can find to shoot a rifle, shotgun, and pistol better and safer under realistic conditions than you do now. 

Once you're trained to high level, in a “YOYO” scenario expect that you will have to train others (e.g., first-aid, field expedient medicine, handling and operating weapons safely, marksmanship, etc.). How are your teaching skills? When was the last time you created a quality lesson plan?