I routinely think about the potential of bugging out with my family. When I do consider how this would work logistically, I probably paint a rosier picture than is prudent from the standpoint of the circumstances that would necessitate me having to resort to this option. If my family is bugging out, things are very bad. If I am bugging out, it is with the plan that we won’t be coming back and the situation on the ground at my home is one that is not suitable for living any more. As it stands right now, I don’t have a large survival group or network of friends that plan to rendezvous on the outskirts of town at our rally point. It would be me and my family which believe it or not does not consist of a high-speed, low drag platoon of Army Rangers.
Assuming again that the circumstances were unlivable at home and we were forced to hit the trail with only our carefully selected survival gear in our pre-packed Bug Out bags. The act of simply walking into the wilderness for many miles exposed to whatever the element conditions were on that given day, with my family would take more time than I would like, cause them a lot of stress and frayed nerves and would make us extremely more vulnerable. This is assuming everyone was healthy, suffered no injuries along the way and we actually had a place to go. I view aspects of bugging out with caution but I still think my immediate family could make it physically. I know there would be dangers if we were forced to hike to a safer location, but I usually stop at plans for minor first aid, shelter from the elements, food and water and lastly security. It would be tough, but we could make it I believe if grace were on our side.
But what if members of your group weren’t at the top of their game physically so to speak. What if some have serious health issues? What if someone was gravely injured or had a serious medical emergency that you simply couldn’t deal with? What if you couldn’t go on?
A recent and recently frequent contributor to the Prepper Journal, Bolo asked me the following question the other day.
What would you do if someone in your group became unable to continue the journey? This frequently happens with smuggling groups, where a person is suffering from hyperthermia or has a heart attack or stroke. Predictably, the “Coyote” guide will abandon them in the desert and continue on with the rest of his group. He has a schedule to maintain, a pre-set load up area, and a pay day to think about. Many of these people die where they were left on the trail and the Coyote would be facing murder charges if he was apprehended
I think Bolo was framing this question from the perspective of a bug out scenario that involved his local regional desert environment but the risks aren’t limited to long treks over barren stretches of uninhabited land. The potential for circumstances arising in your group that would cause you to be forced to stop or radically change your travel plans are common to every prepper I think and I found this question intriguing because it wasn’t something I had spent too much time thinking about.
Never leave a man behind?
There is an unspoken bond as humans that we share that compels us to take care of other people we are with. This could be obvious bonds like you have with your family members, friends or even acquaintances. It could also be not as obvious as in the case of people we might not know from Adam, but find ourselves traveling with. Passengers who are involved in plane crashes or commuting accidents, shoppers at a mall under attack from religious fanatics or guests at a hotel involved in a bombing are frequently cited as helping one another out during and after the disaster even though they have no tangible vested interest in offering assistance. Instead of running in the opposite direction to protect their own lives, many people rush into danger at a very real risk to their own safety simply because they are driven by some innate compulsion to help. I can say now while I am sitting in my chair typing on my computer that I think I would always do the same thing for my fellow humans but is that really true?
The U.S. Army’s Soldier’s Creed has as one of its lines: I will never leave a fallen comrade. This is simple to understand and I never questioned it when I served in the military. Though I did not see combat, I believe that I would have lived that creed out in whatever capacity to the best of my abilities. Your comrades are your brothers in arms who are right there with you in harm’s way. You would want them to help you get home and you would willingly do the same for any of them.
But… if SHTF and we as families with children and groups of like-minded individuals, not an Army with transportation and resupply capabilities, are forced to abandon the relative safety and shelter of our homes; are things different? Going back to earlier, I have to believe that if I am bugging out with my family, things are bad. This isn’t, the roads are out and the power won’t be back on for a few days bad. It is danger serious and we fear for our lives bad. In this case, anything that prevents you from escaping that situation could end up killing you.
Using Bolo’s example of his series on Covering Your Tracks where your survival group is forced to flee from some force who is tracking you; speed of travel has to be a factor in there somewhere. If you aren’t able to travel faster than your pursuers, while hopefully not leaving any tracks, you could eventually be caught. Anything that prevents your travel to that safer destination is potentially a risk to your entire group.
I think about this from a couple of different viewpoints because I do have people in my family who would simply not be able to make it if they were forced to bug out. For health or age reasons some of my relatives might decide that they would rather die where they were than try to begin a long and arduous journey they knew for themselves anyway, was next to impossible. This is its own moral dilemma. Do you leave someone behind to face certain death or do you bring them along with you understanding that eventually they will not be able to continue, may hate you for it and could face death in the wilderness possibly exposing you to greater danger in the process?
Another aspect would be people traveling with you who are perhaps part of your group. Like the people on that ferry crossing a body of water, you are traveling together. Perhaps you know them but it may be that you have no relationship with them other than your shared survival instincts. Maybe these are neighbors. What if one of them becomes injured and is unable to continue? What if they must be carried and this slows your group down? How much risk are you willing to accept for someone you don’t know if it means putting people you do know and love at risk? These arent your buddies sent with you on a mission somewhere overseas, these could be relative strangers.
The problem with this thought exercise is that as Bolo rightly pointed out; there are too many “what-ifs” to offer anything more than a lot of different scenarios for us to contemplate. What is the disaster that has forced you from your home? Are you fleeing from anyone in particular or is this a general need to get to a safer environment that allows you some flexibility with movement and time? How serious are the injuries or circumstances that are affecting the person? Would they be able to continue the journey with medical care or rest? Can you afford the detour necessary and potential delays to provide the care needed to them? Is there even the possibility of medical care in this SHTF scenario? Are they injured past the point of care that you can provide? Are they telling you to go on without them because they know they are slowing you down or jeopardizing the group? Do you leave them with some food, water and extra ammo for their rifle, or do you give them one bullet and your throw away pistol?
What if this is your diabetic, overweight mother who simply can’t handle the stress or physical activity required to make the trek and refuses to budge any longer? What if they give up on you?
Like some posts on the Prepper Journal, I am going to have to say I don’t know what I would do. I can make statements and plans now, but I don’t think any of us really know what we will do in some cases do until we do it. I think the concept of never leave a man behind is noble. I’d like to believe I would try to live up to that creed, but would I jeopardize my children to honor that promise? Would I sacrifice my wife’s safety for a stranger? It may be that for the safety of others you are forced to choose between one life and the lives of many. I honestly don’t know and like other circumstances we discuss I hope I never have to find out what I would do.
What do you think? Could you leave someone behind if you had to?