Survival skills are the epitome of responsibility, for without the practical ability to provide for one’s sustenance in a world of scarcity absent the contemporary market economy, it would fall upon each individual to secure and the process the most basic resources by himself in order to continue living. Unfortunately, those who have become spoiled by the comforts and luxuries of 21st century modern living have become ignorant of the most essential skills for self-sufficiency. Any piece of literature that attempts to remedy this situation by providing the details of what has worked to enable stranded people and others who are off-grid to survive at all are most valuable for promoting self-reliance.
This 900+ page tome of complied US Army Field Manuals (FMs) begins by briefly examining survival cognitive processes as well as different types of kits (which unfortunately is anything but exhaustive yet nonetheless a decent starting point). The next 200 pages or so deal with emergency field medicine that I was pleasantly surprised to discover were quite repetitive for me (since a good portion of it was the verbose version of the standard Boy Scout material), although to be fair they did cover field medicine within a biological as well as a chemical weapons contaminated environment. The shelter designs I thought were interesting if not a tad complicated for the beginning survivalist or genuine “Ricky recruit” militia soldier.
I really enjoyed the typology given for both edible and poisonous plants, yet it would have been more beneficial for them to provide color photographs instead of just the standard monochrome black and white ones. While the food procurement sections were absolutely fascinating with regard to the variety of traps and such that could be employed, I would have liked to see a more expanded section on water procurement rather than just some solar stills and whatnot (given that water retains a higher preference ordering than food according the Survival Rules of 3). Similar to water, I would also extend my comments towards providing warmth particularly via campfires in that only 9 pages were spent on this critical topic.
The chapters on combat uniquely peaked my interest. It was good of the editor to include the various spatial ranges of combat as well as using them within specific contexts (such as sentry removal). I was also pleased to see that the pertinent sections on tracking, movement, concealment, and cover were explained adequately, albeit somewhat verbosely. Field-expedient tools and weapons were likewise enlightening, but I don’t see at this time how any program of field training could incorporate these without a competent instructor to mentor the struggling guerrillas. Finally, the climate specific chapters on surviving tropics, deserts, snowy cold areas, hilly mountain terrain, and the open ocean are going to be useless to you unless you live or otherwise plan to operate in such climes.
Jay McCullough’s The Ultimate Guide to US Army Survival Skills, Tactics, and Techniques is really intended for someone who is at least of intermediate skill, both in the sense of the relevant skills presented as well as in literate ability. It’s not just because of the length but also the grammatical syntax that really is not that user friendly for the amateur. While this book is not good for greenhorned Ricky recruits, it is however beneficial to those teaching said greenhorned Ricky recruits by providing the level of detail and expertise to these instructors who can then adapt the textbook knowledge into a field based skills program.