Always Be Prepared

By Jon Hillenbrand In Photography, Stories

We’re all put to the test… but it never comes in the form or at the point we would prefer, does it?
-Charles Morse, The Edge

I am a special forces operative. I enter the lobby of the Daley Plaza and I quickly survey the security looking for any holes. The most obvious is the bored rentacop “guarding” the extra wide exit. At certain times it seems that many people pass through this area, some stopping to check cell phones or chat with coworkers. After speaking with a toothless man outside who was up for a DUI charge, I know that there is also a less guarded entrance in the basement, reachable via the underground passageway. So while performing my civic responsibilities as part of a jury recently, I took all of this knowledge and put it to the side and just played by the rules.

But I find it interesting how my mind constantly wants to find these things out. I have learned a lot over the years from SWAT 3:CQB, the Hitman series, and of course Sam Fisher how to tactically ascend a stairway, slice the pie into a position where I can stack up with my team in preparation for a bang and clear infiltration of a room. I know to mirror for suspects, to go right when the man in front goes left, to concentrate on my corner and end up looking back into the room by the time I finish my sweep. I know not to pass my weapon over anything or anyone that I am not willing to destroy, to pay attention to the Z angle and overpenetration, what surfaces such as wood or metal or glass will allow bullet penetration depending on the ammo being used, etc. I know that speed, noise and chaos can be used to my advantage. And of course I know that the plan is the first casualty of war and the thing that separates the quick and the dead are the tactics able to be called upon in the heat of battle.

Thankfully, I realize that knowing about all of these things is like knowing about nouns, pronouns, adjectives, clauses and misplaced modifiers. You may know what all of those things are, but that doesn’t mean that you can write like Shakespeare. I’m a practitioner of Karate, untested in battle, kinda. More on that later.

It’s such a cliche in society. But like many cliches, this one is based on solid fact. First made popular by The Boy Scouts of America (BSA), the phrase Always Be Prepared has been a cornerstone of many young boy’s childhoods. I can certainly attest to the effectiveness of the phrase not just as a guideline to live by, but as a wake up call for an out of control ego and as a pacifier when worried about the unknown.

When I was working for Jenny Jones as a location videographer, I was often asked, on 12 hours notice, to travel across the US to a very poor section of the country to videotape people for the show. My mantra of “Be Prepared” helped me not forget to bring the video tapes, to know what to do when the rental agency didn’t have any cars, and to get everywhere on time.

So I think that because of my strange career and its parallels to special forces work (i.e. tell me where to go, what to do when I get there, on no notice) I long ago began to devour videos, books, movies, magazines and computer games that would teach me the lessons that would help me stay prepared for any situation. Motorcycle lessons, karate, driving courses, even yoga have all helped and are helping me to stay one step ahead of my enemy Fate.

Of course, this all begs the question of, “Have you been tested?” I can say that a few times I have passed several difficult tests and it’s always a source of pride when I survive them. I did prevail in a fight in grade school with Jimmy Vargas (something that helped turn the 7 year tide of my “nerd” reputation), I survived an attack outside a bar by two people right after college (something that taught me more about the importance of always being prepared than anything before in my life), and I did know how to not slam on the brakes when my car was careening out of control toward that bridge upright, knowing that the tires would grab hold at the last possible moment, which they did.

Dune taught me that, “Fear is the Mind Killer,” and the BSA taught me to “Always Be Prepared.” If this has given me an advantage or enabled me to be calm in the face of danger, I am forever grateful. Now, I have to work on taking on too much.

And I have to finish my John Connor List (Superman training skills needed to save the world):

    (many of these items I have already learned, some I am still working on or haven’t started)

  • Learn to fire handguns in 9mm, .40 and .45 caliber
  • Learn to maintain and fire rifles and SMGs
  • Learn to drive semi-tractor trailers
  • Learn to fly helicopters
  • Learn to fly everything from a Cessna to a 747
  • Learn heavy weapons such as AT-4 anti tank rockets, M249, Minigun
  • Learn to skydive
  • Learn advanced driving techniques
  • Learn SWAT tactics
  • Learn martial arts
  • Learn to seduce a woman into giving me information
  • Learn to talk to anyone
  • Learn to drive a tank
  • Learn to scuba drive including closed-circuit diving
  • Learn orienteering (map and compass work)
  • Learn to hotwire a car or truck
  • Learn emergency medical training (CPR and Medic Training)
  • Learn to defuse a bomb
  • Learn to put out a fire
  • Learn mountain climbing
  • Learn how to fastrope onto a rooftop
  • Learn to write a budget proposal
  • Learn how to be an effective leader
  • Learn what else I need to learn to add to and complete this list

See also Superman School
See also Phoenix Consulting Group
See also NOLS
See also AOPA Flight Training
See also Blackwater USA Training

What do you think?