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The Survival Retreat Facility: Design Planning Considerations in Theory and Practice, Part One

July 29, 2019

US Army Special Forces, like the rest of the US military, has a set of doctrine regarding the establishment, maintenance, protection, and even closure, of tactical facilities, under field conditions. In current SF doctrine, those facilities are referred to as “Special Forces Tactical Facilities.” These can range from a small, partially developed patrol base for the ODA, all the way up to an SFOB (Special Forces Operating Base), or what used to be called an “A-Camp.”

Doctrinally, the role of the SF TACFAC is “to support special operations and function as a tactical and operational base.” That is, they serve as a defensive base for the operational detachment, a base for projecting offensive force outwards, and as a center for developing, improving, and maintaining relationships with the local national populace and host-nation forces.

Over time, the TACFAC helps provide for establishment, restoration, and improvements of many local HN community and government services and systems. These essential support systems for the TACFAC and surrounding HN communities are best captured by the acronym SWEAT-MSS (security, water, electricity, administration, trash, medical, sewage, and shelter). Eventually, the SF TACFAC will be returned to the control of the HN government through a relief-in-place (RIP).

Taking our holistic, Permaculture view of preparedness, that seems an awful lot like what our retreat locations—whether you are in a rural, suburban, or urban environment—should be, doesn’t it? After all, if we’ve realized that the idea of Ma, Pa, and the kids, all by their lonesomes, with a year’s supply of beans, bullets, and band-aids, is not such a sustainable plan after all (and, seriously, if you haven’t realized it yet….it’s really not), then we know we need “community,” either in the form of a close-knit group of friends and family—kith-and-kin—or a trusted, small village or neighborhood of people with shared values.

Whether you’re looking at the kith-and-kin clan model, or the village defense model, as your solution, one of the most-often cited “problems” that preppers and survivalists face is the lack of fellow travelers on the path to preparedness. On the other hand, if you have even just four or five people—nuclear family members, best buds, or siblings/cousins, etc—who are doing their best to prepare, and you have a location that can be secured with some effort, you can begin the development of a retreat that will double as your very own UW TACFAC, when the time comes to up the security game.

In the appropriate field manuals (the Special Forces Tactical Facilities manual is a distribution restricted document, with distribution limited to US government agencies and their contractors, with distribution to JFKSWCS students from foreign countries on a case-by-case basis), the defensive purposes of the SF TACFAC are listed as:

–deter and defeat enemy attacks.

–achieve economy of force (by which they mean, require the least amount of personnel possible to defend the facility, releasing more available personnel for offensive operations).

–retain control of key terrain, including human terrain in the form of the local populace.

–protect the populace, critical assets, and infrastructure.

–develop intelligence, particularly local intelligence.

Since those same purposes are pertinent to the discussion of our survival retreat locations, we can see that, when combined with a modified version of the SWEAT-MSS acronym, this provides us a pretty solid basis for consideration of needs for the survival retreat.

After all, we need to be able to use our survival retreat to:

–deter and defeat attacks by hostile outside elements. Depending on collapse scenario, these outside elements could fit a number of different descriptions, ranging from unorganized, starving or near-starving refugees, to paramilitary bands with varying levels of organization and training, to local government forces trying to requisition materials and supplies “for the common good,” to federal or foreign regular military occupation forces.

–since we are definitely limited in manpower, both initially, and via replacements, we certainly need to ensure that we can develop a retreat defense program that will achieve economy-of-force. Growing, gathering, and otherwise harvesting food, repairing, replacing, and/or adding on to infrastructure such as buildings for housing, storage, and more will deplete our available manpower pool, as will other priorities-of-work, ranging from food production and preparation, cleaning and maintenance, medical care, and even childcare and education. Despite these competing demands for manpower effort, we cannot afford, in a post-grid environment, to ignore the demands of 24/7 360-degree security. This means we are going to require a plan and design that allows us to achieve maximum economy-of-force, in order to allow us to provide that security, from the beginning, throughout the process of expanding and strengthening the facility, and recruiting, training, and initiating additional personnel.

–by developing a secure facility, that still allows us to interact with the local populace in a positive manner, we can maintain beneficial relations with that populace. We may not need—or want—to “control” the local human terrain, but we need to, at least, maintain the ability to control that populace in regards to their ability to cause problems for us. Additionally, by selecting the location for our retreat proactively, with security at the forefront of the considerations, we can leverage the location and design of the facility to maintain control over surrounding areas, tactically and operationally, through control of key terrain features.

As an example, although there are some very definite potential shortcomings to locating our farm on top of the mountain in our area—and acknowledging the fact that, in a world with close-air support (CAS), a mountaintop is not necessarily “the key terrain feature,”–in any post-grid/collapse scenario that doesn’t involve a hostile element that possesses CAS assets, being on top of the mountain really does work as a key terrain feature, since it allows for greater observation of the surrounding areas, and makes it significantly harder for dismounted or ground vehicle mounted hostile forces to attack our location effectively.

–Our survival retreat obviously needs to help us protect the populace of our immediate community. That’s why we have a survival retreat, whether it’s a modern, isolated rural survival “doomstead,” an urban tenement building, or a subdivision in the ‘burbs. Additionally, if we design it right, and plan our operations within the retreat area properly, it can be far more effective at protecting critical infrastructure (solar power systems, water catchment systems, housing buildings, etc) and assets (water wells, stock ponds, gardens, fields, livestock, vehicles, and more).

–Finally, a well-established retreat location, with a community of people who are known and liked and trusted by the local surrounding community members, has a far better chance of successfully gathering accurate, actionable intelligence information, via neighborhood gossip and informants, than the weirdo family with the doomstead, that refers to their neighbors as “sheeple,” and weirds everyone out by walking around town open-carrying firearms, while talking about government conspiracies and how ZOG is coming to put us in underground concentration camps.

Of course, when we look at the SWEAT-MSS acronym however, there are some important missing factors, because our context is not a clone of the situation of a SFODA deploying to East Assholistan, with the knowledge and approval of the local HN government, and a supply train that enjoys air and naval superiority for the constant, regular resupply of critical support items, ranging from ammunition and ordnance, to food, water, and replacement clothing.

To really plan and develop an effective survival retreat, just like planning and developing an SF TACFAC, requires an accurate estimate of the situation, including analysis of mission, enemy, terrain and weather, troops and support available, time, and civil considerations (METT-TC), as well as those factors essential to security of the facility, including an accurate OAKOC assessment (Observation and Fields of Fire, Avenues of Approach, Key Terrain Features, Obstacles, and Cover and Concealment). These are, of course, integrally synergistic issues that influence and impact each other (for a thorough discussion of mission-planning, including both METT-TC and OAKOC, including how they interrelate, see Volume One of The Reluctant Partisan!).

In SF doctrine, a SF TACFAC may be developed by breaking new ground, and building up from bare dirt, or by using an existing facility that may need less improvements to be functional. The same considerations that help the detachment determine which of these is more contextually accurate for their situation, can be useful—with a couple of minor modifications—to the survival retreat:

–Is the AO permissive, uncertain, or hostile? This applies, in our context, both right now, and in the future, assuming a loss of government security force availability. There are neighborhoods—and even entire rural villages—in the USA today that are perfectly fine and safe for pretty much anyone to move into, that will be completely untenable for certain demographic groups, as soon as the police quit answering the phones. At the same time, there are environments that, right now, would be hostile to legitimate, effective preparedness planning and preparation, but because of the lack of prepared neighbors in the surrounding community, would be the very definition of permissive for anyone capable of protecting themselves, and maybe even providing protection for neighbors who need such assistance.

–Is the facility to be located in an urban, suburban, or rural location? Building from scratch is considerably more feasible on undeveloped or under-developed rural land, than in a suburban or urban environment. At the same time, while you might be having a brand-new house built in the suburbs, HOA covenants, building code enforcement, and nosy neighbors may prevent your ability—or even willingness—to incorporate much in the way of effective preparedness security options in the building plan, while purchasing an already extant structure, even in a heavily-urban neighborhood, may actually facilitate “remodeling” that allows for the addition of these options, out of sight of outside observers.

An example of this could range from the purchase of a small apartment complex, and remodeling it for protection, before leasing the apartments to select friends and family, to the purchase of a building or complex in an industrial or light-industrial area, and turning it into a defensible outpost (while I’ve actually heard of people doing both of these, and personally know a guy who did the warehouse thing, I can’t imagine being remotely interested in this option myself, so don’t expect much commentary on that side of things, from me).

–Is the potential facility logistically sustainable? An isolated, rural retreat, in much of the vaunted “American Redoubt” is logistically sustainable…for as long as you have rice and beans stored for. There are significant portions of the Redoubt that are not particularly amenable to small-scale vegetable gardening, without extensive external inputs. Other parts of the region are amenable to it, with extensive Permaculture-type development work to prepare the location for sustainable growing. That’s not to say that retreating to the Redoubt is a bad idea…as long as you have considered the logistical sustainability of your retreat, in accordance with your concept of what the future will look like…and assuming you turn out to be correct.

At the same time, while an urban or suburban retreat location may seem untenable, it IS possible to survive a complete collapse, for multiple years and even multiple decades, in urban areas. As I discussed in Volume Two of The Reluctant Partisan, the populations of two different urban cities, that are often used as textbook examples of the the hellishness of urban areas in collapses, Mogadishu, Somalia, and Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovenia, both actually increased in population during their collapse years (and, remember, Sarajevo was under siege and regular bombardment by artillery during that time frame, while Somalia was ruled by warring gangs, armed with automatic weapons, RPGs, and mortars!). Logistically, support may come from outside the urban area, either through smuggling or open trade agreements (one example of trade items in a US collapse might include stripping building materials and supplies from abandoned buildings, for trade to rural communities outside the urban area, in trade for food), or it may be internal, through the use of intensive urban gardening and permaculture practices. Utility logistics may be easier to develop in an urban area, during a collapse. Solar panels and inverters are in wide use in most urban areas on commercial buildings these days, and there are a lot more forklifts (forklift batteries are a popular choice for off-grid electrical systems) in urban warehouse districts than in the boondocks. Hell, setting your PV system up now, and getting used to it, without drawing attention to yourself, would be a hell of a lot easier in an “abandoned” warehouse in a city, than it is even on my remote rural location!

–Is the local security situation adequate? What is the local defense and protection situation? Is the local constabulary, whether municipal police department, rural sheriff’s department, or unofficial “gang” enforcement, actually adequate to prevent, or at least, reduce the chances of criminal predation now? Is the local constabulary corrupt? If they are corrupt, can they be coerced or bribed to leave you alone? Do you have the resources to achieve either of those routes?

Is there a local militia or community-defense organization that you can join, or at least coordinate with? Are there are other preparedness groups that you can coordinate mutual assistance pacts with? Do those preparedness groups, militia, or community-defense organizations demonstrate a level of training and ability that makes them worth coordinating with, or are they so apparently inept that they might as well not even exist, and you can basically ignore them as an organized potential threat?

–Is it possible for your organization to conduct Civil Affairs (CA) or Psychological Operations (PSYOP) on demographic groups in the local area to modify, change, or block threats from human terrain factors? Does your group have the knowledge, training, motivation, to plan, execute, and assess the effectiveness of these operations, if you do attempt them? Do you have access to people with those abilities? Can those people be recruited, or even temporarily hired, to conduct those operations?

In addition to the SFODs that will occupy the SF TACFAC (it may be occupied by ODAs, ODBs, or even larger elements, the SF TACFAC, may also house interpreters and other friendly force personnel on either a permanent or temporary basis, ranging from other US or multinational military, interagency, or contractor personnel, HN personnel in the form of military, constabulary, or civilian government, or irregular forces, whether local or third-nation (TN), working with the SFOD. To plan a proper TACFAC operation, the detachment must take into account both the size of these elements, how long they may need to be housed, and any cultural considerations related to those groups, when developing their TACFAC.

Similarly, when developing our retreat facilities, we need to recognize that, just because “our group” only comprises a half-dozen married couples, only half of which have teenage children, that may not be the entirety of the population of the retreat, once things get “sporting.” Elderly parents, adult cousins or siblings, and juvenile extended family members, as well as extended friends, or even bypassers who turn out to have potentially useful skills should all be considered as potential “Well, we can manage one more person, because they’re extremely dear to me!” additions.

It’s popular, and easy right now, to say, “Fuck those people! They should’ve contributed to the preps, if they wanted to show up!” But, when the rubber meets the road, if you tell your wife, “Hey, honey, sorry, but you knew your Mom and Dad, Sister, and nephews were not going to be allowed to come here when SHTF!” you’re as likely to end up with your wife and kids leaving to find their way with Grammy and Poppy, or with an 8” Chef’s knife buried in your chest one night, as you are to hear your wife say, “Yeah, you’re right, honey. Fuck my Mom and Dad!”

If you tell the wife of your best buddy that no, she can’t bring her adult sister and four nephews along, after her brother-in-law was killed in a riot, you might get your way, but you’re probably going to lose your buddy, his wife, and all the additional security they represent, as well.

This means, in a nutshell, that when planning, you need to make sure that you’ve got room, and materials, to help house and provide sustenance for, additional, unplanned personnel. The “traditional” prepper plan for that, of course, was to stockpile a couple cases of Mosin-Nagants or SKS, and some cheap surplus LBE for those people, and just tell them they better show up with a couple buckets of food, and camping gear.

I’ve always had a couple of issues with that approach, even when I was a kid, reading about it. First of all, if someone shows up without a firearm, am I really going to hand them a rifle? Do they even know how to safely handle a firearm? Sure, I can train them, but to really teach them, it’s going to take some time. That training time is going to take away from other essential tasks they need to be doing, like putting seed in the ground to grow some more food, and getting some weatherproof, environmentally appropriate shelter up.

Our farm is big enough that, with good planning and organization, we can maintain and expand our food-production capabilities, and still provide comfortable, housing, in a village format, for all of our “clan-of-choice.” We’re also surrounded by unused, and/or underused, open land. Some is cow pasture that is in use, other is forest or pasture that is not in use. My plan has long been (and I’ve discussed this with other SF veterans in the preparedness community), when the expected “unexpected” folks arrive (anyone who is family is always welcome, even if we don’t honestly believe they have the ability or wisdom to make it here, in time), without a pot to piss in, is to hand them a tarp shelter, a small bucket of seeds, a hoe, shovel, and rake, a breeding pair of rabbits, a couple of laying hens, and a marked out space of ground. For home defense, they will be handed a spear and a plywood shield. They will be shown how to fabricate a shelter out of the tarp, and then given instruction on how to use a bucket for a composting toilet, how to plant their seeds, and how to care for their new livestock. Finally, they will receive a welcome briefing: “Welcome to the farm. We (the farm, including the clan-of-choice that helped build this), get 10% of whatever you produce for five years, then 5% thereafter. You owe us two days a week for the first month for training, and then two days a month for security duties, and one day a week for community work efforts.”

If they don’t like that? Well, there’s the road. We gave them a chance. This idea though, that I’m going to hand some knucklehead that’s never even fired a gun, a rifle and ammunition, without first teaching them to use it properly, as part of a team, under stress, strikes me as preposterous, under the circumstances. Sure, as an SF guy, I might be working with local Gs, without time to “train” them up to my standards, but if they fuck up and kill one of us, it’s just the ODA. If someone in my post-grid community fucks up and kills one of us, it might very well be one of my kids….

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Doctrinally, a SF TACFAC has “three broad phases of development,” which are “initial, temporary, and permanent, whether in a rural or urban environment.” Because of this, the TACFAC can be classified by phase and by environment, such as initial/rural or temporary/urban. The transformation of the TACFAC through these phases, if it happens, is mission-driven, and it is possible—and often the case—to begin a TACFAC at a higher level than initial (bare dirt) phase. An example of this can be seen in the rent/lease of already established, walled compounds in Afghanistan, for the establishment of temporary and permanent TACFACs in an already defensible, habitable place. In these cases, some of the basic sustainment and support systems are already in place. “Therefore, development of a specific TACFAC may begin at the temporary (intermediate) or even permanent (well-developed) phase.” With the obvious exception of the above-cited Afghanistan example, this will more generally be the case in urban TACFACs than in rural ones. This was often the case in Iraq, for example, when captured Iraqi Baath Party government buildings were commandeered for the use of SF elements as TACFACs. This is because, as mentioned previously in this article, urban areas often already contain numerous suitable existing structures, and are more likely to have some forms of the requisite support infrastructure.

In a post-grid environment, here in the States however, while it is still possible to start a retreat on the bare ground of raw or reclaimed land, which would constitute the Initial phase, most often, even rural retreats are going to to begin with some buildings and infrastructure support already in place. Additionally, in the post-grid environment, the supporting infrastructure available in an urban environment may or may not be functioning (there are cities where the water and sewage utilities are gravity-fed, for example, meaning that, as long as your building facilities work, you’ll still have the ability to utilize municipal utilities, even without the power grid functioning).

Like SF units, which may operate in environments as varied as the deserts and urban megalopolises of Iraq, to the mountains of Afghanistan, or the jungles of Latin America or SE Asia, preppers may need to establish retreat locations in a variety of different environments. Because of this, a facility may be further classified by specific environmental conditions, such as rural/desert or rural/jungle. A retreat facility in the Red Desert of Wyoming will look as different from a retreat facility in urban Portland, Oregon, as a SF TACFAC in Afghanistan does from a SF TACFAC in the Phillipine jungle.

This, of course, ties into the Permaculture principles, and working within the limits of the local environment. A SF TACFAC in Iraq looks different than a SF TACFAC in the Phillipine jungle, because the environments are different, so even though they fill the same needs, function remarkably similar, and have similar support system requirements, they will still be different, driven by the differences in the surrounding environment.

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The essential support systems of the SF TACFAC, as we established at the beginning of this article, are doctrinally captured by the acronym SWEAT-MSS. These support systems are also critical to the retreat facility. Unfortunately, they alone are not adequate for support of the retreat facility, simply because the logistical chain enjoyed by the SF unit, is not something we are likely to have in the post-grid environment. Nevertheless, it makes sense to start with the SWEAT-MSS foundation, and expand on it to cover those elements not covered, but still essential to our contextual requirements.

In both the SF doctrine, and for our contextual requirements, “Security” is listed first. This is not because the typical “III%4LIFE” gun-crazy prepper in his multi-cam jammies, with his “North Idaho Sniper Rifle” SKS, with Tapco furniture, and 45x Tasco scope has the right idea. Instead, it is because, having every other logistical infrastructure support requirement dialed in, to perfection, but not being able to secure it adequately, simply means we’ve built something really nice for some roving warlord’s band to come and take from us. This is the biggest issue with the resilience/preparedness side of the typical Permaculture advocate. They’re all about building resilient, durable, sustainable facilities that could allow them to survive and thrive, and build a stronger community around them, post-grid….but they can’t wrap their head around the idea that they might need to smoke-check some fuckers if they want to keep it, and see it utilized in a manner in accordance with their principles.

While developing security requires an estimate of the situation, and the situation will change as you develop the retreat facility, you still need to start with a security plan for what you have now, and that requires having an estimate of the current situation.

While Administration, doctrinally, mostly refers to the daily administrative and logistical considerations of training HN forces, out of the SF TACFAC, for our purposes, we’re going to utilize that category to subdivide and cover many of the other essential administrative and logistical considerations of keeping ourselves and the retreat community functioning. This will include, most importantly, coverage of the Rule of 3s, and how we will maintain survivability for the populace within the retreat facility, as well as how we can begin expanding our sphere of influence outside of the retreat facility, to support infrastructure recovery and repair, development, and protection. The importance of doing this is often overlooked in preparedness circles, but cannot be overemphasized, from a preparedness perspective, if for no other reason than the goodwill it produces in the surrounding local populace will go a long way to increasing our survivability, through allowing us to build rapport, and develop mutually beneficial relationships with the surrounding populace, allowing them to provide logistical support, intelligence information support, and even security support. This development, in essence, allows us to develop the local populace surrounding the retreat facility, into our auxiliary.

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SF doctrine utilizes an analytical tool called a Critical Nodes Matrix (CNM) as a planning guide to aid the SFOD in not only establishing an SF TACFAC, but in improving an already existing one. The CNM “identifies the environment and different development phases,” and cross-references those with the SWEAT-MSS requirements. It allows the team to analyze the specific requirements across the essential support systems, to identify critical requirements throughout the phases of the facility development. Through this process, it is possible to develop a logical progression of needs betweens the different phases.

While SFOD generally require nonorganic support to properly run a TACFAC and to allow them to properly function at full operational capacity, the retreat facility may be forced to rely solely on organic support for both internal operations and external operations. In either case however, a CNM can help identify existing shortfalls and gaps in personnel, equipment, and materials needed to establish or improve a facility. By identifying these shortfalls early, during the analysis process, before shit falls apart, we can increase the chances of successfully planning for and locating those needs, while they are still available. This may range from personnel needs like vehicle or small-engine mechanics, and medical personnel—or even extra gunslingers for security—to operational and equipment needs ranging from “Hey, we’re gonna need a LOT more ammunition, and we need to put together a large-scale reloading facility on-site, with appropriate components,” to “we only have enough antibiotics to treat forecast injuries for a dozen people, but we expect to have three dozen people living and working on-site within six weeks of grid-down! We either need to source a lot more antibiotics, we need all of our medically-trained personality to start looking at local plant-based antibiotic alternatives, we need to set up a lab to produce penicillin from scratch, or we better prepare on massive casualties from stupid shit like chronic dysentery!”

Ultimately, properly used, the CNM can facilitate proper development of a retreat facility plan and development, through the development of primary, alternate, contingency, and emergency (PACE) plans. For example, if an existing critical node in the SWEAT-MSS model fails, anywhere within the matrix, the previous critical node can be used as a substitute. An example of this actually occurred on our farm recently. Our initial phase sewage management plan was the simple bucket composting toilet system. Our permanent plan is a low-water use flush composting toilet system. The temporary (intermediate) phase plan was the use of a self-contained flush containment toilet, like those available for RVs, with small internally-contained catchment that could be dumped less frequently than the bucket.

Unfortunately, about two weeks after transitioning to the temporary plan, while developing the planning, and gathering the material needs for the permanent plan, we suffered a failure of then temporary system. To whit, the wife decided it stank to high heaven, and the piston pump flush system actually didn’t produce adequate water flow to reliably flush toilet tissue and feces. About 50% of the time, you’d have to dump extra water into the toilet, via a small pitcher, to gain adequate flow to complete the flushing process. This meant either A) we could stick with the temporary, completely inadequate plan, B) we could accelerate the development of the permanent plan, which would have thrown other planning into disarray (like a rebuild of the bathroom addition that needs to occur first, and that we don’t currently have the funding to achieve anyway), or C) we could revert to the temporary plan of using the bucket composting toilet method. Pretty easy choice, and it was a no-brainer, since it was the CNM default fall-back, anyway. Additionally, because we had already used that method for well over two years, we knew it worked, well (in fact, really the only reason we are planning on the flush composting system is because I’m lazy (well, busy anyway), and don’t want to have to carry the bucket out regularly. It would be easier to just have the compost flush automatically into a vermicompost bin, and the water drain into a separate containment system for fertilizer use. By all accounts I have found, this ends up meaning you can actually utilize the humanure compost sooner, and you don’t ever have to empty the containment system unless you need the compost, or simply want to use the compost.

For the purposes of this article, we are going to discuss the development of a rural retreat facility, in the form of our farm. This works particularly well for a couple of reasons. First of all, unlike a lot of preppers, even in rural retreats, we started with raw land, in the form of reclaimed pasture that is now a mixture of second-growth hardwood forest, young scrub forest, and meadows with brambles and shrubbery developing. We did not have a single functional structure anywhere on the land when we purchased it.

Second, it works well because while it has a small unit developing the facility (my wife, myself, and our children), we do have the ability to occasionally augment our workforce through recruitment of members of the clan-of-choice, and the plan is to develop it in a manner that will allow for a much larger permanent party population. Finally, it has—literally—gone through all three phases of the development process.

Like the SF ODA initially occupying a TACFAC site, our major concerns during the initial phase were basic survival needs: security, water, sanitation, food, and electrical power (to operate tools and communications devices).

Housing was rudimentary. We weren’t so primitive as to be living out of our rucksacks, or even in a tent like a GP Medium, but we started out with a “portable building” cabin, that we knew was temporary and short-term, so we didn’t need to do a lot of improvement on the temporary housing. Because of that fact, much of our environmental planning, even in the cabin, was “primitive.” We relied on a very small woodstove, sleeping bags, and sleep pads on the floor. We cooked on a two-burner camp stove, and our refrigerator was an ice chest. Like the initial phase of the SF TACFAC, for the initial phase of the rural retreat facilities, tends to be pretty barren and primitive.

Electric power may be provided by small commercial 5KW generators, like those assigned to many SFODs. Alternatively, as we’ve discussed in these pages, a solar generator may be a more resilient option. While a solar generator, whether manufactured or self-built may be more expensive than a cheap, big box store 5KW generator, it will also last incredibly longer, and the maintenance and operational costs very quickly even that cost out, since you don’t need to replace fuel.

Our planning for the initial phase development indicated our electrical needs were relatively limited. We needed—wanted—to be able to operate a few lights, a small television and DVD player, and charge laptops, cellphones and two-way radios. Equally critical for our needs however, was the ability to run power tools. While we were able to run the household needs on a single 210W solar panel, an inexpensive PWM inverter, and an auto parts store inverter, with three little 100amp hour deep-cycle batteries, the start-up draw alone for even the smaller power tools was too much for the inverter, and would have drawn the battery bank down too quickly as well. This required the use of a 5KW generator initially. These were quickly replaced in the temporary phase by the use of 20V battery powered power tools, although some tools still require the use of the generator. In the event the batteries for these tools are lost, or die, and are irreplaceable by a quick, albeit expensive trip to Lowe’s, the reversion to the use of the generator for power tools, and the use of manual hand tools.

Basic comforts, such as indoor plumbing and running water, typically are nonexistent.” Many rural retreat facilities have the same issue, of course. In such cases, many contemporary preppers rely on hauling potable water from town or a neighbor’s house (we actually did this for a number of years when I was a kid, because the well water was so sulfur and iron laden). The doctrinal—and better—option, is to ensure a reliable fresh water source in close proximity. Our farm has three year-round, spring-fed ponds on it. With a little filtration and/or treatment, we have a fundamentally unlimited source of fresh water. An additional source of course, that we developed very early in our initial phase development, and still utilize in the temporary (and, yes, even into the permanent phase) phase, was rainwater catchment and storage. This can range from the food-grade 55-gallon drum we used in the small cabin, to the doubled and connected 275-gallon IBC totes we currently use (and are an exceedingly common solution for off-grid living), or a more permanent solution in the use of larger plastic containment solutions, or even ferro-concrete, underground cisterns.

While the SFOD may utilize slit trenches and cat holes in the initial phase, for those of us with wives and children, the use of traditional outhouses is one, slightly more realistic option, or the even more function-stacking (there’s that Permaculture thing again….) composting toilet that can provide safe, sanitary waste disposal, as well as feed for soil and plants in the garden and orchards.

So, we’ve covered “water,” “electricity,” “sewage,” and “shelter,” of the SWEAT-MSS acronym. That, of course, leaves us with “security and protection,” “trash,” “medical,” and “administrative” issues.

Burning trash is actually legally verboten in our area, although that doesn’t stop anybody from actually doing so. The problem of course, with burning trash, is that not everything we produce as refuse, is burnable. Our system, for the initial and temporary phases, has been multifaceted. Step one is to sort household trash. What is burnable gets burned, of course, while recyclables get taken to the recycling center (the value of which is, of course, questionable at best. Between “recyclables” that cannot actually be recycled, and the preponderance of “recycling” companies to actually ship materials off-shore to other countries for recycling, where they are conveniently dumped in the ocean, the value of “recycling” is—at best—questionable.

On the other hand, if we don’t do that, we either have to send it to the landfill, or establish a landfill dump on the farm. While that may be the only practical solution in a post-grid environment, it’s not something I’m interested in doing until I cannot avoid it. The better option, of course, is to do everything you can to reduce household trash, and to make your best effort to limit what is produced to burnable items, as much as possible.

Most yard, farm, and construction debris is far easier to dispose of effectively, of course. Organic materials, such as wood and fibers, can be composted or burned, and most other materials, such as surplus or used fencing, nails, buckets, and etc, can be set aside, and stored for re-use.

In the SF TACFAC, most medical needs are, of course, going to taken care of by the ODA’s 18Ds, with the availability of an HLZ (Helicopter Landing Zone) for transport of casualties via CASEVAC helicopters, as a back-up. Of course, most of us aren’t Deltas, and even fewer of us have military CASEVAC birds on call.

For most preppers, even in rural retreat facilities, the primary medical resource for emergencies is still medical insurance and the Emergency Department (ED) of the closest hospital, with lesser medical issues taken care of by a Primary Care Provider (PCP)/Family Physician, and home care out of a first-aid kit, by Ma or Pa. The problem from a preparedness perspective, of course, is that, post-grid, that ED is not going to be much of an option, and the PCP may not even be available. Instead, we will be relying on our own medical training—or the medical training of others in the community. This could range from the ideal of an experienced MD, or a former 18D or USAF PJ (to be clear, nobody in our clan-of-choice is any of these, more’s the pity…so, if you’re an 18D and are reading this, and looking for a community…) to a RN, paramedic, EMT, former combat medic, or the local midwife, or someone like me who was nothing but a knuckle-dragging gunslinger, with an interest in trauma medicine, and took advantage of the Deltas, to keep boned up on Combat Lifesaver and TC3 skills.

In our extended group of folks, we have a MD (pediatric), a chiropractor, several nurses, a few other advanced care providers of various sorts, and lots of country moms and grannies, with decades of experience doctoring farm injuries, in lieu of an expensive hospital visit. Of course, with children in the equation, if I said, “We don’t go to the ED or Doctor, because we don’t have health insurance, and that shit is expensive.” Fortunately, I don’t have to, because, as I noted above, we have a pediatric doctor in the extended clan…

With the loss to a heart defect of our first son, of course, any and all subsequent pregnancies have been “high risk,” so my wife has gone for prenatal care, but beyond that, for she and I, all of our medical care thus far, has been at home. Much of that has been possible, because of safety practices, that have prevented any occurrence of serious injury, of course. In a post-grid environment, where the ED and our PCP (which we do also have, although we pay cash for care, when necessary), may not be available, when injuries do occur, I’m afraid our pediatrician is going to be dramatically overworked, between taking care of most serious injuries, and having to pass on her expertise to apprentices. However, the use of good safety practices around the facility will alleviate that somewhat.

A number of studies I’ve read have pretty convincingly concluded that, at least in the short-term grid down experiences we’ve witnessed in this country, and in a number of longer, failed-state, grid-down scenarios in other countries, the single most common reasons for needing medical attention are a) lack of hygiene, leading to pathogen transfer creating disease vectors, and b) injuries from working with basic equipment that people are unfamiliar with, in the performance of tasks they are not educated in the performance of. This could range from a middle-class, suburban accountant suddenly forced to chop firewood with an axe or a chainsaw, causing massive injury to himself or bystanders with the tools, to people making common mistakes, even amongst experienced practitioners, like rolling a tractor or UTV over themselves. So, for the medical planning issues of the retreat facility, perhaps the single most important medical planning we can do is good hygiene practices (Thank you, germ-theory of disease transmission! Ha! Can’t take that knowledge away from us, can you Mr. Apocalypse!?), and the use of proper education and PPE around tool-centric tasks.

Administrative, as we discussed is a very broad area, of course, ranging from food production and preparation, to the stockpiling, storage, and disbursement of equipment and tools ranging from garden tools, construction tools and materials, PPE, and temporary shelter options for newcomers.

Finally, of course, although it’s the most important, as we discussed, is the security planning issue. In the current environment, our security planning is not vastly different from what it will be post-grid, although we have less people actually on the facility to participate in that aspect. During the initial occupation of the initial phase SF TACFAC, security is larger provided via the implementation of a 24 hour security plan, just as in a patrol base, and the use of short-duration security patrols in the immediate vicinity. As the TACFAC develops, of course, security planning progresses as well, with greater protective measures being put into place. “These measures include longer patrols, listening posts (LP), observation posts (OP), and additional wire around the facility perimeter. After basic security is established initial construction projects—such as inner and outer perimeter barriers—are built. Early projects may be hampered by the limited equipment and material assets carried by the SF unit.

Without giving too much away, the only “wire emplacements” we have on our farm are perimeter and interior fencing, that we use as the inner foundation for the development of hedges. We have a gate that we do keep closed, and the property is posted. More important is the very large protection dog that, at 200# and jet black in color, scares the living fuck out of even our own people when he comes barreling up to them in the dark. Ultimately though, the dog is a “speed bump,” in the security planning. All he’s got to do is alert me to something not being “right,” and then slow down the threat long enough for me to gun up and slip out the back door to maneuver around. More important than even the dog however, in the current environment, is simply having the reputation of a guy who knows what he is about, and will not tolerate misdeeds. That can’t be gained from talking about what a bad-ass you are, of course. It has to be developed by example.

While there are probably a half-dozen neighbors who have a rough idea of what my professional background is, most don’t. The ones that do didn’t hear it from me, but from family friends who knew about it before I even moved back to the area. Those neighbors that don’t know my background however, do know that we train weekly, and I train daily. The local ne’er-do-wells, in other words, have to make a risk-benefit analysis, and it just doesn’t pencil out for them.

—————————–

So, there is a “brief” introduction to some of the SF doctrine relevant to retreat design theory, and some practical, contextually useful examples of that theory being put to use. In the next installment of this article series, which will be posted on the Patreon Page next week, we will discuss the actual planning and design process for SF TACFACs, and how that can be modified for our requirements.

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11 Comments
  1. Frank Devan permalink

    Great article John. Definitely look forward to hearing your ideas on how to harden defensives without throwing up hesco barriers and sandbags. RLTW.

  2. Matt permalink

    Really thorough material. Thank you.

  3. Vagus permalink

    Holy crap John, so much good info in this article I don’t know where to begin to comment.

    In short, I greatly appreciate that you have the good sense to be able to adapt your training to local conditions. I know flexibility is supposed to be part of the package, but far too many guys and gals I talk with say essentially; This is the way we did it in the sandbox, so that’s the way I’m doing it here, to the point that I read an “expert” article once that seriously claimed that urban combatants here in the States would be armed primary with AK47s… I don’t know about you guys, but I don’t know of hardly anybody that has an AK47, because of their cost vs an AR, much less your average city person.

    In regards to the mountaintop vs CAS, modernity does pose some daunting challenges. Historically you would want walls and other static defenses, but good luck these days with shaped charges/ IEDs, even in a Mad-Max grid down yadda yadda. I don’t know what the answer here is, if anyone does.

    You mentioned areas that would become hostile to certain demographics without rule of law; Besides a willingness to perform extreme violence, what is your plan since your family isn’t Christian? I too grew up and live in the South, let’s not kid ourselves on the potential for sectarian violence.

  4. CAS, though limited, is now within reach of any homeowner –> drones. No, you’re not going to get the kind of support that a Warthog can provide, but it’s better than not having one at all.
    Check out the vids where they were armed with grenades and dropped them into the open hatches of tanks in Syria. I think Youtube even has videos where kids have mounted guns to them. Of course, I’m not advocating doing anything illegal, I’m just pointing out what others have done..
    Plus, in surviellance mode, they can push out your security perimeter whether it’s static (homestead) or mobile (flying ahead of your convoy giving you advancted warning of roadblocks, etc.) They can also deliver small packages (repeaters, etc.) to terrain/locations not easily accessible or of high-risk to humans. Have a tech guy/gal on your team? 🙂

  5. Rayburn Wisdom permalink

    Read all your books and always read your emails. You’ve had some great ones in the past, this is the best yet. I would really like to see more of this type material. Even if it’s Patreon or some other paid venue.

    >

  6. Mike M. permalink

    Took me about three minutes to find FM 3-05.230 and start reading it, also downloaded FM 31-93.3 and FM 7-92 for more ideas. Will enroll in your Patreon feed later this week.

  7. Mas Casa permalink

    John,

    Been reading your material online since 2016 and this is great info. I’m looking forward to the rest of this topic, especially as we’ll migrat to the Redoubt in the next couple years to be closer to clan.

  8. dangero permalink

    Your comment about using Psychological Operations to influence the human terrain around you is very insightful. Most people fail to realize making potentially hostile people in your AO even just neutral can free up your resources, especially security needs, quite a bit and with work they might even feel comfortable enough to pass information of value along to you even if they don’t otherwise “support” you.
    As a long time PSYOP officer I saw most people underestimated how much effort goes into a successful messaging campaign…and it is a campaign. There is no one magic handbill that will “win the war”. Half the time spent is first understanding your target audience and realizing they may respond better to someone else delivering the message. If you can develop a relationship with that person to the point where they will say it for you that will go s long way to getting the results you want.

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  1. John Mosby: The Survival Retreat Facility, Part I – Lower Valley Assembly
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