These 10 Military Skills Will be Useful During a Disaster

When we are faced by serious trials and tribulations in life, it is easy to start wishing that we were someone else, somebody skilled and capable under the circumstances.

group of soldiers running

If we had the skills, mindset and stature befitting our everyday heroes in the military, perhaps we would get through this event with flying colors instead of sweating buckets wishing we were elsewhere.

When we consider the topic of survival, it is no hyperbole to say that the average soldier, sailor, marine or airman is far more capable of dealing with the harsh and unforgiving conditions attendant with natural and man-made disasters than most civilians.

From the earliest days of basic training the end of their MOS schooling and even through advanced courses like SERE training, members of our armed forces are inoculated from day one to survive, persist, and overcome even in the midst of combat.

We might or might not ever face something that harrowing, but we can still look to the members of the military to inform our own skill development.

As it turns out, certain survival skills are truly ubiquitous, and just as applicable in military operations as they are in domestic survival situations here at home. On this list we will be covering 10 military skills that will be useful during a disaster.

10 Craziest Military Training Exercises

You Don’t Need to be a Soldier to Benefit from These Skills

It has been said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but I know that imitation without a thorough understanding of the factors that saw someone else make the decisions they made for themselves is a sure-fire way to look like a fool at best or find yourself in a bad situation at worst.

The point is, basic imitation, copying the decision making, lifestyle choices or professional development of someone else without a thorough understanding of the context that sees them sharpen and utilize those skills is probably going to be wasteful.

In the military, it is the mission, that’s the goal or objective, that drives all of the decisions that they make, from the acquisition and outfitting of gear to training goals and skill set development.

We need to figure out what our missions are before we can start figuring out what our goals are, but in the context of prepping survival, and I mean basic life support, continuation of life, is always going to be an objective.

In this regard, I’m happy to report that understanding and copying many of the skills that our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines utilize on a regular basis for the purpose will serve us just as well.

This is because any survival situation worth the name entails many of the same risks that they face; it is only the setting that is a little bit different.

We, like they, must be able to adapt to changing circumstances that have severe consequences for failure, and we must be able to reiterate rapidly, over and over again if necessary, if at first we don’t succeed.

The following skill sets in the next section could just as easily have been taken from a survival manual written for preppers.

These 10 Military Skills Will be Useful During a Disaster

#1. Basic Survival Skills

Basic survival skills are those that are intended to provide the most fundamental and necessary of our survival requirements.

They ensure access and continual supply of things like air, shelter, water and food. These are the self-same skills that you had better know, too, if you are getting into a sticky situation.

The men and women of the armed services could find themselves and their comrades in any number of environments with every conceivable hazard, and they will be expected to live and operate effectively in these environments no matter what.

You had better be able to do the same thing when disaster strikes, be it natural or man-made.

Think about it. Any event like that that is worth the name has a high probability of destroying or damaging your home, denying you shelter and probably carrying off an awful lot of supplies with it in the bargain.

If you are fortunate you might have a go-bag or bug-out bag with you that has a basic load of supplies to help sustain you. When you think about it, it is sort of like the rucksack carried by a member of the military.

If you’re in a cold environment you’ll need to find a way to get warm. You’ll need to find a way to stay cool in a hot environment. You’ll have to make do in spite of the terrain around you, be it damp or dry, soft or hard, woody or rocky.

When we are forced out of our civilized bubbles everything changes. Our armed forces know that, and you will learn soon enough. It is basic survival skills that will help you survive and thrive in the transition.

#2. Crisis Planning

There is a saying in the military that no plan survives first contact with the enemy. This is merely a poetic way of saying that everything we plan for, everything we count on, is likely to go any other way but the way we plan it.

It could be the type or timing of a disaster, the loss of communications with loved ones, the destruction of a vehicle or the theft of vital survival equipment. I could even be something so outlandish, so wild that you couldn’t possibly have thought of it, much less planned for it.

The military knows this, and in a very meta sort of way they plan around the thing that you cannot plan for.

They sort of build a cage around lurking disaster by forming a series of plans for every vital element, alternate, contingency and emergency in addition to the primary plans.

Put another way, the backup to the backup has its own backup plan. It is difficult to calculate just How deeply ingrained this sort of operational redundancy is in the military at all levels.

The brave men and women of our various branches train and train some more to continue their mission even when communications break down or entire components of the chain of command are lost. They try to overcome every obstacle and setback.

You must be prepared to do the same. You might have an intricate and totally well-rounded survival plan, but have you planned on what you’ll do if any part of that plan goes to crap?

Only by continual refinement, drilling and experience will you be able to mentally flip the script when it is called for without panicking.

Saving time, effort, energy and momentum in a survival situation could spell the difference between life and death, for you or a loved one.

You always want to be wary of planning too much, or any plan simply has too many moving parts to be efficiently remembered or executed, but nonetheless planning as if everything is going to go wrong from the get-go is invaluable.

#3. First-Aid and Casualty Care

In what I hope is the least surprising or contentious statement in this article, active warzones and disaster areas both have dozens and dozens or even hundreds of ways to injure you… or worse.

To say that both are dangerous is a colossal understatement. Accordingly, any such event, big or small, means that somewhere, somehow, someone will be badly injured or wounded.

Now, it is important to make the distinction that the specific hazards you might face in a disaster area could be entirely different from the hazards that a soldier faces in an active conflict zone.

The soldier might face everything from nerve gas and nuclear weapons to the usual bombs and bullets. You could be facing anything from the razor hail of airborne debris attendant with a tornado to the crushing power of raging flood waters. But herein lies the important consideration.

Whatever the actual cause of the injury, the injuries are likely to be the same. Penetrating injuries, lacerations, burns, hazardous chemicals, noxious gases or fumes, crushing injuries and so much more.

When you look at it that way, and most situations the only difference in the outcome is that a disaster or man-made calamity cares not for whom it kills and is not actively trying to kill you, whereas an enemy combatant is.

And on the other hand, you might well run afoul of a mass shooter or terrorist attack and be facing down the same bombs and explosives today soldier could, so stay on your toes!

Ultimately, the soldier and you both must be prepared to service themselves and their teammates with first aid skills that at the minimum can stabilize someone who has been wounded accordingly.

Considering that help or evacuation might be a long time coming, you must also be able to keep the victim alive and stable until higher level care can be provided.

These skills require considerable investment and long practice to master, so don’t kid yourself!

#4. Signaling

Signaling techniques are employed constantly in the military for all kinds of tasks. At the individual level, signaling is used to communicate basic or surprisingly complex information, and can take many forms.

Signaling skills are used during the most sensitive of missions or stealth is imperative and any discovery could mean mission failure or used for such mundane things as getting the attention of nearby aircraft that are trying to land at a given location.

soldier using a red signaling flare

There are almost as many ways to use signaling skills as there are stars in the sky and can be as simple or as ingenious as the situation dictates.

Some signaling skills are flexible or multi-mode, meaning they are both useful in the visual or audible spectrums. Morse code is one such option that can be conveyed with something as simple as a blinking flashlight to an infrared, invisible laser. It could even be sounded out over a radio.

Other similar codes include standard flag code, semaphore, or large-scale icons visible from the air scratched on pavement or drawn in the dirt.

You too will need to understand signaling during a disaster, both to signal for help from potential rescuers to warning other survivors or even trying to attract the attention of your loved ones or teammates over large distances after you’ve been separated.

There is much to learn about signaling, and these are what you might call highly portable and adaptable skills that are useful in every kind of survival scenario.

#5. Maintenance and Repair

If there is one thing that every, single member of the military understands on a primordial and anxiety inducing level, it is the requirement, the absolute prerogative that all equipment they are responsible for be kept ruthlessly, spotlessly clean, serviced and operational.

After all, the mission and accordingly many lives will depend on the serviceability of weapons, vehicles and other equipment. In the military, neglecting vital supplies or overlooking damage components will be punished brutally.

We can definitely learn something from this mindset. I know too many preppers who have the attitude of deferring maintenance whenever possible, and seeking to repair or replace equipment only when it completely fails instead of at prescribed intervals that would ensure a high level of operability.

We can only get away with this because the safety net of modernity ensures that repair or replacement is only the click of a mouse or a phone call away, pretty much everywhere.

It will definitely not be the case in the middle of a live event, let me assure you. Accordingly, anytime you use your equipment, be it in practice, demonstration or anything else you should make it a point to inspect it thoroughly and perform all required maintenance at the manufacturer required intervals to maximize the likelihood that it will work as long as you need it to when you need it to.

Cultivating a personal mindset of fanatical devotion to maintenance and repair of your equipment, and especially your emergency equipment, takes discipline and time but it must be done. You’ll be glad you did it whenever that dark day arrives.

#6. Concealment

For anyone that has a pair of working eyes, they have doubtlessly noticed that every functional piece of clothing, equipment and weapon the military utilizes is camouflaged and one color or pattern or another.

Sure, some of this is to provide a sense of uniformity, team spirit and easy identification at near ranges, but the real reason is because doing your job in a comment zone where there is an enemy means they are trying to locate you and kill you or break your stuff. That means mission failure.

If you can avoid being seen in any spectrum ,you can avoid the hatred and discontent that would otherwise be coming your way in the form of shells and bombs.

Avoiding such hazards means you get to keep on living and if you get to keep on living, with your stuff intact, it means you are more likely to complete the mission.

Hence, the military better than absolutely anyone else understands that concealment is often imperative when dealing with hostile or unknown persons or groups.

Sad to say, this is one skill that will serve you just the same for the same reasons during a disaster, especially the aftermath of a major event. It never fails that criminal scumbags and psychopaths always take advantage of the lull in the rule of law to apply their awful trade or go out looking for easy meat.

It might come from you, or from someone else, but if they don’t know where you are or don’t detect your presence you are less likely to be victimized by them.

Accordingly, take the time now to learn how to camouflage yourself, your activities, your movements and your equipment in an environment and situationally appropriate way.

This topic is too complex and broad to even begin to touch on here, but suffice to say you should learn everything you can about it.

#7. Marksmanship

This skill set dovetails with the previous one. The bottom line is that the world is a dangerous place, and much of the danger comes from our fellow man. Accordingly, the world and the bad guys will be even more dangerous in the aftermath of a major disaster.

The preeminent tool for dealing with dangerous humans is the firearm, or at least it is the best tool you can carry with your own two hands.

The military knows this, and since time immemorial it has been the infantry which are responsible ultimately for wresting control of an area away from those who would keep it.

But, when push comes to shove it is not enough to start lighting off guns and making a lot of noise. For a firearm to be effective you must hit with it and the art and science of attaining consistent hits with a firearm is known as marksmanship.

I don’t want to be the one to tell you this, but your survival and the survival of your loved ones might come down to your ability to hit a comparatively small target on demand and do it accurately under a crazy amount of stress.

If you want to get the job done, you’ll have to do it yourself.

It is almost certain that there will not be a police officer around to save you, and sadly you won’t be able to depend on our brave warfighters, either unless you are extraordinarily fortunate. There’s nothing to worry about, however, as these skills are relatively easy to learn and ingrain.

If you want to be truly ready for everything that a disaster could throw at you, it is time to stop worrying, pick up a gun and learn how to use it.

#8. Combatives

Concerning self defense, it is important to remember that not every problem will be solved using a gun. Even the military, as high-tech and firearm-centric as it is knows that the basis of all combat is still hand-to-hand and man to man.

Every member of the military is expected to be reasonably proficient in hand to hand combat, even though we all know it is only those in combat arms professions who typically obtain serious skill in various personal combat techniques.

Grouped under the umbrella term of combatives whatever the actual military martial arts system is called in various branches, hand to hand skills have always been and will remain important to the business of combat, and they are even more important for civilians, considering that the vast majority of yourself defense problems are going to be solved by going hands-on instead of producing a lethal weapon.

Even in the aftermath of a disaster, you can make a situation a lot worse by lacking hand to hand skills when they are called for, and feeling forced to escalate the level of force in the confrontation by being the first one to produce a weapon.

A good basis and hand-to-hand self-defense involves striking with hands and elbows, escaping grabs, grappling, footwork and various basic chokes and other holds to help control a furious and resisting opponent.

#9. Navigation

Believe it or not, getting from Point A to Point B without the benefit of roads, signs and the ever-present GPS system is one of the most difficult things you will ever have to do, especially when you are doing it on foot in the middle of nowhere with terrain that basically looks the same in every direction.

To say the pressure is on in such circumstances is an understatement, and that is why the military spends a disproportionate amount of training time teaching its members how to navigate correctly, accurately and efficiently using little more than a map and compass.

More than this, figuring out where you are when you become disoriented or lost is another skill unto itself, but also a component of navigation.

Despite all of the high-tech networks that can pinpoint an individual person’s location down to a foot or less, the military, and you, should refuse to give up on classical tools of navigation that have served mankind for ages.

You should be just as proficient at using a map and compass, and even lacking serious land navigation skills having the right tools in the form of various topographical and road maps combined with a high quality compass that can provide basic direction finding can help you make sense of a demolished landscape that is bordering on unrecognizable in the aftermath of a disaster.

Remember that getting lost or heading in the wrong direction during a crisis is more than an inconvenience. Any delay might mean death!

#10. Rucking

You might not think carrying around a huge backpack loaded down with supplies is a skill or they have inclusion on this list, but if that describes your thoughts on the matter you have just told me that you yourself have never done it before!

All members of the military are supposed to be fit enough and tough enough to haul heavy loads for some distance using nothing more than their own bodies, but this skill, known as rocking, is part and parcel of being an infantryman.

To say this is a severe test of both mind and body is an understatement, and much of military basic training is devoted towards hardening both towards this fundamental goal.

Hauling a heavy load on your back stresses muscle groups and other tissues that will not be stressed in any other way, and the results can be devastating for those who are not conditioned.

You might not be marching into an occupied capital with your War load on your back, but you could be heading out of danger with your family in tow and your bug-out bag, just as heavy as any rucksack, upon your back.

You must develop the fortitude to handle this efficiently and without risking undue injury, and the only way to do that is to beef up your rucking skill by practicing before you are forced to do it the hard way.


Just because you aren’t in the military or never served in the military does not mean that some of the skills so vital to military service aren’t just as vital to you when the chips are down.

The various skill sets we have listed above are part and parcel of the soldiers profession, and they will do the same thing for them that they will do for you – keep you alive when disaster strikes!

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