Episode Two: FAM (Familiarization week of the Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape course SERE) continues as a less whiney version of Survivor! the TV series. At least no one tries to make it look like the hapless yearling bull the instructors give the boys to beat to death with a sledgehammer was a wild animal–I’m comparing to the infamous “wild pig” episode of the Other Show.
If you’re squeamish, don’t watch this series at all. You won’t see a caption at the end stating that no animals were harmed. Many animals are harmed, and after they are killed the trainees are taught to suck their eyeballs out of their heads (for the salt) and eat their testicles raw (for the male bonding experience?). I admit that some of this bothers me. I grew up on a farm where we raised our own meat and from an early age I dealt with all the grisly things that go along with that. My grandmother actually did use all parts of the beast, and I’ve eaten things that most people think are garbage. I still think there’s something wrong with the way that subject is treated in this training, and obviously that’s why I’d never have been selected for the program during my own military time.
Stepping past that, in this episode we do get to see some survival training, although much of it is about setting up a base camp as complicated as an outdoor resort. Examples are briefly shown of rock lined pit ovens, root cellars for storing meat, smokers for drying jerky, a food cache, and a sluice system for bringing water directly to camp. All of that is at a level which is likely to be way beyond the ability of any single person, but simpler versions of those things also make good sense. Not that any of this would work this way in real life, but this is just training. In real life you get to see why there are no pat answers to any of these problems, and you either adjust or fail.
Slingshots and snares are brief parts of the film–if you want serious education in the use of primitive weapons and survival traps, Tom Brown’s books are a detailed source of solid information. There is a pretty demonstration of the way to build a fire from split wood, although few of us backpackers will have a full sized chopping ax with us, as these fellows do. Apparently the imaginary plane that crashed with this bunch on board was delivering a load of axes someplace, because every man in the 47 person class has one. We also get to see how sleep deprivation makes you stupid, when one of the boys racing to build a fire chops his foot instead of the log. For my own thoughts on axework, see my pages about axes and axecraft in the Commentary section here on the Marked Tree.
Well, it’s just a warmup week, but I’m already a bit tired of all the tough guy talk and the Scout Jambouree camping procedures. Funny how this happens, but when I’m playing a video game or watching a movie I often smell it–these things have odors to me. Fallout (the old games) always smells like gun grease and alkali dust. I was watching this episode and one of those scent trails was tickling my nose and it took me a long time to place it. Then, oh yeah, I know that one–the smell of the brochures in the Army Recruiting Station back in 1969. That’s how this series smells.
A useful tip concerning pit ovens: one of the best things you can take along on a pack trip, or even as part of your survival kit, is a packet of freezer paper or some paper baking sheets. You don’t need a lot, but if you plan to use a pit fire you can wrap your food in the paper to keep it clean, slap on a thick layer of mud, and bake it “in the shell.” If you know some basic origami you can even make a paper pot and boil water in it. Grade school science, the water won’t heat beyond 212 degrees so the paper won’t burn.