L Requirements For Survival

a. This positive mental "mind-set" is important in many ways. We usually call it the "will to survive" although you might call it "attitude" as well. This basically means that, if you do not have the right attitude, you may not survive.

b. A guideline that can assist you is the acronym " SURVIVAL". (MSVX.02.01a)

(a) Size up the situation.

1. Conceal yourself from the enemy.

2. Maintain your wits and use your senses to determine what is happening in your immediate area of influence before making a survival plan.

(b) Size up your surroundings.

1. Determine the rhythm or pattern of the area.

2. Note animal and bird noises and their movement.

3. Note enemy traffic and civilian movement.

(c) Size up your physical condition.

1. Check your wounds and give yourself first aid.

2. Take care to prevent further bodily harm.

3. Evaluate your condition and the condition of your unit prior to developing a plan.

(d) Size up your equipment.

1. Consider how available equipment may affect survival senses; tailor accordingly.

(2) Undue haste makes waste.

(a) Plan your moves so that you can move out quickly without endangering yourself if the enemy is near.

(3) Remember where you are.

(a) If you have a map, spot your location and relate it to the surrounding terrain.

(b) Pay close attention to where you are and where you are going. Constantly orient yourself.

(c) Try to determine, at a minimum, how your location relates to the following:

1. The location of enemy units and controlled areas.

2. The location of friendly units and controlled areas.

3. The location of local water sources.

4. Areas that will provide good cover and concealment.

(4) Vanquish fear and panic.

(a) The feeling of fear and panic will be present. The survivor must control these feelings.

(5) Improvise and Improve.

(a) Use tools designed for one purpose for other applications.

(b) Use objects around you for different needs. (i.e. use a rock for a hammer)

(6) Value living.

(a) Place a high value on living.

(b) Refuse to give into the problem and obstacles that face you.

(c) Draw strength from individuals that rise to the occasion.

(7) Act like the natives.

(a) Observe the people in the area to determine their daily eating, sleeping, and drinking routines.

(b) Observe animal life in the area to help you find sources of food and water.

NOTES: Remember that animal reactions can reveal your presence to the enemy.

Animals cannot serve as an absolute guide to what you can eat and drink.

(8) Live by your wits, but for now, learn basic skills.

(a) Practice basic survival skills during all training programs and exercises.

2. STRESS. Stress has many positive benefits. Stress provides us with challenges: it gives us chances to learn about our values and strengths. Too much stress leads to distress. While many of these signs may not be self-identified, it remains critical that all survivors remain attentive to each other's signs of distress. Listed are a few common signs of distress found when faced with too much stress:


Difficulty in making decisions. (Do not confuse this sign for a symptom of



Angry outbursts.




Low energy level.


Constant worrying.


Propensity for mistakes.


Thoughts about death or suicide.


Trouble getting along with others.


Withdrawing from others.


Hiding from responsibilities.



3. SURVIVAL STRESSORS. (MSVX.02.01b). Any event can lead to stress. Often, stressful events occur simultaneously. These events are not stress, but they produce it and are called "stressors". In response to a stressor, the body prepares to either "fight or flight". Stressors add up. Anticipating stressors and developing strategies to cope with them are the two ingredients in the effective management of stress. It is essential that the survivor be aware of the types of stressors they will encounter.

a. Injury, Illness, or Death. Injury, illness, and death are real possibilities a survivor may face. Perhaps nothing is more stressful than being alone in an unfamiliar environment where you could die from hostile action, an accident, or from eating something lethal.

b. Uncertainty and Lack of Control. Some people have trouble operating in settings where everything is not clear-cut. This uncertainty and lack of control also add to the stress of being ill, injured or killed.

c. Environment. A survivor will have to contend with the stressors of weather, terrain and the types of creatures inhabiting an area. Environmental and climactic changes, coupled with insects and animals, are just a few of the challenges awaiting the Marine working to survive.

d. Hunger and Thirst. Without food and water a person will weaken and eventually die. Getting and preserving food and water take on increasing importance as the length of time in a survival situation increases. With the likelihood of diarrhea, replenishing electrolytes becomes critical. For a Marine used to having his provisions issued, foraging can be a significant source of stress.

e. Fatigue. It is essential that survivors employ all available means to preserve mental and physical strength. While food, water and other energy builders may be in short supply, maximizing sleep to avoid deprivation is a very controllable factor. Further, sleep deprivation directly correlates with increased fear.

f. Isolation. Being in contact with others provides a greater sense of security and a feeling someone is available to help if problems occur.

4. NATURAL REACTIONS. Man has been able to survive many changes in his environment throughout the centuries. His ability to adapt physically and mentally to a changing world keeps him alive. The average person will have some psychological reactions in a survival situation. These are some of the major internal reactions you might experience within a survival situation:

a. Fear. Fear is our emotional response to dangerous situations that we believe have the potential to cause death, injury or illness. Fear can have a positive effect if it forces us to be cautious in situations where recklessness could result in injury.

b. Anxiety. Anxiety is an uneasy, apprehensive feeling we get when faced with dangerous situations. A survivor reduces his anxiety by performing those tasks that will ensure his coming through the ordeal alive.

c. Anger and Frustration. Frustration arises when a person is continually thwarted in his attempts to reach a goal. One result of frustration is anger. Getting lost, damaging or forgetting equipment, weather, inhospitable terrain, enemy patrols and physical limitations are just a few sources of frustration and anger. Frustration and anger encourage impulsive reactions, irrational behavior, poorly thought-out decisions, and in some instances, an "I quit" attitude.

d. Depression. Depression is closely linked with frustration and anger when faced with the privations of survival. A destructive cycle between anger and frustration continues until the person becomes worn down-physically, emotionally and mentally. At this point, he starts to give up, and his focus shifts from "What can I do" to "There is nothing I can do."

e. Loneliness and Boredom. Man is a social animal and enjoys the company of others. Loneliness and boredom can be another source of depression. Marines must find ways to keep their minds productively occupied.

f. Guilt. The circumstances leading to your survival situation are sometimes dramatic and tragic. It may be the result of an accident or military action where there was a loss of life. Perhaps you were the only, or one of a few, survivors. While naturally relieved to be alive, you simultaneously may be mourning the deaths of others who were less fortunate. Do not let feelings of guilt prevent you from living.

5. PRIORITIES OF WORK IN A SURVIVAL SITUATION. (MSVX.02.02c). Each survival situation will have unique aspects that alter the order in which tasks need to be accomplished. A general guideline is to think in blocks of time.

a. First 24 hours. The first 24 hours are critical in a survival situation. You must make an initial estimate of the situation. Enemy, weather, terrain, time of day and available resources will determine which tasks need to be accomplished first. They should be the following:

(4) Signaling.

b. Second 24 hours. After the first 24 hours have passed, you will now know if you can survive. This time period needs to be spent on expanding your knowledge of the area. By completing the following tasks, you will be able to gain valuable knowledge.

(1) Tools and weapons. By traveling a short distance from your shelter to locate the necessary resources, you will notice edible food sources and game trails.

(2) Traps and snares. Moving further away from your shelter to employ traps and snares, you will be able to locate your shelter area from various vantage points. This will enable you to identify likely avenues of approach into your shelter area.

(3) Pathguards. Knowing the likely avenues of approaches, you can effectively place noise and casualty producing pathguards to ensure the security of your shelter area.

c. Remainder of your survival situation. This time is spent on continuously improving your survival situation until your rescue.

6. GROUP SURVIVAL. Group survival depends largely on the ability to organize activity. An emergency situation does not bring people together for a common goal initially; rather, the more difficult and confusing the situation, the greater are the group's problems.

a. Groups Morale. High morale must come from internal cohesiveness and not merely through external pressure. The moods and attitudes can become wildly contagious.

Conscious, well-planned organization and leadership on the basis of delegated or shared responsibility often can prevent panic. High group morale has many advantages.

(1) An individual feels strengthened and protected since he realizes that his survival may depend on others whom he trusts.

(2) The group can meet failure with greater persistency.

(3) The group can formulate goals to help each other face the future.

b. Factors that Influence Group Survival. There are numerous factors that will influence whether a group can successfully survive.

(1) Organization of Manpower - Organized action is important to keep all members of the group informed; this way the members of the group will know what to do and when to do it, both under ordinary circumstances and in emergencies.

(2) Selective Use of Personnel - In well-organized groups, the person often does the job that most closely fits his personal qualifications.

(3) Acceptance of Suggestion and Criticisms - The senior man must accept responsibility for the final decision, but must be able to take suggestion and criticisms from others.

(4) Consideration of Time - On-the-spot decisions that must be acted upon immediately usually determine survival success.

(5) Check Equipment - Failure to check equipment can result in failure to survive.

(6) Survival Knowledge and Skills - Confidence in one's ability is increased by acquiring survival knowledge and skills.


2. MCRP 3-02h, Survival, Escape, and Evasion, 1999.

3. B-GA-217-001/PT-001, Down but not out, Canadian Survival Guide.

4. AFM 64-5, Search and Rescue Survival,1969.

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