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A Primer on Unconventional Warfare and Tips for SHTF Team-Training

Over at Ready Nutrition, we recently covered some subject matter on some basics of how to conduct guerrilla warfare. Let’s just give some background on actual guerrilla warfare so that you can understand what you’re up against, and then suggest some tips. Guerrilla warfare is different from conventional warfare in some notable ways that are important for you to know. First, the politics. Yes, politics, plain and simple, because of this basic rule:

If you are “aligned” with a government’s policy and mindset concerning conduct of guerrilla operations, you’re a “patriot,” a “militiaman,” or a “freedom-fighter” (so termed); if you’re fighting as an insurgent, then you’re a “criminal,” a “traitor,” and/or a “terrorist.”

There is an important distinction to be understood. Openly fighting against an “established” government does not automatically afford you treatment according to the Geneva Convention. Most of the time you will be branded as a terrorist or a criminal and most countries will execute you.

We’re here in the happy Hallmark and Fisher-Price United States. What could possibly go wrong and interfere with your summer vacation plans or that new pool you’re putting in your backyard, you may ask?

Plenty can go wrong. There is one principle I ask you to latch onto, if none other in this article:

The Constitution of the United States of America lists many of your rights (stated and unstated) given to you by God, but it does not promise you that you will keep them although they are rightfully yours.

The Uncoventional Fighter

Throughout the years, men and women of courage with strong hands and iron wills have enabled that document, the Constitution to continue to have meaning and authority. If the government should transform itself into a dictatorship, the citizens will have to fight to maintain those rights. Freedom is never free: it was paid for by someone, sometime. The “guerrilla” fighter is better termed an unconventional fighter. Using Fabian Tactics (aka: “Hit and Run Tactics), the unconventional fighter strikes at the opportune moment.

The unconventional warrior has less resources than the government…than a conventional force. Most of the resupply the warrior receives is by his own hand, his own cunning and initiative. Strength of numbers, logistics, and material are not to his advantage. He is outgunned and cannot hope to win a protracted engagement with his enemy’s forces in a head-to-head contest.

Guerrilla warfare is also important in the event of a foreign invasion by a nation or multiple nations. Conventional forces of our country will not be able to secure the entire country at once: there will be areas that are occupied by foreign soldiers. These foreign troops will not look upon you as a heroic freedom fighter. They will see you as an obstacle to their occupation and conquest, and if captured you will face torture, imprisonment, slave labor, execution, or a combination of any or all these actions. In their eyes you are a criminal.

In this light, a totalitarian government or an occupying invader both pose the same dangers to you. So, what can you do? You can prepare, by training. “Citizen-soldier” is really a nice concept…when you’re in the Independence Day parade with little “3-cornered caps” on all the kids’ heads (made in China, of course). Where nobody has any weapons, and the only battle is the battle of the floats and the bands…commemorating events that have the significance of pageantry but mean not a whole lot more…a surreal fantasia instead of what is real.  A parade: not a field training exercise to go outside of the “comfort zone” and sacrifice the delicious backyard barbecue. There is no desire to go out in the woods and lay in the mud and grass, training, while being bitten by bugs and rained on.

Here’s what you can do: train, as a citizen-soldier who may be called upon in either the first scenario or the second to liberate the land and place it under Constitutional governance once again.

  1. Physical and Mental Training: A weak mind is usually the result of a weak body and vice-versa: you must train both body and mind to a high state of physical and mental health.
  2. Tactics: Peruse the archives, and I’ve listed many manuals from the United States Army that you will find useful in learning the basics (the Infantry Field Manual, the Ranger Handbook, etc.)
  3. Language: Foreign languages are very important and can make the difference between victory or defeat…as with the Navajo Code Talkers during World War II. In that same war, the Italian-Americans and German-Americans…the American kids with one or both parents born in those nations who grew up speaking it in the home. If it wasn’t for these first-generation kids in Military Intelligence and in the units, we may have lost the war. The point: learn Spanish, learn Russian, learn some Chinese.  Language can be a powerful tool, and even a weapon of deception. For some ‘pop culture’ affirmation: look at the original “Red Dawn” flick when the kids attack the base. The Spanish-American kid runs into the enemy tent dressed in an enemy uniform and confuses the Cubans and Russians…luring them out into the ambush.
  4. Skills of a Woodsman: Learn the terrain of where you live…the wooded areas, cliffs, valleys, rivers, and lakes. Learn how to navigate through the wilds on foot and on a vehicle, in all the seasons. Learn to camp, hike, fish. Learn about the edible plants and berries, and wild game in the area. Learn how to tie knots, how to start a fire, how to build a lean-to, smoke fish and wild game. Learn how to live off the land, how to track, and how to camouflage yourself.
  5. Teamwork: Train and fight as a team, with your family, friends, and close neighbors. Learn how to discuss and plan, how to negotiate, and how to task-organize. This last (task organization) has a great deal to do with assessing individual skills and placing the best and most qualified person into that slot that’s needed (such as a team sniper, communications expert, or medic).
  6. Cross-training: Learn other fields and disciplines…well-round yourself in all fields.
  7. History: Study to show yourself approved…. especially the “study” part…. the approval usually comes in the performance. Know history…because it repeats itself. How did Francis Marion, the Swamp Fox deal with the British Regulars in the American Revolutionary War? How did the Viet Cong deal with the U.S. Army? For this last one, read “The Tunnels of Cu-Chi” for the answers. This also includes study of the Founding Fathers, how your government originally came to be (not as it is in its present, soft-socialistic, soft-totalitarian form).
  8. Hook up with a Veteran: That veteran can show you much. What was learned was earned; make it worth their while. Do something for them. It’s worth it to you to gain skills and knowledge…but everyone wants them for “free” and paid for by someone else. That knowledge is not an “entitlement,” so give them more than just the BS “I thank you for your service” lie/line.

Knowledge is power…and can empower you to rise from the basement and be the David who beats the Goliath.  Remember: The Founding Fathers of the United States of America were all criminals in the eyes and words of the British Empire and King George III. Had the Revolution faltered, they wouldn’t have received amnesty or leniency as “freedom fighters,” but instead would have been hung as criminals, terrorists, and traitors.

But the Revolution didn’t fail, and they gave us a government of, by, and for the people. Benjamin Franklin was asked what type of government was created by the signing of the Constitution. His reply was, “A Republic…if you can keep it.”

What that meant was to keep it through vigilance and when necessary through force of arms. It also stressed (silently) how fragile the Republic was, and how it would require the people to enable it to continue. The founders created the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution because they knew the government could lapse into tyranny and that it would be up to the citizenry to restore it. When the time comes, everyone will need to put down the Twinkies and the X-box, turn off the T.V., and cancel their vacations. Unconventional warfare then follows.

There is no insurgency when a tyrannical government is overthrown. What has happened? Why, the removal of an unlawful government by the rightful rulers: the people, by all means necessary. We the People would do well to keep this in mind, as freedom is never free. It comes with a price, and that price is always paid for by someone…and usually not the ones who reap the benefits of the freedom attained.

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Jeremiah Johnson is the Nom de plume of a retired Green Beret of the United States Army Special Forces (Airborne).  Mr. Johnson is also a Gunsmith, a Certified Master Herbalist, a Montana Master Food Preserver, and a graduate of the U.S. Army’s SERE school (Survival Evasion Resistance Escape).  He lives in a cabin in the mountains of Western Montana with his wife and three cats. You can follow Jeremiah’s regular writings at or contact him here.

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