Sunday, January 24, 2010

Revisiting Armageddon Man

In Armageddon Man on the History Channel Rudy Reyes starts off by pulling a Bear Grylls (on Man vs. Wild) type stunt (telling the audience how dangerous it is to do something and then showing how to do it.) The contrived bridge crossing Rudy uses to open the show is great theater, but lousy survival tactics. Throwing a makeshift grappling hook across a broken bridge was an excuse to show how to make an improvised rope ladder which while being a useful bit of knowledge is misused in that instance.

Running around in the open in broad daylight when you fear interception or ambush? I think not. Maybe the director just wanted some action footage, but I fail to see how running in the open on railroad tracks is a good thing under the circumstances the show is purporting to show us how to survive.

If you have to move during daylight stay in the tree line; pausing often to listen and observe. Walk next to buildings popping into doorways and alleyways to disappear (as least momentarily) from the sight of those who may be observing from one point of view. Where possible enter buildings by one door and exit by another.

Better yet, wait for nightfall. There's a reason Rangers and Special Forces types train to operate at night and it ain't for the ambiance.

Skipping looted homes and breaking into the intact ones may work for heavily armed squads where Rudy and his special ops team operated, but here in the states where firearms ownership is legal for the citizenry it's likely the homes weren't broken into for a reason. The show should have pointed out that while the guy outside may consider it foraging, the guy inside considers it looting.

However Armageddon Man does demonstrate, albeit briefly, some good tactics for those for those operating behind enemy lines (as he was trained to do) or surviving Armageddon. The use of a piece of a metal sheet (supported by bricks, rocks or other non burnable objects) to build a small fire on in a building was well demonstrated.

-- Once while hiking I built a small fire on a metal plate in an abandoned and falling down line shack. I thought the metal by itself would keep the dry wood floor beneath it from catching fire. I was wrong. Fortunately it was raining and I was able to cool the smoking floor boards before they burst into flame. --

As Rudy points out, when in a city camping on the second floor does give you several tactical advantages. For one it's difficult for an enemy to rush you from all sides when you're on the second floor. For another attackers are forced into kill zones (stairwells) and the walls of the first floor act as sounding boards confining and reflecting the sounds made therein thus increasing the chances of early warning for those on the second floor.

Further on the plus side escape from the second floor is as near as the closest window. Or, as Rudy demonstrates, you can slide down the elevator shaft on the elevator cables however I find that a less than optimal (slow and noisy) method of egress while under attack.

Even with editing you could see that Rudy had trouble getting the elevator doors open to get into the shaft. After sliding down the cables we find the elevator doors conveniently open and the elevator car conveniently not on the first floor which would have necessitated opening a trap door in the roof of the elevator car, climbing down into the elevator and then prying not one but two sets of doors open to get out. Like I said slow and noisy.

Like most other survival instructors Rudy is anxious to show us how to start a fire using steel wool and a nine volt battery. However, he fails to inform us that the finer the steel wool the better. And it is that lack of significant, often crucial, details that I noticed running through the entire show.

Yes, you can use a hand bicycle pump to pull gasoline or diesel (or water) from the underground storage tanks of gas stations by cutting off the valve at the end of the pump's tube and attaching a garden hose for added length using duct tape to get a good seal. But you'd better bring a good pair of bolt cutters along because gas station owners don't leave thousands of dollars worth of fuel unlocked when they go home at night. Also they don't want some drunk unscrewing the lid and lighting a match to "see what's down there" after the bars close.

And, yes, you could (eventually) get enough fuel that way to start up a hospital generator so as to charge a battery but it's more likely that the hospital's generator was run until it ran out of fuel. A better option, here in the states at least, might be the offices of a large corporation which (if it had a backup generator) is more likely to have shut down during the chaos that led to the city being abandoned and therefore still have fuel in its tank.

The segment on making fuel from the contents of grease traps behind restaurants was, as far as I know, accurate but lacked details.

In house to house combat soldiers will take to the sewers to avoid machine gun and sniper fire that's how Rudy was trained. But the rationalization for that stunt with the field expedient grappling hook on the bridge was to avoid the vary contaminants he encounters when he goes into the sewers.

Also, once in the sewers he's trapped down there with only one way to retreat if he runs into hostiles. And the exits (where he can reach them) are usually in the middle of streets.

The same goes for maneuvering in flood control channels when they are dry. These concrete lined sunken highways are, for the most part, devoid of cover and in many places impossible to get out of without a ladder or rope, a perfect place for an ambush.

Bottom Line
If time constraints require you to travel quickly in the open, do so at night and sleep during the day.

Rudy seems to have some good information but it's presented out of context without supporting data and in segments that are far too short for him to get all the information across.

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