OFFGRID|Issue 41
A Recon Marine’s Assessment of One Family’s COVID Bugout
Dennis Christianson
On the other end of the phone, my buddy Tom — your archetypically squared-away retired Recon Marine — was validating my decision to bug out of Los Angeles due to the COVID-19 situation. As we discussed the sense of panic that was still brewing in the city, his words weighed on my chest like an overloaded plate carrier: This was bugout practice. Though I was now sitting safely on the deck of our secluded mountain getaway house, the fact that I’d recently thrown my rifle, dogs, and loved ones into the truck to get the hell out of Dodge was finally sinking in.

If the COVID-19 virus itself blew across the world like a gentle summer breeze, the winds of fear that preceded it were a hurricane-force gale. In my hometown in L.A. County, grocery stores were overrun and cleaned out, hospitals were in full panic mode, and rumors of martial law simmered as people began to hunker down in their homes with their Netflix, 10-round magazines, and mountains of toilet paper. While the situation had all the trappings of a powder-keg scenario, things (quite fortunately) calmed down in the weeks and months that followed. But by that point, my family and I were 1,000 miles away at our place in the woods. In the weeks that followed (and with an excess of time on my hands), I, along with Tom and his brutally honest feedback, conducted a full-on evaluation of my recent bugout experience. Here’s what we learned:


Like many Americans, I was aware that the coronavirus threat was brewing overseas, but I didn’t give it too much thought; as is the case with many patriotic Americans, my preps are always mostly in order and I tend to ignore the garbage that the mainstream media is often spewing. Still, it was in the back of my mind that this could come our way. About the only additional steps I took were to stock up on diapers for my two young children. Outside of that, I was still going to work, still hitting the gym daily, and generally just waiting to see what was going to happen.

Tom’s Take: While I applaud Dennis’ preparations and physical fitness, the overall problem here is that he was in a very reactionary stance prior to the COVID meltdown. Simply “waiting to see what will happen” is dangerous! As Marines, we are all taught to be proactive and aggressive. For a civilian like Dennis, this translates into a) having a greater awareness of world events and b) creating an ifthis-then-that style plan. We used to rely on the OSMEAC acronym (see sidebar) to help us actively attack our missions, and to fully think about every aspect that needed to be covered to successfully pull it off. This would have been helpful for Dennis to do in advance. And while I too trust the mainstream media about as much as I trust gas station sushi, that’s no excuse for being blindsided by world events; I’ve urged Dennis to seek out more reliable, independent news sources rather than just tuning out completely.

Packing & Gear

When word started to come down that Los Angeleswas going to be locked down — one of the first cities to do so — I began making a list and staging gear for our exit. This included my plastic bugout footlocker (first- and second-line gear, primary and secondary weapons and ammo, first-aid kit) along with clothes for the adults and kiddos, camping gear, spare fuel cans, water, and about a week’s worth of food. I assumed we’d be gone for about two weeks, and went light on clothes and such; two months into our stay, I wished I’d packed heavier! Also — and I’m embarrassed to admit this — when we arrived in the mountains, I dug through my survival kit and realized that the only fire starting gear I had was a small magnesium striker and an old butane lighter; I had just crossed the Rockies in winter without a single match.

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