As my confidence in the dollar depreciates and my desire for skills increases, I'm wanting to convert FRNs into hands-on knowledge. What weeknight or weekend workshops would you recommend? Are there any places where you can learn Army Ranger skills without joining the military? Animal husbandry, and so on? - Spencer
JWR Replies: There is a tremendous wealth of free or low-cost classes available--enough to keep you busy every weekend of the year if you are willing to drive a distance. If you have time and just a bit of money, you can get some very well-rounded training in skills that are quite applicable to post-TEOTWAWKI living. In my experience, the most cost-effective training opportunities in the U.S. include:
American Red Cross First Aid and CPR classes
Local Community College, Park District, and Adult Education classes. They offer classes on metal shop, auto shop, wood shop, leather crafting, ceramics, baking, gardening, welding, and so forth.
RWVA Appleseed Shoots. These are held all over the nation. They offer great training for very little money. The West Side Sportsman's Club, located on the west side of Evansville, Indiana is hosting the national RWVA shoot on June 30 / July 1st. The Red Brush Gun Range, located on the east side of Evansville is having another Appleseed, and they're also having an Appleseed Boot Camp. The boot camp starts on Monday October 22 thru Friday Oct. 26th. Then the Appleseed Shoot is on Saturday Oct. 27 and Sunday Oct. 28. The deal is if you want to attend both the Boot Camp and the Appleseed match, you do so for $200. Yes, for just $200 you can have seven days of top notch marksmanship training.
U.S. Army ROTC classes, the ROTC Ranger program (administered by individual university ROTC Departments), and ROTC Leader's Training Course, aka Basic Camp). The first two years of the ROTC program--including Leader's Training Course--are available to any full-time enrolled undergraduate college student (including "cross-enrolled" junior college students) with no contractual obligation. Participation in the ROTC Ranger program by anyone other than enrolled ROTC cadets is usually up to the discretion of the instructor or the PMS. When I was in a ROTC Ranger program back in the early 1980s, we had two Marine Corps PLC students and an Administration of Justice (police science) major in our Ranger program, as supernumeraries. So even if you don't sign up for ROTC classes, you might be able to be involved in a Ranger program. Of particular note: If you sign up for the four week ROTC Leader's Training Course at Fort Knox, Kentucky, you will actually get paid to attend, plus get a couple of free pairs of combat boots. To be eligible to participate in ROTC, you must be under 31 years of age on Dec 31 st of the year that you expect to graduate. (Or possibly 34 years old, with waivers.) The best chance to get a slot at the ROTC Leader's Training Course is during your sophomore year of college, but when I was there I met a graduate student that had wangled a slot. (He eventually got a direct commission, by virtue of his ROTC "contact hours")
LDS (Mormon) cannery classes/canning sessions. Many "wards" have their own canneries, which are generally open to non-Mormons. (OBTW, the LDS food storage calculator web page is a very useful planning tool.)
FEMA / CERT Classes (Classroom and Internet courses, some with team commitment)
ARRL amateur radio classes.
Species-Specific or Breed-Specific Livestock and Pet Clubs
NRA and State Rifle and Pistol Association training and shooting events
Fiber Guilds (spinning and weaving) and local knitting clubs
Mountain Man/Rendezvous Clubs (Blackpowder shooting, flint knapping, soap making, rope making, etc.)
University/County Agricultural Extension and Cattleman's Club classes on livestock, gardening, weed control, canning, et cetera
Medical Corps small group classes. I heard that they have scheduled just one hands-on Combat/Field Medicine Course thusfar for 2007. It will be at the OSU Extension Campus, in Belle Valley Ohio, April 20-21-22. That class is full, but check their web site for additional course dates. They offer great training--including advanced life saving topics that the American Red Cross doesn't teach--at very reasonable cost.
Volunteer Fire department (VFD) classes (usually with some commitment)
Candle and Soap Making Clubs/Conventions
Boy Scouts and 4H.
Informal, un-enrolled ("strap hanger") training is available
for adults--just take your kids to the meetings and don't leave.
I would also consider these less important (but still worthwhile) training opportunities, as time permits:
Sheriff's posse and Search and Rescue (SAR) programs
Police department "Ride Along" and Police Reserve programs
Civil Air Patrol (CAP) courses.
Civic/Ethnic Club cooking classes