Stockpiling and Replenishing, by CPT Blackfox

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As a U.S. Army Battalion Logistics Officer, it became very evident to me that at some point my stockpile of parts, petroleum products, uniforms, etc. would eventually run out, and I needed a way to replenish those stockpiles during steady-state operations.  A total collapse situation would unfold in much the same way as a deployment of a military unit would in regard to an interrupted supply chain.  Initially, you have no logistics network and you need to rely entirely upon your stockpiles brought with you or kept in your secure location.  I learned this the hard way at the National Training Center (NTC) [at Fort Irwin, California] when I decided not to bring enough turboshaft jet engine oil to last our battalion through a month-long field exercise in the desert.  As I walk through this experience as a vignette, I will also translate the bigger issues from the organizational level down to the household level in respect to preparedness.  Additionally, I will go through how logistics and supply lines are severely interrupted during a disaster or collapse scenario and then how they are reestablished after things calm down somewhat and find their equilibrium. 

Bad Assumption #1-  The logistics network is already established, so when I become a part of it there will be an easy transition.
 
When we deployed from our home base to the NTC, I made the faulty assumption, that since I was moving into an existing logistics network, that it would be easy to obtain supplies, because everything on the receiving end was already established and working like a well-oiled machine.  I should have known better from my first deployment to Iraq, when our shipping address was set up to a warehouse in Texas, so everything the battalion ordered did not go to Mosul, Iraq but sat in a huge pile doing us no good thousands of miles away.  Fortunately, I wasn’t responsible for that fiasco, but my soldiers and I ended up paying for it by cannibalizing our own vehicles to keep up maintenance, not having any sundry items replenished, and being without hot food for two months while this SNAFU was sorted out.  Whether you are bugging-in or bugging-out, in a total collapse scenario, the supply networks are going to be totally screwed up.  The grocery store shelves will be bare after about four days provided there isn’t a panic, and if they receive any shipments, it will likely be random items which may or may not be of use to anyone.  At a minimum, you need to have about six months of everything to operate your household set aside.  Primarily this buys you some time.  When hyperinflation hits and no one wants to accept paper money, there will be a time when it is a free-for-all before either folks locally decide what is acceptable as a medium of exchange or the government reissues new fiat currency at some kind of crushing exchange rate with the old currency. 

Bad Assumption #2- Storing tons of supplies takes too much space and is a pain to transport, so I will just stock up on the basics.

Back to my example, I thought that shipping a couple of 30’ containers of petroleum products would be a huge pain (which it would have been due to hazardous materials shipping requirements) but it was even more painful having to go to the Forward Support Battalion Executive Officer and sheepishly ask for case upon case of turboshaft oil for my tanks.  I had brought a minimal amount of petroleum products with us which would last for about a week, but with us entering a new logistics network, it took much longer than I had anticipated for those requisitions to be filled.    And when they were filled, the supply depot didn’t just jump on the phone and give us a call to come pick up our order.  Typically, supplies could sit for days if you didn’t have an intrepid NCO checking in the morning and evening every day.  In our world, yes, your basement might be chuck full of food, water barrels, ammunition, medical supplies, clothing, and everything else, but if you haven’t gone through all of your possessions and thrown out anything you haven’t used in the last two years, you would be surprised the amount of space you can gain.  Maximize your wall space too.  Utilize shelving wherever practical in order to organize items more effectively and to give better access to what you need.  If you have a mountain of boxes in the basement and the toilet paper is in the very back of the room, you might have an emergency before you can get to it!  Treat your stockpile like a mini-warehouse.  Sort everything by either the military classes of supply or your own system as long as it’s organized.  Even a classification system as rudimentary as food, clothing, survival supplies, fuel, and water would work fine.  As long as you and your cohorts know where everything is, you will be leagues ahead when you have to find that one tiny specific item you need.  As an adjunct, I’ve referenced the Army classes of supply below for your use:

Classes of Supply

Class I - Food, rations, and water
Class II - Clothing
Class III - Petroleum, oils, and lubricants (POL)
Class IV - Fortification and barrier materials (Barbed wire, pickets, sandbags, etc.)
Class V - Ammunition
Class VI - Personal Items (Hygiene, alcohol, tobacco, etc.)
Class VII - Major End Items (Vehicles, radios, tanks, weapons, night vision, etc.)
Class VIII - Medical supplies
Class IX - Repair Parts
Class X - Miscellaneous supplies

Bad Assumption #3- I’ll just order some more later when I get close to running out.

Believe it or not, there are situations where I have bartered as an Army officer for things I needed for the battalion.  I had a pallets and pallets of MREs but I needed more bottled water, so I traded for it!  You need to have the figurative printing press in the basement to create your own barter items.  You should be able to produce something that can be used as a barter item if there is no way you can just go order some more.  Whether you practice reloading, canning, candle making, beekeeping, or any other craft, there should be a few items that your household or group are able to produce which would be an appealing medium of exchange.  In the past, cigarettes, alcohol, ammunition, chewing gun, and even toys have been used for barter items.  Think of something you would miss having.  My soldiers and I traded books & magazines that we brought to Iraq, since we would read them from cover to cover as our only entertainment.  Last night, watching the movie The Book of Eli, I was struck at how clever it was for Eli to trade Kentucky Fried Chicken wet naps with the Engineer in the town, so that he could get a new charge on his battery.  This scenario is not really that outlandish, considering how difficult it is to keep good hygiene when there is no running water available.  During our deployment to Iraq when our unit shipping address was wrong, baby wipes became worth their weight in gold, since you could do all of your daily hygiene with three of them if you were careful.  If you can’t produce the item you need yourself, you had better have something in hand that people are willing to trade for it. 

Bad Assumption #4- So we’re good, right…?     

When I took about a dozen cases of turboshaft oil from the support battalion, the XO grudgingly gave it to me with the understanding that I would order replacements for everything I had taken (along with my regular needs for continuing operations)  and pay him back.  He was pretty irked that I had taken his whole reserves in one blow and did not have any turboshaft oil to give the rest of the brigade.  I made the argument that we have the lion’s share of tanks, but he still grumbled about it.  The point being, I put myself in a position where I was indebted to him.  I don’t have a problem with owing someone a favor, but sometimes that person might ask for something you cannot deliver.  In a survival situation, if you had to borrow weeks’ worth of food from someone, they are either going to want that back or they will make you pay for it in some other way which may hinder you from meeting your immediate objectives of protecting and providing for yourself & your cohorts.  You’ll effectively be an indentured servant to whomever you are indebted or you could lose your shorts!  King Solomon had it right in Proverbs 22, when he said, “Be not one of those who gives pledges, who put up security for debts.  If you have nothing with which to pay, why should your bed be taken from under you?”  If you read the Biblical account of Joseph handling the preparations for the seven years of famine in Egypt, you see how Pharaoh ended up with all the physical wealth of the entire kingdom, because once the people sold their possessions, their animals, and their land, they had nothing to offer except themselves as slaves.  Don’t put yourself in that kind of a situation!   In a total collapse, the best AND worst qualities of people will surface, and you don’t want to end up owing your soul to the company store.

Bad Assumption #5- I’ll get everything I ordered.

During that aforementioned training exercise, I ordered about 450 quarts of turboshaft oil in order to account for the 300 quarts I had borrowed and another 150 quarts for the tanks to use for ongoing maintenance, which was only about six quarts a tank and left me nothing in reserve.  (A tank with a bad turbine engine burning oil can go through that easily on ONE patrol!)  That’s roughly two 55 gallon drums of turboshaft oil.  I received something like 200 quarts in reality, because I totally cleaned out the supply depot with that large of an order.  I never ended up paying back the support battalion XO entirely, and if it had been an extended deployment, that would have created a strain on our relationship and my ability to procure special items or receive priority in the future.    If you end up doing something like that in a collapse situation, you have just used up all of your capital with that person, and if you need something in the future, you are entirely on your own.  Worse than that, you have to fix the mess you created initially, mend the relationship, and probably do them a favor in return, so that you are on par again with each other.
A water shortage might have people dipping into streams and lakes nearby, and when potable water finally shows up in a truck, there might be a two-hour line to fill your containers.  While we were in Kuwait waiting to head north into Iraq, my driver spent an hour and a half waiting in line to buy a case of bottled tea, since there was only one store for the whole camp for thousands of soldiers.  When the logistics network is reestablished, it does not have the capacity to make up for weeks of disruption.  The supplies will start to trickle in and become more steady as the situation stabilizes.  Initially though, there will be a mad-dash for those resources that do trickle in, so don’t expect to get much from the first few supply drops.  If you have ever seen footage of the Peace Corps bringing in wheat to a starving African village, it’s usually gone within minutes.  That’s what it looks like when desperate people are competing over a very limited amount of critical supplies. 

Bad Assumption #6- I need to keep up the same stockpile as I had before the collapse.

We talk a lot about storing up everything you need for a collapse situation, but we do not usually talk about what those stores should look like when you are months or even years into TEOTWAWKI.  You still need some padding against the unknown, but you will likely not need years’ worth of supplies stashed away as long as you have a way to replenish some of your diminishing supplies.  I would recommend maintaining roughly six months of stores available in the middle of a collapse situation for those times when the logistics network is disrupted again or in case of other contingencies.  Think of this smaller stockpile as self-insurance against the unknown. 
You might have a month’s worth of drinking water stored in your garage, but what will you do once you use it all?  You need to be able to filter your own water if you have a reliable source nearby or potentially dig a well if you don’t.  You might have months’ worth of food squirreled away, but do you have a garden, fish pond, and a hunting rifle?  The first step is to have that emergency cache but as you are able to build up those stores, it is wise to think about how you will replenish those supplies over time.  Perhaps you don’t have the land to grow a large garden, but you have everything you need to reload ammunition.  If you are part of a prepper group, you might not need to have every possible contingency covered as long as you are providing something of value for exchange.  Maybe you do all the reloading and Joan is seriously into canning, and you can barter for what you both need. 

Start Small & Prioritize

Even as a Battalion S-4, I had a budget.  I couldn’t just magically wave my money wand and have all of my supply shortages filled and have a huge mountain of consumable supplies for every contingency conceivable.  So how do you get started?  Most of us are unfortunately living paycheck to paycheck these days, and I won’t get into how debt is robbing you of your ability to prepare, because you likely already know that if you are reading this.  Let’s just assume that you have nothing set aside at all, and you need to start building your supplies from scratch.  Where do you start?  There is both the time factor and quantity factor involved in supply caching.  How many people do you need to prepare for?  How long do you need to supply those people?  Just as a start, save some old milk cartons and fill them with water to create a water cache. Make a goal to put aside a week’s worth of canned food for each person in your household.  Go to a dollar store and find First Aid supplies and sundry items on sale.  Get the bandages, tape, and gauze first and then worry about sutures, antibiotics, and syringes later.  Take a balanced approach and then continue to build on it. 
Every month, I look at my stores and I set aside a couple hundred dollars to improve on a few areas.  This money is available not from a great excess in my paycheck, but from small sacrifices like dropping our satellite television service and eating out less often.  Last month, our priority was to fill some gaps in our pioneering toolbox.  This month it will be candle making, soap making, and canning supplies.  Make a plan for several months out and check your progress each month to see how you are incrementally accomplishing your goals.  It feels good to be able to track your progress toward your final goals, but if you don’t make goals, you aren’t going to achieve them.  We all need a concerted plan that focuses us, so that we don’t end up just picking up a pallet of toilet paper that’s on sale even when we have no need for it.  Having a few cartons of MREs, one barrel of water, a few magazines of ammo for your weapon, and a couple bottles of fish antibiotics is much better than having three months of food supplies when you end up getting an infection and die from lack of medicine.  Keep the end-state in mind.  You should have an inventory of what 100% stocked looks like.  There are some things that you probably can’t have enough of, and I would argue that medical supplies and ammunition are in that category, not because you will end up using every last bit of your stores, but because they have great barter value. 

Know the Real Expiration Date

There is a difference between the “best before” date and an expiration date.  I rediscovered this recently from a box of granola I have in my office.  I finally opened it up for a snack and noticed that it was dated “best before” March 2011, and it tasted like I had just bought it even though it was almost a year and a half out of date.  Your expiration dates on semi-perishable commodities will drive your supply rotation schedule, but you need to know when to toss it and when to keep it.  This is particularly useful in regard to antibiotics and medications.  There are some medications which are expected to work 100% of the time, and once they expire, it’s not worth taking the risk.  Insulin is the best example of this.  If your life depends on an insulin shot, you don’t want to risk it with something expired.  But then again, if you need insulin during a collapse situation, you likely have bigger problems.  The US Army Medical Department did a study on how long antibiotics actually last beyond the expiration date and discovered some surprising data.  The multibillion-dollar pharmaceutical industry is in the business to make tons of money selling you medications you typically don’t need and even more medications to mask the side effects , so they have a conflict of interest by telling you the expiration date on their own drugs!  Some antibiotics can last 7-14 years after the expiration date on the bottle.  Do some research on the actual shelf life of these drugs.  There’s no point in throwing out food or medicine prematurely when it could last you much longer.

Conclusion

Keep in mind that the flow of supplies is like a steady stream or river.  When the flow is interrupted, you need to have adequate reserves to cope until the stream is reestablished.  In a collapse situation, you might need to take some drastic measures to reestablish that supply chain.  When you can’t replenish your supplies from a big-box store, you will need to resort to bartering and the black market, which would likely be the only operating commerce in a collapse situation.  Your replenishment should be about equal to your distribution, so that you can maintain your stockpile for those rainy days.  When you need to dip into your stockpile, be sure that you make efforts to replenish it.  The important thing is to not let those people on the receiving end of the supply chain pay for the hiccups in the supply flow.  Dipping into your stockpile when the flow stops is the way you consistently deliver supplies to your family and cohorts without them having to feel the effects of the supply network failing.  The mightiest fighting forces in human history have been stopped by lack of supplies.  Consider the Battle of the Bulge in 1944 when the Germans had very limited fuel supplies and could only maintain a sustained attack for a couple days before their superior heavy tanks became sitting ducks.  Take measures now to build your stockpile and create methods for replenishment and when you need it, your supply chain will support your overarching goal of safeguarding you those you care about.

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This page contains a single entry by Jim Rawles published on August 10, 2012 4:57 AM.

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