Season six of “The Walking Dead” is upon us and I find myself engaged by the story and the characters more and more each season. As a Green Beret, I can’t help but analyze the situation and devise strategy and tactics. It is in my DNA. Having seen a couple of countries at war and the devastation brought on by Hurricane Katrina, I have some ideas about what I would do. I am eager to share some thoughts with you—and with Rick Grimes (the show’s protagonist).

Some people think zombies are silly. I see the zombie apocalypse as a stand-in for any rapidly emerging situation which disrupts society. Modern supermarkets are set up to rotate stock every three days. That means, even in normal times with no panic buying, the shelves will be empty three days after the trucks stop coming from the depot. When electricity goes out, the pumps at gas stations don’t work; no matter how much gas is in the tanks, you aren’t getting any.  It doesn’t take much to break through the thin veneer of civilization and expose the chaos of animal instincts beneath.

The most valuable thing in a disaster is early recognition.  With simple awareness. you can avoid the initial panic scramble for resources and gain a better tactical position.  Some people will remain in denial of the problem as long as possible. This gives you a window to fill the holes in your supply list and initiate movement before crowds form and riots begin. The relationships you’ve built with your neighbors will be critical here; you can warn them and mobilize collective resources.

A close second in importance is prior preparation.  If you have some basic supplies in your car and home, you will have more options. The basics are water, food, fuel, medicine, and weapons. If you have special needs, like prescription medicine, you should have an excess to see you through a disaster.

Life experience, training and a problem-solving mindset can make a big difference.  Even basic reading will help.  You need to know things like water purification (a few drops of Clorox per gallon), first aid, fire starting and knot tying.  If you can’t be a Boy Scout, read their book.

GI Joe

There is an old Army saying that amateurs talk about tactics, professionals talk about logistics. Let’s start there.

battlefield recovery– [′bad·əl‚fēld ri′kəv·rē]
The use of found resources, enemy or friendly, to support your mission and unit.

This is not a new idea. I believe that some time right after the first time a caveman threw a rock, some other caveman picked it up and threw it back. Enemies have been stealing and capturing each other’s stuff for a long time. In guerrilla warfare, battlefield recovery is a primary source of weapons. The focus of initial combat operations is normally focused on raids and ambushes to obtain weapons.

The fundamentals apply in a zombie apocalypse (ZA). You must have food and water immediately to stay alive. Let’s assume the worst. Rick woke up in a hospital gown (that didn’t even cover his ass) in the middle of a full-blown ZA. He wasn’t unprepared, he had weapons and resources at home and at work, but he was caught out of position. This situation takes some quick thinking.

The overwhelming first priority is personal safety. You must find a place to organize your thoughts and form a plan. What are your surroundings? Where are there resources? Where are your friends? Improvised weapons are a start. My personal favorite ZA solution, a six-foot-long length of sharp stick can be found anywhere. In an urban area, electrical conduit is plentiful and can be sharpened on concrete to make a great spear for use on zombies and unfriendly humans alike. If you have identified a source of firearms, that will give you an edge. As police and soldiers respond, there will be plenty of weapons around.

You need a reliable source of water. In the short term, there are bottles, hot-water tanks, and toilet tanks (not bowls, tanks). These will not last; you have to horde enough water to move to a stable area. You need a minimum of two quarts a day, much more with activity.

Food is a close second. If you are active and moving, you need food stores you can carry with you. As I learned in Ranger school, without food, you become irritable and stupid. You need to keep your energy levels and level of mental function high. In the short term, canned goods are abundant and easy to carry. They need no preparation except an opener.  If you find fresh food, eat it.

Canning has been with us awhile. In 1795, Napoleon Bonaparte offered a reward for a food preservation method for his armies. Some 15 years years later, Nicholas Appert heat processed food in glass jars reinforced with wire and sealed with wax. In 1810, Peter Durand in England was sealing food in “unbreakable” tin cans. This is still a great way to carry food.

Careful savaging of a typical office building or residential building within a few days of the ZA should yield enough supplies to get you moving. Some way to carry this booty is required. A backpack is nice, but you may have improvise. Burglars are known to use sheets to form bundles of loot they can carry. Better than nothing, but you want to look out and upgrade to a backpack as soon as possible.

That s us brings us to scavenging. While random searches may prove successful, there is risk involved every time you leave cover.  The best tactic is to plan to search areas with a high payoff so you require fewer trips.  Maps and the Yellow Pages are helpful.  Without smart phones and the Internet, the local library or chamber of commerce might provide useful information.

If you are working in a group, each individual will have personal knowledge and access to various areas. If you had each person in your party visit different businesses in their trade (locksmith, plumber, food-delivery truck driver, etc.), they would know exactly what to look for and bring valuable local knowledge to the table. As a volunteer fireman, I learned how to gain entry into most buildings with minimal damage. I also know where the keys for fire vehicles and municipal fuel depots are located.

Organized scavenging parties will provide for security and give you the means to move or protect the resources found. For example, finding 100 gallons of gasoline won’t help you if you don’t have storage cans, or if you can’t stay to protect them. A gun store full of ammo won’t fit in a rucksack.

Last, but not least, you have to establish priorities. In scavenging, you don’t get what you need, you get what there is. Virtually everything has some value. Excess can be bartered. We only gain from what we can consume, carry, or store. In the initial stages, we may be at maximum carrying capacity and may have to remove an item from the pack or vehicle for each one we add. What we can’t carry, we cache and record for future use.

If you live long enough, you will need medical care.  Knowledge is more important than equipment.  The pharmacies were cleaned out in the first hours of Katrina.  Unless you can beat the crack heads, you need to have a supply of any medicine you routinely require.  The use of recreational pharmacology is not recommended in the apocalypse, but liquor is great for barter.

As you can see, apocalypse favors the alert and the prepared. Keep a couple of days of food and water in your car; have more at home. Basic knowledge of survival skills goes a long way. Know the resources in your area and make friends who know things you don’t. When the ZA starts, it is too late to start building relationships and get supplies.


In excitement and preparation for the season premiere of “The Walking Dead” on Sunday, February 8th, SOFREP and The Loadout Room will be releasing articles  from different writers offering our advice on a multitude of topics, but all relating to foreign internal defense (FID) and “The Walking Dead.”

You can read part one of our collaborative series here.

(Featured image courtesy of