Snow Dog 2010
Feb 5-7, 2010, Camp D-Day
Report submitted by Weapon M
On Friday, February 5th, 2010, some truly die hard elements of The SMVM deployed northward to Camp D-Day to participate in our annual winter survival training. This was the first Snow Dog to take place at somewhere other than Camp Stasa in many years.
Approximately ten members of The SMVM and others were on site Friday evening, some of us after quite a long drive. When I arrived after dark, several militia persons had already established a bivouac area in the "back forty" section of the camp. A support team was in place up in the parking area, near the range. After a bit of Snow Dog planning, I secured my sled and was led to the camping area. There was quite a nice sheet of ice in the parking section, and I tanked down onto the ice, bonking both my right hip, and the back of my head. This would hurt throughout the weekend, and beyond. It was also not the only spill that I would take during Snow Dog.
LFB and CT hauling their gear back. The tan camo worked okay.
As you can see in many of the pictures, the terrain at Camp D-Day is not the flat farmland of Camp Stasa, which makes movement much more challenging and interesting. Dragging the somewhat heavily-laden sleds up and down the trails proved to be quite the experience, with the downhill part offering the greater challenge. This is something that needs to be practiced. Reversing your position, and lowering the sled down in front of you seems to be the safest approach. I learned this the hard way on Sunday as I was effectively ran over by my own sled as I was heading down a slope. Note: We've found that deeper sleds, like those sold for ice fishing, tend to work better, and it always helps to secure your gear with bungee cords or a tarp. Also, a ski pole or two really helps when dragging your gear.
Introductions were made where needed Friday evening, and then I set up my tent. I had given thought to just throwing my pad and bag down and crashing in place, but I was not certain that the skies would spare me, as flakes would periodically drift downward. The guys had set up various tents and improvised shelters. Bubba seemed to have a bit of winter paradise set up in a nice sheltered area under a big pine tree. At least three of us had a Guide Gear brand minus fifteen bag within which to sleep. If you do not have a good winter bag, these are very highly recommended by seasoned militia people everywhere. If you can fit into a US military extreme cold weather bag, this would do well, also. Neither of these bags are very light, but they are worth it, especially when coupled with a decent sleeping pad. LFB rigged up a primitive pole shelter, which was cool.
Pole and tarp shelter
For various reasons, none of which involved bears, we maintained strict guard duty all night. I pulled the 0200 to 0300 shift, which has always been my favorite. The guard on duty was issued a Mossberg 500 loaded with buckshot, in addition to his personal sidearm. There may or may not have been rumors of some cats, which The Michigan DNR swears do not exist, in the area. Go figure. Some of us are allergic to cats, especially magical non-existent ones.
The temperature dropped down into to an observed low of eleven degrees Friday night and into Saturday morning. There was some serious concern that our water supplies would freeze. This is why we suggest metal canteens which can be thawed easily by placing them near a fire. I also used two chemical warmers on either side of a regular plastic canteen, inside the cover, to thaw it. This worked well, as long as you have some handy. I had a box of them with me, using them to thaw a canteen, and to throw inside my bag for added warmth. I thought they did a fine job, using the larger body warmers in my bag, and the smaller, sticky hand or toe warmers to thaw my canteen. Other types of warmers got mixed reviews from the guys. These are cheaper in bulk, like at Sam's Club or Costco. It would not be a bad idea to keep some in your gear and maybe in your vehicle.
As is customary on Saturday morning during Snow Dog, I serenaded the camp with their favorite song, "Mr. Golden Sun," from Barney The Dinosaur. This garnered a delightfully enthusiastic response from LFB, who seemed to invent some entirely new linguistic categories of swear words in reply.
After everyone verified that they had survived the night, we heated up some breakfast. I had some ridiculous black tea latte thingie, that was very good, and a can of condensed cream of mushroom soup, followed by some Luna Bars. The latte and soup were heated, thus satisfying the "prepare yourself a hot meal" requirement. "Joe" cooked an omelet in a baggie by boiling the baggie in water. This looked like it went well.
Following breakfast, and a brief chat with some media friends, we did a fun two-team bounding exercise from the camp area up to the support area, using hand and arm signals. This gave us a chance to check our movement and camouflage, and our hand and arm signals. The slightly hilly terrain required greater effort to maintain visual contact between fire teams, which made for good practice. In addition, the camouflage made it hard to spot some of the guys at times, which is a good thing.
Alpha Team starts bounding
After we concluded the bounding exercise, we checked on our support team, who had, with some help, constructed "Thumper's Office", a portable shelter/office/emergency recovery set-up. The capacity to establish a shelter for first aid and warming is a good one for any militia element to practice.
Double-walled, wood-heated. Thumper's Office, open 24/7. Boo-yah.
We then proceeded to participate in some winter shooting exercises. We dragged our sled several yards to the range, and then fired five shots from each of three positions: standing supported by ski poles, from behind the gear sled using the sled and gear for cover and support, and from around the side of the sled. Some of the guys had issues un-slinging their rifles, as we were using both hands on the ski poles. This is something that many of us need to work on, transitioning from merrily skiing along to busting a cap at some bad guys. With two hands on your ski poles, you MUST have a sling, and then to engage a target, you need to un-sling your rifle, safely. A tactical sling would save critical time, and make it easier to maintain a grip on your ski poles. The sled rope also presented a tangle problem for some shooters.
There is no effective SOP regarding this combination of gear and shooting. Everyone has a different set-up, different sling, gear, rifle, etc. The only way that YOU can do this is to practice it at home, when and wherever you can. Perhaps rigging your sled rope in some way whereby it can be dropped without tangling in your web gear would help. We saw sled ropes catch on ammo pouches several times, and there were some issues in getting rifles into position while holding onto the ski poles.
By this time, several more members had arrived, along with a squadron of media guests, and two guests from Pennsylvania. As many as wanted got to participate in the sled drills, even including LFB transitioning to his sidearm from behind the sled, and hitting several of the closer ranged metal plates.
"Joe" demonstrated the effectiveness of a home made ghillie suit, including some winter effects. Learning how to make one of these, and also when and where to use it could be of immense value to possible future militia operations.
The ghillie suit. Make one.
While this was going on, we also engaged several media outlets. We truly fail to see why Americans who are training to defend themselves, their families, and their communities should even RATE as news. It should be such a common thing that someday MSNBC will send a news crew to cover people who AREN'T training. Our ten year old son, Eli, even asked CNN, "Why is this news?" He gets it. It shouldn't be news. Readiness should be so interwoven with the fabric of our daily lives that it is no longer seen as a news item, like in Switzerland.
It was then time for a perimeter patrol. We sent out an advanced scout team, and then worked our way around the edge of Camp D-Day. Mad Hatter and I came across a hat, lying conspicuously along the pathway. We had to assume it was some kind of trap, and treated as such. Turns out it was just... ...a hat. You can never be too careful.
Left: Mad Hatter, Solo. Right: Hatter and Weapon M. Just a hat.
After the patrol, we did a quick medevac drill using a sled to transport an injured victim. The ride was a little bumpy, and maybe they could have used some kind of straps or bungee cords to help secure the evacuee. However, the drill was accomplished quickly and successfully, with simulated medical attention, and security elements. This was also a communications test. The element with the injured person had no real reference to indicate the location of the incident. We knew where along the pathway to go, but we need to get some kind of maps, either just local Camp Delta maps, or the more serious military style with grid squares and such. Just a quick, "We need medevac and security at grid B-13," would work. As it was, we were given distance and direction, which works when you need it.
Support furnished dinner. This was stew, corn, fruit cocktail, bread, and pudding. Hot water was provided for coffee, and the support team maintained thawed water in one of the vehicles. One of our members had escorted a new arrival back to the bivouac area to help set up, and missed chow. He had his own grub, as do all prepared militia persons, but it was a bummer. Next time, we will do a more accurate head count. There is no way I should have eaten with two of our guys in the back.
Having a support crew like we did (Chuckwagon showed up and joined Thumper and Crazy Eyes on the support team) makes the whole operation far more endurable. In a disaster, the support team would be the focal point in helping a locality recover. Also, having a designated photographer (Crazy Eyes) kept us from fiddle farting around with our cameras, and allowed us to focus on the training. He did an excellent job, too!
It began to grow dark, and the media crew, and all the others who were not staying the night took off. It is about a three hour drive from Camp D-Day back to the Detroit area, and we advise anyone who is not 100% sure of their gear and overnight ability to NOT risk hypothermia, despite there being a nifty camper on site for emergency purposes. (The reason I did NOT deploy with an extra kid or two was not wanting to risk hypothermia, or even worse, whining. The camper may have reduced this issue.)
Guard duty was light overnight Saturday into Sunday. The temperature dropped down to a reported minus one degree Fahrenheit, according to Weather.com. It did not seem that cold to me. I think that the folks who did not have the heavy duty bags might be out getting one, soon. We packed up quickly and headed back up toward the parking/support area. On the way back, my sled got kind of out of my control and ran me over. I took my second nasty spill of the weekend. Henceforth, when going downhill, I will get behind my sled and lower it, letting Mr. Gravity be my friend, instead of my tormentor. Or maybe I can install some handles or something, so I can push the sled instead of dragging it, that way I also don't have to deal with a rope that tangles up when I need to drop it and shoot. Anyway, getting trampled by your own sled not only hurts, it makes you feel like a doofus.
As we headed back up to the front, the breakfast chime was ringing. We were treated to reconstituted powdered eggs with hunters' sausage, sausage gravy over matzho bread (that seems wrong, somehow...), and coffee, sweet beautiful coffee!!! Hot grub of ANY type was welcomed after a cold night sleeping in the snow. Note: Yes, Thumper has an actual chime bell that he rings.
After breakfast, there was some shooting. Chuckwagon was hitting cans at 100 yards with his Glock 9mm, which was pretty sweet. D-Day also remains an impressive shot, demonstrating excellent trap shooting skills with his shotgun. In a survival situation, taking game with a shotgun may make the difference between surviving, or not surviving. You should get out and try this once in a while.
This pretty much wrapped up what seemed to be the most fun we have had at any Snow Dog. It also left us quite exhausted. There were a couple of transport issues on the way home. Maybe we can car pool or convoy the next time we go up there?
We also saw two father-and-son teams present this time, which shows that militia training is not just for us old farts. This was encouraging. I passed this information along at home. We'll see...
Thanks to everyone that showed up, thanks to D-Day for letting us show up, and thanks to the outstanding support team of Thumper, Crazy Eyes, and Chuckwagon.
Crazy Eyes took about a zillion pictures, which can be seen here, on Photobucket.
Crazy Eyes. D-Day.
The Snow Dog Name Tape.
Snow Dog Video submitted by "Joe"