As prepping and survivalism grows ever more popular, it seems not a day goes by without someone else hanging out the proverbial shingle, advertising survival instruction. Some, probably even most, of these people are qualified in some way to teach the subject. They might be military veterans who have received extensive training as well as been tested under fire. Others have simply been living the life for many years, having learned at the knees of those who came before them.
There are, though, a fair number who just read a few books and figured that’d be good enough. They might be very convincing and charming and know all the cool slang terms. But, when push comes to shove, they couldn’t get a decent campfire going if you gave them a Bic lighter and a cup of gasoline.
How can you know the instructor is really legit?
The first thing to do is check out their purported credentials. Just as with anything else, if they sound too good to be true, they just may have inflated the ol’ resume here and there. Most commonly, I see this with military service. They will tell you they are an ex-SEAL / Green Beret / Ranger / whatever. If that’s truly the case, they shouldn’t have any qualms about sharing with you their DD-214, which is their official military service record. Ask to see it. If they balk, ask why. If they cite security clearance or something, just walk away and find another instructor because odds are they are just BSing you.
Bear in mind too that military service and training doesn’t automatically qualify them to teach anything. An analogy — I’ve shared with my readers before that I work as a private investigator. Now, I’m pretty damn good at what I do, primarily because I’ve learned from some of the best in the business. Becoming a private detective is one of the go-to plans for retiring law enforcement officers. Just because a guy wore a badge for 25 years doesn’t automatically qualify them to be a competent PI. Depends on their training and background, right? I mean, if the guy was essentially running speed traps for 15 years, how in the world does that equate to finding a missing person or taking a statement from a witness? So, just because a guy was in the Army for 12 years, that doesn’t mean he received more than just basic survival training. Sure, that might be more than you have had yourself but if you are going to pay someone to teach you how to survive in the bush, wouldn’t you want that person to be as highly trained as possible?
Please note, I mean absolutely no disrespect to any military veteran with the above. Anyone who has signed on to do a hitch in the military gets my honest gratitude and support. My point is simply that there are some vets out there who want people to think they have had more training in certain areas than really ever took place.
If the instructor has passed the initial sniff test, look for reviews online. Find out what other people are saying about the school. Pay particular attention to negative reviews and read them closely. It might be that the person and the instructor had something of a personality conflict, which may or may not affect you. It could also be that the reviewer is simply a buffoon and couldn’t be bothered to even try learning the most basic skills without complaining. Remember, every school is different and each instructor has their own style of teaching. You may not do well with someone who is hollering at you like a drill sergeant. Then again, maybe that’s exactly what you want.
Finally, find out how long the school has been around. If they’ve been in business for the last 15 years, odds are they are doing something right. However, if the ink isn’t even dry on their sign, you might want to think twice about parting with your hard-earned cash just to be a guinea pig.