Growing up in the Boy Scouts, I've kept their motto as my own long beyond the last time I wore the uniform. "Be Prepared" means a lot of things.
To me, being prepared means having the mental state to cope, knowledge to solve or skills to deal with whatever the world throws at you on any given day.
Imminent Threat Solutions (ITS) provides knowledge that empowers individuals with indispensable skill-sets to recognize and respond decisively to the threats that surround us all. All you need to do is take a read through their blog or watch any of their videos and you’ll get a sense of what they are all about.
Every year, they hold a multi-day event where attendees from around the country and every walk of life come to learn a variety of skills in a practical and tactical based learning environment.
The packing list for the event was rather extensive and specific. I had to purchase a variety of new gear with my imagination in overdrive of exactly how I might end up using the camo netting, locking carabiner or MRE that all attendees were required to bring.
I arrived in Texas a bit nervous and not sure who or what I would encounter over the next five days. On the flight out, I learned my buddy Jon Gaffney would also be taking part in the event and as we waited for our luggage to arrive we talked about our wonderment and worries about what might lie ahead.
It wouldn’t be appropriate to go into all the details, but the entire weekend (and even the weeks leading up to the event) were run under a detailed storyline. We’d all be learning and living under a scenario to add a level of realism to everything we did. It was mainly a mind game to keep us at a heightened level of awareness and to challenge us as our bodies and minds got worked out over the course of our time together.
All of the attendees met a predefined location and then we caravanned to the off the grid location that we’d be spending the next five days at. There were a few interesting encounters along the way, but as we parked the cars and entered the classroom our long weekend of learning was under way.
Looking around the classroom, I worried a bit about what I might have gotten myself into. Some of my Muster mates were obviously veterans from the way they carried themselves.
Beards and camo were everywhere, but so were smiles and hugs. Over half the class was alumni and it was obvious how close knit this family was and I wondered how I would gel into already established friendships.
These worries were quickly pushed aside as Bryan Black (the Founder of ITS and someone I’m becoming a better friend with every day) welcomed us all to Muster 4 and we went around and each introduced ourselves. There were lawyers, accountants, tech insiders and even a married couple.
We all came from different walks of life, but all arrived ready and eager to learn.
Everyone was assigned to one of four squads: Alpha, Bravo, Charlie or Delta.
As the squad assignments were read off, I’d find myself being part of Charlie. I knew from reading about the previous Muster, that they were the squad to beat and I sure hoped I would not drag them down as a newbie.
Squads were each assigned a bunk house and I quickly met the seven guys I’d be spending lots of quality time together.
We unpacked from our travels, geared up our rucks and headed out for our daily flag ceremony and then dinner.
The days at Muster are long. Each starts before the sun rises and end long after the moon has risen.
A typical day starts with raising the flags, heading to breakfast and then off to the classroom.
The quality level of the teachers at Muster is top-notch. Every single one of them possess years of experience in their area of expertise and each could have spent a full day of teaching and we’d still only get a slice of their knowledge.
I’ve never had the pleasure of learning from such knowledgeable humans all at one time. Thank you to each of them for participating.
Don’t think we sat around and were lectured to though.
We studied the art of camouflage in a beautiful outdoor pavilion, practiced improvised field medicine under the shadow of trees and cooled off in the water while having fun learning how to secure a beach.
The lesson for me that I’ll never forget was the key making session. It is hard to put into words the rush of accomplishment I felt as I cut a copy of a key out of a sheet of plastic from a photograph of a key and opened the lock with my copy.
I instantly wanted to learn more and my squad took it upon themselves to teach me the basics of lock picking right there on the spot. Since returning home, I’ve made sure that this is a skill that I continue to learn.
The truth is that 99.99% of the skills you learn at ITS Muster might never be used outside of the exercises conducted during the event.
That doesn’t mean that any of the skills you learn are not valuable. In fact 100% of what I learned is another piece of knowledge that I didn’t have before and thus I feel more prepared to go about my day.
At the end of every Muster there is their own version of a final exam (known as the FTX) that tests you and your squad. Taking everything you were taught and finding out how much you learned.
I’m proud of how myself and my squad performed. We worked together, stayed positive and in the end did a solid job. We didn’t take home the paddles this year (well done Delta!) but I feel confident that we did our best.
Plus, there are not many other places where you spend an entire night being tested both physically and mentally and find yourself at 4 am still smiling as you discover the finish line.
I’m so glad I accepted Bryan’s invitation to attend. I learned new skills, but I also learned more about myself. If you are not challenging yourself on a regular basis, than how do you know what you are capable of?
And a special thank you to the men of Charlie squad who welcomed me into their unique band of brothers even though I know they had reservations about this writer from New England who was getting stuck with them.
While we couldn’t raise a glass together during Muster, I look forward to the day when we get to.
Muster is not an event for everybody.
Muster is an event for anyone who wants to learn a variety of skills that will prepare you to deal with the situations you hope never to face.
Stay tuned to ITSTactical.com to find out when registration opens up for next year. It is sure to sell out again.
If you'd like to read more details, ITS has published a detailed after action report.
Photo Credits - Gamma Nine Photography and Daniel Rodriguez Photography