How Do You Survive in a War Zone With No Military Training?

Ukranian soldiers man a highway checkpoint on May 13, 2014, near Slovyansk, Ukraine.  

Photo by John Moore/Getty Images

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Hi, I am Mark, and I am from Ukraine. We had around 40,000 troops mobilized due to the threat of military invasion from Russia. I wasn’t mobilized, but if Russia attacks, I will volunteer anyway. Our government doesn’t supply its soldiers with anything but an AK-47, a few mags, and military clothes—no gear.

I have never been in a service, and I have never had any kind of military training. For all that I know, there is a possibility I will be in a ditch shooting at Russians in a couple of weeks. I am asking anyone who had any military training for advice on how to survive during wartime. Thank you.

Answer by Daniel Kearns, former paratrooper, 82nd Airborne Division:

I’m not sure how much basic training you’ll receive, so I will give you some tips. I am only looking at this from the perspective of someone new who is going to combat with little or no training.

Learn how to shoot. If they don’t teach you, get a combat veteran to teach you. Always use your sights—never use full auto. Only shoot from a supported position, either on the ground or against a wall. Standing unsupported shots are very difficult. If they don’t issue you much ammo, shoot at only what you can see. Let someone else do the suppressive fire.

Clean your weapon. As much as possible. Don’t let crap build up on it.

Stay close to someone who knows what he or she is doing.

Learn as much as you can, especially about first aid and the radio, as well as explosives and how to make them.

Don’t bunch up. If guys are bunched up in a ditch or behind a wall, stay 5 to 10 meters away from them. If guys are running in a group, and you’re in that group, stop. Let them run and get 5 to 10 meters away and then follow them.

Hit the ground. Do not duck and run. Hit the ground if an explosion goes off near you or someone starts shooting. Hit the ground. The ground is your friend. Get below ground if you can. Ditches, holes, and depressions will protect you far better than even a brick wall. When something happens, one’s first instinct is to run, but that will get you killed. Hit the ground.

If you get stuck in a ditch or a room or behind a wall, as rounds are popping all around you, you better figure out a way out of there. You are being suppressed, and they are moving up on you. Crawling on your belly is better than running in these situations.

When you do move, jump up and say to yourself as you are running, “I’m up, he sees me, I’m down.” Then hit the ground.

Do not bother shooting at aircraft or helicopters, and get away from anyone who is. He’s just calling attention to himself, and he won’t be able to hit it anyway.

Make sure you and the guys around you all have tourniquets and know how to use them. Proper application of tourniquets has saved more lives on the modern battlefield than just about anything.

If you can volunteer for a special operations–type unit or even an elite unit like an airborne unit, I would do that, rather than be drafted into the lowest type of reserve unit. The volunteer-type units will get the training and equipment necessary to wage war, as well as survive.

Drink water. Dehydration can kill you as much as a bullet.

Eat when possible. Don’t feel like eating because you’re too nervous? Eat anyway. Force it down with water if you have to.

Hesitation kills. It’s better to do the wrong thing than nothing.

Keep the faith. Maintaining a positive attitude will absolutely help keep you alive.

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