Finding Inspiration and Learning the Secret to Becoming a Great Prepper
I spent most of my early adult years squandering potential. I turned this pattern around with the help of military training, prepping, and a little luck. I have gone on to start a beautiful family, earn multiple degrees, and land a wonderful job. Here is my story so far, and how preparedness helped me turn an important corner in my life.
Age 0 – Every Story has a Beginning
I was born at a small Air Force base in Michigan. We PCSed (moved) to the east coast shortly after I was born. We experienced our share of hurricanes and severe storms when I was growing up, but they never were that inconvenient because my family was prepared. My dad would go beyond just looking out for his family- he would go out and help the neighbors cut trees off their homes.
I always considered being so prepared that you can spare time and resources to help others to be the pinnacle of prepping. It is a noble cause to be a solution rather than part of the problem.
Age 12 – The World Isn’t All That Nice
I happened to be the smallest kid in school, and that does not make for an easy road. Getting out of bed every day I knew I would be facing taunts, jeers, or getting jumped at my locker. I hit a point where I decided not to take any more abuse and fight back. Like most grade school fights, it was clumsy, awkward, and over quickly. While I was lucky that I was a much better fighter than my opponent, I learned several important life lessons that day.
Stand your ground. Don’t be a doormat in life. Even if I had lost the fight, standing up for myself was important at that moment. I did not know it at the time, but it shaped who I would be later in life.
Situations escalate quickly. I was a level-headed kid that knew violence is always a last resort. I did not plan on getting in a fight that day, or even the minute before. We have three instincts that kick in when we are physically confronted: fight, flight, or fright. With fright being to freeze or curl into a ball, and flight just running away– I responded with fight.
Be prepared. Although this was my first fight, I was more prepared for it than any bully could have known. I played a range of sports growing up and was in great shape, but also had one hobby that really came in handy that day: Tae Kwon Do. Keep learning new things and acquiring new skills. You never know when you will need to use them.
Age 22 – Squandering Potential and Lying to Myself
My parents were my biggest supporters and motivators growing up. They afforded me every opportunity, including college. It was my goal to become an engineer, but that alone was not enough to motivate me for some reason. I found myself academically suspended after six years of college with no degree.
I had a terrible part-time job, no money, increasing debt, and shrinking hope. I dug a deep hole for myself with apathy, lying, and a lack of self-responsibility.
Age 23 – Joining the Military
The lifestyle change I needed to grow up and take responsibility for my actions happened to be the finest fighting force in the world- the US Air Force. I was shipped off to Lackland AFB on a cold November morning as a bundle of nerves, insecurities, and disappointment.
I’m sure the military has shaped many wayward sons and daughters into better Americans, but the effect it had on my resolve was incomparable to any other experience.
Age 24 – Chemicals, HAZMAT suits, and Preparedness
Nothing quite prepares you for holding a live nerve agent in your hands. When my AFSC (job) assignment came down, it was Emergency Management. It was not at the top of my list, since I preferred to be a Loadmaster or Intel. When I was shipped off to training school, I learned more in six months than probably my entire time at college.
Emergency Management, for the military, included all threats that were non-conventional, whether it was chemical, biological, radiological, or natural disasters. As part of this training, we were brought into a facility to decontaminate live nerve agents. Even though we were fully dressed in protective gear, the little glass vial of clear liquid potent enough to kill you with just a sniff was enough to make anyone nervous. After similar training on the rest of the ‘unconventional threats,’ I was off to my first base assignment – Tokyo, Japan.
Japan was a land of opportunity for me. After basic training and technical school, I had found my focus and now understood the importance of drive. Officers took note of my drive and focus and I earned early promotions along with increasing responsibilities. I taught thousands on gas mask operations and how to respond to unconventional threats. I gained my HAZMAT technician certification and responded to chemical and biological threats.
I then acquired a degree in Emergency Management which put me behind a desk. I wrote military response plans that were later used for volcano eruptions, monsoons, tsunamis, typhoons, and even the Fukushima Daiichi radiation leak.
After Japan, I was shipped to a tiny little border town in Texas. Talk about a cultural difference! I lived in a small trailer outside of the base and had many of the same responsibilities I held in Japan. This included training students where we focused on HAZMAT and shelter-in-place training. We orchestrated a plane crash recovery operation, but other than that Texas was less eventful than Japan.
At work, I was able to spend quite a bit of time on emergency risk analysis and deployment readiness. Outside of work, I had plenty of time to further my education online, work on physical fitness, and plan for returning to civilian life. When my military obligation was up, I was ready to return home to my long-time girlfriend who had just become my fiancé, while still serving in my local Reserve unit.
Age 29 – Redeeming a Goal
I returned to college re-focusing on an engineering degree with new resolve, all while I was still in the Air Force Reserve. Military discipline and preparedness helped me get the highest marks in every class I attended. One year later, I was starting a great new job using an engineering degree I had just earned. Eleven years later, I had achieved my original goal of becoming an engineer (the long way).
Reflecting on it, much of this can be attributed to a persistent work ethic I had developed in the military. The emergency management training also helped, since I now approach most situations with a critical eye. With some financial footing but without the military support I was used to, I decided to start putting together the critical components of prepping. Food storage, self-defense, bug-out gear, and some personal protective gear all made the cut. I have seen some of the worst in this world and can appreciate the Howard Ruff quote “It wasn’t raining when Noah built the ark.”
Age 30 – Becoming a Dad
My beautiful wife stood by me for all these years through long-distance relationships, the military, and my personal struggles. She gave birth to our son who is blossoming into an awesome little boy that is just a joy to be around.
Becoming a dad just furthered my resolve to provide for and protect him, which includes prepping for disasters and emergencies. I found myself wanting to learn even more about prepping and how to be prepared for even more events.
Today – Creating a Small Blog
Fast forward to the present, and we have TruePrepper. I developed TruePrepper as an experiment and a challenge to myself to both share and learn about prepping. The website was designed to highlight my knowledge of risk analysis and risk assessment, as well as my practical experience preparing for my own family. Knowing that certain events are more likely to happen than others was something I felt was important to share not just with the prepping community, but everyone. I feel TruePrepper’s TrueRisk Analysis accomplishes this and encourages everyone to look at the risks they could encounter in their lives.
I have found that the best thing about TruePrepper is what it teaches me. As a reader you have shared your stories, liked, commented, suggested, and open opened my eyes to how much we can all learn from each other. As I strive to keep learning and acquire new skills I think back to that fight I had as a young boy. Along the way I found self-improvement to be an important part of not just prepping, but life. Whether it is spending time learning a new skill, stashing supplies for an impending disaster, or strengthening relationships- moving forward is the way to go.
Prepping is a way of life, and the secret to being prepared is a simple passion to improve your situation in life, no matter what you encounter. This passion is something you can both lose and find.
Thanks for taking the time to read my story, and I hope you’ll consider subscribing to our blog, sharing with friends, or reaching out to me with suggestions. Keep exploring, stay prepared, and be safe. –Rusty