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Photos by Chris Heising and Scott McNeff
One of the biggest sources of controversy in the world of survival is the credentials of those teaching its fundamentals. Let’s face it, there’s a lot of static out there about what really constitutes an expert. There are really no permits, licenses, and certifications one must get before they open an Internet store or school and call themselves a “survival instructor.” That makes it tough on those new to this world who must navigate through heaps of celebrity survivalists who don’t speak from hard-earned, viable experience. It’s up to the student to vet the instructors and their ability to differentiate fact from fiction — that’s a tough road for the novice to hoe.
As a former Green Beret, Mike Glover’s not out looking for endorsement deals and social media followers to help bolster his ego and ability to cash in on spurious advice. His credentials speak for themselves. His school is tucked away in the mountains of Arizona and his classes teach skills that include overlanding, firearms manipulation, combatives, situational awareness, fitness, and there’s a lot more where that came from. And best of all, it’s based on facts, studies, research, statistics, and a level of military experience few are ever able to attain.
Mike spoke to us about his dedication to redefining survival for real-world experiences based on his own time as an operator. We’ll also discuss how men adapt to survival situations versus women, how technology plays into and works against survival, and how current events like Brexit may pose survival situations with unpredictable ripple effects. And whether it’s an urban or rural situation, Mike’s no-bullsh*t approach is a refreshing departure from instructors whose main focus is getting their photo on products being sold at REI.
RECOIL OFFGRID: Where did you grow up?
Mike Glover: Between Daytona Beach, Florida and North Carolina. My dad spent 12 years in the Army.
So what did Mike Glover want to do when he grew up?
MG: Oh, I always wanted to be in the military. I actually wanted to be a Navy SEAL, but my uncle was in the Navy so I actually decided to go into the Army instead.
What in particular made you want to join the military, aside from the family connection?
MG: I grew up with military surplus around my house, so growing up playing with my cousins as a kid, all we did was run around outside and play soldier, so it was really all I knew.
What were your goals upon entering the Army?
MG: I knew I wanted to go into Special Forces, but I went in and tried to be an Airborne Ranger. I didn’t get to serve in Ranger Regiment, but I got Airborne and Ranger qualified and then went straight into selection after Sept. 11. I took the progressive route, which was pretty normal for back then.
After selection what did your job duties consist of?
MG: Weapons specialist, so I was 18 Bravo, but I served the rest of my career in pretty much every capacity. I was a sniper, an assaulter, a breacher; I did technical recon and surveillance. Later on I became a team sergeant, which is the pinnacle of an enlisted guy’s career and then I wound up getting out. I have five trips to Iraq, two to Afghanistan, and a couple to Africa.
What were the biggest survival lessons you gleaned from serving in the situations and capacities you did?
MG: I think if I had to divide between A and B it was situational awareness and learning through experience and how to observe your environment. Not just passively look, but consciously observing was an important lesson I learned. Also, planning and preparing in advance will determine your fate and survival, so survival shouldn’t be reactive. It should be preplanned and deliberate.
When it comes to mindset, I actually served where Rob Miller served. He was the only posthumously awarded medal of honor recipient from 3rd Special Forces at that time. I served in the firebase prior to him, and he was in 18 Bravo as well, so all the Afghan soldiers that I taught, he had taken over and served with them. They were with him when he was killed in combat. I have this thing in my mindset that I teach where if you go into an environment and you operate, you should do so diligently and leave a place better than it was when you showed up. When it comes to things that stand out as an experience, although he was killed, I served in that firebase, and I want to think that whole team was saved that day because of Rob’s actions. Maybe I’d left some sort of impression on them as they served by his side, so that stands out.
What do you think the media tends to gloss over about combat and how they report it?
MG: Especially for Green Berets, they never highlight the building rapport and nation building that takes place behind the scenes. They like to highlight direct action because that’s sexy and cool, but sometimes that’s what can be twisted. They don’t understand the day-by-day activities of improving their medicine, improving their infrastructure, training them to defend themselves — just sitting down and breaking bread and having tea together. That stuff happens, we lived with those indigenous people. We cared for and loved them. We leave a lot of those guys behind, so we have personal relationships there and do a lot of good over there, so it’s not all the carnage and chaos you see on TV.
What made you want to teach survival?
MG: Survival for me was a broad genre that encompassed a lot of things I used to survive in combat. Ultimately I was very interested in it because I realized it wasn’t just bushcraft; it wasn’t just considered a technical skill set. For me, survival was the encompassing of everything I learned over my career: mindset, technical skills, and equipment. I think a combination of those things is what lends itself to survival, so for me it was an interesting field and something I wanted to redefine. Preppers and that kind of title aren’t really conducive to learning because people think it’s some crazy person living near Area 51 and not modern survival, which is how I treat it.
How did you go about designing your curriculum?
MG: I have years and years of training, so the combination of my experiences and my training. A lot of my training courses are developed based off of existing military courses for Special Operations, so my whole line of thinking was that if it’s good enough for Green Berets and it’s good enough for Special Operations guys to lend to their survival and add to their skill sets, then it’s good enough for the average civilian. The big ones are things like weapons handling and tactical courses. We obviously don’t teach classified tactics or procedures, but a lot of the way we handle weapons and defend ourselves in combat are equitable to the way you’d defend yourself on the streets.
Combatives is another. The Army teaches us how to fight. I’ve been to a lot of training schools with professional fighters and they teach us how to combat the enemy, but obviously a lot of the physical attributes to combatives are translatable to teaching self-defense to civilians. And with the survival aspect, I’ve been schools where they give you a ziplock bag full of things that you could put in your pocket and you have to survive for 72 hours. That’s an actual incident that you could run into if you break down in the middle of nowhere and all you have is what’s on your person, so a lot of that stuff was translatable to civilian training as well.
Often when you say the words “survival,” “survivalist,” or “prepper” to people they cringe because they think it’s some isolationist fringe movement. How do you convince people otherwise?
MG: A lot of what we do is through reeducation. We talk about statistics and reading the facts of the matter. Statistically if you look at gunfights that people are in versus using your hands in self-defense to stop a violent attack, the media pushes and spins a lot of the gun stuff and you think it’s an epidemic. So, what we tell people is that they’re more likely to apply a tourniquet to their leg in a vehicle accident, than in a gunfight. We’re not saying you shouldn’t train on preparing for a gunfight, but you should never neglect the other stuff that might not be as cool like applying a tourniquet.
A lot of it is the reeducation platform of social media, which we’re big on, and telling the truth, which if you’re interested in survival, it’s not just reactive things or what you do in the wood line. Heart disease is the No. 1 killer in the United States, so when we talk about modern survival, we have survival fit programs that teach people how to be prepared with the physical body, so we’re looking at heart disease because I’m looking at the top 10 things that kill people the most. That’s important to us because in Special Operations they were preparing us for chaos and the worst-case scenario, so we’re doing the same thing. We’re just teaching people full spectrum and preparing them for natural or manmade disasters.
What do you think most “survival instructors” get wrong?
MG: Technical skills are important, but a lot of survival instructors don’t really focus on mindset as a priority. Mindset is the overall umbrella that all the other technical skills should exist under. You can teach a course on survival and all these small, technical tasks that can be memorized, repeated, and rehearsed, but if you’re not doing that and introducing stress, or culminating it in stress as we do, then you’re not really testing if it’s viable. That’s when you’re actually going to test resiliency, mindset, willpower, and all those things. We try to focus from a position mindset in teaching all of our skill sets.
A lot of people are obsessed with preparing “bug-out bags” or “bug-out vehicles.” What do you think people tend to over- or under-prioritize about all that?
MG: I think that a lot of the stuff they do, people think there’s a be all/end all or a solution that’s going to be conclusive. We tell people to take the existing stuff they have, whether it’s a European man bag, a backpack, a purse, and utilize that and take their survival kit with them because, if it’s not convenient or not comfortable, you’re going to forget about it and not use it. I think if a lot of people introduce the survival items into their lives and routines, they’re more likely to carry that tourniquet in their purse or that small survival kit in their backpack. It’s when they start doing the deliberate thing where they make this cool, Mil-spec survival bag that just sits at home. They watched one YouTube video, and that’s it. It just sits there. We teach people to do the whole reduced-signature thing, which is getting used to carrying it on your body or in your vehicle and that’s more important for us.
For vehicles, this is interesting. We actually teach instruction about what we call “go rigs.” We teach people that, when they’re building stuff, especially when they’re making a go rig, that the first thing you’ve got to look at is your payload and capacity. We’re Americans and we tend to think bigger is better often, but places like Europe, South Africa, and Australia it’s all about more effective and more efficient. We look at ounces when building out go rigs so we don’t bog it down with 1,500 pounds of bumpers and big, cool grilles because 1,500 pounds is about the average for load capacity.
The biggest thing is fuel consumption. People will have a go rig with all the things to sustain life, but we tell people that if there’s a natural disaster it’s going to shut down infrastructure. Then if you’re left with a vehicle, but you don’t have any gas prepped, whether you have an extended tank or a reservoir of fuel, then you’re capability is only as much as what your fuel tank has, so if you have half a tank you’re looking at 100 miles or so. We teach people that if they’re going to look at it as a legitimate bug-out vehicle that they need to outfit it as such. One of the first things we tell people to go with is an extended-range fuel tank. I have 110 gallons on one of our company vehicles and that can go about 2,000 miles. That’s not the answer, but that gives me enough range to get where I need to be to resupply.
What do you think it takes for the average person to embrace the value of preparation and be proactive when preparing for worst-case scenarios? This tends to be an uncomfortable topic that people don’t want to think about until they’re forced to.
MG: I think the way we’ve been able to bridge that gap is by communicating that if you integrate survival thinking into your game, whether that’s mindset or equipment, then you can actually make it a fun part of your life. We teach people that if they have a go bag, they can camp for a weekend and assess all of the pieces of equipment that worked and didn’t work. This means you don’t have to bog your life down and make it uncomfortable. We also teach that being deliberate also cures and suppresses a lot of that anxiety. A lot of people get nervous about it because they don’t want to address the reality of what could go wrong and what is statistically likely to happen. So, to be more proactive about it lends itself to confidence and self-esteem and not anxiety about thinking about the worst-case scenario. We try to make it family oriented. Our big thing is if we can convince an urbanite in the middle of San Francisco to hit the trails, do a little survival training, and convince them it’s beneficial for their lives, then we’ve won, so that’s always been kind of our mission statement. We don’t like shoving survival down people’s throats, we just provide the information, try to educate people, and try to provide a learning environment when they make the commitment.
How do you go about approaching the mental aspect of survival?
MG: I think when we teach people we come from the position of, if you can mitigate stress and figure out ways to reduce stress when it hits you, that’s a good starting point. We teach people that a series of unfortunate events can lead to a catastrophe, but if you can see a lot of those things happen before they happen physically, then you’ll be better off. So we teach people on how to mitigate stress through breathing techniques. A lot of people who have a cortisol or adrenaline dump, they don’t breathe and start making bad decisions. We teach people to have a positive outlook. We use the Navy SEAL analogy of they obviously think they’re the best because they really think they’re the best and there’s something to that. Maybe there’s an egotistical association with that, but that level of confidence comes from positive reaffirmation. We also teach that you have to stay conscious on the forefront of your mind. The natural reaction is to fight or flight, but if they’re staying conscious that means they’re staying aware of their situation and can make good decisions. The way we teach survival is based on case studies, but we teach the reasons why people live and why people die and making them understand that there are some technical aspects to it. There’s a lot of analyzing and there are ways to mitigate your chances of being injured or worse. That’s the way your brain works — statistics are a good way to get through to people.
What do you think the biggest differences are in teaching men versus women and how they approach survival?
MG: I think a good example of this is when we teach land navigation. When men get lost they use a lot of their ego. So when they get lost they get frustrated and start making bad decisions, as opposed to a woman who might stop and think a little more clearly. She might not be as reactive as males who may be looking at losing as a bad thing that might affect their psyche. What we see is women being a little bit more deliberate with reactions in the field, but also being a bit more overwhelmed by stress. Men tend to cope with stress a little bit better. We do a lot of things, but we tell people that survival is the ultimate measure of equality. It doesn’t care what color you are, what race you are, if it’s a natural or manmade disaster — typically they’re universal in their impact.
A lot of people are concerned about urban crises like Brexit and how it’d impact the British infrastructure, food supplies, and critical services. How do you recommend people prepare for events like that, which have a questionable outcome and duration?
MG: We teach a lot about the staples of survival. One of the things we tell people is when you’re operating in an urban environment, if everyone is going to start fighting for the same resources, you either have to be prepared to stand your ground in your environment or break contact and evade to a safer environment. What you’ll see in urban epicenters is a lot of migration outside of that environment, heading for the hills, and then fighting for the resources on those lands. If one of these events takes place, grocery stores carry about three to four weeks of supplies. If it’s a national or large-scale disaster, no matter how it started, every natural disaster is going to turn itself into a manmade disaster because people are fighting for resources. If they’re going to stand their ground, they should focus on security and those staples of survival — shelter, water, procurement of food, and how they’re going to mobilize and travel to a potential safe house outside the city. Even if they haven’t built out that contingency plan, we also recommend they build a network of friends and family — people that you know and can communicate with in a rural environment where you can escape and evade if need be.
What do think the future of firearms is going to look like 20 years from now given all the government overreach that law-abiding citizens now face?
MG: Policy can affect a really bad decision-making matrix in the government, which can lead to a lot of chaos. I know a lot of people who own guns and if the government came in and said they were gonna ban those guns, there’d be a big issue. Depending on where you live, I used to live in rural California and the sheriffs wouldn’t even enforce the laws that the state government had put out. I ultimately don’t think it’ll be a significant issue because the government knows better. One of the founding reasons we educate as 2A supporters is that you have to affect policy first and if you want to get more involved in protecting your rights, you need to get more involved in governing and understanding governance. The whole reason that we have a Second Amendment is to have a natural measure of balance between the people and the government.
What would you say to the politicians who think that more laws magically equals a safer society?
MG: I just did a post on it. A lot of politicians work fiscally on getting votes and support by throwing out statistics, and a lot of if is miseducation. You’d think there’s a mass-shooting phenomenon inside our country, but the reality is it’s actually very rare and has little to do with guns, even when you scratch the surface. Even in the highlights of demonstrating gun violence with overall statistics, 60 percent of all gun-related incidents that are killing people are suicides, but people wouldn’t know that. They’re suicides by semi-automatic pistols, not assault rifles, so it’s not an epidemic. An epidemic is heart disease, which kills 600,000 people a year, cancer, the opiate crisis. We like to educate and tell people the facts and a lot of people — especially on the left — get a little loose lipped about statistics, but they don’t really teach the truth. A lot of it’s miseducation, so we just try to educate people.
Do you have any political aspirations?
MG: No, absolutely not. Twenty years of government service is enough for me. I try to stay involved and influence with facts, and support people, but no aspirations whatsoever.
What do you think America’s next big manmade survival situation looks like and how do you recommend people start preparing for it?
MG: I might sound crazy by saying this, but automation, AI, and technology being involved in our lives and societies is creating a vacuum. It’s almost like terrorism. If you go in and create a power vacuum, then what fills that gap is terrorism. Think about when you automate all the jobs and people aren’t leveraged or utilized anymore because the ground floor of the factory doesn’t need people. Think about truck drivers’ jobs that would save $163 billion a year by using automation and all those truck drivers no longer have jobs. It’s retail shops as well — the list goes on.
I think in the next five to 10 years with automation and introduction of technology and AI, it’s going to create a vacuum whereby people don’t have jobs and the necessary skill sets. You’re not going to convince a truck driver in Michigan to become a software engineer in Silicon Valley. It’s just not going to happen. That’s going to lead to poverty, manmade catastrophes, you’re going to see an increase in violence, and in that power vacuum you’re going to have a lot of problems destroying the fabric of our nation. It’s happening now. It’s like Amazon. Everyone talks about the jobs it provides and how great it is, but Amazon is a huge monopoly that owns the market and uses automation for 50,000 to 60,000 of their jobs. That might be a far stretch, but look at what’s happening now and how it’s creating a power vacuum and increase in suicides and mental health issues — that’s the real survival issue we’re dealing with.
Daytona Beach, Florida
U.S Army Green Beret, government contractor
Bachelors degree in crisis management and homeland security from American Military University
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If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you get to the Pearly Gates?
“The journey is just beginning.”
1987 to 1989 Porsche 930