Dagger point: A survival state of mind

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Michael Washburn
  • 355th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Staff Sgt. Andrew Whitus, 355th Medical Group noncommissioned officer in charge of medical information systems, took a wilderness survival course created by one of the hosts of Discovery Channel's show Dual Survivor. I sat down with Sergeant Whitus to discuss his reasoning for taking the class and his experiences.

MW: When did you first find out about this wilderness survival class?

AW: There is a show on the Discovery Channel called Dual Survival. Both of the hosts of the show, Dave Canterbury and Cody Lundin, have their own survival schools. I took the Phase 1 beginners course of Dave's school, which is a set of DVD's that can be done anywhere.

MW: What got you interested in doing a survival class?

AW: I think there is a possibility that life as we know it can change and I want to be able to protect my family.

MW: As a child growing up, did you have a fondness for the outdoors?

AW: Not at all. I've been a complete city-slicker. I never went fishing, I never went hunting, never went hiking or any of that stuff. Something just sparked in me a year ago and I wanted to make sure I was prepared in the case something happened. The thought that didn't sit right with me is that I am 100 percent dependent on other people for my survival. If I couldn't turn on the tap, I wouldn't know how to get water. If I couldn't go to the Commissary, I wouldn't know how to get food. I didn't want to have to rely on someone else for my basic needs.

MW: Had you seen the show before taking the course?

AW: I did. I liked the entertainment value of the show and I was very intrigued with what they were teaching. That led me to start doing some research.

MW: How long was the course for?

AW: It was all at your own pace. The difficulty for me was that step one was finding your personal space. They recommend that it's like 10 acres of seclusion where other people aren't coming around. For people who live in the woods it's easy, they can just go into their backyards. For me, it took three hours. It takes an hour to drive to the top of Mt. Lemmon, an hour hike down a path and an hour of hiking through thick brush.

MW: What are some of the things you learned?

AW: Some things were hands-on like make a fire-hardened spear, which is a wooden spear that is heated with fire to make it stronger, and build a shelter. Others were learning about the poisonous creatures and plants in the area, what things are edible and what can be used as antidotes.

MW: Do you have any future plans for other outings?

AW: I have a five-month-old baby and three other kids, so it makes it very difficult to get away. It's selfish as well because if I want to go do something, I'm leaving my wife with a bunch of kids. I want to do more things, but it's tough.

MW: Have you been able to teach you kids any skills?

AW: Yeah. My two stepsons eat this stuff up, especially the younger one. He'll come home from the Child Development Center and he's like "Andy, I got some seeds. We should plant these."

MW: What do you enjoy most from these classes?

AW: The peace of mind that if something did happen, I would be able to provide for my family.