BE SAFE MARINE Survival Acronym for Mountain Environment

BE SAFE MARINE Survival Acronym for Mountain Environment

Andrew’s Note:  The following excerpt is from the U.S. Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center’s Wilderness Medicine Course.  BE SAFE MARINE is a Mountain Survival Acronym used in the course.  This publication is APPROVED FOR PUBLIC RELEASE and came into my preparedness library when I purchased the Ultimate Preparedness Library.

PLANNING AND PREPARATION:  As in any military operation, planning and preparation constitute the keys to success. The following principles will help the leader conduct a safe and efficient operation in any type of mountainous environment. We find this principle in the acronym “BE SAFE MARINE”. Remember the key, think about what each letter means and apply this in any type of environment.

B – Be aware of the group’s ability.

E – Evaluate terrain and weather constantly.

S – Stay as a group.

A – Appreciate time requirements.

F – Find shelter before storms if required.

E – Eat plenty and drink lots of liquids.

M – Maintain proper clothing and equipment.

A – Ask locals about conditions.

R – Remember to keep calm and think.

I –  Insist on emergency rations and kits.

N – Never forget accident procedures.

E – Energy is saved when warm and dry.

a.   Be Aware of the Group’s Ability. It is essential that the leader evaluates the individual abilities of his men and uses this as the basis for his planning. In his evaluation, the leader must include the group’s overall physical conditioning, and the consideration of change in climate and how long the unit has had to acclimatize.

(1) Mental attitude of your group. Is morale high? How much tactical training has the group had in a particular type of terrain?

(2) Technical aspect of your group. Have they been on skis, snowshoes, etc.?

(3) Individual skills. At this point, you must choose who is most proficient at the individual skills that will be required for your mission, navigation techniques, security, call for fire, rope installations, track plans, bivouac site selection, skiing, etc.

USMCb.   Evaluate Terrain and Weather Constantly.

(1) Terrain. During the planning stages of your mission, the leader must absorb as much information as possible on the surrounding terrain and key terrain features involved in your area of operation. Considerations to any obstacles must be clearly planned for. Will you need such things as fixed ropes, rope bridges, climbing gear, etc?

(a) Stress careful movement in particularly dangerous areas, such as loose rock and steep terrain.

(b) Always know your position. Knowing where you are on your planned route is important.

(2) Weather. Mountain weather can be severe and variable. Drastic weather changes can occur in the space of a few hours with the onset of violent storms, reduced visibility, and extreme changes. In addition to obtaining current weather data, the leader must plan for the unexpected “worst case”. During an operation he must diagnose weather signs continually to be able to foresee possible weather changes.

(a) Constantly evaluate the conditions. Under certain conditions it may be advisable to reevaluate your capabilities. Pushing ahead with a closed mind could spell disaster for the mission and the unit.

c.   Stay as a Group. Individuals acting on their own are at a great disadvantage in this environment.

(1) Give the unit adequate rest halts based upon the terrain and elevation, physical abilities of the unit, combat load and mission requirements.

(2) Remember to use the buddy system in your group.

(3) Maintain a steady pace so that it will allow accomplishment of the mission when all members of the unit reach the objective area.

d.   Appreciate Time Requirements. Efficient use of available time is vital. The leader must make an accurate estimate of the time required for his operation based on terrain, weather, unit size, abilities, and on the enemy situation. This estimate must take into account the possibility of unexpected emergencies and allow sufficient leeway to make unplanned bivouacs in severe conditions.

(1) Time-Distance Formula (TDF). This formula is designed to be a guideline and should not be considered as the exact amount of time required for your movement. Furthermore, this formula is for use in ideal conditions:

3 km/mph + 1 hour for every 300 meters ascent; and/or + 1 hour for every 800 meters descent.

USMC Mountain Medicine Time Distance Formula

NOTE: The TDF is made for troops on foot in the summertime or troops on skis in the wintertime. If on foot in deep snow, multiply the total time by 2.0.




(2) Route Planning. Route cards are not to be used in place of an overlay, but as a tool to be used in route planning. Overlays/Route cards should contain the following information at the minimum:

  • Unit Designation:
  • Unit Commander.
  • Number of personnel.
  • Inclusive dates and times of movement.
  • Grid coordinates of each checkpoint and bivouac.
  • Map references.
  • Azimuth and distances for each leg.
  • Elevation gain/loss per leg.
  • Description of the ground.
  • ETA and ETD.

(3) As in any military operation, route planning and execution are of vital importance. Prior to departure, the unit commander must submit a route card or patrol overlay to his higher headquarters and keeps a duplicate copy for himself. This preplanned route should be followed as closely as possible, taking into account changes based on the tactical situation.  In non-tactical situations, the preplanned route should be followed to reduce search and rescue time in an emergency situation.

e.   Find Shelter before Storms if required.  Under certain conditions, inclement weather can provide tactical advantages to the thinking unit commander, but by the same token it can reduce the efficiency of a unit to nil if an incorrect evaluation of the situation is made.

(1) Bivouac. If the group decision is to bivouac, then it’s vital that we know the principles for an unplanned bivouac.

(a) Unplanned bivouac. The principles and techniques discussed here apply both to unplanned and tolerated bivouacs. In any survival situation, especially in a mountainous environment, the most immediate danger is from exposure to the elements. Being lost will not directly kill an individual. Starvation takes time, but hypothermia can manifest itself in a matter of hours resulting in death. Adhering to the following principles will give an individual the best chance to spend a relatively safe bivouac with the prospect of continued effort toward mission accomplishment.

1.   Make shelter. The requirements for expedient shelters and the building procedures will be covered in another section. The basic requirement for protection from the elements is essential.

2.   Keep warm. The retention of body heat is of vital importance; any action in which body heat is lost should be avoided. The following points should be considered:

a.   Adequate shelter.

b.   Insulation from the ground using branches, a rucksack, etc.

c.   Wear extra clothing.

d.   Use extra equipment for insulation.

e.   Produce external heat while trying to conserve fuel for future use.

3.   Keep dry. Being wet causes the loss of body heat 24 times faster than when dry.  Adequate protection from the elements is of prime importance to prevent the onset of hypothermia.

f. Eat Properly and Drink Plenty of Fluids

(1) Food. The human body can be compared to a furnace, which runs on food to produce energy (warmth). By planning the consumption of food to suit the specific situation, adequate nutrition and extra warmth can be supplied.

(2) Water. The intake of adequate amounts of water will maintain the body in proper working order. Danger from dehydration is as high in mountain regions as in hot dry areas. Loss of liquids is easily seen and felt in hot climates; whereas in the mountains, the loss of body fluids is much less noticeable. High water intake, at least 6 quarts per day when in bivouac, 8 quarts per day when active, will help to prevent dehydration.

g. Maintain Proper Clothing and Equipment

(1)  Clothing

(a) Our clothing has to perform an important function in our mission; therefore, when choosing our clothing we have to take into account some essential requirements.

1. Protection against wind and rain.

2. Layered and easily adjustable.

3. Lightweight and durable.

(b) To help us remember how to maintain and wear our clothing, we use the acronym, “COLD”.

C – Keep clothing Clean.

O – Avoid Overheating.

L – Wear clothing loose and in Layers.

D – Keep clothing Dry.

 NOTE: In the mountains a man should never be separated from his gear. Here are some basic and essential items that should be considered during your planning stage.

(2)  Required equipment:

(a) A daypack should always be carried per squad and one Marine should carry a combat load.

(b) Map and compass. Every individual in a leadership position and his assistant should carry a map and compass. The maps should be weatherproofed and extra maps should be distributed throughout the unit.

(c) Repair kit. This kit should include those items necessary to do emergency repairs on your equipment.

(d) Survival Kit. Always carried on your person. The contents of a survival kit will be covered in another period of instruction dealing specifically with survival kits.

h. Ask Locals About Conditions. An often-overlooked source of information is the indigenous population of an area. Local weather patterns, rockslide areas, watering points, and normal routes can all be obtained by careful questioning. The leader must obtain current information of the actual conditions along his intended route. Of particular importance are recent precipitation and enemy sightings.

i. Remember to Keep Calm and Think.

(1) Emergency situation. Having recognized that you are lost and that an emergency situation exists, the following principles should be followed:

(a) Keep calm and do not panic. At this point you must make every effort to conserve body heat and energy.

(b) Think. When an individual is cold, tired, hungry or frightened he must force himself to organize his thoughts into a logical sequence.

(c) The group must try to help itself by either finding the way back to safety or by preparing shelters and procuring food.

(d) Above all else, the group must act as a tight-knit unit. In emergency situations, individual dissension can cause a total loss of control and unit strength.

(2) If the decision is reached that the group should seek its way back to safety, several possibilities exist. In most situations, the safest approach will be to retrace the route to the last known point and continue from there. The other course of action is to get a group consensus on the present location and send out a small search party to locate a known point.  This party must ensure that they mark their trail adequately to return to the group. If all attempts at finding a way back to known terrain fails, a definite survival situation exists and actions discussed later in this section must be instituted.

j. Insist on Emergency Rations and Kits. Just like what was covered in the SUMMER MOUNTAIN WARFIGHTING LOAD REQUIREMENTS class, survival rations and a survival kit should always be carried.

k. Never Forget Accident/Emergency Procedures.

(1) Causes of accidents. The general procedures used to handle accidents differ little in this environment, but several distinct points should be kept in mind. The most frequent causes of accidents are as follows:

(a) Overestimation of physical and technical abilities.

(b) Carelessness.

(c) General lack of observation of one’s surroundings.

(d) Lack of knowledge and experience by leaders.

(e) The failure to act as a group.

(f)  Underestimation of time requirements to move through mountainous terrain and underestimation of the terrain itself.

(2) Preventive measures. The only truly effective preventive measures for the above lie in the education and experience of leaders at all levels. Too often, leaders sit by watching during training and as a result have no concept of the requirements involved in the mountainous environment. Only by active involvement can a leader gain the knowledge and experience needed to effectively lead in this environment.

(3) General procedures for handling an accident. These require only a good dose of common sense as outlined below.

(a) Perform basic first aid.

(b) Protect the patient from the elements to include insulation on top and bottom.

(c) Evacuate if necessary.

(d) Send for help if required. If possible, never send a man for help alone.

(e) Send the following information regarding the accident:

1.   Time of accident.

2.   Nature and location of accident.

3.   Number injured.

4.   Best approach route to accident scene.

(4) If one man of a two-man team is injured, the injured man must be given all available aid prior to going for help. If the injured man is unconscious, he should be placed in all available clothing and sleeping gear and anchored if on steep terrain. A note explaining the circumstances, and reassuring him, should be left in a conspicuous spot. This note must also contain the following information:

(a) When you expect to return.

(b) Where you went.

(c) What you did before you left (medication, etc.).

(5) International distress signal (whistle):

(a) Six short blasts in 1 minute from person requesting help.

(b) The return signal is three blasts in 1 minute from the respondent.

(6) Other methods if help is required:

(a) Red pyrotechnics.

(b) SOS, (… — . . .).

(c) “Mayday” by voice communications.

l.    Energy is saved when warm and Dry.  With the previous 11 principles in mind this one should fall right into place. Save your heat and energy by following these steps:

(1) Dress properly.

(2) Eat properly.

(3) Drink properly.

(4) Ensure shelter meets criteria.

(5) Produce external heat (fires, stove, extra clothing, etc.) to save body heat and energy for future use.

(6) Don’t lose body heat by getting wet.

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