A loud crack in the distance at 12AM echoes through the night, followed by the power in your neighborhood going out. Yelling fills the streets, people are jumping in cars and fleeing the city. A terrorist attack, your phone chirps in an automated message. “Stay in your homes. All major utilities compromised.” A loved one is deeper in the city, the only message that can be sent to you before cell service dies in the form of a text message, “I’m trapped in the house. Dangerous people near. Help.” You know this city. You know your way to them. You run to your closet, grab your GORUCK GR1 and know you can reach them if you move quick.
GORUCK has rolled out a new program, titled “Constellation”, which is described as a way to “learn how to prepare and plan for chaos and how to connect the dots of your city, on the move.”
In this post, I will discuss the following:
- Pre-Event Preparedness
- Event Experience
You will see that there aren’t much details about the event, either because people are being real hush-hush about it, or because there’s just a lack of information. Communication of changes and expectations were very lacking in the social media aspect of the event, with a Facebook event group not knowing what was going on, lack of a clear start point due to GORUCK.com’s process of taking an event page down (and not the registration button) on their website, and an updated packing list being found on the website but not the Facebook Event page where people were actively communicating.
This was not confusing for many other people, and information close to event day corrected itself to ease pre-event jitters.
Everyone is to form a cell, or team, of 8 people. This is your team throughout the event, so it’s probably better to form up beforehand rather than day of – However for realism’s sake, getting randomized into a group would probably be cooler.
For this event, I opted for my 34L GR2, which was more than enough for the event, but was useful further down the event when more carrying space was needed.
My gear for the event:
- Kuhl Konfidant Air Pants, Leatherman Rev Multi-Tool, Underarmor compression shirt, Arc’teryx Psiphon FL Hoodie, red bandana, Rocky C4T boots, Darn Tough Merino Wool socks over Injinji Liner toe socks
- Full Packing List (Required/Recommended)
- 8oz flask of whiskey and a 6-pack of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale
There were a few items not used from the packing list (Morakniv Companion knife, chem lights, contractor bags, and compass), but in more intense situations, they would definitely come in handy. Good to have it in a go-bag anyway.
The Cadre for the event structured the entire 12-hours in a Classroom portion, followed by an Application portion out in a quadrant of the city, and then return to the Classroom, and repeat. This was good for those learning this for the first time, however it took some getting used to when you were strapped for time (running back to the Classroom in time after securing a resource required for that Application mission).
I’ve never done a Scavenger, but was told the format in how we secure a successful objective was fashioned after this. Social media should be getting bombarded with photos after a few more classes in other cities.
Some of the missions you’re given range in complexity, from gathering a pure water source to climbing a fence, to dumpster diving for resources. There are some missions that you know would definitely come into play in particular real-life situations, but this was not an “Alternate Reality Game” (see: GORUCK Jedburgh). The urgency is just not there, but the tension kind of exists as you actively use evasion skills to meet your objective.
GORUCK Constellation is a Gentleman’s Course in Urban Survival. You will learn skills and strategies to help you survive a potential chaos situation, and you have the opportunity to pick the brains of Special Forces cadre about these things. But like most things within GORUCK’s arsenal of events and capstones, the amount of fun and experience you get out of an event correlates to how much you put into it. If you Gray Man the whole event (don’t talk to anyone, disappear mentally after a while), you’re detrimental to your team and your learning experience.
On the other side of the coin, if you are actively participating, taking notes, talking to your team and others, and applying the skills learned outside of the classroom setting, you’ll earn your patch and grow roots to a much larger learning experience.
There are many things I would have liked to have seen, from a more intense OpFor (opposing force) element, to team vs. team mechanics, however we were told early on that the people who put this event together were still working out the kinks. If you’re looking for a more developed experience in a non-urban setting, GORUCK Navigator is your next step. If you’re absolutely trying to develop your urban survival skills, keeping up with not only your event participants, but tracking other cities as they complete their Constellation courses would be very beneficial. The cadre indicated that there were two evolutions for Constellation: the 24-hour Alumni event in Washington, DC, and alumni building a network with participants from other cities. I’d like to see how the 24-hour event develops, though I probably would only want to learn how to gather resources to escape the city quickly, rather than stick around picking up resources and grow myself as a target for looters, terrorists, and other OpFor elements (EDIT: Constellation does teach you that if you can’t escape the city in time, you will persist longer with the skills they touch on and the teams you can create/resources you negotiate with – Force multipliers be damned).
Fortunately, I had a lot of fun in this event. There were times where I may have dozed off in the Classroom portion, but that’s because I had been up since 6AM, with an event that started at 9PM, a few beers in my belly, and not getting to bed until 11AM the following morning. Many of the lessons I experience in Constellation were very reminiscent of Jedburgh, without the tension, fear, and heightened sense of awareness that comes with knowing you’re actively working against an OpFor team that is separate from the cadre, who lurk in the shadows and stalk you. There were also elements of Navigator CORE, however if you can read the layout of a city and its streets on a map, you’re good to go.
If you have any additional questions, feel free to leave a comment here or reach me on Twitter at @GeorgeTheGRT.