Soldier Combat Skills

Chapter 12 – Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape

Chapter 12

Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape

Continuous operations and fast-moving battles increase your chances of either becoming temporarily separated from your unit or captured. Whether you are separated from your unit or captured, your top priority should be rejoining your unit or making it to friendly lines. If you do become isolated, every Soldier must continue to fight, evade capture, and regain contact with friendly forces. If captured, detained, or held hostage, individual Soldiers must live, act, and speak in a manner that leaves no doubt they adhere to the traditions and values of the US Army and the Code of Conduct.


12-1. The acrostic SURVIVAL can help guide your actions in any situation (Figure 12-1 [short list] and Figure 12-2 [explanations]). Learn what each letter represents, and practice applying these guidelines when conducting survival training:

Figure 12-1. SURVIVAL.

S Size up the Situation (Surroundings, Physical Condition, Equipment). In combat, conceal yourself from the enemy. Security is key. “Size up” the battlespace (situation, surroundings, physical condition, and equipment). Determine if the enemy is attacking, defending, or withdrawing. Make your survival plan, considering your basic physical needs-water, food, and shelter. Surroundings–Figure out what is going on around you and find the rhythm or pattern of your environment. It includes animal and bird noises, and movements and insect sounds. It may also include enemy traffic and civilian movements. Physical Condition–The pressure of the previous battle you were in (or the trauma of being in a survival situation) may have caused you to overlook wounds you received. Check your wounds and give yourself first aid. Take care to prevent further bodily harm. For instance, in any climate, drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration. If you are in a cold or wet climate, put on additional clothing to prevent hypothermia. Equipment–Perhaps in the heat of battle, you lost or damaged some of your equipment. Check to see what equipment you have and its condition.
U Use All Your Senses: Undue Haste Makes Waste Evaluate the situation. Note sounds and smells. Note temperature changes. Stay observant and act carefully. An unplanned action can result in your capture or death. Avoid moving just to do something. Consider all aspects of your situation before you do anything. Also, if you act in haste, you might forget or lose some of your equipment. You might also get disoriented and not know which way to go. Plan your moves. Stay ready to move out quickly, but without endangering yourself, if the enemy is near.
R Remember Where You Are Find out who in your group has a map or compass. Find yourself on a map and continually reorient yourself on your location and destination. Ensure others do the same. Rely on yourself to keep track of your route. This will help you make intelligent decisions in a survival or evasion situation. Always try to determine, as a minimum, how your location relates to– • Enemy units and controlled areas. • Friendly units and controlled areas. • Local water sources (especially important in the desert). • Areas that will provide good cover and concealment.
V Vanquish Fear and Panic Fear and panic are your greatest enemies. Uncontrolled, they destroy the ability to make intelligent decisions, or they cause you to react to feelings and imagination rather than the situation. They will drain your energy, and lead to other negative emotions. Control them by remaining self-confident and using what you learned in your survival training.
I Improvise Americans are unused to making do. This can hold you back in a survival situation. Learn to improvise. Take a tool designed for a specific purpose and see how many other uses you can find for it. Learn to use natural objects around you for different needs, for example, use a rock for a hammer. When your survival kit inevitably wears out, you must use your imagination. In fact, when you can improvise suitable tools, do so, and save your survival kit items for times when you have no such options.
V Value Living When faced with the stresses, inconveniences, and discomforts of a survival situation, Soldiers must maintain a high value on living. The experience and knowledge you have gained through life and Army training will have a bearing on your will to live. Perseverance, a refusal to give in to problems and obstacles that face you, will give you the mental and physical strength to endure.
A Act like the Natives Locals (indigenous people and animals) have already adapted to an environment that is strange to you. • Observe daily routines of local people. Where do they get food and water? When and where do they eat? What time do they go to bed and get up? The answers to these questions can help you avoid capture. • Watch animals, who also need food, water, and shelter, to help you find the same. • Remember that animals may react to you, revealing your presence to the enemy. • In friendly areas, gain rapport with locals by showing interest in their customs. Studying them helps you learn to respect them, allows you to make valuable friends, and, most importantly, helps you adapt to their environment. All of these will increase your chance of survival.
L Live by your Wits, but for Now Learn Basic Skills Having basic survival and evasion skills will help you live through a combat survival situation. Without these skills, your chance of survival is slight. • Learn these skills now-not en route to, or in, battle. Know the environment you are going into and practice basic skills geared to the environment. Equipping yourself for the environment beforehand will help determine whether you survive. For instance, if you are going to a desert, know how to get–and purify–water. • Practice basic survival skills during all training programs and exercises. Survival training reduces fear of the unknown, gives you self-confidence, and teaches you to live by your wits.


12-2. A useful technique for organizing survival is the three-phase individual survival kit. The content of each phase of the kit depends on the environment in the AO and available supplies. An example of the contents of a three-phase survival kit is as follows:

Phase 1 (Extreme)

12-3. Soldier without any equipment (load-bearing equipment or rucksack). Items to be carried (and their suggested uses) include–

  • Safety pins in hat (fishing hooks or holding torn clothes).
  • Utility knife with magnesium fire starter on 550 cord wrapped around waist (knife, making ropes, and fire starter).
  • Wrist compass (navigation).

Phase 2 (Moderate)

12-4. Soldiers with load-bearing equipment. Load-bearing equipment should contain a small survival kit. Kit should be tailored to the AO and should only contain basic health and survival necessities:

  • 550 cord, 6 feet (cordage, tie down, fishing line, weapons, and snares).
  • Waterproof matches or lighter (fire starter).
  • Iodine tablets (water purification, small cuts).
  • Fish hooks or lures (fishing).
  • Heavy duty knife with sharpener, bayonet type (heavy chopping or cutting).
  • Mirror (signaling).
  • Tape (utility work).
  • Aspirin.
  • Clear plastic bag (water purification, solar stills).
  • Candles (heat, light).
  • Surgical tubing (snares, weapons, drinking tube).
  • Tripwire (traps, snares, weapons).
  • Dental floss (cordage, fishing line, tie down, traps).
  • Upholstery needles (sewing, fish hooks).

Phase 3 (Slight)

12-5. Soldier with load-bearing equipment and rucksack. Rucksack should only contain minimal equipment. The following are some examples:

  • Poncho (shelters, gather water such as dew).
  • Water purification pump.
  • Cordage (550), 20 feet.
  • Change of clothes.
  • Cold and wet weather jacket and pants.
  • Poncho liner or lightweight sleeping bag.

Note: Items chosen for survival kits should have multiple uses. The items in the above list are only suggestions.


12-6. Evasion is the action you take to stay out of the enemy’s hands when separated from your unit and in enemy territory. There are several courses of action you can take to avoid capture and rejoin your unit. You may stay in your current position and wait for friendly troops to find you, or you may try to move and find friendly lines. Below are a few guidelines you can follow.


12-7. Planning is essential to achieve successful evasion. Follow these guidelines for successful evasion:

  • Keep a positive attitude.
  • Use established procedures.
  • Follow your EPA (evasion plan of action).
  • Be patient.
  • Drink water.
  • Conserve strength for critical periods.
  • Rest and sleep as much as possible.
  • Stay out of sight.


12-8. Avoid the following odors (they stand out and may give you away):

  • Scented soaps and shampoos.
  • Shaving cream, after-shave lotion, or other cosmetics.
  • Insect repellent (camouflage stick is least scented).
  • Gum and candy (smell is strong or sweet).
  • Tobacco (odor is unmistakable).
  • Mask scent using crushed grasses, berries, dirt, and charcoal.


12-9. Establish–

  • Suitable area for recovery.
  • Selected area for evasion.
  • Neutral or friendly country or area.
  • Designated area for recovery.


12-10. Keep the following guidelines in mind concerning shelters:

  • Use camouflage and concealment.
  • Locate carefully (BLISS, Figure 12-2).
    • Choose an area.
    • –Least likely to be searched (for example drainages, rough terrain) and blends with the environment.
    • –With escape routes (do not corner yourself).
    • –With observable approaches.
  • Locate entrances and exits in brush and along ridges, ditches, and rocks to keep from forming paths to site.
  • Be wary of flash floods in ravines and canyons.
  • Conceal with minimal to no preparation.
  • Take the radio direction finding threat into account before transmitting from shelter.
  • Ensure overhead concealment.

B Blend L Low silhouette I Irregular shape S Small S Secluded location

Figure 12-2. Tool for remembering shelter locations.


12-11. Remember, a moving object is easy to spot. If travel is necessary–

  • Mask with natural cover.
  • Stay off ridgelines and use the military crest (2/3 of the way up) of a hill.
  • Restrict to periods of low light, bad weather, wind, or reduced enemy activity.
  • Avoid silhouetting.
  • Do the following at irregular intervals: –Stop at a point of concealment. –Look for signs of human or animal activity (such as smoke, tracks, roads, troops, vehicles, aircraft, wire, and buildings). Watch for trip wires or booby traps, and avoid leaving evidence of travel. Peripheral vision is more effective for recognizing movement at night and twilight.
  • Listen for vehicles, troops, aircraft, weapons, animals, and so forth. –Smell for vehicles, troops, animals, fires, and so forth.
  • Use noise discipline; check clothing and equipment for items that could make noise during movement and secure them.
  • Break up the human shape or recognizable lines.
  • Camouflage evidence of travel. Route selection requires detailed planning and special techniques (irregular route/zigzag).
  • Concealing evidence of travel. Using techniques such as:
  • Avoid disturbing vegetation.
  • Do not break branches, leaves, or grass. Use a walking stick to part vegetation and push it back to its original position.
  • Do not grab small trees or brush. (This may scuff the bark or create movement that is easily spotted. In snow country, this creates a path of snow-less vegetation revealing your route.)
  • Pick firm footing (carefully place the foot lightly but squarely on the surface to avoid slipping).
  • Try not to–
  • –Overturn ground cover, rocks, and sticks.
  • –Scuff bark on logs and sticks.
  •  –Make noise by breaking sticks. (Cloth wrapped around feet helps muffle noise.)
  •  –Mangle grass and bushes that normally spring back.
  • Mask unavoidable tracks in soft footing.
  • –Place tracks in the shadows of vegetation, downed logs, and snowdrifts.
  • –Move before and during precipitation, allows tracks to fill in.
  • –Travel during windy periods.
  • –Take advantage of solid surfaces (such as logs and rocks) leaving less evidence of travel.
  • –Tie cloth or vegetation to feet, or pat out tracks lightly to speed their breakdown or makethem look old.
  • Secure trash or loose equipment and hide or bury discarded items. (Trash or lost equipment identifies who lost it.)
  • If pursued by dogs, concentrate on defeating the handler.
  • –Travel downwind of dog/handler, if possible.
  • –Travel over rough terrain and/or through dense vegetation to slow the handler.
  •  –Travel downstream through fast moving water.
  • –Zigzag route if possible, consider loop-backs and “J” hooks.
  • Penetrate obstacles as follows:
  • –Enter deep ditches feet first to avoid injury.
  •  –Go around chain-link and wire fences.
  • Go under fence if unavoidable, crossing at damaged areas.
  • Do not touch fence; look for electrical insulators or security devices.
  •  –Penetrate rail fences, passing under or between lower rails. If this is impractical, go over the top, presenting as low a silhouette as possible.
  • –Cross roads after observation from concealment to determine enemy activity. Cross at points offering concealment such as bushes, shadows, or bends in the road. Cross in a manner leaving footprints parallel (cross step sideways) to the road.


12-12. Figure 12-3 shows the Code of Conduct, which prescribes how every Soldier of the US armed forces must conduct himself when captured (or faced with the possibility of capture).

  • I. I am an American, fighting in the forces which guard my country and our way of life. I am prepared to give my life in their defense.
  • II. I will never surrender of my own free will. If in command, I will never surrender the members of my command while they still have the means to resist.
  • III. If I am captured, I will continue to resist by all means available. I will make every effort to escape and aid others to escape. I will accept neither parole nor special favors from the enemy.
  • IV. If I become a prisoner of war, I will keep faith with my fellow prisoners. I will give no information or take part in any action which might be harmful to my comrades. If I am senior, I will take command. If not, I will obey the lawful orders of those appointed over me, and will back them up in every way.
  • V. When questioned, should I become a prisoner of war, I am required to give only name, rank, service number, and date of birth. I will evade answering further questions to the utmost of my ability. I will make no oral or written statements disloyal to my country (and its allies) or harmful to their cause.
  • VI. I will never forget that I am an American, fighting for freedom, responsible for my actions, and dedicated to the principles that made my country free. I will trust in my God and in the United States of America.

Figure 12-3. Code of Conduct.

Article I–Soldiers have a duty to support US interests and oppose US enemies regardless of the circumstances, whether located in a combat environment or OOTW (operations other than war) resulting in captivity, detention, or a hostage situation. Past experience of captured Americans reveals that honorable survival in captivity requires that the Soldier possess a high degree of dedication and motivation. Maintaining these qualities requires knowledge of, and a strong belief in, the following:

  • The advantages of American democratic institutions and concepts.
  • Love and faith in the US and a conviction that the US cause is just.
  • Faith and loyalty to fellow POWs.

Article II–Members of the Armed Forces may never surrender voluntarily. Even when isolated and no longer able to inflict casualties on the enemy or otherwise defend themselves, Soldiers must try to evade capture and rejoin the nearest friendly force. Surrender is the willful act of members of the Armed Forces turning themselves over to enemy forces when not required by utmost necessity or extremity. Surrender is always dishonorable and never allowed. When there is no chance for meaningful resistance, evasion is impossible, and further fighting would lead to death with no significant loss to the enemy. Members of Armed Forces should view themselves as “captured” against their will, versus a circumstance that is seen as voluntarily “surrendering.” Soldiers must remember the capture was dictated by the futility of the situation and overwhelming enemy strengths.

Article III–The misfortune of capture does not lessen the duty of a member of the Armed Forces to continue resisting enemy exploitation by all means available. Contrary to the Geneva Conventions, enemies whom US forces have engaged since 1949 have regarded the POW compound as an extension of the battlefield. The POW must be prepared for this fact. In the past, enemies of the US have used physical and mental harassment, general mistreatment, torture, medical neglect, and political indoctrination against POWs. POWs must not seek special privileges or accept special favors at the expense of fellow POWs. POWs must be prepared to take advantage of escape opportunities whenever they arise. The US does not authorize any Military Service member to sign or enter into any such parole agreement.

Article IV–Officers and NCOs shall continue to carry out their responsibilities and exercise their authority in captivity. Informing on, or any other action detrimental to a fellow POW, is despicable and expressly forbidden. POWs especially must avoid helping the enemy to identify fellow POWs who may have knowledge of value to the enemy and who may be made to suffer coercive interrogation. Strong leadership is essential to discipline. Without discipline, camp organization, resistance, and even survival may be impossible. Personal hygiene, camp sanitation, and care of the sick and wounded are imperative. Wherever located, POWs should organize in a military manner under the senior military POW eligible for command. The senior POW (whether officer or enlisted) in the POW camp or among a group of POWs shall assume command according to rank without regard to Military Service.

Article V–When questioned, a POW is required by the Geneva Conventions and the Code of Conduct, and is permitted by the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), to give name, rank, service number, and date of birth. The enemy has no right to try to force a POW to provide any additional information. However, it is unrealistic to expect a POW to remain confined for years reciting only name, rank, service number, and date of birth. If a POW finds that, under intense coercion, he unwillingly or accidentally discloses unauthorized information, the Service member should attempt to recover and resist with a fresh line of mental defense. The best way for a POW to resist is to keep faith with the US, fellow POWs, and oneself to provide the enemy with as little information as possible.

Article VI–A member of the Armed Forces remains responsible for personal actions at all times. Article VI is designed to assist members of the Armed Forces to fulfill their responsibilities and survive captivity with honor. The Code of Conduct does not conflict with the UCMJ, which continues to apply to each military member during captivity or other hostile detention. Failure to adhere to the Code of Conduct may subject Service members to applicable disposition under the UCMJ. A member of the Armed Forces who is captured has a continuing obligation to resist all attempts at indoctrination and must remain loyal to the US.


12-13. Escape is the action you take to get away from the enemy if you are captured. The best time for escape is right after capture as you will be in a better physical and mental condition. Bad food and bad treatment during capture add to the already stressful fact of captivity. When detained, you will be given minimal rations that are barely enough to sustain life and certainly not enough to build up a reserve of energy. The physical treatment, medical care, and rations of prison life quickly cause physical weakness, night blindness, and loss of coordination and reasoning power. Once you have escaped, it may not be easy to contact friendly troops or get back to their lines, even when you know where they are. Learn and use the information in this chapter to increase your chance of survival on today’s battlefield. For more information, see FM 3-05.70 and FM 3-50.3. Other reasons for escaping early include–

  • Friendly fire or air strikes may cause enough confusion and disorder to provide a chance to escape.
  • The first guards usually have less training in handling prisoners than the next set. You have a better chance of getting away from the first ones.
  • You might know something about the area where you were first captured. You might even know the locations of nearby friendly units.
  • The way you escape depends on what you can think of to fit the situation.
  • The only general rules are to escape early and when the enemy is distracted.

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