To the in-the-field professional, there are lot of gear choices. Any decent outdoor store is replete with sleeping bags, cool stoves, lanterns, and every conceivable type of high-speed clothing known to humankind. Weekend campers and outdoor enthusiasts often pull shopping carts of “lightweight gear” to the checkout. I was buying some socks – with the cool name DARN TOUGH – and as I stood in the checkout line, I heard a gear-laden husband tell his wife – also lugging a treasure trove of stuff – “Honey, it is incredible how light things are now.” He paid, grunted, and shouldered his purchases – and she assisted during the second trip to the car – and off they shuffled. As I watched them depart, I thought of the phrase from my profession: “100 pounds of high speed, lightweight gear still weighs 100 pounds…” Lucky for me that I have a longtime friend who has helped me with each of my gear choice conundrums over the years.
He is worldly-wise. He is never judgmental but always declarative. He is loyal and efficient – but takes no BS. He goes with me every step of the way and is ready as soon as I am for the next and the next. Meet Mister Bull-Ruck.
I was introduced to him by my Platoon Sergeant – a savvy Gunnery Sergeant – as a young Marine. We were always cramming every piece of kit we could (or thought we could) use into our ALICE (All Weather Lightweight Individual Carrying Equipment) Pack LARGE; at the time only given to Reconnaissance Marines. One of our Marines – when questioned by the Gunny about why he “had so much shit in there” – asked in reply, “Well, how do you know if you are going to need it?” The Gunny replied, “Oh… Mister Bull-Ruck will tell you himself…. right now.” With that, he had all of us put on our rucks – and we proceeded to “Bear Crawl” for 30 minutes. It became obvious after 2 or 3 minutes that it was going to suck; and one by one we were brought to our knees. After we completed our suffering in silence the Gunny told us, “You see, Mister Bull-Ruck will tell you in the best way possible. Think about it… do you absolutely need everything there? Because he will tote it and not complain. But YOU – and some of you are supposed to be learning this shit – are supposed to know what you NEED and what is NICE TO HAVE…” He was – as with most things – absolutely correct.
I have gone up alpine peaks with less than 21 pounds in him and made three trips – with over 90 pounds in him each trip – lugging elk meat up a hill after dressing out a mature bull. He supported me flawlessly in both arenas. I broke a strap on him once and rigged up the most intricate parachute cord and rigger’s tape replacement for the last three days of a mission; he never complained. He has taken ammo of all types, dog food for a multi-purpose canine, communication gear both archaic and modern, and smelly military and civilian clothing of all shapes, colors, and type. I have some “urban cousins” of his that I use sometimes for local travel; they are pretty cool too. I have added some pockets to him; tried to wash animal blood off of him; and had him repaired three times – he is battle-tested and shows no signs of quit. We get along great. But he still tells me on occasion…
Recently, I placed a 40 pound sandbag in him for a training evolution; I was lazy and it seemed easier than weighing out gear for the event. The dead weight object rode inside him like a bad meal that sits there and tells you how stupid you were to eat like a pig. The straps pulled; it wouldn’t sit right. It was two hours of the “you are old enough not to be this stupid” song as I slogged away. When I dropped him at the end of the training event, he caught himself on my belt knife and the pack frame banged my knee on its way down – a sharp reminder by him to lower him professionally – even though I was tired and stupid for being that way after disrespecting him with a load I should have thought about more.
As a professional, movement and transportation remain a must. Figure out what you NEED for the mission, and take it, and tote it. The rest leave so you can be mobile and successful in what you do. What do you NEED? Well, I cannot tell you what you need… but I know someone who can help you.