Southeast School of Survival - Wilderness Survival Part I

Over this past weekend, I attended the Wilderness Survival Course put together by Jim Green at Southeast School of Survival (SE-SOS) near Cartersville, Georgia. Jim is a former Air Force Combat Survival Instructor, and has spent over 30 years learning and teaching the survival disciplines (full bio here). His school operates inside Red Top Mountain State Park with special arrangements from the park allowing use of their entire primitive grounds and the land surrounding it for instruction and practice.

The course ran over Saturday and Sunday during the coldest weekend we have had so far this fall - temps were forecast to be in the mid-30's during the night, but were beautiful during the day.

Saturday morning began with the twelve attendees as well as Jim meeting at the park and spending a few minutes meeting one another and receiving some overview information from Jim about what we could expect from the course. Each attendee spent a short time explaining their background and purpose in attending. It was made apparent that a wide range of outdoor experience was represented. After a bit of getting to know everyone, Jim launched right into the start of the instruction - beginning land navigation.

Ten years ago, I was thoroughly taught and tested in land navigation by the former military instructors at the ALERT Academy in Big Sandy, TX. Land navigation was a critical component of the search and rescue and disaster relief work we were trained for, and it was a major point of instruction at the academy. However, since that time, my navigation reliance has been on either GPS or on familiarity with the territory to such an extent that virtually all of my navigation ability was lost.

Jim began from zero, and over the course of the next hour or so explained and demonstrated the main points of navigation - variation between magnetic and true north and how to compensate for the difference, understanding map contour and geographical features, calculating distance on a map,  determining pace count, compass features and use, and also offered sources for quality navigation tools and maps. After the thorough explanation and demonstrations, we ran through a series of hypothetical point-to-point navigations using the park map where the students were asked to explain their calculations and describe the terrain that would be encountered along the route. Once all of us were able to reassure Jim that we had a grasp of the concepts, the fun real fun began!

I wasn't aware of it, but Red Top Mountain has an established orienteering course running through a portion of the park. It is composed of a series of white way-points zigzagging through the woods and crossing various obstacles, including a finger of the lake on one leg. As students, our assigned task was to take turns leading the group in navigating from our current location to any way-point of Jim's choosing. Alternating assignments were broken out among the group for each leg to include two navigators, two pace counters, and a back-up navigator at the rear of the group to periodically double-check the heading. The recurring theme from Jim was 'Before you start walking, double check from scratch your map orientation, heading, and distance. After that, trust your compass.'

After completing a series of legs across the Red Top course, we were broken into teams of four and assigned to navigate to the point where our morning had begun without direct instructor supervision - an Intro to Navigation Final Exam of sorts. All three teams successfully reached the start point, but interestingly, my team was made up of two "lefties" - both navigators for this leg. Our team finished noticeably to the left of the two teams that were made up of "right-handers." It was explained that it is typical for the "handedness" of a navigator to have an effect on their path for reasons as simple as how a right vs. left handed person naturally goes around a tree. Good stuff!

Part II of this course


  1. I learned survival techniques in the woods from my uncle, who is a woodsman. Over time, experience alongside fellow hobbyists have taught me what I know today.

  2. If you go to the wilderness, it is important to anticipate things. You need to carry with you all the basic tools needed to survive. Among these are knives like cold steel knife and compass. These can be used in case of an emergency.

  3. I love outdoor activities like camping, trekking and backpacking. They are among the best adventure activities I always enjoy to do. Whenever I go on camping, I always carry with my my survival kit including gerber pocket knife, tent and sleeping bag. Sleeping bag will be very useful in case of an overnight stay.