You are stranded on a desert island. It’s lush and beautiful with many natural resources. There is no hope of rescue, you’ll spend the rest of your life on this island. But there is some small hope: you have been granted three wishes, for three items. What items would you choose, and why?
We posed this question to a group of Marines recently, and had them write their answers. Listed below are the 10 surveyed answers.
1) Large sturdy machete, spool of 550 cord, flint fire starter.
2) Survival guide book, Axe, magnesium fire starter.
3) Machete, flint fire starter, poncho
4) Entrenching tool, canteen, water purification tablets.
5) A house, water purification system, small fishing boat.
6) Hatchet, large cooking pot, hand-crank flashlight
7) Drinking water, large stockpile of food, Shemagh/cotton scarf.
8) One male dog, one female dog (to be bred for hunting and/or a food source), “solar powered e-book reader loaded with thousands of books”.
9) Magnesium fire starter, large tarp, reliable fixed blade knife.
10) Long fixed blade knife, roll of 550 cord, large stainless cooking pot.
This question poses a series of interesting followup questions. Seven Marines listed a tool of some sort, be it a knife, machete, E-tool or axe. Four listed a fire starter, and only two listed 550 parachute cord, a form of rope found on nearly every field packing list. Some chose knowledge which they did not currently possess, in the form of a book or magical e-reader. Some decided to dream big, choosing a house, a boat, a pack of wild hunting dogs or a fishing boat.
The Marines were told there were no wrong answers, and given five minutes to think and write. Afterwards their answers were read aloud so others could hear their peers’ choices. Several wished to change their answers after the discussion.
We asked why no one chose another person. Since there were no “wrong” answers, one could speculate that another person to help hunt, fish , build shelter, gather fire wood, etc. would be a great asset, particularly if you fell ill. A hot female doctor that built houses during the summer for school money, and chose adventure destinations for her bush-craft themed vacations would have been one of our top picks! With such loose confines to the question, we were surprised no one had requested a GPS, satellite phone and bottle of scotch to enjoy after making a single phone call.
The point of the exercise was to make the Marines think about what they would do in such a hopeless, austere environment. How would their answers have changed if head hunting cannibals inhabited the island? Would they have chosen a rifle over a hatchet? They all said yes, of course they would want an M4 and pallet of ammo if that was the case. So mission drives the gear? We choose the items we feel will be most beneficial to us, given the expectation of a certain well-defined situation. But that’s not life.
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