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Just a few short days ago, the ITS Crew wrapped up its first community-building event, The Inaugural Muster.
When Mike and I sat down over a year ago to plan the Muster, we not only wanted to create further interaction with our community here at ITS, but to take our mission off the Internet and get hands-on with the skill-sets we advocate.
Truthfully, there’s only so much knowledge that can be passed over media outlets today. While we try to incorporate the best of what’s available, with well written articles, detailed photos and video, the hands-on learning is missing from what we can provide online.
Over the four days of the Inaugural Muster, we were able to organize and implement an event that truly brought members of our community together in a way we’d only dreamt possible.
Working in squads and following a rigid schedule was only part of the mixture that led to bonds being formed that will never be broken. Having to depend on a team and the camaraderie that’s generated by that dynamic, is an element that has to be experienced.
Not since the military, have I seen a group of individuals come together as a team, like the squads of the Inaugural Muster did. The accolades and merits can be attributed to the leadership of not only the hand-selected squad leaders, but of the leadership of each individual.
I was careful not to integrate too much of the Military side of the house into our daily activities during the Muster, but felt we had just the right mix to accomplish the goals and objectives we’d set for the attendees.
It was also exciting to have a female in the group and see her take the initiative to attend the Muster. Many gatherings in this industry tend to be male dominated, but as we try to convey in our articles, these skills are for everyone.
Speaking of the skills being for everyone, while “tactical” is in our name, this event didn’t quite live up to that namesake. What we put together was truly a skill-set development excursion fit for anyone interested in furthering their self reliance.
With topics like knot tying, navigation, fire building, rappelling, physical security, stove construction, shelter building, layering for the outdoors, medical and a fantastic FTX (field training exercise), this event was geared towards practical applications of these skill-sets. All of these have a place in your mental toolbox and could be used in a number of situations that you might find yourself in.
We all laughed constantly and had quite a few inside jokes during our time together. I think what really impressed me the most with our group is that every single person was good natured, genuinely excited to learn and had a good sense of humor. Humor goes a long way in a group and is more important than most realize.
I’m still floored by the overall unity of everyone that attended and equally contributed to the success of the Muster. It wouldn’t have been the same without each person there.
I’d like to thank first and foremost the attendees that took the time out of their lives and away from their families to further their skill-sets. It’s easy to kick back on the couch and make plans for personal development, it’s quite another to travel and attend a course like this. With our daily walks to and from the chow hall, each attendee logged over 15 miles, not counting the mileage during the FTX. I also have to hand it to everyone who didn’t expect a below freezing night in Texas. I’ve always said that if you don’t like the weather here, wait ten minutes.
We also couldn’t have made this event happen without our staff, not only did we have Mike, Matt, Eric, Peter, Kelly and myself there, but Rob and our newest employee Jake were participating as attendees. The reality of our workdays catches up with me too often and as much as I plan to take the time to transfer the knowledge I have to my employees, I try to use opportunities like this as much as I can. Employee training and personal development will always be a core principal here.
Matt Fiddler from SerePick joined us to head up the personal security block and it was great to have him here. Matt has a fantastic way of delivering knowledge without allowing the content to overcome those learning. Forcing the class to take breaks from picking locks was harder than you might realize! Matt and I started our businesses around the same time a few years back and I’ve appreciated his friendship as we’ve both grown.
Nate Morrison from Morrison Industries was with us to help with the Rappelling block and was able to share his extensive knowledge on many other subjects as well. Nate has been a good friend for years and I’d encourage everyone to follow the many projects he’s involved in.
Another of my good friends, Caleb Causey from Lone Star Medics, was there to head up the Medical instruction. If you haven’t read my write-up of LSM’s Medicine X course, I’d highly encourage you to do so and see if you can get out to one of Caleb’s classes. I can’t recommend good medical training enough!
Navigation was headed up by Peter Hogg, who’s been a tremendous asset to ITS over the years. His knowledge of Navigation truly shone through during his course and while covering the breadth of what he did in the time frame we had was a challenge, he pulled it off wonderfully. Peter is an avid outdoorsman and runs a blog that I’d encourage everyone to check out to follow his adventures. Eric was also able to provide some good information on Geocaching during this block as well and his passion for the subject matter was appreciated by everyone.
I think everyone in attendance will agree that Muster wouldn’t have been what it was without the cooking of Matt Gambrell, who selflessly slaved away in the kitchen each day so that everyone ate like kings! Each morning when I woke up to blast Reveille, Matt was already in the kitchen hard at work. When we said meals were provided, I don’t think anyone knew what kind of awesomeness awaited them! Matt is also the driving force behind the graphics you see on a daily basis at ITS and one of the most talented people I know!
As I mentioned earlier, Mike was integral to the planning and development of what came to be the Muster and I sincerely appreciate all his hard work in making it a reality. While Kelly came on board at ITS after the initial planning had started, without her I’d still be wondering how we were going to pull it all off. Being around me 24/7 is no easy task and I’m truly fortunate to have her in my life and working next to me at ITS.
Last but not least I’d like to thank the sponsors who helped to donate items for the Muster and even coming out to attend. Triple Aught Design has always been a company I’ve respected in this industry and one I was particularly excited about partnering with on a unique item given to all Muster attendees. The MicroSERE kit was assembled with a TAD designed pouch that throws a nod to the old tool rolls of yesterday and also included their brass Survival Spark. It was also augmented with a set of Bogota Entry Tools from SerePick and other ITS provided goodies, I’m really looking forward to the future possibilities of the MicroSERE kit. (you can read a sneak peek that Peter wrote up on it here.) It was great having Brett and Anthony out from TAD as well!
In no particular order these other awesome sponsors were integral to the success of our Inaugural Muster and we couldn’t have done it without them! A huge thank you to SKD Tactical, Kill Cliff, Liberty Bottle Works, Thunder Chicken Brewing Company, NavELite, LockNLoad Java, Tactical Medical Solutions, Metolius and GNC.
Those of you on the fence about attending will definitely not want to miss the next Muster, with the feedback and Inaugural run under our belts, next year is going to be even more epic! (there will only be one first ITS Muster though…)
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I joined right as this was kicking off and wish I had been around before so I could have gone. Hopefully there will be another soon!
Hoping I am back from deployment before the next muster... I would really like to see ITS offer the MicroSERE kit!!
I really can't put into words how amazing this event was. As you say, it's easy to sit on your couch and think about skill development; it's another to actually get out there and do it. I left with a full head and an inspired heart. I'm also proud that as the oldest guy there, I made all the long walks. I'm really glad I could make it, and look forward to your next one.
My daughter's hot pink survival bracelet may pale in comparison with the majesty that is Caleb's bracelet, but she loves that Daddy made it with his bare hands (and a website). And someday, she'll be able to rely on herself to make her own, among many other skills. You really can't put a price on self-reliance. Thank you all for that.
Special thanks to Matt for the food. Not only was it delicious, but I probably worked more in three days than in three of my normal weeks, yet hardly ever dipped into my pogey bait (snacks).
It was mentioned many times, but the level of professionalism and the smoothness with which the Muster was conducted was nothing short of amazing, especially considering that it was your first one. Congratulations on such a successful event.
I really can't put into words how amazing this event was. As you say, it's easy to sit on your couch and think about skill development; it's another to actually get out there and do it. I left with a full head and an inspired heart. I'm also proud that as the oldest guy there, I made all the long walks. I'm really glad I could make it, and look forward to your next one. My daughter's hot pink survival bracelet may pale in comparison with the majesty that is Caleb's bracelet, but she loves that Daddy made it with his bare hands (and a website). And someday, she'll be able to rely on herself to make her own, among many other skills. You really can't put a price on self-reliance. Thank you all for that. Special thanks to Matt for the food. Not only was it delicious, but I probably worked more in three days than in three of my normal weeks, yet hardly ever dipped into my pogey bait (snacks). It was mentioned many times, but the level of professionalism and the smoothness with which the Muster was conducted was nothing short of amazing, especially considering that it was your first one. Congratulations on such a successful event.
LOL, Jason! I managed to get through the article with a huge smile and the slight ADD-veering-off due to so many fond memories. Such a great event.... words really don't do it justice. I'm looking forward to seeing you again next year and hopefully before! (with coin in hand!)
Has Kelly read this? Better break out the waterproof keyboard! Seriously, this was one of the greatest experiences of my life. As I enter my 40th year, I wanted to make some changes, be more active (not that I was totally washed out but...) and have some fun in the wild with the knowledge and principles I'd already embraced. Muster, and the people I met there (especially Brett with TAD) have inspired me to take on many more field challenges. This was a real life changer. See you boys next year, and you better have your coin in your pocket if I see you before then!
I had a blast and can't wait to next year! It really was great meeting everyone that made it out and I'm looking forward to doing more events or meetups in the future.