This summary is from the May 6, 2019 issue of The Informer, the same issue that chronicled the murder of two Gilead residents by Raiders passing by on Route 12.
The newly-formed, nine-member Gilead Defense Committee faces a raft of complex decisions, most of them with life-or-death consequences hanging in the balance. Among the most innocuous of issues to be decided is how the GDC will operate – will it have a chair, vice-chair, clerk, etc.? How often will we vote for members? Will it draft a constitution by which Gilead will govern itself until the restoration of U.S. authority?
Of more immediate importance is the issue of how residents of the Gilead will defend themselves against attacks like the one that took the lives of Steve and Emma Jones. Through initial discussions and planning meetings that lasted up until press time, the broad brushstrokes of a defense plan appear to fit into the following parameters:
Patrols: The Gilead faces a dearth of adequate manpower to patrol its “borders,” no matter how the boundaries are drawn. “Even if we assume the tightest possible perimeter, we still need more manpower than we currently have,” said Rich Bennington, whose military and security experience is emerging as an increasingly valuable asset as the defense planning progresses. “So we’ll have armed patrols, but we’ll have to supplement them with other measures.”
Blockades: One of the greatest threats to the Gilead is an armed incursion by a group of raiders in one or more vehicles, since this would give them greater speed and mobility along the road. Therefore, road blockades are almost certain to be installed at the intersection of Gilead with Route 12, and likely along Tatro Road, which is the other main entry into the Gilead from Route 12.
Other installations: Although incursions by raiders from Route 12 is seen as the primary threat, Bennington and others suggest that the entire perimeter of the Gilead area must be guarded for two primary reasons. “First, we can’t be sure that there aren’t folks from other areas who know enough about the forests to get through them and threaten our families and resources,” said GDC member Jim Nash. “And second, it’s only a matter of time before raiders become more sophisticated to contend with the fact that resources are getting harder to come by. Once all the easy pickings are gone, folks are going to band together, organize, and strategize. We have to be prepared for that.” Ideas under consideration include camouflaged sentry posts, foot patrols, horseback patrols, and clearing forest areas along key ridgelines to deprive invaders of cover.
Training: Very few of Gilead’s residents are combat trained, and therefore will have to go through some “basic training” exercises under Bennington’s and Lyons’ direction. Virtually all Gilead residents have firearms experience, however, so that will not be as much of an issue.
Other issues to be addressed by the GDC include the allocation of resources that aren’t owned by individual families, dividing labor, and “diplomatic” efforts at reaching out to other communities of survivors. “For example, we need to have a clear plan for allocation of the fuel in a way that benefits everyone the most,” said Joe Tobiason, GDC member. “There are several of us who would love to have some of that fuel to make our lives easier, but if everyone uses it for a few little things here and there, we could find ourselves without enough to run Sam’s haying equipment.”
Charles Calhoun echoed Tobiason’s sentiment. “If we’re not extremely careful about how we do this, we could literally kill ourselves by not building up enough biomass for our animals to get through the winter,” he said. “And hay isn’t the only issue; we also have to cut a lot of trees and get them out of the woods, since everyone is all of a sudden on wood heat.”
Calhoun said his draft horses and equipment can work steadily to get trees down and drying, but he can’t get enough out for 17 households in a single summer. “We’re talking about over 100 cords per year,” he said, “so we’re going to have to fuel Mark Costas’s skidder.”
A quick survey of Gilead residents conducted at the GDC meeting and by door-to-door checking indicated that most households have at least half of the upcoming winter’s wood already put up, left over from this past winter. A few households, like Calhoun’s, generally have at least a two-year supply of wood.
“I’m willing to share wood to keep people from freezing,” said Calhoun, “but if I’m devoting most of my time to getting firewood out, neither me nor my horses are going to be available for other work I have to do around my farm.”
Division of labor
This latter issue, of course, raises the same concern for several Gilead residents who have unique areas of expertise. For example, Sam Chambers likely cannot be expected to spend time on long patrols or sentry duty, given the time consuming commitment of running his dairy, which is the primary lifeline for everyone in the Gilead. Similarly, Eric Quinton is the sole mechanic with the know-how and equipment to retro-fit diesel and gasoline engines to run on vegetable oil, and to keep them running.
“Undoubtedly, we are going to have to carefully divide our work so that everyone adds value wherever they can,” said Nash. “Let’s face it, there are lots of us who have skill-sets that are absolutely useless in this situation, and I’m one of them; who the hell needs public relations consulting when society has collapsed?”
Nash said that it’s likely he and others with “obsolete” skills would be put to use as laborers at the dairy, in gardens, on patrol, and on lookout duty. “There’s a huge amount of work to be done everywhere,” he said, “and so me and lots of others might have to tend gardens for those who are busy with other critical work, or maybe grow extra food for them.”
And finally, the GDC will have to put together a small group that can reach out to neighboring survivors. “It’s tempting to just hunker down in our valley and hold on to our stuff, but that’s the kind of thinking that’ll get us killed in the long-run,” contends Bennington. “We need other people in other communities – assuming there are other communities – so we can trade for things we might need, and even more importantly, so we can establish safe borders.”
Bennington said his chief concern is to ensure that Route 12 is the border we can allocate the most resources toward defending. “If we have to worry about our south ridges, the pass to Rochester, the border with Randolph and God knows what else, then we’re doomed,” he predicted. “We need friendlies on as many sides as possible.”