Preparedness is and always has been an important part of military life as well as an encouraged practice for Family members and civilian employees. Nature Reliance School, which is located about two hours east of Fort Knox in Winchester, Kentucky, offers a wide array of survival training and outdoors-related skills tailored specifically to this area.

NRS Director Craig Caudill has been surviving and living off the land in the Kentucky wilderness for most of his life. Becoming a survival instructor seemed like a natural progression.

"I grew up in Kentucky exploring, hunting, hiking and farming," Caudill said. "Survival is now popularized, but I used to see it just as fun and part of being a proper woodsman.

"I attended a survival class after a friend of mine recommended it to me and I received good instruction, but I quickly realized the material covered was just things I had been doing my whole life. After attending several more survival schools to get an idea on how instructors taught this material to the public, I decided to start teaching myself."

Caudill believes that learning survival is important for several reasons.

"This country was founded on self-reliance," Caudill said. "We have gotten away from principle in the modern era due to dependence on modern conveniences. Of course I'm not suggesting that we all go to the woods and eat squirrels and berries every day, but I firmly believe a little self-reliance would serve both the individual and the nation well.

"I think there is also a certain confidence one gains from not having to depend on others. Additionally, it's a proven fact that being outside is good for mind, body and spirit, leading to enhanced physical and mental health."

There are several misconceptions about survival, but Caudill believes that the most common one is the notion that if one buys all the right gear, they are good to go.

"That is simply not the case," he said. "At NRS, we teach that mindset, skills, tactics, and then gear are all important--much like a puzzle--and that you must be constantly developing them all."

NRS approaches their teaching methodology differently than most other survival schools.

"I look at NRS as a community of instructors and there is seldom focus on me as the director," Caudill said. "My fellow instructors are forever students, continuously looking to improve both their survival and teaching abilities.

"Another thing that we do that most do not is that we spend as much time studying how to teach people as we do what we teach people. What we want our classes to do is give people the ability to spend more time outside, to see and understand more while they are there, and to do it all more safely."

NRS offers multiple courses including Wilderness Safety and Survival - Levels 1-3, Bushcraft, Land Navigation, Scout/Tracker and Field Combatives. Private classes for private sector civilians, military groups, law enforcement, search and rescue teams, and emergency medical personnel are also available upon request.

If an individual could only take one course, Caudill recommends Wilderness Safety and Survival - Level 1.

"It has a little bit of every course we offer in it," he said. "We've compiled an extensive amount of research how people get injured and/or killed in the wilderness. We approach the subject matter with a practical methodology so that all important topics are covered and, most importantly, easily retained by the participants."

Caudill also hosts several free courses for service members--specifically for those who may be having difficulty reconnecting with family members after deployments as well as those dealing with post-traumatic stress. Typically, these are parent/child events where participants will work in teams to accomplish tasks in wilderness safety and survival courses. In addition, NRS offers a 25 percent discount on all of its regular courses to service members and their Families.

If an individual is a current or former service member, NRS still has something to offer in addition to their military training.

"The military is very good at teaching skills that cover a broad range of issues in varying geographic situations," Caudill said. "Our classes are specifically geared toward wilderness skills in this area.
"We have lived and worked in these woods our entire lives and know how to blend in and use available resources to keep ourselves safe and comfortable--that includes the use of edible and medicinal plants and trees. We also partner with Iron Sight Defense to teach the more weapons-involved coursework in our Tactical Survival class. The ISD cadre who help us with that course are all either prior military or law enforcement with years of experience under their belts."

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NRS Course Offerings:

Wilderness Safety and Survival - Levels 1-3: How to spend more time outside and to do so safely. All the basics are here, including wilderness first aid, signaling, shelter, water, food and adding in the human dynamic. Participants will be placed in scenario-based training situations as much as possible and under safe amounts of stress. Meaning they will be out their comfort zones so they can work through problems under pressure. In levels two or three, less gear will be allowed and differing and harder scenarios are added.

Bushcraft: Bushcraft is a great way to use some modern tools and what you source from the environment to become more self-reliant. Subjects include identifying trees for various and best use, making hammers, bucksaws, chairs, building fires and cooking over fire.

Land Navigation: Map and compass skills without reliance on GPS. Instructors set up courses to navigate in a wilderness area. Student start with partners, then go solo and finally at night.

Scout/Tracker: A camouflaging and tracking class where participants learn to greatly heighten their situational awareness in a wilderness environment including how to scan an area properly as well as how to hide in it. Students also learn how to recognize tracks and to read them and decipher needed information. Specific modules for military units and law enforcement agencies that deal directly with apprehension (or similar) of those being pursued are also available.

Field Combatives: Participants will learn grappling and combatives skills in a field environment. This will include wearing packs, chest rigs, rifles and other tactical equipment. As an added bonus, field survival is included to round out traditional wilderness scout skills. Tomahawk and knife throwing instruction is also provided for fun.

*Private classes are available upon request