The Army figures that the zombie apocalypse has a lot to teach soldiers about being prepared for the next hurricane.
Officers at Fort Sam Houston in Texas actually brought Max Brooks, author of the latter-day classic zombie novel World War Z, to attend the U.S. Army-North’s Hurricane Rehearsal of Concept drill this week. Not that the soldiers were anticipating any zombies. From Brooks’ perspective, whether you’re confronting extreme weather that shorts out a power grid or running from a marauding horde of the undead, preparation is the key to survival.
“For the first time,” Brooks said, according to an official Army write-up, “you have young people being interested in being prepared, being ‘tricked into’ taking care of themselves, really, because even if the zombie apocalypse does not happen, they will be ready for the next hurricane or next disaster.” The Centers for Disease Control concur.
Sensible, right? The real hero of Brooks’ work — soon to be adapted into a Brad Pitt movie; approach with caution — is prep work and logistics. Brooks’ Zombie Survival Guide is full of preparedness tipsvaluable for a variety of disasters: keep a versatile tool like a Swiss army knife handy; have a system to purify your water; make sure you’ve got dry socks; get a radio that doesn’t rely on battery power.
Brooks is a cult hero inside the Army. I’ve found his books on practically every forward operating base I’ve been on in Iraq and Afghanistan. No wonder: World War Z is the rare zombie novel that really gets into the tactics of confronting zombies. The Army learns at the epic Battle of Yonkers that its Cold War-era land war doctrines — luring the undead into choke points and raking them with artillery — aren’t going to work. Some of the Army’s cherished high-tech solutions are battlefield liabilities: the since-killed Land Warrior sensor system that networked soldiers together led to battlefield panic when soldiers at Yonkers saw just how many zombies they faced. And one of the themes of World War Z is that intellectual complacency and self-satisfaction from senior Army leadership is a national-security threat. No wonder soldiers love the book.
The drill Brooks joined didn’t involve any brain-eating undead, just a mock landfall of a hurricane at Gulfport, Miss., and Norfolk, Va. A mixed civilian-military team had to anticipate the storm’s severity, figure out logistics routes to get into storm-damaged areas, and plan how to assist flooded and powerless residents before turning the reins of control back over to local governments. Not exactlyunlike the task in World War Z, which is to reconstitute civilization while managing the zombie problem.
Whether or not the zombies are a good natural-disaster allegory or bureaucratic lesson plan, disaster-relief agencies don’t always display a sense of urgency. New York National Guard units were about to travel out of state for a disaster drill, instead of being on-hand to help their neighbors through Hurricane Sandy last fall. Flooded New Yorkers probably wouldn’t have minded their government and military feeling like there were zombies bearing down on them.