On TV: Training For The Apocalypse

On Monday night, April 30, Training For The Apocalypse premiered on the National Geographic Channel. From the Nat Geo Channel website:

Training For the Apocalypse chronicles the journeys of survivalists, truth-seekers and prophets united in their quests for personal peace as they prepare for global cataclysm and the near-extinction of humanity. In an era when rumors, prophecies and theories have often eclipsed various evident realities at hand, TFA serves to humanize, enlighten and inform, with a cautious respect for the words and deeds of our subjects rather than a capitalization on vague fears or subjective judgments. Practical discoveries are made while distinct personal stories develop about those striving and struggling to live their best, while preparing for the worst.

Training For The Apocalypse starred the following:

Fernando Antonio Salguero, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Founder, Survive And Thrive (Meetup.com group)
Mission: Teach self-reliance

Leland Freeborn, Parowan, Utah
Exiled Mormon, the “Parowan Prophet”
Mission: Prepare for nuclear war

Brian Johnson, Parowan, Utah
Parowan Prophet congregant
Mission: Total independence

Anonymous, Los Angeles, California
Hardcore survivalist
Mission: ?

Viewers were introduced to the small town of Parowan, Utah, where the “Parowan Prophet,” Leland Freeborn, and his congregation were meeting and reading scripture in their leader’s home. The footage was shot just before Barack Obama was sworn in as the 44th President of the United States. The Parowan Prophet predicted that a nuclear weapon would be detonated in Washington, D.C., on Inauguration Day, January 20, 2009.

The congregation also talked about Mayan prophecy and December 21, 2012.

Mayan descendants in Lake Atitlán, Guatemala, don’t seem to attach much importance to the date. Some fishermen were interviewed and one said:

We’ve had big disasters from volcanoes. When we get to 2012, we don’t know, we’ll be working and fishing. But thanks to God and to you, for giving this news to us.

He offered up that last part with a smile on his face.

Back in the States, “Anonymous” from Los Angeles, California, responded:

You can laugh now, but we’ll see who’s … laughing when the mushroom cloud finds its way over the horizon. You’re gonna look back on this and you’re gonna think wow, I’m a … idiot.

Dr. Robert Sitler, Director of Latin American Studies, Stetson University, expanded on the discussion about the ancient Mayans and December 21, 2012. Dr. Sitler said:

People in the West, I think, often look to indigenous cultures as a source of inspiration, because our cultures, in a sense, I would say are spiritually uninspired for the most part. The ancient Maya said next to nothing about the year 2012. But as it turns out, many different oral traditions do speak of an imminent period of radical transformation of one form or another. Actually, every single elder that I’ve spoken to in Belize, Guatemala, and Mexico has said virtually the same thing. There is this sense of pending, massive societal transformation.

Pedro Cruz Garcia, a Mayan Elder Shaman, added:

For the Maya, there is no world ending. There is a constant change.

Next, viewers were shown Parowan Prophet congregants preparing for the predicted nuclear holocaust. Underground/fallout shelters are central to their preparations.

Leland Freeborn and his followers were then shown watching the 2009 Inauguration Day ceremony. It’s revealed the Parowan Prophet is not a big Barack Obama fan- to say the least.

Fast forward to Thanksgiving Day, 2009. By the way, no nuclear blast in Washington D.C. earlier in the year.

One of the congregants, Brian Johnson, was shown teaching his son how to shoot firearms. Johnson shared with viewers:

I think the defining moment’s almost here where we’re either for good or for bad. You know, there’s just a tenseness in the air. I mean, it’s the same story, a different millennium. The rise and fall of society.

The family man eventually had a falling out with the congregation, and was making plans to move his family to Idaho in hopes of achieving complete self-sufficiency.

“Armed For The Apocalypse”
Hey guys- don’t forget to use hearing and eye protection!
Nat Geo Channel Video

Anonymous from Los Angeles chimed in:

Some people say they’re visionaries. I think they’re … wackos. But I have a vision, which is, it goes like this: Pick one room, just one room out of your place and just fill it to the brim with food, supplies, water, get yourself a gun. …, you ain’t gonna do it with a sword … Before the … comes down get yourself a … load of … bullets, and then just get yourself a …, whatever you believe in, and keep it close. Keep it … close. What else do you want to know about being badass?

Shortly thereafter, three Parowan Prophet congregants- Danny, Sam, and Caroline- were interviewed. Caroline shared something that I thought was particularly insightful:

You don’t cease being a normal person because you decide you want to prepare for something that might happen.

The next part of the show focused mainly on Fernando Antonio Salguero and the Survive And Thrive group out of Philadelphia. Salguero revealed:

As we go through cataclysmic change, suffering is a part of life. With that being said, I see my role as easing suffering… I started that Survive And Thrive Meetup Group specifically to welcome in everyone.

It’s revealed Salguero’s early years were really bad- which helps explain this emphasis on inclusivity.

The documentary next focused on a Survive And Thrive wilderness training event. One of the participants, a young African-American girl by the name of Sarah, said:

Survivalism, you might not need it at first, but it’s a good tool to have maybe if the world’s not going to end, but maybe we’ll actually, like, lose our homes and we’ll actually have to live in the wilderness like we did millions and millions of years ago.

Very cool to see youngsters learning these skills. One of the adult participants by the name of Joanne added:

Well, my friend asked me the other day if I was preparing for Armageddon, and I said even just 100 to 150 years ago people were homesteading a lot more than they are now, and knew how to do 95 percent of the stuff they needed on their own. And we’ve come so far from that, and I think it’s a very dangerous place to be.

John, a Survive And Thrive instructor, shared this with viewers:

Every new year’s, somebody thinks the world is going to end. Sometimes I get caught up in it. But everything happens for a reason. Whether or not I survive doesn’t matter. It’s how I live every day that matters. I try to keep that in mind. The emergency could be as simple as a small hurricane- or the Apocalypse with Four Horsemen. It all comes down to will- if you want to live or if you want to give up. You can be a hero, you can be a villain, you can be a victim. It’s your choice.

As this part of the show was coming to a close, Salguero admitted:

I started this group not having a whole lot of faith in humanity as a whole. So I started this group without having too much expectation of its ability to work together. Honestly, I still consider most people to be flakes. Honestly.

Immediately thereafter, his German Shepherd dog got loose. Neighborhood kids assisted Salguero with rounding up his canine companion. But not before the Survive And Thrive joked:

You know what I need as part of my survival kit? A … tranquilizer gun. How about that?

It’s at this point that Training For The Apocalypse really started to humanize the four individuals who starred in the documentary.

Salguero reflected on what just happened and admitted:

That’s a perfect example of where I think that I can be wrong. I’m willing to be wrong. In fact, in many cases I hope that I am wrong about so much of what I believe. I pray that I’m wrong. So the idea of not relying on other people, the idea of keeping neighbors at a distance. When the reality is, it’s most likely a tribe, it’s most likely teamwork, that will actually get us through tough times. And this is an example of where I am open to the experience, I am not grounded in my ego, and I am willing to change. I pray for change.

Salguero added later:

My daughter is really what ended my suicidal self-loathing for most of my life.

Speaking of daughters, one of Leland Freeborn’s stopped by. The way Camisha and her father interacted seemed to be really not much different from how other dads and their adult daughters might.

The Parowan Prophet’s neighbor, Lisa, added this:

I think he’s prepared, but I don’t think he knows what for.

Brian Johnson admitted:

I just basically want to be able to do things according to the dictates of my own faults, conscience.

And then there was Anonymous, who was shown having problems reassembling a handgun. Hey, we’re all human.

Overall, I liked Training For The Apocalypse. While I was initially afraid the production company and the National Geographic Channel were using the popular, shallow stereotypes of people preparing for Armageddon, the documentary went on to attempt to point out there was much more to these individuals- fellow human beings, fellow Americans, each on their own journey to prepare not for the end of the world, but for the end of the world as they (we) know it (TEOTWAWKI). Remember what was written on the Nat Geo Channel website about the show:

TFA serves to humanize, enlighten and inform, with a cautious respect for the words and deeds of our subjects rather than a capitalization on vague fears or subjective judgments. Practical discoveries are made while distinct personal stories develop about those striving and struggling to live their best, while preparing for the worst.

I feel the documentary successfully carried this out.

Training For The Apocalypse is scheduled to be re-broadcast on Monday, May 7, 6 PM Eastern Time on the National Geographic Channel.

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2 Comments to On TV: Training For The Apocalypse

  1. Well said, it was a very human doc. I did not expect the final edit to look like that but it was very honest.

  2. Fernando Antonio Salguero on May 4th, 2012
  3. Thank you so much for this detailed, intelligent and thoughtful article. You nailed it, completely recognizing pretty much exactly what we, the crew, were attempting to help express and accomplish.

  4. Rob VanAlkemade on May 5th, 2012
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