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Special Forces Soldiers Prepare For Anything, Everything In Survival School

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CAMP MACKALL — On the CBS show "Survivor," castaways dine on different types of seafood like lobsters, eel and sting rays. Survival instructors say that could be risky business because sting rays can carry dangerous bacteria from coral reefs -- a lesson Fort Bragg soldiers learn in survival school.

On a recent episode, fueling a flame was easy for one tribe, but not for the other. Survival instructor Mark Hickey says that tribe did not follow the proper techniques for starting a fire.

"If you don't have tinder, you're not going to start a fire," Hickey says. "Your most important part of any fire other than preparation is the tinder. If you can't get your tinder going, nothing else is going to happen."

There are two ways to start a fire without matches. Using the flint-and-steel approach, you are after a spark or the bow. Using the drill approach, you try to make a hot coal which you can then use to ignite the tinder.

Special Forces survival instructors say being prepared is key to staying alive.

"I always do research prior to going into the area," says survival team leader SFC Don McKay. "Preparation goes a long way."

In survival school, Special Forces soldiers need to learn all types of information about what kind of poisonous snakes are out there, which animals are a good catch and which ones you should avoid.

Soldiers also need to know what plants to look for. Being able to spot cacti, wild bay and maypop can pay off in carbohydrates and vitamins.

Survival soldiers also have to learn to make something from nothing. A shoelace and bamboo can become a bow. Bamboo also can be a great source for tools.

If you think the tips are things you may never need to know, survivalists say think again.

"If you've gotten a flat tire on the side of the road, you've been in a survival situation -- you've just gotten out of it," says survival instructor SFC Thomas Mistretta.

Special Forces soldiers never know when and where their training will be in use. In the average year, 35,000 green berets are deployed to 120 different countries.