“We are flat running out of time and we need to get as prepared as possible as fast as possible.”

That’s the explanation Oath Keepers founder and president Stewart Rhodes offers at the end of a lengthy email to members of his patriot movement on why they’ve decided to “go operational.” Since its inception in 2009, the Oath Keepers have advocated arming and training civilians in order to protect themselves in times of crisis and fight back against unconstitutional acts by the government. But, according to Rhodes, the United States is on the fast track to economic ruin and Americans need to learn to protect themselves now because the government soon won’t be able to. That’s why the Oath Keepers are recruiting veterans, retired doctors, and EMTs to train “civilization preservation” teams in communities throughout the country.

“We think this is what Americans should do anyway, but now we see that we’re seriously in a vulnerable position because most Americans don’t,” Rhodes told The Daily Beast. “After Hurricane Katrina and Sandy, we saw Americans dependent on FEMA, on a government that can’t do anything. People have been desperate, vulnerable to crime and vulnerable to dying” in such emergency situations, he said.

But it’s not a natural disaster that Rhodes thinks will catapult the country into chaos. In his email announcing the launch of the plan, Rhodes lays out the course of action he predicts “the enemy”—the government—is preparing to follow, including “intentionally triggering a catastrophic economic collapse” as a means of creating disorder that they will then use as an excuse to impose martial law, destroy the constitution and use the billions of dollars in ammunition, armored vehicles and weapons he claims the Department of Homeland Security and local police have been stockpiling “to control and contain us.”

By creating civilization preservation teams now, Rhodes argues, Americans will be ready to fight back if and when that scenario plays out. These proposed 12-to-14 person groups are modeled after the U.S. Army’s Special Forces “A Team,” with two communications experts, two medical experts, two engineers, two “strategic food reserve” specialists, and four-to-six “scouts” to be trained specifically in tracking, search and rescue, wilderness survival, rifle shooting and, of course, combat.

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