COMBAT TRACKING OVERVIEW as instructed by Centurion Training Group SPQR
What good is visual track interpretation to a Cav Trooper?
“A set of tracks tells a story. It has a beginning, a middle and an end – a bulletin board in the dirt.”
LOCARD’S PRINCIPLE OF TRANSFERENCE• “Where ever you go, what ever you do, you take something with you and you leave something behind.”
Most people could follow this trail…
…but would you notice these?
Tracking Defined:Tracking is the process of recognizing and interpreting changes inthe natural state of the environment to determine where someoneor something has traveled.It does not have to be in the woods, it does not even have to beoutdoors (document cache, Fallujah, 3RD Recon BN, Col. GeorgeBristol).“…Tracking, simply put, is a reactive effort to close with and apprehend ordestroy a fleeing quarry, whether terrorist, escaped criminal, or illegalborder crosser who attempts to outrun and/or outwit friendly forces or theinstruments of law and order….” David Scott-Donelan
“Tracks are clues, the most clues aperpetrator (insurgent) will leave behind – one every thirty inches or so and as conclusive as fingerprints.” Sherlock Holmes
Tracking Misunderstood Two Kinds: Visual TrackingOlfactory (scent) TrackingWhat good is it to the Cav? More to the point – why should you train under CTG?
THE AIMS OF COMBAT TRACKING1. By the use of individual and team skills, techniques and tactics, conduct a follow-up and annihilate: Armed Aggressors Insurgents, Infiltrators or Terrorists Enemy patrols, Recon teams, and Snipers… in a speedy and aggressive manner.2. By the use of patrolling and reconnaissance techniques, locate and follow tracks of insurgents or aggressors and destroy them.3. During follow-up activities place such pressure upon aggressors so as to drive them into own forces ambushes or prepared positions.
THE AIMS OF COMBAT TRACKING4. Locate, identify and interpret tracks left by aggressor activities.5. To ascertain the direction of flight of insurgents so as to better concentrate blocking forces more effectively.6. To recognize and calculate strengths of aggressor patrols and formations.
THE AIMS OF COMBAT TRACKING7. Use anti-tracking skills and techniques enabling recon teams and snipers to move in and out of denied or hostile territory without leaving footprint evidence which may alert the enemy to our own forces presence or intentions. (*It was this particular use that seemed most applicable to the past Cavalry students CTG taught.)8. To maintain contact with a fleeing or retreating enemy.
SITUATIONS TO EMPLOY COMBAT TRACKERS1. Pursuit to Contact.2. IED Detection at Range.3. Locate arms caches.4. Recovery of wounded personnel.5. Counter surveillance.
SITUATIONS TO EMPLOY COMBAT TRACKERS6. Information/Intelligence collection.7. Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR)8. Maintain contact with a fleeing enemy.9. Back-tracking to source.
SITUATIONS TO EMPLOY COMBAT TRACKERS9. Routes: infiltration and investigation.10. Counter drug operations.11. Sensor placement/site selection.12. Area interpretation and analysis
SITUATIONS TO EMPLOY COMBAT TRACKERS13. Forensic analysis. (MP/CID)14. Border patrol: corridors and routes.15. Clandestine ops - movement to recon, sniping or hide position.16. Location of mortar/rocket firing sites. Would a tracker have found this sooner… or been able to clear it of IEDs before they moved in?
Selous Scouts (Rhodesia) Koevoet (Southwest Africa)During their 7 years of existence, the combat trackers of the Selous Scouts, Army of Rhodesia (1973 – 1980)accounted for 67% of operational kills of terrorists for the entire Rhodesian military. They varied in strength from a military.company sized to short battalion sized element. The had no organic AFVs, no artillery, and no aircraft (though theycould call for support). The vast majority of kills were made by boots on the ground the old fashioned way, almostalways in squad sized elements—with rifles and grenades, typically against 1:1, 1:2 or 1:3 odds. This is typicallyattributed to: strong NCO corps (1/4 ‘stick’), innovative techniques and self-initiative (Drake shoot, pursuit over borders)and the ability to follow their enemy wherever they went and kill them.During their existence, Koevoet (a specialized unit within a civilian police agency) consistently had kill and capturerates far exceeding their military counterparts, including SOF units; primarily this is due to the incorporation of trainedvisual trackers in every element. If you couldn’t track and couldn’t shoot, you couldn’t go. After the murder of a familyin 1979, 30 Koevoet trackers followed a band of PLAN rebels 200+ km over 5 days, stretching 2 days of food andwater, fearing resupply would spook the terrs or the rotor wash would ruin the spoor (very light spoor). At the end of (verythe 5TH day they killed 8, captured the rest and recovered intel that led to subsequent successful operations. This wasnot a fluke or a particularly exceptional operation, it was typical for over a decade. (Note: read Koevoet! by JimHooper)
The uses of Combat Tracking within the US Military today. “Tracking is one of the best sources of ‘immediate use intelligence,’ information about the enemy that can be put to use immediately.” US Army Manual – FM 17 - 98. The Scout Platoon…and yet it is NOT taught with frequency (if at all), or with any accuracy, and the tracking style that is taught now is predicated on the 7-step jungle tracking originally taught by the Brits for service in Malaysia (and fhe U.S. in Vietnam), rather than the team track method taught by CTG—methods currently being used and proven in Iraq and Afghanistan, and based upon proven Rhodesian techniques…
GLOSSARY OFTRACKING TERMS
SPOOR – For example, ‘followingthe spoor.’ Spoor means a set oftracks laid upon the ground andvisible to a tracker. Spoor istotally interchangeable with thewords ‘tracks, set of prints, or sign.’
FOLLOW-UP – For example, “Thefollow-up commenced at first light.” Afollow-up is the physical act of atactically trained tracking team,following a set of tracks on the groundmade by insurgents or the enemy.
TRACKING-TEAM – When tracking orconducting a follow-up of armed anddangerous insurgents, a five-man team isemployed. A Tracking Team consists of aTracker, two Flank Trackers, a Controllerand a Rear Security Tracker.
Quarry – Used as an alternative to‘insurgent,’ ‘target,’ ‘suspect,’ or the‘pursued.’
Time and Distance Gap – The theoreticaldistance which insurgents could move overthe ground between the time of the incidentand the time which the Combat Trackersarrive to commence the Follow-up.
Conclusive Evidence – Tracks or otherevidence, left on the ground, that areindisputably left by the quarry.
Substantiating Evidence – Evidence left onthe ground which is inconclusive in itself, buttaken into account with other evidence isconsidered as likely to have been left by thequarry.
Active Track – Follow-up conducted whilethe quarry is still on the move ahead of thetracking team.
Passive Track – Follow-up conducted whenthe tracks are ‘cold.’ Normally used forintelligence gathering purposes or to look forbase-camp sites and other evidence of insurgentactivities.
Action Indicators – Foot, body, equipment orweapon marks left upon the ground indicatingthat a certain identifiable action has taken place.A skilled visual tracker can look at actionindicators to determine everything from thenumber of insurgents being followed to whetherthey’re armed with rifles or PKMs or RPGs.
• If he knows what he’s looking for, the imprint of these weapons at rest (or if deployed by a prone shooter), can tell a visual tracker what kind of armament he may be facing. RPG-7s, for instance, have a very unique and easily read signature on each end of the weapon—which a tracker will see if the insurgent either rests for a moment and sets it butt-down in the sand, or gets sloppy and allows the point to drag. A shooter than goes prone will leave specific rubs and compression from the pressure of the knees, elbow and ultimately the bipod or the magazine of the weapon, etc.
Track Line – The continuous line of observableclues visible to the tracker indicating the path ofthe insurgents being followed.
Lost Spoor Procedures – A systematic andsequential set of procedures designed to relocatethe spoor when it is lost. Commencing with initialprocedures conducted by the Tracker, lost spoorprocedures escalate into ever increasing searchpatterns using the entire team, but, with theproviso, – only if the Controller considers it safeto do so.The last Cav students taught by CSC utilized lost spoor procedures so effectively thatthey conducted a follow-up in the fastest time we’d had to date, tracking two subjectswith a 40-minute head start over extremely difficult and rocky terrain (first having tolocate their quarry’s starting point). It had been over a month since the last previouslyrecorded precipitation. They ultimately caught up to and engaged the two subjectsafter a five-klick track with numerous direction changes and several attempts tocounter-track and erase signs of passage.
Contamination – tracks and disturbancesmade from anyone or anything, other than thequarry, that obscures or completely obliteratesthe quarry’s spoor. Examples: other peoplestracks, animal sign, vehicle tire tracks, etc.To be successful in their mission Trackersmust do their best to ensure that contaminationis kept to an absolute minimum.
Natural State. – the established, natural stateof the ground unaffected by any tracks or sign.The tracker seeks any changes or disturbance tothe ‘natural state’ which may indicate that thequarry passed that way.
These boot prints are several days old; they were placed when the stream was still flowing.
Snuff (Skoal, Copenhagen), Chewing Tobacco (Red Man, Levi Garrett)and other oral eject (chewed gum, sunflower seeds) are often the easiest examples of sign by which to track or follow American troops.
(FAUO) Taliban incident, Afghanistan late ’05 (FAUO) Al Qaeda incident, Pakistani border, Feb. ’06 (FAUO) RPG Attack, FOB in Afghanistan Joie Armstrong Murder Koldodski Murder Counter-ambush in Al Anbar province May ‘06 IED detection at range, backtrack to counter-ambushUltimately, it’s not voodoo, it’s not even all thatdifficult, but it does require training and it does require practice—and it can kill “them what need killing” as easily as it can help keep soldiers alive (the most important one).
Acknowledgments• Centurion Training Group would like to extend our deepest thanks and appreciation to our mentor, David Scott-Donelan of the Tactical Tracking Operations School, who has taken the Rhodesian tactics he learned in 30 years of counter-insurgency warfare in Africa, and melded it with modern technology and lessons learned. CTG teaches a basic Visual Track Interpretation class with Mr. Donelan’s blessing; TTOS does instruct a 100- hour, two-week Combat Tracking course for those who are interested. TTOS is on the web at www.combattracking.com.