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Thread: Current Combat/Tactical Tracking Operations

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    Default Current Combat/Tactical Tracking Operations

    I've seen some various posts that involve "Combat Tracking Teams"/"Tactical Tracking Teams". Frankly, they are one and the same. The focus is to track in a tactical environment and offer the commander either valuable intelligence, or ability to pursue the enemy to either find, fix, destroy them...or in some cases, collect enough intelligence or evidence, to offer that opportunity another day.

    Either way, it is a current capability that is utilized in theater, and I say this, because I have done it. When I say that, my most recent mission where I was utilized as a Tracker, was just this last May in Iraq. It was essential in a Post Blast incident site north of Baghdad. If I hadn't utilized that skill, we would not have collected evidence that provided 25+ latent prints, spoor identifying number of individuals, TTPs utilized, spotter locations, etc. This is only one of many many missions where I was utilized in this manner while on a WIT as the Tactical Advisor (Infantryman) with EOD.

    To say this is not current doctrine is only to say you are not familiar with what IS doctrine.

    As recent as October 2007, the following was published for doctrine directed at the entire United States Army...however, it is being ignored.

    FM 2-91.6 (October 2007)
    Soldier Surveillance and Reconnaissance: Fundamentals of Tactical Information Collection

    Chapter 1

    1-13. Skills, education, and experience in cultural awareness; biometrics tools and applications; battlefield forensic support activities and tracking all directly enable the tasks that contribute to ES2.

    2-3. In addition to the tasks that contribute to ES2, training in cultural awareness, biometrics tools and applications, battlefield forensic support activities, and tracking can significantly enhance a unit’s internal information collection and subsequent intelligence production.

    TRACKING (Dedicated Section in FM)

    2-18. Tracking is a type of reconnaissance. Tracking may be planned, but is often a result of combat or reconnaissance patrolling, tactical site exploitation, or an IED event. Although any trained Soldier can perform tracking, a tracking patrol is normally a squad-size, possibly smaller element. It is tasked to follow the trail of a specific individual or enemy unit in order to determine its composition, final destination, and actions en route.

    2-19. Members of the tracking patrol look for subtle signs left by the subject as he moves. As the tracking element tracks, it collects information about the individual or enemy unit, the route taken, and the surrounding terrain. Normally, a tracking patrol avoids direct fire contact with the tracked unit, but in many instances, detention is a result of tracking an individual. Tracking patrols often use tracker dog teams to help them maintain the track.
    Tracking supports not only the Commander in knowing what is going on outside the wire, but also provides valuable information that it utilized by current intelligence personnel to further develop the Current Operation Picture (COP).

    I can only hope that this post is not put in the "Historical" section of this forum, as everything I have stated is not "History", but current application in conflicts that we have yet to exit.
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 08-15-2010 at 07:57 AM. Reason: FM paragraphs in quotes

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default THanks for posting that. I agree that post should not be moved

    to the existing thread. That thread can be the historical and generic BS and philosophy effort and posts on this one should be totally aimed at current ops. Not training, Ops...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
    to the existing thread. That thread can be the historical and generic BS and philosophy effort and posts on this one should be totally aimed at current ops. Not training, Ops...
    Yes, exactly. You hit the nail on the head. That is why I wanted to focus on the "Trigger Pullers" on this one.

    What I hope is that it is that this thread is specifically focused on current Trackers that are Operators and not "historical" or "training" aspects.

    I know there are other Trackers, like myself, out there that are utilizing this skill, even though it is not being utilized by commanders. The hope is that through experiences from qualified trained Trackers, the focus of how this can not be a forgotten aspect of Tactical Intelligence Collection, like so many other skills that have had that problem.

    A perfect example are Rangers, who came into being as far back as Captain Benjamin Church in 1675, and Rogers Rangers...it took until 1950 to develop Ranger School, and then...years later...January 31, 1974 (1st Ranger Battalion), and October 1, 1974 (2nd Ranger Battalion) were reactivated. Ever since then, we have only seen the ranks of qualified full-time Rangers grow, however they had been in existence for literally a couple hundred years. It only took a certain point to realize that it was assinine to keep activating and deactactivating qualified Rangers.

    Another example are Snipers. The first U.S. Army Sniper School was initiated in 1955, right after the Korean War cease-fire. The present U.S. Army Sniper School was established at Fort Benning, Georgia, in 1987. The Army National Guard Sniper School was established in 1993 at Camp Robinson Arkansas. These are just two examples in which both Snipers and Rangers have been historically activated, then deactivated. We had Snipers that were actually "Sharpshooters" in the Civil War, and snipers in every conflict after that.

    So, when looking at Trackers, you can't say that both Rangers, Snipers, or Reconnaissance do not utilize this skillset. Furthermore, we utilized "Scouts" or "Trackers" in the earliest of Ranger type units, then had actual "Scouts" performing "Trailing" operations, as it was once called in our military history. When looking at the usefulness in todays conflicts, you create a "channeling" effect by limiting yourself to roads in Afghanistan, and maintaining constant visual contact with the vehicles that anchor you to the very channel that got the enemy to identify a weekness, and easy method of attacking USF.

    When you leave the road, and start going after them in their own backyard, you find that they get very nervous. I have seen this first hand when tracking Al-Qaeda or Jaysh Al-Mahdi in Iraq.

    Murphy's Laws state that "Tracers work both ways..."

    Yes, and the funny thing about spoor (non-Tracker terminology would be tracks), work both ways as well.

    Having worked as a Tracker in Iraq on a WIT, biometric evidence is collected from the most tiny of items that the sloppy enemy leaves knowning that normal conventional units will not have the attention to detail to identify.
    Last edited by Tracker275; 08-15-2010 at 04:21 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
    to the existing thread. That thread can be the historical and generic BS and philosophy effort and posts on this one should be totally aimed at current ops. Not training, Ops...
    Lets see when someone starts to talk about current ops then...

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    Itís good to hear that you had some successes with what we taught you. The one thing I noticed is that The Army seems to be doing a good job as far as finding and gathering forensic evidence utilizing the WIT capability and have even done good job getting that capability down to the company level with the SWET teams. Those teams have been able to gather a lot of info at the company level that the COISTís are analyzing and reporting. However the capability gap comes at an incident site when information is gathered but the opportunity to act on that information is not being acted on. No pursuit is taken. So although we are gathering good info the bad guys are getting away. When I was deployed we had been IEDíd. A team came out and surveyed the IED site, we evacuated the wounded. The ANA unit I was with was so fixated on the nearest village. They never considered the other village across the river. I looked at the antenna from the IED and it had good line of site to the village across the river and was even pointing in that direction. We Asked the IED exploitation team what they thought and we both thought that the Insurgents detonated it from across the river (which was one of their TTPís). We got a patrol together and crossed the river. Long story short we found their trigger site and followed their tracks and caught up with them. We actually found them not far from that trigger site and eliminated them. We brought the bodies down to the village and asked if any of the villagers could ID them, of course none could. The funny thing is that area of road had always been our units and the unit before ours "IED ally" and after that incident we never got IEDíd again. We later got conformation that those guys had been from the village (which we suspected judging by some of the facial expressions from some of the men)and that the local insurgent group had attempted to recruit other villagerís to emplace more IEDís, but the villagers were reluctant to do so based on the outcome of their fellow tribesman. Not only was tracking the insurgents down successful but the psychological effect it had on the village as well as our ANA soldiers who were happy to have a victory over the insurgents. Later we sent in a CAT-A team to help the village, which opened the door to other opportunities for us. The skill of tracking was merely a vehicle to influence other things. After that point we incorporated it more often and every time we used the skill we either got the enemy or left with information that influenced other operations.

    Tracker275, I am actually on the road heading in you direction. I was asked to help teach the last 2 classes at Ft. H. Too bad the tracking course will not be continued. Unfortunately, every soldier wonít be a sensor!
    "Soldiers who are lacking in basic training, discipline, poor leadership and inadequate command and control will not be able to win wars with technology and firepower alone. When their technology fails, they will find themselves in a vacuum they cannot easily extricate themselves from."- Eeben Barlow

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    Quote Originally Posted by JMA View Post
    Good. Now as the Iraq war is all but over perhaps you can share with us old timers about tracking in Iraq and how the tactical deployment during a follow-up was executed?
    I also saw your other post in regards to OPSEC. Honestly, the carrying out of the tracking piece is not anything that hasn’t already been posted multiple times within U.S. Army unclassified doctrinal publications, or utlized by law enforcement for a long time in everyday forensic applications. The handoff from either an IED Post Blast, IED Found/Cleared, Small Arms Fire (SAF), etc., is simply the ability to not contaminate the area, and give the infantry a starting point to continue the pursuit of the quarry. From there, the basic principles of tracking are performed in conjunction with standard patrolling techniques that are relatively common in most military organizations. While performing the tracking, you maintain a security element that is either moving as the tracking element moves, or there are elements in an overwatch posture that allows for security of the tracking element that is walking point.

    While performing tracking operations, you don't violate the "5 Principles of Patrolling", and maintain not only maintain situational awareness of METT-TC, but also OCOKA.

    Definitions:

    "5 Principles of Patrolling": Planning, Reconnaissance, Security, Control, & Common Sense

    METT-TC: Mission, Enemy, Terrain and Weather, Troops and Support Available, Time Available, Civil Considerations

    OCOKA: Observation, Concealment, Obstacles, Key Terrain Features, Avenues of Approach

    Typically, in the urban environments in either Iraq or Afghanistan, most of the streets are either dirt, or have a concrete/asphalt base that is covered in dirt. Due to the dust storms, and the basic lacking of keeping anything picked up or clean over there, track traps are everywhere. While analysis of the initial scene of the incident is being conducted by one element, the maneuver element that found it takes it from the edge of the incident site. They continue it on from there in a “movement to contact” type of posture, which the tracker guides them to where the quarry was heading. If it is understood where the individual that was identified at the scene may be heading, the time distance gap can be shortened, particularly if there are channeling corridors that allow for only certain directions of travel. It is far easier to perform tracking in urban areas in Iraq than it is in the United States, as most of the alleys area dirt, and not paved. Additionally, our peak times in urban areas were between 2100hrs to 0100hrs, which there was limited activity in the towns we were working in. Most of the spoor was also identified going through alleys and not along the main streets. Typically, the point of setting up an IED in those areas was to eliminate either a specific person, or a group of individuals near buildings they felt safe at.

    Just like dealing with a crime scene in the United States, tracking in urban areas in Iraq are not much different. However, I have found far more evidence that has been able to be identified in Iraq than anything I have done in law enforcement here in the United States.

    Tracking is not merely a patrolling function, but a way to gather forensic evidence left by the individuals responsible for the incident that got you called to an area in the first place. Just like how law enforcement utilizes shoe impressions, tire impressions, skid marks on roads, etc., to determine what happened, or be able to identify a suspect, so does the tracker. The principles of tracking remain the same, and are not something that is some kind of “Special Forces” function, but a function that a trained Infantryman can utilize to better the pursuit of a suspect, or develop knowledge of TTPs utilized by the individual they are after.

    In today’s combat environments, we are almost as limited as personnel in Law Enforcement. We are not allowed to call in artillery on a sniper in a building anymore, like early on in the war. The fact that we are in a “peace keeping” roll, and not open combat, limits the use of easy methods of eliminating a threat. Through this restricted form of warfare, we have to utilize such capabilities that are proven to go after the target in a surgical manner, and not try and kill a fly with a sledge hammer.
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 08-16-2010 at 05:59 AM. Reason: Copied here from the history tracking thread and PM to author

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    Council Member TYR's Avatar
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    Historically and currently by doctrine, Infantry Units from LRS down to an infantry squad are supposed to be capable of conducting Tracking Patrols as part of a larger operation. The thing I don't understand is why the Combat Arms folks haven't attempted to use that skill on a wider scale. I believe the problem was that the program was in the wrong place and didn't get the visibility by the rest of the Army.
    "Soldiers who are lacking in basic training, discipline, poor leadership and inadequate command and control will not be able to win wars with technology and firepower alone. When their technology fails, they will find themselves in a vacuum they cannot easily extricate themselves from."- Eeben Barlow

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    Default Tracker275, Hello

    from T275
    Just like dealing with a crime scene in the United States, tracking in urban areas in Iraq are not much different. However, I have found far more evidence that has been able to be identified in Iraq than anything I have done in law enforcement here in the United States.
    Your thoughts on why this is so ? US has more careful perps ?; levels of violence are different ?, come to mind as possible explanations.

    Regards (from the son of a hunter and trapper who knew his "spoor")

    Mike

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    Quote Originally Posted by TYR View Post
    I believe the problem was that the program was in the wrong place and didn't get the visibility by the rest of the Army.
    Interesting that you say that. I thought Ft. Huachuca seemed like a good choice in light of current operational invironments.

    So, in light of current ops, should it be like Ranger School in that it is headquartered at Ft. Benning but has phases that rotate between different areas? Perhaps a basic phase at Benning plus urban and desert phases elsewhere?

    I think I asked a training question but it was related to ops. Now I'm not sure where to post it.

    I'm so confused.
    Last edited by Rifleman; 08-16-2010 at 09:06 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by jmm99 View Post
    Your thoughts on why this is so ? US has more careful perps ?; levels of violence are different ?, come to mind as possible explanations.

    Regards (from the son of a hunter and trapper who knew his "spoor")

    Mike
    Mike,

    Please refer to the paragraph previous to what you quoted from me, it will answer the questions you inquired about. I will include a few of those answers from what I have already stated though.

    Quote Originally Posted by Tracker275
    Typically, in the urban environments in either Iraq or Afghanistan, most of the streets are either dirt, or have a concrete/asphalt base that is covered in dirt. Due to the dust storms, and the basic lacking of keeping anything picked up or clean over there, track traps are everywhere.

    It is far easier to perform tracking in urban areas in Iraq than it is in the United States, as most of the alleys area dirt, and not paved. Additionally, our peak times in urban areas were between 2100hrs to 0100hrs, which there was limited activity in the towns we were working in. Most of the spoor was also identified going through alleys and not along the main streets. Typically, the point of setting up an IED in those areas was to eliminate either a specific person, or a group of individuals near buildings they felt safe at.
    I can elaborate in more depth if you like, however I think the answers you seek have already been stated.

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    Historically and currently by doctrine, Infantry Units from LRS down to an infantry squad are supposed to be capable of conducting Tracking Patrols as part of a larger operation.
    I fully agree! But the present mind of the chain of command does not agree. I stated in the other thread on this topic that as a LRS PSG I pushed hard to have at least some guys to be sent the the Army tracking school during our units MOB up. The would have nothing to do with it. It was more importain for them to check the box on the BS traing we were having to attend. Many of the trainers during out MOB were less than qualified to teach. I had E4's that could of done a better job. The point I'm trying to make is that commanders dont have any confidence in tracking. The same issues that snipers face in their units. Commanders dont know how to use them, because they dont learn how to in OCS.
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 08-17-2010 at 07:33 AM. Reason: Insert quote marks

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    SOF guys come from a different mind set than the rest of the BIG army on tactical/combat tracking. They use their brain to think past the next OER. There are thoes out there in the Military that can think outside the box. But they seem to be the exception rather than the rule. You talk to the E7 and below in the big Army, they want to close and kill the bad guys. And use all the tools in their tool box to do so. I would love to see tracking take off in the military. But as can be seen by the closing of the tracking school, There are thoes that make to decisions for use all that dont see it fitting in to how they want to fight.

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    I didn't even know we had a school at Ft. H. But that was part of the problem and lent to it being closed, don't you agree?

    Sometimes these things come to a cost and utilisation issue. Spend thousands of dollars TDY on a S2 guy who never leaves his building once he's in theater to track? I mean really. Ft. H is about analysts (the computer using type) and signals; much like the geographical isolation it has from the rest of the Army the things taught there are isolated from the maneuver community.

    Then Boris gets it right too, because there are other issues. We have shortened time at home station, take the 18 month timeline-- two months of leave, two months of guys going; ARFORGEN says this is the individual training time. But who is there to train? Not to mention you have all the "BS" taskings that float down from on high that you have to keep throwing the diminishing manpower at.

    Then when you start collective it's all about the gunnery gunnery gunnery, and getting out in the field. By now the DIV focus is on the BDE behind you to get those individual slots, but of course it's too late for them too, because they had the same problem you just did. The taskings are still coming too, and now you have to send a joe to this three day, and another to this four day, and one of your E5s to another week long thing of some sort of theater specific equipment you may or may not ever see.

    And suddenly you're on the plane. It's very easy to blame our system.

    This stuff is basic fieldcraft, but unfortunately that is now tribal knowledge held at about the O4/E7 level because of the Army's OPTEMPO. I think the challenge that we as Leaders have is how to we train things like tracking within our own? Identifying who has the talent for it, and helping them pass on that knowledge to the left and right. This is especially crucial within maneuver units.
    Few are the problems that cannot be solved by a suitable application of concentrated firepower.

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    Boris and QP4,

    You are both correct. Ft. H was an improper place to teach tracking. However the Army could host the school at Ft. Polk. Units going to JRTC could send soldiers though the course prior to their JRTC rotation. When the unit deploys to JRTC for their exercise their trackers would have an opportunity to track an unpredictable OPFOR, which could validate the relevance of tracking in a training environment. Commanders from brigade down to company level would be able to observe firsthand the validity of tracking as its being employed by their soldiers conducting operations. Letís face it if the Army didnít think tracking was a necessary skill then why would it be written in Army Doctrinal publications spouting its benefits.

    When I was at the Special Warfare Center the SWC CSM had everyone in the auditorium and he said that SF was going to reinstate Hand to Hand combat within the Q-Course. His reason was that in the ďBallad of the Green Berets" it said we were ďtrained in combat, hand to handĒ and if we didnít, we would have to change the song and that wasnít going to happen. Now, of course he was joking, but his point was if you say you are supposed to be capable of performing a certain type of skill then you should be able to do it and doctrinally the Infantry say they do tracking.
    "Soldiers who are lacking in basic training, discipline, poor leadership and inadequate command and control will not be able to win wars with technology and firepower alone. When their technology fails, they will find themselves in a vacuum they cannot easily extricate themselves from."- Eeben Barlow

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
    to the existing thread. That thread can be the historical and generic BS and philosophy effort and posts on this one should be totally aimed at current ops. Not training, Ops...
    You happy with the Ops discussion Ken?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tracker275 View Post
    I also saw your other post in regards to OPSEC. Honestly, the carrying out of the tracking piece is not anything that hasnít already been posted multiple times within U.S. Army unclassified doctrinal publications, or utlized by law enforcement for a long time in everyday forensic applications. The handoff from either an IED Post Blast, IED Found/Cleared, Small Arms Fire (SAF), etc., is simply the ability to not contaminate the area, and give the infantry a starting point to continue the pursuit of the quarry. From there, the basic principles of tracking are performed in conjunction with standard patrolling techniques that are relatively common in most military organizations. While performing the tracking, you maintain a security element that is either moving as the tracking element moves, or there are elements in an overwatch posture that allows for security of the tracking element that is walking point.
    [snip]
    Why are you telling me this stuff? I know it. Hundreds (probably many thousands) know this. It is the current operational application of combat tracking skills in Iraq/Afghanistan that some may not know (I don't).

    This reply also on the other tracking thread here

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    Quote Originally Posted by JMA View Post
    Why are you telling me this stuff? I know it. Hundreds (probably many thousands) know this. It is the current operational application of combat tracking skills in Iraq/Afghanistan that some may not know (I don't).

    This reply also on the other tracking thread here
    JMA,

    Please do not contradict yourself in the same paragraph. You say you know it, then state that you do not know it.

    We are not looking for a "Post Count Hunter", but information that can be offered that contains knowledge and validity. I can quote myself again regarding current application of combat tracking skills in Iraq/Afghanistan if you like. However, I am getting tired of quoting myself. So, if you "know it", along with the "hundreds" that know it, put out the information that you "know" or "do not know" on the current combat theaters so those out there that have the willingness to learn can be a sponge.

    Your reply offered nothing but contradiction. So, please offer what you do or do not truly know in regards to this subject instead of confusion. I have no doubt you have a lot of knowledge to offer. However, you are not providing anything, but push-back on everything stated. Please include your experiences that will provide the current combat soldier with the wisdom you achieved from where you have been.

    This will be far more productive than the 1-liners that offer no knowledge or productivity able to be used by todays warfighter.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tracker275 View Post
    JMA,

    Please do not contradict yourself in the same paragraph. You say you know it, then state that you do not know it.

    We are not looking for a "Post Count Hunter", but information that can be offered that contains knowledge and validity. I can quote myself again regarding current application of combat tracking skills in Iraq/Afghanistan if you like. However, I am getting tired of quoting myself. So, if you "know it", along with the "hundreds" that know it, put out the information that you "know" or "do not know" on the current combat theaters so those out there that have the willingness to learn can be a sponge.

    Your reply offered nothing but contradiction. So, please offer what you do or do not truly know in regards to this subject instead of confusion. I have no doubt you have a lot of knowledge to offer. However, you are not providing anything, but push-back on everything stated. Please include your experiences that will provide the current combat soldier with the wisdom you achieved from where you have been.

    This will be far more productive than the 1-liners that offer no knowledge or productivity able to be used by todays warfighter.
    You wanted your own thread to deal with current ops and you got it. So where is the current stuff?

    I suggest that many people here know quite a bit about tracking from their own past experience.

    I guess the question is whether you are here to share information or to gather information... and to play moderator at the same time

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    I guess the question is whether you are here to share information or to gather information... and to play moderator at the same time
    I will play moderator gents. If you would like to do the dance, request you do it via PMs and keep this thread on track with substantive discussion. This isn't even point / counter-point at this point. There is a gold mine to be had, but this is not headed in that direction.

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    Default Tracker dogs

    Combat tracker dog program proves effective

    http://www.lackland.af.mil/news/story.asp?id=123200085

    Anyone have an idea of the course content?

    The teams trained 30 days at Lackland before moving on to Yuma, Ariz., for 10 days of certification training before deployment to Afghanistan.
    And this also relating to dogs:

    Working dog teams readying for combat
    Last edited by JMA; 08-25-2010 at 09:17 AM.

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