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Thread: Combat Tracking (catch all)

  1. #121
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    Default Taking a broad view

    I have taken a bit of time to respond to this thread as I needed to consider the role of combat tracking in modern warfare was I see it.

    Back in the 70's I was involved in a number of follow-up operations using trackers during the Bush War in Rhodesia. As an officer I normally had a combat tracker team attached for the purpose of the follow-up. Some we tracked to contact on others the spoor was lost for a variety of reasons.

    The skill level of trackers was critical in the success or failure of the follow-up.

    The speed at which they could track against the speed at which the insurgents were fleeing at was the determinant in most cases. It became obvious fairly early in a follow-up whether we stood a chance of tracking to contact by the speed the trackers could maintain. Some of the speed issue could be put down to the skill or lack of in the tracking team or difficult ground or the use of anti-tracking by the insurgents (I think the US term for this is counter tracking).

    Early on (in the late 60's) the limitation of trying to catch up on fleeing lightly equiped insurgents was a real problem regardless of the skills of the trackers. So the tactic of "leapfrogging" was tested and refined to speed up this process. Essentially this was the use of heliborne trackers being dropped ahead of the follow-up team on the line of flight to cross grain to try to pick up the spoor closer to the fleeing insurgents. See this part of the Rhodesian manual on Follow-up Operations for more detail.

    Apart from the obvious requirement for combat tracking teams to be able to track competently it is operationally essential that they be able to assess the freshness of the spoor and the sign and indicate to the follow-up commander that contact is imminent. This is necessary to allow the follow-up commander to move his troops into the best position (according to the ground) for the contact.

    It was irritating that having been on a follow-up for a few days the whole operation would end with a fleeting no casualties either side contact or the trackers dropping one or two and the rest taking off now at twice the speed and probably "bombshelling" (scattering) to move individually to a prearranged RV somewhere ahead on their line of march.

    There was/is a tendency for trackers to become prima donnas somewhere up there with opera singers if you let them.

    The role of trackers or the combat tracking team is to help maintain contact with the enemy, nothing more. While operating with a slick and proficient combat tracking team which tracks you to a successful contact is a very rewarding experience the roles, functions, duties and tasks should never be confused.

    The first point is that once contact is made you essentially have two elements which probably have never trained together now engaged in a firefight with the enemy. There are (friendly fire) dangers here and trackers need to keep out of it after the initial exchange of fire to avoid such problems. In our war if you did not immediately assault/pursue/out flank contact would be quickly lost and the whole effort would have to start again.

    I would let trackers argue about skills and methods and whatever they like but operationally all that matters is their ability to track to contact.

    All that said if you want proficient trackers you need a permanent tracking unit. The skill of tracking needs to be exercised daily and the only way it can be is through housing your trackers in one tracking unit and then attaching combat tracking teams from this unit to formations and units in the field as the circumstances require.

    Apart from the bushcraft and tracking skills the military skills can be maintained through a system where for example they are required to attend a refresher course at (say) the Ranger school for a week a year.

    The tracking and bushcraft skills would need to cover areas, continents and countries other than their own so it would be necessary to provide training in proper jungles and in Asia and the middle east and Europe etc etc to ensure that your "scouts" are able to serve the army regardless of where the next war might break out.

    This unit would I suggest have a "reserve" component made up of people who have and use a tracking skill in the line of their everyday work and who can be called up for duty as and when required.

    Likewise standard army units who may be required to operate with tracker combat teams would need to receive training in follow-up tactics as you don't want the situation developing where the trackers have more to fear from their own people following behind them than they have for those they are following.

    Bushcraft (or woodcraft) training is essential for SF and selection based units and desirable for all soldiers. It provides a grounding in situational awareness which I believe is critical for soldiers especially those operating in a anti-terrorist or counter-insurgency setting out in the bush/jungle/mountains/desert somewhere.

    As I suggested elsewhere (as part of officer selection and training) bushcraft training is also a great confidence builder which is IMHO essential for all officers and NCOs. Take them into a wilderness setting and issue them with a piece of hide and a bush-knife. Let them make sandals and/or a loin-cloth and a water bottle out of the hide and then take them on the training for a few weeks. Those that don't demand to be sent home to mommy will come out greatly improved as people (and therefore as leaders and soldiers) from the experience. (I think pilots do survival training something along these lines)

    That all said I believe that all SF soldiers need to do at least a tracking course at the first level with emphasis on anti-tracking (counter-tracking) skills. (as sometimes the hunter becomes the hunted)

  2. #122
    Council Member TYR's Avatar
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    Default Jma

    JMA,
    Some good comments, I'd like to reply to some. Don't take anything personal, you cant read me as I am saying this.

    Some we tracked to contact on others the spoor was lost for a variety of reasons.
    Hey that’s part of the process. Tracking is just another tool and not the “be all end all”. It’s an opportunity event, depending on the Tracking teams ability, mission, enemy, terrain, weather conditions, as well as the amount of support will all affect the outcome of a Tracking Operation.

    Early on (in the late 60's) the limitation of trying to catch up on fleeing lightly equiped insurgents was a real problem regardless of the skills of the trackers. So the tactic of "leapfrogging" was tested and refined to speed up this process. Essentially this was the use of heliborne trackers being dropped ahead of the follow-up team on the line of flight to cross grain to try to pick up the spoor closer to the fleeing insurgents.
    True the Rhodesians and South Africans did a great job developing this. Today however if you take that tracking skill and combine it with some of the advanced capabilities employed today, the information gathered and disseminated to other patrols working in conjunction would make the “leapfrog” method even more efficient.


    Apart from the obvious requirement for combat tracking teams to be able to track competently it is operationally essential that they be able to assess the freshness of the spoor and the sign and indicate to the follow-up commander that contact is imminent.
    Not just aging but the tracking patrol needs to be able to interpret the track line to determine what the enemy was doing as well as attempt to figure out what he will do and understand his enemies TTPs. The tracking patrol doesn't’t just follow a set of tracks, they are hunting if they are in pursuit. If the tracking patrol is not interpreting the track line along with the terrain they will find themselves in trouble.

    It was irritating that having been on a follow-up for a few days the whole operation would end with a fleeting no casualties either side contact or the trackers dropping one or two and the rest taking off now at twice the speed and probably "bombshelling" (scattering) to move individually to a prearranged RV somewhere ahead on their line of march.
    For you or them?

    There was/is a tendency for trackers to become prima donnas
    That happens with any small unit that you segregate from the guys they are to help support. However if you select and train one squad in each Infantry platoon to have this capability, as well as give them an additional skill identifier that will keep them in that position you shouldn’t have an integration problem or fratricide problem since they belong to that platoon and would be properly supported by their platoon. This is a skill set that will enhance every platoon’s ability to gather information on the enemy if they are conducting reconnaissance operations or find, fix and finish an enemy when conducting a pursuit operation. Tracking incorporated in the Scouts at the Battalion level as well as the RSTA units at brigade level will enhance their unit’s collection capabilities as well.


    The role of trackers or the combat tracking team is to help maintain contact with the enemy, nothing more.
    That sounds like an officer talking who didn’t completely understand the capabilities of tracking. This might have been the way the Rhodesians had thought of tracking but that is such a narrow view as to its capabilities. True sometimes you conduct a tracking operation and are unable to capture or kill the enemy, BUT what did the patrol learn about the enemy, the terrain, and atmospherics within a village and so on. When the unit comes back from their patrol and conducts their debrief all that information should be captured. Most insurgencies are local and what is gathered about that particular cell will help shape the Company Intelligence Support Teams Intel picture of what is going on in that area. Also the information gathered from footwear impression evidence as well as other material discarded by the enemy will provide a better understanding as to the insurgents Infil and Exfil routes, areas of support and so on.

    I would let trackers argue about skills and methods and whatever they like but operationally all that matters is their ability to track to contact.
    Again this is a very narrow view of tracking.

    All that said if you want proficient trackers you need a permanent tracking unit. The skill of tracking needs to be exercised daily and the only way it can be is through housing your trackers in one tracking unit and then attaching combat tracking teams from this unit to formations and units in the field as the circumstances require.
    MHO is again that each company has this capability with those capabilities also at Battalion and Brigade level. It needs to be decentralized and employed by the guys who have to patrol every day.

    The tracking and bushcraft skills would need to cover areas, continents and countries other than their own so it would be necessary to provide training in proper jungles and in Asia and the middle east and Europe etc etc to ensure that your "scouts" are able to serve the army regardless of where the next war might break out.
    This just isn’t going to happen. The U.S. Military just won’t do that and I guarantee you your army didn’t do that either. It would be too costly. If that were to be done it would be done by a tier 1 unit and then you would definitely have a “prima donna” problem. However I have tracked in all these environments by using basic principles and after a period of adjustment to a new environment I had no problem tracking.

    Bushcraft (or woodcraft) training is essential for SF and selection based units and desirable for all soldiers. It provides a grounding in situational awareness which I believe is critical for soldiers especially those operating in a anti-terrorist or counter-insurgency setting out in the bush/jungle/mountains/desert somewhere.
    I agree, since 911 our soldier’s field craft skills have turned to crap.

    That all said I believe that all SF soldiers need to do at least a tracking course at the first level with emphasis on anti-tracking (counter-tracking) skills. (as sometimes the hunter becomes the hunted)
    True, but you will never be proficient at counter tracking until you are a tracker first and understand what the tracker or a scent dog is capable of.
    "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

  3. #123
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    Quote Originally Posted by TYR View Post
    Hey that’s part of the process. Tracking is just another tool and not the “be all end all”. It’s an opportunity event, depending on the Tracking teams ability, mission, enemy, terrain, weather conditions, as well as the amount of support will all affect the outcome of a Tracking Operation.
    The "amount of support" from whom?

    True the Rhodesians and South Africans did a great job developing this. Today however if you take that tracking skill and combine it with some of the advanced capabilities employed today, the information gathered and disseminated to other patrols working in conjunction would make the “leapfrog” method even more efficient.
    Yes there is much current technology that we could have used had it been available. 30 odd years ago even our helos could not fly at night. Especially important would have been the ability to continue into the night through the use of thermal. If they could just keep ahead of us until night fall they were generally home and dry. What other stuff would you find useful?

    Not just aging but the tracking patrol needs to be able to interpret the track line to determine what the enemy was doing as well as attempt to figure out what he will do and understand his enemies TTPs. The tracking patrol doesn't’t just follow a set of tracks, they are hunting if they are in pursuit. If the tracking patrol is not interpreting the track line along with the terrain they will find themselves in trouble.
    Well here is where we part ways. Most always (unless you can give me otherwise specifics) the tracking team is not from your unit and is attached and under command for operations. We never (seldom if ever) used more than a 4 man tracking stick. The rest of the follow-up team were infantry soldiers effectively on an advance to contact. The follow-up commander was never the tracker team leader. So the word tracking patrol is vague. Who and what is the tracking patrol? Is it not a follow-up force comprising a combat tracking team and an infantry call-sign of varying size?

    For you or them?
    The irritation of having a fleeting contact after hours/days should be an irritant/disappointment to all and especially a waste to the war effort. While the trackers may be slapping each other on the back for getting two kills the big question should be what happened to the other 20 possible kills? Without a doubt good trackers will be able to indicate when a contact is imminent and so allow the follow-up commander to deploy his troops for the maximum result. There are just not too many good trackers out there. Not in Rhodesia in the 70s and and probably less elsewhere these days.

    That happens with any small unit that you segregate from the guys they are to help support. However if you select and train one squad in each Infantry platoon to have this capability, as well as give them an additional skill identifier that will keep them in that position you shouldn’t have an integration problem or fratricide problem since they belong to that platoon and would be properly supported by their platoon. This is a skill set that will enhance every platoon’s ability to gather information on the enemy if they are conducting reconnaissance operations or find, fix and finish an enemy when conducting a pursuit operation. Tracking incorporated in the Scouts at the Battalion level as well as the RSTA units at brigade level will enhance their unit’s collection capabilities as well.
    Lets look the facts:

    1. There is no way on earth that anyone will train up a skilled tracking team per infantry platoon across the whole army.

    2. There are not enough people in any military in any country that have the necessary tracking skills and aptitude who want to be a grunt in an infantry platoon.

    3. There is no way if a tracking team was integral to an infantry platoon organisation that they could maintain their proficiency without seriously degrading their other individual training and their training within the context of the platoon.

    4. The maintenance of tracking proficiency would be impossible if the trackers were dispersed as you suggest.

    Comment: Yes I agree that bushcraft training would be very beneficial for every man in the platoon but when it comes to tracking +95% just don't have the aptitude. Better then to attach tracking teams to companies when they are deployed in an operational environment that demands such skills.

    That sounds like an officer talking who didn’t completely understand the capabilities of tracking. This might have been the way the Rhodesians had thought of tracking but that is such a narrow view as to its capabilities. True sometimes you conduct a tracking operation and are unable to capture or kill the enemy, BUT what did the patrol learn about the enemy, the terrain, and atmospherics within a village and so on. When the unit comes back from their patrol and conducts their debrief all that information should be captured. Most insurgencies are local and what is gathered about that particular cell will help shape the Company Intelligence Support Teams Intel picture of what is going on in that area. Also the information gathered from footwear impression evidence as well as other material discarded by the enemy will provide a better understanding as to the insurgents Infil and Exfil routes, areas of support and so on.
    Unless trackers have the ability to track to contact they serve no real purpose. The peripheral skills are indeed valuable but are merely add-ons. As in the US military environment where there once were scouts and trackers in the West in the late 1800s there are examples of these unique men. Unique is the word. These men can't be produced at will. As to the capabilities of these unique men the challenge would be to find and demonstrate the capabilities of these trackers.

    Again this is a very narrow view of tracking.
    Tracking itself is a skill that has a narrow application. In Rhodesia in the early days the insurgent infiltration routes were through the wilderness areas of low population and as such were relatively simple to track. Later when they operated in the areas of high population density with domestic cattle and goats tracking became less in demand due to very limited success.

    MHO is again that each company has this capability with those capabilities also at Battalion and Brigade level. It needs to be decentralized and employed by the guys who have to patrol every day.
    Where would you find all these skilled trackers and how will you keep them current? You would need to train thousands of people to get a no better than average tracking ability. When it comes to combat tracking average is just not good enough.

    This just isn’t going to happen. The U.S. Military just won’t do that and I guarantee you your army didn’t do that either. It would be too costly. If that were to be done it would be done by a tier 1 unit and then you would definitely have a “prima donna” problem. However I have tracked in all these environments by using basic principles and after a period of adjustment to a new environment I had no problem tracking.
    Whether it does or doesn't is not my concern. In Rhodesia there was most certainly a serious attempt to group trackers together into distinct grouping where they could train together to maintain their skills level. The people grouped together were in the main people of already proven tracking skill and the training was how best to apply this skill in a military environment. One should learn from these attempts rather than offer an alternative that has less chance of success.

    It should be obvious that the only way to keep a unit of trackers current is to exercise them continuously in different environments. I love the way cost is thrown into the equation mostly before the numbers have even been crunched. If the Pentagon were to be convinced that there was a real need for tracker and tracking and bushcraft skills the money would be found (especially if the unit was to be based in the state of an influencial senator

    I would agree that level one trackers would be able to adapt quickly to new and different environments but level one trackers are few and far between. To sell tracking as a skill to the extent you appear to believe would be valuable you would have to demonstrate that there are the numbers available at the required skills level realise that capability. Good luck with that. Where would you draw these trackers from? Special recruiting in areas where this skill is developed from birth (like Burham) or what?

    I agree, since 911 our soldier’s field craft skills have turned to crap.
    Fieldcraft or bushcraft or both?

    True, but you will never be proficient at counter tracking until you are a tracker first and understand what the tracker or a scent dog is capable of.
    No. If you understand how a tracker works and what sign he recognises you will be in a position to make it much more difficult for trackers following you. You may also need to employ booby traps and other mechanisms to delay and/or discourage trackers (when operating in areas where anti-tracking is difficult).

    I would be interested to hear where the US military has used tracking to any significant degree in recent operations / small wars? This together with actual combat experience so as to establish to what extent the approaches to tracking being debated are merely theoretical or based on hard experience.

  4. #124
    Council Member TYR's Avatar
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    Default Rhodesia, Rhodesia, Rhodesia

    I think we are separated by a common language as well as different terminology, doctrines and eras. IMHO I feel you are wrong and you probably feel the same about my opinions. I will not banter with you just for the sake of bantering. Your view seems to be that of a platoon leader than that of a tracker and is based from what you experienced in your army at your time. That is you impression from your own experiences during that conflict at that time, in what used to be your country. I have been tracking and teaching tracking for a while and my opinions are shaped from my military service and my experiences as a tracker. I have never had a soldier or marine go away from a course not able to track, NEVER. Most Combat Arms soldiers I come in contact with want the skill. So when I make my comments about tracking its coming from what I see going on in our military and the need to reintroduce a skill at a level based on how we fight today. We are an all-volunteer force. We are not Rhodesia. We are not organized into sticks. We don’t have Alouette helicopters and the terrain that our soldiers will fight on tend to be different than that of our own country. I know the Rhodesian military structure was different than ours. I think historically you guys came up with some very innovative ways of fighting your enemy. But I also think your speaking from the past rather than doing some research and find out what we are doing here now. For some time the U.S. and some of the Coalition have been using tracking on a small scale and it has proved quite successful. When I first posted my thread I posted it in the “trigger puller” section because I wanted to generate some discussion as it relates currently not historically and I wanted to hear from guys who were “trigger pullers”. I didn’t want to get caught up on the past. My thread was then moved to the historical section because it was thought “appropriate”. I didn’t want to get into a historical Rhodesia debate which is why I didn’t post there in the first place because I knew you and I would be having this conversation about Rhodesia. It just seems counterproductive. By the way it’s not “Burham” its Burnham. If you want to PM me feel free but there are some things I will not discuss openly on this forum.
    "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

  5. #125
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Do you even read the threads in which you post?

    Quote Originally Posted by JMA View Post
    Tracking itself is a skill that has a narrow application... Later when they operated in the areas of high population density with domestic cattle and goats tracking became less in demand due to very limited success.
    Again, one war in one locale at one time. Wars vary. Situations differ. Enemy and Terrain differ. METT-TC is older than you and I together...
    I would be interested to hear where the US military has used tracking to any significant degree in recent operations / small wars? This together with actual combat experience so as to establish to what extent the approaches to tracking being debated are merely theoretical or based on hard experience.
    Not terribly necessary in the urban battles in Iraq, not much use in other, smaller wars since Viet Nam LINK There's one link, Google has many more -- a lot of which are posted earlier in this thread...

    Working with the tracker Teams in Viet Nam leads me to see your point but not totally agree; that METT-TC thing again. Depending upon the mission and operation, Tracker Teams can be of great or of no value. My observation has also been that you can train most guys, in combat, to an acceptable level of tracking skill. YMMV.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
    Again, one war in one locale at one time. Wars vary. Situations differ. Enemy and Terrain differ. METT-TC is older than you and I together...
    Exactly, that is why there is no point in trying to train up one combat tracking team (CTT) per infantry platoon. Attach/embed/whatever your CTT to battalions/companies/platoons as the operations circumstances in a given conflict may demand.

    Not terribly necessary in the urban battles in Iraq, not much use in other, smaller wars since Viet Nam LINK There's one link, Google has many more -- a lot of which are posted earlier in this thread...
    OK, so from that website we see the application very similar other than the follow-up force operated as follows:

    From Combat Tracker Team (Vietnam) website: "The unit was usually supported by a platoon or larger force and worked well ahead of them to maintain noise discipline and the element of surprise."
    The variation obviously worked for them in the Vietnam setting, so there is nothing further to be said about it.

    Working with the tracker Teams in Viet Nam leads me to see your point but not totally agree; that METT-TC thing again. Depending upon the mission and operation, Tracker Teams can be of great or of no value. My observation has also been that you can train most guys, in combat, to an acceptable level of tracking skill. YMMV.
    Tracker teams are by definition trackers first and foremost. If they are able/required/needed to fulfill reconnaissance and/or other functions in addition to their primary function and reason for their existence then that is all good and well. A separate specialist unit is the best manner in which to keep their skills up. (I accept that in order to justify their existence trackers would need/tend/resort to hype their capabilities, don't blame them for this. But between ourselves lets try to keep it real)

    Acceptable level of tracking skill? What is that? To be honest with you Ken I can't possibly accept that a kid born and bred in NYC can compare with one born and bred in a wilderness area. Average in most cases is just not good enough... and when it comes to combat tracking this is especially so (IMHO).

    Damn I liked this quote from that website (maybe thats why veterans from wars always have so much in common)... I feel exactly the same about it all now 30 years on.
    “Our job was to find the enemy and re-establish contact,” Matt said. “When you were 20 years old, that sounded fun. When you’re 60, that’s crazy.”
    Now I suppose that's why they use 18-20 somethings for wars... they/we/I were too dumb then to understand the dangers.

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    Default What about Vietnam?

    "What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun." - Ecclesiastes 1:9-14

    Quote Originally Posted by TYR View Post
    I think we are separated by a common language as well as different terminology, doctrines and eras. IMHO I feel you are wrong and you probably feel the same about my opinions. I will not banter with you just for the sake of bantering. Your view seems to be that of a platoon leader than that of a tracker and is based from what you experienced in your army at your time. That is you impression from your own experiences during that conflict at that time, in what used to be your country. I have been tracking and teaching tracking for a while and my opinions are shaped from my military service and my experiences as a tracker.
    I am certainly not "wrong" but I can admit that the application of what I say (being what I learned at the feet of masters) may differ from one operational environment to the next.

    What I/we experienced (including from the early days in Mozambique), what the Combat Tracker Teams in Vietnam, what the Brits and Rhodesians and others experienced in Malaya, what the Australians experienced in Vietnam and Timor cannot simply be ignored because it is in that past.

    Trackers don't decide how the war is fought. Tracking skills are applied to the prevailing conditions as passed on through the chain of command. Where individual trackers are psychologically suited for recce work their skills will be valuable in this regard.

    In the absence of live operational tracking against live, armed enemy and combat experience in a specific tracking setting one understands that there may be a tendency to theorise on the tactical employment. This is really unnecessary in the environments mentioned as there are people who have the experience to draw on. Certainly in the US there must be at least a handful of suitable experts from among the hundreds of Vietnam era trackers who must surely be consulted and their experience drawn on?

    There is absolutely no reason to attempt to reinvent the wheel.

    I have never had a soldier or marine go away from a course not able to track, NEVER. Most Combat Arms soldiers I come in contact with want the skill. So when I make my comments about tracking its coming from what I see going on in our military and the need to reintroduce a skill at a level based on how we fight today. We are an all-volunteer force.
    Well we are back to what constitutes a tracker. What does able to track mean? (same sort of question I asked Ken)

    The best way to reintroduce the skill of tracking is to redefine it in its most basic terms and let it be assessed whether there is a real need army wide or just as a specialist niche. Tracking is tracking and the ability to follow spoor and read sign has nothing to do with "how we fight today" but rather how follow-up actions can be extended into the night and further assisted by thermal and other technologies to continue operations on a 24/7 basis.

    We are not Rhodesia. We are not organized into sticks. We don’t have Alouette helicopters and the terrain that our soldiers will fight on tend to be different than that of our own country.
    That is a meaningless paragraph.

    Is all your previous experience meaningless? If you served in Iraq is that service and combat experience meaningless when now operating in Afghanistan? Of course not. You take that experience and you use it, adapt it , draw from it and are better able to contribute in the battlefield you find yourself today.

    Tracking in Rhodesia was a great learning curve for trackers as there is a large diversity of terrain/geographical/vegetation types. The Alouette helicopter was in a lot ways ideal for our war there. Initially it lifted sticks/callsigns of 5 then after the strela mods and the armoured seat for the pilot sticks were reduced to 4. So the tracking team and all other army callsigns became organised in multiples of 4. And it could fit into small, tight LZs. Difficult to shoot down as you needed to take the pilot out, hit the fuel line or the tail rotor. And cheap too.

    Yes, in an army which fights all over the world trackers need to be trained in diverse areas with diverse terrain, geography and vegetation. (Thats why I said earlier a tracking unit would need to be formed to house these specialists and ensure a comprehensive training program to keep them current in situations from desert through to snow.)

    I know the Rhodesian military structure was different than ours. I think historically you guys came up with some very innovative ways of fighting your enemy.
    But the tracking team was also 4 men like in Vietnam. Great minds think alike - except that our experience with dogs was not a success.

    Well in the early days we attached many of our trackers to work with the Portuguese forces in Mozambique. So by the time they were needed locally they were experienced and operationally competent. Note: they did not say "what the hell can the Porks teach us?"

    We also drew on the Malayan experience as both our C Squadron SAS were there as were the RAR (Rhodesia African Rifles) and a number of officers had served with other Brit regiments in Malaya.

    But I also think your speaking from the past rather than doing some research and find out what we are doing here now. For some time the U.S. and some of the Coalition have been using tracking on a small scale and it has proved quite successful.
    See my quote inserted at the top of this post.

    And of course I/we would be thrilled to see how the tactics have been adapted to enemy and terrain... but then you can't tell us any more about that because this is an open forum, yes? So what exactly were you wanting to discuss?

  8. #128
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default All Armies are or were filled with average people. All.

    They may have had or now have some exceptional people but those were just that, exceptional. They were or are also few in number and were or are on both ends of that exceptional spectrum, good and bad.
    Quote Originally Posted by JMA View Post
    Tracker teams are by definition trackers first and foremost...
    I don't think anyone here is suggesting otherwise...
    Acceptable level of tracking skill? What is that?
    Ability to spot major and easily identified sign, the odd broken branch or scuffed spot in the dust -- Fieldcraft (or Bushcraft) 101. The big stuff, not a tracker, just an alert kid who is very situationally aware -- a good, basic, competent combat infantryman, no more.
    To be honest with you Ken I can't possibly accept that a kid born and bred in NYC can compare with one born and bred in a wilderness area.
    The average rural bred will have advantages over the average city bred in field combat situations (the reverse is somewhat true in urban combat -- it take all kinds...) but all born and bred in a wilderness area are not automatically junior F.C. Selous types -- wasn't he a born and bred Londoner -- Rugby grad? -- in any event? Not going to Africa until he was 19, the age of many young soldiers...
    Average in most cases is just not good enough... and when it comes to combat tracking this is especially so (IMHO).
    It has been my observation that average is exactly what you get most of the time in most Armies. On average, it proves adequate -- not great, just adequate.
    Damn I liked this quote from that website (maybe thats why veterans from wars always have so much in common)... I feel exactly the same about it all now 30 years on.
    I've noticed that outlook in a great many one time good Soldiers and Marines who moved on to other things. Not nearly so prevalent an attitude in the long timers for whom it was just a job, not an exciting or interesting interlude to be relived.

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Thumbs up Focus required

    Focus please on TYR's quest:
    For some time the U.S. and some of the Coalition have been using tracking on a small scale and it has proved quite successful. When I first posted my thread I posted it in the “trigger puller” section because I wanted to generate some discussion as it relates currently not historically and I wanted to hear from guys who were “trigger pullers”. I didn’t want to get caught up on the past.
    I admit t'was I who moved TYR's opening thread to this old thread as it was
    appropriate
    ..

    OPSEC withstanding, can we discuss the current situation?
    davidbfpo

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    Talking Well, obviously JMA and I

    cannot...

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    Perhaps Fort Benning should hire JMA as a consultant to be its moral conscience. He could be to light infantry tactics as David Kilcullen is to counterinsurgency doctrine.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
    They may have had or now have some exceptional people but those were just that, exceptional. They were or are also few in number and were or are on both ends of that exceptional spectrum, good and bad.
    Working on the Brit grading system (A, B+, B, B-, etc down to C-) Rhodesia had 2 A grade military trackers (Clemance and Watt) and then a handful of B+'s then more in each group was you went lower down the order. These exceptional people set the standard would-be aspirant trackers could aspire to. One needs the standard to be set and not allow every one to do their own thing and set their own standard... which often will be pretty low. (Note: there were many outstanding African trackers who worked mainly for the Game Department but could not be fully utilised in war settings as they had no wish to die in the war. Who could blame them.)

    You would know how exceptional leaders would get the best out of often otherwise very average troops. A handful of exceptional officers and snr NCOs can turn an average battalion into a formidable fighting force. Seen that myself and no doubt you have on a number occasions as well.

    My point in all this is that average trackers (in my experience) seldom were able to track to contact... and they could never tell when contact was imminent. That in my humble opinion is the differentiator. Probability of making contact and the 6th sense to know when the sh*t was about to hit the fan. You knew when you were working with the best as there were no surprises.

    Another thing is that invariably the best trackers had better than 20:20 vision.

    I don't think anyone here is suggesting otherwise...
    Well in saying that tracking skill is the most important I would go further to say that one should consider specifically recruiting people with proven tracking skills foremost then giving them the necessary military traning to function within a combat tracking team in conjunction with a follow-up force.

    So I would suggest that you go find these kids in the wild areas and offer them a job. They probably know how to shoot too.

    Ability to spot major and easily identified sign, the odd broken branch or scuffed spot in the dust -- Fieldcraft (or Bushcraft) 101. The big stuff, not a tracker, just an alert kid who is very situationally aware -- a good, basic, competent combat infantryman, no more.
    If you followed the thread of Service Academies then see post #62 where I suggested a means to address this bushcraft/woodcraft training and at the same time build confidence. Note: this is valuable not only for officer training but across the board.

    During such training (if it were ever to take place) you would soon see who had the natural aptitude for tracking and steer them in that career direction (if one still exists).

    The average rural bred will have advantages over the average city bred in field combat situations (the reverse is somewhat true in urban combat -- it take all kinds...) but all born and bred in a wilderness area are not automatically junior F.C. Selous types -- wasn't he a born and bred Londoner -- Rugby grad? -- in any event? Not going to Africa until he was 19, the age of many young soldiers...
    Selous was a hunter/adventurer/soldier/conservationist (not quite sure how they reconcile hunting on the scale carried out by Selous with conservation) and not a tracker or scout in the sense Burnham was.

    This quote says it all: "Burnham is the finest scout who ever scouted in Africa. He was my Chief of Scouts in '96 in Matabeleland and he was the the eyes and ears of my force." — Gen. Carrington, British Army commander during the Second Matabele War.

    Burnham was the man, but probably because Selous had made a name for himself and become a household name in the UK he received naming rights. (Note: the original Selous Scouts was in fact armoured car reconnaissance regiment which was disbanded and then reborn as the Selous Scouts as most people know it)

    It has been my observation that average is exactly what you get most of the time in most Armies. On average, it proves adequate -- not great, just adequate.
    OK, and we know by experience to win the shooting part of a war all you need to be is better than your enemy. No more. Then there are those of us who want to improve our odds by being with a better than average unit. Soldiering can only be fun if you are kicking ass, yes?

    I've noticed that outlook in a great many one time good Soldiers and Marines who moved on to other things. Not nearly so prevalent an attitude in the long timers for whom it was just a job, not an exciting or interesting interlude to be relived.
    A lot of things change as one ages. Some of us drive slower, drink less, take less risks. Maybe it is only when looking back from the "responsible" position as family provider and grandfather that one can see the dangers in the actions of so many years ago that were not apparent at the time.

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    Tracking skills are rare in "civilized" populaces, but handy.

    I had the privilege to serve with Colonel (retired) Larry Brown who earned the nickname of "Superscout" during, I believe, his first tour in Nam flying scout helos in the 9th Cav. The unit was in pursuit of a group of VC, and Larry hovered low over an exposed section of muddy trail, and drawing a mental box, counting the number of footprints and dividing by two, he was able to report a direction, number of enemy, and an estimate of when they had passed. Later the enemy was interdicted, verifying his report. His commander changed his assessment that Larry was a major bull####ter to one that he was a "Superscout," and the name stuck.

    It was a moniker he revalidated countless times during his multiple tours and countless engagements in that conflict. (He's still a hell of a pilot and one crazy SOB last I heard).
    Robert C. Jones
    Intellectus Supra Scientia
    (Understanding is more important than Knowledge)

    "The modern COIN mindset is when one arrogantly goes to some foreign land and attempts to make those who live there a lesser version of one's self. The FID mindset is when one humbly goes to some foreign land and seeks first to understand, and then to help in some small way for those who live there to be the best version of their own self." Colonel Robert C. Jones, US Army Special Forces (Retired)

  14. #134
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
    Tracking skills are rare in "civilized" populaces, but handy.
    Your point is both true, and false in the same sentence.

    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).

    This is not some skill that is depicted in "John Wayne" movies, but utilized in theater now. I have done the hand off to a Tracking Dog Team at a Post Blast in the outskirts of Baghdad, I have also tracked Triggermen leaving the location of where they detonated the device from. It provided essential information that the manuever element utilized and tasked various organic assets to go seek more information.

    Yes, it is "handy", however it is also utilized in not only rural, but urban environments, which I have personally been used as a Tracker on for more missions than I can count on my fingers and toes combined.
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 08-15-2010 at 07:53 AM. Reason: FM paragraphs in quotes

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    Quote Originally Posted by JMA View Post
    Burnham was the man, but probably because Selous had made a name for himself and become a household name in the UK he received naming rights.
    And don't forget Burnham was an American. I expect that had something to do with it also.

    But the same sort of thing happened during the American frontier era. W.F. Cody became famous as a scout and was a household name. Cody was a good hunter, marksman, and tracker but men like Al Sieber, Tom Horn, and Billy Dixon were probably as good if not better. But Sieber, Horn and Dixon just never had the same name recognition.
    Last edited by Rifleman; 08-15-2010 at 05:26 AM.
    "Pick up a rifle and you change instantly from a subject to a citizen." - Jeff Cooper

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rifleman View Post
    And don't forget Burnham was an American. I expect that had something to do with it also.

    But the same sort of thing happened during the American frontier era. W.F. Cody became famous as a scout and was a household name. Cody was a good hunter, marksman, and tracker but men like Al Sieber, Tom Horn, and Billy Dixon were probably as good if not better. But Sieber, Horn and Dixon just never had the same name recognition.
    A blast from the past: Mountain scouting. Can be legally downloaded for free here.

    CHAPTER XV

    THE TRAIL, SIGNS AND SIGNALS.

    THE difficult art of trailing or tracking is of great importance in Indian warfare.
    ...

    Much valuable information may be obtained by carefully observing 'signs'; but to follow a trail successfully, one must not only possess a thorough understanding of all 'signs,' but also a knowledge of the character and habits of the thing trailed, the general features of the country round about, and the powers of the eye and ear must be cultivated to a great degree of acuteness.
    ...

    The trailer should not allow anything deviating from the common order of things to escape a rigid investigation. A close scrutiny will generally reveal both the plan and purpose of every active living creature...
    ...

    When trailing Indians, it is often important to know the
    especial customs of the various tribes. With this knowledge, the examination of the deserted camps, halting and resting places will invariably reveal the identity of the tribe once there ; the fashion of fire-making, the style, cut and finish of the moccasin, the form of lodge, etc., are all unmistakable evidences.
    Firn

    P.S: This part I find personally very interesting, as there donkeys and mules were also used in Europe to protect "their" flock of sheep togheter with dogs and the shepherds. The increasing number of large mammals of prey in the Alps, foremost bears and wolves has revived that old practice in some regions.

    If there be a mule with the party, it will be well worth the while to carefully watch his actions. If he stubbornly seeks a certain direction, with his head high and ears thrown forward, and seems much engaged, something is surely approaching ; it may only be a bear or some smaller animal, but it will be well to be on the alert until the cause of the trouble is known.
    There you have another reason to revive part of the mountain infantry tradition of the Muli. Plus a well-proven source of practical jokes and pictures would return and one could try if his stone-bound-to-the-tail trick would really prevent them from crying.
    Last edited by Firn; 08-15-2010 at 09:46 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rifleman View Post
    And don't forget Burnham was an American. I expect that had something to do with it also.

    But the same sort of thing happened during the American frontier era. W.F. Cody became famous as a scout and was a household name. Cody was a good hunter, marksman, and tracker but men like Al Sieber, Tom Horn, and Billy Dixon were probably as good if not better. But Sieber, Horn and Dixon just never had the same name recognition.
    Yes I agree and probably also because Burnham moved on after the Matebele Wars. If he had left his bones in Africa it may have been a different story.

    Also the Brits love their heroes to be excentric and to die heroically. Selous fitted the bill more in this regard.

    KIA in the First World War in East Africa against the Germans by a sniper.

    "Teddy" Roosevelt (also a somewhat larger than life character) wrote this upon his death:
    He led a singularly adventurous and fascinating life, with just the right alternations between the wilderness and civilization. He helped spread the borders of his people's land. He added much to the sum of human knowledge and interest. He closed his life exactly as such a life ought to be closed, by dying in battle for his country while rendering her valiant and effective service. Who could wish a better life or a better death, or desire to leave a more honourable heritage to his family and his nation?
    His legendary love of tea made him very "English" and when you read about the regiment he was serving with when he died you get an insight into the world of British eccentricity - 25th (Frontiersmen) Battalion, Royal Fusiliers.
    Last edited by JMA; 08-15-2010 at 10:29 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Firn View Post
    A blast from the past: Mountain scouting. Can be legally downloaded for free here.
    As has been said: "What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun."

    Where in today's North America would one find a resource pool of already accomplished trackers in their early 20s?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tracker275 View Post
    Yes, it is "handy", however it is also utilized in not only rural, but urban environments, which I have personally been used as a Tracker on for more missions than I can count on my fingers and toes combined.
    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?

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    Quote Originally Posted by davidbfpo View Post
    Focus please on TYR's quest:

    I admit t'was I who moved TYR's opening thread to this old thread as it was ..[appropriate]

    OPSEC withstanding, can we discuss the current situation?
    Of course David. The problem (as always) is the OPSEC issue.

    If one cannot discuss detail on the tactical employment of trackers in today's wars because of OPSEC then what can really be discussed?

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