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  • Fernando Moreira

Tracking for Law Enforcement and Military

Over the last few years, U.S. Law Enforcement Agencies have seen a rise in criminal/suspects fleeing into rural areas, woodlands, mountains, swamp and even desert areas in an attempt to evade arrest. Experts contribute this growing strategy by criminal elements largely to individuals involved in certain movements/hobbies. Some of these include individuals who have participated in growing civil un-rest & anti-government anarchist militia groups. Whether they receive their training formally through the military, open source channels like the Internet or by attending military style “Tactical” courses where they receive small unit type training; it’s well known that some of these people train frequently.

In 2015 a Law Enforcement Agency discovered that a local Sovereign Citizen group was not only training in weapons handling skills but also training in advanced small unit tactics that included coordinated raids and ambushes. Their source of information was the popular SH 21-76 Ranger Handbook which is readily available to download on the internet. This particular group legally bought a copy from Amazon. As for the frequency of training, they met every other Tuesday for ‘range training’ to hone shooting skills. This sixteen hour sustainment standard of training was inspired by the open source NTOA’s SWAT Standards, which is also on the internet. This is one case of many, it’s not the first and certainly won’t be the last. With increasing political riff in the U.S., more groups are sure to rise.

Information like this, should be a “wake up call” to Law Enforcement agencies especially those that have rural areas in their jurisdiction. Sadly, most U.S. Law Enforcement Agencies have underestimated the need and value of rural small unit tactics training for their officer, resulting in serious injuries and LEO deaths.

In most of these cases which we, Professional Trackers Services, discuss and pull lessons for the course taught could have been prevented with the type of training we at PTS provide. In the death of National Park Ranger Anderson in 2012, the suspect, an Iraq war veteran, employed basic infantry small unit tactics against them from high ground. If the officers on scene had been trained in basic small unit tactics, they could have employed a basic battle drill know as “React To Contact-Far” and could have saved Ranger Anderson’s life. In response of the need for this type of life-saving training for Patrol and Tactical Officers, the National Tactical Officer’s Association released the 2015 Response and Operations Standard for Law Enforcement Agencies. Among other training advancements, NTOA mandated that a Tier 1 and 2 SWAT teams be fully trained in Tactical Tracking an Wooded Terrain Operations for Rural High Risk Apprehensions. Included within the section were other specialized skill sets needed for successful rural tactical operations from land navigation to vehicle ambushes (take downs). In support of this mandate and to meet this critical training needed, a training group was created, The Training Groups Rural/Woodland POI’s (Programs Of Instruction) not only meet the NTOA’s standards, but exceed them. We at Professional Trackers Services believe in providing the Law Enforcement Officers with the best and most up to date training available to accomplish their mission and to come home safe.

Visual tracking is not only an asset to Law Enforcement, but it is and can be a vital tool for the use of military operations. Tactical Tracking or, as it’s called in some militaries, Combat Hunters, can be used not only by conventional infantry units, or Special Operations units, but also in the military law enforcement side of the house too. For the combat arms, or personnel attached to a combat arms unit, the trackers can be a vital asset through finding sign of insurgents or main line enemy forces and be able to follow the sign to the enemy location. Through communication with the tracker team and it’s command element, proper planning to execute plans to conduct combat operations. These teams can also be used to pre-identify any routes of enemy forces, locate possible IED or other ‘booby traps’. Forces with Special Operations i.e. U.S. Army, U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps that conduct Deep Reconnaissance Patrols, can utilize the trackers toolbox to not only find enemy routes, but to follow, locate and call in whatever weapons platforms to destroy the enemy location or call in a pre-planned raid. Members of these elite teams that are also tracker trained can be utilized in conducting a raid on a High Value Target (HVT) and begin the search for any ‘runaways’ or as some call, ‘squirters’.

Sniper teams with security element can be trained as trackers as well. As the “eyes” of the Battalion or as low as the Company, the snipers can locate sign of possible insurgent/enemy locations for possible ambushes, this goes for reconnaissance teams as well. One incident, of a trained individual occurred in Afghanistan, 2003. A Special Forces Group B-Team and it’s A-Teams had been ‘harassed’ by a poorly trained, poor shooting ‘sniper’, but still irritating. The B-Team Commander asked one of his attached ‘strap hanger’ soldiers if he (had some tracking skills) could possibly locate where the shooter was coming from. A general idea of the shooters location was known. The soldier, B-Team Commander and a security element went into the suspected area and within a short time the shooters location was found. Very visible sign of the person low stepping then crawling up a shallow run off, approximately 1-2 feet deep, taking a shooting position, the individual even left spent brass. Sign of the shooter was found of him egressing and sign of a motorcycle parked and leaving. Counter-sniper teams were employed and the same evening of the day the sign was found, the threat was eliminated.

Military law enforcement can benefit from tracker training as well. While maintaining security of field operated EPW camps and even at larger more secure sites, having trained police/correctional or augmented ‘guard forces’ trained to track in the event of an EPW escape. Never say never, it may happen.

When these units, whether conventional or special operations get ‘boots on the ground’, the trackers should start training in the area they’re working in. Is it sandy? Marshy, swampy or heavily forested? Is it a rural operations or also urban areas.

Tactical Trackers/Combat Hunters are a valuable asset to any weapons platform and give commanders on the ground one more tool to defeat the enemy.

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