Sunday, December 09, 2007
Well, I'm finally back from Fort Huachuca. The two week tracking course I just finished was unbelievable. I'm not sure what I expected to get from it, but it certainly exceeded whatever expectations I had.
The course was taught by David Scott-Donelan, a man who basically has written the book (literally actually) on modern tracking in a combat environment. If you're interested his bio is found here. To cut his long story short, he operated in the Rhodesian Special Forces for over 20 years, fighting communist terrorists that were infiltrating the small country of Rhodesia for more than 25 years. He's now a US citizen and has spent the last 15 years trying to convince the US military that tracking is an essential skill that has been overlooked, he's finally starting to win a lot of top brass over.
So that's that.
Basically for the past 2 weeks I have been at Fort Huachuca, AZ, learning the 'ancient' skill of tracking, but more importantly how to apply it to today's battlefield. My platoon sent 5 guys, and we were joined by Navy SEALS, some combat search and rescue, British SAS, Army Intel, etc. From start to finish I'm amazed by the level of proficiency that we were able to achieve in tracking. I'm not Crocodile Dundee, and I can't put my fingers in a track and commune with my quarry, but if you shoot at me and decide to run away into the woods, I'm pretty sure that I can find you. I really am not going to go into too much detail about techniques and methods that were taught, the instructors at times mentioned that things, while not 'classified', would be valuable to the enemy if known. So just use your imagination.
We obviously did a lot of tracking both weeks, with exercises continuing to build on each other. The fort was a great place to hold the school because there were so many different environments to track through- savanna, desert, mountain, forest, it had it all. The first Friday we tracked our quarry 11 clickes up a 7,000 foot mountain (and then it poured on us on the way down).
One of the most important things that I took from the class was a new understanding of our border situation. Like I mentioned before, this Army base is on the Mexico border. A lot of the people that go through this combat tracker course are law enforcement professionals (Border Patrol, FBI, DEA, ATF, etc), and so David is very passionate about what is happening along the US-Mexico border. He showed us all kinds of power point presentations created by these agencies designed for new joins. The situation is NUTS. We're talking low-intensity warfare. WARFARE on our border. Contract killings, drug lords running combat patrols, ex-Mexican military special forces being bought and hired by drug lords, gun running into this country, you name it, it's going on. I saw video/photos of all of this, most of it 'internal' or classified. If this stuff ran on CNN everyone's opinion would change.
While we were doing our tracking exercises in the wilderness around base, we could pick up the drug trafficker's radio frequency and listen to them in their observation posts, that were located ON base, as they watched us move around. We'd be tracking someone and come across a path that had been used the previous night by drug runners with 70 pound packs of weed on their backs. We would find their little rest stops, complete with litter and broken light bulbs. You find the light bulbs because that's what the mules use to take their meth (they take meth because they have to make the 30 mile trek from the border across base to the pickup site in one night, with 70 pounds on their back, the meth gives them super-human endurance).
The scariest thing I heard while I was there? Al Qaeda tried paying the drug czar across the border $10,000 a head to get snuck across the border into the fort with weapons and missiles. They were going to shave their beards so that they would better fit in. Wow. Let's NOT build a wall, that sounds great. By the way, I did see the border, and it consists of three barb wire strands. Awesome.
at 7:44 PM