Taking RECOIL “On Track”
Editor’s Note: The following article is by Mr. Freddy Osuna, HMFIC of Greenside Training and author of Index Tracking: Essential Guide to Trailing Man and Beast. A cornerstone of the current state of the skill and art of tracking is David Scott-Donelan of the Scott Donelan Tracking School, founder and former owner of Tactical Tracking Operations School. It was while working for the extraordinary (and mercurial) Mr. Scott-Donelan that I originally met the author. We were introduced at Camp Pendleton, back before the introduction of the Marine Corps Combat Hunter Program. At the time Freddy was assigned as the Staff NOCIC of the 1ST Marine Marksmanship Training Unit. We worked together then and have taught together in the years since.
I’ve worked with some very good trackers over the years: Vaught, Hull, Drake, Dunn…Freddy Osuna is simply one of the best I’ve seen. He is the guy who can actually do the improbable things trackers do in the movies. Tracking at a fundamental level hasn’t changed since hairy guys with sharp sticks were chasing woolly mammoths, but tactics evolve — and so does Freddy. He constantly seeks to improve his craft and his ability to teach it. In fact, his focus borders on Samurai-like devotion. I highly recommend both his book and his courses.
Making Trackers Who See
During the French & Indian War of the 1750s, an American warrior named Major Robert Rogers emerged as one of the first of a long line of innovators in small-unit tactics in this country. His guerrilla-style tactics mirrored that of the outnumbered and outgunned Native Americans whom he’d grown up with. Robert Rogers and his troops, Rogers’ Rangers, operated as an autonomous entity on the battlefield, relying on stealth, speed, and the ability to self-sustain with little support. Rogers created a set of rules know as Rogers Rules of Ranging, which he compiled based on his blending of the Native American and Colonial Frontiersman-style of fighting.
Tracking is mentioned in 4 of those 28 rules.
Today the 21st-Century American warrior is still applying the craft of American combat tracking on battlefields on more than one continent. These Gen X and Gen Y combat trackers are every bit the warrior as those who comprised Rogers’ Rangers, but with two significant advantages. These advantages make them perhaps the best trackers in history — they have over two centuries of hard lessons learned, and they have the benefit of modern technology.
War fosters innovation (ask the Rhodesians and the Israelis; both have superb trackers). We have seen this manifest in the tracking realm along with an explosion of interest in visual tracking skills over the last 12-plus years. David Scott-Donlean, a former captain with C Squadron SAS and the Selous Scouts of Rhodesia, and a small number of U.S.-born trackers have been almost solely responsible for reigniting that interest here in the United States. Over a decade of fighting in Iraq, Afghanistan, and classified locations in Africa and other places have honed those skills to a level never before seen in the America military or law enforcement experience. The diffusion of former military trackers into the civilian populace along with the ability of expanding social technologies to inform and educate a curious citizenry has helped to make tracking a far less misunderstood craft and skill than ever before.
As a former student of Scott-Donelan and other mentors, I have benefited both from old-school traditional techniques and the newest combat TTPs brought home from overseas. Though at a foundational level the point of tracking is to identify, follow, and find one or more individuals (whether to interdict them, render aid, or for some other purpose), ultimately any tracker needs to see more. Goals and missions change — the need to see and to interpret does not. There is more to it than locating and following footprints, something that is both simple and incredibly complex.
Greenside’s goal is to create trackers to see more, and our techniques are proven on quantifiable, result-based methods. A Greenside tracker must demonstrate and understanding of and an ability to perform what I call the 3 Pillars of Index Tracking:
1. A tracker must develop criteria/standards for evaluating spoor.
2. A tracker must be able to determine precise directions of travel and index gaits.
3. A tracker must have an acute environmental awareness and ability to maintain a low signature.
How we achieve these learning objectives is the most exciting part of our course. All of our lessons are designed to stimulate comprehension and retention through visual and kinesthetic stimulation. Every lesson is backed and reinforced by various practical application exercises we call ‘pillar drills’. These drills are evaluated by a scoring process that allows class participants to know exactly where they stand amongst their peers when it comes to using the Eyeball Mk1. It’s very interesting to find that this scoring system consistently reflects those who’ve previously had observation training and who haven’t. We know this system works and the reason is because those students who have sniping or reconnaissance background score at the top of the 5% every time because they’re accustomed to applying their vision differently than other troops.
Watching the others learn those techniques and seeing “the light come on” is immensely gratifying. A specialized background helps, but the skills can be learned by anyone with the motivation to learn.
As you read this I am driving to Phoenix, Arizona, to meet with RECOIL Editor Iain Harrison and RECOIL Web Editor David Reeder, whom I’ve taught with before. David is going to help me as I teach a tactical tracking class to Iain and a mixed group of students from both urban and rural areas. Here is a look at what I’ll be covering over the next three days. If all goes well you’ll read what they thought of the class and what they learned in a future edition of RECOIL.
- Visual Indicators
- Footwear Characteristics
- Track & Trail Mechanics
- Criteria for confirming sign
- Reading Directional Indicators
- Interpreting Ground Sign
- Index Tracking
- The Tracker’s OODA Loop
- G.L.I.N.T Green Laser Index Night Tracking
- Immediate Action Drills
- Search Techniques
- Tactical Tracker Scenario
Hope to see you at a course soon. Until then, track on!
About the author: Freddy Osuna has been involved in tracking for over 20 years. A former Marine and a Yaqui Indian who grew up in the desert of Arizona, Osuna was an infantry squad leader with 1/4 Marines before completing the Scout Sniper indoc program and Scout Sniper School. He worked as Staff NCOIC, 1ST Marine MTU, was awarded a Gold Star for his Marine Corps Achievement Medal in lieu of second award for excellence in innovative training techniques and was medically separated from the Marine Corps for combat injuries sustained in OIF2. The author of Index Tracking: Essential Guide to Trailing Man and Beast, over the last few years he has led a team of innovative minds who have researched, studied, test and applied various techniques that directly enhance or supplement the techniques taught by any credible tracking school. Significant among these are GLINT (Green Laser Index Night Tracking) and their Battlefield Tactical Acuity Courses (BTAC). Though Greenside specializes in the interdiction of highly evasive individuals who rely on terrain exploitation to harass or evade our forces, it does not (as many other schools do) focus on the TTPs necessary for running a tracking operation. Greenside creates trackers who see more. Greenside offers classes for military, L.E., ESAR and civilian enthusiasts alike. To learn more please visit them on the web or Facebook.