Michael's Dispatches

On Track


Borneo Island

25 April 2009

The plan was to be back in Afghanistan by now.  Yet there are issues beyond my control that have kept me in a holding pattern.  And so I came down to Borneo to keep reading up on Afghanistan while practicing photography.

Borneo, which straddles the equator, is home to incredible amounts of wildlife.  I greatly enjoy bird photography which – believe it or not – I find is technically far more difficult than combat photography.  Like writing, photography is not a skill that can be put in the closet and pulled out when needed.  You’ve got to practice.  This is especially true for combat because the photographer must think fast while bullets are snapping around, and so the camera work needs to be instinctive.  Writing about combat is actually very easy.  On the subject of writing, this message is just a quick email that I’ve sent to my webmaster to publish for you.  The only editing it will get is a spell check, so I ask forgiveness.

Borneo, straddling the equator, is the 4th largest island in the world and is comprised of three countries: Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei.  The island contains some of the most pristine jungle on the planet, and I love jungle, so the rest is easy to figure out.  I flew first to Brunei, which is a tiny, wealthy, Islamic country where the people are very friendly.  Nobody comes here for wild parties because alcohol is forbidden and drug related offenses can be terminal.  Brunei is mostly off the tourist trail, creating a quiet, unassuming and hospitable atmosphere.  It’s extremely safe to travel here and Americans are welcome, and I would suggest you come to Brunei if you like peaceful, pleasant people, and lots of jungle.

So I landed and next day toured around to get the lay of the land.  On day three, I tried to find some Iban people who descended from headhunters, because I wanted to go hunting with a blowgun and poison darts.  By the time I found an Iban who had the hardware, it was late in the day and too late to ask him to take me hunting.  (I had to catch a boat back downriver.)  Back at the hotel, I posted something about being in Brunei, and packed my bags for the Malaysian part of the island where there is a big mountain I wanted to climb.

Readers come to the website from well over a hundred countries, and when an officer from the British Army noticed I was in Brunei, he invited me to meet the next morning.  And so to make a short story even shorter, while having lunch with some British officers who were obviously quite proud of their work here, I asked if it would be possible to attend their military tracking school.  They were happy with the idea, but of course this would require approval from London.  That was lunchtime.  Within maybe four hours, approval was granted from London, and I began the embed that very day.  Next morning, the Brits outfitted me with some gear – such as a hammock, mosquito net and some rations – and I headed off to the jungle to one of the best tracking schools on the planet.  The class had just started so I happened to come to Brunei at just the right moment.  (Sometimes I think God really loves me.)  So this is the deal: I get to go to the jungle, learn tracking with the British Army, and photograph everything.  Then I get to write emails and send photos to you explaining what the Brits are doing out here.  For about the next 2-3 weeks, I’ll tell you about this amazing course.

I’ll keep the writing in this email style, so that I can give you quick updates about each day’s training.

I can tell you this much from the first week; this training clearly could save British and American lives in Afghanistan.  The uses are plainly obvious, the training is not expensive, and the skills are acquirable.  Yet few American soldiers know the first thing about tracking.

Your Writer,




Please click here for Part II of this series on the tracking course in Borneo.


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  • This commment is unpublished.
    Bill · 12 years ago
    Yes, and now you have your 100 to shoot sign with!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    runescape money · 12 years ago
    Just wanted to say HI. I found your blog a few days ago and have been reading it over the past few days.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Darren Lynn · 12 years ago
    Borneo can you get an update on the bio eco front while your their? not much on the ground reporting there.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Doris · 12 years ago
    We have been sending $10 a month for over a year now as we support and admire your work. Thank you for being a voice of truth regarding our brave volunteer soldiers. May you continue to do so for as long as they are called on to perform heroic service for our country.

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