Michael's Dispatches

Tracking Afghanistan


Afghanistan Veteran, 23 year-old Royal Marine Craig Tucker
19 May 2009

American Special Operations Forces are eager to receive tracking training, but very few attain any tracking skills that extend much beyond common experience.  This reality translates into a profound and unnecessary weakness.  An experienced Green Beret who spent years as an Army Ranger recently told me, “Getting our guys to tracking school is almost an act of congress.”

Royal Marine Craig Tucker is a believer.  On his first tour of Afghanistan, he got launched into the air by a bomb that mostly failed.  Marine Tucker, above, recently attended the British tracking school on Borneo Island.  Marine Tucker gives a “thousand yard stare” while I click some photos, then we burst into laughter before beginning another day of training.

Please read the following emails about the tracking course in Brunei.  The British military welcomes American forces to the school, but few attend.

On Track

Tracking Update

Quick email from Borneo Island:

Quick email from Borneo Island II:

Veterans vs. Veterans

A Beautiful Track

The Swamp of Death

May Day

Mysterious Places

Days 14 & 15

Tracking School: Day 16

Bird's Nest

"Tuning In"

Making Tracks

Sad News from Borneo

Pitcher Plant


Gurkha II

Gates Petraeus McKiernan McChrystal and Rodriguez

Gurkha III

Crab tracks on beach by the South China Sea, Borneo Island

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  • This commment is unpublished.
    J.C. Gorman · 12 years ago
    Michael: Just asking. What if anything do the troops think of Homeland Securities report tagging them as potential threats upon returning home? I know it is a loaded question but I am beyond angry and feel that the government has been co-opted by Quislings and anti-military bureaucrats. The anti-war 1960s generation has grown-up and is running things today.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Scott Dudley · 12 years ago
    Interesting question on the heels of a Sgt. suffering from stress opening fire on his fellow troops, killing several. It is not just the young and inexperienced that are suffering PTSD. In this context, the heads up by Napolitano was not out of line. Too bad it was used for political purposes but that is the America we live in today.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Kevin · 12 years ago

    Thanks for the fabulous quote from the Green Beret soldier regarding tracking and how it takes "An act of Congress" to get them to a tracking school. I have taken the initiative to email my 2 senators and my State representative, asking them to do what is takes to find out why it is so difficult to send our troops to this critical training. I've even directed them to your website for further details on the training, as I find it absolutely fascinating. I copied the following quote of years, please don't be offended. I did it in the best of interests. Here's the email:
    Dear Rep. Herseth Sandlin, Senator's Thune and Senator's Johnson,

    Please read the following excerpt from Michael Yon's Blog:

    "19 May 2009

    American Special Operations Forces are eager to receive tracking training, but very few attain any tracking skills that extend much beyond common experience. This reality translates into a profound and unnecessary weakness. An experienced Green Beret who spent years as an Army Ranger recently told me, ƒ??Getting our guys to tracking school is almost an act of congress.ƒ?

    I believe if you spent some time at the following website http://www.michaelyon-online.com/
    you would get an idea of how critical this training is for our men and women in the armed forces. Given the massive expenditure of time and money we are spending in Afghanistan this year, I can only imagine that this training would keep our soldiers alive, and would help them find those responsible for the daily chaos in that country.

    Please take the initiative to inquire from the Armed Forces why it is so difficult to provide this critical training to our soldiers.

    Thank you!

    Keep up the great work, and stay chilly in Afghanistan when you get there!

    I encourage all of your regular readers to do their part and CONTACT YOUR CONGRESS PEOPLE on this issue. Believe it or not, they do listen to their constituents from time to time....
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Dennis · 12 years ago
    Loved the tracking articles, tracking training valuable and ..... HEY! What is that last picture??

    Looks like:
    Michael was tracking a snail ... that ... burst out of the ground .... no
    (b) someone threw a fishing lure down onto the beach and reeled it in
    (c) Michael took a photo from a helicopter of some Jeep tracks taking fire and driving past a ..... giant log-shaped .... argh

    Okay, I give up. :-)
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Winefred · 12 years ago
    Actually, the green-eyed Royal Marine Tucker looks less mammalian than reptilian -- and that's the way we like 'em. God bless Tucker and all his compatriots, from a proud (U.S.) Marine and Navy mom.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Gismo Fly · 12 years ago
    Dear Mike,

    When this war is over I think National Geographic will want your services. Bloody good stuff!

  • This commment is unpublished.
    David Scott-Donelan · 11 years ago
    The US Army has a very good Combat Tracking School at Fort Huachuca in Arizona that has been in operation for close to 5 years, training thousands of US service men from all branches of the armed forces and US Federal Agencies. The course is world class and even the instructors and Commanders from the British Tracking School in Brunei have attended a class there, as have a number of our allies such as Canada, Britain, Australia, The Netherlands, Germany, Slovenia and many other nations/allies. The US Marine Corps has a Corps-wide program entitled Combat Hunter which entails three components: Observation by day and night, Combat Profiling and Combat Tracking. Both the Marines and Army have excellent programs of instruction (POI's), considered by some as the best in the world, that were written and taught by a 45 year tracking veteran of the Rhodesian Army, Selous Scouts, David Scott-Donelan

    To attend a FREE 10 day tracking class at Fort Huachuca or to arrange a Free MTT at your unit contact Gloria Daniel at Fort Huachuca on
    520-4 8-5 8 or the Tactical Tracking Operations School on 520-452-9000. There is a waiting list but patience will prevail!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Heath · 9 years ago
    Glad our allies & our troops have schools like these. Keep both old school & new school ways to stay alive and bring our allies & our troops home alive as much is possible at the same time catch the bad guys. Contact your congress & senators to keep schools like these open and well funded. Someday your sons & daughters may need the training necessary to stay alive.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Abdul · 9 years ago
    Buy Military Surplus Items at GorillaSurplus.com
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Freddy Osuna · 7 years ago
    Hello, the Combat Trackers Course at Ft. Huachuca is no longer running due to budget cuts. However Combat Hunter is still active at both Camp lejeune, NC and Camp Pendleton, CA. If you are a U.S. Marine and want world class tracking training contact Combat Hunter East scheduling GySgt Bettoncourt (910)449-0 80 Advanced Infantry Training Battalion School of Infantry East.

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