Capt J.G. Langelier


"Wherever a man goes, he leaves a trail!"


For some time now, we have been witnessing a process of technological modernization with new systems for anti-tank weapons, reconnaissance, command and control, combat vehicles and IPCE, which the infantry is gradually adopting. However, are we sufficiently aware of the potential impact of the training required by these systems on the range of knowledge and experience demanded of our troops in terms of individual basic training? Individual training tends to be confused with collective training, or even overlooked entirely in view of the importance attributed to the latter. As a result, in my opinion, a number of basic areas of knowledge are being partially or completely ignored: navigation, camouflage, personal and collective weapons drill, first aid, NBCD and the art of tactical tracking/movement.


The purpose of this article is to illustrate the lack of knowledge that we find among scouts and snipers in the Canadian Forces in the area of military tracking and to outline for you the benefits and potential offered by this resource.


Soldiers are trained to make contact with the enemy by day and by night in all types of terrain and destroy him. In order to carry out this mission, however, the soldier must have all the skills and knowledge required to do so. For a long time, we have taught a subject known as navigation (n. The process or skill with which people work out their position, direction and speed when they are traveling.) although we never talked about tracking during movements. Disapproval of the existence of this art can only benefit our enemy on the battlefield. With soldiers skilled at tracking in our ranks, our infantry units will be able to carry out search operations more easily against personnel, counter-sniper and counter-tracking activities, identification of movement areas, arms caches and minefields and information gathering.


When reconnaissance detachments, with a tracking capability, are used in various types of operation, they can assist tactical units in a variety of ways. Trackers can provide an enormous amount of information about the enemy’s movements and direction, location of observation posts, minefields, morale, strength, equipment, etc. With the possibility of obtaining these details, tactical commanders will from now on be able to plan their maneuvers in all types of operations with greater ease, to make their surveillance and indirect fire plans more effective, increase the protection of operations areas and create the desired effects of surprise and deception.

Trackers can be of assistance in aggressive surveillance plans. Using traps/tracking obstacles, they can acquire information about our sector of operations. As a result, following tracks will enable them to participate actively in the destruction of observation posts, indirect fire controllers, air fire controllers, etc. Such acquisition will inevitably help to make friendly troops aware of enemy locations of interest, raise troop morale through the knowledge that enemy patrols/elements are being closely shadowed, and at the same time enhance our units’ offensive capability in defense.


It has been reported that the use of trackers during recent UN operations facilitated the execution of tasks in situations involving hidden personnel, identifying roads used to move weapons on foot, and even in locating arms caches or snipers.


Initial training in this complex and demanding art will need to be obtained outside the Canadian Forces as a result of a lack of expertise within the CF. To date, the sniper cell of the Infantry School is in contact with a company called UNIVERSAL TRACKING SERVICES (UTS). This company has a high reputation for professionalism, experience and high standards of instruction and is used by a number of organizations including the US Army, Search and Rescue Canada, a number of police forces, etc. In their training program, the process of learning and mastering this art is divided into three distinct, progressive phases: 1) apprentice military tracker 2) military tracker 3) trail blazer (only phases 1 and 2 are required for our needs). Criteria are based on knowledge, experience, practical application, responsibilities and search complexity.

Before being certified as military trackers, individuals must complete the UTS courses and have demonstrated the ability to carry out a number of maneuvers, including:

a. identifying and producing track sketches;

b. setting tracking obstacles;

c. comparing and identifying various tracks;

d. recognizing, identifying and describing the basic differences between the sole/heel prints left by our own boots and those of other units;

e. recognizing and identifying the locations and vegetation most suitable for reflecting signs of movement or the presence of one or more individuals;

f. moving across all types of terrain leaving the minimum tracks possible and discussing counter-tracking techniques;

g. assisting trainee novice/apprentice military trackers to understand the basic concept behind tracking with the aid of explanations and descriptions of the characteristics of a trail, using appropriate terminology;

h. assisting certified military trackers with presentations, classroom periods, field practice and operational missions;

i. demonstrating a high degree of potential in the operations of cutting recognition signs and identifying and explaining the characteristics of a sign maker with reference to simple signs;

j. demonstrating effective counter-tracking techniques by moving in a sector, leaving the fewest, the most misleading or the most complex signs possible to hamper recognition, identification, analysis and following;

k. accurately locating, identifying and determining the age of tracks mixed with many others, using means of comparison, measuring the explaining factors based on opinion; and

l. using tracking techniques, locate, analyze, interpret and explain the factors used in order to determine the following conclusions:

1) whether the individual (s) reside (s) in the sector or is merely traveling through,

2) number of persons,

3) type of group, e.g.: family, excursion, military, etc,

4) when the sign (s) was/were made,

5) intention (s)/reason (s) for the movement,

6) equipment,

7) training,

8) physical and mental condition,

9) identifying the unit/organization responsible,

10) any other relevant information.

The drawback to this qualification is the time required to train our trackers. As the tracking company stated, the level/qualification of an individual is not measured by the courses he has taken, but by the natural skill he displays in carrying out his duties, which is proportional to the time spent practicing. In a time of budget cutbacks, training is of course often the first victim. Ongoing training for trackers, however, is inexpensive and generates substantial dividends. The only price to be paid for the ongoing training of these experts is time.


In short, the art of tracking is not practiced anywhere in the Canadian Forces and no one has mastered the details of this specialty. Is it essential? According to the CF documentation about snipers, we should be teaching it. We should not, however, stop at snipers as far as the teaching of military tracking is concerned, as all infantrymen form a whole with the ground and this art should be taught at the lowest level. The Infantry Center has a primary role in qualifying its instructors to provide the teaching stimulated in CTP/CTS, in addition to providing an additional resource to our tactical commanders and emphasizing our roots as dismounted infantry.

Remember that, wherever a man goes, he leaves a trail!


***NOTE*** Appears with permission from SNIPER'S PARADISE. The original article can be view their as well as other sniper relevant information for military and law enforcement.