Tracking and countertracking involve skills and techniques that can be crucial to an LRS team during a mission beyond the forward line of own troops. LRS teams may find that they are being tracked during the course of a mission. Additionally, they may encounter tracks or signs during movement or during a surveillance mission. To be an effective countertracker and to provide intelligence on the frequency and flow of traffic on trails, an LRS soldier must be an effective tracker.


Operating deep behind enemy lines requires proficiency in tracking and countertracking skills. Tracking ability allows an LRS team to immediately identify the presence of the enemy and collect intelligence. Tracking is also useful when an LRS team conducts a combat search and rescue mission to retrieve a downed pilot. Additionally, knowing how to track greatly enhances the team's ability to countertrack.

a. Concepts of Tracking. To become a tracker, certain qualities must be developed and refined such as patience, persistence, acute observation, good memory, and intuition. These traits help when the tracking signs become weak or if the tracker has a certain feeling about the situation. As the tracker moves, he forms an opinion about the enemy such as how many, degree of training, the equipment they have, and state of morale. The following six indicators help form the tracker's picture of the enemy.

(1) Displacement. Displacement means that something is moved from its original position. The tracker looks for signs of displacement for 10 to 15 meters in a 180-degree arc to his front from the ground to the average height of a man. (See Figure F-1.) By comparing indicators, the tracker can gain information. For example, if a footprint is found and a scuff mark on a tree is about waist high, it may indicate that an armed soldier passed this spot. (See Figure F-2). A footprint can tell the tracker what footgear the enemy is wearing, if any. It can also show the lack of proper equipment, the direction of movement, number of persons, whether they are carrying heavy loads, the sex, rate of movement, and whether or not they know they are being followed. (See Figure F-3 and Figure F-4.) Other forms of displacement are bits of clothing or thread left on the ground or vegetation. Movement of vegetation on a still day (such as broken limbs and bent grass, animals flushed from their homes or cries of excitement; trails cut through foliage, disturbed insect life, or turned over rocks) indicates a presence.

(2) Staining. A good example of staining is blood on the ground or foliage. Other examples of staining are mud dragged by footgear and crushed vegetation on a hard object. Crushed berries also stain. The movement of water causes it to become cloudy.

(3) Weathering. The weather may help or hinder the tracker to determine the age of signs. Wind, snow, rain, and sunlight are factors affecting tracking signs.

(4) Littering. A poorly disciplined unit will pass through an area leaving a path of litter. A tracker can use the last rain or strong wind as a measure to show the amount of time it has been there.

(5) Camouflaging techniques. Camouflage applies to tracking when the followed party tries to slowdown the tracker; for example, leaving footprints walking backward, brushing out trails, and walking over rocky ground or through streams are ways of camouflaging the trail.

(6) Interpreting combat information. The tracker makes a mental image of who he is tracking by using his learned concepts. When reporting to the commander, he indicates what he believes, but should not state it as fact. Commanders take this information under consideration. If they choose, immediate planning is done to take action against the enemy.

b. Tracking Team Organization. Tracking units can be any size as long as they have these three elements: a leader, a tracker, and security. Often, tracking teams consist of two types:

(1) Tracker and cover man. Each team member is equally skilled. They can move fast, know each other's abilities and weaknesses, and can compensate for each other.

(2) Tracking team leader, tracker, RATELO, and two security men. The advantages of a tracking team with this many members are increased observation and security. The disadvantage is the size of the team.

c. Tracker and Dog Teams. Tracker and dog teams are more effective than a tracker alone.

(1) Dog characteristics. The dog(s) follows a trail faster and can continue to track at night. Despite years of domestication, dogs retain most of the traits of their wild ancestors. If put to controlled use, these traits are effective when tracking.

(a) Endurance. A dog can hold a steady pace and effectively track for up to eight hours. The speed can be up to 10 miles per hour, only limited by the speed of the handler. The speed and endurance can be further increased by the use of vehicles and extra teams.

(b) Mental characteristics. Dogs are curious by nature. Dogs can be aggressive or lazy, cowardly or brave. A dog's sensory traits are what make him seem intelligent.

(c) Aggressiveness. Tracking dogs are screened and trained. They are aggressive trackers and eager to please their handler.

(d) Sensory characteristics. Knowledge of the following sensory traits and how the dog uses them helps the evader to think ahead of the dog.

         Sight. A dog's vision is the lesser of the sensing abilities. They see in black and white and have difficulty spotting static objects at more than 50 yards. Dogs can spot moving objects at considerable distances, however, they do not look up unless they are training up a tree. A dog's night vision is no better than man's.

      • Hearing. A dangerous problem for the evader is the dog's ability to hear. Dogs can hear quieter and higher frequencies than humans. Even more dangerous is their ability to locate the source of the sound. Dogs can hear 40 times better than men.
      • Smell. The dog's sense of smell is about 900 times better than a human. It is by far the greatest asset and largest threat to the evader. Dogs can detect minute substances of disturbance on the ground or even in the air. Using distracting or irritating odors (for example, CS powder or pepper) only bothers the dog for a short time (3 to 5 minutes). After the odor is discharged by the dog, he can pickup a cold trail even quicker. The dog smells odors from the ground and air and forms scent pictures. The scent pictures are put together through several sources of smell.

--Individual scent. This is the most important scent when it comes to tracking. Vapors horn body secretions work their way through the evader's shoes onto the ground. Sweat from other parts of the body rubs off onto vegetation and other objects. Scent is even left in the air.

--Reinforcing scent. Objects are introduced to the dog that reinforce the scent as it relates to the evader. Some reinforcing scents could be on the evader's clothing or boots, or the same material as is used in his clothing. Even boot polish can help the dog.

--Ecological scent. For the dog, the most important scent comes from the earth itself. By far, the strongest smells come from disturbances in ecology such as crushed insects, bruised vegetation, and broken ground. Over varied terrain, dogs can smell particles and vapors that are constantly carried by the evader wherever he walks.

(2) Favorable tracking conditions. Seldom will the conditions be ideal for the tracker and dog teams. During training, they become familiar with the difficulties they will face and learn to deal with them. The following conditions are favorable for tracker and dog teams.

(a) Fresh scent. This is probably the most important factor for tracker teams. The fresher the scent, the greater chances of success.

(b) Verified starting point. If trackers have a definite scent to introduce to the dogs, it helps the dogs to follow the correct trail.

(c) Unclean evader. An unclean evader leaves a more distinctive scent.

(d) Fast-moving evader. A fast-moving evader causes more ground disturbances and individual scent from sweat.

(e) Night and early morning. The air is thicker and the scent lasts longer.

(f) Cool, cloudy weather. This limits evaporation of scent.

(g) No wind. This keeps the scent close to the ground. It also keeps it from spreading around, allowing the dog to follow the correct route.

(h) Thick vegetation. This restricts the dissemination of scent and holds the smell.

(3) Unfavorable tracking conditions. Marked loss in technique proficiency can be expected when the following conditions occur.

(a) Heat. This causes rapid evaporation of scent.

(b) Unverified start point. The dogs may follow the wrong route or scent.

(c) Low humidity. Scent does not last as long.

(d) Dry ground. Dry ground does not retain scent.

(e) Wind. Wind disperses scent and causes the dog to track downwind.

(f) Heavy rain. This washes the scent away.

(g) Distractive scents. These take the dog's attention away from the trail. Some of these scents are blood, meat, manure, farmland, and populated areas.

(h) Covered scent. Some elements in nature cause the scent picture to be partially or completely covered. Examples are sand that can blow over the tracks and help to disguise the track; snow and ice that can form over the track and make it nearly impossible to follow; and water. Water is one of the most difficult conditions for a tracker dog team. Water that is shallow, especially if rocks or vegetation protrude, can produce a trail that a dog can follow with varied degrees of success.

c. Countertracking. Countertracking techniques are constantly used by LRS teams to avoid alerting the enemy to their presence. To be effective at evading trackers, countertracking techniques must be known. Knowledge of tracking is probably the best way to successfully evade trackers. Knowledge of tracker and dog teams greatly assists the survivor when evading the enemy. Some of the following techniques may throw off trackers:

         Double back (especially when moving into open areas).

  • Use trails (follow or pretend to follow, then double back).
  • Walk backward (this makes the tracker believe the evader is moving in the opposite direction).
  • Change directions before entering streams.
  • Walk in water.
  • Cover the trail.
  • Outdistance trackers.
  • Take advantage of terrain and weather conditions; for example, use streams and sparsely vegetated areas to move through, and move during heavy rains.