Hello everyone, my name is Nick, and i'm writing to you about a recent incident in Iraq where i had to use tracking skills i had learned from a tracking course run by Natural Pathways.
Whilst on a vehicle mounted patrol we came under small arms fire from a vehicle travelling at speed on the other side of a dual carriageway, we naturally gave chase but as he had a lead on us after we negotiated the central reservation, we were quite a way behind him. It was night time but we had Night Vision Goggles (NVG's) so we could see the vehicle off in the distance. After a while the vehicle stopped, (later we learned that it ran out of fuel) and we found it sitting empty on the side of the road. I noticed his footprints in the gravel heading off into the desert, and decided to try my luck. So 3 of us set off on foot, using the NVG's and a red torch. Initialy it was easy going, like following a paper trail, but about 1 1/2 km's into the chase we hit some wadis, and it seemed like all was lost, but, like i had been taught, i tried to put myself in his sandals and had a good look around with the NVG's. There was a small farm set up about 500m's to the north, and a couple of dog's were yapping (good indicator), so we followed the top of a wadi that was heading in its general direction, it gradually faded out into flat ground and in amongst some goat tracks we saw some fresh prints mingling amongst them, i'd noticed earlier that his small toes had been overlapping the forward edge of his right sandal and were leaving a distinct pattern, and there they were, heading to the farm. Now it became tricky, as we had to get in there to find him but he was still armed, and did he have armed friends in the farm? We radioed back to the guys at the vehicles to give them an update (as we had all the way through) and followed the tracks in a bit closer, and saw they headed to an out building. We put in a 10 minute overwatch whilst 2 more lads came up from the vehicles, now we numbered 5 to 1(supposedly) so we put in a search of the outbuilding only to find our man sitting in a corner with his hands up, he had tossed his weapon outside before we got to the farm. It was at this point that the farmer came out saying "ALI BARBER" and pointed at the man. We arrested him and he was later ID'd as a car hijacker.
Now if it wasn't for the course, i might never have attempted to track him, at least not so far, and would probably have given up at the wadi's and called in a helicopter.
It's also a good exscuse to get out into the woods for a few days (as if we needed one!) So there's an actual account of the practical side of tracking, have a go for yourself!