Marines learn tracking skills in JWTC course
Submitted by: MCB Camp Butler
Story Identification Number: 20031029212726
Story by Cpl. Ryan D. Libbert

CAMP GONSALVES, Okinawa, Japan(October 15, 2003) -- When detectives from police departments around the country look for evidence, they scour the crime scene for clues that could lead them to a suspect. Faithful television viewers have witnessed this through the eyes of fictional officers like "Dragnet's" Joe Friday, "Miami Vice's" Sonny Crockett and "NYPD Blue's" Andy Sipowicz.

These "Sherlock Holmes-like" tactics are used not only by police officials in both television and reality, but by U.S. Marines as well.

Marines from various units within 3rd Marine Division are learning not only how to observe details from various locations where potential enemy units have been, but also the thrill of the chase as they progress through the man-tracking course offered by the Jungle Warfare Training Center.

"The course runs for 18 days," said Staff Sgt. Clinton J. Thomas, chief instructor at JWTC. "It consists of learning in both the classroom and field environment. We teach the Marines pace tracking, pursuit tracking and there's a four-day field training exercise at the end."

In pace tracking, Marines learn how to follow footprints on different terrain. The Marines in the course line up shoulder to shoulder and walk for 50 meters. Once completed, each Marine will attempt to follow the trail of footprints left behind by another Marine until they have mastered it.

The second phase, pursuit tracking, breaks Marines up in teams of five. One Marine is pulled from each team as his comrades walk 250 meters into the jungle. The lone Marine stays with an instructor while he tracks his teammates looking not only at footprints, but other signs like overturned leaves, broken sticks and trash or items that may have been dropped.

The field training exercise puts the Marines in a game of cat-and-mouse as they are tasked to track down and capture Marines who are in the evading phase of Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape (SERE) training. Applying what they have learned over two weeks, the man-tracking course students chase after the SERE students by analyzing and following the signs left behind in their campsites and trails in the jungle.

"We decided to combine the two courses because we didn't have enough instructors here to instruct both courses," Thomas mentioned. "It has worked out very well so far like this and I think the Marines have learned a lot by tracking their own instead of tracking the instructors."

The Marines taking the course agree that the instructors have taught them valuable skills they can use in future operations.

"This is a good way to learn how to gather information about an enemy presence so it can be passed on to higher headquarters," said Cpl. Rohan L. Brewster, rifleman from 1st Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment, now assigned to 4th Marine Regiment. "The signs they teach us to observe and how to piece them all together kind of relates to a crime scene investigation."