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Combat Hunter gets headquarters Marines hot on the trail

27 Jul 2009 | Cpl. Paul M. Torres 1st Marine Division

Like human bloodhounds pursuing their quarry, Marines and sailors practiced hunting each other down during the tracking portion of the Combat Hunter course here, July 24.

The tracking course had Marines from Headquarters Battalion, 1st Marine Division, taking turns laying down tracks at 100, 200 and 500 meters, while a squad of seven pursued.

“We have to pay attention to a lot of different factors, like stride, angle of impact and other indicators, when we are looking at spore,” said Cpl. Logan E. Riddle, 24, a videographer with combat camera, Headquarters Company, 1st Marine Division, from Draper, Utah.

Spore is the evidence left behind by the quarry that a tracker can locate and gives information about the direction and habits of the quarry.

“So far we have gone over observation techniques, range estimation, optics, and tracking,” said Riddle. “Today is the first day we are going to do tracking, but the other things we covered we will use to help us.”

The first three days of the class the Marines had been in the classroom learning the basics of tracking, different optics systems, and methods of using them that would help them be successful.

“We break it down into micro and macro tracking with the instructors who teach them how to read footprints, cracked branches, mud transference or anything out of the norm, said Gunnery Sgt. John M. Austin, 31, a the staff noncommissioned officer-in-charge of the combat hunters course, from Houston Texas.

The previous day the Marines had done some practical application of micro tracking and observation with their instructors.

“We learned how to operate and maintain our binoculars and other optics, then the instructors hid objects and we had to find them out in the field,” said Lance Cpl. Aaron R. Anderson, 21, a military police officer with the Military Police Company, 1st Marine Division, from Nottingham N.H. “We just did what we were taught, like scanning right to left to disrupt the natural movement of the eye so you don’t skip over stuff, and recording everything you see. One guy would look through the bushes with the ‘binos’ while the other would sketch out the terrain and mark anything interesting.”

Armed with the knowledge of the previous days, the Marines formed squads of seven and took turns as tracker, assistant tracker and security.

“The trackers responsibility was to follow the trail from spore to spore, with his assistant tracker holding the last known spore and the security element scanning for any threat, said Riddle.

The tracking not only gave the Marines a chance to practice a new skill, but it also had them reacting to different scenarios once they caught up to their target. From ambushes to IEDs to unarmed quarry, the Marines had to react in simulated squad combat to locate, close with and destroy their enemy.

“The combat hunters course is giving these Marines another skill to use for survivability and makes them more efficient hunters and a greater asset to their unit,” said Austin
1st Marine Division