October, 2003

I was on a tracking mission on Tuesday where everything fell together perfectly.  Over the years as a tracker I have tracked many cases for SAR & Law Enforcement and each case is  unique, and a learning experience.  This particular mission was one of the more ideal tracking experiences I have tracked.

First a little background..
Our SAR commander has been trying to promote tracking to the Patrol side of the Sheriff’s Office.  I have tracked many cases with the homicide department and trained SWAT sniper teams in basic tracking as both groups use tracking readily.  I am a commissioned Police Officer with a small city which allows me the opportunity to track fugitives and other dangerous lines of sign for the Sheriff’s Office. Whenever I track with Law Enforcement there seems to be more pressure than on a SAR mission.  A number of officers are trained as trackers through other schools, and some just believe they are trackers without any formal training.  My UTS training seems to be under scrutiny as a slow Step-by-Step method based on sources other than UTS trackers.  If I had to give a tracking “Sales Pitch” this was the one.

The Mission ;
I responded to a call from our Sergeant to track a despondent young man who stole his dad’s shotgun and headed off to the woods “to never be seen again” according to a note left by the subject.  I met the helicopter at our base and we flew into the area where I met up with a team of deputies and we started our mission.  A few days after the mission I was informed that the subject was indeed going to kill himself, and contemplated shooting one of us.

We landed on location at 1550 hrs. and we had the subject in custody by 1650 hrs.  That time included the interrogation with the RP at the airport, driving to the residence, clearing the residence and securing the property and starting my tracking operation.  I had never worked with the deputies assigned to the over-watch team that was backing me up and neither had the Sergeant who was in charge in the field.  The team did exactly what the Sergeant asked them to do and they fully complied with my directions.

After the team cleared the residence and secured the property, I started at the front of the house and followed the subjects sign through the backyard and out to a gravel road.  I found the distinctive sole of the boys boot and found a clear direction of travel on a gravel road.  I was moving at a steady pace in the direction of travel for several hundred yards without seeing any good sign.  I was seeing sign made prior to and after the subject’s passing.  The subject was walking in the tracks where vehicles were driving but  I knew he hadn’t left the road.  Just as I was going to call it off, I located the next print and was able to easily follow the tracks at a walk brisk enough to have our Sergeant curse me for moving too quickly.  I was on and off several times, each time quickly recovering the sign.  The times I was off, I was happy to find that every place I chose to make the cut yielded a good track.  The first evidence I recovered was the shotgun scabbard discarded in the ditch about a half-mile further.  I cut where he left the road into a clear-cut and I found that he had discarded a box of 12 gauge slugs, known to penetrate body armor.  A few minutes later the subject fired a shot.  I continued to track the subject at a quick pace, thinking he committed suicide.  We made verbal contact with him and had him in custody.  A few days later we went back to the scene to piece the rest of the story together.

This mission was a real eye opener for the deputies who worked with The Sergeant and me.  They were ecstatic and had never seen an operation go so smoothly and quickly.  They told me that they thought they were capable of tracking until they tried seeing the sign I was pointing out on our “double-time” walk.  In reality they could have seen everything I saw if I took the time to stop and show them the specifics.  They thought that I had to go slowly step-by-step.  I informed them that we did go step by step but very quickly and that we didn’t need to identify each and every step.  If we hadn’t gone step-by-step we would have missed most of the evidence we collected.  I gave them a few tips and they now know and believe that tracking on asphalt is possible for a seasoned tracker.

I turned in a report, both a hard copy and a computer version.  The computer allowed my report to be sent to everyone from the Lt. down to the patrol deputies who were on the team.  The quality of the report will keep the success of this mission on the minds of the Sergeant, Deputies and Lieutenant involved as value added paperwork for his case. My past reports have solidified my reputation as a tracker, and have documented my involvement in tracking missions, which in turn has perpetuated my involvement in future cases.  It seems to snowball.

It has been the overall teamwork and the quality of training provided by UTS which I give credit to in training me to save this boys life.  I thank each and every member of the UTS staff for their dedication to providing the best tracking training in the world.  I have helped teach tracking classes taught by other schools and I have looked into every tracking program that is known to exist, and UTS is clearly the best.  The staff at UTS has been steady and teaching longer than any other tracking school.  What keeps me coming back to UTS training, besides the friendships, is the way the school continually grows in the way it teaches tracking.  I am loyal to my friendships, however my bottom line goal is to be the best tracker that I can be to help save lives, be it the subject, team, or the community, and I continue to endorse UTS to provide that quality of training as you have for the past 14 years.

Thanks to all at UTS....

Take Care,
Bob B.