Michael's Dispatches

Wolfpack 105 – Start point


image015-1000During a break in a firefight, a couple of A-10s laid cannons onto the enemy positions. The clouds are smoke from previous runs. Since we had no tracking capacity, all of the many firefights over the next couple of days were enemy-initiated. (To my knowledge.) And so we were reacting to him. No villagers told us where the enemy was. Enemy spoor was everywhere.

The US military is set to become the world’s foremost tracking organization, by blending basic skills with high tech and enormous mobility.

In Afghanistan, our optics on drones such as Predators often follow known targets.  Often we do not fire.

The crosshairs give coordinate readouts, and so picking up the track is a matter of going there and doing it.  Toggle the crosshairs on the enemy’s head.  Click the button to save the coordinates.  The Wolfpack has a start point and known cone of travel.

Every command-detonated IED strike leaves fresh spoor.  Every attack on a base leaves fresh spoor.  Even if the attack was done by rockets on a timer, there is fresh spoor.  The enemy does not set the timer for three days.  They set it for long enough to get away.  This might be ten minutes or an hour.   An hour is not long enough to escape a Wolfpack.

The Wolfpack can cast out to numerous missions without sinking their teeth into the enemy.  They create an intelligence picture.  They figure out how the enemy ingresses, dwells, and egresses.  Hunting includes coming back empty-handed sometimes, but they always pick up intelligence for future hunts.

They can pick up intelligence by finding spoor, or not finding spoor.  Both pieces are equally valuable.

In Iraq, our people would sometimes check the coordinates that were picked up after the enemy shot mortars.  Our counterbattery radar is fast and precise.  We can see where the rounds came from before they land.  So we would go look for base plate marks, which we would find, but nobody knew how to track from there.

Our radars also will pick up bullets.  We can see a firefight on radar when bullets fly high.  A helicopter can fly low to draw fire, and we can spot those bullets, and swoop in 30 seconds later with a Wolfpack that was on orbit over the ridge.

Ruses like this were common among the best commanders in Iraq and Afghanistan.  We push out sniper teams, and then do a mission to somewhere, which the enemy is watching.

If they use phones or radios, we get it live.

We simulate a casualty and MEDEVAC (which using a red cross would violate Geneva Conventions; another reason to remove the red cross).

The snipers who got there the night before watch as the enemy starts putting out ambushes, and the snipers whack them.

Down in Somalia there is massive pirating.  The pirates often take hostages to shore, which we have on radar or by other means.  They then move the hostages inland by foot or vehicle.  SEAL trackers could be dispatched to ascertain direction, with backup teams on ship ready to hit.

image016-1000CH 47 creating Kopp-Etchells Effect during combat resupply. The rotor wash was blowing me away, making a good photograph difficult. This beast made a start point.

When the enemy is leaving an attack, he tends to stay in about a 45-degree cone.

Routes are predictable by looking at the terrain.  At this point, a Wolfpack commander might not need the trackers because he can put ambushes in all the likely routes, and push the enemy into ambushes, as per normal tactics.

In Vietnam, our people used sensors, and sometimes would fire artillery or mortars when the sensors tripped.  They would fire at predesignated spots where they thought the enemy would be when the projectiles arrived.

Under many ROE (Rules of Engagement), our people will not be permitted to fire when a sensor trips.  The sensor is a start for hot track.

image018-1000Photos, finger prints, and eye scans. Many Afghans do not have fingerprints due to farm work. But they all have footprints, except for one story I heard. As I recall, there was an Afghan with no legs, who rode on the back of an Afghan with no arms. The man on the back provided the arms in exchange for use of the other man’s legs.

Sometimes we track enemy by drones and do not fire because the platform is unarmed, but we have coordinates and video to the fresh tracks.

Many times I have watched unarmed drone feeds, and frustrated Soldiers who could not attack a known enemy simply because they had no missile on the bird.  Or they were watching from a powerful camera, miles away on base.  This is common.

image020-1000We do not own the night. When the weather is good and birds are up, and the enemy does not have shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles, we dominate at night. But when the skies are cloudy or the weather is bad, it remains man vs. man. Desert is often man vs. man, while jungle is always man vs. man.

During an instance last year, two known bombers (they’d just planted a bomb) disappeared into light vegetation and trees.  Under the ROE, continuous observation was required to engage.  Even if they’d reemerged from the other side, our people no longer could fire because the drone had lost sight.

image022-1000During this mission, we came in by helicopters, so the enemy had a good start point. We moved through their fields.

The copse of trees represented an island to fix the enemy.  They could not leave without crossing open farmland.  Granted, it was a large area under the trees, but it was an island.  A Wolfpack could narrow it quickly.

image024-1000US Soldier using body bag for sleeping bag. Our boots and large formations are easy to follow.

This was a perfect case for “vertical envelopment.”  Helicopters were parked just a few hundred meters from the HQ.  Those Blackhawks, Apaches, and Kiowas were about ten minutes’ flight from the tree stand.

It takes about six minutes to launch a Blackhawk, so our Wolfpack could be there in less than twenty minutes.

Jets were in the area.


The commander could have directed that F-18s dive low and loud in a “show of force,” with intention on pushing the enemy to stay hidden in the copse.

This is a common CT tactic.  Wolfpacks want the enemy to hide, or to run.  Either way works.  Running can be safer because we can get them from air or ambush, but hiding is fine.

image028-1000Combat operations in Kandahar, 2011.

image030-1000Kiowa pilots often spot tracks. (Photo credit US Army, Afghanistan.)

Three Blackhawks can carry about sixty combat-loaded men.  Twenty minutes after the enemy disappeared into the copse, the Wolfpack commander could have emplaced blocking elements, or blocked with the airborne helicopters.  The men are unlikely to leave the copse with Kiowas and Apaches buzzing around.

An old hunting technique involves a large group of villagers who form a large circle.  They make noise and close the circle until all the animals are forced into the center, where the villagers dispatch them with arrows.

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  • This commment is unpublished.
    Jacob Theodore · 6 years ago
    In the Vietnam war, a lot of men and material came south along the so-called Ho Chi Minh trail. Of course, it wasn't a single trail, that would have been instantly interdictable. Instead, there were networks of routes through almost impenetrable jungle. What was done to track the enemy was both interesting and could not be turned around on us. If you take a certain kind of glass and reduce it to particular size particles, it will selectively reflect back particular wavelengths of infra-red light. You then fly over that jungle and spread it over the vegetation where it coats it. People and vehicles moving down through these areas disturb the particles which fall off the vegetation to the ground. Planes flying over with infrared searchlights and infrared imaging devices, will capture imagery that shows where glass particles were dislodged a men and vehicles passed. Subsequent rain would 'clear the screen' and new glass particles would be laid down for new travelers to disturb.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    tarawa1943 · 6 years ago
    Jacob, outstanding! Trip wire has worked for decades.....just hide it well.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Jacob Theodore · 6 years ago
    Maybe I shouldn't have mentioned that bit of information. I'm pretty sure it was classified at the time, but that was what, forty years ago?
    • This commment is unpublished.
      tarawa1943 · 6 years ago
      hmmm 49 years for some of us.... declassified long ago.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Jacob Theodore · 6 years ago
    .... works so well that it's usefulness outlasts its automatic declassification and then goes into a sort of routine, low profile practice under the radar and remains effective because generations have passed and the present generations never heard of it, and don't practice any counter measures. I'm sure there are people who are not friendly, who monitor this and other forums, who would pick up on that 'ancient' technique and be on the lookout for it. I made the possible error of mentioning something that I unconsciously thought of as obsolete, but upon reconsideration might just not be.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Craig · 6 years ago
    What's the story behind that boot in the first photo? Pretty arresting image, there.

    These posts are fascinating.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Nani · 6 years ago
    What I'd like to figure out is how to grow pot in a rainforest, without Green Harvest spotting your plants, or trail.

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