Marines--"always the hunter, never the hunted"
Marine Lance Cpl. Jose Cardona stared intently at the forest floor.There is much more including how kids from rough neighborhoods were able to tell where the danger signs in urban areas were. I think it is a good program and give skills that can translate into non insurgency conflicts. Gen. Mattis is known as an innovative thinker and I can see why he would back this program. Although the story does not mention it I think some of these skills were taught by Indian trackers who have worked with the Border Patrol in the past to track infiltration routes.
"This log has a piece that's broken off," he says, pointing with his machete so other members of the patrol could see a tiny chip on a rotting log. He studied it a few more seconds.
"Yeah, they looked like they stepped here," concludes Cardona, 19, as the Marines and Navy corpsmen resumed the pursuit of their quarry, a group of fellow Marines who had taken off into the pine forests earlier that morning.
Faced with an alarming increase in sniper attacks in Iraq, Marine commanders in late 2006 began looking for ways to turn the tables on an elusive enemy. Among the experts they consulted: a renowned African big game hunter and a former big city cop.
The result is the combat hunter program, an experiment in training Marines to fight insurgents by making the Marines as wily as the enemy they face. The training combines outdoor skills culled from hunting and tracking with the street smarts developed by police and Marines who grew up in cities.
"The motto we … try to instill in these guys is Marines are always the hunter, never the hunted," says Ivan Carter, the safari guide and hunter — born Rhodesia, now known as Zimbabwe — who helped the Marines develop the program.
"We need to get down to their level," says Marine Sgt. Jose Ramirez, a 26-year-old from Mission, Texas, who was learning tracking skills here last month.
While much of the military has focused on technology and improved armor to give soldiers an edge in Iraq, the Marine Corps embarked on a different approach with this program, aimed at developing new mind-sets and skills.
"It's a great example of outside-the-box thinking to defeat an adaptive and wily enemy," says Army Lt. Col. John Nagl, a leading counterinsurgency expert.
The military establishment is watching the new training carefully. "If this works, I guarantee the Army will be doing the same thing, only calling it something different," says Loren Thompson, a military analyst at the Lexington Institute, an Arlington, Va.-based think tank.
The training has already been incorporated into boot camp and in operational units.
"They look at the entire world differently when they come out of this," says Marine Gen. James Mattis, an early proponent of the program. "That is where we're going to win this war — by having people who can look at the world differently. It's not going to be through technology — a new radio or new tank or new gun."