Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Urban Scout Class

Last week I attended the Urban Scout class at the Tracker School. Going into it I wasn't sure what to expect. The class had never been taught before and I didn't know how an urban scout class would be taught in the Pine Barrens. I was pleasantly surprised with how things went.

First, we didn't repeat any of the stuff I learned in the first Scout class. We basically picked up right where we left off. At the Scout class we spent a ton of time learning how a scout team works and practicing maneuvers. This time all we did was practice as a team for a couple hours to get to know each other and to refresh ourselves on the basics. We didn't have to worry about other scouts laying traps for us. We didn't have to live in scout pits and keep someone on watch all night. It was more relaxed.

We did some interesting exercises to practice moving without causing movement or sound. One night we had an obstacle course set up around camp. Each station had a person by it who was there to detect sound and/or movement. Our goal was to get over/through/under the obstacle without causing alarm.

Here is one of the obstacles. It is a wood pile covered by a tarp. The tarp made it a lot harder because of the extra noise it makes and because it blinds you to the instability of the wood underneath.

Another obstacle was to get into and back out of the back of a vehicle without the driver and/or passenger noticing. This meant you had to be low enough to not be seen in the rear view mirror and you had to get in and out slowly enough so the people couldn't feel the vehicle sinking/rising.

These and the other obstacles were a really good workout. The amount of energy it took to control my body for extended periods of time was astounding. It was especially hard when I had to exert myself and then control my breathing so it wouldn't be heard.

Another exercise we did was to open a toolbox and remove everything inside without making any noise. To make things more difficult we were blindfolded and couldn't talk to our partner. This box had an 8 ft rusty chain inside which made it difficult. The exercise gave me the feeling I was disarming a bomb.

We also learned some interesting uses of rope in a combat situation. We were taught a cool knot for making handcuffs. Hopefully I'll never have to use that knot.

The night that I arrived I was very happy to find out that we would in fact be going on some urban missions. Our first mission out of camp was to go into a nearby park and recon the buildings inside. The added risk was that there was a security guard that patrolled the park and police officers were known to drive by. What made it more risky was that we were not allowed to use primitive camouflage. As you can see in this picture, with primitive camouflage on you can become almost invisible day or night.

It was fun exploring the park having to stick to the shadows. In the woods, there is so much cover that you can get to if someone is coming. In the urban environment you've got some shrubs, trees, benches, and the shadows they cast. That's about it. There are also motion sensor floodlights, mirrors and video cameras to contend with. Obviously there are a lot more people around too which makes it all very difficult.

The two other nights we went out were to a Boy Scout camp down the road. One night there were boy scouts actually in the camp. Little did they know that there were about 60 scouts in amongst them. I didn't actually get into too much action when the boy scouts were around, but the other night was fun. At one point my buddy and I were crawling along the grass next to a parking lot on the right. We were right under a street light so there was no shadow. The ground was slanted so we couldn't be seen from the left. I whispered to him, "as long as no one comes from the right we should be ok." About 10 seconds later, car lights come on ahead of us. Luckily there was one car still in the lot blocking the car from seeing us. My friend ran in a crouch up to the car for cover and I slinked into the shadow the headlights cast on the pole of the street light. The car drove right by us without stopping. It was pretty exciting. I had to just trust that a normal unaware person would not notice me in the shadow.

Here is my team before our first mission.

To close, I have a funny story to tell. Today at work I was headed to the break room. To make my day more interesting, I was practicing walking quietly kind of pretending I was on a scout mission. So I opened and closed the doors to the stairwell without making noise. I used a technique for looking around a corner and seeing someone before he sees you. Since I wasn't being too serious I did it way too fast to be affective. So who was around the corner? None other than the CEO of the company. He totally caught me peeking around the corner. He said something like, "What are you doing there peeking around the corner, Pinger? Are you trying to be a spy or James Bond or something?" As we walked by each other he went on and on about it and I just laughed and said something stupid like, "I'm just making sure I'm not going to get jumped." That was the only time I've ever been caught doing something like that and it had to be the damn CEO that caught me. :)


fooiemcgoo said...


good stories.

fooiemcgoo said...

are all those white balls of light in that bottom picture woodland spirits?

that guy in the back-right, kinda hiding gives me the creeps.

he is very uni-bomberish.

unanimous in bozeman said...

Nice post Michael,
Having your CEO bust you is rough though. I think your only choice is to continue on and pull some Ed Norton from Fight Club shit with him and get paid to not show up to work. That'll teach him.