For Wilderness Searches, Md. Says Small Is Better


When a suspect or crime victim is sought in wooded areas, large teams of searchers typically fan out. A special Maryland search unit is finding that a small, trained team might be better. A 2-year old tracking team in the Maryland Department of Natural Resources is finding success through techniques like global positioning devices, computers, and radios combined with ancient tracking methods. The Baltimore Sun says the unit applies tactics borrowed from the former Rhodesian military.

Studying clues like patterns of broken twigs or creases in fallen leaves, a small, highly trained team can more easily and efficiently follow signs to a quarry. “We’re not looking for a sloppy, muddy footprint,” said Sgt. Mel Adam, who conceived the two-year-old tracking unit. “The human foot leaves a flat, heavy impression that is different than anything else. The only thing close is a black bear’s.”

Each ranger carries a water bladder, military field rations, a trauma medical kit, a bullet-resistant vest, guns, and communications gear.

Adam’s computer research led him to the Tactical Tracking Operations School of Mesquite, Nev., which bills itself as “the only civilian school in the USA, possibly the world, specializing in … bold and aggressive man-tracking.” The firm applies military techniques adapted from the former Rhodesian Special Air Service (SAS) to modern American military and civilian purposes.


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