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News | July 29, 2010

Canadian cowboy 'Mantracker' trains Brits to spot IEDs

By None , UK Ministry of Defence


Terry Grant, from the TV series ‘Mantracker,’ shows British soldiers a method for spotting IEDs during a training exercise in Alberta, Canada. (CrownCopyright/MOD 2010)

ALBERTA, Canada (July 29, 2010) — The Canadian cowboy and reality TV star “Mantracker” is training British soldiers how to spot IEDs when they’re in Afghanistan.

The cowboy, star and professional tracker is Terry Grant, aged 52, famed for his show in which he tracks contestants over vast swathes of the Canadian wilderness.

Now, he’s passing on his unique ground sign awareness skills to the soldiers of 7th Armoured Brigade (the Desert Rats) who’re set to deploy to Afghanistan next year.

The Desert Rats are currently training on Exercise Prairie Thunder 1 at the British Army Training Unit Suffield located in the heart of the vast plains of Alberta in west Canada.

When insurgents lay an IED, the ground is disturbed either by physically digging the device in or by the insurgent leaving tracks as he moves around. Ground sign awareness is about recognizing these clues and therefore identifying a potential IED location and reducing the risk.

Grant’s show, Mantracker, sees two contestants take off into the bush with a map, a compass and a head start. They have 36 hours to reach a finish line some 40 km away without getting caught - how they escape is up to them.

On horseback and without navigational aids, Grant doesn’t know their exact start or finish points. His job is to track them searching the ground for clues before they reach the finish line.

Terry, who has spent more than 25 years as a cowboy working ranches across Alberta, is also a search and rescue volunteer and has spent a lifetime honing his skills on hunting trips. He jumped at the opportunity to work with British forces and trial a new training idea.

“I was asked if I could provide some basic ground and track awareness training. It’s been good fun to work with the soldiers; at first they didn’t really get it, but as soon as they realized what I was trying to teach, they all picked it up and hopefully learned something that can help them,” Grant said. “If only one of these guys takes away what he has been shown today and recognises something out of the ordinary that saves his life, then I have done my job. If he remembers that ‘tracker guy stuff’ then it’s been worthwhile.”

Private Rikkie Jennings, 23, from Lichfield in Staffordshire, England,  who serves with 3rd Battalion Mercian Regiment, said the training is hard and new, but extremely helpful.

“I’ve never done anything like this before and I am sure it will be useful in Afghanistan,” Jennings said. “It was difficult to see at first but we soon got the hang of it.”

While in previous exercises in Canada focused on Cold War scenarios, dealing mainly in conventional heavy artillery warfare, Exercise Prairie Thunder has evolved training to focus on hybrid warfare, covering everything from the conventional enemy to counter-insurgency and peace support operations.

The Desert Rats’ chief of staff, Maj. Richard Bell, came up with the idea to introduce ground awareness searching techniques into soldiers’  training after watching Mantracker on Canadian television. The British military is reviewing the idea for possible expansion.