UK — Canadian cowboy trains British soldiers to spot IEDs

The British Army has recruit­ed a Cana­di­an cow­boy to teach sol­diers how to look for impro­vised explo­sive devices (IEDs) hid­den in the ground when deployed in Afghanistan.

7th Armoured Brigade on the Canadian prairie
Pro­fes­sion­al track­er Ter­ry Grant with sol­diers of 7th Armoured Brigade on the Cana­di­an prairie
Source: Min­istry of Defence, UK
Click to enlarge

The cow­boy is pro­fes­sion­al track­er Ter­ry Grant, aged 52, who is famed for his hit real­i­ty tele­vi­sion show ‘Mantrack­er’ in which he tracks con­tes­tants over vast swathes of the Cana­di­an wilderness. 

He has now been employed to pass on his unique ground sign aware­ness skills to the sol­diers of 7th Armoured Brigade (the Desert Rats) who are 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 (BATUS) locat­ed in the heart of the vast plains of Alber­ta in the west of Canada. 

When an IED is laid, 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 recog­nis­ing these clues and there­fore iden­ti­fy­ing a poten­tial IED loca­tion and reduc­ing the risk. 

Terry’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 40km away with­out get­ting caught — how they escape is up to them. 

Ter­ry, who is on horse­back with­out any nav­i­ga­tion­al aids, 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 over 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. 

He said: 

“I was asked if I could pro­vide some basic ground and track aware­ness train­ing. It has been good fun to work with the sol­diers; at first they did­n’t real­ly get it, but as soon as they realised what I was try­ing to teach, they all picked it up and hope­ful­ly learnt some­thing that can help them. 

“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 has been worthwhile.” 

Pri­vate Rikkie Jen­nings, aged 23, from Lich­field in Stafford­shire, who serves with 3rd Bat­tal­ion The Mer­cian Reg­i­ment (Staffords), said: 

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

While in pre­vi­ous years British mil­i­tary exer­cis­es in Cana­da have been con­duct­ed with a cold war men­tal­i­ty, 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, Major Richard Bell, came up with the idea to intro­duce ground aware­ness search­ing tech­niques into sol­diers’ train­ing after watch­ing Mantrack­er on Cana­di­an tele­vi­sion. The idea is now being reviewed to decide whether it should be devel­oped further. 

Press release
Min­istry of Defence, UK 

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