9 August 2002
Source: http://usinfo.state.gov/cgi-bin/washfile/display.pl?p=/products/washfile/latest&f=02080802.wlt&t=/products/washfile/newsitem.shtml

US Department of State
International Information Programs

Washington File

08 August 2002

U.S. Customs’ Native American Trackers Take Their Skills to Europe

("Shadow Wolves" conduct training in Baltics, Central Asia) (1140)
By Louise Fenner
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington -- Native Americans from the state of Arizona have been
teaching customs and border officials in the Baltic countries and
Central Asia the ancient skill of tracking, in an effort to curb the
smuggling of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons.

They call themselves the Shadow Wolves. They are Customs Patrol
Officers (CPOs) on the Tohono O’odham Reservation: 19 men and two
women, all Native Americans from nearly a dozen different tribes.

Since 1972, under a program created by Congress and headquartered in
Sells, Arizona, the Shadow Wolves have been successfully tracking drug
smugglers transporting contraband -- mostly marijuana -- on
reservation lands, but now they are focusing more on the possibility
that the smugglers may be carrying components of weapons of mass
destruction (WMD).

Several Shadow Wolves have traveled to Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan to 
train customs officials, border guards, and national police how to
detect and follow the tracks of people who may be transporting WMD
components across their borders. And three Shadow Wolves are spending
the first three weeks of August in Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia; they
are teaching skills that they learned over many years, often as
children on the reservations searching for game or tracking their
grandparents’ free-roaming cattle and horses.

In the Baltics, approximately 18 participants in each country will
take the one-week course. "The idea is that as their tracking
abilities improve, they’ll start training their own people," said
Officer Kevin Carlos, a member of the Tohono O’odham tribe. He and two
fellow Customs Patrol Officers, Jason Garcia and Lambert Cross, were
interviewed by the Washington File on August 2 shortly before
departing for Latvia, their first stop.

The training is conducted under the auspices of the Export Control and
Border Security (EXBS) program, a joint effort of the State
Department, Customs Service and other agencies to provide
non-proliferation training and equipment to over two dozen nations,
most of them in the former Soviet bloc.

Carlos said the training begins with a classroom lecture on basic
tracking techniques, such as how to look for signs of passage by
people on foot or horseback or in vehicles -- broken branches,
disturbed rocks and groundcover, tracks that can be discerned in the
glint of early morning light. They can judge what type of people might
be making the tracks based on clues such as foot size, depth of the
tracks, and length of the stride. For example, a person carrying a
heavy load will have a short stride, deeper heel prints and a broader
stance compared with an unburdened traveler.

"You look at where they rest and see what they place on the ground,
and you can get an idea if they’re carrying something," Officer Garcia
pointed out. He is Tohono O’odham and Hopi.

Of course the smugglers know they might be tracked and try to hide the
traces of their passage or vary their routes. Carlos said that on his
first visit to the Baltics it became clear that hunters in the
training group knew how to track, so "we’d ask them to help us teach
the others. The difference is that now we’re tracking a person who’s
trying to evade us and avoid detection by all means, so we also
discussed a lot of counter-tracking methods. It’s different from
[tracking] an animal, which is a creature of habit and takes the same
path every day."

After the classroom lecture, most of the training consists of
practical exercises in tracking. "We’ll set out some sign and show
them what to look for," Carlos said.

Officer Cross, a member of the Pima tribe, recalled the first training
sessions he conducted in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. "The first time,
they were kind of leery about us being in their country," he said.
"They knew that Indians are good trackers. But they kept saying ‘we
use dogs a lot.’ We told them, what if your dog gets sick, you’ll have
to bring another dog to your area and meanwhile you can start tracking
before the dog gets there."

"We took them out and they started tracking, and they were amazed at
what they could do. When they found a guy…." Here Cross gave a victory

Even when tracking doesn’t result in finding a particular smuggler, it
can provide valuable information, Carlos pointed out. "It helps you in
your investigation to basically get an idea what’s going on around
your area," he said. "That’s what it boils down to, you have an idea
what’s going on in your backyard or in your country."

When possible, the Shadow Wolves live in the barracks with the people
they are training, and despite the long grueling workdays they enjoy
learning about the local officers’ experiences and the culture of
their countries they visit. "We’re all the same," Cross said, "there’s
just a different language."

Officers Cross and Carlos have made two trips to Kazakhstan and
Uzbekistan and feel strongly that return visits are important. "When
we came back they welcomed us like family or old friends," Cross said.
"They showed us the progress they’ve made. They took us out and they
did most of the tracking; we were just there as advisors seeing what
they were doing. It was something to see."

For Carlos, this is also his second training mission to the Baltics.
He was eager to see how the "students" were doing, as well as to train
new people.

In addition to the tracker training, U.S. Customs since the early
1990s has provided non-proliferation training and equipment to some
3,000 border guards and customs officials in 26 nations to counter the
spread of WMD and their components.

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