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Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Secret Techniques of IDF Bedouin Scouts

Deep in the south of Israel, the Desert Reconnaissance Battalion is guarding Israel’s borders with the Gaza Strip, Egypt and Jordan.

The unit is comprised almost entirely of Bedouin who, though exempt from service, volunteered to serve in the IDF.These soldiers use their unique abilities to track down infiltrators and other threats in the vast expanse of Israeli desert.

But what techniques make their abilities so outstanding? How do you track faded footprints in the dark in a desert spreading over more than 10,000 square kilometers?

Desert Reconnaissance Battalion Trackers

Desert Reconnaissance soldiers during a tracking exercise
Here are five techniques used by our trackers which make them the best of the best:

1) Work in pairs:

Four eyes are better than two. When you’re tracking an infiltrator in the middle of the night, or navigating in miles of sand, another pair of eyes can save the day. Your partner might spot something crucial you missed.

IDF Desert Reconnaissance Battalion Trackers
Trackers start their mission, paying special attention to the ground

2) Know your ground:

True expertise means knowing every inch of the ground you’re scouting. Due to their unique lifestyle, these trackers know the desert like the palm of their hand. Major Rabiye Souad, commander of the trackers in the Southern Gaza Regional Brigade, elaborates:
“The secrets and tricks to tracking have been passed from father to son. These inherent skills stem from the ways in which the nomadic tribes would track lost or stolen sheep. Living conditions in, and adaptation to the desert Bedouin lifestyle requires a sixth sense.”

3) Avoid twilight:

The hours of twilight, when the light constantly changes and vision gets poorer, are hardest on the eyes.  Either scout during the day, or at nighttime with a flashlight, but don’t try your luck in that transition period.

4)  Experience counts:

In the trackers’ world, practical experience really counts. During their first few months in the unit, young soldiers are paired up with veterans for all missions, so they can learn how it’s really done.

Desert Reconnaissance Battalion Tracker Uncovers Smuggling Tunnel
The devil's in the details - tracker uncovers smuggling tunnel.

5) The devil is in the details:

Everything from the shape of a shadow to grass slightly bent is a clue. Trackers work mainly to thwart infiltrators, identify explosives and uncover smuggling tunnels–all which can be cleverly disguised in the landscape.

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The Bedouin Desert Reconnaissance Battalion held a drill last week in which the veteran officers of the battalion took the young soldiers to the field to pass on all of their experience to the next generation of IDF trackers.

To read more about the Bedouin trackers of the IDF: