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Orange County Squadron Holds Man-Tracking Course

State Park Ranger Jack Singley
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State Park Ranger Jack Singley demonstrates the difference in footwear soles to the Orange County Composite Squadron during the Tracking Class on March 19, 2015. Photo Credit: SM Lynne Albert, PAO, MER-NC-150 (click image to view full size)
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Park Ranger teaches CAP cadets to track in rain and darkness

3/19/2015–– The Orange County Composite Squadron held a nighttime man-tracking class on March 19, 2015.  The tracking class was taught by NC State Park Ranger Jack Singley.  Ranger Singley is the Park Ranger for the Eno River State Park in Durham, NC and is an experienced tracker of both people and animals.   

During the classroom portion of the course, Ranger Singley emphasized to the cadets that tracking people was a long term skill that requires patience and practice.  As an important part of search and rescue, man-tracking teaches trackers to see little things that others miss.  Even tiny clues, such as ash from a fire, can be seen in a footprint if observed carefully.   
Ranger Singley explained the procedures Park Rangers use to locate missing persons in State Parks.  He demonstrated the many steps a Park Ranger takes to form a profile of the missing person.  E.g., the warmth of their car engine (suggesting length of time missing), any evidence that children are with them, license plate information, etc.  Ranger Singley stated that multiple factors went into determining where to start the initial search and that “a single factor is not a good investigation.”
Once the initial information is gathered and a profile is determined, the Park Ranger starts with a Hasty Search of the area the missing person is most likely to be in.  If that doesn’t yield results, the Lead Ranger can call in other Park Rangers or law enforcement for assistance to cover larger areas.
The cadets learned about stride length, straddle and the pitch of footprints and what these factors can tell a tracker about the missing person.  E.g., a person’s speed of travel, their height, and where to look for the next track can all be determined by their footprints.  The class studied footwear treads and noted the difference between the soles of boots, athletic shoes and dress shoes.
After the classroom portion of the course, the Squadron gathered outside in the dark and experienced the challenges of tracking at nighttime.  With a cold rain falling, the cadets tracked a course of footprints left by Ranger Singley earlier in the evening.  Along the track, the cadets measured the footprints’ length and stride.   
They also searched for other evidence, such as cigarette butts or discarded trash.
Ranger Singley surprised the cadets by having left black bear prints along the search track.  In addition to the bear tracks, the cadets also noted deer tracks from local wild deer.
The evening concluded inside Squadron headquarters where the Squadron Commander, Lt Ronald Watkins, presented Ranger Singley with a CAP Certificate of Appreciation.  Lt Watkins thanked Ranger Singley for sharing his outstanding tracking skills with the Civil Air Patrol.