The special story of the Combat Tracker Teams

I found Susan Merritt via writers’ group friend Joseph Perrone, Jr. (of The Matt Davis Mystery Series) – thank you, Joseph!

Please welcome, Susan Merritt.

Then and now, the Special Air Service and Special Boat Service of the UK are universally acclaimed as the best warriors in the world. By a twist of fate, the Visual Tracker trainees were initially trained by them and the plan itself was devised by their “man-tracking headmaster”.

In the arcane world of these strange things, Major F. Huia Woods had earned the title of the world’s best man-tracker. He had been in contests with aboriginal contestants from tribes and cultures and was the winner. He felt that the K9 on a team would bring a measure of security and speed to the young American teams who had no prior training in junglecraft. This would be an equalizer. Woods had started using a Labrador retriever and handler in the mid-50s in counter-terrorist missions throughout Malaysia and the Far East.

The SAS had been created during WWII and “stood down” in the aftermath. As Malaysia and other current and former territories in South Eastern Asia were overrun by the Marxist Communist-backed insurgents, only the Brits were successful in defending against the onslaught. The SAS was re-formed as a major factor in training and fighting and became paramount as a warrior force in the world.

Meanwhile, on the K9 side, there were the men from the #2 War Dog Training Unit. Sounds benign, doesn’t it? These men would go into every corner of the British Empire and later the independent colonies to assist fledgling governments from take-overs. They fought in Africa during the Mau-Mau Uprising, Palestine, Malaya, Korea, Suez Canal Zone, Kenya, Cyprus, Suez, Borneo, Vietnam, Aden, and Oman. They would approach the mission in a different, yet equally “forceful”, manner.

There would be two teams of ten men and two dogs each. The teams would consist of trained Royal Army Veterinary Corps’ Trackers, (those who would become the #2 WDTU) and LEPs (Locally Enlisted Personnel). Of course, the valiant Labrador retrievers were always there as the K9 component. These teams were not a “fast attack” force, rather, they were stealthy and completely self-sustained for weeks at a time in any terrain in the world, literally.

They did not have the assets of the 1st Cavalry during the Vietnam War where a “chopper” could be sent at a moment’s notice with supplies or a small airplane could spot them and relay their position. These teams were part of the environment until their objectives were met. That could mean an abduction; intelligence gathering or finding of friendly personnel – or the remnants of same.

Our young men were the recipients of the knowledge that these two sources had gleaned. Further, bonds were forged there that time and governmental and political constraints never were able to sever. The Ministry of Defence was kind enough to give dispensation so that the former instructors could be in touch with their students once again … after 30 years. Let me assure you, the feelings have only grown closer over time.

More about the book, Seek On!

The True Story of Combat Tracker Teams of the Vietnam War

Five men, one Labrador retriever – trained by the world’s best to find the “Elusive Enemy” in the jungles of Vietnam Seek On! is the true story of the young Americans who volunteered to become the first response to finding the elusive fleeing terrorists and NVA who were waging asymmetric warfare in Southeast Asia.

The teams were trained at the Jungle Warfare School in Malaysia initially, and took that superb training to the fight. They were able to find and fix the enemy; gather intel and retrieve  friendlies from the grip of the enemy. These are their stories – not the only “official papers.” Learn what they went through as their NZ SAS trainers “treated” them to the same training as they had received! When “in-country,” read what it was like juggling their survival between the enemy and their own support, so they didn’t get ambushed between them! Imagine what they felt as a K9 became a complete member of their team!

After their deployments working as “a single entity,” they were separated and told that “this never happened.” There were no ceremonies; many had no access to necessary documents for the VA; medals were unavailable that were won. Most of all, they lost each other – men who were closer than brothers. That has been rectified. This is their story, and that of their Labs and instructors and crazy days and nights when the clock still ticked. SEEK ON!

Now available, Seek On! can be ordered through the publisher’s website here. Also available at Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

About the Author: Susan Merritt resides in Northampton County, Pennsylvania, with her husband, Frank, one of the original Combat Trackers. They founded and continue to host the website for the veteran CTTs. She was motivated to write Seek On! because this group of men gave their youth to their country and were never recognized for their outstanding service.

Susan Merritt

NVA – North Vietnam Army

NZ SAS – New Zealand Special Air Service

CTT – Combat Tracker Team

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10 Comments

Filed under For The Troops, Guest Writers & Bloggers, Special Events

10 responses to “The special story of the Combat Tracker Teams

  1. Wow! I love it! Thanks Susan and Karen for bringing this to us!

  2. Very interesting. Major Woods would make a fascinating character for a novel!

  3. Karen! You are too kind! I appreciate the time and space you’ve taken for “my guys”. Yes, F. Huia Woods was an amazing person. He was born in New Zealand and was brought up in the ways of the Maori as well as the “English”. He did his National Service in the Army as well as completing a civilian education to become a qualified teacher. In the Army, he excelled at man-tracking and the rest is legend. You can find more information on him on a fascinating site called “Britain’s Small Wars”. There were many insurrections in the 1950s – 1970s of “Communist-Terrorists” in various former colonies of the European states; i.e. France, Spain, Italy, Portugal and Britain. With the exception of Great Britain (or the U.K.), every other one of the tyrannies succeeded in overthrowing a benign government. From coastal Africa to the Islands of the Mediterranean to the Far East, terror reigned and the people who had hoped for freedom were clapped in a new type of poverty and oppression.
    The British way of dealing with this was the two-pronged approach: Hearts and Minds – and the fast attack stealth teams to annihilate the enemy. Were this employed today in our current wars, we could also win and leave the people to rule their own countries. However, there are too many people making too much money with the status quo. The result is that we have so many of our own coming home in pieces – alive, but in pieces. As the old song goes, “When will they ever learn?”
    Again, thank you all for your time – I’ve enjoyed the visit and Karen’s EXCELLENT blog!
    Sue Merritt

  4. As a mom who had a son in Iraq, I wish we could stop all the politics and bring our boys and girls home to their families. I know, from experience, it’s a hard time. Thank you for the blog comment – I appreciate that very much.

  5. Jessica Howes

    I bought this book, but have not read it yet. My dad, who passed away 2 years ago, was in CTT #11. My dad, not unlike many, never talked much about the war or what went on. It wasn’t until he attended a CTT Reunion in 2001 (?) that he started explaining to me what it was he did. I recently attended a Stand Down in Seattle as a volunteer helping Vets file for their DD214’s and it got me thinking about my dad and his time with the CTT. I am actively researching all I can and hopefully can put it to good use somewhere. Thank you so much for writing this book!

  6. karenselliott

    Jessica – I’m not sure Sue is still checking this post for comments … may I send her your name and email address? Respond here or send me an email – karenselliott@midco.net.

  7. Dear Jessica, I am at your disposal for information about the Trackers! Please go to YOUR website – because as the daughte of a Tracker, you are part of this Family – and see the photos and get names and info. Anything else you wish to discuss or know, just get in touch! Go to the http://combattrackerteam.org site and you will learn a lot about your Dad’s specialty!
    Once again, a big Thank You to you, Karen. What a good thing your blog is!
    Very pleased to help!
    Sue

  8. karenselliott

    Jessica and Sue – Hope you guys get together! Let me know what happens, please.

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