How To Run an ‘Honesty Trace’ to Counter IEDs

How To: Run an ‘Honesty Trace’ to Counter Roadside Bombs

* By Nathan Hodge Email Author
* August 25, 2009 |
* 1:47 pm |

090815-M-0440G-724Roadside bombs remain the number-one threat to U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan. But as Noah recently reported, one Marine officer has forwarded an ingenious, off-the-shelf method for avoiding natural ambush points: The “honesty trace.”

Former Wall Street Journal reporter Matt Pottinger — now a Marine Corps first lieutenant — came up with the idea while working with Combat Logistics Battalion 3 in Helmand Province. The idea was simple: Pottinger hooked up the unit’s vehicles with commercial GPS trackers to create a digital record of the routes they were driving. Then he overlaid the routes to see where tracks were converging. It turned out that terrain often forced the Marines into natural chokepoints where the Taliban could set up ambushes.

Changing up routes is standard in military operations, but creating “honesty traces” (a term borrowed from the British in Northern Ireland, who did the same thing with tracing paper) can help troops avoid falling into unexpected — and potentially deadly — patterns. This unclassified briefing — prepared for the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, but also for other International Security Assistance Force units — doesn’t involve much more than a Garmin GPS, a USB port and Excel spreadsheets.

“Honesty traces plainly tell us which wadi crossings we gravitate toward, which stretches of desert we have traversed before, and which contours and chokepoints we and our sister units tend to repeatedly navigate,” the briefing states. “Hence, the traces keep us honest.”

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