Safe Route Planning


Verified SOF
Jan 15, 2008

08/25/2009 -'s Danger Room blog has a short post up that may interest security professionals in VIP protection who plan routes for a living.

The article concerns a Marine officer in Afghanistan's new hi-tech but low-cost improvement to a technique known as an "honesty trace," which helps avoid natural ambush points due to the country's tough topography.

By using no more than an off-the-shelf Garmin GPS unit, a USB port, and a mapping software program like Google Earth, former Wall Street Journal reporter-cum-warrior Matt Pottinger devised a process that can map U.S. and British units' patrol routes so they avoid natural bottlenecks where the Taliban and other associated militants could plant roadside bombs or stage ambushes.

Danger Room has more:

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.

The unclassified briefing also notes how important honesty traces are to safe route planning.

When you click on the link, check unclassified briefing for a link to the pdf
Taken from the presentation linked in the article:

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. Hence, the traces keep us honest. They indicate where we should sweep for IEDs, where we might employ snipers, and where we should consider changing our route altogether. In short, Honesty Traces are the single most effective tool you have for route planning.

This makes it sound like route planning is something we never used to do.

Usefull tool, but it sounds like it picks up for not knowing your job.
"I don't have to plan my patrol route, I plug in the GPS and it tells me where to go."
I know Lt Pottinger, he is a real sharp cat. He used to be a reporter for the wall street journal before he commissioned. Anyway this is something we have been doing for years with falcon view (as I am sure you SOF guys have been doing), what Pottinger did was use google earth to get the technique out to the masses who don't/can't use falcon view to navigate.

Pottinger was the intel officer for the logistics trains in Helmand. The problem in Afghanistan that Pottinger ran into was that his convoys would take routes that had choke-points that other units had repeatedly used. With the new software, a convoy that went cross boundary could see what routes had been used and over used. This helps the grunt who patrols the same piece of dirt every day and knows every inch of it but it really helps the convoy commander plan a route through unfamiliar territory as he has no idea what the soldiers in that area have been doing and where they have been going.