Sign Cutter

Training Level Certifications

JHPTS-VTATI has developed a realistic certification procedure for “professional trackers.” This process began some forty years ago, when both tracking program students and prosecution attorneys asked Joel to give them evidence of progressive learning and skill development for trackers. Tracking students needed to know their own level of skill development, and prosecuting attorneys requested it as a professional tracking credential that demonstrated the training, testing, and achievement of a reasonable standard. The training methodology needed to match acceptable academic and scientific standards and documentation as defined by education and skill development experts. No such recognizable standards existed within the domestic tracking world at that time.

Today, the JHPTS-VTATI program has developed and established the recognizable scientific methods of measuring both the incremental learning and skill development of tracking students. Tracking knowledge of what, why, when, where, and how-to (the five W's) without progressive, coached practice is only knowledge - not tracking. Equally, the visual seeing and understanding of the discoverable evidence without the detailed articulation and documentation of the five W’s is meaningless and unverifiable.

JHPTS-VTATI has set the industry standard for incremental learning and skill development of professional trackers. Professional Tracking is the skill developed through knowledge and repetitious practice of seeing and understanding the visual evidence of the presence or passage of humans wherever it may be found. JHPTS-VTATI trackers have successfully presented evidence in criminal court proceedings in both defense and prosecutorial cases. Defense and prosecution attorneys, educators, and skill development experts have thoroughly examined the JHPTS-VTATI training methodology and certification processes and have found them to meet all standards.

When trainers and instructors are confident through field demonstration and articulation that the student has reached certification level, they will recommend that student for certification examination. The student, following written procedure, then formally applies to a senior instructor for certification examination before a panel of instructors. The panel will examine the student’s training history, written tracking documentations, and files from trainers and instructors. They will verbally examine the student and then will determine whether the student meets the written criteria. If the student does meet the criteria, the instructors will pronounce certification and promotion to the next progressive certification training level. Students who are found to need additional training will be counseled, along with the student's trainer, and given another opportunity to apply.

JHPTS-VTATI has established four certified training levels following the historical designations referring to skill development: Basic, Apprentice, Journeyman and Sign Cutter.

Novice Tracking Student

Introduction to JHPTS-VTATI: The Tracking Training Program
The JHPTS-VTATI training program identifies each new student as a Novice. The Novice learning level acquaints each student with the JHPTS concept of professional tracking. Full awareness of the JHPTS-VTATI training necessitates many hours of introductory presentation and hands-on experience for students to grasp and accept the origin, evolution, and development of the JHPTS methodology.

Novice students who have been introduced to the JHPTS-VTATI program and its history and development learn that wherever people walk, they leave sign. Further, they learn that this sign can be seen by those with specialized training and knowledge. They now are ready to learn what they have been introduced to: tracking in all of its many facets.

Basic Tracker

First Learning Stage: Learning to See Sign
This Basic training stage is all encompassing. This is the foundation, the first stage of learning to see and recognize the physical evidence of the presence or passage of humans. Students will learn to see that which others look at but do not recognize, to have understanding of what human sign is, and to believe that wherever anyone walks they create sign.

The Basic Tracker begins to learn about inter-personal team member dynamics, elements of sign recognition components, the aging of sign, recognizing sign maker characteristics, and learning how those characteristics tell the sign story. This solid foundation of tracking knowledge and skill development is necessary, first to establish the belief that anyone who walks about leaves physical evidence of their presence or passage, and second that the training equips trackers to see and understand this evidence that others look at and do not recognize. Trackers who are not able to see sign with understanding are unable to track. Recognizing the evidence of human sign and understanding what one sees is the foundation of tracking.

Basic Trackers will apply learned tracking techniques to the best of their ability and training when no more highly trained tracker is present on scene to assist. Basic Trackers will have acquired sufficient awareness and familiarization of basic tracking fundamentals and understanding to apply them to an incident or mission. The objective of this training level is to ground the student solidly in the use of essential tracking principles.

Apprentice Tracker

Second Learning Stage: Learning to Use Tracking Techniques
The Apprentice Tracker training is well known and respected as the longest, most in-depth segment of training of the four training certifications. Students requesting entry into this mentored training stage acknowledge the fundamental beliefs necessary to further develop tracking knowledge and skills. These students understand and accept that tracking knowledge and skills are the product of long-term training, mentoring, and supervised practice of technique applications.

Apprentice students will be introduced to a wide range of curriculum topics integral to modern law enforcement, SAR, and military applications, including but not limited to: training and mission documentation; obtaining tracking mission or incident critical information; locating PLS (place last seen) or LKP (last known position) and getting the first track started, or identifying the totality of a scene and deciding a full examination plan; multiple tracking or examination team operations; elementary crime scene examinations; evidence location, identification, preservation and presentation; performing as tracking team leader; serving as a JHPTS-VTATI trainer; etc. Learning and field practice of all of these topics will reach the full awareness stage during the Apprentice training levels, with expectation of students achieving professional execution of all of the above during the Journeyman training levels.

Students certified at the Apprentice stage are competent to respond and work independently or with other trained trackers on a wide variety of tracking incidents. They will be familiar with the above referenced curriculum and all practices, policies, and procedures of the JHPTS-VTATI program. These students have demonstrated strong personal and professional tracker characteristics and integrity.

Journeyman Tracker

Third Learning Stage: Achieving Operational Tracking Success
Certification of students at the Jounreyman training stage serves to recognize and recommend their status as fully functional professional trackers. This tracker is not automatically infused with special qualities, knowledge, and skills by virtue of the certification, even though they have earnestly trained now for approximately five years. They must learn how to put all of that training together and gain experience and professionalism in its use. Certification does indicate individual willingness to offer their training, professional knowledge, and tracking skills for all public service tracking related opportunities. However, this professional Journeyman Tracker has yet to gain a greater knowledge of tracking possibilities, finesse in application, tact and diplomacy, greater leadership qualities, experience, and more. This seasoning of the Journeyman student in all aspects related to tracking will necessitate three training levels and approximately five years.

The Journeyman Tracker learning stage encompasses a broad spectrum of in-depth education to sufficiently equip students to reason and professionally affect successful solutions to most tracking incidents. This three-level training stage must perfect management and operational use of all tracking field techniques and encompass and incorporate full application of all related tracking curriculum. Journeyman Trackers must exhibit and demonstrate leadership competence and full confidence in their knowledge and skill applications.

Sign Cutter

Fourth Learning Stage: Master Tracker
“Sign Cutter” is the historical U.S. Border Patrol term and title denoting those persons having reached the level of knowledge, a broad spectrum of practical experience, and peer level recognition of superior tracking skill equating to a Master Tracker. The term “master” has many definitions: exceptionally gifted or skilled in an art, craft, or science; one who has achieved the status of a highly skilled workman or craftsman qualified to follow their trade independently and usually to supervise the work of others; a teacher, instructor, supervisor, an expert, one possessing great executive ability; one who is vigorously bold or authoritative in conduct, decision, and manner. All of these definitions are appropriate to describe those awarded the JHPTS-VTATI Master Tracker, Sign Cutter certification.

This tracking program student will have acquired the respect and recognition of peers throughout many years of active involvement and public demonstration of advanced tracking knowledge and skills in successful accomplishment of the broadest spectrum of tracking applications. The Sign Cutter title and definitions must include elements and participation experience with all three primary environments (SAR, law enforcement/crime scene examinations, and military Special Forces) in which JHPTS-VTATI trackers are employed as the most knowledgeable, most experienced, and most skilled tracking professionals.