"This workshop provided the land navigation skills that I needed to get ahead of the curve for testing for special forces."
Eric P. - California


"Thank you for your quick response. I really appreciated your patient explanation of map and compass work."
Black B. - G.A.R.D. Virginia


"Thanks for your patience and skill...I got a lot out of the time together thanks to your skills at teaching and knowledge of the subject matter. The time was also thought provoking and I have a lot of things to work on. This was kick *ss! What do you think of a follow-up training?"
Hank C. - South Carolina


"Rob's land navigation instruction is phenomenal. I was quite familiar with land navigation techniques before attending. He rapidly assessed my skillset, gave me a few additional tools, then taught me how to apply the whole "toolbox" during day and night movements. Teachers know course material but it takes a real professional to modify/adapt their material to exactly suit a student's needs. Thanks Rob, you exceeded my expectations."
Ben B. - Physician


"Thank you for all of you knowledge transfer and help with navigation last weekend. I had a lot of fun over the three days, and it really reinforced things and refreshed some of what I know. I took away a lot of information, and I really enjoyed your method of teaching. It's so much easier to learn by experience and have a small class so that the instructor can individually help the students."
Christie H. - M.A.D.O.G.S.


"The Land Navigation and Orienteering Course was excellent. As an Instructor myself it was a great opportunity to work in an unfamiliar territory on such an intensive course. I was impressed with how well the class was designed and the fact that we spent so little time in the classroom. I wanted to improve my skills and increase my proficiency. Your class far exceeded my expectations. I plan on coming back again just because it was so much fun. Thanks for a great class."
Randall B. - Appalachian Professional Tracking Group, Inc.



"I think this course was very well presented. The instructors were very knowledgeable of the subject matter. It will be very helpful. I really enjoyed every single bit of this training."
Lt. Donald W. - Virginia Department of Corrections Tactical Strike Unit


"Rob Speiden and his instructors did a great job of putting on this class again. The participants were given knowledge and skills that will greatly enhance the(ir) effectiveness on ground searches and manhunts. The participants gave 100% and did a great job. Several participants want more of this training, possibly an advanced class."
Captain P.C. Dobbins VDOC K9 Instructor


"Very good class, I learned a whole lot and had fun. I felt the program as a whole would be helpful for any K-9 handler and T.S.U. member."
Captain James R. - VDOC


"I have taken a lot of training in my career and this training is one of the very best." 
Mark T. - Investigator, Rappahannock County Sheriff’s Office


"Awesome instructors, very willing to pass along the knowledge to help you become a better tracker."
Brad N. - Deputy, Henrico County Sheriff’s Office


"The instructors w(ere) professional and took time to explain the material as well as allowing practical applications to physically do what has been taught. This class is excellent and I would recommend this for all law enforcement personnel."
Sgt. Larry I. - VDOC Officer


"One of the best classes I have taken yet."
Lt. Chris A. - VDOC Officer


"This course was a great experience. The instructors were great, their knowledge and ability to convey the information was excellent."
Brian W. - VDOC K9 Officer


"This was one of the best classes I have had in DOC. More people with this skill would help ensure the public safety."
Kevin E. - VDOC K9 Officer


"This course was very helpful if ever called upon to respond to a missing (escaped) inmate or fugitive that is missing or committed a crime."
Lonnie H. - VDOC K9 Officer


"The entire program was very helpful not only to me but to the department of corrections. Tracking is a very important training and all employees need to take this course. Instructors Rob Speiden, Al Cire, Mike Hull were very helpful, to-the-point type of instructors. They really made the course really interesting."
Cleveland E. - VDOC Officer


"Outstanding course. I would like to see this course go two weeks. One of the best courses I’ve been through! I will recommend this course to others Great Job! Instructors were great!!"
Michael S. - VDOC Officer


"Really enjoyed the realism and the pace of the class. Instructors were very knowledgeable and patient."
Joe Y. - VDOC Academy Staff


"Really like the outdoor training more hands on than classroom time, which I think for me is more helpful. Actually doing the task than listen to what others have done or reading from a book. Great instructors kept it interesting. I like it, great class!!!"
Rickey R. - VDOC Officer


"This class was by far the best I’ve had outside of K9. Every area is very important. The instructors were extremely well prepared and extremely knowledgeable of what they were teaching."
Chris R. - VDOC K9 Officer

Operational Tracker Evaluation

Check out this link for a few words on a certification experience: BIGPIGOUTDOORS

Search & Rescue

"Our skills, organization, volunteers and equipment help(ed) lead to the safe location of the child. We used the behavior book and the child was located 1.5 miles from home well in the parameters of the book. This class really helped us out with a successful outcome. Thanks."
Chris M. - Marion County, WV HSEM


"Really enjoyed the class and believe there should be more SAR classes available. Stayed on track and made class very enjoyable and created a learning environment."
ESCAPE conference attendee 2011



"Dear Prospective Student,

I strongly encourage you to contact the Natural Awareness Tracking School at your earliest opportunity. As you already know, there are many Tracking institutions throughout the United States. Mr. Rob Speiden however has been to almost all of these schools. He has invested copious amounts of time studying the most intimate details of both Human and Animal tracking techniques. The resources and network of highly trained professional trackers available to you through The Natural Awareness Tracking School are priceless.

As a beginner in Animal Tracking, I was frustrated with the lack of available Mentors in the area of my interest. With Mark Elbroch, Charles Worsham, Paul Rezendez, Jon Young, Joel Hardin & Tom Brown all either living far away from me, or completely retired from the profession all together, I thought that my chances for learning the secrets of professional tracking were limited. It was with pleasure I discovered The Natural Awareness Tracking School in Christiansburg, Virginia. Thinking I would have to travel, I contacted the schools lead instructor, Rob Speiden. Together, we designed a customized course which allowed me to study in depth my area of interest in my own back yard and surrounding community.

Over a period of three days, Mr. Speiden opened my eyes to the invisible drama’s which occur around each of us on a daily basis. As we walked through a neighbor’s corn field, I was amazed to find (with Rob’s help of course!) a long chain of skunk tracks. As I stumbled over these, Rob pointed out the intricacies of the tracks. I learned how to truly “see” the essence of the animal, approximate the age of the track, size of the animal and methods for following tracks through difficult substrates. During the time we spent together in a one on one environment, I was able to observe Opossum, Turkey, Skunk, Bear, Fox and the ever present Deer tracks. By the end of the three day weekend, I could track through tall grasses, gravel & dirt roads, over stones & brush making use of the indicators Rob showed me. With an equal mix of “Dirt Time” and one on one instruction via plaster casts & lecture, my tracking abilities and knowledge greatly expanded.

Since that first class, I have remained in contact with The Natural Awareness Tracking School. I have met countless people through the School that share my interests and have helped me to grow as a Tracker. If you are interested in becoming proficient in either animal or human tracking, The Natural Awareness Tracking School is truly the place to “re-learn to see”. I strongly encourage the prospective student to begin their journey with Rob Speiden and his excellent team of professionals. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions about my experiences with the School.

Respectfully, Fergus W. Clare June 20th, 2008"



"Those of you that have not ordered it yet, I suggest that you do so. This is a damned fine book. Rob this came out very good. It is comprehensive and enjoyable to read."
Del Morris – Director, International Society of Professional Trackers.


"Your book gives a very complete coverage of the subject, is well organized and easy to read. Not only do you thoroughly cover the subject of tracking, but it is presented in a way that emphasizes the overall goal of the search. That quote from Greg concerning the Best Resource was great. I think the book presents a lot of relevant information – that will promote enthusiasm to learn and do the work. It will foster the proper mindset to succeed. You did a great job of raising awareness of the many variables that need to be addressed in training.
Your repeated emphasis on dirt time (to me its leash time) is probably the most important point to get across. Again, a great effort and valuable reading to anyone involved in search and rescue. I will suggest your book as important reading for bloodhound handlers in my classes."
Jim Shaffer – Bloodhound trainer


"I received the book and I am very impressed. It is probably the most comprehensive and well organized text on the subject."
- William G.


"This is an attractive, well researched book that combines common sense and specifics about how best to evaluate sign in Search and Rescue scenarios. The author's wealth of experience and enthusiasm for the subject shines through on every page. The quality of relevant photographs and clarity of layout make this book a pleasure to read. I found Speiden's discussion of soil characteristics as related to tracking excellent. This is a book that should be added to the library of any tracking enthusiast who wants to improve, and better understand their craft."
Kevin Casey, author of Australian Bush Survival Skills


"Thanks for the great book. For someone trying to get into learning awareness and tracking this book is great. I was lost with a couple of other books I have read but this one makes sense."
- Jon M.


"These are the little pieces I prepare for a reading list for my immediate colleagues and the main reason for the delay in sending them is that I re-read Rob's book again from cover to cover after letting it soak in. It really is first-class. A superb man-tracking textbook written for SAR folks, based on the teachings of Charles Worsham and Greg Fuller (the ‘Virginia’ school). It provides useful information on visual tracking methods and techniques, how we see, etc, and backs this up with multiple sense tracking, e.g., smelling tracks (it really works!). It is heavily into ‘indexing’, especially as a means of aging (and makes the tremendous point that aging is event-based, not time based). The trailing techniques are biased towards wedging in pairs and there are separate sections on tracking across leaves, grass, rocks, slopes, etc. Pressure releases as action indicators receive intelligent treatment (albeit on sand). The choice of vocabulary is somewhat unusual but perhaps clearer to understand for all that. The section on animal tracking may not follow all the tenets of conventional wisdom but it does makes the key point that one has to be familiar with animal tracks to be a good people tracker. A ‘must-have’ for man-tracking and SAR purposes. Oh, and you can chuck away those tracking sticks too!"
Rawdon O.


"I just wanted you to know that I have read just about all of your book, Foundations, on vacation and think it is very well done. At first, great sign cutting abilities appeared to be like voodoo magic or something, but now with a little knowledge about the subject, it's more intimidating than that! I realize that to develop the ability to track well I have to take my observation skills to a much higher level. I own and have read other tracking books and found yours by far the easiest to translate into action. The others were helpful, but Foundations was truly a …guide to what the beginner should start looking for and I would assume the seasoned tracker should refresh themselves with.
From tracking people and observing value changes first hand on the beach to casting animal tracks near the river …I have really attempted to begin my education in tracking because of your book. Please know, I am at the lowest level of beginner, but I'll say it again, Foundations has given me the push in the right direction that I want to observe. Although I am at the very beginning of sign cutting, I feel I now have some basic understandings to work with. Coming from a law enforcement background, your philosophy about team work, your cautions about attention seeking behaviors (Media, shooting from the hip, etc) and your ultimate goal of success regardless of who appears to be responsible for it were perfect and on target. The book has really gotten me excited about sign cutting for both people and animals."
Dan C. Montgomery County, MD, PD


"I found your book “Foundations for awareness, signcutting and tracking” in the Wilderness Awareness School’s office. It was amazing! I am so impressed. I am already practicing tracking in Japan. But nobody knows about rescue tracking even animal tracking.
My country’s forest is not deeper than the USA’s forest. Rescue team does not need tracking skill, just use man power. However I am thinking we need human tracking. I think my country also need rescue tracking, but no one knows how to do that.
I really want to study about rescue tracking in your school. One day I’m gonna go to your school. I am studying about tracking by dirt time that will be helped by your book. I just really want to say THANKS, Your book is so amazing."
Yusuke M.


"I have just finished reading Rob’s new book. It is an excellent resource full of useful information peppered throughout with Rob’s unique sense of humor. It is well written, technical, and easy to read all at the same time. He even explains the lingo and jargon used in the tracking society things like TLA and such. Since my copy is a first edition and signed by the author I know I’m going to make a mint on ebay when Mr. Speiden becomes famous. Great job Rob. I can’t wait for the movie."
Ken C


"I too enjoyed reading my first edition of the book. Robert did a great job of clearly spelling out many interesting concepts of tracking. He interspersed his teachings with actual “in the dirt” experiences. I really liked the fact that he included some mistakes he made over the years. It shows the human side of tracking as well as cemented some of the assumptions about the “art” that can get you and others into trouble. Great work Robert! This one’s going in my “highly recommended” list."
- Joel B.


"I had a chance to read over your newly written book, Foundations.  The book was easy to read and explained procedures so a rookie could understand; I think this was your intention.  From reading the book I took away the basics and the knowledge to call in experts. I could see alot of time and thought went into the writing of the book.  Congratulations on a well written book."
Leith Eric S.


"Book Review: Foundations for Awareness, Signcutting and Tracking

By Cathy Hershfield, VSRDA (ARDA-VA)

Written by: Robert Speiden   Natural Awareness Tracking School, LLC, 2009   268pp.   $35.00  www.trackingschool.com

About the Author:

Rob Speiden has been an active member of the SAR community since 1993. He took his first tracking course in 1995, a Field Team Sign Cutter (FTS) course offered by the Virginia Department of Emergency Management (VDEM). He has since become a VDEM instructor of the FTS course. He is the founder of the Natural Awareness Tracking School in which he offers education in tracking and outdoor skills such as survival and land navigation.

About the book:

As dog handlers some of you may be wondering, why read a book on signcutting and tracking? Maybe the term “signcutting” is raising a few eyebrows. For those with the quizzical look, it is defined as the art and science of detecting disturbance to the natural environment, which could indicate the passage of a person. I know what you’re thinking...”Well that's all very nice but I'm a dog handler. I move at the speed of a charging horse, I watch my dog, I make sure I stay in my sector. I have no time to look for bent twigs.” You have a point, but look closer at the title; the first word is “Awareness”. The author's fundamental purpose is to educate searchers on how to become better at track and clue awareness.

“It is this awareness of clues that allows us to first, do no harm and second, expedite finding the missing person.” p. 224

As dog handlers we bring to the search a highly trained K-9 resource. But do we let the dog run while we wait at base camp eating Twinkies? Of course not, we are part of the K-9 team. As such we need to be a fully functional team member. We have 5 senses - why not use all of them to help find the missing person instead of relying on our trusted K-9 to do all the work? We can and should be just as clue aware as any other resource responding to the emergency of a lost person. That is why you should read this book.

The book is designed to be a companion text book to the VDEM Field Team Signcutter course. Each chapter begins with clearly defined objectives and is outlined according to the required FTS standards. The topics covered are numerous but as stated by the author, they merely lay the groundwork. He encourages the reader to explore the many sources he cites to further ones own knowledge and quell the curiosity that builds as you read through the book.

Don't be thrown by the word “textbook”. This isn't your garden variety textbook. In each chapter Rob shares stories of the many searches he has been on and the lessons he learned. The tone is casual and reassuring, you too can do this..., give it a try..., get in some “dirt time”. Yes, who doesn't like to play in the dirt, and that's just what you'll have to do. Clue awareness is a perishable skill, you'll need to get out and practice. Use this book as a guide. It explains what you should look for, how to look for it and what to do when you've found it.

There are plenty of pictures and diagrams plus lots of cartoons. You don't have to read each chapter in sequence. You can skip around. Read the chapter on Awareness and you'll learn how to fine tune your 5 senses to better detect the “something” that is out of place. Was that a shoe against that tree?

“The best way to be more aware is to open all of your senses. Consider your senses to be like muscles. If left unused, they will atrophy.” p.62

Did you know that there are 7 basic elements of visual perception? How can you tell when someone is walking backwards? It's in there. Did you know that with just a little distortion a track from a black bear can look a lot like a human barefoot print? There is even guidance to the FTS member on how to be a member of a canine team. Imagine that, a collaboration of resources on the same team.

“..., searching for a person in the wilderness without clue and track awareness is like driving without being able to read the traffic signs, you may be able to stay on the road, but what are you missing?” p.10

As dog handlers we are fully aware of the prolific number of clues left by the passage of the lost person. Why not fine tune your own detection skills so that when you respond to the call for a missing 3 year old, you and your K-9 partner are at the top of your game. It's a good book and I definitely recommend you read it."