Basic Camp

Cadets lay foundation for land navigation

Bravo company cadets practices their land navigation skills at their first land navigation sight. The cadets have 3 hours to find the points and return to the starting point. Photo by Michael Noble Jr.

Bravo Company Cadets practices their land navigation skills at their first land navigation sight. The cadets have 3 hours to find the points and return to the starting point. Photo by Michael Noble Jr.

By Crystal Allen
Leader’s Training Course

Matthew Doll’s instructors sent him into the woods one night last week with nothing but a compass, a red reading light and a map, and told him he couldn’t come back until he’d found three numbered flags.

“I was like, ‘How am I going to find one point in this huge forest?’ ” said Doll, a Bravo Company Cadet and junior at West Virginia University. “But then once you break it down, it’s really not that big.”

Cadets at the Leader’s Training Course are set up for success in the field by first taking an extensive course in map reading. Over about eight hours of instruction, Cadets learn how to use a compass, read a military map, distinguish terrain features and how to determine the best angle to take to reach their destination.

The skills they learn are designed to help Cadets orient themselves and find their way around in a combat situation once they become Soldiers, said Sgt. Vasilios Palamaras, a Bravo Company drill sergeant who helped teach map reading.

“It’s extremely important that they were briefed on that so they weren’t walking off a cliff or if they were in trouble, they knew what to do,” he said.

Map reading prepares Cadets for Before land navigation test: one held during the day and another held at night. Each map reading class showed Cadets examples of what they would be tested on. To help ready them, the instructors would tell them to find four points on their maps, just as Cadets will be told during the land navigation testing phase.

Doll had never taken a mapping class.

“I think it’s absolutely necessary because without that prior knowledge, when you enter the course, you wouldn’t know the steps, you wouldn’t know where to start and if you don’t know where to start you won’t find your end point,” he said. “The classroom was definitely like the backbone.”

Before the land navigation tests, the Cadets complete a day of practice set up exactly like the test day. During the tests, each Cadet receives a scorecard with a series of numbers. The numbers indicate the five points they have to find in the woods. The points are marked with flags with the scorecard numbers.

Once the Cadet finds each point, he or she has to reach the finishing point. At night, Cadets have a harder time reading the map and are only given three points to find. Cadets have a four-hour time limit to complete each test.

If a Cadet fails the course the first time, they are allowed to repeat it with a different Leader’s Training Course company. If they fail again, they receive an “unqualified” rating in land navigation on their final assessment report. The decision is left up to the professor of military science at the Cadet’s school on whether the Cadet can attempt the course again after LTC.

However, few Cadets fail each year. Many, such as Pedro Ramos, a Bravo Cadet and junior at Cameron University, had two semesters of map reading instruction back at his school. He said the instruction at LTC strengthened his skill.

“I felt like the classes had me well prepared for (the land navigation tests),” he said. “I was just ready to take it on.”

The navigation course, like all LTC courses, is set up to prepare to train Cadets for situations they might experience in a combat or non-combat environment.

“Land nav to me would probably be the most crucial because if you’re sent out on a mission and you get stuck, technology’s not always going to be dependable,” Ramos said. “You’ve got to be able to get down to the basics and find out where you’re going.”

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