Master Sgt. Eric Lindsay made it clear to fatigue-clad Reserve Officers’ Training Corps Cadets jammed together on metal bleachers what their immediate goal at the land navigation course on June 18 was: earn at least 40 points.
“Thirty-five out of 60, now you’re a sad panda, you’re not in the running for [Reconnaissance and Commando Badge],” said Lindsay in a brief before 1st Regiment Cadets began the course. “You ain’t got to be the fastest person out there. You just can’t be the slowest.”
An outdoor event that has a day and night portion, land navigation requires Cadets of the Leader Development and Assessment Course at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. to use mapping and orientation skills to locate various points in fields and wooded areas. Although Cadets relish the competition of earning points during the training exercise, Capt. Xavier Loredo, team one officer in charge, said understanding how to travel from one point to another has real-world value.
“It’s a pretty important skill, and if you don’t practice it, you definitely can lose it,” said Loredo.
Land navigation training would later be helpful when transporting supplies, providing support or monitoring security elements, said Loredo.
In addition to having completed a minimum of two field training exercises a year at their universities, Loredo said Cadets spent the morning reviewing various skills that could benefit them on the course, such as pace count on different terrains and route-planning.
A GPS tracking device was a new feature to land navigation this year. When Cadets completed the course¾or when their time of four hours and two and a half hours in the day and night, respectively, ran out¾and did not receive a perfect score, they could use the GPS with Cadre to evaluate their mistakes and successes in the field in order to improve.
Under a shrieking blue sky dotted with plush white clouds, Cadets spent an hour reviewing their maps, hydrating and scavenging their MREs before absorbing Lindsay’s safety brief about protocol for injuries and avoiding wildlife.
Cadet Trudie Gabaldo, Bravo Co., 1st Regiment, of the University of Iowa, said she had not taken much personal time to prepare for the course but said she felt secure in her knowledge of navigation.
“I think more than anything [land navigation is] a confidence-builder, that you can learn a skill and use it,” she said.
Cadet Tyler Lemay, Alpha Co., 1st Regiment, of Tarleton State University, came to JBLM from Round Rock, Texas, making lush vegetation a mostly foreign landscape to him. But he would not let an unfamiliar climate deter him.
“[It’s about] getting through it and going through,” said Lemay. “I’m just trying to enjoy myself at the same time.”
While tromping through Washington’s wilderness can be enjoyable, Gabaldo said she realizes land navigation’s importance.
“It’s one of those skills that you’re only going to need when you’re already in trouble,” she said. “You’ve got to be good, because it might be your only chance.”
Story by Monica Spees.