Navigating the Path to Strength
by Tanner Cole
They entered the tent with map, compass and answer sheets in hands. Setting out at 4:30 that morning, the cadets were determined to prove their senses of direction for the land navigation portion of the Leader Development and Assessment Course.
The cadets sought out 10 points each at least 300 meters from the last. They worked individually and traveled only by foot. After plotting out and finding their points, they returned to the grading tent to learn their results. To receive a passing grade they needed to correctly plot at least six points.
Cadet Christopher Morton likely owes some of his skills to his military heritage. Morton is from Wiesbaden, Germany. His father met his mother while stationed there. Morton only came to America after high school in order to attend the University of Dubuque in Iowa. Now he’s navigating American terrain with ease.
While many came back with only seven or eight points plotted, Morton walked in with all ten filled out. They were all correct.
“It was challenging,” he said. “It was dense, but it wasn’t anything you can’t do. It’s just all about practice really.”
Morton’s sights are set high outside of the course as well. He plans on pursuing a career in the skies flying planes and recognized the importance of navigation.
“I want to go aviation,” Morton said. “Learning how to navigate, not jut by the air but by the ground, is important. If you ever get shot down you have to know how to navigate. That’s survival.”
While Morton’s journey reflected his future career traversing the airways, cadets like Edwin Abrazado, of Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas, saw the test as just one part of the larger journey the Army was taking him along.
“I didn’t know what to do out of high school,” Abrazado said. “I went in to college and didn’t have a scholarship. I was paying for it out of pocket, but then I went to the Corps of Cadets at Texas A&M.”
The ROTC program helped Abrazado out with a three-year scholarship and the training he needed to succeed. By taking the opportunity, Abrazado developed a skillset that allowed him to pass the land navigation test easily.
“I started having to focus on my pace count and trusting my skills,” he said. “I was going in there trying to located familiar terrain like roads and curves and it just didn’t work out in the beginning. Once I started focusing and using the training that I’ve learned, it helped me find a lot more points.”