Land navigation undergoes changes, shortens time in the field
Cadets attending Leadership Development and Assessment Course don’t have the luxury of pulling out their iPhones to find directions during land navigation. In fact, the most advanced technologies available to them are compasses, maps and protractors.
The 6th Regiment headed to the field around 4:30 in the morning on June 25. Thanks to the massive rainfall the night before, a thick, sticky, beige mud covered everything it touched. Most of the 400 cadets roaming the field managed to get it up all the way up the back of their uniforms.
Cadets typically employ one of two land navigation methods. Some prefer dead reckoning, using a map, key terrain and a pace count. Others stick to connecting point A and point B with a compass and a straight line.
Cadet Daniel Bailey from Eastern Kentucky University has always used dead reckoning.
“I look for tree lines, key terrain around it [the point] like maybe a lake, cliffs, stuff like that. I’ll see where the point is on the map in relation to that key terrain feature. I can use my protractor to get an azimuth and distance from there, and that’s how I travel.”
One advantage the 6th Regiment had over most others was traveling and working in pairs.
Bailey’s battle buddy, Cadet SeanBasil, of Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, primarily uses the map and compass method to find points, but he does find a lot of use in dead reckoning.
“His is a lot faster and if you’re good at it, it’s way better to do especially during the day,” he said. “It’s hard here ‘cause it’s relatively flat but I mean we still used it for a lot of these.”
Master Sgt. Shawn Hodges from George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, served as the Team 2 noncommissioned officer in charge. He said several changes have been made to land navigation since the beginning of LDAC.
“The 5th Reg started working in battle buddies,” he said. “It’s risk mitigation. If one gets hurt, the other gets help.”
Bailey and Basil liked working with a buddy and agreed it was important that buddies trust themselves and each other.
“You gotta trust your battle buddy that he’ll do his job right just like he’s trusting you,” Bailey said. “But more importantly you gotta trust yourself; you gotta have confidence in yourself. We had an issue up here where we weren’t sure if we were at our first point. We checked it again, confident in ourselves, confident in the training that we had, then we knew we were right.”
Basil agreed and said sometimes your method won’t work, so you have to let someone else step in.
“I mean there were a couple of times where I knew I was a little off or like we had to go around some stuff and me using the compass definitely wasn’t going to work so I had to trust him to get to that actual point or we would have still been wandering around out there,” Basil said.
Other changes included the number of points the Cadets had to find and how long they spent on the course.
“It’s a new area with high humidity and heat,” Hodges said. “We reduced the time on the course and now they find five points in pairs instead of 10 points individually.”
Cadets walked with a purpose. Many of them counted steps under their breath. One pair struggled to decide which direction they were supposed to face before planning the route to the next point.
“Get a little insurance,” Hodges advised the Cadets. “Get four or five. If you’re wrong on one of your three, you’re screwed.”
Bailey and Basil got off to a good start and found all five points with two hours to spare.
“I’m glad, ‘cause it’s one of those things where if you fail, you have to take the retest and that sucks,” Basil said.
“I’m relieved,” Bailey said. “But we’re gonna feel a lot better once we check in and find out our points are right.”