Half of the 914 troops attending the Basic Leaders Course failed land navigation according to the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC). The course is designed for Soldiers who are about to be promoted to sergeant. Navigating with a map and compass is a much-needed skill, especially today, and every non-commissioned officer (NCO), regardless of Military Occupation Specialty, should have at least a basic proficiency in Land Navigation.
According to Military.com, Land Navigation has been absent from the Basic Leaders Course for four years. That was a huge mistake on the Army’s part.
In a future near-peer conflict, there is a very good chance that our enemies will attempt to jam our GPS signals or shoot down our GPS satellites. If our troops are without GPS, our troop support personnel will get lost, as happened to Jessica Lynch and her unit in the Iraq War. The unit ended up being ambushed resulting in several killed in action and others being taken prisoners.
Combat arms troops and light infantry units without GPS and practical experience with maps and compasses will be tempted to stick to roads too much, leaving them open to ambushes.
Land Navigation remains a required core skill for American Special Operations Forces. The land navigation course for the Army’s Special Forces is one of the toughest courses of its kind anywhere.
When I was a cadre member of the Special Forces Assessment and Selection Course (SFAS), I was occasionally tasked with teaching a quick refresher to the candidates before they attempted our Land Navigation course. All of the candidates were expected to be proficient in all of these skills, but often it was clear that many of them were not.
Every soldier in a leadership position should know map reading and land navigation to the point that they could teach a class on it to others.
The skills that every NCO should be very familiar with include but won’t be limited to:
- Contour Lines: What are contour lines? Know the three types and how they appear on the different terrain features. Also, know how to find and identify the contour interval on each map sheet;
- Terrain Features: How many terrain features are there? Know how to be able to identify each;
- Declination diagram: Be able to identify it on the map and know how it works. Be able to know what the declination is for your area immediately;
- Azimuth and back azimuth: Identify what it is, how it is used, and how to calculate it using the declination diagram. What are the two ways it can be measured?
- Orienting a Map: What is its definition? How many methods are there to orient a map? Be able to orient a map using every method;
- Intersection: How is the method of intersection used?
- Resection: What is resection and how can it be used?
- Dead Reckoning: What is dead reckoning? Know the steps of dead reckoning;
- Field Expedient Direction: How many ways are there to determine it? Be able to perform each one.
- 8-digit Grid Coordinate: What does this measure? How close will that take you to a point on the ground?
- 6-digit Grid Coordinate: What does this measure? How close will that take you to a point on the ground?
- Colors on the Map: How many colors on a map are there, and what do they denote?
- Mils to degrees: How many mils equal one degree? How is each one used?
- Circle: How many mils are there in a circle? How many degrees?
Being able to find points on the ground using a map and compass is a valuable skill that every NCO should know and be able to impart to younger soldiers.
Feature Image U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Audrey Ann Hayes
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