By Jim Harris
Land navigation is an important skill if you’re going to be walking a lot. This training was heavy in map reading, and using a compass and grid square protractor for determining your location, route and distance to your objective.
Upon returning to my home unit, I found out our next duty weekend was a MUTA 5 FTX (Military Unit Training Assembly, Field Training Exercise). This meant that Friday night through Sunday evening would be spent at a state recreation area playing army games.
There were a couple of guys in my company that had been to refresher with me and we teamed up to do the land navigation course that command staff had laid out. We were taking a break near the last point on our cards when our company commander (a supply type who figured out that if you wanted to advance, you needed to be a combat MOS officer so he went infantry) showed up.
He was having a hard time finding a mark and asked us where it was located. We pointed to a huge tree in the middle of a very large clearing and told him the grid coordinates indicated the tree was the mark.
He did not believe us because it was too obvious and he could not see the marker (it was on the side away from us) so off he went looking who knows where for his mark. He never did hit it.
A quick explanation about the land navigation courses: there are marked points that have a unique paper punch or rubber stamp. At the start, you are given either a card with preset points that you have to hit or just one point. If it’s the second setup, each point will have a new grid coordinate for you to go to next.
My company commander hit less than half of his points and ended up on staff instead of leading a company.
The land navigation course teaches participants how to traverse by foot or vehicle over unfamiliar and rough terrain that is usually many miles long. This training, which is taught under the harshest conditions, such as during a rain storm or in the dark of night, allows students to learn how to read maps, use a compass properly and other related navigational skills.
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