Ah, Land Navigation. Ladies and gentlemen, there was a time when, if you handed me a compass, an azimuth, a twelve-digit grid coordinate, and a topographical map, I could have told you exactly where we were, were we were going, and how long it would take us to get there. It was one of the very few things I was good at as an Army ROTC cadet, and I was a bit proud of myself when I successfully completed the Land Navigation course at Camp All American while some of my fellow ROTC cadets who outstripped me in all other areas couldn’t find their way to the first point on the list.
But Land Navigation was pretty much the only thing I was good at, sad to say.
My career as an ROTC cadet was pretty miserable. I was mediocre at weapons qualification. I stunk at PT. I couldn’t understand Troop Leadership or basic squad tactics if my life depended on it. I was a lousy cadet. And yet somehow I graduated and was commissioned into the Army Reserves. Now as an officer, I did much better, but then I was in the Transportation Corps, where we worked with vehicles and… maps! I was always good with maps.
For those of you not familiar with Land Navigation, allow me to explain the cartoon above. Cadets were always sent out in pairs for training (though for the Land Nav course at Camp All American, we were on our own). This was a safety precaution, of course. You’ll see in the cartoon the one rat lists off the course direction in degrees (which can be measured on a compass) and a distance of 1000 meters. The other rat is counting paces. Before every Land Nav course, we had to do a pace count, where we counted how many paces we had to take to match a 50 meter distance. That way we could count off the paces to mark how far we were traveling as we followed the course direction (or azimuth) on our compass and thus got from point A to point B.
Sounds simple, right? Except that not all Land Nav problems were that straight forward. Sometimes you were given a description of a landmark and it’s direction relative to you. Then you had to calculate the distance to get there. Or you were given a distance and a landmark, but had to find the direction by finding the landmark on the map. Or maybe you were just given a 12-digit grid coordinate and had to figure out all the other info from there. Or…
Simply put, Land Navigation was the same problem over and over again – figure out how to get from point A to point B – but configured many different ways. I understood that. But it was about the only thing I understood in the Army.
Good thing I went into Transportation, huh?
(**Interesting little tidbit. I write these posts the Sunday before they go up. I just realized as I write this that tonight is the season finale of my favorite show LOST, which is also the final word in this week’s cartoon. Imagine the forces of fate that had to line up to make that happen! Okay, yeah. I’m stretching it, I know. But still!**)