Hunched intently over his map of the land navigation course silently plotting his points on the course, Bravo Co., 4th Reg. Reserve Officers’ Training Corps Cadet David Clark, from Delran, N.J. readied himself for a long afternoon in the Washington wilderness.
Slowly plotting each location, making sure everything was precise, the Rider University, Lawrenceville, N.J. Cadet began to get nervous, but nonetheless stayed the course and finished the task with the utmost care.
Checking his compass to ensure he was going in the right direction, Clark set out confidently on the trail, hoping to pass land navigation at the 2013 Leader Development and Assessment Course at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.
“The fact that I never want to give up, I would say that is my main trait,” said Clark. “I may not be the fastest guy, the strongest guy, or the smartest guy, but the fact that I never quit has actually kept me up in my battalion.”
The course is designed as a refresher that Cadets will use in their future as U.S. Army commissioned officers. They go through five different stations before they get started to ensure the training runs smoothly. A GPS device is being issued this year to help identify those who are having problems and what their weaknesses are during daytime land navigation so it can be corrected for the night land navigation portion.
Cadets are required to locate four of six points on the daytime course in a five-hour time limit in order to get a passing grade. The terrain can make it tough to succeed.
“The most difficult thing for Cadets is getting used to the different types of terrain,” said Master Sgt. Eric Lindsay. “A lot of them are coming from the East coast to the West coast and with the different foliage and the density of the trees, some of them aren’t used to going out in the dark and the weather conditions.”
The goal is to get as many to pass the first time as possible. Cadets get a second chance and after that it is based on a number of factors surrounding the individual Cadet as to whether they get another opportunity.
After finding his first point fairly quickly, Clark was on his way to completing the course. Like other Cadets, Clark actually found supplemental points rather than the main ones he was supposed to find. They are close together so Cadets don’t know they actually found supplemental points until they get back to the Cadre in charge.
After a downpour that soaked him from head to toe and several lightening delays, Clark finally ventured back out into the woods to complete the course. At that point in the day, time and exhaustion were against him and fellow Cadets.
“I must have run a couple thousand meters, just sprinting at one point because I had to run back,” said Clark. “If you don’t make it back in the time limit, you automatically fail.”
Staying motivated and focused during five hours of walking, running and navigating through the woods was a challenge in itself for many Cadets.
“You just have to realize it’s just one more thing you have to pass for LDAC,” said Clark. “You just think of nothing but the task you are doing right then and there. I knew I had to complete it and I did.”
Land navigation is an important training exercise for Cadets to complete at LDAC, testing their skills with directions as well as their ability to correctly read a map.
“Land navigation is a trait that if it is not used, it can be lost,” said Lindsay.
Going back to the basics, while trekking through the woods in rain soaked boots showed Clark the importance of land navigation as a Cadet and future Soldier.
“When all goes pretty much terrible and you lose your GPS and you lose everything else, you can still pull out your maps, attach them all together and figure out where you are going and actually continue the mission,” Clark said. “It’s a pretty good last resort. I believe every Soldier should know how to do land navigation.”
Story by Sara Nahrwold.