Land Navigation

One of the critical skills you will learn in Army ROTC is land navigation/map reading. As a junior leader in the Army you will be expected to get your soldiers to the fight, and find your soldiers. As a signal company commander in Germany in the early 90’s I would often have my company spread over hundreds of square kilometers. My company consisted of small teams of communications soldiers who would deploy to the high ground around central Germany to install a communications network. During these field problems my days were usually spent traveling to the remote sites to check on my soldiers and solve problems, or traveling to higher headquarter’s field sites to attend meetings. Being able to plot where my sites were on a map and navigate to those sites was critical to my job.

In the GKB we spend a lot of time on teaching land navigation and map reading. I have already taught two mapreading classes to the freshman class. We have covered map basics (colors on a map, terrain features, and marginal information on the map sheet). We also covered how to plot a grid coordinate. We use a Military Grid Reference System (MGRS) to identify a point on the ground with a two letter and four, six, or eight digit coordinate, much like a latitude/longitude. We have also covered how to plot a direction and a distance on a map from a grid coordinate, and also how to measure distance on a map. The lab of land nav week involved pace and compass work in the woods on campus. Cadets were given a series of directions and distances that they were required to travel and identify a sign with a number/letter combination at each juncture in the course.
We even incorporate land nav into our PT during our land nav week. The Friday of land nav week each squad gets a rough map of the town of Potsdam with a bunch of points plotted. They need to run to as many as they can in the allotted time and identify the letter/number combination at the locations. Further points are worth more, and the squad that gets the best score has bragging rights.

Finally the cadets spent a day at our local training area (Stone Valley) where they practice putting it all together during the daytime, and at night.

This training replicates the day and night land navigation test they will have to pass at Warrior Forge after their junior year. Freshmen do the training in groups with the help of an experienced Senior Cadet to learn the “tricks of the trades” before being sent out in pairs or alone later in the semester.  Having the trainng areas and the progressive system of training ensures that every graduate of the Golden Knight Battalion has a solid foundation of navigations skills.


  1. I’m pretty much old school (4 function hand held calucators were a big deal). All the new technology is great and a real force mulitplier. But you really need to train for the time when you run out of battery power and you just have you and your platoon.

    1. Even with today’s technology a soldier still needs to know how to tell which way is North and which direction the GPS is telling them to go. They still need to know how to analyze the terrain and place all their weapons systems, or engineer their radio shot, or determine where best to emplace the wire obstacle. Now a days the chance that all 30 GPS’s in the Platoon will run out of batteries at the same time are slim, but you are right that there is more to map reading than just moving around the battlefield from point to point.

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