FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. — Most people know how to use GPS to navigate through unfamiliar territory, but a lot of individuals would get lost if that GPS suddenly became unavailable.
According to Staff Sgt. Juan Trujillo, drill sergeant with Company B, 3rd Battalion, 10th Infantry Regiment, land navigation is a vital skill, which is useful to Soldiers in many aspects of life.
“Our main focus is going back to the basics where a map, compass and protractor are all you need,” Trujillo said.
Staff Sgt. Peter Nuoffer, also a drill sergeant with Co. B, 3-10 Inf. Bn., added, “the ones who focus on their own integrity and work hard at this will be the beneficiaries of a skill that, while perishable, they take their first couple of steps to being on an expert level, which will carry them throughout their career.”
Nuoffer said despite the technology the Army possesses, there will be times when it is not available. He added that being deployed, you never know what you will have available. Learning to navigate without technology could save lives.
“I remember seeing an interview with Donald Rumsfeld (former Defense Secretary) where a Soldier asked him why the units did not have certain equipment while deployed. Rumsfeld said ‘we deploy with the Army we have, not with the Army we want.'” Nuoffer said he takes that approach when teaching his Soldiers.
Trujillo said it is important for them, as drill sergeants, to take their time with this training. This is the Soldiers’ first experience going out on their own.
Pvt. Daniel DeSantiago said this is his first experience with land navigation and admitted that he did get lost.
“We went straight north when we should have gone northeast,” he said.
DeSantiago added that the hilly terrain makes it difficult to navigate.
Pvt. Jonathan Anacay said he has done land navigation before but is still learning a lot from the course.
Trujillo said they set aside three to five days for land navigation training. This includes classroom training, hands-on training, reinforcement training and testing. He said they repeat each step as many times as it takes to ensure everyone grasps the concepts before sending them out into the woods.
Nuoffer called it a “crawl, walk, run phase.” He said they crawl for a very long time, which means teaching them how to read a map and how to translate what they see on the map to the terrain they will encounter on the ground.
“Land navigation is where you start to see who they (the Soldiers) are going to be,” Nuoffer said, adding that those who applied themselves during classes and initial training will rise above the rest.
“What we are doing is, we are laying the groundwork for who these Soldiers will be when it is their time to replace us,” Nuoffer said.
Trujillo said land navigation is a test of the drill sergeant’s own leadership and patience, as well. He said it is easy to get frustrated with a Soldier for not understanding, but it is important to remember, “Soldiers are not here for drill sergeants, drill sergeants are here for Soldiers.”
Trujillo and Nuoffer agree on the fact that every Soldier needs to have the ability to step up if another falls out. It is vital for each Soldier to learn and be confident enough in their abilities to do so. Nuoffer said this is especially true when they are in the field without drill sergeants, navigating their way to each point.