News: True land navigation
Story by Sgt. Dalton Smith
FORT CHAFFEE, Ark. – “You may cheat, but inside you will lose,” said Staff Sgt. Lyal Sandry, engineer with 744th Engineer Company (Mobility Augmentation).
Sandry, of Ogden, Utah, explained the basic rules of the land navigation course to the soldiers before they entered the field during the opening brief. One of the only guidelines set was they could not use their cell phones or Global Positioning System (GPS) devices during the actual exercise to cheat.
Combat engineers of the 744th Eng. Company (MA), out of Ogden, Utah, exercised their land navigation skills during training at the annual U.S. Army Reserve exercise Operation River Assault here.
“GPS is great, but satellites fail and batteries die,” said 2nd Lt. Jerry Davis, of Salt Lake City, Utah, with the 744th Eng. Company (MA). “Soldiers need to know how to navigate in the 21st century with the basic skills to learn true land navigation.”
One of the challenging hurdles for people who are new to land navigation is terrain association, said Davis. Terrain association is knowing how to read a map’s features, such as hills and valleys, and being able to translate them into real life features.
“We try to make it as easy as possible so soldiers do not get lost while on this course,” said Davis. “We minimize difficulty by giving emergency azimuths and phone numbers.”
“The hardest part with land navigation is finding the right degree on the compass and also trying to find a landmark to align with,” said Pvt. Ray Pangelinan, combat engineer with the 744th Eng. Company (MA).
Besides land navigation, the soldiers will also have to go through four training lanes: Communication, demolition, weapon breakdown and medical. This is all part of the unit’s sapper stakes.
Sapper stakes is a small, internal competition for bragging rights between the three squads participating. If a squad completes all four lanes and finds all four land navigation points within one hour, forty-five minutes they will gain the bragging rights until the next sapper stakes are performed.
“We do sapper stakes not just as a competition, but also as a training so the soldiers stay up-to-date with all of the basic skills they should know,” said Davis. “We have not performed any kind of exercise like this in three years and I can not wait to see which squad will win.”