MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
Through fields of tall, green grass and pine trees, Marines hurried to find marked boxes as they completed their mission in the allotted time.
Step by step, the crisp and rusty brown leaves beneath their feet crackled as they maneuvered throughout man-made trails. The clock ticked on and The Marines knew time was running out as they searched for each box.
The Marines of Company A, 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, conquered another field exercise by completing a land navigation (LandNav) course here, Dec. 3.
“LandNav is a skill (Marines) learn early on to help us find our way if we ever get lost and also to help us move through unfamiliar environments,” said 1st Lt. Shaun Miller, the executive officer for Company A.
The battalion recently returned from a deployment to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Land navigational skills are a necessity for units accustomed to deploying into challenging and unpredictable terrain.
“We used LandNav quite a bit when we were in Afghanistan because there was quite a bit of grassy areas and forests,” Miller said. “From my time there, I really understand now just how important having that skill is.”
The Marines are now conducting training here to keep their skills sharp and ready for any future deployments.
“It’s good to keep practicing LandNav because you never know when you might need it,” said Lance Cpl. Michael Brown, a rifleman with Company A. “It’s useful in areas such as a combat zone or even if you go hunting and you don’t know your way around.”
This very ‘back to basics’ training, which doesn’t offer the luxury of Global Positioning System (GPS) devices or other high-tech solutions, is also designed to enable junior Marines to never lose themselves in unfamiliar territory. Later they’ll be responsible for passing down their directional skills to future junior Marines.
“The guys we’re training now are the guys we’re going to expect to train some of the younger and newer Marines,” Miller said. “We have to train in the rear because if we don’t train here, you definitely won’t know what to do when you’re deployed.”
With nearly two hours left before the time was set to expire, Lance Cpl. Marvin Sanders, a rifleman with the company, was well on his way to meeting his objective. With a simple map, compass, protractor, and a pen, he said the absence of any high-speed gadgets is a challenge, but it’s still manageable.
“I think we’re doing alright,” Miller said, as he stopped briefly to glance over the map. “It’s been a while since we’ve done LandNav without a GPS, so it’s a little complicated but we’re doing okay.”
Miller stood at the starting point waiting for the Marines to finish. He wondered how his Marines were doing, but the navigators were equipped with a whistle to blow in the event of an emergency. Miller stood by for any audible alerts while the Marines finished their checkpoint finds.
“The Marines are doing well,” Miller said with a smile. “Nobody’s screaming or blowing whistles to signal for help, so that’s usually a good sign.”
After everyone successfully completed the course, Miller expressed an added benefit the company gained by accomplishing navigational challenges together.
“The training helped build unit cohesion through shared experiences,” Miller said. “For instance, we hiked out to the course this morning and it was a little cold and challenging, but it really helped us bond.”