A Chronicle of Land Navigation-Map Reading

Keeping up with the daily challenge with some of my fellow blog writers; day four called for us to come up with a story from a single image prompt. Well I’ve decided to use the image of the map to tell this tale of really learning how to read a map.
This begins when I was taking Military Science III as part of the Reserve Officers Training Corps (R.O.T.C) program over twenty eight years ago. Don’t guess my age cause the bitch in me will come out and I’ll lie about it. The instruction of the week was map reading. The map reading course in the military is something that everyone has to take if they want to be promoted to a rank that will potentially put them in a leadership position. That means all non-commissioned and commissioned officer candidate will have to take and pass the map reading land navigation course to be promoted. In the class room portion we learn basic land navigation theory which is how to read the compass, how to use the compass to throw an azimuth, the difference between a magnetic and grid coordinates and how to make the conversion. We were taught the how to read the map, the land features, what the different colors on the map mean, and how to work out the distance from point to point etc.

All is fine. That is until they announced that there is a practical portion. So we were taken out to one of the most desolate places in the United States in the toxic wasteland that is called New Jersey. That place is Fort Dix where there is an official land navigation course. We were told that we have to find the red painted cans that are hanging in the trees using our newly acquired land navigation skills. I wondered why the instructors chuckled while giving us that statement. To ensure that we are correct when we find a can, each can’s coordinates were pin pointed by satellite. Can you imagine how much money it cost the Federal gov’t to use a military satellite to get a fix on red cans so that future officers can’t cheat?

Great, now I’m in the middle of the woods looking for a needle in a hay stack. As I navigated the course I find one can, I continue and I find another can. Great, I can do this. Then while navigating following the azimuth readings it took me out the woods, across a dried river bed and into an area that looked abandoned. I don’t hear anybody except for a hooting owl. Oh, shit I’m lost. Remember there were no GPS equipped cell phones twenty eight years ago. Well now I’m hearing noses other than birds, I feel as though I’m being watched, is it a deer? Is it a bear? Or stray dogs…? Damm, I gotta get out of here. Just before anxiety set in, I remembered reading something on orientating the map while taking a number 2 the day prior. I have a compass so I can find direction, the map have the grid-magnetic angle, so I placed the compass on the grid-magnetic angle and turned it until I found north. Using the coordinates from the last location and pace count which I kept a track of; I worked out my approximate distance that I traveled from my last point; bang! The map showed the terrain features at my exact location, everything was shown on the map at its exact location and its direction; I shout “YEAH MOTHERFUCKKKKERRRR…..” I got this licked…got back on track, found the rest of the cans and was surprised that I was not the last one who finished the course…Now imagine, all non- commissioned and commissioned officers have acquired the skill of map reading, and land navigation; then riddle me this. How the hell were units getting lost during Operation Iraqi Freedom…..?

Ah, Ah..ya’ll need to look at the Operation Iraqi Freedom II of this blog……


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