• Before arriving to Savannah, Ga., two students from the Marine Warrant Officer Basic Course obtain calculations during the last few minutes of available light April 28 during a 10-day cruise from Fort Eustis' 3rd Port to Savannah, Ga. The class sails on the U.S. Army Vessel the Gen. Frank S. Besson Jr., assigned to the 335th Transportation Company, 24th Transportation Battalion, 7th Sustainment Brigade, which can hold more then 40 passengers.

    U.S. Army marine warrant officers learn basic navigation tools

    Before arriving to Savannah, Ga., two students from the Marine Warrant Officer Basic Course obtain calculations during the last few minutes of available light April 28 during a 10-day cruise from Fort Eustis' 3rd Port to Savannah, Ga. The class sails...

  • During a 10-day cruise from Fort Eustis' 3rd Port to Savannah, Ga., classmates from the Marine Warrant Officer Basic Course get up close and personal a sextant originally used by 18th century navigators. The classmates and crew of the 335th Transportation Company, 24th Transportation Battalion, 7th Sustinament Brigade sail with the U.S. Army Vessel the Gen. Frank S. Besson Jr..

    U.S. Army marine warrant officers learn basic navigation skills

    During a 10-day cruise from Fort Eustis' 3rd Port to Savannah, Ga., classmates from the Marine Warrant Officer Basic Course get up close and personal a sextant originally used by 18th century navigators. The classmates and crew of the 335th...

  • Warrant Officer Tom Heald, an Army Reserve Soldier, shoots a plot for the sun during the last few minutes of sunset as he learns Celestial Navigation with the Stars aboard the Army watercraft LSV-1. The LSV-1 is assigned to the 335th Transportation Company, 24th Transportation Battalion, 7th Sustainment Brigade.

    U.S. Army marine warrant officers learn basic navigation skills

    Warrant Officer Tom Heald, an Army Reserve Soldier, shoots a plot for the sun during the last few minutes of sunset as he learns Celestial Navigation with the Stars aboard the Army watercraft LSV-1. The LSV-1 is assigned to the 335th Transportation...

  • The LSV-1 arrives to Savannah, Ga. the morning of April 30. The crew and students from MWOBC receive a welcomed stop to re-supply and re-coup after four days of celestial navigation at sea. Two days later the boat was ready to return to Fort Eustis. The last day of the course before arriving to 3rd Port the students familiarize themselves with terrain navigation.

    U.S. Army marine warrant officers learn basic navigation skills

    The LSV-1 arrives to Savannah, Ga. the morning of April 30. The crew and students from MWOBC receive a welcomed stop to re-supply and re-coup after four days of celestial navigation at sea. Two days later the boat was ready to return to Fort Eustis...

AT SEA - It is 4 a.m., a Logistics Support Vessel is out in the ocean and suddenly a flash thunderstorm erupts. The boat's navigation system has just shut down. What happened' There are still two hours till day break and the navigation system is not rebooting. How does the crew get out of the storm and avoid potential danger'

During a 10-day cruise from Fort Eustis' 3rd Port to Savannah, Ga., students enrolled in the Marine Warrant Officer Basic Course, learn the basic tools to assist them if such a scenario occurs. The cruise portion of the course is called celestial navigation and the new warrant officers learn by hands on experience how to navigate the seas.

"What they use are the stars, the Moon, Sun and the planets. The purpose of the cruise is solely to navigate without electronic equipment," said retired Warrant Officer Alvin Lipson, an instructor with MWOBC.

Celestial navigation is a small part of the course which encompasses what marine warrants are expected to know. The course is 33 weeks long. Some of the tasks they learn are basic piloting, electronic navigation, tug and towing, ship handling and of course celestial navigation. Many of those courses are approved by the Coast Guard, according to Lipson. For those reasons, Lispon believes this course is one of the longest and hardest courses in the Army.

There are certain tools that are needed to navigate the stars. One is a sextant. An instrument developed in the 18th century, it was an advancement to the previous octant. The octant made visible the angles from the boat to celestial bodies that can be calculated, and then translated to a latitude or longitudinal line. The sextant's longer range of visibility separation combined with its durability made it a favorite. Now Global Positional Systems and other electronic equipment displaced the old methods but not in this course, and not especially when systems malfunction. Also used with the sextant are navigation manuals, almanacs, azimuth circles, stop watches, drafting and plotting gear.

From a student's perspective, even with all the concepts and tools, the course is still difficult.

"This is the hardest course I have ever been in my career. As much as I know about navigation, going to this course showed me a whole different level," said Warrant Officer Wade Peyton, originally from Oklahoma City, Okla. "This is a perishable skill, at anytime you can lose it if you don't use it."

Warrant Officer Francis Silva, another MWOBC student adds, "The course is very math intensive; Lots of algebra and trigonometry. At times it can be challenging but once you get it, it is fun"

With such an arduous task comes a great reward.

"After this course, the officers become masters of a small boat [Landing Craft Utility or small tug] or a mate of a large boat [Logistics Support Vessel or large tug]. The license they receive after is a merchant marine license equivalent to a United States Coast Guard Ship with a gross ton weight of 220 tons. What they do in 33 weeks takes three to four years in the civilian world to accomplish."

On July 1 the course will end for these marine warrants. From then on they will be expected to take charge of their boats and help navigate through the treacherous waters the ocean can offer. The tools are there, whether it it notional or electronic, for those moments when equipment can malfunction. The formulas have been calculated, the terrain mapped, and the lessons are hoped to have been learned, for the next step for a newly crowned ship masters is accomplishing the mission.

Story and photos by Sgt. Edwin Rodriguez, 7th Sustainment Brigade Public Affairs For queries, contact 7th Sustainment Brigade Public Affairs at: (757) 878-5112 ext. 268.
For high-resolution photos and stories by the 7th Sustainment Brigade, please contact the Digital Video and Imagery Distribution System by calling (678) 421-6612 or access them online at http://www.dvidshub.net/units/7SB

Page last updated Thu June 10th, 2010 at 12:09