Land Navigation: Training hard for mission success
Pathfinders, Soldiers with the Company F, 4th Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), plot their coordinates during a quarterly land navigation event on Fort Campbell, Ky., Feb. 06. Army Pathfinders are specialists in navigating their way through foreign terrain and establishing safe landing zones for Airborne and Air Assault Soldiers or Army aircraft.

Technology is a wonderful thing, global-positioning systems easily pin point our location and direct us on the quickest route and even help us get back on track when we get lost. Society as a whole has become almost completely dependent on such luxuries, but what would you do if it suddenly stops working?

Soldiers realize that electronics are not always reliable, because batteries can die; signals can fad, inclement weather or Murphy's Law, if it can go wrong it will go wrong. To overcome these obstacles, Company F, 4th Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment, 159th Combat Aviation Brigade, Pathfinders spent Wednesday in the woods armed with compasses and maps.

Army Pathfinders are specialists in navigating their way through foreign terrain and establishing safe landing zones for Airborne and Air Assault Soldiers or Army aircraft. Many times they are asked to parachute into remote areas, navigate their way to unobstructed locations, and then relay those coordinates back to a command center.

"When I was deployed, the only person who was in possession of a GPS device noticed it was no longer working," said Spc. Michael Gullett, a pathfinder with Company F, 4th Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment, 159th Combat Aviation Brigade. That is why we teach everyone during training that electronics can break down, so it is important to know how to familiarize one's self with a map. Especially while we are deployed, because it's beneficial to know where we are to aid in mission success."

Land navigation is a basic Soldier skill and one that is perishable. The course contains 40 points throughout the uneven woodland. Soldiers had to find three out of four assigned points in two hours in order to complete the day portion of the training and the same during night portion of the navigation training.

"We already knew the basics of map reading and using a compass prior to training at the Warrior Leader's Course Land Navigation area," said Spc. Marcus Carter, a pathfinder with Company F, 4th Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment, 159th Combat Aviation Brigade. "Our leaders ensure we have classroom training first, and then we go out into the field for the day and night training to receive our 'Go or No Go.'"

Soldiers explain why conducting this training quarterly definitely helps with mission success.

"You never know the situations you will be put into when deployed," said Carter. "Our company is called to do several different types of missions, and we have to be prepared to execute without question and without doubts in our capabilities."

Agile, adaptive leadership is critical to maintaining the 101st Airborne Division's proven combat edge, and its Soldiers put a priority on training and educating younger Soldiers, combat seasoned leaders.

"Land navigation training is not a requirement for every Soldier; however, I believe that all Soldiers should be exposed to it often, because no one can predict the future," said Carter. "You may need to explain to someone on the radio your location or you may need to get to a specific point in order to be picked up. Everybody in the military needs to know how to read a map and should be able to move from point to point without question."

In order to ensure mission success and confidence in their Soldiers Carter and Gullett explained that their unit pairs up new personnel when conducting land navigation, so the individual Soldier will become an expert.

"There are times where we might receive new Soldiers in the unit, and it is our job to lead and train that Soldier to be the best," said Carter. "Every one of us will be a better Soldier because we continue to train on this course. We never have the same plots and to make it more interesting."

In order to be prepared to win the fight, you must train hard day and night. This is a slogan many of the Soldiers said they live by.

"Soldiers are here to serve our Nation, and when deployment time approaches the Pathfinder Company Soldiers are ready mentally and physically to conduct the job. That is why we stay out there all day, without complaints because we know what these small sacrifices are for," said Carter.

Page last updated Fri February 8th, 2013 at 17:55