By Sgt. Nathaniel FosterApril 11, 2013
In a time where phones have GPS systems that can take someone to virtually any spot in the world, many people may wonder why the Army still trains with maps and compasses.
Batteries can die, signals can disappear, and not every GPS device works perfectly. That is why on a chilly Oklahoma morning on March 27, 168th Brigade Support Battalion conducted its "Poker Ruck" at training areas around Fort Sill.
The Soldiers within the battalion competed in a land navigation challenge as two-Soldier teams.
This event was designated to foster team building and esprit de corps within the battalion while challenging the Soldier's abilities to navigate through a large area using a map, compass and terrain association.
"The event challenged the Soldiers with a physical competition involving their rucksack and distance," said Capt. Bryan Metcalf, S-3 Plans officer-in-charge. "The longest leg on the course was about three miles out."
The Soldiers navigated to 10 different points while carrying a 35- to 45-pound rucksack. The teams where given two points at a time. At each point the teams collected a sealed envelope containing a playing card. Once the team returns to the start point with the correct envelope they received their next two points. After the teams found all 10 points, they created their best five card poker hand.
"This has been something I thought of a long time ago, when I was a noncommissioned officer," said Metcalf. "But, I never had the opportunity to do conduct it.
"I have run land navigation courses before, but it was always where people go to their points, get their points and then they are done," said Metcalf. "I just incorporated a purpose, to go find their points with playing cards in a sealed envelope.
"I think it makes it more interesting," he said. "It gives the Soldiers something to shoot for."
Spc. Jessica Ingalls agreed.
"It was more fun than a standard ruck march since it involved thinking," said Ingalls, an S-2 analyst assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company.
The weather could not have been any better for an event like this, she said. It was also nice to get out and enjoy the fresh air.
Spc. Joseph Dees, an S-2 analyst assigned to HHC, said it was good refresher training.
"It was a great opportunity to brush up on basic soldiering skills with fun added in for good measure," said Dees. "With land navigation once again a part of the Warrior Leaders Course curriculum, it was a perfect chance for those of us preparing to go to be ready."
It was a great opportunity for the leaders and Soldiers within the battalion to break away from the classroom environment and enjoy the outdoors for Iron Horse Warrior Training, said 1st Lt. Sharonda Humphreys, the battalion's S-2 officer in charge.
"I feel like the S-2 section was able to use the land navigation for a number of reasons," said Humphreys. "The terrain association and the boots on ground aspect are all skills that the S-2 section uses for mission briefs."
For those card sharks, the winning team laid down a straight flush.
Metcalf said he was pleased with the Soldiers' reaction to the training.
"I am glad they got something out of it and enjoyed it," he said.