GUILDERLAND, NY. – New York Army National Guard Soldiers of the 3rd Battalion, 142nd Aviation, prefer to fly when they go someplace, but on July 30, they conducted land navigation training.“Being grounded in unfamiliar territory is a very real possibility when conducting aviation missions,” said Sgt. Mitchell Pace, an instructor for the event. “Land navigation is an essential tool for Soldiers to get to safety or regroup with their unit in the event of such an occurrence.”The land navigation training was part of a focus on basic Soldier skills, including survival, evasion, resistance, and escape (SERE) training, using radio equipment, and combat lifesaver training conducted at the State Police Firearms Range.The unit originally planned to support brigade training at Fort Drum, which would simulate training at the National Training Center (NTC) at Fort Irwin, California. This plan had to be scrapped due to COVID-19 concerns.Lt. Col. Jason Lefton, the battalion commander, said he refused to view this as a setback and instead saw it as an opportunity.“This was a chance for us to get back to the fundamental skills of being a Soldier. It also allowed us a chance to build teamwork, establish and reinforce the chain of command, and learn to work together in pursuit of a common goal,” Lefton said.He also pointed out that they are the top unit in the New York National Guard for retention this year, with four re-enlistments during the last week alone.“We work hard, we train hard, and the Soldiers want to be here. We currently have no disciplinary issues, and morale is high,” he added.About 100 Soldiers trained at Guilderland Range, and another 100 from the battalion, who are based on Long Island, took part in the same training on state land at that location.About 40 Soldiers from the battalion who participated in COVID-19 response earlier in the year were not included in the training. They were already on active duty orders for the response.The range in Guilderland, which is owned by the New York National Guard but managed by the State Police, is close to the Latham flight facility. The Soldiers spent the week sleeping on the range in individual shelter tents.Land navigation is taught at most Army schools, including basic training and advanced individual training, and is considered a basic skill that all Soldiers should be proficient in, Pace said.Land navigation is the act of traveling through terrain by foot or in a vehicle. It requires the ability to read maps, use a compass and identify land and water features, Pace explained.According to Capt. Devis Ceci, the commander of Alpha Company, it is also a perishable skill.“It is extremely important that we make time in our annual training schedules to conduct land navigation training, and not just the junior Soldiers,” he said. “Everyone from top to bottom should get involved and share their knowledge and experience.”The Soldiers learned how to navigate by using compass bearings and by matching the terrain to their maps.Pfcs. Britania and Britany Allen, twin sisters in Alpha Company, said they enjoyed the challenge.“We have only been in the Army a short time but have already conducted this training several times,” said Britania. “Plotting the points, figuring out the best way to reach them, and trying to get finished before the other groups is a blast.”For more National Guard newsNational Guard FacebookNational Guard TwitterHow the National Guard is helpingPhotos of the National Guard responseLatest from the CDC