PRESIDIO OF MONTEREY, Calif. (Aug. 11, 2021) – The “Warrior Nerds” of the 229th Military Intelligence Battalion put the emphasis on “warrior” as they sharpened their land navigation skills during a battalion-level competition at Fort Ord National Monument Aug. 7.
“A big part of a Soldier’s journey through [the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center] is to make sure that they keep their focus on being a Soldier,” said Lt. Col. Matthew Upperman, commander of the 229th MI Bn. “It’s why they joined. They’re Soldier-linguists, ‘Warrior Nerds,’ and part of that recipe is doing things that apply to the tactical side of their job.”
In all, 36 Soldiers from six companies took part in the competition, which included a written exam and four hours to find five points on the monument’s more than 7,000 acres. The teams traveled between seven and nine miles on foot by the time they completed the course.
The battalion splits up companies according to which language the Soldiers study, and Company C, which studies Arabic, came in first. Company A, which studies French, Spanish, Hebrew, Indonesian, Pashto and Urdu, came in second, and Company G, which studies Korean, came in third.
Sgt. 1st Class Aaron Reynolds, 229th MI Bn. noncommissioned officer for training and competition organizer, said land navigation is a perishable skill, so it is important for Soldiers to maintain it.
“It’s a good way of reminding them about their basic Soldier tasks,” Reynolds said. “Even though they are military intelligence Soldiers, they are riflemen first. We are all riflemen first and then everything else is second.”
The skills are also important because anyone could someday find them necessary for survival, Reynolds said. He learned this personally when rebel fighters removed him from his home in Monrovia, Liberia, when he was a teenager.
“I still remember the day, Friday, Aug. 10, 1990,” Reynolds said. “I stepped out of my house, because I got pushed from my house by rebels, into unknown territory, and for that first year and a half I just had to learn how to survive, navigating the country, just like [the 229th MI Bn. Soldiers] are doing right now.”
It was a serious situation, Reynolds said, and he kept it in mind as he set up the competition’s land navigation course.
“For me this is personal, seeing [the Soldiers] out here and learning this significant, great life skill,” Reynolds said. “It’s pretty important for them.”
As a Soldier, Spc. Michael Hardin, a member of the winning Co. C team, also recognizes the importance of land navigation skills. Every Soldier needs to know them well, he said, particularly during a deployment or in the field.
“You never know when you’re going to be called upon by your team,” Hardin said. “Maybe you’re the only one that can get that group out of there. You need to all work together to find the safest way and the quickest way to get out of there.”
The day included a lot of good competition, Hardin said.
“We ran a lot of the course, and I think that happened to be what really got us through to win at the end,” Hardin said, “and just smart route planning before we started out.”
Meanwhile Sgt. Andrew Bautista, a member of the Company D team, said the competition was a good teambuilding event and he was glad to see his teammates shine.
“If we had an issue, then they all just came together and fixed what was wrong,” Bautista said. “It was fun.”
Upperman, who accompanied the Co. C Soldiers on the land navigation course and ran about seven miles with them, said the battalion holds warrior skills competitions like this once a quarter, and the next one will test the Soldiers’ shooting skills.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for Soldiers to do things that are unique to being in the Army,” Upperman said of the Aug. 7 competition. “It’s certainly a break for them to get out of the classroom, and get their language out of their minds for a little bit. On a day like this on the Ord National Monument, you can’t ask for better scenery.”