Return to Land Navigation Training

By Andrew SmithFebruary 9, 2024

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Land navigation is making a comeback as part of the Army’s Basic Leader Course (BLC) with a return to active-duty schools planned for this year. This shift in the curriculum for the BLC was a significant change for course instructors as well as a logistical challenge.

Land navigation was removed from the course in 2018 to make room for more classroom instruction, with the idea being that the Soldiers unit should be validating basic combat skills. However, due to challenges in training schedules and the re-emphasized importance placed on the navigation skill set it has returned to BLC.

This change was enacted to put more emphasis on training and practical skills and to better prepare Soldiers for challenges they are likely to meet in real world scenarios.

There are numerous preparations for the training with additional safety precautions for Soldiers including GPS trackers to prevent Soldiers from getting lost, as well as organizing transportation and scouting ranges for the exercise.

William Ogletree, Director of the Curriculum Development Department along with his team played a central role in preparing the Non Commissioned Officer Academy’s for this change by developing the curriculum.

“All NCOAs will be provided the curriculum well in advance so they can train on the tasks before delivery,” said Ogletree on the roll out of the training and preparations for the training. “Since these tasks are level 1 basic skills (Common Tasks) that are required of every Soldier, the NCO cadre at their respective institutions should already be competent in them and train on them regularly to maintain proficiency.”

Various preparations need to be made for this pivot in training. One being all Soldiers who are scheduled for BLC should already be trained on basic map reading and land navigation in their unit prior to attending BLC at an NCOA. Another being that all NCOA cadre will need to be trained and certified to become subject matter experts prior to delivering this content to their students.

The Army’s shift to large scale combat operations, and the concerns over cyber and space dominance, have brought back analog compass reading and navigation which are critical field skills Soldiers need to operate. “The Institutional domain has a responsibility to support the operational domain,” said Ogletree. “Adding critical field skills to NCO Personal Military Education is just a small part of that support.” With the Chief of Staff’s focus on warfighting and training, these valuable tasks in BLC help to meet that goal.

After the development of the land navigation curriculum the members of the NCO Professional Development Department (NCOPDD) traveled to some of the sites where training will be held to validate the programs.

Juan Ortiz, Director of NCOPDD and some of his team traveled to Ft. Drum, New York, Ft. Stewart, Georgia and The Hawaii NCOA to carry out a validation where they observed the implementation of the training.

“We ensure that all the NCOA cadres have the same tools and conduct the training to the same standards,” said Ortiz. “We observed the training and implementation to ensure they were up to standards and consistent during the validation.” These observations and evaluations help to ensure that standards don’t slip over time and that Solders receive the same training and evaluation regardless of which NCOA they attend.

With the combined efforts of curriculum development, validation, and training Soldiers will be better prepared to face challenges on the battlefield of tomorrow.