It's also about teamwork, leadership and honing a Soldier's ability to think quickly on his feet.
"You never know when land navigation is going to be something that you'll need," Wilkerson said. "And it teaches us more than how to read a map. It teaches us how to work together and how to help each other out."
At their most recent drill, the dozen or so Citizen-Soldiers with the Recruit Sustainment Program's Company E spent about three hours at Apple Creek Conservation Area, where they underwent land navigation training.
The training for the new Missouri National Guard recruits -- most of whom have yet to attend basic training -- called for them to familiarize themselves with azimuths, pace-counting, terrain features and map reading.
"This is a good field exercise for them to get some good hands-on training," said Sgt. Beau Morrison, assistant RSP coordinator. "Instead of sitting in a classroom, it lets them get outdoors and see how this stuff works in a real-world situation."
Land navigation is pretty remedial, Morrison said, but it will give the Soldiers of Company E a head start once they reach basic training over other Soldiers who haven't had even a basic course on land navigation.
"When they get to the land navigation course at basic, they should be a step above some of the other Soldiers who haven't even worked with a compass, let alone shot an azimuth," Morrison said.
A few of the RSP trainees have already attended basic training and were put in leadership positions at the RSP drill. They showed the newer recruits how the land navigation equipment worked and discussed what would be expected of them at basic training.
Pvt. Adam Mouser recently returned from Fort Jackson, S.C., where he went to basic training knowing next to nothing about land navigation.
"Land navigation could be especially important in a combat situation," said Mouser, 18. "It is the difference between getting lost and knowing where you're at. That could be the difference between life and death."
Learning land navigation is also a team building exercise, said Mouser, who lives in Cape Girardeau.
"We have to work together. Each person has a different job, whether it was pace-counting, reading the map or operating the compas," Mouser said. "We all had to get on the same page if we wanted to accomplish the same goal."
Pvt. Timothy Pickett, a 17 year old who also recently returned from Fort Jackson, agreed.
"You're not always going to have a GPS," said Pickett, who lives in Belgrade, Mo. "You never know when it's going to be important that we know this stuff."
Pvt. Keith Pratt, 24, is a recent basic training graduate, who went to Fort Leonard Wood, Mo. Pratt, who lives in Bismarck, Mo., said he wishes he had gone through some basic land navigation before he went to basic training.
"I didn't know anything about land navigation," he said. "But, if I had known what these guys are learning at this drill, it would have definitely been helpful. They're going to know a lot more than most of the other guys there. It's been a real beneficial drill. We learned a lot."
For more information about the Missouri National Guard, please call 1-800-GoGuard or visit www.moguard.com.
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