At its most recent drill, 55 Guard Soldiers with the 735th Quartermaster Force Providers Company convoyed to the Missouri National Guard's Wappapello Training Site for a refresher in land navigation training, familiarizing themselves with azimuths, pace-counting, terrain features and map reading.
"It's something every Soldier should know," said Sgt. Ryan Welker of the 735th's Detachment 3, which is based in Cape Girardeau. "It's really becoming a dying skill, but we're trying to do more of it now."
Welker -- a former sniper who went through the U.S. Air Assault's Pathfinder course while on active duty -- was an instructor at the weekend drill, going over how to read a map and how to shoot and follow an azimuth with a lensatic compass. An azimuth, for example, is the angular distance of an object around or parallel to the horizon from a predefined zero point.
"There's a lot to this," Welker said. "In the military, who knows when this knowledge is going to become very important? It's good to know, whether you're an engineer trying to find different places on a map to build stuff or being deployed and having to map out where the improvised exploding devices are. This is important stuff."
The Soldiers went through classroom instruction, then went to practice stations before being given points on a map to plot and find. The Soldiers were from Detachment 1 in Poplar Bluff and Detachment 3 in Cape Girardeau.
"Basically, the importance of land navigation skills is we need to know the basics of navigation," said Detachment 3 commander 1st Lt. Mitchell Kytasaari. "A lot of people think the military are in convoys or military vehicles for a lot of their missions, but we never know where a mission will take us. We'll still need to learn and train on navigation skills because they still apply."
Kytasaari said too much reliance on technology -- such as GPS -- could be a bad thing.
"You never know when the equipment could go down," he said. "Then you'll have to know the map to navigate the terrain. Technology's a great thing, but we know it doesn't always work."
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