A soldier finds themself alone in the middle of the woods trying to navigate back to the main road. It’s mostly quiet besides the organic sounds of nature: birds singing, insects buzzing, leaves rustling, etc. As they look down to check their map, they hear the strange crunch of tree branches behind them. An uneasy feeling overcomes them, as they slowly turn around to see what made the noise. Their fears are quickly alleviated when they turn around and see their buddy team and realize they are not alone. 

Cadet Joel Mendiola, from the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, consults his map at Buddy Team Land Navigation at Basic Camp in Fort Knox, Kentucky July 23, 2021. | Photo by Marissa Wells, CST Public Affairs Office.

No Cadet was lost in the woods today at 3rd Regiment Basic Camp’s Buddy Team Land Navigation (Land Nav for short) course. Before they went to find their points, Cadets were divided into small groups and assigned navigational equipment. This training is different from the land nav training Advanced Camp Cadets do because Basic Camp Cadets find points as a group instead of on their own.

This was Cadet Joel Mendiola’s, from the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, first experience out in the woods. Initially he was nervous, but his team helped him feel more confident.

“Having our group of four with me really helped out because when one of us was getting down or one of us was getting frustrated we were able to hold each other accountable and keep the mission in mind,” Mendiola said.

Although Cadets didn’t get to pick their groups, they were still able to work together to complete the mission of finding two points in two hours or less. 

“We each had some assigned roles given to us. I was in charge of pace, one person was in charge of our compass and another person was just in charge of clearing obstructions,” Mediola said. “So that worked really well, assigning roles to each individual Cadet.”

Cadet Isaiah Watkins, from North Carolina A&T University, has done land nav before at Fort Bragg, Georgia with his ROTC battalion. He and his group were able to find both points and meet back at the start point before the two hour time limit expired. Watkins believes working with a group helped teach Cadets to be responsible for themselves and their battle buddies.

Cadet Kristian Camacho and his sqad search for their point at Buddy Team Land Navigation at Basic Camp in Fort Knox, Kentucky July 23, 2021. | Photo by Marissa Wells, CST Public Affairs Office.

“I think the purpose was mostly just so we have accountability for each other, and so that we don’t get lost easily,” Watkins said. “It’s easier to find four people than it is to find one.” 

Being responsible for your battle buddies means being concerned for their safety. Watkins’ group learned this today too.

“We mostly stayed close to each other and had them step where I step or I step where they step. Like if I slipped on something I’d tell them to be a little bit more careful or help them down.,” Watkins said. 

The purpose of lad nav is to teach Cadets how to navigate without a GPS. However, 3rd Regiment learned more than that today. They also discovered that land nav is about confidence, responsibility and determination.