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Reserve personnel provide future officers an azimuth to land navigation success

By Capt. Matt Stevens | 372nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment | July 25, 2019

Ft. Knox, Ky —

The cadets barely finish plotting their four grid coordinates when it starts to downpour. For the next three hours, they will search for their points in the driving rain: a lot to expect from young college kids, some of whom have never seen a map outside their phones.

One hundred and forty-five freshman and sophomore cadets from around the country are members of Alpha Company, 5th Regiment at Cadet Summer Training in Ft. Knox, Ky. Today is land navigation day, and the cadets are getting a real taste of the expectations of Army officers. Task Force Wolf, a coalition of Army Reserve personnel from many different units, is responsible for the training and safe execution of the CST land navigation course.

“It’s been very hectic,” says Staff Sgt. Jefferson Alexander, a training NCO with the 4th Battalion, 399th Regiment out of Ft. Knox, Ky. “We are running the execution of both land nav and the field leaders’ reaction course.”

Staff Sgt. Alexander is just one of the countless Army Reserve NCOs in Task Force Wolf supporting the Cadet Summer Training. However, his team is only responsible for the safe execution of the course. The training portion is left to another group of Task Force Wolf personnel, who teach the cadets about terrain identification, pace counts, azimuth usage and rudimentary map reading skills. This may seem like the effort is being split, and therefore less effective, but the data suggests otherwise.

Cadets must find three out of four points during day land navigation, and two out of three at night in order to pass the course. Sgt. 1st Class Brenda Toledo, a Military Science instructor at UCLA, is responsible for recording and tracking all of the scores the cadets achieve. She believes that splitting the responsibility for training and execution has had a positive impact on training value. 

“The consistency of how the cadets do [on land navigation] is much better,” she said. “They [the trainers] get to know the cadets much better and are able to identify what they’re struggling with...they’re able to evaluate and retrain much more effectively.”

Toledo has taught cadets at UCLA for three years, and has been tracking land navigation scores at CST for weeks. She has been “very impressed with how well the cadets are doing.”

Land navigation is a basic skill for Army officers, and a necessity in nearly every branch. The effort and ingenuity of Task Force Wolf personnel has directly resulted in new cadets entering their ROTC programs with a better understanding and competency for this highly-critical skill. 

When asked about his thoughts regarding splitting the training and execution responsibilities of the land navigation course, Alexander said, “being able to focus on execution allows us the ability to run a better, safer lane.” This focus allows the training team to build a comprehensive curriculum for cadets, who will use this knowledge for years to come.