FORT McCOY, Wis. –
This U.S. Army Reserve Ordnance Company platoon did something here Oct. 21, 2022, that would make several of the Army’s top enlisted leaders, including Sgt. Maj. of the Army Michael Grinston proud.
Six Soldiers in the platoon under the 395th Ordnance Company, 103rd Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), based in Appleton, Wisconsin, teamed up to navigate through the rolling hills strewn with down branches and loose soil on the sides to familiarize themselves with land navigation using only a lensatic compass, protractor, and map. Grinston in his initiatives outline during a briefing Oct. 12 at the Association of the U.S. Army’s 2022 Annual Meeting and Exposition said bringing back land navigation to the Basic Leader Course is a skill every Soldier no matter what their Military Occupational Specialty is must be proficient at.
Platoon sergeant Sgt. 1st Class Don Hannemann recommended that his platoon train on land navigation when he was asked by his command team for other training ideas for the platoon during its Annual Training here Oct. 15-29. “I said let’s get some land navigation done because it is not something that gets trained on a lot,” said Hannemann. “We have the time and opportunity to do it here.”
So, the Soldiers were tasked in plotting eight-digit coordinates on a map using a protractor to determine grid azimuths. Pfc Kyle Bowens was identified as the point man or compass bearer and off they went into the woods on a balmy fall afternoon (temperature was hovering around 70 degrees Fahrenheit). Not only did they learn land navigation, but Hannemann required them to move in tactical movements like a wedge.
This was Pfc. Kyle Bowens’ first time behind a compass since he graduated from basic training three years ago. “It is definitely something that you have to practice and keep doing, otherwise you forget how to do it,” said Bowens, an ammunition specialist who just started a civilian job as a welder. “I definitely had to relearn how to plot an eight-digit grid.”
Bowens said navigating through the woods and maintaining the same azimuth was challenging. He also mentioned how the hills created more challenges. “Especially walking on the side of them, going up and down and trying to keep the same direction was pretty tough,” he said. “There were a lot of leaves and fallen branches that I had to navigate through.”
Overall, Bowens said the training was a good refresher. “It is good to be ready just in case there is a situation where we don’t have electronics or a GPS,” said Bowens. “It is a good way to get you out of a sticky situation.”
Hannemann echoed the latter statement. He said that his platoon will have more confidence in case it has to deliver ammunition to an eight-digit grid. “In our mission scope, it doesn’t happen often, but it could” he said.
The platoon sergeant cited another example where his Soldiers may transfer to another unit where they are required to be proficient in land navigation.
On this day, Hannemann said his platoon did well in land navigation after the points were checked using a GPS marker. “They have done a great job of plotting their points, finding their routes, and achieving the objective,” he said.
Which is music to Grinston and other senior leader’s ears.