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NEWS | Feb. 2, 2024

Fort McCoy NCO Academy students learn land navigation at post’s Virtual Battle Space simulations complex

By Scott Sturkol Fort McCoy Public Affairs Office

Students with the Fort McCoy Noncommissioned Officer Academy Basic Leader Course learned about land navigation Jan. 29 at the Fort McCoy Virtual Battle Space simulations facility.

The students spent a day training at the facility as part of course instruction, said Basic Leader Course Instructor Staff Sgt. Sabrina Magness.

“Our students are here receiving their block of instruction and some hands-on time for the land navigation portion of our course,” Magness said. “Currently at Fort McCoy, we're not able to put students out on the (outdoor) course … in the field. So, this is the next best thing. They’re still getting a lot of hands-on training, map reading, plotting points, and they’re using their avatar to navigate to these points.”

The training is called “Virtual Battle Space for Map Reading and Land Navigation,” and is one of the newest additions to the course, Magness said.

According to the Fort McCoy Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security concept of operations for the tactical land-navigation training the academy students underwent, the mission for the training is designed for four squads of six Soldiers. Each squad will be briefed to conduct dismounted land-nav following designated points.

“Upon reaching the second point, squads will find a vehicle with which to conduct movement to their third point,” the training document states. “Upon reaching the third point, A/B squad will link up into a section, C/D squad likewise.” And then the students continue with a specific scenario.

Sgt. David Smith, an Army Reserve Soldier in the BLC who attended land-navigation training, said all of the training has helped him become a better Soldier.

“Being in this course, I’ve learned to become a better leader, become a better listener, and also just become a better team worker as it pertains to leadership in my unit and also in small group units as well.”

Smith also said the BLC is a crucial step to becoming a stronger Army NCO, as well.

“Being a part of this class is very crucial — not just to being a Soldier, but as an individual as well. I’ve definitely (added) attributes that I can take back to my unit to become more lethal as the Army wants us to become, and be able to do the things that’s required of (NCOs).”

Simulations training is a large part of operations during exercises and other training events at Fort McCoy, said Fort McCoy Training Support Officer Rob Weisbrod with DPTMS. An example is when Reserve Soldiers completed training during the recent 86th Training Division Combat Support Training Exercise 86-23-02 in 2023. And in years past, for example, there was Operation Cold Steel, which was the Army Reserve’s first large-scale live-fire training and crew-served weapons qualification and validation exercise.

Simulations training also has improved overall in recent years on post, Weisbrod said, especially with the six new simulations buildings built in the 200 block since 2020. The addition of all the new buildings have provided more opportunities to bring in more training.

Fort McCoy’s VBS simulations capability is housed in building 213 — one of the newer buildings. According to it’s description, Virtual Battle Space is a virtual mission rehearsal that allows Soldiers to collectively train on standard-operating procedures and various tactics, techniques, and procedures. The simulator also “provides realistic semi-immersive environments, with large terrain areas, hundreds of simulated military and civilian entities, and a range of generic, geo-typical terrain areas.”

VBS also provides training in convoy operations, mounted machine-gun trainer, land navigation, battle drills, command post operations, and more, Weisbrod said.

Magness said the land-navigation portion of the BLC is relatively new to the course. And she added that it builds on everything else the students learn.

“The Basic Leader Course is the first level of leadership course for enlisted Soldiers in the Army,” Magness said. “And although it's required, there’s a lot of information that happens here with every new crop of students that I have. I let them know that I think of this course as a leadership conference. So, they’re not just getting downloaded skills from their instructors and small group leaders like myself, they’re also getting a chance to network with each other and just sort of share the skills around that they each have.”

The Fort McCoy NCO Academy’s mission is to “train and develop adaptive, agile, disciplined, fit, and professional leaders who are ready to ‘Lead the Way’ in any environment.” The academy’s vision is to be “the Army’s premier NCO Academy with the best people experiencing the finest quality of life in the military.”

The academy trains hundreds of Soldiers each year in the Basic Leader Course and the Battle Staff Noncommissioned Officer Course. Learn more about the academy by visiting

Fort McCoy’s motto is to be the “Total Force Training Center.”

Located in the heart of the upper Midwest, Fort McCoy is the only U.S. Army installation in Wisconsin.

The installation has provided support and facilities for the field and classroom training of more than 100,000 military personnel from all services nearly every year since 1984.

Learn more about Fort McCoy online at, on Facebook by searching “ftmccoy,” and on Twitter by searching “usagmccoy.”

Also try downloading the Digital Garrison app to your smartphone and set “Fort McCoy” or another installation as your preferred base. Fort McCoy is also part of Army’s Installation Management Command where “We Are The Army’s Home.”