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Marine Corps Recruit Depot

Western Recruiting Region

San Diego, California
Echo Company finds mark during land navigation training

By Sgt. Benjamin E. Woodle | Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego | February 23, 2015

Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif. -- style="line-height: 200%; margin: 0in 0in 10pt;">MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. – Out in the field, when navigational equipment fails, one must rely on the tools few thought they would ever need.  Land navigation skills still hold great value in today’s battlefield due to their ability to potentially save the lives of a Marine and his team.

Recruits of Echo Company, 2nd Recruit Training Battalion, made their way through the Land Navigation Course at Edson Range, Jan. 22.

“This course helps develop a basic sense of land navigation skills,” said Sgt. Cristian E. Rios, drill instructor, Platoon 2107.  “Marines need to know these skills because at any point during an operation their gear may malfunction, but they will still need to find their way around.”

In a modern day of electronics and global position satellite systems, some may argue the relevance of teaching these techniques to recruits.  Out in the field environments, though, these systems have the tendency to fail, causing one to resort to the basic skills taught here.

“I’ve had some situations in my career where I’ve been dropped in a location, given a map and a compass and told to figure it out,” said Rios, a Miami, native.  “My junior Marines struggled in that situation, because beyond recruit training and the school of infantry, they didn’t have as much experience using these tools.”

Prior to starting the event, recruits received classes on land navigation techniques and how to properly use a map and compass while in the field.  Recruits then set off to determine their pace count they would use while going from point to point.  They were then paired up and given a set of coordinates that identified their required points along the route.  Once in the course, they found out quickly that the techniques taught were vital to being successful in course navigation.

“It was difficult figuring out a back azimuth or different routes around obstacles, such as hills or thick brush,” said Recruit Jacob R. Kottman, Platoon 2105.  “These caused us to go off our path, so we had to figure out our adjusted pace count and get back on our original azimuth.”

During training, most drill instructors have the ability to explain the usefulness and benefits of their basic training they have applied in combat in Iraq or Afghanistan.

“It’s all a part of the new Marine Corps and training smart,” said Rios.  “We have the chance to pass down all of our combat experience to these new Marines and better prepare them in the areas that, looking back, we could have improved on.”

Going through the course with minimal, or at times no supervision, recruits had a chance to get a sense of the critical factor of learning and properly executing the techniques they were taught.

“This is something I could be actually applying soon that all Marines need to know,” said Kottman, who was recruited out of Recruit Station Kansas City, Mo.  “Being here also makes you work together with people you may not have been as close with and forces you to take the individualism out and work together.” 

With another new set of tools and knowledge in their vastly developing arsenal, Echo Company marched on with an increased confidence in their ability to navigate and conduct themselves in a combat environment.

“If our equipment ever goes down, we can fall back on this basic training,” said Kottman.  “It could help us or our brothers to our left and right to get out of a bad situation and safely get back.”