Most people prefer the ease of GPS over a map and compass — in a combat scenario, stopping and conducting map-checks by definition leave the element exposed, it takes unnecessary time, and requires the element to set up security and then break it again down upon movement. GPS takes all of those out of play, providing not only the ease of navigation, but added security and timeliness as well. In actual combat, no one has a chip on their shoulder about sticking to the ‘ol map and compass.

However, relying on GPSs may not always be a luxury soldiers can rely on, and that’s why the military still trains with maps and compasses. A conflict with China, for example, could likely begin with the destruction of GPS satellites. Training this way also simply develops a better sense of direction, and ingrains essential concepts like cardinal directions, maneuvering through the woods or other terrain, and using terrain features to your advantage — to name a few.

Like it or not, land nav is an essential part to any selection course. The cadre tends to have a way of ratcheting up the stress and demanding a high level of performance. Some people shoot straight azimuths, “dead reckoning” their way through the woods, some people just sort of get general directions and go for it, and others take azimuths from key, nearby intersections. People mix methodologies depending on the course and/or specific point, and at the end of the day, all that matters is that it works.

The days of shoving your compass to your face are over | U.S. Marine Corps Photo

Everyone has their preferred method, and here is mine, especially if roads are available. Using this method, I never had to take the time to pull out my compass to get anything more than a basic, cardinal direction, so I can do it while running. I have gone to an unfamiliar course and found the first point (after planning) in under seven minutes — the biggest issue simply being distance. But, like anything else, it takes practice and is not some “cool trick” that you can master by reading words on a screen, but learning is the first step, practice is second.

First, understand that this method is effective because it allows you to use only cardinal directions. That way you can run while glancing down at your compass instead of having to walk carefully on a specific azimuth. The amount of time you can save by doing this is significant.

Step 1: Plot your points
The beginning of this step is like any other. You use your protractor, moving across the map grid square by grid square, and you mark all your points, as usual.

Step 2: Label the intersections nearest to each point
You find the nearest intersection to your point, as you might if you were to shoot a direct azimuth, and label them; I would use A, B, C, X, Y, Z — easily recognizable letters.