We’ve been going hard at Land Navigation for the past week or so with a refresher 101-type, of course, to get everyone on the same level playing field. We started we a basic map reading piece and moved on to the necessary basic skills every candidate should be familiar with before arriving.

The key to getting selected in one of the Special Operations Forces’ courses is to be properly prepared and keep a cool head during times of stress. It is certainly so with Land Navigation. Many of the students who fail to pass the Land Nav test did so because they didn’t prepare properly or didn’t think things thru. Occasionally both.

Like most of the challenges you’ll find in Selection, they are more mental than physical despite what you’ll hear from candidates who have gone thru the course.

So as a final primer for our Land Navigation refresher, we’ll put out some final reminders to all the candidates as a not-so-gentle reminder of what to do and just as importantly NOT to do on the navigation course. Some of these you’ve already heard in our earlier posts (foot stomp), they’re important which is why we’ll repeat them again and again.

So, here are our tips for getting a go at Land Navigation in Selection:

  • Soak up everything that the cadre put out in classes and briefings. They are out there all the time and know the area like the back of their hand. They won’t be trying to make it easy on you, but they won’t tell you anything to lead you astray either. And, (believe it or not, I’ve heard this one before), they will never try to tell you anything to make you fail. The cadre out there are professionals. They want people to pass. The right people,… good people.
  • Take advantage of all the Land Nav practice sessions out there. Some candidates are afraid of burning themselves out during the practice navigation sessions, that they purposely underachieve to “save it” for the test. Big mistake. Use every second of every practice to learn as much as you can about the course. Because you’ll run the same area for the test. Not the same lanes but you’ll be running on the same map sheet area. If you go to sleep during a practice night navigation. You’re going to get caught and you’ll be a very unhappy camper after the cadre find you.
  • Find the motivated candidates from the class and talk AFTER the day’s events are over. Don’t get caught talking during practice or the exam because you’ll get bounced. But discuss what you found, and share your experiences and any helpful tips where you can disseminate any possible trouble areas as well. That is allowable and encouraged, as long as it is after the event is over for the day.
  • Red lens flashlights only. Remember, you’re always being evaluated and the cadre WILL be out there and if you violate any of the rules, they WILL catch you
  • When you find yourself in one of those rare moments of non-restrictive terrain where the walking is easier, take advantage of it! Use your compass, pick out a spot as far in the distance as you can and move out quickly.  
  • Avoid crossing the draws if you can, especially at night. But if you must cross one using a combination of speed and care. Check your compass every 20-25 paces as it is easy to get turned around in those things. Don’t just blunder thru it like a bull in a china shop. Remember, there have been a ton of students out there if you see a well-worn path that cuts across a draw, it probably means that the students before you have found the path of least resistance across the draw and I’d take advantage of that. Sometimes taking an extra minute or two to properly recon the area will save you tenfold or more the time.
  • During Selection, an SFAS cadre member will be at the points to check you in and give you the next point on the course, but occasionally you’ll come upon those green Engineer stakes with a tag on them. They’re land navigation points for the SFQC. Take the time, stop, and use the eight-digit grid on them to help you pinpoint your location. That is just like having a built-in GPS on the course. Those are placed in exactly where they’re supposed to be and they’re a great tool to use. Especially if you’re getting close to your point, if you come across one within 200-300m from your point, you now have a perfect attack point.
  • As we mentioned, use a page from your notebook or an index card to make notes on without writing too much on your map sheet. Make any notations afterward just in case you return on a later date.
  • Embrace the darkness and night navigation. The majority of your work will be at night, don’t let it get to you and become a master at moving at night.
  • Trust your map, pace count, and your azimuth as you move out on the course. And never let doubt creep into your mind. Your map and compass aren’t going to lie to you on the course.
  • Your training and keeping a cool head will get you thru this. Thousands of SOF guys before you have done this and you can too. You will get tired and beat up on the course. That is what it was designed to do. Rise above it and keep driving on.
  • Don’t forget to use handrails and corridors such as roads and such while moving out. Just don’t get too close to them. If you hit one, then you know you’ve veered too far and need to backtrack.
  • Plan multiple checkpoints en route to your points. The more the better to validate your location at all times.

And finally, here are some of the names of places on the map, some are named, some given their names from the cadre or candidates. You will know all of these by the time you’re done out there.

Special Operations Skills 101: Land Navigation

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Five Points

Puppy Palace

Lake Baggett

Bones Fork Creek

3 Wire Road

Jurassic Park

Scuba Road

Dagobah (The north area…brilliant.)

Land Navigation 101:  Pinpoint Your Location, Orient the Map

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One last thing, ensure everything is tied down and before you leave any stop, point or checkpoint, that you double check that you have all of your kit and equipment. Don’t ever quit and avoid “Ned the Navigator”, every class has one.

Good luck…and hopefully the day after Land Navigation is done, you’ll be standing in formation with your entire class intact. DOL

Photo: DOD