Welcome to the jungle: corporals take on land navigation

Welcome to the jungle: corporals take on land navigation

by Lance Cpl. Ryan C. Mains, III MEF/MCIPAC Consolidated Public Affairs Office
U.S. Marine Corps

CAMP GONSALVES, OKINAWA, Japan -- “I think we found our first point,” said a corporal, drenched in sweat as he and his fellow Marines traversed through dense jungle. “It should be on top of this hill, behind the trees.”

With hopes of this being the correct point, the corporals climbed the steep, muddy hill, grabbing anything within reach so they wouldn’t slip while making their way to the top.

Marines participating in Marine Corps Air Station Futenma’s Corporals Course traveled through the jungle during a land navigation course at the Jungle Warfare Training Center Sept. 23 on Camp Gonsalves.

“The corporals went through a performance evaluation for land navigation,” said Sgt. Michael J. Elgaen, the senior instructor for the course. “They took the skills they learned from Marine Combat Training and from the classroom then applied it out in the jungle.”

The Marines were split up into four groups with 11 Marines in each group. They had a map, compass and radio to assist them in finding their way through the jungle. Additionally, they were given a flare for use in the event they became lost. Each group received two different points on their map to locate in a two-hour time limit.

It is difficult to shoot a straight azimuth and keep count of your pace in the jungle, according to Elgaen, from Bismarck, North Dakota.

“Keeping a pace count was difficult,” said Cpl. Edward P. Lamb II, a ground radio repairer with Marine Wing Support Squadron 172, Marine Aircraft Group 36, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, III Marine Expeditionary Force. “It was almost nonexistent. Recognizing the terrain was essential because it is easy to get lost in that jungle.”

Since the vegetation was thick and the terrain was not flat, it was challenging for the Marines to find their points, according to Elgaen. The corporals had to use terrain association to navigate through the jungle instead of a technique known as dead reckoning.

“Dead reckoning is where you shoot an azimuth (with a compass), use a pace count, and judging the distance on your map you follow a known distance to that point,” said Elgaen. “Terrain association is where you get your map out, orientate the map to the ground, look at the contour lines and recognize the land developments.”

Usually, the Marines would complete their land navigation course on the air station, according to Cpl. Kevin Kupski, an air traffic control navigation aid technician with Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron, MCAS Futenma. Yet the challenge of navigating through JWTC provided a more realistic training opportunity for the noncommissioned officers.

“In order to give them the best training experience, we decided to use the Jungle Warfare Training Center,” said Elgaen. “The jungle was a suitable environment for the corporals to test out their skills that they have learned.”

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