Land Navigation Teaches Teamwork

Shoemaker HS JROTC land navigation
By: Todd Martin

You really aren’t lost, the saying goes, as long as you can find your way back.
Some of the groups of Shoemaker High School Junior ROTC cadets appeared temporarily in the wrong place, but eventually, with map and compass in hand, they made their way back to the start.
A total of 116 high school cadets took part Friday in the Shoemaker battalion’s annual land navigation exercise at a course alongside Ivy Mountain Road on Fort Hood.
New maps with new coordinates made this year’s version of the popular activity more challenging for those who had done it before.
Instructors formed the teams composed of students, mixing grades and friend groups to expose cadets to working with a variety of people. They used maps and compasses to find their way and designated “safeties” watched over the teams.
“This is a leadership exercise we do to build confidence,” said senior Alijsha Carbins, an experienced cadet serving as a safety. “It’s similar to what soldiers do, but we try to make it easier for them.”
She and the other safety cadets reminded their peers to stay in groups, to keep drinking water and to stay on the trail and out of the brush.
“The first time I did it I was scared from what people told me,” Carbins said. “I learned how to pay attention. Of all the activities we do, I enjoy this one the most because it’s a lot of time together and it’s outside.”
Retired Col. Tom Clady, the senior JROTC instructor said his battalion is only all together during two parades and the annual land navigation exercise. “They learn teamwork and leadership and gain insight on map reading and land navigation,” he said. “It’s a chance for them to gain confidence.”
Teams had to find a minimum of three designated points marked on their maps to earn a land navigation ribbon. They could find up to five points in addition to the starting point, which made six points.
Senior Esperanza Garcia led her team to find all their designated points. She acknowledged it wasn’t easy, but said she was proud of her team’s effort.
“We learn a lot of teamwork and we learn how to communicate,” she said. “First, we had to figure out where we were and then use the map and coordinates and compass. It wasn’t easy, but we didn’t give up. We kept walking.”
Senior Joshua Gardner led the team that found all their points and finished the course first. He said it was a team effort.
“It was a good learning experience in a good environment,” he said. “We worked together. Different team members found different points and everyone found some.”
Students set out together, going in different directions based on their various designated map coordinates. They navigated the rocky, hilly terrain, made their way along ridges and across small streams.
“We had to find the best route,” said junior Alaijah Haus. “It was a good team building activity and we learned to work together and trust our leader. It definitely required good communication.”
“They learn that if you can find your way back, you’re not ever lost,” Clady said. “You learn to work with others and find your way out of it.”