Mercer’s ROTC went to Fort Gordon in Augusta, Ga. for a land navigation FTX (field training exercise) in mid-November. The excursion was mandatory for all contracted cadets in ROTC.
While at Fort Gordon, cadets practiced their ability to navigate wooded terrain. Each cadet had a canteen of water, flashlight, pair of gloves, hat, map, compass and whistle.
Upon ROTC’s arrival at Fort Gordon, training officer Cadet Maj. Raj Dulamal gave a safety briefing to 24 participating cadets.
The cadets verified that their compasses’ needles were pointing to magnetic north. The cadets also determined their pace count: the number of steps one takes in a preset distance.
The cadets performed three total navigation exercises (“runs”): a two hour abbreviated day run, a three hour night run and another five hour full-day run.
The cadets slept overnight in sleeping bags and ate MREs (Meal, Ready-to-Eat: a standard ration pack) for dinner and breakfast.
Before every run, each group received a piece of paper, called a “lane packet,” that listed five to eight coordinates. The Officer in Charge (OIC), Capt. Cynthia Warren allotted 15 minutes for each group to plot their respective coordinates on a physical map.
“Since this was the first time for the freshmen to use a military map, each one was paired with a senior, who walked the course with them, giving them advice and ensuring they didn’t get lost,” Warren said. The juniors were required to navigate the lanes alone.
To pass the FTX, each cadet had to find a majority of the points in the lane packet in the allotted two to five hours. All of the locations had hole punches, each with a unique design and a number for cadets to mark on their lane packets.
The battalion commander, Cadet Lt. Col. Ted Price, and the personnel officer, Cadet Capt. Suzy Spillers, worked in the TOC (Tactical Operations Center) and kept track of the cadets’ progress.
“[On] the second day run, everyone passed. We even had a few perfect scores,” Public Affairs Officer Cadet Capt. Brittney Graham said. “We left early because everyone did so well.” Thirteen cadets received a perfect score, meaning they reached all eight points on the map within the allotted time.
Graham was responsible for taking pictures of the training.
Some cadets do occasionally get lost. “We give [the cadets] a panic azimuth, 90 degrees due east,” said Graham. When a cadet is lost, they head east until they hit a hard fall road, a major road that runs north-south. ROTC cadets can then radio in for a ride back to camp.
Some cadets were faster than others, so cadets trickle into camp all day. To pass the time while waiting for slower cadets to return from their lane, the cadets played a pickup game of football.