prepare for school:
- Stop cheating at land nav now. You know exactly what I mean -- following the trails of other cadets, listening for that one loud Specialist who is good at land nav and will give a cough when he is at the point, or even seeking out the fireworks of red lenses that cluster around the first find of the morning. Just stop. Treat land navigation seriously by talking to Soldiers who are good at it, listening during hip-pocket training, and actually trying to do it the right way.
- Do some trail running. Unless you have no idea what you are doing, you have been running quite a bit in your train-up for school. (If not, better head over to the PT Prep page now.) Most of this running is probably not on foot paths in the woods, or uneven construction roads. Get some time in your boots running in these conditions. Doing so will build your confidence, strengthen the supporting muscles in your legs (reducing injuries), and get you ready to run the land nav course. Wait -- what?!
- Run the land nav course. You read that right -- run the land nav course. You don't have time to simply step it out and hope you make it. The points are far apart and require some significant travel to get between them. You will need to run from area to area, and then use the extra time you've earned to search out your points. Ask some recent grads, and you will hear stories of Ranger students who had all their points but miss their time. Guess what? They usually get to do it again -- and then are so tired after that they fall out on another event. You need to focus on a first-time GO in every Ranger event, and for land nav that means running.
- Plan then go. When the start time comes, use your first minutes to orient to the map, plot your points, and make a plan. Any Ranger course is going to make you think, and now is the time to do it. Decide what order you'll go in, how you'll travel from point to point, and actually think about what the map means. Could there be a swamp there? Does that one point look easy at first but is actually buried deep in the brush? Which points can I get closest to off reference points rather than bushwhacking for 600 meters? Plan your work, then work the plan.
- Darkness is for movement. You will begin the course before the sun comes up, meaning dark dark dark. If you are lucky, full moon and clear. If not, try not to fall into the swamp, holes, ravines, drainage ditches, etc. That said, don't waste your dark hours trying to find your first point. Using your plan, identify the farthest point you need to hit, and start movement. Move quickly but move safely. If you have great illumination, you can actually jog pretty quickly. On other nights, slow down but keep a good speed. You need to burn up that darkness getting to your critical point. If you do it right, you'll start getting the benefits of sunrise as you are
- Don't trust the roads on the map. If you're plan sounds like "I'll run to the first intersection, go left, then next intersection, go right" you will fail. If you add in "I'll run 400 meters at 45 degrees to the first intersection, which I know is at a 90 degree angle, then I'll go right at 135 degrees for 800 meters to the next intersection, which . . ." you have a better chance. No matter what, stop at every intersection, drop down to the ground, and do a map check. Does the distance seem right? Do the roads intersect the way you expect them to? If not, make a decision and drive on. There are false intersections on every land nav course -- confident use of your compass and map, combined with trusting your plan, will defeat them every time.
- Don't cheat. Remember point 1 above? You will get caught. Will RI's pretend to be another student and ask you for help? Yep. Will you get dinged if they told you not to use white light and you use it? Yep. Can they see you in the dark? Uh.....yep. Do not cheat at land nav. Even if you are freaking out, stay calm, trust your plan, and find your points. Now let's be clear. Not cheating means "do the right thing." But if you are near your point, look up, and see three red headlamps near something? You should probably check it out. Saw a guy looking for his point a few minutes ago, and now he is booking away like he found it and is off to the next one? Maybe you should head in the direction he came from. The purpose of point number 1 above is to get you good enough that people want to follow you -- but don't be an idiot. Find your point using every fair way you can.
- Know when to stop. Anyone who has done land nav knows the feeling of being "so close" to their point, and getting sucked into the search. That obsession can be your downfall at Ranger School. If you are circling and circling and cannot find it; if you have retraced back to the road and recheck your azimuth but the point is nowhere to be found; if you know you have spent way too long searching for one point, count it as a loss and give up. Further, do not, under any circumstances, believe that getting a major plus from finding all your points is worth it. What is worth it is finding your points, getting back, and having your GO. Ranger School continues to have the coordinates on the points, so you'll know when you have them. Go back and take whatever breather you can get.
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