Fort Knox, Kentucky – Cadets with 3rd Regiment, Advanced Camp, took the land navigation practical exam as part of Cadet Summer Training, June 20, 2024, on Fort Knox. For Cadets to pass the daytime land navigation exam, they must locate at least four of the five checkpoints within a four-hour period.

Equipped with a compass, protractor, pencil, map, and a list of coordinates, respective Platoons are called in turns to the front of the grading tent. Here, Cadre briefs them on what is expected. Before embarking on the expansive land navigation course, Cadets must plan meticulously.

As Cadets gather around a sign that lists all the known points on the course, they carefully study the information, jotting down notes and strategizing their best route. A hush descends over the course as each Cadet selects a spot on the grass to assume a prone position while they look over their maps. Cadets assume this position in order to replicate a combat scenario where they must evade enemy detection or gunfire while planning their maneuvers. Each Cadet is focused on plotting a route that will be the most efficient in terms of time. Once they have their route, Cadets head down the gravel road to find their way. 

Cadet Emily Drake, University of Georgia, located four out of the five checkpoints required for the exam, giving her a passing grade for the day. Drake believes that integrity is one of the most important skills that Cadets learn from land navigation. A rule for Cadets taking the exam is that they cannot talk to other Cadets while navigating. Even though they have four hours to complete the exam, some finish quicker than others. Cadets are prohibited from sharing where checkpoints are and what routes are the quickest. Cheating on the land navigation exam is not tolerated. The exam teaches self-confidence and discipline. 

“This is such a big course, you know,” said Drake, “This helps Cadets realize that they can do it alone and trust themselves to be successful.” 

Drake joined ROTC after seeing her brother-in-law transform through his service in the Marines. 

“Coming out of high school, I was very immature,” said Drake, “Then I saw how disciplined he was after his service. He was a whole different person.” 

Drake decided that she wanted to see this transformation in herself. A few years later, after applying for an ROTC scholarship, Drake finds herself here at CST.  

Cadet Jumeirah Wilkins of Walker College, NC, revealed a personal triumph of overcoming fear during land navigation. Despite initial apprehension due to concerns about ticks and other bugs, Wilkins shared that she successfully conquered her fear with the support of her team. She reflected on the experience, expressing that she has discovered the strength to accomplish anything she sets her mind to.

“My whole platoon had been telling me I could do it, that it wasn’t that bad,” said Wilkins, “That support was really freeing, and it’s important. It pushed me to find more points today than I ever have.” 

Wilkins emphasized the significance of instilling discipline in Cadets as they train to become officers. According to Wilkins, maintaining composure and confidence while leading soldiers in combat environments is a crucial skill that Cadets must possess.

“We’re the leaders, we’ve got to lead the way,” said Wilkins. 

Cadets began completing their exams at around 10:00 a.m. After completing their tests, they submitted their navigation slips to the grading tent. Cadets moved into the shade, where they rehydrated and rested while waiting for the remaining members of their platoon to finish.

Cadet Daniel Tulloss from Virginia Military Institute sat in the bleachers after being one of the first Cadets from 4th Platoon to complete his exam. Tullos found five out of five points on the exam, passing with flying colors.

Tulloss plans to go active duty upon graduation and is excited to see where the US Army takes him. Inspired by his brother, a role model and a former ROTC member, Tulloss is committed to fulfilling his commitment to the service. 

“Out here, we all have many of the same goals,” said Tulloss, “It makes it really easy to get along. Being on a team is just about trying to help each other push through things. When someone is having a bad day, now everyone’s job is to help that person.” 

Proper navigation is a crucial skill for all Cadets attending Cadet Summer Training. By emphasizing planning, discipline, and integrity, Cadets can enhance their capabilities during CST and make progress in developing their self-confidence in navigating challenges on their own. 

 

About the Author: Andrew Berger
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Andrew Berger is a senior at Ball State University majoring in Photojournalism. He is the Photo Editor of the Ball State Daily News and a member of the NPPA.