I again reminder readers that I, Der Viator, am currently involved in military training at Fort Jackson in Columbia, South Carolina. Today we had land navigation. The training staff, known here as the cadre, hand us a map, compass, and protractor to find at least five out of eight locations in the woods. Once we find the wooden stake that marks the location and record the number contained on it, we again shoot an azimuth and walk the necessary meters to the next point, being ever so careful to maintain our “pace count.” For those of you who are interested, I’ve discussed land navigation back in August when my Reserve unit conducted an exercise at Fort Elroy. Before we move out into the woods, though, we plot the grid coordinates, the azimuth degrees, and distance between points on our map. What with my background as an intelligence analyst and concomitant training in land navigation, I had hoped to find all of the points; however, I got a “go” for the test with the bare minimum of five. I guess I should be thankful that I didn’t get lost. I’ve certainly come a long way since my youthful days in basic training, some five or six years ago.
Rest assured I went into the woods prepared. I had two canteens full of water, an interesting book about Afghanistan, an extra pair of underwear, and of course my GPS-tracking cell phone. I also brought a bag of popcorn so that I could leave a trail behind me if I got lost. My only worry was that the birds would get to it first. I’ve learned my lesson. When I did land nav a few years ago in the arid region of southern Arizona, I had been out there for what seemed like an eternity. I didn’t get lost, mind you; rather, I was hell-bent on finding all of the points, come what may. It ended up being a life-changing experience. I was almost left for dead, especially after a group of illegal aliens making their way down the Huachuca Mountains robbed me of my last granola bar. Once I ran out of water, I had to survive by eating ants and drinking my own urine. Thankfully a she-wolf found me and raised me as one of her own. People look at me aghast whenever I pull my trousers down and mark my territory, be it in the classroom, at the lectern, or on my front lawn. I've never been able to share my family past with anyone—not so much because I'm ashamed but because I'm a private person. So now you know.