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Thursday, October 27, 2005

Over the Hill and Through the Woods

Psyop is part of the Special Operations community. As such, we are well equiped. When we're out in the field, we will always have GPS. Why then should we learn to navigate by compass (for direction) and pace counting (for distance)? Well, first of all, technology breaks. Usually at the worst possible time. Even if your device doesn't die on you, your batteries might. If you were told to prepare for 2 days in the field, and you're on Day 14 (this happens!) you might not have enough batteries along to power all of your technology. Also, GPS is susceptable to being jammed - especially in a war zone.

One more reason to learn to do things by hand - to open your eyes and understand what your technology is telling you - is that it's all too easy to be misled by your technology if you don't use it properly. Here is an example: I fly volunteer, civilian search and rescue. One day we were called into a safety briefing. One of our highly trained pilots had run out of fuel on a mission and had to land on a highway. Did he have a leak in his fuel system? Did he face massive, unpredicted head winds? No. He had simply entered Jackson, WI into the GPS rather than Jackson, FL as intended. Even though the GPS pointed him in almost exactly the wrong direction, he followed his technology. Having a sound understanding of the principles behind your technology is critical, especially when your life depends on it. Jessica Lynch's convoy had GPS.

Today we began to learn how to navigate over the hill and through the woods, even though our goal wasn't grandmother's house, but rather small markers in the middle of the Special Forces Land Navigation course. We did have a basic introduction to land navigation in BCT, but if you didn't already know land nav, the BCT course would not help you much. It was too short, poorly taught, and coupled with minimal practical application. Not so in PSYOP AIT. We had thorough classroom instruction, coupled with interesting and relevant stories to illustrate especially challenging situations. Land nav came easy to me because I'm already a trained pilot, but I still enjoyed the class thoroughly. We will have several days in the field to apply land nav - and I'm very much looking forward to it!


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