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Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Things that go Bump in the Night

It was a clear night, with a decent moon. It was easy enough to see - if you're in a clearing. Go into one of the many tree groves, though, and things become very, very dark.

Tonight we had the opportunity to put our land navigation skills to the test - in the dark. We broke into 4 man teams, and were given objectives that were kilometers apart. Getting your bearing, and walking a straight line once you have it, is much more difficult when you can't see distant objects well - or at all. We decided to have two team members watch their compass as we walked to maintain direction, while a third kept count of the pace. The fourth team member did a backup pace count, but his main job was to keep track of the big picture - to watch for landmarks such as fire roads and streams, and see if we cross them about when we calculate that we should.

Our objectives were four 3' tall posts, each marked with a chemical light. They were all in wooded, hilly areas so you often had to be within about 30' to make them out. Each of the two compass men walked what they thought was the correct direction, then we started our search inbetween the two, moving out in ever expanding circles until locating the objective. Once we had a particularly hard time locating our landmark, so we decided to have all four people keep track of direction for the next one. My three teammates moved off in one direction, while I took a decidedly different route, about 5 degrees to the left of them. The temptation is strong to think "three of them going one way, and me going my own way... I must be wrong". Still I stuck to my guns, and pretty much walked right up to the marker. I would not suggest separating from your team like that in a combat environment, but there is an important lesson to be learned - don't just assume you're in the wrong because the majority has a different opinion.

After that marker, we moved into a very heavily wooded area. We had to exercise light discipline, meaning we only use as much light as absolutely necessary to navigate. At one point I sensed more than saw something very near to me, and stopped suddenly. Carefully probing the area immediately in front of me with my red lens flashlight, I discovered a large (4") spider no more than a foot in front of my face! Had I not stopped, it would have made contact with my left cheek right below my eye. That would have made for a nasty bite! One person in the group took a photo ... I'll try and get a copy to post (OK we really broke light discipline when we took a flash picture :-) Don't do that in combat.)

Moving back toward the base, we were moving tactically on what we thought was the right bearing. We were in a competition to try and return as quickly as possible, but we also had to move quietly. Moving through a large, open field SUDDENLY the night erupted in sound, and there was a flurry of motion DIRECTLY in front of one of my team mates. He jumped back - just in time to see that he had flushed some quail from their roosting spot :-) We all had a laugh and returned to the base camp.

If I had to describe the night in three words, they would be Teamwork, Excitement and Fun.


At 1:40 PM, Blogger Tracy said...

Another great book..."Imperial Grunts" by Robert Kaplan. I couldn't put it down. It's a great look into SF and the military diplomacy that is going on all over the world.

At 1:26 PM, Blogger Eric Johannsen said...

Thank's for the recommendation Tracy!

I added a link in the right-hand side of the page if anyone wants to pick it up.


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