One key to success in tactical missions is the ability to move undetected to the objective. There are four steps to land navigation. Being given an objective and the requirement to move there, you must know where you are, plan the route, stay on the route, and recognize the objective.
a. Know Where You Are (Step 1). You must know where you are on the map and on the ground at all times and in every possible way. This includes knowing where you are relative to—
Your directional orientation.
The direction and distances to your objective.
Other landmarks and features.
Any impassable terrain, the enemy, and danger areas.
Both the advantages and disadvantages presented by the terrain between you and your objective.
This step is accomplished by knowing how to read a map, recognize and identify specific terrain and other features; determine and estimate direction; pace, measure, and estimate distances, and both plot and estimate a position by resection.
b. Plan the Route (Step 2). Depending upon the size of the unit and the length and type of movement to be conducted, several factors should be considered in selecting a good route or routes to be followed. These include—
Maneuver room needed.
Load-bearing capacities of the soil.
Energy expenditure by troops.
The factors of METT-T.
Tactical aspects of terrain (OCOKA).
Ease of logistical support.
Potential for surprising the enemy.
Availability of control and coordination features.
Availability of good checkpoints and steering marks.
In other words, the route must be the result of careful map study and should address the requirements of the mission, tactical situation, and time available. It must also provide for ease of movement and navigation.
(1) Three route-selection criteria that are important for small-unit movements are cover, concealment, and the availability of reliable checkpoint features. The latter is weighted even more heavily when selecting the route for a night operation. The degree of visibility and ease of recognition (visual effect) are the key to the proper selection of these features.
(2) The best checkpoints are linear features that cross the route. Examples include perennial streams, hard-top roads, ridges, valleys, railroads, and power transmission lines. Next, it is best to select features that represent elevation changes of at least two contour intervals such as hills, depressions, spurs, and draws. Primary reliance upon cultural features and vegetation is cautioned against because they are most likely to have changed since the map was last revised.
(3) Checkpoints located at places where changes in direction are made mark your decision points. Be especially alert to see and recognize these features during movement. During preparation and planning, it is especially important to review the route and anticipate where mistakes are most likely to be made so they can be avoided.
(4) Following a valley floor or proceeding near (not on) the crest of a ridgeline generally offers easy movement, good navigation checkpoints, and sufficient cover and concealment. It is best to follow terrain features whenever you can—not to fight them.
(5) A lost or a late arriving unit, or a tired unit that is tasked with an unnecessarily difficult move, does not contribute to the accomplishment of a mission. On the other hand, the unit that moves too quickly and carelessly into a destructive ambush or leaves itself open to air strikes also have little effect. Careful planning and study are required each time a movement route is to be selected.
c. Stay on the Route (Step 3). In order to know that you are still on the correct route, you must be able to compare the evidence you encounter as you move according to the plan you developed on the map when you selected your route. This may include watching your compass reading (dead reckoning) or recognizing various checkpoints or landmarks from the map in their anticipated positions and sequences as you pass them (terrain association). A better way is to use a combination of both.
d. Recognize the Objective (Step 4). The destination is rarely a highly recognizable feature such as a dominant hilltop or road junction. Such locations as this are seldom missed by the most inexperienced navigators and are often dangerous places for soldiers to occupy. The relatively small, obscure places are most likely to be the destinations.
(1) Just how does a soldier travel over unfamiliar terrain for moderate to great distances and know when he reaches the destination? One minor error, when many are possible, can cause the target to be missed.
(2) The answer is simple. Select a checkpoint (reasonably close to the destination) that is not so difficult to find or recognize. Then plan a short, fine-tuned last leg from the new expanded objective to the final destination. For example, you may be able to plan and execute the move as a series of sequenced movements from one checkpoint or landmark to another using both the terrain and a compass to keep you on the correct course. Finally, after arriving at the last checkpoint, you might follow a specific compass azimuth and pace off the relatively short, known distance to the final, pinpoint destination. This procedure is called point navigation. A short movement out from a unit position to an observation post or to a coordination point may also be accomplished in the same manner.
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