Night LandNav at TBS

I just got an e-mail from a friend and former comrade of mine who is a student at The Basic School (TBS) at Quantico.  He informed me that his class had just completed a land navigation (LandNav) training exercise, which is an important training event at TBS.  His note reminded me of my TBS class’ night LandNav exercise back in the summer of 1972.

My roommate in the O’Bannon Hall bachelor officers’ quarters (BOQ) at Camp Barrett (TBS), Quantico was a recent former college classmate of mine whom I had known for several years.  He was an aspiring Marine aviator who went on to become one of the Corps’ premier helicopter pilots, serving a tour in the Presidential helicopter Squadron, HMX-1 and being VP George H. W. Bush’s personal helo pilot.  “Hap” (as my friend is known) is the son of a career Marine Air Winger.  Hap’s home town was Beaufort, S.C. – home to both Marine Corps Air Station, Beaufort and the infamous Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island. Hap had no interest whatsoever in attending TBS.  All he wanted was to get down to the Navy Air Training Command at Pensacola, Florida – which he eventually did, but via six months at TBS.

One hot, muggy Quantico summer night TBS Class 7-72 had its night LandNav exercise, a graded and therefore important event.  As a future, wannabe Marine Infantry Officer, I took LandNav seriously.  My roommate, on the other hand, viewed this as a pain-in-the-ass.

I was maneuvering through the training area as carefully as I could, in hopes of finding all my assigned points – which luckily I did.  At one point, as I moved forward following an azimuth in the 0% illumination darkness of night, I probed forward with one foot and realized just in time that I was on the edge of a pit.  I put my foot slightly downward into that pit and felt through my boot a springy, metallic resistance.  I realized that this pit was full of old barbed wire.  That was one hole I definitely did not want to fall into!  So I employed the 90 Degree offset method to move safely around this obstacle and got back on azimuth.

Shortly thereafter I heard a commotion in the woods that instantly reminded me of the scene in “King Kong” where the giant ape blindly bulls his way through the trees to get at the blonde staked out awaiting him.  Then I heard that familiar whipping sound of a branch smacking someone in the face, followed by a stream of profanity that would make a warrant officer blush.  I knew that voice, for it was that of my roommate. He was headed like a rampaging Pamplona bull straight towards the pit full of old concertina wire. 

I called out to warn him.  He recognized my voice, and rudely cut me off screaming obscenities, “Fxxx you, McTernan, you MF’er.  You want this  #@%&*% grunt sxxt…”  All the while he was venting at me, he continued to plod blindly on towards the concertina-filled pit.  I thought, “I don’t have to put up with his verbal abuse!  I tried to warn him…”  And I continued the mission.  As I got deeper into the woods, I heard this wailing sound as Hap fell into the pit.

Fortunately for me, I was fairly good at LandNav, and so I finished the course quickly and maxed it score-wise.  We were transported back to the BOQ area by cattle car.  I returned to my room, took a nice shower, and popped open an ice cold 16 oz. can of Budweiser.  (I definitely needed to rehydrate after all that sweating.)

On about my second or third brewski, in comes Hap, looking to all the world like he’d just tried to break up a fight between a Doberman Pinscher and a bobcat.  He said, “Mac, you a-hole! Why didn’t you warn me about that f’ing pit?!”  I replied that I’d tried, and handed him a beer.  He recovered and we remained friends.

MCLL: Watch where you’re going in the woods at night and practice good fieldcraft.          

Semper Fi!