I will learn her curves and swells the way a husband learns his wife. I will learn to love this land by walking her every inch, and seeing her every beauty. There will be no secret place I will not see, and there will be no inch I will not tread.
These poetic words are how a friend of mine serving elsewhere in the IDF described the process of learning how to navigate in the Israeli Army (he also ties navigation exercises to the evils of the Obama administration, in an extended rant!). My own experience with army navigation has yet to inspire Pablo Neruda-like levels of romantic allegories. Yet with months of navigation before me, anything could happen!
My unit devotes more time to land navigation exercises than anyone else in the IDF. We cover the entire country, first learning the basics with veterans and then setting out in groups of four, two and eventually, by ourselves. Navigating always takes place at night, with enigmatic ridge lines and dry river beds shrouded in the inky darkness.
The basic idea is similar to any novice of orienteering. Earlier in by day we are given a map and a series of coordinate points in the wilderness. Over the next few hours we design a path that takes in all the points, and then memorize the relevant topography that lies along our route. The navigation itself will take place without a map, testing our recall and grasp of the wilderness. The evening exercises are also a physical test, since there is a limited time provided to arrive at the end point. And as veterans of my unit add with a grimace, the unimaginably heavy weight we eventually carry means the nights are not simply a test of memory and wilderness lore.
To get a good sense of IDF navigational exercises, see here.
Shortly after arriving at our unit's base, a senior officer laid out the ropes as to what we can and cannot share about the remainder of our training. What can we share? Nothing! So what do we tell family and friends? Well, said the officer, since a big chunk of your training involves navigational exercises, from now on that is your answer. If anyone asks what you are doing, reply with just one word: Navigation!
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