“All the cadets’ presentation skills were exceptional,” said Jake Garner, NGA DevCorps developer.
Following the classroom portion at Lindenwood University, participants moved to Weldon Spring Training Area for the field exercise, where participants split into 16 groups, each led by a third-year cadet.
ROTC cadets are required to pass a major assessment the summer before their senior year, and land navigation is a key component.
“Land navigation is a perishable skill,” said Cadet Zane Watson, executive officer for Gateway ROTC. “Even professors of military science will join the cadets for some of their land nav practice.”
Michael Benson, director of NGA’s Office of Geography, understands the challenging nature of land navigation and was eager to have his personnel included in this year’s exercise. “I think the DevCorps LandNav event provides that perspective for our analysts to understand the challenges our warfighters face,” said Benson.
“Not having prior military experience, and getting a chance to get out and use the products adds context and meaning to what we are doing,” explains Jim Lewis, DevCorps division chief. “It adds a piece that would be missing otherwise, if all you did was learn the software and the theory.”
The LandNav 3.0 training event is consistent with the innovation and creativity shown by the partnerships, training, activities and events taking place nearly every day in and around the St. Louis geospatial eco-system and at Moonshot Labs, NGA’s St. Louis unclassified innovation space.
“We used Moonshot Labs for a planning location,” said Mosquito. “We used Agile methodology to plan and organize the activity; partnered with Lindenwood University, Washington University, Gateway ROTC and the Missouri Army National Guard.”
That partnership carried over to the field. “The cadets made us do the work,” said Kate Fair, NGA Employee Assistance Program psychologist. “They didn’t just do it for us.” Cadets and NGA staff navigated either an easy course, for those new to land navigation, or a challenging course, for those with some experience.
Several prior participants noted that it was harder to navigate to all of their points than in past LandNav iterations, but ultimately that was not a detriment. “It’s more about the camaraderie of doing the exercise together than finding everything,” said Garner.
“In a group like this “cadets can practice their leadership capabilities, route planning, and maintaining composure in high-stress situations”, said Cadet Mae Martel, a Washington University graduate student and event organizer, who participated in the 2022 event, and filled a leadership role in this year’s event,
Scott Gum, a 39-year veteran of NGA, had not practiced land navigation until his son, Cadet Lucas Gum, a junior at Saint Louis University, led his group during the field exercise, which was a full-circle moment for father and son. “In the early 2010s, my dad brought me to Bring Your Kid to Work Day; now it’s my turn to bring him so he can see my world,” said Lucas.