Sunday, November 18, 2007

Winter Survival Training

Maryland Defense Force Engineers Conduct Land Navigation, Winter Survival Training
Lt. Col. Robert Hastings
Maryland Defense Force

HANOVER, Md. (November 18, 2007) -- In the foothills of Maryland’s Allegheny Mountains, Cpl. Hastings used a lensatic compass to shoot an azimuth to the next checkpoint. “We’re going in this direction,” she said as she lead her team 350 meters across challenging wooded terrain to find the next checkpoint plotted on her map.

It was a scene repeated by a number of Maryland Defense Force engineers and public affairs personnel who participated in land navigation training at the Baker Training Facility, a Maryland National Guard training area near Hanover, Md., November 17 and 18.

“Land navigation is a basic soldier skill that each and every member of the Maryland Defense Force must be familiar with,” said Col. Brian Kelm, Commander of the MDDF Engineer Corps and exercise officer-in-charge. “Understanding these skills is even more important for the Engineer in order to be prepared for disaster recovery and assessment which is an Engineer mission area.”

The participants learned that land navigation is much more than just map reading.

The instruction covered the full range of land navigation topics including:
the Military Grid Reference System (MGRF);
map marginal information and conventional map symbols;
identifying positions on a map using grid coordinates;
measuring distance and direction;
topography and terrain relief;
determining magnetic bearing with a compass;
orientating a map using a compass;
identifying a position on a map by terrain interpretation;
determining magnetic azimuths; and
familiarization with Global Positioning System (GPS).
The training culminated in a land navigation exercise where teams successfully negotiated a course across the rough terrain of the Allegheny Mountains.

Col. Kelm also gave instruction on the five-paragraph operations order, often called OPROD or SMEAC, referring to the five standard paragraphs: Situation, Mission, Execution, Administration & Logistics, and Command & Control.

According to Col. Kelm, both subjects are critical to the Engineer Corps’ disaster recovery assessment mission. “When performing a disaster assessment in support of the Maryland Emergency Management Agency (MEMA), many of the local manmade landmarks that we currently depend upon may not be standing. The ability to use map and compass as well as GPS is a vital skill needed to be mastered to overcome this.”

Col. Kelm added. “Any member of the Defense Force can find themselves in a mission where they may need to use a map and compass.”

The Maryland Defense Force is one of a number of State Defense Forces authorized by the U.S. Congress under Title 32 and the respective state legislatures. While specific missions vary from state to state, State Defense Forces exist primarily to augment the capabilities of the National Guard. Employing volunteers who bring military experience and/or civilian professional skills, they supplement the capabilities of the National Guard, assist in National Guard mobilization for federal service, replace National Guard assets deployed out-of-state, and support state homeland security missions. State Defense Forces operate under the command of the Governor, as state Commander-in-Chief, and fall under the operational control of the state Adjutant General’s office. State Defense Forces receive no federal funds and are supported entirely by the state.

Headquartered at the Pikesville Military Reservation in Baltimore, the Maryland Defense Force is a volunteer uniformed state military agency organized under the Maryland Military Department. Formally established by the Maryland legislature in 1917, the unit's heritage and traditions trace back to the 17th century. Its mission is to provide competent supplemental professional and technical support to the Maryland Military Department and the Maryland National Guard.

For further information about the Maryland Defense Force, visit