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Old-School Training in a High-Tech World

Ohio Air National Guard 2nd Lt. Sam Thornton, security forces operations officer with the 180th Fighter Wing, reviews the instructions and map for a land navigation course with a fellow Airman at Oak Openings Metro Park in Swanton, Ohio, on Sep. 27, 2015. The 180th Security Forces Squadron performed their annual training requirement by plotting location points on maps and using compasses to find their way through the park. (Ohio Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. John Wilkes)

Ohio Air National Guard 2nd Lt. Sam Thornton, security forces operations officer with the 180th Fighter Wing, reviews the instructions and map for a land navigation course with a fellow Airman at Oak Openings Metro Park in Swanton, Ohio, on Sep. 27, 2015. The 180th Security Forces Squadron performed their annual training requirement by plotting location points on maps and using compasses to find their way through the park. (Ohio Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. John Wilkes)

Ohio Air National Guard Staff Sgt. Kyle Meyer, security forces journeyman at the 180th Fighter Wing, operates a compass to determine the direction he and his fellow Airmen need to walk to successfully navigate a training course set up in the Oak Openings Metro Park in Swanton, Ohio, Sep. 27, 2015. Oak Openings provides a real-world terrain for Airmen using traditional navigational tools to conduct their annual training by maneuvering their way through the park’s sand dunes and wetlands. (Ohio Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Nic Kuetemeyer)

Ohio Air National Guard Staff Sgt. Kyle Meyer, security forces journeyman at the 180th Fighter Wing, operates a compass to determine the direction he and his fellow Airmen need to walk to successfully navigate a training course set up in the Oak Openings Metro Park in Swanton, Ohio, Sep. 27, 2015. Oak Openings provides a real-world terrain for Airmen using traditional navigational tools to conduct their annual training by maneuvering their way through the park’s sand dunes and wetlands. (Ohio Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Nic Kuetemeyer)

Security Forces Airmen of the 180th Fighter Wing prepare to start a land navigation course by examining a map grid at Oak Openings Metro Park in Swanton, Ohio on Sep. 27, 2015. The 180th Security Forces Squadron used old-school navigations tools, such as a compass and map, to maneuver a training course that prepares Airmen for scenarios when advanced technology may fail and leave them to rely only on the most basic resources. (Ohio Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. John Wilkes)

Security Forces Airmen of the 180th Fighter Wing prepare to start a land navigation course by examining a map grid at Oak Openings Metro Park in Swanton, Ohio on Sep. 27, 2015. The 180th Security Forces Squadron used old-school navigations tools, such as a compass and map, to maneuver a training course that prepares Airmen for scenarios when advanced technology may fail and leave them to rely only on the most basic resources. (Ohio Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. John Wilkes)

Whitehouse, Ohio -- Security Forces Airmen from the 180th Fighter Wing, Ohio Air National Guard conducted old-school land navigation training at Oak Openings Metro Park in Swanton, Ohio Sept. 27, 2015.

The training, conducted using traditional navigation techniques such as maps, plot points and compasses, helps Airmen remain proficient on the equipment and art of navigation in austere conditions or in the event of an emergency when technology fails.

"Technology can fail; a battery can die on anything," said 2nd Lt. Sam Thornton, the security forces operations officer at the 180th FW, explaining why old fashioned navigation techniques are important to practice in today's world of smart phones and satellites. "We have a GPS unit you can plug coordinates into and it'll take you right where you need to go, but if you're in a wooded area, the canopy can keep it from working."

The term "land navigation" refers to finding one's way by using maps, plotting points on a grid, counting footsteps to judge distance and using a compass to find direction. It is a very precise process that must be followed exactly in order to successfully find a way through any terrain without the use of Global Positioning System, or GPS, street names or easily recognized landmarks such as buildings.

The 180th FW Airmen have a unique training ground available to them in the Oak Openings Metro Park. Because it contains such highly varied ecosystems like sand dunes and wetlands, it presents a challenging course for Security Forces.

Thornton explained that going up and down hills, navigating through thickly wooded areas, and crossing rivers can all throw off distance and directional calculations. If an Airman walks a few degrees off the line set by the compass, they could end up very far away from their intended point on the map. In a deployed or combat environment, being able to rely on these techniques could make the difference between reaching safety or not.

"In Security we do a lot of off base patrols," said Thornton, who helped set up the course and plot points the Airmen needed to reach. "If your vehicle breaks down, you might have to walk and if you don't want to take the road, you can just bring out a map."

Maintaining trained, qualified Airmen who are ready to deploy is a top priority for the 180th FW. Even though it may sound "old fashioned," techniques like land navigation will help the 180th execute the mission at home and abroad.
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