Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Compensating for Drift

Combat Weather Airmen practice land nav
This month I hit the land nav course as part of my training to be an Army officer. Somewhere along the way my battle buddy and I got pretty disoriented. [Enter 2nd Lieutenant joke here]. Okay, it happened a few times. In this article I'll share some practical knowledge about what I learned on how not to get lost and the correlations it made me think of in our own lives.

Mistake #1 Drift
When traveling through thick vegetation or on maps without a great deal of landmarks it can be hard to travel in a straight line. The farther you go the more exaggerated the effect. I found out I have a tendency to drift to the right. So even though you thought you were following the proper azimuth, you've actually been on a divergent path.

The fix: In thick vegetation you're not going to be able to cover 100 meters without checking your compass a few times. When you get your azimuth find a marker directly in your path and go to it. Even if you need to reshoot your azimuth every 10m, doing so will keep you from drifting too far to the right or the left. When maneuvering around obstacles in your path, alternate which side you go around.

In life: Wrong ideas, tendencies, sin patterns, all of these things can lead to drift in our Christian life. The longer they go unchecked the farther and farther from the truth we get. We can substitute the values of our culture for the truth of the gospel and not notice the difference. For example, it would be very easy for me to flip the switch and make a blog about Christianity + manliness. Christianity with more requirements piled on top- essentially modern Phariseeism wrapped in a package that sounds trendy. In essence it would be a unique brand of Christianity. From the beginning, Ruedi and I have been intentional about wanting to write instead about manliness as a result of Christianity. These articles are intended to inspire and challenge you to live in a way that is a God-honoring celebration of who he created us to be. We feel like our thoughts and opinions are shaped and backed up by scripture, even when it's an article about camping or grilling steak. Because we don't believe in a dichotomy of life. There is no secular and sacred- God ordained it all. That said, if you ever feel we're off course, challenge us or any other leader that does so! Joshua 1:7

Mistake #2 Lack of Confidence
Before you head out on a land nav course, you establish your pace count- how many paces it takes you to walk 100 meters. You also check your compass to ensure it's properly calibrated. By the time you step off, you know those foundational tools are good to go. Somewhere along the way you stop counting paces because you think you're close, or stop checking the compass because you're moving in the same direction, or you just flat out don't trust what either is telling you. From there getting disoriented lost is almost guaranteed.

The fix: Be confident in your tools. Keep practicing and rely on what your tools are telling you.

In life: How often does the Bible remind us God is fully in control? He's given us the tools of scripture, prayer, community and a host of other spiritual disciplines to stay on course. But so often we ditch the tools and resort to our own: anxiousness, worry, pride, and a host of other tendencies. Trusting one set of tools might take you through some dense jungle or swamps but in the end you'll get to your destination. The other set just gets you lost. James 1:5-8

Mistake #3 Giving Up
Our first point in the night land nav course was 600 meters through extremely dense brush. No light. About 100 meters in we almost walked straight into a pond full of stagnant water with no visible way around without getting way off course. We started over and tried a different route. When we reached our end point we found nothing. We couldn't get to point two until we found point one and it was incredibly frustrating. We spent over an hour and a half combing the woods in the dark for a chem light hanging from a post and found nothing. After a long day of land nav, getting smoked by our sergeants, and a PT test we'd been pushed hard for close to 20 hours at that point. Our mental toughness was low and we just gave up. We walked back to the finish point empty handed.

The fix: Be tough! Quitting is only an option when you make it one. What would we have done if it was a real mission? There's no just giving up because it gets hard. Don't stop thinking. Try to solve the problem by working smarter not harder. Revert back to your training and keep at it.

In life: We can be bombarded by temptation and it usually comes at the times when we're least ready to fight it. At that point we have two options: giving up and fighting back. You may feel like you're too weak to push it off or that it's a temptation too big to get around but the Lord promises it's not. Look at how Jesus handled the situation in Matthew 4:1-11.

You may also like:
Operation: Blue Wolf
Every Man's Slaughterhouse
Perspectives on Failure


  1. Some land nav tips - use your buddy as your landmark. It's a lot easier to send him out ahead, direct him to where he needs to be, then go to him than it is to try to remember which tree it was that you were walking to. Also, don't forget to compensate for declination. Being off just a few degrees makes a huge difference over the course of a few hundred meters. If you can, use an easy to find terrain marker (eg, creek, draw, hill) and shoot your azimuth from there. It's a lot easier to walk until you hit a creek or go uphill till you get to the top, then pace 100m than it is to do the azimuth/pace count thing for 1800m. Finally, when you're going around obstacles, remember left add right subtract. Having a pen and notepad to write down your offset paces is a must for that.

    Hopefully I said something useful and/or helpful, if not, know that I'm praying for you as you go after your butterbar.

    1. Solid advice, thanks for adding that. We used the leapfrog method of sending one ahead to mark the course while the other did the pace count. It definitely helps in the thick brush where getting wildly off course in just a few steps is easy. Thanks for your prayers too- God has been very faithful in helping me along through each milestone of this journey.