Corps Perpetuates Land Navigation Debacle

It has been reported the Marine Corps has tossed several officers for what they term “cheating” on a land navigation exam.

The 13 lieutenants were training in their six-month “Welcome to the Marine Corps” course, also known as The Basic School. (We like to think of it as a walk on the wild side of the Corps’ sprawling haven of boredom, Quantico, Va. But we digress.)

TBS is a mix of classroom study and practical field application. The land navigation segment teaches the officers to find a fixed point using a real map (no Google here) and compass plus their unique pace count to reach their objective, usually a painted metal box on a pole. It’s interesting and enjoyable, especially if wandering through the woods is new to you. During the exam students typically must locate a specified number of these boxes within the time allotted.

Our guess is the creative (or criminal) officers saw the information from previous tests as fair game. We call that gouge. They shared this gouge, and it appears the instructors had not changed the test much. Our boys and girls used the gouge and were labeled “cheaters.”

Well, the gang of 13 proved how dumb criminals can be. It seems the boys and girls used the gouge during the test. Flag on the play! They used the previous answers – right or wrong, and thus were caught. This is way outside Official Gouge Code. Sadly, according to Gouge Code, they cheated.

Zero tolerance? Cheaters get people killed? Reports say the gang of 13 was discharged from the service May 20. After an inquiry into the matter, the information was presented to Navy Secretary Ray Mabus who took time from his duties as Gulf Recovery Czar and tossed all 13. No word on educational paybacks.

The cadre at The Basic School may be loyal, but rarely are they the Corps’ wunderkinder. They are some of the least creative people we have ever encountered and their choice to elevate the matter is not surprising. Is there a larger issue at work at the depressing command? One of the perps was a Naval Academy graduate. Could the TBS team of also-rans still be out for Academy blood? We thought those days were far in the past.

We cannot fathom why anyone would cheat on a land navigation exam. In fact, who cares about land nav or The Basic School? It may have been more appropriate for the TBS cadre to have had the criminals retake a more challenging land nav test. Maybe issue letters that would remain in their service records. (These would entail work and creativity on the part of TBS. A consultant might be in order.) They could have moved each offender down the ladder in the final company rankings. But the penchant to drop-kick those who show a lapse in judgment seems to be in vogue.

In a Marine Corps starved for thinkers and risk takers, even if they are selfish cheaters, this final decision seems short-sighted.

What do you think?

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