Make your own free website on


MISSION PLANNING: Step 1 Strategic goals
MISSION PLANNING: Step 2 Missions and the SG's
MISSION PLANNING: Step 3 Tactical Planning an overview
MISSION PLANNING: Step 4 Warning Order Part 1
MISSION PLANNING: Step 6 Mission Statement
MISSION PLANNING: Step 8 Finalized Situation Report.
MISSION PLANNING: Step 9 The meat of the whole deal - EXECUTION
MISSION PLANNING: Step 9a The general make up of the team
MISSION PLANNING: Step 9b Planning for the HOME Team deployment
MISSION PLANNING: Step 9b (a) LR Execution
MISSION PLANNING: Step 9c Home Team Insertions
THE ART OF WAR - Part I - Laying Plans
THE ART OF WAR - Part II - Waging War
THE ART OF WAR - Part III - Attack By Stratagem
THE ART OF WAR - Part IV - Tactical Dispositions
THE ART OF WAR - Part V - Energy
THE ART OF WAR - Part VI - Weak Points and Strong
THE ART OF WAR - Part VII - Maneuvering
THE ART OF WAR - Part VIII - Variation in Tactics
THE ART OF WAR - Part IX - The Army on the March
THE ART OF WAR - Part X - Terrain
THE ART OF WAR - Part XI - The Nine Situations
THE ART OF WAR - Part XII - The Attack by Fire
THE ART OF WAR - Part XIII - The Use of Spies
THE FEDERALIST PAPERS - The Importance of the Union (1-14)
THE FEDERALIST PAPERS - Defects of the Articles of Confederation (15-22)
THE FEDERALIST PAPERS - Arguments for the Type of Government Contained in the Constitution (23-36)
THE FEDERALIST PAPERS - The Republican Form of Government (37-51)
THE FEDERALIST PAPERS - The Legislative Branch (52-66)
THE FEDERALIST PAPERS - The Executive Branch (67-77)
THE FEDERALIST PAPERS - The Judicial Branch (78-83)
THE FEDERALIST PAPERS - Conclusions and Miscellaneous Ideas (84-85)
YouHaveTreadOnMe - Radio Show


Compasses are the primary navigation tools to use when moving in an outdoor world where there is no other way to find directions. Soldiers should be thoroughly familiar with the compass and its uses. Part One of this manual discussed the techniques of map reading. To complement these techniques, a mastery of field movement techniques is essential. This chapter describes the lensatic compass and its uses, and some of the field expedient methods used to find directions when compasses are not available.


The lensatic compass is the most common and simplest instrument for measuring direction. It is discussed in detail in the below listed paragraph. The artillery M2 compass is a special-purpose instrument designed for accuracy. The wrist/pocket compass is a small magnetic compass that can be attached to a wristwatch band. It contains a north-seeking arrow and a dial in degrees. A protractor can be used to determine azimuths when a compass is not available. However, it should be noted that when using the protractor on a map, only grid azimuths are obtained.


The lensatic compass (Figure 9-1) consists of three major parts: the cover, the base, and the lens.

Figure 9-1. Lensatic compass.

Figure 9-1. Lensatic compass.

a.   Cover. The compass cover protects the floating dial. It contains the sighting wire (front sight) and two luminous sighting slots or dots used for night navigation.

b.   Base. The body of the compass contains the following movable parts:

(1)   The floating dial is mounted on a pivot so it can rotate freely when the compass is held level. Printed on the dial in luminous figures are an arrow and the letters E and W. The arrow always points to magnetic north and the letters fall at east (E) 90° and west (W) 270° on the dial. There are two scales; the outer scale denotes mils and the inner scale (normally in red) denotes degrees.

(2)   Encasing the floating dial is a glass containing a fixed black index line.

(3)   The bezel ring is a ratchet device that clicks when turned. It contains 120 clicks when rotated fully; each click is equal to 3°. A short luminous line that is used in conjunction with the north-seeking arrow during navigation is contained in the glass face of the bezel ring.

(4)   The thumb loop is attached to the base of the compass.

c.   Lens. The lens is used to read the dial, and it contains the rear-sight slot used in conjunction with the front for sighting on objects. The rear sight also serves as a lock and clamps the dial when closed for its protection. The rear sight must be opened more than 45° to allow the dial to float freely.

NOTE: When opened, the straightedge on the left side of the compass has a coordinate scale; the scale is 1:50,000 in newer compasses.


Some older compasses will have a 1:25,000 scale. This scale can be used with a 1:50,000-scale map, but the values read must be halved. Check the scale.


Compasses are delicate instruments and should be cared for accordingly.

a. Inspection. A detailed inspection is required when first obtaining and using a compass. One of the most important parts to check is the floating dial, which contains the magnetic needle. The user must also make sure the sighting wire is straight, the glass and crystal parts are not broken, the numbers on the dial are readable, and most important, that the dial does not stick.

b.   Effects of Metal and Electricity. Metal objects and electrical sources can affect the performance of a compass. However, nonmagnetic metals and alloys do not affect compass readings. The following separation distances are suggested to ensure proper functioning of a compass:

High-tension power lines  55 meters.
Field gun, truck, or tank 18 meters.
Telegraph or telephone wires and barbed wire  10 meters.
Machine gun 2 meters.
Steel helmet or rifle 1/2 meter.

c.   Accuracy. A compass in good working condition is very accurate. However, a compass has to be checked periodically on a known line of direction, such as a surveyed azimuth using a declination station. Compasses with more than 3° + variation should not be used.

d.   Protection. If traveling with the compass unfolded, make sure the rear sight is fully folded down onto the bezel ring. This will lock the floating dial and prevent vibration, as well as protect the crystal and rear sight from damage.


Magnetic azimuths are determined with the use of magnetic instruments, such as lensatic and M2 compasses. The techniques employed when using the lensatic compass are as follows:

a.   Using the Centerhold Technique. First, open the compass to its fullest so that the cover forms a straightedge with the base. Move the lens (rear sight) to the rearmost position, allowing the dial to float freely. Next, place your thumb through the thumb loop, form a steady base with your third and fourth fingers, and extend your index finger along the side of the compass. Place the thumb of the other hand between the lens (rear sight) and the bezel ring; extend the index finger along the remaining side of the compass, and the remaining fingers around the fingers of the other hand. Pull your elbows firmly into your sides; this will place the compass between your chin and your belt. To measure an azimuth, simply turn your entire body toward the object, pointing the compass cover directly at the object. Once you are pointing at the object, look down and read the azimuth from beneath the fixed black index line (Figure 9-2). This preferred method offers the following advantages over the sighting technique:

(1)   It is faster and easier to use.

(2)   It can be used under all conditions of visibility.

(3)   It can be used when navigating over any type of terrain.

(4)   It can be used without putting down the rifle; however, the rifle must be slung well back over either shoulder.

(5)   It can be used without removing eyeglasses.

Figure 9-2. Centerhold technique.

Figure 9-2. Centerhold technique.

b.   Using the Compass-to-Cheek Technique. Fold the cover of the compass containing the sighting wire to a vertical position; then fold the rear sight slightly forward. Look through the rear-sight slot and align the front-sight hairline with the desired object in the distance. Then glance down at the dial through the eye lens to read the azimuth (Figure 9-3).

NOTE: The compass-to-cheek technique is used almost exclusively for sighting, and it is the best technique for this purpose.

Figure 9-3. Compass-to-cheek technique.

Figure 9-3. Compass-to-cheek technique.

c.   Presetting a Compass and Following an Azimuth. Although different models of the lensatic compass vary somewhat in the details of their use, the principles are the same.

(1)   During daylight hours or with a light source:

(a)   Hold the compass level in the palm of the hand.

(b)   Rotate it until the desired azimuth falls under the fixed black index line (for example, 320°), maintaining the azimuth as prescribed (Figure 9-4).

Figure 9-4. Compass preset at 320 degrees.

Figure 9-4. Compass preset at 320 degrees.

(c)   Turn the bezel ring until the luminous line is aligned with the north-seeking arrow. Once the alignment is obtained, the compass is preset.

(d)   To follow an azimuth, assume the centerhold technique and turn your body until the north-seeking arrow is aligned with the luminous line. Then proceed forward in the direction of the front cover's sighting wire, which is aligned with the fixed black index line that contains the desired azimuth.

(2)   During limited visibility, an azimuth may be set on the compass by the click method. Remember that the bezel ring contains 3° intervals (clicks).

(a)   Rotate the bezel ring until the luminous line is over the fixed black index line.

(b)   Find the desired azimuth and divide it by three. The result is the number of clicks that you have to rotate the bezel ring.

(c)   Count the desired number of clicks. If the desired azimuth is smaller than 180°, the number of clicks on the bezel ring should be counted in a counterclockwise direction. For example, the desired azimuth is 51°. Desired azimuth is 51°¸ 3 = 17 clicks counterclockwise. If the desired azimuth is larger than 180°, subtract the number of degrees from 360° and divide by 3 to obtain the number of clicks. Count them in a clockwise direction. For example, the desired azimuth is 330°; 360°-330° = 30 ¸ 3 = 10 clicks clockwise.

(d)   With the compass preset as described above, assume a centerhold technique and rotate your body until the north-seeking arrow is aligned with the luminous line on the bezel. Then proceed forward in the direction of the front cover's luminous dots, which are aligned with the fixed black index line containing the azimuth.

(e)   When the compass is to be used in darkness, an initial azimuth should be set while light is still available, if possible. With the initial azimuth as a base, any other azimuth that is a multiple of three can be established through the use of the clicking feature of the bezel ring.

NOTE: Sometimes the desired azimuth is not exactly divisible by three, causing an option of rounding up or rounding down. If the azimuth is rounded up, this causes an increase in the value of the azimuth, and the object is to be found on the left. If the azimuth is rounded down, this causes a decrease in the value of the azimuth, and the object is to be found on the right.

d.   Bypassing an Obstacle. To bypass enemy positions or obstacles and still stay oriented, detour around the obstacle by moving at right angles for specified distances.

(1)   For example, while moving on an azimuth of 90° change your azimuth to 180° and travel for 100 meters. Change your azimuth to 90°and travel for 150 meters. Change your azimuth to 360°and travel for 100 meters. Then, change your azimuth to 90°and you are back on your original azimuth line (Figure 9-5).

Figure 9-5. Bypassing an obstacle.

Figure 9-5. Bypassing an obstacle.

(2)   Bypassing an unexpected obstacle at night is a fairly simple matter. To make a 90° turn to the right, hold the compass in the centerhold technique; turn until the center of the luminous letter E is under the luminous line (do not move the bezel ring). To make a 90° turn to the left, turn until the center of the luminous letter W is under the luminous line. This does not require changing the compass setting (bezel ring), and it ensures accurate 90° turns.

e.   Offset. A deliberate offset is a planned magnetic deviation to the right or left of an azimuth to an objective. Use it when the objective is located along or in the vicinity of a linear feature such as a road or stream. Because of errors in the compass or in map reading, the linear feature may be reached without knowing whether the objective lies to the right or left. A deliberate offset by a known number of degrees in a known direction compensates for possible errors and ensures that upon reaching the linear feature, the user knows whether to go right or left to reach the objective. Ten degrees is an adequate offset for most tactical uses. Each degree offset moves the course about 18 meters to the right or left for each 1,000 meters traveled. For example, in Figure 9-6, the number of degrees offset is 10. If the distance traveled to "x" in 1,000 meters, then "x" is located about 180 meters to the right of the objective.

Figure 9-6. Deliberate offset to the objective.

Figure 9-6. Deliberate offset to the objective.


When a compass is not available, different techniques should be used to determine the four cardinal directions.

a.   Shadow-Tip Method.

(1)   This simple and accurate method of finding direction by the sun consists of four basic steps (Figure 9-7).

Figure 9-7. Determining directions and time by shadow.

Figure 9-7. Determining directions and time by shadow.

Step 1.   Place a stick or branch into the ground at a level spot where a distinctive shadow will be cast. Mark the shadow tip with a stone, twig, or other means. This first shadow mark is always the west direction.

Step 2.   Wait 10 to 15 minutes until the shadow tip moves a few inches. Mark the new position of the shadow tip in the same way as the first.

Step 3.   Draw a straight line through the two marks to obtain an approximate east-west line.

Step 4.   Standing with the first mark (west) to your left, the other directions are simple; north is to the front, east is to the right, and south is behind you.

(2)   A line drawn perpendicular to the east-west line at any point is the approximate north-south line. If you are uncertain which direction is east and which is west, observe this simple rule--the first shadow-tip mark is always in the west direction, everywhere on earth.

(3)   The shadow-tip method can also be used as a shadow clock to find the approximate time of day (Figure 9-7).

(a)   To find the time of day, move the stick to the intersection of the east-west line and the north-south line, and set it vertically in the ground. The west part of the east-west line indicates 0600 hours, and the east part is 1800 hours, anywhere on earth, because the basic rule always applies.

(b)   The north-south line now becomes the noon line. The shadow of the stick is an hour hand in the shadow clock, and with it you can estimate the time using the noon line and the 6 o'clock line as your guides. Depending on your location and the season, the shadow may move either clockwise or counterclockwise, but this does not alter your manner of reading the shadow clock.

(c)   The shadow clock is not a timepiece in the ordinary sense. It makes every day 12 unequal hours long, and always reads 0600 hours at sunrise and 1800 hours at sunset. The shadow clock time is closest to conventional clock time at midday, but the spacing of the other hours compared to conventional time varies somewhat with the locality and the date. However, it does provide a satisfactory means of telling time in the absence of properly set watches.

(d)   The shadow-tip system is not intended for use in polar regions, which the Department of Defense defines as being above 60° latitude in either hemisphere. Distressed persons in these areas are advised to stay in one place so that search/rescue teams may easily find them. The presence and location of all aircraft and ground parties in polar regions are reported to and checked regularly by governmental or other agencies, and any need for help becomes quickly known.

b.   Watch Method.

(1)   A watch can be used to determine the approximate true north and true south. In the north temperate zone only, the hour hand is pointed toward the sun. A south line can be found midway between the hour hand and 1200 hours, standard time. If on daylight saving time, the north-south line is found between the hour hand and 1300 hours. If there is any doubt as to which end of the line is north, remember that the sun is in the east before noon and in the west after noon.

(2)   The watch may also be used to determine direction in the south temperate zone; however, the method is different. The 1200-hour dial is pointed toward the sun, and halfway between 1200 hours and the hour hand will be a north line. If on daylight saving time, the north line lies midway between the hour hand and 1300 hours (Figure 9-8).

Figure 9-8. Determining direction by using a watch.

Figure 9-8. Determining direction by using a watch.

(3)   The watch method can be in error, especially in the lower latitudes, and may cause circling. To avoid this, make a shadow clock and set your watch to the time indicated. After traveling for an hour, take another shadow-clock reading. Reset your watch if necessary.

c.   Star Method.

(1)   Less than 60 of approximately 5,000 stars visible to the eye are used by navigators. The stars seen as we look up at the sky at night are not evenly scattered across the whole sky. Instead they are in groups called constellations.

(2)   The constellations that we see depends partly on where we are located on the earth, the time of the year, and the time of the night. The night changes with the seasons because of the journey of the earth around the sun, and it also changes from hour to hour because the turning of the earth makes some constellations seem to travel in a circle. But there is one star that is in almost exactly the same place in the sky all night long every night. It is the North Star, also known as the Polar Star or Polaris.

(3)   The North Star is less than 1° off true north and does not move from its place because the axis of the earth is pointed toward it. The North Star is in the group of stars called the Little Dipper. It is the last star in the handle of the dipper. There are two stars in the Big Dipper, which are a big help when trying to find the North Star. They are called the Pointers, and an imaginary line drawn through them five times their distance points to the North Star. There are many stars brighter than the North Star, but none is more important because of its location. However, the North Star can only be seen in the northern hemisphere so it cannot serve as a guide south of the equator. The farther one goes north, the higher the North Star is in the sky, and above latitude 70°, it is too high in the sky to be useful (Figure 9-9).

Figure 9-9. Determining direction by the North Star and Southern Cross.

Figure 9-9. Determining direction by the North Star and Southern Cross.

(4)   Depending on the star selected for navigation, azimuth checks are necessary. A star near the north horizon serves for about half an hour. When moving south, azimuth checks should be made every 15 minutes. When traveling east or west, the difficulty of staying on azimuth is caused more by the likelihood of the star climbing too high in the sky or losing itself behind the western horizon than it is by the star changing direction angle. When this happens, it is necessary to change to another guide star. The Southern Cross is the main constellation used as a guide south of the equator, and the above general directions for using north and south stars are reversed. When navigating using the stars as guides, the user must know the different constellation shapes and their locations throughout the world (Figure 9-10 and Figure 9-11).

Figure 9-10. Constellations, northern hemisphere.

Figure 9-10. Constellations, northern hemisphere.


Figure 9-11. Constellations, southern hemisphere.

Figure 9-11. Constellations, southern hemisphere.


The GPS is a space-based, global, all-weather, continuously available, radio positioning navigation system. It is highly accurate in determining position location derived from signal triangulation from a satellite constellation system. It is capable of determining latitude, longitude, and altitude of the individual user. It is being fielded in hand-held, manpack, vehicular, aircraft, and watercraft configurations. The GPS receives and processes data from satellites on either a simultaneous or sequential basis. It measures the velocity and range with respect to each satellite, processes the data in terms of an earth-centered, earth-fixed coordinate system, and displays the information to the user in geographic or military grid coordinates.

a.   The GPS can provide precise steering information, as well as position location. The receiver can accept many checkpoints entered in any coordinate system by the user and convert them to the desired coordinate system. The user then calls up the desired checkpoint and the receiver will display direction and distance to the checkpoint. The GPS does not have inherent drift, an improvement over the Inertial Navigation System, and the receiver will automatically update its position. The receiver can also compute time to the next checkpoint.

b.   Specific uses for the GPS are position location; navigation; weapon location; target and sensor location; coordination of firepower; scout and screening operations; combat resupply; location of obstacles, barriers, and gaps; and communication support. The GPS also has the potential to allow units to train their soldiers and provide the following:

  • Performance feedback.

  • Knowledge of routes taken by the soldier.

  • Knowledge of errors committed by the soldier.

  • Comparison of planned versus executed routes.

  • Safety and control of lost and injured soldiers.


The elevation of points on the ground and the relief of an area affect the movement, positioning, and, in some cases, effectiveness of military units. Soldiers must know how to determine locations of points on a map, measure distances and azimuths, and identify symbols on a map. They must also be able to determine the elevation and relief of areas on standard military maps. To do this, they must first understand how the mapmaker indicated the elevation and relief on the map.


The reference or start point for vertical measurement of elevation on a standard military map are the datum plane or mean sea level, the point halfway between high tide and low tide. Elevation of a point on the earth’s surface is the vertical distance it is above or below mean sea level. Relief is the representation (as depicted by the mapmaker) of the shapes of hills, valleys, streams, or terrain features on the earth's surface.


Mapmakers use several methods to depict relief of the terrain.

a.   Layer Tinting. Layer tinting is a method of showing relief by color. A different color is used for each band of elevation. Each shade of color, or band, represents a definite elevation range. A legend is printed on the map margin to indicate the elevation range represented by each color. However, this method does not allow the map user to determine the exact elevation of a specific point—only the range.

b.   Form Lines. Form lines are not measured from any datum plane. Form lines have no standard elevation and give only a general idea of relief. Form lines are represented on a map as dashed lines and are never labeled with representative elevations.

c.   Shaded Relief. Relief shading indicates relief by a shadow effect achieved by tone and color that results in the darkening of one side of terrain features, such as hills and ridges. The darker the shading, the steeper the slope. Shaded relief is sometimes used in conjunction with contour lines to emphasize these features.

d.   Hachures. Hachures are short, broken lines used to show relief. Hachures are sometimes used with contour lines. They do not represent exact elevations, but are mainly used to show large, rocky outcrop areas. Hachures are used extensively on small-scale maps to show mountain ranges, plateaus, and mountain peaks.

e. Contour Lines. Contour lines are the most common method of showing relief and elevation on a standard topographic map. A contour line represents an imaginary line on the ground, above or below sea level. All points on the contour line are at the same elevation. The elevation represented by contour lines is the vertical distance above or below sea level. The three types of contour lines (Figure 10-1) used on a standard topographic map are as follows:

Figure 10-1. Contour lines.

Figure 10-1. Contour lines.

(1)   Index. Starting at zero elevation or mean sea level, every fifth contour line is a heavier line. These are known as index contour lines. Normally, each index contour line is numbered at some point. This number is the elevation of that line.

(2)   Intermediate. The contour lines falling between the index contour lines are called intermediate contour lines. These lines are finer and do not have their elevations given. There are normally four intermediate contour lines between index contour lines.

(3)   Supplementary. These contour lines resemble dashes. They show changes in elevation of at least one-half the contour interval. These lines are normally found where there is very little change in elevation, such as on fairly level terrain.


Before the elevation of any point on the map can be determined, the user must know the contour interval for the map he is using. The contour interval measurement given in the marginal information is the vertical distance between adjacent contour lines. To determine the elevation of a point on the map—

a.   Determine the contour interval and the unit of measure used, for example, feet, meters, or yards (Figure 10-2).

Figure 10-2. Contour interval note.

Figure 10-2. Contour interval note.

b.   Find the numbered index contour line nearest the point of which you are trying to determine the elevation (Figure 10-3).

Figure 10-3. Points on contour lines.

Figure 10-3. Points on contour lines.

c.   Determine if you are going from lower elevation to higher, or vice versa. In Figure 10-3, point (a) is between the index contour lines. The lower index contour line is numbered 500, which means any point on that line is at an elevation of 500 meters above mean sea level. The upper index contour line is numbered 600, or 600 meters. Going from the lower to the upper index contour line shows an increase in elevation.

d.   Determine the exact elevation of point (a), start at the index contour line numbered 500 and count the number of intermediate contour lines to point (a). Locate point (a) on the second intermediate contour line above the 500-meter index contour line. The contour interval is 20 meters (Figure 10-2), thus each one of the intermediate contour lines crossed to get to point (a) adds 20 meters to the 500-meter index contour line. The elevation of point (a) is 540 meters; the elevation has increased.

e.   Determine the elevation of point (b). Go to the nearest index contour line. In this case, it is the upper index contour line numbered 600. Locate point (b) on the intermediate contour line immediately below the 600-meter index contour line. Below means downhill or a lower elevation. Therefore, point (b) is located at an elevation of 580 meters. Remember, if you are increasing elevation, add the contour interval to the nearest index contour line. If you are decreasing elevation, subtract the contour interval from the nearest index contour line.

f.   Determine the elevation to a hilltop point (c). Add one-half the contour interval to the elevation of the last contour line. In this example, the last contour line before the hilltop is an index contour line numbered 600. Add one-half the contour interval, 10 meters, to the index contour line. The elevation of the hilltop would be 610 meters.

g.   There may be times when you need to determine the elevation of points to a greater accuracy. To do this, you must determine how far between the two contour lines the point lies. However, most military needs are satisfied by estimating the elevation of points between contour lines (Figure 10-4).

Figure 10-4. Points between contour lines.

Figure 10-4. Points between contour lines.

(1)   If the point is less than one-fourth the distance between contour lines, the elevation will be the same as the last contour line. In Figure 10-4, the elevation of point a will be 100 meters. To estimate the elevation of a point between one-fourth and three-fourths of the distance between contour lines, add one-half the contour interval to the last contour line.

(2)   Point b is one-half the distance between contour lines. The contour line immediately below point b is at an elevation of 160 meters. The contour interval is 20 meters; thus one-half the contour interval is 10 meters. In this case, add 10 meters to the last contour line of 160 meters. The elevation of point b would be about 170 meters.

(3)   A point located more than three-fourths of the distance between contour lines is considered to be at the same elevation as the next contour line. Point c is located three-fourths of the distance between contour lines. In Figure 10-4, point c would be considered to be at an elevation of 180 meters.

h.   To estimate the elevation to the bottom of a depression, subtract one-half the contour interval from the value of the lowest contour line before the depression. In Figure 10-5, the lowest contour line before the depression is 240 meters in elevation. Thus, the elevation at the edge of the depression is 240 meters. To determine the elevation at the bottom of the depression, subtract one-half the contour interval. The contour interval for this example is 20 meters. Subtract 10 meters from the lowest contour line immediately before the depression. The result is that the elevation at the bottom of the depression is 230 meters. The tick marks on the contour line forming a depression always point to lower elevations.

Figure 10-5. Depression.

Figure 10-5. Depression.

i.   In addition to the contour lines, bench marks and spot elevations are used to indicate points of known elevations on the map.

(1)   Bench marks, the more accurate of the two, are symbolized by a black X, such as X BM 214. The 214 indicates that the center of the X is at an elevation of 214 units of measure (feet, meters, or yards) above mean sea level. To determine the units of measure, refer to the contour interval in the marginal information.

(2)   Spot elevations are shown by a brown X and are usually located at road junctions and on hilltops and other prominent terrain features. If the elevation is shown in black numerals, it has been checked for accuracy; if it is in brown, it has not been checked.

NOTE: New maps are being printed using a dot instead of brown Xs.


Depending on the military mission, soldiers may need to determine not only the height of a hill, but the degree of the hill's slope as well. The rate of rise or fall of a terrain feature is known as its slope. The speed at which equipment or personnel can move is affected by the slope of the ground or terrain feature. This slope can be determined from the map by studying the contour lines—the closer the contour lines, the steeper the slope; the farther apart the contour lines, the gentler the slope. Four types of slopes that concern the military are as follows:

a.   Gentle. Contour lines showing a uniform, gentle slope will be evenly spaced and wide apart (Figure 10-6). Considering relief only, a uniform, gentle slope allows the defender to use grazing fire. The attacking force has to climb a slight incline.

Figure 10-6. Uniform, gentle slope.

Figure 10-6. Uniform, gentle slope.

b.   Steep. Contour lines showing a uniform, steep slope on a map will be evenly spaced, but close together. Remember, the closer the contour lines, the steeper the slope (Figure 10-7). Considering relief only, a uniform, steep slope allows the defender to use grazing fire, and the attacking force has to negotiate a steep incline.

Figure 10-7. Uniform, steep slope.

Figure 10-7. Uniform, steep slope.

c.   Concave. Contour lines showing a concave slope on a map will be closely spaced at the top of the terrain feature and widely spaced at the bottom (Figure 10-8). Considering relief only, the defender at the top of the slope can observe the entire slope and the terrain at the bottom, but he cannot use grazing fire. The attacker would have no cover from the defender's observation of fire, and his climb would become more difficult as he got farther up the slope.

Figure 10-8. Concave slope.

Figure 10-8. Concave slope.

d.   Convex. Contour lines showing a convex slope on a map will be widely spaced at the top and closely spaced at the bottom (Figure 10-9). Considering relief only, the defender at the top of the convex slope can obtain a small distance of grazing fire, but he cannot observe most of the slope or the terrain at the bottom. The attacker will have concealment on most of the slope and an easier climb as he nears the top.

Figure 10-9. Convex slope.

Figure 10-9. Convex slope.


The speed at which personnel and equipment can move up or down a hill is affected by the slope of the ground and the limitations of the equipment. Because of this, a more exact way of describing a slope is necessary.

a.   Slope may be expressed in several ways, but all depend upon the comparison of vertical distance (VD) to horizontal distance (HD) (Figure 10-10). Before we can determine the percentage of a slope, we must know the VD of the slope. The VD is determined by subtracting the lowest point of the slope from the highest point. Use the contour lines to determine the highest and lowest point of the slope (Figure 10-11).

Figure 10-10. Slope diagram.

Figure 10-10. Slope diagram.


Figure 10-11. Contour line around a slope.

Figure 10-11. Contour line around a slope.

b.   To determine the percentage of the slope between points (a) and (b) in Figure 10-11, determine the elevation of point (b) (590 meters). Then determine the elevation of point (a) (380 meters). Determine the vertical distance between the two points by subtracting the elevation of point (a) from the elevation of point .The difference (210 meters) is the VD between points (a) and (b). Then measure the HD between the two points on the map in Figure 10-12. After the horizontal distance has been determined, compute the percentage of the slope by using the formula shown in Figure 10-13.

Figure 10-12. Measuring horizontal distance.

Figure 10-12. Measuring horizontal distance.


Figure 10-13. Percentage of slope in meters.

Figure 10-13. Percentage of slope in meters.

c.   The slope angle can also be expressed in degrees. To do this, determine the VD and HD of the slope. Multiply the VD by 57.3 and then divide the total by the HD (Figure 10-14). This method determines the approximate degree of slope and is reasonably accurate for slope angles less than 20º.

Figure 10-14. Degree of slope.

Figure 10-14. Degree of slope.

d.   The slope angle can also be expressed as a gradient. The relationship of horizontal and vertical distance is expressed as a fraction with a numerator of one (Figure 10-15).

Figure 10-15. Gradient.

Figure 10-15. Gradient.


All terrain features are derived from a complex landmass known as a mountain or ridgeline (Figure 10-16). The term ridgeline is not interchangeable with the term ridge. A ridgeline is a line of high ground, usually with changes in elevation along its top and low ground on all sides from which a total of 10 natural or man-made terrain features are classified.

Figure 10-16. Ridgeline.

Figure 10-16. Ridgeline.

a.   Major Terrain Features.

(1)   Hill. A hill is an area of high ground. From a hilltop, the ground slopes down in all directions. A hill is shown on a map by contour lines forming concentric circles. The inside of the smallest closed circle is the hilltop (Figure 10-17).

Figure 10-17. Hill.

Figure 10-17. Hill.

(2)   Saddle. A saddle is a dip or low point between two areas of higher ground. A saddle is not necessarily the lower ground between two hilltops; it may be simply a dip or break along a level ridge crest. If you are in a saddle, there is high ground in two opposite directions and lower ground in the other two directions. A saddle is normally represented as an hourglass (Figure 10-18).

Figure 10-18. Saddle.

Figure 10-18. Saddle.

(3)   Valley. A valley is a stretched-out groove in the land, usually formed by streams or rivers. A valley begins with high ground on three sides, and usually has a course of running water through it. If standing in a valley, three directions offer high ground, while the fourth direction offers low ground. Depending on its size and where a person is standing, it may not be obvious that there is high ground in the third direction, but water flows from higher to lower ground. Contour lines forming a valley are either U-shaped or V-shaped. To determine the direction water is flowing, look at the contour lines. The closed end of the contour line (U or V) always points upstream or toward high ground (Figure 10-19).

Figure 10-19. Valley.

Figure 10-19. Valley.

(4)   Ridge. A ridge is a sloping line of high ground. If you are standing on the centerline of a ridge, you will normally have low ground in three directions and high ground in one direction with varying degrees of slope. If you cross a ridge at right angles, you will climb steeply to the crest and then descend steeply to the base. When you move along the path of the ridge, depending on the geographic location, there may be either an almost unnoticeable slope or a very obvious incline. Contour lines forming a ridge tend to be U-shaped or V-shaped. The closed end of the contour line points away from high ground (Figure 10-20).

Figure 10-20. Ridge.

Figure 10-20. Ridge.

(5)   Depression. A depression is a low point in the ground or a sinkhole. It could be described as an area of low ground surrounded by higher ground in all directions, or simply a hole in the ground. Usually only depressions that are equal to or greater than the contour interval will be shown. On maps, depressions are represented by closed contour lines that have tick marks pointing toward low ground (Figure 10-21).

Figure 10-21. Depression.

Figure 10-21. Depression.

b.   Minor Terrain Features.

(1)   Draw. A draw is a less developed stream course than a valley. In a draw, there is essentially no level ground and, therefore, little or no maneuver room within its confines. If you are standing in a draw, the ground slopes upward in three directions and downward in the other direction. A draw could be considered as the initial formation of a valley. The contour lines depicting a draw are U-shaped or V-shaped, pointing toward high ground (Figure 10-22).

Figure 10-22. Draw.

Figure 10-22. Draw.

(2)   Spur. A spur is a short, continuous sloping line of higher ground, normally jutting out from the side of a ridge. A spur is often formed by two rough parallel streams, which cut draws down the side of a ridge. The ground sloped down in three directions and up in one direction. Contour lines on a map depict a spur with the U or V pointing away from high ground (Figure 10-23).

Figure 10-23. Spur.

Figure 10-23. Spur.

(3)   Cliff. A cliff is a vertical or near vertical feature; it is an abrupt change of the land. When a slope is so steep that the contour lines converge into one "carrying" contour of contours, this last contour line has tick marks pointing toward low ground (Figure 10-24A). Cliffs are also shown by contour lines very close together and, in some instances, touching each other (Figure 10-24B).

Figure 10-24A. Cliff.

Figure 10-24A. Cliff.


Figure 10-24B. Cliff.

Figure 10-24B. Cliff.

c.   Supplementary Terrain Features.

(1)   Cut. A cut is a man-made feature resulting from cutting through raised ground, usually to form a level bed for a road or railroad track. Cuts are shown on a map when they are at least 10 feet high, and they are drawn with a contour line along the cut line. This contour line extends the length of the cut and has tick marks that extend from the cut line to the roadbed, if the map scale permits this level of detail (Figure 10-25).

Figure 10-25. Cut and fill.

Figure 10-25. Cut and fill.

(2)   Fill. A fill is a man-made feature resulting from filling a low area, usually to form a level bed for a road or railroad track. Fills are shown on a map when they are at least 10 feet high, and they are drawn with a contour line along the fill line. This contour line extends the length of the filled area and has tick marks that point toward lower ground. If the map scale permits, the length of the fill tick marks are drawn to scale and extend from the base line of the fill symbol (Figure 10-25).


Terrain features do not normally stand a lone. To better understand these when they are depicted on a map, you need to interpret them. Terrain features (Figure 10-26) are interpreted by using contour lines, the SOSES approach, ridgelining, or streamlining.

Figure 10-26. Terrain features.

Figure 10-26. Terrain features.

a.   Contour Lines. Emphasizing the main contour lines is a technique used to interpret the terrain of an area. By studying these contour lines, you able to obtain a better understanding of the layout of the terrain and to decide on the best route.

(1)   The following description pertains to Figure 10-27. Running east to west across the complex landmass is a ridgeline. A ridgeline is a line of high ground, usually with changes in elevation along its top and low ground on all sides. The changes in elevation are the three hilltops and two saddles along the ridgeline. From the top of each hill, there is lower ground in all directions. The saddles have lower ground in two directions and high ground in the opposite two directions. The contour lines of each saddle form half an hourglass shape. Because of the difference in size of the higher ground on the two opposite sides of a saddle, a full hourglass shape of a saddle may not be apparent.

Figure 10-27. Ridgelining and streamlining.

Figure 10-27. Ridgelining and streamlining.

(2)   There are four prominent ridges. A ridge is on each end of the ridgeline and two ridges extend south from the ridgeline. All of the ridges have lower ground in three directions and higher ground in one direction. The closed ends of the U's formed by the contour lines point away from higher ground.

(3)   To the south lies a valley; the valley slopes downward from east to west. Note that the U of the contour line points to the east, indicating higher ground in that direction and lower ground to the west. Another look at the valley shows high ground to the north and south of the valley.

(4)   Just east of the valley is a depression. There is higher ground in all directions when looking from the bottom of the depression.

(5)   There are several spurs extending generally south from the ridgeline. They, like ridges, have lower ground in three directions and higher ground in one direction. Their contour line U's point away from higher ground.

(6)   Between the ridges and spurs are draws. They, like valleys, have higher ground in three directions and lower ground in one direction. Their contour line U's and V's point toward higher ground.

(7)   Two contour lines on the north side of the center hill are touching or almost touching. They have ticks indicating a vertical or nearly vertical slope or a cliff.

(8)   The road cutting through the eastern ridge depicts cuts and fills. The breaks in the contour lines indicate cuts, and the ticks pointing away from the roadbed on each side of the road indicate fills.

b.   SOSES. A recommended technique for identifying specific terrain features and then locating them on the map is to make use of five of their characteristics known by the mnemonic SOSES. Terrain features can be examined, described, and compared with each other and with corresponding map contour patterns in terms of their shapes, orientations, sizes, elevations, and slopes.

(1)   Shape. The general form or outline of the feature at its base.

(2)   Orientation. The general trend or direction of a feature from your viewpoint. A feature can be in line, across, or at an angle to your viewpoint.

(3)   Size. The length or width of a feature horizontally across its base. For example, one terrain feature might be larger or smaller than another terrain feature.

(4)   Elevation. The height of a terrain feature. This can be described either in absolute or relative terms as compared to the other features in the area. One landform may be higher, lower, deeper, or shallower than another.

(5)   Slope. The type (uniform, convex, or concave) and the steepness or angle (steep or gentle) of the sides of a terrain feature.

Through practice, you can learn to identify several individual terrain features in the field and see how they vary in appearance.

NOTE: Further terrain analysis using SOSES can be learned by using the Map Interpretation and Terrain Association Course. It consists of three separate courses of instruction: basic, intermediate, and advanced. Using photographic slides of terrain and other features, basic instruction teaches how to identify basic terrain feature types on the ground and on the map. Intermediate instruction teaches elementary map interpretation and terrain association using real world scenes and map sections of the same terrain. Advanced instruction teaches advanced techniques for map interpretation and terrain association. The primary emphasis is on the concepts of map design guidelines and terrain association skills. Map design guidelines refer to the rules and practices used by cartographers in the compilation and symbolization of military topographic maps. Knowledge of the selection, classification, and symbolization of mapped features greatly enhances the user's ability to interpret map information.

c.   Ridgelining. This technique helps you to visualize the overall lay of the ground within the area of interest on the map. Follow these steps:

(1)   Identify on the map the crests of the ridgelines in your area of operation by identifying the close-out contours that lie along the hilltop.

(2)   Trace over the crests so each ridgeline stands out clearly as one identifiable line.

(3)   Go back over each of the major ridgelines and trace over the prominent ridges and spurs that come out of the ridgelines.

The usual colors used for this tracing are red or brown; however, you may use any color at hand. When you have completed the ridgelining process, you will find that the high ground on the map will stand out and that you will be able to see the relationship between the various ridgelines (Figure 10-27).

d.   Streamlining. This procedure (Figure 10-27) is similar to that of ridgelining.

(1)   Identify all the mapped streams in the area of operations.

(2)   Trace over them to make them stand out more prominently.

(3)   Then identify other low ground, such as smaller valleys or draws that feed into the major streams, and trace over them.

This brings out the drainage pattern and low ground in the area of operation on the map. The color used for this is usually blue; but again, if blue is not available, use any color at hand so long as the distinction between the ridgelines and the streamlines is clear.


The study of contour lines to determine high and low points of elevation is usually adequate for military operations. However, there may be a few times when we need a quick and precise reference to determine exact elevations of specific points. When exactness is demanded, a profile is required. A profile, within the scope and purpose of this manual, is an exaggerated side view of a portion of the earth's surface along a line between two or more points.

a.   A profile can be used for many purposes. The primary purpose is to determine if line of sight is available. Line of sight is used—

(1)   To determine defilade positions.

(2)   To plot hidden areas or dead space.

(3)   To determine potential direct fire weapon positions.

(4)   To determine potential locations for defensive positions.

(5)   To conduct preliminary planning in locating roads, pipelines, railroads, or other construction projects.

b.   A profile can be constructed from any contoured map. Its construction requires the following steps:

(1)   Draw a line on the map from where the profile is to begin to where it is to end (Figure 10-28).

Figure 10-28. Connecting points.

Figure 10-28. Connecting points.

(2)   Find the value of the highest and lowest contour lines that cross or touch the profile line. Add one contour value above the highest and one below the lowest to take care of hills and valleys.

(3)   Select a piece of lined notebook paper with as many lines as was determined in (2) above. The standard Army green pocket notebook or any other paper with 1/4-inch lines is ideal. Wider lines, up to 5/8-inch, may be used. If lined paper is not available, draw equally spaced horizontal lines on a blank sheet of paper.

(4)   Number the top line with the highest value and the bottom line with the lowest value as determined in (2) above.

(5)   Number the rest of the lines in sequence, starting with the second line from the top. The lines will be numbered in accordance with the contour interval (Figure 10-29).

Figure 10-29. Dropping perpendiculars.

Figure 10-29. Dropping perpendiculars.

(6)   Place the paper on the map with the lines next to and parallel to the profile line (Figure 10-29).

(7)   From every point on the profile line where a contour line, stream, intermittent stream, or other body of water crosses or touches, drop a perpendicular line to the line having the same value. Place a tick mark where the perpendicular line crosses the number line (Figure 10-29). Where trees are present, add the height of the trees to the contour line and place a tick mark there. Assume the height of the trees to be 50 feet or 15 meters where dark green tint is shown on the map. Vegetation height may be adjusted up or down when operations in the area have provided known tree heights.

(8)   After all perpendicular lines have been drawn and tick marks placed where the lines cross, connect all tick marks with a smooth, natural curve to form a horizontal view or profile of the terrain along the profile line (Figure 10-29).

NOTE: The profile drawn may be exaggerated. The spacing between the lines drawn on the sheet of paper determines the amount of exaggeration and may be varied to suit any purpose.

(9)   Draw a straight line from the start point to the end point on the profile. If the straight line intersects the curved profile, line of sight to the end point is not available (Figure 10-30).

Figure 10-30. Drawing lines to additional points.

Figure 10-30. Drawing lines to additional points.

(10)   Determine the line of sight to other points along the profile line by drawing a line from the start point to additional points. In Figure 10-31, line of sight is available to—

A—Yes D—Yes G—Yes
B—No E—No H—No
C—No F—No I—No

Figure 10-31. Drawing a hasty profile.

Figure 10-31. Drawing a hasty profile.

The vertical distance between navigable ground up to the line of sight line is the depth of defilade.

c.   When time is short, or when a complete profile is not needed, one may be constructed showing only the hilltops, ridges, and if desired, the valleys. This is called a hasty profile. It is constructed in the same manner as a full profile (Figure 10-31).


Failure to make use of the vast amounts of information presented by the map and available to the eye on the ground reduces the chances for success in land navigation. The soldier who has repeatedly practiced the skills of identifying and discriminating among the many types of terrain and other features knows how these features are mapped. He can begin to visualize the shape of the land by studying the map, estimate distances, and perform quick resection from the many landmarks he sees is the one who will be at the right place to help defeat the enemy on the battlefield. This chapter tells how to orient a map with and without a compass, how to find locations on a map as well as on the ground, how to study the terrain, and how to move on the ground using terrain association and dead reckoning.


The first step for a navigator in the field is orienting the map. A map is oriented when it is in a horizontal position with its north and south corresponding to the north and south on the ground. Some orienting techniques follow:

a.   Using a Compass. When orienting a map with a compass, remember that the compass measures magnetic azimuths. Since the magnetic arrow points to magnetic north, pay special attention to the declination diagram. There are two techniques used.

(1)     First Technique. Determine the direction of the declination and its value from the declination diagram.

(a)   With the map in a horizontal position, take the straightedge on the left side of the compass and place it alongside the north-south grid line with the cover of the compass pointing toward the top of the map. This procedure places the fixed black index line of the compass parallel to north-south grid lines of the map.

(b)   Keeping the compass aligned as directed above, rotate the map and compass together until the magnetic arrow is below the fixed black index line on the compass. At this time, the map is close to being oriented.

(c)   Rotate the map and compass in the direction of the declination diagram.

(d)   If the magnetic north arrow on the map is to the left of the grid north, check the compass reading to see if it equals the G-M angle given in the declination diagram. The map is then oriented (Figure 11-1).

Figure 11-1. Map oriented with 11 degrees west declination.

Figure 11-1. Map oriented with 11 degrees west declination.

(e)   If the magnetic north is to the right of grid north, check the compass reading to see if it equals 360 degrees minus the G-M angle (Figure 11-2).

Figure 11-2. Map oriented with 21 degrees east declination.

Figure 11-2. Map oriented with 21 degrees east declination.

(2)   Second Technique. Determine the direction of the declination and its value from the declination diagram.

(a)   Using any north-south grid line on the map as a base, draw a magnetic azimuth equal to the G-M angle given in the declination diagram with the protractor.

(b)   If the declination is easterly (right), the drawn line is equal to the value of the G-M angle. Then align the straightedge, which is on the left side of the compass, alongside the drawn line on the map. Rotate the map and compass until the magnetic arrow of the compass is below the fixed black index line. The map is now oriented (Figure 11-3).

Figure 11-3. Map oriented with 15 degrees east declination.

Figure 11-3. Map oriented with 15 degrees east declination.

(c)   If the declination is westerly (left), the drawn line will equal 360 degrees minus the value of the G-M angle. Then align the straightedge, which is on the left side of the compass, alongside the drawn line on the map. Rotate the map and compass until the magnetic arrow of the compass is below the fixed black index line. The map is now oriented (Figure 11-4).

Figure 11-4. Map oriented with 10 degrees west declination.

Figure 11-4. Map oriented with 10 degrees west declination.


1.   Once the map is oriented, magnetic azimuths are determined using the compass. Do not move the map from its oriented position since any change in its position moves it out of line with the magnetic north. [See paragraph 11-6b(1).]

2.   Special care should be taken whenever orienting your map with a compass. A small mistake can cause you to navigate in the wrong direction.

b.   Using Terrain Association. A map can be oriented by terrain association when a compass is not available or when the user has to make many quick references as he moves across country. Using this method requires careful examination of the map and the ground, and the user must know his approximate location (Figure 11-5). Orienting by this method is discussed in detail in paragraph 11-3.

Figure 11-5. Terrain association.

Figure 11-5. Terrain association.

c.   Using Field-Expedient Methods. When a compass is not available and there are no recognizable terrain features, a map may be oriented by any of the field-expedient methods described in paragraph 9-5. Also see Figure 11-6.

Figure 11-6. Field-expedient method.

Figure 11-6. Field-expedient method.


The key to success in land navigation is to know your location at all times. With this basic knowledge, you can decide what direction and what distance to travel.

a.   Known Position. Most important of all is the initial location of the user before starting any movement in the field. If movement takes place without establishing the initial location, everything that is done in the field from there on is a gamble. Determine the initial location by referring to the last known position, by grid coordinates and terrain association, or by locating and orienting your position on the map and ground.

b.   Known Point/Known Distance (Polar Plot). This location can be determined by knowing the starting point, the azimuth to the desired objective, and the distance to it.

c.   Resection.

d.   Modified Resection.

e.   Intersection.

f.   Indirect Fire. Finding a location by indirect fire is done with smoke. Use the point of impact of the round as a reference point from which distances and azimuth can be obtained.


The technique of moving by terrain association is more forgiving of mistakes and far less time-consuming than dead reckoning. It best suits those situations that call for movement from one area to another. Errors made using terrain association are easily corrected because you are comparing what you expected to see from the map to what you do see on the ground. Errors are anticipated and will not go unchecked. You can easily make adjustments based upon what you encounter. Periodic position-fixing through either plotted or estimated resection will also make it possible to correct your movements, call for fire, or call in the locations of enemy targets or any other information of tactical or logistical importance.

a.   Matching the Terrain to the Map by Examining Terrain Features. By observing the contour lines in detail, the five major terrain features (hilltop, valley, ridge, depression, and saddle) should be determined. This is a simple task in an area where the observer has ample view of the terrain in all directions. One-by-one, match the terrain features depicted on the map with the same features on the ground. In restricted terrain, this procedure becomes harder; however, constantly check the map as you move since it is the determining factor (Figure 11-5).

b.   Comparing the Vegetation Depicted on the Map. When comparing the vegetation, a topographic map should be used to make a comparison of the clearings that appear on the map with the ones on the ground. The user must be familiar with the different symbols, such as vineyards, plantations, and orchards that appear on the legend. The age of the map is an important factor when comparing vegetation. Some important vegetation features were likely to be different when the map was made. Another important factor about vegetation is that it can change overnight by natural accidents or by man (forest fires, clearing of land for new developments, farming, and so forth).

c.   Masking by the Vegetation. Camouflage the important landforms using vegetation. Use of camouflage makes it harder for the navigator to use terrain association.

d.   Using the Hydrography. Inland bodies of water can help during terrain association. The shape and size of lakes in conjunction with the size and direction of flow of the rivers and streams are valuable help.

e.   Using Man-made Features. Man-made features are an important factor during terrain association. The user must be familiar with the symbols shown in the legend representing those features. The direction of buildings, roads, bridges, high-tension lines, and so forth make the terrain inspection a lot easier; however, the age of the map must be considered because man-made features appear and disappear constantly.

f.   Examining the Same Piece of Terrain During the Different Seasons of the Year. In those areas of the world where the seasons are distinctive, a detailed examination of the terrain should be made during each of the seasons. The same piece of land does not present the same characteristics during both spring and winter.

(1)   During winter, the snow packs the vegetation, delineating the land, making the terrain features appear as clear as they are shown by the contour lines on the map. Ridges, valleys, and saddles are very distinctive.

(2)   During spring, the vegetation begins to reappear and grow. New vegetation causes a gradual change of the land to the point that the foliage conceals the terrain features and makes the terrain hard to recognize.

(3)   During summer months, the effects are similar to those in the spring.

(4)   Fall makes the land appear different with its change of color and gradual loss of vegetation.

(5)   During the rainy season, the vegetation is green and thick, and the streams and ponds look like small rivers and lakes. In scarcely vegetated areas, the erosion changes the shape of the land.

(6)   During a period of drought, the vegetation dries out and becomes vulnerable to forest fires that change the terrain whenever they occur. Also during this season, the water levels of streams and lakes drop, adding new dimensions and shape to the existing mapped areas.

g.   Following an Example of Terrain Association. Your location is hilltop 514 in the lower center of the map in Figure 11-7.

Figure 11-7. Example of terrain association.

Figure 11-7. Example of terrain association.

(1)   To The North. The contour lines indicate that the hill slopes down for about 190 meters, and that it leads into a small valley containing an intermittent stream. On the other side of the stream as you continue with your northerly inspection, the terrain starts a gradual ascent, indicating a hilltop partially covered with vegetation, until an unimproved road is reached. This road runs along a gradual ridgeline with north-west direction. Then the contour line spacings become narrow, indicating a steeper grade that leads to a narrow valley containing a small intermittent stream. As you continue up, you find a small but prominent ridge with a clearing. The contour lines once again show a steeper grade leading to a moderate valley containing an intermittent stream running in a south-east direction.

(2)   To The East. There is a clearing of the terrain as it slopes down to Schley Pond. An ample valley is clearly seen on the right side of the pond, as indicated by the "U" and "V" shape of the contour lines. This valley contains some swamp areas and there is a long ridgeline on the north portion of the valley.

(3)   To The South. The terrain gently slopes downward until a clear area is reached. It continues in a downward direction to an intermittent stream running south-east in a small valley. There is also an improved road running in the same direction as the valley. At the intersection of the roads as you face south, there is a clearing of about 120 meters on the ridge. At the bottom of it, a stream runs from Schley Pond in a south-west direction through an ample valley fed by two intermittent streams. As you continue, a steep, vegetated hill is found with a clearing on its top, followed by a small saddle and another hilltop.

(4)   To The West. First, you see a small, clear valley. It is followed by a general ridgeline running north-west in which an unimproved road is located just before a hilltop. Continuing on a westerly direction, you will find a series of alternate valleys and ridges.


Military cross-country navigation is intellectually demanding because it is imperative that the unit, crew, or vehicle survive and successfully complete the move in order to accomplish its mission. However, the unnecessary use of a difficult route makes navigation too complicated, creates more noise when proceeding over it, causes wear and tear on equipment and personnel, increases the need for and needlessly complicate recovery operations, and wastes scarce time. On receipt of a tactical mission, the leader begins his troop-leading procedures and makes a tentative plan. He bases the tentative plan on a good terrain analysis. He analyzes the considerations covered in the following mnemonics—OCOKA and METT-T.

a.   OCOKA. The terrain should be analyzed for observation and fields of fire, cover and concealment, obstacles, key terrain, and avenues of approach.

(1)   Observation and Fields of Fire. The purpose of observation is to see the enemy (or various landmarks) but not be seen by him. Anything that can be seen can be hit. Therefore, a field of fire is an area that a weapon or a group of weapons can cover effectively with fire from a given position.

(2)   Cover and Concealment. Cover is shelter or protection (from enemy fire) either natural or artificial. Always try to use covered routes and seek cover for each halt, no matter how brief it is planned to be. Unfortunately, two factors interfere with obtaining constant cover. One is time and the other is terrain. Concealment is protection from observation or surveillance, including concealment from enemy air observation. Before, trees provided good concealment, but with modern thermal and infrared imaging equipment, trees are not always effective. When you are moving, concealment is generally secondary; therefore, select routes and positions that do not allow covered or concealed enemy near you.

(3)   Obstacles. Obstacles are any obstructions that stop, delay, or divert movement. Obstacles can be natural (rivers, swamps, cliffs, or mountains) or they may be artificial (barbed wire entanglements, pits, concrete or metal antimechanized traps). They can be ready-made or constructed in the field. Always consider any possible obstacles along your movement route and, if possible, try to keep obstacles between the enemy and yourself.

(4)   Key Terrain. Key terrain is any locality or area that the seizure or retention of affords a marked advantage to either combatant. Urban areas that are often seen by higher headquarters as being key terrain because they are used to control routes. On the other hand, an urban area that is destroyed may be an obstacle instead. High ground can be key because it dominates an area with good observation and fields of fire. In an open area, a draw or wadi (dry streambed located in an arid area) may provide the only cover for many kilometers, thereby becoming key. You should always attempt to locate any area near you that could be even remotely considered as key terrain.

(5)   Avenues of Approach. These are access routes. They may be the routes you can use to get to the enemy or the routes they can use to get to you. Basically, an identifiable route that approaches a position or location is an avenue of approach to that location. They are often terrain corridors such as valleys or wide, open areas.

b   . METT-T. Tactical factors other than the military aspects of terrain must also be considered in conjunction with terrain during movement planning and execution as well. These additional considerations are mission, enemy, terrain and weather, troops, and time available.

(1)   Mission. This refers to the specific task assigned to a unit or individual. It is the duty or task together with the purpose that clearly indicates the action to be taken and the reason for it—but not how to do it. Training exercises should stress the importance of a thorough map reconnaissance to evaluate the terrain. This allows the leader to confirm his tentative plan, basing his decision on the terrain's effect on his mission.

(a)   Marches by foot or vehicle are used to move troops from one location to another. Soldiers must get to the right place, at the right time, and in good fighting condition. The normal rate for an 8-hour foot march is 4 kmph. However, the rate of march may vary, depending on the following factors:

  • Distance.

  • Time allowed.

  • Likelihood of enemy contact.

  • Terrain.

  • Weather.

  • Physical condition of soldiers.

  • Equipment/weight to be carried.

  • A motor march requires little or no walking by the soldiers, but the factors affecting the rate of march still apply.

(b)   Patrol missions are used to conduct combat or reconnaissance operations. Without detailed planning and a thorough map reconnaissance, any patrol mission may not succeed. During the map reconnaissance, the mission leader determines a primary and alternate route to and from the objectives.

(c)   Movement to contact is conducted whenever an element is moving toward the enemy but is not in contact with the enemy. The lead element must orient its movement on the objective by conducting a map reconnaissance, determining the location of the objective on both the map and the ground, and selecting the route to be taken.

(d)   Delays and withdrawals are conducted to slow the enemy down without becoming decisively engaged, or to assume another mission. To be effective, the element leader must know where he is to move and the route to be taken.

(2)   Enemy. This refers to the strength, status of training, disposition (locations), doctrine, capabilities, equipment (including night vision devices), and probable courses of action that impact upon both the planning and execution of the mission, including a movement.

(3)   Terrain and Weather. Observation and fields of fire influence the placement of positions and crew-served weapons. The leader conducts a map reconnaissance to determine key terrain, obstacles, cover and concealment, and likely avenues of approach.

(a)   Key terrain is any area whose control affords a marked advantage to the force holding it. Some types of key terrain are high ground, bridges, towns, and road junctions.

(b)   Obstacles are natural or man-made terrain features that stop, slow down, or divert movement. Consideration of obstacles is influenced by the unit's mission. An obstacle may be an advantage or disadvantage, depending upon the direction of attack or defense. Obstacles can be found by conducting a thorough map reconnaissance and study of recent aerial photographs.

(c)   Cover and concealment are determined for both friendly and enemy forces. Concealment is protection from observation; cover is protection from the effects of fire. Most terrain features that offer cover also provide concealment from ground observation. There are areas that provide no concealment from enemy observation. These danger areas may be large or small open fields, roads, or streams. During the leader's map reconnaissance, he determines any obvious danger areas and, if possible, adjusts his route.

(d)   Avenues of approach are routes by which a unit may reach an objective or key terrain. To be considered an AA, a route must provide enough width for the deployment of the size force for which it is being considered. The AAs are also considered for the subordinate enemy force. For example, a company determines likely AAs for an enemy platoon; a platoon determines likely AAs for an enemy squad. Likely AAs may be either ridges, valleys, or by air. By examining the terrain, the leader determines the likely enemy AAs based on the tactical situation.

(e)   Weather has little effect on dismounted land navigation. Rain and snow could possibly slow down the rate of march, that is all. But during mounted land navigation, the navigator must know the effect of weather on his vehicle. (See Chapter 12 for mounted land navigation.)

(4)   Troops. Consideration of your own troops is equally important. The size and type of the unit to be moved and its capabilities, physical condition, status of training, and types of equipment assigned all affect the selection of routes, positions, fire plans, and the various decisions to be made during movement. On ideal terrain such as relatively level ground with little or no woods, a platoon can defend a front of up to 400 meters. The leader must conduct a thorough map reconnaissance and terrain analysis of the area his unit is to defend. Heavily wooded areas or very hilly areas may reduce the front a platoon can defend. The size of the unit must also be taken into consideration when planning a movement to contact. During movement, the unit must retain its ability to maneuver. A small draw or stream may reduce the unit's maneuverability but provide excellent concealment. All of these factors must be considered.

(a)   Types of equipment that may be needed by the unit can be determined by a map reconnaissance. For example, if the unit must cross a large stream during its movement to the objective, ropes may be needed for safety lines.

(b)   Physical capabilities of the soldiers must be considered when selecting a route. Crossing a large swampy area may present no problem to a physically fit unit, but to a unit that has not been physically conditioned, the swampy area may slow or completely stop its movement.

(5)   Time Available. At times, the unit may have little time to reach an objective or to move from one point to another. The leader must conduct a map reconnaissance to determine the quickest route to the objective; this is not always a straight route. From point A to point B on the map may appear to be 1,000 meters, but if the route is across a large ridge, the distance will be greater. Another route from point A to B may be 1,500 meters—but on flat terrain. In this case, the quickest route would be across the flat terrain; however, concealment and cover may be lost.


One key to success in tactical missions is the ability to move undetected to the objective. There are four steps to land navigation. Being given an objective and the requirement to move there, you must know where you are, plan the route, stay on the route, and recognize the objective.

a.   Know Where You Are (Step 1). You must know where you are on the map and on the ground at all times and in every possible way. This includes knowing where you are relative to—

  • Your directional orientation.

  • The direction and distances to your objective.

  • Other landmarks and features.

  • Any impassable terrain, the enemy, and danger areas.

  • Both the advantages and disadvantages presented by the terrain between you and your objective.

This step is accomplished by knowing how to read a map, recognize and identify specific terrain and other features; determine and estimate direction; pace, measure, and estimate distances, and both plot and estimate a position by resection.

b.   Plan the Route (Step 2). Depending upon the size of the unit and the length and type of movement to be conducted, several factors should be considered in selecting a good route or routes to be followed. These include—

  • Travel time.

  • Travel distance.

  • Maneuver room needed.

  • Trafficability.

  • Load-bearing capacities of the soil.

  • Energy expenditure by troops.

  • The factors of METT-T.

  • Tactical aspects of terrain (OCOKA).

  • Ease of logistical support.

  • Potential for surprising the enemy.

  • Availability of control and coordination features.

  • Availability of good checkpoints and steering marks.

In other words, the route must be the result of careful map study and should address the requirements of the mission, tactical situation, and time available. It must also provide for ease of movement and navigation.

(1)   Three route-selection criteria that are important for small-unit movements are cover, concealment, and the availability of reliable checkpoint features. The latter is weighted even more heavily when selecting the route for a night operation. The degree of visibility and ease of recognition (visual effect) are the key to the proper selection of these features.

(2)   The best checkpoints are linear features that cross the route. Examples include perennial streams, hard-top roads, ridges, valleys, railroads, and power transmission lines. Next, it is best to select features that represent elevation changes of at least two contour intervals such as hills, depressions, spurs, and draws. Primary reliance upon cultural features and vegetation is cautioned against because they are most likely to have changed since the map was last revised.

(3)   Checkpoints located at places where changes in direction are made mark your decision points. Be especially alert to see and recognize these features during movement. During preparation and planning, it is especially important to review the route and anticipate where mistakes are most likely to be made so they can be avoided.

(4)   Following a valley floor or proceeding near (not on) the crest of a ridgeline generally offers easy movement, good navigation checkpoints, and sufficient cover and concealment. It is best to follow terrain features whenever you can—not to fight them.

(5)   A lost or a late arriving unit, or a tired unit that is tasked with an unnecessarily difficult move, does not contribute to the accomplishment of a mission. On the other hand, the unit that moves too quickly and carelessly into a destructive ambush or leaves itself open to air strikes also have little effect. Careful planning and study are required each time a movement route is to be selected.

c.   Stay on the Route (Step 3). In order to know that you are still on the correct route, you must be able to compare the evidence you encounter as you move according to the plan you developed on the map when you selected your route. This may include watching your compass reading (dead reckoning) or recognizing various checkpoints or landmarks from the map in their anticipated positions and sequences as you pass them (terrain association). A better way is to use a combination of both.

d.   Recognize the Objective (Step 4). The destination is rarely a highly recognizable feature such as a dominant hilltop or road junction. Such locations as this are seldom missed by the most inexperienced navigators and are often dangerous places for soldiers to occupy. The relatively small, obscure places are most likely to be the destinations.

(1)   Just how does a soldier travel over unfamiliar terrain for moderate to great distances and know when he reaches the destination? One minor error, when many are possible, can cause the target to be missed.

(2)   The answer is simple. Select a checkpoint (reasonably close to the destination) that is not so difficult to find or recognize. Then plan a short, fine-tuned last leg from the new expanded objective to the final destination. For example, you may be able to plan and execute the move as a series of sequenced movements from one checkpoint or landmark to another using both the terrain and a compass to keep you on the correct course. Finally, after arriving at the last checkpoint, you might follow a specific compass azimuth and pace off the relatively short, known distance to the final, pinpoint destination. This procedure is called point navigation. A short movement out from a unit position to an observation post or to a coordination point may also be accomplished in the same manner.


Staying on the route is accomplished through the use of one or two navigation techniques—dead reckoning and terrain association. These methods are discussed in detail below.

a.   Moving by Dead Reckoning. Dead reckoning consists of two fundamental steps. The first is the use of a protractor and graphic scales to determine the direction and distance from one point to another on a map. The second step is the use of a compass and some means of measuring distance to apply this information on the ground. In other words, it begins with the determination of a polar coordinate on a map and ends with the act of finding it on the ground.

(1)   Dead reckoning along a given route is the application of the same process used by a mapmaker as he establishes a measured line of reference upon which to construct the framework of his map. Therefore, triangulation exercises (either resection or intersection) can be easily undertaken by the navigator at any time to either determine or confirm precise locations along or near his route. Between these position-fixes, establish your location by measuring or estimating the distance traveled along the azimuth being followed from the previous known point. You might use pacing, a vehicle odometer, or the application of elapsed time for this purpose, depending upon the situation.

(2)   Most dead reckoned movements do not consist of single straight-line distances because you cannot ignore the tactical and navigational aspects of the terrain, enemy situation, natural and man-made obstacles, time, and safety factors. Another reason most dead reckoning movements are not single straight-line distances is because compasses and pace-counts are imprecise measures. Error from them compounds over distance; therefore, you could soon be far afield from your intended route even if you performed the procedures correctly. The only way to counteract this phenomenon is to reconfirm your location by terrain association or resection. Routes planned for dead reckoning generally consist of a series of straight-line distances between several checkpoints with perhaps some travel running on or parallel to roads or trails.

(3)   There are two advantages to dead reckoning. First, dead reckoning is easy to teach and to learn. Second, it can be a highly accurate way of moving from one point to another if done carefully over short distances, even where few external cues are present to guide the movements.

(4)   During daylight, across open country, along a specified magnetic azimuth, never walk with the compass in the open position and in front of you. Because the compass will not stay steady or level, it does not give an accurate reading when held or used this way. Begin at the start point and face with the compass in the proper direction, then sight in on a landmark that is located on the correct azimuth to be followed. Close the compass and proceed to that landmark. Repeat the process as many times as necessary to complete the straight-line segment of the route.

(5)   The landmarks selected for this purpose are called steering marks, and their selection is crucial to success in dead reckoning. Steering marks should never be determined from a map study. They are selected as the march progresses and are commonly on or near the highest points that you can see along the azimuth line that you are following when they are selected. They may be uniquely shaped trees, rocks, hilltops, posts, towers, and buildings—anything that can be easily identified. If you do not see a good steering mark to the front, you might use a back azimuth to some feature behind you until a good steering mark appears out in front. Characteristics of a good steering mark are:

(a)   It must have some characteristics about it, such as color, shade of color, size, or shape (preferably all four), that will assure you that it will continue to be recognized as you approach it.

(b)   If several easily distinguished objects appear along your line of march, the best steering mark is the most distant object. This procedure enables you to travel farther with fewer references to the compass. If you have many options, select the highest object. A higher mark is not as easily lost to sight as is a lower mark that blends into the background as you approach it. A steering mark should be continuously visible as you move toward it.

(c)   Steering marks selected at night must have even more unique shapes than those selected during daylight. As darkness approaches, colors disappear and objects appear as black or gray silhouettes. Instead of seeing shapes, you begin to see only the general outlines that may appear to change as you move and see the objects from slightly different angles.

(6)   Dead reckoning without natural steering marks is used when the area through which you are traveling is devoid of features, or when visibility is poor. At night, it may be necessary to send a member of the unit out in front of your position to create your own steering mark in order to proceed. His position should be as far out as possible to reduce the number of chances for error as you move. Arm-and-hand signals or a radio may be used in placing him on the correct azimuth. After he has been properly located, move forward to his position and repeat the process until some steering marks can be identified or until you reach your objective.

(7)   When handling obstacles/detours on the route, follow these guidelines:

(a)   When an obstacle forces you to leave your original line of march and take up a parallel one, always return to the original line as soon as the terrain or situation permits.

(b)   To turn clockwise (right) 90 degrees, you must add 90 degrees to your original azimuth. To turn counterclockwise (left) 90 degrees from your current direction, you must subtract 90 degrees from your present azimuth.

(c)   When making a detour, be certain that only paces taken toward the final destination are counted as part of your forward progress. They should not be confused with the local pacing that takes place perpendicular to the route in order to avoid the problem area and in returning to the original line of march after the obstacle has been passed.

(8)   Sometimes a steering mark on your azimuth of travel can be seen across a swamp or some other obstacle to which you can simply walk out around. Dead reckoning can then begin at that point. If there is no obvious steering mark to be seen across the obstacle, perhaps one can be located to the rear. Compute a back azimuth to this point and later sight back to it once the obstacle has been passed in order to get back on track.

(9)   You can use the deliberate offset technique. Highly accurate distance estimates and precision compass work may not be required if the destination or an intermediate checkpoint is located on or near a large linear feature that runs nearly perpendicular to your direction of travel. Examples include roads or highways, railroads, power transmission lines, ridges, or streams. In these cases, you should apply a deliberate error (offset) of about 10 degrees to the azimuth you planned to follow and then move, using the lensatic compass as a guide, in that direction until you encounter the linear feature. You will know exactly which way to turn (left or right) to find your destination or checkpoint, depending upon which way you planned your deliberate offset.

(10)   Because no one can move along a given azimuth with absolute precision, it is better to plan a few extra steps than to begin an aimless search for the objective once you reach the linear feature. If you introduce your own mistake, you will certainly know how to correct it. This method will also cope with minor compass errors and the slight variations that always occur in the earth's magnetic field.

(11)   There are disadvantages to dead reckoning. The farther you travel by dead reckoning without confirming your position in relation to the terrain and other features, the more errors you will accumulate in your movements. Therefore, you should confirm and correct your estimated position whenever you encounter a known feature on the ground that is also on the map. Periodically, you should accomplish a resection triangulation using two or more known points to pinpoint and correct your position on the map. Pace counts or any type of distance measurement should begin anew each time your position is confirmed on the map.

(a)   It is dangerous to select a single steering mark, such as a distant mountaintop, and then move blindly toward it. What will you do if you must suddenly call for fire support or a medical evacuation? You must periodically use resection and terrain association techniques to pinpoint your location along the way.

(b)   Steering marks can be farther apart in open country, thereby making navigation more accurate. In areas of dense vegetation, however, where there is little relief, during darkness, or in fog, your steering marks must be close together. This, of course, introduces more chance for error.

(c)   Finally, dead reckoning is time-consuming and demands constant attention to the compass. Errors accumulate easily and quickly. Every fold in the ground and detours as small as a single tree or boulder also complicate the measurement of distance.

b.   Moving by Terrain Association. The technique of moving by terrain association is more forgiving of mistakes and far less time-consuming than dead reckoning. It best suits those situations that call for movement from one area to another. Once an error has been made in dead reckoning, you are off the track. Errors made using terrain association are easily corrected, however, because you are comparing what you expected to see from the map to what you do see on the ground. Errors are anticipated and will not go unchecked. You can easily make adjustments based upon what you encounter. After all, you do not find the neighborhood grocery store by dead reckoning—you adjust your movements according to the familiar landmarks you encounter along the way (Figure 11-8). Periodic position-fixing through either plotted or estimated resection will also make it possible to correct your movements, call for fire, or call in the locations of enemy targets or any other information of tactical or logistical importance.

Figure 11-8. Terrain association navigation.

Figure 11-8. Terrain association navigation.

(1)   Identifying and Locating Selected Features. Being able to identify and locate the selected features, both on the map and on the ground, are essential to the success in moving by terrain association. The following rules may prove helpful.

(a)   Be certain the map is properly oriented when moving along the route and use the terrain and other features as guides. The orientation of the map must match the terrain or it can cause confusion.

(b)   To locate and identify features being used to guide the movement, look for the steepness and shape of the slopes, the relative elevations of the various features, and the directional orientations in relation to your position and to the position of the other features you can see.

(c)   Make use of the additional cues provided by hydrography, culture, and vegetation. All the information you can gather will assist you in making the move. The ultimate test and the best practice for this movement technique is to go out in the field and use it. The use of terrain, other natural features, and any man-made objects that appear both on the map and on the ground must be practiced at every opportunity. There is no other way to learn or retain this skill.

(2)   Using Handrails, Catching Features, and Navigational Attack Points. First, because it is difficult to dead reckon without error over long distances with your compass, the alert navigator can often gain assistance from the terrain.

(a)   Handrails are linear features like roads or highways, railroads, power transmission lines, ridgelines, or streams that run roughly parallel to your direction of travel. Instead of using precision compass work, you can rough compass without the use of steering marks for as long as the feature travels with you on your right or left. It acts as a handrail to guide the way.

(b)   Second, when you reach the point where either your route or the handrail changes direction, you must be aware that it is time to go your separate ways. Some prominent feature located near this point is selected to provide this warning. This is called a catching feature; it can also be used to tell you when you have gone too far.

(c)   Third, the catching feature may also be your navigational attack point; this point is the place where area navigation ends and point navigation begins. From this last easily identified checkpoint, the navigator moves cautiously and precisely along a given azimuth for a specified distance to locate the final objective. The selection of this navigational attack point is important. A distance of 500 meters or less is most desirable.

(3)   Recognizing the Disadvantages of Terrain Association. The major disadvantage to navigation by terrain association is that you must be able to interpret the map and analyze the world around you. Recognition of terrain and other features, the ability to determine and estimate direction and distance, and knowing how to do quick-in-the-head position fixing are skills that are more difficult to teach, learn, and retain than those required for dead reckoning.

c.   Combination of Techniques. Actually, the most successful navigation is obtained by combining the techniques described above. Constant orientation of the map and continuous observation of the terrain in conjunction with compass-read azimuths, and distance traveled on the ground compared with map distance, used together make reaching a destination more certain. One should not depend entirely on compass navigation or map navigation; either or both could be lost or destroyed.


Darkness presents its own characteristics for land navigation because of limited or no visibility. However, the techniques and principles are the same as that used for day navigation. The success in nighttime land navigation depends on rehearsals during the planning phase before the movement, such as detailed analysis of the map to determine the type of terrain in which the navigation is going to take place and the predetermination of azimuths and distances. Night vision devices can greatly enhance night navigation.

a.   The basic technique used for nighttime land navigation is dead reckoning with several compasses recommended. The point man is in front of the navigator but just a few steps away for easy control of the azimuth. Smaller steps are taken during night navigation, so remember, the pace count is different. It is recommended that a pace count obtained by using a predetermined 100-meter pace course be used at night.

b.   Navigation using the stars is recommended in some areas; however, a thorough knowledge of constellations and location of stars is needed. The four cardinal directions can also be obtained at night by using the same technique described for the shadow-tip method. Just use the moon instead of the sun. In this case, the moon has to be bright enough to cast a shadow.