Azimuth Course AAR

I just got back this afternoon from spending the day running a couple buddies through an azimuth course I built awhile back. It was a nice, albeit windy, February day and it was good to get out and train.

An “Azimuth Course” is what I call a type of land nav course you do without a map. It’s completely compass based and designed to build skill with the compass and also working as a team. The following are observations I took as I watched my buddies develop this skill. Come to a class and I’ll get you squared away too!

– When shooting azimuths in thick brush it helps to use a partner and “leap frog” him out in front and line him up with the azimuth.

– Pick two landmarks, one far, and one half as far when shooting azimuths. This will give you an idea of where you’ll eventually end up but also something closer should you start going through trees and bushes and lose sight of your farther away landmark.

– Compare compasses when working in a team, note any differences in sensitivity.

– Two heads are better than one. Shoot the azimuth with two people, then leap frog one person out from there. Before moving from the starting point shoot a back azimuth with the leap frogger to double check.

– Orange reflective tape on the compass lid helps when using another person to leap frog. The leap frogger points the orange tape back towards the azimuth shooter to help him see and line the frogger onto the azimuth. This is especially helpful when everyone is camouflaged and moving in thick brush.

– Take lots of notes

– Have note taking gear easily accessible. When you start getting tired you’ll start getting lazy, and digging note taking gear in and out will become a chore you’re likely to not do as often as you should. (Be disciplined!)

– Pace counts are a great idea, but also be able to estimate distance and take notes that way as well. “30 meters” is better than “6 paces, a trip and a slide” in your notes.

– The fifth principle of patrolling, common sense, always applies. If something doesn’t make sense, don’t do it. There’s no such thing as cheating, any way you can devise to get the job done is good as long as it works.


  1. Very true…
    Back in ’98, we were doing a simulated SERE course in the Kahukus and the whole “if it makes sense” did NOT resonate with one pilot:

    Him [looking at GPS]: “We need to go up there… I’m not getting much for a satellite fix.”
    Me [looking at a map and a compass]: “… Sir, that is a climb of 600 feet… in the dark… EAST. We need to go *west*… towards the designated extraction point.”
    Him: “I need more of a fix. We go that way [pointing east]”

    Three hours later…

    Him [looking at his GPS]: “That’s odd… this is showing us a half mile farther from the extraction point.”
    Me [mentally ending his life for the nth time in the last three hours and nursing several bruises and scratches] “…”

    Fun effin’ times.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh man that’s great! GPS is just another tool in the toolbox, not a replacement for skill and common sense for sure. We had blue force trackers in our humvees in Iraq. Great idea except ours were set to only update position every 5 minutes. So one night we’re out looking for smugglers in the desert on the western edge of the country. I was leading the patrol due west with the idea to hit the border then head south parallel to it. We had never been in this specific part of the border and let’s just say the border wasn’t as thoroughly marked as it was in other areas. One minute the BFT shows us in Iraq, the next update five minutes later we are about 2 miles into Syria. I was expecting to see the large parallel berms and rows of concertina wire and garbage that typically signified the border in other areas. Not so here. The only thing to signify a border here was a week with trail running north south inside the Syrian border. Were damn lucky we didn’t run into a minefield left over from their previous way with Iraq, although we “found” them in Iraq quite a few times while patrolling. Good times lol

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh, there are always interesting stories when it comes to operations in close proximity to the border – some of which probably aren’t the best fodder here… 🙂
    I found the Iraq/Kuwait border to be rather bland, but that was at a cruising altitude all four times… very anticlimactic and better to be in the past.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. “We will be hooking up with First Platoon at grid XXXXXX.”

    “Who’s navigating for 1st Platoon?”

    “Lt. Snuffy.”

    “Sweet! Snooze time!”

    4 hours later.

    “Where’s 1st Platoon?.”


    Liked by 1 person

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