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Retired Lt. Col. Robert F. Mateer III, the senior Army instructor for the Yokota JROTC, issues coordinates for the start of an orienteering course at Camp Fuji, Japan.

Retired Lt. Col. Robert F. Mateer III, the senior Army instructor for the Yokota JROTC, issues coordinates for the start of an orienteering course at Camp Fuji, Japan. (Christopher B. Stoltz / S&S)

Retired Lt. Col. Robert F. Mateer III, the senior Army instructor for the Yokota JROTC, issues coordinates for the start of an orienteering course at Camp Fuji, Japan.

Retired Lt. Col. Robert F. Mateer III, the senior Army instructor for the Yokota JROTC, issues coordinates for the start of an orienteering course at Camp Fuji, Japan. (Christopher B. Stoltz / S&S)

Robert Rodell Jr. takes a reading off a compass during an orienteering course at Camp Fuji while operating with the ROTC unit from Yokota Air Base, Japan.

Robert Rodell Jr. takes a reading off a compass during an orienteering course at Camp Fuji while operating with the ROTC unit from Yokota Air Base, Japan. (Christopher B. Stoltz / S&S)

Airman 1st Class Deshae Clinton, 374th Medical Group, Yokota Air Base, Japan, cuts through tall weeds as acting medical staff during an orienteering course at Camp Fuji.

Airman 1st Class Deshae Clinton, 374th Medical Group, Yokota Air Base, Japan, cuts through tall weeds as acting medical staff during an orienteering course at Camp Fuji. (Christopher B. Stoltz / S&S)

Fonseca Adriel, a freshman, takes a bearing during an orienteering course at Camp Fuji, Japan, while with the ROTC unit from Yokota Air Base.

Fonseca Adriel, a freshman, takes a bearing during an orienteering course at Camp Fuji, Japan, while with the ROTC unit from Yokota Air Base. (Christopher B. Stoltz / S&S)

Retired Lt. Col. Robert F. Mateer III leads his group up a hill for the start of a JROTC orienteering course at Camp Fuji.

Retired Lt. Col. Robert F. Mateer III leads his group up a hill for the start of a JROTC orienteering course at Camp Fuji. (Christopher B. Stoltz / S&S)

CAMP FUJI, Japan — Zach Robinson carefully worked to remove himself from the clutches of a thorn bush that he had gotten himself tangled in.

“Well this is fun,” he said.

A Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps cadet from Yokota High School’s Panther Battalion, Robinson was the “point man” for his team during land navigation training at Camp Fuji.

Being the cadet up front for his four-person team meant that he had to negotiate the woods while the rest of the team followed, using a map and compass to plot their course.

“Now go a little more to the right!” shouted team leader Robert Rodell, who was keeping track of the direction Robinson was heading using the compass.

“Oh man, that’s another bush!” Robinson said.

The goal for the cadets was to find five white-painted ammunition cans. There were actually 18 cans located on the course, each set at a specific location.

The battalion goes to Camp Fuji every year and spends two days practicing land navigation and negotiating obstacle courses, said retired Lt. Col. Robert F. Mateer III, the senior Army instructor for the Yokota JROTC.

“It’s a challenge for the kids,” he said, but added that the cadets have a lot of fun because they are free to work with each other instead of being led by parents or teachers. “They go in as a group and solve problems as a group.”

The gigantic course full of thorns and brambles, hills and streams can prove to be very challenging to the cadets. But it has its rewards.

“I’ve gotten calls from former cadets who have gone on to pursue Army ROTC in college, where they do land nav training during their advanced camp at Fort Lewis,” he said. “And they told me that doing the course at Fuji made land nav at advanced camp seem so much easier.”

As the day continued, the cadets worked their way through the woods and fields toward their goals before ending together on a hilltop with Mount Fuji in the background.

“Land nav is actually a lot of fun,” Robinson said. “Except all the thorns.”


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