CAMP HANSEN, OKINAWA, Japan -- Several Marines with Special Operations Training Group, III Marine Expeditionary Force, are undergoing a Maritime Navigation Course on Camp Hansen and Kin Blue Beach.
The course, which began March 5 and is scheduled to end March 21, is intended to teach the eight Marines how to skillfully navigate through foreign waters without the aid of a Global Positioning System, according to Lance Cpl. Kenneth A. Belovarac, an amphibious raid instructor with SOTG.
"On Okinawa and in other parts of the world, there are GPS blind spots," Belovarac said. "Say you're traveling in a boat on a mission and your GPS goes dead, you have to be able to navigate without it."
During the first week of the course, the Marines received in depth instructions on how to navigate through waters using nautical charts and compasses.
They reviewed maritime navigation concepts such as dead reckoning, or using objects in the surrounding area to determine position, and celestial navigation, using the stars to find true north.
"The first week is solid book work," said Sgt. Bart P. Dellinger, the assistant senior amphibious raid instructor with SOTG. "They learned how to properly use and identify all the aids that are out there to assist them in maritime navigation."
During the second week, the Marines put their new skills to the test during the practical application portion of the course.
Before stepping into the water each day, the Marines plot their charts and factor in tides and currents of that area in a mathematical equation.
Dillinger said slight differences in degrees caused by the flow of currents and the tide can push boats completely off course.
"Three or four degrees do not seem like a lot, but in the water it can mean the difference between landing on Kin Blue or Camp Schwab," Dillinger said. "This course will help Marines navigate through water without getting lost."
The Marines are conducting day and night maritime navigations until March 20, with the objective of reaching within one nautical mile of designated points on their charts.
On the water, the Marines use plotting boards, water proof nautical charts, and nautical compasses to find their destinations.
They also apply methods they learned in the classroom to complete their navigation objectives.
At the end of the course, the Marines are scheduled to take a final test to become certified maritime navigators.