6 Marine Officers Face Boot from Training, Accused of Cheating on Land Nav

A Marine reads a compass during a land navigation training event in 2013. Several officers could lose their commissions after being accused of cheating on a land nav event while attending The Basic School. (Lance Cpl. Justin Rodriguez/Marine Corps)
A Marine reads a compass during a land navigation training event in 2013. Several officers could lose their commissions after being accused of cheating on a land nav event while attending The Basic School. (Lance Cpl. Justin Rodriguez/Marine Corps)

Editor’s note: This story has been corrected. The officers facing review for administrative separation are still attending training at The Basic School.

Half a dozen Marine officers are facing administrative separation after being accused of cheating on a land navigation event during a course that prepares them to lead enlisted troops.

The six officers attending The Basic School at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, are under review for separation from the service said Capt. Joshua Pena, a spokesman for the Marine Corps' Training and Education Command. All newly commissioned officers and warrant officers attend TBS following their entry-level training.

It was not immediately clear when the incident occurred or who made the decision to remove the officers from the course. It was first reported Tuesday by Marine Corps Times.

All officers attending TBS are warned about cheating and misconduct while attending their training, Pena said.

"There is zero tolerance for it," he added.

Marines at TBS are tested on their day and night land navigation skills. The officers learn how to read maps, plot locations and analyze terrain, Pena said.

During land nav examinations, Marines are given the coordinates of ammunition boxes plotted throughout the course. They're tasked with locating each box on their own using a compass and azimuth, and are warned about the challenging conditions they'll face in a training packet for the course.

"Students can anticipate multiple individual land navigation events and unit field exercises on uneven terrain in daylight and darkness within areas up to [about 13 square miles]," the packet states. "... Any student found to be utilizing or generating an answer matrix for the TBS land navigation courses will face appropriate disciplinary action."

This isn't the first time Marines and officer candidates training at Quantico are believed to have cheated on land navigation events.

In 2012, about 40 officer candidates were removed from training after some were tapping on ammunition cans during a nighttime land nav event to help others find their locations. Two years prior, more than a dozen lieutenants were kicked out of TBS following a land nav cheating scandal.

Commandant Gen. Robert Neller has frequently touted the importance of basic land navigation skills -- not just for leading Marines, but because GPS devices and other technology could reveal troops' locations.

"We have to leverage the technology we have, which gives us an operational advantage," Neller said in 2016. "But at the same time -- and this makes training even harder -- you have to work through or be prepared for when it's not there."

-- Gina Harkins can be reached at gina.harkins@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @ginaaharkins.

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