Army 2nd Lieutenant Leads Platoon Five Kilometers Without Getting Lost, Awarded Medal

Land Navigation Has Plagued 2NDLT's for Generations

VICENZA, Italy — Army Platoon Leader 2nd Lt. Michael Bailey was recently awarded an Army Commendation Medal, with enthusiastic approval from his commanders. The new lieutenant, recently graduated from West Point, arrived this month in Italy and was assigned to 3rd Platoon, Battle Company, 173rd (Airborne).

“Having a new platoon leader in, especially from West Point, is like having that annoying little cousin over your house,” said Sergeant First Class Anthony Mileo, Bailey’s platoon sergeant. “They ask a bunch of questions, have no idea what the hell they are doing, and generally couldn’t find their way out of a paper bag.”

The commander of Battle Company, Capt. Randall Lewis, agreed.

“When you are a butter bar, not too much is expected of you, other than that you can’t land nav[igate] to save your life.”

But Bailey was ready for the challenge. Soon after his platoon introduction, he participated in a company-wide training exercise in the Italian countryside. With only a compass and a map to guide him, the Lieutenant was able to lead his platoon from the assembly area through the final objective — an incredible distance of over 5 kilometers — without getting lost once.

“I seriously couldn’t believe it during the first few klicks,” said Spc. James Owens, a machine-gunner. “And then I realized that this wasn’t your average butter bar. He must have actually paid attention during his land nav training.”

For this historic feat — in which he was the first new platoon leader to ever successfully navigate a platoon on the first try — Bailey was awarded an Army Commendation Medal.

“It feels really good to be recognized,” said Bailey, “and there were times when I wasn’t sure whether I was looking at a contour line, a road, or a river, but that’s when adrenaline and my training really kicked in.”

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