A good map can tell you where you are and show you how to get to where you want to go. What could be more important?
A recent U.S. Army Field Manual (large pdf) explains the rudiments of map reading. But distribution of the manual is restricted, and it has not been approved for public release.
To begin at the beginning: “A map is a graphic representation of a portion of the earth’s surface drawn to scale, as seen from above. It uses colors, symbols, and labels to represent features found on the ground.”
“All [military] operations require a supply of maps; however, the finest maps available are worthless unless the map user knows how to read them.”
A copy of the manual was obtained by Secrecy News.
See “Map Reading and Land Navigation,” Field Manual FM 3-25.26, January 2005 (change 1, August 30, 2006) (288 pages, 25 MB PDF file).