UNITED24 - Make a charitable donation in support of Ukraine!




Tough, realistic training conducted to standard is the cornerstone of Army warfighting skills. An intense training environment stresses both soldiers and equipment, creating a high potential for accidents. The potential for accidents increases as training realism increases. Thus realistic training can pose a serious drain on warfighting assets. Commanders must find ways to protect soldiers and equipment from accidents during realistic training to prepare for war. An accidental loss in war is no different in its effects than a combat loss; the asset is gone. Commanders must compensate for the numerical advantages of the threat by protecting their combat resources from accidental loss. How well they do this could be the decisive factor in winning or losing. Commanders and staffs can use this appendix as a guide for developing SOPs and managing risks as it applies to their organization and mission.


Risk management is a tool leaders can use to make smart risk decisions in tactical operations. It allows leaders to execute more realistic training not otherwise practical because of the high probability of accidents. Risk management is a common sense way of accomplishing the mission with the least risk possible. It is a method of getting the job done by identifying the areas that present the highest risk and taking action to eliminate, reduce, or control the risk. Risk management thereby becomes a fully integrated part of mission planning and execution.


Risk management is not complex, technical, or difficult. It is a comparatively simple decision-making process--a way of thinking through a mission to balance mission demands against risks. Once understood, risk management is a way to put more realism into training without paying a price in deaths, injuries, or damaged equipment or all three. Risk management is not limited to situational training exercises. It is performed during actual combat as well as in peacetime. Leaders must learn to assess risks during training events and apply the same techniques during combat actions. During combat, risks may be taken but only after they are evaluated and weighed as they are during training.

a. Commanders. As in all other areas, commanders are responsible for the effective management of risk. To meet this responsibility, commanders--

  • Seek optimum, not just adequate, performance.

  • Select from risk reduction options provided by the staff.

  • Accept or reject residual risk, based on the benefit to be derived.

  • Train and motivate leaders at all levels to effectively use risk management concepts.

b. Staff. The staff--

  • Assists the commander in assessing risks and in developing risk reduction options.

  • Integrates risk controls into plans and orders.

  • Eliminates unnecessary safety restrictions that diminish training effectiveness.

c. Troop Leaders. Troop leaders--

  • Develop a total commitment to mission accomplishment and the welfare of subordinates.

  • Consistently apply effective risk management concepts and methods to operations they lead.

  • Report risk issues beyond their control or authority to their superiors for resolution.

d. Individuals. Individuals--

  • Understand, accept, and implement risk reduction guidance.

  • Maintain a constant awareness of the changing risks associated with the operation or mission.

  • Make leaders aware immediately of any unrealistic risk reduction procedure.


Risk assessment has always been an integral part of premission planning; however, not all unit commanders have made an effort to assess the risk involved when assigning two or more individuals as members of a crew. Individual risk assessment is the first step in the three-tier approach to risk assessment. Figure A-1 on pages A-12 and A-13 shows a sample risk assessment work sheet that commanders may use to estimate the level of risk associated with an operation or a mission. Each category is assigned a risk value in the computation box; for example, crew endurance, total time, and time in the mission AO.


After the individual risk assessment is completed, the next step is to assess the risk associated with the crew. Crew risk assessment is based on whether the crew is battle-rostered and, if so, how long it has been since they have flown together. In Figure A-1, each category is assigned a risk value in the computation box; for example, mission, flight mode, and adjustments.


a. Assessing the collective/unit training risk is the final step in the three-tier approach to risk assessment. Before a major STX or CTC rotation, the commander must assess the current tactical training status of the unit. At D-120 days, the commander must determine the projected training requirements. He then develops a training strategy and focuses resources for the training event.

b. At D-30 days, the commander will conduct a final evaluation of the training status. The aviation unit commander must coordinate with the supported ground force commander to finalize the mission requirements. Commanders must avoid a "can do" attitude that may cause them to accept unrealistic requirements. The ground force commander must be part of the risk management process. He must be advised of any nonstandard procedures that will be used during the training exercise and be willing to accept the associated level of risk.


a. Step 1: Identify Risks. Identify major events of the operational sequence and list them chronologically; then, if necessary, display them in a flow chart. This process will aid in the detection of specific risks associated with all specified and implied tasks. Safety can be built into an operation by first seeing the operation in its entirety. Operations invariably can be broken down into a series of phases, each with special characteristics and considerations. As soon as the commander states the mission and concept, it is usually possible to define the key events. Operations also have a time factor-- a beginning-to-ending series of events in which the timing of events is often as significant as the events themselves. The operations analysis is a useful tool in quickly defining the flow and time sequencing of events in an operation. The objective is to reflect the total operation from the preparatory actions until the operation is completed or the next phase of operations is under way. The operations analysis is a simple but highly effective tool. It ensures that risk is evaluated in every aspect of the operation. Operations safety techniques are effective to a point, but they do not detect risk with the reliability required to achieve the degree of safety needed in today's Army.

b. Step 2: Assess Risks. Determine the magnitude of risks by estimating loss probability and cost. Assess each event, determine whether it is routine, and make an initial risk assessment. Ensure that standards for routine events are adequate to provide an acceptable level of risk.

(1) Consider the value of a risk matrix or decision guide for all or part of the operation. Risk matrices provide a quick and ready method of breaking down an operation into its major operational aspects and eliminating or controlling the risks associated with it. Like other risk assessment tools, risk matrices can be used alone or with other risk analysis techniques to provide a quick overview of the risk situation. Risk matrices are simple enough to be routinely used by tactical leaders in operational planning. These matrices are nearly always more effective than intuitive methods in identifying the extent of risk. When using risk matrices, the risk assessor should--

  • Review each situation to ensure that all significant areas of concern are evaluated, even if they are not included in the matrices.

  • Use the matrices to analyze the risk and target areas of concern for risk-reducing action.

  • Review the individual areas of concern before recommending an option. (If an area of concern is off the scale in a particular situation, a higher decision level may be required than the risk gauge suggests.)

NOTE: Figure A-1 is a sample format and provides arbitrary weighted factors. Commanders must modify these factors to fit particular missions and units.

(2) Consider using the METT-T format as another means to assess risks. Leaders can subjectively determine the likelihood and extent of accidental loss based on this type of analysis. When using the METT-T format, the risk assessor should--

  • Determine mission complexity and difficulty.

  • Assess the enemy situation and identify specific hazards.

  • Consider all aspects of the terrain as well as weather and visibility.

  • Determine the supervision required and evaluate the experience, training, morale, and endurance of troops. (The risk assessor should also determine the availability of equipment.)

  • Determine the time available for planning and executing the mission.

c. Step 3: Make Decisions and Develop Controls. Make risk acceptance decisions by balancing risk benefits against risk assessments. Eliminate unnecessary risks. Reduce the magnitude of mission-essential risks by applying controls. Controls range from hazard awareness to detailed operational procedures. Focus on high-hazard events and events not covered by a good set of standards. Complete a preliminary hazard analysis of these events. The preliminary hazard analysis is the initial examination of the hazards of an operation and their implications. It is normally based on the mission analysis and data-base review and takes place before the details of an operation have been completely defined. The objective of the preliminary hazard analysis is to define, at the earliest possible point in the operational life cycle, the hazards that can be expected. Doing this early means that these hazards can be addressed when they are still preliminary; that is, when the operation is still being planned.

(1) Based on the preliminary risk analysis and products of analytical aids, develop a roster of options for eliminating or controlling the risks. Select or offer options for command decision. Once risks are identified and measured as accurately as possible, the leader must act to eliminate or control them. These controls must not unnecessarily interfere with training objectives. The best options often come from reviewing the doctrinal publications relevant to the operation to glean information about the proper procedures for hazard control. Merely reviewing the analysis and assessment will often suggest options. Some options will be more effective than others. AR 385-10 provides a convenient list of actions that commanders can use as an aid in ranking options. In order of priority, commanders should--

  • Eliminate the hazard totally, if possible. (Engineer out the hazard or design equipment to eliminate the hazard or incorporate fail-safe devices.)

  • Guard or control the hazard. (Use automatic monitoring or alarming devices. Provide containment or barriers.)

  • Change operational procedures to limit exposure (number and duration) consistent with mission needs.

  • Train and educate personnel in hazard recognition and avoidance.

  • Provide protective clothing or equipment that will minimize injury and damage potential.

  • Use color coding and signs to alert personnel to hazards and motivate personnel to use hazard avoidance actions.

(2) Leaders can detect and eliminate unnecessary safety restrictions that impede the realism or effectiveness of training. With proper controls, these restrictions can be eliminated or scaled back. Check for residual effects before implementing risk reduction options. Visualize what will happen once the option has been implemented. Sometimes reducing one risk will only introduce others.

d. Step 4: Implement Controls. Integrate specific controls into plans, OPORDs, SOPs, training performance standards, and rehearsals. Knowledge of risk controls, down to the individual soldier, is essential for the successful implementation and execution of these controls.

e. Step 5: Supervise. Determine the effectiveness of standards in controlling risk. The commander must enforce controls and standards. This is key to loss control. The commander may have approved a number of risk reduction procedures, but approval does not mean that the procedures are carried out. Leaders must monitor the situation to ensure that action is actually taken. The prudent leader then follows up to see that the doers understand and accept the guidance. Leaders should also monitor the effect of risk reduction procedures to verify that they really are good ideas. This is especially true for new and untested procedures.

(1) Leaders must always monitor the operational activities of subordinate elements. Only by seeing the character of operations can leaders fully appreciate risk implications. When monitoring operational activities, leaders should--

  • Avoid administrative intrusions and not get in the way.

  • Go where the risks are and spend time at the heart of the action.

  • Analyze and think through issues, not just watch.

  • Work with key personnel to improve operational procedures after the action and not hesitate to address imminent danger issues on the spot.

  • Fix systemic problems that are hindering field effectiveness.

(2) Leaders must be able to balance the cost of the risk involved with the value of the outcome desired in an operation. They must consider and manage risks in making decisions. The three general rules listed below apply when leaders select a tactical procedure.

(a) No unnecessary risk should ever be accepted. The leader who has the authority to accept or reject a risk is responsible for protecting his soldiers from unnecessary risks. If a risk can be eliminated or reduced and the mission still be accomplished, the risk is unnecessary and must not be accepted.

(b) Risk decisions must be made at the appropriate level. The leader who will answer for an accident is the person who should make the decision to accept or reject the risk. In some cases, this will be a senior officer. In other cases, it will be the first-line leader. Small-unit commanders and firstline leaders are going to make risk decisions in combat. Therefore, they should learn to make risk decisions in training.

(c) The benefits of taking a risk must outweigh the possible cost of the risk. Leaders must understand the risk involved and have a clear picture of the benefits to be gained from taking the calculated risk.

Figure A-1. Sample format of a risk assessment work sheet

Figure A-1. Sample format of a risk assessment work sheet (continued)

Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list