The Largest Security-Cleared Career Network for Defense and Intelligence Jobs - JOIN NOW


Appendix W

PA Lessons Learned

"What this century's history teaches us is that the Army's real strength is its ability to change and adapt to the period's requirements. Our ability to change was the key to victory in two world wars and a cold war, and it will be the foundation for our future success."
--General Dennis J. Reimer


Explosive developments in information age technology have made the prospect of sharing lessons and ideas across a wide audience a reality today. With ready and easy access to E-mail and the Internet, soldiers can distribute documents, graphics, and photographs with lightning speed.

This appendix is based on an article published in the Center for Army Lessons Learned (CALL) News from the Front!

This section provides public affairs officers (PAOs) with a tool for capturing observations and an outlet for rapid analysis and dissemination of tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs) to the force. The initial focus is on defining and narrowing the scope of TTPs. It is important for officers and soldiers in the field to clearly understand the process before proceeding to methodologies of collection. The next section provides a structure for developing a narrative product for publication by CALL. Such a product will provide a coherent article of information, which can be quickly used by the force. The final section describes the observation-gathering process. Understanding the process for collecting data will prove invaluable to the operational planner and for producing effective training tools for the future.


Focusing the collection effort is central to capturing meaningful observations. Although CALL regularly sends combined arms assessment teams (CAATs) to major exercises and actual operations to gather observations, units from the field, including any public affairs section or detachment, can provide great insight by planning for the collection of information. In fact, only the Army as a whole can make CALL a continuing conduit of information for use by soldiers.

By using the structure and tools described below, units can provide useful TTP by establishing a collection effort as part of the originating operation order (OPORD), with almost no interference with normal operations. Indeed, the tools will enhance planning for future (and remedial) training by incorporating the capturing of TTP into the plan.

TTP are often limited to the specific operation or exercise. The function and use of TTPs are analogous to legal precedents. In law, if given circumstances of a case are generally similar to a prior case, it is assumed that a judgmental decision for the present case should be the same. However, circumstances in law often have aspects that are unique and must be considered before rendering a new decision. When applying TTP, study prior situations in context and use the lessons prudently.


PAOs at all levels can build upon the after-action review (AAR) process in the plan by producing a publishable document. In almost all exercises, units learn and consequently implement improvement measures. By employing the structure below, units can effectively share information throughout the force -- not only from Combat Training Center (CTC) rotations but also from home-station training and exercises away from the training centers.

Do not view the structure below as a rigid construct. Rather, it should serve as a point of departure for unit writers. Although quantitative material is useful for commanders and researchers, make this document narrative in format. Use graphics to support the narrative, if possible. Bring together data into a cohesive product that other units can readily use without resorting to sifting through large amounts of charts, lists, and disjointed bullets.

  • Type of unit. Describe the type of unit the PAO supported (mechanized infantry division, separate brigade).
  • Context of event. Summarize the general setting for the exercise or operation. (See Exercises and Actual Operations below. More operational context information is provided in this section.)
  • Commander's comments. If possible, the commander can provide a brief (one or more paragraphs) commentary on public affairs operations. Work closely with the unit's executive officer or chief of staff for such input.
  • Interaction with PSYOP, Civil Affairs, Signal. As information operations continues to grow and doctrine is further developed, interaction between various agencies will also continue to expand. While ensuring coordination with PSYOP and civil affairs operations, PAOs will continue to recognize the separation in functions of the organizations required by law. Discuss the coordination measures used.
  • Media Relations.
  • Summary of events. Provide a summary of events. Were press conferences and interviews scheduled and executed? What was the pace of daily operations? What was the routine daily schedule?
  • Command messages. In developing this section, answer the following questions in detail: What were the command messages? More importantly, did the command messages come through to print or broadcast? Were any command messages distorted or misinterpreted? How can clarity be improved for the next operation?
  • Summary of higher headquarters' public affairs guidance (PAG). Write a one or two paragraph summary of the initial and follow-up PAG received from higher headquarters. (Provide a complete copy as an appendix.) Provide answers to the following questions following the summary: How did PAG influence operations? Was the PAG clear and meaningful? Were excerpts used to create lower level command messages?
  • Media contacts. Describe the types and numbers of media contacts. Did the unit encounter numerous print-journalist requests? Electronic requests? Were there patterns in the requests? What could a future media preparation package contain to answer some questions in advance? How did the PAO prioritize media access? Were major outlets afforded more opportunities?
  • Summary of Media Releases. Summarize media releases in one or two paragraphs. What were the major themes? What media received the releases? Were releases used in stories? Were there any comments from members of the media about the releases?
  • Media Content Analysis. During and following an event, gather press clippings and, if possible, record electronic media stories about the event. What was the nature of the coverage? What was the tenor of editorial comments? Did command messages get exposure? Was the content of articles generally accurate? What could PAOs do in the future to improve the accuracy of content?
  • Command Information Products. The command information program in the field is fundamental in the minds of American soldiers. And, this phenomenon is nothing new to this culture.

"When the (Civil) war entered Pennsylvania, the Philadelphia Inquirer often sold up to 25,000 copies of a single issue to the men in the field. During a lull in the Battle of Cedar Creek in October 1864, observers later remarked that the first thing the men did along the line was to sit down, boil coffee, and pull out their newspapers."

  • Because of this intense internal interest in events surrounding the operation and events back home, it is imperative that PAOs adequately address methods and practices used to inform the soldiers. Answer the following questions in the narrative: Did soldiers in the field receive consistent and timely information about operations and world events? What was the distribution method? How was it evaluated for effectiveness? Were reproduction resources available and used adequately?
  • Changes Incorporated in the Tactical Standing Operating Procedures (SOPs). From the TTPs gathered, what changes will the unit make to the SOP? Briefly describe why the unit is making the change and what mechanisms to put in place to test the effectiveness of the change.


Operational information is important for the reader to understand the context in which the PAO operated. Provide the following information for the CALL document to contribute to the reader's full understanding of the event(s):

  • Mission - Summarize the unit's mission. (The focus here is not on the PAO's mission, but on the mission of combat headquarters.)
  • Commander's Intent - This information is available on the OPORD. By incorporating this information, the reader will have an appreciation of the context in which the PAO operated. Emphasize the components of the intent:
    • Purpose
    • Method
    • Endstate

  • New Equipment Used - Was new equipment available and used in the operation? Describe the equipment. Was it useful? What were the additional training requirements for using the equipment?
  • New Techniques Used - Did the PAO incorporate techniques which are not described in doctrinal manuals? Describe the techniques employed.
  • Structure - What was the structure of the PAO unit or shop? What manning -- required versus on-hand? (Note: Do not provide information that is classified under provisions of unit strength reporting (USR) regulations. Seek to provide a document that is free of classified material.)
  • Operational Developments - How did the headquarters change its plan during the operation? How did the change(s) affect PAO operations? The descriptions here will bridge the gap between the original plan and its actual implementation.
  • TTPs applied during the mission and for future operations - In bullet narrative, describe TTPs gathered in the operation. The bullets must contain sufficient detail for the reader to understand the situation and application possibilities for future operations. Support the bullets by providing individual observations (see TTP-Gathering Process below) as a combined appendix. The narrative in the base document must stand alone, with the appendix of individual observations providing additional detail.


Units can contact CALL when developing plans for collecting TTP. CALL analysts can provide observer guidance, assist in delineating responsibilities of observers, identify documents or reference for use in developing a collection plan, and describe collection methodology.

  • Observations. Individual observations assist in providing the basis for the narrative document described above. Use the form below to capture observations and develop a database for use in narrative development. Provide a copy of each observation to CALL as an appendix to the narrative. (Note: Any document published by CALL will not list units nor individuals by name. Refer to units by level ("the division" instead of "the 101st Airborne Division") and personnel by position ("a brigade chaplain" instead of "Chaplain Jones"). The purpose of CALL publications is to share ideas - not to point fingers.
  • Observation Forms. The observation form (Appendix A) can be used for individual observations. A Microsoft Word version is available. Contact CALL via E-mail at or DSN 552-9571 (commercial 913-684-571) to receive a copy of the document. The document contains key components which aid the researcher in preparing analyses:
  • Observer Name - The observer's name is used administratively only. No observer's name will appear in a CALL product.
  • Administrative Information - Like the observer's name, unit information is used administratively only. Unit names do not appear in CALL products.
  • Observation Indicators - Check all the appropriate blocks.
  • Interoperability Indicators - Check all the appropriate blocks.
  • Environmental Indicators - Check the appropriate block.
  • File Name - Employ a system that differentiates each observation. One method is for observers to use name initials combined with sequence number and date (John Smith's first observation of May 5th would read, jsmay0105). Other systems are acceptable if plainly explained.
  • Observation Title - Give the observation a brief, distinct title.
  • Observation - In one sentence, summarize the observation.
  • Discussion - Provide as much detail as necessary to provide a clear picture to the analyst or future reader. The length of the discussion will vary.
  • Lesson Learned - In the context of your observation, provide a TTP.
  • DTLOMS Implications - Describe how the observation impacts one or more areas in DTLOMS:
    • Doctrine
    • Training
    • Leadership Development
    • Organization
    • Materiel
    • Soldier Support

Include other media support, such as photos, sketches, or slide presentations in support of the narrative text.

Provide the narrative text, appendices and other material to CALL at the following locations:, or Department of the Army, Center for Army Lessons Learned, 10 Meade Avenue, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas 66027-1350.

In addition to maintaining and expanding a database of information, CALL publishes News From the Front!, and a host of other publications for easy use by the force. Importantly, much of what is available has originated from the field -- from soldiers just like you. News From the Front! is published six times per year and provides a forum for a wide variety of topics of interest to the field. Other publications, including newsletters, CTC Bulletins, special editions, Handbooks, and more, focus on specific topics. Much of the published holdings of CALL can be found on the CALL website,, post libraries, or by contacting CALL at the E-mail address listed above. Various search engines are available on the website to assist researchers.


Sharing information is possible with rapid and potentially colossal results. Leaders and soldiers who understand the TTP-gathering process can build plans for the future into every OPORD. By incorporating a plan to collect data and produce a clean narrative product for use by the force, soldiers throughout the Army gain maximum benefit from existing and future advancements in information technology. PAOs can focus on critical elements for successful media relations operations and command information programs in the field. Planners can easily adapt collection plans to exercises or actual operations -- anywhere in the world.

Learning is crucial for continued success on the battlefield. PAO planners must inculcate a practice of gaining a full understanding of the process and incorporating it into future exercises and actual operations.

Join the mailing list

One Billion Americans: The Case for Thinking Bigger - by Matthew Yglesias