CAPTURING AVIATION LESSONS LEARNEDby MAJ James E. Hutton and CPT John C. White, Military Analysts, CALL
Profiting from tactics, techniques, and procedures from unit experience is the focus of this article. Aviation units world-wide conduct a wide variety of training missions, participate in major exercises, and engage in current contingency operations. Because of the diversity of activity, soldiers in units continue to learn and improve operations for their units. By sharing knowledge gained, unit trainers can quickly assimilate and enhance the knowledge base for aviators everywhere. This article provides one tool to assist in collecting tactics, techniques, and procedures and preparing such information for use by the force.
Emerging developments in information age technology have made the prospect of sharing lessons and ideas across a wide audience a reality. With easy access to email and the internet, soldiers can distribute documents, graphics, and photographs rapidly and precisely.
The purpose of this article is to provide aviation units with a tool for capturing lessons learned and an outlet for rapid dissemination to the aviation force. While after-action reviews (AAR) benefit the unit executing the mission, many of the lessons learned can assist other units. With the introduction of the AH-64D Longbow and the upcoming introduction of the RAH-66 Comanche, the aviation community needs a rapid means of disseminating lessons learned on the new equipment. Also, employment of the new equipment feeds tactics, techniques and procedures (TTP) on its use. Successful TTPs must be propagated to the force and used to feed and improve doctrine.
The format for collecting lessons learned contained in this article applies to all types of aviation units currently in the force and gives the unit a format to present the lessons learned to other units.
The initial focus of this article is to define and limit the scope of a lesson learned. It is important for aviation soldiers in the field to clearly understand the concept before proceeding to methodologies of collection. The next section focuses on areas where aviation units can collect lessons learned. Once the issue is decided, the subsequent section describes the lessons learned process. Understanding the process for collecting data will assist the unit in collecting the lessons learned. Once data is collected, the ensuing section provides a structure for developing narrative products for publication by the Center for Army Lessons Learned (CALL). The lesson learned narrative or article is invaluable to the operational planner and provides effective training tools for the future.
of Lessons Learned
Defining lessons learned is central to capturing meaningful observation-based lessons. The CALL definition provides a clear basis for establishing a collection effort: "A lesson learned is validated knowledge and experience derived from observations and historical study of military training, exercises, and combat operations."1When observing events or exercises, look for behaviors or actions to sustain or improve. These are the lessons learned. Although CALL regularly sends combined arms assessment teams (CAAT) to major exercises and actual operations to gather lessons learned, aviation units from all corners of the world can provide great insight by planning for the collection of lessons learned.
By using the structure and tools described below, units can provide useful lessons by establishing a collection effort as part of the originating operation order (OPORD), with almost no interference on normal operations. Plan to collect lessons learned throughout the entire operation. Task key individuals, commanders, platoon leaders, flight leads or pilots in command to capture observations before, during and following the execution of the mission.
Designate an individual to collect the observations and capture the lessons learned during the planning, mission execution and AAR. With the observations, notes from the planning, mission execution, and AAR, the soldier can write the lessons learned narrative. Use this narrative to improve the unit's operations or, if applicable, use it to disseminate the lessons to the total force. These tools will enhance planning for future training by incorporating the concept of lessons learned into the plan and more effectively capturing the lessons learned.
to Collect Lessons Learned
Use the aviation-related topics listed below as a guide to create a collection plan (tailor the plan for specific units' needs):
on the Objective:
This list is not all-inclusive on areas in which to collect lessons learned. Use the list as a guideline to promote further issues.
Once an issue is identified, units can contact CALL when developing plans for collecting lessons learned. CALL analysts can provide observer guidance, assist in delineating responsibilities of observers, identify documents or references for use in developing a collection plan, and describe collection methodology.2
Key to the lessons learned process is obtaining observations on the mission or training event. Collect observations on areas that need improvement and on areas that the unit should sustain. These observations help feed the lesson learned narrative.
Individual observations assist in providing the basis for the narrative document described below. An observation is a record or description of an event or a portion of that event. Use the form below to capture observations and develop a database for use in narrative development.
The observation form (Annex A)3can be used for individual observations. The document contains key components that can aid in the preparation of the lessons learned narrative and also aid the researcher in preparing analyses:
* Leadership Development
* Soldier Support
Include other material, such as SOP chapters, checklists, and battle books, to support the narrative text.
Aviation soldiers at all levels can build upon the 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.
Use the guidelines below to structure your paper for publication. Do not view the structure as rigid; 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. 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. If observations are collected, use that material to assist in writing the narrative.
Provide the narrative text, annexes, and other material to CALL at the following internet location: firstname.lastname@example.org, or mail to:
CALL can then archive the lessons in its database or turn the information into an article or newsletter that is posted on the website and distributed to the Total Army.
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. News From the Front! is published six times a 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, etc., focus on specific topics. CALL also publishes a quarterly on-line magazine titled Training Techniques. Many of the publications and articles originate from the field -- from soldiers just like you. To view the CALL publications, visit the website at http://call.army.mil/. The publications are also available at post libraries, or you may contact CALL. Various search engines are available on the website to assist researchers.
Planners, leaders, and soldiers who comprehend the lessons learned process can build plans for the future in 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 the lessons learned by other units. With restrained budgets and fewer training opportunities, units cannot afford repeated mistakes. By using the lessons learned process within your own unit and providing the lessons learned to other units, we can ensure continued success on the battlefield.
Handbook No. 97-13, A
Guide to the Services and the Gateway of CALL,
1997, pg. 1.
2. Ibid., pg. 6.
3. Contact CALL via email at email@example.com or call DSN 552-9571 (cml 913-684-9554) to receive a MicroSoft WordT version of the document.
Chapter 2: Light Aviation at the JRTC
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