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by 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.

Definition 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.

Areas 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):

Pre-Mission Planning:
  • Use of the Aviation Mission Planning System (AMPS)
  • Planning Cells
  • Rehearsals
  • Route Planning
  • Mission Planning Products
Actions on the Objective:
  • Integration of Fire Support
  • Joint Air Attack Team (JAAT)
  • Fire Control Measures
  • Preparation of the Landing Zone (LZ)
  • Battle Position Occupation
  • Fire Distribution
  • BDA Reporting
Mission Execution:
  • Deep Attacks
  • Deliberate and Hasty Attacks
  • Phased, Mass Destruction, Continuous Attack
  • Air Assault
  • Reconnaissance and Security
  • Air Assault Security
  • Quick Reaction Force (QRF) Mission
  • Gunnery
  • En route Formations
FARP Operations:
  • FARP Occupation
  • Rehearsals
  • FARP Set up and Break down
  • FARP Security
  • Jump FARP Operations

This list is not all-inclusive on areas in which to collect lessons learned. Use the list as a guideline to promote further issues.

Lessons Learned Process

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:

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 their initials combined with sequence number and date (i.e., 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. Example: Pre-Mission Planning.

Observation - In one or two sentences, summarize the observation. Tie the observation directly into the observation title. Example: During pre-mission planning the company commander divided his company into five planning cells. The use of the five cells enabled the company to rapidly plan for the mission.

Discussion - Provide as much detail and background information as necessary to provide a clear picture to the analyst or future reader. Focus the discussion sharply on the observation and do not drift to other topics. If other topics need to be addressed, do so in another observation. The length of the discussion will vary.

Lesson Learned - As previously described in the definition section, provide lesson(s) based on the observation.

DTLOMS Implications - Describe how the observation impacts one or more areas in DTLOMS:

* Doctrine
* Training
* Leadership Development
* Organization
* Materiel
* Soldier Support

Include other material, such as SOP chapters, checklists, and battle books, to support the narrative text.

Lessons Learned Narrative

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.

Type of Unit - Describe the type of aviation unit.

Task Organization - What was the task organization of the aviation unit? Was it adequate for the mission? (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.)

Mission - Summarize the unit's mission or training event.

Commander's Intent - This information is available on the OPORD. Emphasize the components of the intent:

* Purpose
* Method
* Endstate

Concept of the Operation - What was the plan for the mission? Summarize the information from the OPORD or mission brief.

Execution of the Mission - How was the mission executed? How did the unit change its plan during the operation? How did the change(s) affect operations? The descriptions here will bridge the gap between the original plan and its actual implementation.

Tactics, Techniques and Procedures (TTP) - What TTPs, which are not described in doctrinal manuals, did the unit use? Describe the techniques employed. If your unit has a successful TTP that aids in mission accomplishment, add it here. Describe the TTP in detail so other units can adapt it if needed.

New Equipment Used - Was new equipment available and used in the operation? Described the equipment. Was it useful? What were the additional training requirements for using the equipment?

Lessons Learned - In bullet narrative, describe lessons learned 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 the observations collected as an annex. The narrative in the base document must stand alone, with the annex of individual observations providing additional detail.

Provide the narrative text, annexes, and other material to CALL at the following internet location:, or mail to:

Department of the Army
Center for Army Lessons Learned, CAC-CAT
10 Meade Avenue
Fort Leavenworth, Kansas 66027-1350.

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.

CALL Products

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 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.


1. CALL Handbook No. 97-13, A Guide to the Services and the Gateway of CALL, June 1997, pg. 1.
2. Ibid., pg. 6.
3. Contact CALL via email at or call DSN 552-9571 (cml 913-684-9554) to receive a MicroSoft WordT version of the document.

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