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Lessons Learned Division (Overview)
Table of Contents
Lessons Learned Division:  Combat Training Center Branch

This section presents an overview of the division most field units interact with during field training exercises (FTXs), command post exercises (CPXs), and contingency operations. Personnel from the Actual Operations Branch are trained collectors of information and observations. The Actual Operations Branch is the action agency for CALL.


On order, CALL deploys worldwide to collect lessons learned and TTP from both contingency operations and training exercises. As necessary, CALL organizes, trains, deploys, and supports Combined Arms Assessment Teams (CAATs) to gather information for the total Army.


The Actual Operations Branch consists of trained officers and senior NCOs prepared to serve as observers or as CAAT operations personnel. CALL maintains a Contingency Collection Plan. This plan is the baseline document for all contingency collections. The Actual Operations Branch receives and plans collection operations, develops collection plans, coordinates collection operations, and writes draft initial impressions reports based on collected information. It can assist units and agencies in developing collection plans to support internal unit collection efforts or to gather specific information required by a unit commander.

Collection personnel deploy with sufficient automation equipment and supplies to allow them to electronically pass observations and data back to CALL using digital communications. This same technology can provide the host unit with an avenue to access previous lessons learned, CALL publications, and exportable training support packages on a variety of subjects and sources.


The collection process usually consists of four major phases.

Phase I: Mission Analysis and Planning

Once requests or taskings to gather information and observations are received, mission analysis and planning begins and the development of the collection plan is initiated. Collection Plans are focused, integrated documents that identify the requirements that CALL, with subject matter expert (SME) support, intends to complete during a collection event. A collection plan is an event-based document that focuses the CAAT on specific collection requirements (i.e., questions/tasks) developed for a specific issue(s). The plan is the heart of the collection effort and its development is the key activity in planning a collection mission. The collection plan focuses the collection effort, and the effort shapes the products that are produced at the end of the mission.

Collection Plan Functions:

  • Provides direct and specific guidance to the observer
  • Delineates collection responsibilities among the CAAT members
  • Identifies the documents/references to be used in conjunction with the questions/tasks developed for assessment
  • Determines the collection methodology for each question/task to be completed by the observer

The Collection Plan is the observer's contract to the CAAT Team Chief.

Collection Plan Composition (See Figure 1):

A collection plan is a hierarchical document comprised of the following categories:

  • Issue - "Issues span multiple events . . . a collection plan is event driven." A collection plan is initially comprised of "prior developed issues" that have been chosen for assessment based on the scope and scenario of the specific operation or exercise.

  • Subissue(s) - "A subissue is synonymous with a function from the Blueprint of the Battlefield (TRADOC Pamphlet 11-9)." Subissues provide the collection focus because they are function oriented.

  • Question(s) - "A question equates to an observation requirement." The question is the "point of execution" for the observer. It requires action in the form of observation entry.

Figure 1

The Combined Arms Assessment Team (CAAT):

CAATs are task-organized teams of SME observers normally from TRADOC Schools and Centers. A team chief, external to CALL, is designated and, after training by CALL personnel, becomes responsible for the collection plan and CAAT collection activities. The CAAT is normally supported by a DA Combat Camera Crew. These teams are organized, trained, and deployed by CALL and the team chief in support of specific collection missions.

If a CAAT is being deployed and sufficient time is available, CALL will host a Collection Workshop for CAAT personnel. The workshop is normally conducted at CALL Headquarters on Fort Leavenworth and lasts from three to five days.

This workshop is designed to refine the collection plan and train the tasked SMEs on the collection mission, the Lessons Learned process, and the CALL methodology. Ideally, the planning timeline for all collection efforts would include at least one workshop to ensure that deployed SMEs are fully trained and able to collect relevant information and observations. (See Figure 2.)

CAATs are formed to retrieve specific information relating to training exercises, operations, or conflicts. The selection and organization of a CAAT is mission dependent. Teams consist of:

Figure 2

The process described above is the preferred method for organizing, training, and deploying a deliberate CAAT. In cases involving rapidly executed contingency operations, CALL deploys organic collection personnel to link up with the deploying unit as quickly as possible. CALL is prepared to deploy OPSOs within 24 hours of notification. If needed, a follow-on CAAT would then be organized as quickly as possible and deployed. In this case, the contingency collection plan guides collection operations and abbreviated CAAT training is conducted enroute or in the contingency area.

Phase II: Deployment and Unit Linkup

This phase begins with the deployment of observer/collectors to the collection site or to the aerial or seaport of embarkation (A/SPOE) and linkup of those personnel with the host unit. The phase terminates when the unit and collection team are combined and deployed.

CAATs deploy to unit A/SPOEs or exercise sites based on timelines developed during Phase I. CALL Collection Division operations officers (OPSOs) arrange counterpart linkup between SMEs and unit personnel. This linkup may be at the staff section, unit, or individual level based on the mission. CALL personnel normally begin collection activities immediately on arrival. This is done to support the collection effort and to assimilate the CAAT into the host unit quickly as it completes its deployment process. CALL observer/collectors normally have the following minimal support needs:

  • Access to staff/command updates, planning sessions, and briefings
  • A work space with access to communication links that support E-Mail
  • Mess, transportation, and billeting support

For contingency operations, CALL personnel are attached to the host unit and become an integral part of the operation. CALL observers are not evaluators. Their mission is to support and assist the unit being observed as well as to collect observations for the total Army.

Phase III: Collection Operations

This phase begins once SMEs link up with counterparts and terminates when the CAAT redeploys or is replaced with a follow-on team. The collection plan, collection focus, end state, intent, along with unit missions, proponent school issues, and operational considerations drive the collection effort.

During this phase, SMEs work directly with unit personnel to collect information and observations. Collected observations are staffed with host units and organizations before being transferred to CALL for analysis. Two-way communications between CALL at Fort Leavenworth and the CAAT in theater allows for continual updates to the collection plan and permits the CAAT to acquire answers to requests for information generated both within and outside the area of responsibility. This two-way communication supports a continual analysis of collected information and observations while providing for immediate feedback to the host unit.

During this phase, the team begins the process of developing the operation or exercise "end state" product(s).

Figure 3

In some contingency operations, the CALL OPSO or CAAT Team Chief is assigned the additional duty of TRADOC liaison officer. CALL personnel then provide a single focus for TRADOC support to contingency theaters.


The following steps outline the analytical process in terms of the CAAT and analyst operational relationship.

  • A CAAT is formed for a focused collection effort and a CALL Analyst is assigned to support the CAAT. The analyst is an integral part of the collection plan development and CAAT planning activities.

  • The CAAT deploys, and a communication link is established between, the CAAT, CALL, and the analyst.

  • While in theater, the CAAT Team Chief and CALL OPSO collect observations from the team members on a recurring basis. The team chief and CALL OPSO conduct an initial review of the subjective observations. The initial review includes:

    • Screening for content

    • Editing grammar of initial observations

    • Ensuring that the observations address collection plan requirements

    • Ensuring that the discussion supports the observation statement and that doctrine, training, leader development, organization, materiel, and soldier support (DTLOMS) implications are included with the collected data.

    • Identifying problems that are potential warstoppers.

  • Observations are forwarded electronically by the CALL OPSO to the CALL Analyst and entered into a working database. Observations are categorized under TRADOC Pamphlet 11-9, Blueprint of the Battlefield, and the Battlefield Operating Systems (BOSs). The analyst works observations on a daily basis, providing questions back to the team as necessary to resolve conflicts and refine the collection effort. Any supporting documents that accompany the observations are copied and filed for eventual placement into the CALLDB either electronically or by scanning. The CALLDB contains recent contingency operation documents. It is discussed in the Research Division section.

  • Upon completion of the initial screening by the analyst, the observations can be released to specific units or commands rotating into the theater to immediately support their training initiatives. The release authority is granted by the CALL Director working in conjunction with deployed and follow-on units and commands and the chain of command. Anonymity and content objectivity (free of subjective judgmental errors in knowledge and expertise) are extremely important during this stage of the process.

  • Observations are compared to past information in the CALL database or other documents to establish frequency.

  • The CAAT provides a compilation of observations and briefs the supported Commander prior to departing theater. Once the CAAT returns, all observations are categorized and compiled into an initial impressions product. This product is produced through the efforts of the CAAT and CALL analysts to define and bring to closure all observations to be presented to the field.

  • Those observations that are determined to be relevant and supported objectively are identified and grouped under a particular BOS and are provided as input to the initial impressions product.

  • Prior to the CAAT departing CALL, a draft of the initial impressions product is completed. The draft is staffed to all interested commands and agencies for comment.

  • Appropriate comments from the staffing process are incorporated into a final product. The final product is then disseminated to numerous Army Commands as a training tool for future contingencies. Simultaneously, the product is placed in the CALLDB.

  • At this point, the Director, CALL, in coordination with the Lessons Learned Division, determines whether other CALL products should be developed to further disseminate the information.

The automation assets in CALL have a word search capability that can search several web sites. CALL is striving to have in place the capability to search, analyze, and summarize from multiple unclassified and nonsensitive data bases. In addition, CALL is working to have the capability to search, analyze and summarize multiple classified and sensitive data bases. CALL also also plans to have the capability to produce the summarized information on CD ROMs for units that are deploying or participating in major training events, plus a satellite uplink/downlink capability to enter the Gateway in case normal communications means are not available to deployed units.

Phase IV: Redeployment Report Development

This phase begins as soon as the team arrives in theater. The constant exchange and analysis of observations between CALL and the CAAT allow for a draft product before redeployment. Phase IV is completed when the team redeploys and terminates when a coordinating draft initial impressions report or similar product is completed. During this phase, all collected information, data, observations, and SME notes are reviewed and analyzed. A product representing the results of the collection effort is developed, staffed, and published, and all documents are prepared for archiving (electronic). Normally units can expect to receive an initial CALL product for staffing within two to three weeks.

Once CALL observers redeploy and products are developed, the Lessons Learned Division assumes the lead. The Lessons Learned Division along with the assigned collection OPSO(s) finalize the collection product. CALL collection products include, but are not limited to: initial impressions and reports, newsletters, articles, training vignettes, handbooks, and CALL's exportable training packages.

Lessons Learned Division (Overview)
Table of Contents
Lessons Learned Division:  Combat Training Center Branch

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