Appendix A

After-Action Review Techniques

Observers and controllers from combat training centers (CTCs) administer AARs every day. The experience of professional AAR leaders yields techniques that apply to all units, not just those that rotate through CTCs. The techniques in the following paragraphs can help leaders conduct effective AARs.


After-action review leaders should select sites where a free exchange of ideas and discussion of recent events can take place. An appropriate site would overlook areas of significant action, such as a hill overlooking an obstacle breach. The importance of selecting a site where participants can observe the actual locations where key events took place cannot be overstated.

Environmental factors can impact significantly on AAR efficiency. When possible, avoid seating soldiers in direct sunlight, excessive darkness, or exposing them to rain or snow. When weather is particularly bad, an alternate AAR site, such as a building, bunker, range tower, or possibly even a tent, would be appropriate.


Site improvement enhances an AAR's chance of being successful. If there is no way to avoid direct sunlight, the leader should erect some type of covering, such as a camouflage net or a tarp. Cover from direct sunlight allows soldiers to concentrate on the task at hand. Likewise, protecting soldiers from heavy rains or snow has a positive effect. The leader can counteract high winds by placing a vehicle on the up-wind side or by moving soldiers to an area with sufficient cover.

Some sites lend themselves to rapid improvement. Others require a large investment in time and energy to make them suitable. The AAR leader must carefully weigh the costs and benefits of the site. The prudent decision may be to move to an area which may not overlook the terrain but which does facilitate a good AAR.


The best training aids are those that enhance learning without distracting from the AAR's overall goal. Leaders must carefully select only those training aids which directly apply to key events. For example, it would be appropriate to have a detailed scale terrain model when conducting an AAR of a squad ambush. However, a detailed scale terrain model is probably not appropriate when conducting an AAR for marksmanship training. The key is, if it does not assist, then it detracts. Figure A-1 is a list of common AAR training aids.

Training Aid
Tape recorder Used to record radio traffic, OPORDs, and so on.
Video tape recorder; TV monitor Used to record key events for playback.
Dry-erase board Used as a portable chalk board.
Butcher paper Used for outlines, teaching points, agenda, or other details.
Map overlay Used to guide discussion of events; should be bigger than 1:50,000 if possible.
Terrain model Used to guide discussion of events in greater detail than with a map.
Model vehicles; toy soldiers Used to simulate soldiers and equipment on terrain models.

Figure A-1. Common Training Aids and Their Applications

Training aids need not be complicated or fancy to be effective. For example, instead of butcher paper or a dry-erase board, a poncho or the side of a tracked vehicle would do. If a terrain model is needed, use the same one that the unit used for the operation, if possible.


Organization of the site is essential to establishing the right atmosphere for a good AAR. Areas that the AAR leader must address include the location of the AAR discussion leader, seating for soldiers, and positioning of training aids.

The AAR discussion leader should be centrally located and stand directly facing the majority of the soldiers taking part. If the AAR is for a large group, the discussion leader should be elevated.

Seating should be in a horseshoe shape when possible. This allows the maximum number of soldiers to have "front row seats" with no one standing behind the discussion leader. The leader of the unit undergoing the AAR should be seated in the front and center of the horseshoe. Higher echelon leaders and commanders should be seated to the flanks and rear of the horseshoe. For example, for a platoon AAR, the platoon leader and platoon sergeant should be seated in the front and center of the horseshoe, with their soldiers spread out to the left and right. The company commander and battalion commander would be located behind the back row of soldiers. This allows soldiers taking part in the AAR to feel that their comments are valued as much as those of senior leaders. It is important that the atmosphere of the AAR be one of open discussion, not one stifled by rank consciousness.

Training aids must be centrally located so the maximum number of soldiers can benefit from their use. Terrain boards should be propped at an angle to allow greater visibility. Television monitors, if used, should be placed out of direct light. Butcher-paper charts and dry-erase boards work best when everyone can see them. However, they must not dominate the AAR. When using butcher-paper charts, the leader should be sure printing is in the block style and large enough for everyone to read.

These techniques, when properly applied, assist in the efficient execution of AARs. See Appendix G of FM 25-101 for more details.

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