After Action means constructive criticism

The after action report is a leader’s tool. In the military, it is a responsibility of leaders at all levels to describe what they learned in action so that the organization can become more effective at what it does.

Constructive criticism should be encouraged. Every Marine debriefs each other, telling good and bad observations. The squad leader will also be critiqued by his Marines in an appropriate fashion. The criticism is not meant to undermine the squad leaders’ authority. It is to allow the squad leader to instruct the Marines on why he chose to run the squad the way he did. Young Marines will gain knowledge about squad tactics that they may never have figured out if the squad leader did not tell them. It will prepare them for leadership billets. It will also give them confidence in their squad leader because they will trust him and his knowledge. [Blackfive 8mr07]

There are, of course, problems to overcome. The focus of an after action report must be on behaviors and events and things that can be changed and improved – not on individuals and their personalities, attitudes, or attributes. Criticism must be objective and contructive rather than just judgmental and destructive. An after action report is not the place for 20/20 hindsight like we see in so much of the MSM reporting and political harangues.

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