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How To

Setup and operating instructions for Wndsn distance tools and related items.

Field Notes, AAR, SITREP

Field Notes

Notes created by the researcher during the act of qualitative fieldwork to remember and record the behaviors, activities, events, and other features of an observation. Field notes are intended to be read by the researcher as evidence to produce meaning and an understanding of the culture, social situation, or phenomenon being studied. The notes may constitute the whole data collected for a research study [e.g., an observational project] or contribute to it, such as when field notes supplement conventional interview data.

Organizing Your Social Sciences Research Paper: Writing Field Notes

  • Use a hardbound notebook
  • Make sure to make a key for any abbreviations you use
  • Create an index
  • Add information on your location
  • Write your contact information in a prominent location
  • Write pertinent field information with every new entry

The Art (and Science) of Good Field Notes

  • Include date, time, conditions, and location with all observations.
  • Do not rely on your memory, write down all relevant details.
  • Notes should be descriptive and as detailed as possible.
  • Do not erase any notes made with pencil. Draw a line through any observations that may be incorrect.
  • Reference any samples collected with the exact time and place they were obtained.
  • Assign a specific identifier and tag the sample as soon as possible.
  • Archive or transcribe your notes as soon as your notebook is filled.

After Action Reviews

An after-action review (AAR) is a professional discussion of an event, focused on performance standards, that enables soldiers to discover for themselves what happened, why it happened, and how to correct deficiencies, sustain strengths and improve on weaknesses, and focus on performance of specific mission essential tasks list training objectives. It is a tool leaders and units can use to get maximum benefit from every mission or task.

AAR Key Points

After-action reviews --

  • Are conducted during or immediately after each event.
  • Focus on intended training objectives.
  • Focus on soldier, leader, and unit performance.
  • Involve all participants in the discussion.
  • Use open-ended questions.
  • Are related to specific standards.
  • Determine strengths and weaknesses.
  • Link performance to subsequent training.

AAR Format

  1. Introduction and rules.
  2. Review of training objectives.
  3. Commander's mission and intent (what was supposed to happen).
  4. Opposing force commander's mission and intent (when appropriate).
  5. Relevant doctrine and tactics, techniques, and procedures.
  6. Summary of recent events (what happened).
  7. Discussion of key issues (why it happened and how to improve).
  8. Discussion of optional issues.
  9. Discussion of force protection issues (discussed throughout).
  10. Closing comments (summary).[1]


Situation Report. A report on the current military situation in a particular area.

The Basics

  • SITREPs should be fewer than 100 words, preferably fewer than 75. Ideally one or two brief, readable but informative sentences.
  • Focus on one event or situation. Don't discuss the issue in depth or provide much background -- just provide a five-second summary of it.
  • The most important thing is to get the facts right. Double and triple check names, dates, numbers, titles, measurements, etc.
  • Don't plagiarize, but don't be awkward. Usually you will be summarizing or rewording information from a media or HUMINT source. Use your own words, but write in a journalistic style.
  • Start with the most interesting/relevant info -- convey the core facts in the first part of the first sentence.
  • Read over your SITREP before you submit it. Does it make sense?
  • Always use spell check, grammar check and word count.

What to Include

  • Just the facts. A SITREP is NOT an analysis or a forecast. Include only most important/relevant info.
  • Avoid quotes! If you must quote, only "two or three words," not a whole sentence. Summarize or paraphrase what the person said.
  • Answer the basic news questions: What happened? When? Where? Who was involved/Who said it? So What?
  • When: Give the date -- and focus on what happened TODAY. Avoid future tense: Not "will" but "is scheduled to" -- say what can be confirmed. Use absolute times, not relative ones: "April," not "last month."
  • Where: Always include the country. For events, give the place -- if you have it (not necessary for statements).
  • Who: Give title and full name on first reference. Don't name spokespeople or minor bureaucrats.
  • Also, there's no need to cite AFP/AP/CNN unless they have an exclusive story. Do cite foreign papers, TV, etc. Learn to love "said" -- avoid "announced," "claimed," etc.
  • So What: Make sure the info is actually important. YOU at least should understand why it's a SITREP. However, don't include analysis in the SITREP itself.[2]


Report all information about the enemy to your leader quickly, accurately, and completely. Such reports should answer the questions WHO? WHAT? WHERE? after WHEN? It is best to use the "SALUTE" format (size, activity, location, unit, time, and equipment) when reporting. To help you remember details, make notes and draw sketches.[3]

Commander's Situation Report (SITREP)

To keep the commander's higher and lower staff updated and advised on the reporting commander's critical situation. 21 lines that portray the situation in great detail.[4]

  1. Date and Time (DTG) - The Date Time Group for the time of the reporting
  2. Unit - The unit making the SITREP
  3. Reference - Reference to other reports made
  4. Originator - The Unit Identification Code of the Unit Originating the Report
  5. Reported Unit - Unit Identification Code of the Reported Unit
  6. Home Location - UTM or Six-Digit Grid Coordinate With MGRS Grid Zone Designator for the Home Location of the Reported Unit
  7. Present Location - UTM or Six-Digit Grid Coordinate With MGRS Grid Zone Designator for the Present Location of the Reported Unit
  8. Activity - Brief Description of Reported Unit's Current Activity
  9. Effective - Commander's Evaluation of the Reported Unit's Combat Effectiveness
  10. Own Situation Disposition/Status - A Summary Updating Changes to or Not Previously Reported Major Combatant and Support Force Locations; Significant Mission Readiness Degradation on Units; Current Deployments; Proposed Deployments; Changes in Task Force Designations; Organization or Operational Control; and Projected Requirements for Additional Forces
  11. Location - UTM or Six-Digit Grid Coordinate With MGRS Grid Zone Designator
  12. Situation Overview - A Brief Overall Assessment of the Situation to Include Circumstances or Conditions Which Increase or Materially Detract From the Capability and Readiness of Forces Assigned or Under Operational Control of the Command or Service
  13. Operations - A Brief Description and Results of Offensive and Defensive Operations Carried Out by Major Combatant Elements During the Period of the Report; Information on Allied Forces' Operations; Summary of Plans for Combat Operations During Next 24 Hours Including Objectives and Probable Enemy Reaction; Deviations or Variations From Previously Reported Intentions/Plans
  14. Intelligence/Reconnaissance - Brief Overview of the Situation, Including Operations, Order of Battle, Capabilities, and Threat Changes; Reference. Any Significant Spot Intelligence Reports (SPIREPs) or Intelligence Reports (INTREPs) Submitted in Previous 24 Hours
  15. Logistics - Significant Deficiencies Affecting Support for Planned Operations; Problem Areas Beyond the Commander's or Services' Capability to Overcome or Alleviate in a Timely Manner
  16. Communications/Connectivity - Significant Outages, Traffic Volume, Incompatibilities, and Quantitative Equipment Deficiencies; an Assessment of the Mission Impact Caused by Communications Outages and Degradations Should be Provided
  17. Personnel - Factors Affecting Readiness of Forces/Units
  18. Significant political/military/diplomatic events - Events which could result in local and international public reaction; Results/Decisions of key allied or other foreign government meetings; civil unrest indications of civil defense measures contemplated or implemented; Large-Scale military exercises; Events emphasizing interests of key segments of the society
  19. Cdr's Eval - Summary of key points from paragraphs 12 through 19
  20. Narrative - Free text for information required for clarification of report
  21. Authentication - Report authentication


An indication of date and time, consisting of a group of six digits with a time zone suffix and the standardized abbreviation for the month. Note: The first pair of digits represents the day, the second pair the hour, the third pair the minutes, and the year is added after the month if necessary. Example: 230220Z Jan 2000 (to mean 23 Jan 2000 at 02.20 hours, zulu time).

Date Time Group is traditionally formatted as DDHHMM(Z)MONYY

See also:


  1. TC 25-20: A Leader's Guide To After-Action Reviews 
  2. How to write a SITREP 
  3. FM 21-75, CHAPTER 6 Combat Intelligence And Counterintelligence 
  4. FM 100-15, FM 71-3, and FM 71-2.