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By Mr M. Schiller



Creating and sustaining an effective lessons learned program within a military or security organization, especially one that has no prior experience with lessons learned, has the potential to be a challenging endeavor. However, challenges can be easily overcome when the organization’s leadership is fully behind supporting its establishment and sustainment, and when the organization itself sees the benefits of incorporating lessons learned into its culture. The purpose of this paper is to show how the Kosovo Security Force (KSF) leadership, with outside assistance from the U.S. Army Center for Army Lessons Learned (CALL), instituted an effective lessons learned program over a 5-year period that has played a contributing role in improving both the training and operational readiness of the Kosovo Security Force. For other military or security organizations contemplating establishing or improving an existing lesson learned program, the KSF’s experience discussed in this paper offers some tangible insights on how to help a program succeed and endure.


Today, the Kosovo Security Force has a model lessons learned program that continuously contributes to improving its training and operational performance. The KSF’s successful lessons learned program did not happen overnight, but developed over a period of almost 5 years with continual senior leadership support, outside assistance from the United States Army’s Center for Army Lessons Learned (CALL), and its own internal, progressive improvements to its program. The following tells the story of how the KSF established and sustained its lessons learned program. The KSF’s experience in instituting its lessons learned program can serve as a model for other armies or land forces to follow.

KSF Leadership

The KSF leadership was the driving force behind the KSF’s successful lessons learned program. In 2012, the KSF Commander issued a command directive to create and formalize a lessons learned program within the KSF. The command directive provided guidance to KSF commanders at all levels regarding the establishment and organization of a KSF lessons learned program, and most importantly, set the tone for the establishment of a lessons learned culture within the KSF. The directive tells KSF commanders at all echelons that a lessons learned system offers them and their units “the possibility to learn from their and others’ success and mistakes” and when effective, “encourages positive activity and prevents recurrence of errors.”

Shortly following the issuance of the Command Directive, the KSF Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) published the KSF Lessons Learned Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) aimed at describing “in detail the organization and function of the lessons learned Process in the KSF.” The SOP importantly describes the KSF lessons learned program as a four-step process leading to lesson learned implementation and issue resolution.

The four-step process, “collecting observations, analysis, approval/action, and validation and implementation” is depicted below (see Figure 1). A key event in the process is the activation of a Lessons Learned Working Group (LLWG) whose role is to conduct analysis of observations to determine KSF doctrine, organization, training, materiel, leadership and education, personnel, facilities, policy, and interoperability (DOTMLPF-PI) gaps and issues. Note that the KSF uses the NATO DOTLMLPF-PI construct that is similar to the U.S. Army’s, but adds an “I” for interoperability.

Figure 1. Lessons Learned Resolution Process

KSF and the Center for Army Lessons Learned (CALL)

The KSF’s desire to enhance its lessons learned program began in September 2014 when the KSF Commander requested a team from CALL to provide the KSF with advice and assistance in order to further improve the capabilities of the KSF Lessons Learned Program.  The KSF Commander specifically sought CALL’s assistance to improve the KSF’s lessons learned process so it effectively takes the next step to identify and resolve KSF DOTMLPF-PI issues in order to improve KSF training and operational performance. The KSF’s lessons learned process was functioning to collect observations and lessons; however, conducting the analysis to facilitate DOTMLPF-PI effected change still presented a challenge for its lesson learned process.

Working with the KSF TRADOC through the U.S. Embassy’s Office of Defense Cooperation (ODC), CALL and KSF TRADOC jointly developed a path of lessons learned cooperation. This path consisted of three phases over a 2-year period, to help the KSF in enhancing the utility of its lessons learned program aimed primarily at identifying and closing KSF DOTMLPF-PI capability gaps, per the KSF Commander’s guidance. The KSF TRADOC leadership and CALL agreed to capitalize on the existing KSF lessons learned process, shown at Figure 1, as it was in place and functioning, but needed to be elevated to the next level to identify and solve KSF DOTMLPF-PI issues.

KSF’s and CALL’s Three Phases of Lessons Learned Cooperation

The three phases unfolded on an annual basis from October 2014 through November 2016. The first phase conducted in October 2014 and entitled “Lessons Learned Academics,” was a seminar facilitated by two CALL analysts with participating KSF leaders and lessons learned personnel. The next two phases, considered the most important, were lessons learned practicums occurring during the 2015 Eagle IV and 2016 Eagle V exercises where KSF lessons learned personnel, assisted by CALL analysts, applied the collection and analysis phases of lessons learned in a field exercise environment. The three phases are depicted below followed by a discussion of each phase (see Figure 2).

KSF and CALL Three Phase Lessons Learned Enhancement Program

2014 – Phase 1                       2015 – Phase 2                       2016 – Phase 3

Lessons Learned Academics        Collection, Planning, and    Analysis, Issue Resolution,

Execution Practicum               and Integration Practicum


Figure 2. KSF and CALL Three Phase Lessons Learned Enhancement Program

Phase 1: Lessons Learned Academics

Phase 1, lessons learned academics, was a 3-day seminar, facilitated by two CALL analysts and tailored to the KSF, designed to review and reinforce the processes, functions, and resources involved in establishing a useful and enduring lessons learned program (see Figure 3).

Lessons Learned Academics

    Day 1                                           Day 2                                       Day 3

CALL Overview                        After Action Reviews          LL’d Issue Resolution

Why Lessons Learned               Collection Planning             LL’d Integration and

LL’d Terms of Reference          Conducting Analysis                Implementation

LL’d Process Models                                                              Product Development and


Sustaining a LL’d Program

Figure 3. Lessons Learned Academics

Day 1: The seminar’s first day began with a CALL overview brief designed to show seminar students the mission, organization, and processes of an established and functioning lessons learned program and how it facilitates the U.S. Army’s lessons learned program.  A key point of the presentation was that lessons learned is a formal, Army-sanctioned program governed by an Army Regulation (AR 11-33), “The Army Lessons Learned Program,” and serves the purpose of integrating and implementing lessons and best practices within Army doctrine, organization, training, materiel, leadership and education, personnel, facilities, and policy (DOTMLPF–P). This key point served as a transition into the second presentation that highlighted why lessons learned is an important function within an Army. CALL analysts provided KSF participants several historical and contemporary examples from recent conflicts of how lessons, when Army units applied them, saved countless lives, resources, and time. The third presentation reinforced lessons learned terminology by reviewing the basic lessons learned terms of reference and their respective definitions such as observe, collect, analyze, disseminate, and archive. CALL analysts discussed the DOTMLPF-P framework and warfighting functions and how these both play an important role in categorizing lessons learned for analysis and subsequent resolution. Day 1 concluded with a discussion of two lessons learned process models, deliberate and rapid, and the circumstances under which both are used. The presentation concluded with a brief look at the NATO Lessons Learned Program and how it contrasts with that of the U.S. Army.

Day 2: Day 2 began with a CALL analyst facilitated presentation and discussion pertaining to after action reviews (AAR). A critical part of the discussion was explaining why AARs are conducted and the contribution AARs make towards promoting an information sharing culture and learning in a non-retribution environment within an Army organization. Highlighted was why AARs are an excellent source of observations, especially when conducted immediately after a training event or an actual operation. Observations made during an AAR serve as baseline from which lessons learned analysts can conduct DOTMLPF-PI analysis to identify issues or gaps in an Army organization. Finally, CALL analysts discussed both formal and informal AARs, when they are used, and the preparation involved to effectively execute them.

Collection planning was the next topic discussed and students were introduced to the two types of collection used by observers, direct and indirect, and how they are both used to collect information through active and passive means. A key part of the collection planning discussion focused on the observer whose role is to engage with a unit during training or operations in order to collect observations. Observers must receive preparatory training beforehand in order to learn how to positively engage with both the unit and its leadership to effectively observe.  The presentation’s final discussion involved forming and training a collection team and the steps involved in developing an observer collection plan for a training exercise or an operation.

The last presentation concerned analysis. CALL analysts presented methods for conducting both qualitative and quantitative analysis, showing how an observation can be categorized under one or more warfighting functions and how DOTMLPF-PI elements apply to the observation to determine unit performance trends and gaps. CALL analysts then showed students examples of CALL collection reports that were the end product of an organized collection. These reports depicted key observations and the associated DOTMLPF-P recommendations.

Day 3: Lessons learned issue resolution was the key topic on the third day and it was highlighted as the most important aspect of making lessons learned work in an Army. Once observations are collected and analyzed, and lessons determined, leaders should have a practical means of resolving and implementing those lessons to improve an Army organization’s DOTMLPF-P performance. CALL analysts introduced students to a DOTMLPF-P issue resolution process to show how leadership and issue stakeholders methodically solve issues at the tactical and operational levels. Analysts subsequently showed students examples of how the U.S. Army uses its DOTMLPF-I issue resolution process, facilitated by CALL’s Army Lessons Learned Forum, to solve Army-related issues.

Archiving and dissemination of lessons learned information and products was the second topic of discussion on Day 3. A lessons learned organization continually collects and archives a wealth of lessons learned information. Analysts discussed various methods and means for archiving and disseminating lessons learned information that typically includes the use of databases, lessons learned networks, publications, seminars, and professional military education.

The final and capstone class of the 3-day seminar was an analyst-led discussion on sustaining and enduring a lessons learned program. Analysts tailored the discussion to the KSF, using its current lessons learned program as a starting point for discussion. The discussion was centered on the four key elements of an organization’s lessons learned capability—organizational structure, resources, process, and tools—and how these can be improved upon to sustain the effectiveness of the KSF’s current lessons learned program.

Phases 2 and 3: Eagle Exercises 4 and 5

The KSF annually conducts a major field exercise, entitled Eagle Exercise #, to train its land forces on potential missions facing the KSF such as a natural disaster or refugee control, as was the case respectively with 2015’s Eagle 4 Exercise and 2016’s Eagle 5 Exercise. The Eagle exercises provide the KSF an opportunity to both plan and execute a major training exercise. During the planning phase the KSF employs the military decision making process (MDMP) from brigade through battalion level and troop leading procedures (TLP) at company level and below. During the exercise’s execution phase, a Master Scenario Events List (MSEL) drives incidents/situations on the ground designed to achieve exercise training objectives. The KSF employs observer-controller (OC) teams to collect on both phases giving KSF leaders and unit’s feedback on KSF unit capabilities across all of its warfighting functions from a DOTMLPF-PI perspective in a challenging, field operating environment.

Eagle Exercise 4: Collection Practicum

The KSF TRADOC Lessons Learned Team, assisted by two CALL analysts, planned and executed the collection practicum during the 2015 KSF Eagle 4 Exercise. Objectives of the collection practicum were: to develop a collection plan and subsequently execute it during Eagle 4. The Eagle 4 Exercise was a 2-week disaster relief exercise driven by a fictitious earthquake scenario. During the exercise’s first week KSF brigades and battalions conducted MDMP planning followed by a second week of execution in a field environment.

A U.S. Army Security Assistance Training Management Organization (SATMO) advisory team assisted the KSF in establishing and training an OC team to collect observations from both the MDMP and field phase of the exercise. The KSF OC Team mainly focused its collection on the warfighting functions of mission command, movement and maneuver, and sustainment, providing KSF leadership feedback on the performance of its units during the exercise.

KSF TRADOC fielded its lessons learned team to work jointly with the KSF OC Team to collect observations using a pre-planned collection plan. The KSF Lessons Learned Team consisted of a team chief and nine KSF officers. Two CALL analysts worked closely with the lessons learned team prior to the exercise, assisting team members in designing a collection plan that collected observations organized by warfighting functions and designed to collect on KSF DOTMPLF-PI related issues.

Key inputs that went into building the lessoned learned collection plan originated from previous Eagle Exercise AARs, Exercise Director’s training objectives, KSF Land Force Commander’s exercise guidance and the United States Army Universal Task List (AUTL). The AUTL served as an excellent reference for the KSF Lessons Learned Team by providing it a comprehensive listing of Army tasks and missions performed by tactical units in a civil disaster operation during both planning and execution.

Prior to the start of the exercise, the lessons learned team provided the OC team its exercise collection plan. Because of the collection plan’s inputs noted above, the collection plan helped focus the OC team’s collection efforts on DOTMLPF-PI areas of interest. During the entire exercise, the KSF lessons learned and OC teams collaborated closely, holding daily meetings, to ensure they were both synchronized with each other’s exercise collection activities and objectives. Shaking hands as a testament to their teamwork, are the Chief of KSF Doctrine, the Lessons Learned Chief, and the OC Team Chief (see Figure 4).

At the exercise’s conclusion, the OC team, as planned, had collected numerous observations and facilitated AARs during both the MDMP and execution phases of the Eagle 4 Exercise. The OC team subsequently passed its observations and AARs to the lessons learned team so it could begin its analysis process. The collection practicum’s objectives, as stated previously, were completely achieved by both the KSF lessons learned and OC teams.  The fact that these objectives were met was a major accomplishment for the KSF, or for that matter, any Army’s lessons learned program. Collection, when done correctly as it was here, is a critical step in the lessons learned process as it provides the needed observations for DOTMLPF-PI analysis and resolution.

Eagle Exercise 5: Analysis Practicum

As originally planned in 2014 between CALL and KSF TRADOC, Exercise Eagle 5 would serve as the event in which the KSF Lessons Learned Team, assisted by CALL, would focus on the analysis phase of the lessons learned process.

The Eagle 5 exercise focused on a refugee control crisis scenario designed to train the KSF in refugee-related situations. Similar to Eagle 4, it was conducted in two phases: MDMP planning and execution. Exercise-injected events during the execution phase occurred primarily on Kosovo’s borders, presenting the KSF leadership and units with some unique and real-world refugee control challenges.  Distances alone taxed the KSF warfighting functions, especially mission command, movement and maneuver, and sustainment to resolve the various refugee-related problem sets presented over a 4-day period. Some of the refugee events injected during exercise execution were refugee control at border crossings, refugees illegally crossing borders, refugee rioting in refugee camps, refugee safety and welfare, and criminal groups involved in refugee and weapons trafficking (see Figure 5). The red stars on the map at Figure 5 represent the locations where refugee-injected events occurred. Kosovo’s civil organizations played a major role in the exercise, giving the KSF the opportunity to work jointly with its civil partners.  The OCs and lessons learned personnel were present at each of these exercise-driven events, collecting observations for post exercise analysis.

The KSF resourced its own OC team, employing 35 subject matter experts (SMEs) pulled in from across the KSF, much like it did for Eagle 4. Observer-controller coverage was comprehensive from brigade to company level. The team’s primary tasks were to collect observations and facilitate AARs from brigade through company level during the planning and execution phases of the Eagle 5 exercise. The lessons learned team, composed of nine members, developed a collection plan using essentially the same inputs as it did for Eagle 4. However, Eagle 5’s collection plan was much more focused on DOTMLPF-PI issues that were identified and carried over from Eagle 4.

Analysis Practicum: Lessons Learned Work Group (LLWG)

Approximately two weeks after Eagle 5’s conclusion, at the direction of the KSF Land Force Commander and Deputy Commander, Land Force Command formed a LLWG. The LLWG was led by the KSF TRADOC’s Chief of Doctrine and participants in the working group were KSF lessons learned and doctrine personnel, KSF’s warfighting function SMEs, the Eagle 5 OC Team Chief to include members of his team, and two CALL analysts (see Figure 6). The work group’s primary goal, after four days of analysis and deliberation, was to generate a DOTMLPF-PI report for the KSF Commander and KSF Land Force Commander identifying the DOTMLPF-PI issues, with supporting observations, for resolution within the KSF. A key component of the report, exhibited in the executive summary, was a list of the key DOTMLPF-PI issues (see Figure 7). Upon KSF leadership approval of the issues list, it would task a responsible organization to develop an action plan aimed at resolving each issue.

Figure 7.  Key DOTMLPF Issues

The LLWG analyzed over 200 observations collected by the OCs and from written brigade, battalion, and company AARs.  The format used for each collected observation was issue, discussion, and recommendation. The LLWG analyzed each observation determining first whether it was still valid, and if it was, further categorizing it under one of the KSF warfighting functions. Warfighting functions used by the KSF are mission command, movement and maneuver, protection, intelligence, and sustainment. The analysis work group then determined what DOTMLPF-PI criteria were applicable to the observation.

The LLWG then prioritized the observations into two lists. The first list of observations, considered the most important, were DOTMLPF-PI key issues applicable across the entire KSF requiring the attention of senior leaders and an action plan for resolution. These issues made their way into the report on the DOTMLPF-PI key issues list depicted above. The second list were DOTMLPF-PI issues that could be resolved at lower echelons, mainly at the brigade and battalion level.

The KSF TRADOC Commander and KSF Chief of Doctrine subsequently briefed and received concurrence from the KSF Commander and KSF Land Force Commander on the findings within the DOTMLPF-PI report, particularly the key issues facing the KSF. The KSF is now in the process of developing action plans to resolve the identified DOTMLPF-PI issues.


Instrumental in the success of the KSF Lessons Learned Program was the senior leader emphasis and the patient efforts leaders made over time to both sustain and improve the program. CALL played an advisory/assistance role, but it was the continual support of KSF senior leadership that really made a positive, effective difference in the KSF Lessons Learned Program. Additionally, the collection and analysis practicums, conducted respectively during Eagle 4 and Eagle 5 exercises, proved invaluable in that the KSF truly gained an appreciation for how a fully functioning lessons learned process can identify and fix DOTMLPF-PI issues to improve both its operational and training performance.