We all understand the intricacies of training, whether it is basic or advanced tactical. Training to enhance muscle memory means that you are safer, more efficient, more accurate, and can execute your shots with ease and efficacy. One aspect however, that many people forget about, or simply don’t think about is the after action drills. The AAD, as it is known, is a must when practicing any kind of firing or reloading drill. Basically, what you do after you have fired at your target is just as important as the firing itself. When you participate in any type of combat you must always be aware of your surroundings.
It is common for marksmen to get what is known as tunnel vision, thereby blinding them temporarily from seeing peripherally, or noticing any dangers to the sides or behind them. In fact, anywhere and everywhere around the target poses a potential threat. This is why the AAD is so crucial to perform, not only in real life situations, but after every single drill you perform, even if it is just a simple reloading drill. It needs constant practice to become second nature, and an automatic response that you adopt in any combat scenario to improve situational awareness.
The first part of the after action drill is to do the quick check. This is a quick twist of the head to the left and to the right, almost the same way that you would look both ways to cross a street. However, the trick with performing this quick turn of the head is to actually look in that direction with focus. There is a dual purpose to this action.
Firstly, it will quickly get rid of any tunnel vision that onsets. By shifting your focus away from your target and broadening your perspective, tunnel vision is eliminated.
Secondly, it will help you to pick out any potential threats to your immediate 9 and 3, as well as your 10 and 2.
So, when you perform this sequence after firing, lower your AR-15 to the low ready position, and be sure that you are actually picking out specific objects when you look left and right. Don’t just flick your head without actually seeing anything. Remember that any other person could be hiding just out of your sight-line and you need to be able to detect them.
The best way to train for this is to place certain objects in the vicinity of where you need to look and then when you practice this part of the drill, name them as you see them. This works better if you have a friend place objects there that are unknown to you and see how many of them you can name correctly.
Another way to do this is to have a friend sit in that area and hold up a certain number of fingers, which you have to count correctly.
After Action Drill Sequence 2: Final Check
The next part of the AAD, is to go back to your target and make sure that it is down. You must return your sights to the original target to ensure that they are in fact down and no longer a threat. It would be pointless firing and then being so concerned with your surroundings that you completely miss the fact that your target has gotten up and is coming for you or firing at you.
You should stay in this final check position for between 1 and 10 seconds.
After Action Drill Sequence 3: Scan
Now that you have checked your target is out of the fight completely, you should commence a 360 degree scan of your surroundings. With your weapon back in the low ready position, and bringing along with you, twist your torso to look to your left and right all the way around over your shoulder. Remember that your surroundings are in 3D, meaning that you also need to scan upwards and downwards, depending on where you are. If there are mountains around you, there is no use only scanning at ground level, because someone could be approaching you from higher up. Likewise, if you are on a plateau or ridge, you need to scan low as well.
Make sure that when you scan, you do not simply let your eyes brush over the area casually. Really look carefully as you scan to make sure that there are no threats that could be hiding nearby. Remember that an enemy combatant could have cover, meaning that you could be looking for the smallest indicator of their presence, such as the tip of a muzzle. You must scan with intense focus. To practice this part of the drill can be difficult without the correct equipment and facilities, but you can simulate the effect, by asking someone to hide certain objects from you in your nearby surroundings. See how many of them you can locate and how many of them you miss.
After Action Drill Sequence 4: Tac Reload and Reset
The final part of the AAD is to reset and reload. This sounds obvious, but you will be surprised at how many people forget this after concentrating so hard on the entire after action drill. Once you have completed your 360 degree scan and you are sure you are clear, you should do a tactical reload to make sure that you have a new magazine ready to fire with. As you will probably still have rounds in your old magazine, you should do a reload with magazine retention. Once you have inserted your new mag and pressed your bolt release you will reset your AR-15 to a low ready position. This sequence should be included in your AAD, so that you retain it to muscle memory, and so that you can perform this reload efficiently.
Keep performing this after action drill on its own and as part of every other drill, and eventually it will come to you instantly and automatically, plus you will learn how to actually take note of other potential threats much more easily. Most of the time the AAD is not performed after every other drill and this can be to your detriment. With your life depending on this after action drill, it is something that should become as effortless as breathing.
Watch Travis Haley explain the tactical reload in depth.