Boost Your Observation Skills (#3.b, Observation Exercises)

Begin the Exercise

Once the area has been set up, allow the observer(s)/students into the training area.

Observers can view the exercise only from the base of the observation area used by the set-up team (observers can’t go forward or too wide laterally – which the set-up team needs to keep in mind when they set the exercise up).

Observers can make themselves comfortable, by standing, sitting, kneeling, squatting or being proned-out military style on the ground.

Communication between the students it not allowed.

Hand out the B&W photo (taken from the base of the observation area) on a clipboard, and a pencil to observers.

Instruct students to legibly print their name in the top left of the paper, the title of “Observation Exercise” in the middle top, and today’s date on the top right side of the blank (back) side of the photo.

Advise the students of the proper marking technique (circled numbers on the front where they identify the object with a numbered list on the back of the photo.)

Let students know that if they see an item but can’t quite identify it, they should still put the circled number on the front of the page, and the write “ATB” (appears to be) with a detailed description and their best guess of what the object is on the numbered list and a sketch of the object on the back of the photo.

Items are correctly identified when correctly described. I.e., 1) Old and well used 5.56 cleaning rod, bluing <75% worn off, resting against tree trunk. 2) ATB: New Energizer AAA battery laying under a bush. 3) Used toothbrush, white with red accents on sides, worn bristle,… etc.,

– Identified but incorrectly guessed items are worth 1/2 value.

Time Limits

Initially give students one minute per hidden object and adjust the difficulty and time as needed.

If your observers are having a hard time identifying objects you have either hidden them too well or your observers will need a little more practice.

If on the other hand, they are finding everything quickly with more than ample time to spare, you may need to hide things better or give a shorter time limit per object hidden.

Once the student has either found all the objects or has reached the time limit, have them stay in place and collect the photo from them, and start walking them through the exercise as a group.

The Reveal

To reveal the items, walk up to an item and stop within about a yard or less of the object ensuring you are not between the observer(s) and the object.

Ask, “Did anyone see anything in this area?”

If you get an affirmative, ask “What was the target indicator (contrast to background, shine, etc.,) that gave this away?”

Now give the other students time to process what the target indicator was, and for those who may have missed it the time they need to see it.

Next point towards the object to give anyone who may still not see it an opportunity to see what was missed.

Finally, touch it so EVERYONE has had an opportunity to identify it with their eyes and then the binoculars (if needed). Once everyone has seen and positively identified the object, pick it up and store it.


Grade this paper as you would any other quiz or test, track your student’s progress. If none is made or you are seeing difficulties, you can address with supplemental at home training or additional remedial training by the training staff.

Increase Difficulty

To increase the difficulty of the exercise simply cut back the time observation is allowed as you progress, and/or add more items to search for. For instance, where you started with 1-minute per object and 15 objects you placed in the observation area, once people seem like they are catching on you can start decreasing the allowed observation time by 5 seconds per exercise and/or increasing the number of items.

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