A Novel Methodology for Evaluating Military Teamwork and Team Marksmanship Performance

Open Access
Conference Proceedings
Authors: Stephanie BrownPeioneti LamJohn ChristopherRichard GoodenoughJose VillaVictoria BodeK. Blake Mitchell

Abstract: Marksmanship has been a key metric in evaluating total Soldier performance. While marksmanship assessment is typically done at the individual level, marksmanship performance is heavily embedded in team tasks and battle drills. Thus, an objectively measured and operationally-based assessment is needed to characterize teamwork in marksmanship tasks, as well as evaluate its impact on team marksmanship performance. This study was a proof-of-concept trial conducted during a 72-hour mission field study, using 39 active-duty male, infantry Soldiers. Thirteen 3-person teams completed a 6-minute scenario that simulated rapidly escalating firing engagement. The teams conducted a planning session to develop strategies for mission accomplishment prior to scenario start. At mission start, the team was situated in the center of a circle of 28 target light emitting diode (LED) displays, which they were required to cover and engage. The target LED displays were in one of three states (dark, non-threat, or threat), each represented by a pattern created by the research team. The scenario was split into six ~60-80 second segments, differing in number of targets presented, target identities (non-threat or threat), as well as density of targets displayed per sector. On-weapon and body sensor data was used to calculate team marksmanship performance (i.e., probability of target hits, probability of threat targets engaged). Additional teamwork data were gathered from observer ratings of teams’ communication and coordination during the scenario, and post-session questionnaires. To evaluate the effects of scenario segment, sector strategy, and communication strategy on team marksmanship performance, two 6x2x2 mixed analyses of variance (ANOVAs) were conducted with scenario segment as the within-subjects variable, and sector strategy (implicit or explicit) and communication strategy (plan or no plan) as the between-subjects variables. Team marksmanship performance outcomes included a team’s probability of hit, p(hit), and ratio of targets engaged, p(engage). Both marksmanship variables revealed significant main effects of segment, p<.001, where performance degraded as the scenario progressed. Additionally, p(hit) had a main effect of sector strategy, where those who used the external environment cues for sectoring (i.e., explicit) resulted in a higher probability of hit as compared to those who used teammate relative positions (i.e., implicit), p=.02. Team communication was trending towards significance, where having a communication plan resulted in lower p(hit), p=.07. For p(hit), there was also a three-way interaction between communication strategy, sector strategy, and segment, p<.01, where teams without a strategy performed more consistently in their shooting across the segments if they had an externally driven sector strategy (i.e., explicit), but performed just the same as those with a communication plan if they had an internally driven sectoring strategy (i.e., implicit). These results suggest that this methodology can not only characterize individual marksmanship skills but is beneficial to assessing team performance across operationally-based scenarios representing escalating short-term engagements and measuring the effects of team variables. However, our proof-of-concept analysis was limited by sample size and future development will strive to increase the number of teams participating. Additionally, future versions of this methodology will incorporate additional metrics of communication, physiology, and decision making.

Keywords: Military, Human Systems Integration, Training

DOI: 10.54941/ahfe1001899

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