Systems Thinking Applied to the Shot Process

In our previous discussion, we were talking about applying systems-thinking to the ‘fundamentals of marksmanship’ in an attempt to illustrate why the fundamentals are not as effective as the shot process. We showed how the Army had been applying detail complexity to what was a dynamically complex system; the individual firing their weapon. Now we are going to attempt to apply the same systems thinking to the shot process to illustrate how it works more efficiently. Where applicable, references will be put up so that you can do the research on your own, and make your own determinations

The Department of the Army (2017) asserts that the shot process consists of three distinct phases with four functional elements applied throughout (p. 5-2). By doing this, the Department of the Army has transformed what was a linear thought process into a causal loop. The functional elements act as a reinforcing loop that works in conjunction with DIDEA engagement causal loop acting as a balancing loop to ensure consistent performance.

The shot process takes place  in the ‘Decide’ (pre-shot), ‘Engage’ (shot), and ‘Assess’ (post-shot) phases of the DIDEA engagement causal loop as illustrated below. The soldier should constantly be applying DIDEA to their environment to detect target indicators, identify them, and decide what to do about them. Department of the Army (2015) contended that the decide phase is “a series of progressive and interdependent steps (or actions) making rules of engagement decisions, determining threat levels, selecting weapon systems or ammunition, and making confirmation” (p. 3-1). 


The most critical point about DIDEA and the Shot Process is that they assess the effects that the projectile fired by the Soldier had on the threat; something the fundamentals do not address. Once again, we are looking at a dynamically complex task (engaging a threat) versus a detail complexity (engaging a target). This changes the soldier’s mindset from the linear task of firing a shot under the fundamentals to an understanding that each shot counts. The shot process reinforces that if I have not achieved the desired effect on the threat, then I need to make appropriate changes to the shot process, and keep engaging until the effect is achieved. 

The post-shot phase of the shot process accounts for effects that were negative reinforcing loops under the fundamentals. The incorporated delays between the shot and post-shot phases are as a result of the projectile traveling to the target, and then the soldier assessing the effect that projectile had on their intended target and whether a follow-on shot is needed. Headquarters, Department of the Army (2017) contended that the post-shot engagement assessment is what drives the shot process back into the functional elements to get into position for the next shot if necessary (p.8-7).

 The shot process with DIDEA is open-ended and always looking for the next engagement sequence, unlike the fundamentals. Moberg (2001) Observed that a wide variety of human activities require pattern recognition (p. 26). The shot process used in conjunction with DIDEA allows for more efficient pattern recognition than the fundamentals do, ensuring that the Soldier can detect, identify, decide, engage and assess the threat before the threat can engage them

#DIDEA #SACM #systemsthinking


Headquarters, Department of the Army. (2015). Direct Fire Engagement Process (DIDEA) (TC 3-20.31-4). Washington D.C.: Headquarters, Department of the Army. Retrieved January 11, 2019

Headquarters, Department of the Army. (2011). Rifle Marksmanship, M16-/M4-Series Weapons (FM 3-22.9) (Change 1 ed.). Washington DC: Headquarters, Department of the Army. Retrieved January 11, 2019

Headquarters, Department of the Army. (2017). Rifle and Carbine (TC 3-22.9) (Change 2). Washington DC: Headquarters, Department of the Army. Retrieved January 11, 2019, from

Moberg, D. (2001). Diagnosing System States: Beyond Senge’s Archetypes. Emergence, 3(2), 19-36. Retrieved January 11, 2019

Raymond Miller


This post currently has one response

  • We need less of this crap you are talking about and make ranges more free flowing and creative. Typical units go to qualifying ranges engaging targets 25 to 300m with extreme predictably. Range control up your a$$ and risk assessments addressing untied boot laces is a big problem. This culture of extreme safety silences creativity and true to life training. Spend less on big brains thinking and this crap and invest in more bullets and range time for soldiers with SMEs building the individual soldier’s skills.

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