By Neil Hawkins
Writing and Submitting your own TDGs
Links to TDG's on
A Tactical Decision Game (TDG) or Tactical Exercises Without Troops (TEWT) are an exercise that can benefit anyone. They revolve around a written scenario, conditions may sometimes be added like time limits or specific objectives, and there will often be a sketch or plan attached. The scenario defines who you are, why your there, what your assets are, your mission or objective and the threats against you. The situations can sometimes have gaps or be vague in certain areas, this forces the players to make assumptions or educated guesses. Participants give their solutions and usually a moderator will lead discussion on the solution.
The major benefit of this type of training is that you can be put into situations that are either impractical or too expensive to enact. Your team can go over literally hundreds of scenarios without ever leaving the classroom. Obviously this is not a substitute for hands-on training but a useful adjunct. If you find a particularly relevant scenario you can enact it live.
This type of training has been used by the military for years to train officers in decision making, but it is becoming increasingly popular in law enforcement and emergency response teams. The Country Fire Authority in Australia uses them to train it's fire officers, they play hundreds of these games, and are exposed to making decisions in stressful conditions a long time before they get out to a major brush fire.
This training is very effective when given to group leaders, such as military officers, supervisors and managers as it allows them to practice on paper, discuss the response and then once the bugs are worked out take it outside and walk through it with their teams. TDG's are also very useful for team member's as they can be placed into the same situations as their leaders and learn how they think and what considerations they need to take into account; things that are not obvious to the team members, this can engender trust between team leaders and their men.
Finally personnel who act alone or
in small groups can benefit as well, for all of the same reasons stated
above, decision making, tactical considerations, support and logistics,
all can be addressed by a well written scenario. The majority of TDG's
available on the web are aimed at military leadership, what we want to
do here is direct them at the individual, or small team. We will introduce
scenarios from the Security, Law Enforcement and Military fields, that
revolve around how you the individual have to react. We hope to keep them
interesting and also make you think, and hopefully benefit you in some
The following are a set of general guidelines to follow when using TDG's they are not designed to be restrictive but ensure that you get the most out of the situation.
You should remember that these are written to appeal to a wide international audience. Your particular group or department may have different operating procedures, but don't get caught up in arguing about specific procedural points, there will be plenty of time for that during the debrief.
The main thing to remember is to treat the situation as if you were there living it. In many of the scenarios you would have literally fractions of a second to react, pondering the situation for hours reduces the benefits of the exercise. Spontaneity is the key, your first reaction is probably the best one.
Give as much detail as possible in your answer. Imagine that you are giving orders to your team, or explaining your actions to a court of inquiry. In single person scenarios describe the techniques you would use and why, what considerations are you taking into account and what follow-ups would you perform. In team scenarios, describe what each person is doing and why, what are their actions and reactions.
If you using these in a directed environment like a classroom, add stressors to reproduce the decision making process in the scenario, use noise, heat/cold and whatever else you can think of to approximate the distractions felt on the street or in the heat of battle.
Finally have fun with it, there is no 'right' answer, only better ones. All responses have some benefit, and highlight your perception of the problem. There is nothing to stop you coming up with more than one response.
you have enjoyed these and would like to submit your own to us for publication
see the guidelines.
For a more in-depth description of TDG's and their usage see "The Tactical Decision Game: An invaluable training tool for developing junior leaders" by Captain James D. Gonealves, USMC.
Some of the TDG's will be introduced on E-Budo.com, a Martial Arts Discussion Forum run by John Lindsey, check out the Close Quarter Combative area for ongoing TDG discussions.
The Marine Corps Gazette posts a TDG every month for it's readers to respond to, aimed at military leaders, they are often very involved and require a degree of military understanding to understand. http://www.mca-marines.org/
This has some of the best TDG's from the Marine Corps Gazette with a selection of solutions. http://kepler.egr.duke.edu/NROTC/gazette/tdgpage.htm
Another military site, this offers TDG's on MOUT (Military Operations in Urban Terrain). http://www.geocities.com/Pentagon/6453/moutpoitdg.html
These are from the Centre for Army Lessons Learned (CALL) and are built around a Haiti deployment. http://call.army.mil/call/vignettes/haiti/toc.htm
A private site offering TDG's on a variety of military subjects. http://www.portent.net/tactica/tdg_intro.html
Neil Hawkins lives in Queensland, Australia. He served with Norforce, one of the Australian Army's Regional Force Surveillance Units (RFSU), performing a long range reconnaissance and surveillance role in the far north of Australia. He has worked extensively in the Security Industry and currently works in the Information Technology Industry.
He has a strong Martial Arts background, primarily in Japanese Bujutsu (traditional styles of unarmed and armed fighting) but also in Karate, Aikido and Arnis (Philippine Martial Arts). He has trained with Military Special Forces, Law Enforcement and Security personnel from all over the world and currently teaches self defense and CQB (Close Quarter Battle).