Rebooting the OODA Loop

by Scott on October 26, 2009

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from Ron Borsch. Ron’s bio is at the end of this article.

In the police training world, certain job related skills are vitally important. Simulation scenarios involving inoculations of stress, confusion and chaos are valuable components to prepare officers to win in real street encounters, (expect the unexpected, and adapt). Trained, experienced and enlightened simulation trainers often discover early on that it is difficult to truly surprise in-service officers.

For example, our agency discovered that most efforts of restaging a room between Red-Man simulation scenarios was largely a waste of time. As officers entered, they seemed to make snap assessments of the environment, taking in the most important elements at a glance. Something else was needed to replicate surprise.

Enter United States Air Force Col. John Boyd’s, OODA Loop. He identifies the simple four stages of reaction, Observe, Orient, Decide and Act. This is its simplest, or combat terms. The first stage is visual, but could also be sound, or touch. Orienting is mental, the process of evaluating, for instance, a threat. The third stage is also mental, that of deciding what to do. The last stage is the physical act of initiating motor action. The two middle stages, both MENTAL, are the ones we can most have an effect upon through training. A key prerequisite is creating an unexpected event in the scenario that the student officer must quickly solve. I suggest the term for this unanticipated event is “Rebooting the OODA Loop”.

Scenario Training While Best, Risks the Ego

Scenario training employing the rebooting of the role playing officer’s OODA loop often involves an emotional experience that is a much longer lasting lesson, possibly a “Kodak” moment or indelible experience. Such training is best employed to test how well PRIOR non-scenario training lessons took. While this type of training is labor intensive, it has no equal for testing individual skills of: Verbalization, Arrest Resistance, Empty-hand, Inert OC, Baton, TASER, Marking cartridges/Air-Soft, or an integration with all of them. Because the student officer must suddenly think for himself and act quickly, he may not perform up to his own expectations. This risks the ego, especially if others are watching, or is filmed, (recommended). This is often sufficient for some officers to avoid the training if possible, or criticize it if unavoidable.

Hooded Drill for Rebooting the OODA Loop

Years ago, former Navy SEAL Duane Dieter introduced what seems to be the first published information on his “HOODED BOX DRILL”©. Below is a 5 minute video, briefly showing the hooded drill in a low light setting.

Click here if you can’t see the video.
Used in some form or another by many police professional and enlightened trainers, (in their respective states, such as Ken Hackathorn, Ralph Mroz, Kevin Davis and Joe Vanecek).

Years ago we began to utilize a ceiling mounted hood with a pulley system at our academy for in-service officers, and a fellow trainer began to utilize a portable hood with recruit officers at a local college. Both of us agree that the results of a nearly perfect surprise are possible. Dressed in protective combat suits such as Red-Man equipment, the hooded student officer is quite aware that something will happen, just not what.

While the student officer is wearing the hood, a loud radio can be played allowing the trainers to change the scenario stage, (from a traffic stop to a home domestic, Etc.), without the student being aware of either a change, proximity of stage training aids or other role players. When the staging is complete, the student is read what he is supposed to know from the tightly scripted scenario, (requiring his acknowledgement after each sentence).

The sensory deprivation of sight, (hood), and sound, (radio), to gather useable intelligence, typically produces an elevated anticipation which is likely to include both a higher heart rate, and stress level. The equipment is portable, as another fellow trainer also proved on the outdoor range. His brief live fire event starts by requiring the student officer to place his pistol on a barrel next to him, and utilized a simple towel for the hood and a portable radio/player for loud sound.

This conscientious trainer’s drill was to disassemble the officer’s pistol, leaving all the parts on the barrel, for a totally safe rebooting of the participating officer’s OODA loop. Expect a wide variety of responses as each officer muddles through the mental phases of ORIENTING and DECIDING. While all of our officers can competently reassemble their pistols, on a timed live fire exercise after bewilderment, they are likely to experience a higher degree of difficulty.

The simulation highlights mentioned here emphasize adapting to a surprise situation. For the professional who truly gets into any such scenario, the beneficial learning experience through a positive inoculation of stress, are long lasting. This brief essay on rebooting the OODA loop is intended to lend ideas and be helpful to other trainers. As with many other things, we are only limited by our imaginations. Safety comes first. The tightly scripted design of scenarios should all be winnable, providing the officer performs reasonably correctly. Expect criticism, as it comes with the territory of any state-of-the-art training and so enlightened trainers.

About the author: Ron Borsch

Ron Borsch is a semi-retired police officer, manager and lead trainer for SEALE Regional Police Training Academy in Bedford OH. His formal training in simulation design, RedMan and law enforcement combatives has been through Gary Klugiewicz ACMi©, Bob Willis, Larry Nadeau and Kathy Wright. Ron is also a staff instructor for the Kent State Martial Arts Club.