These military team building activities are designed to use military skills and scenarios to develop leadership and teamwork. Military teams are not just about projecting physical strength. Skills are required for leadership, strategy, clear communication, trust and quick thinking for solving some particularly perplexing problems.
I have developed and used these military team building activities for army cadet and scout team building. Some of the team building activities simply have a military theme, whilst others are specifically aimed at skills useful for military personnel.
The team building activities are suitable for all arms of the military, cadet forces, scouts and also civilians and students.
Military Themed Team Building Activities
Lobbing and launching objects is always great fun, especially if it is aimed at another team. Each team is given a selection of materials so that they can build a catapult, trebuchet, sling or other launching device to fling water balloon or eggs at a target. At Halloween, pumpkins can be used for a bit of seasonal fun.
If you want some detailed plans on how to make effective catapults, the book “Plans for catapults and balistas” shows you step by step instructions on how to make several different designs.
Amazon also has plenty of potato cannons and other launchers made from plumbing pipes using bike pumps to create the air pressure and valves to fire the potato.
Firing Blind is a very successful military team building activity that I created based upon military artillery fire teams and field observers. At one end of a playing field you lay out a large paper target on the ground. At the other end of the field, you suspend a tarpaulin upright using paracord to act as a screen to block the team’s view of the target area. The team is given a water bomb launcher and a large supply of water bombs.
The team has a time limit to get as many water bombs to hit the target, even though they cannot see it because they are behind the tarp. One member of the team acts as an observer and is located between the tarp and the target. They direct the fire team to get the water bombs onto target.
You can adapt the exercise by using walkie talkies for the observer to communicate with the fire team. Or the observer can sit with the fire team and use a pocket sized quadcopter drone to provide a video feed of the target to see where the water bombs land.
This team building activity is really effective at developing team cohesion, leadership, strategy, communication and also coordination. This exercise can also be used by military personnel for a fun way to practise what they do for real which is quick and easy to set up and can be deployed on any open piece of ground.
River Crossings and Bridge Building
Obstacle or river crossings are something that the military will have to deal with on a campaign. It takes teamwork to plan and build the construction of a bridge to get across the river.
You can make your own river defined by two ropes laid out on the grass, or if you are able, use a real river that they have to cross.
Work out in advance how they can use the equipment you provide to make a bridge. It has to be feasible, and it is better if you give them enough equipment to create a variety of different designs. This allows their teamwork and creativity the scope to develop.
Bridge building is one of the best team building activities for teaching and developing leadership skills. The team leader has to recognise individual’s skills and allocate roles accordingly. No team member should be left out.
Depending on the team members, you can make this activity very physical and very mentally challenging. You can really push their engineering skills to the limit. Do they understand how to build a cantilever bridge? This type of bridge doesn’t require you to cross the river first to build it. The simplest form of cantilever bridge is a skewed cross, where the upright beam is placed in the river with the cross member attached to it just above bank height. You can then use ropes to rotate the upright beam and swing the bridge out over the river.
Dodgy Jeep or Landrover
This team building activity creates the military scenario where the team has to get an abandoned vehicle working to escape from the enemy.
I have tried several different versions of this activity, creating faults with the vehicle that have to be fixed such as removing the wheel nuts from one of the wheels. The solution is to remove just one wheel nut from each of the other wheels so that all four wheels are attached using only three nuts instead of four. Other faults you can introduce should relate to stopping the engine from starting. Do not create faults with the brakes!
Another variation is to put the vehicle into a position that requires the team to lift it manually out of a ditch. Think carefully what equipment you will let them have to do this and also it is better to use an old vehicle you don’t mind getting damaged.
Aerial Observation and Reconnaissance
This military themed team building activity involves using an aerial observation platform to perform reconnaissance on an area of interest and take action on what is seen.
The aerial platform could be a Go Pro camera suspended from a kite, or a quadcopter. You could also use several helium balloons with a suspended Go Pro camera and fishing line to control their position. If you want more control, you can get the teams to lash four poles together to get the height they need. This will challenge their knot skills.
The area of interest has to be created so that the information you want can only be seen from the air. This could be a message attached to the top of a tent. You could write a message and suspend it from the top of a flag pole. You could also fence of an area and put the message on the ground.
Capture the Flag
Capture the flag is basically a game where two teams compete against each other to retrieve a flag or object from the opposition’s base and return it to their own. A variation of this is to have just one base with one team guarding and another team aiming to get in and take the object.
This is a very flexible team building activity, but you have to carefully lay down what the ground rules are. How can a guard stop an enemy from getting into their base? Is contact enough to class the attacker as being caught and having to return to the start, or does a guard have to physically restrain them to capture them? Using Tag Rugby Tails is a simple way of clearly defining someone as being caught. Each play attaches two tails using Velcro to a waistband and if a tail is removed then they have been caught.
Also, you will have to decide what happens if someone is caught. Do they have to return to their own base to start again, or are they out of the game until someone rescues them?
You can buy a glow in the dark capture the flag game from Amazon to play at night, which is usually the favourite time for the game to be played.
Paintball is the most one of the most obvious military themed team building activities. Firing paint pellets at each other at a designated paintball place is easy to do. Just pay and turn up. They provide all of the equipment and instruction. The key consideration is whether your players are happy to participate. I have been to several kids paintball parties where children under 13 have been invited and both boys and girls can find it a bit scary because they don’t know what to expect. Or, it may just not be their thing. If you aren’t happy getting hit with a paint pellet that stings then you won’t want to play, and you shouldn’t be forced to either.
Paintball games include Capture the Flag, Storm the Fort, VIP Escort, Hostage Rescue and Free For All.
Laser Tag or Nerf Wars
Laser Tag is similar to paintball but you hit your opponent with a laser beam instead of a paint pellet. This can be played indoors or outdoors. If you plan on organising this team building game frequently, it is well worth investing in your own laser tag equipment.
If you want to make your military team building activities even more realistic, airsoft is similar to paintball but uses replica weapons that fire plastic pellets. Airsoft is played on private land in organised gaming areas. There are a huge range of different weapons to choose from.
Once again, for younger players consider whether this is appropriate. Also, check out the minimum legal age allowed for playing airsoft in your state.
Drops are a combination of navigation exercises and physical endurance. Each team is dropped of at a location five miles from a visible landmark such as a church or hilltop. The first team to reach the landmark wins. However, each team has to first work out where they are so that they can find the quickest route to their destination.
Depending on how you want to play this game, there are several ways to make it easier or more difficult. You can blindfold the teams as you transport them to their start points so that it is harder to work out where they are at the start. If there are four teams, you can say that each team has to meet up before they reach the destination. This requires communication, leadership and coordination because each team won’t want to wait too long for the others to arrive. You can make it easier by allowing the teams to use public transport. You could also make them collect items from a list on their way, like a scavenger hunt.
Team Building Activities for Military Personnel Training
This is a vital military team building activity that the Army have to get right. I have seen many videos of soldiers not correctly getting casualties out of dangerous situations properly. In recent conflicts, there was even a case where a team of soldiers evacuated a wounded team member to a place of safety and then just left them at the side of the road instead of carrying them to the rescue vehicle that awaited. They had expected the medics to take over, whilst the medics expected the soldiers to care enough about their own man to make sure they were safely on their way.
This physical team building activity is for both military and civilians alike. The exercise is to rescue a non-walking casualty and transport them over a distance to safety. This can be done using a stretcher, an improvised stretcher (coats and poles) or just by carrying using a two handed or four handed seat method. You can add to the challenge by ensuring that the evacuation route includes hills, ditches or fences as obstacles. It requires some serious teamwork to keep a stretcher level whilst getting it over a fence.
This is a common team building activity used by the military. Each team has to carry a telegraph pole or railway sleeper across an obstacle course. The sheer weight of the pole requires everyone in the team to work together. Sometimes it is used purely as a military team building physical activity to see how the team work together when they are physically exhausted. This requires physical strength, coordination, and strong leadership to maintain team morale.
One of the military teamwork challenges that is done for competitions is to race across a course with a full sized gun. And I don’t mean a rifle, I mean a gun carriage or cannon. To get it across some of the obstacles, the wheels have to be taken off and the entire gun dismantled. At the other end it has to be reassembled and fired to show the winner.
You might not have access to a cannon, but you can do a similar exercise with a bike or car. Anything that can be dismantled, taken across a course and reassembled and used to show it works.
The military assault course is a popular one for teams, but you need to arrange it so that the team has to work together. Getting the team to climb over 10 foot walls is a great show of teamwork.
This requires leadership and team coordination just like in a real tank team. You have the commander on top giving orders, the driver and two team members loading and firing the paintball rounds. Awesome!
If you want some more team building ideas, check out my outdoor team building activities.