A Call to Arms – Build it and they will come!

Last night, in the historic Prince Consort’s Library, Dr Matthew Ford proposed a thesis of military innovation that cast doubt on the conventional views of ‘top-down’ and ‘bottom-up’.  Instead, Matt suggested that the real drivers of innovation are not to be found either in the Cabinet Office or the back of a Warrior, rather they sit behind desks in Units; in short, innovation comes from the middle and is driven by Warrant and Field Officers.  Matt’s argument was compelling, but as I looked around I couldn’t help but notice that there were more Lance Corporals than Warrant Officers in the audience.  How are we to innovate then, if the innovators aren’t motivated and don’t understand the importance of innovation? How are we to learn if we don’t invest in the military education of 85% of Army personnel?

The Army is a good employer; it offers opportunities for transferable qualifications, apprenticeships, and myriad sport and adventure training challenges. Unfortunately, however, it does not invest in the professional education of Other Ranks; in a 24 year career there are only three weeks of professional education available to NCOs and WOs, much of which is not dedicated to the theoretical battlefield, but to the practicalities of management of soldiers in barracks.  Even when educating WOs, the Army’s educators barely get beyond Clausewitz’s definition of War, and never the intricacies of his Trinity; they cover the Strategic Corporal, but never the Tactical Minister! Never one to criticise without offering a solution, and with a care to the Army’s empty pockets, I would suggest that Warrant Officers should be subject to the same officer education provided to Junior Officers; a Warrant Officer should be expected to complete MK,to attend Officer Education events, and yes, to write essays and read books.  If we can add a line about E & I into our objectives, we can add a line about professional education!  The Middle has the experience to innovate, it just needs to learn how; if the learning is mandated and WOs empowered, we will see real transformation.

Talks like that given by Dr Matt Ford can become a vital part in the education of the Middle, taking NCOs and turning them into WOs, ready to exploit the best war-winning asset we have: our people.  Our next Talk will be on the 25th July 2017 starting at 1800 hrs; I offer a challenge to my fellow WOs, and to Officers who employ WOs, ask them to come and give it a go, they won’t be disappointed. Since the last update, I’m pleased to say that we have secured Major (Ret’d) Mike Peters, the Chairman of the Guild of Battlefield Guides who will deliver a lecture and workshop session on how to plan a successful Battlefield Study on Wednesday 29 November 2017, our full Talk list is as follows:

Tue 4th July 17 – Dr Matt Ford, University of Sussex, Innovation and Adaptation.

Tue 25 July 17 – Lt Gen (Ret’d) Sir John Kiszely KCB, MC, Norway 1940.

Tue 12 Sep 17 – Professor Gary Sheffield, University of Wolverhampton, British Generalship.

Tue 26 September 17 – Drs Stuart Mitchell and James Kitchen, RMAS, British Military Doctrine.

Tue 3 October 17 – Dr Daniel Todman, QMUL, Tbc.

Tue 10 October 17 – Dr Jacqueline Hazelton, US Navy War College, COIN.

Wed 29 November 17 – Maj (Ret’d) Mike Peters, Chairman of the GBG, Battlefield Studies.

Many thanks and all the best,







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