On Monday, I started work as the Army Visiting Fellow at the Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies (RUSI) in Whitehall. It had been almost fourteen months since I’d applied for the post under the Army’s new External Placement Scheme; I’m the first non-commissioned Fellow in the 187 year history of the Institute. The External Placement scheme replaced the previous Postgraduate scheme in 2017, but whilst the new scheme incorporated many of the Fellowship, Masters, and PhD opportunities from the old scheme, it added a new Visiting Fellowship at RUSI, numerous other courses of postgraduate education and, perhaps most importantly, a number of external placements with industry. This change represented an enormous step forward for the Army, especially as some of the opportunities are either rank-less or aimed at relatively junior officers. There remains a considerable divide based on rank but it is, I believe, being eroded steadily and I am proud to be in the vanguard of equality.
The original Briefing Note notifying the new scheme only gave around a month to produce an application, in that time I had to produce three questions reflecting the themes of the Chief of the General Staff’s Questions, get the approval of my Commanding Officer, find an academic sponsor, and a 1* sponsor for my application. My Commanding Officer was really helpful and gave me a strong recommendation, Dr Dan Whittingham, the convenor of the excellent Military History MA at Birmingham, agreed to be my academic reference, and the 1* Head of Concepts at the Developments, Concepts, and Doctrine Centre (DCDC) offered huge amounts of support. By the start of Summer leave 2017 I’d applied, and a few months later I was selected to fill the post commencing in September 2018. The application was the start of the transformation of my Army career: I began working for DCDC shortly after Christmas 2017, and have seen a request to write a ‘Think Piece’ on Adaptability for them turn into a Joint Concept Note, and its importance snowball. I am unbelievably grateful for this opportunity and am very much looking forward to being able to publicise it in November 2018. Those of you who read this blog regularly will also know about my other activities which have grown and blossomed in the last year, the War Talks, the British Army Military Book of the Year competition, the Salmond Prize; I consider myself very lucky.
Since my arrival, I have been introduced to some incredible people, studying the key defence and security problems of our time, it is like being in an intellectual greenhouse and I feel challenged and nurtured in equal measure. Although, it has been made clear that I am there to study and to answer the question I set myself, the head of Military Science, Professor Peter Roberts, has ensured that my time at RUSI will be an enormously positive experience. I am challenged to write six opinion pieces over my tenure, as well as a Journal article, I will also help organise the academic input to the RUSI Land Warfare Conference in 2019, host the Intermediate Command and Staff Course (Land) in October 2018, teach on a foreign military’s Staff Course, and perhaps most excitingly, attend the Association of the United States Army Conference in Washington DC next month. I feel really privileged to have been given this wonderful opportunity, but I don’t want to be the first and only non-commissioned Fellow, its really important that other soldiers with a Masters Degree and a desire to learn and further their education join this Fellowship ring and apply for places at RUSI, for Masters courses, or to complete PhDs and Fellowships. It seems bizarre to me that more than two years after the foundation of the Centre for Historical Analysis and Conflict Research (CHACR), there is no consolidated list of ‘soldier scholars’, or much discernible effort to leverage the untapped academic ability of soldiers of all ranks to help solve the problems of the modern British Army. Perhaps that’s an important oversight?
I look forward to hearing your opinions, in the mean time have a great weekend!
All the best,