If you are easily bored leave now, this promises to be a rather self-indulgent piece being the third instalment in the story of my 2018. Regular readers may recall that at the outset of the year I set myself some targets on which I promised to update them as the year progressed, what follows is my account for the Third Quarter. In case you were wondering whether to slip off un-noticed, I will give you a brief summary: it’ll talk about my new job and the Army’s External Placement programme, the First World War centenary, prizes and surprises, and give a look forward to the run up to Christmas, the BAMBY and War Talks. If you have already gone I’d also like to thank you; thus far in 2018 my blog has been visited by over 6000 people and been viewed over 8000 times. Thank you all.
What can I say about RUSI? I am surrounded by young, and not so young, people researching the defence and security problems of our time. They are continually thinking and analysing, writing and convening, networking and connecting, and adding a degree of balance to the assumptions and fears of government, industry, and anyone with an interest in the future of our world. They are exceptionally bright and hugely talented but with incredible intellectual humility, with strong camaraderie, and a sense of fun. It is a hothouse, we in the Military Science team are working flat out on projects as diverse as the security implications of space, the development of cyber capabilities, and the future character of land warfare, I am learning fast and developing my ideas somewhat faster. In the last three weeks I have completed my paper ‘Enhancing Adaptability’ for DCDC, written a brief on localising strategic engagement for the Army, attended round tables on NATO strategy in the Black Sea and developments in the Ukraine, collaborated in the planning of the Land Warfare Conference 2018, and begun work on a major new project looking at ‘Prototype Warfare’. It is challenging and demanding, but without a shadow of a doubt the best assignment I have ever had in the Army. I would strongly encourage anyone with a Master’s level education or above and an interest in defence and security to apply for the job through the Army’s External Placement programme, regardless of rank. I may be the first non-commissioned soldier, but there is no reason I should be the last!
Since the end of June I have also been heavily engaged in projects outside of work, guiding on the Amiens Centenary International Student Battlefield Tour was a highlight, especially getting to create podcasts with Sir Hew Strachan, but I’ve also worked on a battlefield study for the Army’s Education and Training Services (South) group, planned the third season of War Talks, and brought the British Army Military Book of the Year prize, BAMBY18, to fruition. I am indebted to all those who have helped particularly my friends Simon Bendry and Kirsty Hoyle who are inspirations to me and all with whom they come into contact. In July I was honoured to receive the RAF’s Salmond Prize for an article I wrote for the Air Power Review about aerial re-supply at Kut in 1916 from the Chief of the Air Staff at the Air Power Conference, its not often a soldier gets rewarded by the professional head of the RAF. The War Talks series continues to go from strength-to-strength, with seven talks booked in before Christmas and a further fourteen planned thus far for 2019, if you haven’t managed to get along to one please do you are all welcome…and its free!! It hasn’t all been plain sailing, a health scare in July, luckily turned out to be relatively minor, but on balance my projects outside of work have been a joy. What does the future hold? More War Talks obviously, the privilege of attending the Armistice 100 commemoration at Westminster Abbey, seeing ‘Enhancing Adaptability’ and other work published, lots more battlefield guiding, and getting to meet lots of new and fascinating people are top of my list.
To close, I’d like to remind everyone what ‘this’, by which I mean volunteering for the RUSI Fellowship, the War Talks, the BAMBY, the guiding etc, is all about. The British Army’s strength is its personnel, in future we will require them to be more adaptable to cope with an era of continuous competition and change, one of the key enablers of adaptability is education. Education brings confidence in oneself and together with experience enables commanders to trust and to risk; education, particularly professional military education, is thus critical to the Army of tomorrow. In Defence we spend around 0.3% of the budget on the conceptual component, the vast majority of our personnel receive less than a week of military education in their entire service, and some officers continue to stand aghast in incredulity at non-commissioned ‘thinking soldiers’. If we want to be an Army which is effective in future we will have to empower. educate, and engage the whole of the force to create a competitive advantage. ‘This’ then is about convincing everyone that professional military education is far more important than we currently believe, and that we must educate our untapped resource, the 85% of soldiers without a commission, to gain the competitive advantage necessary to retain our position as a reference army.
Have a great Sunday,