As the nights draw in and Summer turns to Autumn, fall for my American readers, and Spring for those in the Antipodes, it is once again time to review the last three months in the career of Barney. Now before you all stop reading, please bear with it, there are some tasty morsels hidden within the self-indulgent salad! To make it easier, the key ‘takeaways’ are in bold (can you tell I wrote this at supper time?).
It will surprise none of you that the most important event of the last three months was my final withdrawal from RUSI and the start of work in Army Communications. Since starting at Andover, I have been largely responsible for the Army’s Twitter account (@BritishArmy) and I hope you may have noticed a change in tone and style, with an emphasis on the historical and much more active engagement (we have doubled our reach in the last two months). Indeed, next week I am building a series of tweets telling the story of the Battle of Arnhem as it happened in 1944, mirroring the one I did for DDay75. It may also surprise you to know that the Army’s Social Media team is tiny; I am continually impressed by the output of my team-mates. In addition to my ‘day job’, I have been honoured to take part in wargaming the Army’s proposed Army Operating Concept as the only non-commissioned participant, to have been the only non-commissioned member of the Army’s Intellectual Hub Working Group, and to be working with others across Army Headquarters improving access to education and conceptual understanding.
The Fifth Season of War Talks was highly successful, an all-female bill provided our audience with the very latest research on subjects as diverse as Information Warfare and Identification Discs, many of which were recorded as podcasts for The Wavell Room, the leading website for British military thought. I must thank Sarah Ashbridge, Szabina Maguire, Dr Vanda Wilcox, Alicia Kearns, and Cristina Varriale for their excellent talks, but in addition I must thank my colleague from RUSI, Magdalena Markiewicz, who spoke as the first speaker in the Royal Navy’s ‘Quarterdeck Talks‘. The ‘Quarterdeck Talks’ bring the same sort of informal PME to the Navy which ‘War Talks’ brought to the Army – gratifyingly the Ink-spots are gradually spreading. I am speaking to the British Army about filming the talks for publication on the British Army website at the moment, so watch the ‘net for the Talks going viral!
The Sixth Season of War Talks gets underway on Thursday with a talk by Doctor Pippa Malmgren, an entrepreneur and former presidential aide to President George W. Bush, entitled, ‘Drones, Data, and the Democratisation of the Airspace’. It promises to be superb and, for those unfamiliar with Doctor Malmgren, I urge you to look at her previous speeches on You Tube and to read her excellent book,’The Leadership Lab’. In her wake, we have already promoted a stellar line-up: Vanya Eftimova Bellinger, Professor Anthony King, Natia Seskuria, Professor Patrick Porter, and Doctor Dan Whittingham. I can also announce that we will return to support our friends in Tonbridge with a Talk by Brigadier Ben Kite on 26 September 2019 and add a final Talk for this year at Aldershot on 10 December 2019, when Elisabeth Braw of RUSI will speak on Modern Deterrence and National Resilience.
Connected to the War Talks series has been the British Army Military Book of the Year Prize 2019, I am running the Prize on behalf of the Army for the second year on the trot and much has been learned from last year. The Prize has been far better advertised this year and has a much more diverse judging panel, but we have much more to do to place it where it deserves to be in 2020. The Prize will be launched earlier, with more fanfare, with its own web-page, and with even more judges; our aim is to encourage reading and learning and we must concentrate on that objective. This years books have included works by Lord Ashcroft and Isobel Oakeshott, Sir Anthony Beevor, Doctor Jonathan Boff, Sir Max Hastings, Lindsey Hilsum, David Patrikarakos, and Professor Patrick Porter. The judges’ results are slowly coming in and I hope to have all the counting done and be in a position to announce the winner of the BAMBY19 in early October.
So what next? Well in addition to the War Talks series and the BAMBY, I will be continuing work on the Army Operating Concept and the Intellectual Hub, we will be intensifying work in the area of inclusive education, and I will be carrying out some exciting work for the Director of DCDC at Shrivenham. In addition, I will start my much delayed PhD this Autumn, conduct three Battlefield Studies, speak at two conferences, and teach the practical use of social media to courses run by the General Staff Centre at RMA Sandhurst. It seems that any thoughts of a slowing down in my workload post RUSI are redundant, I am already booked for battlefield studies in Belgium, France, Croatia and Bosnia, and South Africa in 2020 as well as several conferences in the UK. Above all, I will continue to fight for greater meritocracy within the Army and better professional education across Defence, leading by example.
Finally, in case any of you were wondering about my motivations, and I’m sure some of you are, be under no illusions, I cannot be promoted, I cannot be commissioned, no-one is going to recommend me for honours, and I don’t receive any pay or financial assistance with any of my activities. Simply, I do what I do both because I love it and because it needs to be done. ‘Why us Sergeant Major?’, ‘Because we’re here Lad! Because we’re here!’
All the very best,