“If we are not prepared to think for ourselves and make the effort to learn how to do this well, we will always be in danger of becoming slaves to the ideas and values of others due to our own ignorance.” William Hughes "...increasingly, we become so secure in our bubbles that we accept only information, whether true or not, that fits our opinions, instead of basing our opinions on the evidence that’s out there." Barack Obama
A Focus on Thinking
The aim of the Joint Warrant Officer Course (JWOC) is to assist in the preparation of senior ADF Warrant Officers for Tier B and C appointments by providing an executive-level understanding of contemporary Defence issues at the strategic, operational and functional levels of command. The purpose for JWOC is clear and on a practical level, this generates a range of learning outcomes for a curriculum that focuses on topics across Australia’s Strategic Defence Environment, Joint Capability and Force Design and Command Leadership and Ethics. However, implicit in this, and an ingredient that is fundamental to the purpose of JWOC, is that of cultivating in our senior Warrant Officers the ability to think both critically and strategically. As William Hughes’ and Barrack Obama’s quotes above capture adroitly; having the right approach, attitude and a commensurate “thinking’ skillset is vitally important. As these Warrant Officers move into senior Tier B and C appointments across the ADF the requirement to provide and communicate effectively their unique and different perspectives which are supported effectively by well thought through qualitative and quantitative analysis is an absolute must.
Through consistent commentary made in recent post-course activity reports the importance of this ‘critical thinking’ aspect of JWOC has been very evident. The course is purposely designed to not only provide an understanding at the executive level of contemporary Defence issues, but to use this as the framework for discussion, and importantly creates an environment where students have the ability to think critically about them. The opportunity to leverage off and positively challenge their peers’ collective experience and garner informed insight and views from an array of subject matter experts is rare. JWOC provides this in abundance, generating the opportunity to continue to develop those critical and strategic thinking skills that these senior Warrant Officers will need to successfully operate at the next levels.
When reviewing where JWOC sits on the Joint Professional Military Education (JPME) continuum several things stand out clearly. Firstly, there are few educational opportunities that are formally targeted to support our senior Warrant Officers; and secondly, that JWOC is a key one of them. It is worth reflecting on Abagail Adams’ comment as First Lady of the United States circa 1780:
“Learning is not attained by chance it must be sought for with ardour and attended to with diligence.”
Hence the importance of the JWOC in the ADF education continuum should not be underplayed. It requires the course to be designed, coordinated and delivered to the very best effect. Students have to be able not only extract as much as they can from this short duration course but also the content delivered should act as a catalyst for further discourse, learning and reflection moving forward. As John F Kennedy stated:
“Too often we enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.”
The JWOC in 2019 delivered for thirty-six ADF and four international students from New Zealand, Fiji, PNG and Malaysia. It was, according to the feedback, both a challenging and enlightening course. Key ‘value adds’ were the range of speakers who were prepared to give up their time to support the course including all the senior members of the ADF executive; CDF, the Secretary of Defence, all Service Chiefs and Warrant Officers alongside CJC and CJOPs. This ‘View from the Top’ was coupled with the opportunity to gain insight and knowledge from a range of subject matter experts on Australia’s strategic environment, the ADF’s current and future operational capabilities and delve into contemporary issues relating to Command, Leadership and Ethics. The course is not solely classroom-based with site visits and plenary sessions held at HQ JOC, service bases and defence industry organisations and facilities in Sydney and Adelaide. The aim was to support the classroom-based discussions and practically demonstrate how the ADF delivers its joint effects from an end to end perspective.
The course is now and will continue to be more than just an attendance course. There are three assessments, one per module, focused on sharing and discussing student insights and thoughts on practical contemporary issues that face the ADF. This also provides the students with the opportunity to hone their analytical, presentational and importantly written skills and, whilst not universally appreciated (no surprise there), its value and positive effects and outcomes were ultimately endorsed by all JWOC 19 course members. I would add as an aside that all course members passed!
To reinforce one key theme above all was the opportunity to think critically about current issues and in doing so interact and engage with not just fellow JWOC members but with the staff and students from the other courses running at ADC specifically ACSC and DSSC. Engagement with DSSC was particularly successful this year with a full half-day workshop run with JWOC and staff and students from DSSC on the role of Command Teams at the O6/Tier B+ level in the ADF.
So what next for 2020 – there is always to opportunity for improvement! The development focus for 2020 will be on three areas:
• Time – more time needs to be made available for students to get to grips with and discuss the many complex problems that students are exposed to throughout the course; whether in the geopolitical space, future capability development or in the complex command leadership and ethics arena.
• Learning – improved pre-course student preparation needs to be enabled. ADC staff are potentially looking at the delivery of distance or internet-based learning package to better support student learning outcomes. Also, the current Leading through Influence programme will be enhanced for next year.
• Engagement – more opportunities for engagement with DSSC and ACSC will be sought for JWOC 20.
Having the opportunity to get away from the daily grind and to do nothing but think critically about the current geopolitical challenges that Australia faces today and where the ADF, its people, its leaders and capabilities are going should not be undervalued. Coupled with the networking opportunities that JWOC provides I would encourage all those senior WOs who have not yet done JWOC to do so. I am confident that all the students from JWOC 19 gained from the experience and, if not straight away, will reflect on what was delivered, discussed, learned and opined; hopefully being able to draw on this knowledge in their future roles.
For more information on next year’s course contact respective Career Management Organisations or WGCDR Lawrence Field (lawrence.field [at] adele.edu.au) who is the ADC JWOC Course Director for 2020.
LTCOL (NZ Army)
Course Director JWOC 19
Mai i te kopae ki te urapa Tatou ako tonu ai From the cradle to the grave We are forever learning