The Civ-Mil sweet spot – PME writing by Reservists

Author: 
Mark Armstrong

 

“When writing, our ideas, thoughts and statements are open for debate, criticism and often enhancement by other military and non-military professionals. This means that military writing, in small measures, contributes to contemporary military discussions and thinking.”

                                                                                                MAJGEN Chris Field[1]

 

In a challenging strategic environment, a middle power such as Australia must make important decisions regarding Defence capability to maintain national security.   John Blaxland describes this as a ‘limited sovereign capability’ of population and resources available to invest in standing military forces and advanced technology.[2]  Accordingly, the ADF is pursuing a competitive advantage through achieving an ‘intellectual edge’.  This edge seeks to leverage the human capital available to out-think competitors and innovate in order to solve complex institutional problems.[3]

To achieve this the Australian Defence Force needs to draw the full intellectual potential from its limited pool of people, including the ADF Reserves.   Accordingly, Professional Military Education is a priority for the ADF and a comprehensive program implemented.[4]     An important component of PME is the professional debate; the contest of ideas that enhances and progresses the professional body of knowledge.   To this end, ADF leaders have been encouraged to write and contribute to professional forums such as The Cove, the Forge, The Runway and Australian Army Journal.

This presents a particular challenge for ADF Reservist who often must balance the professional demands of a full-time civilian career with those of a part-time military career.  Keeping abreast of changes to military doctrine, equipment, and administration alone takes significant time and effort.  When combined with the demands of a part-time military service and participation in military training, it can leave very little time to consume PME material, let alone contribute to it.  In addition, writing for a professional audience can be intimidating, especially in an institution like the ADF.[5]

It is no coincidence the majority of material published by serving ADF members is from the full-time component.  For example, entire editions of the Australian Army Journal will not mention the Army Reserve let alone feature an Army Reserve author.[6]   Our serving ADF Reserve leaders tend not to publish regularly, unlike their full-time peers.  I contend that this deprives the ADF of some important diversity of thought, professional example and intellectual leadership that should be more readily available.    

My suggestion is that ADF Reservists seek to write and publish of topics from the sweet spot of the intersection of their civilian careers and the military profession.  In doing so, they may be able to bring new insight to the military profession through novel applications of models, theories, new technologies or practices.  The ADF Reservist can write with the authority and credibility that comes with external experience.  Combined with the intimate insight to the ADF that contemporary service brings, this particular synthesis can bring greater diversity to the professional contest of ideas.   This approach is a means to achieve an ‘an enhanced sharing of ideas’ urged by MAJGEN Ryan, architect of the ADF’s PME Continuum.[7]  I am not suggesting that ADF Reservists limit themselves to this sweet spot, only that it is a place to start and one that is underrepresented in the professional debate.

As a member of the editorial board for the Sanananda Papers, the journal of 25/49 Royal Queensland Regiment, published annually, I often have my interest piqued by submissions where the authors applied aspects of their civil professional knowledge to the military.    Articles that included perspectives from architecture, sociology and policing professions gave the opportunity to think about military topics from a different perspective.[8]  Yet, when discussing potential articles with authors, I find that the Reservist often underestimates the potential value of the application of their civilian experience in the military realm.    In practice though, this is precisely where original, and value-adding thought can be generated.

With the proliferation of good quality PME portals the barriers for publication are now much lower than might have been in the past.   Yet, this does not make writing easier.  As MAJGEN Field relates, it remains a challenging and humbling task, even for short pieces.[9]  However, it is rewarding, and I argue that it the obligation of all of us, both full and part-time, to not only consume, but contribute to, the body of professional knowledge.     The civ-mil sweet spot is an opportunity for ADF Reservists to give life to more diversity in the professional debate and ultimately contribute to the development of an intellectual edge for the ADF.

 

References

25/49 RQR.  2018, The Sanananda Papers: Journal of 25/49th Battalion Royal Queensland Regiment (Canberra: Department of Defence: Canberra).

Australian War College 2020.  ‘Why we write ‘series, The Forge, https://theforge.defence.gov.au/publications/why-we-write-series accessed 15 July 20.

Blaxland, J, 2019, A Geostrategic SWOT Analysis for Australia, The Centre of Gravity Series (Canberra: Australian National University).

Department of Defence 2019.  The Australian Joint Professional Military Education Continuum (Canberra: Australian Defence College).

Field, Christopher 2018.  Two Reasons Military Professionals Must Write – Education & Humility,  https://www.cove.org.au/unit-pme/article-two-reasons-military-professionals-must-write-education-humility/ accessed 15 May 19.

Ryan, M. 2019. An Australian Intellectual Edge for Conflict and Competition in the 21st Century, The Centre of Gravity Series, June 2019, Strategic and Defence Studies Centre (Canberra: Australian National University).

Ryan, M. 2019.  The Intellectual Edge A Competitive Advantage for Future War and Strategic Competition, Joint Force Quarterly, 1st Quarter 2020.

 

[1] C Field.  Two Reasons Military Professionals Must Write – Education & Humility,  The Cove 2018 at https://www.cove.org.au/unit-pme/article-two-reasons-military-profession... accessed 15 May 19

[2] J Blaxland, A Geostrategic SWOT Analysis for Australia, The Centre of Gravity Series (Canberra: Australian National University, 2019), 2.

[3] M Ryan. An Australian Intellectual Edge for Conflict and Competition in the 21st Century, The Centre of Gravity Series, June 2019, Canberra: Australian National University Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, p. 4.

[4] Department of Defence.  The Australian Joint Professional Military Education Continuum, 2019,  Canberra: Australian Defence College.

[5] The Australian War College’s ‘Why we write’ series of articles published on ‘The Forge’ is an important initiative to provide encouragement and ideas for overcoming these obstacles; see https://theforge.defence.gov.au/publications/why-we-write-series

[6] For example, The Australian Army Journal Autumn 2019, Volume XV, No 1 mentions the Part-time component once in 170 pages while Army in Motion - CALFS 2018 Volume XIV, Number 3 mentions the part time component only twice in 230 pages (one a picture caption and one in a reference to US reserve forces).

[7] M Ryan.  The Intellectual Edge A Competitive Advantage for Future War and Strategic Competition, Joint Force Quarterly, 1st Quarter 2020, p. 8.

[8] 25/49 RQR.  2018, The Sanananda Papers: Journal of 25/49th Battalion - Royal Queensland Regiment,  Canberra: Department of Defence.

[9] C Field.  Two Reasons Military Professionals Must Write – Education & Humility,  The Cove 2018 at https://www.cove.org.au/unit-pme/article-two-reasons-military-profession... accessed 15 May 19