Chief of Army outlines his priorities for Army
Army news: What will be your main priorities and goals?
CA: I have outlined four priorities. They are: to support operations because that’s why we exist; to support our wounded, injured and ill because it’s the right thing to do and they deserve our support; to continue the modernisation of our Army because I want us to have the best chance to win and for our people to come home safely; and to continue a program of cultural renewal and development because ethical soldiers are our most powerful weapon.
They’re broad, but my interest is to see that we’re a modern, jointly enabled, open and developing Army, and I want to do it across those four frameworks.
Army news: What do you expect will be the biggest issues and opportunities during your tenure?
CA: I’m looking forward to the opportunities that will emerge from the recently released First Principles Review and the White Paper, which may be released by the government in the third quarter of this year.
Importantly, there’s an acknowledgement that it is a time of national security challenge and the ADF, as well as other parts of the security community, need to be prepared and ready for this challenge. We need to make sure we are preparing a force for the needs of the day. We’ve seen a range of new and different adversaries, such as Daesh, and the flow of people supporting that cause present future security challenges, not only to Australia, but to our region. So keeping the Army relevant and focused across the spectrum of modern challenges is key for me.
Army news: What part of the job are you most passionate about?
CA: Actually it’s the people. We have wonderful people in our Army and they do a great job every day. There are occasionally individuals who need some correction, but the Army is an organisation that responds to positive encouragement and can quickly learn from its mistakes. There is a great generation of young soldiers out there.
Army news: What can diggers expect from their new boss as far as leadership style goes?
CA: I think I’m pretty open-minded and prepared to listen to what people have to say, but I will think about things and clearly articulate where I want to be and where Army’s opportunities and challenges lie.
If I’m visiting a unit, please speak up, because I want to hear what soldiers have to say.
Army news: What do you expect from them?
CA: Do your best. Give your best effort every day. It’ll be good for you, good for your team and good for your Army.
Army news: What did you take away from your visit to HMAS Canberra in May, and was there a particular highlight?
CA: It is an impressive capability. What really struck me was the clear effort by the ship’s captain and crew, and the Ship’s Army Establishment, to work together as a single team.
They were enthusiastic about approaching the trial phases they’re in now for aviation operations and Army contingent land force embarkations.
I left with a positive sense that this is a capability that is truly developing and, most importantly, developing with the right attitude.
Army news: How do you see this new capability being used by Army?
CA: We are building our capacity through a trial program with 2RAR to learn the range of options and opportunities that we might have for conventional Army employment within a spectrum of activities.
These include regional engagements and humanitarian and disaster relief, all the way up to what is essentially littoral manoeuvre using amphibious vessels in time of war.
They are not vessels we will be using for frontal assaults of contested beach heads. They provide a great capability across the wide spectrum of security challenges for which we need to prepare. Conventional and Special Forces capabilities will use them.
Army: How important is interoperability between the services?
CA: It is absolutely vital. We can’t gain the true capabilities of something like the F-35A Joint Strike Fighter aircraft or the Landing Helicopter Dock ships without an ADF that is interconnected culturally, electronically and procedurally. That’s exactly what the senior leadership is striving to do. It’s a story that has been going on for 25-30 years now.
Army news: Are you satisfied with the progress of Plan Beersheba as far as getting new kit out to the diggers who need it?
CA: I’ve been to a number of units now and our diggers are overwhelmingly positive about the kit we have. That’s a product of the long process of developing the acquisition cycle, making it more responsive by listening to people’s needs, recognising the operational requirements and then trialling and checking.
I think Beersheba has delivered, and will continue to deliver, for our soldiers. I always ask how much experience a soldier has with a piece of equipment before they say they don’t like it, because I am alert to the difference between a need and a fad or a fashion.
But so far my sense is that Beersheba has delivered to the soldier and they are far, far, better equipped than any generation of soldier our Army has seen.
Army news: What do you see as the role for the Army Reserve?
CA: I have recently returned from a visit to 11 Bde on one of its evening parades and got around to seeing elements of the brigade training. They have been working up, in combination with 13 Bde, to contribute a battlegroup to Exercise Hamel.
The Beersheba model of two reserve brigades contributing a battlegroup-level capability into the ready brigade is a powerful way of making a strong contribution into our force mix. As we go forward we will keep looking for ways in which we see an integrated single force. When I visited the troops at 11 Bde, there were many who had served in both the ARA and reserves.
So we have a force that moves between different levels of contribution and as long as we’re seen as a single force that’s exactly the way we should be.
Army news: What was your motivation, and what were your aspirations, when you joined the Army in 1981?
CA: I thought it looked like a challenging life and a worthwhile contribution to our nation, and that’s why I wanted to join. I hoped I’d be a good enough platoon commander, and that’s where I was, heading into Duntroon as a 17-year-old.
Army news: What has been your favourite posting and why?
CA: Probably my first posting, being a platoon commander, because I learnt a great deal largely through my own mistakes about service in the military and the value of committing your best effort to that service and the real sense of reward you can gain from it.
Army news: What is the most valuable lesson you have received in your career?
CA: It was through watching my corporals and sergeants build the capability of new recruits coming into the battalion and watching them mould them and realising that’s what I should be doing for everybody coming into the unit.
I was so impressed by our young corporals and sergeants who were dedicated and were taking people who were raw and rough and turning them into good soldiers and making them enthusiastic about soldiering.
Army news: Do you have a schedule of base visits planned?
CA: I do and it develops as we go. It’s very important from the point of view of a Chief sitting at the top of an organisation in a city without a combat unit to get out and see our people, see what they’re up to and remain in touch.
Army news: One of your hobbies is military history – is there a particular area of interest?
CA: I find the history around our service in WWI interesting just because of the scale of our contribution and the importance of it in the latter part of the war, in 1918. I’m also a big fan of early Cold War history because of the significant role individuals played in defining our world. I think whatever we can do to capture and tell the story of our recent operations is important. Although we see it as just yesterday, in a few years’ time our families, friends, children and grandchildren will be wondering what our story was. It would be remiss of us if we didn’t do everything we can to make sure it’s a story well told.
With our project The Longest War: The Australian Army in Afghanistan, we have been building a picture of our experience in Afghanistan, and I think we should extend that more broadly.
Army news: AFL or NRL?
CA: Because I’ve moved around a lot I’ve become a fan of a club in every code. In AFL, it’s Richmond, because you need a bit of resilience in your life and, for them, it’s been a long time between drinks. With NRL, it’s the Eels, and NSW in Origin. A crushing defeat to the Maroons just makes the competition next year more interesting. For a Blues fan, there’s always next year!