The 2019 Senior Enlisted Leader Conference communicated a clear message that soldiers need not only be experts in warfare but also creative, critical and intelligent thinkers who understand the strategic environment. The Australian Army’s Regimental Sergeant Majors (RSMs) are at the forefront of this expectation, which has been driven by an undeniable technological evolution that has connected the traditional land, air and sea domains with space and cyber. As leaders, deliverers of soldier training, and advisors of Army commanders, RSMs are the interface between 'what has been done', 'what is being done' and 'what is possible'. This article will reinforce the necessity for RSMs to embrace an emerging reality that needs them to be intellectually invested to meet the needs of the changing operating environment.
Changing not Change
Preparing for volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous environments requires continual and forward thinking, not just of the commander but of everyone. Jabri (2017) observes how the use of the word 'change' gives a sense of completion and instead advocates the use of words such as 'changing'. This supports his notion of 'continuity and multiplicity' to consider possibilities with a relational outlook and anticipate opportunities. RSMs are the embodiment of knowledge, experience and judgement and their organisations rely upon them to be informed agents who can:
- have meaningful input to training design
- be the transmitter to distil the message throughout the ranks
- be the sensor to detect performance
- be the logic that advises the need for changing
Insisting on a culture of changing and not change acknowledges that an Army should never assume it has arrived at a given point. Admittedly, tactical missions are expressed to achieve an outcome with an 'in order to' purpose, which RSMs should be involved in. However, their attention must be on the consequential conditions the massed effects of training and tactical missions create. Their astute analysis of this provides input to the learning loop that informs the next and future iterations. Like a national-level sports coach, the RSM should be active to use his/her resources when developing the team, designing training and offering insight of the 'game' that improves performance and anticipates possibilities. RSMs, with a coaching mindset, should view training as an evolving process to regenerate purpose like during a rugby game when fresh players from the interchange introduce vitality and re-establish momentum to apply new options. Detrimentally, relying on a half-time advantage without applying pressure to surge is a mindset of 'arrival' and one that a coach and RSM must accelerate away from.
Specifically, the military context is complicated by the interconnectedness of the operating environment, often where conflict is undeclared. This compels the RSM to be perceptive of the science and art of training and war. The changing character of warfare permeates across and through numerous domains at rapid, unforgiving and pervasive ways. This demands RSMs must function at a cognitive level to be an energy source with an inherently changing mindset and not be content with arriving but continually searching.
The RSM’s role will always lean towards training soldiers and teams to prepare them for conflict. However, when a threat does not contain itself to just the land domain but creates uncertainty by interlacing information, cyber and space elements, RSMs need to offer insightful, critical assessment. This skill needs developing and requires knowledge of the strategic environment coupled with agility to respond and anticipate. RSMs who accept this will foster a culture of not arriving but one of constant motion.