CoveTalk | 2 DIV PME Series – COMD 2 DIV: Reflections and Looking Forward

The Commander of the 2nd (Australian) Division, Major General David Thomae, AM, has described a clear focus for the division as identified within the Defence Strategic Review. This focus area is to “generate, deploy and then sustain security and response task units to protect key areas in Australia’s North”. Typical of many such imperatives, the 2nd (Australian) Division must be able to achieve these outcomes in a very short timeframe due to reduced strategic warning with extant personnel and equipment, in other words, to be able to ‘fight tonight’.

This is a continuance of what was earlier stated by the Chief of Army, Lieutenant General Simon Stuart, AO, DSC, when the 2nd (Australian) Division was raised as a functional command on 16th of July 2022. There the Chief of Army stated that “The command will improve Army’s responsiveness, resilience and ability to rapidly scale to do what only an Army can do. The unity, a sense of purpose and focus by a single command will support our land forces to achieve the tasks that are asked of us by government.” Persistent patrolling of our borders in the north and recent events, including COVID-19, floods and fires have highlighted 2nd Division’s role as an Army in the community. However, that is not all the 2nd (Australian) Division is assigned to do. Its mission is to generate land capabilities for the joint force and to command assigned contingency response forces to meet directed domestic operational requirements. This mission speaks to the broad spectrum of operations from Defence Aid to the Civil Community, Defence Force Aid to the Civil Authority as well maintaining preparedness for other contingencies up to and including war fighting.

The Australian Defence Force, and in particular, the Australian Army has a significant journey ahead as it transforms into a littoral force. Recently, an Australian Army Occasional Paper argued that “the Army should not limit the expansion ability of the Reserves to the activation of the 2nd Division. A major war will require more troops; the Reserves should be a template for the creation of additional divisions, a third and more if needed.” The 2nd (Australian) Division has long considered how it can scale to meet these contingencies. However, the 2nd (Australian) Division’s journey will evolve over time, leveraging history, rather than being tethered by it, or any preference for retaining the status quo. 

On this journey of transformation to meet the Defence Strategic Review, the 2nd (Australian) Division must also consider not only how it needs to transform, but also how war has transformed. As we consider the future of the 2nd (Australian) Division, and the inherent reserve workforce, we can gather understanding from the recent operational ‘highlights reel’. The 2nd (Australian) Division has delivered valuable contributions to operations domestically and off shore because of the centreline of training being focused firmly on foundation war fighting. Yet we ought to also consider that future wars will defy our own expectations. Therefore, we must invest in some critical thinking skills to fully appreciate what these futures and the potential requirements may entail.

In order to help us all understand where we have been and where the 2nd (Australian) Division will go, the Commander spoke at the 2 Div PME CoveTalk on 31 October 2023.


MAJGEN Thomae speaking.

Major General David Thomae assumed command of the 2nd Division on 17 July 2021.

Major General Thomae joined the Army in 1985, graduating from the Royal Military College Duntroon in 1988 to the Royal Australian Infantry Corps. His regimental service has been with the 2nd/4th Battalion and 6th Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment, 16th Battalion, The Royal Western Australian Regiment, 25th Battalion and 9th Battalion, The Royal Queensland Regiment, which he commanded in 2007-08.

His operational experience includes being a military observer with the United Nations Truce Supervision Organisation in Lebanon and Syria, rifle company commander in the 6th Battalion Battle Group with the United Nations Transitional Administration East Timor and as Senior Military Advisor to the Special Representative to the Secretary General, United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq. Recently he was Commander Joint Task Group 629.3 as part of Operation COVID ASSIST, the task group supporting the Australian Defence Force’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.