I wish I had known that - Other

By The Cove June 11, 2021


'Being comfortable, at the JNCO level, with your daily expectations of completed tasks sitting around 50%. Also, as your progress through the ranks this % will gain momentum to RSM level which is close to 10% completed tasks. The message is – Assess your requirement to stay ‘all hours’ to complete your directed tasks (potentially self-directed) as you will need to be comfortable leaving work/tasks until the next day - To your surprise it may not have been a priority at all!' RSM 13 BDE

'I wish someone had told me everyone makes mistakes. It's how we respond to those mistakes that'll determine whether we succeed or fail in the long term. Our ability to learn from failures will decide whether we repeat the same errors or successfully use them as building blocks to move forward'.  RSM 41 RNSWR

'I wish someone had told me early that the controls for my career were largely held by myself and not CMA. We don’t work that out until later in our trajectory and we sleepwalk into jobs. Be an active participant otherwise you will get 100% of what you don’t ask for'. RSM SME

'I wish someone had told me that as my career progressed through the ranks, and as my family grew parallel to my service to the country, that the decision between meeting service need and family commitments would be so difficult'.  RSM AST

'I wish that I had known the cumulative effect of blast over pressure. Early on in my career before there was a rule on how many blast exposures that you could be exposed to in one HE range practice you were exposed to large amounts of blast shock waves as a safety supervisor.  This was carried through during some explosive method of entry practices.  The effects of blast over pressure and blast shock wave may lead to a brain injury or early onset dementia. Studies are only now happening into these effects.  There is no easy way to test for this condition.  As more studies are conducted for high profile sport persons on the accumulative effects of concussion, the problem is only now being realised'. RSM ADFSSO

'I wish someone had told me early on in my career that 'you create your own luck'. If you genuinely apply yourself in all areas; put your hand up for extra work; seek development opportunities; live the values etc., you will always increase your luck in achieving what you want out of a career. If you sit back and just do the minimum you may have some wins, but over time working hard will always increase your luck in achieving that promotion; a deployment; a preferred posting locality or other goal.' RSM Defence Force School of Policing

'When I was posted to a SERCAT 5 sub-unit I wish I had known that I was able to pass more responsibility onto Reserve soldiers. I quickly discovered that they are very capable, they just require more time to complete some tasks, which means you as a leader need to be organised'. RSM - School of Music

I wish I would have known that as you progress through your career you don’t need to change who you are to be successful - being who you are got you where you are. The following are my observations:

1. Get out of your comfort zone - experience wider Army and gain personal development opportunities. 

2. Always remain genuine - be honest to yourself and continue to be the person that has got you where you are.

3. Never stop being a ‘digger’ - remember where you’ve come from and have empathy.

4. Concentrate on your ‘job’ not your ‘career’.

5. Be the RSM you want the soldiers to aspire to be!

RSM CTC

I wish I would have known more detail of the nuance that Reserve soldiers and the greater 2 Div bring. I have spent my whole career up until now in regular combat/training establishments, and found my knowledge of the SERACT 5 space was severely lacking as the new RSM (1st Appointment) of a reserve battalion. I thought I knew enough beforehand – a massive oversight. I wish I had known more about:

  • SERACT 3&5 pay and conditions to better understand and support them
  • The realisation of the immense diversity they bring from their myriad of civilian vocations and educational experiences – all of which enrich our force
  • Employer engagement schemes and support initiatives
  • The SERCAT 3&5 Honours and Awards system – in that it is not autonomous in the issuing of milestone awards such as long service and must be applied for by the individual/unit
  • The difference between DSCM-A, DRSCM-A and CAG and what to expect out of each agency – I expected the same level of support equally. Big mistake.
  • The fact that 2 Div units are not ‘low-tempo’ as the last 12 months have shown. There is a wide systemic misconception that we are – which included me and my thinking before taking my appointment.  

RSM 8 CSSB

'Regardless of where we are employed and the environment, always remain current and promote the requirements of Army personnel to maintain the skills required to move, shoot, communicate and medicate. As these skills on a sliding scale of level employment remain paramount in our organisation. Professional mastery of ourselves and our subordinates allows us to be 'Ready Now and Future Ready' and feeds directly CAs modernisation priorities 'Connected, Protected, Lethal and Enabled'. RSM AAF

'I wish I would have known how little time there is in a day. You must continually develop strategies to maximise the use of your day whether it is prioritising emails, knowing the soldiers of the unit or preparing for future tasks, all while being able to react to short notice situations'. RSM 1 Signals Regiment

'I wish I would have known’ that as a JNCO that loyalty to the Unit would silo my career for too long. Wanting to stay in my first Unit for almost 10 years and having a “blinker” approach and not branch out into wider Army, such as postings to the School of Armour or 1RTB would see me on the back foot compared to my peers when taking that next step from CPL – SGT '. RSM HQ AAC SA BDE

'I wish that I had known the value of a simple plan which is well executed. Far too often, there is a tendency to over complicate solutions to simple problems, spending unnecessary time planning and coordinating at the expense of timely execution. Developing an appropriate but simple plan demonstrates an individual’s confidence and competence. Nothing is more effective than simple things done well'. RSM 8/12 MDM REGT

'I wish I would have known earlier in my career, the importance of understanding the diverse nature of personalities and characteristics of each team member and the varied ways required to effectively communicate, motivate and build trust while remaining agile and adaptable to the mission'. RSM 39 OSB

The points below would have made a big difference to me had I known them as a CPL:

  • Available support services, how to access them, and more importantly what it is that each one is designed to provide – Clearly there are more avenues available these days (Defence Family Matters, MHPS, DCO, Open Arms etc), but if you had asked me as a CPL what DCO could provide I would have not been able to tell you. If I was asked by a soldier at the time for help that I couldn’t provide there and then, the Padre would have been the default ‘go to’ (they are still a great asset within units by the way)  - I assumed my higher HQ had some secret knowledge of available services, but as a sect comd I certainly didn’t.
  • An awareness of career management, particularly progression within my own corps and trade – As a sect comd, you will be the first person your soldiers ask about career progression within your trade…what should they be aiming for, what does their future entail and what do they need to achieve in order to progress? If you do not understand what an MAE (or its’ future equivalent) represents, that is a great place to start. I did not know what an MAE was as a sect comd, let alone have the knowledge to answer questions on its’ composition or meaning.
  • ‘Who helps the helper’, delegation, and looking after yourself IOT more effectively look after your subordinates – As a sect comd, it is natural to place yourself last in all things but, regardless of how resilient you are, you have to trust your soldiers and delegate tasks where appropriate. As a JNCO, there are times when you can (physically and mentally) do everything yourself, but you will eventually get to a position where it just isn’t possible. It is important to understand what your own limitations are, what strengths your soldiers possess in support of your team. Most importantly, you need to know that it is absolutely OK to ask for help when you need it – as a sect comd I would never have done this (it was mostly thank you Sir…may I have another task?), and I wish I had, because I now know that your soldiers need you in the right frame of mind. RSM APSU

'I wish that I had known that you don’t need to know everything, you just need to know who to seek that information from or where to find it, in addition you don’t need to do everything, you have a staff, trust that they can do their job, but verify that trust'. RSM 4/3 RNSWR

'I wish I knew the evolution changes for the human dynamics to what/how I was raised. This is enduring with each age group. We were raised with building resilience, being pushed, not to answer back or question. The soldiers/officers of today are not pushed as we were, and so risk averse. We afford them to have a voice and question. Who is right or wrong? I think with what MEC issues we have today both physical and mentally, we need to question have we got it right? So the answer to your question, I don’t really know, other than we need to collectively identify an answer to have an employable workforce. Question: ‘I wish I would have known how to build resilience in a new evolving modern workforce’? RSM 9 FSB

'I wish I had known the importance of establishing a 'civilian life' while still being a full time member! At some point in our careers, we must all transition from Army to 'being a civilian' and this can be, a challenge (at best) and a traumatic experience (at its worst). As a JNCO, a wise RSM once told me, “have a plan and have a plan two years out”! These are wise words that all Defence members should strive to achieve. Transition can be daunting, whether planned or forced upon you, so always work towards being a civilian 'one day'. Update your resume regularly. Keep civilian qualifications current. Join local sports, social or professional groups and start establishing yourself as a community member now'! RSM AAC NQ BDE

'I wish someone had told me that as a JNCO I was more influential than at any other time in my career. A JNCO directly commands more people, everyday, than any other commander and are therefore the most critical leaders in Army. The rest of us are there to support you'. RSM 1 RTB

'To be honest, as a junior soldier there is not much I wish I would have known, I was generally well informed and fully understood what was expected of me; however, the more senior I have become not only in rank but in maturity within the organisation, I wish I would have known how much time and dedication goes into soldier management. As a junior soldier I did not encounter the amount of administration that a JNCO of today is expected to know and execute. This can range from sensitive personal concerns to disciplinary issues to career management etc, while balancing this against high tempo day to day tasking. This is the expectation of junior leaders with additional pressure of ‘having to do more with less’.  While I wish I would have known this, it would not have changed my choice to serve'. RSM RMC-D

'I wish I would have known the importance of understanding the MAE and in particular knowledge of my own trade structure as a JNCO. Understanding your own trade structure provides knowledge to help guide your own career management and development including writing a coherent five year plan that correlates to your trade progression requirements. Additionally, anyone who supervisors a soldier, JNCO and above must be able to provide sound career and trade advice to ensure your soldiers are correctly remunerated and supported in career management / trade progression. As you progress in rank, the more your trade model knowledge needs to increase but also it needs to expand to other trade models of soldiers within your Chain of Command. Familiarity of workforce management and the MAE at the JNCO level helps you develop into professional NCOs and Warrant Officers to eventually be better trade / career managers and RSMs of the future whilst also supporting development and retention of your subordinates'WO1 DSOTEC

‘I wish someone would have told me to involve myself in the community, in some way: volunteer with a non-for-profit organisation or join a local sporting team. Not only does it make you feel as though you are giving back, it also opens you up to a more diverse way of thinking. At times, I have found that surrounding yourself with Defence friends who think the same way as you, which can be detrimental to you realising different ideas and grasping new concepts'RSM 1 CER

‘I wish I would have known that this job, this life, requires so much sacrifice. With long periods of monotony, broken by short and exhilarating moments of hard training and war. That the price you pay personally and professionally in your role as a follower, leader and mentor is high and yet - completely worth it. I would of agonised far less, knowing that I would be content in my later years, being personally and spiritually rewarded by embracing the friction I have faced'RSM 6 RAR

'All throughout my career I have looked at the people who hold the rank one above me and thought 'there is no way I can do that job'. I wish I would have known that the Army’s system for training people and the experiences you gain during your career stand you in good stead for the next job, and that your new peers will assist you to get up to speed to fill your new rank and role'.RSM 5 ER

‘I wish I would have known how much the Australian Army would change from 25 years ago; I would have made more of an effort to learn new things. I wish I volunteered my time in the community a lot earlier in my career. I wish I knew how much influence we have in the community.  I wish I used my time to read more about lessons learned and Australia’s strategic outlook. I wish I knew earlier in my career that I was going have the privilege and honour to be a Regimental Sergeant Major!'. RSM AUR

'I wish someone had told me that in 20 years’ time, no one in Army will remember all the times you sacrificed your family for Army; however, your family will never forget that you did. Your children will never be children again, so don’t miss it.' RSM 2 RAR


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The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Australian Army, the Department of Defence or the Australian Government.



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