Preparing the Combatant of the 21st Century

By John Spencer October 31, 2019

Amateurs deconflict, professionals integrate

Army is a versatile, decisive force, offering broad utility for the nation.

Army operates on the land, from the land and onto the land, across all domains including cyber, space, maritime and air. We are a vital member of the joint team.

In this age of increasing uncertainty, we must leverage Army’s unique strengths: bring people together and integrate capabilities; provide presence and enable access; foster people-to-people relationships and build trust.[1]

Lieutenant General Rick Burr, Chief of Army, 2019

An Army in Motion requires a fundamental re-examination of how Army prepares for warfighting. The demands of current and future battlefields, emerging technology, changing demographics, and the need to maintain a competitive advantage as a small force, have driven the Combined Arms Training Centre (CATC) to examine new ways of training the Army’s close combatants. This has led to the development of a new concept for a combined arms training continuum. This paper examines why change is needed, socialises the concepts and discusses solutions to shape consensus for a way forward.


Accelerated Warfare describes the Chief of Army (CA’s) vision. It situates the Army in a rapidly changing context. It also states that as an Army in Motion, our profession demands a continuous contest of ideas. It goes on to describe the operating environment and provides a framework for how we should respond. As a result, Accelerated Warfare provides the start-state for how we think, equip, train, educate, organise and prepare for war. This is a critical step in becoming future ready.

This raises the question of how we achieve the CA’s vision for Accelerated Warfare. Within CATC this process has already commenced with the integration of new technologies and the ongoing introduction into service (IIS) of LAND projects, such as LAND 400 PH2 RAAC Boxer vehicles and PH3 IFV for Arms Corps. Other new equipment - such as integrated air and missile defence systems, guns, ammunition and unmanned ariel vehicles (UAVs) for RAA and bridging and under-armour breaching for RAE - is part of a large suite of new platforms which will be employed across all the Arms Corps.   

These new technologies, and the associated evolved instructional methodologies, increase both cognitive and training demands. For example, both the current Army Combative Program and Combat Marksmanship Continuum are underpinned by individual learning and require frequent repetitions to be effective. While the complexity of standard combat systems is growing, the time allocated to basic training for the combat Corps has barely increased in a generation. Rectifying this current (and growing) gap demands a change in the way we conduct business.

Through the ongoing modernisation and integration of technologies we are able to achieve the CA’s command themes of Preparedness, People, Profession Partnerships and Potential. Army’s end-state cannot be achieved without combatant soldiers and junior leaders who are able to integrate their Corps' capabilities into a combined arms effect in order to win the joint land battle.

For a combined arms effect to be achieved, an understanding of each Corps and their unique capabilities is required. This, coupled with the personal and professional understanding of each individual who will fight alongside each other, will significantly multiply a combined arms culture which promises to realise the potential of the combined arms team and from a true Gestalt: a winning combination for the future battlefield.

…war needs to be viewed as a Gestalt, or complex whole comprising concrete and abstract elements…“because of its infinite complexity and non-linear nature, war can only be understood as an organic whole not as a mere compendium of various separate elements”

Justin Kelly & Mike Brennan, The Evolution of Operational Art, paper accessed via Army Lessons Integration and Analysis System on 26 Aug 19.

Structure. Analysis of current Initial Employment Training (IET) within CATC has identified additional opportunities through revealed inefficiencies. The Schools of Armour (SOArmd), Artillery (SOArty) and Military Engineering (SME) all have thier own version of a ‘pre-IET/holding’ training package geared towards weapons skills, Army combatives, communications, character, basic patrolling and navigation: in essence, the foundational skills essential for the modern battlefield that are required prior to more Corps-specific training.[2]

The School of Infantry (SOI) does not have an equivalent pre-IET package, but the current Learning Management Package (LMP) shares about half of the learning outcomes contained within the other training establishments (TEs’) pre-IET training. The total overlap of training at this basic level is approximately six weeks.

These inefficiencies continue to a lesser degree through the combat Corps' trade promotion courses (to be known as Subject 4) where common content is covered by different TEs. Streamlining this common training would ensure unity of effort and enable CATC TEs to focus on the skills unique to their sub-function.[3]

Force Generation (FORGEN) Cycle. The FORGEN cycle has been in place for approximately eight years. While still being reviewed and refined, it can now be considered a mature concept. The fundamental intent of rotating training requirements and associated resources around the combat brigades to generate a sustainable and deployable force is sound and any further exploration is beyond the scope of this paper. However, the FORGEN cycle has had second and third order effects on Army personnel, the impact of which may not have been envisioned by its creators. 

The following basic example is illuminating. Consider the case of three Infantry Private (PTEs) who complete IET at SOI and post to separate battalions, each in a different stage of the FORGEN cycle.[4] Under the RAInf trade model, all three PTEs need to complete a competency log book  over 12 months to be considered PTE(P), transition to a new pay grade, and access promotion and development courses. The first PTE posts to a battalion at the beginning of the ‘readying’ stage and participates in a full suite of collective training exercises culminating in a Joint Warfighting Series of exercises. They complete their competency log book having been exposed to high end combined arms and infantry-specific activities. The second soldier arrives at a ready unit which is either partially deployed or tasked as the ready battle group. The unit is already certified, and while they are likely to be exposed to many combined arms experiences (and potentially international engagement activities), the soldier's competency log book will not be based on the kind of frequent, robust, demanding and externally certified training a ‘readying’ PTE will see. This can be exacerbated if their unit is deployed and they are part of rear details. The final PTE who posts to a ‘reset’ unit is likely to be part of frequent Training Support Requests, acting as training aids to preparing forces. While incidentally beneficial, their competency log book will again be difficult to compare to that of their peers.

While there are multiple ways units can mitigate and manage the above issues, at its core FORGEN is a good means of managing and resourcing collective training at the formation, unit and sub-unit level, not at an individual level. CATC can assist in mitigating the above reality by proving a more rounded soldier at IET exit by synchronising the training continuum.

At this point a comparison is perhaps useful: SOCOMD takes over two years to build a commando from direct entry to certified ‘ready’ to join collective training.[5] To be clear, this paper does not suggest that CATC needs to generate close combatants to the same standard as SOCOMD. However, a basic infantry soldier can join collective training in BDEs in as little as 28 weeks (less than 7 months). Due to SOCOMD’s internal FORGEN/OPGEN requirements, they seek to improve the initial training pipeline to provide a more ‘complete’ soldier to join collective training. Additional common training within CATC can emulate this approach, allowing units to focus on effective and efficient collective training within the FORGEN Cycle.

Close Combatants Pre-IET Module – focusing on what makes Corps different

In addition to efficiencies created at both the CATC and unit level, a common pre-IET module can also bridge the combat fitness gap between ab initio training at ARTC and IET requirements. The resulting proposed Close Combatants Pre-IET Module (CCPIM) would be approximately 6 weeks long. It will be based around a progressive PT program and allow training common to all Combat Corps IET courses to be conducted centrally. A broad concept is included in figure 1-1.



Currently, the 2nd Division (2 Div) employs a similar model for its Part-Time soldier entrants with a Combined Arms Module (CAM) Course that is conducted after the Part-Time Recruit Course and prior to Corps-specific IET courses for RAAC and RAInf (see figure 1-2). This allows 2 Div to break-up their ab initio training continuum into more manageable modules by initially focusing on common proficiencies (weapons, navigation, etc) before shifting focus to skills unique to each role. The resulting efficiencies enable various units and courses to be more focussed with the limited time and resources available, a problem increasingly faced by ARA forces.



Benefits. The CCPIM would enable CATC to ‘de-load’ TE IET courses to focus on Corps-specific skills. This would reduce the ‘pre-IET/holding’ training packages at SOArmd, SOArty and SME, and the 3 weeks saved on RAInf IET would allow SOI to better focus on the skills that make them different to other combat Corps, such as light urban breaching or additional combat shooting. Additional sessions of structured PT and character development would also deliver trainees to IET courses who are in better physical and mental condition. Additionally, some U-18s will turn 18 during CCPIM, reducing the number of U-18s at CATC TEs, and the addition of a number of weeks to overall initial combat CORPS training will extend this benefit to units.

Costs. The cost to TEs will be minimal. While this plan will initially add a six week module to current CATC IETs, further analysis will identify opportunities that may allow IET durations to be adjusted. The implementation of this module will also provide TEs the opportunity to focus more on Corps specific training during IET courses rather than common training. This module will have requirements for additional instructors. However, these instructors could be harvested internally from the various ‘pre-IET/holding’ cells and SOI which will have a reduced instructor load. Facilities will also be a factor, but if the module was centralised at PMA then the National Service Lines could be utilised for accommodation in the short-term, while messing, admin and current training areas could be deconflicted to meet requirements. A long-term solution could be incorporated into a total redevelopment of PMA or the creation of a purpose built amalgamated training facility for all Arms Corps in a suitable location.

Combined Arms ORs continuum – focusing on what makes corps similar

‘We have gotten into the fashion of talking of cavalry tactics, artillery tactics, and infantry tactics. This distinction is nothing but mere abstraction. There is but one art, and that is the tactics of the combined arms.’

Major Gerald Gilbert, British Army, 1907

The combined arms effect is built on individuals and small teams mastering their respective pieces of the force to shield each other’s vulnerabilities and create dilemmas for the enemy. The Army needs soldiers and junior leaders who are experts in their trade at the sub-tactical level; hence, the focus of the combined arms training continuum shifts post-IET. As a soldier progresses through their career, and having mastered their trades at their respective levels, the focus shifts to what makes the Combat Corps similar to build their combined arms acumen.

This will see no change in the current all corps Subj 1 CPL/SGT/WO2 continuum and the retention of corps specific subject courses (identified as Subj 4 throughout for consistency) along with the inclusion of a combined arms subject course Subj 2(CA) CPL/SGT/WO2. Unlike the pre-IET course, where possible the Subj 2 would be conducted after completion of all-Corps and Corps-specific subject courses (figure 1-3). This would provide maximum benefit for combined arms training. RAE will also conduct trade-specific promotion courses as required.



Benefits. The Subj 2 CPL to Subj 2 WO provide courses will build cross Corps understanding and a common operating language. For example, at the CPL level each participant will first gain an understanding of the tactics of combined arms in small teams and how best to utilise the skills and equipment of each Arms Corps. This will also start a combined arms cohort which will greatly enhance the working relationships for future training and operations. At another level, with all Arms Corps being mounted in an armoured platform in the near future, the considerations and general methods for a distribution point should be common for a Tank Troop, a Mech Inf Coy, a PMV mounted Combat Engineer element or a displacing Gun Battery. As SSMs, CSMs and BSMs are responsible for running these activities, a combined arms Subj 2 WO would provide an opportunity for this training in a common setting to generate a common understanding. This will also provide efficiencies in the Corps-specific subject courses by again de-loading common learning outcomes, providing time and space to focus on skills truly unique to that Corps.

Conducting these courses after the completion of Corps-specific subject courses provides an opportunity for cross-pollination, similar to the outcome achieved on the Combat Officer’s Advanced Course.[6] Building combined arms literacy would reduce the friction experienced in collective training and improve the efficiency of ‘field-time’ in combat brigades. These courses could also provide opportunities for interaction with officer courses such as ROBC equivalents through to COAC for WO2s. As an example, if a combat engineer SGT better understands the armour and infantry call sign to which they are attached before they are regrouped for an exercise or operation, the initial friction will be less and the combat effectiveness of the combined arms team enhanced.

Common training provides a vehicle for building a common language, both doctrinally and practically. For example, it is not uncommon to have four different Corps speaking four different dialects of the same RATEL on one radio net. A common subject course would provide an opportunity to better align these Corps connections while increased understanding and clearer common language (including advanced BMS user) will allow a more rapid forming of teams and a more efficient use of precious field training time beyond the CATC training continuum.

Costs. As this course would be largely theory based with minimal practical components, the resource impact would be minimal. Further, the learning outcomes could be achieved within a 3-week continuum. Of note, this course (similar to the pre-IET course) could save approximately a week of common training from the Subj 4 courses. The main benefit is the anticipated gain in collective training efficiency and focusing of Corps-specific training on re-vamped Subj 4 courses.


Implementing this plan would require a deliberate effort across FORCOMD and wider Army. This paper does not intend to provide fine detail, only the broad concepts already explored.

Synchronisation. All CATC TEs conduct IET courses of differing lengths, while the training program at ARTC is constant. To synchronise ARTC throughput IOT meet IET DTR and course timings, change may be required starting at DFR through ARTC to CATC. This may require ARTC to group Combat Corps recruits by the time it takes to train them in predictable and manageable waves. It may also require adjustment of CATC IET scheduling. Reinforcement cycles and expectations would need to be managed through any transition period. Finally, the need for holding platoons would not cease, but efficiencies would be gained by holding new trainees awaiting CCPIM centrally to again de-load four very different TEs of a complex personnel management consideration. This would enable TEs to know that soldiers arrive for instruction administratively and physically ready to begin training.

Facilities.  CATC has a combined IET throughput of 7,036 per annum. Assuming a 6-week course of 40 personnel, this would require an investment in facilities. CATC has determined that PMA is likely the most appropriate location for this concentration as the National Service Lines provide capability. However, investments in dining facilities would be required. Range space is also available without impacting on SOArty, SOArmd or Army School of Transport activities, noting that it will have to be deconflicted with non-residential units (RMC-D, etc.) using the Puckapunyal Military Area (PMA).

Timeline. CATC has been directed to conduct a trial CCPIM in Q3/Q4 2020. This will seek to include trainees from all four Combat Corps to prove the concept. Instructional support would initially be from within CATC. In 2021 the plan would be increased to include all Combat Corps recruits with a resulting instructional bill expanded through TSR before postings to position in CMC 2021. The CCPIM is seen as the simplest of the suite to implement as it has the clearest benefits and greatest return on investment due to the issues identified. The combined arms subject courses will be developed throughout 2020 for initial trial implementation in 2021. The PMA is likely to be the hosting base to prove all initial concepts due to the presence of SOArmd and SOArty. The courses will pilot before being transitioned to mandatory for trade and promotion requirements.


A number of factors have lead CATC to acknowledge the need for collating common training. Increasing technological requirements and the arrival of LAND projects have impacted along with institutional and likely operational demands on a decreasing supply of combat soldiers. In addition, the reality of inconsistent individual training within units during the FORGEN cycle, and the common training that is conducted across CATC TEs, brings CATC to a position where change is necessary. While implementing a common training solution will disrupt the current training continuum and will involve transitional friction, the benefits will outweigh the short-term impost. Adding to and streamlining the existing continuum to provide common combined arms training will de-load Corps-specific training while providing an opportunity to build common understanding, language and cohorts of soldiers. This is vital to keeping Army contemporary and relevant. It also reduces the potential for tribalism and stovepiped training while aligning with an Army in Motion. The options are to protect status quo or truly integrate our approach to build efficiencies and increase effectiveness. The future battlefield will demand soldiers and junior leaders who do not just ‘get’ combined arms but live and breathe it.

This document was drafted by MAJ John Spencer, SO1 Combined Arms Trade and Training (CATT) Branch, HQ CATC with the assistance of past and present members of the CATT Branch and the guidance of the COMDT CATC COL Richard (Dick) Parker.


End Notes
​​​​​​[1] Chief of Army, Army In Motion, Commander’s Statement for Australia’s Army, Department of Defence, Australian Army, Canberra, 13 July 2018 < [Accessed 02 July 2019]

[2] An examination of LMPS indicates that there is approximately 70% commonality between learning outcomes between the three packages. 

[3] Related to the segment review of focussing on functional and sub-functional segments.

[4] For clarity let us assume they arrive at their units during the HOTO of readiness responsibilities.

[5] ARTC (12 weeks), SOI Infantry IET (16 weeks), SF Preparation Course (6 weeks), CSTC (6 weeks), Commando Reinforcement Training (classified). And this is after recruiting for capacity and potential or leveraging existing experience through the non-direct entry stream

[6] COAC brings together combat corps officer mid-captaincy. RAE and RAA have the benefit of intermediate course whilst RAInf and RAAC normally bring extensive regimental experience. All corps quiet effectively come together to share knowledge and experience.




John Spencer

John Spencer enlisted in 1981 as an Infantryman and progressed through the ranks to Warrant Officer before in-service commissioning in 2003 and for the past two years has been the SO1 CATT, HQ CATC. MAJ Spencer has served in RAR and Res battalions and training establishments over almost 39 years of service. He served on Operations in the Solomon Islands and Afghanistan, and as an OC in East Timor. He has also served on numerous Army Training Teams throughout SE Asia.


Outstanding! An army that is 'in motion' should surely be able to make this a reality! And quickly...

I fully support this concept of training rationalisation and the pursuit of smart efficiencies; however, this plan calls for the creation of another TE with instructors who have to come from somewhere. Army already suffers substantial friction at JNCO level in units, and most, if not all, TE are operating at maximum capacity. How do we efficiently and effectively solve the instructor bill?

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