People with such aptitudes are usually curious and eager to study and express themselves. I have observed this amongst my own children, two of whom possess these traits and are studying law, in contrast to another child who does not show the same traits. He is training to be a motor mechanic. He is training through practical experience and competence based training. Like law, initial officer training is based on learning and comprehending the theoretical, writing, presenting plans and then practising in the field environment. This happens for a majority of an officer’s career.
In contrast, some people desire to join the Army as a soldier. Many may ‘join up’ because their ancestors served, or their mates enlisted. A soldier during basic and initial training is trained with the skill set to perform a specific military role. Those skills are gradually broadened through experience and mentorship. As a soldier gains experience they are given more responsibility and develop their leadership skills through specific training and education. A soldier is trusted to perform at a high level within a specific skill set.
I have seen this first hand on the Regimental Officer’s Basic Course – Tank and the Subject Four Corporal – Tank. Generally, a young officer understands tactics and leadership as they have studied and practised those skills during officer training. Soldiers on the other hand are technically competent because they have lived and breathed the practical application of the tank for a number of years.
Soldiers need to develop a passion. Today’s soldiers believe that the Army is just a job. The passion will not come until there is a turning point in a soldier’s career. That passion for me came when I completed my first promotion course and realised that I could be an instructor. To engage young soldiers, professional development must be dynamic and relevant. In my personal experience I developed a passion for instruction and this has enabled me pass on knowledge and give back to the Army. Because of this passion I sought to gain more knowledge and developed a proclivity for learning.
I recall a time not so long ago that units developed training programs and corporals executed training under the watchful eye of the Sergeant. This was normal unit routine, which was professional development. Professional development that is well planned and executed in a unit leads to soldiers gaining new skills and improving existing skills. From my experience a unit with a well developed and conducted professional development program is a unit with confident and capable officers and soldiers. It is also a unit with high morale.
About the author: Karl Boeck is a Warrant Officer Class Two with 36 years experience serving in the Royal Australian Armoured Corps. Karl recently served as an Instructor in the Warrant Officer and Non-Commissioned Officer Academy
Army needs to prompt soldiers to find that turning point early in their career so they do not leave it until they post out of the familiar surroundings of their battalion or regiment and find themselves in a unfamiliar part of Army (or the ADF).
Responsibility for setting the example and prompting soldiers towards individual professional development must rest with SNCOs. SNCO's need to be that credible example that leads a culture of individual professional development.
As individuals soldiers at times appear reluctant to seek out professional development however when it's directed they often appear supportive.
Soldiers need to be reminded that in most instances their careers will progress quickly, and bad habits once established become difficult to change later on. We need to do away with the culture of 'Darganisms' (as an example) and appreciate that the PTE will one day be a CPL/SGT/WO and may well be briefing senior officers / members of the public and if we don't start developing those skills early on we will be left wanting when they are required.
As a junior soldier I found myself in a position where I no longer felt challenged in my role, and at that stage did not know of any professional development I could do on my own to maintain my interest in my corps/role.
As a result I commissioned, however many of my peers at the time sought discharge instead.
Since commissioning I have had commanders who have taken both an active and passive role in PME. These observations, combined with the experience of commanding soldiers and NCOs from most Corps, has led me to believe that in order to motivate soldiers and instil passion through professional development the commander needs to take the time to get to know the needs of the individual and how they learn, whether that be through practical application and hands on work, or through theoretical studies. I don't think one size fits one rank.
Finally, I believe 'JPCs' point of investing the time to develop our soldiers as opposed to getting wrapped up in clearing our inboxes, to be an excellent one. I strongly believe that this can only really be achieved through foresight in planning and the help of our SGTs and WOs in managing realistic expectations and standards for development.