In 2023, the 10th/27th Battalion, Royal South Australia Regiment (10/27 RSAR), trialled the Reserve Accelerated Training Scheme (RATS) during which Army Reservists were employed on full time SERVOP C contracts of varying lengths of 3-12 months to conduct both individual and collective training.

Feedback from the 37 members who participated was overwhelmingly positive, and the scheme delivered a significant range of individual trade and specialist training as well as supporting collective warfighting training. 

Fundamentally, the RATS enabled the battalion to maintain a flexible full-time platoon which not only enabled individual member’s training, but also formed the nucleus of collective training within the unit and increased both readiness and capability. 

The Defence Strategic Review (DSR) recommended “a comprehensive strategic review of the ADF Reserves, including consideration of the reintroduction of a Ready Reserve Scheme”. With this review now underway, the success and experiences of RATS should be considered as a model for how a Ready Reserve could be reintroduced to Army. Our experience has demonstrated that it is a highly effective scheme that is flexible, scalable, easily implemented, and that can result in improved recruiting, retention, and capability of the Army Reserve. 


The concept for the RATS was initially developed and proposed by Headquarters 9th Brigade in 2022 as a ‘Reserve Gap Year’, noting the existing significant success of the ADF Gap year program. 

A key difference for this proposal was that participants would be posted to, and managed locally by an Army Reserve unit, and – whilst transfer to SERCAT 7 at the completion of their contract would be an option – it would primarily be suited to those who intended to continue service in the Army Reserve. Ideally, the soldiers participating in the scheme would be recruited, trained, and employed as a ‘formed body’ (platoon) within the same unit.

The scheme also differed significantly from other Reserve ‘accelerated training’ models in that all the soldiers were to be employed via SERVOP C rather than on Reserve Service Days (RSDs), giving them the certainty of a contracted period of service in addition to the more generous military salary and benefits afforded to full-time personnel.

Ultimately the scheme was named the Reserve Accelerated Training Scheme (RATS), staffed through the 2nd (Australian) Division (2 (AS) Div), and approved by the Army People Capability Steering Group (APCSG) in late 2022. Marketing to ab initio recruits, however, was not approved in the first instance and only personnel who were already enlisted were offered the opportunity to apply to commence the trial in 2023. 

2 (AS) Div also concurrently developed and trialled a new SERCAT 5 Initial Employment Training (IET) continuum which has reduced and adjusted training to 3 x 3 week blocks, and now been broadly adopted. Whilst there was overlap of these trials, it is important to note that the two schemes are not inherently linked and have separate – although complementary – purposes. Whilst the new IET continuum improves efficiency by reducing the total duration of training (9 weeks total which can be spread over blocks), RATS improves efficiency by employing personnel for a continuous period of training (i.e. sequentially completing IET courses on full time service and also providing incentives for members of full-time service conditions).

10/27 RSAR RATS Experience

Within 9 Bde and 10/27 RSAR, we sought to test the concept further – accepting not only trainee personnel but also partially or fully trained personnel, and therefore essentially raising a full-time platoon within the unit. Soldiers with training shortfalls were able to quickly have these rectified, and qualified soldiers and Non-Commissioned Officers (NCOs) were utilised as instructors to provide training support to IET and other courses, alleviating some of the training support request burden from the rest of the unit.

Beyond completing or supporting the IET continuum, the 10/27 RSAR RATS Platoon was then able to further develop collective training, with the platoon supporting battalion and brigade combined arms training, and even deploying to Indonesia on Exercise Super Garuda Shield (EX SGS) as part of a multi-national live fire combined arms activity. 

In an excellent example of accelerated training, one soldier who joined the scheme in January 2023 was able to progress from recruit course, through IET, to be fully qualified and deploy by August 2023 to participate in EX SGS. 

In total, 10/27 RSAR employed 37 personnel on varying length SERVOP C contracts throughout 2023. Seven members completed initial training through IET Mod 2, and all members were fully qualified in rank and trade by the time they completed their contracts. Other courses completed included PMV driver, Basic Combat Communications, Army First Aid, Subject One for Corporal, and a variety of weapons qualifications. Most RATS members also achieved collective training up to a platoon live fire attack. 

Feedback from personnel who undertook RATS was overwhelmingly positive, both with respect to the training opportunities afforded to them, as well as the underlying concept of being able to serve for a full time period within their unit. At the conclusion of 2023, 7 members had applied to transfer to SERCAT 7, many requested extensions of their contracts into 2024, and the remainder returned to SERCAT 5 reserve service. The success of the 2023 program has seen 10/27 RATS positions for 2024 now oversubscribed.

Benefits and Value Proposition of RATS

Our experience has demonstrated a clear and tangible value proposition for RATS, not only as an accelerated initial training scheme, but as a model for enhanced readiness and capability within Army Reserve units that provides opportunity to any soldier who seeks to render service in a flexible manner that suits their personal and professional circumstances. Key benefits include:

  • Training. Whilst RATS can clearly provide accelerated initial training and therefore provide trained soldiers faster, allowing members to remain on full time service post IET allowed further enhancement of individual skills, adoption of specialist qualifications (especially those in demand such as PMV driver, direct fire support weapons, and communications), and enhanced the unit’s collective training by providing a guaranteed nucleus of personnel at every training activity. Given personnel are undertaking full time service, they have greater ability to support larger and longer collective training activities such as Talisman Sabre. 
  • Recruiting. If allowed to market directly to the community and recruit ab initio, the scheme would be able to provide a “Reserve Gap Year” concept as initially envisaged. This would be complementary to the already highly successful (and generally over-subscribed) ADF gap year, but focussed on recruits who more likely wish to continue to serve locally in a reserve unit following their initial training. Although not yet fully evaluated, based on feedback from new recruits in the unit and the success of the existing Gap Year, it is anticipated that a Reserve Gap Year would be very attractive as a recruiting scheme.
  • Retention. Within 10/27 RSAR, we experienced significant interest in the scheme from personnel who had already served within the unit for some time as SERCAT 5 members. The flexibility of contract length, ease of transfer, full time service conditions, and training opportunities were all identified as attractive features of the scheme. The retention rate of members participating in 2023 was 100%, and 1 in 5 applied to transfer to SERCAT 7 – demonstrating benefits to both the full and part time workforce.
  • Enhanced unit capability, readiness, and assurance. With 2 (AS) DIV tasked to provide enhanced domestic security and response, trained RATS personnel provide a guaranteed initial force of higher readiness personnel available for short notice response to domestic security or high-risk weather season requirements. Increased individual and collective training can provide enhanced capability for parent units and brigades.  
  • Flexibility / Scalability. Harnessing and working within the existing Total Workforce System, individual units or Brigades have the flexibility to tailor their individual RATS elements to meet specific demands or requirements; for example, focussing on raising specialist capability or concentrating on specific units. Equally the scheme is easily scalable as circumstances and resources allow.
Australian Army Soldiers assault a trench system during Exercise Rhino Run 2023.

Fundamental Inputs to Capability (FIC) considerations

Below are key FIC considerations relevant to the RATS, drawing on observations from the 10/27 RSAR experience in 2023:

  • Personnel. A key advantage of the RATS is that it exists within, and maximises use of, the existing Total Workforce System. No bespoke or novel system is required, such as was utilised previously with higher readiness reserve schemes such as the Reserve Response Force and High Readiness Reserve. RATS does of course require availability and allocation of funded positions, which have been historically challenging to receive. However, given the significant individual and collective capability that can be generated from each position, the increasing operational requirements of 2 (AS) Div, and current hollowness within Army, the value proposition and justification to secure these positions are very strong.
  • Command and management / Organisation. A SERVOP C platoon (or potentially company) can be readily incorporated into existing unit structures, although consideration needs to be given to the chain of command and support available within the unit. Platoon commander/sergeant roles may also be members undertaking RATS contracts, although if personnel are not available to undertake these then they may need to be drawn from SERCAT 7 positions within the unit.
  • Collective training. As noted above, we were able to demonstrate excellent collective training outcomes enhancing unit and brigade activities. The inclusion of the RATS element guarantees a trained body for collective training activities, reducing some of the uncertainty that can exist when planning predominantly SERCAT 5 training activities. Units do need to ensure, however, that a suitable training program is developed to fully employ and engage the RATS members throughout their service.
  • Major Systems. Units need to ensure access to relevant major systems to achieve directed training; however, the reorganisation of 2 (AS) Div has generally accounted for better access to these systems for reserve units in the past few years.
  • Supplies. Sufficient ammunition and resourcing are of course required to conduct training, requiring units and Brigades to appropriately plan for likely increased use. This can be justified directly against the increased capability outputs that RATS enable and is generally easier to forecast for if personnel numbers are known. 
  • Facilities / Support and training areas. Units do need to consider individual requirements with respect to suitable local facilities, training areas, and support including accommodation and messing if necessary. Assessment of regional facilities should be undertaken to determine the most appropriate location or specific units for RATS elements to be located, and requirements will vary by region with potential for greater challenges in areas with fewer SERCAT 7 units. 

A model for a future Army Ready Reserve Scheme

The original Ready Reserve Scheme introduced in 1991 saw members initially serve their full-time contract with a Regular Army unit. The Army Reserve of today, however, is far more capable and interoperable with the full-time force and has its own operational requirements. Many reservists have undertaken operational service domestically or overseas, and the Total Workforce System allows for easier transition between full and part time service. The formation of 2 (AS) Div as a functional command, and a clear mission and responsibility for the division to conduct security and response operations in Australia as articulated in the DSR, requires a relevant and ready capability to be established and maintained within the Army Reserve.

As demonstrated by 10/27 RSAR in 2023, the RATS is a flexible and scalable scheme that can provide recruiting and retention benefits, accelerated individual and specialist training, and significant additional collective capability to the Army Reserve. The scheme can be implemented and expanded simply and easily within the existing Total Workforce System and does not require the development of any novel systems or contractual arrangements as have been trialled in the past. It is an excellent model that can quickly and easily deliver a new Army Ready Reserve.