Mark Grigg is a combat engineer with over 30 years experience in Army. He has worked in SOCOMD and FORCOMD including three postings to the School of Military Engineering, a posting to the 1st Recruit Training Battalion and Australia’s Federation Guard. He has deployed to East Timor and Afghanistan multiple times and worked in Japan with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade after the earthquake and tsunami in 2011. Mark joined the Professional Military Education (PME) Cell at HQ FORCOMD in January 2021.
Q1. What is The Cove?
It’s a website (cove.army.gov.au) and COVE+ on ADELE which facilitates access to resources and events relating to our profession of arms. It encourages user participation that shares personal views, knowledge and experience. The Cove is designed to connect Army members to a professional network in order to share expertise, contest ideas and promote continuous learning.
For me, The Cove is a platform that allows me to broaden my subject knowledge on all things Army. It equips me with the knowledge necessary to better understand my working environment. While I have completed over 30 years of service I definitely don’t know everything and I am definitely not always in the loop as to what is happening in units. The Cove helps me stay abreast of what our people are thinking. One of my favourite sections of The Cove is the remarks section at the bottom of every article, or comments on our Facebook page. I love the contest of ideas and I love seeing people challenging and or supporting the author whether it be on the website or one of our socials. What I also love is it is available anywhere, anytime.
Q2. Isn’t it just for officers?
No, there’s certainly a perception of that, and there’s a lot of officers that contribute, but The Cove is aimed at PTEs – MAJs. Being the only ‘other rank’ in the PME Cell, I am passionate about ensuring our articles are aimed at the junior ranks as well.
Q3. Why is PME important to soldiers?
There are quite a few reasons. My first is that I like to see our soldiers who are transitioning out of Defence set-up for every success. I believe that The Cove and especially COVE+ contribute to this. As stated earlier I have been in Defence for over 30 years. Besides promotions courses, the last time I conducted any formal education was completing Grade 12 in 1991. Now with COVE+ I have challenged myself not to flick through the information in record time but fully understand it, do the exercises and gauge whether I could handle conducting further education, even at the age of 48.
There weren’t many PME opportunities for other ranks in the early 90s. I believe if there were, I would not only be a better soldier but also a better human being. The opportunities for soldiers today are amazing and if I can convince just one person to better themselves through education, I have done my job.
Frederick the Great wrote: ‘If my soldiers were to begin to think, not one of them would remain in the Army.’ Those days are well and truly gone. Let’s talk about what we call the Intellectual Edge. The Intellectual Edge is about understanding complex and changing situations better than our adversaries, being able to assimilate and process information better, and about making faster decisions than our enemy can. This is at every level. Who knows, with the emerging threats around the world, you – a private soldier – could find yourself as the last person standing. It is at this time that you will want to have the Intellectual Edge.
Q4. What’s on there for soldiers?
Heaps of stuff in lots of different formats. In the 'Advanced Search' of the website you can search by the OR rank group, and by corps, media type and learning area. There are podcasts, vidcasts, articles, soldiers’ fives, and a swag of learning resources. There are podcasts on our Spotify channel as well. You can also download an app and select the settings which mean you’ll only get notified when new content becomes available to your rank. The best educational articles from Smart Soldier are also on there; in fact, The Cove publishes Smart Soldier articles before the hard copy comes out.
Q5. Sounds great, but I don’t have time to conduct PME
Rubbish! The Command Sergeant Major of Forces Command recently did an interview with us and he made a statement that really resonated with me: ‘If something is important to you, you will make the time.’ Yes, there are going to be times in Army where you don’t have time to scratch yourself and you have to balance your work with home life. But if you really want something, you will go after it. I am sure the majority of us make plenty of time to train our bodies, don’t forget that we need to train our brains as well. The Cove is really focusing on giving you regular short hits of PME content so you build it into your routine and improve over time. We have videos as short as three minutes and articles as little as a couple of hundred words (or less than 100 for challenges).
Q6. Can it be accessed off the DPN?
Absolutely, The Cove is an open source platform on the World Wide Web – www.cove.army.gov.au. We also have Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Spotify, and we are even on ForceNet.
Q7. What is the article submission process?
It’s a four-step process:
- A capable editor will read your article and if there are suggestions the editor will get in touch with you to suggest improvements.
- A contractor will check the English and upload it to the website.
- A Education Officer or General Service Officer will review it.
- The SO1 PME will do a final review and set it for publishing.
We have a specific page on the site that will step you through this – Cove Submission Guidelines. We won’t let authors fail by publishing something that lets them hang out to dry; that’s not in the author’s, The Cove’s or Army’s interest. Something else I will say is that if you are having issues writing, we, or one of our representatives, will help you write it. We are after content, not your writing skills. The other point is it doesn’t have to be written. Why not voice record your article and send it through to us. We love audio articles and so does our audience.
Q8. What is it like being the WO PME?
Awesome but very challenging. I am a Combat Engineer and this is all I have known for the last 30 years. It has taken me some time to adapt to the requirements of this job but I love it and I love the team I work with, especially this year (2022). I work with SERCAT 3, 5 and 7 personnel along with civilian contractors.
When I finished my RSM tenures, I was worried that I would get stuck in a boring staff job. All my career I have been trying to develop our future soldiers and leaders. I thought I would not get the opportunity to do this again but the PME job has allowed me do this and probably make a bigger impact.
I sometimes think that if I had done this job prior to being an SM at all levels I would have been a lot better set-up for the development of those soldiers I worked for.
Q9. What’s your favourite thing on The Cove?
Honestly, I love everything, especially articles with a lot of critical thinking and the contest of ideas. My favourite statement on The Cove is from the ‘I wish I had known that’ campaign. RSM 1 RTB – WO1 Damien Woolfe wrote: '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, every day, than any other commander and are therefore the most critical leaders in Army. The rest of us are there to support you.'
My favourite piece of work I have been involved in are the off-the-shelf PME packages: Quick Military Education and Junior Officer PME sessions. We know that you are busy and know you don’t always have time to prepare PME activities so we have created these for you.
I was recently involved in a PME weekend for SERCAT 5 members where I talked about Honours and Awards and QME.
Due to your hard work and dedication towards to Cove I was able to use the QME part of the Cove to set up an activity for the group. I was able to show them how easy it was to navigate and the benefits the soldiers would receive. And to be fair after reading your article I agree with your comments.
Anyhow thanks again for the work you have done. Keep up the great work.