The Australian Army is missing an opportunity. On Remembrance Day 2016, I was privileged to represent the ADF in Edinburgh, Scotland, along with five other ARA comrades. We attended two services and were also lucky enough to witness the Wallabies clinch a hard fought victory over Scotland, all while wearing uniform. Throughout this time I was genuinely proud. Proud of my service, the organisation that I am a part of, and of those who contributed to the enviable reputation the Australian Army enjoys today.

No doubt I am not alone in this sense of pride on such an occasion, but I fear that such pride is not harnessed as a key strength within our Army. Are we failing to capitalise on the power of Remembrance, history and traditions? Yes. Are we failing to recognise the importance of the moral component of fighting power and invest in its development? Most certainly.

Remembrance and the Moral Component

As a professional military, all ranks should understand that operational effectiveness is derived from fighting power. The physical, intellectual and moral components compliment one other, acknowledging that each provides essential elements upon which an efficient and effective force is built – not least, the moral component. The moral component is where soldiers derive their willingness to act, through a sense of purpose, integrity and morale. LWD 1 The Fundamentals of Land Warfare highlights this in further detail (Ch 4, p. 48-52).

Unfortunately, this element typically goes untrained or tested as rigorously as the physical and/or intellectual components of fighting power. Perhaps this is because it is not necessarily a tangible aspect; it’s harder to measure or is not as ‘sexy’. I’d challenge the reader to conduct a comparison of the number of training activities that they have conducted in the last 12 months. How many focused on the development of physical component? Intellectual? I’d find it hard to believe if the moral component didn’t come a distant and lonely last place.

I believe Army’s efforts at Remembrance have become robotic and currently maintain little depth. We often comment on the legacy left to us by those that have gone before, but I don’t believe we consistently and truly embrace our short, but proud history. Of course we commemorate specific battles, whether Gallipoli, Long Tan or Kapyong, but do such activities go much further than small, localised services, a celebratory dinner or social drinks? Perhaps such events have become simple efforts of respectful recognition and a good opportunity to get the troops together. Of course, such efforts contribute to the development of the moral component, but is this effect ever highlighted, effectively resourced or directed as a main effort?

My recent participation in Remembrance Day activities made me recognise that the moral component is more important than ever. As society and technology has evolved, the human contribution is no longer automatically at the forefront of our minds when considering power or effectiveness. Possibly this is due to the weight placed on technology to solve problems, or the perceived shallowness of society. But we should be in no doubt that it will be the human element that will continue to stand strong in the face of ever changing and increasingly complex threats.

With that in mind, the opportunities to strengthen the moral component are never far away. Commemorative events such as Anzac Day and Remembrance Day do much to develop and exercise the moral component, both overtly and subconsciously. They foster our key value of respect, in all manners of the word; for each other, those that have gone before us, the civilian population and conflict. For servicemen and women, moments of appreciation provide an opportunity for otherwise humble professionals to be highlighted and understand the value that is placed on their service, reinforcing their commitment to serve. The tangible outputs may be difficult to measure, but just remember how honoured you felt after being granted a simple ‘thank you’ when in uniform, or were warmly clapped on parade; there aren’t many better moments.

These events provide ready made opportunities for immediate impact, but should not be seen as isolated activities. History and tradition abounds in the daily battle rhythm of Army, but is it truly harnessed to develop morale and effectiveness, or conducted because ‘that’s the way it's always be done’? By adopting an attitude which leverages off traditions (and isn’t afraid to create new ones), I believe an increasingly positive and cohesive culture can be created.

Training and Investing in the Moral Component

Training requires resources, and exercising the moral component is no different. So what drops out of an already busy training program, filled with ‘important’ stuff? I theorise that such training should not become a burden, but the main resource will undoubtedly be time. Despite this, immediate opportunities are presented in the every unit’s regular training program. The key for trainers will be to adjust the balance of effort, and identify where additional emphasis can be placed on those activities that already subtly exercise the moral component. Obviously the annual Remembrance activities must be approached with newfound enthusiasm and a sense of purpose. Other options are not revolutionary; AT, sport, focused professional development periods. To begin the regeneration will not require many resources, just attention and effort.

So I challenge all of Army’s leaders, from the JNCO to the General. Invest in remembrance at your respective level. Resource appropriate and meaningful activities that embody pride and generate morale. Stop using 'Respect' as an excuse to gather the troops, but rather inculcate it as a positive value that is consistent and unwavering. As military professionals, it is our duty to recognise the importance of the moral component of fighting power, and always seek to maintain and develop it. Harnessing the power of Remembrance will be a strong start. Lest we forget.