By Mr K. Clutterbuck

‘How does a future focused NZ Army adapt and evolve, now and over time, to remain a partner of choice as a relevant and viable force that can continue to add value within an integrated coalition in 2040?’

There are a multitude of ways to answer this question, such as introducing state of the art technology and equipment, conducting regular coalition exercises to build interoperability, and being a professional fighting force. However I believe the way the NZ Army will remain a partner of choice within coalitions is through our people. 

The NZ Army is small and does not have a large enough budget to introduce equipment or conduct regular overseas exercises on a scale comparable to the US or UK Armies. What we do have however are great people that we need to build on. Recent initiatives such as Wahine Toa, Tane Toa, Op RESPECT[1], SERR and Aumangea are all steps in the right direction and already add value, however these need to be built on. 

Today more and more soldiers are joining the Army as a job. Gone are the days where the military is seen as a life-long career.[2] A lot of the appeal to joining the Army is that we help others and we create good people. I believe a way we can remain a viable force for NZ that continues to add value, is by enhancing the way we create good people, not just good soldiers[2]. We are people first, then we are soldiers. When we go home we take off the uniform, and although we can be called upon at any time to put the uniform back on, that is not who we are. It doesn’t define us. Being a person defines us, and as such we as an organisation need to examine how we can create good people.

We also need to understand that our people are changing. The new age of soldiers and officers are from far more diverse backgrounds than in previous years.[2] When my father joined the Army approximately 36 years ago, the majority were straight, Christian or non-believer males who had to walk ten kilometres up hill to school in the snow with no shoes and then had to walk ten kilometres up hill in the rain home. Most did not receive School Certificate and joined the Army as a way to get qualifications and have a life-long career. Nowadays the NZ Army has people from a huge range of ethnicities, genders, cultures and religions who join for a chance to do good and be good. They bring with them a raft of experiences and knowledge that contributes to the Army and act as a force multiplier, especially in a coalition environment. We need to set these people up for success.

The generations joining the Army now, and who will be joining in the future, are seen as less resilient than the older generations, or are resilient in different areas, which is evident with the rise of suicide rates amongst young adults from the millennial generation[2]. Although recruit and commissioning courses have a resilience component to them, they are generally just a hard slog, with little food and little sleep, rather than something that builds resilience on a broader scale. The ELDA and Lead Leaders programs do a lot to mitigate this, but these courses are only for corporals progressing to sergeant and above. Our younger soldiers miss out on this for approximately the first 11 years of their careers which is too great a delay.

We need resilient people who are critical thinkers and experts in their respective fields in order to be a relevant partner of choice. This also aligns with our current vision to be a world-class army with mana. A way to build these resilient soldiers who are critical thinkers is by introducing the Hogan reports used on ELDA at an earlier level. If we introduced the Yellow Hogan at the ‘lead self’ level, a soldier’s identity versus reputation would be better. They would better understand how they work and they, and the organisation, would be better off for it. Similarly if we introduced the Blue and Red Hogan at the ‘lead teams’ level, they would better understand themselves, their values and their stressors, making them more resilient,  better command teams, and better people.

In order to be a ‘Force for NZ’ we need to create ways to invest in our people and get the best out of them.  In addition to introducing the Hogan report earlier, another way to do this would be with the Army values of 3CI. These values should not be targeted/marketed as making better soldiers, instead our values should be marketed as making better people, which in turn makes better soldiers. If they are marketed this way, the newer generations joining the Army will be more invested, without losing the investment of the older generation’s investment in the values.

A further way we can invest in our people and become a coalition choice is through developing our soft skills. The NZ Army is very good at the hard skills, and is often praised for its professionalism and ability to do the job well,[3] but not enough emphasis is placed on the soft skills such as speaking multiple languages. Currently we have a number of linguists, however they are not being used to their fullest potential. The NZ Army could use these linguists operationally, and to provide language classes to our soldiers for a likely theatre of deployment. This again would be a force multiplier and enable freedom of action and freedom of manoeuvre in a battle space as there would be less reliance on interpreters, in turn creating less risk for our people. 

If we are truly a “Force for New Zealand”, we would be looking at how we can develop our soldiers, the people of New Zealand, to benefit both the NZ Army as well as NZ society. I believe that my recommendations of introducing Hogan earlier, marketing the values differently, and offering language classes would not only do this, but also make us remain a partner of choice as a relevant and viable force that can continue to add value within an integrated coalition in 2040.

References 

  1. http://orgs/imx/hr-toolkit/LP/ww_w_OP_RESPECT.aspx Retrieved on 02 Oct 20
  2. <https://warontherocks.com/2018/03/how-the-network-generation-is-changing-the-millennial-military/> Retrieved on 03 Sep 20
  3. http://orgs/sites/NZDFCPO/PublishedDocuments/201911%20NZDF%20People25%20Strategy%2003.pdf Retrieved on 02 Oct 20