Introduction – Stefan Gabric (RNZAF)

There is a well-known Maori proverb here in NZ that goes: he aha te mea nui o tea o? He tangata, he tangata, he tangata! What is the most important thing in the world? It is people, it is people, it is people! Of the billions of dollars’ worth of capability that the RAAF has (and the slightly smaller amount of the RNZAF), none is more important than the aviator. It is the aviator that flies, maintains, supplies and protects. They build and maintain the relationships between teams, units, contractors, services and nations. Our people are therefore key to the success of the Air Force and its ability to serve the people of our respective nations. We believes that an important aspect of this is ensuring our people are set up for success. In the following paragraphs, we will explore different ideas and aspects that we think are essential to enabling our people (and therefore the Air Force) to be the best they can be.  

Setting up our People for Future Success – Talia Karim

As a military, we never know what might be ahead of us. Challenges faced today can often be something we never saw coming days, months or years ago. So, how can we, as the people at the forefront of our country, set ourselves up for success?

Firstly, we must consider that as humans, we are the backbone of our military. Developed capabilities, a fifth-generation Air Force and strategic evolution simply cannot transpire without a workforce behind them. Therefore, it is extremely important to foster this development from the ground up – and this starts with recruit/officer initial training.

By evolving training programs based on self and team development, rather than task and outcome based, we will be able to better establish the skills required for any situation. For success, we should ‘train to fight’, developing structure, posture and preparedness for the unknown ahead. Instead of the mentality ‘this is how I did it back in the day, and so will you’ and the stance that there is only one way things can be done, we must lay focus on our newest generation, honing in on their valuable new ideas and perspectives regardless of their rank or experience.

Initial recruit and officer trainees see many tasks as ‘for the sake of it’: unnecessary, pointless and a form of repetitive actions to imprint a ‘military marking’ on our brain. Whether it be picqueting an already secured armoury throughout the night or filling endless sandbags, we still lose sight of a common goal, and that is to fight the fight, no matter what that entails. Instead of these outdated tasks, we should focus on AFSTRAT, the five LOEs and CAF/ACAUST/CDR intents from the very beginning. This will allow us to consider how we, as junior Aviators can adapt these in any situation and cultivate more successful outcomes. PIET and PMET should progressively focus on ways Aviators at their rank can best benefit Air Force and its strategic goals, in line with those of their direct commanders and the CDF/Government as a whole. By strategising training from the ground up, overall we can create a better, well-versed, agile and ready-to-fight workforce, able to tackle much more of the unknown ahead.

A Fifth-Gen Airforce – Steph Freeman

There is little point in acquiring new capabilities when there is not enough people to efficiently and effectively operate and manage that capability. Back in March of 2022 the Prime Minister declared there would be an increase of nearly 20,000 personnel to Defence by 2040. Will this be enough given the number of projects the Defence Force has ongoing such as the nuclear powered submarines, cyber and information warfare and loyal wingman? The recruitment of the right people for the right roles is what will ensure the Air Force and the ADF will be set up for future successes. This means looking outside the box at members of the public who are already skilled, transfers from foreign nations, maybe even changing our policies to attract the right individuals.

Once the problem of getting and retaining the right people has been sorted, the next issue is the technology, equipment and facilities that we use. It is expected that we are a fifth-generation Air Force that provides fifth-generation outputs; however, we are using technology that is outdated in facilities that are no longer viable for the kind of work that is now required. A good example of this is the security zones within buildings, facilitates themselves being outdated, not enough viable accommodation on the base, and software systems that are outdated and slow. There are projects in the works to bring these areas of Defence up to date such as the roll out of ERP and base infrastructure and facility projects. However, funding is a big road block that slows down these advancements.

Retention and Collaboration – Christopher Schulz

The famous old question of how does air force and the ADF remain successful now and into the future? I believe the answer is one that requires a lot of focus and effort to get us to where we need to be in the next 5 to 10 years. I am talking about enhancing the most important asset air force currently owns: people.

In order to continue Air Force and the ADF’s success well into the future we need to invest heavily into two key areas: retention of our people and collaboration with our allies.

Retention: We currently have a very experienced and highly skilled workforce. The question is, how do we keep these brilliant people in our organisation and not let decades of experience, investment and knowledge leave? First we need to acknowledge there is a problem with retention and simply accepting this as normal or stating our discharge rate is ‘not a concern’ and we have a healthy workforce is definitely not the answer. We need to look at what entices our people stay and what makes other organisations so attractive that we lose and best and brightest. I believe a major part of this issue is our current benefits and what the ADF offers their people in return for their service and sacrifice. Our current benefits of ADF super, DHA, DOHAS and APOD need a major overhaul with a focus on its members and what they really want and need from these agencies. 

Collaboration: To use the old term ‘strength is in our numbers’, it has become apparent in today’s world that we are too reliant on certain countries and have neglected Australia’s core value of mateship or diplomacy. We need to invest heavily into diplomacy to ensure we minimise certain countries reach and take care of our own backyard. The second part is collaboration with our allies, we need to work with all our allies’ especially in a military space and continue to build these working relationships with our allied countries to unite as a global force. Our people can learn so much from working with other nations in a deployed environment and working together with these countries will help us become a more effective force on the battlefield.

Supporting Development Outside of Job Roles – Mai-Khoi Vu

Education and training of our people is undeniably important. It is a vital aspect in setting up our people for future success. Both the organisation and the individuals reap the rewards of professional development opportunities. Currently, Defence tends to prioritise opportunities within the member’s specialisation. Although necessary, this may result in a loss of opportunity for other skills that may also be useful. As non-mandatory courses are not specifically prioritised, many professional development opportunities can be passed over due to work commitments. The workload and output of the team is understandably put first. However, this means that although Defence receives a maximum output from the member in that moment, the ongoing benefits the experience would have provided in the future are lost. Further, the networking opportunities provided from out-of-specialisation courses will be incredibly useful in enabling an integrated Defence. Learning outside of a specialisation may also encourage innovation and active thinking. These attributes can be applied to all aspects within a member’s career and assist them well into the future. Encouraging non mandatory professional development can produce a curious workforce that takes initiative in its own development. Therefore, supporting the pursuit of skills and experiences independent of specialisations will help set the workforce up for future success.

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