The Australian Army is a boxer. He trains hard and looks impressive. He is presented to the crowd in a ring, in his weight class, against a near peer. The ring is one large ‘white box’. The Australian Army could not fight in a street fight. He lacks the speed and agility to keep up with his allies and the cardio to manoeuvre. The Australian Army skips leg day.
The Australian Army’s focus is, understandably, on combat; specifically high end war fighting. This focus results in the Army channelling all of its training effort on combat arms and not the Combat Service Support (CSS) that enables this combat power. Simply, the Australian Army trains solely its upper body and neglects to dedicate any of its training program to legs.
The Australian Army self-identifies that a vulnerability of any combat entity is its logistic tail. CSS is something to be detected and disrupted of enemies and hidden or protected of ones own. Despite this, very rarely do large exercise planners seek to direct much, if any, effort to testing or fully employing CSS procedures. The Australian Army finds them too cumbersome, too tiring and too heavy on resources. The Australian Army is not interested in the weights, time or several days of delayed onset muscle soreness resulting from leg day.
Examples of this are numerous and varied. Rarely will any organisation practice the real operational implication of deploying into or out of an austere environment with only the equipment they are entitled to. In many instances re-organisation efforts are conducted without the enemy able to interdict, referred to as ‘white boxing’. This white boxing could be likened to the ‘time out’ between boxing rounds. Never does the Australian Army practice the complete battlefield clearance above Combat Team. This is despite very prescriptive and sensitive procedures for the handling of captured personnel and equipments, casualties, human remains or reinforcements. All of which, if done incorrectly will result in a strategic backlash from the public and therefore politicians.
The negligence this boxer places on his legs will be to blame for his next loss. People will say that despite his excellently sculpted upper body, he was unsteady on his feet and lost composure easily. If only once per week he had dedicated training to legs, if only he had injected a lower body activity into his otherwise strong daily workout routine.
All is not lost, Battle Groups and higher simply need to dedicate part of the training to practicing and testing CSS. Most Australian Army units are one quarter CSS personnel. On Exercise a Talisman Sabre (Hamel) 17 the 3rd Combat Brigade’s Brigade Support Area was 1400 personnel, 1/3 of the entire Brigade, yet no serials were dedicated to specifically exercising it. Admittedly not all of this organisation was CSS, but their collective training benefit suffered through lack of dedicated serials. By allocating staff effort to planning, executing and observing the full CSS function of a Combat Brigade the Australian Army will be much better for it. This would mean that on some days, tactical combat manoeuvre would cease. Lines of communication would be busy moving supplies and personnel forward and casualties and prisoners rearward. These lines of communication may need protecting. This should be expected after deliberate Battle Group or Brigade offensive or defensive actions. Restricting combat manoeuvre for the benefit of the whole body should not be avoided, but embraced.
The Australian Army neglects its legs. It uses them to stand, get into the ring and at the end of the fight walk back to the change room. It fails to realise that the next fight he will lose will be a street fight. The Australian Army should not expect to be fighting in the safety of a white box, but instead acknowledge that training its combat legs, in addition to combat arms, is what is needed as part of a winning training program.
About the author: Andrew Glover enlisted in the Australian Regular Army in 2002 and since initial officer training at the Royal military College Duntroon has been a Royal Australian Transport Officer. He has worked across a variety of logistics postings within the Special Operations Command and in the conventional Army, deploying with a number of times with both forces. He has completed the suite of Army Intelligence Officer courses having served as a S2 for a Combat Engineer Regiment, Armoured Cavalry Regiment and within a Combat Brigade Headquarters.