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Article – Professional Military Education at the Royal Australian Corps of Signals Officers Mess, Simpson Barracks

Following on from the article ‘PME in the Mess – The Anglesea Barracks Experience’ in  December 2017, this article is an overview of the PME conducted at the Royal Australian Corps of Signals (RASigs) Officers Mess at Simpson Barracks, Victoria. The aim is to offer ideas and our ‘lessons learned’ for other Messes who may be looking to raise a PME capability in their Mess – or alternatively, subjects for unit PME.

Simpson Barracks is tucked away in Melbourne’s North and the RASigs Officers Mess is the Signals Corps Mess. In addition to the Officers of the Defence Force School of Signals, all resident units on Simpson Barracks are part of this Mess. These units include Headquarters 4th Brigade, Defence Command Support Training Centre, 138th Signals Squadron, Education Wing, Defence Force School of Music, Charlie Company, 1st Military Police Battalion, 4th/19th Prince of Wales Light Horse Regiment and 108th Signals Squadron. Creating a PME Program for the Mess brought together Officers from different commands such as Forces Command, Chief Information Officer Group (CIOG), and Second Division.

The PME program aimed to develop the officers of Simpson Barracks and support the generation of leadership capability IAW COMD FORCOMD Directive on Officer and SNCO Mess Policy. Simpson Barracks has run monthly PME session for all ranks and services since 2016 through the Simpson Barracks Mentoring Group and launched the Officers Mess PME Program in May 2017.

What did we do?

Monthly sessions were held in the Officers Mess to generate professional debate and encourage patronage of the Mess. Topics aimed to be Joint in nature and several resident units offered to plan and coordinate a session, thus ensuring a wide range of topics as well as ownership from units. The speakers ranged from local military members to civilian business consultants and commentators. Four sessions were facilitated by officers from the Mess who had a wealth of experience on topics such as the current operating environment and leadership. Four of the sessions featured speakers from outside the military which provided valuable perspectives from industry and the community.

The coordinating officer sent email invitations to all Mess members to advertise the session, and several speakers provided pre reading resources which enabled officers to be prepared with questions for the discussion. The Mess sought Hamilton Review or other funding from higher headquarters for the speakers who came from outside of the military.  

In all, eight sessions were held, and included:

  • Leadership and organisational behaviour with Mr Shane McCurry, consultant to Richmond Football Club and a number of Australian businesses
  • Cultural Reform in Defence in the last 35 years
  • Leadership with Mrs Jan Stirling, Coach of the Australian Opals Basketball Team
  • Current Operating Environment – Operation Paladin
  • History of Syria and the current conflict
  • Emotional Intelligence and Communication Skills with Alternative Dispute Resolution Branch
  • ‘Fight Like a Girl’ with Clementine Ford
  • Character, Leadership and Ways of Thinking  

 

Lessons learned:

  1. Show PME is valued by conducting it in work time. To encourage attendance, conduct the sessions in work time. Sessions commenced at 1500h which enabled officers to remain afterwards and continue conversations over a beverage when the bar opened at 1600h, at which time families were also encouraged to come to the Mess.  
  2. Engage unit Commanding Officers (COs) early. Engaging COs with a plan allows deconfliction of unit battle rhythms. Early scheduling of sessions also assists individuals in planning their work load. Units are busy and it will not be possible to get everyone – go for the best time possible for the most people.
  3. Have a plan B if a speaker falls through. This will allow the session to still go on.   

Conclusion

The RASigs Officers Mess PME Program educated officers of the Barracks in a range of relevant topics and current professional resources. It also provided an opportunity for networking between units on the base. Opportunities for formal and informal mentoring were enhanced and the Mess used as a place for learning, professional discussion and debate on a range of topics. The RASigs Officers Mess plans to continue the PME program in 2018 for the Officers of Simpson Barracks.

 

 

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