The Army People Conference was opened by the Chief of the General Staff (CGS), General Sir Mark Carleton-Smith, who told the physical and virtual audience that change will happen.
The conference, delayed by two years because of the pandemic, set out to consider the future context by considering what the world of work will look like in 2030 and beyond, and how will this impact our people, what are the realities and how do we maintain our people as the competitive edge, prepared to win in the digital age?
CGS said in his opening address to the Conference, “We are going to change the Army, especially the cultural change essential for optimising today’s Army for the information age.”
He went on to say, “No institution is beyond reform and improvement of its culture, its behaviour and its leadership: there is a significant margin to where we need to be.
"There is nothing politically correct or woke about it, about improving how we treat each other and how we behave around one.
“No institution is beyond reform and improvement of its culture, its behaviour and its leadership. General Sir Mark Carleton-Smith, CGS
With not much longer to wait until the much-anticipated Future Soldier announcement, there were tantalising glimpses of how the British Army may look in 2030 and beyond.
The Army, albeit with its regular component reduced in numbers, looks set to be able to maintain its current capability with the advent of technology and innovation.
A thread of innovation and technological advancement wove its way through the day’s proceedings.
It started with a stunning capability display by Richard Browning, founder and Chief Test Pilot of ‘Gravity Industries’. He captivated the assembled crowds as he flew through the air with the greatest of ease dressed in his jet suit.
Not only did this provide a demonstration of the ever-advancing capabilities on offer today; it also highlighted the pioneering spirit of the inventor, Richard Browning, who explained in his address to the conference how he overcame criticism and setbacks to fulfil his ambition and see it come to fruition.
Later on, the audience watched in awe as a manikin sat on the stage dressed as a terrorist was ‘neutralised’ by the use of three midget drones; one that recced the situation, another provided a distracting bright light and the third that delivered the coup-de-grace, in this case, a harmless party popper type strike!
However, the conference was all about people within the Army and what has come to be termed as the Whole Force approach, that is Regulars, Reserves and the Civil Servants who all work collaboratively to deliver whatever is asked of our Army; be that at home in resilience operations or protecting our country’s interests overseas.
Teamwork is vital, it is the most important thing we do.” Major General Paul Griffiths, Director of Personnel
High on the agenda was the ‘lived experience’ and how to better the day-to-day lives of those both in and out of uniform.
The Army has taken great strides towards, becoming an inclusive and diverse organisation; the much-celebrated Women in Ground Close Combat roles announcement that opened up all the Army’s roles to women underpinned this. However, there is much, much more to be done.
People are the single greatest asset to the Army and consequently its single greatest responsibility. In these increasingly dynamic times, any institution needs to get two aspects right, its people and its culture.
In an interview with Army Communications, Major General Paul Griffiths, Director of Personnel at Army Headquarters said: “Teamwork is vital, it is the most important thing we do. It’s about having an inclusive, diverse team so that we can deliver operational effectiveness.
"This is about respect for others, it’s about our culture, it’s about our behaviours”. He added: “Our culture is on rocky ground. It’s really important that all of us recognise that we are part of that, whether a General or a Private.
"We need to get after our culture and our behaviours and our leadership and improve as much as we can.”
We all have a part to play in changing our culture towards women.” Major General Sharon Nemisth, Commandeer Army Recruiting and Initial Training Command
It is clear that as the British Army emerges from the chrysalis of change and Future Soldier is the new mantra, the legacies of British Army old must die.
Nothing short of a wholesale cultural reset towards women is the demand and it is everyone’s responsibility to deliver it.
Major General Sharon Nesmith, who is in charge of the Army’s Recruiting and Initial Training Command, laid it on the line when she said:
“Unless we fundamentally change the cultural attitude towards women in the Army, it will prove a challenge to attain the Defence-wide target of 30% inflow of female recruits.
"It is all our responsibility across the Field Army - we all have a part to play in changing our culture towards women.”