“An electric shock through its chain of command to create the time and the space to let the organisation itself know what is important.” is how the head of the Army, General Sir Mark Carleton-Smith KCB described Op Teamwork. The Army put a pause on all non-essential and non-operational activity to basically take a look at itself; to consider and reflect on its current culture, its attitude and approach to inclusion and most importantly how to improve it.
The Army places a huge emphasis on its values and standards and there is absolutely no place for any form of unacceptable behaviour; be that within its own ranks, towards civilian society or when operating and exercising overseas. However, a recent uptick in the number of reports of soldiers’ behaviour being called in to question along with growing incidents that have severely wounded the Army’s reputation has led to its senior command calling for a grass roots approach to improving the culture and attitude towards all its personnel; underpinning the ‘golden thread’ weaving its way along the ranks of belonging to a team – hence the name Teamwork as opposed to Op Inclusivity or Inclusion.
It was the Chief of the General Staff’s own initiative to put the Army on hold for a day for its own attitudinal shake-down. To see how the day was playing out he visited the soldiers of 27 Regiment, Royal Logistic Corps at their base in Aldershot. General Sir Mark watched and listened intently as the troops in their focus groups discussed matters such as; when does military banter or dark humour overstep the mark, and what constitutes bullying or coercive behaviour?
“I’d say specifically instead of behaving differently, I would think about things more. Instead of just having a bit of banter, I’d look around the room and see who it may affect.” Lance Corporal Connor Tordoff-Drew
The overwhelming response from the soldiers of 27 Regiment was that the day had been a real eye opener. Lance Corporal Connor Tordoff-Drew had this to say, “you never hear about the percentages and the large margin of people who are affected by specific things.” When asked would he behave differently, he replied, “I’d say specifically instead of behaving differently, I would think about things more. Instead of just having a bit of banter, I’d look around the room and see who it may affect.”
Communications specialist Charlotte Hill, “Today has given people the opportunity to speak up – a comfortable environment to be able to express their experiences through a range of topics that have been brought up.” Speaking on the matter of sexism within the Army, Charlotte went on to say, “Today this is really being taken seriously, maybe ten years ago it wasn’t so.”
Although the Chief of the General Staff stated he believed there wasn’t necessarily a wholesale problem with the culture in the Army he had this to say, “I think no institution today is beyond reform and improvement and given the pace of social change it is important the Army is as up-to-date as it can be.” The Army reflects not just a single generation, its personnel range from teenagers to seniors in their late 50s who will have been in the organisation for nearly forty years; each generation in between comes with their own ethos, identity, language, hopes and ambitions. The trick with Op Teamwork is recognising they all belong to one single organisation.
‘Future Soldier’ addresses the organisational change and enhances the Army’s technical prowess by re-equipping with the latest state-of-the-art equipment, vehicles and weaponry to face the threats of a 21st century digitised world. Op Teamwork will operate in unison to ensure that the culture and attitude of its personnel, changes for the better to future proof the Army and so drive better operational outcomes.