Start. Just Start – PME and the fear of writing.

By Rebecca Marlow.

Through the Logistics in War and over the past two years Dave Beaumont has been challenging logisticians to think and write about their profession. It is important to our profession that we have a robust discussion and challenge perceptions and conceptions there may be about our trade. Earlier this year he challenged all logisticians to write, which had me ponder, ‘why don’t we?’ Sounds easy right? We’re all subject matter experts and we have opinions. We also have a wealth of experience. This could have come from a deployment, or as a consequence of serving in the different units and headquarters of the military. Why then is it so hard write? What is it that stops us from tapping away at the keyboard and delivering our hard-won wisdom to the masses?

Logistics in War is one of a number of Australian resources that have sprung up over the past three years encouraging readers to invest in their own professional development, usually under the banner of ‘professional military education’ (PME). PME is not specifically tied to our career progression model, and I believe that it is really about encouraging all ranks to self-improve; becoming ‘better’ at their core roles and is of ‘essential value’ to paraphrase the Chief of Army, Lieutenant General Rick Burr. This interest in professional mastery is not restricted to military circles, and I have observed that many professions have started to take an interest, especially in the last decade or so.

The way in which Army ‘delivers’ its PME has changed significantly from when I was a junior Captain. The days of being assigned a reading and delivering a power point presentation on some supposedly relevant topic in the Mess as part of the Regiments’ training program for officers are but a distant memory. The proliferation of blogs, podcasts, websites and Facebook groups attest to the interest in PME across the globe.  This ‘Prezi’ at Grounded Curiosity just shows how big the network really is, and where unofficial PME can be found. As Army’s operational tempo reduces, its focus is returning to the education and professionalisation of our Army and not only ‘doing the job’. This is not about pseudo-intellectualism, but reflects the need to prepare one another for whatever possibility might come. PME is one way we can do this individually.

To make the most of PME, to encourage a conversation and ideas, I believe that we need to embrace both reading and writing aspects. Reading and expanding personal knowledge is easy; publishing a reading list is easy. I believe an aspect of true professional leadership is in the sharing of knowledge, and without writing and analysis of what we are reading we do not make the most of what we read. No one of us understands the whole picture and it is in the sharing their views that we can seek the contribution of others to make our own vision a little clearer.

There is opportunity in a group training environment to use writing to alleviate the group think that inevitably arises in discussion groups. Asking students to write an anonymous piece on their understanding and having others lead discussions on the article is one good method of training. Why should it be anonymous? I think that the reason people don’t write, don’t contribute to the sharing of knowledge, is because of fear. If all ideas can be discussed and presented without the fear of being proven less knowledgeable than we’d like, we might see a true ‘contest of ideas’. We might see a greater sharing of knowledge which could have more of an impact on our collective understanding of the issues that are viewed as important, or even change our understanding of what is actually important. By doing this even the quietest, most introverted person in the group has the ability to contribute to the conversation. Being quiet does not make a person’s ideas any less valid.

Thus I return to my earlier question, why then is it so hard to write? For myself it is fear. Fear that I actually have no idea what I’m talking about. Fear that my peers will laugh at my feeble attempts to articulate my ideas. Fear that, in fact, I am completely, totally and utterly wrong. What then is the solution? Start. Really, that is it. Just start. Write for yourself, write like no one is reading, because really, at the end of the day it is you that you are writing for. While there may be truth in ‘If nobody reads it, what’s the point?’ it is your own professional development and your own improvement as an officer and leader that you are seeking. It is your own ideas and understanding that you are unpacking and getting it down on a page will enhance your own understanding of what it is that you do. Sharing those thoughts and ideas may prompt someone else to do the same and grow our collective understanding and knowledge.

Rebecca Marlow is a serving Army officer.

Training the Australian Army’s logistics officers – a new LIW series

By David Beaumont.

Logistics in War has contended with the topic of training, and the preparation of logisticians for a variety of operational and garrison possibilities. Readers have been the beneficiary of insights – but also asked poignant questions – in posts from several senior logisticians of the Australian Defence Force, including the Commander of Joint Logistics Command Major-General David Mulhall and his former deputy Air Commodore Hayden Marshall which focus on professionalisation. Contributors from the US Army’s Logistics University, Chris Paparone and George Topic, have also described operational complexities and new training requirements that should be attended to as a consequence. Others have been more specific to the challenge of training such as Michael Lane who describes the need for logisticians to be better prepared for the most likely events they will face. New proficiencies and the development of ‘commercial acumen’ are desired by author Carney Elias, and methods are provided accordingly.

The individual training regime for logisticians as they progress through their careers should be naturally interesting to a military reader, especially the logisticians. Numerous authors have argued that the ‘revolution in logistics’ which began in the US Army in the wake of the 1991 Gulf War was the beginning of an immense shift in the training paradigm for the military logistician. Lessons from this conflict filtered into allied armies and defence forces, as did an increased desire to leverage experience from the commercial sector with the deregulation of national economies in Western countries of the time. Now these same militaries face an uncertain future where the regularity of operations in the Middle-east is diminishing as the focus for the preparation of soldiers and officers. Most are undertaking reviews of training and education to accommodate new pressures and advocate for a change in training direction. This scenario now applies to the Australian Army, and the training of its logistics officers.

The Australian Army’s Suite of Logistics Officers Courses (SOLOC) has been the focus of successive reviews and training needs analyses since the 1996 formation of the Army Logistics Training Centre (ALTC). These reviews have examined the content of courses through a range of analytical methods and have prompted modernisation accordingly. At other times, substantial changes to organisational responsibilities for training logistics officers have resulted in necessary adaptions to the purpose, structure and learning objectives of these courses. These changes have included the disestablishment of Integrated Logistics Division (ILD) at ALTC, and the subsequent consolidation of all logistics officer training at the Army School of Logistics Operations in 2004. This move reflected a desire to move from the goal of training for integrated logistics, complemented by technical training conducted at Corps schools, to a model which emphasised training for ‘combat service support’ or ‘logistics’ operations. There is no clearer sign of this focus than the parallel and shared training conducted between the Logistics Officers Intermediate Course and the Combat Officers Advanced Course, the premier tactics course of the Australian Army.

The Ryan Review, launched in 2016 and twenty years after the formation of ALTC, argued that the Army’s individual training systems are ‘world-class’ when contemporary operational and force generation requirements were considered. The current focus on CSS and logistics operations in the SOLOC has certainly proven to be effective in preparing Army’s logistics officers for professional challenges in both operations and garrison. This view is also reflected on the perceptions revealed in analyses conducted of the SOLOC. The 2017 evaluation of the SOLOC contended that most respondents involved in the qualitative assessment of courses believed that course content was satisfactory, and that training was generally hitting the mark. Earlier reviews also supported the view that the SOLOC was providing skills and knowledge relevant to the workplace despite various content and scheduling issues, and occasional concerns with assessment methods. These observations confirm that the SOLOC is sufficient for Army, and the ADF’s, training requirements.

It has, however, been fifteen years since the SOLOC was reviewed from the basis of ‘first principles’. Since ASLO’s creation, logistics officer courses have been modified idiosyncratically to reflect new requirements. This has seen a diverse range of course content managed into the existing framework, complicating the training of officers at the O2 and O3 ranks and compressing the time available for basics to be explored in depth. There is disagreement as to the focus of each course, whether it is on the basis of a ‘level of war’ explored, or the unit, formation or organisation each is to focus upon. Some Corps have added modules of training the courses conducted centrally to address perceptions of technical deficiency among logistics officers.  There are now new needs that the Australian Army logistician must be prepared for as Army undergoes a significant transformation in its combat capability – as I wrote in a major paper and subsequent post on contemporary training challenges. But most importantly, and as the Ryan Review found for training more generally, the absence of a coherent strategic approach to the training of logistics officers prevents the overcoming of potential, and some real, proficiency and education gaps.

Logistics in War is seeking contributions on the topic of individual training of logisticians. Although the primary area of interest for this future series of posts is the Australian Army logistics officer, any contributions would be warmly received. You may choose to examine training requirements, future technology, the training context or different problems and proposed solutions. International contributions are certainly desired. Many of the problems in training experienced by the Australian Army are problems shared elsewhere, and we can all learn from one another. If you are a soldier or officer of a like-minded military, or have a considered view on the topic, please contact via . Contributions are desired by the end of August with posts to be published soon after. Thanks, in advance, for your interest!

David Beaumont is a serving Australian Army officer and the views here are his own.


Reforming logistics training: themes, challenges and the quest for the ideal

By David Beaumont.

A common trend found in the literature of military logistics is the decrying of training and education gaps interspersed within the persuasive arguments for greater military interest in logistics. Lieutenant Colonel George Thorpe’s systemic and structural analysis of logistics in Pure Logistics, recommended in the 2017 Commander Forces Command’s reading list, contains two parts with the second being a substantial discussion on the importance of professional military education.[i]  Thorpe saw that efficient logistics was a function of two factors; power and knowledge. The roots of power in a military environment are self-evident, tied to effective command and enabled by governance. The quality of knowledge possessed by the logistician, enabled by a coherent approach to professional military education, was similarly vital to ensuring that logistics could ‘set the stage’ for future operations.

The Australian Army has worked hard in recent years to improve the quality of its individual training, much as Thorpe desired of the USMC his work. One hundred years after Thorpe’s precis appeared, the Ryan Review, reflected on a similar need to revitalise individual training within a Service approach overly focussed on collective training outcomes. Ryan’s team worked as Army reflected upon two decades of continued operations, and sought to balance the benefits of training, education and experience in a strategic approach to improving the knowledge resident in Army. The contents of the review, now just over a year old, continue to be implemented through a range of efforts. The approach it advocates remains conspicuously relevant to the development of Army’s logisticians.

In a Transforming Army Logistics to support the Joint Land Force I argued that ‘logistics transformation must become the centrepiece around which the curriculum of logistics courses is based’ as Army considered its future requirements.[ii] Given the recent elevation and attention given to individual training, it would be intellectually lazy if Army’s logisticians failed to take the opportunity to examine the what, how and why of the training of its soldiers and officers. Effort made now reaps substantial benefits in the future, and logisticians are likely to be supported by an Army well on track to deliver lasting change. With the aim to produce discussion throughout 2018 on Logistics in War and elsewhere, the following six themes might be useful starting points for consideration as well as focus areas for change.

Challenge 1 – determine the right balance between integrated logistics and technical proficiency

An ideal balance between technical, or what an Australian Army logistician might call ‘special-to-corps’, training and integrated logistics has long been a topic of interest to Army’s senior logisticians. In some areas of officer training there has been a noticed decline in technical skills, and in their ability to engage effectively with their commanders as advisors and logistics leaders. Conversely, it is also desired that soldiers are better prepared to apply their technical knowledge in an integrated environment. Over time the balance between integrated logistics and technical skills has shifted for both soldiers and officers, but it does not seem that the logistics community is entirely comfortable with the conclusion. From getting employment specifications right to setting the curriculum for relevant training, there are a range of areas that warrant renewed attention to better balance such training requirements.

Challenge 2 – train the logistician to support capability creation and readiness, and not just operations

The adage ‘do in barracks as you do in the field’ is an important rule that is at the core of Army training and focus us at the tactical level. When applied in the right areas of Army it makes the transition from garrison to operational logistics more efficient, and prepares individuals and their units for the rigors of operations. However, we cannot forget that it is the logistics activities in garrison, captured in the idea of logistics readiness, that enables a force to deploy quickly and effectively.  Efficient processes and policies, organisation, and systems which assure materiel and personnel availability across the entire force  – the ‘business of Army’ – contribute to the opportunities available for elements which might actually deploy. Logisticians must be able to work with the contractors and support agencies relevant to the acquisition and sustainment of capability. Therefore, improving the standard of knowledge relevant to the preparation of forces in peace must be regarded a major goal of Army logistics training.

Challenge 3 – ensure single Service logistics training is integrated with broader professional development pathways

Since Army’s Adaptive Army initiative, individual training has been tightly bound into the broader training framework.[iii] Through a series of training levels, commencing with individual training, the officer and soldier will be deemed operationally ready with a major certification exercise such as the annual Exercise Hamel. It is also vital that this is accompanied with an approach to training that develops the individual as a professional, focussing on developing the attributes that will make the logistician successful from the span of junior to senior appointments. Army logistics training must complement, and be complemented by, the suite of generalist, combat, Joint and education opportunities that are offer within the ADF.

Challenge 4 – broaden the profile of the logistician

Not all logisticians will serve within the combat formations or units in which Army logistics training tends to emphasise. Many first appointment officers and soldiers will serve in enabling formations and units, in the Joint environment and other areas. This disjunction between training and employment may, in some case, feature throughout a logistician’s career; a problem especially notable with respect to those who spend time in technical and capability management areas of Defence. In order that the logistician is more effective in such appointments, for reasons of proficiency and so that they may enhance Army’s broader contribution to the joint force, a broadened approach to the training of logisticians is warranted.

Challenge 5 – prepare logisticians for a period of profound capability change, and an uncertain future

Army is approaching a period in which a number of key capability platforms including its transportation, armoured fighting vehicles, communications equipment, logistics information systems, health capabilities and others will be replaced or transformed. These projects promise to profoundly change the way Army raise, trains and sustains, and– if employed correctly – will most certainly change the joint land force operates on the battlefield. In this environment of rapid shifts to capability concepts and doctrine must be adaptive, and training must be innovative. It will be an environment where the quality of training will directly determine how useful these remarkable systems will be, and the opportunities they offer the land force.

Challenge 6 – produce the optimum, and strive for the ideal

The resources available to deliver the ideal in training are not available. Institutions such as the Army Logistics Training Centre may not ever be equipped and manned to achieve everything for the logistician that we hope. Desired training may prove impractical, impossible expensive, or simply beyond the capacity of a member of the Service to deliver. It is, however, always possible to achieve the optimum whatever the circumstances. Empowered by a strategic approach to developing professional logisticians, establishing the optimum in training is a function of individual and collective leadership. When resources may be made available, having optimised training postures the trainers to effectively articulate why additional resources may be required and how training can be reviewed.

The six challenges may suggest to some that the system is inadequate. The training system supporting the development of Army’s logisticians is already producing good outcomes; the evidence is in the quality of support to operations. However, there is no denying that it is a training system based upon necessity, evolved through compromises and endured resource pressures. There are pathways to improving the training of logisticians, and addressing the challenges describe here could result in short term changes which result in long-term benefits to Army. In the wake of the 2016 Ryan Review, and Army’s clear desire to improve the quality of individual training, it is important that all of Army’s logisticians contribute to the debate as to what really matters in soldier and officer training. Otherwise we might find ourselves in Thorpe’s position, frustrated and reflecting upon an abrogation of professional responsibility.

These challenges may help to provide some focus, if not some contention, to the discussion. I hope to hear your views.

David Beaumont is a serving Australian Army officer. The thoughts here are is own, and do not reflect any official position.

[i] Thorpe, G.C. Pure logistics: the science of war preparation, National Defence University Press, 1986, available as an electronic resource through the National Library of Australia,

[ii] Beaumont, D.J. Transforming Army’s Logistics to support the Joint Land Force, Australian Army, 2018,, accessed 29 Jan 18, p 59

[iii] See Breen, B., Preparing the Australian Army for Joint Employment: a short history of the Adaptive Army initiative 2007-2010, Australian Army, 2014,, accessed 29 Jan 18

Learning and training to get it right – what environment are we preparing Army logisticians for?

By Michael Lane.

It has been said that origins of modern logistics were adopted from the military. This implies that at some point in time military logisticians were the leaders in logistics thinking and by extension logistics training. However, where the military were once logistics thought leaders it can be argued that this is no longer the case. Logistics training   and education seems trapped by outdated scenarios and concepts that prepare logisticians for major war, but not the operational environment they are most likely to face. So how do military logisticians regain the initiative in logistics thought, training and education in order to renew their relevance and set them up for success in the future battlespace and logistics environment?

In order to promote the future of military logistics thought, training and education it is necessary to understand the here and now. I write here with the perspective of an Australian Army logistician, and my comments will be contextualized by my own experiences. Equally, what I propose is shaped by the needs of the Australian Army although I believe the views hold relevance to a wider audience.

Formal training and education for Australian Army logisticians is essentially comprised of three professional development courses. These courses are the Logistics Officers Basic Course, the Intermediate Course and the Advanced Course.  Each course reflects the requirements of an Army logistician at relatively junior ranks; Lieutenant, Captain and Major respectively. These courses deliver the basic concepts of compartmentalized logistics theory i.e. supply, distribution and maintenance and the aggregation of those concepts as coordinated logistics activity expressed within a formation environment (brigade in the Australian Army’s case).

The flaw with this approach is that generally speaking, as a logistician moves through their training continuum they are exposed to increasing scales of what is inherently the same tactical problem. While this system allows the logistician to deliver scalable logistics solutions across the unit to formation spectrum in a conventional warfare environment, I believe that it does not promote the knowledge or skills required to prepare logisticians for the complex tactical environment of the future.  I therefore advocate an alternate scenario by which advanced logistics activities are taught, and concepts are developed.

Since the commencement of the 21st Century, there has been a paradigm shift in the type and nature of warfare. The last 17 years has demonstrated a move away from conventional warfare into asymmetrical warfare against an increasingly sophisticated and unidentifiable enemy in locations that do not support conventional approaches to military logistics. This was recently captured by Chris Paparone who questioned the way in which logistics, and its requirements, were considered. Combined with the complexity of emerging, unpredictable and asymmetrical battlespaces, militaries have increased ‘blue force’ complexity by emphasising the use of ‘imported’ contractors for logistic support – often to fill capability gaps, and to meet the need to conduct logistics in a way that achieves social development objectives and contributes to local economies. This is especially relevant to the type of operations a nation such as Australia might be expected to lead independent of others – a stabilisation operation. If strategic policy is a guide, there is good reason for Army to focus on these problems in its training of logisticians.

The future mapped in Australia’s most recent Defence White Paper (2016) gives good cause to take this approach. Concentrating upon the Indo-Pacific Strategic Area (IPSA) and given current world affairs, it confirms several reasons Army logisticians should prepare for stabilisation operations, humanitarian responses and other operations. It confirms what many international organisations such as the United Nations, the Global Policy Forum, the Council on Foreign Relations, the World Economic Forum believe conflict and war will be associated with: diminishing water resources, climate change, economic factors, natural disaster and extremism to name just a few causes.

When we combine potential locations and possible causes some common themes become evident. The Army will be expected to operate in a littoral zone, in a region that is likely to be underdeveloped, chaotic and very highly urbanised. The operational area will change considerably as urban environments grow larger and the number of mega-cities [1] continues its rapid expansion within the IPSA. Furthermore, the IPSA is a region prone to natural disasters, registering more than 60% of the world’s natural disasters each year [2].

All of this leads to the conclusion that the logisticians of the future will need to be able provide logistics services in an environment where they cannot rely on HNS, where there will be no, limited or even damaged infrastructure, will be extremely densely populated and probably include maritime and land based activities in a complex environment of competing conflict and humanitarian disaster. At its most extreme, what we see in the current conflict in Syria reflects an example of this type of complexity.

These factors suggest that our current logistics training continuum does not orient us towards the most likely activities the ADF, and Army, will undertake. Arguably, we are preparing for the least likely type of operation we will face. However, if we choose to take a different approach to the scenarios depicted in our training, we can certainly learn from others. There is a field of logistics service delivery that experiences many of the same features as does military logistics, and within the environments described above. Those features include: demand uncertainty, location uncertainty, commodity uncertainty, a lack of infrastructure, limited contractor support, time criticality and the need to achieve social development objectives. That field of logistics endeavour is humanitarian logistics.


HA Canberra

HMAS Canberra and LCM1E, Operation Fiji Assist 2016. Photo by Department of Defence.


Given the very similar natures of the military and humanitarian logistics enterprises I find it very surprising that military logisticians are not frequently exposed to humanitarian logistics enterprises as part of their professional logistics education. There is good reason for Army to exploit the knowledge and experiences of Government and non-Government humanitarian agencies and organisations. Furthermore, effort should be taken to improve the professional education of military logisticians by seeking the experiences of business that also operate in remote and complex environments. This means that military logistics should be examining innovative ‘best-practice’ approaches such as those used by HK Logistics, currently supporting the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s humanitarian responses, and Agility Global Integrated Logistics.

Whatever the case, any evolution of military logistics education, development must not be limited to additional guest lecturers or classroom based activity. Participation and experience are key drivers of learning and as such should be maximized. Examining case studies, or potential complex scenarios as depicted here, should form the basis of our approach to training and education; particularly at the advanced level.

When working in China, I was struck by the ubiquitous blue 3-wheeled electric motor scooter used as the primary mode of commodity delivery in the very narrow and similar looking streets of Shanghai. Understanding the difficulties involved in undertaking logistics within a city that has more than the entire Australian population compressed into a land area half the size of Sydney is not something that cannot be adequately discussed and understood within the confines of the classroom. Imagine what it might be like in a time of conflict, or natural disaster. When adding in factors such as conflict, cultures and uncertainty it is those who can draw upon relevant experiences and training focussed on such complexity that will enable future success.

[1] A megacity is defined as city of more than 10M population.

[2] ICRC 2013, World Disasters Report: Focus on technology and the future of humanitarian action, Geneva, Switzerland.

Michael Lane is a serving Australian Army officer. The views here are is o