In my previous article, I opened by stating that one of the finest experiences in combat is undoubtedly conducting joint operations with partner nations. I stated how there is something both ancient and instinctually primitive behind the notion of kinspeople joining forces to battle a common enemy. I also claimed that fighting side by side with coalition forces adds to the already electric and unmistakable dynamic of war. It does so through a mutual respect and reciprocal admiration of each other’s willingness to sacrifice for the same cause.
I was exposed to this firsthand throughout my military career, as I had the pleasure of working with a number of foreign militaries in both training and operational environments. I initially enlisted in the Australian Army as an electronic warfare linguist, and my first posting was to the Australian Signals Directorate (formerly known as the Defence Signals Directorate). The ASD provides foreign signals intelligence (SIGINT) to the Australian Defence Force and Australian government to support military and strategic decision-making.
The Australian government and the ASD are integral to the UKUSA Agreement, which was initially the post-war arrangement for intelligence sharing between the United States and the UK. It formed the basis for the cooperation between the U.S. and UK throughout the Cold War period, and was subsequently expanded to include Canada, New Zealand, and Australia. The signals intelligence counterparts for each of these nations include the UK’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), the U.S.’s National Security Agency (NSA), Canada’s Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC) and New Zealand’s Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB).
The signals intelligence community has always engaged in a large number of international exchanges, engagements, and specialist courses. This sees members from each of the “Five Eyes” countries spending time abroad in order to learn new skills or develop a deeper understanding of how one or more of our counterparts operates. During my time at ASD, I worked with a number of individuals from a variety of UKUSA nations who were on two-year work exchanges. I was also privileged enough to attend a specialist course at the NSA in Maryland, as I was chosen to spearhead a SIGINT capability that was being introduced into Australia’s Special Operations Command. The course lasted for three weeks, but had students and instructors from the United States Army, the United States Navy, the United States Air Force, and two of us from Australia’s SOCOMD.