Note: This article is part of a series. Read part one here.
One of the overarching themes I closed on in the first part of this series was that the Australian Army fails to bestow upon its members nationally recognised qualifications commensurate to their skill and experience.
I gave a firsthand example, revealing how an operator from an SF unit can be on the back side of a decade-long career with multiple operations under his belt, could have worn the rank of a team leader or platoon sergeant and been instrumental in planning large-scale offensive operations incorporating strategic assets for both platoon and company in extremely hostile environments, yet wouldn’t be recognised with much in the form of relevant and useable qualifications for his efforts.
In training, this same operator could have been responsible for planning range activities which may include, but are by no means limited to:
- Live-fire close-quarter and urban combat in a variety of environments such as building, aircraft, and maritime
- Explosive method of entry (EMOE) and various other breaching activities
- Advanced driving
- Climbing, roping, and rappelling
- Helicopter insertion and extraction techniques
- Full mission profiles including one or more of these stated activities.
An enormous amount of proficiency in a variety of disciplines is required for the successful execution of special operations in training and on operations. These may include, but again are not limited to:
- Leadership and training
- Security operations
- Risk management
- Workplace health and safety
Despite the high degree of expertise that soldiers may show in these particular fields, there isn’t much in the way of formal recognition for these skill sets. One could argue that, by the very nature of our job, we are experts in risk management, so why aren’t members accredited with something even as mediocre as a Certificate IV in security and risk management? Let me discuss this point further using two examples of courses that I undertook: the Combat First Aid (CFA) qualification and the Armed Response Protection Team (ARPT) qualification.
The CFA course aims to “qualify Army personnel from all corps of the Army to perform advanced first-aid techniques in a first-response situation.” The military learning objectives of this course as listed on the course report are a testament to the exceptionally high standard of medical training that qualified CFAs gain through the completion of this course.
In addition, soldiers who are CFA qualified are also authorized to administer drugs to patients such as morphine, methoxyflurane, adrenaline, and naloxone. The administration of drugs to patients crosses into an entirely new territory of responsibility the civilian sector reserves for the likes of emergency medical technicians (EMT), paramedics, nurses, and doctors. Similarly, CFAs across SOCOMD were exposed to live-tissue training, have spent time in the emergency room at hospitals around Sydney, and treated casualties at the Tarin Kowt Forward Surgical Element (TK FSE) with injuries ranging from severe lacerations and broken bones to gunshot wounds and traumatic amputations.
Yet despite this remarkably high level of medical training, this course does not even earn qualified soldiers a basic civilian first-aid certificate such as those issued under the HLTFA301C Apply First Aid qualification. Even though I am CFA qualified, I had to personally attend and pay for a one-day civilian course in order to achieve the most basic of nationally recognised first-aid certificates.
The ARPT course qualifies individuals to work as part of a personal security detachment (PSD), which our unit provides to people of a certain stature. We protect and escort high-profile Australians through countries that the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) have issued level 3 (reconsider your need to travel) and level 4 (do not travel) travel advisories for. The 2nd Commando Regiment’s clients include every politician up to and including the prime minister and governor-general, as well as high-ranking military personnel up to and including the chief of defence force.
The responsibility of protecting our nation’s highest political and military figures in some of the world’s most dangerous places is something that is taken extremely seriously, and has thus far occurred without incident based on the exceptional skill and capability of the PSD team members. This can undoubtedly be considered the quintessential role of bodyguarding, and our nation has no higher a person or people to protect than those protected by ARPT members.
Yet, strangely enough, none of these qualifications are recognised by the ADF in the form of civilian accreditation that would assist an ARPT qualified soldier in gaining, at the very least, a civilian bodyguarding licence. If it is good enough for the governor-general or prime minister to have members of the 2nd Commando Regiment protect them in places like Afghanistan and Iraq, then why aren’t these skills mapped and recognised accordingly?
Although I acknowledge the differences between the course learning outcomes (CLO) provided by the military and those competencies that are listed as part of the civilian bodyguarding licence requirements, there is simply no denying the overqualification of APRT members for the role that a bodyguarding licence legally authorises.
Soldiers who are ARPT qualified would almost always have served with the Tactical Assault Group–East, which gives them experience in domestic counterterrorism and commonwealth law. We operate under very specific rules of engagement (ROE) that all members of TAG-E must comply with in the event that they are mobilised to resolve a domestic terrorist incident. The escalation of force up to and including lethal force, and the exercise of special powers, are above and beyond any responsibility that a bodyguard licence holder will ever be charged with, yet none of this is recognised by Defence or the security industry in certifying members of the ADF—not even individuals from the elite ranks of Australia’s SOCOMD.
I understand that nationally recognised qualifications work off of competency requirements specific to that certification, but I still cannot understand why there is such a massive discrepancy on behalf of the ADF. What I can only assume is the case is that the ADF and the Australian Army don’t have the resources available to help them stay up-to-date with the civilian requirements. As with most tertiary education, courses are constantly being updated and competency requirements are always changing to reflect the new standards.
If the Army is to map skills learned by their members to civilian accreditation, it must change at the exact same pace. A course might have 20+ competencies required to achieve that certification, and if just one is missing, a person cannot be awarded it. A nationally recognised qualification may indeed just update one of its competencies, meaning that Defence would have to follow suit. The Army and wider ADF simply do not have the ability to stay this current, which is why so many previously issued certificates have lapsed and are now void.
In the third installment of this article, I’ll revisit the concept of forecasting in order to best prepare oneself for the civilian employment sector.