Has the experience that OCdts receive at Sandhurst changed much in the last 5 years?

Discussion in 'Officers' started by wintermute, May 9, 2011.

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  1. Hopefully not too much of a 'bone' first post, and I hope I don't come across as a 'thruster' (if I have the noclementure squared) so apprehensive apologies all around; but I was reading Patrick Hennesseys biography/email collection/novel, and in it one of the things he is pretty damned adamant on is how Sandhurst's training didn't seem to have evolved beyond the cold war.

    He felt that he and his fellow OCdts were being taught to fight 'a war', not 'the war', or 'the wars', ever in fear of 'that imaginary Russian Mechanised Infantry Platoon', or of 't80's reinforcing over Camberley'. It's of course facetious to state is not the kind of conflict that the British Army is currently fighting and so this is something he has great doubts about.

    This question is also vaguely incited by reading the discussions in the "how to be in the top 3rd" thread, and the "how did you find your kit in theatre" thread - that seemed to imply a massive disconnect between training and the real work.

    This was (his course) a good few years ago, mind now, but still not that long ago to be irrelevant, but I suppose my question is this: To what extent has Sandhurst and the commissioning course developed over the last five years? And if it has or hasn't, what do you think is the effect (if any) upon the calibre or quality of the officers passing out?

    Best regards,
    WM (a hopeful attendee)
  2. I haven't a copy of Junior Officers' Reading Club to hand, but I seem to remember Hennessey's view on the relevance of the RMAS curriculum changing after his Op HERRICK tour; the disconnect between training and "operational reality" was one that he perceived while at RMAS, which gradually faded thereafter. The RMAS curriculum, bayonet ranges, polishing, aggressive Russians et al, made more sense to him at the back end of a reasonably punchy tour than it did beforehand. If this is a misrepresentation of his view I apologise, but I haven't read the book for quite a while.

    To answer your question, yes the curriculum has changed subtly since Hennessey's day. There is an Ex HYBRID WARRIOR (or possibly Ex HYBRID CADET, I forget) which is delivered jointly by the military DS and the academic staff, which requires OCdts to apply the 7 Questions (the type of military planning estimate taught at RMAS) to Counter - Insurgency / Hybrid Warfare style scenarios. Ex BROADSWORD, one of the exercises delivered in Senior Term, has a heavy Afghan slant to it, and altogether COIN / hybrid style scenarios / lessons are being tied into the curriculum where the DS feel it practicable.

    It's important to remember that RMAS doesn't exist as PDT for Op HERRICK. It's aim is to deliver officers who are capable of fulfilling the job of a junior officer in first appointment to the various Regts and Corps of the Field Army. Conventional light infantry soldiering (platoon harbours, liiving off bergan and belt kit, conducting day long advances to contact up hill and down dale, 24hr patrolling matrices) is hard, and apart from anything else there is a considerable training value in anything which physically and mentally exhausts OCdts in the way many of the "conventional" exercises do. I think that it's also worth bearing in mind that RMAS isn't a training ivory tower, ignorant of and indifferent to the realities of recent conflicts. I doubt there's a single CSgt who hasn't served in both Iraq and Afghanistan; the various Pl and Coy Comds will have served in one or both of those conflicts. They are the ones best able to judge the effectiveness of the training programmes. So when your CSgt has you leopard crawling in NBC kit up and down the playing fields I suggest you don't question him on its efficacy to modern warfare. Or do; it will at least give you an amusing anecdote.

    I've just realised that I've used an awful lot of acronyms and abbreviations. Apologies; it wasn't through obfuscatory effort, merely the result of far too much staff writing. Note also how I can't help but put two spaces after every full stop. However, you'll spend your time at RMAS looking at documents and wondering what the hell all the abbreviations mean, so you may as well get used to it now. Good luck with your application.
  3. In my opinion, the quality of deployed British Officers has declined in the past five years.

    In the case of the last young bloke I had to work with, I suspect that an analogy with the Boer War rather than the Cold War was more apt.

    I am not sure if this is a one off or symptomatic of a decline in standards or a booming economy up to a couple of years ago allowed low calibre officers to slip through the net.

    I was interested in the thead cited by Alfred that indicated that there may be institiutional barriers to deter the best and brightest from applying to the Army. I am not sure if this is the case as we, (another government agency) try to recruit the best and brightest but many proove medeocre in reality.

    However, I would be interested to see if RMAS has appropriate feedback loops so that lessons learnt on operations are reflected in the training program. I would have thought that this would be a fairly straight forward exercise and would proove invaluable.

    Out of interest is RMAS ISO 9000 compliant as an RTO as this would ensure appropriate quality control mechanisms and feedback loops were in place.
  4. Rubbish. ISO9000 is the "never mind the quality, feel the width" approach to processes - it guarantees nothing.

    There have been various attempts at quality improvement for training and people management over the years ("Systems Approach to Training", IiP, etc) but process doesn't guarantee results. Some of the best training I ever received was done outside any formal framework; some of the worst within one...
  5. Conventional Warfare, ie Russian T80 regiments coming over the horizon supported by a regiment of 2S1 artillery fire support, if it ever happened would almost certainly be the hardest type of fighting you can imagine, which is why we train for it.

    Conventional war serves as the basic template for learning all the key lessons of soldiering, if you can do that, then you can adapt the basic lessons youve learnt to be relevant to any situation. If we just trained for counter insurgency/ asymetric warfare, and then in five years time found ourselves stuck on the N Korean border again waiting for the massed chinese hordes, we'd be pretty fucked....
  6. we've been saying that for the last 12-15 yrs or so...during which time i've deployed to 4 Op theatres and the only T80s i've seen have been smoldering wrecks courtesy of the USAF/RAF...the real complexity (hardest in your parlance) comes beyond this. Find/fix/strike - shape/decide/sustain is jolly easy if the enemy are good enough to wear a uniform and come at you from the opposite direction of your rear...its not happened yet in my career - i doubt it will soon - no matter what the academics at DefAc may think.
  7. Without denying either the genuine difficulty of the COE or the validity of your operational experience, to suggest that conventional war is "jolly easy", either physically or mentally, is I think slightly wide of the mark. Fighting a delay battle against a manoeuvrist armoured force is the hardest thing I've done in training, more demanding than anything I've done on operations, and something I pray God that I'll never have to do in real life.
  8. What would happen if we faced off against someone who had equal air power to what we could produce? There are plenty of places in the world where that threat exists. Wouldn't be such a 'cricket score' if we didn't have total air superiority would it? As for the ground battle, lets throw a few regiments of T90s and BMP 3s into the mix. (both of those will give you sleepless nights if you care to look them up and read their specs.)

    Counterinsurgency at Pl/Coy level is ******* easy. Rule 1. Be nice to people. Rule 2. Ask them their concerns. Rule 3. ACT on their concerns if you can. Rule 4. Avoid killing them if they aren't fighting you.

    If you can think of other things that a Pl commander in COIN can reasonably achieve I'd be fascinated to hear it.

    Not sure where you've served but those four rules worked ok in my experience in Sangin and Al Amarah, so I'll stand by them.

    Sorry if my parlance is too simple for you....
  9. noted; however, i refer to the conceptual complexity.
  10. I think you're creating a false dichotomy; the hybred model which we use as a basis for our training allows for the range of operations from the kinetic end through to softer influence aspects. This is what Sandhurst training now reflects. The Army has got a hell of a lot better at chucking firepower around since I was first commissioned, a real reflection of the competencies held by those soldiers coming off operations: the same soldiers who end up instructing at RMAS. Furthermore the Academy has really driven forward with delivering effective dismounted close combat training and combining it with an understanding of the contemporary environment. The final exercise includes some hard field soldiering, a decent live firing package and a complex urban counter-insurgency. So to conclude; the Academy has kept what is relevant and pushed forward to engage with current ops.
  11. Roughly speaking, Juniors / Inters is 'cold war' stuff. Lots of combat estimates and conventional attacks. Allows the DS to sausage factory command appointments and develop small level tactics and leadership

    Seniors the focus switches to COIN Ops, and the 7 question format is amended. Teaches to think through complexity whilst using skills learnt earlier on. Apparently.

    Sandhurst as a whole has just moved to the new Contemporary Operating Scenario (COSCEN??) for its exercises, using the Country of Compass or something along those lines. How much this changes the exercises I don't know.