Chief of Army Symposium 2021 Wrap-Up

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The recent Chief of Army Symposium 2021, held at the Brisbane Convention Centre from April 19-20, highlighted regional engagement, technology and the role of Army leaders. 

Around 1000 people physically attended the symposium; which was also shared virtually through The Cove. The symposium benefitted from some of the best minds in Australia, including the head of the Australian Space Agency and Chief Scientist of South Australia. The idea of engaging broadly with people who think differently is part of the philosophy of an Army in Motion. In the words of the Chief of Army, new people open minds and opportunities, and give us energy to “think beyond where we are today and help us imagine or, indeed re-imagine, the future.” 

Similarly the Chief’s of Army of India, Indonesia, Japan and Singapore spoke about how shared challenges manifest in their areas of interest. Their presence was a powerful message about the strength of our Army-to-Army links and commitment to do more together as soon as conditions permit. 

The symposium was also a mechanism for Army to support both Australian-led technology and partnerships with academia and industry. Through the Army Innovation Day 2021, Army Robotics Exposition 2021 and Quantum Technology Challenge 2021, Army gave small and medium businesses the opportunity to interact with decision makers and each other. Equality of access was an important principle to promote the power of ideas regardless of the size of the company.

The Army Innovation Day saw over 21 Australian industry partners pitching ideas related to energy and environmental resilience. Companies displayed solar and hydrogen power options designed to increase the endurance of soldiers systems, Optionally Crewed Ground Vehicles and aircraft and command posts. 

The Army Robotics Exposition 2021 (ARX 2021) included displays and demonstrations from over 55 Australian owned and led businesses. These ranged from leader-follower technology in Army’s 40M trucks (read more here) to drone swarms and Optionally Crewed Ground Vehicles. 

Similarly, the Quantum Technology Challenge (QTC 2021) provided a forum for Australian academic and industry organisations to pitch their ideas to Army on how quantum sensing and communication applications can deliver military advantage for land forces.  

The Chief of Army highlighted the importance of working with industry to fuel innovation and adaptation – “I am proud to support the exploration of disruptive technologies. It highlights our commitment to working with some of the best and brightest to learn, understand, prototype and experiment with potential capabilities for the Australian Army.”

The symposium also included the Senior Enlisted Leader Conference and Junior Leader Forum. This reminded participants that people are fundamental everything Army does – they integrate ideas, teams, technology, and training. Both forums spoke to innovators and leaders from industry, defence and sport such as: Paul Green, former Townsville Cowboys Coach, and Head Information Warfare – Major General Susan Coyle

The Junior Leader Forum is a relatively new activity. It gives Junior Non Commissioned Officers an opportunity to interact with senior leaders and develop their understanding of Army initiatives. In addition to attending the symposium, they meet virtually every six to eight weeks with the Regimental Sergeant Major- Army and Deputy Chief of Army.

This year’s symposium was the first to be held since 2018 and, pending travel restrictions, Army will hold a similar, larger event in 2022. The symposium demonstrated the power of collaboration between Army, academia and industry – at every level from Service Chief to Junior Leader. Collaboration and partnering comes from being curious, open to ideas and being willing to think differently. These traits enable Army’s people to bring teams together to tackle the challenges of land warfare now and in the future.

About the Author: James Davis is an Australian Army officer and past editor of Grounded Curiosity. Find him on Twitter.

Cover Image Credit: LSIS Steve Thomson, Defence Image Gallery