5 episodes

Grounded Curiosity aims to start a conversation with military commanders about their role in future warfare.

Grounded Curiosity Grounded Curiosity

    • News

Grounded Curiosity aims to start a conversation with military commanders about their role in future warfare.

    Junior Commanders and Future War with Brigadier Mick Ryan AM

    Junior Commanders and Future War with Brigadier Mick Ryan AM

    This podcast features great insights from Brigadier Mick Ryan AM. The podcast begins with Brigadier Ryan discussing his roles in the Australian Army including as Commander 1st Brigade, and building networks through educational opportunities at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College at Quantico and John Hopkins University in Washington D.C. Listen to Brigadier Ryan discuss war’s enduring nature, social media, professional development, and military education. The podcast ends with a timely warrie about our media. Follow Brigadier Ryan on Twitter: @LearningArmy

    On future war:

    “At its heart, warfare will continue to be a human endeavor. I don’t see anything that will change the essential nature of warfare which is about human beings seeking to impose their will on others. Those who believe that wars will be won through entirely technical means ... demonstrate a lack of understanding of history and … human beings.”

    On the role of junior commanders:

    “Our junior leaders need to be prepared for an environment that will constantly change … Whilst technical proficiency in their trade will always be very important, it will be their intellectual proficiency and their intellectual breadth which will provide them with the capacity to respond to change and more importantly, respond to shock because we are always going to be surprised - surprise is an enduring element of warfare.”

    On nurturing our own professional education and development:

    “We can’t afford an officer corps that is built on just receiving professional education interventions. It needs to be one that is constantly out there seeking opportunities to learn, to engage with other people, to develop intellect ... at the end of the day, we need to build officers that have a committed learning culture from day one.”

    • 18 min
    Junior Commanders and Future War with Matthew Cavanaugh

    Junior Commanders and Future War with Matthew Cavanaugh

    I spoke with Matthew Cavanaugh who was teaching the Military Strategy Course at the United States Military Academy West Point at the time. A taste of Cavanaugh's advice:

    - On core competencies for junior military commanders: develop your sense of military judgement, relate your tactical action to national policy, and to do both of these things, you have to understand the context in which you fight.

    - When you are a member of the profession of arms there are certain responsibilities, when society asks you to put on a uniform, they are expecting that you are imbued with a sense of military judgement, that you have the ability to navigate through very complex physical and mental terrain, on a battlefield that is one of the most frightening places that you will ever find yourself in.

    The podcast ends with a very funny, but terribly realistic and humbling warrie for junior commanders. Follow Cavanaugh on Twitter: @MLCavanaugh

    • 18 min
    Junior Commanders and Future War with TX Hammes

    Junior Commanders and Future War with TX Hammes

    Discussion with T.X. Hammes at the National Defense University in Washington D.C. including insights on broad spectrum bets for the future, structural versus interactive complexity, tactical decision games, learning how each other thinks up and down the chain of command, using mission orders, how to deal with mistakes and ending with entertaining kids in Somalia in order to escape a dire situation. As a lead in to this podcast, “you have to know how the other guy thinks”.

    • 38 min
    Junior Commanders and Future War with David Ucko

    Junior Commanders and Future War with David Ucko

    I had the pleasure of talking to David H. Ucko at the National Defense University in Washington D.C. His book, co-authored with Robert Egnell, is titled Counterinsurgency in Crisis: Britain and the Challenges of Modern Warfare.

    Some of David Ucko’s thoughts on junior commanders:
    • “Junior commander’s have an unenviable role to play because on one hand it’s the eternal dictum of ‘Do No Harm’ … but of course that’s impossible because through our actions we’re always going to create winners and losers, even in something as benign as building a well or setting up some local economic project, it’s going to create people who benefit from that (project) and those people who don’t benefit from that.”
    • Junior commander’s “first role and responsibility is to understand that through their actions, they’re always going to upset entrenched interests and therefore they need to think through the secondary, tertiary and unintended consequences of every action and that’s why I say it’s a very unenviable position to be in because I can think of few other professions, where at such a young age, you are bestowed with such an awesome responsibility.”
    • Junior commander’s second role “is that it’s not enough just to ‘Do No Harm’ or not screw things up, that’s part of the puzzle, but what makes it more complex is that we’re working towards a mission objective and what’s the role of the junior commander in that. Well, of course, it’s the realisation again that war is ultimately about politics and so what is the political objective that is actually being served.”
    • “I think every commander, no matter where they are in the hierarchy, needs to appreciate exactly how their actions and what they’re doing on a day to day basis correlates, relates to or leads to ideally the mission objective or the campaign plan. So what does that mean? It means understanding local politics, local preferences and how one’s actions mesh with those politics and preferences so as to create the new political compact that the war is ultimately trying to create.”

    • 27 min
    Junior Commanders and Future War with Dave Maxwell

    Junior Commanders and Future War with Dave Maxwell

    I chatted with Dave Maxwell at Georgetown University to hear his thoughts on what the future holds for junior commanders. The podcast starts with the discussion of the future operating environment within the framework of nuclear, traditional and irregular warfare, and ends with a great story about initiative and strategic perspective by a junior leader in the Philippines. See: http://groundedcuriosity.com/david-s-maxwell/

    Here are some of Dave Maxwell’s insights as a quick introduction:
    • “one of the most important things for us as officers is to continue to study and be self-learners, life long learners and have a passion for knowledge of our profession”
    • “we’ve got to be able to understand strategy and policy and be able to translate that strategy and policy and be able to translate that strategy and policy into campaign plans and then conduct tactical operations that support the strategy”
    • “in addition to our war fighting skills, which must be maintained for deterrence (and) defence, we also have to understand unconventional warfare”
    • “our younger officers and soldiers … are much more capable of operating in very complex, ambiguous environment”
    • “I see our young officers thinking and acting at levels far beyond what I was doing during the Cold War … we need to build on that … we have a much higher quality of officer and force, we must protect that, we must nurture that and we can’t put them back in the box “
    • “one of the most important things [junior commanders] should be doing is writing about their experiences, good and bad, and they should be just like Clausewitz, they should be wrestling with what they think the future is about … and our leaders need encourage our junior commanders to write as that’s what’s will contribute to the development of the future force”

    • 41 min

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