The Commissioning Course during COVID-19
Life at RMAS within the constraints of COVID-19 (C-19) has been a significant challenge. Despite this, the requirement to deliver exceptional training has remained extant. Like all training establishments, there has been no choice but to enact change in order to facilitate a safe training environment to achieve strategically driven outputs. The fluidity of the C-19 threat continues to require robust control measures, driven by Government and Defence policy, to enable the continuous delivery of world-class leadership training. This has presented many new challenges for instructors and Officer Cadets alike.
C-19 has driven a complete training programme overhaul, hard work for many, but the changes have also fired up many dormant imaginations! Previous training techniques were no longer safe and the requirement to think ‘outside the box’ has enabled creative and meaningful lessons, setting a new standard for the delivery of training for future Officer Cadets. Of note, the delivery of training via virtual means has proven particularly effective and is something that must continue to be exploited Army-wide.
The biggest challenge I have faced as an instructor has been the delivery of virtual training. Whilst subjects such as Drill, Field Craft, and Skill at Arms needed to be taught in the usual way (albeit with some imaginative, C-19 compliance!). I have had to completely adapt my teaching style to achieve the required impact through virtual means. This was particularly challenging during the periods of Controlled Monitoring during the first two weeks of each term. Although C-19 has presented many obstacles along the road to gaining a Commission, the professional and motivated attitude by all involved has seen every platoon adapt, overcome and reach the much-anticipated Sovereign’s Parade.
Throughout my career, I have often been inspired by officers. However, prior to attempting the RMAS SNCO Selection Cadre (2019), my understanding of what Officer Cadets did at RMAS was limited. As a JNCO I believed that RMAS was a finishing school that taught elocution, fine dining, and how not to do drill! How wrong I was! I was astounded at the amount of responsibility placed upon Officer Cadets from their very first moment at the Academy. The development of these young leaders is facilitated through several challenging areas. Alongside deploying on numerous tactical exercises in austere environments with ever-increasing levels of complexity, their academic, physical and emotional rigour are also tested to capacity in a myriad of different ways. The motivation and drive I have witnessed from these young men and women are incredible and something I had limited exposure prior to my time at RMAS. The most impressive display of this is during Ex LONG REACH. After only 8 weeks of training, Officer Cadets are expected to navigate up to 70km around the Black Mountains carrying upward of 35kgs whilst conducting command tasks at each checkpoint. Most people would barely survive this, but I have been lucky to witness so many thrive!
We currently have 4 CSgt Instructors, a WO2 and a Company Commander at RMAS. This is not uncommon and highlights the quality of the 1st Battalion and the wider Royal Welsh community. The broad oversight offered by so many different instructors is crucial when it comes to the Regimental Selection Boards. Every opinion is invaluable when it comes to selecting future Royal Welsh Officers from such a competitive cohort. The quality of the Royal Welsh instructors inspires and draws only the best Officer Cadets to consider a future in the Royal Welsh family.
My time at the Academy has been most enjoyable, and, indeed the highlight of my career thus far. I would highly recommend any aspiring Sgt/CSgt to instruct at RMAS. The RMAS SNCO Selection Cadre was the most challenging endeavour I have attempted during my time in the Army, but ultimately the most rewarding. During the cadre, candidates are tested physically and mentally and are expected to complete all the main physical events of the Regular Commissioning Course, including Ex LONG REACH. It is a true test of character and ability with approximately 30 chosen from upwards of 65 candidates. Individuals are selected from across the army and only the best get through to instruct the future military leaders of the United Kingdom and the world.
My time at the academy has fuelled my personal development and the experience gained from working at such a high-profile establishment has been invaluable. The exposure to the wider army gained through working alongside members of staff from across all three services of the Armed Forces has been very informative and has helped broaden my understanding. Working alongside numerous international officers has also developed my strategic understanding and given me insight into the importance of the British Armed Forces throughout the world. My most enjoyable time at the academy was instructing on the Regular Commissioning Course alongside Major Rizwan Hassan of the Pakistan Army. We were responsible for 9 Platoon, Waterloo Company, a platoon of 27 men and women, including the winner of the Queen's Medal, who all successfully gained their Commissions. A truly motivated and professional group of men and women who will thrive in their respective units.
Whilst the focus of my time at RMAS has been spent developing future leaders, I have also been able to develop and further refine my own leadership style. Working with the Officer Cadets of the current generation has proven that an “old school” approach is no longer the way forward and the creation of a working environment based on trust is vital. Entrusting everyone with responsibility ensures inclusion, generates ownership, and develops a team capable of the most efficient pathway to success. I look forward to implementing what I have learned on my return to the 1st Battalion and aiding in the development of leaders at all levels.