General Nick Carter leads army into better battle

christopher_lee180-11

Christopher Lee

Whitehall, 28 September 2016

The British army without Afghanistan is vulnerable.  Taxpayers ask what’s it for if it isn’t chasing Taliban.  They tend to add: especially as you didn’t get Afghanistan right especially the public image of that decade is charity events for soldiers with one leg. It may be unfair, but public opinion doesn’t do fair.

More is the pity when something close to brilliant is going on in the army and it is being led by one of the best army bosses for some time. To borrow Michael Caine’s script, Not Many People Know That.

The head of the army, the Chief of the General Staff has been for the past two years General Sir Nicholas Carter. He is a man who understands just how conservative is the army.  How it does not like change.  When things don’t move on then the young and good brains do not join the army. The army could  by this standard even become irrelevant.

So when Carter became CGS the importance for the army was that in his past job he was already thinking where does the army go from here and how can I get them to come with me.

For a man who had commanded in Kandahar thinking was not a problem.  In that command he introduced the concept of The Big Idea.  No Big Idea then you might just as well write test papers on why people still support West Ham United.

Carter has given the army the Big Idea. Come January 2017 the public will hear about new Army Doctrine.  They will learn about Carter’s ideas of Integrated Action, where junior and senior officers will ask everyone what will happen if they try something else.  Will it have a knock-on?

The General has already got his new command in one building in Andover and got people used to basic top down management.  If you want an armoured vehicle then you have to buy it yourself.  You need it?  Work out how to pay for it.

A general staff office of 700 colonels and above work everything out overcoming battles with tribal difference as cap badges matter but do not get in the way. This is an army that is relearning value-based leadership and with even the new command sergeant majors advising up to board level.

At a private evening meeting among army punditry this week, General Carter reminded everyone that unless you grasp change, change will grasp you by the throat.

This soldier has done more for the army than any single CGS in decades. Given the tray has been round with promotions, it  is unlikely he will become Chief of the Defence Staff. But for the moment, the army cannot afford to let him go go until the job is done.

If the general public could understand what has happened they would be amazed (not hyperbole). The UK’s too-small army is more innovative than ever, can teach the world to handle the new asymmetric warfare that is the modern security business.

General Carter came along at the right time. What he has created needs a bigger audience. Sadly one of the army’s weaknesses is the comfortable public relations system. Carter who leads by example proves that peace has its heroes. Someone should think of a way of teaching us how he has made it work.

 

 

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