Pacific Perspectives from New Zealand
New Zealand Army Warrant Officer Class One Clive Douglas sat down with FORUM on the sidelines of the Land Forces of the Pacific (LANPAC) Symposium and Exposition in May 2019 to share perspectives from New Zealand. He talked about the New Zealand chief of Army’s vision beyond 2025, contributions to Pacific Pathways and how the New Zealand Army’s values — courage, commitment, comradeship and integrity — shape Soldier training programs and partnerships throughout the Pacific and elsewhere.
FORUM: As a warrant officer and having served as sergeant major, describe your duties within the New Zealand Army.
DOUGLAS: I’m part of the chief of Army’s executive team as the senior Soldier and give senior enlisted advice to him, but also the key part is representing the views of Soldiers, their families. But it’s not just that group. It’s also officers and civilian contractors. I’m part of the Army leadership board and provide our Soldiers’ perspective on strategic decisions that the board makes going into the future. I’ve been on the job just over two years and have about another year to go. I always had a plan when I became SMA [sergeant major of the Army], and it was part of the reason why I was selected. Part of that plan was to focus on education for our Soldiers and career and learning pathways that enhance the nontraditional pathways that can grow a future SMA across all of that. And I’ve been successful in getting an education policy signed off for our Soldiers and our officers and also in drafting a policy set around our career and learning pathway.
FORUM: You enlisted in 1985. Describe how you’ve seen the New Zealand Army evolve over the past 30-plus years.
DOUGLAS: When I joined, we were an Army of two battalions, and we still are now, but one was in Singapore, and that’s been there since 1957 during the Malaysian emergency. The things I’ve seen, if you look at equipment, the transitions or transformation of our infantry Soldier, just from carrying a compass, your rifle, to now integrated systems of coms [communications]. We had analog, and now one of the key transformational programs is digitalizing our Army, our C2 systems — our mission command-and-control systems. You look at how we’ve communicated before, and now we’ve got Soldiers right down at the lowest levels with screens, and all the technology with that has been a real big change.
FORUM: What are some unique characteristics of the way Soldiers train in New Zealand compared with what you’ve seen from Army components in other countries?
DOUGLAS: I think the training is very similar, but what we concentrate on is individual skill sets. Move, shoot, communicate, mitigate and Soldier first — similar to the U.S. But with every MOS [military occupational specialty], we do coursing that’s common. Because we’re small, we can do that. They all go and do an all-arms course. That’s where they get their Soldier first skills, because everyone is taught the same curriculum. In your MOS, you do your trade coursing, which is done solely on your trade. And then you combine that with doing exercises overseas with your partners to doing deployments, and when you build that whole continuum, you get a well-rounded Soldier.
FORUM: Please talk about Pacific Pathways and the role the New Zealand Army has played in the past and what you anticipate its role will be as Pacific Pathways 2.0 rolls out.
DOUGLAS: Australia and New Zealand know the Pacific, so for other partners that want to play in that particular area, it’s leveraging off what we’re doing. And that’s certainly the way the U.S. wants to go. It’s looking for opportunities where you can send a couple of Aussies, a couple of Kiwis and couple of U.S. (Soldiers) and then go and do a mobile training team to bring our key partners into the Pacific and integrate. The other part is, we’ve got technical warrant officers, sergeant majors, who are posted on Fiji and Tonga and Vanuatu as well. Australia has as well. What that brings for us is that knowledge of that nation and that close relationship. If we wanted to play somewhere else with another country where the U.S. has a strong relationship, we would do the same and leverage off what the U.S. is doing. I see 2.0 as enhancing what we’ve got and looking for further opportunities. I would also say the key thing for all nations is you have to ask the nation you’re going to help what they want. Not imposing what we think they want is key.
FORUM: New Zealanders refer to Micronesia and Polynesia as their backyard. What other partnerships and trainings does the New Zealand Army have with its Pacific island nation neighbors?
DOUGLAS: From an NCO [noncommissioned officer] perspective, it’s the officers and the NCOs coming to do our coursing, so you get that shared experience. It’s sending mobile training teams into those countries on what they want to be trained on. [That is] the people-to-people stuff. At the strategic level, at my level, it’s having close relationships within the region. It’s coming together talking and visiting each other’s countries. It’s setting our sights on future flight and leveraging off what we do at LANPAC and what we do in PACC/PAMS [Pacific Armies Chiefs Conference and Pacific Armies Management Seminar]. You can do the talk first, but the key thing is how do we turn it into action.
FORUM: As a smaller Army in the region, what are some ways New Zealand leverages its partners and allies to maximize what Kiwi forces have to contribute?
DOUGLAS: One of the strengths of our Army is our culture and bringing our native culture of Maori and integrating it into all other ethnic groups that we have in our force. We understand those who are Polynesian and Micronesian, and it’s utilizing our culture, and it’s a soft power, to gain access and influence to understand their needs. The other part of it is the leadership framework. Papua New Guinea has taken our framework and turned it into their own as an example. We showed them our framework, and they came to New Zealand and did a couple of our programs and have gone back to their own country and turned it into their own. Fiji is very interested as well; so is Tonga. When we’re doing stuff, we don’t have the money that Australia has, but what we do have is that human dimension that we leverage as a strength for our Army.
FORUM: Terrorist attacks continue to happen in new and unexpected places, including Christchurch in March 2019. How has that incident shaped some of the counterterrorism efforts in New Zealand, and has it had an impact on the Army’s counterterrorism efforts as well?
DOUGLAS: It’s not my area of expertise, because it was police-driven. But what I will say is the military supported a civil agency, that being the police. In terms of: Has it changed New Zealand? I would say that we never thought that we’d have something like that happen in New Zealand, and for it to happen in the way it did has brought our country closer, and in particular, in supporting our Muslim community. There’s been a big outreach of the New Zealand public to that community. And our prime minister showed the world how a leader can bring a nation through a tragic event like that. We’re always ready in terms of our ability to respond to security issues or a threat.
FORUM: Finally, you’ve participated on panels during LANPAC discussing modernization and the need to ensure fundamentals remain a priority for Soldier training. Talk a little to that point and share your vision of what tomorrow’s Army looks like.
DOUGLAS: Good question. Our chief of Army’s vision for his tenure is around being an agile, highly adaptive, light combat, modern force. For the Army, going beyond 2025 is building what we call a smart Soldier. [The Army’s Smart Soldier efforts include offering professional military education for service members; formalizing the application process for study funding; developing numeracy and literacy pathways; and leveraging Soldiers’ talents.] By 2025, we’ll be fully networked in terms of digitization. I see our force growing in manpower and being interoperable with our key partners. And it’s about New Zealand being able to provide niche capabilities that will enhance our government’s national security priorities and international rules-based order.
FORUM: Lastly, anything you’d like to share with partner nations about what the New Zealand Army is doing?
DOUGLAS: I think going forward, with your last question and this one, it’s about strong relationships and partnerships that will enable us to work together in this complex world we’re in. It’s through these activities [like LANPAC] and exercises, even while we’re deployed, that will help relationships grow and people understand each other’s capabilities that is going to help us going forward.