Continuous support to domestic operations without much respite was one issue raised with the Senior Enlisted Advisor to Chief of the Defence Force (CDF) (SEAC), who took stock of issues facing ADF personnel from across the three services.
CAPTION: Senior enlisted adviser to the Chief of the Defence Force Warrant Officer Ken Robertson. Story by Sergeant Matthew Bickerton. Photo by Lauren Larking.
SEAC Warrant Officer Ken Robertson said personnel were willing to assist when governments requested support after adverse weather events.
“But there’s also a sense from the troops of when they’ll get a break, some downtime to spend with families, especially over that Christmas period,” he said.
“If people don’t get that respite, it will lead to frustration, and may cause retention issues.”
To ensure concerns like these are heard at the highest levels, CDF General Angus Campbell appointed Warrant Officer Robertson in the new position last year, creating a voice for enlisted ranks into the CDF’s office.
He’s spent the past six months developing relationships to be a conduit of information between the workforce and decision-makers.
During base visits, he often smiles when noticing that Navy, Army and Air Force personnel sometimes raise the same issues.
“It’s somewhat reassuring. If issues are common across the services, it means that problem-solving and solutions can be shared and applied sooner,” Warrant Officer Robertson said.
The bulk of his efforts go towards retention and recruitment, and conditions of service, as well as having input in honours, awards and military justice policy.
Warrant Officer Robertson acknowledged Defence’s challenges but found the most rewarding visits were those where he learnt about the positive aspects of service life.
“We wouldn’t have thousands and thousands of personnel unless there was something great about service life. I think it’s my job to also champion that,” he said.
“Every trip I go on, I get told the outstanding achievements of our organisation, whether it’s on deployments, preparedness, or training.”
Apart from workforce advocacy, the role has a representational side, travelling with CDF internationally.
“We’re the last Five Eyes nation to create a SEAC position, which means we now have a senior enlisted leader representing on the international stage,” Warrant Officer Robertson said.
Warrant Officer Robertson’s goals for this year include visiting additional regions such as north Queensland, Tasmania and other remote bases.
“If they remember one thing from my visits, it’s that they have an enlisted voice within the office of CDF, speaking truth to power, on their behalf,” he said.