Lt-Gen Ken Gillespie, Outgoing Chief of Army, address at Change of Command Parade
23 June 2011
Speech: Outgoing Chief of Army address at the Change of Command Parade, Canberra, 24 June 2011
Check against delivery.
As I reflect back on my 43 years of service, I could not be more proud of the men and women I have served with, nor the direction that the Army has taken. I started as an apprentice brick layer in 1968. Since that time I have learnt that there are parallels between the principles of building and the development of an Army. They both need a detailed plan, strong foundations, and the hard work of talented people to keep in working order. Army is a very fine 110 year old institution. It has not needed to be rebuilt, but it has certainly required some renovations along the way – and I’ve probably earned a reputation as a renovator. Raising new organisations, reshaping older organisations and looking to conduct preventative work on others have been part of my pedigree.
Adaptive Army was the latest of these, and potentially the thing people will most remember me by. But Adaptive Army was always more than just a tag, it was about structural and cultural change. It was about excelling today while properly planning and preparing to be just as effective, and just as respected, in the mid and long term future.
I handover today with not a doubt in my mind that the work thus far on Adaptive Army has been highly successful and that it set us on a positive course to meet future challenges. But while most of you will think only of the structural side of Adaptive Army when you think about the changes which have occurred during my tenure, I want to highlight to you the other, cultural initiatives of which I am equally proud, or even more proud, that we’ve achieved together.
Every time I have spoken to you during my tenure as Chief, I have stressed the fact that our people are our number one priority. I am pleased to say that I genuinely believe that this phrase now has substance and that a culture of treating people as individuals, and then treating them with respect is starting to permeate through every corner of the Army. As you know, I am a strong advocate for the enhancement of women’s participation in the Army. We have also instigated other strategies to improve work life balance through three year posting tenures and enhanced career pathways. These strategies have already made an impact on the way that we manage our people.
Taking better care of our wounded, injured, and seriously ill soldiers has been a passion of mine. We’ve come a very long way in this regard over the last two years, but much still needs to be done. I’m particularly proud of the new Complex Medical Management program. This program provides an extended three year transition from Army to civilian employment, for people with significant workplace disabilities. The program is supported by programs such as the Amputee Mentoring Program. Of all the things we’ve achieved, I am most proud of these robust people initiatives.
Another area where we have embraced change for our own good is the Strategic Reform Program. I believe that we have established an environment that has encouraged bottom up innovation. A significant achievement of our SRP initiatives has been our ability to safe guard the integrity of our soldier’s conditions of service whilst we protect capability. We have, and can continue, to develop ways to work smarter, within our means, without impacting on the welfare of our people and their families or the capability that we provide to the Australian people.
With regards to the changes made under the Adaptive Army, I am certain that the three year force generation cycle and the conduct of Exercise HAMEL have already made a significant impact on the way that we prepare our soldiers for our current commitments on operations, but we’re also enhancing our foundation warfighting skills for future challenges. We are an Army which I believe is becoming increasingly honest with itself.
Over my three years as the Chief of Army the biggest challenge to my emotional and physical leadership has been the death, wounding and injury of our soldiers. I have been personally pained by the loss of the 23 soldiers killed on operations in my time as the Chief. I know that each of you have also felt this loss.
I am proud that together we have gone to great lengths to support our bereaved families. Each of us should remain inspired by the stoicism and strength shown by these families in the most difficult of circumstances. Their example, shown to me under very sad circumstances, is a clear indication to me as to why our soldiers are as good as they are.
Could I take the opportunity here to thank very warmly those small teams who go out late at night and deliver awful news to families. You do very difficult but vital work, and I’m very proud of the way you’ve presented the face of Army to families in such taxing circumstances. I am deeply indebted to you.
One of the co-architects of the Adaptive Army has been LTGEN David Morrison, He and I have worked closely together over many years, but particularly over the last three. I pass the command of the Army to him with great confidence that he is the man of the moment, and that he is magnificently equipped to lead the organisation over the next three years. He is a truly fine officer, a good friend, and someone with whom I share a common view of the future of the Army. I see our handover today as being more a relief in place than change in direction. I wish him well.
As I hand over command of this wonderful institution, I want to say that it has been an honour serving with you and a unique privilege to lead the talented men and women - military and civilian - of the Army. Although I leave genuinely without regret, I will truly miss the families, the soldiers, the civilian staff and the veterans that I have had the privilege of knowing and working with over this time. I am proud to have had responsibility for them all throughout my tenure. I’ve no doubt at all that we do have the best small Army in the world. We enjoy great international standing and respect. It’s a pity that in some quarters we’re not as well understood and respected at home.
Thank you for your hard work and dedication. I encourage you to continue striving to provide the best possible support to our greatest resource: our soldiers and their families. I wish you and your families the best for the future.
Of course with the handover of command comes the completion of my time in uniform. 43.5 years of wonderful experiences and great memories. Could I thank a small number of people. Firstly, in their absence, my parents who have supported me throughout my career and were there for me in times of doubt or turmoil. Its sad they couldn’t be here today to see me finish as they were there in 1968 to see me start. To my wife Carmel and my daughter Moira, thank you for your love and understanding, for enduring my long absences and for keeping me rooted in reality. It would not have been possible with out you, thank you. To my grown up children, Christopher and Catherine, and my good friends thank you for your support. To those people like Peter Abigail, Chris Ritchie and Peter Cosgrove, and many others who have mentored me and given freely of their time when I needed advice. Thank you. To Angus Houston, thank you for your friendship and for allowing me to freely command my Army, good luck to you and Liz for the future. To my generals, and particularly to my loyal Deputy, Paul Symon, thank you for making it so easy for me to lead. And finally, to my dedicated staff and Steve Ward the Regimental Sergeant Major-Army (RSM-A), thank you from the Gillespie family for making our lives as smooth and happy as it has been in such a challenging environment.
To Linda and David Hurley a very hearty congratulations from Carmel and I. David and I have been friends for many years and we wish you the very be best as you take on one of the more difficult jobs in the country. Good luck.
Finally, To David and Gayle Morrison, congratulations, strap in, hang on tight, and enjoy the ride. Thank you.