Home' Defence Magazine : White Paper 2009 Contents 24
top left: army reservists lance corporal tim Brooks and trooper Justin Kennedy mix with the solomon islands children while during their recent
operation anode deployment to the solomon islands.
aBove: a range of options is available to defence reservists, both in military and civilian life.
ne of the key outcomes of the
defence white paper 2009
recognises the need for the
australian defence force
to manage and make use of
its reserve forces in a more
effective and innovative manner.
the sponsored reserves concept is
one way in which the adf can work
towards achieving this goal.
“The Sponsored Reserves concept is an
initiative that would see Defence contract a private
sector organisation to provide a specific capability
to Defence. It would involve using selected
employees (who become Sponsored Reserves)
and their equipment, to target niche requirements
for the ADF,” Sponsored Reserves project officer
Lieutenant Colonel Matt Vertzonis said.
LTCOL Vertzonis has been a member of the
Australian Army Reserves for the past 35 years.
Currently working full-time in the tri-Service Reserve
and Employer Support Division (RESD), LTCOL
Vertzonis has spent the past year developing a
range of Reserve workforce options, including the
Sponsored Reserves concept. Details of the concept
were considered as part of the internal review process
which informed development of the new White Paper,
something he is particularly excited about.
“The ADF doesn’t currently utilise Sponsored
Reserves. It is a approach used by the United
Kingdom where they have been operating for
some years. Given the similarities between the
ADF and the UK military, we see real potential
for the Sponsored Reserves proposal to work
in Australia and enhance Defence’s operational
capability. I know that it has been looked at to
some degree in the past, but perhaps we were not
ready for it then. The new White Paper directs us
to consider this idea in the light of contemporary
circumstances,” LTCOL Vertzonis said.
“This capability is not likely to involve large
numbers of people; nor would they be employed
in direct combat duties. The Sponsored Reserves
concept is about using a group of selected people
for their civilian skills, putting them in uniform, and
deploying them for specific operational tasks.”
In the UK, Sponsored Reserves are contracted
in a variety of areas including the transportation
of heavy equipment, operation of Roll-on Roll-off
Ships, maintenance of specialised aircraft,
meteorological capability, specialist engineering
and other services.
“The use of Sponsored Reserves would allow
Defence to draw on skill sets from the private
sector in areas where the ADF may not require
large numbers of people. And because Sponsored
Reserves offer niche capabilities which are not
needed on a full-time basis, Defence can achieve
real cost benefits,” LTCOL Vertzonis said.
Since the UK introduced Sponsored
Reserves in 2000, they have realised a number of
significant benefits including a 12 per cent saving
in manpower costs, improved assurance and
flexibility of service and an operational capability
that would otherwise be uneconomical for the
Services to grow or maintain.
As part of the Strategic Reform Program
(SRP), Defence has been directed to look at how
Sponsored Reserves might be employed and what
capabilities they could deliver.
“Once the three Services have identified their
requirements, RESD, as the interface between the
ADF and the business community, will work with
them to support the development of employment
and policy details that add value and synergy across
Navy, Army and Air Force,” LTCOL Vertzonis said.
Previously known as Reserve Policy Division,
RESD is also responsible for developing tri-service
Reserve policy and the management of employer
and industry engagement activities that enhance the
image of ADF Reserves, and the wider Defence Force.
“Few employers and human resource staff
have first-hand experience of service life these
days, and sometimes their perceptions are shaped
more by Hollywood than by the reality that exists in
a professional military organisation like the ADF,”
LTCOL Vertzonis said.
“Reservists receive considerable training
during their ADF service and develop important
skills that are transferrable to other parts of
their working lives. Skills such as teamwork,
communication, use of initiative, problem
solving and decision making are very valuable in
commercial settings. This means that employers
receive a direct benefit from having Reserves as
employees, without the training cost.
“The managerial and interpersonal skills
gained from a career in the ADF Reserves are
significant. Furthermore, it provides employers with
an opportunity to display their corporate citizenship
responsibilities to the Australian community,”
LTCOL Vertzonis said.
RESD has effective business relationships
in place with a wide range of private and public
sector organisations, and will be a key link in
supporting the creation of Sponsored Reserves.
Reserves are a valued part of the ADF. Over
the past six years, more than 7000 Reservists
have been deployed in domestic and offshore
operations. These have ranged from Operation
Anode (the Regional Assistance Mission to the
Solomon Islands) and Operation Resolute (Border
Security), to short notice assistance for the recent
ADF response to the Victorian bushfires. ADF
Reserves have also served, and are currently
serving, in almost every theatre and United Nations
mission in which we have been committed to since
East Timor in 1999.
“There is still considerable work to be done
before Sponsored Reserves can be implemented
in Australia. Prior to any contract being negotiated,
Defence needs to articulate the capability requirement
and consider a suite of factors – employment, risk,
contractual demands, equipment, family support and
other issues. However, preliminary discussions with
private sector organisations indicate it is a viable and
welcome proposal,” LTCOL Vertzonis said.
LTCOL Vertzonis’ enthusiasm for the potential of
the Sponsored Reserves concept is clear. He is also a
genuine supporter of the White Paper and SRP, seeing
it as an opportunity for positive change that will be
integral to the future sustainability of the ADF.
“From my civilian experience in the private
sector, I have seen the Australian workforce evolve
considerably. Fifty years ago people joined an
organisation with the intention, and generally the
expectation, that they would be working there
forever. Nowadays, a change in career is not only
considered to be normal, but is actively embraced
by most. Single–employer work histories will be
the exception for Gen X, Gen Y and those that
follow. This mindset brings about a new set of
workforce challenges for employers. They need
to be flexible, innovative and agile to attract and
retain good people, whether full time or part time.
“I anticipate that the Sponsored Reserves
will be an important, but only one, part of the
ADF’s workforce solution, but we need the whole
Defence organisation to get behind the SRP and to
believe in where it can take us. How well we do
the job now will impact the future members of the
ADF,” LTCOL Vertzonis said.
By Shelley Daws
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