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Australian Air Power Development Centre

Air Power Development Centre

Role of trust

By FLTLT Byron Reynolds

TRUST is a vital element of our relationships with people.

Trust impacts on who we are willing to give information to, how we interpret information from others and how we cooperate and collaborate to reach an objective.

As long as war remains a human endeavour, trust will be a determining factor on the battlefi eld. This is not an article about equity, but about operational effi ciency and what trust means to us in battlespaces of the future.

Under Network-centric Warfare (NCW) our people will be expected to participate in teams to conduct short-duration tasks. The members of these teams will be from diverse specialisations.

They may come from different services, or even be civilians. They may come from different countries. Members may be geographically separated, with some members contributing from the other side of the world.

Under these circumstances trust is a vital, but sometimes scarce, commodity for successful team building. Each of us has our own perceptions of the reliability of those around us.

Even within Defence, we have been infl uenced by existing prejudices about other groups of people – prejudices that colour how we expect them to act, and the quality of work we expect from them.

Tribalism, such as rivalries between services, categories or even that between uniformed personnel and civilians, threatens the new concepts of NCW and the “seamless force”.

Interpersonal trust is best built through face-to-face interaction. As we work more closely with individuals we begin judging them more by their demonstrated abilities than what we think about their “type”.

Interpersonal trust is best built through face-to-face interaction. Here, CAPT John Fallon, of the US Marine
Corps, on exchange to No. 3 Squadron, talks with CPL Richard Kohn.

Interpersonal trust is best built through face-to-face interaction. Here, CAPT John Fallon, of the US Marine Corps, on exchange to No. 3 Squadron, talks with CPL Richard Kohn.

Photo by CPL Michelle Lucraft

Part of the problem with this is that such interaction is becoming rarer in these days of global digital communications. Short-duration teams have always been part of Air Force operations.

Ground attack pilots working with forward air controllers, fi ghter pilots coordinating with air defence controllers, transport aircrew liaising with air movements staff; these are just some examples of these short-duration teams.

When the members of these teams had never met before, interpersonal trust had to be replaced by trust in the organisation, meaning tribalism occasionally got in the way.

The future warfi ghting concepts provide new impetus to solve these problems. According to the ADF’s capstone document on NCW, “professional mastery” will be critical in establishing trust between team members.

Professional mastery not only includes skills and knowledge to conduct your own job, but also having a sound understanding of other people’s roles and responsibilities. This could prove a burden but there are steps that can be taken to lighten the load.

Training and education can go a long way, but an essential element of achieving this professional mastery will be to engage members of other groups face-to-face – learn about their needs and desires, the dif- fi culties they face in performing their job, and what services they can offer you.

In this way we can build trust between other groups and ourselves and work together effectively in the future battlespace.

FLTLT Byron Reynolds is undertaking a 2004 CAF Fellowship at the Air Power Development Centre.




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