What Value Writing?

I have just started working on an aspect of one of my next major research projects, which is about the culture, ethos and ethics of the Royal Australian Air Force. Specifically, I have started mapping the contributions that RAAF personnel have made to the Australian Defence Force Journal since its establishment in 1976. In short, I am looking at articles by RAAF personnel; articles on air power; articles on air power by RAAF personnel; the number of articles per issue and the number of articles produced by the various services. The purpose of this analysis is to try and consider whether the culture of the RAAF has been conducive to the idea of writing, which is important regarding both Professional Military Education and the development of informal sources of doctrine. In short, the key question is whether the RAAF has encouraged and supported efforts to contribute to the elaboration of the body of knowledge surrounding the profession of arms through this vehicle. I have only mapped a few issues so far, as such; no conclusions can yet be drawn. However, a further question related to this analysis is one of value, both regarding personal development but also to the organisation. A statistical analysis of the contributions made to the ADF Journal will only reveal so much, so any discussion needs to be backed up by a qualitative assessment of the value of writing. Part of this will involve what archival research can be done on this issue, but a series of wider questions exist, which I would be interested in hearing answers from those who have served or are serving irrelevant of service or nationality. Broadly, some of these questions are:

  • What value do you see in writing?
  • Do you see writing as an important aspect of your profession?
  • Is writing encouraged?
  • If it is not, should writing be encouraged?
  • What are the barriers to writing?
  • Specifically for those in the RAAF or retired, is the ADF Journal the best outlet for your writing endeavours?
  • If it is not, what outlets do you see as most beneficial to the transmission of knowledge?

I am interested to hear peoples opinion on this subject as well as whether these are the right questions to be asking.

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5 responses to “What Value Writing?

  1. Hi Ross,

    Although nominally encouraged, I have found writing for Service journals to be very much Officer sport. Writing is, I believe, encouraged at Staff College, but very few follow it up and even amongst those that do they rarely stray from en vogue subjects. I recall, for example, that from 2003 most articles in the BAR were almost universally, if tenuously, COIN related.

    This is very much a comment on writing in the British Army of course, with its rich history of studied amateurism and emphasis on sport and fitness rather than cerebral contemplation.

    All the best,

    Barney

  2. An important point Barney concerning the view that writing is ‘officer sport.’ Given that the RAF, and most of the services, use the term ‘whole force’ then clearly NCOs and ORs should be encouraged to contribute. However, I suspect, there still exists a cultural barrier to learning at this level beyond just the so-called amateur tradition. What I am thinking about here is the balance between training and education and the reality that the former is arguably viewed as more important important than the latter?

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