Wing Commander Brian Dirou, DFC (Retired) responds to a debate we hosted in August of last year:

Post-ADF formation in 1974, there was a mass exodus of personnel with embedded traditional military ethos and combat experience. Very counter-productive age/rank related mandatory retirement also fostered a detrimental loss of operating level experience, from Lieutenant Colonel equivalent downwards. Combat experience from WW2 onwards now rests principally within the retired military community and only Iraq and Afghanistan involvements since could reasonably be considered significant operational experience for some segments of the ADF.

It is not uncommon for those who had credible combat experience to say they disagreed with reports compiled by their commanders regarding operational activities. Unfortunately, much official military history is predicated on such reporting with a dearth of first-hand accounts from the operating level. It is fair to say that not all those who have climbed to the top ranks would have their views supported by the retired military community at large.

Creation of a journal for defence discussion has been mooted by some, but that would only foster the usual scholarly approach to defence debate with pretty narrow distribution largely involving those virtually professionally involved in that field. The majority of the retired military community will mostly steer away from formal writing and any dialogue that they perceive might be tempered somewhat by political correctness; but they will be more inclined to make frank worthy contributions to freer debates in blog-style forums. Such mediums of course need to be appropriately moderated, although necessarily be somewhat less restrictive than the process adopted by this fine institution at present.

The Lowy Institute is a breath of fresh air providing quality debate lacking in other forums; but it could serve the nation even better by adopting a less scholarly process for dialogue to attract participation from all levels of the retired military community, wherein there remains an invaluable reservoir of combat experience for which there is no substitute.