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TRANSITION TO CIVVY STREET
September 12, 2013
SQNLDR Travis Hallen,
the fifth RAAF officer to
graduate from the School
of Advanced Air and Space
Studies (SAASS) in the US, has
returned to Australia after an intense
year of study.
Held at Maxwell Air Force Base
in Alabama, you could be forgiven
for thinking the school instructs
students on air and space power.
misnomer. The school actually uses
air, space and cyber domains to
focus on the exploration, advanced
understanding and development of
SQNLDR Hallen, who com-
pleted his studies in June, says it
was different to any other course he
"It changes the way you think,"
SQNLDR Hallen says. "You
become more of a critical thinker.
"You are held accountable for
every decision and thought through-
out the course by the instructors
and other students in the group
Separating itself from the normal
promotion and leadership courses
required by ADF personnel, the
SAASS course aims to produce
strategic thinkers and focuses on
teaching students to be innovative
and articulate with both their deci-
sions and arguments.
SQNLDR Hallen says the
strategy skills learnt on the course
are not just aimed at putting bombs
"It's about approaching problems
differently," he says.
"It could be anything from an
operational problem through to
management or integration issues."
Post-course postings for
Australian graduates are not
preordained and graduates could
find themselves in varied roles back
in Australia, better armed to solve
problems that could arise.
Boasting a reading list more
than 100 books long, and 180-300
pages of reading required before
each daily seminar, the course is one
of the most selective within the US
Department of Defense.
Comprising mostly US Air Force
students, each course also includes
members from other US military
branches and three international
SQNLDR Hallen, who arrived
in the US in June last year, says the
course involved 14-16-hour days.
"The SAASS community was
great, especially with my family,"
"Everyone is going through the
Equipped with new
ways of problem
No. 803 does not
regret the many
hours of study,
CPL Nick Wiseman
SQNLDR Travis Hallen is an Air Combat Officer
who completed his basic navigator course in March
2002 and has spent most of his time at 11SQN.
He qualified as a navigator/communicator on the
AP-3C Orions later that year and, over the next 5½
years, he deployed in support of operations in the
Middle East and East Timor.
In 2008 he completed a CDF fellowship at the
Air Power Development Centre, followed by a staff
posting at Directorate of Personnel--Air Force.
Before attending SAASS, he was the ADF Joint
Interface Control Officer and is now posted as
the ISR Operations Team Chief, Air and Space
Operations Centre, at
HQ Joint Operations
THE School of Advanced Air and
Space Studies was established
in 1991 in response to congres-
sional concerns for the future of
US military strategy development.
The school's mission is "to
produce strategists, not leaders,
not warriors, not even planners".
DCAF AVM Leo Davies says
although everyone does their own
specialisation training, this course
is one where graduates can better
influence the ADF.
"Defence has become much
more aware of the need for educa-
tion and to better understand our
allies," AVM Davies says.
"We do this through Australian
Command and Staff College,
exercises and exchanges, but they
generally cover very practical and
tactical through to operational-
"So we have become really
good practitioners but what we
haven't had is great opportunity
to take that to the next level and
make strategic thinkers and plan-
ners who can execute at the stra-
In the future, candidates want-
ing to participate in the SAASS
course will be identified through a
selection program run by DCAF to
identify those who are most
suitable and best qualified to
bring the knowledge and skills
back to Air Force.
RINGING ENDORSEMENT: SQNLDR Travis Hallen recently returned from the US where he completed a challenging course
at the School of Advanced Air and Space Studies. Inset top, SQNLDR Hallen rings the "Thesis Bell", which students toll once
their thesis is accepted and signed. Inset left, the coin that signifies he is graduate No. 803.
Main photo: CPL Nick Wiseman
same thing and the mutual support
among the families meant my family
had the time of their lives."
Being an adult learning environ-
ment, students spend more time
researching and studying than attend-
ing traditional face-to-face lectures,
although the student-led seminars are
a vital component.
The course is made up of 10
modules lasting two to four weeks
and there is a two-week break over
Christmas to recharge for the next lot
Graduate and current Staff Officer
to CAF, WGCDR Craig Stallard,
says the knowledge and skills from
personnel completing the SAASS
course increase the cache of strategic
thinkers within Air Force.
"Air Force has been send-
ing selected officers to the course
since 2006 and is slowly building
up a group of military strategists,"
WGCDR Stallard says.
"These students are being
taught by PhD-qualified instruc-
tors who are all subject matter
experts in their field.
"In many cases, if they haven't
written the book you're reading
for the subject, they know the
person who did."
To further create a sense of
pride in belonging to the group,
each student is awarded a coin
on completion of the course with
their graduate number inscribed.
SQNLDR Hallen was graduate
No. 803 and says the course gave
him a great sense of achievement.
"You don't fully appreciate the
course until you've finished it,"
"Although it was extremely
challenging, I have no hesitation
in recommending it to anyone
keen to understand the role of
ADF reaps benefits of US thinking
hones skills in US
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