British Army’s Chief of the General Staff to Army War College students: US Army is the British Army’s primary partner

By Public Affairs Staff    07 March 2019

General Sir Mark Alexander Carleton-Smith, Chief of the General Staff of the British Army, underscored the commitment, capability and like-mindedness of the U.K. and U.S. relationship at the Army War College, March 6, 2019.

CARLISLE, Pa. (March 6, 2019) – In a discussion and series of engagements with Army War College students, the Chief of the General Staff of the British Army underscored the deep and lasting commitment of U.K. forces for training and operations alongside U.S. forces. With references to Afghanistan, Iraq, Enhanced Forward Presence, Warfighter Exercises, Joint Warfighting Assessments, National Training Center, and Joint Readiness Training Center, he referred to example after example of the committed, capable and like-minded partnership between the American and British armies.

General Sir Mark Alexander Carleton-Smith was a guest of the U. S. Army War College at Carlisle, Pa, March 6, as part of an annual U.S.-U.K. exchange of senior officers intended to address partnership with professional military education audiences. His messages were unequivocal, that allies need each other and that the British Army is committed to a productive partnership that advances both forces' modernization, education, and leadership.

Many of the military officers in the auditorium often had first-hand experience working with British forces during the past 17 years. Some, like British Col. Robert Connolly who is enrolled in the current class of the U.S. Army War College, are experienced in the unparalleled levels of bilateral PME.

“I think what [he] talked about today has brought together many of the elements that we have looked at during the course of the year,” said Connolly. “[His] insights into the U.S. and British relationship in terms of our commitment, capability and most of all our like-mindedness are things that I will value moving forward.”

Carleton-Smith began with the context of shared history, personalizing it with his family history. His 6th great-grandfather, Sir Guy Carleton, surrendered New York City to George Washington on Nov. 25, 1783, effectively ending the British military presence in North America. His ancestor would be amused, he thought, at the 236 years of responsible partnership since then. Carleton-Smith underscored the significant moment, for the alliance, of President Roosevelt’s World War II decision to pursue a German-First strategy, to British benefit. The following circumstances of the Cold War that followed institutionalized the U.S.-U.K. partnership – a partnership worthy of continued attention, he urged.

U.S. Army/British Army, primary partners, standing 'side by side'

At this moment, in this competitive world of growing risk, when allies matter greatly, the United States and the United Kingdom need a more proactive, threat-based approach to capability. It’s time for big bets on the emerging technologies that may offer an exponential advantage, he said, contrasting such progress with the risk of falling behind and therefore ceding an advantage that might never be recovered. Opportunity lies in working together with revised mechanisms to pool and share future capability, he said, with a reminder that readiness is a team sport and we’re going to have to go further together.

Beyond technology, the most important, innovative and resilient capability of all is our people, he said.

“People are not just in the army; people are the army,” he said. “What I’m talking about is a winning Army … a winning army founded on comradeship, self-respect and self-discipline … a winning army imbued with initiative and daring, with originality and self-confidence, with professional knowledge and infectious energy in all its commanders at every level. I’m talking about an inextinguishable will to win, a relentless pursuit of professional excellence, and a determination not to be thwarted by all those inevitable setbacks.”

Marine Lt. Col. Jeff Greenwald, War College student in the audience, found Carleton-Smith’s remarks valuable, with respect to, “What impressed me was being smart about how you apply your power -- not only getting the strategy right but applying influences from other partners across the world to make that strategy better.”

“The two things I took away are interrelated,” said Army Col. Stu Farris, student. “The first one is the importance of relationships and how vital they are. He (Carleton-Smith) said complacency is the death knell of a relationship. You have to work at maintaining them. That is critical.

“Related to that, he talked about the importance of people … our number one asset,” said Farris. “Our competitive edge is our people. We have to invest in them accordingly and never forget that.”

Students raised questions ranging from the implications and consequences of artificial intelligence and autonomous weapons, to China’s interests in the South China Sea and the strategic implications of Brexit for the British Army.

Carleton-Smith was commissioned into 1st Battalion Irish Guards in 1986 after attending the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. He is a graduate of the Army Command and Staff Course at Camberley. He served two tours in Kosovo as the Chief of Staff of Headquarters Multi-National Brigade Centre. In 2001, he was appointed the Military Assistant to the Commander-in-Chief Land Forces, and in 2002 assumed command of the 22nd Special Air Service Regiment, serving principally in Iraq and Afghanistan. As a colonel in 2005, he served as the Deputy Director Policy Planning in the Ministry of Defense before assuming command of the 16th Air Assault Brigade in 2006, with duty in Afghanistan as Commander Helmand Task Force and Commander British Forces Afghanistan. In the past ten years, he has served in the Ministry of Defense as the Director Army Resources and Plans; as the Director Special Forces; Director Strategy at Army Headquarters; and Deputy Chief of Defense Staff for Military Strategy and Operations, before assuming his current position in June 2018.

General Sir Mark Alexander Carleton-Smith spoke as the Kermit Roosevelt lecturer. The lecture series is named for Pres. Theodore Roosevelt’s son who worked closely with the British Army in Mesopotamia during World War I, and with the U.S. Army after its entrance into the Great War. A veteran of both World Wars, he inspired his widow, Belle, to write to Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. George Marshall to propose the Kermit Roosevelt Memorial lecture: “My husband, Kermit Roosevelt … attempted to carry out in his own life his conviction that the development of a closer relationship between individual English and Americans, and a better understanding between the military forces of the United States and the United Kingdom would contribute in large measure to the preservation of world peace. In view of this conviction of his, it seems appropriate … to set up this Memorial.”

General Sir Mark Alexander Carleton-Smith, Chief of the General Staff of the British Army, delivered the 73rd Kermit Roosevelt Lecture at the Army War College as part of an annual U.S.-U.K. exchange of senior officers, March 6, 2019.
General Sir Mark Alexander Carleton-Smith, Chief of the General Staff of the British Army, answered student questions on topics such the implications of artificial intelligence and autonomous weapons at the Army War College, March 6, 2019.