04 November 2018

We debrief Air Commodore Joe ‘Vinny’ Iervasi on what lies ahead for Australian airmen. Our debriefs consist of eight standard questions and two tailored to the individual being debriefed. We plan to publish more over the coming months and welcome your suggestions on debrief targets and issues.

The Central Blue (TCB): What do you see as the greatest intellectual challenge confronting Australian airmen? 

Air Commodore Iervasi: I think the biggest challenge for Australian airmen is getting our collective heads around the concept of multi-domain operations, notably how to develop an integrated plan and then how to task, execute, command, control and re-plan, and all in a contested and denied operations environment!

TCB: The Australian Defence Force is on its way to becoming a fifth-generation force – what does that mean to you and how will we know when we get there?

Air Commodore Iervasi: For me, it is the attitude (individually and organisationally) to understand that we cannot operate in a single domain (see point one above), and that in order to be successful we need to create multi-disciplined teams as our new ‘weapon system.’ Fifth-generation is far more than just embracing technology.

TCB: What is the most persistent (and annoying?) misconception about air power and why? 

Air Commodore Iervasi: That you have to wait for 72 hours (the ATO cycle) for your requested support! Air Force has demonstrated the capability to employ air power in a responsive and adaptive way, but the lack of understanding regarding how air power is applied lends to the simplistic view that it has to be scheduled 72 hours in advance.

TCB: What book/s have changed the way you thought?  

  1. Creativity, Inc by Ed Catmull – in particular, the aspects of why organisations fail.
  2. Thinking Fast and Slow by Dan Kahneman – appreciating biases in the way we think.
  3. Well Done, Those Men by Barry Heard – the psychological trauma of operations.
  4. The Home of the Blizzard by Douglas Mawson – the meticulous nature of planning for an unknown environment.
  5. Coningham by Vincent Orange – the enduring truths about joint and combined command and control.

TCB: The RAF has thrown quite a party for its 100th birthday this year – how does the RAAF top that in 2021?

Air Commodore Iervasi: I would really like us to focus on those aspects which have made the RAAF not like the RAF despite the common origins, which has to do with our egalitarian approach to operations. Our aviation pioneers really exemplified the attributes of ‘reach’, and perhaps looking forward we should continue to leverage that focus.

TCB: What is one thing you wish you knew as a junior officer?

Air Commodore Iervasi: I reckon I knew enough to keep me going. Not knowing something means you have to experience it / find out yourself, and that learned experience is everything. So I’m happy I knew nothing!

TCB: Is there anything you ‘knew’ to be true about our business that you have subsequently changed your view?  

Air Commodore Iervasi: Not that I can answer at this classification………

TCB: What has been the most significant cultural change you have seen in your career? Why was it successful (or not)?

Air Commodore Iervasi: The unintended impact upon Air Force culture through the dis-establishment of on-base married quarters, and the subsequent erosion of mess life through the loss of an on-base community. The messes were the environment for informal mentoring and indoctrination into the attitudes, behaviours and traditions which make up Air Force culture. It is more challenging today to achieve that level of immersion, and our culture is now different.

TCB: The Air Warfare Centre has been described as ‘Jericho in action.’ What does that mean to you?

Air Commodore Iervasi: The Air Warfare Centre is establishing itself as Air Force’s integrated warfighting institution. With the mission ‘Ready the Warfighter’ the Air Warfare Centre has a clear mandate to drive integration – which was the primary motivation behind Jericho. With subordinate elements including Tactics and Training, Air Force Ranges and LVC, Information Warfare, Test and Evaluation, and Integration and Innovation Directorates the Air Warfare Centre is structurally configured to drive Jericho outcomes. The Air Warfare Centre currently has the lead for or is substantially involved in, Jericho Projects 1, 2, 3, 4, 7, 10 and 16.

TCB: You led the Australian contingent during the USAF’s Global Engagement 18 Title 10 war game in June this year. What did you draw from that experience about the challenges and opportunities of war gaming?

Air Commodore Iervasi: We have the opportunity to utilise the existing experimental / wargaming resources better to solve contemporary problems involving emerging concepts, not just looking at future capability gaps. The challenge though is that experimentation is still resource (people) intensive, particular the analytics if you want to understand the problem set fully.

Air Commodore Joe ‘Vinny’ Iervasi is currently Commander Air Warfare Centre and will shortly assume command of the Australian Defence Force’s Joint Task Force 633 in the Middle East on promotion to air vice-marshal. Air Commodore Iervasi has over 3,000 hours in fast jets including the F/A-18 and Tornado F3. He has held command at the squadron, wing, and group level and deployed on operations in the Balkans and the Middle East.