Dr Dave Sloggett.
WIGHT LIVING SOMETIMES an author’s 'back story’ is as interesting as the book itself and Dr Dave Sloggett’s back story is an intriguing one.
The author of a new book — A Century of Air Power — is tucked away in a Ryde back street, not the imagined location of a special adviser to NATO.
Much of what Dave does for a living cannot be told. It’s very hush-hush and he will give no clues but what he can talk about is pretty interesting.
His work is in counter-insurgency, which has bang up-to-the-minute relevance to all our lives.
Dave is in the business of helping the West get across the message it wants to convey — especially to the Middle East.
It also involves getting inside the mind of a terrorist.
One of his recent assignments was at the sailing events at the 2012 Olympics.
Down in deepest Dorset, Dave was directly responsible to the assistant chief constable of the constabulary, Adrian Whiting, who was Gold Commander for the biggest event ever to hit his county.
It was Dave’s role to work out how terrorists may strike. The presence of high speed craft at the event was a direct result of his conclusion a suicide bomber on a jet-ski was a potential threat to be countered.
But, what led him to becoming a renowned expert on counter-insurgency and writing two authoritative books on the role of air power?
As most 60 year olds will tell you, when they were at school careers advice involved a brief chat with a teacher.
In his given ten minutes’, having rejected working for a bank, it was suggested that maybe becoming a scientist might be a bright idea. He went to the Farnborough air science facility at the age of 16 in such a junior role that he joked the tea boy was his departmental head. He got there courtesy of six not very good O-levels.
His job, during the height of the Cold War, took him aloft in a wide range of aircraft to diverse places. In the Nimrod, for instance, he searched for Russian subs.
His interest in aircraft developed alongside that of probing the psyche of those who flew them, the foes they faced and the nature of conflict.
Study earned him a masters degree in command and control systems and he is currently studying for a second, to become Dr Dr Dave.
His work involves him in how hearts and minds can be won, not just of the population who probably don’t want foreign troops on their soil, but the military men on our side too, who need a deal of persuasion.
It’s not just about combating insurgents but about countering the causes of insurgency.
He quickly discovered in Iraq that the British confidence of being able to deal with street war, born from the Northern Ireland conflict was misplaced.
In Belfast, there were two sides to defuse and, after swapping confrontation for conciliation, our army became rather good at it.
Iraq was very different. Not just us and them but all manner of shades of grey on the other side of the religious divide — factions that hated each other and us.
"It was a case of how to get the message across that we were there to help them in the face of all the rumours that were being put about," said Dave.
In his NATO role, he takes the expertise he has developed to train people all over the world in the art of winning hearts and minds as an effective tool in the counter-terrorism box.
New thinking is ever more needed because war is now fought in a media glare. Warring factions could not be segregated as they were in the British solution to Malaya.
In his latest book, the defence analyst probes the development of aircraft from their early role of reconnaissance to the precise killing instruments they are today — the supreme battleground tool.
He details their use and development through the decades and the large and small wars which punctuate their passing.
Along the way he details the development and use of the drone and its controversial use as a remote killing machine.
He will look at that much more more deeply as the 70th anniversary of the V1 approaches.
And he will detail the fact that, despite the Doodlebug carrying 850kg of high explosive and being the ultimate tool of demoralisation, each killed precisely one person as they rained down on London and the south-east, including the Island.
A Century of Air Power follows his first book, The RAF’s Air War in Libya, and he was honoured to have its foreword written by the head of the RAF, Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton.
Dave had been guest speaker last year at the prestigious Battle of Britain dinner at RAF Northolt, where guests included top brass, surviving air aces and luminaries including Sir David Frost.
There his brief was to keep the speech "short and light" — not too many laughs in counter-insurgency.
• A Century of Air Power is published by Pen and Sword at £19.99.