Campbell Barracks, Swanbourne,
for Battle Dress uniform and metal para-badge
The history of Australia's
"Special Forces" can be traced as far back as the 1940s when
Australian soldiers were part in AIB or Allied Intelligence Bureau.
However it wasn't until July 25th, 1957, when the Army turned to Major
W. Gook, that a proper "Special Forces" unit was formed. Major
Gook was put in charge of a new unit: the 1st Special Air Service
Company (Royal Australian Regiment). The total strength of the Company
was only180 men at first. On August 20th, 1964, the SAS finally became a
full Regiment consisting of three "Sabre" Squadrons, a
Training Squadron, and a Headquarters. The SASR was modelled after the
The SAS had previously worn a red
beret (indicating them as a
Parachute Company) with the Infantry Corps Cap Badge. In 1966, the SAS
was given permission to change over to the beige
(sand) beret. However since most
of the SASR was deployed to Borneo at the time, all they could get were
the British SAS berets with the cloth Winged Dagger emblem on them.
Later on that year the cloth patch was replaced by a black flash and a
solid gold metal Winged Dagger emblem on top of it.
dragout over North Western Australia (approx 10.000 feet)
The SASR was first deployed to Brunei
in 1965. It was 1 Squadron and would also be the first to see active
duty. Later on in that same year 1 Squadron would also be deployed to
Borneo. The British had already been in Borneo for some time. The first
request by the British Government for Australian SASR help was declined.
However, as the "conflict" grew the SASR was brought in. The
SASR was tasked with stopping the communist Indonesian troops from
taking over Borneo. They often worked along side their British and New
The conflict of Borneo was a tough one
for Australian troops. They soon found themselves living in the jungle,
sometimes on patrols for months. They learned how to track the enemy,
lay ambushes, and defeat him at his own games. This would prove
effective again later in Vietnam. Another way the SASR defeated the
enemy was to win the "hearts and minds" of locals.
tribesmen would usually help in any way they could, and the SASR
provided needed repairs, medical treatments, and food for the villagers.
This was to prove very affective. The main threat came from a group
known as RPKAD. The RPKAD were known for being extremely brutal. They
wore a cap badge which depicted a set of Airborne Wings with a dagger
through them on top of an octagon. The RPKAD were usually
noticed because of this cap badge. The RPKAD is the forerunner to today's
KOPASSUS (read below for more recent information). The war lasted until
Three SASR men died while on active service in
none died from direct enemy contacts.
||SASR in Afghanistan,
Dept of Defence photo
||The SAS soon found themselves in
action again. This time in Vietnam. 3 Squadron was the first squadron to
be deployed to Vietnam. The SASR was sent in again to help the Americans
fight off the communist government of North Vietnam from overtaking
The SASR once again began the long patrols deep into the
think jungles. They lived like the enemy. The also started a
"Hearts and Minds" campaign again.
The SASR suffered the same
types of problems as the Americans. The enemy hid amongst the civilians
who were scared to turn them over.
They did however use captured VC
(Viet Cong) and NVA (North Vietnam Army Regulars) to help them locate
the enemy. The SASR soon started operating with American SEAL
(SEa-Air-Land) Teams and Special Forces. The SASR also helped with the
American Recondo School and with MAC-V-SOG missions. The Recondo School
was started in Australia, and the principles were passed on to the
The Patrol Course the SASR runs today is similar to that of
the Recondo School. The bond between the SASR and the different American
Special Operations units is still strong today. The SASR fought this war
in Vietnam until 1971. 4 SASR soldiers died during accidents, one died
months later from gun shot wounds received, and one is still MIA
(although now presumed dead).
|SASR in Afghanistan,
Dept of Defence photo
In 1991 a small team of Australian SAS
soldiers returned to Cambodia (an area where in the 1960s and 70s the
SASR had operated in against them). It was a UN team sent in to help
make peace between the Cambodian people. They did several other tasks
such as mine clearing, guarding ancient monuments (which were favourite
targets of the enemy), gave medical aid, made repairs, and other such
tasks. The first group consisted of 8 SASR soldiers, more came later.
SASR Soldiers also took part as
observers in other parts of the world ranging from India to Lebanon to
Sinai. These missions usually went without much action.
soldiers also signed up for the Rhodesian SAS (no longer in existence)
during the mid 1970s.
These men may have been on leave or may have
already left the SASR but were still looking for action. Many were vets
of the Borneo and Vietnam Wars. The Australian Government did not
The SASR was called up again 1994.
They were being sent to Somalia, a small African country. It was called
Operation Iguana. It was J Troop, 3 Squadron who was called. The men had
- VIP protection
- Provide Quick Response Teams
- Foot Patrols
- Mobile Patrols (using Armed
These were just a few of their tasks.
The men soon earned the nickname "Gerbils". During a Mobile
Patrol, a group of Somali men raised their weapons at the patrol and
took aim. Before they could squeeze the trigger a young trooper shot off
a three round burst from his Minimi 5.56 Machine Gun and killed two
instantly. This was the first "Official" kill since Vietnam.
||SASR in Afghanistan,
Dept of Defence photo
In 1994 and 1995 the SASR was sent to
Rwanda to help the UN. Their job was to provide medical aid to the sick
and wounded. Thousands of refugees were seeking help. The skilled SASR
medics soon proved their worth. They saved hundreds of lives. One man,
Jon Church, stood out amongst them.
He was a dedicated soldier and good
medic. Sadly soon after returning to Australia he would die in the
Blackhawk helicopter crash on June 12th 1996.
The SASR is
to have taken
part in the 1991 Gulf War. It is known that several members were
"attached" to 22 SAS. However rumours have surfaced that the
SASR also acted independently. In 1998 110 members of the SASR and the
NZ SAS were again called up when Saddam threatened more violence. They
were deployed, but their roles are
still a secret.
The SASR suffered a hard blow in 1996.
1 Squadron was preparing for a CT exercise. They boarded two Blackhawk
Helicopters. During the flight, the helicopters collided killing 15
members of the Regiment. These men died during training, training that
was is as close to the real thing as it can be. These men died doing
what they wanted to do. They died as members of the Special Air Service
Most recently the SASR was deployed to
East Timor (1999). The SASR is tasked with VIP Protection, LRRP jobs,
and manning Op posts. The main enemy in this conflict was the Indonesian
Government, and more specifically the KOPASSUS. The KOPSASSUS are
directly related to the RPKAD of the Borneo conflict. They have trained
with the Australian SASR and the American Special Forces and SEALs. Now
they are accused of horrible war crimes. The SASR was also responsible
for surveying beaches with the Australian Clearance Divers. Two soldiers
are also rumoured to have been wounded in a shoot out with several
|SASR in Afghanistan,
Dept of Defence photo
SASR troops are actually on call up
for the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney. The troops have been preparing for
this since 1997. The soldiers have done full scale hostage rescue
exercises among other things. Needless to say, if anything does happen;
the SASR will be the first in.
The SASR has been involved many other
operations we may never know about. However they are their, behind the
scenes. The SASR has, for many years, been involved in VIP Protection in
Australia and abroad. Many of these operations go unnoticed but the SASR
- A privately produced
commemorative coin that celebrates the SAS.
- One side bears the SAS
parachute badge and motto.
- The other side bears the
"Winged Dagger" badge that is shared by the 4
countries that constitute the "real" SAS
- New Zealand
- Great Britain
Selection for the SASR was held on
the Stirling Ranges. These were selected to test the students endurance
and mental stamina. They shared many of the same qualities as the Brecon
Beacons in Wales (home of British SAS Selection). The Stirling Ranges
were used until 1990 when they were shut down by the Australian
Government. An outbreak of Die Back, or "the Greenies", was
the cause of this. Some of the climbing is still taught in the Stirling
Ranges, but this must be monitored so that no one turns up sick.
Selection for the SASR is tough. Fewer
than 10% will ever make it. A new rule has been added recently, allowing
members from every branch of the ADF (Australian Defence Force) to join
the SAS. Men come from all walks of life, bored soldiers, tank drivers,
mechanics, RAAF pilots, etc. Anyone may apply. After you apply, you will
be sent a detailed packet. It tells you what to pack, how to work out,
what Selection is like, and other helpful bits of information (somewhat
similar to the BUD/S Warning Order).
Selection is now held in the Pokolbin
Ranges and run from Singleton. The course hosts members of the Army
trying to join either the Commandos or the SASR. After three weeks
candidates who are fit for the Commandos will leave the class behind for
their own training, while SASR Candidates still have another three weeks
of Selection left.
After this they are in for 12 months
of continuous training. If you fail one course you are RTU'd (Returned
To Unit) on the spot. So don't fail. Courses include:
- Basic Parachute Training
- E&E Training and TQ
- Patrol Course
- Diving and Boat Handling
- Jungle Training
- Explosives and Weapons Training
- Language Training Vehicle Training Land
Rovers, Motorcycles, etc.)
- Counter terrorist Training
The first counter terrorist unit
formed by the SASR was actually a unit that already existed. 1 Squadron
picked up the CT task in the late 70's until 1978 when the Australian
government said they needed a full time CT unit. Again the Army turned
to the SASR. This time they created a new "sub-unit" called
TAG, or Tactical Assault Group, is
formed from members of the SASR (such as Delta is formed from Army
SpecOps personnel). In the beginning each group was broken down by Land
(Gaunlet Teams) or Water (Nulla Teams). Each year they would be called a
new number (ie Gaunlet 1, 2, and 3). After TAG was formed it was found
that they needed to reorganize the men. While one troop was ready to
deploy on a moments notice, the two other troops would be off training.
In 1980 the Australian Government
insisted on a maritime unit that was able to retake oil rigs in the Bass
Strait. This new unit was called OAG (Offshore Installations Group). It
is very similar to DevGru and the two train together often. The TAG
needed more people to help support this new role. A small group from the
Australian Navy's Clearance Divers unit transferred over the SASR to
help bolster the ranks for the OAG.
Many members of the SASR did not like
the idea that the Diver just entered the Regiment without taking
Selection, so to make them happy each diver had to undertake SASR
Selection and had to become parachute qualified.
The unit was later
changed to OAT (Offshore Assault Team). As their name states they are responsible
for any terrorist activities around the water. They learn to assault
ships, oil rigs, small boat, and other potential targets.
To join the TAG/OAT one must first be
in the SASR. After a soldier has completed two years on a regular Sabre
Squadron, he may then put in for TAG/OAT. If excepted he will have to
undergo further training. All TAG/OAT operatives are HALO and HAHO
qualified. They must be proficient in the ways the TAG/OAT work. The CT facilities
are incredible. Including full scall building mock-ups and a huge
Killing Village. Airplanes and buses are also found there. No money is
spared on training for these soldiers.
The main weapon used today by the
SASR is the American M-4 Carbine. The M-16A1 was used during the Borneo
and Vietnam conflicts, but was soon replaced by the newer, shorter
version. The standard Australian issued Steyr AUG is rarely used
(similar to that of the SA-80 and the British SAS). The M-4 can be
fitted with an M-203, 40mm grenade launcher.
The SASR also favours the Minimi. It
is pretty much the same as the American SAW or Squad Automatic Weapon).
It can be fired from a belt, 30 round magazine, or a 200 round drum. The
Minimi fires a 5.56mm round, the same round as the M-4. This makes the
The M-60, 7.62 light machine gun is
also in use. This weapon was first used in Vietnam. It was also the
standard light machine gun issued to US Armed Forces at the time.
The SASR uses the full range of
H&K sub machine guns. From the MP-5 to the G-3.
These weapons are
mainly used by the TAG and OAT members, although they can be used by
others or specific missions.
The SASR use a 6x6 extended wheel
based Land Rover 110 as their primary vehicle. The truck is a one of
kind. The Land Rover can be fitted with a mixture of .50 Machine Guns,
Mk19 40mm grenade launcher, or GPMG (General Purpose Machine Gun).