Gas Week

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Who Dares Wins: Australian SAS operators were on notice for a possible 2007 invasion of Fiji

Posted by gasweek on 26 September, 2007

Last year the Australian Defence Force’s Special Operations Command was ordered into East Timor. And they were put on notice again for a pos­sible intervention in Fiji following last year’s military coup.

“So we have to be able as we can to maintain our capability and we have to be very careful to ensure we are not over-committed in Afghani­stan and the Middle East to ensure we can fulfil all our roles that can pop up regionally.” Hindmarsh says. This week the SAS celebrated the 70th anniversary of its founding with an awards and medal ceremony led by Governor-General Michael Jeffery, a former regiment commander. The origins of the Australian SAS date from 1957, with the raising of two army companies whose role remains virtually unchanged to this day, a parachute-capable force specialising in reconnaissance, surveillance and harassment deep in enemy territory, reported The Australian, (22/9/2007, p. 21).

Deep penetration raids behind enemy lines: What makes the Special Air Service elite may not be what you expect, reports Mark Dodd. The commander of the Australian Defence Force’s Special Operations Command Major General Mike Hindmarsh. The unit’s humble beginnings derived from a need to replicate the British army’s success with a speical air service formed in 1941, during World War II, an all-volunteer outfit conducting deep penetration raids behind enemy lines in North Africa and whose motto was: Who Dares Wins.

Most demanding of any army entry: It was not until 1964 that the Australian SAS, sometimes referred to as the SASR, evolved into a fully fledged regiment and the famed sandy beret with winged dagger was introduced. But the lessons learned at such cost in Vietnam and before that in Borneo endure today. Selection standards for the regiment, the Australian Defence Force’s most elite fighting formation, remain the most demanding of any army entry. It is not unheard of for an entire draft of potential recruits to fail.

Little weedy guys often gain selection: Sheer physical size and fitness by themselves are no guarantee of success at selection. More often than not, it is the scrawny guy and not the hulking rugby forward type who passes. One example of a mental toughness test provided to Inquirer by regiment officers is the offer of a truck ride at the end of several forced marches, including night navigation trials. An exhausted recruit will gratefully struggle on to the back of a truck, only to be ordered to walk back to the original destination, which could be 20km to 30km. This is a test of mental pain. Some recruits throw it in and refuse to go on. Others spit in their hands, accept the order and begin what they think is going to be another gruelling march, only to find the truck parked around the corner with the real offer of a lift back to base.

25 per cent succeed: The SAS is reluctant to speak about specific numbers but confirms that of the “several thousand” aspirants for the sandy beret since 1968, about 25 per cent passed the three-week selection, now conducted at Bindoon in Western Australia. “You may get 100 guys turn up. You cannot pick who will get through. It is not (typically) the big strapping guy and can be the little weedy guy. It’s a real lottery,” says the SOCOM official.

350 men and 100 PR wizards: The size of the SAS is classified but comprises hundreds, not thousands, formed into three Sabre squadrons similar in size to a regular infantry company of about 120 troops. Since its inception, 4250 sandy berets have been awarded. “The interesting thing is in 2003 we were still the Davids taking on the Goliaths when we went into the western desert against Iraqi main force units.

The enemy at home: “Now our main focus is against insurgents. And because of 9/11 you have seen that happen, we’re more in counter-insurgency mode now.” But SAS operators, as they like to be called, have also been active closer to home”.

The Australian, 22/9/2007, p. 21

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