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2nd Commando Regiment

   
   The Special Forces Commandos are a more or less a new innovation in the spectrum of SF units available to Australia and are unlike other "commando" units in the Commonwealth. While there has been a reservist SF capability in the form of Commando (1st Cmdo Rgt) teams for some time there was a lack of its fulltime corollary until 1999 when the 4th RAR was redesignated a Commando unit. Shrunk to nothing and then built up using principles kept well defined by 1st Commando (reservist) and the SASR, 4RAR has now become a genuine SF option available to policy makers in Canberra.

   

        Commandos are unique from both American Rangers and British Commandos (Royal Marines). They are not "Australia's Marines", and if anything are closer to Force Recon soldiers than a typical Marine (American or British). Moreover, while there are similarities between the two units Commando's suffer a greater attrition rate during selection and have a broader range of capabilities than their venerable American partners, Army Rangers. They are perhaps best described as Australia's generalist SF operators - as opposed to the more deep Recon inclined SASR and altogether differently tasked CDT teams.

Key Capabilities

Officially listed as "offensive and recovery operations beyond the capability of other ADF units " the Commandos principal taskings include:

SF Insertion capabilities Humanitarian Assistance
Direct Action Assaults Counterterrorism (TAG-East)
Reconnaissance (specialised LRRP units) Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR)
Sea Air and Land Operations Quick Reaction force (QRF)
Intel Gathering Military Training

 

 

 

Commando's are therefore comparable to SEALs, Delta Force, and Rangers in terms of tasking and lie somewhere in between in terms of quality and selection attrition rates. It is important to note here that they are not "like" Delta Force, or SEALs or Rangers, only that they share similar capabilities with those units and train with them. They are principally tasked with Direct Action missions and are capable of the entire gamut of SF insertion techniques. Operating in both large and small units they are able to conduct large and small scale raids, sabotage, and recon missions behind enemy lines and in a variety of environments.





SF Commando Training

Not including advanced schools that Commandos are expected to attend, the training regime lasts approximately 9 month in total (after basic and infantry training). While direct entry applicants will also have to attend the two month long "Special Forces Accelerated Training Continuum" in addition to the below. Commando candidates will have to attend the following training schools before becoming a Commando:

  • Special Forces Weapons and Equipment Course (Commando);

  • Commando Training Course;

  • Special Forces Roping Course;

  • Commando Urban Operations Course;

  • Special Forces Basic Parachute Course (including water insertion training);

  • Commando Amphibious Operator Course;

  • Airborne Rappelling and Fast Roping course; and

  • - One of the following basic specialty courses:

  • Combat First Aider;

  • Commando Signaller; and

  • Special Forces Demolitions

In addition to these schools Commandos are expected to attend advanced skills courses including

  • DFSW Operator;

  • Mortar Operator;

  • Basic Sniper;

  • SF Climber;

  • Mountain and Cold Weather Operations;

  • Combat Survival;

  • Reconnaissance;

  • Language; and

  • Commando Operational Watercraft (COW) Coxswain.

Further Specialist courses include:

  • Climbing supervisor

  • Parachute jump master - Static line

  • Unarmed combat instructor

  • Demolitions supervisor

  • Advanced commando amphibious operator

  • Advanced special weapons

  • Survival Instructor

  • CQB instructor

  • Mountain warfare instructor

  • Commando section operations

  • Military assistance regional training and co-operation.

  • Infantry platoon operations

  • Roping supervisor

  • Parachute jump instructor - static line

  • Unconventional warfare

 

Admission to the specialty and advanced courses is principally based on tenure and Army requirements.  Several of these courses require a Commando to be in their unit for a year before gaining admission. Though the Recon and TAG courses are especially difficult to gain entry to. This SF group also trains extensively with naval vessels and their own high speed water craft.

    In addition to the above specialties, Commandos also have a Tactical Assault (counter terrorism) Group responsible for the East Coast of Australia. It is generally understood that similar time requirements are applicable to gain entry to this, and the training is a tightly guarded secret. TAG East regularly cross trains and swaps personnel with the SASR TAG West team and other international CT groups so as to maintain similar standards (see "TAG Team" page for details). Once a Commando, re-enforcement training continues to improve an operators skills. (click here for official details)





Commando Entry and Selection

        After Basic Training all Army infantry soldiers undergo an Advanced Infantry Training (initial employment training) curriculum lasting 3 months, longer than the US Army's infantry training and roughly the same length as the US Marines offers to its rifleman. In consequence of this, the ordinary OZ infantryman is exceptionally capable in comparison to his international counterparts. It is with this standard under their belt that applicants join the Special Forces.

        Formerly, Commandos only accepted applications from already qualified soldiers in the ADF. Recent international security developments and Australia's military deployments in support of domestic (CT) and international operations has seen the Australian SF community stretched very thin. The Australian Government has therefore recently taken the decision to adopt a direct entry SF enlistment program (the longevity of which is highly suspect, as is its value according to many soldiers) similar to the American program designed to fill difficult to maintain Army Special Forces ranks (the story is here or here). Despite the new initiative, none of the entry requirements or selection testing procedures have changed. The program is difficult to get into and selection is difficult to pass. Moreover, as mentioned above those applicants participating in the direct entry program must not only undergo Basic and the 3 month long infantry training, but also a 2 month long "accelerated Training Continuum" before being able to take the Special Forces Entry Test (SFET).

        If taken from the point of an applicant expressing interest more than 95% of directr entry applicants fail to gain entry to Commandos (according to Maroochydore based recruitment officers this is largely due to initial applicants failing to meet IQ, physical, and psych testing standards). To illustrate the point, the first intake of the direct entry program took more than 800 applications and only 42 passed initial selection to go onto special forces selection. A more accurate reflection of attrition rates may be from the point of the Selection testing, the SFET. Once SASR and Commando applicants complete the SFET, those who are successful will go to their respective units selection course.

        In the case of Commandos this is the Commando Training Course (CTC) which is 3 weeks in duration. For prospective Commandos, the historical failure rate to pass the SFET and the commando selection training is between 60 and 80 percent (directly comparable to attrition rates for US SF, aka Green Berets, selection attrition rates). The CTC itself suffers around a 50-70% attrition rate though the new CTC has been revamped so this may change (it is now compulsory for all applicants to under infantry training before attending). Before commencing the CTC they test applicants for phobias which may prevent them from performing their jobs properly. Some of these tests include crawling through a dark underground pipe for about 100m, abseiling off a large tower and a 400m swim in cams at night about 1km off shore. The first week of the course is very similar to the BUDS Hell Week, or a condensed version of the SAS Cadre course and is when most applicants withdraw. The following two weeks continue to apply both physical and mental pressure on the applicants and are designed to train them in basic Commando skills which culminates in actual field exercises in the final week. Again, both officers and enlisted personnel attend this course, the former having a bit of a rough go of it as they have the additional pressure of planning and executing Commando assaults during the course. After the CTC those who have passed are cycled through the other schools such as the Amphibious Operations and Urban Combat courses where the same stringent standards apply.

        It should be noted that because the direct entry program has, at the time of this writing, only had one class go through with two more in preparation, reliable stats are not available on the program's attrition rate. According to the Special Forces Training Centre in Singleton the direct entry program is still recruiting directly to the Simpson Platoon where candidates complete Basic, IET, 8 weeks or preparatory training for selection, SFET, and then either Commando or SASR selection.

 

Operations

Since 1999 Commandos have been deployed to (at least) East Timor, Iraq, and the Solomon Islands for combat duties. In the case of East Timor they had not fully developed their SF capabilities and so the principal "special operations" missions they engaged in were lengthy recon missions along the border with West Timor. During this conflict there was an engagement by an Australian platoon (thought to be 2RAR - not commandos) with Indonesian forces where one Indonesian police officer was killed and two others wounded. Contact was initiated by the Indonesians. Click here or here for the story and here for the pictures.

They were deployed to the Solomon Islands to help quell an upsurge in violence by rebel groups. Thankfully, the primary agitators were quickly caught and little blood was shed. Click here for the story.

Iraq saw the Commandos deployed in asset protection, CSAR, and QRF roles - especially in support of the SASR. Regarding the Commando role in Iraq Brigadier MacNarn stated that "Commandos within the task group have also participated in successful tasking in Iraq, other than as a quick reaction force……The Commandos are also capable of conducting aggressive patrolling, securing and clearing of facilities and installations, as well as limited direct action against the enemy. However, due to the ongoing nature of the operations, I will only note at this time that the task conducted in Iraq was completed successfully and without casualties." - The DOD wasn't saying much!

They have however perform at least one publicly acknowledged direct action mission in a joint operation with the SASR to seize a well hidden airfield. It happened to house nearly all of the Iraqi Air Force still capable of flying. (This was later turned into a photo op at the behest of Defense officials for domestic consumption. See below or click here for both the story and pictures).

Update* Recent deployments have seen the special forces task group consisting of 4RAR and SASR deployed to Southern Asia.


 
 






















 
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