Australian Special Operations

2nd Commando Regiment

The 2nd Commando Regiment (2 Cdo Regt), formerly known as the 4th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment or 4 RAR (Cdo), is one of the battalions of the Royal Australian Regiment and is one of only three combat capable groups within the Australian Special Operations Command (the other two being the SASR and 1st Commando). It is the only battalion of the Australian Army which requires members to undergo a rigorous selection process prior to gaining entry. Training for 2 Cdo Regtupon completion of the commando training course consists of several more specialist school including urban and maritime operations, climbing, special forces weapons, and jump school as well as others.

Some tasks a commando may be required to perform include but are not limited to:

  • Accurately employ a range of advanced weapon systems (including night aiming devices);
  • Fight at close quarters with weapons;
  • Participate in a Commando fighting patrol in both urban and rural operations;
  • Destroy targets using explosives;
  • Parachute onto land or into water;
  • Participate in Tactical Air Land Operations from both fixed wing and rotary wing aircraft;
  • Embark and disembark from Commando amphibious insertion craft in surf (beach and rocky landings) and from parent craft;
  • Ascend and descend vertical obstacles using military roping and caving ladder climbing techniques;
  • Operate intra-platoon communications equipment;
  • Conduct manual entry to urban structures;
  • Comply with the Laws of Armed Conflict (LOAC), Rules of Engagement (ROE) and adhere to Orders for Opening Fire (OFOF);
  • Conduct airborne rappelling and fast roping (including suspended extraction); and
  • Operate Commando amphibious boats as coxswain / bowman as part of a flotilla.

History

The Raising of a Regular Battalion

On 18 January 1952, a Royal Australian Regiment Depot was raised as a training unit for special establishment on the Order of Battle. The Depot was later renamed 4 RAR on 10 Mar 52. This renaming was necessary because Government approval had been given to raise a Battalion and not a ‘Depot’. The primary function of 4 RAR at the time was to train and hold infantrymen for service in Korea. On 24 March 1960, the unit was incorporated into the School of Infantry as ‘Depot Company, Royal Australian Regiment’. The two units comprised resulted in the formation of the Infantry Centre.

The political decision to raise the fourth battalion of The Royal Australian Regiment was made in 1963. Consequently, instructions for the raising of the Battalion were issued on 13 January 1964. The official raising of 4 RAR on 1 February 1964 was the first time a regular infantry Battalion had been raised on Australian soil. Additionally, it was stated that this battalion was a new battalion and not a resurrection of the old 4 RAR.

With the reorganization of the Army during 1973 due to the cessation of National Service, 2 RAR and 4 RAR were linked on 15 August 1973, to form 2nd/4th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (2/4 RAR).

2/4 RAR was charged with the task of preserving the traditions, associations, museums and proprietorship of the two original battalions from which it was formed until such time as the linking was annulled. Because of this, all ranks of 2/4 RAR were aware of the history of both 2 RAR and 4 RAR and jealously preserved these traditions, whilst working hard to establish a distinctive image for their Battalion.

Between 1977 and 1979 2/4 RAR concentrated on conventional warfare including night and mounted operations. On 1 July 1980, the unit was re-organized on light scales and trained as part of the Operational Deployment Force (ODF) in close country and conventional warfare operations.

On 1 Feb 82, with the official replacement of the title ‘Task Force’ with ‘Brigade’, 2/4 RAR became a unit of the 3rd Brigade, 1st Division. The Battalion was placed on operational readiness in 1987 and 1990. On each occasion the Battalion was prepared to evacuate Australian citizens from Pacific region countries experiencing civil disturbance.

From 1990 to 1993 many individual soldiers from the Battalion served with the United Nations in Cambodia. In 1993, 54 soldiers from the Battalion were detached to 1RAR for operational service in Somalia as part of Operation Solace. In May 1993, 2/4 RAR was tasked to provide a Rifle Platoon for Operation Gemini in Cambodia. 12 Platoon Delta Company, deployed to Cambodia tasked with providing local security for Australian Army Aviation Assets.

It was during the Battalion’s deployment to Rwanda on Operation Tamar in 1994, that the Government made the decision to unlink the 2nd/4th Battalion. This was a result of the 1994 Defence White Paper that identified the need for an additional Infantry Battalion to enhance the Army’s capability to meet strategic guidance requirements. The 2nd/4th Battalion was unlinked by the Chief of the General Staff, LTGEN J.C. Grey, AO on a parade at Samichon Lines, Lavarack Barracks, Townsville at 1500 hrs on 1 February 1995.

The unit was renamed the 2nd Commando Regiment on 19 June 2009. According to Australian press, “4 RAR began transitioning in 1996 when Government directed Army to establish a second commando regiment with the ability to conduct special recovery and strike operations. 4 RAR (Cdo) is now nearing maturity as a special operations unit, and the name change to 2 Cdo Regt recognises this achievement as well as the skills and qualifications of its members.”

“The name 2nd Commando Regiment was chosen as it logically complements the existing 1st Commando Regiment, and also reflects the unit’s historical links to the Australian Independent Commando Companies that operated in the Southwest Pacific in the Second World War.

2nd Commando Regiment will join the Special Air Service Regiment, Incident Response Regiment, 1st Commando Regiment, the Special Forces Training Centre and the Special Operations Logistics Squadron as part of Army’s Special Operations Command .”

 

From Infantry Battalion to Special Forces

In 1996, a decision was made to convert the Battalion to a Special Forces unit. On 1 February 1997, it was re-rolled to 4 RAR (Commando). Regular serving members were given the opportunity to undertake special forces training or elect a posting in a conventional unit. General Reserve positions existed in the new structure and reserve members were discharged or posted to GRes units.

The initial years were busy creating a structure and recruiting members suitable for commando training. Bravo Company was raised first followed by Charlie Company in 1999, both taking 2-3 years to reach full maturity. The pace of battalion life during these development years was hectic with capability development, equipment acquisition and training, focusing every member’s attention

 

Organization

2 Cdo Regt

  • Battalion HQ
  • A Company
  • B Company
  • C Company
  • Tactical Assault Group (East)
  • 126 Signal Squadron
  • Operations Support Company
  • Logistics Support Company
Battalions of the Royal Australian Regiment

1 RAR | 2 RAR | 3 RAR | 4 RAR | 5/7 RAR | 6 RAR
Former Battalions
2/4 RAR | 5 RAR | 7 RAR | 8 RAR | 9 RAR | 8/9 RAR

Tactical Assault Group

The Tactical Assault Groups (TAG) are the premier counter-terrorism units of Australia. The two TAGs, East and West, are structured to conduct offensive domestic counter-terrorist operations focusing on incident resolution and the recovery of hostages. They maintain a short notice capability to conduct military operations beyond the scope of State and Federal Police tactical teams. These aims are achieved through various highly specialised skill sets, niche capabilities and supporting Australian Defence Force (ADF) units. History

The Sydney Hilton bombing on 13 February 1978 was the catalyst for the Commonwealth Government to initiate an urgent review of security procedures to combat the threat of international terrorism.

The anti-terrorist agencies (the Australian Federal Police and the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation) were placed on heightened alert and a Protective Security Coordination Centre was established. The Prime Minister proposed the establishment of a Standing Advisory Committee on Commonwealth State Cooperation for Protection against Violence, which would be primarily responsible for the coordination and funding of various organisations involved. He also directed that police forces around Australia absorb the counter-terrorist role. However, a study by Sir Robert Mark, at that time recently retired from the London Metropolitan Police, concluded that this was a task for ‘sophisticated soldiery’ and should not be given to the police but rather to the Army. Sir Robert’s advice was further strengthened by the Ironbark Report, written by Colonel John Essex-Clark, in which he advised the urgent formation of a special counter-terrorist force within the Army.

In August 1978, it was proposed to allocate the task of raising, training and sustaining the conter-terrorist force to the Special Air Service Regiment to follow similar lines from the British Army with their counter-terrorist team from within their SAS. The force was to be called the TAG and was to be commanded by the Commanding Officer SASR. On 3 May 1979, the Government approved the raising of a dedicated counter-terrorist force in the SASR, with final authorisation to raise the TAG given on 31 August 1979.

The tasks allocated to the group included:

  • The neutralisation, including capture, of terrorist groups, which might include snipers, hijackers, kidnappers, bombers or assassins, and the neutralisation of aircraft or ships;
  • The recovery of hostages and property held by terrorists; and
  • The recovery of buildings and installations held by terrorists.

The training began officially in March 1980 and the force became fully operational in the following May. In July 1980, the SASR was directed to develop an offshore (maritime) capability, concerned primarily with retaking Bass Strait oil rigs in the event of terrorist capture. These operations were to be handled by a dedicated water operations team which included 17 Navy personnel from the RAN’s Clearance Diving Teams, who were placed under operational control of the SASR from 4 August 1980 as part of the TAG.

TAG (East) was raised on 22 July 2002 in order to increase the ADF’s domestic conter-terrorist capability. TAG (East) mirrors the original Tactical Assault Group, which was redesignated TAG (West). The dual basing enables the ADF to readily respond to simultaneous and geographically separate domestic incidents.
 
Organization

At present there are two Tactical Assault Groups, East and West. Each belongs to a different parent unit and each protect a different domestic geographical area of Australia.

TAG East draws its members from the 2nd Commando Regiment, supplemented by a small number of subject-matter expert SASR personnel and the Royal Australian Navy’s Clearance Diving Teams. The Royal Australian Navy component consists of an Operations Officer, a Clearance Diver (CD) assault platoon, one team of CD maritime snipers, and an Underwater Medic. TAG East has the primary response to domestic counter-terrorism within Australia

TAG West on the other hand draws its members from the Australian Special Air Service Regiment and rotates one Squadron through the role for a pre-determined length of time. TAG West has the primary responsibility for offshore recovery operations, such as ship boarding or incidents on oil platforms etc and also international/overseas incidents.

Both have their own world class training facilities including advanced outdoor close quarters battle ranges, MOUT villages, urban CT complexs, full size aircraft mock-ups, and sniper ranges.

Both participate in NATEX (National Anti Terrorism Exercise) throughout the year. Exercises of various types are run and tested several times per year testing various elements of the Australian Defence Force including both the Tactical Assault Groups, Special Operations Command (Australia) and Incident Response Regiment. Exercises involve various elements of State/Territory Police Forces such as their respective Police Tactical Group and various intelligence agencies and units such as ASIO. TAG-West conducts annual training courses for Police Tactical Group members from each state and territory. Each year as part of the National Counter-Terrorist Committee Skills Enhancement Course, each state and territory sends up to three members of its PTG to participate in a concentrated three-week course to strengthen standards of policing in urban counter-terrorist tactics and ensure all states are training consistently to the same codes and standards of counter-terrorism.

Operations

  • 1982 Brisbane Commonwealth Games:
  • 2000 Sydney Olympics Security: Joint Task Force Gold
  • 2001 South Tomi boarding:
  • 2001 MV Tampa boarding: MV Tampa (see Tampa affair).
  • 2003 Pon Su boarding:
  • 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games: Operation Acolyte
  • 2007 Sydney APEC Conference: Operation Contego

The Pong Su incident occurred during April 2003 when members of Special Operations Command (Australia) intercepted and boarded the Pong Su, a 4,000 ton North Korean ocean freighter in Australian territorial waters. The ship was flying the flag of Tuvalu at the time, known as flying a flag of convenience The boarding of the freighter was carried out by members of both TAGs and the Incident Response Regiment whilst the ship was underway in rough seas The reason for apprehending the ship was that it was suspected of being involved in smuggling almost 125 kg (300 pounds) of heroin into Australia. The Pong Su was berthed in Sydney and the crew extradited to Victoria for prosecution.

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