2nd Commando Regiment (Australia)
|2nd Commando Regiment|
Badge of the 2nd Commando Regiment
|Active||19 June 2009 – Present|
|Part of||Special Operations Command|
|Garrison/HQ||Holsworthy, New South Wales|
Unit Citation for Gallantry
Meritorious Unit Citation
|Unit Colour Patch|
|Abbreviation||2 CDO REGT|
The 2nd Commando Regiment is an elite special operations force of the Australian Army, and is one of three combat-capable units within Special Operations Command. The regiment was established on 19 June 2009 when the 4th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (Commando) was renamed. It is based at Holsworthy, New South Wales. The 2nd Commando Regiment often trains and deploys with the Special Air Service Regiment, is highly regarded by coalition special operation forces abroad, and has been involved in operations in East Timor, Iraq and Afghanistan, where it was used in a direct action warfighting role. It has also been involved in a number of domestic security operations including the 2006 Commonwealth Games and the 2014 G20 Leaders Summit.
Part of Special Operations Command (SOCOMD), the 2nd Commando Regiment is one of three combat-capable units within SOCOMD and operates in conjunction with other SOCOMD units, services and interagency organisations in joint and combined operations. According to the Department of Defence the role of the regiment is to conduct special recovery and strike operations, being created "to conduct offensive and recovery operations beyond the range and capability of other ADF elements". Formed to complement the Special Air Service Regiment (SASR), it is designed to be a "self-contained flexible and rapidly deployable force" and is structured for both domestic counter-terrorism and other special operations. The regiment is capable of operating in the air, land and sea environment and is tasked with conducting advanced force operations and direct action missions in Australia and overseas. In its domestic counter-terrorism role it provides the basis for Tactical Assault Group (East), which is tasked with conducting high-risk missions beyond the capability of civilian authorities to respond to.
In 1995, as part of an expansion of the number of Australian Army infantry battalions, the 2nd/4th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment—then operating as a standard light infantry battalion—was delinked into separate battalions which resumed their original identities as the 2nd and 4th Battalions. The decision was then taken that the 4th Battalion would become a Regular Army commando unit and on 1 February 1997 the unit was renamed to 4th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (Commando). The unit would be structured for both conventional operations and domestic counter-terrorism, with an initial establishment of a battalion headquarters, Tactical Assault Group (East), two commando companies, logistic support company, logistic support company, operational support company and a signal squadron. Regular serving members were given the opportunity to undertake special forces training provided mainly by the reserve 1st Commando Regiment, or elect to be posted to a conventional forces unit. No General Reserve positions existed in the new structure, and reserve members discharged or posted to reserve units.
The initial years were busy with the unit creating a structure and recruiting members suitable for commando training, while conducting sub-unit and unit training activities. B Company was raised in 1998, followed by C Company in 1999, both of which took 24 months to reach full maturity. In 2000, elements were involved in the evacuation of Australian nationals from the Solomon Islands in June. While later that year the regiment provided a second Tactical Assault Group (TAG) to augment that provided by the SASR in support of security arrangements for the Sydney Olympic Games. A period of rapid capability development, equipment acquisition and training subsequently followed. The unit that was developed as a result is highly regarded by coalition special operation forces abroad, and has conducted operations in East Timor, Iraq and Afghanistan. It has also been awarded a number of citations for bravery and meritorious service.
On 19 June 2009, the battalion was renamed the 2nd Commando Regiment. Regardless, the name 4 RAR remains on the Army's order of battle and its history, colours and traditions have been preserved, ready to be re-raised as a regular infantry battalion in the future if required. All awards and battle honours received during the time as 4 RAR (Cdo) were passed onto the 2nd Commando Regiment, while those awarded before the transformation to a commando battalion were retained by 4 RAR. Along with the renaming, a new badge was chosen to reflect the history and traditions of the Independent Companies that served during the Second World War by including the distinctive "double diamond" unit colour patch shape in the regimental badge along with the traditional commando knife. The unit's motto is Foras Admonitio, which is Latin for "Without Warning". Qualified commandos are awarded the Sherwood green commando beret. Distinctive commando parachute wings are worn, depicting a parachute backed by a pair of black drooping wings on a green background. The Australian Army Stiletto dagger is also worn on ceremonial occasions.
The 2nd Commando Regiment, then known as 4 RAR (Cdo), was deployed as a part of the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) in 2001. When notified to replace 1 RAR in East Timor, 4 RAR had not long previously been raised as a commando battalion, developing special forces capabilities to supplement those of the SASR. With the commitment to East Timor continuing, however, 4 RAR was re-roled as a light infantry battalion for deployment to East Timor as AUSBATT IV. This involved reorganising from the existing two commando-companies structure to a light infantry battalion with four companies and a growth in the unit from 220 to 670 personnel. This saw B and C Company remain commando-qualified and A and D Companies filled with Regular infantry soldiers posted in to the unit, with its strength growing to 1,100 men. The unit arrived in East Timor in April under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Jeff Sengelman, taking over Area of Operations (AO) Matilda in the northern border region.
During its time deployed as a part of UNTAET, the battalion established a security partnership with the East Timorese, focusing strongly on languages and maintaining the relationships previous Australian battalions had established, as well as transferring new technologies to the local security forces. This "intelligence-led" but "people-focused" approach saw the battalion group conduct the majority of its operations in close proximity to the Tactical Coordination Line (TCL) on the border with Indonesian West Timor. The battalion saw few contacts while in East Timor. These included a TCL violation on 5 May 2001 which was intercepted by a section from D Company, an outbreak of violence involving a grenade attack by militia members at the Maubasa markets on 29 May which resulted in several people killed and about 50 wounded, and shallow cross-border militia raids in June, including an attack on a section patrol from A Company. The battalion was withdrawn and replaced in October 2001.
Expansion and domestic security
Following the battalion's return from East Timor it was again restructured to resume its role as a two-company commando battalion. However, in 2001 the Australian Government directed the permanent establishment of a second TAG to be based on the east coast of Australia. A Company was subsequently raised as a commando company in 2002. Following the creation of SOCOMD in 2002 and the Bali bombings in October that year, further resources became available. The battalion was subsequently involved in security operations for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Queensland in 2002. Elements of the battalion were also involved in the boarding of a North Korean freighter, the MV Pong Su—which was suspected of drug smuggling—off Newcastle on 20 April 2003.[Note 1] In 2005, a fourth commando company was subsequently raised, with D Company being formed. Later, the battalion was tasked with supporting the security arrangements for the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne. In 2014, elements of the regiment were deployed to Brisbane to protect the G20 Leaders Summit held in the city on 15 and 16 November.
The battalion provided a commando force element as part of the Australian contribution to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, known as Operation Falconer. A reinforced commando platoon formed an element of the Australian Special Forces Task Group (SFTG), which also included 1 Squadron, SASR, a troop from the Incident Response Regiment, and three CH-47 Chinook helicopters from the 5th Aviation Regiment. The commandos formed the "quick reaction" element for the task group. The SFTG operated in western Iraq where it was successful in securing its area of operations, including the huge Al Asad Air Base. After the invasion was complete, the 40-man commando element provided security to humanitarian assistance missions and other security operations, later providing close protection for Australian officials in Baghdad as part of Operation Catalyst. In 2004, claims appeared in the media that Australian special forces were involved in counter-insurgency operations inside Iraq, although this was denied by the government. The last commando element was withdrawn in 2006.
Later, in May 2006 a commando company group was deployed to Timor Leste as part of Operation Astute, after relations between the East Timorese government and military forces broke down. The commandos operated alongside the SASR as part of the Special Forces Component and were tasked with advanced force operations in preparation for the arrival of follow-on forces, focusing on Dili Airport. In March 2007, the commandos, along with elements of the SASR, took part in the Battle of Same during which five rebels were killed during an unsuccessful attempt to apprehend the rebel leader, Alfredo Reinado. After the battle, the commandos and SASR elements were withdrawn at the request of the East Timorese government in order to start negotiations with the rebels.
Meanwhile, in August 2005 an Australian Special Forces Task Group (SFTG) was deployed to Afghanistan as part of Operation Slipper, operating in the southern province of Uruzgan. The SFTG, based on similar structure deployed during Operation Falconer, was made up of elements from the SASR, a commando company and a troop from the Incident Response Regiment. Two CH-47 Chinook helicopters from the 5th Aviation Regiment were deployed to Afghanistan in March 2006 to support the SFTG. A forward operating base was subsequently established at Tarin Kowt. During this deployment the Commandos were involved in Operation Perth which resulted in the death of over 150 Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters in nine days of fierce fighting in the Chora district of Uruzgan Province. The SFTG was withdrawn from Afghanistan in September 2006 and replaced by a Reconstruction Taskforce made up of engineers and conventional infantry. During this period the task group was on patrol for 306 days and involved in 139 contacts and sustained 11 soldiers wounded.
A 300-strong Special Operations Task Group (SOTG) was subsequently deployed to support the Reconstruction Taskforce in April 2007, including a commando company group, elements of the SASR, and an integral combat service support team. In March and April 2009, SOTG killed 80 Taliban fighters in a major four-week operation in Helmand Province, without suffering any casualties. Further operations undertaken include the Battle of Gizab in April 2010, and the Shah Wali Kot Offensive in June 2010, which resulted in heavy insurgent casualties. The bulk of SOTG was withdrawn from Afghanistan in late 2013 as part of a drawdown of Australian forces, although some special forces remained after this date as part of the small Australian force maintained in the country. The unit has lost 12 personnel killed while deployed to Afghanistan, along with one killed during a pre-deployment exercise.
For its actions in Afghanistan, the 2nd Commando Regiment was collectively awarded the Unit Citation for Gallantry and the Meritorious Unit Citation. On 26 March 2013, it was announced that Special Operations Command would receive the first battle honour awarded to an Australian Army unit for actions since the end of the Vietnam War for its performance during the Shah Wali Kot Offensive in Afghanistan from May to June 2010. The battle honour, titled "Eastern Shah Wali Kot", was awarded in recognition of the operational actions of the SASR and 2nd Commando Regiment from Australian Special Operations Task Group Rotation XII. A number of the regiment's personnel have also received individual decorations for their actions in Afghanistan. A posthumous Victoria Cross for Australia was awarded to Cameron Baird for actions in Uruzgan Province in June 2013. In addition, as of October 2010 six Distinguished Service Crosses, eleven Distinguished Service Medals, seven Medals for Gallantry and three Stars of Gallantry had been awarded to 2nd Commando Regiment personnel for service in Afghanistan.
Military intervention against ISIL
In September 2014, as part of Operation Okra the Australian Army deployed a Special Operations Task Group (SOTG) of approximately 200 personnel to the United Arab Emirates in preparation for operations to assist and advise Iraqi Security Forces following an offensive by Islamic State forces. The soldiers were expected to be deployed to Iraq when a legal framework covering their presence in the country was agreed between the Australian and Iraqi Governments. The majority of the SOTG is reported to be made up of C Company, 2nd Commando Regiment. It began moving into Iraq in early November.
The regiment consists of a headquarters, four commando companies, a logistics support company, an operational support company and a signals squadron. It is believed to currently be organised as follows:
- Regimental Headquarters
- A Company
- B Company
- C Company
- D Company
- 126 Signal Squadron
- Operations Support Company
- Logistics Support Company
Incorporates the role of Tactical Assault Group (East) (on rotation).
Selection and training
Any member of the Australian Defence Force may apply for entry into the 2nd Commando Regiment. Applicants may also be accepted via the Special Forces Direct Recruitment Scheme (DRS), where selected and screened civilians undertake an accelerated 80-day infantry training program prior to commencing the Special Forces selection process. If a candidate fails any part of the selection course they will be returned to their unit, or transferred to one of the infantry battalions of the Royal Australian Regiment if they are a DRS candidate. Candidates must complete the Special Forces Screen Test and if successful move onto the six-week Commando Selection and Training Course (CSTC) conducted at the Special Forces Training Centre (SFTC), in Singleton, New South Wales. Further training then is undertaken during Commando Initial Employment Training, also known as the "Reinforcement Cycle". Upon successful completion of all courses soldiers are posted into one of the Commando Companies where further specialist training occurs.
- Commanded by CO 4 RAR (Cdo), the operation involved members of TAG (West), TAG (East) and the Incident Response Regiment. See Blaxland 2014, p. 287
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