New Zealand Special Air Service
|New Zealand Special Air Service|
Cap Badge of the New Zealand Special Air Service
|Active||7 July 1955 – present|
|Allegiance||Queen Elizabeth II|
|Branch||New Zealand Army|
Close Target Reconnaissance
|Garrison/HQ||Papakura Military Camp, Auckland, New Zealand|
|Motto||Who Dares Wins|
Operation Desert Thunder
Operation Enduring Freedom
|Decorations||United States Navy Presidential Unit Citation|
The New Zealand Special Air Service, abbreviated as the NZSAS, was formed on 7 July 1955 and is a special forces unit of the New Zealand Army modelled on the British Special Air Service (SAS). The New Zealand Government states that NZSAS is the "premier combat unit of the New Zealand Defence Force". Its key roles are to undertake overseas missions and respond to domestic terrorist attacks. The New Zealand SAS is held in high regard internationally, as demonstrated by the United States Presidential Citation which was awarded to the NZSAS on 7 December 2004.
The NZSAS can trace its roots back to the famous Long Range Desert Group, a British/Commonwealth army unit which fought in the North African desert in World War II. A number of New Zealanders also served in the original Special Air Service force during World War II. In February 1955 it was decided by the New Zealand Government that a squadron based on the British Special Air Service should be formed as part of the New Zealand Army, as an effective and economic contribution to the Far East Strategic Reserve and the British counter-insurgency effort in Malaya.
Malaya 1955–57 
Major Frank Rennie was appointed to form and command the unit, with the decision having been made to recruit mainly from the general public around a cadre of Regular Force personnel. Over 800 applied, from which 182 including 138 civilians (though 101 had previous military experience) were selected for training beginning in June 1955.
In late 1955, after completing parachute training in Singapore, the 133-strong NZSAS Squadron was attached to the British SAS in Malaya. It spent 18 of the 24 months it was in Malaya operating in the jungle against communist insurgents. As well as being tasked with fighting the communist forces they were also charged with collecting up and training villagers to fight. In over a dozen major engagements only one NZSAS trooper was killed. Soon after its return to New Zealand the unit was disbanded, having been operationally replaced by an infantry battalion.
Thailand 1962 
Borneo 1965–66 
The NZSAS was also involved in countering Indonesian Communist insurgents in Borneo alongside their British and Australian counterparts.
Vietnam 1969–71 
Based in Nui Dat, South Vietnam, the NZ SAS 4 Troop served under Australian command in November 1968, attached to the Australian SASR. Here NZSAS was named 1st Ranger Squadron, NZSAS, the new name recalling the Forest Rangers commanded by von Tempsky during the New Zealand Wars. Most tasks involved ambush of communist forces and conducting reconnaissance missions observing the enemy. The NZSAS troopers were involved in the Southeast Asian conflict from November 1968 until their withdrawal in February 1971. One NZ SAS member is listed as having been killed in action.
Bougainville 1997–98 
From November 1997 to February 1998 a 19 man detachment of NZSAS troops were deployed on Operation Belisi.
Kuwait 1998 
Twenty-four NZSAS personnel were deployed to Kuwait in February 1998 under 'Operation Griffin' during a period of international tension with Iraq, tasked with rescuing downed airmen in hostile territory in the event of a US-led aerial campaign. A smaller force replaced them in May 1998 for a further two-month tour. There were no missions into Iraq undertaken during the deployment, though it was considered a useful opportunity to practise mobile desert warfare skills, and to have contact with US Forces; which had been limited since the United States suspended its ANZUS relations with New Zealand in 1986.
East Timor 1999–2000 
The NZSAS contribution to East Timor was a deployment of 40 men under the command of Major Peter Kelly. The troops assisted in evacuating personnel from East Timor and later contributed to INTERFET. The NZSAS later returned to East Timor to contribute tracking teams to support the infantry battalions.
Afghanistan 2001–2005 
Starting in late 2001, the NZ SAS began operations assisting in the War on Terrorism in Afghanistan. Three 6 month rotations of between 40 and 65 soldiers from the NZ SAS served in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom before the unit was withdrawn in November 2005. On 17 June 2004, two NZ SAS soldiers were wounded in a pre-dawn gun-battle in central Afghanistan. In recognition of his actions during this engagement, SAS trooper Willie Apiata was awarded the Victoria Cross for New Zealand.
Secrecy still surrounds much of the NZ SAS's operations in Afghanistan, although a Radio New Zealand news piece claimed the service had maintained a mission success rate of 100%. Initially the unit conducted foot patrols with insertion and extraction being by helicopter, but in May 2002 the focus changed to mobility patrols using borrowed Humvees, and later motorbikes and NZ Army Pinzgauers. These patrols would often last 20 to 30 days and cover between 1000 and 2000 kilometres. There were "casualties on both sides" during gun battles, but no New Zealanders were killed.
Presidential Unit Citation 
In December 2004, the United States Navy Presidential Unit Citation was awarded to those units that comprised the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force-SOUTH/Task Force K-BAR between 17 October 2001 and 30 March 2002 for "extraordinary heroism" in action. One of these units was the Special Air Service of New Zealand.
The citation said SAS units helped "neutralise" Taliban and al Qaeda in "extremely high risk missions, including search and rescue, special reconnaissance, sensitive site exploitation, direct action missions, destruction of multiple cave and tunnel complexes, identification and destruction of several known al Qaeda training camps, explosions of thousands of pounds of enemy ordnance."
"They established benchmark standards of professionalism, tenacity, courage, tactical brilliance and operational excellence while demonstrating superb esprit de corps and maintaining the highest measures of combat readiness."
Victoria Cross 
It was announced on 2 July 2007 that Corporal Willie Apiata of the NZ SAS, age 35, had been awarded the Victoria Cross for New Zealand for carrying a severely injured comrade 70 metres "under heavy fire" from machine-guns, RPGs and grenades after their vehicle was destroyed in an ambush and then joined the rest of his comrades in a counter-attack.
The announcement was unusual, because the NZ SAS is a very secretive organisation that almost never reveals the names of its members. Prime Minister Helen Clark said Apiata's name was revealed because it was only the 14th time since World War 2 that the Victoria Cross had been awarded among the 53 nations of the Commonwealth, and the first to a serving SAS soldier anywhere, and it would be almost impossible to keep secret.
In addition to Cpl. Apiata, three other members of the unit were awarded New Zealand gallantry awards for their service in Afghanistan in the Special Honours List of 2 July 2007. Their names were withheld for security reasons.
- New Zealand Gallantry Decoration – Captain C (name later released as Captain Craig Wilson), Corporal B
- New Zealand Gallantry Medal – Corporal R
In April 2008, Apiata donated his Victoria Cross of New Zealand medal to the NZSAS Trust, so that "The medal is protected for future generations". The medal remains available to Apiata and his family to wear.
Afghanistan 2009–2011 
71 NZSAS troopers returned for a fourth deployment in 2009. These troops arrived in Afghanistan in September, and their location was revealed in the Norwegian press. New Zealand would provide three rotations of SAS troops in 2009–2011. This is the fourth SAS deployment to Afghanistan, the last being in 2005. A small number of NZSAS personnel were among the forces which responded to the January 2010 attack in central Kabul.
In January 2011, General David Petraeus announced that, since 2009, the NZSAS had made 60 "high-risk" arrests of suspected militants or Taliban leaders, seized 20 weapons caches, and foiled four attacks. He added that the unit had successfully executed more than 90% of its operations and raids without firing a shot. The NZSAS forms a rapid reaction force in Kabul, to counter militant activity within the city.
On 19 August 2011, Corporal Doug Grant, a member of the NZSAS, was killed when responding to an attack on the British Council building in the centre of Kabul, Afghanistan. A second soldier, Lance Corporal Leon Smith, was killed in action on 28 September 2011 during an action in Wardak Province. In the Special Honours List of 20 April 2013 it was announced that Smith had posthumously been awarded the New Zealand Gallantry Decoration for his actions when responding to the insurgent attack on the British Council Offices and the medical assistance be subsequently provided to Grant.
In late 2012, the NZSAS provided information to the International Security Assistance Force on the whereabouts of a Taliban commander, Abdullah Kalta, believed to be responsible for the deaths of a number of New Zealand soldiers. Kalta was killed in an airstrike in November 2012. Prime Minister John Key praised the killing, saying it made Afghanistan a safer place for New Zealand troops.
Current organisation 
As at February 2013, the main elements of the 1st New Zealand Special Air Service Regiment were:
- A SAS Squadron
- B SAS Squadron
- NZ Commando Squadron (D Squadron) – designated the Counter Terrorist Tactical Assault Group until 2009.
- NZ Explosive Ordnance Disposal Squadron (E Squadron)
- Support Squadron
The Commando Squadron (formerly Counter Terrorist Tactical Assault Group) was formed in 2005 in a bid to provide a dedicated counter terrorist capability within 1 NZSAS and the New Zealand Defence Force.
The group consists of an undisclosed number of Commando CT operators. Officially part of 1 NZSAS Regiment, Commando members complete a 7 day selection which is more relevant to Commando operational requirements. They wear the sand beret with the Commando badge and stable belt. The Commando Squadron has the role of responding to domestic terrorist and special recovery incidents in New Zealand.
The Commando Squadron is composed of members of all three armed Services; New Zealand Army, Royal New Zealand Navy and the Royal New Zealand Air Force under the control of CO 1NZSAS Regiment. The assessment criteria is rigorous and involves a separate selection course from NZSAS applicants. Candidates must be at least 20 years of age to qualify for Commando training and of the highest calibre physically, professionally and mentally. Once a Commando member completes selection and training they are ready to respond to a domestic threat in a matter of hours. The Commando Squadron are based full-time alongside the badged squadrons at the Papakura Military Camp in Auckland. The Commando Squadron also use the Ardmore Military Camp to conduct their Close Quarter Battle urban, dynamic entry and room clearing drills as well as their sniping skills.
To join the NZSAS, New Zealand Army, Navy, or Air Force personnel must pass a selection course (two days pre-selection, eight days selection). Officers also undergo an additional two days of selection to test for the their suitability to lead NZSAS soldiers. The course aims to identify "self-disciplined individuals who are capable of working effectively as part of a small group under stressful conditions for long periods of time". Those who are selected go on to complete an intensive period of training to build core special forces skills. On average 10–15% of candidates pass both selection and cycle training.
Notable members 
- Willie Apiata VC – first recipient of the Victoria Cross for New Zealand.
- Mike Coburn (pseudonym) – later joined 22 SAS and was a member of the much publicised Bravo Two Zero patrol.
- Barrie "Baz" Rice – star of Treasure Island: Extreme.
- Ashley George (Pat) "Shocker" Shaw – founding member Armed Offenders Squad
The regimental memorial, known as the "Granite Parachute", is at Rennie Lines, Papakura Military Camp. Inscribed upon it is an extract from the poem The Golden Road to Samarkand by James Elroy Flecker:
- We are the Pilgrims, master; we shall go
- Always a little further: it may be
- Beyond that last blue mountain barred with snow
- Across that angry or that glimmering sea ...
- Crosby, Ron NZSAS: The First Fifty Years Viking 2009 p.51
- Crosby, Ron NZSAS: The First Fifty Years Viking 2009 p.58
- Taylor, Richard Tribe of the War God Heritage-New Zealand (1996) p.90
- Rennie, Frank Regular Soldier Endeavour Press (1986) p.225
- Crosby, Ron NZSAS: The First Fifty Years Viking 2009 p.118
- Crosby, Ron NZSAS: The First Fifty Years Viking 2009 p.122
- Crosby, Ron NZSAS: The First Fifty Years Viking 2009 p.129
- Crosby, Ron NZSAS: The First Fifty Years Viking 2009 p.138
- Commonwealth Special Forces In Vietnam
- Crosby, Ron NZSAS: The First Fifty Years Viking 2009 p.298
- Crosby, Ron NZSAS: The First Fifty Years Viking 2009 p.304
- Crosby, Ron NZSAS: The First Fifty Years Viking 2009 p.306
- Crosby, Ron NZSAS: The First Fifty Years Viking 2009 p.324
- Crosby, Ron NZSAS: The First Fifty Years Viking 2009 p.325
- Crosby, Ron NZSAS: The First Fifty Years Viking 2009 p.327
- "SAS back in NZ, no plans to return". New Zealand Herald. 22 November 2005. Retrieved 2008-05-03.
- Crosby, Ron NZSAS: The First Fifty Years Viking 2009 p.368
- "Fact Sheet: New Zealand Special Air Service NZSAS". New Zealand Government. 2 July 2007. Retrieved 2013-05-12.
- "Approval for the acceptance and wear of the United States Navy Presidential Citation by the NZ SAS in Afghanistan". New Zealand Defence Force. 19 May 2006. Retrieved 2007-07-03.
- "I was only doing my job, says VC hero". New Zealand Herald. 2 July 2007. Retrieved January 2012.
- Special Honours List 2 July 2007 (Gallantry Awards) | DPMC
- NZ Soldier Craig Wilson Fought Beside Willie Apiata... | Stuff.co.nz
- Eriksen, Alanah May (25 April 2008). "'Reluctant hero' gives his VC of New Zealand to the nation". New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 2008-05-03.
- "NZ troops in Afghanistan – Key". The New Zealand Herald. 21 September 2009. Retrieved 2009-09-21.
- Stephenson, Jon (4 October 2009). "SAS Afghan location revealed". The Sunday Star-Times. Retrieved 30 October 2011.
- Military News – New Zealand special air service troops arrive in Afghanistan
- "NZ troops uninjured in Kabul attack – Key". The New Zealand Herald. 19 January 2010. Retrieved 19 January 2010.
- Hume, Tim, "Top Medal From US For Kiwi SAS Commander", The Sunday Star-Times, 16 January 2011, p. 1.
- "SAS soldier killed in Kabul attack". The New Zealand Herald. 20 August 2011. Retrieved 20 August 2011.
- Vernon Small, Tracy Watkins and Danya Levy (29 September 2011). "Key: no honour for soldiers by withdrawing". Stuff.co.nz. Retrieved 30 October 2011.
- SPECIAL HONOURS LIST 20 APRIL 2013 (GALLANTRY AWARDS) | DPMC
- "SAS behind Afghan killing – Defence Force". 3 News NZ. November 27, 2012.
- "Taliban commander responsible for Kiwi deaths killed". 3 News NZ. November 26, 2012.
- "Kiwi troops in 'safer position' following strike – Key". 3 News NZ. November 26, 2012.
- "1st New Zealand Special Air Service Regiment". New Zealand Army News. February 2013. p. 9. Retrieved 27 February 2013.
- Gower, Patrick (12 August 2006). "Shortage leaves B-team on guard". New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 2008-05-03.
- Gower, Patrick (12 August 2006). "Debunking rumours about new anti-terrorism unit". New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 2008-05-03.
- Smith, Jacqueline (17 March 2009). "Army seeks recruits for NZ anti-terror squad". New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 13 April 2009.
- Schouten, Hank (20 December 2012). "New site for SAS to train for battle". Stuff.co.nz. Retrieved 12 May 2013.
- "Fact Sheet: New Zealand Special Air Service NZSAS". New Zealand Government. 2 July 2007. Retrieved 2013-05-12.
- Crosby, Ron NZSAS: The First Fifty Years Viking 2009 p. 430
- "Dying for a fortune". Sunday News. 15 September 2007. Archived from the original on 2009-03-28. Retrieved 2009-03-28.
- Record of Service: Shocker Shaw
- Staff (15 September 2009). "The Selected Few – Training in the SAS". New Zealand Army.[dead link]
- The same extract appears on UKSAS Memorial in Herefordshire (Popham, Peter (30 May 1996). "SAS confronts its enemy within". The Independent.)
- Army.mil.nz – Official website of the New Zealand Army
- Vince Smith Vincent Thomas Charles Smith 337062 Sergeant NZ SAS 1934 to 1988
- NZSAS Operational History A brief article about the 1 NZSAS Group's 50th Jubilee
- SAS NZ – Roll of honour, awards and images
- ShadowSpear Special Operations – NZSAS