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Special Operations Command (Australia)

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Special Operations Command
RoleSpecial operations
Size2,050 (active in 2014)[1]
750 (reserve in 2014)[1]
Part ofAustralian Defence Force
Headquarters locationGeneral John Baker Complex, Bungendore[2]
Motto(s)Acies Acuta
(The Cutting Edge)
Major General Paul Kenny

The Special Operations Command (SOCOMD) is an Australian Defence Force command that was established on 5 May 2003 to unite all of the Australian Army's special forces units and by 2008 was fully operational.[3][4][5] Australia's Special Operations Command is of equivalent status to Australia's Fleet, Forces and Air Commands.[3] It is modelled on the equivalent commands in the United States and British military forces, and is led by a major general as Special Operations Commander Australia (SOCAUST).

The origins of SOCOMD began in 1979 with the army creating a small Directorate Special Action Forces—Army. On 13 February 1990, Headquarters Special Forces was established, which was renamed in 1997 to Headquarters Special Operations and in 2003 to Special Operations Headquarters or SOCOMD.[5][6][7]


A Special Operations Task Group patrol in Afghanistan in October 2009

While Special Operations Command had not formally commenced operations at the time, it appears that the headquarters may have overseen the boarding of the North Korean freighter MV Pong Su in April 2003, which involved elements of both the Special Air Service Regiment and 4th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (Commando) Tactical Assault Groups.[9]

In November 2018, the 30th Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting held in Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea had Special Operations Command involvement to enhance the Papua New Guinea Defence Force's Incident Response Group to provide security as world leaders, including Scott Morrison, Mike Pence, Xi Jinping, Dmitry Medvedev and other government and economic leaders were in attendance.[10][11] The Incident Response Group had received extensive training to build its capabilities in preparation for the meeting from SOCOMD units and the New Zealand Special Operations Component Command.[12]


Soldiers from Special Operations Command during a media demonstration in May 2003

As of 2020, the Special Operations Command comprised the following units:[13]

Special Operations Commander Australia (SOCAUST)[edit]

The Special Operations Commander Australia (SOCAUST) is responsible for the peacetime 'raise, train and sustain' functions of Special Operations Command reporting to the Chief of Army, while the Chief of Joint Operations is responsible for the operational functions of Special Operations Command deployments.[7] The SOCAUST is responsible for the domestic counter-terrorism deployments of Special Operations Command reporting directly to the Chief of the Defence Force.[7]

The following have held the position of Special Operations Commander Australia, with the ranks and honours as at the completion of their tenure:

Rank Name Post-nominals Term began Term ended Notes
Major General Duncan Lewis DSC, CSC May 2002 October 2004
Major General Mike Hindmarsh AO, CSC October 2004 February 2008
Major General Tim McOwan DSC, CSM February 2008 January 2011
Major General Gus Gilmore AO, DSC January 2011 September 2013
Brigadier Daniel McDaniel DSC, DSM September 2013 December 2014 Acting[17]
Major General Jeff Sengelman DSC, AM, CSC December 2014 June 2017
Major General Adam Findlay AM June 2017 November 2020 [18]
Major General Paul Kenny DSC, AM, DSM November 2020 Incumbent [19]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b The Australian Army – Modernisation from Beersheba and Beyond (PDF) (Report). Australian Army. 26 August 2014. Archived from the original (PDF) on 9 July 2017.
  2. ^ a b "The Australian Army: An Aide-Memoire" (PDF). Australian Army. Directorate of Plans – Army. April 2014. p. 53. Archived from the original (PDF) on 16 January 2020.
  3. ^ a b Senator Robert Hill, Minister for Defence (5 May 2003). "New Special Operations Command" (Press release). Department of Defence. Archived from the original on 2 June 2011. Retrieved 25 September 2015.
  4. ^ Prime Minister John Howard (19 December 2002). "Expansion of Special Forces Counter Terrorist Capability and new Special Operations Command" (Press release). Prime Minister of Australia. Archived from the original on 23 February 2003.
  5. ^ a b Goh, Puay Hock (Francis) (June 2011). How should SOF be organized? (PDF) (Master's thesis). U.S. Navy Postgraduate School. OCLC 743235192. Archived (PDF) from the original on 16 August 2016. Retrieved 28 July 2016.
  6. ^ Grant (Ret.), Brigadier William 'Mac'. "Reserve Commandos inherit a remarkable legacy" (PDF). Defence Reserves Yearbook 2004–2005. Executive Media Pty Ltd. Australian Defence Force. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2 June 2011.
  7. ^ a b c Davies, Andrew; Jennings, Peter; Scheer, Benjamin (2014). A Versatile Force: The Future of Australia's Special Operations Capability (PDF). Barton, Australian Capital Territory: Australian Strategic Policy Institute. ISBN 9781921302978. Retrieved 7 September 2017.
  8. ^ Boer, Cpl Corinne (19 April 2007). "Back into fray". Army: The Soldiers' Newspaper (1164 ed.). Canberra, Australia: Department of Defence. ISSN 0729-5685. Archived from the original on 21 March 2011.
  9. ^ Logue, Jason (8 May 2003). "Tartan TAG". Army: The Soldiers' Newspaper (1073 ed.). Canberra: Department of Defence. ISSN 0729-5685. Archived from the original on 7 July 2013.
  10. ^ Minister for Defence Christopher Pyne (12 October 2018). "Defence supports PNG security effort for APEC 2018". Department of Defence (Press release). Retrieved 31 December 2019.
  11. ^ Greene, Andrew (12 September 2018). "Australian Special Forces to protect world leaders at APEC meeting in Papua New Guinea". ABC News. Retrieved 31 December 2019.
  12. ^ Benson, CAPT Dean (15 November 2018). "Training for success" (PDF). Army: The Soldiers' Newspaper (1432 ed.). Canberra: Department of Defence. ISSN 0729-5685. Archived from the original (PDF) on 31 December 2019.
  13. ^ Australian Army (November 2020). "Special Operations Command Information Booklet" (PDF). Australian Army. p. 3. Retrieved 26 April 2023.
  14. ^ "Special Operations Command". Australian Army. 18 November 2019. Retrieved 31 December 2019.
  15. ^ "Special Forces Group". Australian Army. 18 November 2019. Retrieved 31 December 2019.
  16. ^ "Defence Special Operations Training & Education Centre". Australian Army. 19 November 2019. Retrieved 31 December 2019.
  17. ^ "Chief of Army Announces Changes to Army Senior Leadership". Department of Defence (Press release). 19 September 2013. Retrieved 25 March 2021.
  18. ^ "Special Operations Commander Australia". Australian Army: Our leaders. Department of Defence. Retrieved 9 August 2017.
  19. ^ "Special Operations Commander Australia: Major General Paul Kenny, DSC, DSM". Our Leaders. Australian Army. 26 November 2020.

Further reading[edit]