On 25 July 1957 the first Special Air Service Company, the Royal Australian Infantry, was raised at Campbell Barracks in Western Australia. In 1964 this company was expanded into the Special Air Services Regiment (SASR) – an elite unit of the Australian Army with a motto of “Who Dares, Wins”.
Specially selected and intensively trained, SASR troops work in small teams, often behind enemy forces and without support, for extended periods. They perform reconnaissance, precision strikes, special recovery and counter terrorism operations and training functions.
Because of their ability to live off the land and locate food from local resources they were given the good-natured nicknames of “chicken stranglers” and “snake eaters”.
SASR troops can be delivered into their missions by parachute, helicopter, land-based operations or through water based insertions, such as submarines, kayaks or diving. The large range of military disciplines required in these areas means that SASR operatives are amongst the most highly trained of the Australian Military Forces.
The SASR has seen action in several post World War Two conflicts, including Borneo, Vietnam, Somalia, East Timor, Iraq and Afghanistan. It was in Vietnam that the SASR greatly added to their already illustrious reputation, conducting some 1200 jungle patrols and inflicting heavy casualties amongst the Viet Cong. Because of their highly effective use of stealth, the Viet Cong named them Ma Rung – or “phantoms of the jungle”.
The Afghanistan conflict saw the reputation of the SASR enhanced further with the award of two Victoria Crosses to SASR soldiers. Trooper Mark Donaldson received the award for gallantry displayed in an action in 2008, and less than two years later, in 2010, Corporal Ben Roberts was involved in a heavy action for which he also received the award.
The Special Services Regiment today remains an important part of the Australian Army, with significant roles to play in international peace keeping and counter terrorist operations. The Regiment has a hard won reputation for gallantry, stealth and top level soldiering that ensures they enjoy a first-class international military reputation.
Image: An SASR patrol during Operation Coburg, South Vietnam 1968, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.