The SAS

SAS Regiment in Afghanistan (image: ADF/Herald Sun)

SAS Regiment in Afghanistan (image: ADF/Herald Sun)

The SAS stands for Special Air Service Regiment (named after the British SAS).  Founded in 1964, it is one of the Australian army’s elite ‘special forces’ unit.  Organised into 4 squadrons, the SAS is involved in surveillance, reconnaissance, counter-terrorism and ‘assault operations’ and are the only Australian troops in active combat roles in Afghanistan.

SAS troopers are among the most highly trained (and highly paid) soldiers in the Australian Defence Force.  The SAS is headquartered in Perth, WA, but they do some of their training on the ASIS base at Swan Island in Victoria, where there would typically be “5 to 10″ SAS troops training at a time.

In 2007, the Herald Sun described the “main purpose” of the Swan Island military base as “train[ing] special forces soldiers in guerrilla war and ASIS spies:”

“They are trained in clandestine operations and the use of small firearms.  Joint exercises are held by the two top-secret groups.  The waters around the island are used for specialised training.  Operatives are dropped outside the Heads [of Port Phillip Bay] when the tide is coming in, and make the hazardous swim back to Queenscliff.”

Australian SAS troops in Afghanistan (image: The Australian)

Australian SAS troops in Afghanistan (image: The Australian)

The SAS is also said to offer “a special warfare school” at Swan Island to which “agents from Australia’s key intelligence agencies and special police units” come for training in the use of a “wide range of weapons and, in some cases, explosives.” (The Age 2007)

More SAS recruits are killed in training than in combat.